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The Liturgy Betrayed by Denis Crouan

Yesterday I bought The Liturgy Betrayed by Denis Crouan. I read it today.

It was originally written in French in 1997, but was translated in English and published by Ignatius Press in 2000.

Its encouraging to find a book published about problems with the liturgy. The problems are frankly presented. For example on page 71:

The Straight Facts

The Virtual Nonexistence of the Eucharistic Liturgy Celebrated according to the Official Rituals

The faithful who are informed report that, in current circumstances, it has become impossible, so to speak, on the parish level, to participate in a Sunday Eucharist celebrated as required by the official liturgical books published in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (books such as the Roman Missal, the Ceremonial of Bishops, and so on).

On page 73 he wrote that the French bishops have given a bad example by improvising the liturgy. In seminaries they tolerate liturgical abuses, but punish candidates for the priesthood who want to respect the Roman Missal.

Consequently the "faithful who are truly and sincerely attached to an authentic eucharistic liturgy" have three choices, described on page 75:

"to participate in celebrations that have more or less gone astray, the rites of which are often hijacked in favor of an immediate, simple satisfaction of feelings;"

to take refuge with celebrations carried out by adhering closely to the rites and usages that predate Vatican II

to cease all practice of religion

"In all these cases, the outcome is that the faithful feel deeply frustrated and hurt, to the point where they are no longer able to derive the slightest spiritual benefit from the celebration."

The hurt and frustration are well conveyed by letters in the Appendix of 25 pages.

Sometimes I believe the book's criticism is misplaced. For example on page 54:

"In the liturgy we should do only what corresponds with what we really are and not do what corresponds to what we would have liked to be or what we imagine we are: if liturgical ritual becomes an instrument that allows certain persons to make up for their shortcomings, it is the liturgy as a whole that runs the risk of becoming for the faithful who participate in it a vehicle for neurotic behavior.

[Footnote 18: This is why it is advisable to be extremely prudent in the choice of person who are in charge of liturgical direction and to avoid calling on exseminarians who did not follow through to the end with their vocation, on religious in civilian dress, on divorced men and women ... This is not because people like this, who are often full of good will, should be systematically excluded, but because the liturgy must be guaranteed a healthy role to play.]"

How does one tell whether exseminarians have not followed to the end with their vocation? Perhaps they have found their vocation. No mention is made of the ministry of instituted lector or acolyte that they are likely to have received during their seminary training. If there is a situation where seminarians faithful to the Roman Missal are being punished, then perhaps many of the exseminarians are the faithful ones. Perhaps their knowledge of the ceremonies should be used to correct the problems described.

By J.R. Lilburne, 18 January 2003. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

The Liturgy Betrayed at ignatius.com