Illuminating in their frankness, the publications and correspondence associated with this debate deftly expose the principles underlying each side. Fr. Mark also shows how Pope Pius XII attempted to adjudicate this dispute in Mediator Dei by acknowledging the truths held by both schools while fundamentally siding with the Benedictine framework of his predecessor Pius X.
Well and good—the armies engaged one another, the battle was fought, and, at least officially, the Pio-Benedictine vision prevailed. But what about the later history, the post-Mediator Dei period from 1948 to 1970, when the Bugnini liturgy emerged, at first slowly, then more and more rapidly and radically?
This period exhibits a strange irony. Apparently, the Benedictines won across the board because everyone nowadays (beginning with the Consilium reformers themselves) talks about liturgy as if it’s the be-all and end-all of Catholic prayer, almost as if it’s the only kind of prayer that Catholics have—and yet what has triumphed is a “creative,” devotional, sentimental, largely subjective notion of liturgy, a utilitarian and custom-designed approach that is utterly contrary to the Benedictine vision of liturgy as objective, formal, given, stable, and received, an external standard to which we are subject and to which private devotions and personal preferences are to be subordinated.[*Note]
Speaking of the subjectivizing effects of Kantian philosophy, Fr. Chad Ripperger observes:
We often see this immanentization today: people expect the liturgy to conform to their emotional states rather than conforming themselves to an objective cult which in turn conforms itself to God.
The searing words of Laszlo Dobszay come to mind:
The turning around of the altars, celebration versus populum, was not commanded by the Council. In practice, however, the new rite and the new position of the altar are closely associated. We may say that changing back to the original direction will have a beneficial effect. Indeed, the very fact that the bulk of the clergy protests with intense emotions against this return shows its serious necessity; the principal motivation behind the protest is not pastoral care of the faithful, but the psychological distress of the priest.The legacy of the post-conciliar reform is a Benedictine insistence on the primacy of liturgy, fused with a Jesuitized re-conception of liturgy as collective private devotion. It is as if new Jesuit wine has been poured into old Benedictine wineskins, causing them to rupture. The moment of triumph was the moment of disaster, as the very notion of a rite—a formal ritualized act of common worship based on a common orthodox tradition—gave way to a pluralistic, relaxed, malleable, and privatized praxis of variations on a more or less Catholic theme. In short, the Consilium’s exploitation of Sacrosanctum Concilium left us with a volatile mixture that makes genuine reform today much more difficult.
|Cardinal Ratzinger when he celebrated the usus antiquior in Wigratzbad|
Perhaps the most ironic twist in this still unresolved (and now more complicated) debate is the contrast between the current pope and his predecessor. Although not a Benedictine by profession, Benedict XVI closely identified throughout his career with the monastic vision of the all-pervasive centrality of the sacred liturgy, where God and man can meet most profoundly in praise and in communion, at once expressing and accomplishing the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. At his first general audience in April 2005, he explained that he had chosen the name Benedict in large part as a homage to the Father of Western Monasticism, co-patron of Europe and architect of Christian civilization. With the first Jesuit and overseas pope, we have a pastor who appears to hold many of those modern Jesuit views that Blessed Columba Marmion and other Benedictines, in the name of fidelity to St. Pius X, so stalwartly resisted in the first half of the twentieth century, and that Ratzinger/Benedict himself patiently opposed in his writings and magisterial acts. We have unexpectedly seen the trajectories of the two schools played out before our very eyes in the magisterium, ars celebrandi, and priorities of each pontificate.
It is for this reason that the original Benedictine-Jesuit controversy remains of lively interest and massive importance for us today, if we would better understand the trials through which the Church is passing in this age.