Thursday, September 08, 2022

No, the answer is not 1965, Fr Somerville-Knapman

Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman, a monk of Douai Abbey and a former student, with me, of St Benet's Hall, has an interesting article in The Catholic Herald. Among its highlights, he notes:

Cardinal Roche seems to require that the Church deny herself, and to employ her authority today to negate her authority in former days. Many will echo Benedict XVI in asking how what was holy yesterday—and indeed for preceding centuries—can suddenly be a danger to faith and the Church today. Rome is making a serious mistake in its programme to shore up the practical reception of the reformed liturgy, and in so doing is backing itself into a corner.

The liturgical reforms were expressly pastoral, intended to increase congregational participation. The severe decline in the numbers in congregations since the promulgation of the reformed liturgy over 50 years ago suggests that the reforms have not achieved their purpose. Equating the reformed liturgy—which I celebrate, but which for all its virtues has failed in its purpose—with the will of Vatican II leads logically to the conclusion that the failure is the Council’s when in fact it is the Consilium’s.

However, at the end of the article he makes an odd claim. 

... in restricting the legitimate expression of the Roman rite to “the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI and John Paul II” Rome has allowed some room for manoeuvre, and for saving face. The Ordo Missae of 1965 is a post-conciliar reform promulgated by Paul VI which correlates very closely to the conciliar decrees in adapting the old rite more organically to their expanded liturgical vision. It offers a basis for revisiting the reforms that have so patently failed in their purpose, a failure that restrictive legislation will not hide, but only further expose.

There are several problems with this proposal, which Fr Hugh has made before, that the books as reformed in 1965 should be revived or serve as the basis for a new consideration of the liturgical reform. The first problem is the tension between the two options just expressed. Another is that the mutilated mess created in 1965 is unacceptable to nearly all those attached to the Church's liturgical tradition.

But more fundamentally for Fr Hugh's argument, the 1965 changes do not represent a set of reforms closer to the Council's intentions than what came later. Indeed, this is demonstrably the case. As the 1965 books themselves insist, they simply include 'those measures that are practicable before revision of the liturgical books' so these can 'go into effect immediately.'

As we would expect, this is all about snipping out bits they don't like, changing rubrics, and adding in a few little bits and pieces which can (literally) be pasted into old Missal. It does not include the one major reform explicitly called for by the Council--a multiyear Lectionary--and the Council certainly did not call for the excision of the Last Gospel, saying the Canon out loud, and the other things found in 1965.

I have written on this at more length here. As for this provision as a face-saving measure, readers can judge for themselves what Cardinal Roche and others would think of an entirely new project of revision and the creation of new books for the sake of traditionally-minded priests and laity who would in any case reject them.

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