Memoirs of Annibale Bugnini and the Novus Ordo Mass (Part I)
If you are at all familiar with the reforms of liturgy which came after the Second Vatican Council, you will most surely know the name of Annibale Bugnini. Although others were involved in the creation of the Novus Ordo Mass, he was most certainly the most influential architect involved in the operation. I just received my copy of his memoirs on the liturgical reform titled, 'The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975.' As far as I know it is no longer in print, but a used copy can be found on the web, though they can be quite expensive. I found one at a reasonable price on Amazon. I wanted to post up a couple of passages from this book to give you an idea of how he viewed the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical changes which followed. I also wanted to tie in some thoughts from Pope Pius XII on regarding the liturgy to contrast the two views. It is no secret that Bugnini possessed many bad ideas concerning the reform of the Mass. He wanted to remove anything from the Mass that may have offended non-Catholics. He wanted to make it more Protestant friendly. His distorted view of active participation and involvement in the Mass were influential on how the Novus Ordo Mass was put together and how it was implemented. We can say that Bugnini's DNA is found in the forming and implementation of the New Mass. Before I go further, this does not mean that I think that the New Mass is invalid or that God gave us a liturgy that is not capable of effecting the Eucharist. I can however argue that the New Mass does not convey the Catholic faith as clearly in its prayers and its celebration that the previous Latin Mass. So that is where I am coming from on this matter. If you cannot stomach debate and the critical analysis of the liturgical crisis we have today, then perhaps this post is not for your eyes. Let us now turn to the matter of Bugnini and the New Mass.
Starting on the very first page of his memoir he writes, "The reform that the Second Vatican Council inaugurated is differentiated from all others in the history of the liturgy by its pastoral emphasis." This is no small proclamation. Indeed nothing like this liturgical overhaul which followed in the wake of the Council had ever happened before. Liturgical changes in all Rites of the Church happened very slowly and organically over long periods of time. They were made for very specific reasons, and they never sought to undermine the liturgical bloodline that they arose from. The arguments for the liturgical reform have largely come from Bugnini's thought. For example, on page 6 of the book he cites Pope Pius XII's encyclical 'Mediator Dei' as a seal of approval for the liturgical changes that would be implemented later by his recommendation. Yet, if you are to read Pius XII's encyclical 'Mediator Dei' in its full context, you will see much of what eventually happened with the liturgy was explicitly condemned. Although Pope Pius XII allowed for some changes to occur with the Mass, it is quite clear that he had no intention of implementing what came after VCII.
For example we read how the Psalms were newly translated for the liturgical purposes, yet he cautions the Church not to go overboard on changes to the Mass. "You are surely well aware that this Apostolic See has always made careful provision for the schooling of the people committed to its charge in the correct spirit and practice of the liturgy...Only a short while previously, with the design of rendering the prayers of the liturgy more correctly understood and their truth and unction more easy to perceive, We arranged to have the Book of Psalms, which forms such an important part of these prayers in the Catholic Church, translated again into Latin from their original text. But while We derive no little satisfaction from the wholesome results of the movement just described, duty obliges Us to give serious attention to this "revival" as it is advocated in some quarters, and to take proper steps to preserve it at the outset from excess or outright perversion." What did the Holy Father consider to be excess or perversion?
One of the first things he mentions about the liturgies of the Catholic faith is that they are to clearly present the faith in a way the makes them distinct from the worship of heretics. "They serve to foster piety, to kindle the flame of charity, to increase our faith and deepen our devotion. They provide instruction for simple folk, decoration for divine worship, continuity of religious practice. They make it possible to tell genuine Christians from their false or heretical counterparts." So those like Bugnini who sought to make the Mass more palatable to Protestants, they were clearly not echoing the voice of Blessed Pius XII.
As we know, the appeal to antiquity was a huge argument towards the implementation of the new Mass. Yet, Pius XII urged that this rationalization not be used in changing the Mass, "The same reasoning holds in the case of some persons who are bent on the restoration of all the ancient rites and ceremonies indiscriminately. The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity." Yet we often hear of how the early Church did not use Latin, and how the early Church had the "presider" facing the people, or how the early Church received the Blessed Sacrament in their hands, or how the early Church did not repeat the prayers of the Mass over and over again with useless repetition, and the list goes on and on. But even more telling are the specifics of what Pius XII considered to be grave and sinful errors concerning changes to the liturgy. All of which have come true since the wake of the Council.
Paragraph 63 of this encyclical is very telling. In fact, everything that was clearly condemned by Pius XII in this particular paragraph came true after Vatican II, and are still in place right now in the Church. There is no way to argue against this fact, that would be denying reality. Here is the clear commendation, "Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing to return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion. But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See."
Can there be anything more clear? The wonderful trait of an encyclical written before 1960 was that the intention of the pope was pretty clear. Their adherence to Thomistic thought did not allow for much ambiguity. Where are the altars now in the Novus Ordo? Many of those beautiful altars were chiseled out with jackhammers and thrown in dumpsters like cheap rubble. They are mostly replaced by the tables now, and that was clearly condemned by the Holy Father. Where are the black liturgical vestments now? When was the last time you saw one of those? Aside from the few that have been preserved by the SSPX, the FSSP and the like, I assume they have all long rotted in a trash dump someplace, or are rotted in the heat of the attic of the church. That was clearly condemned. Where are all of the sacred images in our Catholic parishes today? Again, many of them were dumped, and the new parishes never had them to begin with. Again, this was clearly condemned. How many parishes have you been to where they have a flying Jesus coming off of the cross rather the crucifix? These flying Jesus' are all over with no crucifix to be found! Again, clearly and unequivocally condemned! As far as the music in the average Novus Ordo parish today goes, I am positive that our dear Pius XII would be flabbergasted by what passes for liturgical music today.
Let us move to paragraph 95 and 96, and look at the sacrificial character of the Mass which is now downplayed by the con-celebration in the Novus Ordo. Some may see this as inconsequential, but Pius XII states, "Some in fact disapprove altogether of those Masses which are offered privately and without any congregation, on the ground that they are a departure from the ancient way of offering the sacrifice; moreover, there are some who assert that priests cannot offer Mass at different altars at the same time, because, by doing so, they separate the community of the faithful and imperil its unity; while some go so far as to hold that the people must confirm and ratify the sacrifice if it is to have its proper force and value. They are mistaken in appealing in this matter to the social character of the eucharistic sacrifice, for as often as a priest repeats what the divine Redeemer did at the Last Supper, the sacrifice is really completed." Do you know how many priests refuse to celebrate the Mass in private now? I had one priest tell me that it was useless to him to celebrate the Mass privately by himself. He was teaching this ramshackle theology in a diocesan school that forms future deacons and catechists. Do we need wonder why this is the attitude that is fostered in the average Novus Ordo parish? Yet, did Pius XII not clearly say that this mentality was wrong? It is clear that he did condemn this incorrect view of the social character of the Mass, which is at least implicitly taught today by almost all of the bishops in the Church today.
He further drives his point home by referencing back to Trent in paragraphs 113 and 114. "We wish in this matter to repeat the remarks which Our predecessor Benedict XIV makes with regard to the definitions of the Council of Trent: "First We must state that none of the faithful can hold that private Masses, in which the priest alone receives holy communion, are therefore unlawful and do not fulfill the idea of the true, perfect and complete unbloody sacrifice instituted by Christ our Lord. For the faithful know quite well, or at least can easily be taught, that the Council of Trent, supported by the doctrine which the uninterrupted tradition of the Church has preserved, condemned the new and false opinion of Luther as opposed to this tradition. "If anyone shall say that Masses in which the priest only receives communion, are unlawful, and therefore should be abolished, let him be anathema. They, therefore, err from the path of truth who do not want to have Masses celebrated unless the faithful communicate; and those are still more in error who, in holding that it is altogether necessary for the faithful to receive holy communion as well as the priest, put forward the captious argument that here there is question not of a sacrifice merely, but of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union, and consider the general communion of all present as the culminating point of the whole celebration."It is clear that this understanding of the Mass has almost been lost by Catholics today, and the prevailing theology of the Novus Ordo falls into this condemned mentality.
If we read on pages 35 of the Bugnini book we can see all of the changing in the wording of the schema on the liturgy that took place as it was being composed. As I have pointed out before, many of the VCII documents are ambiguous in wording, and they can and have been interpreted to allow for changes in the liturgy to take place beyond the text. This indeed did occur and it was intended for these documents to work in the favor of those who wanted these further changes. Bugnini's view of the Mass of which he sees realized in the Novus Ordo is viewed by him as a change in theology. For instance his view concerning the altar and the laity on page 40 is flawed, "The liturgy is the sign that offers the truest and fullest image of the Church: a worshiping community gathered around a single altar, under the presidency of its lawful pastors." Notice the idea of a "gathering around." This may seem insignificant to some in today's average parish, but it has significant meaning when it comes to implementing a new Mass. Hence Bugnini tells the tale on page 42, "The path opened up by the Council will surely bring a radical change in the very appearance of traditional liturgical assemblies,..."
I have noticed that many in the Catholics today use the excuse that if the Novus Ordo was celebrated reverently, it would be the same as the previous Latin Mass. The fact is however, that the Novus Ordo was not built by the committees to be celebrated in uniformity, which is why it has never been celebrated in any kind of coherent uniformity since its inception. Bugnini tells us this clearly on page 42, "This principle represents a momentous departure from past practice. For centuries the Church willed that all worship in the Roman Rite should everywhere show perfect uniformity. The two liturgical reforms which history has recorded - that of the eighth century and that promoted by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century- had precisely that aim... Social, religious, cultic and cultural considerations, and indeed the entire psychological climate, have changed radically in our day." Bugnini goes on to say that now the centralization for governing the liturgy has been done away with and that the Council fathers did not want uniformity. This is of course the reality we have today in the practice of the Novus Ordo. He says there are now three legislating branches which deal with liturgical celebration. "The complete centralization effected by the Council of Trent now makes way, in matters liturgical, to three levels of authority: the Holy See, episcopal conferences, and diocesan bishops." There is no wonder then that we have the huge problem today of non-uniformity and liturgical abuse today with the Novus Ordo. When the liturgical creation of the Novus Ordo came about is had this decentralized non-uniformity ingrained into its DNA so to speak.
I could go on and on with this article, but I must stop, thus I run the risk of bogging down the reader. It is easy to get carried away on this subject. I will however try to make this an ongoing series of posts concerning the Bugnini memoirs.