16 September 2021

S Paul VI

I wish to propose a theory about S Paul VI for which, currently, I can adduce evidence; I wonder if there is more.


(1) He relied upon dishonest people for advice. (a) From the Memoires of Louis Bouyer: "At different stages, be it with regard to the dumping overboard (sabordage) of the Liturgy of the Departed, or again in that unbelievable enterprise of expurgating the psalms in view of their use in the Office, Bugnini came up against an opposition, not just massive, but one could say pretty well unanimous. In some such cases, he did not hesitate to tell us 'But the Pope wants it!'. After that, to be sure, there was no longer a question of discussing it." Bouyer recounts how he once met Bugnini in circumstances in which the latter, mistakenly, believed that he, Bouyer, had just been with Pope Paul ... whom Bugnini was on his way to see. "On seeing me, he not only turned completely white but, visibly, was knocked for six (non seulement il blemit, mais, visiblement, il fut atterre)". "The answer was to be presented to me, but some weeks later, by Paul VI himself. Nattering with me about our famous labours, which he had confirmed, he finally said to me 'But why, then, did you put into this reform ...' (Here, I have to admit that I don't recall any longer which of the details which I have mentioned particularly irritated him.) Naturally, I replied 'But purely and simply because Bugnini guaranteed to us that you were absolutely set on it (avait certifie que vous le vouliez absolument).' His reaction was immediate: 'Is it possible? He said to me personally that you were unanimous in this respect!'".
(b) Bishop Tissier's biography recounts that when Archbishop Lefebvre was received in audience by the Pope, S Paul VI was hostile from the start. It transpired that he had been informed, probably by Cardinal Villot, that the Archbishop made the priests whom he formed "sign an oath against the Pope". Given such shameless mendacity, it is hardly surprising that the Holy Father's mind was poisoned against Lefebvre.

(2) S Paul VI preferred to compromise with disorder rather than to face it down. It seems clear, from Dom Cassian Folsom's Adoremus series of masterly articles, that the provision of alternative Eucharistic Prayers was a pathetic but well-meant attempt to rein in the chaos which existed particularly in the Low Countries, where home-made Eucharistic Prayers were proliferating in (literally) hundreds. S Paul was assured that the Hierarchy, given this concession, were prepared to restore order. (Big of them ... Traditionalists would also do well to remember that it was the provision of these alternatives which saved the Canon itself from being really badly mangled ... better, surely, to be unused for a few decades than permanently debased?)

As well as the human and historical tragedy, there is an ecclesiological point here. If you blend together in one saucepan an exaggerated notion of papal authority (as analysed by Joseph Ratzinger) with the activities (described in detail by Louis Bouyer) of unscrupulous and dishonest and ruthlessly determined manipulative individuals who have the pope's ear, you are gravely at risk of having a disaster the results of which it may well take generations to mitigate.  

Quod factum est.


Scribe said...

Dear Father, Please forgive my using this opportunity to write: I do not know how to start a new thread. I have just received my copy of 'Divine Worship: Daily Office' from CTS. It is a superb production, beautifully bound and printed, and reading through it recalled many of the felicities of the Anglican liturgy as it was before the endless series of little paper books began. I was surprised at the sensitivity of the whole production, which includes all the readings for Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the year, and delighted to see the offices so well presented. What a treat to see Coverdale's version of the psalms used, and to find a rubric enjoining the use of the term 'Holy Ghost' instead of Holy Spirit. The Litany is there, too.
This is such a treasure house of prayer that it's a pity it can't be used outside the Ordinariate; this, and the Sunday Missal, would surely be welcomed by many Catholic parishes after the rather humdrum Ordinary Form in general use. A word of caution: Pope Francis has declared war on the Extraordinary Form, as he follows Cranmer's desire for one form for the whole Kingdom. Will the Ordinariates be next to bear the brunt of his reforming wrath?

OreamnosAmericanus said...

I was at school in Rome during Paul VI's time and was present at several of his Masses. I remember one in particular, although whether it was in the Lateran or Santa Sabina I can't recall, where he was lamenting the proliferating problems in the Church and at one point threw up his hands in that typical Italian style and said,

"Cosa posso fare? Non sono qu'un vecchio uomo."

"What can I do? I'm just an old man."

Anonymous said...

paul vI th wrote no more changes the children are confused, About the time he wrote jubilate deo the first episode/edition

JOSEPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PM said...

One never knows, given the opacity of Roman curial politics, but I suspect that Fr Bouyer's conversation with Paul VI played a large part in Bugnini's overnight transformation from liturgical supremo into apostolic nuncio to Iran.

Fr Bouyer was too modest to suggest that himself, and thinks it may have had something to do with Bugnini's machinations over the French version of the new Missal (which inter alia substitutes 'universal' for 'Catholic' in the Creed), against which Congar led the charge. Congar by that stage was starting to follow Bouyer's trajectory of thinking that the reform had gone off the rails.

Bouyer's most delicious anecdote, for my money, is the remark of an older French Oratorian at the time of Bouyer's ordination in 1944: 'I can tell that you are a convert because you are interested in the Bible and the Liturgy. Real (i.e. cradle) Catholics mostly are not.'

coradcorloquitur said...

In all of this intricate analysis one (at least, I) comes away with the impression of Paul VI as manipulated victim. I am no expert, but common sense shouts that a person in that high position of authority bears great responsibility for letting himself be manipulated and not choosing his counsellors carefully and wisely, from men of proven fidelity to the Scriptures and Tradition---the two bulwarks of Truth that we Catholics acknowledge. No, his home background (his parents being a man and woman of the Left), his strange exemption from normal seminary training, and a melancholy disposition explain much of his actions and responsibility; he comes off not exactly as a victim but as a hubristic innovator. When did we have saints like that?

Michael Ortiz said...

Well, now I know why my earliest memories of Holy Mass involve Ray Repp's "I am the Resurrection" and an image of several boomers with folk guitars. Sigh.