In the following article, George Harne, president of The College of Saint Mary Magdalen, shares his thoughts about the relationship between liturgical reform and the use of contraception by many Catholics. The Cardinal Newman Society sponsored Dr. Harne's attendance at Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome, where he joined hundreds of other participants in the conference aiming to study, promote and renew appreciation for the liturgy. The Newman Society hopes to help spur on this liturgical renewal in Catholic higher education.
Thanks to the sponsorship of The Cardinal Newman Society, I had the great pleasure of participating in the conference Sacra Liturgia 2013, earlier this summer.
It was a conference that began and ended with worship, including celebrations of the Mass in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms as well as the Divine Office in both its pre-conciliar and post-conciliar forms. The international roster of speakers gave a universal quality to the event that was firmly rooted in liturgical scholarship, yet accessible to laymen who are not professional liturgists.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the conference papers was what could be described as their integral orientation. Many of the titles for the presentations followed the format of “The Sacred Liturgy and _______.” There seemed to be a conscious attempt on the part of the organizers and presenters to understand the liturgy of the Church within a larger, integral perspective that connected the sacred liturgy to other aspects of the Church’s mission such as Evangelization and Christian Unity.
One of the most interesting papers in the conference was by Monsignor Ignacio Barreirio Carámbula, entitled “Sacred Liturgy and the Defense of Human Life.” In one section of this paper, Monsignor Carámbula treated the relation between liturgical reform and the turn of many Catholics to contraception.
One of his primary points was that just as the older form of the Mass, a form of worship that most Catholics had considered unchangeable, was being subjected to radical, illegitimate experimentation, the sexual revolution was sweeping the nation, bringing with it the option of artificial birth control. Many priests and prelates were unsure of whether the Church’s teachings were going to change and some advised the souls under their care that change was on the way and that they could begin using birth control. After all, so the reasoning went, if the “Mass of the Ages” had changed, why not the Church’s teaching concerning the relation between human intimacy and procreation? In the midst of the cultural chaos of the period, the changes in the liturgy could be cited as convincing evidence that the moral teachings of the Church were also subject to radical change and reversal.
Monsignor Carámbula did not claim that illegitimate liturgical chaos was the primary cause of the widespread embrace of contraception, but he did make a convincing case that the radical changes played a role.
At the College of Saint Mary Magdalen, we encourage our students to develop an integral view of the world that incorporates philosophical reflection and moral fidelity that flow from a life rooted in the sacraments and prayer. Monsignor Carámbula’s observations at Sacra Liturgia 2013 confirm the importance of this integrated approach and show how the degredation of one part of our life or worship can undermine our faithfulness in another.
Once the proceedings of Sacra Liturgia 2013 become available, I hope that a wider audience will take the opportunity to read and reflect upon Monsignor Carámbula’s paper.
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