Reforming the reform (letter)

Reforming the reform (letter)

Valentine Gallagher

Alluding to changes in the Mass after the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Ratzinger calls for a return to tradition and to "reform the reform" (Catholic Weekly, 20 January 2002).

The Cardinal lamented that the desire for creativity in the liturgy has been fostered by a wish for self- expression among communities and many people are complaining "that no two Masses are alike and asking whether a Catholic liturgy any longer exists."

Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks are wholly consistent with his earlier views published in his book Feast of Faith: "Today we might ask: Is there a Latin rite any more? Certainly there is no awareness of it. To most people the liturgy appears to be rather something for the individual congregation to arrange" (page 84).

In 1964 Father Bouyer wrote an optimistic appreciation of the Vatican II Liturgy Constitution, titled The Liturgy Revived, which predicted the emergence of an authentic liturgical renewal. By 1968 he had become disillusioned and wrote a vehement denunciation of the way in which the reform was developing in practice, titled The Decomposition of Catholicism. Even before the promulgation of the New Mass he saw the direction the reform was taking.

"We must speak plainly," he wrote, "there is practically no liturgy worthy of the name today in the Catholic Church" (page 99). He also contended that: "Perhaps in no other area is there a greater distance (and even formal opposition) between what the Council worked out and what we have" (page 99).

The celebrated liturgist Monsignor Klaus Gamber wrote: "The liturgical reform, welcomed with so much idealism and hope, has turned out to be a liturgical destruction of startling proportions - a debacle worsening with each passing year. Instead of the hoped-for renewal of the Church and of Catholic life we are now witnessing a dismantling of the traditional values and piety on which our faith rests" (The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, page 9).

Arncliffe, NSW

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