Nov 15, 2003


Online Edition

– Vol. IX, No. 8: November 2003


Retro-fiends and Taliban "A Time to Create, A Time to Recover"

Retro-fiends and Taliban
"Last week a small hurricane blew through the land of literate Catholics", writes Fred Moleck, director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The "hurricane" was the result of a leaked draft of liturgical directives from the Holy See that made its way around cyberspace in mid-October.

"Many of us were plummeted into depression. There were others who were forming militias", Moleck said. "Some of us saw it as a last-ditch effort of the retro-fiends to get their last licks in before the pontificate changes".

What plunged Moleck and his friends into such paroxysms? The hint that the directives might revoke permission for female altar servers, granted in 1994. When they later heard this wasn’t in the forthcoming directives, Moleck says, the literate Catholics experienced a "spasm of encouragement":

"Maybe it’s because our business has our emotions riding so close to our skins that the panic sets in. When one produces prayer in a musical way, the emotions are the avenue by which the effect happens. You can’t make art without tapping into the emotion bin", explains Moleck, a liturgical musician who, as editor, writes a regular "Table Talk" column in GIA Quarterly, produced by GIA music publishing house.

"The flash of pre-Vatican II Taliban mentality seemed a little too real", Moleck writes, though "the sky didn’t fall".

(An example of the art of creating musical prayer, no doubt.)

Moleck also writes "Liturgy Rights", a monthly column featured on the Greensburg diocesan web site, that "takes a closer look at some of the elements of the liturgy, also known as liturgical rites, that have taken on unusual interpretations, which are not exactly what church documents envisioned". (The column title is a pun, get it?)

In a recent "Liturgy Rights" column on the GIRM changes, Moleck was reassuring:

"What is sometimes forgotten when a new document comes from the Vatican is that the document has been preceded by its history. When the first document of the Second Vatican Council appeared, many in the Church were surprised, if not horrified, by the direction the document was taking the Church… In October the diocese goes into high gear in preparing to implement the General Instructions on the Roman Missal. In all of the catechetical activity which will be taking place always remember: The book is not the liturgy. It needs the bodies and voices of the people to create that transformation".

Does everyone feel better?

GIA "Table Talk" –; [link broken 12/4/2007]
Greensburg Office for Worship


"A Time to Create, A Time to Recover"
Historical perspective can be reassuring. It can also be seen as a Distant Early Warning.

One of the phenomena of the present state of things liturgical is that the avant-garde experimenters of the 1960s have become the entrenched establishment four decades later. Some might say that to most professional liturgists, "flexibility" is chiseled in stone.

How did this come about? For openers, there were no Directors of Offices of Worship forty years ago. No bureaucracy. The leaders of the pre-conciliar liturgical movement did not have publishing empires to disseminate their works. If a look at the past can be reassuring ("we survived this before") it can also forewarn.

One example: an August 1967 address to the National Liturgical Conference, (roughly the equivalent of today’s Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, which did not yet exist).

The address, "A Time to Create, A Time to Recover" was given by Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan of Atlanta, one of the most vigorous promoters of the post-conciliar liturgical reform in America (also mentor of the future Cardinal Joseph Bernardin).

We read his speech recently on the Atlanta Archdiocesan web site — and found in it much to ponder.

Following are a few fascinating quotes:

"We have in this country a liturgical underworld. Since its citizens defy statistics, it is impossible to estimate how far-flung and effective it is. Whether the majority comprise earnest, imaginative priests and laymen, or a generation of novelty-seekers is equally obscure. …

"There is a time to create, Cardinal Lercaro [president of the Consilium to implement the Council’s liturgical reform] wrote recently, and a time to ‘fully uncover and live by all the riches of our liturgical heritage’. He was speaking of translations but his words are applicable to the entire reform. The difficult choice is ours today. The task of discovery of the Mass, its scriptural and patristic core, is complex and long. The creative task is more challenging and vibrant. It is suited to the young, to contemporary needs, to the people’s voice. It is not fitted to the old-time sacramentaries, the exhausting work of scholars, the dust of the past. …

"[The Council’s liturgy directives] hit the Catholic world with a mighty impact. It proved dramatic for those who wanted a scriptural, pastoral shape suited to modern man. And it has almost proved traumatic for those whose faith was locked and secure in the old rigidity. …

"One of today’s myths is that resisters are the Curia and the bishops, while the reformers are the young priests, religious and laity. There are eager experimenters in every sector. And from the new generation, bishops often receive letters of protest about the Kiss of peace, the presence of the lector, and the use of guitars that would curl the hair of the most reactionary prelate".

Archbishop Hallinan, who attended the Council, was a strong influence in organizing the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He alludes to this in his 1967 address:

"The [American] hierarchy helped to launch and finance the gigantic task of preparing a fine international text for the ten English-speaking nations. They put a Music Advisory Board to work. The bishops were the first large hierarchy to obtain the vernacular canon, and then approved by a 95% majority the new text. This is hardly the picture of a group of bishops ‘blighted with conservatism, slavishly submissive to the Roman Curia’, as one critic recently termed them".

The Atlanta archbishop reminded his listeners that bishops must take the initiative in promoting the liturgical updating, and concludes:

"Few would opt for an anarchy of the altar. But given any institution’s built-in centripetal force, the leaders of the liturgy must find the time to experiment, to change, to adapt — in a word, to create. The last thing renewal needs is a liturgical Pentagon".

In 1967 it would hardly have occurred to a bishop that the same liturgical underground that strenuously experimented, changed and created could ever become a "liturgical Pentagon", would it?

 Source: Archdiocese of Atlanta web site

– hhh



The Editors