I've been reading parts of Dr. James Hitchcock's excellent history/polemic, Recovery of the Sacred: Reforming the Reformed Liturgy, which was originally published in 1974, then reprinted in 1995 by Ignatius Press. It is now out of print, but is well worth finding and reading, especially for those puzzled or curious about the history of the liturgical abuses and craziness inflicted upon so many Catholics following the Second Vatican Council. There are plenty of great quotes, but here is a favorite:
The whole process of liturgical reform was so replete with ironies that it is impossible to notice all of them. It had been professional liturgists who had insisted that Gregorian Chant was the only music truly acceptable for worship, and professional liturgists who all but banned it from the churches. It was professional liturgists who condemned popular hymns for their superficiality and sentiment, and professional liturgists who lent their authority to the new forms of superficiality and sentiment. It was professional liturgists who who had flogged ordinary churchgoers for not appreciating the rituals enough, and professional liturgists who pronounced the same rituals outmoded.
Dr. Hitchcock argues that liturgical reform leading up to the Council was focused almost exclusively on "a rather limited clientele ... well-educated and relatively sophisticated persons" who began, in the mid-1960s, "began to reject the organ for the guitar, solemnity for spontaneity, tradition for experimentation. At each stage of the Liturgical Movement the desires of these kinds of people was interpreted as expressing the authentic will of the Church. The masses of uneducated were always deemed deficient in taste, whether from a failure to appreciate the beauties of chant or a stubborn penchant for appreciating them too much."
The negative reactions by various experts and liturgists to the new translation of the Missal, to be introduced later this year, bears this out: on one hand, ordinary Catholics are often depicted as being too unsophisticated and dense to understand the more accurate (and supposedly archaic) translations; on the other hand, they are also derided as being theologically and liturgical snobbish and thus insufficiently sensitive to the seekers and skeptics who will be (so some say) turned off by stuffy, esotetic words.
Here is another, longer, quote from the book, which is a good example of Hitchcok's exemplary skills as a historian keen to analyze the deeper theological and philosophical reasons beneath and behind the liturigcal crisis of the immediate post-conciliar era:
A circular action was involved. which soon became a vicious circle leading to the rapid breakdown of liturgy. Liturgical innovators were vaguely dissatisfied with the traditional forms but did not realize the extent of their dissatisfaction until they began to experiment. As they peeled away the layers of historical accretions to liturgy, they found, sometimes with shock, sometimes with satisfaction, that the core of belief which underlay traditional worship was not at all the same as their own, that what was involved in liturgical reform was nothing less than a profound revolution in the nature of belief itself. The vicious circle formed, however, because if a crisis of belief provokes a crisis of worship, it is also true that a crisis of worship provokes further crises of belief. The symbols and the reality they were meant to express were so closely welded that it was impossible to alter one without altering the other.
The drive for radical liturgical innovation thus became a principal cause of the widespread crisis of faith which began to appear in the Church. In its origins this crisis affected only a relatively few persons, who were moved to begin the restless search for a truly “relevant” modern liturgy. As radically transformed liturgies began to be celebrated, however -- in colleges, seminaries, high schools, convents, living rooms, sometimes even in churches -- the crisis became more and more a public thing and began to affect more and more people. The stability of the liturgy for so long had been an effective public symbol of the stability and unity of belief and, equally important, it had been a means by which this stability and unity were preserved and reinforced. Now the diversity and sometimes the shocking unfamiliarity of liturgy became an equally effective public symbol of the instability and diversity of belief and a means of intensifying and propagating this. Many persons found themselves on a roller coaster going they knew not where. They had bought a ticket for the car because they wanted something new, interesting, more consciously contemporary than what they had; they had no idea that the car would never again return to the same stop, that the ride might turn out to be endless and endlessly jolting, unless at some point they simply asked to get off and walked away. The more liturgy was reformed to make the ancient faith meaningful in modern terms, the more it tended to diverge from the ancient faith. As Robert Redfield said about Indians in Yucatan, “Men cease to believe because they cease to understand, and they cease to understand because they cease to do the things that express the understandings.”
If radical experimentation has not succeeded in forging an authentic and viable new form of Christianity, one of its first and most important effects was a massive loss of contact with the Catholic past, a fact which was often not noticed at first or was even denied, but then just as often came to be celebrated as a blessing and a liberation. There was consistent, sometimes aggrieved, talk about the meaninglessness of traditional rites, with the jettisoning of a good deal of this tradition regarded as a prerequisite to liturgical renewal. (Sometimes the traditions thus dismissed were among the things which liturgists before the Council had regarded as beautiful and important.) These traditions were rejected on the grounds that they were either literally meaningless, sometimes even explained as the neurotic repetition of compulsive acts, or as expressing false meanings -- too closely tied to a traditional theology of the supernatural. It is no exaggeration to say that many innovators came to hate the Church’s past as largely a history of tyranny and superstition and especially came to hate the Church’s immediate past, the milieu in which they themselves had been formed and which they now saw as a deformation, a perversion of real Christianity, an immense burden to be shed. There came to be a good deal of bitterness about the present state of the Church, cynicism about its past, and malicious ridicule directed even at things which had previously been considered sacred. Often these feelings surfaced in people who had earlier given few hints of such dissatisfaction, who may even have seemed like serene believers. Many who did not share these feelings nevertheless found them understandable and saw no cause to protest against them.
Some liturgical innovators plunged into secularism unknowingly because they were motivated, without realizing it until much later, by what Mircea Eliade calls profane man’s desire to empty himself of the past, to create himself completely without the givens of a sacral universe. The anthropologist who has written most perceptively about the contemporary religious crisis, Mary Douglas, argues that the destruction of ritual deprives men of the means by which to “articulate the depth of past time”, so that it becomes psychologically necessary once again to return to the beginning to start over again.
Read more on the Adoremus website. In related news, "Cardinals: liturgical abuse weakens the faith" (Catholic Herald).
Also recommended: Dr. Hitchcock's 1971 book, The Decline & Fall of Radical Catholicism (Herder and Herder, NY).
Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Excerpts:
• The Bitter Fruits of a Fashionable, Unserious Liturgist | Rev. Brian Van Hove, S.J.
• A Year of Crisis, Revisited | Hubert Jedin's 1968 Memorandum to the West German Episcopal Conference
• How Should We Worship? | Preface to The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. | by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Foreword to U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Learning the Liturgy From the Saints | An Interview with Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P., author of The Mass and the Saints
• Does Christianity Need A Liturgy? | Martin Mosebach | From The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy
• Rite and Liturgy | Denis Crouan, STD
• The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, OP
• Reflections On Saying Mass (And Saying It Correctly) | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.