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Articles: Liturgy: John XXIII/Pius XII changes

Pre-Vatican II Liturgical Changes: Road to the New Mass
Most Rev. Daniel L. Dolan

Was it Pius XII and John XXIII? Or was it really Bugnini?

The recent attempt by Archbishop Lefebvre to impose the reformed liturgy of John XXIII upon Catholic clergy and laity faithful to tradition is nothing short of a tragedy, as recent events have demonstrated. But for all this, it contains the certain ironies — but ironies which sting rather than amuse.

      The Society dedicated to St. Pius X, the great foe of Modernism, has attempted to compel its members to abandon the liturgical books bearing its holy Patron's name, a guarantee of orthodoxy, in favor of the provisional reforms of John XXIII, a man long suspected of Modernism, as he himself personally told Archbishop Lefebvre. The reforms of John XXlll were intended merely to "tide the Church over" until Vatican II could revise everything, and now they are being used to divide those who have been attempting to salvage what souls remained after the mass destruction of that Council.

      The Society has rightly resisted the abuses of authority by the Conciliar Church. But it now attempts to legislate in matters liturgical — a right which it does not have, for such power belongs to the Holy See alone (Canon 1257). Instead of following its own prudent practice of keeping the custom of each country (sanctioned by the General Chapter of 1976 and never revoked), it now demands an unquestioning obedience in the name of "liturgical unity." Priests who are unwilling to give an unquestioning obedience to the demands that they "reform" the way they say Mass are first subjected to threats and finally, if that fails, they are made the objects of bitter denunciations. It is as though history is repeating itself before our eyes.

      Another irony is that the Liturgy of John XXIII is not really his at all, any more than the new Holy Week can be attributed to Pope Pius XII. These interim changes which prepared the way for the Novus Ordo Missae were prepared under the direction of two men: Rev. (later Cardinal) Ferdinando Antonelli, O.F.M., and Rev. (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini, C.M.

      In 1969 Antonelli would sign the decree promulgating the Novus Ordo.

      And Bugnini, who supervised the liturgical reform from its inception in 1948 to its culmination in 1969 with the New Order of Mass, is the one Vatican prelate against whom the oft-raised charges of complicity with Masonry seem to stick. In fact, Archbishop Lefebvre himself, based on his personal experience, thinks it highly probable that Fr. Bugnini was a Mason.

      But now we are asked to accept all the liturgical mischief done during the fifties and sixties by Fr. Bugnini, all the while rejecting what he produced a mere eight years later! Perhaps Catholics are right to feel they are being "set-up" for a compromise! Not irony, but tragedy!

      How many times have you heard someone ask, "How could it have happened?" The answer is that it did not happen overnight. Those responsible for replacing our Holy Mass with a Community Celebration were content for years to work slowly — very slowly. A detective who examines what seems to be the corpse of Catholicism (as the world judges: truly She lives yet!) would find irrefutable evidence of the murderers' modus operandi: their method is one of gradualism, the very same one employed by Satan in slaying souls. This was as much as admitted by Cardinal Heenan of Westminster who said the changes had to be made gradually, or the people would never have accepted them.

      Let us look at the history of "the first stages in the destruction of the Roman Liturgy" — the phrase is taken from a book on the pre-Conciliar reforms to which Archbishop Lefebvre himself wrote the preface. We shall see how by design the liturgical changes — the ones we are now asked to accept — followed each other every few years until the clergy were accustomed to living in an atmosphere of constant change, so that most of them inevitably gave in to the confusion. They no longer considered themselves bound to know and apply properly the body of rubrics, or even felt "at home" anymore in the sanctuary. In the name of "simplification," the rules and principles which governed the liturgy for centuries were slowly exchanged for the constant state of flux which presently obtains in the Conciliar Church.

      After studying this cleverly conceived chronology of change you will find it no wonder that most priests were left bewildered and confused, with no more sure or unchanging principle to cling to than blind obedience, expressed by a ready acceptance of whatever new rubrics were to be found in the morning mail.


I.  The “Experimental” Easter Vigil (1950)

      This work of gradual change began on May 28, 1948 by the appointment of a Commission for Liturgical Reform with Father Antonelli as General Director, and Father Bugnini as Secretary, the men who respectively imposed and composed the Novus Ordo Missae.

      Two years later on November 22, 1950, Cardinal Liénart, in his capacity as head of the French assembly of bishops, formally petitioned the Holy See for permission to celebrate the Easter Vigil at night rather than in the morning for "pastoral reasons." He got more than he bargained for. Under the guise of a simple change of times, a substantially rewritten rite was slipped in, even as later the "English Mass" was imposed in the name of the vernacular, with little reference to that fact that only thirty percent of the text of the traditional Mass remains.

      The first jarring, discordant strains of the "New Order Symphony" were already heard in this new Easter Vigil:

      1. The principle of optional rites used experimentally was introduced.

      2. For the first time, the vernacular was introduced into the liturgy proper. (This was Cranmer's first step as well in 1548)

      3. The rubric directing the celebrant to "sit and listen" (sedentes auscultant) to the lessons rather than reading them at the altar is introduced for the first time and is immediately interpreted as justifying the exclusive use of the vernacular in this part of the liturgy.

      In 1953 the immemorial midnight eucharistic fast was mitigated to three hours under certain conditions as a concession to modern weakness. The modernist liturgists, however, saw in this the beginning of the gradual destruction of the Church's sacramental discipline, which would end with Paul VI's "15 minutes."

      Already in 1954 the first rumblings of liturgical anarchy were heard, and Pope Pius XII warned priests in an allocution not to change anything in the liturgy on their own authority. But still changes continued.


II. The New Holy Week (1955)

      The whole of the Church's venerable Holy Week got the axe in 1955 with the publication of Maxima Redemptionis. The lie is repeated and extended: this is merely a change of times. The drastic overhauling of most of the ceremonies of the Church's most sacred week receives no justification. How could it?


A.  Key Features: The new Holy Week was a kind of trial balloon for the Novus Ordo. What were some of the key features?

      1. Everything must be short and simple.

      2. Key rites are to be performed by the priest with his back to the altar, facing the people: the Blessing of Palms, the final prayer of the Palm Sunday Procession, the Holy Saturday Blessing of the Baptismal Water, etc.

      3. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel are suppressed for the first time.

      4. Everyone, priest and laity, must recite together the Our Father On Good Friday.


B.  Palm Sunday: In particular, the Palm Sunday service lost its ancient rite of blessing which incorporates many prayers of the Mass, thus associating the sacramental palm with the Blessed Sacrament. The seven collects were reduced to one, the Fore-Mass of the Blessing entirely disappeared, as did the ceremony of the Gloria Laus at the door of the Church. The Passion account was shortened, omitting the Anointing at Bethany and the Last Supper.


C.  The Triduum: The whole of the balance of the Triduum Sacrum, the last three days of Holy Week, was upset. The beautiful Office of Tenebrae practically disappeared, as did the popular devotion of the Tre Ore.

      1. The ancient Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday was abolished and replaced with a simple Communion Service for the people. Contrary to immemorial custom, a genuflection was prescribed at the prayer for the Jews.

      2. The Holy Saturday Vigil was entirely changed, with its lessons reduced from twelve to four, and a there was drastic modification of the traditional rite of the Blessing of the New Fire and Paschal Candle. (In 1955 as well, the equally ancient Vigil Service for Pentecost Eve was entirely suppressed.)

      Even this necessarily superficial overview of the new Holy Week rite will enable us to understand how it was that a noted liturgical modernist, Fr. Duployé, could say, "If we succeed in restoring the Paschal Vigil in its original value, the Liturgical Movement will have triumphed; I give myself ten years to do that." The modernist theologian Fr. Chenu comments: "Ten years later it was done."


III. “Reform” of the Rubrics (1955).

      The year 1955 was a bad one for the Roman Liturgy; it saw as well a modernist-oriented reform of the rubrics of the Missal and Breviary, with the decree Cum Nostra Hac Aetate.

      So called "undesirable accretions" were removed from the Sacred Liturgy "in the light of modern scholarship," to wit:

      1. The ancient ranks of semi-double and simple feasts were abolished.

      2.   Most vigils of feast days were suppressed, leaving the celebration of vigils "a shadow of its former self." (Vigils such as All Saints, the Apostles, Our Lady, etc.)

      3. The number of octaves was reduced from fifteen to three. Some of the suppressed octaves went back to the seventh century!

      4. For the first time a distinction between "public" and "private" recitation of the Divine Office was introduced, even though tradition teaches us that the Office is by its very nature a public prayer. This foreshadows the Novus Ordo distinction between Masses with and without people.

      5. The Our Fathers recited in the Office were reduced from sixteen to five, and the ten Hail Marys and three Creeds were entirely omitted, as were certain other prayers before and after the office.

      6. The penitential ferial prayers were abolished with two minor exceptions.

      7. The Suffrage of the Saints and the Commemoration of the Cross were abolished, and the beautiful Athanasian Creed (dating from the eighth century) was said but once a year.

      8. The additional Collects said at Mass during the different seasons of the year (such as those of Our Lady and Against the Persecutors of the Church) were abolished.

      9. The Proper Last Gospel was abolished. Here again we have been obliged to content ourselves with a brief overview of these changes which were described as "provisional" — but which so altered the sacred liturgy as to discourage all but the most dedicated priest from learning them. Why should he bother, anyway? In five years the rubrics would change again.

      Finally, in 1955 the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, was suppressed. It was replaced with a kind of Feast Day of Labor, St. Joseph the Worker, on the international socialist holiday of May Day.

      In 1957, further changes in the Holy Week were introduced, including provision for a Solemn High Mass without a subdeacon.


IV. Consultation on Further Changes (1957)

      In 1957 as well, the bishops of the world were consulted about further liturgical changes. The majority asked that the traditional structure of the Divine Office be preserved. Fr. Thomas Richstatter, in his book Liturgical Law. New Style, New Spirit, gives the following account:

"One bishop quotes Saint Thomas (Summa, I-II, q. 97, art. 2) where he states that the modification of any positive law will naturally bring with it a certain lessening of discipline. Consequently, if there is to be a change, it must be not just for something 'a little better' but for something 'much better' in order to compensate for this falling off of discipline which necessarily accompanies any change in legislation. Therefore, the bishop states, we must be very cautious in this matter. It is not easy to say 'no' to requests for change, but that is the proper action here. The bishop concludes by stating that he is among that large number who are not only satisfied with the liturgy as it is, but who consider any change not only undesirable but dangerous to the Church."


V. Dialogue Masses and Commentators (1958)

      On September 3, 1958, one month before the death of the beleaguered Pius XII, the Instruction on Sacred Music was issued. The use of the "Dialogue Mass," first conceded in 1922, was extended and encouraged, so that the congregation would recite much of the Mass along with the priest: the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, etc., as well as all the responses. It should be noted here that the traditional form of congregational participation is Gregorian Chant. Popular recitation of Mass prayers was never done until the "Dialogue Mass" was introduced.

      Under the cover of participation, lay commentators made their appearance for the first time. Their role was to read in the vernacular while the priest read in Latin.

      On October 28 of that same year John XXIII was elected. He wasted no time in calling a general Council which would "consecrate Ecumenism." The following year, in June of 1960, John XXIII appointed Fr. Bugnini to serve as secretary of the Preparatory Liturgical Commission for the Council.

      In the meantime, Fr. Bugnini continued his work with the commission for the reform of the liturgy, producing yet another series of provisional changes, to last until the conciliar reforms. The Missal and Breviary were again changed, as was the Calendar, and for the first time, the Pontifical and the Ritual.


VI. The John XXIII Changes (1960–62)

      At last we come to "the liturgy of John XXIII," more properly called that of "middle Bugnini." The following changes were instituted in the Mass, the Divine Office and the Calendar:

      1. The lives of the saints at Matins were reduced to brief summaries.

      2. The lessons from the Fathers of the Church were reduced to the briefest possible passages, with the somewhat naive wish that the clergy would continue to nourish their souls with patristic writings on their own.

      3. The solitary recitation of the Divine Office was no longer held to be public prayer, and thus the sacred greeting Dominus vobiscum was suppressed.

      4. The Last Gospel was suppressed on more occasions.

      5. The proper conclusion of the Office Hymns was suppressed.

      6. Many feast days are abolished, as being redundant or not "historical, for example: (a) The Finding of the Holy Cross. (b) St. John Before the Latin Gate. (c) The Apparition of St. Michael. (d) St. Peter's Chair at Antioch. (e) St. Peter's Chains, etc.

      7. During the Council, the principle of the unchanging Canon of the Mass was destroyed with the addition of the name of St. Joseph.

      8. The Confiteor before Communion was suppressed.

      It is to be noted that the "Liturgy of John XXIII” was in vigor for all of three years, until it came to its logical conclusion with the promulgation of the Conciliar Decree on the Liturgy — also the work of Bugnini.


VII. Liturgy in the Society of St. Pius X

      A question: "Isn't this Liturgy of John XXIII the one in which you priests were trained and ordained at Ecône?"

      The answer is no. We received no appreciable liturgical training whatever at Ecône, and until September of 1976 the Mass was that of the early years of Paul VI. (Indeed, concelebration was permitted in our first statutes.) The celebrant sat on the side and listened to readings, or himself performed them at lecterns facing the people. The only reason the readings were done in Latin and not French, we were told, is that the seminary is an international one! (Interestingly enough, the Ordinances of the Society, signed by Archbishop Lefebvre and currently in force, allow for the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel in the vernacular — without reading them first in Latin.)

      It would be difficult to say what liturgy was followed at Ecône, because the rubrics were a mishmash of different elements, one priest saying Mass somewhat differently from the next. No one set of rubrics was systematically observed or taught. As a matter of fact, no rubrics were taught at all.

      The best I can say is that over the years a certain eclectic blend of rubrics developed based on the double principle of (a) what the Archbishop liked, and (b) what one did in France. These rubrics range rather freely from the Liturgy of St. Pius X to that of Paul VI in 1968. Jt is simply the "Rite of Ecône," a law unto itself.

      To this day it would be impossible to study a rubrical textbook and then function, say, in a Pontifical Mass at Ecône. There is no uniformity, because there is no principle of uniformity — certainly not the "Liturgy of John XXIII." Perhaps one day someone will codify this Rite of Ecône for posterity.

      As for our seminary training, we were never taught how to celebrate Mass. Preparation for this rather important part of the priestly life was to be seen to in our spare time and on our own. The majority of the seminarians there seem never to have applied themselves to a rigid or systematic study of the rubrics, as may be seen from the way in which they celebrate Mass today.

      The traditional Mass is a work of discipline and of art — every little gesture is carefully prescribed and provided for. It is a pity that today so many priests trained at Ecône are content with saying Mass "more or less" properly. But with no training and the bad example of older priests who had been subjected to twenty years of constant confusing changes, could anything else be expected?

      Another happier result emerged from the liturgical chaos at Ecône. Some seminarians simply went back to the unreformed rubrics of the Church. After all, had they not been told by Archbishop Lefebvre himself that this Bugnini was a Freemason? And didn't he have his finger in the liturgical pie since 1948 ?


Say “No” to the Reformers

      At one time we were taught to reject the Vatican Council II entirely, since, again according to the Archbishop, so many of its actions "began in heresy and ended in heresy." Why then follow the provisional liturgy which paved its way? Why, indeed? Archbishop Lefebvre saw no need in 1976 to attempt to force a liturgical "reform" on England, Germany and America which were following the unreformed liturgy.

      I do not claim that the "Liturgy of John XXIII" is heretical or offensive to God in any way like the Novus Ordo is. I do know it to be a step towards the Novus Ordo, authored by the same men who produced the Novus Ordo. I do believe, finally, that to accept these "reforms" today with the benefit of twenty years hindsight would be wrong. I know as well — I have seen with my own eyes — that the cumulative effect of these gradual changes on priests is disastrous.

      The Church today must be rebuilt practically from the ground up. Will we look to the man glowing with health or the one slowly dying as our model? Will we take as our principle the same adage of St. Vincent of Lerins: "Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus" (What always, what everywhere, what by everyone was done) or the "laws" (if indeed they could be considered such) which in the proven intent of their creators served only to pave the way for the destruction of the "most beautiful thing this side of Heaven," the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

(The Roman Catholic, June 1983)

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