Neuhaus on the Papal Liturgy

Father Richard John Neuhaus has been doing on-air commentary for EWTN during the Pope’s visit. Yesterday, at the papal Mass held in the new Nationals’ stadium, he crossed a line he should not have, twice criticizing the liturgy for its multicultural emphasis and questioning whether those who planned it had any familiarity with the Pope’s liturgical sensibilities. Neuhaus said the Mass was an "overweening and preening exercise in multicultural exhibitionism." Now, I am no fan of these stadium liturgies. I am struck with horror when bishops use arenas for their installation ceremonies, rather than the cathedrals, to accommodate more people. And, I usually attend the 10 a.m. Latin Mass at the gloriously beautiful Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington. The musical selections at yesterday’s Mass were not all my cup of tea either, although I have developed a great fondness for upbeat Hispanic liturgical music of the kind heard at yesterday’s Mass. I suspect Father Neuhaus and I hold mostly similar views about liturgical aesthetics. Who is watching EWTN at 11 a.m. on a Thursday morning? People in nursing homes. Catholic school children. Moms with small children. They may, or may not, share Neuhaus’s thoughts on liturgy. My guess is that their love for the Pope trumped any and all liturgical concerns: The average EWTN viewer was just thrilled to see the Pope. Why rain on their parade? And, isn’t it more important at large open-air Masses like this to make everyone feel like they are participating? I recall hearing a Puerto Rican priest tell me a tale about the Good Friday procession at his first parish assignment. This was an elaborate affair, parading through the town in costumes, following the Stations of the Cross, and the parish’s graduating class played the central roles in the dramatic representation of the events. One year, they had an especially large class so Jesus fell five times on the way. There is something very beautiful and very Catholic in that tale. Father Neuhaus is a sharp and interesting cultural critic. But, a papal Mass on EWTN is the place for commentary not criticism. Neuhaus has a magazine so there is a forum for his views. I hope his comments at Yankee Stadium Sunday are more sanguine. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years 6 months ago
Even though ETWN probably doesn't have to get into a public debate about liturgy, I understand the legitimate concerns of Father Neuhaus. What he was talking about was in fact a critique of multiculturalism, which is famously labeled as communitarianism by its opponents. While proponents of the Washington Mass say it reflects American culture, critics of communitiarianism will tell you that it rather reflects a racist Anglo-Saxon ideology which confuses culture with ethnic stereotypes. For example, there was a part in the Washington mass that featured jazz % blues for African Americans, rock for Average Americans, and little quips in foreign languages that misrepresent ethnic cultures. Dignified liturgy has none of this. The classical definition of liturgy, found in Mediator Dei, states that liturgy is the true propitiatory sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus-Christ. What should have occurred in Washington was a Pontifical Mass because it truly fits all the solemnity that the Church can offer. In fact, the Church is already universal per se as God's People. The Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. In fact, the Eucharist builds the Church and the Church receives the Eucharist. Clearly, the Roman Rite already contains what is necessary to unify all nations. Latin is said to be the favourite language of angels when they sing in Heaven. Of course, some say that the Church has evolved and must do this and that. However, the declaration Liturigam Authenticam clearly states what the Holy See is looking for in terms of liturgy. Should Heaven evolve and should God evolve to suit our needs and our sins ? Thank Heavens, I certainly hope not !
10 years 6 months ago
For those interested in what the music actually was, the National Pastoral Musicians (the Catholic organization of church musicians) has the list of songs (including a short description of each) at: On a personal note, though I may not always appreciate all of our "modern" catholic music, I was pleased at the forethought of Thomas Stehle for planning a mass full of every type of music out there from 9th century chant to pieces only written in the past few years. So many times we skip on the traditional for the modern--the most successful liturgies interweave the best of both worlds.
10 years 6 months ago
If the best rebuttal America Magazine has for Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ comments is Winter’s concern that his comments might upset nursing home residents and school children, then this magazine has just proven without a doubt that it has existed all reasonable debate. Not that this surprises me.
10 years 6 months ago
I was surprised at the sharpness of Fr. Neuhaus. And I believe EWTN commentators were then surprised at the very positive evaluation of the Holy Mass given by their woman contact at the Mass. Immediately after Fr. Neuhaus she spoke with joy of what a wonderful, positive celebration it had been, how the congregation seemed to be very active, singing, rejoicing and celebrating with the Holy Father.
10 years 6 months ago
I found it interesting that the EWTN woman reporter, who was at the D.C. Mass and who immediately spoke after Neuhaus' criticism of the music, expressed a different point of view (probably because she didn't hear his negative comments). Believe me, this is not the first time that EWTN has interjected its own opinions during a Papal visit. When John Paul II visited Columbia, SC, many years ago, Mother Angelica herself started the trend of criticizing what she disliked: "liturgical commissions" and other such bodies. During her commentary between the Pope's appearances at that time, she began a diatribe on the placement of tabernacles in churches, she criticized the use of crosses instead of crucifixes, etc., etc. There was a huge audience to be influenced and she took the opportunity to express her views. She and EWTN are responsible for trying to undo what was promulgated by Vatican II and not only with regard to liturgy. She has also openlly criticized some Cardinals and bishops in the U.S. Church. EWTN, in my opinion, has had a negative effect on many Catholics in the U.S. who rely on that network for any information about the Church by narrowing their vision. Someone should inform EWTN that multicultural celebrations of the liturgy are here to stay. This is not time to reintroduce Bach.
10 years 6 months ago
I agree- I found both Fr. Neuhaus and Raymond Arroyo haughty and pretentious throughout the coverage- Fox News Channel offered much better coverage- By the way Vatican Radio offers excellent coverage in many languages- turn down the sound and listen to excellent commentary- Allen Murphy westminster, Colorado
10 years 6 months ago
As one who has sang for Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington for twelve years, I was ashamed to be a singer as I watched in horror at the Conga Mass at Nationals Park. "Plenty Good Room" had better grammar than it did Catholicism. An electric piano? A samba as a motet? The liturgy was an absolute joke. Look at the facial expressions by the pope during the music in Washington and compare them to those during the mostly beautiful musical selections in New York.
10 years 6 months ago
I thought both Masses were lovely. I watched via EWTN and was actually quite annoyed by the commentary and banter between Father Neuhaus and Raymond Arroyo as if it was a sporting event. It actually seemed a bit uncharitable and was a bit off putting to me as I would have preferred no commentary. The "multicultural" aspect of the DC Mass didn't bother or trouble me. I come from a very rich and old Catholic tradition which embraces the multiculturalism of where I live. I go to a bilingual Mass, which is always beautifully and reverently done, but I guess it's not for everyone and am not surprised to hear criticisms.
10 years 5 months ago
I attended the mass and my daughter sang in the children's choir. I was shocked at EWTN's critical comments during the mass. Though some of the criticism may be meritted, this was not the forum to air those concerns. This was a live event being televised around the world. I do still appreciate all that EWTN has done over the years but the coverage of this event did really surprise me.
10 years 6 months ago
Mr. Winters, the music at the D.C. mass was horrible and a demonstration of everything that is wrong with the prevailing American approach to liturgical music.
10 years 6 months ago
I agree with everyhting Mr. Winters said about Fr. Neuhaus' comments, but I would go a bit further. I am a priest who has worked at one of Washington's many multi-cultural parishes and had a fair amount of success building and celebrating community in the midst of diversity through multi-lingual, multi-cultural liturgies. I think the Mass at Nationals park was creatively envisioned and marvelously executed and simply true to the emerging character of the Church in Washington. Fr. Neuhaus' comments betray some ignorance, or, worse for a supposedly impartial reporter, prejudice regarding the direction of growth for the diocese. Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Gonzales and all who asisted them in planning and ddelivering that liturgy are to be commended for their vision and integrity.
10 years 6 months ago
I watched most of the Mass at home on EWTN television then followed the end of the liturgy on my Sirius radio as I drove to work. I then continued to follow the Pope's day by listening to streaming coverage over the internet whilst at work. By the way, I am neither a stay-at-home mom nor a resident of a nursing home - I am a 44 year old white-collar professional. I found Raymond Arroyo and Father Neuhaus' comments about the Papal Mass at Nationals' stadium to be spot-on: Too much emphasis on showing the Holy Father how wonderful we all are in our multi-cultural society and far too little emphasis on the worship of God. The sense of Mass as Broadway show and the air of a performance overwhelmed the liturgy for me...
10 years 6 months ago
I was far more irritated by the cringe inducing comments made about the Pope's visit to the White House. Fr. Neuhaus and Mr. Arroyo practically described President Bush and Pope Benedict as soulmates. At any rate, as a resident of Southern California, I thank God that Benedict did not visit Los Angeles. I could only imagine the barrage of negativity that Raymond Arroyo and Fr. Neuhaus would unleash on such an occasion.


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