The Sinew of Christian Life

By Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter
Downloaded January 14, 2004

The liturgical reform of 40 years ago was the revolution that changed "everything," as John L. Allen Jr. noted in a Dec. 12 story that kicked off our anniversary year look at the effects of that Vatican II document, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium).

The reform, indeed, shaped everything to come, including the steady, successful march of those intent on turning back the reform in every way possible.

Gabe Huck, one of the central figures of the movement in the United States, writes a second installment of our look at liturgical reform ( see story). Huck felt personally the insistent campaign of some to roll back the reforms of Vatican II. A highly successful director of Liturgical Training Publications of Chicago, one of the major publishers of liturgical materials, he was ousted from that position in 2001 because of differences with his archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, over a number of issues, including the use of inclusive language in liturgical materials.

The larger story, also well documented by John Allen, of the polarization over liturgy matters can be found on our Web site. Perhaps such struggles are inevitable when the target of renewal is something as essential as liturgy. I can only hope that we can keep talking, keep listening to people like Huck who have invested their lives in the deeper meanings of what many of us take for granted each week.

Central to NCR`s mission is to make sure voices such as Huck`s are not lost.

If you think liturgy is essentially the tedium about who walks where and who says what, please turn to his story. For Huck, liturgy is the sinew of Christian life, that which connects all the parts of the body and that body to the world at large. "It helps, always, to remember that the goal of all this isn`t the liturgy," he writes, "let alone the institution, but rather something more like the remaking of the world (that`s who we are, after all) into the reign of God."

His words enrich the community and the Catholic conversation -- the adult conversation, about which I risk becoming a broken record. That conversation is always larger than the local parish, the diocese, even than the Vatican. Enjoy.

Another story that has shaken the church, but in deep and disturbing ways, is the sex abuse crisis. If it is difficult to find those in leadership positions who acted in a commendable way during the entire 18-year history of this sorry chapter, Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle is the exception. At some point as a bright young priest, a canon lawyer deeply involved in the institution and working in the papal nuncio`s office in Washington, he made a fundamental decision: He wasn`t going to be part of the cover-up. Moreover, he was going to be an advocate for victims of sexual abuse by priests. The career track he was on hit a dead end, but his integrity brought tremendous hope and healing to many seeking the truth about the scandal. Doyle, now a military chaplain, doesn`t find much welcome these days inside the institution. In 1985 he was one of three authors of a report warning the bishops about the scandal and advising them to confront it truthfully as pastors. They ignored his advice then and it appears he hasn`t been on many of their Rolodexes since.

But he has great insights into the problem, he understands that it goes far deeper than this audit. So we welcome his reaction (see story).


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