Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


In Support of True Diversity

June 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Oftentimes, people associate orthodoxy or faithfulness to the teachings of the Church (especially as pertaining to liturgy) with being hostile towards diversity. The claims are made that Jesus would want everyone to have a part at His Eucharistic Table, and that if we care too much about rules and regulations, we lose the spirit of what He intended us to have. Indeed, those who say or profess such things are surely doing so because they are being motivated by a love for the Church, albeit a flawed and underdeveloped love which focuses more on honey-sweet sentiment than lasting spiritual edification. I would like to devote this post to answering their claims that Catholics in support of dignified liturgy are cold, unfeeling, and closed-minded individuals who care only for keeping the status-quo.

Mass in Hong Kong

No one can possibly deny that the Church is truly diverse Рjust look at Her list of saints! We have some saints murdered in Nazi concentration camps, whereas others are holy nuns who never left their Medieval cloisters. We have missionaries from Vietnam alongside Tudor-era Englishwomen who sheltered young Jesuits from Elizabethan authorities. However, throughout all of these holy lives, there is a  common thread, something tethering each one to the others. That thread, and a golden thread at that, is the Holy Mass. For the greater part of two millenia, the Mass as prayed in Korea was the Mass as prayed in Rome, and the Mass as prayed in the trenches of Flanders in WWI was the Mass as prayed by African missionaries. A 13th Century Dutch cloth merchant could, without any hesitation or confusion, realize what the Mass was even if he were to see a 19th Century Mass offered in some backwater town in America. The Church celebrated its diversity through celebrating its singular unity.

However, since the 1970’s, the notion of celebrating our diversity became confused with celebrating our cultural identity. In the confusion which gripped (and grips) the Church in the post-Conciliar years, every group, every nationality, every ethnicity, every age-group, and every social-body felt the need . . . I’m sorry . . . felt “called by the Spirit” . . . to have their own Mass. The Mass became, not so much a unifying sacrifice of love, but a means to asserting cultural, social, and ethnic identity.

Sacrosanctum Concillium states the following regarding diversity through the Holy Mass:

D) Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples (note: “talents” are not “mediocrities.” Marty Haugen, this means you.). Anything in these peoples’ way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact (The important thing here is that SC recognizes the possibility of error in local liturgical celebrations. It does not say that the error should be tolerated or left in place, but rather, if possible, corrects it. If it is already correct, then, if possible, it may be introduced into or kept in that region’s liturgies.). Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit. (For the “true and authentic spirit” of the liturgy, click here.)

38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands (Sacred Heart Cathedral probably doesn’t count . . . ), provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.

39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution. (Again, this section of SC is dealing with those few and extra-ordinary times when things may be changed with the liturgy. It is in no way stating that the norms it sets forth, i.e. Latin, Gregorian Chant, etc. are to become de facto second choices.)

40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:

1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.

2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.

3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.

(This is not aimed at milk-toast SSJ’s or diversity-minded local ordinaries and their white-albed henchmen/henchwomen/henchpeople. Rather, it is written for those people who have limited understanding¬† of or access to the Church, such as those Pacific Islanders who until the past few decades were still head-hunters, or those Christians in Muslim-controlled areas whose worship situations are less than ideal.)

While this does leave room for cultural deviations, it does so under the assumption that these cultural deviations will occur organically, i.e. an “African Mass” ought to happen in Africa, not upstate New York. However, there are those who, blinded by zeal for their Church, read these documents and fail to apply the “spirit of the law” to the “letter of the law.” It’s rather amusing to see liturgical liberals will point at many of us and say “you’re too by-the-book” and yet they use this unbending “by-the-book” approach to liturgy to justify their antics at Mass. The spirit of the documents of Vatican II is one of loving acceptance for all the children of God, and recognizes that the Roman Rite has many different forms and manifestations. However, this open-endedness does not permit illicit acts to take the place of approved liturgical actions. A parent may very well hand his or her child the keys to the family car. The parent assumes that the child will drive wherever he wants, but will do his best to stay on the road . . . a noble, lofty goal, to be sure. However, when the son backs up into the lawn of a neighbor and destroys her prize-winning roses, you don’t justify it with any of those phrases some in our midst throw out with nauseating frequency. “I felt called to do it.” “It didn’t hurt anyone, so it’s okay.” “There’s no law saying you can’t do it . . . just that it’s not preferable.”

Latin Mass in Gabon

At Vatican II, the Church gave her children the keys to the family car, often to ruinous effect. While in the little analogy above, the only thing that was lost was a bed of roses, in real life we have lost entire parishes of souls. God does not desire our pursuit of diversity to alienate people – it must unify.

To that end, we should try to figure out what unifies and what segregates us as Catholics. When I go to Mass at Sacred Heart, and I am presented with a “Lamb of God” which incorporates every language known to man (except Latin – dear God, we mustn’t use that language!), I’m somewhat at a loss for words. Are we really going to sing a verse in Tagalog, for the one Philippino fellow in attendance, and who probably knows either Spanish or English already? If I were attending a Mass being offered for the Phillipino community, I would wholly expect to encounter Tagalog . . . but not when 90% of the congregation is well-acquainted with English. We must be sensitive to cultural demands, and to celebrate cultural identities. This doesn’t mean that we need to invent diversity just for the sake of having it. If it exists, wonderful. If it doesn’t, fine. Just recognize it either way and cater your liturgy to those demands.

But what about when you have a multi-cultural gathering, such as the annual Chrism Mass, or maybe a cluster’s only Easter Vigil or Holy Thursday Mass? If only there were one language that the Church used to bring together all of Her children, no matter what language may be their native one . . .

Oh, wait . . . Vatican II covered that bit, too:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to tho norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.


101. 1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.

Isn’t it funny how the same documents used to strip churches of their altars, statues, tabernacles, chant, ceremony, and Latin are the same documents that instruct the faithful to keep all these same things?


Tags: , , , ,


2 Responses to “In Support of True Diversity”

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    Very good reflection.

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    Yes, this is an excellent piece.

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-