Liturgical Shipwreck

by Michael Davies
Part 6

In a forthright editorial in the February, 1979 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., the editor, addressed an appeal to the American hierarchy. He complained of the hundreds of changes imposed on the people, which they hardly had time to digest, and begged for a halt to be called to the liturgical revolution. "We have been overwhelmed with changes in the Church at all levels, but it is the liturgical revolution which touches all of us intimately and immediately." There appears, alas, to be no hope at all of a halt being brought to the liturgical changes or of effective steps being taken to remove any of the abuses which had become so widespread by 1980 that Pope John Paul II felt obliged to make a public apology to the faithful in his Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae:

     I would like to ask forgiveness in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous applications of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great Sacrament.
Has ever a pope needed to speak such words in the entire history of the Roman Church, the Church that is the mother and mistress of all other churches? And have matters improved since this astonishing apology? No, they have worsened with every year that has passed! The liturgical revolution has indeed, as Father Baker observed, touched the faithful intimately and immediately and in a manner which has disturbing parallels with the way that Thomas Cranmer, the apostate Archbishop of Canterbury, destroyed the faith of English Catholics-----not by indoctrination with Protestant teaching-----but by forcing them to worship each Sunday with a Protestantized liturgy. He used a liturgical revolution to implement a doctrinal revolution! This is explained clearly by Msgr. Philip Hughes in his history of the English Reformation:
     This prayer book of 1549 was as clear a sign as a man might desire that a doctrinal revolution was intended and that it was, indeed, already in progress. Once these new Sacramental rites, for example, had become the habit of the English people, the substance of the doctrinal reformation, victorious now in northern Europe would have transformed England also. All but insensibly, as the years went by, the beliefs enshrined in the old, and how disused, rites, and kept alive by these rites in men's minds and affections, would disappear-----without the need of any systematic missionary effort to preach them down. 32
Does this seem familiar to you? It is an illustration of a principle long enshrined in Catholic theology, Lex orandi, lex credendi, which can be translated roughly as meaning that the manner in which we pray reflects what we believe, and that, therefore, if the way we pray is changed, what we believe will change also. Is this happening today? Has not the change in our liturgical rites been followed by a dramatic change for the worse in the beliefs and the behavior of our Catholic people? In the editorial to the November 1991 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Father Kenneth Baker wrote,
      With each year it seems that we get closer to an "American Church," separate from Rome. For millions of Catholics it already exists in fact, though not yet officially [de facto but not de iure]. Even though the entrenched bureaucracy will not admit it, the Church here is in bad shape. There has been a loss of morale and élan. But what should one expect when most Catholic children do not know the basics of the faith, when heresy is openly taught and defended in "Catholic" universities, when seminarians have declined from 48,000 to about 5,000, and when [only] 14 million out of 55 million Catholics [i.e., 25%] go to Church regularly on Sunday? It is not an exaggeration to say that the Church here is in a crisis.