Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bugnini for Lent

It is now about ten months since I got my own copy of Bugnini's Reform of the Roman Liturgy. But I have not read a great deal of it over that period, for various reasons, and have not blogged on what I have been reading.

But it is Lent: surely a time for works of penance and mortification, so I turn to Bugnini once more.

Looking back over the chapters I have read since I got my own copy (and of course the joy of working with my own copy rather than a library copy is that I can scribble in the margins) there are a few themes that emerge.

One is the self-confidence, or arrogance or... well you decide what is the right description of someone who could write this:
The renewal was gradually making its way even into the functions of the papal chapel, which, step by step, were being transformed into true sacred celebrations with participation of the congregation. (My emphasis: what does he think they were previously?)
and this:
That beginning (of the liturgical reform) was described as the day when " the entire Church was empowered to sing the glory of God in the languages of the Faithful." (It is odd to think that all those hymns written, for example, by Fr Faber, were never sung until then...)
Another theme is the speed of the changes. Sacrosanctum Concilium was published in December 1963; the much more radical Inter Oecumenici was published by Bugnini's Consilium in March 1965, giving official authorisation for the use of the vernacular in some parts of the Mass. By November 1965, Bugnini's address to the presidents of the national liturgical commissions, included: 'Now that Latin has been abandoned, at least in large measure...'  Of course, both SC and IO said that Latin should not and would not be abandoned.

A third theme is the degree of secrecy involved in the developments. 'The Cardinal President... exhorted all the participants in these meetings to be very prudent in letting others know of their work.' Likewise, the Taizé community was to be given permission to use the third anaphora 'but without publicity.'  Such secrecy was to protect the changes, both from the danger of people going much further than was permitted (which might provoke a backlash) and from those already profoundly upset.

Related to that was the concern to manage the reaction of those not directly involved: 'After the promulgation of Consilium documents, the press should endeavour to make them known to the Christian people, explaining and presenting them in a favorable light.' Likewise, 'It would be very helpful if the press were given advance notice of the publication of a document so that it might prepare public opinion and create an anticipation that will ease the way for the document.' Though a footnote suggests that the press were not quite the poodle that Bugnini wanted: 'Some difficulties hindered ready action:... captiousness and factionalism on the part of some journalists...'

A fourth theme is the sense that the agenda was on a pre-determined course, which even the Holy Father could not stop. The changes to the Roman Canon are a case in point. The Pope had specifically said that there were to be none; and that the Canon should normally be used. But he was over-ruled by the experts, and successive changes were made, including; 'The Fathers (that is the Fathers on the Consilium, not the Council - BT) also unanimously approved making the words of consecration in the Roman Canon identical with those of the new Eucharistic Prayers', and later: 'revisions to the Roman Canon so that comparison with the new Eucharistic Prayers might not lead to its neglect.' Surely, the Eucharistic Prayers could have been brought into line with the unchanged Canon (or better still, 'neglected' themselves, into oblivion...)

Likewise, the celebration of Mass facing the people simply was not seen as important by the Council Fathers or the Pope. But Bugnini cites 'a generally felt need' as his authority: and the rest is history.

The Council Fathers had ordered that Latin be retained as the language of the Liturgy, with permission for vernacular in some parts. But the Consilium was happy, by 1966, to order bishops: 'In bilingual areas, the bishops must see to it that each language is respected and that its speakers have celebrations available in their own tongue'; and also condescend to allow: 'It is only right that the Ordinaries would consider the eventual possibility of having some Masses celebrated in Latin....' All of which completely reverse the Council Fathers' priorities as decreed in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The Holy Father also warned of tendencies that were a cause of 'anxiety and pain' including: 
'those who contend that liturgical worship should be stripped of its sacred character and who therefore erroneously believe that no sacred objects or ornaments should be used, but that objects of common, everyday use should be substituted. Their own rashness leads some so far that they do not spare the sacred place of celebration. Such notions, we must insist, not only distort the genuine nature of the liturgy, but the true meaning of the Catholic religion. 
In simplifying liturgical rites, formularies, and actions, there must be care not to go further than necessary and not to neglect the importance to be given to liturgical signs. That would open the way to weakening the power and effectiveness of the liturgy.'
But he had let the genie out of the bottle, and he could not contain it thereafter.

A fifth theme is the salami slice approach. Small change after small change, until as Fr. Gelineau, one of the many experts closely involved with the project (see here) candidly said:  In fact it is a different liturgy of the mass. We must say it plainly: the Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone. Some walls of the structure have fallen, others have been altered; we can look at it as a ruin or as the partial foundation of a new building. 

This was a deliberate strategy, and we can trace the progression from the modest proposals of the Council Fathers, which suggested that the Epistle and Gospel might be read in the vernacular, through the more radical ones of Inter Oecumenici  which suppressed Psalm 42 at the start, and the Leonine prayers after Mass, and changed the formula at the distribution of Holy Communion, to the new Mass promulgated in 1969, with the Canon changed and made optional, the Offertory removed and replaced, and so on. Another classic example is the admission of women into the sanctuary during the Liturgy, against the will of the Holy Father; a process I have described here.

The final thing I noticed is that there was widespread demand for change. How widespread it is hard to ascertain, but there is no doubt that the Consilium received requests from all over the world for permission to press ahead more rapidly and more radically than it was able to do. Whether that was the result of small but organised groups of progressive liturgists persuading local bishops, or whether there was a much wider popular demand - and how much that may have been stimulated by the type of press approach Bugnini deliberately fostered - it is impossible to say from his text. But we should not forget that it did exist: if the Consilium had not been pushing on an oiled door, things might have been very different.

1 comment:

Ttony said...

What never fails to stagger me is that Bugnini felt sufficiently confident to write all of this down and publish it. Did he think that the victory of the reformers was complete and ineluctable, and that therefore it didn't matter what people found out? Or did he not realise the magnitude of the deceit he was responsible for? Or was he just obeying orders?