THE DEGRADATION OF CATHOLIC WORSHIP:

EASTERN-RITE CATHOLICS ALSO SPEAK OUT,
HOW OUR EASTERN BRETHREN SEE US



- Part III -


It is interesting to observe that Eastern rite Catholics have not been hesitant in commenting on the unparalleled liturgical decadence that was to strike North America in the post-conciliar period. They were aghast at the Guitar Masses, Folk Masses, Jazz Masses, Rock Masses, Polka Masses, Clown Masses, Charismatic Masses, strange "Healing Masses" and "Liturgies for gay and lesbian Catholics" that were to proliferate, to the consternation of those laity who in turn were declared guilty of "legalism" and "rubricism" and adhering to "outmoded traditions" by ersatz liturgists. "The liturgical life in our Byzantine rite need not sink to this level," wrote Msgr. Thomas Dolinay (who later became a Byzantine-Ruthenian rite Bishop, now deceased):

"the Divine liturgy is that sacred hour in the weekly lives of our faithful that should not be turned into novelty that may tickle youthful fancy. Adolescence is after all, just a passing phase."

Writing in the '70's, Msgr. Dolinay was perhaps not aware that those pastors and priests and musicians who were determined to defend their radical innovations into Catholic liturgical life would become fixed in their own adolescent phase, from which some have yet to recover. Such would show no pity or mercy or heralded "sensitivity" for such Latin-rite Catholics as the writer who lamented:

"I have a hard time feeling, when I come away from Mass, that I have been with Christ. There is no kneeling at the altar rail, for there is no altar rail. We just march up, two by two, like the animals going into the Ark. ...The statues that once lifted up the thoughts of people like me to the Holy Mother of God, the Apostles, the Saints are gone. The candles, consuming themselves in giving the light and warmth symbolic of love, are going. The incense, to whose fragrance I hoped my love for God compared, is on its way out. Holy water is for the superstitious, and very scarce.

What a pity! And what a gross insult to human nature! Everything is so stark, so bereft of the things of the senses, in a hideous attempt to intellectualize and 'modernize the liturgy.' God created our senses that we might enjoy and take in all beauty, and have our thoughts lifted by it to Him. Priests now slink around apologetically, doubting their masculinity or trying to prove it with an essay on the 'theology of the Orgasm.' Once you could get a firm guideline from a priest; now you get something wishy-washy called 'non-directional counselling.' Non-directional is right.

The Church of love, poor in spirit, rich in the wisdom of human life, overflowing with common sense, is now hell-bent on becoming the Church of the Absurd, the Church of youth from Twelve to Twenty, the Church of the Intellectual, the Church of Gimmicks, the Church of Fools."
("U.S. Catholic", September 1967)

This bitter recrimination by an American Catholic written, it should be noted, in 1967, has proved prophetic. The pews soon became empty of the "Church of youth from Twelve to Twenty" as doctrinal confusion generated by the "Intellectuals" and liturgical novelties were to alienate large numbers of young people from the Church. Let us not forget that Contraception was also to take effect in emptying cradles of future priestly and religious vocations. It was, Msgr. Dolinay noted, the "height of folly" to pander to the guitar generation by incorporating a casual, relaxed, informal, psychedelic and gimmicky style of worship into the sacred space of Catholic Churches. The price paid for rampant liturgical permissiveness is perhaps best seen in the latest statistics on Mass attendance showing that regular Mass attendance among Catholics has slumped to 30%. There are other reasons, of course, for the comtemporary decay of Catholic life about us, but Msgr. Dolinay was right on target when he observed the key role of liturgical permissiveness in alienating people from the Church:

"We have a full-blown liturgical scandal on our hands. The sad truth is that many people are staying away from the Church because they are scandalized by the likes of Polka Masses, nuns dancing free style before the altar and everyone using 'home brew' versions of liturgical rites. The price that will eventually be paid for this venture into the absurd will be high."

He spoke words of wisdom to his own people that have yet to penetrate the iron Curtain of the 'Americanist Liturgical Bureaucracy' looking forward to more "liturgical revolution" in our parishes in a desperate effort to win over "Generation X":

"For Catholics of the Byzantine rite, it might be well to consider that too often changes for the sake of change are not necessarily the high road to success in attracting the average Catholic into his Church... Unfortunately, the Roman hierarchy in this country rushed helter-skelter into a 'reformation' that too often lacks rhyme or reason. Catholics of the Byzantine rite should not fall into the same trap of 'progress.' Thanks be to God we have not done what the Romans did by introducing many Protestant and Negro Spiritual Hymns that express absolutely no theological meaning... Some very unmusical people have had a field day.

... We have gone to any number of Roman rite ceremonies where the inevitable Sister with a guitar strung over her shoulder appears on the scene. If this is the liberated Sister 'making her mark,' the Church is in serious trouble. We've heard some very unsaturated high-nasal dribble on occasions. What happened to the demure, prayerful Sister who did such an excellent job in the class-room? This is just another manifestation of everyone suddenly a liturgical music expert, composing new verses as they go along. What audacity to destroy the beautiful and solemn Roman chant composed by the musical geniuses of the centuries! For those of us in the Byzantine rite it ought to be an object lesson of not allowing a few adolescents to make unwarranted changes on the premise that youth will be attracted into our Churches."
(Dolinay writing in eastern Catholic Life, 1975-1976)

Writing in the 1970s, Msgr. Dolinay could not foresee other disturbing tendencies to follow:

  • The secularizing architectural "renovation" of churches;
  • the disruptive attempts by radical feminists to impose mindless "inclusive language" on liturgical and scriptural readings;
  • and the increasing feminization of the Mass itself with women dominating the sanctuary.

In a book dealing with Roman Catholic Renewal, a Byzantine Catholic layman has joined other critics who blame ICEL for the present banal translation of the Roman Mass into English:

"A characteristic of rudeness found in the ICEL texts is their systematic elimination of all reverential beseeching, imploring, entreating or appealing to God, as well as all indications of divine condescension. Such feudalistic kow-towing before God was obviously offensive to democratic American sentiments! Such expressions are therefore either omitted or replaced by asking, so that an abrupt and business-like request addressed to God sounds more like office memos than prayers to the Almighty... The flat culture in which we live, without savour, plagued by jargon, is reflected in ICEL's translations."
(Dr. Ernest Skublics)



About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage