Liturgical Shipwreck

by Michael Davies
Part 2

It is thus evident that a loyal Catholic has the right to express sincerely held reservations concerning certain aspects of the New Missal. Even the most cursory reading of the conciliar Constitution On the Sacred Liturgy makes it clear that the reform which it authorized was to be based on pastoral considerations. In his Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus of December 4, 1988, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Liturgy Constitution, Pope John Paul II explained, quoting the Liturgy Constitution itself, that these pastoral considerations were: "To impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church." The reform was intended to clarify the nature of the Mass for the faithful and to enhance the quality of their participation.

  If members of the faithful are convinced in all sincerity that the New Rite obscures rather than clarifies the sacrificial ethos of the Mass and makes their participation each Sunday an act of heroic obedience, rather than joyful participation, they are entitled to express their misgivings to the universal Father in Rome and to beg him to give them "bread" rather than stones. It might well be objected that the laity do not possess the knowledge or competence to justify their criticizing a Sacramental rite approved by the Pope. There would be some weight to this argument if it transpired that the only critics of the New Mass were laymen. But it has been denounced in the most radical manner possible by an ecclesiastic whose authority in matters of doctrine was second only to that of the Pope himself. I refer, of course, to the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ottaviani. In September 1969, A Critical Study of the New Order of Mass, prepared by a group of Roman Theologians, was presented to Pope Paul VI. The Study itself is of less significance than the letter which accompanied it, which had been written by Cardinal Ottaviani, and was signed by him and by Cardinal Bacci. At least a dozen other cardinals had agreed to sign, but experienced a last minute failure of nerve. 7 These two cardinals, both of exemplary orthodoxy, explained that they believed it to be their duty in the sight of God and towards the Pope to make their misgivings known. They reminded the Pope that: "The subjects for whose benefit a law is passed have always had-----more than the right-----the duty, if it should instead prove harmful, of asking the legislator with filial trust for its abrogation." This is precisely the point made by Dietrich von Hildebrand which was quoted above: "The faithful are not obliged to regard all ordinances as good and desirable. They can regret them and pray that they be taken back; indeed, they can work, with all due respect for the Pope, for their elimination." The historic judgment of the Cardinals was that:

     The Novus Ordo Missae------considering the new elements susceptible of widely differing evaluations, which appear to be implied or taken for granted------represents, as a whole and in detail, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass which was formulated by Session XXII of the Council of Trent, which by fixing definitively the "canons" of the rite, erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the Mystery. 8
   1994 also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of this courageous declaration, which was dated September 3, 1969, the Feast of St. Pius X. The very Catholic motto of Cardinal Ottaviani was Semper Idem-----"Always the same." The Conciliar Church is possessed by a frenzied desire for change, and any change, it would seem, is perceived as a change for the better.

  One of the greatest liturgists of the second half of this century, perhaps the greatest, is the late Msgr. Klaus Gamber. He was among the founders of the Liturgical Institute of Ratisbonne in 1957 and was its director until his death on June 2, 1989 at the age of seventy. His book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, was published in English in 1993. However many books and pamphlets on the Mass that one may possess, he should buy this one. Msgr. Gamber's exemplary scholarship prompted the Holy See to name him an Honorary Member of the Pontifical Academy of the Liturgy; in 1965 he was appointed a Chaplain to the Holy Father, and in 1966 a Private Chamberlain to the Holy Father. Cardinal Oddi wrote a preface to the book, in which he described its publication as "an event of the highest importance," and it also includes tributes to Msgr. Gamber by Cardinal Stickler and Cardinal Ratzinger. Shortly before the death of Msgr. Gamber, Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that he was "the one scholar who, among the army of pseudo-liturgists, truly represents the liturgical thinking of the center of the Church." 9 Just as nothing in this essay will go beyond the criticism of the New Mass made by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, nothing in it will go beyond that of Msgr. Gamber, a few examples of which follow:

      In the end, we will all have to recognize that the new liturgical forms, well intentioned as they may have been at the beginning, did not provide the people with bread, but with stones. 10
Much more radical than any liturgical changes introduced by Luther, at least as far as the rite was concerned, was the reorganization of our own liturgy-----above all, the fundamental changes that were made in the liturgy of the Mass. It also demonstrated much less understanding for the emotional ties the faithful had to the traditional rite. 11
Was all this really done because of a pastoral concern about the souls of the faithful, or did it not rather represent a radical breach with the traditional rite, to prevent the further use of traditional liturgical texts and thus make the celebration of the "Tridentine Mass" impossible-----because it no longer reflected the new spirit moving through the Church? 12