Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Dom Alcuin Reid’s history of how poorly Sacrosanctum Concilium was implemented starting with Pope Paul VI though Pope Francis is a magnificent brief history with twists and turns. As Pope Francis says (actually I heard it back in the 1970’s seminary I attended) it takes a century to properly receive an ecumenical council. 

Thus on the 60th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, we see that we still have 40 more years to reform the reformed liturgy in order to be faithful to Vatican II, to do what Sacrosanctum Concilium actually asked be done to the 1962 Roman Missals and other liturgies of that era.

You can view Reids’ treatise HERE, but below I publish his take on Pope Francis and Sacrosanctum Concilium. Embedded in RED are my astute comments:

Pope Francis

The current pontificate seemed to begin with little concern for liturgical matters and the 2014 appointment of the reluctant Robert Cardinal Sarah (whose previous post was soon to be abolished by a reorganisation) as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. He revealed that when appointing him the Holy Father asked him “to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.” It seems that Cardinal Sarah took Pope Francis at his word, for the Guinean Cardinal who had protested to the pope that he had no expertise in the Sacred Liturgy (another non-trained liturgist!) and who accepted the appointment purely out of filial obedience has certainly become a standard bearer of the liturgical peace in legitimate diversity achieved by Benedict XVI. (Many of us may have forgotten that it was Pope Francis who appointed Cardinal Sarah as the new Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and that Pope Francis had told him to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI. I had forgotten that, but now I recall how angry the progressive liturgical theologians at Praytell were with Pope Francis naming Sarah the new Prefect. I also recall, that early on, those involved with Ecclesia Dei and the TLM were reassured by Pope Francis that Summorum Pontificum was a good thing for the Church. It seems now, that the Praytell camp who got to Pope Francis persuaded him not to continue the good work of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis, has often been led down the garden path by all the wrong people.)

But something changed. Whilst the supernaturally motivated Prefect of the Congregation sought to do exactly what Pope Francis had asked him, it seems that the partisans of the rites of Paul VI organised themselves and used every political means possible to gain control once again. Perhaps the most telling example was the reception given to Cardinal Sarah’s famous address at Sacra Liturgia 2016 in London, England, “Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium”[18]—the very title of which indicates a Ratzingerian intent—in which, amongst many other practical proposals, he advocated a gradual and prepared return to the celebration of the Mass ad orientem(with the celebrant and the faithful facing liturgical East from the Offertory onward).

Even though this was something that Cardinal Sarah has proposed at least twice before (including in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano), on this occasion it captured the attention of the liturgical world, bringing joy to disciples of Benedict XVI and striking terror into the liturgical establishment, including some bishops who were quick to disavow his suggestion (for it was no more than that). Such was the enthusiasm with which his proposal was received (which is surely an indicator of the profound and widespread reception of the liturgical teaching of Benedict XVI) that even the Vatican disavowed the Cardinal’s words (disingenuously, of course). (Yes, Reid reminded me of this and how embarrassing it must have been for Cardinal Sarah to be humiliated by the very Vatican that he served! Sarah was publicly thrown under the bus! The public nature of it is what was and still is so shocking and so very sad and scandalous!)

His 2016 address remains pertinent for all who would seek authentically to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium, but the reaction to it—which included diocesan bishops formally banning celebration ad orientem, forbidding the use of Latin in the modern liturgy and mandating the reception of Holy Communion in the hand only (none of which they have the authority to do)—indicates how frightened, indeed paranoid, many bishops and liturgists are about any possibility of re-reading Sacrosanctum Concilium and allowing it to critique the liturgical status quo, not to mention the continued celebration of the usus antiquior. (All of these “reform of the reform” implementations were suggested for the Reformed Mass. Thus no change to its order, its prayers, its lectionary or its calendar. Thus it was suggested for the Mass of Paul VI. It was not a call to return to the TLM Mass exclusively!)

Pope Francis seemed not to be personally concerned about these questions, reportedly dismissing moves by Italian bishops at the beginning of his pontificate to abrogate Summorum Pontificum, etc. But Cardinals and others around him seem eventually to have been able to convince him to execute quietly orchestrated manoeuvres that have sent the aging Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium out into the cold once again. (Let’s be clear, it was backwardist and aging cardinals and others around Pope Francis, who sent the “aging Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium out in the cold once again!”)

Indeed, Sacrosanctum Concilium would seem to have been once and for all locked out, for in an address to Italian liturgists (24 August 2017) Pope Francis declared: “We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” This is an extraordinary statement in many ways, not the least for its use of “magisterial authority” in a mere address and in respect of the prudential decisions of one of his predecessors (Paul VI). But it does accurately convey the policy pursued by this pontificate since, in which the postconciliar rites are regarded as irreformable and are guarded rigidly in all their Pauline paucity, almost as an idol of those halcyon days of liturgical reform of the mid-twentieth century. (It was thought, too, that the Roman Missal that came forward from the Council of Trent was irreformable. We know now that this is not true and to say Paul VI’s Missal is irreformable is not true because there have been several reforms of this Roman Missal since the 1970’s version, the latest in 2011!)

Of course, this new policy leaves little room for “the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI” or its propagators. Cardinal Sarah, whose spiritual profundity convinced him of its rightness and pastoral value, became an embarrassment—most particularly when his eyes were opened wide to the good that the celebration of the usus antiquior was bringing about, especially amongst the young—and was increasingly sidelined by his disingenuous and ambitious Secretary, Archbishop Roche. Upon reaching the age of 75 Cardinal Sarah’s resignation was accepted unusually promptly for the Roman Curia and he was quickly replaced by Roche. (As Pope Francis’ pontificate is coming to its natural conclusion, we can only pray that the next Pope will rehabilitate all those that this current pontificate has degraded and humiliated, to include Cardinals Muller, Sarah, Burke, Archbishop Gainswain, many others and most of all the liturgical legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. We have 40 more years to implement what Vatican II taught about the Church, the ordained priesthood and the reform of the liturgy. The Holy Spirit might have been thwarted these past 60 years, but He will not be sidelined. His Divine Will, will conquer and be implemented. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!)


Drew said...

I wholeheartedly support the reform of the reform. My parish is one of those unicorns. Yet as someone that’s always been drawn to the traditional Latin Mass, I can’t help but be persuaded by the traditional Latin Mass only crowd. I won’t ever know why St. Pope Paul VI discarded our traditional Roman Rite for an entirely new Mass with snippets of the traditional form. There’s many things written about why it happened certainly. But at the end of the day, the Church has a massive issue. Yes, the new Mass is valid and can be reverent and sacred, yet can the assembled Mass of Archbishop Bugnini continue to be the unique expression of the Roman Rite forever? I always found it interesting that instead of truly revising the missal of St. John XIII, an entirely new missal was created leaving the traditional Latin Mass untouched. Plus so many of the traditional Latin Mass communities go back to the pre-1955 Holy Week practices, which are untouched from Archbishop Bugnini’s reforms. Lots of prayer is needed for the Church these days.

Drew said...

That should St. John XXIII.