A Defence of the Catholic Priesthood
by Michael Davies
1979 AND 1993

Appendix III
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 1967:

They are not simply there as observers, but as consultants as well, and they participate fully in the discussions on Catholic liturgical 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 the 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 themselves. 1

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 in Rome (London, 1964), pp. 227/8.
3. Ibid., p. 173.

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