Skip to comments.Is Pope Francis a Liturgical Liberal?
Posted on 03/18/2013 3:31:12 AM PDT by NYer
There have been some rumblings amongst traditionalist Catholics that Pope Francis is going to turn out to be a liturgical liberal. Apparently a few extremists are worried that Pope Benedict’s encouragement of the Latin Mass and his bringing back some of the older styles of clerical dress and papal customs are going to be thrown out in favor of happy clappy masses, clowns, balloons and big puppets.
Everyone should stop and take a deep breath and get a sense of priorities. I am myself, on the more traditionalist side of the liturgy wars. I dislike anodyne, sentimental church music, a game show host style of priestly celebration, tacky day-glo vestments and the whole modernist dumbed down liturgical style. I’m all for the Spirit of the Liturgy and reverence and beauty in the liturgy. I’m down on big round churches, sloppy servers and feel good homilies in the style of a Hallmark card.
However, there are permissible variations in the way Mass is celebrated. Pope Francis may well turn out to be more “low church” and folksy in his style. That doesn’t mean he is going to ban the Latin Mass. He may be more informal and personable in his celebration of Mass. That doesn’t mean he’s going to send his liturgical police to confiscate all the lacy cottas and birettas in the world. Just because he wears a chasuble with grapes and wheat on it doesn’t mean he’s going to make everybody sing Eagle’s Wings every Sunday.
There are a couple of things to remember here. First of all, in the United States the liturgy wars are part of a bigger cultural divide within the American Catholic church. Liberal liturgy very often also means liberal theology. Often the big box Catholic Churches with their praise bands and “gather them in” style are also full of cafeteria Catholics and left wing Obama-voting ideologues, while the traddy congregations are full of right wing members of the John Birch society with “You’ll get my gun when you pry my cold dead fingers from around it” bumper stickers on their cars. (I’m exaggerating to make a point). Naturally, therefore, the liturgy starts being about much more than the liturgy…
In the developing world however, the more informal modes of worship are much more of a general cultural phenomenon. An informal style there doesn’t necessarily carry all the baggage it does here. Just because a priest, bishop or pope is a bit more informal in his style of celebrating doesn’t mean he is a theological liberal or will compromise the faith. Indeed, everything about Pope Francis indicates that he is not only completely orthodox in theology and moral teaching, but that he has suffered for being so.
What strikes me about Pope Francis so far is that he celebrates Mass reverently and beautifully, but that his simplicity of life and his example of poverty means that he may not be as concerned about the “finer things” in Catholic worship. That doesn’t mean he’s going to ban everything that is beautiful, sacred and reverent. The give back with his informal style is that his preaching is heart felt and immediate.
So he’s not Pope Benedict. That’s okay. We can be confident that the same Holy Spirit who led the Cardinals to elect Joseph Ratzinger eight years ago also led the Cardinals to elect Jorge Bergoglio.
We need to remember that progress in the church is like sailing. When sailing you don’t always have the sind When you are sailing against the wind you have to beat the wind. You said with the wind coming at an angle and go in a direction other than directly where you want to go. Then you swing around and sail in the opposite direction at a slight angle, then swing about again and repeat the process. You never seem to be going in a straight line where you want to go, but you get there in the end through this zig zag process–tacking back and forth sort of progress.
So it often is in the spiritual life and in the life of the church. Here we benefit from the charism and gifts of one pope. We learn from him and appreciate his emphasis. There we benefit from the different charism and gifts of another pope. We learn from him and appreciate his emphasis. So the fullness of the Catholic Church is experienced and the wideness and breadth of the work of grace can be seen.
I’m excited by our new holy father, and if everything he does isn’t exactly to my taste, well so what? I want to learn from him, learn how to be a better Catholic and learn how to be a better priest. Most of all, I hope he shows us the pressing needs of the world, and how much we need to proclaim the gospel with our words and our works.
The bottom line is this: it should not be a question of either good liturgy or faithful proclamation of the gospel. Indeed fine liturgy is an important part of proclaiming the gospel.
However, if I had to choose between a happy clappy pope who was a vital and dynamic witness to the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, and a liturgically “proper” pope who was a sour, self righteous hypocrite, I’d take the happy clappy pope every time.
Translation: Chill-out traditional Catholics!
About Fr. Longenecker - a former Evangelical, then an Anglican priest, now a Catholic priest.
They believe if the write about it enough people will believe it making it come true. Liturgical delusion on the part of the press. What they have is an orthodox and therefore conservative Pope...and they cannot face it. So they make stories based on what they want, not upon facts that “are”... Thinking if they keep writing otherwise their wish will come true.
Excellent commentary, thanks.
We’ve gone a long way since “Lumen Christi” was exclusively done by the nuns of the Fransiscan order of my parish school Immaculate Conception, in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago (now closed).The light of Christ pascal candle lighting services were done on early Holy Saturday morns during Holy Week. Cuminating the lenten observation following Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.
The nuns were supplemeted by the childrens and then the adult choir both of which I participated in. Services I add here when and where we were invited and always lightly attended. Then the explosion on Easter Sunday .
On then to the cross mix of latin sung by the mens choir in poly chant where we rehearsed relentlessly and congregational responses in Emglish for Holy Week services during the begining of the “changes” at another newly constructed parish church on the southwest side of Chicago.
To where we’re at now. Reconstucted hymns many using folk song melodys affixed to complicated lyrics or to the few traditional hymns with changed lyrics unfamiliar to both the congregation and choir. Some 300 that are packed is the diocease missalette. Church organists are in the habit of picking out new hymns to be sung by the congregation led by the choir at every mass. That practice is not only degrading to the services but discouraging to participants..
I have not found that the Spanish-speaking congregation fits into any stereotypical box. They like "modern" music, although their "modern" includes folk-devotional pieces that sometimes date to the 18th century. They don't always dress up (and when they do, it can be LOUD), but they all kneel, on the floor.
The Carismaticos are into hand-raising and audible prayer, but they're also some of the strictest in morals and most knowledgeable about the Faith.
Personally, I'm prepared to be happy with whatever Pope Francis does.
Well I wish Pope Francis would put out the word that Catholics DO NOT HOLD HANDS during the Our Father. He needs to tell his bishops to start cracking the whip concerning these very protestant practices. The key is to follow the priest. He does not hold hands with the deacon or anyone else during the Our Father and no one else should either! Damn, I get tired of seeing it!
Good article, although I could have done without the last statement.
Yep. As a real little kid, my parents taught me to fold my hands in prayer, and when I was in first grade at St. Bernard's School, the nuns told us our hands should be together with our fingers pointed heavenward like little candles.
Now, everytime I pray with my hands pressed together, not only do I get to speak to God, but He blesses me with those relived memories of childhood innocence and the care and love my parents and nuns invested in teaching me :-)
No exaggeration, we really have them.
There are a handful of Hispanic/Spanish speakers who often show up at our Latin Mass (out of 20-25 total parishioners) I’ve never known if they are there due to missing earlier NO-Español Masses — ours is the last Mass of any kind during the day — or if their preference is actually the Latin Mass. They do follow the lay rubrics carefully. On the issue of clothing, these particular ones dress reverently, but once there was a lady with a low-cut blouse who insisted (before Mass started) on taking off her outer sweater to the consternation of her (more conservative) husband/boyfriend(?) They actually ended up having somewhat loud words outside the church building.
I have “The 2nd Amendment, America’s Original Homeland Security,” but it doesn’t correlate with any liturgical preference ;-).
Modest dress is just not a concept for many Latin Americans, even very decent, family-oriented people. Maybe it’s the warm climates where they originate.
Good article, although I could have done without the last statement.
...absolutely...what an idiotic point for him to close on...a true straw man comparison, since everyone would rather follow a competent and righteous priest over a self absorbed pompous sourpuss...where does he stand on two priests who are relatively equal in their approach...that is the question...
Translation: Chill-out traditional Catholics!
...you know, that’s exactly what they told reverent Catholics back in the late ‘60’s...oh the Mass won’t change, it’ll still be the same thing, and so on, and so on, although not quite with the insouciance you mustered...
...sure, chill out, you won’t even be able to tell the difference between the 1970 and 1962 missals...sure you won’t...
Well I wish Pope Francis would put out the word that Catholics DO NOT HOLD HANDS during the Our Father.
...what irks me more than that is the orans posture many people affect at the response to the Dominus vobiscum...I wish I could just shout do not do that, that is not the purpose of the response, but I would get into trouble...
Yes, exactly. I've come to expect more than this of Fr. Longenecker.
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