Saturday, March 01, 2014

Just Say No to '65!

Joseph Shaw has done the Mass-loving world a tremendous favor by nipping in the bud a recent flurry of suggestions that, perhaps, when all is said and done, we might want to take up the interim Missal of 1965 as a new platform for the Roman Riteafter all, it's said to fulfill the intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and yet avoids the snares and pitfalls of the 1970 revolution.

The only problem with this is . . . well, there are many problems, and that's what Shaw's piece is about, so be sure to read it. In short, the so-called 1965 Missal was a quick slash-and-burn edit on the 1962 to buy time for the completion of the innovating Bugnini Missal. Some of the changes made in '65 already go beyond anything the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council even touched on in the aula, let alone voted to include in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It marked the beginning of the end, and, as such, needs to be stalwartly resisted even as a theoretical option.

Indeed, to be fully consistent, we must admit that there is no particular mystique to the 1962 edition; as all engaged in the study and promotion of the liturgy know, the '62 already carries the telling signature of Bugnini's handiwork. I am given to understand that the 1962 edition was chosen by the Vatican rather than (say) the 1965 or 1967 versions quite simply because it was the edition of the missal that Archbishop Lefebvre finally settled on for his clergy and faithful, with whom reconciliation was being sought (and, we may hope, will always continue to be sought[1]); and, practically speaking, it seems a fitting enough choice as the last editio typica prior to the Council. But there's plenty of reason to question, for instance, the clumsy Holy Week reform of the 1950s, motivated by a combination of antiquarianism and modernism, and it can be hoped that as time goes on, there will be a way opened of returning to a pre-reformist Missal tout court.

Shaw's article appeared both at his own blog, LMS Chairman, and at Rorate Caeli, so you can access it either place. May God reward him for reminding us that the last thing we need at this time is a new era of tinkering with what has been handed down to us. As the International Federation Una Voce has always wisely counseled, let us first thoroughly recover a profound reverence for Catholic tradition, and only later, long after the dust has settled on the horrible experiment of deformation that characterized the late 20th centurymight we deserve to see once more something that is worth calling an organic development of the liturgy.

To go one step further: Why should anyone automatically assume that the traditional liturgy needs to be changed or reformedespecially at this juncture in our history? Yes, Sacrosanctum Concilium requested some changes; but that was 50 years ago, and just as we have had to reconsider, modify, and sometimes quietly ignore things in Gaudium et Spes that today sound dated or naively optimistic, so, too, these decades have brought to light in Sacrosanctum Concilium a number of dubious assumptions, exploded theories, and reductionistic notions of "pastoral" that caused immense damage in their misapplication and could cause new damage, or at least confusion and unrest, in any future application. If the full-bodied and nuanced teaching of St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII on the faithful's participatio actuosa began to be implemented as the popes had requested, the most important desideratum of the Council would already be attained, and we could gratefully consign some of the more embarrassing bitsespecially n. 34, reflective of a rationalistic mindset [2]to the annals of the 1960s.

It is pertinent to recall the very wise words of Fr. John Berg, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, in an interview with The Latin Mass magazine last year:
There have always been a few voices which have advocated a "hybrid" missal, but this is unfortunately symptomatic of the liturgical age in which we live. These voices are often found among those who have no pastoral charge and look at the liturgy mostly as an object of study. The problem is that if you ask ten of them, each will give you a different point which needs to be changed. It also at times betrays a rather condescending attitudeexperts who really want to help the "poor faithful" who would live the liturgy more fully, for example, "if only the priest read the collect facing the congregation from the sedilia." In other words, no real connection with the actual prayer life of our faithful, and ultimately, I regret to say, not helpful. It is not the faithful in the pews each Sunday clamoring for such things.
          We have trained hundreds of diocesan priests, pastors, to offer the Mass according to the Missal of 1962 and, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have any interest in looking to change the Missal. They are just pleased to find a liturgy which is stable, where they do not have to make decisions, and choose options, and animate the congregation, and wonder how it could be improved. ... It has always been the position of our Fraternity that now is not the time to make changes to the Missal, if indeed there were the need for such to be made, and that we need first to have a long period of time where the liturgy is simply lived rather than being constantly scrutinized and "tweaked."[3]
I would also like to indicate my great appreciation for Dom Mark Kirby's post of a couple of days ago, "Only one thing is necessary":
My reflections on the 1965 Missale Romanum—not really an edition at all, but rather, as Dr Joseph Shaw has pointed out, an application of the Instruction Inter Oecumenici to the existing Missal—aimed at arguing that it would have been better all around if it had been kept in place for several generations or, at least, until the intentions and prescriptions of Sacrosanctum Concilium were clarified and sorted out. Certain of them would have certainly fallen by the wayside. This did not happen. Instead, by a wonderful disposition of God’s Providence, Pope Benedict XVI gave us Summorum Pontificum which, after a manner of speaking, cleared the field and so affords the Church a much needed spatium in which to recover from the liturgical traumas of the past fifty years.
          2. I laud and support the brilliant achievements of individual parish priests and of groups that use the so–called Ordinary Form or Novus Ordo Missae with dignity, beauty, and reverence. I am thinking, in particular, of the stellar Communauté de Saint-Martin, and of various abbeys and Oratories. For myself, I can no longer spend my energies in that particular exercise. As I explained elsewhere, I seem to hear Our Lord chiding me, saying: “How many cares and troubles thou hast! But only one thing is necessary; and Mary has chosen for herself the best part of all, that which shall never be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–41).
          3. I maintain that the real difficulty with the current reformed Missal is that its flawed infrastructure cannot bear the weight of continual wear and tear. It is a modular liturgy which, because of the multiplicity of options inherent in it, makes unrealistic demands on both priest and people. One finds oneself occupied and preoccupied with assembling and disassembling the various modular elements that make it up.  The liturgy is not something that men fashion for various occasions and venues; it is the mystery, ancient and ever new, wherein the Church is fashioned and re-fashioned by the gentle and mighty action of the Holy Spirit.
Could anyone have said it better?

[1] See Patrick Archbold, "Pope Francis and the SSPX: An Opportunity."

[2] SC 34 reads: "The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation." This description bears no resemblance to any apostolic liturgical tradition that we know of, Eastern or Western. The Pistoian rationalism of this paragraph has been the target of countless critiques since 1963—not surprisingly, since, as Aristotle once observed, no one can fail to hit a big target when aiming at it (Metaphys. II.1). For two critiques, see "Nothing That Requires Explanation?" and "Can We Ever 'Understand' the Mass?"

[3] The interview appeared in vol. 22, n. 1 (Winter/Spring 2013), pp. 9-10.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: