Wrong Way! Turn Back!


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Unknownst to me yesterday when I was blogging on Msgr Marini’s talk at the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Conference, the Broken Bay Institute had already made a Media Release declaring “FR ANSCAR CHUPUNGCO LAUNCHES THE BROKEN BAY INSTITUTE-UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE THEOLOGY PROGRAMS IN LITURGICAL STUDIES”.

In this release, Fr Chupungco, a Benedictine described as a “world-renowned expert in liturgical inculturation”,

challenged recent announcements on liturgical reform decrying their “absence of a historical and cultural approach to the liturgy, or, in a word, the inability to fuse together the two basic concepts of Vatican II’s liturgical renewal, namely sound tradition and legitimate progress.” [What the $%@#?]

He noted that recent statements coming from no less than the papal master of ceremonies, Msgr Guido Marini, which called for a reform of Vatican II’s reform were part of an agenda [read: “papist plot”] to turn the clock back 50 years, that “seems to conveniently forget that since Vatican II, the Church has been marching with the times, acknowledging the changes in social and religious culture, and adopting new pastoral strategies.”

“Marching with the times”? I get the impression from this “expert” in inculturation that this is to be taken as a virtue rather than a sign of weakness? While it is indeed true that culture and Catholic liturgy have always been intricately related, I think that Fr Chupungco’s assumption that this relationship has or should always be a sympathetic one is wildly off-target. Whenever culture has been allowed to play the Pied Piper to the Church’s worship, the result has always been disaster both for the Christian gospel and the liturgy.

There is a great deal to be concerned about in relation to this new “program of liturgical studies”. What the blazes are we supposed to make of double talk such as this?

Fr Chupungo urged students to become “equipped with a critical mind that allows them to weigh the value of new norms and directives, though always in the spirit of ecclesial obedience.”

This is obviously a new meaning of the word “obedience” that we were not previously aware of! Fr Chupungco makes it abundantly clear in this press release that the “direction” in which he intends to take his students in regard to the liturgy is directly opposite to that which “recent Roman documents” require any teacher of Sacred Liturgy to take.

And here is more double talk:

“The long and short of it is that liturgical reform requires serious academic work, not mere romantic attachments to the past that close the eyes to the reality of the present time [read: “we academic experts know what’s really good for you”]. The drive for legitimate progress makes us run towards the realisation of Vatican II’s liturgical reform, but we should not run as if we did not carry on our shoulders the weight, both heavy and precious, of sound tradition.”

As for “legitimate process”, what is he referring to? I would have thought (in regard to the new translations at least) that the process of having ICEL make the translations, and then sending them to all the English speaking Epsicopal Conferences for deliberation over a number of years, after which they overwhelmingly voted to pass all the new texts, and then sending the texts to the Holy See for approval was “legitimate process”. It seems to me that what Fr Chupungco is arguing for and wanting to teach his students is an illegitimate process, if it is a process at all.

The “drive” to go the wrong way up a one way street (or freeway, in this case) appears to be an attractive one for Fr Chupungco. If he were driving like that in Victoria, he would have his car impounded (or even crushed), nd his licence to drive taken away from him permanently. However, he is not alone in this impulse to recklessness. Cooees has a whole list of “experts” who seem to share his opinions (signatories of the “Why don’t we just wait” petition). As someone going by the name “Peregrinus” (surely not OUR Perry?) comments on the discussion string following the Cooees entry, the list is “Largely a bunch of ageing Anglo-Irish clerics who in trying to keep up with the times, will quickly go where all times go.”

Thankfully, the list does not include any of our Bishops, who are ultimately the authorities in these matters. This is what really bugs the liturgical “experts” who design and run courses such as these: they don’t really get a say in what happens. Their job is not to make the liturgical road laws, but to obey them. They can disobey these laws if they like, but as my friend Assistant Commissioner Ken Lay likes to say: “We will catch you!”

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Wrong Way! Turn Back!

  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    He’s a Benedictine so he can’t be all bad.

  2. PM

    Some of the comments on the ‘Why Not Just Wait’ site are amusing in their way. I was particularly taken by someone born in 1965 fulminating that ‘this isn’t the language of the church I grew up in’. People who said the same thing in 1965 were treated with appalling insensitivity and contempt – in the spirit of the age. (The fact that they included masters of the English language such as Tolkein, Evelyn Waugh and Alec Guinness only added to the bill of indictment.) It’s a bit rich for them to expect better now.

    I’m not a traddie, by the way. I only want the reform done as Sacrosanctum Concilium intended. And I am convinced (as a cradle Catholic of largely Irish ancestry) that much of the problem was that ecumenism had not taken deep enough root. Had the (so called) translators of the 1960s not been weighed down by unconscious sectarian chips on the shoulder, they could have drawn on the 400 years of Anglican experience of vernacular liturgy. One of Eammon Duffy’s contributions to the debate has been to show that Cranmer was, on the whole, a far better translator of the Roman Missal than the ICEL. My Anglican friends assure me that the modern versions of Anglican liturgy have made a much more serious attempt to preserve the cadences of the BCP than the ICEL ever did.

    Among other things, I can’t wait till we overcome the ‘Dick and Jane’ aversion to relative clauses. The ICEL’s dismembering of sentences containing them regularly produces absurdities in which we proceed, in plonking prosaic fashion, to give the Almighty a piece of informnation about himself, to be followed by a watered-down petition whic usually avoids any suggestion of dependence.

    Nor does the fetish for simplicity of language hold water. Some of the new version does indeed look a little pompous and stilted. But the existing ICEL version is wedded to a notion of transparency of language which has no theological basis. The classical theologians, not to mention the mystics, tell us that all our language about God – even when it expresses necessary truths – cannot comprehend God fully. A more elevated – not to say poetic – tone is more likely to remind us of that than is talking to God as if he were the milkman.

  3. “As for “legitimate process”, what is [Fr. Chupungco] referring to?”

    Mr. Schütz, you seem to have misread Fr. Chupungco here; Father spoke of legitimate progress, not legitimate process. (Don’t anyone take this comment as a defence of Fr. Chupungco, though; from what I can glean from the quotations provided, I would reject just about everything he stands for.)

    • Yes, thanks for picking me up on that. There was a bit of defence of Fr Chaupungo on the Cathnews blog (amid a lot of negative reaction not unlike mine), pointing out that he was a teacher at the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at one stage and other qualifications…

      • “[Fr. Chupungco] was a teacher at the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at one stage”

        Back when Pontifical liturgies had, in the words of Mr. John Allen, “enough dance to remind them of Broadway production numbers”*, I presume? (And when ‘inculturation’ meant that that dancing was to be performed by bare-breasted native women?)

        *http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/10/john-allen-on-archbp-marini-enough-dance-to-remind-them-of-broadway-production-numbers/