Monday, August 10, 2020

“Plumber’s Work!” : Romano Guardini and Petrus Tschinkel on the Liturgical Reform

Pius Parsch
The Augustinian Canon Pius Parsch (1884–1954), of Klosterneuburg Abbey outside of Vienna, was among the greatest lights and most influential partisans of the Liturgical Movement in the mid-twentieth century. His classic work The Church’s Year of Grace appeared in many editions in Europe and in two English editions in the United States. While it is streaked with some of the poor scholarship and excessive antiquarianism of the original Liturgical Movement, this multi-volume set is generally regarded as a worthy successor of Dom Guéranger’s The Liturgical Year and Cardinal Schuster’s The Sacramentary, and an essential resource for anyone seriously interested in the traditional Roman rite. Romano Guardini (1885–1968), from the same generation, also contributed many valuable books that aimed to help Catholics better understand and assimilate the riches of the liturgical tradition, such as his short but powerful book Sacred Signs.

Parsch and Guardini both dabbled in unauthorized experiments that, in retrospect, look like anticipations of the Novus Ordo, such as celebrating versus populum and with the vernacular. Later liturgists have been only too willing to invoke them as forerunners of the new liturgy that emerged in the late sixties. It is therefore important, for the historical record, to document that one of Pius Parsch’s closest and most devoted students, Petrus Tschinkel (1906–1995), was not at all enthusiastic about the final result of the liturgical reform, and relates a first-hand experience of Guardini speaking of it in a highly dismissive manner.

Petrus Tschinkel (photo from 1958)
We are fortunate to have access to this information by way of an interview that Dr. Rupert Klötzl of Una Voce Austria conducted with Fr. Tschinkel on April 15, 1992, at Stift Klosterneuburg bei Wien. The interview was recorded and transcribed (those who are interested in either may contact me directly).

At one point Fr. Tschinkel says to Dr. Klötzl:
Pius Parsch, das kann ich sagen, wäre mit den Veränderungen der nachkonzilaren Ära in keiner Weise einverstanden gewesen. Das ist nicht das, was er gewollt hat. Jawohl—in der Muttersprache. Das ist aber alles. Aber nicht die Messe als Mysterium—als eine Wirklichkeit hic et nunc, jetzt und hier. Und die wundervollen Perikopen so gewählt, daß sie Mysterienbilder sind für das, was sich jetzt ereignet. Das war sein Anliegen.
Pius Parsch, I can say this, would not have agreed in any way with the changes of the postconciliar era. This is not what he wanted. Yes—[liturgy] in the mother tongue. But that is all. But not [changing] the Mass as a mystery—as a reality hic et nunc, here and now. And the wonderful pericopes chosen so that they are “mystery pictures” for what is happening now. That was his intention.
St. Gertrude, Fr. Parsch’s parish

A little later Fr. Tschinkel expresses his own view, which aligns with that, apparently, of Guardini:
Und diese liturgischen Formen, nach dem Zweiten Vaticanum, ist ein reiner Leerlauf: nur Texte, Texte. Von einer inneren Haltung keine Spur, vom Mysterium auch nicht. Guardini, wenn Ihnen der Name etwas sagt, den ich sehr verehre. Ich habe, das ist viele Jahre her, da hat Guardini noch gelebt, einen Priester aus München auf Besuch gehabt in St. Gertrud, der wollte St. Gertrud studieren, und da habe ich ihm gesagt - das war gleich nach dem Konzil - ja, ich habe ihm gesagt, wissen Sie, wie Romano Guardini zu den neuen Texten steht? Da sagt er, ja, das kann ich Ihnen sagen. Ich komme sehr oft mit ihm zusammen, und wie er die neuen Texte bekommen hat, hat er sie lange angesehen, ... und dann hat er zu mir gesagt: Klempnerarbeit!
And these liturgical forms, after the Second Vatican Council, are nothing but idling: only text after text. No trace of internal disposition, no trace of mystery either. Guardini—if the name means anything to you, I adore him—many years ago, when Guardini was still alive, I had a priest from Munich visiting St. Gertrude, who wanted to study St. Gertrude, and I said to him—it was right after the Council—yes, I said to him: Do you know how Romano Guardini feels about the new [liturgical] texts? He says: Yes, I can tell you that. I meet him very often, and when he got the new texts, he looked at them for a long time... and then he said to me: “Plumber’s work”!
The German word Klempnerarbeit means work done in a hasty, slipshod way, with inadequate care, and botched results. The reference to a hack plumber doing a mechanical job carries the implication that the reform of the liturgy was approached like the fixing, cutting, adapting, or welding of pieces of metal pipe, rather than as a subtle work of skill on a delicate living reality that would require holiness, discretion, and learning. Klempnerarbeit might also convey in this case a lack of aesthetic value in the misnamed “reforms.”

Fr. Tschinkel then translates Guardini’s German word into colloquial Viennese:
Ja, ich würde als Wiener sagen: Pfuscherarbeit. So ist das. Die Texte sind gewählt ohne irgend einen Zusammenhang mit dem Mysterium. Es war Pius Parsch sein Anliegen, dem Volk das Mysterium nahezubringen—jetzt und hier sich das ereignet durch die Realpräsenz Christi in der Eucharistie. Das ist Religionsunterricht. Ja, und dann muß ich sagen: In dem Punkt ist Lefebvre sicher ein Retter. Er wird eine Zukunft haben. Wäre nicht das erste Mal. Jeanne d’Arc wurde als Hexe verbrannt, später heilig gesprochen. Athanasius exkommuniziert—der große Kirchenlehrer.
Yes, as a Viennese, I’d say botched work. That’s the way it is. The texts are chosen without any connection to the mystery. It was Pius Parsch’s concern to make the mystery accessible to the people—now and here it happens through the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is religious education. Yes, and then I must say: In this point Lefebvre is certainly a savior. He will have a future. Wouldn’t be the first time. Joan of Arc was burned as a witch, later canonized. Athanasius excommunicated—the great teacher of the Church.
According to a friend of mine in Vienna, Pfuscherarbeit means not only sloppy work but illegal work. Fr. Guardini, to the extent that he saw what was happening before his death in 1968, wrote it off as Klempnerarbeit; Fr. Tschinkel, heir to Fr. Parsch, concurred that the Bugnini reform was Pfuscherarbeit.

In the interview Dr. Klötzl also mentions Dr. Erwin Hesse, who from 1946 to 1979 was the pastor of the (current) Oratorian church in Vienna, St. Rochus. Fr. Tschinkel talks about his fondness for Fr. Hesse and their agreement with Lefebvre’s action to preserve traditional liturgy and doctrine. Fr. Hesse, in fact, taught some classes for the SSPX. It is important to realize that we are dealing here with people who studied and followed Pius Parsch — who, so to speak, inherited his mantle.

It seems to me that this is the intellectual and spiritual environment out of which we should understand Joseph Ratzinger to have emerged, as witness his elegiac remarks in the Foreword to Alcuin Reid’s book The Organic Development of the Liturgy:
The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to . . . teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of Tradition that had taken concrete form, that cannot be torn apart into little pieces but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.
I would like to thank Mag. theol. Dr. med. Rupert Klötzl of Vienna, who conducted the interview with Fr. Tschinkel and sent me the transcript, for permitting the use of the quoted material and of the photos. The entire interview of 5,000 words deserves to be translated (any volunteers?).

A newspaper article from 1962, showing Fr. Tschinkel (his name is misspelled in the caption) celebrating Mass versus populum -- a favorite pseudo-antiquarian pasttime. With the wisdom of hindsight, Fr. Tschinkel later regretted the haste with which debatable theories were turned into premises for major liturgical change.
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