Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where to now for the Reform of the Reform?

Now that the discussion on Summorum Pontificum has settled down somewhat, I thought that I would present some ideas of mine on the where the "reform of the reform" or the reform of the Missal of Paul VI might go.

To define the "reform of the reform" itself is difficult. The term was first coined by an American Priest Fr Thomas Kocik, in a book called "Reform of the Reform?" in 2003 in which he synthesised a number of ideas from major figures including Cardinal Ratzinger, Msgr. Klaus Gamber, Michael Davies, Fr. Brian Harrison and Fr. Aidan Nichols. Iam listening to a talk given by Fr Kocik whicy you can also listen to on

The reform of the reform seeks to use as its starting point Sacrosanctum Concilium Art 50. Against this, the movement critiques the actual Ordo Missae of 1970 and subsequent usages with what Sacrosanctum Concilium asked for.

The principal issues that the supporters of RoR as needing reform are:

  • the use of Latin

  • the location of the Altar and the direction of the Priest in prayer

  • the use of Extraodinary Ministers of Holy Communion

  • Communion in the hand

  • female Altar servers

  • appropriate music

There are other issues relate to other issues on the Kiss of Peace, the multitude of Eucharistic Prayers., whihc I will talk about at another time.

Supporters of the reform of the reform do support other aspects of the Novus Ordo Mass such as the greater range of readings, the Offertory Procession and the active participation of the people, so it is really a middle road option between the traditionalists and the radicals.

The reform of the reform suggests a critical reassessment of the above practices and " enrichment of the current missal so its relationship with continiuty with the past can be more easily shown".

My criticism of some aspects of the reform of the reform is that there is a tendency with trying to create a quasi-tridentine Mass particularly in the absence of permission to use the older form of Roman Rite. Now that Summorum Pontificum has been promulgated, the need to do this has disappeared as the Extraordinary Form Mass now delivers most of these desires.

I believe that now we have an Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, the Missal of Pope Paul VI needs to be seen for what it is; in its own beauty, when celebrated properly. In terms of the points above my views are:
The use of Latin
Latin has a number of advantages as it connects us to the rest of the universal church. However, the vernacular also has advantages. My view is that although most people DO NOT like the Latin Mass they DO like Latin in the Mass. The issue of language will soon be resolved so a key reform plank and the use of banal language will solve itself. In any case people do need to know some Latin.
The Location of the Altar and the Direction of the celebrating Priest
I believe that the location of the Altar in the ordinary form Mass is a bit of an intractable problem. The Mass of Paul VI simply does not lend itself to Ad orientem due to the nature of the prayers at the start of Mass and the notion of the Priest presiding over the liturgy introduced in the General instruction on the Roman Missal N30. However, it has led to bad church architecture with the Altar looking excessively like a table, and the priest presiding OVER the whole show.
Steps to correct this would be through mounting the Altar on steps the use of a "pradella" of footpiece for the priest and of course bigger candles and an Altar cross, and of course a ciborium over the Altar. A centrally located tabernacle adds greatly to that Ad Orientem direction. I found it particualrly helpful to focus on the tabernacle even during the opening prayers and the readings as the real focus of the liturgy.
The real challenge then is for churches who celebrate ordinary and extraordinary forms, particularly if there is a High Altar behind it. The solution is then to have a temporary peoples Altar or just simply use the High Altar for celebration of either form. I have seen this used successfully in Europe, and seems to work, even just as a second best option.
This is something that I have always felt uncomfortable with. I know they form a practical solution to excessive length of time for Holy Communion, in the absence of concelebrating priests or a deacon but I do feel uncomfortable with then standing around the Altar during the fraction and the Communion rite. The current arrangements are in violation of N162 of the GIRM so this is an area of reform than needs to be tackled. Again the liberal faction will fight this one.
Communion in the Hand
This is such established practice that I dont think it can be changed. Abuses are few and far between and are always monitored and addressed by myself and the priests.
Female Altar Servers
Again - established practice. I manage this through ensuring that a majority of servers at any Mass are male. My belief is that female servers might just phase out by themselves in the long term.
Appropriate Music
Like the proverbial light bulb it needs to want to change. I couldnt even think where to start of this one. Its not my field of expertise. The only comment to make is if you cant process easily to it, you probably should not use in Church. There should also be some more use of the Roman gradual, that missing third book (after the Sacramentary and the Lectionary) of the reformed Roman Rite.
The advantages of the Missal of Pope Paul VI can only be seen in the light of the shortcomings of the Missal of John XXIII, and vice versa. As Fr Kocik said, they are both imperfect copies of that heavenly liturgy that we will all one day enjoy.
However I do still believe that the reform of the Reform is a worthwhile objective, not as an attempt to re-rcreate the past, but to enhance the Ordinary form Mass and open up its real potential to lead people to God.
Like it or not the ordinary form of the Roman Rite is here to stay and I am glad. Without it we would never had these types of discussions and would not have the new appreciation for the "Mass of the Ages" as the older Missal is sometimes called, that we have today.


Summa Theologica said...

Correction: The term "reform of the reform" was NOT coined by Fr Kocik. I believe Mons Gamber used a very similar phrase if not that one. In current usage it was popularised by Fr Harrison nearly ten years before Fr Kocik wrote his book.

Stephen said...

I am happy to stand corrected. This was the best that I could dredge up. The reality is that although it is widely discussed, no-one has coined a proper definition. I spoke to Roman a few months ago about doing an entry into Wikipedia. Are you able to help?

Summa Theologica said...

All I know for now is Father Harrison gave an in depth talk on the topic calling for a "reform of the reform" that inspired Fr Fessio to start Adoremus that very day. His talk goes into more detail but I haven't heard it.