Saturday 12 October 2013

Be careful what you wish for...

I was complaining in my last post that I was finding Bugnini's book boring. I predicted that it might get more interesting in part two - and it certainly did.

Mrs T observed that she thought she should check my blood pressure...

The second section is called First Accomplishments, and the first accomplishment which Bugnini documents is the shift from Latin to Vernacular.

And what a sorry tale it is.

As early as March 1964, while the Council was still in session, a letter was issued that said: 'Doing one part at a time seems appropriate, as does the principle of proceeding gradually. The point is to avoid an excessively abrupt transition from the present arrangement of almost complete fidelity to Latin to the new arrangement that provides for bringing in the vernacular more extensively.'

Note how ill that sits both with the teaching of the Council and with the declared modus operandi of the Consilium.

Sacrosanctum Concilium says that:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.
 and later:
54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.
And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.
and finally, Article 40 says:

40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:
1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should then be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.
2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.
3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.
Thus it seems clear, particularly from §54 that what the Fathers of the Council had in mind was that firstly the readings and 'the common prayer' should be permitted in the vernacular; then 'those parts which pertain to the people'; while for the rest:  'the Latin language is to be preserved,' and also, even where the vernacular is used: 'steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.'

Likewise, the Consilium's declared modus operandi was a complex consultative process, that involved small groups of experts studying different aspects of the liturgy, coming up with recommendations, referring them back to the full body for discussion and ratification, consulting the CDF and of course the Holy Father, and so on.

But here, the decision, the direction of travel, has clearly been reached before any of that has happened, and in a way that is far beyond what the Fathers of the Council (or many of them, at any rate) had in mind.

Bugnini writes: 'It (introducing the vernacular) was the first tangible fruit of a Council that was still in full swing and the beginning of a process in which the liturgy was brought closer to the assemblies taking part in it and, at the same time, acquired a new look after centuries of inviolable uniformity.'

Ignoring some of the lesser questions begged by that triumphalist statement, the big question is why?

Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, one can see that introducing the vernacular was not identified as the most pressing priority.  The promotion of Liturgical Instruction was the first thing highlighted; then Active Participation.  Of course, it can be argued that the vernacular was seen as a tool in promoting active participation; but given the small amount of vernacular the Council Fathers foresaw being introduced, it cannot have been assumed to be the only one; yet that was the first thing that was delivered.  It was almost as though there was a pre-existing agenda...

That feels enough for one post, but I have only covered the first few pages of the chapter. I will return.


FrereRabit said...

As I have previously commented elsewhere on these matters, I had the good fortune to know three protestant observers of Vatican II and spoke with them later at length - in my then life as an Anglican Franciscan friar - prior to my Catholic conversion.

They were Br Max Thurian and Br Roger Schutz of Taizé and the Bishop of Liverpool (and cricketer) David Sheppard. Fascinated by their accounts of Vatican II, I paid close attention to each of them (in each case in relaxed conversations at a religious community meal table).

My clear impression from listening to the accounts of these three protestant 'observers' was that they were regarded more as 'advisers' on the direction that liturgy should proceed. Both Thurian and Schutz later went in a more Catholic direction, one converting and the other hovering on the brink! Sheppard worked well with Archbishop Warlock and "fish & chips" as they were known in Liverpool, did much to blur the distinctions between liturgies from one end of Hope Street to the other.

I have not read the Bugnini book, Ben, but I am motivated to do so by your post. Having spoken at length to these three protestant observers/advisers of VII, I have a fair idea of how the ball started rolling... and how unstoppable it became.

Ben Trovato said...

Frere Rabit

I have not seen your recollections of those conversations, and would be most interested to do so. Are they online - or could you post them here as a comment?

The book is worth reading, but my friend Ttony described it as a tour of the Cathedral of Hell, so don't say you weren't warned!

FrereRabit said...

I have no more detail to provide than the above general reflections. It was nevetheless interesting to observe how the hard-line Calvinists were those who became close to Rome, while the liberal Anglican bishop found the Liverpool Catholic wigwam cathedral down the road too liturgically light for his tastes.