N SEVERAL OCCASIONS, we’ve mentioned the current plague of “professional Catholics” who inundate the internet with sensationalist ravings, theological nonsense, and sinful gossip. Such authors spend their time attacking bishops and popes: both dead and alive! They often criticize all the popes after Pius XII—accusing them of deleterious episcopal appointments—without ever realizing that Pius XII also appointed some pretty rotten bishops. Is it too much to ask for them to be consistent?
I love Venerable Pope Pius XII very much…but His Holiness made changes to the Sacred Liturgy which were supremely radical:
(1.) He reformed Holy Week.
We have spoken about the Pre-1955 Holy Week many times in the past. Many people exaggerate the changes Pope Pius XII made. On the other hand, once you’ve experienced both versions, it’s hard to go back.
(2.) He allowed bizarre experiments.
In 1958, Pope Pius XII gave permission for seriously wacky liturgical practices, such as allowing the congregation to recite along with the priest the Introit, Gradual, Offertory and the other Mass Propers, as well as the “Our Father” (but only at Low Mass). During his reign, the “Dialogue Mass” was also promoted.
(3.) He attempted to change the Psalter.
Whether the Pius XII Psalter was ever mandatory is debated. Regardless, if you were a member of a religious order it became mandatory once your superiors decided to adopt it. (Father Valentine Young, OFM, told me his superiors did switch to the Pius XII Psalter, but quickly abandoned it.) According to Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt—writing in Church Music Transgressed: Reflections on Reform, 1977—Pope Pius XII burst into tears when the flaws of his Psalter were pointed out to him, but it was too late because he had already given permissions which could not be rescinded easily. Without question, the Pius XII Psalter was the most radical liturgical reform of all. Had it caught on, every liturgical book in existence would have been destroyed. Dom Joseph Gajard of Solesmes agrees with this assessment (cf. the letter below).
Abuse Of Musicians
Catholics musicians are no strangers to abuse. Anyone who has experienced the vocation of a choirmaster knows this. And the enormity of what we are expected to handle—on a physical and mental level—is considerable. Playing the notes is hard enough; yet in addition to that, we have so many other responsibilities. This is particularly true towards the very beginning of Mass, when so much is demanded of us (physically and mentally) and the “time crunch” alone is enough to cause a panic attack.
One Small Example: Sadly, church officials have no concept of the harm they can cause with the stroke of a pen. Let’s consider one example. When the Pius XII Psalter was released, all the publishers used it for about ten years. The May 1st “Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker” (S. Joseph Opificis, Sponsi Beatæ Mariæ Virginis Confessoris) was introduced circa 1955. 1 The Tract for that feast is Psalm 111: 1-3. That is identical to the Tract for the March 19th, which is another feast of Saint Joseph. However, because the Pius XII Psalter was “hip and cool” they had to use that as the text. Can you imagine if you were creating organ accompaniments back then? Can you imagine the hours it would require to create a totally new harmonization? And for what purpose?
Look at the ridiculous
changes they had to
make, gaining nothing:
Dom Joseph Gajard of Solesmes wrote a fascinating letter on this subject in 1956. Could he have been reacting to what I just described?
* PDF Download • 1956 Memorandum
—Dom Gajard on Vernacular Adaptations & Pius XII Psalter.
That’s one of the most fascinating letters I’ve ever read.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 None of the propers for the various feasts of Saint Joseph are ancient; they are all “adapted” to Gregorian melodies. The propers “borrow” so much it’s difficult to ascertain their provenance. However, in my humble opinion, the Communion of March 19th seems to match the Introit for the Patronage of Saint Joseph—a feast which was elmininated from the calendar in the 1950s.