Wednesday, February 12, 2014
We continue our interview with Dom Alcuin Reid, occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the committee established on January 25th, 1964 by Pope Paul VI to implement the liturgical reform, the “Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem liturgicam Sacrosanctum Concilium.” His replies include previously unpublished material from his research. The first part of the interview was published last Friday.
NLM: You mentioned the Consilium – the body charged with implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium. Pope Paul VI established this on January 25th of 1964; who were its members, how were they chosen, what had they done beforehand?
Dom Alcuin: In January 1964 Paul VI personally chose Fr Annibale Bugnini to be the Secretary—a political move which reversed Bugnini’s banishment from responsibility for liturgical reform by Blessed John XXIII in 1962, in favour of Fr Ferdinando Antonelli—together with Cardinals Lercaro (Bologna), Giobbe (Curia) and Larraona (Prefect of the Congregation of Rites). This nucleus proposed the names of members and consultors to Paul VI who acted on their advice.
NLM: Were there any persons who, in your opinion, should or should not have been included on the committee? If so, why?
Dom Alcuin: Eleven pages of an appendix to Archbishop Bugnini’s memoirs, The Reform of the Liturgy (Liturgical Press), lists the personnel. Many of these had been involved in the commission for liturgical reform of Pius XII, the preparatory liturgical commission or the conciliar liturgical commission. Names such as Jungmann, Gy, Botte, Martimort, Righetti, feature rightly enough amongst the consultors. Interestingly Louis Bouyer was only included in 1966. Antonelli was one of the members; Bishop Jenny also. And there were bishop members from around the world who were regarded as having shown interest in the liturgy at the Council.
At a distance of 50 years I hesitate to suggest who should or should not have been included. Two of Antonelli’s contemporary observations, however, are illustrative:
“[The Consilium] 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” (N. Giampietro, The Development of the Liturgical Reform, Roman Catholic Books, pp. 166-167).
“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” (ibid. p. 192).
NLM: The basic work of the Consilium was achieved in about 6 years – the Novus Ordo Missae less than five years after its establishment, November 1969, and the Liturgy of the Hours soon after. Is it fair to say that the work was done hastily? Too hastily?
Dom Alcuin: Let’s return to the Ordo Missae of January 1965. It was possible for that to be published within a year of the Consilium’s establishment, and it is largely faithful to the Council’s stipulations for the ritual reform of the Mass. In due course an expanded lectionary, further prefaces, etc., could have been carefully prepared and published in due course as the post-Vatican II edition of the Roman Missal in accordance with the Council’s mandate.
But the Consilium were working on a completely new Ordo Missae, calendar, lectionary, etc., from 1964. As Antonelli said, they were not working from a desire to restore but from a wish to demolish and build anew. Hence the radical differences in the lectionary, calendar, order of Mass and other rites—something not intended by the Council but, alas, something enacted by enthusiastic reformers and promulgated by the authority of a pope.
The Consilium’s efforts encountered opposition, and Archbishop Bugnini is clear that they wanted to get the new rites out as quickly as possible—almost so as to ‘achieve’ a victory before it was too late. There is also the historical reality of the expectation of change and the devaluing of authority that was part of the 1960’s. This led to experimentation and abuse which was harmful, as Bugnini himself recounts, and meant that there was a real need to get the official rites out as soon as possible.
NLM: Was the work of the Consilium done with respect for the ideals of the Liturgical Movement and for the provisions of Sacrosanctum Concilium?
Dom Alcuin: Fr Carlo Braga, a close collaborator of Bugnini, once wrote to me that the principles outlined in the 1948 document of the Pius XII reform commission were “amplified by another spirit” after the Council (“dopo il concilio”). In February 1964 Paul VI established the Consilium in order to “to apply” Sacrosanctum Concilium “according to the letter and spirit of the Council”. Its “letter” was quickly left behind, and its “spirit” became something other than that of the Council fathers: one of innovation rather than restoration.
Some currently attempt to justify this departure and subsequent innovation by regarding Vatican II as an “event” and by insisting that the “core values” and “theology” of this “event”—in other words its increasingly hard to define “spirit”—are the only legitimate bases for interpreting Conciliar documents, regardless of the provisions and theology of the documents themselves. Such a position is utterly revisionist and astonishingly a-historical. The Council Fathers never proposed this. It renders the principles and provisions of Sacrosanctum Concilium null and void, and provides a carte blanche for liturgical innovation.
NLM: During and after the Council, there was a great deal of talk in the Church about “collegiality” between the Pope and the bishops. Sacrosanctum Concilium itself says in no. 25 that “(t)he liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible; experts are to be employed on the task, and bishops are to be consulted, from various parts of the world.” Were the bishops consulted by the Consilium? If so, to what extent? Were the reforms carried out as an act of collegiality between the Pope and the world-wide episcopate?
Dom Alcuin: Certainly there were bishops from dioceses across the world on the Consilium. And some schemas were sent to Bishops Conferences before the 1967 Synod of Bishops. But it is simply not true to assert that “every suggested adaptation, change, or modification was sent out to every Catholic bishop in the world” and that “when changes were severely questioned or opposed by a large number of bishops, they were revised according to the will of the bishops and then sent back again.” (Robert Taft SJ, Interview, 4 Nov. 2009) Bugnini describes the relationship with the world’s bishops in chapter 14 of his memoirs—and it is a very different account from Father Taft’s. The Consilium had ongoing contact with the Episcopal conferences, certainly, but one only has to read Cardinal Heenan’s letters to see how a residential Archbishop regarded the reform as something imposed by ‘Rome’ regardless of local bishops’ views (cf. A Bitter Trial, Ignatius Press).
Msgr Martimort, the Relator (co-ordinator of the working group) for the reform of the Liturgy of the Hours, explained to me in an interview that after consultation with experts he presented two position papers to the Consilium plenary meeting, which decided on which to follow and on appropriate revisions. After this, Martimort complained vigorously, Bugnini ignored these decisions and himself proposed another course to Paul VI—which was the one adopted. This ‘Paul VI approves what Bugnini-wants’ is a significant factor in the postconciliar reform, a fact underlined also by details recounted in the memoirs of Louis Bouyer, still sadly unpublished.
So too in 1969, the by-then Archbishop Jenny wrote to Paul VI because he believed he had “a duty in conscience” to utter “a cry of alarm” about “the liturgy in general and the divine office in particular” because of influences outside of the Consilium and outside of its normal working methods. Co-operation within the Consilium itself was questionable!
NLM: Did the bishops express much satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the work of the Consilium? Were their opinions heeded?
Dom Alcuin: The 1967 Synod of Bishops is illustrative. The Synod was given an update on the progress of the reform. In addition, a Mass was celebrated demonstrating what the Consilium intended as the rite that would become “normative” for parishes. The Synod Fathers did not like it. Cardinal Heenan spoke strongly against it (cf. A Bitter Trial, pp. 102-4). Bugnini himself admits: “It must be said flatly that the experiment was not a success,” and that “it had an effect contrary to the one intended and played a part in the [Synod’s] negative vote that followed”—“…in short, the changes in the Mass seemed too radical” (Reform of the Liturgy, p. 349-50). The Synod Father’s responses were not ultimately heeded, but dismissed—Bugnini says that they were “not representative” (p. 356).
NLM: In your opinion, what were the greatest successes and failures of the Consilium?
Dom Alcuin: I think that they are one and the same thing: the implementation of a radical liturgical reform that was the product of the wishes of certain of its members and consultors. This was a great political success, in spite of the Roman Curia and others, as Archbishop Piero Marini’s book A Challenging Reform (Liturgical Press) underlines. And it was a tragic failure faithfully to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium, as any careful reading of its text and as any study of such important sources as Bugnini’s and Antonelli’s memoirs reveals.
NLM: What implications does this have for our assessment of the liturgical reform today, and for the possibility of ‘reform of the reform’ in the future?
Dom Alcuin: As many have said before, we have not yet seen the liturgical reform desired by the Second Vatican Council. We glimpsed something of it in the 1965 Ordo Missae, but that was quickly left behind by the Consilium’s own products. Thus, out of fidelity to liturgical tradition, out of fidelity to the Council and as a matter of justice in respect of what was done in its name, we need seriously to address the question of a reform of the reform.
So too, we need as ever to invest in the work of sound liturgical formation so as to facilitate that participation desired by the Council, in order that the Sacred Liturgy—in whatever ritual form it is celebrated—may truly be the source and summit of Christian life and mission.