Sunday, March 2, 2014


"my motor-psycho nightmare freak out
inside of me - my soul salvation liberation on the drive -
the power of the blaster move me faster - 1965 - yeah -
wow! - five - yeah - wow!"

The topic of the Missale Romanum of 1965 is a funny thing, really.  In all of the debate that ensued in the West after the promulgation of the Missale Romanum of Paul VI and the subsequent implosion of the Roman Church in the same West, this missal seems to have been largely ignored. It comes up occasionally as part of the Traditionalist polemic. In their line of reasoning this was the first step to deluding the glorious missal of 1962 and creating the Novus Ordo. Among more moderate voices, it is seen as one of those missed opportunities, an example that the old liturgy could be reformed with its ethos intact as well as addressing the aims of the original liturgical movement, that is, to bridge the gap between the liturgy contained in the celebrant's books at the altar and the hand missal prayed by the faithful.

In the last decade, a more positive reading of the Missale Romanum of 1965 has circulated. Again, it is on the margins of the liturgy debate in the Roman Church (a debate which is as much about ecclesiology as it is liturgy), but it exists and has even received some positive mention. There was a conference about two years ago that addressed the possibility of utilizing the Missale Romanum of 1965, and the usefulness of inserting it into the liturgical scope of the West. Indeed, it seems that settling on the Roman Missal as it stood in 1962 is somewhat arbitrary, at best a response geared more towards Traditionalist groups. So far as history is concerned, the Missal of 1965 is, essentially, the last chronological version of the ancient Roman liturgy before the modern reform. In principle, it deserves to be the Missal under discussion. Yet, as a former colleague of mine observed, it fails to satisfy the two very present extremes in the Roman Church; it is too traditional for the liberal extreme, too much of a response to Vatican II for the traditional wing. Be that as it may, it seems that subsequent years were providing a healthy perspective on this edition of the Roman Missal.

Every now and again, you get something like this. To be fair, it is based off of the recent series on the "death of the reform of the reform," on Joseph Shaw's blog.

My first reaction is that between the two of them, three rather juvenile ideas are in circulation.

First, the Missale Romanum of 1965 was the inescapable point of Bugnini's reform. While acknowledging that Bugnini's influence is felt upon the Holy Week reforms and additional reforms in the 1962 Missal, somehow, there is this certain quality to the 1965 Missal that compromises the Roman liturgy's purity. Simply, there is no offered explanation as to how the work of reform (a work that at this point was not solely Bugnini's) was qualitatively different from the "modernizing" reforms found in 1962 or 1955. This is conspiracy theory carrying over into something trying to pass itself off as legitimate research (at best), or an unfortunate example of the neurosis the Roman Church is often accused of instilling in her members.

Second, the 1962 Missal, with its silent Canon and said entirely in Latin, accurately conveyed the content of the faith to the faithful for centuries. This is pure fantasy. It ignores the social and cultural conditions and the often deep seeded mentality among many "Catholic" countries or cultural groups that led one to operate on the assumption that there is a certain order to things in which everyone has their place and everyone should accept things as received. The prospects of economic improvement and class mobility shattered that mentality. All the silent Canon and Latin exclusivity are certain to produce is a very private spirituality, an extremely individualistic interpretation of what the religion is, informed by highly subjective reference points. It is highly doubtful the liturgical praxis of the Roman Church as it was in the majority of parishes at the damn of the twentieth century was really conveying any content. Indeed, that was one of the prime motivations behind the liturgical movement - a profound theology was not being communicated and the richness of the Roman liturgy was kept opaque by praxis.

Third, there is an astoundingly incoherent ecclesiology, especially as pertains to the papacy. One the one hand there are the claims that just because Vatican II called for reforming the liturgy, it does not follow that the Missale Romanum of 1962 needs to be reformed. This is bolstered by an appeal to Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum. It should be noted that the observation and determination that the "Tridentine liturgy" needs to be reformed goes back at least to Pius X who, after reforming the psalter schema, determined that a more thorough study of reforming the Mass itself needed to be commissioned. Pius XII returned to the theme, pushing to commence the study of the Roman Mass that Pius X determined was necessary. In the same breathe that one of the authors critiques "Bugnini's reforms of 55 and 62", the author goes on to exalt the liturgical principles of Pius X and Pius XII, both of whom acknowledged a reform of the liturgy was needed.

I once responded to Anthony Ruff's dismissal of the old liturgy that one cannot make an informed statement on a liturgy one does not observe or practice. Until one has substantial experience of that liturgy, one cannot adequately understand its strengths and weaknesses. I prefer the old Latin liturgy, to be sure, however, this does not blind me to its limitations. Something, in my estimation, was lost to the Latin liturgy with Trent. The liturgical movement made strides to reclaim it, and the numerous hand missals produced by this same movement provide a glimpse as to where things could have gone. Of course, taking this and applying it to the broader corporate body is another story, one which has thus far been marked by confusion. Going back to the Missale Romanum of 1962 and treating it as solidified in stone is an easy answer, not necessarily the best one.Yes, I think it reasonable to treat the Missal of 1965 as a reasonable starting point to restore something that was lost to the old liturgy. I accept that, in the current climate, this will not happen.

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