Now I’m a long, long, long time ex-Catholic (ok, probably not that long, but long enough), I don’t hold a torch for Catholicism (you might have noticed with my posts about the place focusing on The Pope), but I still have family involved in the Church, and spent some very happy times there (going LALALALA about certain aspects). I enjoyed the Mass as it was, the rituals were comforting and familiar, and I liked the ideals (that I understood) of Vatican 2 – the inclusiveness of the actual Church goers (you know, the people that fund the Church for the most part) in the rituals. (An aside, I learnt more about the whys and wherefores of Vatican 2 from Brides of Christ than I ever did during 12 years of Catholic education)
Anyway… I read with some dismay the changes to the Catholic Mass that are the beginning of an attempt to roll-back the progressiveness of Vatican 2 (how this works with the infallibility of Popes I have no idea). The Age had a useful explanatory article (warning picture of Pope Benedict – I mean Emperor Palpatine) detailing some of the changes to the Mass wordings. I don’t know about other people, but I struggle to remember changes to texts when they’re suddenly changed, particularly if I’m not happy about the changes.
So, the Catholic Church has decided that rolling-back Vatican 2 is a good idea because… well politics and power and removing power from the individual churches and concentrating it higher up. It’s always annoyed me that such a large institution, one that claims it serves the faithful, is such an undemocratic organisation. Surely those that fund it and use it, should have a say in how the organisation runs. It’s not like democracy is a new thing, but I suppose that dictatorships are even older.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)
So off you go Mr Pope, and Mr Cardinal, and Mr Bishop, and Mr Priest. Go and wash the feet of your faithful, the feet of those who provide the church with money to fuction and provide charity to others. Go and ask what they want, and stop imposing things from on-high as if you are the only men in the world who have a direct line to God (if ou exists).
British commentator William Oddie trumpeted in the conservative Catholic Herald last month that the liturgy battle is over but for a bit of mopping up, and ”the good guys won”.
”The new translation is wholly successful, and if we had been using it from day one, thousands of people repelled by the banality of the translation now being superseded would still be regular worshippers rather than lapsed Catholics. I really believe it’s as important as that.”
But it takes a particularly fervent advocate to suggest, as William Oddie does, that a liturgy-led revival will reverse declining church attendance.
Bob Dixon, head of the Australian church’s Pastoral Research Office, regards the idea as ”absolute fantasy. When we asked people why they stopped going to church, almost nobody said it was because the church has lost its sense of reverence by using modern English. They said they stopped because they can’t find relevance, they can’t see a connection between the church’s agenda and their own agenda, they disagree with certain church teachings.”
DIXON has two concerns. Nearly a third of Australian church-goers come from non-English-speaking backgrounds , so will a more elevated, less idiomatic liturgy create language hurdles for them? Second, will some of those disenchanted with the church over sexual abuse by clergy say, ”you have this crisis and you are just fiddling with the language”, and leave?
Seriously, people don’t leave a Church or a faith because they think that the language used in the liturgy is “banal”. I’m with Dixon who suggests that perhaps there are far more important reasons than boring language behind people leaving Catholicism. Perhaps the priests, the bishops, the cardinals and the pope need to sit down and listen to people who have left or who are going to leave – and decide what is really in the Church’s best interests versus the power-hungry grabbing that is going on now – just saying.