5 September 2023

Cosi fan tutti

We've lived with "Vatican II" for sixtyish years now ... which makes the current papal attacks on "Backwardism" a tadge quaint. Surely, resurrecting the corpses of the nineteen sixties is what really counts as "Backwardist"? 

But, this morning, I suggest that what happened in that decade had already been done ... at least once before.

The stages of the 1960s revolutions began with academic ferment. Conferences and trendy 'calls' by trendy 'experts' prepared the way. Authority then cautiously permitted some 'progress'. Next, the committees set up to carry this permission into effect soon decided that the modest 'reforms' which Authority had in mind were nothing like enough ... the committee-men, after all, were massively expert and could do far, far, better. Within a very few years, their labours produced results which went very much further than Authority had intimated ... further than the Council Fathers had in mind when they signed Sacrosanctum Concilium.

So we have had the Pseudocracy ... the Rule of the Big Lie reinforced by the Big Stick ... of the last sixty years ... two generations of radical depravations of Tradition, with every novelty labelled as The Reform Of Vatican II. I suspect that most clergy and laity never looked at the Conciliar documents ... after all, if bishops and Cardinals were going around, mendaciously claimimg that "the Council" required wall-to wall vernacular and the radical architectural vandalisation of all sanctuaries, who are we little people to cry out that the Emperor is not only naked, but a vulgar nudist liar too?

On January 9, 1941, Pope Pius XII, Papa Pacelli, gave the Biblical Institute instructions to make "a new Latin version of the Psalms, which was to follow presse fideliterque the original texts and veteris venerandae Vulgatae aliarumque antiquarum interpretationum, quantum fieri posset, rationem haberet."

The academic demands for this had come most noisily from ... ... yeah, you guessed right, ten out of ten ... from Germany. 

The results of this papal initiative were quite shocking. Far from respecting the ancient Latin translations of the Psalms, the 'experts' ... led by a German Jesuit called Bea ... even went so far as to produce a Psalter which paid practically no attention to early Christian Latin but even went so far as to invent a whole new dialect of Latin which was totally divorced from Christian Latin, being based upon the usages of the pre-Christian lawyer and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero. As Christine Mohrmann indignantly complained, "there has been a complete break with tradition and ... a failure to carry out the programme set before the translators, viz., that they should as far as possible take account of the ancient versions ... is it right, or rather, is it justifiable to mutilate a liturgical book such as the Book of Psalms, a mass of poetry which since the earliest centuries has been part and parcel of Christian worship and has--so to say--grown up with the Christian idiom--to mutilate such  book by dressing it up in a pre-Christian language?"

Indeed, that is the basic question (there are others ... such as whether Bea's persistent programme of demanding the elimination of all 'Hebraisms' was, in the decade of the Nazi extermination camps, particularly tactful).

Readers will have noticed the parallels between my narrative and the realities of Vatican II. At this point, happily, the similarities break down. The campaign led by Christine Mohrmann, a brilliant scholar of quite exraordinary erudition and universally respected, led to the "New Psalter" being a complete and total flop.

In our own time, booksellers marketing old Breviaries have to be very careful to inform potential buyers which psalter they contain.


scotchlil said...

I am by no means an admirer of Vatican II, nor an unqualified admirer of the late Mother Angelica, but I wholly approved of her using the conciliar texts in pointing out to her Diocesan that the Council did not forbid or outlaw 'ad orientem' celebration. (She also explained to the Bishop that the then Pontiff celebrated in that way in his own chapel - she having been present for one of the Papal daily Masses). We seem to have become peculiarly averse to the idea of evidence in the enterprise of theology. The present Pontiff - when his sentences make any sense at all - seems to think it can all just be made up on the spot... And there are always those willing, even desparate, to swallow 'the big lie'.

Andrew Malton said...

The Psalm texts of the Mass of St Pius X (canonized in 1954) are taken from this Psalter.

Albertus said...

A long time ago I bought a seemingly never-used Rituale Romanum and Diurnale in a Parisian Catholic antiquarian bookshop near the Pantheon. Upon inspecting the books at home, to my great horror, i saw that the Psalms were those of Bea, which explained why the books had never been used before! Luckily, in the same shop, i later found a Rituale and Diurnale with the proper Psalms which we all know and love, and I still use them till this very day.

Arthur H. said...

May I ask what version of the psalms the Grail Psalter, by Fr. Gelineau, falls under?

As I have mentioned before, at chapel in a now-defunct seminary, the "Gelineau psalms" in English translation, were sung in choir to a guitar accompaniment, and the whole student body attended.

The next year, the administration switched to a simple psalm tone from the "new" LOTH, and it was not as pleasant, so nobody came to prayer... I forget what version of the psalms was used in that book.

Childermass said...

"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. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. 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….The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."
Cardinal Ratzinger, 2000

PM said...

Bea and his supporters seem to have forgotten that Latin changed from a living to a dead language precisely because the Renaissance humanists insisted that only Ciceronian literary perfection, as against medieval/scholastic barbarism, would do. Bea culpa, Bea culpa, Bea maxima culpa?

At second hand - I have not seen the original scholarship - I understand that some classicists now think that the versions of Cicero's speeches that we now have were written up for the record after the fact and that he would not have delivered them orally with such elaborate syntax. I say this under correction, as Fr Hunwicke is a classicist.

PM said...

On the broader point, Fr Hunwicke is exactly right: the tendency for the permitted to become mandatory is remarkable: celebration versus populum (cf. the odious Cupich in Chicago) is a case in point.

E sapelion said...

I don't understand Andrew Malton's comment. St Pius X died in 1914, and in his time there was no revision of the Missal. The next Missal revision was in 1920 under Benedict XV, even if it was initiated by St Pius X it cannot have used a psalter published in 1945 (Versio Piana aka Bea Psalter).

Andrew Malton said...

I was only referring to the Mass formulary that is for the feast (1954) of St Pius X, not to the whole Missal in any version.