Saturday 21 April 2012

Cardinal Heenan on the New Mass

I had occasion today to look up Cardinal Heenan's comments after seeing the first celebration of the New Normative Mass, in the Sistine Chapel, during the October 1967 Synod of Bishops in Rome.

This was some time after the introduction of the vernacular Mass: initially that was a fairly straightforward translation of the Traditional Mass, the one we now refer to as the Extraordinary Form.  (Indeed, that is the first Mass I can remember from my childhood, with the priest entering and starting the Mass with the words (in English) I will go up to the altar of God' and the servers responding: 'The God who gives joy to my youth.')

So by 1967 the Mass had been celebrated in English (at least sometimes) for a while.  This, however, was the first sight of the wholesale revision of the Mass, and the Cardinal's words strike me as prophetic and worthy of reflection. He said:

Like all the bishops I offer my sincere thanks to the Consilium. Its members have worked well and have done their best. I cannot help wondering, however, if the Consilium as at present constituted can meet the needs of our times. For the liturgy is not primarily an academic or cultural question. It is above all a pastoral matter for it concerns the spiritual lives of our faithful. I do not know the names of the members of the Consilium or, even more important, the names of their consultors. But after studying the so called Normative Mass it was clear to me that few of them can have been parish priests.  I cannot think that anyone with pastoral experience would have regarded the sung Mass as being of first importance.

At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel (a demonstration of the Normative Mass) we would soon he left with a congregation mostly of women and children. Our people love the Mass but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached. I humbly suggest that the Consilium look at its members and advisers to make sure that the number of those who live in seminaries and religious communities does not exceed the numbers of those with pastoral experience among the people in ordinary parishes.

 Here are a few points which solely for the sake of time - since only five minutes are allowed for comments - must be put so shortly as to sound brusque.

 1. The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. If there is to be more emphasis in the Mass on Bible readings than on Eucharistic prayer the faith of both clergy and people will be weakened.

 2. There is more need than ever today to stress the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. No change in the Mass should he made which might seem to throw doubt on this doctrine.

 3. Many bishops in this Synod have spoken of the need of coming to the rescue of the faithful grown restless and disturbed on account of too frequent changes in the Mass.  I must therefore ask what attitude the Consilium will take to these warnings from the pastors of the Church? I confess in all seriousness that I am uneasy lest the liturgists say: "These bishops know nothing about liturgy." It would be tragic if after the bishops have gone home, no notice were to be taken of their opinions.

 4. In my diocese of Westminster - and in several other English dioceses - the rule is that at least one Mass each Sunday must be celebrated in Latin.  It would be a great help if the Consilium were to tell the whole Church how the Latin tongue can be preserved.  If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic Church it is essential to keep a universal tongue.

(Quoted in Michael Davies: Pope Paul's New Mass).

It seems to me that the four points he raised were indeed prophetic - and prophecies which were ignored.  We are still paying the price, and our Holy Father has his work cut out to turn the tide.

Remember him - and the late Cardinal Heenan - in your prayers.


Ttony said...

Bugnini The Reform of the Liturgy Part III (The Missal) Chapter 24 (The Order of Mass) page 350 footnote 15:

"On October 26, Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, took the podium and accused the commission of technicism, intellectualism, and a lack of pastoral sense. Cardinal Lecaro immediately replied that forty-seven Fathers, almost all of them pastors of dioceses, and eighteen patrish priests belonged to the Consilium."

This really stung Buggles (as did the Agatha Christie indult, of which more if anybody cares). Fr Sarcastic reports the Council:

Footnote 16:

"The chief spokesmen for these objections were the representatives of the English speaking hierarchies, who gathered at the English College on October 25 to agree on a common attitude that would be expressed in the voting. The attitude adopted was a negative one and displayed an obsession with singing in particular; it was claimed that people in the English-speaking world do not sing in church (the reference seems to have been solely to Catholic churches) and that the normative Mass should therefore be the read Mass. Another concern was to defend the Church's faith in the real presence."

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Very interesting.

It still leaves me wondering:

1. I accept the OF gives more prominence to scripture than the EF (I think this is a Good Thing) but does it give more prominence to scripture than to the Eucharistic prayer?

2. How exactly does the OF throw doubt on the doctrine of the Real Presence?

Now it may be that I need to experience more EF masses to understand what he is getting at (although I am uneasy about the idea of liturgical tourism). Having attended OF masses for the last 40 years and still having a firm faith in the real presence I still don't "get it".

Patricius said...

Cardinal Heenan's reference to Low Mass and "fathers of families" is, to my mind, somewhat enigmatic (I speak as a long time father of a family!)What is so peculiar about this set of people that he saw fit to single them out? Had it anything to do with the fact that a Low Mass including a sermon on a Sunday could be over in 35 minutes? Much as I view the High Mass as the chief glory of the Extraordinary Form the advantages of a short "quiet" mass when one has the care of small children should not be overlooked.

Richard Collins said...

A great and holy man, how I miss him. He was often on television banging the drum for Catholicism and Christianity in general.

PTP - an observation on question 2 (the liturgical answers will, i ma sure be forthcoming): the dramatic move from kneeling by mouth to EMHCs, standing, taking by hand etc have undoubtedly reduced reverence and with that comes indifference and neglect and then, in the wake of that you have the disappearance of belief.
How many Catholics in the modern church, genuflect any more? How many hold conversations at the tops of their voices?
They have forgotten that the True Presence is in the tabernacle (if they can find the tabernacle, that is).

Joseph Shaw said...

Card Heenan may have had in mind - on the Real Presence - changes to the rubrics. The EF gives the Blessed Sacrament great respect

Joseph Shaw said...

On the Real Presence Heenan may have been thinking most of all of rubrical changes: the loss of the double genuflection at the Consecration, for example, and the holding together of thumb and forefinger. Also the abbreviated formula for giving Communion. He fought in vain to prevent Communion in the Hand in England and Wales: his decree was simply ignored.

Ttony said...

PTP: I think Buggles possibly missed Cardinal Heenan's point (he was extraordinarily sensitive about his project). Heenan believed that the new form of Mass downplayed its sacrificial character, and that in particular the disappearance of the Offertory and its substitution by a Jewish "Grace before meals" changed the focus of the Mass from Good Friday to Holy Thursday.

I don't think you need to attend EF Mass to get what he was talking about: just read a translation of the EF.

Ben Trovato said...


I think he was contrasting 'fathers of families and young men' with 'women and children;' the implication being that he thought the new approach might appeal to women and children but not to men (young or otherwise).

I wonder if he thought men (or English men, at least) were more likely to be drawn to a more reflective, private devotional worship, than a more externally expressive one?

Jonathan Marshall said...

In my own experience,the only times I have seen the numbers of men equal or exceed the numbers of women at Mass have been at EF Masses. Cardinal Heenan was absolutely right.

Part-time Pilgrim said...


I don't agree with your analysis about EMHC, communion standing, in the hand but I can follow the argument and would have to concede that you may be right. (My own view is that EMHC, communion standing and in the hand need not mean a lack of reverence). However all these things happened after the changes that Cardinal Heenan was talking about so they can't have been the focus of his concerns. As I say perhaps I need to experience more EF Masses before commenting further.