Memories of Dominick the Great

Christopher A. Ferrara

On March 20, 2006, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that in June Pope Benedict XVI will receive “the final proposal from the recent Synod of Bishops for the drafting of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist.” It seems that this final proposal will contain no fewer than 50 propositions to be presented to the Pope by a commission of 12 cardinals and bishops from the Synod, and that the commission will approve “a proposal and a plan for liturgical reform,” which the Pope will make public with his Apostolic Exhortation “tentatively” be issued October.

Let’s go over that again: (1) the Synod has made 50 proposals, which will be brought to the Pope by (2) a commission of 12 prelates, which 12 prelates will also approve (3) a “proposal and plan for liturgical reform” which might be made public in October as part of the Pope’s (4) Apostolic Exhortation.

Just a moment: Hasn’t the Church already undergone a vast “proposal and plan for liturgical reform” launched at Vatican II, whose results John Paul II never ceased to laud, including his declaration on the 25th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium  that “the Christian people have accepted the liturgical reform in a spirit of obedience and indeed joyful fervour”?   How can the joyfully accepted reform now be in need of reform?  Why tamper with all that joyful acceptance?

One wonders what this sudden flurry of paperwork can mean. Are we about to see the “reform of the reform” advocated by certain neo-Catholic commentators?  If the indications given by CNA are accurate, what will happen in October is next to nothing.  According to CNA, a Vatican source “said that the exhortation would include an invitation to greater use of Latin in the daily prayer of the Church and in the Mass—with the exception of the Liturgy of the Word—as well as in large public and international Masses.”

An invitation to use more Latin—but not, of course, in the “Liturgy of the Word.”   Check!

CNA further reports that “the document would also encourage a greater use of Gregorian chant and classical polyphonic music; the gradual elimination of the use of songs whose music or lyrics are secular in origin, as well as the elimination of instruments that are ‘inadequate for liturgical use,’ such as the electric guitar or drums, although it is not likely that specific instruments will be mentioned.”

The bishops will be encouraged to use more Latin in the liturgy, and to eliminate “gradually” the Cat Stevens tunes played with electric (but not acoustic) guitars and drums.  Check!

Finally, CNA reports that “the Pope is expected to call for ‘more decorum and liturgical sobriety in the celebration of the Eucharist, excluding dance and, as much as possible, applause.’”

The Pope will call for more dignity in the liturgy, an end to liturgical dancing, and as little applause as possible.  Check!

So, the upcoming “reform of the reform” would appear to consist of an invitation, an encouragement and a call, contained in an exhortation, to make the New Mass slightly less ridiculous and offensive than it is at present. But it seems that not even this vanishingly modest proposal to trim the edges of the liturgical debacle will come with any actual order by the Pope that anyone actually do anything about the state of the decrepit liturgy Paul VI created.

The anticipated papal call to reduce applause at the New Mass “as much as possible” reminds me of the great comedian Dom DeLuise and his character Dominick the Great, the inept Italian magician who hilariously bungled every trick.  Dominick’s best line was “Save-a the applause-a for the end-a.”  Perhaps the Pope will order at least that much in October.  But don’t count on it.