Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Today 50 Years Ago (EXPANDED)

Paul VI concelebrates Mass according to the 1965 Missal,
essentially the 1962 rite with some modifications
according to Sacrosanctum Concilium
Sacrosanctum Concilium was released. Today we are still trying to figure out what it means, or what it was supposed to mean.


The main issue the Rad Trad has always had with Sacrosanctum Concilium is its meaning. What exactly does it mean when it says "rites should be simplified" or that change in the liturgical should only be done for the "good" or that chant occupies a special place or that Latin ought to be preserved? There were really three groups of people who votes on this document, and they all virtually voted for it:
  1. The liberal periti: the periti at the Council were by and large liberals freshly minted by a revolutionized Catholic seminary education system. They wanted to tear down the barriers to a reform of the Roman liturgy. Holy Week was an early triumph, but SC was, on the whole, just as great. This crowd looked at SC as an opportunity for further expansion. Although not of the same origin, I would classify Pope Paul VI in this crowd.
  2. The moderately conservative: these men were the bishops under the influence of their periti. These men held onto the basics of the traditional liturgy, yet thought some expansion of popular participation through the use of vernacular and other experiments, like lay readers, would be a minor change with great reward. These were apodictic fellows, excited and uneasy about the changes they were passing along.
  3. The old guard: the Roman Curia. Paul VI had to bypass these men, which included the intractable Congregation for Rites, and create a shadow liturgical commission, the Consilium—which had more real power than the actual Congregation for rites. Men like Enrico Dante had no illusions about where this document was headed.
Unlike the other documents of the Council, SC was not drawn up by a committee of dubious periti, so one cannot accuse it of sloppy style, unintentional ambiguity, or even a double meaning. It was one of the original schema drafted by the preparatory commission (which included Marcel Lefebvre) after John XXIII called the Council and, in all likelihood, had its origins in drafts written during the last years of Pope Pius XII, during which much of the Council was conceived.
Many, including the Pope emeritus, have said that this document was misapplied, that the Council called for authentic liturgical development for the benefit of the faithful, that the Pauline rites were a "banal" and "on the spot" fabrication inconsistent with this call. Unfortunately the same man who wrote this document, Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, also headed the same commission, the Consilium, which created the Pauline Mass and Liturgia Horarum, which throws the misinterpretation hermeneutic out the window. Did Msgr. Bugnini not know his own mind, or that of Pope Paul, when he crafted the new Roman rite? The Pauline Mass, although it has a very skeletal Ordo Missae, has a three year lectionary, 1,300+ orations, an endless series of special blessings, a unique kalendar from the older rite's, and a matching breviary with a four week psalter and a three year reading cycle. Is there the slightest chance that the majority of this new liturgy was not already drafted by the time SC was presented to the bishops at St. Peter's Basilica in December of 1963? It did not appear out of no where in 1967 when Paul VI presented it to the Roman Synod (which in turn rejected it, oh well).
The man who wrote it and the Pope who approved it meant for SC to ratify a transitional liturgy. In some sense the 1955 kalendar and Holy Week, the 1960 Missal, and 1961 Divine Office are transitional, but these changes would have gone unnoticed by the majority of the laity. SC would put most men in the pew on notice that more major changes were in the makings. Any hope the semi-conservative bishops had for a reformed or tinkered "Tridentine" rite was short lived.
Christmas Mass at Our Lady of the Lake, Verona, NJ
in 1965.
Despite its transitional nature, if one wanted to test the principles of SC one could hardly say it was ever implemented. I once had access to a 1964 Missal (1962 with modifications before the new typical edition of 1965) and studied it in depth. The changes made were mind numbingly odd: the Ordinary of Mass (unchangeable day to day) was put into vernacular (even though these were the parts people would be able to learn) while the orations remained in Latin! There was the nonsense of the priest beginning Mass from a chair, as if he was a bishop. The prayers at the foot of the altar remained in an abbreviated form and the Last Gospel dropped (it could have remained instead as a private prayer). The Missal actually calls for lector to read the Epistle and the proper chants (rather than sing them in vernacular or Latin) and a commentator who, at the ambo, explains what is happening! Concelebration was permitted so long as there was room at the altar for all the concelebrants (which is why, in the picture above, the altar of St. Peter's was expanded). It begs the question: what were these people thinking? In a very real way the Oratorian style Latin Novus Ordo Mass is more popularly accessible and in line with SC than the confusing 1964 Mass promulgated along the lines of SC. Were these changes for the common good? Did they make the rites more understandable? When were the changes supposed to stop? Did the bishops know what they were getting when they voted for SC?
Five decades later the answers to these questions are as ambiguous as they were when the document made its debut appearance.

1 comment:

  1. I sang Prime this morning with more gusto!

    Bugnini (err...Pacelli): The Sequel- A very unhappy anniversary.