Thursday 31 October 2013

Memo to myself

A few thoughts arising as I continue to plough through Bugnini:

Pope Paul Vl seems to have been split. In the same document, he can express a profound respect for tradition, and a desire not to risk changing what has been handed down, and a desire for change - and radical change at that.

I need to read more (in Bugnini and elsewhere) to understand him better.

The role of the observers from other ecclesial groups is somewhat ambiguous.  Bugnini wants to play it down (not least because of the criticism their presence attracted) but he does so with a studied ambiguity at times.

Again, that is a theme to which I will return as I read more.

The extraordinary way in which the forbidden was done, and the exceptional was quickly made the normal in this whole process: the current example is the Roman Canon and the new Eucharistic Prayers; thus the Holy Father on June 20, 1966, decided that:

'the present anaphora be left untouched; two or three other anaphoras  should be composed, or sought in existing texts, that could be used in certain defined seasons.' [My emphasis]

How did we get from that to what actually happened?  Again, to be pursued...

Wednesday 30 October 2013

A Modern Problem

Some while ago, I read something that has stuck in my head ever since as a perceptive analysis of one of the problems in the modern Church (and indeed in modern society).

I think, though I am by no means sure, that it was in Fr Bryan Houghton's excellent novel, Mitre and Crook.

Anyhow, the point he was making was that until fairly recently we used to care for people: the poor, the sick, the homeless  (and indeed some still do, of course).  But more recently, we have moved collectively from caring for to caring about. Thus, rather than feed and help the poor, we campaign about poverty. Rather than visiting the sick or imprisoned, we campaign about the NHS or penal reform; and so on.

At one level, that may seem rational: after all, if we can solve poverty, that is better than the poor being reliant on our charity.  Yet it seems problematic to me; not least because it is much easier (for me at least) to care about than to care for.  However, I think it is much better for me to care for.

That is partly because of the difference between the world of ideas, which is clean, intellectual, and in many ways safe, and the world of real people, which is messy, practical and unsettling. Yet it is in the poor, the dispossessed, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned that we encounter Christ; and it is in going out of our way to be with them that we imitate Him.

In so far as caring about is a displacement activity for caring for, it is leading me away from Christ. And the troubling thing is, how eager I seem to be led away from Him...

Saturday 26 October 2013

Those Heady Days

I am continuing to wade through Bugnini.

 I imagine I will comment more, at length, soon. However, in the meantime,  I was struck by this (and again, it is a footnote) which seemed to me to encapsulate so much of those heady days:
In response to the puzzlement of some Fathers at the adoption of the prayer in Hippolytus for the ordination of bishops and to the claim that this prayer displays an impoverished theology that does not do justice to Vatican ll, Father Lécuyer gave a learned, extempore defense of the text, eliciting prolonged applause from the entire gathering.
We have, of course, no idea of what Father Lécuyer actually said.  It may indeed have been wise and learned, and fully answered the concerns of the puzzled fathers.  But then again, it may not.

What is clear is that the Church's traditional mode of operation, whereby a change of this magnitude (we are talking about the ordination of bishops!) would have been (and I would argue should be) subject to rigorous theological scrutiny (should it be attempted at all, which again is at least open to question) was in fact decided on the strength of Father Lécuyer's rhetoric.

It was, after all, the 1960s.

Monday 21 October 2013

In this House of Brede

I recently finished reading Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede.  It forms an interesting counterpoint to Bugnini.

Godden's tale is about a nun (a late vocation) in the 1950s and 60s. It is, as usual with Godden, a subtle novel, sensitively plotted, with excellent characterisation and a wonderful sense of place.

In this case the place is a Benedictine monastery (as it is more correctly called, apparently) of nuns; and Godden pulls off the difficult trick of making good characters convincing and engaging.

She is not primarily interested in the changes in the Church in that period, but they form a backdrop to the novel which I, at least, found quite fascinating.  Some of the nuns are horrified at the mere idea of Mass being celebrated facing them; others are keen for change and modernisation.  Godden doesn't take sides, but presents both views with understanding and sympathy.

One of the things that comes across so powerfully, though, is what was lost with the changes; the monastery she describes as typical in its day is a complete rarity today, though some are striving to recover it.  Of course, not everything was perfect, and that too is made quite clear; but overall, it was a place of prayer and growth, where sanctity was the goal and was, I suspect, often quietly achieved.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Catholicism then and now...

Sunday 20 October 2013

Those encrusted...

I was stumped, today, for a while.

The worst of our lay readers (and that really is quite a distinction!) having mauled Exodus and corrected (!) St Paul, proceeded in the Bidding Prayers to ask that we pray for our Holy Father and those encrusted.

I was wondering if that was meant to mean the curia - but didn't believe whoever drafted the prayers would be either so acerbic or so witty.  After a long stage wait, he added, '... with teaching the Faith' or something.

All of which led me, once more, to wonder why we do that.  What is the point of getting the illiterate (or even the literate) to come up from the congregation to read; when the priest has studied Scripture at seminary, has grace of state, and is the one offering the Sacrifice.  The Second Vatican Council was clear about the unity of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist: 'The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship.' (SC §56) Why then this disintegration?

I think it is done in the name of inclusiveness and active participation.  I suspect part of the agenda was to find a way to get women into the sanctuary.  But I see it as liturgical infantilism, as I have mentioned before...

Saturday 19 October 2013

A Runaway Train

I have been reading more of Bugnini's verbose apologia, and two things strike me. One is that the agenda which the Consilium (Bugnini's team) produced and followed did not derive from the Council, but rather from pre-existing ideas, which also informed some of the ambiguous wording in Council documents and were thus given legitimacy; the second is that the whole project went a lot further and a lot faster than the Council Fathers or the Holy Father had intended, but that any attempts to stop it were futile.

The first of these struck me because of the priority given by the Consilium to communion under both kinds, and concelebration.  So for example, Sacrosanctum Concilium says:
The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism. (SC §55)
This clearly envisages that on very specific and defined occasions, the laity may receive Communion under both kinds.  There is no action required of the Consilium in this regard. Yet an early priority was to study this issue, with a view to extending the provision.  Why? I can only assume because that is what had already been desired (and indeed practiced, in disobedience) by some prior to the Council.

Concelebration was again to be practiced on a limited basis. It as the last issue dealt with in the Chapter on the Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist (§57); and indeed a new rite for concelebration was required (§58 out of 58). But it became one of the first things the Consilium did. Why? I can only assume because it was what had already been decided on, before the Council, as a priority.

The unstoppable momentum is illustrated in a footnote.  Members of the Consilium having developed the first iteration of the Nous Ordo, tried it out in October 1965, including a replacement for the Canon. The Holy Father heard of this and was clearly dismayed. It is apparent that he did not know what they were up to:
 'His Holiness wishes to know what kind of revision is being undertaken - minor changes or substantial reforms...?' 
 'In view of the exceptional importance of the Holy Mass, which is a sacred and age-old patrimony of the Church, His Holiness wishes the Consilium to exercise great caution both in organising experiments in this area and above all, in proposing innovations.'  
'I hasten to tell you of His Holiness' desire that the Canon itself be not altered, at least for the time being.'
But the genie was out of the bottle, and Paul Vl could not put it back in. The great caution he advocated was anathema to the Consilium: Bugnini boasted that it was because he was bold that the Consilium was successful.  The Canon had already been rewritten; the Mass had already been re-written.  The experts were annoyed at the Holy Father's intervention - but it only delayed their project: it did not alter it one bit.


Reflecting on recent discussions about the Holy Father, Ultramontanism and Papolatry, I was led to think about obedience.

It seems to me that if one had to identify what is so counter-cultural about being a Catholic today, that word sums up a large part of it.

For we are under a duty of obedience to the Holy Father, even when he is not teaching infallibly; even when he is wrong and we disagree, unless to obey would be sinful.

Likewise, we are under a duty of obedience to the civic authorities, in a similar way (CCC §1900)

We are under a duty of obedience to our bishop and our priest, too, come to that, as well as to our employer, if we are employed.

The reason for all that is simple, but rarely stated: it is not that people in such positions are  assumed to be wiser or more virtuous than us.  Rather it is because obedience is good for us; and we only really practice obedience where we disagree with what we are being asked to do. If we agree, then obedience does not really come into it.

And the reason it is good for us is two-fold; on the one hand, we are called to imitate Christ, and one might cite obedience as one of his defining characteristics, and indeed the means by which He restored man’s relationship with God, which had been lost by disobedience. (cf Rom 5:19).  On the other hand, it is through obedience that we die to ourself; that we submit our own desires, passions and will to an authority beyond ourselves: Thy will be done.

Yet how counter-cultural that is. We live in an age where personal autonomy is so highly valued that obedience seems a pointless, and indeed irresponsible, way to behave.  We are told that if we are true to ourselves, then all is virtue.  I think the truth is the other way about: if we are all-virtuous, then we are being true to ourselves.  

The supremacy of obedience to conscience over other forms of obedience can only come into play when our conscience is telling us to do what we do not want to do. Otherwise, it is more likely to be our will, masquerading as conscience.  We can only treat our conscience as sovereign if it is truly well-formed; and the best ways to judge that are how well it accords with the teaching of the Church, and how difficult are the demands it makes of us.  I am somewhat sceptical when people claim to be following their conscience down paths that make their lives easier.

And here’s something else that is counter-cultural: wives are to obey their husbands.  Few people dare talk of that these days, but St Paul is quite clear.

Notice however that St Paul does not say women should obey men. This is not simple mysogynism. No, it relates to roles.  The role of a wife is, above all to be a mother; to raise a family.  Matrimony is ordered to motherhood as its name implies.  So my theory here is that wives are to obey their husbands not because their husbands are more likely to be right, but because otherwise, wives might not have the opportunity to practice obedience.  Husbands, and single women, will have other opportunities - in the workplace etc - but a woman in her own home, raising her children, will obey her husband, or not obey anyone.  And that is not good for her. 

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Liturgy and the New Holy Father

I have just read, with great interest The New Liturgical Movement After the Pontificate of Benedict XVl by Dom Alcuin Reid (with thanks to @enternoon on twitter who pointed it out to me).
Amongst other things he addresses the risk of ultramontanism, about my own tendency to which I blogged here.
But this is a wide-ranging piece which I will not attempt to summarise.
However, given my current immersion in Bugnini and his work (qv), here are some excerpts which particularly caught my eye; but I do urge you to read the whole piece.
In the second chapter of The Organic Development of the Liturgy I have attempted to demonstrate that in its origins the twentieth century liturgical movement sought to reassert the primacy of the Sacred Liturgy in the spiritual life through pastoral reform, not of the liturgical rites themselves, but rather in respect of the quality of liturgical celebration and of peoples’ capacity to participate in the rites. For the pioneers of the liturgical movement knew only too well that the liturgy as developed in tradition was theologically and pastorally rich. Their desire was simply that all of Christ’s faithful, clergy, religious and laity, would fully connect with and daily draw from these riches. To that end the liturgical movement worked tirelessly at what we would call “liturgical formation.”
That very much accords with my understanding that the true Liturgical Movement prior to the Second Vatican Council, had a focus on increasing understanding (and thus participation) in the Sacred Liturgy - not giving lay people roles and lines to say...
Whilst the liturgical movement continued its sound work and, indeed, whilst the Holy See enacted some helpful reforms (for example, the restoration of the authentic times of the celebration of the Holy Week Offices), it is also true that in its later phase the growing desire and agitation for ritual reform amongst some liturgical movement activists risked outrunning if not occluding the indispensible work of liturgical formation. Some thought it desirable to take the short-cut of conforming the Sacred Liturgy to the needs of modern man rather than carefully to lay the foundations for the long road of forming modern man so that he could connect with and draw from the riches of the developed liturgical tradition of the Church.
That resonates with the views of Fr Louis Bouyer which I quoted the other day. Dom Alcuin also writes:
These (sic) nature and interdependence of these two fundamental principles in the Constitution has been largely ignored in the past five decades and, I submit, has resulted in erroneous interpretations of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Instead of beginning the work of formation in order to prepare the soil for a more fruitful participation in the liturgy moderately reformed in line with the subsidiary and dependent principles of the Constitution which follow, the haste to have people become liturgical participants led too often to an activist, rather than an actual, participation in Sacred Liturgy built on the quicksand of facile reforms rather than the solid foundation of careful liturgical formation. Indeed, to borrow the words of Father Aidan Nichols OP, Sacrosanctum Concilium “carried within it, encased in the innocuous language of pastoral welfare, some seeds of its own destruction.”
 Well, quite.  Whilst I do not share all of Dom Alcuin Reid's positions and views, the whole piece is well worth reading.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Juliet and Romeo - A Youthful Frivolity

 Whilst looking for something else, I stumbled across this, first published in December 1996...

Juliet and Romeo 
The New Translation 
by the International Commission for English in Shakespeare 

REVIEWED BY DR. HANNIBAL BUGATTI (A key expert of the Council)     

SURELY few things have been more eagerly awaited in these recent years than the current renewal in the great literature of the world. While this movement started some decades ago, it has only now reached its maturity, and the publication of this text will mark a turning point in the cultural history of the world, "throwing open the windows of great literature to let the people in". (Decree on Literature, §472).     

This purifying (for it is in no way a new version) of Juliet and Romeo cannot be praised too highly, nor is anyone who truly loves literature going to regret in any way the passing of some older modes of expression, given that the express intention of the new text is "to realise more fully the dramatic nature of the texts, to make them more accessible to all peoples of all cultures and all times, and to ensure the most lively participation of the audience" (see Introduction, §314). 

Perhaps the most obvious changes are the ones which may provoke some little consternation from conservatives. The change in the title to Juliet and Romeo, is a case in point. Yet when one considers the non‑sexist remit of the commission, it is impossible to argue that this is anything but an improvement. Juliet comes first by virtue of a strictly impartial alphabetical criterion, and it is highly significant to note that the same criterion would give the same result, even if applied to the characters' surnames, rather than their Christian forenames. 

Certain other passages, which may be deemed to cause offence by some people in a multi‑cultural society have also been sensitively re‑worked, to bring out the richness in the text in a way compatible with the cultural sensitivities of modern societies. 

A beautiful example of this is the highly dubious text (the precise authorship of which some scholars question): 
"O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright 
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night 
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear,­
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear."
 This is a complex passage, presenting many problems: the implication that brightness is better than darkness, for example, the appallingly irrelevant mention of someone's race, the use of rich as a term of admiration, when another guiding principle is 'a preferential option for the poor,' and so on. 

The ICES text reads: 
"Look, everyone! She is teaching the torches to be more truly themselves, like an affordable‑by‑everyone paste costume jewel accessory kit, hung on the ear of anyone (man or woman) of any ethnic origin.
Clearly the new text not only eliminates both the offensive potential and the archaisms of the older version, but also makes it more meaningful by making it more relevant and accessible to all, without in any way changing the underlying meaning of the passage.     

One of the chief reasons for the all‑pervasive demand for a revised version of Literary Texts has been the fact that people find them boring. The Interlit Council (1962‑5) in its Decree on Literature realised this, and asked the Commission to ensure that revisions included opportunities for the audience to become more truly involved. 

Before the Council, there was always present the possibility (which was sometimes actively encouraged) of members of the audience sitting quietly in a purely passive way through a performance, not participating at all. That is gone for ever. As audiences arrive at any production from now on, they will be given little sheets to rustle throughout, which also provide them with their lines. 

This new involvement, itself highly significant, and fully in accord with the teachings of the Council, is also used as an opportunity to clarify some classic textual ambiguities. Thus one much mis‑understood text becomes immediately comprehensible, now that the audience is given its true role: 
Juliet: Romeo, Romeo, where are you, mate?  
Audience (enthusiastically): He's behind you! 
This is in no way an innovation, but rather draws on a deep tradition in literature, as witnessed by some of the earliest extant texts, as many scholars will testify. This passage also shows how needless repetition, that tended to slow the action down (in this case the third Romeo) has been sensitively excised. 

As a further way of ensuring that the audience truly engage with the drama, a variety of acclamations is provided for audience use, immediately after the climax of the piece. These range from the sublime: "Wow, who would have thought it!" to the profound: "I could climb a mountain." Moreover, in the grave scene, when Juliet discovers what she takes to be the dead body of her lover and kisses him, the audience is now to exchange kisses with all those in reach, as a way of entering more fully into the dramatic potentialities of the scene, and ensuring that the message of love is transferred to the real world, and not merely left behind after the performance.     

To meet the cultural needs and aspirations of different groups, a variety of endings is available, as options, at the discretion of the animator (the term director is no longer to be used, due to its fascist and authoritarian implications). In many of these simplified endings, it will be noticed, the couple live happily ever after. This is more truly an ending for our times, when the spirit of the nations demands an accentuation of the positive in the texts. 

Again, we can predict howls of anguish from one or two extreme conservatives, and one has been rash enough to print and distribute a defamatory article which claims that these endings betray the text. It is important to emphasise a number of points. The first is that the original ending will remain available (in the new translation) though we suspect few animators will, in practice, choose to use it. The second is that this is a return to an older literary tradition, and therefore more authentic to the nature of drama in itself. The third is that the over‑riding principle must be what the people demand, and the experts are agreed that these endings are the ones that the people will demand, once they have got used to them. 

As this text is purely a response to popular demand, it is now mandatory, and the old versions must not be used. However, recognising the difficulty some particularly old and decrepit actors may find in learning the new lines, it is still permitted for such actors (certified by a competent authority as being both old and decrepit) to perform according to the old texts, as long as they do not do so with an audience. 

This generous concession shows the concern of the Commission to minimise any distress (however irrational) that these changes may cause. While some lobbyists on the liberal wing of the literary establishment have complained that the new version has not sufficiently challenged the homophobia of the previous traditions, it should be noted that with Version 2 and appropriate optional passages, it is possible to use a text that has no explicit reference to the gender of either protagonist, and that this is compatible with lesbian and gay productions. 

Further, we may be sure the commission will address this serious issue with sympathy and a radical commitment to justice in future revisions of the text (for this is by no means static: a truly dynamic text will need re‑writing on a frequent basis), and also in their treatment of future works (the forthcoming Antonia and Cleopatra looks set to break some new ground here). We also await with unreserved enthusiasm their non‑racist version of Othello, the Multicultural Ombudsperson of Venice, and their de‑mythologised rendering of A Midsummer Time's Reverie

Youth, in particular, will find the revised texts accessible, relevant and meaningful; but it is no less clear that the whole community will be enriched and nourished afresh by the inexhaustible wealth of the literary tradition made newly available to them. One thing is certain: this movement for Literary Renewal will result in packed theatres, filled with audiences entering ever more profoundly into the dramatic experience.    

Sunday 13 October 2013

Some interesting quotations

Following my last post on the introduction of the vernacular, I have been dipping into Michael Davies' book Pope John's Council, and have found some interesting quotations:

"The council documents themselves often implied more in the wayy of change than the council fathers were necessarily aware of when they voted." Dr McAfee Brown, a protestant observer at the council.

"I regret having voted in favour of the Council Constitution in whose name (but in what a manner!) this heretical pseudo-reform has been carried out, a triumph of arrogance and ignorance. If it were possible, I would take back my vote, and attest before a magistrate that my assent had been obtained through trickery." A prelate.

"In no other area is there a greater distance (and even formal opposition) between what the Council worked out and what we actually have... I now have the impression, and I am not alone, that those who took it upon themselves to apply (?) the Council's directives on this point have turned their backs deliberately on what Beauduin, Casel, and Pius Parsch had set out to do..." Fr Louis Bouyer of the pre-conciliar Liturgical Movement.

"Who dreamed on that day that within a few years, far less than a decade, the Latin past of the Church would be all but expunged, that it would be reduced to a memory fading in the middle distance? The thought of it would have horrified us, but it seemed so far beyond the realm of the possible as to be ridiculous. So we laughed it off." Archbishop Dwyer.

Davies also quotes, in an appendix, an extract from Dom Guéranger's Liturgical Institutions. Dom Guéranger was the first abbot of Solesmes after the French Revolution, and a founder of the Liturgical Movement.  His words describe Protestant errors from the time of the Reformation on; but much of what he says is disturbingly prescient (he was writing in the 1830s).  The passages cited here largely coincide with those Michael Davies quotes. (NB I have no knowledge of the rest of that site, so that link is for information, not an endorsement of any kind).

To resume...

In yesterday's post, I suggested that Bugnini and the Consilium seem to have got going with the introduction of the vernacular with extraordinary speed, and a clear sense of direction, rather short-circuiting their own processes and going farther than the Fathers of the Council had intended.

I think I ended the post a bit too quickly really to substantiate that last point: I had written plenty, and supper was calling.  So this is why I think they went too far. Rather than specifying the readings and 'those parts which pertain to the people' as Sacrosanctum Concilium said, they listed the following in a 'normative decree' which was to inform the response to any requests of bishops' conferences for use of the vernacular:

The vernacular can be used:
1. In sung and recited Masses that are celebrated with a congregation:
a) in the lessons, epistle and Gospel
b) in the prayer of the faithful
c) in the chants of the ordinary of the Mass, namely the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus-Benedictus, and Agnus Dei
d) in the chants of the proper of the Mass: the introit, offertory and communion antiphons, with their psalms, and the chants between the readings;
e) in the acclamations, greetings and dialogues;
f) in the Our Father, as well as in its introduction and in the embolism
g) in the formulas for the communion of the faithful;
h) in the collect, prayer over the gifts, prayer after communion, and prayer 'over the people.' 
2. In the administration of sacraments and sacramental:
a) in the rites of baptism, confirmation, penance, marriage, and anointing of the sick, including the sacramental formulas; and in the distribution of communion outside of Mass;
b) in the conferring of holy orders: in the address that begins each ordination or consecration; in the examination of the candidate in an episcopal consecration; and in the admonitions;
c) in the sacramental;
d) in funerals.
In brief, as I understand it, anywhere but in the Canon of the Mass (including the Preface), and in the actual words of ordination.  One could, I suppose, argue that these are all parts 'which pertain to the people,' but I cannot believe that is what many of the Fathers of the Council thought they were voting for. Otherwise, why not frame the guidelines the other way about, and specify that Latin be retained for the Canon and the words of Ordination?

In fact, Bugnini, later in the chapter, justifies the eventual surrender of the Canon to the vernacular as being in accordance with Sacrosanctum Concilium by that very argument: 'Is there anything that is not part of the liturgical action of God's people? No! Everything belongs to them. Nothing is excluded from their attention and their participation.'

That is clearly nonsense, and I think he protests too much because he knows that the charge that he over-stepped his brief is valid. Clearly, by his reasoning, the precise wording of Sacrosanctum Concilium §54 is completely meaningless.

But hang on, my interlocutor may argue, the vernacular was only introduced when bishops' conferences petitioned for it anyway.

There is some truth in that argument; but I think it raises two important questions.  One is, what was the point of the Council debating and decreeing, and the Consilium consulting experts and issuing guidelines etc, if local bishops' conferences were actually the people who should be making such decisions with a carte blanche. That was not the intention of the Council Fathers, who wanted to allow bishops' conferences to make decisions within the remit established by the Council, and developed by the Consilium and ratified by the Holy Father.

The second is, why did all those requests arise anyway? For arise they did, and very swiftly. Bugnini portrays this as having nothing to do with the Consilium, but I have my doubts.  There was a liturgical movement which was very active in some countries, and the liturgical experts appointed to the Consilium were, naturally enough, drawn from those with an active interest in liturgy.

Further, what Bugnini does make very clear is both that all sorts of illicit experimentation with liturgy had been going on prior to the Council, and that quite a lot of the Consilium's haste and decision-making were to try to keep the disobedience in some kind of step with the work of the Consilium (or the other way around, of course). 

For example, he writes, concerning the need to permit the Canon in the vernacular: 'it was felt with special intensity in certain parts of the world, particularly in the Netherlands, where translations of the Canon were beginning to circulate, along with texts of the new Eucharistic Prayers. In order to retain control of liturgical development, the Dutch episcopal conference presented requests to the Holy See...' (my emphasis).

Note how he shies away from admitting what was happening: translations of the Canon weren't 'circulating' (that would be meaningless: they were printed in the Missal); no, they were clearly being used.  Thus, in part at least, a lot of the development was being driven by disobedient priests, abusing their role and imposing their own tastes on the Mass.

It seems to me that the Dutch hierarchy had no intention of stopping such abuses: rather, they used them to press the case for the change they had wanted all along; a change which many progressive bishops had had in mind, and which perhaps explains the wording of Sacrosanctum Concilium. My current working theory is this: had they said they wanted the whole of the Mass in the Vernacular, they could not have been sure of getting it through. By making it look like a much more modest ambition, and then staffing the Consilium with the right people, and also stimulating 'pressure from below' they achieved their ambitions.

And all this in spring of 1964, when the ink was barely dry on Sacrosanctum Concilium which was promulgated in December 1963.

The reason for the surrender of the preface and the Canon to the vernacular was that 'the resultant Mass, partly in Latin, partly in the vernacular, was a hybrid, lacking in continuity.'

One could argue that there is a case for the Mass to move into a hieratic language for the sacred moments surrounding the consecration; one could argue that there was a case for abandoning the experiment, and merely having the readings in the vernacular; but inevitably, the solution applied was to permit the Canon to be said in the vernacular; always in response to requests from bishops' conferences, of course...

It must be acknowledged that there was huge enthusiasm in many quarters for the vernacular. I remember my own parents thinking that it might be a good idea, certainly as far as the readings went.  But to disregard the historical wisdom of the Church so swiftly strikes me as reckless, at the least: more reckless than the Council Fathers collectively were prepared to be.

And the results, we know, have been (to be kind) mixed. The faithful (by and large) cannot say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass proper to them, as the Council Fathers mandated.  They are not better instructed; they do not have a better understanding of the sacred mysteries. They do not (overall) participate more actively - for vast numbers no longer come to Mass at all. And we now have the situation in many parishes where there is (say) an English Mass, a Spanish Mass, a Polish Mass, a Syro-Malabar Mass and so on. Instead of Catholicity, we have fragmentation. And of course, travelling abroad one can be completely lost: I attended a Mass in Luxembourg where I think (but cannot be sure) the priest omitted the Canon all together! That is far from what the Council Fathers had in mind.

But Bugnini, of course, reaches different conclusions: 'Serious pastoral reasons opened the door to the vernaculars everywhere in the liturgy. If the vernaculars gained the upper hand, it was clearly because authenticity required them and there was a real need for them.'

I am not convinced.

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.

Thursday 10 October 2013

The Reform of the Liturgy 1948 - 1975

I have just finished reading the first section of Bugnini's apologia, and gave my initial, general impression in my previous post.

Here I will add a few more thoughts, and I imagine I will continue to do so as I continue my reading.

So what struck me?

One thing was the naivety, I suppose, of the whole undertaking.  For example, Bugnini writes that whilst we need to respect what is unchanging in the Liturgy, we must also review the way in which it is expressed so as to be able to proclaim it in ways that meet the needs of our time.  That sounds sensible, but it isn't.  The absurdity is even more obvious now than it would have been in the 1960s (and of course the book was written much more recently than that, published in 1983).  Given the pace of societal, and even linguistic, change, that would mean that we are necessarily going to have to re-write the Liturgy every few years; and given how long it takes to do the job, that means permanently.  That is clearly both undesirable and ludicrous.

Bugnini is very good at describing the liturgy as received with great respect in one sentence, and then proposing it is completely problematic in the next.  I don't think this is duplicitous, so much as lacking in self-awareness.

Which brings me to the second major feature: the confidence, arrogance even, of this man and the people who thought like him.  He is clear that the liturgy 'may contain priceless elements that have been sanctified by age-old tradition and are therefore to some extent untouchable, and are to be approached only with respect love and veneration.' Yet never once does he express any sense of humility or awe with regard to the task he is undertaking; on the contrary, he is confident that his committees of experts are just the people to do the job, and do it thoroughly.

Which leads me to another point: he is boring.  That may seem unkind, but what I mean is that he approaches the task as a bureaucrat: it is a job to be done, and he will organise things so that it gets done. There are frequent pious expressions: 'the only legitimate attitude is uncompromising defense of what is truly an untouchable patrimony because it is in some way inherent in the nature of the rites, and a diligent and scrupulously careful evaluation - based on thorough study, meditation, and prayer - of the other elements of the liturgy, in order to adapt them to the teaching, mission, and mystery of the Church, which today, as in every age, must bring the message of salvation to souls by appropriate means.' Yet from the word go, it is clear that nothing is untouchable. Committees are set up to develop new schema for every part of the liturgy. A machinery is constructed and put in motion that, by its very nature, is likely to have only one outcome: radical change.  And it seems that it is in the organisation of the tasks that his heart lies...

Another striking thing is how dated it all is: particularly the sociology.  The assumption, for example, that there is only one correct way to do things: 'Profound participation in such a celebration is inconceivable apart from its joyous expression in song.' That strikes me as very typical of the 1960s - a brash belief in a new enlightenment: now we know how to do everything!  Likewise, the extraordinary belief that experimental liturgies can be validated by trying them out in a couple of parishes in Germany or Holland for a while.  These people really thought they could predict the pastoral impact of their changes on this basis, accompanied by the views of a small number of experts.  The naivety and ignorance are almost touchingly innocent, were the consequences not so grave.

I have to say that I have not enjoyed reading the first part: as I say he is boring on this stuff.  However, I have been dipping ahead, and it looks as though it gets much more interesting, at least in subject matter: the next chapter is on the introduction of the vernacular, a subject in which I am particularly interested.  Further reports will follow. You have been warned.

The Masterplan

I live in the Lake District. It as an area of outstanding natural beauty, and many thousands of people come here for their holidays to enjoy that timeless natural beauty.

Which is, of course, bogus.

The local landscape, wonderful though it be, is a result, inter alia, of many human interventions, and many of them quite recent.  Whether it is the clearing of the fells to create commons for grazing the huge numbers of sheep artificially imported, the damming of valleys to create reservoirs that are 'read' as lakes, the construction of dry stone walls running over the fells in improbable lines, the placing of small and picturesque villages here and there; it is, as I say, a fallacy to regard this simply as timeless natural beauty.

So when a powerful bureaucracy is created, with a mandate to restore the natural beauty, and simultaneously increase visitor access, to throw it open to the whole country as a place of recreation and inspiration... well a few things could result.

On the one hand, you could have a slow and sensitive process, looking to replace a broadwood plantation here, remove a derelict concrete industrial building there, improve the frequency of trains and buses.

Or you could have a master plan that was more radical: given that we now have the technical expertise and the construction methodology, we could go back to basics.  Perhaps Scafell Pike and Scafell should not be so close together: the views would be better from each if there were separated by a half mile or so.  So let's do that.

We need more parking: so let's drain Haweswater (which is, after all, a relatively recently created reservoir) and park cars there: there would be no loss of historic natural amenity.

We need better access, so let's take a spur off the M6 at Shap and drive it through the fells to Keswick: that will open the place up to thousands more.

Of course, some die-hard traditionalists will resist, but the thousands of extra people pouring into the area to enjoy it will more than justify that.

And doubtless, in the short term, many thousands more would come: to see the artificial peak at Scafell, encouraged by the ease of parking in the Haweswater NCP, and the speed with which they could get to Keswick, and thus climb Catbells and walk around Derwentwater.

In the longer term, I suspect, the numbers would dwindle: the national park was opened to all, but the means used would mean that it lost its appeal...

Fortunately, no such Masterplan exists: the time for that was the 1960s and 70s and we were saved from such folly.

I write this because I have just finished reading the first section of Bugnini's apologia: The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948 - 1975.

He describes how the Masterplan was put together and the bureaucracy created; and just in time for the 1960s and 70s.

I will blog more on my reflections soon, but the overwhelming feeling is that once that bureaucracy was in place, with the ideology of opening the liturgy up for full participation, and the power and self-belief that anything that stood in the way could be replaced, destruction, car parks and motorways were more or less inevitable.

Pictures Top: Scafell Pike; centre: Haweswater; bottom: Catbells and Derwent Water

Tuesday 8 October 2013

I should have known...

I find it reassuring to learn that some of the specific comments I found troubling in the Holy Father's conversation with Scalfari may never have been made.

The whole piece, apparently, was written from memory.  Scalfari neither recorded the interview, nor took notes.

This is all very odd, but it does suggest that we should not get worried about the verbatim quotations which were anything but.

Without needing to doubt Scalfari's integrity, one has to recognise that we do not have an accurate transcript, word by word, of the conversation.

I am also bearing in mind my earlier insight (I hope) that the Holy Father uses rhetoric in a way that is different to his predecessor's precision.

All in all, those (of right or left) who are gloating at his changing Church teaching are rather jumping the gun; just as they are in proclaiming that the newly-announced Extraordinary Synod on the Family will take a liberal line.  I think the Holy Father may surprise them yet.

My hope is that he is reaching out to a desperate world in love, not minding that his words may be taken out of context and twisted against him (and of course there is Our Lord's precedent for that...) 

I suspect that he will continue to win the world over by his casual and approachable chats, and also continue to proclaim Catholic truth when talking within the family as it were (as he did to the Catholic doctors on the subject of abortion - passionately).

As so often, it is not either/or, but both/and; we don't need to choose between Francis and Benedict; nor between Francis' instinctive charity, and the law of the Church: and so on.

Ultimately, of course, we have no choice: we stick with the Holy Father, because to abandon him is to abandon the Church, and to abandon the Church is to abandon Christ; and as the first Holy Father said: 'Lord, to whom should we go?'  And of course the occasion on which he said that was when Our Lord's words were causing scandal.  

In my darker hours, I had recourse to the words of Hilaire Belloc: always keep a-hold of Nurse For fear of finding something worse... But I am feeling somewhat more sanguine now.

Monday 7 October 2013

Super flumina Babylonis

The other day, I posted about this wonderful chant.  I threatened to record it, and eventually did so on Sunday evening.  However, I could neither find, remember, nor guess my Youtube password, so had to re-set that before I could upload it.  By which time it was late.

So I returned to the task this morning, but listening back to my recording was dissatisfied: there was a wrong note, it was flat in parts, the tone was squeezed... so I re-recorded it this evening, and uploaded it to Youtube.

Then I found a version on Youtube, which is so much better than my recording, that I offer you this link instead.

And only a day late.

 (For the masochists and tone deaf out there, my recording remains lurking on Youtube somewhere...)

Friday 4 October 2013

By the Waters of Babylon

I have been looking at the chant for this Sunday (EF), and see that the Offertory is the wonderful Super flumina Babylonis (the opening verses of Psalm 136 or 137).

Unfortunately, the only youtube video of this which I can find is accompanied. This is atypical of the usually excellent Giavanni Vianini, and he goes on to explain that, liturgically, it is not to be sung accompanied, but that it is helpful to do so when learning a piece, to ensure accuracy of pitch.  I sympathise.

If you are very lucky (hem, hem) I may record it myself and link to it later, once I have learned it.

One of the reasons it is a particular favourite of mine, is because of the breathtaking setting by Palestrina:


There have been many other settings, of course, ranging from Orlando de Lasso to Philippe de Monte, and in English from Don Maclean to Boney M (that is not a recommendation!)

But for me, the chant and the Palestrina are my favourites.

Super flumina Babylonis, 
illic sedimus et flevimus 
dum recordaremur tui Sion.
(In salicibus in medio ejus
suspendimus organa nostra.)

By the rivers of Babylon
There we sat and wept
As we remembered thee, Sion.
(On the willow trees growing there,
We hung our harps.)

The second sentence of the psalm (in parentheses) is included in the Palestrina setting, but is not part of the Offertory verse for the Mass, or the Chant version.

Thursday 3 October 2013

It's a Question of Trust

Reflecting on the McBride/CAFOD affair, it seems to me that much of the commentary misses the point.

People are talking about what McBride did then, and whether CAFOD should or should not accept 'tainted' money.

Heavens above: if only the completely virtuous could donate to CAFOD they would be poor indeed! That's really not the issue, as I see it.

It is not what McBride did then, when employed in the ugly world of party politics; and which he may well, for all I know, have confessed and been shriven for. 

It's the fact that now, as a senior member of CAFOD, and indeed the one in charge of PR, he is publishing what he is publishing, and in the way that he is publishing it (serialisation in a mass-circulation paper at Party Conference time...) that I think is the current issue.

The analogy isn't Mother Teresa taking money from dodgy dictators: it is Mother Teresa permitting one of her senior nuns to raise money in dodgy ways.

All of which contributes to my feeling that CAFOD still does not merit my trust.

So I have been ruminating on trust.

It seems to me that there are three components of trust, in this context. One is the good intentions of the party who seeks to be trusted; a second is his or her competence; and the relative importance of each of these elements varies with the context. I would sooner trust with a scalpel over my abdomen the competent surgeon with dodgy views on the Trinity, than the completely orthodox one with a shaky hand and poor nerves... The third is integrity: that fundamental congruence between what somebody says and what he or she is and does.

In the case of CAFOD, I fear all three are in question.  I won't rehearse all the issues again, as I have bored my indulgent readers with them so many times (a click on the tag CAFOD will reveal all...).

I should reiterate that I am talking here specifically about the leadership and central organisation. I know of many good people who are completely trustworthy - and virtuous, generous and more - who support CAFOD in the parishes. 

But I fear the central question is important. Because they have forfeited trust, both by concealing and obfuscating, on the one hand, and by poor judgement and decision making on the other, I have no confidence in the claims they make about the work they now do. It is not just a fear that they may be promoting condoms, or even working supportively with agencies that campaign for and provide abortions. 

It is also that they are engaged in campaigning and educational work: and I do not think that they are doing so from a sound Catholic, but rather a secularised, perspective.  Frankly, I am not prepared to risk money I donate to a body that claims to be Catholic being spent in ways that go against the Church's teaching, and may even be actively undermining it: their reinterpretation of Abstinence being a case in point.

My beef with CAFOD is actually very personal and very longstanding.  It starts many years ago, when I co-ordinated a project that raised significant funds for them.

I remember meeting the regional co-ordinator for a discussion towards the end of the project, at a time when the see in which we were working was vacant. During the meeting, a priest wandered in to the office. He was a big CAFOD supporter and very J&P. He was chatting idly with the CAFOD chap about why it was taking so long for the see to be filled, and said scathingly that it was because Rome was searching around for someone - anyone - who believed in Humanae Vitae. They both thought this was ludicrous.

At that moment, I realised that I had been a dupe.  Here I was, working to support a Catholic Charity, only to see that, at least in its local incarnation, it was not.  The regional co-ordinator, a lovely chap, had always seemed perfectly sound in our conversations heretofore. But the mask slipped, possibly because by now he felt comfortable with me, and also in the company of his priest friend. But what was behind the mask was an attitude of dissent - and habitual, casual dissent, at that, as though everyone really shared such views.

That impression was only strengthened the more I learned and attended to CAFOD's various activities and publications in the intervening years.

And this problem points higher up the chain. CAFOD's supporters often point to the fact that they are under the oversight of the bishops, so they must be all right. One would hope that such an assurance would be all one needs. But I fear that the bishops of England and Wales, collectively, and many of them individually (with some notable and honourable exceptions) have also forfeited our trust.

I do not know whether it is incompetence or a different belief-system (or both) that lead to the various behaviours and statements that undermine my trust in them; and it is probably better not to speculate.  But when one considers:

  •  ++Nichol's support for Queering The Church - led LGBT Masses; 
  • +Conry's extraordinary misrepresentation of Vatican ll documents, injudicious (to put it mildly) comments on confession, and support for ACTA; 
  • +Arnold's failure to hold CAFOD to a Catholic line, 
  • ++Kelly saying lay-led funeral services were as good as funeral Masses, and offering his Cathedral to Methodists for their 'ordination' services,  
  • + McMahon's failure to hold the CES to a Catholic line, and welcoming the appointment to it of a man who, as an MP had voted consistently in ways that are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on, for example, abortion, contraception, 'gay' relationships etc.
  • the collective stance in favour of Civil Partnerships, which paved the way for the SSM fiasco,
  • and...

...but alas the list could go on and on... but considering these, it is fair to say that my trust is undermined.

Prayer and fasting are clearly the first priority. But beyond that, we do have a duty to speak out: both to ensure that others are not misled, and in the hope that the Nuncio will be able to keep the Holy Father properly informed, so that he does not place his trust where it may not be honoured.

At such times, as I have remarked before, the only other thing to do is throw myself back on the promises of Our Lord, in particular those in the Tu es Petrus:

Et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam.

And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her (The Church).

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Thinking Aloud About Another Papal Interview

I have been thinking about the Holy Father's latest interview - or conversation, perhaps, to be more accurate, ever since reading it earlier today.

I wonder if one of the problems I have is that I have become used to, and am a great fan of, the thoughtful and precise approach taken by his illustrious predecessor, the Pope Emeritus.

I am naturally inclined, to take language seriously, literally; and Pope Benedict was inclined to talk and write with a precision that encouraged that.

So when I read Pope Francis being quoted as saying: The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old' then I mentally jump up and exclaim: 'But, but...'

But perhaps that is precisely because I am being too literal. Perhaps this Holy Father's rhetorical style is more inclined to impressionism and even hyperbole.

If he means that these are grave social issues, then of course I agree. So perhaps I merely need to recalibrate my internal ear, as it were, to his particular personal style.

The other thing I certainly need to do is to ensure that the 'But, but...' response does not deafen me to the positive messages he has: particularly those that are most pertinent (and therefore most discomforting) to me.

God does everything for each of us, I think. This Holy Father is a gift to me, personally: it is for me to accept this gift from God and work out why he is giving it to me.

I've already got a shrewd idea about that. I am not great at personal charity: at befriending people, helping them, and regarding them with unconditional charity. Nor am I as generous as I should be with the many blessings I have been given.

So the most important thing I can do is attend to those important parts of the Holy Father's message. How do I even presume to point out the mote (which may be of my imagining) in his eye, considering the logjam in my own?

And yet, and yet, and yet...

We also have a duty to listen intelligently; we even have a duty, in charity, to help each other to discern.  And there have been some things the Holy Father says which, with the best will in the world, I find concerning.  I am not sure that the right response is necessarily silence and acquiescence.

For one thing, I often find that when I raise questions, there are people good enough to answer them.  For another, if there are real problems, then it may be more valuable to identify them and consider what, if anything, is best done.

Consider this, for example:
Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.
I struggle with that. How does that fit with the Divine mandate given to the Church: 'Go therefore, baptising all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'?

If someone can explain that to me, it will be really helpful: but if I don't ask, nobody is likely to do so.

Likewise, I have real difficulty with this: 
Your Holiness, is there is a single vision of the Good? And who decides what it is?"Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good."
Your Holiness, you wrote that in your letter to me. The conscience is autonomous, you said, and everyone must obey his conscience. I think that's one of the most courageous steps taken by a Pope."And I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place."
It would appear that the Holy Father is effectively abdicating, on behalf of the Church, the authority or the need (or both) to teach definitively on matters of Faith and Morals.  Now, I imagine my reading here is wrong, but I am not clear how, so if someone can enlighten me, that would be valuable.  And valuable not just for me, as I am sure there are others struggling with the same passages.

So whilst I will continue to try to read the Holy Father's words in the most positive way I can, assuming that they are both wise and good, I do think that it is helpful to have the public discussion about the difficult bits (or what I perceive as the difficult bits) as long as we don't let that distract us from our first duty: to listen to what Christ is saying to us through our Holy Father, and to act on it as necessary.