Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Dr. Alcuin Reid in Deutsche Tagepost: The Council, Organic Development, Rupture and Continuity

From September 12-14th an academic conference took place at the University of Freiburg, Germany, organized by Dr. Helmut Hoping of Freiburg, entitled “The Roman Mass and Modernity: the Reform of the Missal in the Twentieth Century”; the conference involved participants from many German universities and liturgical centres from across the liturgical spectrum. Dr. Alcuin Reid presented a paper “Refining ‘The Organic Development of the Liturgy’ – The Fundamental Principle for Assessing the Reform of the 1970 Missale Romanum.”

During the conference Katrin Krips-Schmidt of the Catholic paper Deutsche Tagespost conducted the following interview with Dr. Reid, published in German and presented here on NLM in English:

1. What positive things came from Vatican II regarding the reform of the liturgy?

The most positive element was the insistence that participatio actuosa – true, actual participation in the liturgy – was the heart of the life of the Church. This was the goal, the ‘why’ of the reform. The liturgical movement had been promoting this for over fifty years before.

The second was the Council’s requirement that thorough liturgical formation take place at all levels of the Church. This was the means, or the ‘how’ of the reform. But this important element of the Council has been forgotten. Without this formation the foundation necessary to facilitate participatio actuosa is lacking, no matter how many changes to the rites are made.

The Council also asked for the use of a wider selection of sacred scripture in the rites, gave permission for a more extended use of the vernacular, Holy Communion under both species, concelebration, etc., as other ways to facilitate participatio actuosa.

2. What criteria are there for liturgical development in continuity? Is a Council competent to change or to remake the liturgy?

Neither councils nor popes are competent to construct the liturgy. The Council’s does not speak of making a new liturgy, or of “change” – it uses the word “renewal” (“instauratio”). The Council wished to bring about fruitful participatio actuosa through widespread liturgical formation at all levels of the Church and through moderate ritual reform, not a rupture either in the official ritual or in the perception of the faithful in their experience of the liturgical celebration.

The criteria for development in continuity are found in article 23, read in context and as it was approved by the Fathers of the Council. I have published a paper on this. It means that development is proportionate – the liturgical tradition may be developed, as is necessary, but it is not completely changed. There must be a continuity of rite where new texts or practices are integrated, naturally, over time. A good example is the Ordo Missae of 1965. It is the rite of Mass as handed on to the Council, pruned and developed in line with the discussions at the council. But the 1969 Ordo Missae is very different, a new construction of the Concilium. To be sure, it is more conservative than they wanted because Paul VI refused their requests to abolish the Roman Canon, the Orate fratres and the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass. But even so, the 1969 Ordo as a whole is a radical ritual and theological innovation, not an organic development in line with Sacrosanctum Concilium 23.

3. Continuity or Rupture? Could one say that “traditionalist” Catholics agree with the thesis of a rupture?

I am not a “traditionalist”. I am a Catholic. I am also a liturgical historian. As the latter I can say that there is evidence that those responsible for the reform intended rupture – ritual and also theological. They did not want what was handed on in tradition. They did not want to develop that. They wanted something new, something that would reflect ‘modern man’ in the 1960’s and what they thought he needed.

This is an historical reality, not an ecclesio-political position. Liturgists from ‘both sides’ agree that the reform was radical and a rupture. As a Catholic I regard this as a significant problem, because it is unprecedented in liturgical history and it is not what the Council, out of respect for liturgical tradition, called for.

4. What authority did the Consilium – the body to reform the liturgy - have? Did it follow the intentions of the Fathers of the Council or exceed its competence? Are there examples of radical innovations?

The Consilium’s full name indicates that it was an organ to implement the Council’s Constitution. In effect its work rested on the personal authority of Pope Paul VI, who followed it very closely and authorized each change in forma specifica. It is clear that they went well beyond the Constitution: there is no authorization there for any new Eucharistic Prayers, for the 100% celebration of the Mass in the vernacular, etc. But all of these reforms enjoy the authority of Paul VI.

5. If the liturgy is seen as “changeable” as Sacrosanctum Concilium 21 says, is there the risk to its impact upon ordinary people, as Martin Mosebach speaks about the “Heresy of formlessness”?

Elements of the liturgy that do not come from the Lord Himself are, of course, able to develop or even to be left aside, and new elements can be introduced. Change is possible. We know that from history. But if, all of a sudden, everything in the liturgy except those things concerning validity are seen as changeable – and almost constantly so – then the rite as a whole can be subjected to a “formlessness” whereby it looses its nature as a rite and becomes a temporary conglomeration of the “good ideas” of those who celebrate it. That would not be Catholic liturgy, which is always the liturgy of the Church, received by her in tradition and carefully handed on, with proportionate development as necessary. Even authorized developments, if they involve disproportionate changes to the received tradition imposed very quickly, risk bringing about such a “formlessness”.

6. Sacrosanctum Concilium has been criticized for having too much room for interpretation. Do you share this view?

Yes, it is clear that much of the language of the Constitution is capable of different interpretations. Article 36-2 is just one example. It is also clear from the memoirs of Archbishop Bugnini himself that there was a very wide interpretation of this article, and others.

7. What consequences are there for the future of the liturgy?

We must look again at the liturgical reform following the Council, not as partisans of any side, but as good historians, good theologians, good Catholics. If it is clear that we have lost important elements of the liturgical tradition, or have introduced ones that are harmful, then we must have the honesty to admit this and do what is necessary. This has been begun through Sacramentum caritatis and Summorum pontificum and the personal example of Pope Benedict XVI in his liturgical celebrations.

We must also move forward with charity and pastoral sense. It is not possible to re-impose the past rites on everyone or to take away the new ones in an instant. At this moment, though, it would be possible to permit – facultatively – some older elements (the offertory prayers, some of the ritual gestures made by the priest, etc.) in the modern rites. It is also possible to adopt that ars celebrandi spoken about in Sacramentum caritatis, where the modern rites are celebrated with a liturgical richness that is in more tangible continuity with tradition.

History will see how the liturgy develops from this point. Our duty is to ensure that nothing “sacred and great” is lost to the Church of today or of the future.

Photo credit: Andreas Düren
Article source: Deutsche Tagespost