ANY AUTHORS HAVE DISCUSSED the liturgical reforms following Vatican II. As Cardinal Ratzinger noted many years ago, the Council did not reform the liturgy. Rather, the Council said the liturgy should be revised:
“Elements which, with the passage of time…were added with little advantage are now to be discarded.”
If our Lord gives me the strength, someday I’d like to assemble—with the help of our readers—a succinct list that gives reforms done according to Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as reforms contrary to it. Such a list would also include key sources like Cardinal Antonelli, who served as secretary of the Consilium prior to Bugnini.
Many reforms were not in accordance with what the fathers of Vatican II specifically mandated. For example, most people associate Mass “facing the people” with Vatican II, but the Council never said a word about this practice. Most people think Vatican II abolished Latin, but in reality the Council declared that Latin must be preserved. Indeed, the fathers of Vatican II erupted with laughter when someone suggested there was a danger of the vernacular replacing Latin. Many other examples could be given. 1
Today I wish to discuss a different question. Vatican II spoke of “useless repetitions” in the liturgy, and said they should be examined and (possibly) eliminated. There is a real question about what the Council meant. Certainly it didn’t mean, for example, eliminating the 9-fold Kyrie, because in another place the same document says Gregorian chant should be given “first place” and even called traditional sacred music “the greatest treasure of the Church”—which probably annoyed architects and artists!
A liturgical change had taken place which went into effect on 1 January 1961. The final vote for Sacrosanctum Concilium happened on 4 December 1963. I’m told the actual document, however, had been “in production” for years—before the Council even began. Here’s an example of a rubric changed in 1961:
(Another example would be the Confíteor at Communion.)
In light of the fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium was being drafted at the very time these rubrical changes were happening, was that sufficient time for the bishops to “absorb” them and make informed decisions? Priests I’ve spoken to tend to like that 1961 change. 2
Perhaps a “useless repetitions” they had in mind would be the priest quietly reading certain prayers sung by the choir, such as the Introit—although I personally like that practice very much, and it’s difficult to see how “the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires” that the priest stop doing that. It has no effect whatsoever on the congregation.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I have yet to encounter a serious scholar willing to defend the specific reforms of Vatican II. The very people involved in the reforms—who at the time were in favor of them, such as Fr. Louis Bouyer—have described the unbelievable, hasty, and shameful way many of these reforms were rammed through. Moreover, some bishops who were 100% in favor of the liturgical reforms, such as Bishop René H. Gracida, now believe the reformers went too far.
2 Indeed, this change had already been made in 1955 for the Holy Week services. Believe it or not, the priest had been required to read in a low voice all the Easter Vigil lessons as they were being sung. By the way, many people don’t realize that before the reforms of Pius XII, Easter actually began the day before Easter Sunday.