Thursday, April 25, 2013

The totalitarian repressiveness of Vatican II's "true reform" as advanced by Massimo Faggioli

A very good review I missed from last November: Dom Alcuin Reid's review of Massimo Faggioli's True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012), posted by Shawn Tribe at New Liturgical Movement (November 13, 2012):

In December 1963, following the promulgation the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy at the close of the second session of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI consulted the Council’s Liturgical Commission on how to commence the Constitution’s implementation. He also consulted the Archbishop of Bologna, Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro. Lercaro asked Father Annibale Bugnini, CM, to draft a plan. The following January 3rd Bugnini was nominated Secretary of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia ― a body intentionally distinct from the Sacred Congregation for Rites ― and set to work on its implementation.

What ensued is not the direct concern of this book, however what is of importance here is that Paul VI wasted no time in commencing the liturgical reform. Neither he nor those to whom he gave responsibility for the work perceived the need to wait until the conclusion of the Council (December 1965) before implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, by then the Consilium had, as Archbishop Piero Marini relates (A Challenging Reform, Liturgical Press 2007, chapters 4 & 5), wrestled control of the reform from the Congregation for Rites and was well underway with it.

These realities are of importance when considering True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’ because of Massimo Faggioli’s fundamental question: “How much of Sacrosanctum Concilium is present in Vatican II, and how much of Vatican II is present in the first constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium?” (3)

This question bears re-reading, for historically, the second part of it at least, makes little sense. Neither Paul VI, Lercaro, Bugnini nor their collaborators could have articulated this question as they set about the work of liturgical reform. What Faggioli means by “Vatican II” was not a distinguishable entity at that time as perhaps it became afterwards. And whilst contemporary theological trends and other orientations certainly influenced the persons involved, as well as the reform itself, one will search in vain amongst the papers of the Consilium to find an agenda paper calling its members to sit down to consider “How much of Vatican II is present in the proposed new liturgical rites?” Their constant reference point was the Constitution itself―or at least it should have been―as the name "Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia" makes perfectly clear, not any overarching reality called “Vatican II” or associated “spirit.”

It is evident that True Reform is not a book dealing with liturgical history. Rather it is an argument for a particular hermeneutic for interpreting Vatican II. Faggioli’s other recent work Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning (Paulist Press 2012), demonstrates that his stance owes much to the ‘Bologna school’ as well as to Georgetown’s John W. O’Malley, SJ’s, What Happened at Vatican II (Harvard University Press, 2008). This hermeneutic insists that something happened at Vatican II and that this “something” is greater than the texts approved by the Council. Indeed, they argue, it is nothing less than constituent for the post-conciliar Church, “the Church of Vatican II.” Vatican II is, therefore, more an event (specifically a “language event” for O’Malley), than a series of documents calling for pastoral reforms. It is the epoch-making ressourcement of the Church and the Church’s rapprochement in respect of herself and towards the world. Furthermore, this “something,” this event―this spirit―is held to be the only legitimate starting point for interpreting the Council’s constitutions and decrees, and thus furnishes a hyper-hermeneutic for assessing the probity or otherwise of developments in the life of the Church then and now.

For this school of interpretation there is a very definite ‘before’ and ‘after’ the Council. Radical change, discontinuity and rupture with the ‘pre-conciliar Church’ is not a problem―indeed it is celebrated. Concern for continuity in reform is not present. These scholars oppose the view of Pope Benedict XVI (articulated in his address of 22 December 2005), that the correct way to interpret Vatican II is through “the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.” Through “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” the Council is “basically misunderstood,” the Holy Father argues, and “in a word, it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit.”

It should be clear from the Pope’s words that this is no trifling academic disagreement, as the subtitle of Faggioli’s earlier book, “the Battle for Meaning,” underlines.

This has clear implications in respect of the Sacred Liturgy, particularly when recent years have heard talk of a reform of the post-conciliar reform and more lately of a “mutual enrichment” between the older and newer forms of the Roman rite, as well as witnessing the unfettering of the pre-conciliar liturgy.

Faggioli is not a liturgist and is not directly concerned with the “technical outcomes” (the ritual changes) of the liturgical reform. He is a theologian of the “event” of Vatican II, and as the subtitle of this book indicates, he is directly concerned with the ecclesiology of the Council and with the ecclesiology grounding any form of liturgy. He argues that “rejecting the theological core of the liturgical reform is nothing less than rejecting the theology of Vatican II and the chance to communicate the Gospel in an understandable way in our time and age.” (156-7) Furthermore, he asserts, “the liturgy of Vatican II is constitutionally necessary for the theological survival of Vatican II. Undoing the liturgical reform of Vatican II leads to dismantling the Church of Vatican II. This is why it is necessary to understand the deep connections between the liturgical reform and theology of Vatican II in its entirety.” (158) [If you can imagine charismatic Catholics like Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa and Evangelical Catholics like George Weigel being totally on board with this language, what does that tell you? - PP]

Such absolute identification of the Council, its theologies (there were more than one), the liturgical reform that followed it, and the mission of the Church today, is staggering ― though it is an accurate reflection of the implications of the hyper-hermeneutic advocated. Is no other liturgical theology than that of the Paschal mystery acceptable? Are we to believe that the Mass celebrated facing the people with a Eucharistic prayer other than the Roman Canon and entirely in the vernacular―in perfect accordance with the modern liturgical books―is indispensable for communicating the Gospel today? (Nb. none of these ritual reforms were authorised by the Council itself.) Is questioning the value for the twenty-first century of pastoral reforms and theological preferences deemed apposite fifty years ago to be declared anathema?

Further still, according to Faggioli, granting indults for and liberty to the celebration of the pre-conciliar liturgy “is not far from renouncing Vatican II as such” and from “stopping every pastoral effort aimed at receiving the liturgical reform and Vatican II through the liturgy,” because “the basic ideas of the liturgical reform are so connected with the core values of the Council that renouncing the liturgical reform is a manifesto for the renunciation of Vatican II.” (144) [Ditto again here - PP]

These are strong and exclusivist assertions. They make clear that, for Faggioli’s school of thought, Vatican II, indeed the “Church of Vatican II,” is simply a matter of ‘take it or take it.’ They permit of no consideration of a reform of the reform―liturgical or otherwise―based on historical or theological research or on changed conditions some five decades later. Nor do they allow any place for the older rites. They elevate the historically contingent pastoral decisions of an Ecumenical Council into quasi-dogmas, excluding the possibility that the signs of the times of the twenty-first century may demand new, even different, pastoral policies. And they ignore the fact that, ecclesiologically, “something happened” with the “event” that was Summorum Pontificum.

Historically, Faggioli’s stance is problematic. The liturgy of Vatican II―the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI―is not a straightforward ritual articulation of the ressourcement theology, Eucharistic ecclesiology and ecumenical and interreligious rapprochement espoused by the Council. Whilst Paul VI and Bugnini were obviously sympathetic to these causes, and whilst these certainly influenced the Consilium’s work, the fact is that the new liturgical books were the result of many conflicts and much compromise at the highest levels, as well as of the public disobedience of some, of opportunism, and of the private enthusiasms―theological and liturgical ― of others, as Bugnini’s memoirs demonstrate. Certainly these influences include the theology and ecclesiology espoused by Faggioli, but historically it is simply not the case that the officials, members or consulters of the Consilium used Faggioli’s theological yard-stick in effecting the reform. The “theological core” of the Council of which he speaks was articulated by some theologians (and never by the Magisterium) only well after the liturgical reform was significantly advanced. Whilst historically it may be asserted that the new rites have become iconic in respect of some theologians’ view of the Council, this is most certainly an a posteriori phenomenon.

The distinction between the new liturgical books and the Conciliar Constitution itself―much was promulgated that was never envisaged by the Council―is one that Faggioli fails make. Yet it is an historical reality which gives rise to the question, “How much of Sacrosanctum Concilium is in the liturgical books of Paul VI?” Historical research has an important contribution to make here in terms of what indeed happened at Vatican II, and afterwards, as well as to any discussion of what should happen now. It also possible to do this without casting doubts on Vatican II’s “validity and legitimacy as an ecumenical council.” (168) Indeed, it is possible to be utterly faithful to the Council whilst questioning significant elements of the liturgical reform that followed it. Thus his label “the anti-Vatican II ‘new liturgical movement’” (16 et al.) is neither accurate nor appropriate.

Faggioli’s ecclesiological position is also debatable. For, in his adulation of Vatican II as “event,” and in his idolisation of the liturgy Paul VI promulgated as indistinguishable from this “event,” he displays a greater rigidity and intransigence than that which he would attribute to so-called “traditionalists.” In doing so he ignores the profound ecclesiological ressourcement of Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus, which re-establish that communion with the Church of Christ is and always has been possible whilst enjoying diverse traditions in ecclesial life, governance and worship. He does not take into account the ecclesial and ecumenical rapprochement they seek to facilitate. Thus Faggioli reacts frequently throughout this book (as also in his other) to the ecclesiological largesse of Summorum Pontificum and to any act of pastoral solicitude shown towards sympathisers with the concerns of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

True Reform is a polemical work which would have benefited from a calm editorial eye. Whilst the bibliography is large, some assertions require more than the mere reference to a work without the relevant arguments being advanced. Some of the research may be questioned, such as the use of William Cardinal Godfrey’s interventions at the Council. It is not always clear what the author means by “ecumenical” when prefixed to “Council,” though such obfuscation may itself not be without its content. That sources such as J.A. Jungmann’s commentary on the Constitution are sometimes referenced in German and other times in English is frustrating.

Preaching on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council, Pope Benedict spoke of “the need to return, as it were, to the ‘letter’ of the Council―that is to its texts―also to draw from them its authentic spirit.” “The true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them,” he asserted, adding that “reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity.” This is the opinion of a pope, to be sure, not a dogmatic definition, and, with the respect due to authority, may be judged on its theological and historical merits―just as may the pastoral reforms and theological preferences of any Council. The Church of Christ encompasses such liberty. Does Faggioli’s “Church of Vatican II”? [Huzzah!~ PP]
Dom Alcuin Reid is a monk of the Monastère Saint-Benoît, La Garde-Freinet, France. More about his academic work can be found here.


JM said...

Reid deserves a medal. Scholarly, even-handed, and wide-ranging. Who else could believably defend Vatican II in one breath, assert the unity of Isaiah in another, and then proceed to eulogize Garrigou-Lagrange and Benedict XVI all in one lifetime? Great review of a worrisome book. I hope you managed to CC Pope Francis!

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

(1) The texts were written in a diplomatic style which was meant to be "inclusive" -- that is, to appear to mean as many different things to as many different people as possible.

(2) The writing of the texts was supervised and controlled by the same people who announced themselves as awash in a spirit of ideological commitment. They were also the very same people who would be in a position to implement those texts. It would be at the point of implementation, not at the point of publication, that the meaning of those carefully ambiguous texts would become clear. To put it briefly, the texts themselves were deliberately designed to be a pig in a poke.

(3) The Bologna "school" is indeed correct in asserting that there was at V2 an event which they describe as epiphanal, and which some later interpreters (perhaps in the thrall of a penitential epiphany of their own) called a "rupture." I would call the event an insurgency -- and a stunningly successful one at that.

(4) With the architects of the insurgency escounced throughout the Church, one scandalous "reform" after another erupted during the period of implementation, for which the euphemism "the spirit of Vatican II" was concocted.

(5) As the "spirit" unrolled like a red carpet in the decades following the council, some of the architects of the implementation, such as Joseph Ratzinger, grew restive. They felt that the nouvelle and modernist spirit they had initiated at V2 had gotten out of control. They began, in one way or another, to try to apply the brakes. In doing so they clashed with others, who were enthusiastic to see the implementation continue at full speed.


Ralph Roister-Doister said...


(6) In this clash those with lateblooming misgivings were at a disadvantage. On the one hand, they were alarmed by what they saw; on the other, they were constitutionally unable or unwilling to admit that these alarming developments grew out of the nouvelle "reform" program they themselves had pushed forward at the council, and out of the stratagem they themselves had concocted, to reveal it only after the council had ended. So they invented an alternate version of events: the doppelganger hermeneutics of "tradition" and of "rupture." The hermeneutic of tradition became, to these unhappy reformers, the only true hermeneutic: the Bologna hermeneutic (which was in truth once the common understanding of all council insurgents), was now branded by those with a newfound sense of moderation, as a hermeneutic of rupture, a false hermeneutic which had never been in the minds of any of the council fathers.

(7) In this clash of hermeneutics we see clearly the present clash between extreme nouvelles and more moderate nouvelles, who have also acquired the somewhat misleading designations "conservatives" and "neo-Caths." It is significant that in this interpretion the nouvelles (reminiscent of the Jacobins and Girondists of the French Revolution) have cast themselves on both sides of the coin. Conservative or liberal, moderate or modernist, both sides are nouvelles whose power originates in the success of the insurgency at the second Vatican council.

(8) This remarkable pheonomenon also begs the question: where did all of the people who opposed nouvelle theology and nouvelle programs of "reform" go to? Whither the constituency of Pius XII, Cdl Ottaviano, and Garrigou Lagrange, among many others? There are many answers to this question: many sit in their pews in silent disgust at the new Church-without-bastions; many have achieved an Alzheimerian level of forgetfulness, and accept the nouvelle Church with bemused incomprehension; many have thrown up their hands and headed for one of the protestant evangelical cow palaces (no one is better than the protestants when it comes to fast food spirituality, and if the new, improved Catholic Church under the new management of Nouvelle Inc. now panders to the same appetites, why not forget it and go to the best?); many have joined the Church of the NFL; a tiny faction has followed the SSPX. For those not enthralled with the Bolognian or Ratzingerian version of events, the choices are grim. The Roman Catholic Church for them has simply -- poof! -- vanished!

Young seminarians kept like mushrooms in the dark cellars of bad nouvelle formation ought to lay a few hands, or whatever kicky thingees you gents do these days, to offer a prayer for the souls of those faithful Catholics who woke up one morning and found themselves depants-ed and wedgied by the leaders of their own Church.