As the June 6 date of the Archdiocesan Synod draws near, I thought it would be helpful if Cream City Catholic presented some suggestions for the in-house business sure to be discussed at the Counsins Center. The Synod is being presented as a local aggiornamento, an opportunity for Milwaukee-area Catholics, together with Archdiocesan leaders, to begin anew, to push the “reset” button by presenting fresh ideas to evangelize the local Church. For those who are not already aware, here at Cream City Catholic, a central theme is that any true and lasting evangelization must take the liturgy as its starting point. Attempts at evangelization-by-focus-groups/break-out-sessions/questionnaires/warbling to the tune of All Are Welcome, and even synods are doomed to fail if the liturgy is not clearly understood as the the fons et origo for personal sanctification first, and the broader evangelization of society second. Why is this so? According to Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium,
For the liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,”  most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.
If we don’t “get” liturgy, we don’t “get” evangelization. That’s the bottom line. Sadly, I believe that we haven’t “gotten” liturgy in Milwaukee for several decades. This omission has had disastrous consequences for everyday Catholics. That’s a very bold and general statement. I should clarify. Many individuals certainly understand the importance of liturgy, the sacredness of liturgy. But it is also true that, beginning with Archbishop Rembert Weakland, a sick liturgical culture has taken hold, which has had a ripple effect, touching the life of every Catholic in Milwaukee. This quote from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appears custom-tailored to the crisis in Milwaukee’s liturgical culture.
I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.
That remarkable statement is either true or it isn’t. I happen to believe that it’s right on the money. Far from a “hermeneutic of continuity”, which sought an organic blending of old and new, Milwaukee’s liturgical culture has been a paragon of the “hermeneutic of rupture” and, I would add, consolidation. We’ve been “locked into” an off-kilter liturgical culture for decades now.
Thanks to Archbishop Weakland and his loyal minions (many of whom are still in positions of power), a break with the past and with our ancient traditions was accomplished. That was the first step. Then, the abuses and aberrations in liturgy spawned during the New Order were quickly consolidated. Second step. Finally, thanks to a toxic culture that simultaneously infected our Catholic schools, memories of what came before were scrupulously wiped clean. Erased. Final step. Now that’s “change you can believe in” if you’re a Weakland or Bernadine groupie. The rest of us would call it, “Toward the Barren Wasteland, in Three Easy Steps”.
Whitewashing the past was one thing, but perhaps what’s even more frustrating is the degree to which any small manifestation of loyalty to liturgical tradition and our ancient rites is painted as a sign of “divisiveness” or “disobedience” to local Church authorities that must be immediately quashed, or in the very least quarantined. It’s rather ironic. Leaders in the mold of Weakland, who are supposedly all about “dialogue” and “openness”, love to deal the “OBEY AND DON’T QUESTION!” card to traditional Catholics with the kind of ferocity and intolerance that they claim to be so much a part of the old, pre-conciliar order they sought to overturn.
So our humble hopes for the Archdiocesan Synod here at Cream City Catholic are that organizers will take a fresh and honest look at the state and health of our local liturgical culture. Perhaps a perusal of the following questions would be a good place to start.
1. Are our local liturgies truly in synch with the tenets of the Second Vatican Council, as presented in Sacrosanctum Concilium? Is Latin upheld? Is Gregorian chant encouraged? Are reverence and solemnity toward the Blessed Sacrament ubiquitous?
2. What has triumphed in Milwaukee, the real Second Vatican Council and the “hermeneutic of continuity” or the “Virtual Council/Council of the Media” and the “hermeneutic of rupture”?
3. Are any serious attempts being made to correct rampant liturgical abuses? For example, is there perhaps an over-reliance on Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at most parishes?
4. Are priests and laity who support a full and faithful implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s teachings on liturgy supported by local Church officials?
5. How is Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI’s landmark motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum being implemented across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee? Are supporters of S.P. encouraged or discouraged?
6. As is the case in the Diocese of Madison under Bishop Robert Morlino, are Milwaukee seminarians required to learn the Mass according to both forms, new and old? Is the study of Latin even mandatory at our seminary?
7. Should we perhaps take a second look at reining in certain practices in liturgy that began through outright disobedience, or were allowed conditionally, ad experimentum, and then exploded out of control?
Just some questions to stir the pot.