Father Burrowes (January 6) takes exception to our using the term 'revolutionary' in our book 'Into the Future' to characterise the reeent changes in liturgical life and practice. But is it in fact so far off the mark? Because these changes did not occur in one fell swoop but have been phased over a period of sonic fifteen years or so we do riot perhaps realise what a transformation of the liturgical scene has been effected.
Imagine if we can be some twentieth century Rip van Winkle attending Sunday Mass in his parish church for the First time after a hibernation of say fifteen years, and think how incredible he would find the whole proceedings.
The venerable Puginesque altar
no longer in use, the Mass being celebrated on a plain wooden table on the edge of the sanctuary! The celebrant facing the people! The entire service in the vernacular! An attractive young lady and a bearded young man reading the first two lessons from the lectern! Bidding prayers coming from the members of the congregation as well as from the celebrant! An offertory procession during which a group of tousled-headed youngsters sitting on the altar steps sang what was apparently regarded as a hymn to the accompaniment of a strident guitar! A completely new version of the. offertory prayers and Canon! Hand-shaking and embracing at the Kiss of Peace!
By this time poor Rip would be prepared for anything, but would still be taken aback when, in going to receive Holy Communion he was handed the sacred host by a stylishly dressed lady whom he learned later was Sister Shirley from the local convent! "Revolutionary"? You would probably get Rip to agree.
Father Burrowes wonders also if we are right in suggesting that there has been "development in doctrine, new insights in morality" in our times and asks what these developments and insights might be. Surely we do not have to defend the use of the term "development in doctrine" (shades of Newman!) And if asked to justify its use, need we go further than the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council, where the Council Fathers etate that the "tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy gpirit. For there is a growth in the anderstanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down.
"This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth (Dei Verbum 8). The General Catechetical Directory commenting on this passage affirmed that "the ministry of the word is not a mere repetition of ancient doctrine. but rather it is a faithful reproduction of it, with adaptation to new problems and with a growing understanding of it" (G.C.D. 13).
moralitysurely needs no defence. One outstanding instance comes to mind in the current awakening interest or rather the re-awakening in the Church's leaching on conscience. A lecturer on the subject in one of our programmes recently began his talk by saying that when making moral decisions a man must always follow his conscience and further, that the Catholic Church has always asserted the primacy of the individual conscience. In the discussion that followed one of his listeners objected mildly, "The Catholic Church may have always asserted this, but in fact did not always seem to be doing so",
The Council Fathers of Vatican II were not beating any dead horse when they laid down in Gaudium et Spes the assertion that "laymen should expect advice and help from their priests but they should not expect them to be such experts that they can give concrete solutions to every problem. Nor should they imagine this is the priest's mission. Thu layman, enlightened by Christian wisdom and heeding the Church's teaching authority, should take responsibility for his own affairs" (Gaudium et Spes 43).
Twenty years ago it would have been regarded as one of the accepted duties of the priest to "give concrete solutions to every problem", not so today. And this surely is because the laity today realise, to quote the same paragraph, that 'it is for their rightly formed conscience to make the imprint of God's law upon earthly life."
Kevin Cronin and Gamma Brennan Westminster Adult Religious Education Centre, 209 Old Marylebone Road, London NWI 5QT.