January 28, 2013

I was dismayed to read Glen Argan’s article (WCR Jan. 14) on the legacy of Vatican II’s liturgy constitution, in which he refers to Catherine Pickstock’s critique of the reformed liturgy in her book After Writing.

As interesting and valuable Pickstock’s analysis is, she is not a liturgist, nor is her critique primarily of the renewed liturgy; rather she is critiquing modern society with its reliance on the written word over orality.

I could not agree more with her advocacy of a more liturgical ethos for all humanity, particularly Christians, and I also agree that the reform of the liturgy must go further, but I can’t agree that the Tridentine Mass represents an ontologically different type of liturgy from the present reformed Mass.

Moreover, Argan admits that he is not sure he understands Pickstock completely (her writing is notoriously dense and difficult), but is willing to put his interpretation of her thoughts in a regional Catholic newspaper, whose readers will likely never read Pickstock for themselves to form their own opinions.

The least Argan could have done was to consult reviews of the book for a contrary opinion.

Undoubtedly much was “lost” when the Mass of Paul VI replaced the Tridentine Mass, but this article was an opportunity, given his previous articles on the liturgy, to weigh the positives and negatives of the pre-Conciliar liturgy against those of the Novus Ordo, which Argan did not exploit.

An impression is left which can only give comfort to those who continue to oppose the renewed liturgy.

John Hess