Writing for the U.K.’s Catholic Herald, Joseph Shaw explains how, through an unexpected “live and let live” policy, Benedict’s liturgical vision is being supported by Pope Francis, to the surprise of many who anticipated a reversal. Shaw spends most of his time analyzing the generational shift that has taken place over the past fifty years, and how it manifests itself in a rejection on the part of younger Catholics of the liturgical excesses that were wrongly justified in the name of the Council.
The process can also be traced by asking a more flippant question: what do seminarians and the younger clergy regard as “naughty but nice”? Fifty years ago it might have been wearing a shirt and tie. Now it is more likely to be wearing a cassock or biretta. Half a century ago it might have been using a pottery chalice. Now it might be dusting off the grand gold one from the back of the safe.
The 1990s and the 2000s was also the era of Pope St John Paul II’s campaign against liturgical abuses. Although a comprehensive failure in its practical effects (except for the eventual arrival of a new English translation of the Missal), the repeated admonitions that a slew of widespread liturgical practices were abuses, contrary to a correct understanding of the liturgy, had the effect of demolishing the moral authority of those attempting to maintain a “progressive” liturgical status quo. It was impossible to avoid realising that the freewheeling liturgy of many Catholic parishes could be defended neither by the outdated scholarship of the 1960s, nor by the mind of the Church. It was the turn of diocesan liturgical directors and seminary rectors to try to hold back the tide by the exercise of raw power, like the Roman officials of liberal myth.