Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Modern Liturgical Reform – An Alternative History, Reviewed

Ars celebrandi. Actuosa participatio. Ad orientem. The three A's of the new Liturgical Movement, it would seem. How do they interrelate, if at all? Does one necessarily exclude another, or are they all of a piece? These questions constitute a common thread running through some of the articles featured in the latest issue of Antiphon, the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. Also treated is the notion of sacramental realism vis-à-vis the moral life, and specific proposals toward "liturgical authenticity" and "mutual enrichment." Then there are the usual book reviews, one of which I am pleased to present here in full as a "free sample" to non-subscribers (hint, hint) ....

Nicola Giampietro, The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As Seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948-1970

Fort Collins CO: Roman Catholic Books, 2009
xx + 347 pages. Paperback. $33.75

Reviewed by the Rev'd Dr Alcuin Reid in Antiphon 14:3 (2010)

For those who wish to perpetuate, re-evaluate or even repudiate the products of the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, indeed for much of current liturgical scholarship and debate, the history of twentieth century liturgical reform is crucial. The chronicling of that history is but young. To date we have important contributions such as Archbishop Annibale Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy (1983; English edition 1990) – the second Italian edition of which, La riforma liturgica (1997), was corrected by Monsignor A. G. Martimort – and that of his disciple, Archbishop Piero Marini, A Challenging Reform (2007).

Published in Italian in 1998 and French in 2004, the appearance in English of Monsignor Giampietro’s The Development of Liturgical Reform is long overdue. It details the involvement in and contribution to liturgical reform by Father Ferdinando Antonelli, OFM – created Cardinal in 1973 – from the 1940s until 1970, publishing for the first time Antonelli’s personal writings as well as archival material from the Commissions on which he served. It provides another piece of the jigsaw puzzle. As such, it is by no means complete by itself and needs to be read alongside the works mentioned above.

But that is not to take away from its importance. For Antonelli was an, if not the most, influential member of the Commission for Liturgical Reform established by Pope Pius XII in 1948, and served as the Secretary for the Liturgical Commission of the Second Vatican Council. He was a member of the post-conciliar Consilium throughout and was appointed Archbishop Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Rites in 1965. (Those who have read Bugnini and Marini will be aware of the political battle for control of the liturgical reform waged by the Consilium against the Congregation for Rites.) Giampietro’s study of Antonelli’s diaries and papers allows another voice on this, and on other issues in recent liturgical history, to be heard.

Let us be clear: Antonelli was no “tweedy young traditionalist” for whom a there is a given year after which liturgical reform is anathema and for whom Bugnini’s name is synonymous with the root of all evil. The work of liturgical reform was his business for more than two decades. That is not to approve of all that he did. Indeed, it is the opinion of the present author that some of the principles of reform espoused by Pius XII’s Commission, and some of their applications, require critical re-evaluation: we stand in great need of a detailed and dispassionate study of the liturgical reform of Pius XII.

For Antonelli continues to refer to the need to respect “genuine,” “best,” or “original” liturgical tradition in liturgical reform (see pp. 31, 38, 47 and 52). But quite how this can be discerned is not clear. “The surest” historical research was seen as fundamental (47), though some decades later were are clear – most notably in the case of the so-called anaphora of Hippolytus – that the final word in historical research had not been uttered in the 1950s. Yet the minutes of the Pian Commission (published here in a 112-page appendix, which are themselves of enormous historical worth) reveal that their reforms were largely based on such assumptions. So too they reveal the influence of a certain pastoral expediency and archaeologism – which deprecated later, especially medieval, developments and sought to reduce rites to their “severe and original lines” (62) – that may well have been injurious to received liturgical tradition. There are no simple answers to be found here, but there is plenty of primary material with which to inform further scholarship.

Antonelli describes the work of pre-conciliar reform as “a kind of novitiate” for what followed (69). Due to other responsibilities, he was not involved with the liturgical Preparatory Commission. Although he was an official of the Congregation for Rites, it was with some surprise, then, that Antonelli was named secretary of the liturgical commission for the council instead of Father Bugnini, who “reacted violently” (77).

Giampietro has assembled and augmented the minutes of the 51 meetings of the conciliar commission. They provide a significant contribution, detailing the behind the scenes work of applying the wishes of the council fathers to the text of what became the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Much of the material is mundane, but occasionally we glimpse the existence of enthusiasms and tendencies that did not come from the council fathers themselves, such as when some officials at the 47th meeting pressed for extending the vernacular further and had to be reminded by the Cardinal President of the commission “to respect the wishes of the Council” (123).

Bugnini, not Antonelli, was named Secretary of the post-conciliar Consilium, though Antonelli remained a member. His view of its work is again not without historical importance. At the end of its first meeting he reflected:

I am not enthusiastic about this work. I am unhappy about how much the Commission has changed. It is merely an assembly of people, many of them incompetent, and others of them well advanced on the road to novelty. The discussions are extremely hurried. Discussions are based on impressions and the voting is chaotic. What is most displeasing is that the expositive Promemorias and the relative questions are drawn up in advanced terms and often in a very suggestive form. The direction is weak. (166-67)

As the Consilium’s work proceeded, Antonelli’s concerns about its competence, its predilection for innovation and its consuming haste, grew. After some years’ experience of the Consilium he wrote that the liturgical reform was becoming “more chaotic and deviant” (191), adding:

That which is sad... however, is a fundamental datum, a mutual attitude, a pre-established position, namely, many of those who have influenced the reform...and others, have no love, and no veneration of that which has been handed down to us. They begin by despising everything that is actually there. This negative mentality is unjust and pernicious, and unfortunately, Paul VI tends a little to this side. They have all the best intentions, but with this mentality they have only been able to demolish and not to restore. (192)

Of Bugnini, Antonelli makes the significant observations that he “always had the backing of Paul VI” and that “his greatest lacuna was his lack of any theological training or sensibility” (196). Such are the views of this well informed and singularly experienced member of the Consilium.

As a book The Development of the Liturgical Reform could, perhaps, have benefitted from some more editing and the translation of source texts, which remain in Latin. Its origins as a thesis are perhaps too evident. But as a scholarly and historical resource, this is an essential reference point and a necessary corrective to the received history of liturgical reform before, during and after the council.

In liturgical circles, those who are prepared to look again at what happened to the liturgy following the council are sometimes dismissed as “Vatican II revisionists.” What we have here, though, is not revisionist history: it is part of the history of liturgical reform and of the council itself. If the more accurate picture that this contribution affords moves us to further thought, debate, or even the revision of the liturgical life of the Church, Monsignor Giampietro’s study will have done us a great service indeed.

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