So we say every Sunday. Well, a lot of us Lutherans mean to say that, but we say "Christian" instead of "catholic", though the word in the original, and we're supposed to be so big on what's in the original, is katholike, which means whole, complete, entire, universal. So does the cognate word in English, catholic. But, there's this very large and well-known church that uses the word in its name, and we wouldn't want to seem to be saying we believe in IT, now would we? And too, some of us say it on Saturday late afternoon as if we did mean IT, since we follow their new custom since Vatican II of Saturday Sunday services, so hey.
Our essay is in nine short sections, detailing the drift of the post from a few days ago, "When In Rome ... ", on the challenges and dangers of presenting the faith of the Augsburg Confession in our time:
I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars"
II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform"
III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?
IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform
V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent
VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II
VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform
VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!
IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy
I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars".
Much is said these days about Lutheran church bodies abandoning classic Lutheran doctrine, and also doctrine in motion, otherwise known as liturgy, for things that supposedly will bring greater attendance and to which we can add Lutheran content. Why would one want to infuse a form that evolved as it did to omit the content one seeks to put back in, or think that any numbers gained thereby represent a gain for the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered? It cannot be explained by anything but mistaking mission for marketing.
But even where the adoption and adaptation of American "evangelical" worship, which we might call Willow Creek For Lutherans, is opposed, little if anything is said about how we have let in the back door what we try to keep out the front, in the adoption and adaptation of Roman Vatican II worship, which we might call Vatican II For Lutherans. And the unintended influence of the latter on the former, one way of dropping our worship for a Lutheranised other way opening the door to dropping our worship for yet other Lutheranised ways, goes largely unrecognised. And the damage continues from Vatican II For Lutherans and Willow Creek For Lutherans alike.
On the face of it, one might indeed wonder whether there is not much a Lutheran can appreciate about the changes in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II. For example, using an Old Testament passage along with the Epistle and Gospel, praying the Canon out loud so the Verba are heard by the congregation, using the local language rather than Latin, for restoring intercessions and petitionary prayer of the people, and not in a fixed form but one that can be adapted to what is going on. Are those things so bad? Do they not return to an older and better tradition than what was set in the Tridentine Rite? While there is much that may be questionable about Vatican II liturgical reform, must we then ignore it altogether or not find in it good things we can use too? Let's look and see.
II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform".
It may, at first, seem so from a Lutheran standpoint. I don't, now, have any problem with the "blessings" mentioned. But a Catholic, which I once was, ought to have tons of pixels of reasons why those "blessings" are a few of the things that are neither necessary nor even desirable, and obscure other things that are necessary. But Catholics don't anymore. For example, the "silent canon". Used to be a good thing, as The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass reflected the life of Christ, wherein he taught first, then acted for our salvation. Therefore the first part of the mass is Scripture and preaching, verbal, but in the second the focus is the action, not the words, which are silent, let alone congregational "memorial acclamations", as in the novus ordo, which destroy the whole idea. They taught something, then started teaching something else, but said nothing really changed; I still believed what they taught me before, so I left thinking the whole thing must be screwed up both before and after.
That was then. It isn't now. When I first read the BOC along with Adult Information Class, I would see in my mind the implementation of what is said there in contrast to the implementation that I actually did see before me during and after Vatican II. WOW. Throw in Babylonian Captivity, and I'm on board!
III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?
So here's the deal -- WE didn't get those blessings just listed from Vatican II, THEY did! So what to us then is their catching up? With the exception of the OT reading, which kind of jacks with Jerome's model of Torah/Haftorah from the synagogue lectionary to Gospel/Epistle, but adds on without destroying it, WE ALREADY HAD THEM, four hundred and some years before they started playing catch-up! And they sure as hell didn't produce the ESV.
Our problem is when we DON'T use our version of the pre-V2, and for that matter pre-Trent, historic liturgy, and instead start to worship after their new ones. It's when we DON'T add an OT reading to the historic lectionary going back to Jerome, but instead use their new one which was a conscious intended break with that tradition and the preaching associated with it. It's when we rehash their stuff, or worse rehash our stuff in the manner that they rehash their stuff, either way no different than others of us rehash American "evangelicalism" and Willow Creek or stuff like that.
So let 'em play catch-up. For THEM, not us. We don't need to start playing catch-up to their catch-up!
In short, the things from Vatican II which we cheer, WE ALREADY HAVE and a Catholic should deplore, and if they are now cheering them and doing them, something changed, and it wasn't us.
OK, well then that's a good thing, right? Well, again, from our point of view, yes. So, with all this good stuff happening, maybe we can even look at getting back to-gether, going "home to Rome", huh?
Just a second though. Something doesn't quite add up. If Rome has this divinely instituted guarantee in the bishops in succession from the Apostles in communion with the successor to St Peter, the Pope, where the church will always conserve the true faith of Christ, and we don't, we deny it and live outside it, and we therefore aren't even church in the strict sense of the word, then how is it that we do all this stuff 400 some years before without this guarantee, and how is it if it's such a good idea that is was held up with the guys with the guarantee for 400 some years?
Seems like it oughta be the other way around; it's the guys without the guarantee and all who oughta be catching up, so if there were changes here lately with them, they must have been a different sort of change than the sort of change we did centuries ago.
IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform.
And indeed it was. Which is our whole point here.
What was our intent? Whether we achieved it or not is another matter; what was our intent? Our Book of Concord makes it clear again and again our intent was not to come up with anything new, but quite the opposite, to preserve what was already there.
This is meant across the board; here, since the matters mentioned above are liturgical, let's look at how this works out liturgically. Just as we aim to teach no new doctrine, but the constant doctrine of the church pruned of later accretions, so also we seek no new order of worship, but the same order, corrected of abuses.
From the Augsburg Confession:
1) in the Mass, nearly all the usual ceremonies are preserved, the only thing new being throwing in some German hymns among the sung Latin (ACXXIV)
2)and we stick to the example of the church, taken from Scripture and the Fathers, which is especially clear in that we retain the public ceremonies for the most part similar to those previously in use, only differing in the number of masses (ACXXIV),
3) and even though the observance of holy days, fasting days and the like has been the basis of outrageous distortions of forgiveness of sins by Christ's merit, nonetheless the value of good order in the church, when accompanied by proper teaching, leads us to retain the traditional order of readings in the church and the major holy days (ACXXVI).
What is the intent here, what sort of change and by what means is confessed here? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it closer to that of the early church? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it taking into account other rites of earlier origin? Is it to make our worship more authentic by coming up with a new set of readings to offer more Scripture especially more moral teaching and less miracle stories? Is it to make our worship more authentic by offering options throughout the same rite, to make our worship more authentic by regarding abuses and distortions along the way as invalidating the way itself and the rite developed along the way? Is it to then, part stepping back in history, part stepping across in other rites, and part creating new things altogether, to step forward with a new order of mass, new lectionary, new calendar, to show we have gone beyond the abuses and distortions of the past and are now ready to address the future?
Nothing of the sort! In fact, the opposite of the sort! It was to accept and preserve the constant liturgy of the church, right along with the faith it expresses, pruned of excesses and accretions. It was not to do something new, or something new made by jumping back centuries to earlier, presumably purer, times.
V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent.
We ought remember too, that when the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, the Tridentine Rite, as it is called now, was 40 years in the future, and when the Book of Concord was complete in 1580, it was only 10 years old. The "Tridentine Rite" was precisely Rome's effort to both address the legitimate concerns of the Reformation and at the same time guard against its doctrinal errors from Rome's point of view, establishing one norm to effect both aims for the Western Church as a whole, allowing other rites to be observed locally or by religious orders only if they were no less than two hundred years old, which is to say, before 1370, the Tridentine Rite being promulgated in 1570, and therefore untainted by the Reformation.
The 1570 typical edition would have five revisions: 1604 by Pope Clement VIII, who had also revised Jerome's Vulgate (Latin) Bible and the two needed harmonising; 1634 by Pope Urban VIII; 1884 by Pope Leo XIII; 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, mostly making official the work of the late Pius X; 1962 by Pope John XXIII, mostly making official the work of the late Pius XII.
Revised typical editions don't just happen out of the blue. They codify and formalise specific papally mandated changes made in the years before. For example, when I was an altar boy, the 1920 typical edition was in force, but Pius XII had made extensive revisions to the Holy Week liturgy binding in 1955, which were controversial then. I remember older people grousing about this new stuff that changed what Holy Week was even like. They remain controversial now, in the larger context that some advocates of the Tridentine Rite do not accept the 1962 edition which incorporated them, and/or John XXIII's later revisions to the edition, but none advocate the original 1570 edition as some sort of purity. Rome insists upon the 1962 edition where the Tridentine Rite is allowed.
The point is, when we speak of how we've "always worshipped", nobody, absolutely nobody, takes that to mean that nothing ever changed, any where, any time, and never will -- it has, it does, and it will, change not being the question, but rather what kind of change and change into what.
VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II.
The Tridentine Rite was replaced entirely by the novus ordo missae, the New Order of Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and coming out in 1970. It too did not just happen, bam, but was a codification, a finalising and formalising, of things introduced prior to it, this time during and after the Second Vatican Council. The new rite was a NEW rite, with a new calendar, a new series of readings over three years replacing the one that stood and grew for about 1500 years, and unlike anything before it in the same rite, different options for doing one thing such as confession and absolution, not to mention four different eucharistic prayers for the heart of the mass itself.
The old rite was not declared invalid, but replaced, with certain exceptions granted for its use. The motu proprio of 2007, Summorum pontificum, did not change that at all, but rather made simpler the conditions for exceptions. And then went one better -- while the novus ordo remains the lex orandi, the rule of prayer, for the church, now, in addition to the new multiform lex orandi, the 1962 edition of the Tridentine Rite will be considered an other-than-ordinary (the word extraordinary meant literally) expression of that same lex orandi! All the same thing, of course -- implying too, one must recognise the novus ordo as the normal use of the Roman Rite to use the Tridentine Rite as its extraordinary use, which does not in the least address the entire reason why some Catholics from the get-go continued with the Tridentine Rite, namely, that the new order was false to prior orders.
Thus, if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was a great step forward, and continued steps forward consist in being faithful to the new mass rather than endless departures from it in its supposed "spirit", then this is at best an unneeded step and at worst a step backward from that reform, and if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was the step backward, indeed a step away, from the true mass, then this requires an acceptance of the invalid new rite as valid.
So, change everywhere. Indeed. But again, change is not the issue. The issue is, what kind of change and change into what.
The fact is, the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, no less than those of Trent, proceed from a basis completely different than, and completely foreign to, the liturgical reforms of the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, there are points of similarity in the results, certainly. There are large areas of similarity across the board. But the totality, and the underlying agenda, are an entirely different effort than ours, and in fact utterly hostile to the very thing our reform set out to reform and pass on.
VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform.
The late Neuhaus, in his writings about his conversion to the post-conciliar RCC, expresses better than anything I have read in some time the utter disgust and rejection of the traditional Catholic Church by the Catholic Church put in its place at Vatican II. All very politely expressed, so Neuhaus doesn't even recognise it in himself as he expresses it! An entirely new church, containing nothing of anything before it, which it clearly despises. The violent caricature -- borrowing from Maritain, yet another who constructed, like Newman, his partly Protestant partly pagan "Catholic Church" to address his own needs -- that mindset offers of anything before Vatican II is as much the actual church before the Vatican II as the "spirit" of Vatican II is Vatican II, and is utterly obscene in its gross falseness (again, unintended and unrecognised) and in its disconnect from the Catholic Church (and again, unintended and unrecognised) that is more radical than anything in the entire range of the "Reformation".
Just as there is a "spirit" of Vatican II and Vatican II itself, there was a "spirit" of Trent and Trent itself too. Then, as now, this confusion of the two is seen in primarily two places, one being popular piety, where things are done thinking they are based in the real thing whereas they are based in the grossest of misunderstood caricatures of it, the other being the actions of priests and bishops who do essentially the same thing but with far greater implications due to their position.
How utterly ironic that, as the post-conciliar RCC attempts to address the confusion of Vatican II with the "spirit" thereof by some sort of "reform of the reform", the real Vatican II itself is based on a confusion of Trent with the "spirit" thereof.
The things which, as a Lutheran now thank God, I am happy to see seem to indicate the RCC is in the early stages of catching up with where the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has been for some centuries now, and are largely the same things which, as a Catholic, indicate the RCC is in the final stages of becoming a Protestant church but with the pope at the top, as my dad, a 1941 RCC convert, used to put it.
Newman, Bouyer, Maritain, on and on, Protestants all, constructed a "Catholic Church" intellectually that allowed them to remain essentially Protestant but with the external validity supplied by the institutional RCC church, which at Vatican II was crystallised and codified and made official by the institutional RCC church itself. These theologians were collectively called the Nouvelle Theologie, the New Theology, and in the decades leading up to Vatican II were repeatedly warned against by popes up to and including the last pre-conciliar pope, Pius XII.
de Lubac in 1946 was forbidden to publish by the Catholic Church; de Lubac was a peritus (theological expert and adviser) at the Council and was made a cardinal by JPII.
Chenu's book Le Saulchoir was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pius XII; Chenu was a peritus at the Council.
Urs von Balthasar in 1950 was banned from teaching by the Catholic Church; JPII named him a cardinal.
Congar was banned from teaching or publishing by the Catholic Church; after the Council, JPII, greatly influenced by him, made him a cardinal.
Chenu and Congar, along with Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Kueng, were part of the founding of the journal Concilium, begun in 1965 during the Council as a scholarly journal of the thought behind the reform. Urs von Balthasar and de Lubac, along with Bouyer, Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger, were part of the founding of the journal Communio, founded after the Council in 1972 thinking Concilium though on the right direction had gone too far.
The direction was not the issue; it is the same for both, the question being only how far it goes. The more conservative answer is Vatican II Catholicism as officially taught by the hierarchy collectively and the post-conciliar popes, the more liberal answer being the "spirit" of Vatican II, the "excesses" etc. from which the conservatives think a "reform of the reform" will deliver that church.
VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!
All of them, along with Rahner, Kueng, Schillebeeckx, Bouyer, Gilson, and Danielou, were the Nouvelle Theologie, warned against not by name but by description by Pius XII in Humani generis (1950). And three years earlier, in Mediator Dei, Pius XII specifically rejected a liturgical archaeology, as he called it, as a model for liturgical change, as if there were no organic development of liturgy by the Holy Spirit, and as if validity were to come from scholars uncovering earlier therefore purer or better sources which become current models.
All of that is dissent, and was recognised as such by the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. That has one kind of consequences within the Roman Catholic Church, which amount to this: what is now normative Catholicism was prior to Vatican II dissent from Catholicism. A more conservative version of that dissent won, and now maintains supremacy over the more liberal version of the same dissent. The direction of Mediator Dei and Humani generis was left in the dust.
As Lutherans we may note indeed that liturgical reform at Trent specifically sought to remove any taint of the Reformation. But we must also -- and this is the point of going through all this "Catholic stuff" -- note that the liturgical reform at Vatican II absolutely did not accept Lutheran ideas expressed in our Confessions, but rather proceeded on a basis of "liturgical archaeology" that is foreign to both our Confessions and the Roman Catholic Church, a basis which rejects the common element of organic growth accepting and treasuring its results.
Sasse wrote in We Confess the Sacraments (Concordia 1985, the particular passage quoted on Pastor McCain's excellent but now defunct blog Cyberbrethren for 18 June 2010) that if the right relationship of liturgy and dogma can be known in Rome, as seen in Mediator Dei, then how much moreso among us who also make the right understanding of the Gospel a criteria of liturgy.
IOW, what was lacking in Mediator Dei and in the liturgical reforms of Trent is the same thing that was lacking that led to the Lutheran Reformation, namely, a right understanding of the Gospel. At Trent, steps were taken to ensure that no taint of what were, in their minds, our incorrect and novel understanding of the Gospel would influence the liturgy, but the organic growth process itself rather than liturgical archaeology was not in dispute, just Rome's stranglehold on the process as well as on the catholic church itself.
What was lacking in Vatican II and its novus ordo is the common element not in dispute between us and Rome, the participation in that organic process, accepting what has been handed on to us rather than recreating it based on liturgical archaeology of a Romantic ideal of a lost pure Apostolic or Patristic age. In so doing, as the banned theologians of one decade became the conciliar theological experts (periti) and Cardinals of the next, Rome in no way came closer to us with a right understanding of the Gospel as a criteria of liturgy, but in fact turned its back on the right relationship of dogma however understood and liturgy that was not in dispute at the Lutheran Reformation.
Yet we (we being LCMS, not only just Lutherans in general) follow right after them, "them" being now not just Rome but the other liturgical church bodies, such as the Anglican Communion, the ECUSA and ELCA here, and the EKD in the "old country", all of them predictably doctrinally heterodox too, in either or both of adopting and adapting Rome's novus ordo liturgy, including its lectionary and calendar, and applying the principles of liturgical archaeology to our own liturgical past.
And so we place the results on an equal basis with the historic liturgy, then wonder why others wonder why yet other things, or no liturgy at all, cannot also be placed on that equal footing!
IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy.
What is important for us Lutherans about that is this: both Trent and Vatican II resulted in new Roman missals, but neither effort sought what our reforms seek and therefore neither are the models to which we turn and neither produce a lex orandi consistent with our lex credendi. In the novus ordo, while on the surface it may seem to move closer to our reforms, we see an order of service that resulted from entirely different ideas and objectives than our reforms, ideas and objectives which in fact are contradictory to ours and reject their entire basis. Ours seek to retain the usual ceremonies except where contraindicated by the Gospel, theirs seek to replace the usual ceremonies with new ones based on the concepts of Nouvelle Theologie.
The fruit of their effort has nothing to contribute to ours, and, in seeking to "Lutheranise" this manner of worship we are no less attempting to make Lutheran a kind of worship based on a kind of belief that is not ours, attempting to make a lex orandi from something based on a lex credendi that is not ours, than those who go to Willow Creek et al seek to "Lutheranise" a content and a lex orandi also derived from a belief and a lex credendi that is not ours.
If the latter has become popular and in many eyes not only permissible but desirable, why should that surprise us when we have done the same thing in the former, since either way the result is "contemporary worship" rather than the conservation of the ongoing liturgy of the church?
Concilium, Communio, Nowayio!
Textual Note: This is a revision of my post "On being catholic, on being Catholic" from 18 March 2009. Understanding the nature of "catholic" as distinct from "Catholic" seems more urgent than ever on this anniversary of the presentation of our most fundamental confession.