HEN I FIRST READ Annibale Bugnini’s massive book, “The Reform of the Liturgy,” I recall being struck by his polemical—almost petulant—tone. It was as if all his pent-up ire finally had an opportunity to be released, and he reserved special contempt for one of the heroes of sacred music, Msgr. Johannes Overath. For Bugnini, there was no such thing as a valid criticism or suggestion; these were labeled as “attacks” (a word he uses constantly throughout the 974 pages of his book).
The tone is quite different this 1967 document in which Bugnini reflects on Tres Abhinc Annos (a.k.a. “The Second Instruction”) promulgated on 4 May 1967:
* * PDF • Commentary on TRES ABHINC ANNOS
This document is unimportant—since massive liturgical changes came two years later—but what’s interesting is Bugnini’s euphoric tone and overstated claims about liturgical changes. His testimony is 100% at odds with what I’ve been told by priests and laymen who experienced the reforms of the 1960s, yet Bugnini claims the changes have “been received everywhere with great satisfaction.” For instance:
The faithful everywhere have responded generously, and have greeted the “new” liturgy with great joy. There can be no doubt that interest in the liturgy has increased…
The recent “Second Instruction” on liturgical modifications has been received everywhere with great satisfaction and…with a spirit of joy…
Yet, you can see from his commentary that he desires more. For instance:
Our experience of the vernacular, and of celebrations versus populum, has shown that certain particular ceremonies are no longer of use; they can easily be changed, without altering the present liturgical books, in harmony with the guidelines of the renewal.
It’s also important to read Cardinal Antonelli’s testimony regarding Archbishop Bugnini.