Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Continuity or Rupture, Again: An Example of the Consilium’s (Ab)use of the Constitution on the Liturgy

As part of the research for my recent book The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms (now available from Amazon: USA, UK), I had the opportunity to translate the introductory part of one of the Consilium’s schemata that dealt with the reform of the orations in the Missal.

Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), dated September 19th, 1966, is a 69 page document (with a 16 page addendum) drafted by Coetus 18 bis of the Consilium. It begins by proposing various policies and criteria for the reform of the collect, super oblata, postcommunion and super populum prayers of the Roman Missal, asking if these criteria are pleasing to the Consilium Fathers (pp. 1-4). The bulk of the schema is given over to the texts and references for the proposed corpus of prayers for the Proper of Time (pp. 5-53, with corrigenda on pp. 68-69). This is then followed by the group’s proposals for the reform of the prefaces (pp. 54-67, plus Addendum, pp. 1-16).

In the introduction to Schema 186, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is cited twice: paragraph 51 on p. 1, and paragraph 109(a) on p. 2. It was the first citation in particular that caught my attention:
In a certain sense, albeit not its original one, it seems good to us that, even in these things [i.e., the reform of the Mass orations], the desire of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy that “richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word” (no. 51) be used to introduce into the Roman Missal the venerable riches of Latin euchology, not only because their form is beautiful, but also because of their true, important, theological strength. [1]
We appear to have here what amounts to an explicit admission from the members of Coetus 18 bis that they took a certain section of the Constitution out of its original context, and applied it to the reform in a way not anticipated by the Council Fathers. As Lauren Pristas points out, the only proper season for which Sacrosanctum Concilium could be read as allowing for a revision of the Mass formularies is Lent (cf. SC 109). [2] Indeed, I can find no place in the Acta Synodalia where the discussions about SC 51 anticipate its being used in any other context apart from the Mass lectionary or the Liturgy of the Word/Mass of the Catechumens.

The mention of Lent brings us to the second citation, scarcely any better in this regard:
In addition, there are some orations that have lost their historic value, or that no longer conform to the norms of Christian life today...
For the second type, the majority of the Lenten orations will suffice as an example. For the memory of and preparation for Baptism, which according to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (no. 109a) is the primary nature of this season, are almost entirely absent. With respect to the second nature, namely the penitential character, it is evident almost exclusively in the language of fasting, and neither the spirit of penance in general nor the preparation for the paschal mystery is sufficiently treated. [3]
This would appear to be a misquotation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Dom Placide Bruylants, O.S.B., at this point the relator of Coetus 18 bis, [4] ranks the two “natures” (indoles) as primary and secondary. However, when one looks at what the Constitution actually says about the season of Lent, we read the following:
The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. [5]
Sacrosanctum Concilium presents the two elements of 1) recalling or preparing for Baptism, and 2) penance, as equal, as two sides of the same coin. It goes on to say that it is this duplex indoles which is to be given greater prominence in the liturgy. Instead, in the course of their work, Coetus 18 bis prioritised one “nature” over the other, and claimed a mandate from the Council to do this. It is entirely possible that their revision of the Lenten orations reflects this misreading of SC rather than the expressed intentions of the Council Fathers.

Those who have read Archbishop Bugnini’s history of the reform will have had the sense that certain members of the Consilium, including its secretary, knew that they were going beyond what the Council Fathers envisaged, while claiming apparent continuity with the Constitution and the liturgical tradition. [6] However, it is one thing to find confirmation of this in the secondary literature surrounding the liturgical reforms (whether written by prominent figures or not), and quite another to find it in the primary sources of the reform, in the minutes of the Consilium itself.

As it happens, next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Novus Ordo Missae, with the following year being the same anniversary of the reformed Missale Romanum. A half-century on from this major part of the reforms, the question is still present as to whether this reform is what the Fathers of Vatican II really had in mind on December 8, 1963, when Pope Paul VI solemnly promulgated Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, as we find ourselves further and further from those heady decades of the 1960s and 1970s, we see more and more people asking this question. As Dom Alcuin Reid wrote last year:
[T]here is an increasing body of material available from those involved in the reform of the Sacred Liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, as well as credible new scholarship emerging, which demonstrates that what resulted from the call for a moderate general reform of the liturgy was not that which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council intended but rather a product of the desires, opportunistic triumphs, and even the ideological agendas of key persons who took control of the implementation of the reform. [7]
Like other parts of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms (such as the confection of multiple Eucharistic Prayers), the almost total reorganisation of the orations of the Roman Missal, along with their editing and adaptation for “modern man”, is nowhere to be found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Do the first pages of Schema 186 use the Liturgy Constitution legitimately, or did the Consilium abuse the Constitution in order to make it do something it was never intended to? Nearly fifty years on from the results of this portion of the Consilium’s work, it seems increasingly apparent that the latter is somewhat closer to the truth.


[1] Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), 19 September 1966, p. 1. English translation from Matthew P. Hazell (ed.), The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms (Lectionary Study Press, 2018), p. 220. Latin text: Aliquo modo, non proprio certe, visum est nobis, quod etiam in hac re, respondendum erat optatis Constitutionis de sacra Liturgia (no 51) “ut ditior mensa verbi Dei paretur fidelibus”, iterum introducendo missali romano antiquas divitias euchologiae latinae, quae non tantum formae pulchritudine, sed authentico momento theologico pollent.

[2] Cf. The Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), p. 113.

[3] Schema 186, pp. 2-3. English translation from Hazell, The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical ReformsLatin text: Dantur insuper nonnullae orationes, quae momentum suum historicum amiserunt, vel non amplius conformes sunt normis vitae christianae hodiernae... Pro alteris, exemplum magnae partis orationum Quadragesimae sufficiet. Nam, memoria et praeparatio baptismi, quae secundum Constitutionem de sacra Liturgia (no 109, a) prima indoles sunt huius temporis, fere omnino absunt. Quoad secundam indolem, characterem nempe poenitentialem, patet quod in orationibus fere unice de ieiunio loquitur, et non sufficientur tractatur neque de spiritu poenitentiae in genere, neque de praeparatione mysterii paschalis.

[4] Dom Bruylants died suddenly in 1966, and was replaced as relator by Dom Antoine Dumas, O.S.B. For the differences this event made to the work of Coetus 18 bis, see Lauren Pristas, “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision”, Communio 30 (Winter, 2003), pp. 621-653.

[5] SC 109. Latin text: Duplex indoles temporis quadragesimalis, quod praesertim per memoriam vel praeparationem Baptismi et per paenitentiam fideles, instantius verbum Dei audientes et orationi vacantes, componit ad celebrandum paschale mysterium, tam in liturgia quam in catechesi liturgica pleniore in luce ponatur.

[6] For example, in discussing the provisions in SC regarding use of the vernacular, Bugnini writes, “The Council’s intention was to open the treasures of the table of the Word and of the Eucharistic table to the people. Is there anything that is not part of the liturgical action of God’s people? No! Everything belongs to them. Nothing is excluded from their attention and their participation... If, then, the purpose of using the vernacular in the liturgy is to enable the assembly to participate consciously, actively, and fruitfully, there is no justification for using in any part of the sacred action a language that the people do not understand.” (The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990], p. 112)

[7] “Liturgy, Authority, and Postmodernity”, The Catholic World Report, 22 October 2017.

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