NTERESTING. It’s interesting that Archbishop Hannibal Bugnini refused to obey Pope Saint Paul VI. I refer to 14 July 1975, when Bugnini was assigned as papal nuncio to Uruguay. But Bugnini refused to obey. Indeed, the French historian Yves Chiron wrote (on page 177 of his excellent biography of Bugnini): “The pope had been patient after his refusal to go to Uruguay.” Those who read my articles know I enjoy highlighting paradoxes. For example, I often mention how RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON—in a rare post-presidency appearance—testified in defense of MARK FELT, the FBI agent who’d illegally revealed information to newspapers (which ultimately caused Nixon’s resignation). Instead of “interesting” perhaps I should have said Bugnini’s flagrant disobedience was “paradoxical,” since he had relied on obedience to the pope to change the ancient liturgy.
TLM “Greenlight” by Bugnini • On 21 September 1976, Bugnini wrote a letter to the secretary of state under Pope Paul VI, JEAN-MARIE CARDINAL VILLOT, suggesting the Missale Vetustum (a.k.a. “Extraordinary Form”) should be allowed under the following conditions:
(a) A declaration that the “new” Mass is not heretical or Protestant, and that those who composed and approved it are not heretics and Protestants.
(b) The ORDO MISSAE may be that of the old Missal (1962), but the readings are to be made according to their new ordering, in the vernacular, and from the ambo facing the people.
(c) The Mass of Saint Pius V shall be celebrated in specifically determined churches and on a fixed schedule, or for those groups who have difficulty in adapting to the new ORDO MISSAE.
(d) The implementation of these dispositions is to be entrusted to the pastoral care of the local Ordinary.
Agatha Christie Indult • On 5 November 1971, Pope Saint Paul VI officially gave the greenlight to celebrate the Missale Vetustum in England. Archbishop Bugnini [quoted on page 151 in the aforementioned biography by Yves Chiron] explained the actions of Paul VI thusly: “The reason for this, I think, is to be found in personal considerations, in a subjective relationship between the pope and Cardinal Heenan, rather than in any rational causes of the matter.”
The document allowing the TLM in England was called the “Agatha Christie Indult” because an author who used the pen name “Agatha Christie”—along with a bunch of famous people—had sent a letter to the pope begging him not to suppress the Missale Vetustum. Pope Paul VI supposedly had a predilection for AGATHA CHRISTIE, so he was persuaded by the letter. The “Agatha Christie Indult” said the following:
“This faculty may be granted provided that groups make the request for reasons of genuine devotion, and provided that the permission does not disturb or damage the general communion of the faithful. For this reason, the permission is limited to certain groups on special occasions; at all regular parish and other community Masses, the ORDO MISSAE given in the new Roman Missal should be used. Since the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, it is necessary that the use of the ORDO MISSAE given in the former Missal should not become a sign or cause of disunity in the Catholic community. For this reason, agreement among the bishops of the episcopal conference as to how this faculty is to be exercised will be a further guarantee of unity of praxis in this area.”
Shades of 1935? • The wording of the “Agatha Christie Indult” reminds me of a 1935 ruling by the Congregation of Sacred Rites. Asked about the dialogue Mass by Carlo Cardinal Minoretti (Archbishop of Genoa), the response given by the Vatican was: “In accordance with decree n. 4375, it is for the Ordinary to decide whether, in individual cases, in view of all the circumstances, namely, the place, the people, the number of Masses which are being said at the same time, the proposed practice, though in itself praiseworthy, in fact causes disturbance rather than furthers devotion.” Many who have attended the TLM “dialogue Mass” would readily understand what is meant by those words.
Ashkenazy on Glenn Gould • Growing up in Kansas, we had several inside jokes about Vladimir Ashkenazy. (I won’t harass the reader by repeating all of them.) They had to do with the fact that Ashkenazy I had recorded thousands of pieces. Indeed, it was difficult to find a piece he had not recorded. But my generation felt Ashkenazy had nothing to say. He played like a robot. His interpretations were insanely bland, even insipid. As Father Skeris would say: “Nothing new, nothing profound.” There was no question that Ashkenazy’s fingers could play anything—but what’s the point if the artist has nothing to say? The same was true of a pianist like Maurizio Pollini, whose playing was “perfect” (as far as hitting all the correct notes) but mind-numbingly boring. I’m not sharing these opinions to “trigger” anyone. I’m merely pointing out that my generation was much more interested in the colorful interpretations of Hofmann, Rachmaninov, Friedman, Tiegerman, Lhevinne, Godowski, Fischer, Lipatti, Cortot, and so forth.
Vladimir Ashkenazy was one of the signatories to the “Agatha Christie Indult.” I still find that amazing because the names of so many other pianists were not included. In any event, in the following video clip Ashkenazy talks about Glenn Gould’s Bach interpretations:
Gould + Russia • Vladimir Ashkenazy comes across as a very nice man. By the way, Glenn Gould played in Russia decades before the end of the Cold War, which is amazing considering Gould was a hypochondriac who had all kinds of irrational fears about everything. For example, Gould would not talk to anyone on the telephone if they were sick. He thought you could get sick over the telephone! Nevertheless, many pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach were given the ultimate interpretation by Glenn Gould.