An event of this past week gave me the opportunity to think about how I represent those who advocate Tradition, Traditional Sacred Music and the more generalized notion of liturgical reform. I had the opportunity to take part in the St. John’s Seminary “Theology Day” in Naples Florida this past Wednesday, an opportunity that allowed me to hear an excellent lecture by Fr. Anthony Ruff on the USCCB document “Sing To The Lord”. Fr. Ruff’s insight as one of those involved in the drafting and process of producing this document filled in some of the voids that had become the topic of discussion at seminars and on the internet, replacing them with facts about the creation and negotiation of this document. Regardless of what an individual might think of “Sing To The Lord”, it is, in my eyes, a far more incredible document than I have up to now thought.
The details of the lecture will have to be the subject of a different posting, because that isn’t really the point I want to make here. What I did discover, however, was that there is a valuable lesson for those who consider themselves passionate about “reform”… whether it be reform of Sacred Music, liturgical practice, translations or whatever. While there are exceptions, I think it can be said in general that those who continue to languish in the notion of the “Spirit of Vatican II” or the “Hermeneutic of Rupture”, or whatever name we assign to the enemy, have done so with the confidence that this is what they are supposed to be doing. Many have begun to see the light, as evidenced by many of the questions and comments heard during Fr. Ruff’s lecture. This is a critical time, a time to teach rather than criticize.
This will be something of a new idea to many… there have been plenty of hardened attitudes and hurt feelings among the traditionalists and advocates of traditional Catholic Sacred Music in the past. Forty-plus years of marginalization and de-construction of the musical heritage of the Church left it’s advocates bitter and vengeful in many instances, ready to portray anyone walking in the church with a guitar case as the enemy, and ready to aim the criticism at individuals rather than at the real source of the problem which was the widespread acceptance of a flawed and destructive vision of liturgical music and it’s role in Catholic worship.
More recently, Pope Benedict has begun to set the example for looking at Vatican II in a new light, a “hermeneutic of continuity”, and it is incumbent upon us to adopt this view and promote it as the only real path for reform. While it may have been an attractive option to call for the abolition of Vatican II, call for it’s “overturning” or whatever, the fact remains that there is no precedent for such an event really, and even if there may eventually be a “Vatican III”, it will not come about because of some kind of popular uprising by traditionalists. What we need is the faithful and authentic implementation of what Vatican II called for, following an honest and thorough discussion of those parts of the concilliar documents that are contended, perhaps rightly so. This is the direction in which Benedict is guiding the Church, and we need to follow as we have often implored others to follow.
The problem, of course, is that the very progressives who constantly mouth the mantra of “Vatican II… Vatican II…Vatican II!!!” will be the first to object to such a faithful and authentic implementation. They don’t want to hear that Vatican II called for the Mass to remain in Latin (except for the readings and homily), they don’t want to hear that the priest was to remain facing the same direction as the faithful (ad orientem), they don’t want to hear that Gregorian Chant was to remain as the normative music for worship while allowing for “other styles of music to be permitted”..(such as Renaissance Polyphony, Classical Polyphony, Mozart, Haydn, etc…). They don’t want to hear any of that. They cringe at the words of Pope Benedict when he said in his letter to Bishops last week;
“But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.”
They don’t want an authentic “Vatican II Church”, they just want the Church the way it is now, and that status quo is being challenged and exposed. The thought of having to accept the traditions of the Church because that is what Vatican II called for shatters their 40 year old facade. The idea of turning to Pius X’s “Tra le sollecitudini” as the foundational document for liturgical music sends them running. That is why the Holy Father used the figure of speech “those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the council”…. he sees the facade for what it really is. There are those who are truly responsible for misleading the Catholic faithful, and then there are those who have been innocently mislead. One is the enemy, the others should be the objects of our compassion and help.