Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Church’s “liturgist-in-chief,” recently made a speech at an African university in which he criticized liturgical abuses and protested Masses where the recklessly innovative priests act as “Reverend Showman”.
The Nigerian-born Cardinal Arinze, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, was in Kenya to conduct a workshop and a retreat on liturgy for the bishops, according to CISA. While he was at the Catholic University of East Africa, the cardinal delivered a public lecture in which he discussed the importance of following liturgical rubrics and the proper place of inculturation in the liturgy.
The cardinal discussed sentiments that cause errors in worship, such as regarding everyone as an expert in liturgy, extolling spontaneity and creativity to the detriment of approved rites and prayers, seeking immediate popular applause or enjoyment, and ignoring approved liturgical texts.
He said that liturgical abuses were often due to an ignorance that rejects elements of worship whose deeper meaning is not understood or whose antiquity is not recognized.
Cardinal Arinze clarified the nature of the reforms of Vatican II, saying they must be seen as continuous with the past rather than as a dramatic break. “The Catholic Church is the same before and after Vatican II. It isn’t another Church,” he said.
Some aspects of liturgical rites can be modified according to pastoral needs. “The Church does not live in the Vatican Museum,” the cardinal said. However, he said that incorporating local traditions into the practice of the faith, which is known as inculturation, should be compatible with the Christian message and in communion with the universal Church.
Inculturation, he said, “should make people part of a Church which is universal but also local.”
Cardinal Arinze attacked distortions of inculturation, saying, “It is a caricature of inculturation to understand it as the invention of the fertile imagination of some enthusiastic priest, who concocts an idea on Saturday night and tries it on the innocent congregation the following morning. He may have good will, but good will is not enough.”
The cardinal also condemned individualistic experimentation, saying, “the person who of his own authority adds or subtracts from the laid down liturgical rites is doing harm to the Church.”
Proper inculturation, the cardinal said, required bishops to guide the introduction of new elements into worship. Innovations should take place only after careful consideration, after bishops have set up a multi-disciplinary group of experts to study a cultural element to be included in the liturgy.
The group of experts should then make their recommendation to their bishops’ conference. If both the bishops’ conference and the Holy See approve the innovation, after limited experiment and “due preparation” of the clergy and the people, the new element may be incorporated. “Otherwise it is wild liturgy,” said Cardinal Arinze.
Cardinal Arinze characterized a successful celebration of the Mass as one that “manifests the Catholic faith powerfully, encourages those who have the faith already, shakes up those who are slumbering and those who are at the edge, and makes curious those who are not Catholics at all.”
The Mass must send Catholics home “full of joy, ready to come back again, ready to live it and to share it.”
The cardinal encouraged future priests’ proper formation in liturgy and the ongoing liturgical formation of both clergy and lay people.