The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The first Sunday of Advent, 40 years ago…– UPDATED

posted by jmcgee

That was when American Catholics first stepped into church and experienced the “New Mass.” And Catholic traditionalist Kenneth J. Wolfe notes the event — and its aftermath — in today’s New York Times, citing as his villain Annibale Bugnini, who ended up writing the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy:

Many of Bugnini’s reforms were aimed at appeasing non-Catholics, and changes emulating Protestant services were made, including placing altars to face the people instead of a sacrifice toward the liturgical east. As he put it, “We must strip from our … Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.” (Paradoxically, the Anglicans who will join the Catholic Church as a result of the current pope’s outreach will use a liturgy that often features the priest facing in the same direction as the congregation.)

Bugnini.jpgHow was Bugnini able to make such sweeping changes? In part because none of the popes he served were liturgists. Bugnini changed so many things that John’s successor, Paul VI, sometimes did not know the latest directives. The pope once questioned the vestments set out for him by his staff, saying they were the wrong color, only to be told he had eliminated the week-long celebration of Pentecost and could not wear the corresponding red garments for Mass. The pope’s master of ceremonies then witnessed Paul VI break down in tears.

Bugnini fell from grace in the 1970s. Rumors spread in the Italian press that he was a Freemason, which if true would have merited excommunication. The Vatican never denied the claims, and in 1976 Bugnini, by then an archbishop, was exiled to a ceremonial post in Iran. He died, largely forgotten, in 1982.

But his legacy lived on. Pope John Paul II continued the liberalizations of Mass, allowing females to serve in place of altar boys and to permit unordained men and women to distribute communion in the hands of standing recipients. Even conservative organizations like Opus Dei adopted the liberal liturgical reforms.

But Bugnini may have finally met his match in Benedict XVI, a noted liturgist himself who is no fan of the past 40 years of change. Chanting Latin, wearing antique vestments and distributing communion only on the tongues (rather than into the hands) of kneeling Catholics, Benedict has slowly reversed the innovations of his predecessors. And the Latin Mass is back, at least on a limited basis, in places like Arlington, Va., where one in five parishes offer the old liturgy.

Benedict understands that his younger priests and seminarians — most born after Vatican II — are helping lead a counterrevolution. They value the beauty of the solemn high Mass and its accompanying chant, incense and ceremony. Priests in cassocks and sisters in habits are again common; traditionalist societies like the Institute of Christ the King are expanding.

Check out the link for the rest.

UPDATE: There’s an interesting discussion on all this raging over at Commonweal, where the author responds to some of his critics.  Check it out. 

Comments read comments(14)
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Mary McKinley

posted November 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Hallelujah! My 40+ years of penance are coming to an end at last. I was so fervent in my desire to convert when I was a teenager that I took 5 years of Latin with Miss Yokers so that I would be “ready” to participate in the liturgy at 18 when my (protestant/agnostic) parents would allow it. I was so disappointed at the changes!! I’ve found one parish here in my small French town that still offers the pre-1962 Mass and I sing medieval chant here, not far from Solesmes Abbey. I’m 63 but all of the other students are young people who want to find that beauty and solidarity of the Latin liturgy.

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Joseph J Cleary II

posted November 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Let’s be more direct and blame the true radical, liberal, in the soap opera, Pope John XXIII, He caused this mess and now we no longer celebrate the mass the way it had always been celebrated.
As everyone knows the early church, those first followers of Christ in the first century celebrated the mass in the following way:
* in a language none of them understood
* with the priest facing away from the congregation the entire mass- let’s not have any eye contact with the common people.
* with a series of bells ringing so people might use bells to have a clue where in the mass they were – this was instituted by Christ himself– right?
* with communion on the tongue since no one but a priest was worthy to handle the blessed sacrament
* with a series of rails separating the unwashed masses ( no pun intended) from the few Holy people on the alter
* with no women allowed anywhere near the alter
* with ONLY music >500 years old
Why would anyone suggest anything different then the way it was celebrated in the first century? Yep, I sure miss the old days, folks.

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Deacon Mike

posted November 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Awesome post by Jospeh. Uncharitable traditionalist would declare the Last Supper invalid and illicit because Christ failed to speak Latin. The traditional Latin Mass, properly celebrated, is beautiful. The novus ordo, properly celebrated, is beautiful. And valid, and licit. Abuses occur in both forms. Abuses against the Blessed Sacrament occured only when communion on tongue was possible. And for traditionalist to act like the last 40 years don’t count are just wrong. And to demean Pope’s John 23, Paul 6 and John Paul the Great just makes you wrong.
Lex orandi, lex credendi; it still counts.
Try believing Scripture too: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

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posted November 30, 2009 at 12:33 am

One of the Big Lies that the traditionalists have told is the myth of how a few wacky theologians came out of nowhere in the 60’s and hijacked Vatican II and hijacked the Church. In fact, the “Liturgical Movement” started a century earlier, had deep theological foundations, and the 3-4 generations before the Council had been constantly encouraged to participate ever more fully in the Mass through such innovations as congregational singing of gregorian chant, frequent reception of communion with the age of first communion lowered to 7, following along during mass by using missals with latin on one side and the vernacular on the other, and the “dialog mass” where the entire congregation said the altar boy’s responses.
As a University of Chicago student in the 80’s I even heard alumni stories about how the Catholic chaplains got busted in the mid-50’s for communion in the hand! During the 30’s through 50’s, the Liturgical Movement was closely allied with Catholic Action in the US and Europe, and the Christian Democratic parties in Catholic Europe. There are strong political undertones to the struggles between the “liturgists” and the conservatives, because Catholic Action ran the gamut from socialist to communist. So the liturgical movement was always tainted by its association with the socialists.

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posted November 30, 2009 at 10:10 am

The (seemingly) constant complaints from traditionalists often reek of the excesses of the very Western culture they hope to defend the Church against: a victim mentality, blaming a scapegoat, turning liturgical events into pep rallies.
The truth is that aliens replaced all the world’s bishops in the few years after the council. What other reason could there be for the continuation of the council reforms in the widespread use of the vernacular, the expansion of Scripture offerings, original prayers commissioned for the Church’s rites by the major language groups, and even rituals designed for greater visibility.
Good liturgical parishes never gave up on good music, reverent and attentive ritual, and even incense. Though on that last point, discuss it with the asthmatics in your assembly. The only excuse not to do the post-conciliar liturgy well is apathy. Rather than crying about red vestments, or favorite conservative boogeymen, try engaging the liturgy. The raw essentials are still there, just not encumbered by needless repetition or mindless small tasks. Scripture. Prayers. Sacraments.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wolfe needs to do his homework. Latin does not define traditionalist liturgy. Ray Repp and Marty Haugen were using, singing, and recording it while traditionalists had gone off in sedevacantist pouts in the 70’s and 80’s.

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Your Name

posted November 30, 2009 at 10:48 am

I grew up in the pre vatican II church; I don’t remember any solemnity, only the twenty minutes mumbled Mass in Latin by Father Murphy that everyone wanted to go to “to get it over with”…..our generation abandoned that church with abandon; ember days, fasting, latin and all!…..conservatives simply refuse to acknowledge history and pick and choose from our tradition as much as anyone else….thye have no credibility….like Pat Buchanan, they want to go back to some idyllic time warp

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posted November 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

So a few questions:
1. Was the Holy Spirit present and guiding the Pope and Bishops in General Council at Vatican II or not?
2. If the Spirit WAS there and active…then WHY is the Mass of 1962, which the Pope and Bishops were inspired to reform, back as an alternative option for all (rather than just for the elderly who were used to it)?
3. If the Spirit was NOT there and active…then do we no longer believe that the Pope, or the Pope and Bishops in General Council, are our highest form of the magisterial charism?
Seems to me we cannot have it both ways. JPII seemed more astute to this fact by permitting the Mass of John XXIII in limited fashion for the pastoral care of those who were used to this form. Perhaps B16 will reach a point where the TLM is no longer the extraordinary form for those in the Church who accept the legitimacy of Vatican II, but will be restrcited to being the rite of Mass for those who might form an Tridentine Ordinariate.

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Your Name

posted November 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Here’s a better question, did you ever read any of the documents published by the Council?
Having done so, I cant really see any basis for your post at all.
Here’s to the Boomers’ last breath!!!

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posted November 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm

To point out another example for our irony-challenged brethren who claim that the Novus Ordo mass is scandalously Protestant — the Tridentine mass is, of course, the fruit of the counter-reformation. In other words, all of those things which we Catholics admitted the Protestants were right about and fixed with the Council of Trent. (In the process proving that you didn’t have to have a schism to fix abuses, by the way.)

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posted November 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Ah yeah…I have read the documents…many times over and so much so that my original edition of the V2 documents has to be held together by a rubber band. Don’t forget that the post-conciliar documents are part of the process and once the Pope signs them they become part of the documentation related to that Council.
And I know what you are referring to and I agree that the resulting Mass of Paul VI is not a perfect reflection of the conciliar documentation. BUT I also know that the Mass of John XXIII IS the Mass that the Council sought to reform so that rite would not be in the exact spirit of the Fathers either.
I think if you step back from perhaps an reaction to the horrible liturgical abuses that have occurred (and cannot be pinned to any of the post-conciliar documents)and look at the Mass of Paul VI that we will now have in a beautiful translation next year, and a genuine application of the conciliar and post-conciliar documents, you will see that it is a liturgy worthy of the name.
Many often say that the Council’s call for the participation of the faithful in the rite of the Mass refers to an interior spiritual participation, but the document itself call for a reform that includes an external paerticipation. SC II:19 reads, “With zeal and patience pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful and also their active participation, both internal and external, taking into account their age, condition, way of life and standard of religious culture. By so doing pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of god, and in this matter they must lead their flock not only by word by also by example.”
But alas one of the real problems with the documents are that they are worded quite loosely thus allowing for all parties in the liturgical movement to claim it as their own. This is why the implementing documents are so important once they have received the consent of the successor of St. Peter.

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posted November 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm

My previous post should have made it clear that the Council called not JUST for interior active participation but exterior as well. I think I forgot a word of two to clarify that might imply I was favoring only an external active participation.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

I knew of this new wave coming to the fore. One reason is many priests have become more materialistic. Secondly, prove by investigation, that the decline in young men becoming priests directly coincides with the change in the Mass from Latin to the local language. Thirdly, The monthly Latin Mass by the Bishop has drawn standing room only. Unbelievable part it is the younger priest that are pressing for a return to the Latin Maas.
The people at the Latin Mass were asked why they came to that Mass, 80% from all ages said it is the “awe” and “aura” they get from the Latin Mass as compared to the English Mass. OH! well guess we should listen to some of youngerpriests and parishioners.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 1, 2009 at 10:20 am

Where is that happening?
Here in Brooklyn, we have the Latin mass available at two different locations. It’s well publicized. The crowds (and demand) are decidedly small.
Dcn. G.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Secondly, prove by investigation, that the decline in young men becoming priests directly coincides with the change in the Mass from Latin to the local language.
The decline in young men becoming priests, and also the decline in religious practice by Catholic laypeople, coincides with the promulgation of Humanae Vitae.
You can’t teach two generations of Catholics “see-judge-act” and then be surprised when they see, judge and act.

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