6 April 2020

Once upon a time ...

There exists indisputable archival evidence, including a photograph, that, on December 26 1966, a major Religious Superior, an Archbishop, celebrated Holy Mass facing the people, and concelebrating with his brother priests.

This is hardly remarkable. It was a year and a half since the promulgation (7 March 1965) of the post-Conciliar Ritus Servandus in Concelebratione Missae. And, of course, disorderly clergy had been experimenting according to their personal whimsies for  years, if not decades.

What does give a certain piquancy to this information is that the Archbishop concerned was Marcel Lefebvre, Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers.

I will make three points:

(1) Only four Conciliar Fathers voted against the Conciliar liturgical Decree Sacrosanctum Concilium. How is this to be understood? There are still people around who lie and deceive; they remind us of this statistic in order to try to convince us, wickedly and mendaciously, that all the Fathers except for a mere four were strongly in favour of
     (a) all the vicious and unnecessary textual revolutions in liturgical books which (unmandated) followed the Council; and
     (b) the drastic abolition, accompanied by what one can only call bullying, of an entire liturgical culture; and
     (c) the massive vandalisation of churches.

The claim, explicit or implicit, that these things were 'ordered by the Council', is a wantonly and grossly mendacious retrojection. It bears the finger-prints of the Father of Lies himself. Most of the Council Fathers expected a very much more modest reform. That is why only four voted against the draft decree. The Fathers certainly did not anticipate the displacement, however optional, of the Roman Canon -- a move which is not even hinted at in the Decree.

(2) There was an expectation that a modest reform was going to happen. And only four Fathers, of whom Archbishop Lefebvre was not one, resisted this general expectation. Accordingly, it is in no way surprising that Marcel Lefebvre was prepared to concelebrate and (as the Ritus Servandus prescribed) to do so facing the people. Indeed, as early as April 1963, the Archbishop had written to the Rectors of the major scholasticates of his order forbidding Mass versus populum but with a caveat: "other than exceptionally and after necessary permission has been obtained". He was not  an integriste bigot.

(3) The 1965 liturgical rules still envisaged only one Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon Romanus, and expected the Latin language and all the usual rituals to be observed (concelebrants even wore maniples!). Only Iudica me Deus and the Last Gospel had been, three months earlier, removed from the Mass.

An important piece of collateral damage, resulting from the disasters of the 1960s and 1970s, is that we have been deprived of the sort of very gentle and principled liturgical evolution which happened after Trent and which most bishops rightly expected after Vatican II.

The highly intelligent optional permissions for the Usus Antiquior granted by the two recent decrees of the CDF, combined with the possibilities allowed in Summorum Pontificum, constitute exactly the sort of thing which should have been able to follow Vatican II.

Finally, the proper organic evolution of the Ancient Roman Rite has been, with gentle skill, got under way. These two CDF decrees are not as significant as Summorum Pontificum; SP opened up the possibility of thousands of priests learning how to celebrate, and indeed celebrating, a form of the Old Rite only slightly deformed by the period 1950-2000. But the CDF decrees, combined with permissions to celebrate the Old Holy Week, are a very important step, theologically as well as liturgically.

These are the sort of developments which were prevented from happening half a century ago by a gang whom Louis Bouyer rightly called the Madmen ... intent on bringing the whole edifice of Catholic worship crashing down in an atmosphere of hate-filled Rupture.


Marco da Vinha said...

Father, can that photograph be found on line?

Pete said...

Longest maniples I ever did see here from a concelebration at the consecration of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral May 1967; they must be about 3' long!


Sadly the deacon and subdeacon are the only ones with decent vestments

Pete said...


The concelebration can be seen at about 14 minutes in.