Before the many changes visited upon the Church of Rome during the Second Vatican Council, the pontifical universities in the Eternal City conducted lectures and oral examinations in the mother tongue of the Latin rite as well as required papers to be written in Latin. For most national colleges, this presented little difficulty for students; most Eastern and Western Europeans were exposed to a variety of languages growing up and possessed the requisite skills to add another, even if difficultly, to their repertoire. Not so for American students, typically of Irish and Italian ethnic origin. After several generations of shaming and intentional integration, third generation Americans never spoke the languages of their grandparents; solidarity during the Second World War finally eviscerated any lingering divides between "WASP" Americans and their barely-white counterparts. Unable to speak either Italian or Latin competently, professors would read questions in Latin off a sheet of paper in front of them with the answers printed below, which the seminarian would politely read upside down back to the instructor.
This would be another quaint example of "Americanism" if the context were not so bleak. American bishops sent their most promising students to the Pontifical North American College—and supposedly still do—for instruction in all things Roman. It may not be the case anymore, but students then were almost explicitly told that they were the next generation of bishops, monsignori, and academics. In Phoenix from the Ashes, HJA Sire perceived that pre-Conciliar education produced numerous orthodox (Garrigou-Lagrange, Fortescue) and dissident (Lubac, Maritain, anyone with a German-ish name) thinkers, while post-Conciliar education has produced none of either. The Church has not managed to lay hands on anyone with a brain, Sire jeers, in six decades (or at least not anyone with a brain and the dare to compromise his security).
The de facto ban on original thought is no where more apparent than in the field of liturgy. The wake of the Liturgical Movement gave rise to many ripples of thought, some good, some bad. Authors across the spectrum visited original texts for the first time since the Tridentine Council and attempted to synthesize their influences to discern the true Roman tradition; if not for an out-of-control papacy the end result may not have been the Mass of Paul VI. Today where are the real liturgists? Even the bad ones? I have never been able to read Scott "Alcuin" Reid with interest. A few FSSP priests have put out generic books on the old Mass. The "liberals" have Anthony Ruff OSB, but he is more a cheerleader for the reform than a creative thinker. Where are the liturgists?
Thus far the only books concerning liturgy written after Vatican II that I wholeheartedly recommend are The Banished Heart and Worship as Revelation. Like the pre-Vatican II liturgical studies, both of these works are primarily surveys of history that draw conclusions rather than conclusions in search of scattered evidence. Perhaps the most interesting feature these books share is that neither was written by a priest or someone purporting to be a professional theologian. Geoffrey Hull is a layman and a linguist specializing in Portuguese, Celtic, and Indonesian dialects. Laurence Hemming is a deacon for a London parish and a philosophy professor specializing in crazy Germans. The perspectives of both men figure greatly in their insight in a way that a full-time cleric might find intimidating. Aidan Kavanagh wrote after "the Council," but belongs to an earlier generation.
Eastern Christendom finds itself similarly bereft of writers after Taft. Alexander Schmemann is interesting and worth reading as a speculative theologian, but he was not a liturgical historian and his ideas do not reflect the Eastern tradition as a whole, especially in calling the Church itself a Sacrament. In English-speaking Eastern Catholicism and Orthodoxy, liturgical research has stagnated into writing commentaries on Schmemann. One correspondent, an Orthodox seminarian knowledgeable in Greek, reduces this unoriginality to sloth; people are too lazy to learn other languages ("Learning Greek is a b****"). A general current of Lutheranism ran through the University of Paris' theology courses in the mid-20th century and modern protestants, looking for a friend in Orthodoxy against Romish ways, will postulate that the Orthodox believe in something akin to Luther's cosubstantiation. They believe no such thing, but the relevant manuals and dogmatic theological works exist only in Greek and no one thus far has bothered to translate it. Similarly, there is a genuine revival in liturgical writings in the Slavic Orthodox churches that no one has bothered and no one will bother translating. As Robert Taft himself said to students of St. Vladimir Seminary in 2009, if you are not learning Russian, you are not reading current liturgical study. His Traddiness enjoys Schmemann, but must all liturgy be footnotes on Schmemann?
Until Western Christianity once again employs the efforts of more than a handful of intelligent men, standards will continue to founder. For a proliferation of polyglots, let us pray to the Lord!