Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Paix Liturgique Newsletter

Mutual enrichment: on the right track
A book on the new liturgical movement is proving attractive to French readers. Authored by the abbé Claude Barthe, who is known for his earlier writings on the traditional liturgy, this booklet is titled "La Messe à l'endroit" ["Mass--The Right Way"] and deals with the reordering of the Paul VI Mass. It is here presented in the form of an interview granted by the abbé Barthe to the French journal Monde et Vie.

1/ Father, your most recent work (*) takes us by surprise, since we know you as a thoughtful defender of the traditional Mass, and here you are addressing the so-called "Paul VI" Mass. Why this interest on your part?

A very active defense of the former, the traditional Mass, has never kept me from taking an interest in the transformation of the latter--the Paul VI Mass. In 1997, ten years before the Motu Proprio, I had published a book of interviews: "Reconstruire la liturgie. Entretiens sur l’état de la liturgie dans les paroisses" (F-X de Guibert editions) ["Rebuilding the Liturgy. Interviews on the State of the Liturgy at the Parish Level"]. Its theme was precisely the same as this booklet's. Clearly the 2007 Motu Proprio has revived the issue, which consists in noting that the two parallel critiques of the changes effected under Paul VI, namely the frontal critique that seeks to promote a broad diffusion of the ancient liturgy, and the reformist critique, termed reform of the reform, that seeks to bring about a change from within the Paul VI liturgy, are more than ever allied.

The reform of the reform project cannot be implemented without the spinal column of the most widespread possible celebration according to the traditional Mass, which in turn cannot hope to be reintroduced on a large scale in ordinary parishes without the recreation of a vital milieu through the reform of the reform.

2/ "Extraordinary form" ultras believe that the Paul VI missal is unsalvageable and ought to be jettisoned, whereas you believe that it can be reformed and even "enriched." How?

First of all I think it is totally unrealistic to believe that one could, with a stroke of a magic wand, get all masses to be celebrated according to the ancient usage in every parish in the world. On the other hand, I note--along with many others, the principal ones being quite high placed--that the Paul VI missal contains a nearly infinite number of possible options, adaptations, and interpretations, and that a progressive, or systematic, or progressively systematic selection of the traditional options it offers makes possible, at the parish level-- quite legally, I might add (according to the letter of the law, if not its spirit)--its own retraditionalization. (Vox: examples being in Latin, ad orientem, with Gregorian chant from the 1974 Graduale Romanum using the Confiteor and Roman Canon, altar BOYS, no EM's, etc. all legal, all the "first" option in the Pauline liturgy) This is actually a simple observation of fact: many parish priests pursue this reform of the reform, often by stages, and in the great majority of cases also celebrate the traditional mass.

Now to answer your question: I should say that I believe that the Roman liturgy can be saved. This takes a two-pronged action, as one can observe concretely: spreading the Saint Pius V missal, and reform of the reform. This latter will allow, to take up a famous speech by Paul VI, progressively to abandon all that is old and outmoded, because it is untraditional, in his reform. We shall see what is preserved after that operation. . . .

3/ You are opening up to us a rather unrecognized side to the history of the liturgy in these past forty years. Whereas the partisans of the old Mass weren't much concerned with reforming the new missal, its "moderate" supporters--a minority movement, to be sure--have unflaggingly been proposing its reform. Would you briefly recap the history of this position?

It is the history of what might be called the reformist critique of the new missal. Briefly, and to speak only of France, remember that a theologian like Louis Bouyer, who had actively participated in the conciliar reform, was very soon opposed to a certain number of its aspects (notably the direction of the celebration). The abbey of Solesmes and, in varying degrees, some of its daughter houses accepted the reform, though without departing from Latin and Gregorian chant. Msgr. Guérin's Communauté Saint-Martin also opted for the Paul VI missal, but with a very traditionally orientated interpretation. Msgr. Maxime Charles, rector of the Monmartre Basilica, and later his principal spiritual heir abbé Michel Gitton, onetime pastor of St-Germain-l'Auxerrois in Paris, held to a line of preserving what seemed salvageable from among the ruins. Above all there was the Ratzinger phenomenon. Already in 1966 Joseph Ratzinger had made a very harsh intervention at the Bamberg Katholikentag on the ongoing reform. The struggle against what he believes to be the "false spirit of the Council" has so to speak become essential to the man who became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and then Pope in 2005. Yet in liturgical matters Joseph Ratzinger went much farther than the other reformists. Today we know that he had organized a meeting of Cardinals on November 16, 1982, on "the subject of liturgical issues," and obtained that all the Prefects of Congregations present at the meeting affirm that the "old" Roman Missal must be "recognized by the Holy See in the whole Church for masses celebrated in the Latin tongue."

1982 . . . exactly a quarter century before the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum!

4/ Your book is subtitled: "A new liturgical movement." Is this a pious wish, or is it the observation that there is around Benedict XVI, who seems to be spearheading this "reform of the reform", an influential group of prelates and clerics who fully intend at least to launch it for good, if not to implement it forthwith?

Quite. In fact, on the strength of Joseph Ratzinger's published works (The Ratzinger Report; Milestones; The Spirit of the Liturgy; Feast of Faith) and relying on them as authority, a new generation of theologians, of historians of divine worship, and of sometimes high-ranking Church officials as arisen. (Vox: much to the chagrin of certain Catholic media personalities...) They constitute today the milieu of thinkers for the reform of the reform--a "new liturgical movement", as the Pope is fond of saying--and of Motu Proprio supporters. That said, none of them--particularly not the first among them, the Pope--intends to promote a reform of the reform through texts, decrees, let alone by publishing a new mixed missal, a Benedict XVI missal to add to the Pius V and Paul VI missals; they wish to proceed by example, exhortation, and especially, to evoke Saint Paul's theme in the Epistle to the Romans, by provoking a healthy "jealousy" of the form we call today "ordinary" for the so-called "extraordinary" form. Moreover this is characteristic of the Ratzingerian restoration since 1985, which seeks to curb things on the conciliar path, but by exhortation as opposed to coercion. (Is he cooking a frog and using the same method as the modernists and liberals who destroyed it? Can we live long enough?)

In point of fact, the reform of the reform already exists in a great number of parishes. It needs only to be encouraged, extended, and above it has to go over at the diocesan level. It might be well for it to be implemented by the bishops rather than only by pastors at the bottom and the Pope at the top. Imagine the prodigious effect of restoration, not only in liturgy but also in all that goes along with it (vocations, doctrine, catechism, renewal in practice), that would be produced by one bishop, then two, then three, turning around the altar in their cathedral, reinstating communion on the knees, reintroducing Latin and Gregorian chant, and having the traditional Mass said there regularly. (An Altar Rail is going to be restored to St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto! The Archbishop has celebrated the Ordinary Form in Latin, ad orientem at the Toronto Oratory.)

5/ Benedict XVI, during his apostolic visit to the United Kingdom, celebrated all of his Masses with the Preface and Canon read in Latin. What is your reaction to this "innovation"? (which comes after many others since his election as Pope).

My reaction is gaudium et spes, joy and hope. Hope, for example, that on a future apostolic visit the Pope may also publicly celebrate the Mass according to the extraordinary from of the Roman rite, which, they say, he regularly uses in private . . . .

(*) “La Messe à l'endroit – Un nouveau mouvement liturgique”
Éditions de l'Homme Nouveau

1 comment:

Pascendi said...


Appreciated posting. The tide is beginning to turn; slowly, inexorably.