Sunday, August 08, 2021

Dom Alcuin Reid in CWR: Does Traditionis Custodes pass Liturgical History 101?

At Catholic World Report, Dom Alcuin Reid has published yet another excellent column on the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, a very useful antidote to much of the nonsense that has been said of late in its defense of it, and about liturgical history in general, which is, of course, his special field of endeavour. Here are some particularly good excerpts; we strongly encourage you to read the piece in full.
... the official group entrusted with the implementation of the Council’s reform (the “Consilium”) whether through enthusiasm, sheer opportunity or sincere conviction that it was for the good of the Church (or a combination of these factors), went well beyond the reform envisaged by the Council and produced rites that owed more to the desires of key players on the Consilium than they did to the principles of the Council’s own Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Where did the Council call for new Eucharistic Prayers? Where did it authorize the 100% vernacularization of the liturgical rites? One could enumerate further examples. The Consilium’s Secretary, Father Bugnini himself, boasts in his memoirs of exceeding the Council’s mandate.
What is crucial here is that a legitimate distinction can be made between the Council and the reform implemented in its name. Questioning the continuity of the modern liturgical books with liturgical tradition, and with the sound principles laid down by the Council is not denying the Council or its authority. It is, rather, to seek to defend the Council from those who distorted its stated intentions.
Nevertheless, as is evident from his public discourses at the time, Paul VI was personally convinced in 1969/1970 that these further steps in producing the reformed rites he promulgated – all of which he personally and authoritatively approved in their specific detail – were worth the sacrifice of the venerable liturgical rites. He sincerely believed that they would bring about a new springtime in the life of the Church in his day. The liturgical books he promulgated are unquestionably authoritative. The sacraments celebrated by them are valid. But, given that they went beyond the Council’s mandate, it is historically and liturgically true to say that they are the liturgical books of Paul VI, not of the Second Vatican Council. And on this basis it is legitimate to question their continuity with liturgical tradition. ...
Later in his pontificate Paul VI had misgivings. His 1975 summary dismissal of the key architect of the reform (by then Archbishop) Bugnini, and his severe treatment of those who opposed the reform may be seen as symptoms of this. The expected new springtime in the life of the Church had not materialized, as statistics demonstrate only too well. To be sure, many sociological factors contributed to the gravity of the crisis, but the fact remains that the much-hailed “new” liturgy did not produce the results its architects had promised. Participation in the liturgical rites rapidly diminished for the very simply reason that the first and most necessary participation is physical presence at them. Increasingly, the people no longer came at all.
...the pontificate of Benedict XVI revealed him to be a gentle and fatherly professor, quite generous to those of differing views. He did not harshly sanction those with whom he disagreed. Rather, he sought to teach them, often by example. Liturgically, whilst himself celebrating the usus recentior well, he recognized and respected the importance of the usus antiquior in the life of the Church of the 21st century, and in particular its attraction to the young. The riches of diversity in unity were a reality in many dioceses, and were valued. ...
Seemingly, though, there are those in the Roman Curia who sincerely believe that Traditionis custodes will result in the disappearance of the usus antiquior from the Church. With all due respect to their Eminent, Most Reverend and Right Reverend persons, they are as out of touch with reality as they are with historical fact. Blind suicidal obedience is a thing of the past. They may rekindle liturgical wars and drive people underground or outside the ordinary ecclesiastical structures; they may well frustrate and even destroy Christian lives and vocations; they may increase division in the Church in the name of purportedly protecting its unity (and for all of that they shall have to answer to Almighty God), but this will only serve to underline the importance and crucial value of the usus antiquior in the life of the Church of today and of tomorrow. So too, the perceived need to resort to such drastic measures to ‘protect’ the usus recentior some fifty years after its promulgation is, perhaps, its greatest indictment.

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