25 November 2013

'The Council' and the Liturgy: an alternative narrative

I suppose a common analysis of what happened in the 1960s might be: The Council mandated a fairly light revision of the Liturgy; however, particular interests subsequently gained control of the levers of liturgical power and pressed things to extremes. I suggest that something really quite different happened, realisation of which might have its embarrassments both for Trendies and Traddies.

The fontal point is this: The process of change was already firmly in place. I do not think that the Council, in fact, made any real difference whatsoever. My train of thought was started by reading some words which Annibale Bugnini wrote in the Preface to his 1956 Commentary on the new Holy Week liturgy. I give my own translation of his Latin:
"When the Easter Vigil had been restored, a certain keen liturgist did not hesitate to assert: Pope Pius XII, in the history of Liturgy through the ages, will be 'The Restorer of the Easter Vigil'. Now, indeed, by the help of God's grace he is to be called 'The Restorer of Holy Week'; while in the secret of our hearts we do not doubt that still greater things await this indefatigable Labourer, and it is very likely (nec veritatis specie caret) that He will be 'The Restorer of the entire Sacred Liturgy'".

Remember, also, the extremely radical nature of the 'restored' Holy Week. I venture to say that it is, if anything, more radical than the post-Conciliar changes to the Ordo Missae itself. 1951 and 1955 were simply two stages of which 1969 was the logically coherent third stage. The changes to Holy Week were only less radical than the later changes in that they affected merely one week of the year ... and services which were not of obligation ... and services which, in fact, for the most part, comparatively few people attended.

Now let me bring in Cardinal Ratzinger's famous words of 1999: "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. ... In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the Liturgy. It is not manufactured by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity"*.

I think these are admirable sentiments. My only qualification would be is this: Pius XII had initiated the process of radical alteration, using the same people who were to be prominent after the Council, such as Annibale Bugnini, before and without the mandate of an ecumenical Council. We had come a long way since that admirable and erudite Pontiff Benedict XIV concluded that the disposition of the Psalter in the Roman Breviary could not be changed because there was no evidence that the Roman Church had ever used a different one. I suggest the Twentieth Century liturgical changes would most appropriately be called the Pian-Pauline Reforms. They are changes based on exactly that notion of papal power which Benedict XVI so acutely criticises: that the Pope can do anything. The process of liturgical 'reform' has, from the beginning, been the product of the maximalising Papacy of Pius XII. The 'Council' has only been an episode in that process. I never ceased to be amazed by this central paradox of mid-twentieth century Catholic history: that the 'Progressives' and 'Liberals'were able to transform the Latin Church pretty well overnight by manipulating an absolutist model of Papal power.

I think it will be very interesting to see, over the medium term, how Pope Francis understands his Ministry. It can be easy for a good man with admirable motives and who is facing real problems to use the power which his position gives him to take short cuts. It takes a very learned and a very truly humble Pontiff - such as a Benedict XIV or a Benedict XVI - to understand, and to internalise his perception of, what  he ought not to do (and I'm not only talking about Liturgy). Pope Francis's two recent utterances which bear upon the Hermeneutic of Continuity make me cautiously optimistic. If this man can consolidate the gains made by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time prudently develop the teaching of the Magisterium about the Preferential Option for the Poor, he could turn out to be a great Pontiff.

*Fr Aidan Nichols reports that Fr Adrian Fortescue, nearly a century ago, wrote "The Pope is not an irresponsible tyrant who can do anything with the Church that he likes. He is bound on every side ..."


The Rad Trad said...

One of the most sensible things I have read online concerning Holy Week and Pius XII's eerie pontificate. I agree entirely.

Rubricarius said...

A very sensible view. I would go, slightly, further and suggest the Council had a moderating influence on the cursus of planned reform.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I don't get all these hijacking conspiracy theories in respect of the Council. They simply fail to convince. My own view is that the 'infiltration' or subversion was no more pronounced within the Church than it was in society at large. If three lapsed Catholics from Liverpool plus their drummer can earn a living playing American 'beat' music in 1960 Northern Germany, than any distortion of Western civilization is a possibility.

Childermass said...

Well, you could argue it back to St Pius X's radical breviary reform.

I agree that Ven. Pius XII unwittingly planted the seeds for the post-Conciliar disaster. I only wish he were in charge, for the Pope of "Mediator Dei" would not have allowed the Consilium to do what it did.

It was also Ven. Paul VI who rehabilitated Bugnini and gave him the power to do what he did.

Ttony said...

But would Pope Pius XII have felt this urge to power if Pope Pius X hadn't felt free to reorganise the Breviary? And by what authority did Pius V and Trent arrogate to themselves the Bishops' duty to regulate the Liturgy in their dioceses?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this reminder, Fr. Hunwicke. I discussed the issue over at my own blog today, citing, e.g., Evelyn Waugh, who was profoundly disdainful and resentful of the Holy Week reforms and regarded them as a serious impoverishment of the liturgy in the name an ideologically-motivated archeologism which, today, has contributed to the widespread hatred of Latin as an inauthentic post-apostolic accretion which Pius himself feared.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hunwicke,

Your statement is not as revolutionary and upsetting to some traditionalists as you seem to indicate in an early sentence. There have been for at least ten years a small, but growing, group of traditionalists (yes, still a small minority of minority traditionalists, of whom I think that you are one, but I now do not have the time to document that claim) who have made various statements indicating the problematic and revolutionary nature of the many of the liturgical reforms Pius X and Pius XII. Your post, of course, is a welcome further comment, which rather concisely states a summary of the unity of the claims against such reform. Some might quibble with this sentence or that, but I thank you for stating what you have stated even if it is not as new a statement as might seem to be indicated.

Childermass said...

Did anyone read the recent interview with the very frank Cardinal Bartolucci, published just after his death last week?

"Paul VI was tone-deaf, and not a great connoisseur of sacred music. One time, when he was still a cardinal, we sang the 'Missa Papae Marcelli' in Saint Peter’s. After the celebration, at which he himself had presided, we met, and he complimented me heartily on the very beautiful performance which he had enjoyed so much. Then he said to me: 'Maestro, why don’t you also give us some pastoral music!' I confess that I was quite chilled by what he said...."

Henri Adam de Villiers said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for this great post!

Would you authorize us to make a French translation for our blog htt://www.schola-sainte-cecile.com?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I am happy for a French translation to be made.

Ttony ... what you say is the commonly accepted account of what Pius V did, but it is the opposite of the truth. See my post on 14 December 2010.

Ttony said...

I stand (happily) corrected as to Pius V, but whether because of printing or the Reformation, or papal authority, post-Trent there is a new status quo. Is there any record of curmudgeonly canons? (What might an unreformed Exeter have contributed!)

Unknown said...

The Pian Commission on Reform of the Liturgy clearly had plans for a general reform of the liturgy, and was working on the basis of a “promemoria” outlining that, mentioned in Bugnini’s book as well as Giampetro’s book on Cardinal Antonelli. This follows on from Pius X’s earlier long term plans for such a reform as well as the influence of the Liturgical Movement that, as Alcuin Reid shows in his book “The Organic Development of the Liturgy,” was shifting its focus from promoting understanding and appreciation of the existing liturgy to measures for reform thereof in a “pastoral” direction. So you are right to say the reform trajectory was already there before the Council.

I am not so sure the Holy Week reforms are more radical than the post Vatican II reforms, and not just in terms of scope – Alcuin Reid seems to think they might still qualify generally within the “organic careful pruning of a gardner” model of liturgical reform. In any event, I am not sure celebrating the Triduum services at more authentic hours of the day and adding renewal of baptismal promises is such a bad thing, Evelyn Waugh notwithstanding. Personally I love the reformed Triduum services, although I admit it is all I know. Having read Waugh’s book, it seems to me his main beef was the elimination of the Tenebrae services that he was wont to enjoy in a yearly Holy Week retreat.

I’ve always thought that while the reformers had some good ideas, the main problem with the liturgical reform post-Vatican II was the relative lack of a strong voice for maintaining tradition. Perhaps this could have come about with a more balanced membership of the Consilium, or perhaps with a greater role for the Congregation of Rites in the process. I was surprised to read in the above referenced book on Antonelli that he as secretary of the Council’s liturgical commission recommended that Sacrosanctum Concilium be implemented by a body independent of the Congregation of Rites. I imagine he must have rued that recommendation, as he subsequently became very critical of the Consilium’s work methods in practice– he said that they worked in too much haste and without due deliberation, and he criticize the lack of theological expertise of Bugnini and others.

The Rad Trad said...

"I agree that Ven. Pius XII unwittingly planted the seeds for the post-Conciliar disaster. I only wish he were in charge, for the Pope of "Mediator Dei" would not have allowed the Consilium to do what it did."

It was Pius XII who hired most of the men who eventually created the new liturgy and, when he was very sick towards the end of his life and unable to see visitors, he still took regular reports from his liturgical commission. Pius XII hired Bugnini personally after reading a pro-reform essay of his in Ephemerides. The idea Pius XII unwittingly eventuated the reform just does not seem to conform to the reality. The Pope of Mediator Dei is the same Pope who reversed "lex orandi lex credenda" (giving the novel impression that doctrinal formulations precede worship in importance and teaching) and basically wrote that the Pontiff could do anything with the liturgy (Mediator Dei 58).

St Pius X set a precedent for changing the liturgy, and had he lived longer the Roman Office would probably be much like the Liturgy of Hours, but his actual reforms were probably unrelated in substance to those of Pius XII and his protégé, Paul VI.

Henri Adam de Villiers said...

Thank you very much, Father, here it is:

carl said...

Excuse my ignorance, but perhaps someone can rectify it. Is 1951 a reference to the reform of the Easter Vigil? I had quite forgotten there had been a reform along these lines prior to '55.

Stephen said...

Popes have been making those changes to the liturgy since at least the filioque - oh, but wait, that novelty was ok, because, um, er, the Pope said so. So if that's the case, you pretty much have to accept the Pian and Pauline reforms, do you not? Otherwise, you'd run the risk of being a cafeteria Catholic - the very antithesis of any good Traddie.