Tuesday, December 05, 2023

The Spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium

It is impossible to deny that a great deal of progress has been made to restore beauty and dignity to the Sacred Liturgy after the post-Conciliar eclipse, and will continue to be made, despite ongoing efforts to hamper it. But it is equally impossible to deny that there is still a great deal that needs to be done. The spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium is alive and well, and, as Dietrich von Hildebrand once observed, with Vatican II, a strange inversion took place, and it is now the spirit that killeth, and the letter that giveth life. Case in point: we still live in a Church in which a priest can interrupt the Mass in order to yell at the choir for... doing what Vatican II said should be done.

“Don’t you have a Gloria in Portuguese? I’m asking you. Excuse me, please. Let’s go, please. (starts singing the Gloria in Portuguese) Do you guys know any hymns in Portuguese, do you? I’d like one. Please. (If not) then don’t sing. No; I want you to sing in Portuguese. (inaudible) Can you stop that hymn/singing please. It’s bothering me. Can you stop it?” (Thanks to Mr Marco da Vinha for the translation.)

I waited a day to post this after yesterday’s 60th anniversary of the publication of Vatican II’s first document, partly to see whether it would be met with the same general indifference as the 50th anniversary (it was), partly as my vivax repraesentatio of the amount of time it took for the spirit of the document to begin killing the letter. But much more importantly, I wanted to mull over another superb essay on the topic by Dom Alcuin Reid, whose expertise in this matter is known to all, published yesterday at OnePeterFive.
Back in January, we shared his essay in response to a series published by Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal (republished in one post just over a year ago), a series which, while admitting that the post-Conciliar reform goes well beyond the letter of Sacrosanctum Concilium, basically contends that the Church was inspired to do so by the Holy Spirit, so that’s alright. At the time, I wrote “In the meantime, I also vehemently encourage all of our readers to read and share as widely as possible this absolutely superb column by Dom Alcuin Reid... which no summary can do justice”, and the same holds true for the one he published yesterday, an assessment of how Sacrosanctum Concilium is doing at the 60-year mark.
The simple answer is, of course, Not well, as the video above (one of hundreds of possible examples) shows. Dom Alcuin, who has spent decades researching this topic, gives a very useful explanation and summary of why this happened, tracing all the important steps: the drafting of the document, and what the Council Fathers actually intended and approved; the willful betrayal of it by the Consilium ad exsequendam (with Paul VI’s permission); St John Paul II’s halting attempts to correct the problem; and finally, the solution proposed by Pope Benedict XVI, after a lifetime of thoughtful consideration.
I say “finally” because I firmly believe that the Church will rediscover the profound pastoral wisdom of Pope Benedict, later, perhaps, than we wish for, but sooner than we hope, and that the current rejection of it will be forgotten as thoroughly as... well, as thoroughly as Sacrosanctum Concilium was by Paul VI and the Consilium. And so, if I had to chose one paragraph to sum up Dom Alcuin’s essay, it would be this one.
“...the brutal imposition of ideological diktats has convinced no one where the reasoned and truly pastoral arguments of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sarah long since did. Many good priests thus formed—and a number of bishops also—are simply not able to support such oppressive and divisive measures that are predicated on gross falsehoods. They may be forced into external obedience in their parishes and dioceses (in some cases causing great harm and suffering and damage to souls) whilst Ratzingerians who are young enough yet to be ambitious may hide in the shadows, but the argument has not been won. Sacrosanctum Concilium has now been joined in exile by Summorum Pontificum, but their integrity has never successfully been impugned.”

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