Saturday 29 October 2011

Nothing was broken in the liturgy before Vatican II

Bishop Edward Slattery on how to say Mass in conformity with the teaching of Vatican II

A friend sent me a link to an interview with Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma in The National Catholic Register. It's well worth reading - particularly for what he says about the liturgy and to note that ONCE AGAIN an orthodox bishop who encourages a love for the liturgy in line with the Church's teaching seems to attract more vocations to the priesthood. It seems we are still waiting for Vatican II to be properly implemented - not the fantasy island version of disruption and discontinuity that we have experienced but the real version faithful to the documents and in continuity with the teaching, Councils, Popes and liturgy of our God-given and God-guided Tradition.


I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That’s not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We’ve always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem [“to the east,” with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

Q: You yourself have begun celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Yes, in our cathedral and a few parishes where the priests ask me to. Most of the time, I say Mass facing the people when I travel around the diocese or when I have a large number of priests concelebrating, because it works better that way.

A few priests have followed my example and celebrate ad orientem as well. I have not requested they change. I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it’s feasible to do.


Q: How has your Diocese of Tulsa changed since you first arrived nearly 18 years ago?

We’ve also gone from having one of the older clergy populations in the country to one of the youngest. In the last 18 years, most of our priests who were on active duty have died or retired. I’ve ordained about 30 since I’ve arrived, and we have about 50 active priests total. Our average age now is about 45 or 46.


Allison said...

Very happy to have found your blog today, Father.

I will be marking it as a favorite to read regularly. If you have the time, please visit my blog. We've grown attached to the TLM and my 3 sons and husband serve at the Mass.

Anagnostis said...

I disagree strongly with your headline, Father, and with the good Bishop (whom I had the privilege to meet once, at Fontgombault).

A very great deal was "broken", and most of it remains broken, despite (because of?) the botched reforms of the '60s (the work of the Papal curia, let us remember, not "the bishops").

Even restricted to the bare integrity of texts and rubrics, the notion of nothing being "broken" by 1962 remains highly contentious, in my opinion.

Dom Gueranger initiated a Liturgical Movement having understood that by the middle of the nineteenth century the Liturgy was properly celebrated and authentically understood practically nowhere in the west. At the opening of VII, his work had borne few tangible fruits outside a handful of monasteries, and direction of the movement itself had already passed away from men who knew and loved the ancient liturgy to those who despised it.

Bishop Slattery is also mistaken, I believe, in his retrospective restriction of the Council's intentions to the Scripture readings in the local languages; this was already common well before the Council, usually after their reading in Latin and before the sermon, but frequently in some places, and perfectly licitly, instead of their reading in Latin. The desire to open up the whole treasury of the ancient liturgical rites to the understanding of the people (while preserving Latin in a place of honour) was, I believe, fully the intention of the Council Fathers - an aspiration likely to remain tragically unrealisable for the foreseeable future.

A healthy and robust liturgical life pre-Vatican II would not have crumbled at the touch, vanishing practically without trace within a decade.

Jacobi said...


I believe that in the post Vatican11 period the bishops simply did not even begin grasp the strength of the liberal and Relativist forces that were at work in the Church, particularly acting through the liturgy, and they were unable to keep up with events.

That is what reduced Paul 11 to tears.

It is only in the last decade that this has been more openly discussed, particularly the extent to which the relativist Reformers highjacked the liturgy.

Pope Benedict has understood this and is leading a proper analysis and reform - by example, by re-establishing the Tridentine Mass and by the Reform of the Reform of the Novus Ordo.

But it will now take decades to put right.