Liturgical Time Bombs In Vatican II, by Michael Davies

Liturgical Time Bombs In Vatican II, by Michael Davies

Michael Gilchrist

by Michael Davies

(Tan Books, 2003, 117pp, $20.00 plus $1.25 postage. Available from Saint Benedict Book Centre, PO Box 100, Bunyip, Vic 3815, (03) 5629-6247, fax (03) 5629-6248; also from AD Books)

Those familiar with Michael Davies' prolific writings on changes in the Catholic Liturgy since Vatican II will need no introduction to the present work. Its subtitle - "The destruction of Catholic faith through changes in Catholic worship" - says it all.

Liturgical Time Bombs is basically an updated summary of Davies' main arguments expressed in his earlier and comprehensive three-volume series Liturgical Revolution published in the 1980s. Through this abbreviated presentation, it is no doubt hoped more readers will have access to the issues Davies discusses.

Davies' analysis will certainly come as a shock to those Catholics who remain unaware of the contentious matters he raises and would no doubt be rejected out of hand by those committed to what has passed for "renewal" in the name of Vatican II. Elsewhere, "denial" in high places has sometimes been the order of the day, along with an understandable reluctance by the orthodox to admit that anything officially sanctioned by the Church could have been poorly managed.

Archbishop Bugnini

At the centre of Davies' analysis is the role of the late Archbishop Annibale Bugnini as the chief architect of the liturgical "revolution" that ultimately went well beyond the expectations of most Council Fathers.

Archbishop Bugnini and his supporters who helped draw up the Vatican II Liturgy Constitution were able to produce a document that was conservative and reassuring in many respects - with its calls for the retention of Latin, Gregorian chant and the like - while containing assorted ambiguously-worded "time bombs".

In the hands of radical liturgists charged with implementing the Council document in the late 1960s, these "time bombs", involving such considerations as "participation", "inculturation" or use of the vernacular, could be used to justify all manner of major changes never dreamt of by most bishops who voted for the Liturgy Constitution.

Davies draws on the assessments of many highly qualified people to bolster his case, e.g., Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Msgr Klaus Gamber. Another is the late Cardinal Heenan, former Archbishop of Westminster, who was one of the thousands of bishops present at the Council. He followed developments during and after Vatican II closely and at times with much concern. His views on the way things were headed would prove prophetic.

Davies writes: "Cardinal Heenan was present in the Sistine Chapel for Father Bugnini's demonstration of his newly concocted experimental rite of Mass in 1967 (Missa Normativa), and he was dismayed by what he witnessed. He commented: 'At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children."

The Cardinal's prophecy would be confirmed. Thirty years later, a working paper for the 1999 Synod of European Bishops in Rome commented on responses received from bishops in the pre-synodal survey: "In most countries of the West, liturgical celebrations are frequented almost exclusively by children and older people, especially women. The young and middle-aged are few in number. Such a situation runs the risk of projecting an image of a Church which is only for the elderly, women and children."

Impact of changes

Admittedly, one needs to be wary of the post hoc, propter hoc logical fallacy in assessing the impact of post-Vatican II liturgical changes. But it is undeniable that aspects of these changes were unwarranted in terms of Vatican II's clear wordings. Moreover, they have weakened many lay people's sense of the sacred, perception of the priest as in persona Christi and awareness of the real presence in the Eucharist.

The huge fallaway in Mass attendances in Western countries like Australia and the US since the late 1960s can be attributed to a number of factors, not least the weakening of family structures (with so many absent fathers), the "cultural revolution" and the increasing impact of the secular mass media. One might also add, defective catechesis.

Nevertheless, keeping in mind the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (how we worship is how we will believe), some aspects of the modern Liturgy have undeniably made a difficult situation worse - at least in Western countries.

The situation in Asia, Africa and Latin America - where religious sentiments have been less eroded by secularism or other factors such as nationalism are at work - is often different with some of the liturgical changes having a more positive impact. Davies does not investigate this area, confining himself mostly to the precarious position of the Faith in Western countries.

Fortunately, many in high places in the Church - including Rome - are showing an increasing awareness of the liturgical problems that Davies pinpoints. The Pope's recent encyclical on the Eucharist - which Davies quotes from - is a case in point.

This is an important little book and deserves a wide readership. More people need to be aware of the problems and their possible causes if we are to undo the harm done to the Liturgy over the past 40 years - often in the name of Vatican II renewal. Not all will agree with Davies' assessments, but his views deserve mature, informed consideration.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.