The lead editorial in the December 28thissue of the National Catholic Reporter entitled “Liturgy reform: No going back.” One gets the sense in reading it that the editors of NCR are trying to convince themselves that even though they have lost a few battles lately, they will win the battle to destroy all that came before and create a “new” church. Look at their view of that awful time before they set it all right. They are poster children for the hermeneutic of discontinuity.

By invoking the church in biblical terms as the pilgrim people of God and as the body of Christ, Vatican II set the stage for a crucial shift away from the juridical “perfect society” embodied in the unabashedly monarchical church of Trent. Nowhere would this be reflected more clearly than in the way the church prayed. The throne room protocols of the Tridentine Mass, the elevations, barriers, brocade, structures and language separating clergy from laity gave way to a worshiping community in which all the baptized were called to full, conscious, active participation. A new way of worshiping marked the beginning of the end of the vertical ecclesiology that for 500 years had shaped every aspect of the church’s life and ministry around hierarchical and clerical preeminence. The council carried the same biblical imagery and expansive approach into the major constitutions on the church and the church in the modern world.

They also have a few choice words for those who haven’t hitched their wagons to the progressive bandwagon.

If liturgy has characteristically been below the radar for most Catholics, opponents of Vatican II knew from the outset that the one way to preserve Trent was to halt liturgical reform. To look back over the 42 years since the close of the council is to see that progress in the reform has been real but slow, and to admit that any awakening of Catholic laity to their full baptismal identity is still in the future. At the same time, those devoted at many levels to a pre-Vatican II model of the church have worked hard to bring down many aspects of liturgical reform. Frustrating the process of vernacular translations, crimping the rubrics for Mass to accentuate the ordained and, most recently, restoring the Tridentine rite, are among the more visible signs of successful retrenchment.

They encourage each other that is all is not lost even though they have lost a few lately. They cite none other than Archbishop Piero Marini as evidence.

But there really is no turning back. “Vatican II helped us to rediscover the idea of the priesthood as something universal,” Marini said in an interview. “The faithful don’t receive permission from priests to participate in the Mass. They are members of a priestly people, which means they have the right to participate in offering the sacrifice of the Mass. This was a great discovery, a great emphasis, of the council. We have to keep this in mind, because otherwise we run the risk of confusion about the nature of the liturgy, and for that matter, the church itself.”

No turning back, so says Marini. Don’t they see the irony that the good Archbishop was just sacked in favor of the other Marini. He was sacked precisely because his vision was limited to this small concept of the post conciliar church. So even though they have lost most of the battles of late and their guy just got the boot, they are still encouraged. They remind me of officers aboard the Titanic assuring their passengers that this iceberg business is nothing to worry about, the ship is unsinkable.