THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDECH
A Defence of the Catholic Priesthood
by Michael Davies
1979 AND 1993
The Participation of Protestant Observers in the Compilation
of the New
Catholic Liturgical Texts
On 3 May 1970 Documentation
Catholique published the text
of a speech made by Pope Paul VI to the members of the Consilium, the
body responsible for implementing the very generalized principles of
liturgical reform included in the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II. I
have shown in Pope John's Council
the extent to which this reform not
only failed to correspond with the revisions envisaged by the Council
Fathers but acted in formal contradiction with both the Liturgy
Constitution and the papally approved liturgical movement.
The cover of this issue of Documentation Catholique was devoted to a
picture of Pope Paul VI posing with the six Protestant Observers who
had been invited to participate in the work of the Consilium. This
photograph proved to be a source of astonishment and even scandal to
large numbers of the faithful who had had no idea that Protestants had
played any part in the compilation of the new Catholic rites. It
resulted in public controversy in a number of countries, which was
followed by official denials that the Observers had, in fact, played
any part in the compilation of the new rites. These denials have since
been cited by apologists for the official reform as "refutations" of
the allegation that Protestant Observers had taken an active part in
the compilation of the new rites.
There is, however, a considerable
difference between a denial and a refutation, and these particular
denials are totally gratuitous and contradict the available evidence.
In the July/August 1974 issue of Notitiae, official journal of the
Consilium, Archbishop Bugnini
(its secretary) claimed that the
Observers confined their role simply to observing (pp. 249/50).
Here are his exact words:
What role did the "Observers" play in the Consilium? Nothing more than
that of "Observers". First of all, they only took part in the study
meetings. In the second place, they behaved with impeccable discretion.
They never intervened in the discussions and never asked to speak.
On 25 February 1976 the Director of the Vatican Press Office gave the
following reply to a question by the journalist Georges Huber as to
whether the Protestant Observers had participated in the elaboration of
the new Mass:
The Protestant Observers did not participate in the elaboration of the
texts of the new Missal.
This denial was printed in La
Documentation Catholique on 4 July 1976.
In contrast with this Mgr. W.W. Baum (now Cardinal Baum), an ardent
ecumenist, made the following statement in a personal interview with
the Detroit News on 27 June
They are not simply there as
observers, but as consultants
as well, and
fully in the discussions on
renewal. It wouldn't mean much if they just listened, but they
contributed. (My emphasis).
In order to place this statement in its correct context it must be made
clear that, at the time he made it, Mgr. Baum was executive director of
the American Catholic Bishops' Commission on Ecumenical Affairs, and
the first Catholic spokesman ever invited to address the General Synod
of the United Church of Christ, an American Protestant denomination.
During his address he revealed to the delegates that Protestant
scholars "have had a voice" in the revision of the Catholic liturgy. As
a follow-up to this revelation, Harold Acharhem, Religious
Correspondent of the Detroit News,
obtained the interview with Mgr.
Baum from which I have quoted.
The account given by Cardinal
Baum, and the denials issued by
Archbishop Bugnini and the Vatican Press Office are clearly
contradictory. In order to discover the truth I wrote to one of
Observers, Canon Ronald Jasper. Before giving his reply it is necessary
to explain the manner in which the Consilium
did its work. Firstly,
there were the study sessions during which the practical details of the
reform were worked out, discussed and modified. Then there were the
formal (plenary) meetings during which the draft rites which had been
compiled in the study sessions were debated and voted upon. In my
letter to Canon Jasper I explained that I was working on a series of
books on the liturgical reform and that I particularly wished to know
whether the Observers had had a voice in the new rites of Mass and
Ordination. In his reply, dated 10 February 1977, he explained that the
Observers received all the documents from the drafters of the new rite
in the same way as did other members of the Consilium. They were then present
at the debates when they were presented by the experts and debated by
the Consilium, but the
Observers were not allowed to join in the debate.
In the afternoon, however, they always had an informal meeting with the
periti who had prepared the
draft services, and at these meetings they
were certainly allowed to comment and criticize and make suggestions.
It was then for the periti to
decide whether any of their points were
worth taking up when the general debates in the Consilium were resumed. But,
explained Canon Jasper in conclusion, these informal meetings were a
complete free-for-all, and there was a very frank exchange of views.
Exactly the same process took place during the course of Vatican II.
The Protestant Observers, while not allowed to speak in the plenary
sessions, were able to take an active part in the informal discussions
where the real work of drafting the documents was done. Their influence is visible in the
finalized documents themselves, and evidence of it is provided in Chapter IX of Pope John's Council. In addition to this evidence,
the following testimonies are extremely relevant.
Archdeacon Pawley, an Anglican Observer, reveals that in the
course of the Council itself the fullest courtesies and opportunities
for communication and exchange were allowed to the Observers at every
stage, and traces of the process can be recognised in the documents
Robert McAfee Brown, a Presbyterian Observer, remarks that:
Particularly during the discussion on
ecumenism, it was apparent that many bishops wanted to know what
Protestant reactions were to statements in the schema about Protestantism, and wanted to
elicit Protestant opinions on how the schema could be improved. Thus, although we
had no direct "voice" on the Council floor, we did indeed have an
indirect voice through the many contacts that were possible with the
Fathers and their indispensable strong right arms, the periti. 2
Dr. McMee Brown also reveals that there were occasions when the
Observers were able to have a direct voice on the Council floor. "Is
there anything you Observers want said on the Council floor about De Oecumenismo?" one bishop asked.
The Observers then put their views in writing, to be incorporated into
written interventions made on their behalf by bishops. 3
Thus, although it could be argued that officially the Observers played
no part in drafting the conciliar documents, as they could neither vote
nor speak in the debates, it is clear that they were able to influence
the final format of these documents. This is precisely what took place
with the formulation of the new liturgical rites by the post-conciliar Consilium.
1. B. & M. Pawley, Rome and
Canterbury through Four Centuries (London, 1974), p. 343.
2. R. M. Brown, Observer
(London, 1964), pp. 227/8.
3. Ibid., p.