Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis - Ongoing Discussion

Pope Benedict signs the Exhortation

As you may know by now, Sacramentum Caritatis is 58 pages long when printed.

I have skimmed the document and there are many things I could pull out and make mention of. But, news organizations like EWTN (via CWNews) have done this, as has Fr. Z. Domenico Bettinelli has two posts up - one on politicians and the Eucharist, and another on Latin in the Liturgy. Drew at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping had an excellent commentary which speaks for me in terms of how this document is going to play out. I was disappointed in reading some of the combox responses in other blogs covering this, when people were visibly down because the Pope didn't smack anyone over the head. In part, Drew writes (emphasis mine and comment in red brackets)

As you know, the Exhortation for the most part has not taken upon itself to decree changes to the Missal or the General Instruction. Does this mean the document is of no consequence to the "reform of the reform?" The answer to this must be a resounding "No": Cardinal Ratzinger, in his books on the liturgy, gave much of the intellectual foundation of the "reform to the reform" simply by pointing out the problem, offering an alternative vision, and letting this vision grab the attention of Catholic intellectuals and youth [precisely my thought as I skimmed the document]. The reform of the reform is impressive for its success thus far given that it has not, for the most part, been promoted by sanction or decree, and yet it not only exists but grows [Bingo! The Holy Spirit at work!]. Indeed, the weakness of the original liturgical reform was that it was done by decree, and in light of this the strength of the reform of the liturgical reform is that it has, among the laity, people who are actively concerned, committed, and, er, participating in promoting it.

The Exhortation plays an important role in this movement, then, by codifying Ratzinger's ideas on liturgy into the written magisterium of the Church. He gave the reform of the reform much of its steam by expressing these ideas in popular books; it can only continue to pick up steam now that these ideas are more fully incorporated into the magisterium. The momentum of liturgy seems, from my vantage, to be clearly swinging in favor of a this reforming of the reform: by this exhortation, will it not continue to pick up speed, and continue to be desired by the people and priests themselves? Certainly, creating an environment in which the Church wants the "reform of the reform," though this takes longer than reform by fiat, is more effective in the long run. [The Holy Spirit doesn't have to make a change in a day, but may work over decades and centuries. It took 40 years to fully reveal just how misunderstood and misapplied Vatican II truly was]. It may be less satisfying than a glorious smack-over-the-head delivered to those with whom one disagrees, but glorious smacks-over-the-head are not effective in the long term [and, to desire smacks-over-the-head is somewhat disordered against charity. God does not force anyone to follow his will and such smack-downs reflect a desire to force people into submission. Rather, this approach puts the food out there for those who are hungry to partake]. How many people, pining for a liturgical smack down akin to Pius X's smack-down against "Modernism," are willing to concede that Modernism dissapeared consequent to being "smacked down?"
My thoughts for the last year or so, are that some of the most progressive-minded priests who have participated and orchestrated a loosening of all things Catholic - including the liturgy - are going to be retiring or heading to final judgment. They will have a few young disciples who will continue to create confusion, but for the most part, this JPII generation of priests and seminarians are being guided by documents just like this, which lift the ambiguity "reform" was previously cloaked in.

Hence, I have much hope and excitement out of this document which some see as having few teeth. The Holy Spirit often works silently in the background, and the work he is doing is in the hearts and minds of seminarians and priests who have been authentically seeking Truth.

Drew beautifully articulates this point:
After Mass today, I met one of the seminarians for my diocese--a reverent guy my age, also in love with the Church. These future leaders of the Church have had their hearts moved and formed by the exhortations of Cardinal Ratzinger and Benedict XVI, and it is precisely to loving and willing hearts that exhortations are recieved and by them are enacted. This exhortation, then, is a seed planted in the heart of those who want to reform the liturgy and the Church, and it is precisely the desire to reform the Church, it seems to me, which is the way to effect a reform of the Church that is sincere and lasting. Reform of the Church, then, begins in the reform of the heart--and in exhorting the willing heart. It is easy to call such Christian exhortation "ineffective" because the effects take time to come to fruition: but is that ineffective governance, or is it good psychology? Reform by fiat, which is not also reform of the hearts of Christians, waits only until the cat is away to quickly decay.

Theology was behind this document, and it should drive our meditations. The problem for the past 40 years is people wanting to conform the theology to their thoughts and feelings, rather than conforming thoughts and feelings to the theology.

I look forward to exploring this document with you, and to bring you links to other good posts on the subject. But, I think we will start back at the beginning and digest this slowly one post at a time. It may take a while, but will give us something to chew on for a while.