Online Edition – Vol. IX, No. 8: November 2003
Bishop Trautman to Liturgists: "Keep up your courage"
Doctrine Committee chairman urges liturgists to resist "pullbacks", "reform of the reform"
"Coworkers in the Liturgical Ministry of Christ" was the title of Erie Bishop Donald Trautman’s acceptance speech on October 10, as he received the annual Frederick A. McManus Award from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) at the organization’s national meeting in San Antonio.
Bishop Trautman, former director of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) and current chairman of the Doctrine Committee, began his remarks with a tribute to Monsignor McManus, emeritus professor of Canon Law at Catholic University of America and a principal architect of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform.
"I recall the many meetings of the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy on which Fred served as a consultant", said Bishop Trautman. "He was always a voice of calm and reasoned discussion in liturgical matters. Tonight I urge all liturgists to be the continuation of Fred’s voice — a voice of expertise — a voice of balance — a voice of truth — a voice of charity. A recognized expert in canon and liturgical law, Fred represents the very best of this National Federation", he continued.
"Fred was present 40 years ago when the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was debated and approved at Vatican II", the bishop told the group.
"As a peritus to the Council, he saw firsthand the workings of the entire four sessions of Vatican II. This experience gave him a vision and passion to bring renewal to all parishes. Fred gave invaluable assistance to the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy. He was a founding member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and was intimately connected to the foundation of this Federation", Bishop Trautman noted.
"Today liturgists need to imitate his spirit more than ever — his spirit of perseverance, his spirit of courage, his spirit of dedication and commitment to the liturgical principles of renewal. We need to be his voice — knowledgeable, persuasive, respectful of all sides of the question but ever insistent on the baptismal rights of the assembly for full participation".
The Euphoria Has Ended
But "the euphoria of Vatican II" has ended, and liturgists must face "major challenges" today, the bishop remarked. "It is not a fad, it is not the work of liturgical terrorists, not the invention of liberal liturgical scholars; the liturgical movement is the will of the Spirit for all of God’s people".
Bishop Trautman enumerated some of these "challenges":
"As the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy fades in time, is it also fading in influence?" he asked. "Do we recognize a pullback from the liturgical principles, a lessening of collaboration, a return to devotionalism rather than Eucharistic celebration? Is there a liturgical backsliding that causes us to be disillusioned, dejected, disheartened? We need to recall the founders of the American Liturgical Movement. These liturgical pioneers did not give up and we must not give up. We must not surrender the progress made at Vatican II".
"Do Not Quench the Spirit"
"Do not quench the Spirit", the bishop repeatedly exclaimed as he urged the FDLC members to resist what he termed "pullbacks" and "liturgical backsliding".
"When we encounter those who advocate a ‘reform of the reform’, we must say, ‘Do not quench the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit was present at Vatican II and gave us new liturgical direction. When we encounter people who harken back to rigidity in rubrics, we must say. ‘Do not quench the Spirit’. When inculturation is denied and one liturgical form is forced on all, we must say, ‘Do not quench the Spirit’. When the Scripture translations in our Lectionary are flawed and not proclaimable, we must say, ‘Give us the richness of God’s Word: Do not quench the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit prompted the renewal and reform of the liturgy. Now, more than ever, we must say, ‘Do not quench the Spirit’".
In the 1990s, Bishop Trautman led opposition to the Holy See’s intervention in translation both of Scripture (Lectionary) and other liturgical translations (International Commission on English in the Liturgy’s "Sacramentary" revision). The bishop, as head of the BCL and member of the Lectionary committee, was a strong proponent of so-called "inclusive language", and a free approach to translation. Recently he has published articles critical of the Instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam, issued in 2001.
Although Bishop Trautman did not directly accuse Pope John Paul II of "devotionalism" for strongly encouraging the revival of Eucharistic devotions, nor did he mention by name the Vatican cardinals he believes are responsible for impeding "progress" in translation and other aspects of the Liturgy, Bishop Trautman called for strong resistance to any perceived "pullback".
He singled out for particular concern the forthcoming "prescriptive" directives that the Holy Father called for in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, released in March 2003.
"A recent draft of a forthcoming Vatican instruction included several problematic elements — elements which were neither pastorally sensitive nor liturgically correct" Bishop Trautman told the liturgists. "While we are thankfully reassured that more competent and more sensible judgments have prevailed, we need to ask how could such proposals be drafted and approved for submission in the first place?
"When such Roman liturgical drafts call us to return to a liturgical mentality prior to Vatican II, we need to say to one another: Keep up your courage. When liturgical expertise is not respected, we must say to one another: Keep up your courage. When fundamental principles of liturgical renewal are reversed, we must remind one another: Keep up your courage. When liturgical offices are closed and liturgical budgets are slashed, we must say to one another: Keep up your courage. When we see liturgical renewal still wanting in many parishes and when we feel the pain of the clerical sex abuse scandal and its impact on worshipping assemblies and presiders, let us give hope to one another".
Bishop Trautman concluded his address to the FDLC with a call to action:
"I say to you who are in the liturgical ministry of the Church: Persevere; let no one quench the Spirit; give one another courage; keep the liturgical movement alive, keep the liturgical movement alive".
Source: FDLC web site. Bishop Trautman’s complete address is accessible at