4 December 2013

Churchwardens and the liturgical disasters of the 1960s

Churchwardens are a central institution of the Anglican Patrimony; they go back to the parochial life of the pre-Reformation Church (see Voices of Morbath). The other day, one of my last pair of Churchwardens at S Thomas's (a distinguished linguist, a friend, and now of course in the Ordinariate) set me thinking about why the revolution of the 1960s happened so fast and so thoroughly.

Vaggagini says somewhere "Three tendencies were manifested: some wanted no concessions to the vernacular; some wanted permission to say everything in the vernacular for all who wanted it; some wanted to maintain the basic principle of Latin, but also to open the door noticeably to the vernacular tongue." The last group, he said, were by far the largest. So, if you put that together, you clearly find that the overwhelming majority of the Council Fathers wanted at least to preserve a basically Latin Liturgy. So how did we end up with the practical disappearance of Latin in less than a decade? And a radical deformation of the Roman Rite?

Another friend left a comment on one of my threads recently advancing the hypothesis that the Council, if anything, attempted to put the brakes on the radical slide into innovation which had been begun by Venerable Pius XII. I think there could be something in that. How about this as a summary of a possible narrative:
Over the decades, an international network of professional Liturgical Experts had grown up who were mostly not particularly marked by precise or original scholarship but maintained a close network of meetings, conferences, and journals. After the Council, they soon came to dominate the Diocesan Liturgical Committees which the Bishops set up, and then the liturgical bureaucracies created by the Episcopal Conferences. Bishops felt that they didn't really know about Liturgy and were glad to be able to leave it to Experts.

You remember the hoohaa that started up when Joseph Ratzinger began to write about Liturgy: "But he's not an expert in Liturgy". They meant: he's not one of us and he hasn't participated in our conferences and our journals and our international common agendas.

BTW ... Our present Holy Father Pope Francis has made some pretty crisp remarks about effort being wasted on liturgical minutiae, which he sensibly calls narcissistic neo-Pelagian elitism. Perhaps he will do something practical ... like calling for the dissolution of parochial liturgical planning groups, diocesan and national liturgical bureaucracies? The personel concerned could be sent out to kiss babies and give money to the destitute.

7 comments:

Gael said...

How did we come to a point where something so precious like the Liturgy was given over to technocrats? I remember one Curial official, now a parish priest, once describing to me the late Cardinal Bartolucci as "an ignorant relic of the past". How did these people armed with their "new learning", radical criticism and whatnot attain to the mechanisms of power? One wishes, somehow, that the Sodalitium Pianum were never abolished.

John F H H said...

Over the decades, an international network of professional Liturgical Experts had grown up who were mostly not particularly marked by precise or original scholarship but maintained a close network of meetings, conferences, and journals. After the Council, they soon came to dominate the Diocesan Liturgical Committees which the Bishops set up, and then the liturgical bureaucracies created by the Episcopal Conferences. Bishops felt that they didn't really know about Liturgy and were glad to be able to leave it to Experts.

Aha! Do I detect the law of unintended consequences? The above passage reminds me of the use made by Henry VIII of Parliament to effect the English reformation.
PArliament from 1529 onwards met more and more frequently, ensuring M.P.s got to know one another and gained a sense of self-importance. By and large the M.Ps. and the Lords were enriched by the spoils of the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry's successors, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, pursued this frequent use of Parliament, Mary, perforce, needing it to undo the work of her brother and father (the price being inability to reverse the dissolution of monasteries and chantries), Elizabeth to re-settle the Church.
Before the end of Elizabeth's reign the attempts to assert Commons' supremacy were already being made, overcome only by Elizabeth's own charisma and reealisation that whe was getting old and matters could be saved up for her successor to deal with.
The law of unintended consequences finallly came into effect with a vengeance under Charles I and the Commonwealth.
Kind regards,
John U.K.

john-of-hayling said...

..could be sent out to kiss babies.... What have the poor infants done to receive these osculations?

James Ignatius McAuley said...

We have nothing to fear but he ignorance of the expert (this is my paraphrase of a Chesterton statement). So true - the experts gathered together internationally for the liturgical conferences like Assisi and nationally in the united states until 1969. In the United States these onference move from how they were set up by Gerald Ellard, S.J., Martin Hellriegel, and Virgil Michael, O.S.B., to helping understand and thus more actively participate in the liturgy, to discussing how to change, modify and otherwise make the liturgy more pastoral, more assessable. The shift in the United States become obvious with the involvement of H.A. Reinhold in the 1940s. which serves to change Godfrey Diekmann O.S.B.'s focus from Michael was doing before he died in 1938

William Tighe said...

I reflected on the role of self-constituted, but ignorant, "liturgical experts" in the course of this article on Dom Gregory Dix:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=21-09-022-f

Jacobi said...

I suspect that many of these liturgical experts had motivation other than just liturgical reform. There was a clear attempt to alter belief by altering how the Church prayed. They were of that ilk that St Pius X warned so specifically about.

The real problem came after the Council when the excuse of legitimate and limited reform was exploited to produce Revolution.

From the perspective f fifty years, the real fault can be seen to lie, not so much with the Reformers but with the astonishing incompetence of the hierarchy, from the Popes downwards, in failing to comprehend just what was going on – even as the Church steadily collapsed around them over four decades .

They still have no idea how to react.

Stephen said...

You missed the other shoe -

If the Mass of Pius VI and the devotions and practices were so beloved, why did everybody - bishops, priests, religious and lay - give it all up so easily?

Because it wasn't so beloved, except by a very, very small percentage who are still fighting this day.

So the next question to ask is - how did it get to be so unbeloved as to be jettisoned so quickly and easily?

I would suggest that this is because the praxis of the faith became a "clergy only" reality; lay people need not apply. This clericalism was not by accident, but was part of the second millenium trajectory of ever greater centralization of power into the Papacy. By insisting on things like the discipline of clerical celibacy, the Pope was able to cleave clergy out of the local community; with the advance of ultramontanism in the West, subsidiarity and collegiality was eventually eliminated. The Code of Canon law of 1918 effectively killed the ability of local canons or anybody locally to control episcopal appointments. The changes to the liturgy by Popes Pius X and Pius XII set the precedent for Pope Paul VI to steamroll out his Novus Ordo, and as all the obedience was up from the priest to the local ordinaries to the Pope, there was no longer anything left to stop the Pope's exercise of power.

So, in the hands of progressives like Bugnini, the Papacy which traddies still want to think is some bulwark against progressivism is in fact a primary modernist agent of change. Innovation, thy home is Rome!