Monday, April 03, 2023

“What if all these brilliant innovators were nothing more than a bunch of atrocious imbeciles?”: Msgr. Celada on the 1960s

Last October 24, I published here a translation of a remarkable open letter written by Msgr. Domenico Celada in 1969. What follows is an article he published late in February 1969 in the periodical Il Tempo. Enjoy the clarity of this distinguished musicologist and  we must surely say looking back  prophet of the Lord. —PAK

A “beat” Mass in Italy, from a book by Msgr. Celada
I remember having written, in the April-June 1966 issue of a music magazine, a note on the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council. Those were the months in which the destructive plan of certain “liturgists” was taking shape, in all its tragic significance, and they had come to propose those so-called “youth masses,” accompanied by dance-hall orchestras, which represent—even leaving aside any consideration of a religious nature—the triumph of ignorance and stupidity.

I wrote at the time: “The sacred liturgy is going through a period of great crisis, perhaps the most painful in its history. Never has there been so much decadence and confusion: it was truly reaching rock bottom.”

On that occasion I received messages of consent and praise, I can well say, from every part of the Catholic world: letters from simple faithful, from many priests and parish priests, even from bishops and cardinals. However, to be honest, I must say that I also received a strong “reprimand” from the ecclesiastical office in charge of the so-called liturgical reform, an office known by the name of “Consilium,” about which there is already a vast literature that is certainly not benevolent.

The emitter of the “reprimand,” written on official letterhead, with a coat of arms and a protocol number, began by expressing his shock at my diagnosis of a “crisis” in the liturgy, and maintained, on the contrary, that “the liturgy is going through one of its most flourishing and promising periods”; after which he declared that my remarks were of a “supine falsity,” and that the entire text represented an “offensive insinuation” and a “subjective and erroneous evaluation.” My prose was, moreover, “disconcerting, brazen, offensive, and audacious.”

I barely emerged, though completely unharmed, from that landslide of adjectives, grouped in foursomes, under which I could have been suffocated. Not even three years have passed since then.

About twenty days ago, I opened L’Osservatore Romano and found a seven-column article (an entire page of the daily newspaper of the Holy See!) entitled “History of the Church and Crisis of the Church.” [1] In it, the distinguished historiographer Hubert Jedin writes verbatim: “There is first of all, visible to all, the liturgical crisis, not to speak of chaos. When today, on a Sunday morning, one goes around the parish churches of a city, one finds in each one a divine service differently ‘organized’; one encounters omissions; one sometimes hears readings different from those provided for by the liturgical ordo; if one then comes to another country whose language one happens not to know, one feels quite a stranger.”

It seems important to note that Hubert Jedin, in his clear diagnosis of the current situation of the Church, mentions “first and foremost”—even before the crisis of faith—precisely the liturgical crisis, now “visible to all.” Considering the authority of the writer and that of the Vatican newspaper, which never hosts an article except after the most rigorous control, one must conclude that today the crisis of the liturgy is an indisputable fact, and that it is licit to speak and write about it without fear of receiving missives full of unflattering adjectives. [2]

On the other hand, many things have happened in three years. The Congregation of Rites was forced to intervene against the many arbitrary experiments with a “declaration” of December 29, 1966 (which, moreover, remained a dead letter), and the pope himself, in the famous allocution of April 19, 1967, expressed his pain and apprehension about what is happening in the liturgical field, emphasizing the “disturbance of the faithful” and denouncing a certain mentality aimed at the “demolition of authentic Catholic worship,” also implying “doctrinal and disciplinary subversions.”

But of particular interest is the comparison that the scholar makes between the crisis experienced by the Church in the sixteenth century and that of the present time. How did the Church overcome this earlier crisis? Jedin answers: “Not by renouncing her authority, nor by accepting equivocal formulas of compromise, nor by welcoming the liturgical chaos created [at that time] by arbitrary innovations in the divine service.”
Trent: a model of what to do in a time of crisis

This is very true. If the Tridentine decrees re-established the security of faith, the Missal and Breviary issued by St. Pius V further unified the liturgy. In fact, we must not forget that the “lex orandi,” according to the ancient saying, is also the “lex credendi”: the law of faith. It therefore seems logical that today’s “licentia orandi” corresponds to a “licentia credendi.”

Hubert Jedin writes: “I fear that before long, in some places, one will no longer find a Latin missal...” And yet (the scholar recalls), “the Liturgical Constitution itself (art. 36) maintains the Latin liturgy as a rule, the same way as it was before. Would it not be nonsense for the Catholic Church in our century—in the century of the unification of the world—to completely renounce such a precious bond of unity, as is the Latin liturgical language? Would this not amount to a very belated slide into a nationalism already considered outdated?”

These are purely rhetorical questions, since the inexplicable renunciation of Latin has already practically taken place “in fraudem legis”: against the obligatory nature of a conciliar law that clearly prescribes the preservation of the use of Latin, and against the right of the Catholic faithful to the enjoyment of a common good.

Now, having broken the unity of the language and destroyed the identity of the rites, the chaos has extended from the liturgical field to the doctrinal one. Already in April 1967, Paul VI began to lament “something very strange and painful,” the “alteration of the sense of the one and only genuine faith.” But this was the consequence, with a perfect and inexorable logic, of tampering with the grandiose edifice of the Liturgy—that is, of having translated, mutilated, and replaced texts and formulas that in themselves represented a “summa” of piety and doctrine. One understands today more than ever the truth of Pius XII’s teaching in the encyclical Mediator Dei: “The use of the Latin language is a clear and noble sign of unity, and an effective antidote to any corruption of pure doctrine.”

The crisis of the liturgy is now indeed “visible to all.” Many deceptions have been discovered. In spite of this, the innovators continue to work with the zeal of those who are not quite sure of themselves, they continue to tamper with, distort, and demolish what little remains. A recent conference of liturgists was held to discuss “new Eucharistic prayers” and a new “ordo Missae”... [3]

With regard to these obstinate reformers who are disrupting the liturgy, the famous Catholic novelist François Mauriac wrote not long ago: “I ask myself, in a sudden panic: what if all these brilliant innovators were nothing more than a bunch of atrocious imbeciles? Then there would be no more escape: for it has happened that the deaf regain their hearing, that the blind see again; it has even happened that the dead are resurrected; but there is no proof, no document, about an idiot who has ceased to be an idiot.”

It seems to me that the French academician is a bit too pessimistic. He seems to have forgotten that any idiot, even if he cannot cease to be an idiot, can simply be put in a condition not to do harm.
Fra Paolo Sarpi (1552–1623), “Eviscerator of the Council of Trent”: a nickname better suited to Annibale Bugnini?


[1] This article appeared in the January 15, 1969 issue of L’Osservatore Romano.

[2] Angered by this article of Hubert Jedin, Annibale Bugnini wrote a private letter of protest to the author—and was later careful to quote it at length in his tome The Reform of the Liturgy (p. 283). This impassioned attack on the Church’s liturgical practice for most of her history must surely be one of the most remarkable passages ever written by a Catholic (if its author may be considered such):

As a good historian who knows how to weigh both sides and reach a balanced judgment, why did you not mention the millions and hundreds of millions of the faithful who have at last achieved worship in spirit and in truth? Who can at last pray to God in their own languages and not in meaningless sounds, and are happy that henceforth they know what they are saying? Are they not “the Church”? As for [Latin as] the “bond of unity”: Do you believe the Church has no other ways of securing unity? Do you believe there is a deep and heartfelt unity amid lack of understanding, ignorance, and the “dark of night” of a worship that lacks a face and light, at least for those out in the nave? Do you not think that a priestly pastor must seek and foster the unity of his flock—and thereby of the universal flock—through a living faith that is fed by the rites and finds expression in song, in communion of minds, in love that animates the Eucharist, in conscious participation, and in entrance into the mystery? Unity of language is superficial and fictitious; the other kind of unity is vital and profound… Here in the Consilium we are not working for museums and archives, but for the spiritual life of the people of God.
[3] This article was published in late February 1969, only about six weeks before Paul VI issued his apostolic constitution Missale Romanum promulgating the Novus Ordo Missae.

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