Friday, July 30, 2010

What's in a Name?

While reading Prof. László Dobszay's new book, The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite [1], the old question, "What's in a name?" came to mind. On page 66 Dobszay writes: "... from now on I do not advocate the expression 'Reform of the Reform'. I do not think that the content of the postconciliar reform liturgy can really be reformed." For Dobszay, the "reform of the reform" obviously means reforming the reform that actually took place following the Second Vatican Council—that is, reforming the liturgical rites promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Yet it needs pointing out that the expression “reform of the reform” originally denoted an alternative implementation of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, returning to the Missal of 1962 (used immediately before and during the Council) and guided by what Pope Benedict XVI calls the "hermeneutic of continuity in reform," and reviewing in depth the processes and actual achievements of the postconciliar reform. With this agenda are associated Msgr Klaus Gamber (d. 1989), Fr. Brian W. Harrison, and Fr. Aidan Nichols.

Father Harrison was the first to proffer a detailed scheme for how this might be carried out in regard to the liturgy of the Mass. [2] Father Nichols suggested a similar direction. [3] Since its inception, the “reform of the reform” has encompassed a variety of proposals and perspectives. Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, in his still-useful analysis of the various liturgical camps and the groups associated with them, identifies Fr. Joseph Fessio (co-founder of the Adoremus Society) as "probably the leader of this agenda in the United States," while noting (correctly) that Fessio seems “less intent on a return to the 1962 Missal as the point of departure than on seeking a normative re-ordering of the Mass of 1969 along lines inspired by the 1962 Missal and its 1965 and 1967 revisions. This would inevitably involve some structural changes in the present order of liturgy" [4]. Historically, then, the “reform of the reform” agenda includes people on both sides of the question as to which edition of the Missal, the 1962 or the 1970 (third typical edition, 2002), should serve as the point of departure for closing the gap between the two forms of the Roman liturgy presently in use.
I do not wish to fault Prof. Dobszay for defining the reform of the reform too narrowly. On the contrary, I think he might be on to something. After all, the genitive "reform of the reform" indicates that the end product of a reform (in this case, the novus ordo of Paul VI) is itself the object of reform. Perhaps it would be helpful, then, to use another denomination for the program first proposed by Msgr. Gamber and set forth in detail by Fr. Harrison (and now to a greater extent by László Dobszay): the “alternative reform” or "Gamber Proposal," perhaps? Thus, the “reform of the reform” would have the current Missal as its starting-point, whereas the “alternative reform” (or whatever we might call it) would have as its starting-point the Missal of 1962; either way, the end goal is the same.
Am I making too much of nothing? Maybe. But I think the distinction might unravel some of the terminological confusion behind Dobszay’s somewhat ironic disavowal of the “reform of the reform” in favor of what was originally meant by the selfsame expression.
[1] My review of this book will appear in the new journal Usus Antiquior. A review by Fr. Neil J. Roy will appear in Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal.
[2] Brian W. Harrison, O.S., “The Postconciliar Eucharistic Liturgy: Planning a ‘Reform of the Reform’,” published serially in Adoremus Bulletin, November 1995–January 1996; reprinted in Appendix III of Thomas M. Kocik, The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate (Ignatius Press, 2003).
[3] Aidan Nichols, O.P., Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of Its Contemporary Form (Ignatius Press, 1996).
[4] M. Francis Mannion, "The Catholicity of the Liturgy," in Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement, ed. Stratford Caldecott (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), pp. 20-21.

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