theology of the body and liturgy
I once was at a presentation on JP2’s Theology of the Body. Two interesting parallels hit me the other day concerning liturgical orthopraxy and the orthodox relationship between a man and a woman.
I believe an overwhelming majority of the people who discard Church teaching and implement their own localized variants in the liturgy do so out of sincere pastoral concern for the faithful. In other words, they really do believe that they are doing what is right.
Consider, though, the case of two unmarried college students who decide to have sex. Let’s make it interesting and propose that they were reared as Catholics. They have been told that premarital sex is a bad idea and not what is good for them, but maybe from a religious ed teacher who seemed uncommitted to the truth she taught - in other words, the words given to the students failed to teach them. So now, what they, in their right conscience, perceive as a greater truth is that them having sex outside marriage is a beautiful thing and will deepen their love for each other.
In both cases, we have people who act contrary to Church teaching because they honestly believe that they know better than the Church. (That’s the nicest way to regard the liturgical heteropraxy....it may be that in some cases, there really are people who want to suppress or counteract the part of Church teaching revealed in a certain part of the liturgy.)
Just as the couple does not know that they are undermining their own good by engaging in extramarital sex, how can those who violate liturgical norms assert that they are not undermining the spiritual good of their faithful? They do what they do often based on sensory feedback: they see people reacting stronger emotionally to this or that, or even evincing a clearer connection between the rite and a particular teaching. Yet how can they rely on this feedback? How can they assume that what they see is a reflection of the spiritual reality? Doesn’t the couple use the same criteria to judge that what they do is good for them: satisfaction, comfort, and all the other fruits of physical intimacy.
Another way of looking at it is a parallel between liturgy and contraception. Failing to implement the Roman Rite liturgy as given to us by the Church is a form of saying, “I accept you, but not this part.” Example: “I accept the Easter Vigil, but I reject the Church’s teaching on when the lights come on; instead, I will turn them on at the Gloria because that is what I perceive is best.” Is this not the same logic that frames the contraception issue? “I accept the gift that you make of yourself to me, but I reject the part of you that is your fertility.”