Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vatican II In Action: Looking At The Liturgy

Most of what follows comes from Fr. Wiltgen's account.

On October 22, 1962 (seven months before Pope John's death), Cardinal Frings mentioned to the Fathers that the Preparatory Commission had actually worked with a longer text than what had been made available. As some differences existed, he wanted the full version to be provided to those present.

At the same time this was happening, Bishop Zauner of the Commission on the Liturgy decided to air some of his criticisms of the schema. Wiltgen mentions giving the episcopal conferences greater say in implementing the vernacular in the Mass (with the approval of Rome), the use of Latin in the Divine Office, and concelebration as the main items.

The future Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Giovanni Montini, also gave an intervention at the Council where he plotted out a sort of middle course, for example, calling for Latin's preservation in the "sacramental" parts of the rite. He was immediately contradicted by Patriarch Maximos of the Melkites, who pretty much demanded vernacular for everyone.

Here, readers, I again want to bring up Veterum Sapientia. It was exactly 8 months old on that day. You'd think it would be sort of fresh on everyone's mind. Was anybody even bothering to wonder what Pope John thought? We can safely say, I think, that Cardinal Ottaviani was worried about it. This was the same day that he was publicly humiliated by Cardinal Alfrink.

This business about Latin might not seem significant for a lot of folks reading this, so let's look at it a bit deeper. First, you've got the big problem of folks ignoring stuff that was laid down by the Holy Father in an apostolic constitution less than a year ago. Second, the major impetus for consideration of the vernacular was in the mission field. Wiltgen spends a whole section (pages 35-40) of his book on this. It wasn't supposed to open up a whole can of worms for scrapping the Roman Rite and other problematic what-not, but that's what it did.

MacAffee Brown is correct in saying that "But the reform of the liturgy has even more implications than it's own inherent worth, for it opened up to the council fathers the possibility of reform in other areas of the Church's life. If something as sacred as the use of Latin in the mass could be challenged, then in principle many other things could be challenged. They were."

Just on the liturgical front, you wound up with calls (per Fr. Wiltgen) for "the shortening of the Mass prayers at the foot of the altar, ending the Mass with the Ite, Missa . . . and the blessing, using the pulpit for the Mass of the Word and the altar for the Mass of the Sacrifice, and . . . an ecumenical Mass, modeled closely upon the Last Supper, over and above the existing form of the Latin Mass."

In a nutshell, it was open season. Putting the whole issue of open defiance to the Holy Father, it might do well to take a look at some prevailing criticisms of the Roman Rite from that time period.

Blanshard called the Traditional Mass "the gobbledegook of Latin ritual" and an exercise in "obscurantism" that prevented "substituting understanding for magic." How nice.

MacEoin, who at least claimed to be Catholic, stated that the post-Reformation Church was reactionary by "limiting the laity to passive participation in the Mass and other official prayers." The desire to retain the traditional practices of the Church was something held by "small groups of Council Fathers from traditionally Catholic countries which still count on polemics to retain the allegiance of the ignorant masses."

Not only that, but "The priest isolated himself and even turned his back on the people, who developed their own private devotions in their own languages, devotions not to be condemned in themselves, but often totally unrelated to the Mass. Lay people were encouraged by the clergy to think of their presence at Mass as an opportunity to develop an isolated, personal spirituality, rather than as an expression of community worship."

Ok, let's ignore Blanshard's bigotry and MacEoin's complete ignorance of history, theology, and tradition for a moment. How are comments such as these not direct insults to every single Roman Catholic for the last millenium or so? This is an incredibly important point, given the historical revisionism that so many like to apply to the Church prior to Vatican II. If you listen to the McBriens of the world, they paint the picture of the ignorant rabble just waiting for the bells to ring. We've discussed this before. Think of your patron saint. There's a good chance (unless you're Karl) that they are a product of the Traditional Mass. Think of every relative and parishioner you grew up with. I'm willing to bet a lot of them came from the Traditional Mass.

I know a lot of old Catholics. It's weird that I don't know a single one that was dealt some kind of stunted, isolated, or immature spirituality or understanding of the Eucharist. Many of them clamor for the chance to attend an Extraordinary Form liturgy. All they get in exchange are comments on how stupid they were to attend the Traditional Mass and how stupid they are now for wanting it back.

But I digress. You get the point. Once the liturgical genie was let out of the bottle, nobody was going to get it back in. Back to the events of the Council.

The innovations being discussed got so extreme that you were basically looking at alternatives to the entire Rite altogether, including the Roman Canon. Consider the recommendations of the German-born Bishop Duschak, "My idea is to introduce an ecumenical Mass, stripped wherever possible of historical accretions . . . If men in centuries gone by were able to choose and create Mass rites, why should not the greatest of all ecumenical councils be able to do so?"

No hubris there. Just a few months into a council that everyone admits isn't going to define any new teachings, and this guy has already decided that it has surpassed Nicea, Chalcedon, Trent, etc. Words cannot adequately describe how asinine such a statement is. By the way, this whole movement to return the Mass to its "primitive" state, sans historical accretions, is directly contrary to Pope Pius XII's teaching in Mediator Dei:

The same reasoning holds in the case of some persons who are bent on the restoration of all the ancient rites and ceremonies indiscriminately. The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. . .

But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See . . .

Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.

In other words, to use Karl Adam's metaphor, it's not a good idea to try and cram the beauty of the mature oak back into the acorn. Back to the conciliar stuff.

Just a week after this, Blessed John took up the cause of some Council Fathers to have St. Joseph's name added to the Roman Canon. This would seem to indicate more than a little affection by the Holy Father towards the Canon. Fr. Wiltgen relates that "In some quarters, Pope John was severely criticized for taking what was termed independent action whie the ecumenical council was in session." He doesn't go into any other details, but my own figuring with this is that it further demonstrates how the innovators expected Pope John to basically do whatever they said and to keep his mouth shut on other issues. On the other side, I also know that some conservative elements objected simply because they saw the Canon as untouchable.

Regardless, Amerio points out the irony in all this, "(St. Joseph's addition) was sharply and promptly criticized, either on the grounds of its probable anti-ecumenical effect, or because it seemed merely to be satisfying a personal wish of the Pope . . . In practice, St. Joseph's name was not mentioned for long, and disappeared into the Erebus of oblivion, together with those other of Pope John's doings that did not find favor with the conciliar consensus."

Think about it. When was the last time your priest used the Canon (Eucharistic Prayer #1) at Mass?

Well, the last formal vote on the schema that became known as Sacrosanctum Concilium was passed on December 4, 1963, about six months after Pope John had died. Pope Paul VI had taken over at this point. A lot of folks thought he would immediately implement the provisions of the new constitution. He disappointed them via motu proprio, saying that you had to take time to prepare the new liturgical books. He set up a new commission to accomplish this. Cardinal Lercaro was the president, and Fr. Annibale Bugnini (a name we'll become familiar with) was made secretary.

Also made a part of the commission was Archbishop Felici, the Council's General Secretary. Turns out that Fr. Bugnini had pushed for his inclusion after he had helped push the schema through some prior difficulties. What had happened was that Cardinal Gaetano Cicognani, the president of the Liturgical Prepartory Commission, had refused to sign off on the draft of the schema. Archbishop Felici was the guy who had brought this to Pope John's attention. Since the schema would have been blocked without Cicognani's approval, Pope John prevailed upon his Secretary of State, Cardinal Amleto Cicognani to convince his younger brother to sign the document. Fr. Wiltgen's account is disturbing:

On February 1, 1962, he went to this brother's office, found Archbishop Felici and Fr. Bugnini in the corridor nearby, and informed his brother of Pope John's wish. Later a peritus of the Liturgical Preparatory Commission stated that the old Cardinal was almost in tears as he waved the document in the air and said, "They want me to sign this, but I don't know if I want to." Then he laid the document on his desk, picked up a pen, and signed it. Four days later, he died.

That pretty much lays down the facts of what happened up to the promulgation of the liturgy constitution and what came immediately thereafter. At this point, we're going to give the history a rest and start plowing through the constitution itself, taking its language and footnotes and analyzing them in light of this historical backdrop, the Church's teaching, and what has really happened in its aftermath.

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