Over at Faith and Reason, there’s an interesting discussion about the 2003 book The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate: Reform or Return, by Fr. Thomas Kocik. While I haven’t read the book, the review (which I’ve re-posted in full, below) makes clear what his position is: instead of throwing away everything before Vatican II, or throwing away everything from, or after, Vatican II, find a way of incorporating some of the positive pre-conciliar traditions into the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Here’s Faith and Reason’s take on the book:
I just finished reading a book entitled The Reform of the Reform by Fr. Thomas M. Kocik (Ignatius Press), which assesses the liturgical situation within the Church after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Kocik presents a fictional debate between a “traditionalist” (who would like to see a return to the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass) and a “reformist” (a tradition-minded Catholic who accepts the changes instituted by the Council but recognizes the need for improvement within a workable framework). Also included are a few essays from various thinkers within the current reform movement who mull over ideas for effective liturgical reform, and a point-by-point comparison between the old and new rite of Mass.This book was published in 2003 – before Benedict XVI was installed as pope. What is amazing, besides the spot-on analysis of our current liturgical troubles, is the direct correlation between what the reformists suggest (ten years ago) and what has actually happened under the current pontificate of Benedict XVI. For example, the author wrote that he believed more freedom should be given to individual priests to celebrate unhindered the Tridentine Latin Mass (though he doubts this would ever happen)…yet, here we are under Pope Benedict, with full freedom to celebrate the Latin without special permission from the local bishop. Also it is mentioned that a new English translation of the Mass, one that is more faithful to the Latin, would be a tremendous help…and again, here we are preparing for just that.This makes one wonder what else that is mentioned in this book might be in store for the Church with regard to liturgical renewal. The book also suggests encouraging priests to face in the same direction as the people (to the “liturgical East” – that is, with his back to the people), an increased use of Latin chant, and a renewed emphasis on symbolic gestures. Is Pope Benedict moving the Church toward a more traditional style of liturgical worship? It certainly seems so…and I pray it continues.
This position avoids the extremism of both the radical Traditionalists like the Society of St. Pius X, and the radical Catholic liberals who risk turning the Mass into something unrecognizable as Catholic, or as Liturgy, or as God-centric. As you might have guessed, it’s a position I’m partial to, and as the review shows, it’s a position which the Pope supports. The reason I think that this approach is the best isn’t simply that it’s the most moderate: on certain positions, it’s better to be an absolutist than a moderate.
I should mention that in addition to being, in my opinion, the most faithful interpretation, and the interpretation which the pope takes, this “reform of the reform” interpretation has been implemented quite successfully in many parts of the U.S., including the diocese of Arlington where I live. Faith and Reason mentioned Fr. Kocik’s four proposed “reforms of the reform”:
- Freedom for priests to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass without needing special permission;
- A new translation of the Mass, more faithful to the Latin;
- Prayer “ad orientum,” where the priest offers the Eucharist facing the tabernacle, rather than the people; and
- increased use of Latin chant.