.In a comment on one of Ben Trovato's posts about comments made by his father about the post-Vatican II liturgical changes, there is a link to the statement on public worship made by the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales in April 1975:
"The unity of the Church is endangered if the rules laid down by the Holy See for the celebration of Mass are not observed. Unfortunately there are some few who ignore the liturgical laws and continue to experiment in many different ways. The Holy See has declared that experimentation is no longer permissible and that the laws laid down in the new Missale Romanum must be faithfully observed. This means that the rubrics, now reduced to a minimum and inserted, as they are, to safeguard reverence, must always be followed. The right kind of living liturgy is to be achieved by the variation of choice available in the definitive text (eg, regarding penitential rites, canons and so forth) and not by making up our own liturgies. Some priests neglect to follow the rubrics, to wear sacred vestments or to recite authorised prayers. Great harm is done to souls by priests who virtually make up their own Mass. No blessing will fall on those taking part in Masses celebrated in defiance of the instructions of the Church."
There is more in the statement about the extent to which celebration of the TLM is (or rather isn't) authorised, but I am interested here in the way the New Mass was to be celebrated. The statement by the Bishops makes clear that there has been a period of liturgical anarchy (some of us remember it well) and it is an effort by the Old Guard of the Bishops to try to re-impose order on the Church in England and Wales.
Mass has to be celebrated properly: there is no room for experimentation. There is variation of choice available in the Missal and rubrics, and these are sufficient to permit "the right kind of living liturgy".
By 1980 - only five years later - there had been change at the top: Cardinal Heenan was dead and had been replaced by Abp Hume; Abp Beck had gone from Liverpool, to be replaced by Abp Worlock; Abp Cowderoy had been replaced by Abp Bowen etc etc etc. The Bishops' Conference asked Abp Worlock to set up a National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1980 which deliberated and reported on the mission and spirituality of the Church in England and Wales. The result was distilled into a document of the Bishops' Conference called The Easter People which would become the model for the Church in E&W.
Its section on the Mass, written just five years after the statement above is ... well, read it yourself:
There is more - there really is LOTS more - but that gives enough of a flavour. (The capitalisation is that of the original, by the way.)
A wonderful conjuring trick has taken place. The worthiness of the celebration of the Mass in the 1975 statement derives from the priest's adherence to the rubrics. He is to say the right prayers, read the right readings, wear the right vestments, use appropriate vessels. He has enough choice in the Missal and its rubrics to be able to say Mass worthily, in a manner appropriate to the occasion of its celebration.
Five years later, however, the manner of celebration of Mass is no longer just a concern of the priests. Lay people have an equal (if separate) role with the priest in "implementing ... a liturgy which is flexible and sensitive to local needs" and should play their part in diocesan liturgical commissions which in turn will have a part in "the necessary formation of people and priests".
As Joseph Shaw pointed out, first here, then here, what was happening is the disenfranchisement of the largest group of Catholics from their Mass: first, as condemned in 1975, by priests who treat it as their personal property; second in 1980, by a hierarchy which opted to share ownership with a self-selecting group of activists. The sociological study cited is of its day describes this in terms of the Old Mass and the New Mass, of disenfranchisement of working class Catholics by middle class Catholics, but the Church in E&W has been reinforcing failure for another generation now, and the problems are much deeper. Imagine that we have come to a point where Catholics will share with each other information about parishes where Mass is always said reverently.
There is a lot to be said about the liturgical reforms of the twentieth century (and I will happily say my bit), but the discussion often hides the ecclesiological and sociological changes which were imposed, and which survive in a sort of English and Welsh approach to Catholic Mission, developed on our behalf by people who don't know what we think or what we want.
I asked if I could join my parish's liturgy group and was told I could, as long as I did an approved course first which would teach me how parish liturgies should be celebrated. I asked whether in that case the priest couldn't just look up the rubrics in the GIRM. I was told that there probably wasn't going to be another course for a while. I got the message.