Bishop Peter J. Elliott is auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Australia, and is currently a member of the Bishops’ Commission for Liturgy in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. In 2009 he was appointed the Delegate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference for the setting up of a Personal Ordinariate for Former Anglicans. Bishop Elliott is a member of the Vatican commission “Anglicanae Traditiones” preparing an “Anglican Use” of the Roman Rite for the Ordinariates.
Bishop Elliott is the author or editor of several works on liturgy, including Liturgical Question Box: Answers to Common Questions About the Liturgy, Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year: According to the Modern Roman Rite, and Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite: The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours (2nd Edition), all published by Ignatius Press.
He recently corresponded with CWR about recent remarks made by Pope Francis about the “reform of the reform” and other liturgical matters.
CWR: Pope Francis has stated in a recent interview that “to speak of a ‘reform of the reform’” is an error. What, first, is the “reform of the reform”?
Bishop Peter J. Elliott: It is a hypothetical revision of the liturgical changes that followed Vatican II. Some time ago on the New Liturgical Movement website, I expressed my own misgivings with this expression, “the reform of the reform”. I prefer the wider and deeper vision of a “new liturgical movement”, an organic development, gradual and spiritual. That is better than restricting oneself to an attempt to bring the modern rite in line with the pre-conciliar liturgy.
I worked in the Commission “Anglicanae Traditiones” that put together a “use” of the Roman Rite for former Anglicans in the Ordinariates established by Pope Benedict. Their Eucharistic rite has been described as a “reform of the reform” but in fact it blends three streams that are valued by high-church Anglicans: the Books of Common Prayer and the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite. The text is also a mild form of Tudor English as befits their gracious tradition.
CWR: The Pope has also stated that the Mass reformed after Vatican II is here to stay.
Bishop Elliott: Of course the Ordinary Form is here to stay, but I am irritated when people refuse to provide for celebration of the Extraordinary Form or even make fun of it in ignorant ways. That is most unhelpful when we reflect on efforts to find a secure place in the Church for the Society of St Pius X, a project dear to the heart of Pope Francis and his predecessors, Saint John Paul and Pope Benedict.
Occasionally I celebrate the Extraordinary Form and, while I cannot claim to be deeply attached to it, I find that it makes me “pray the Mass”. That is part of the genius of the “old rite”. It carries you. That came home to me at the recent Fota Liturgy Conference in Cork, Ireland when I celebrated Solemn Mass at the Faldstool in St Peter and St Paul’s Church.
CWR: Where do you see liturgical reform heading in years to come? What are some of the main issues that might need to be addressed in both forms?
Bishop Elliott: Again, why must we speak of “liturgical reform”? Gradual organic development is what we need. That involves first of all respecting the integrity of both forms of the Roman Rite.
Having worked for years to promote the worthy celebration of the Novus Ordo, I am also irritated by some attacks on it made by traditionalists. But their criticisms often stem from the poor way the Ordinary Form is celebrated. Some priests seem ignorant of the principles and ceremonial of the modern rite. They never read the revised General Instruction. The result is sloppy and dull liturgies, often accompanied by vulgar music. Some priests even presume to “improve” the new ICEL translation of the Mass or they casually rattle off these richer texts and the result is an ugly mess.
As Pope Benedict has insisted, the “art of celebrating” calls for a lot of hard work. That involves not only better in-service for priests and deacons (and some bishops!) but a high model of liturgy in our seminaries and houses of formation. I believe there are good signs of development here and I was most impressed by the quality of liturgy at Kenrick Glennon seminary when I visited St Louis last year.
At the same time, it is not good to restrict the Extraordinary Form to Low Mass, without a dialogue between celebrant and people. Nor do I believe it is wise to celebrate the Extraordinary Form in a baroque style because, the “Mass of all times” cannot be locked into the tastes of the Eighteenth Century. My heart sinks when I see some of the tacky vestments younger clergy choose to wear for the Extraordinary Form, imagining that this is “part of the deal”. It is not. The gracious style and modest taste of the pre-conciliar liturgical movement should inspire us here.
CWR: The Pope expressed puzzlement as to why some young people would prefer the “old Latin Mass”, saying he finds rigidity there. In your experience why are some young people attracted to the Extraordinary Form? Are they rigid? Are they nostalgic?
Bishop Elliott: I was also puzzled by this phenomenon until I started to listen to these young people. I learnt that what attracts them to the classical rite is the peace and silence, the prayerful mystery, the predictable order (no surprises here!) and especially orientation, when all of us pray together facing “east” – and the celebrant cannot put on a cabaret act.
Because they were born decades after Vatican II, they cannot be nostalgic, unless this is a “psychological nostalgia”, as a friend recently suggested. That may indicate rigidity. However, with a few wild and wacky exceptions, I have not found rigidity among these young Catholics, rather an enthusiastic love for Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. These are often the same young people who spend time in Eucharistic adoration.
I wish that the young men and women of the Juventutum movement would arrange to dialogue with the Holy Father. He is very approachable, as we saw in Poland at World Youth Day. If we are to further the development of the worthy worship of our merciful God, we need to communicate better, particularly for the sake of the peace and unity of the Church today.
Related at CWR:
• Rigidity in defense of the liturgy is no vice (Nov 16, 2016) by Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille
• Digging into Pope Francis’ remarks about the “old Latin Mass”, “rigidity” and “insecurity” (Nov 14, 2016) by Carl E. Olson