Monday, December 11, 2006

Neuhaus on Gamber, Benedict & the Mass

First of all, thanks to whomever of you anonymously bought me the subscription to First Things. I'm not sure how you accurately surmised I didn't have a subscription. Perhaps it was my paucity of references to current issues (they go online only after two months have lapsed). Perhaps it was someone who thought my reading requires a little more "balance." Whatever the reason, thank you. It was a generous gift. I've already enjoyed reading the first (December) issue. One thing that strikes me is how like a blog Neuhaus's concluding section is, entitled "The Public Square: A Survey of Religion and Public Life." Some of the printed material I recognized as addressing material that surfaced rather earlier in the blogsphere. Still, Neuhaus usually has an interesting perspective to bring to the issues.

This was certainly the case with his comments on the reprinting of Klaus Gamber's The Reform of the Roman Liturgy. "Unfortunately," says Neuhaus, " it will probably not get much attention," because it was "put out by the relatively obscure Roman Catholic Books of Fort Collins, Florida, and I expect the reason is that no effort was made to edit it into a form attuned to an American audience." The language and references, he says, are "narrowly Germanic," although he concedes that the argument has a more "universal reach."

Neuhaus briefly reviews Gamber's thesis. The book might more accurately be titled The Displacement of the Roman Liturgy, he says, for "his argument is that the Novus Ordo, decreed -- with doubtful authority, according to Gamber -- by Paul VI, established a Modern Rite that has effectively displaced the Roman Rite followed since at least the fourth century." He states that Gamber "makes a strong case against the now almost universal practice of the priest facing the people from behind the altar," and he acknowledges growing criticism today of this practice. From an outsider's perspective, the Lutheran sociologist, Peter L. Berger, wrote many years ago: "If a thoroughly malicious sociologist, bent on injuring the Catholic community as much as possible had been an adviser to the Church, he could hardly have done a better job." Neuhaus, quoting Berger, says that this may be putting it too strongly, yet acknowledges that Gamber and an increasing number of Catholics (including liturgical scholars) would agree with Berger.

Neuhaus also remarks briefly on Father (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini, who died in 1982, the enigmatic architect of the new Mass of 1969. He notes that the Novus Ordo, consequently, is sometimes called "the Bugnini Mass." He also observes Bugnini's career fluctuations -- in and out of favor over the years, until he ended his remarkable career in exile, as nuncio to Iran [at the direction of Pope Paul VI, as Fr. Franklyn McAfee correctly notes in his comment, and not by Pope John Paul II as Neuhaus writes]. People also speak, Neuhaus notes, of "Bugnini time," referring to his drastic reordering of the Church's liturgical calendar -- "including all those Sundays 'in ordinary time.'"

Neuhaus then comments on the reports that Pope Benedict intends some major moves with respect to the liturgy, including, perhaps, a carte blanche permission for use of the old Roman Rite, alongside the rite of 1969. "So far he has not done that, although over the years Cardinal Ratzinger made no secret of his dissatisfaction with what was done under Paul VI," he writes. Neuhaus quotes the preface to the French edition of Gamber's work, where Ratzinger wrote:
"One cannot manufacture a liturgical movement but one can contribute to its development.... J.A. Jungman, one of the truly great liturgists of our century, defined the liturgy of his time, such as it could be understood in the light of historical research, as 'a liturgy which is the fruit of development.' ... What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it -- as in a manufacturing process -- with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product. [Gamber] showed us the multiple forms and paths of liturgical development; as a man who looked at history from the inside, he saw in this development and its fruit the intangible reflection of the eternal liturgy, that which is not the object of our action but which can continue marvelously to mature and blossom if we unite ourselves intimately with its mystery."
Neuhaus comments: "It seems more than likely that this pontificate will witness some major steps toward implementing the insights so strongly and repeatedly articulated by the former Cardinal Ratzinger.

Finally, Neuhaus concludes his comments on a speculative note. He says that he expects that the Pope will not flirt with Gamber's claim that the Roman Rite was displaced in 1969. If the rumors are right, he says, the permission will likely be framed in terms of two versions of the Roman Rite. Then, he adds, there is also the question of the new liturgical calendar established in 1969. It is hard to see how a universal Church could live by two different calendars. A major purpose of any such initiative, he says, is certainly to reconcile the Lefebvrists and other "traditionalists" who have long opposed the 1969 rite. While any priest can now say the Novus Ordo in Latin, few do. Neuhaus says that his hunch is that the new directive from Benedict will have little immediate effect on worship in most parishes, but could be a significant move in "slowly turning the Church toward a 'reform of the reform.'"

Well, now ... What have you all been saying!

[Acknowledgements: Neuhaus quotations from First Things (December 2006), 61-62.]

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