In 2007, I had a conversation with a professor who felt that change was in the air for the Roman Catholic Church. The basis of this opinion was based on language. The words and the context used in writings that emerged from the Vatican were changing and somehow different – a difference that went beyond personal writing styles of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. This professor was hopeful that positive change for women could be coming. He was right about change in the Church, however, the changes surrounding women that emerged have not been positive.
As I continue to reflect on these words, I ponder the issue of language; specifically the impact words have and the way they are used to facilitate subtle changes in thinking, opinion, and beliefs. The method of persuasion that seems to be employed is the Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory that utilizes the five canons of rhetoric: invention, organization, style, delivery, and memory.
An example of this can be seen clearly in the changes in the liturgy that occurred last year. First, the teaching comes out with the rationale as to why the liturgy needs to change. From there a discussion, especially through the media, addressing the upcoming modifications are followed by subtle changes in the liturgy beginning with the call – response and the language in the creed. Next, the language of the celebrant began to change. Finally, the full implementation of changes is made with the addition of new gestures or movements. When I discussed the mass changes with a family member, there was an admittance that the changes no longer affect them – the changes were no longer noticeable. Their memory was impacted because the routine is now second nature.
In order to come to grips with the issue of language and the observation of my professor, I wanted to do a cursory review of the writings issued by the Vatican during this period. Admittedly, with a blog post, there is a limitation as to the depth and breadth of information that can be disseminated. It is my hope to eventually complete a thorough review of the modification of language used during Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. For now, I want to address a few observations.
Continue reading “Winds of Change in the Roman Catholic Church by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”