VIEWS of the laity on the liturgical changes already in force will be submitted to the Bishops of England and Wales at their February meeting. Decisions about further changes which are likely to follow goon — will be taken in the light of lay advice. The initiative for the move has come from Archbishop Heenan of Westminster. He has instructed all parish priests in the Archdiocese to hold parish meetings and report hack before the end of January. In several parishes, the meetings have already been held. Others are being arranged in the next two weeks.
Other Bishops are likely to follow the same course. Bishop Dwyer of Leeds has already asked his parish priests to get "the feeling" of the people on the liturgical changes by holding parish meetings and consulting leaders of lay organisations. Their findings will also be used by the Hierarchy next month.
But in other dioceses the Bishops have issued no orders as yet. It is generally felt that the Westminster inquiry, which will centre mainly in London, will reflect a fair cross-section of country-wide opinion.
In his message, Archbishop Heenan said it is clear that the present stage of the liturgical changes cannot be allowed to remain too long. It was obvious that a "more consistent language pattern" is required, he added.
The laity are asked to "air their views" and tell the priests exactly what they like or dislike about the new liturgy. The general attitude of the priests and laypeople will then he collated by the Archdiocesan Master of ceremonies for submission to the Bishops, who meet in Westminster on February 3.
Taken together with the thousands of letters from individuals and societies which have poured into diocesan chanceries since the changes were introduced, the parish meetings will provide a considerable volume of lay opinion on them.
Priests and lay organisations throughout Westminster Archdiocese have welcomed the parish meetings both as valuable contributions to the liturgical controversy and as an important innovation in lay-clergy communications. Many of them expect thd laity's contribution to the discussion on the liturgical changes to be "very constructive", as one parish priest put it. Others feared, however, that the meetings might be dominated by people with extreme views of one kind or another and that "Mrs. Murphy will be afraid to open her mouth". But in general priests believed that if they are attended by "a fair sprinkling of cranks and genuinely interested people" the overall results would represent a good cross-section of the people's feelings.
The president of the Newman Association, Dr. Oliver Pratt, said the society was "very encouraged" by the Hierarchy's move. He hoped the laity would "respond fully to the new and unfamiliar responsibility" of co-operating with the authorities in meeting the Church's pastoral needs rather than blindly following a few changei imposed by them.
A special correspondent writes:
Discussion at the parish meetings is expected to centre round four. main questions — the amount of "bobbing up and down", as it has been referred to in changing positions from kneeling, to standing, to sitting and so on; the awkwardness of the transitions from English to Latin and back; the awkwardness of some of the English phrases used; and the lack of uniformity between parishes over the optional use of the vernacular in weekday Masses.
Of these, the main criticisms may he directed against the transitions from English to Latin. Much comment has been caused by the change from Latin in the introductory prayer to the Our Father to English in the prayer itself, and from the English of "The Lord is with you" to the Latin of the lie missa est. Other people would like to see the Collect, Secret, Communion and Postcommunion in English and also the Preface.
The rriost sensible solution might be to decree that all parts of the Mass said aloud — and the number might be progressively increased — should be in the vernacular.