Sacrosanctum Concilium

Introductory note

Before suggesting the questions to discuss, I thought it might be helpful to give a little background.  I do so with some trepidation, as I am not an expert in these matters, and further, the period and events we are considering are much contested.  I have tried to stick to facts, but even that is a selective process.  My hope is that these notes, as much as anything else, will be subject to discussion and improvement, if they are in any way inadequate or biased.

1 Context

Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) is one of the four constitutions promulgated by the Second Vatican Council.  The other three are:

  • Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)
  • Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
  • Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

These four Constitutions are the weightiest documents issued by the Council, which was the twenty first Ecumenical Council of the Church.

Unusually for an Ecumenical Council, it was not convoked to combat heresy or define dogma.  Rather, it was seen as a continuation of the work of the First Vatican Council, which had been halted prematurely in 1870, after defining Papal Infallibility, due to the taking of Rome and the Papal States by Victor Emmanuel ll.  It was thus heralded as a pastoral Council.

The Council was opened in October 1962 by Pope John XXlll but quickly suspended as some Cardinals (led by Cardinals Liénart and Frings) declined to go along with the suggested process of electing the conciliar commissions, and asked for time to make alternative suggestions.  This move by Cardinals Liénart and Frings brought to the surface a tension that was played out throughout the Council between (some of) the Cardinals of Northern Europe and the Vatican Curia (and others).  Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVl, was theological advisor to Cardinal Frings.

The subsequent preparations were automatically suspended on the death of Pope John in June 1963.  His successor, Pope Paul Vl, announced immediately on his election in the same month that he would re-convene the Council.  The Council then met in three further sessions, in 1963, 1964, and 1965.

Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first of the four Constitutions to be promulgated (December 4, 1963), and was voted for by an overwhelming majority of the Fathers of the Council: 2,147 – 4.

One other piece of contextual information seems particularly relevant to me. In the 1950s, the Rites for Holy Week were revised. In some ways, this was a major breach with the continuity of tradition (the New Liturgical Movement blog  carries extensive analysis of the changes).  However, in many ways, they retain the feel of the Traditional Mass, certainly when compared with the New Rite of Mass introduced in 1969.  I think it reasonable to assume that when the Fathers of the Council voted for Reform of the Liturgy, this most recent experience of it will have informed their thinking.

2 Impact

The impact of Sacrosanctum Concilium developed over time.  Initially, the impact was the introduction of the vernacular to some parts of the Mass, while a committee was established to consider and propose revisions to the Mass.  Thus at first, the Mass (the Extraordinary Form as we now call it) was simply, in part, translated.  The Canon was retained in Latin, and no substantial changes were made. In 1967, the Canon was permitted to be said in the vernacular, and in 1969, the New Rite (Ordinary Form) was introduced.

The reaction of Cardinal Heenan of Westminster to his first exposure to the New Rite of Mass (in 1967, when it was celebrated in draft form, as it were, for the synod of bishops) is documented here. Indeed it was discussion of this post, along with posts on Ttony’s blog, that led to this Catholic Reading Group being established.

With the promulgation of the New Rite, the previous Mass was de facto, if not de jure suppressed, an astonishing and I think unprecedented occurrence in the history of the Church. (When Pius V standardised the Mass in the 16th Century, he allowed any rite that could demonstrate 200 years of use to continue…)

Since then, the celebration of the New Rite (Ordinary Form) has changed in many ways, such that its celebration may fairly be said (in my view) to be very different from the celebration of the Traditional Mass (Extraordinary Form). See here  and here for discussions of this.

Finally, in terms of impact, it is worth noting that Sacrosanctum Concilium is cited 85 times (if I counted correctly) in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  That makes it (I think) the sixth most cited source, after the Holy Bible, Lumen Gentium, Gaudiem et Spes , the Code of Canon Law, and the Council of Trent.

That, I think, gives the context for some of the questions which I, at least, am keen to discuss.

3 Questions

3.1 Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, what can we conclude about the intentions of the Council?

3.2 What are the principles underlying the proposed changes?

3.3 What is meant by Active Participation?

3.4 Reading Chapter l Part lll: Reform of the Liturgy, what do we believe the intentions of the Council Fathers were, specifically?

3.5 What does Sacrosanctum Concilium intend with regard to Latin and the Vernacular?

3.6 What does Sacrosanctum Concilium intend with regard to Sacred Music and Art?


At around 04.30 this morning, I remembered the question Ttony wants us to discuss:

3.7 What problem (if any) were the Fathers of the Council trying to fix?


Courtesy of Part Time Pilgrim, another good question to discuss:

3.8 Are there any recommendations of the Council that have yet to be implemented? If there are, would the Church benefit from implementing them now?

These are some questions I would find interesting to discuss: feel free to ignore the boring ones, and to add better ones!

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40 Responses to Sacrosanctum Concilium

  1. Idle Rambler says:

    Thank you for the very helpful background including the links which I found very useful too. I was particularly interested in your post about the late Cardinal Heenan’s comments on the New Normative Mass in 1967. I have to say I’m inclined to agree with you on the prophetic nature of some of the Cardinal’s comments – more’s the pity.

  2. I have enjoyed (and enhanced my understanding as a result of) our discussions about the liturgy but the focus of my reading is going to be in the documents implications for me rather than it’s historical context in reform of the liturgy. I am asking myself: “What does this tell me about how I should pray in Mass? What example can I set to my Parish? What do I say to my children (especially Quarta who is about to be confirmed). What do I push for in school with regard to worship and liturgy? To that end questions 3.2 and 3.3 are most useful. I would prefer to talk about the implications of the document rather than the intentions of the council. For me implications are current but intentions relate back to the 60′s.

    • bentrovato12 says:

      That’s interesting P-tP. I see it differently. For me, to know the mind of the Church is important, in order to understand the implications and how, therefore, we should be acting, teaching and so on. Clearly, the questions reflect my prejudice there. Do add others you would like us to discuss, if 3.2 and 3.3 don’t cover the territory sufficiently for your purposes!

      • There is a fascinating discussion to be had (at another time) about whether the mind of the Church matches the collective understanding of her members.
        As regards other questions I think there is enough overlap between your prejudice and mine to mean no extra questions are required. However having read the document through last night I wondered about this one:

        3.8 Are there any recommendations of the Council that have yet to be implemented? If there are, would the Church benefit from implementing them now?

  3. Ttony says:

    Questions 7 and 5: It’s interesting that both the Council and Trent and Vatican II thought that what they doing to the Liturgy was “Restoration”: in the case of Trent, to an earlier Roman Model of around 1000-1100, in the case of Vatican II to some mythical interpretation of “early Christianity”. Both indicate a mindset: an expectation that, left alone, the Liturgy will change, and for the worse. But whereas Trent consciously tried to prune back, and anyway allowed “venerable” rites – those with 200 or more years of history at that time – to continue unchecked, the Vatican II solution was both the slash and burn and to enforce not just change, but a sort of Fouth International regime of permanent revolution.

    Trent’s reform of the Liturgy is part of a more general tidying up of Catholic Life. The Liturgy itself was not a target of the Protestant reformers as it was merely the outward expression of an inner truth that they denied totally. But questions such as the approriateness of the Psalm Judica being recited at the foot of the altar or the number of Sundays and Feastdays on which Sequences should be sung were not the things that bothered anybody other than Catholics. But while the Mass will have felt largely unchanged, a line had been crossed: the Roman Use had become a standard model from which others diverged, rather than one among many. Indeed, by the nineteenth century, the man who inspired the Liturgical Movement, Dom Prosper Guéranger, was able to tell the Bishop of Orleans to send his (later than 200 years before Trent) liturgical books to Rome for approval, as “the value of a Liturgy derives from the authority which approves it”.

    The twentieth century produced, in the wake of Guéranger a new creation: liturgiologists, for whom the study of the Liturgy moved from being purely historical to didactic, and eventually to the creative. The form of the Liturgy had to moulded back to what it had been if it were to produce the same effect. Scholars knew what was best. The Holy Week reforms of Pope Pius XII in the early 1950s showed the way ahead: liturgical archaeologists worked out what was the earliest form of the rites and, if possible, restore them.

    This is a very long introduction, but it explains why my answer to the question “What problem (if any) were the Fathers of the Council trying to fix?” is that a small group of “experts” had persuaded the Pope of a very paplist Church that the Liturgy was in crisis, and that fundamental change would both restore it to its origins and better mediate God’s Grace to mankind.

    I think that my surprise at Sacrosanctum Concilium is that it is so comprehensive in its willingness to consider change anywhere and everywhere in the Liturgy. Latin is a particularly interesting example: “… the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended”. I read this today and for the first time saw that it can be read as “Latin is to still to be used even when there is a vernacular option for any part of the Liturgy”. There are cases both for not fetishising Latin and for using the vernacular in the Liturgy, but the tone of Sacrosanctum Concilium is not unlike that a rider might use when putting an old venerable horse out to grass. I’m sure that each of the Bishops had exactly his own idea of which parts of the Mass might be suited to the vernacular, but a consequence of the post Vatican I papalism was that their rights in their own diocesan rites had been trumped (and the establishment of national Bishops’ Conferences would trump them again subsequently).

    But … only 46 voted against the first Schema and only 4 voted against the final version. We have to accept that they were all in favour of the introduction of the vernacular, even those with the strictest interpretation of the clause cited above. Were they aware of the inevitable consequences, not least those brought about by the need to find adequate translations? I have seen no evidence that any of the Council Fathers gave a thought to the strategic consequences of any of the decisions they were taking. Cardinal Heenan was prepared to criticise different draft versions of the New Rite, but never seems to have questioned that one was needed. Was it what the Church needed? Or was this collective hysteria? Stockholm syndrome? The result of decades of poor episcopal selection?

    The one thing that is certain is that none of those voting in 1963 could have had any idea of what the Liturgy would look like 10 years later.

  4. This morning’s was my first re-reading of the entirety of SC in, oh, four or five years. Thinking of this all, but specially the qq concerning the Council’s ‘intent’, I realize I need a thorough history of the life and death of the Consilium, too; n 23 begins, “That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised”– what the heck did 95% of the Fathers think t h a t meant? “Sana traditio” versus “legitima progressio”. I guess there is Mons Bugnini’s Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 but I don’t have it. Any suggestions as to what one might read for an ‘objective’ reporting of the history?

    • Ttony says:

      Mark: Bugnini is an important but parti pris witness; for the other side, read Michael Davies’ trilogy (Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council and Pope Paul’s New Mass), which are better than their titles suggest. Most of us (I think) would agree that Dom Alcuin Reid’s “The Organic Development of the Liturgy” is the best introduction to what hapened to the Liturgy between Trent and Vatican II. I have a copy of Bugnini and will look anything up if requested, but his 1948-75 book is really about the period after Sacrosanctum Concilium.

      • Have never read the Davies, alas, I guess because back in the day when I was most exercised about these things what references I happened to see led me to think that they were more or less Hamish Fraser’s newsletters in book form. Need to buy Reid’s Organic Development, yes. And aren’t there two Italian books, one on the Bugninian side and the other on… the one that isn’t?

      • Am just about to reach Dr Reid on Benedict XIV (D g for Kindle!). Cardinal Ratzinger’s preface for this ought to be read at the bishops’ conference meetings whenever they are about to take up liturgical questions.

  5. Ttony says:

    Question 3: “‘Active’ Participation”. This is a wonderful example of mistranslation, but more later.

    The nearest Sacrosanctum Concilium comes to defining “active participation” is in clause 30:

    “30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.”

    which is followed by:

    “31. The revision of the liturgical books must carefully attend to the provision of rubrics also for the people’s parts.”

    Two separate things are going on here: one is a call for those present at Mass not just to attend – how many of us remember men standing outside Church on Sundays, kneeling at the Consecration bell but not going in? – but to participate: “If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed Holy Mass.” (Pope St Pius X). The other is saying that the people should be speaking, singing, responding, acting, gesturing and using other (unspecified) bodily attitudes (whatever they might be – boggling minds?), as well as being silent when appropriate.

    Let’s leave the first aside: let’s take it as read. You can participate at Mass without speaking, singing or gesturing, but whatever you do or don’t do, you should be fervently associating yourself with what the priest is doing.

    So what about the Sacrosanctum Concilium description? It all seems to mean that the congregation should be doing what the server was at that time doing and that seems to be misplaced, misunderstood, or simply wrong archaeologism, and an impoverishment to the Catholic layperson who wants to participate in the Mass.

    Whatever the whys and wherefores about the development of Low Mass, they aren’t rights and wrongs. The hitherto normative High Mass with Priest and Deacon had seen added to it something new: a cut-down form of High Mass in which the Priest alone carried out all of the liturgical action of the Mass, and a server, preferably a man in orders, would assist the Priest. As Low Mass became the norm (if never the normative form of Mass) something that was not lost was the separation between those assisting at the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and the Priest who in persona Christi was responsible for carrying out that re-presentation. Even when the job of server deveolved upon a layman, it was his privilege, not his right, to accompany the priest to the foot of the Altar and there do things which more properly belonged to priests.

    Similarly, as High Mass gave way to Low Mass, the Choir Monks, or Canons were no longer available to sing the appropriate parts of Mass and Mass either became just said, or a Missa Cantata with lay people singing: again, not as of right but to assist the Priest in an office which more properly belonged to men in orders.

    My point is that the concept of actuosa participatio which the Council Fathers went for missed the point: they assumed, or, better, were led to assume, that the role of the server was actually that of the congregation taken from them, instead of that of the Deacon and Subdeacon, taken on because of their unavailability. This was bad archaeologism, either not understanding the past, or misrepresenting it to further a new ideological goal.

    The irony is, of course, that the active participation sought in Sacrosanctum Concilium actually removes the laity from the actuosa participatio described above by St Pius X. How can you join yourself to the Priest’s action if you are up, down, opening this Missal to say the responsorial psalm, looking for that hymn in the hymn book, and keeping count of everyone you’ve shaken hands with so far to make sure that before the Priest starts talking again you have shaken every hand within reach? (And, my personal bugbear, saying everything in unison, so that prayers no longer have any meaning: what does (one second pause) “On earth as it is in Heaven” (one second pause) mean in English? Answer: nothing.) Participation, from being personal and three dimensional has become collective and two dimensional.

    And, importantly: this has nothing to do with the rite. An Extraordinary Form Dialogue Mass, with the laity trying to say everything proper to the server, is as deficient in this regard as any “full participation” Ordinary Form Mass.

    Actuosa” does not mean “active”. “Actuosa participatio” means conscious participation, willing participation, will-full participation: it doesn’t have anything to do with bodily gestures.

    This feels to me to be another example of the Bishops allowing themselves by people they thought understood liturgical history better than they did: they were wrong.

    • bentrovato12 says:

      Yes, I agree with a lot of your analysis, and this has long been a concern of mine.

      I think that SC does talk significantly about ‘Actuosa participatio‘ before §30 which you quote.

      In fact there is a whole preceding section, with Actuosa participatio in the title (§14 – 20) to which I think we should pay heed.

      Even before that, we have §11:

      11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain [28] . Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

      I read the ‘fully aware‘ and ‘actively engaged‘ as intimately related: ie the kind of participation described by St Pius X. That reading is, perhaps, borne out by the fact that this paragraph leads into the next section, which is called:

      II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

      It seems to me that these two ideas are intimately linked in this document, which again would accord well with St Pius X’s definition.

      Again this reading is supported by §14, which talks of ‘that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations‘ and says that ‘therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.‘ Notice that: achieve ‘fully conscious and active participation… by means of instruction.‘ And that idea is reiterated; this will not be possible unless pastors ‘undertake to give instruction about it.’

      § 18 and 19 seem to reiterate that same understanding; even when §19 talks about ‘ active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally‘ it implies that instruction is the major tool: ‘in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example.

      In fine, I read §30, which is not in the section about Active Participation, as an additional way in which it may be accomplished, rather than the primary way. Or at least, I think it can be read that way.

      This is why I find Davies’ ‘time-bombs’ argument interesting. I think that traditionally-minded Fathers at the Council may have read this through Pius X lenses, as it were, and thought that was the main emphasis; and therefore conceded that the people joining in hymns (possibly at Benediction) and some responses at Mass would not be disastrous and might please and engage some. But others had a different understanding and agenda, and for them, §30 was the important paragraph…

      • Ttony says:

        I was quite careful to say that §30 is the closest the document comes to defining active participation. Perhaps what we see is the inevitable consequence of a document drawn up by a committee made up of varying interest groups, and reflecting each of their bottom lines.

      • bentrovato12 says:

        Yes, I realise that. I suppose I am questioning that: is it a definition (or nearly) or an example of one application? My contention is that the context suggests the second…

      • I’d point out that in §11 “fully aware” (scienter), “actively engaged” (actuose) and “enriched by its effects” (fructuose) are all adverbial modifiers of participo, so I’d agree that any attempt to turn them into distinct species of ‘participation’ is indefensible; not justifiable by §11, anyway– surely acceptable to both Pius X and Benedict XVI, one would think.

  6. Ttony– “They [the Council Fathers] assumed, or, better, were led to assume, that the role of the server was actually that of the congregation taken from them, instead of that of the Deacon and Subdeacon, taken on because of their unavailability. This was bad archaeologism, either not understanding the past, or misrepresenting it to further a new ideological goal.” That seems a very useful observation; is there are source for it that you have ready to hand?

    • Ttony says:

      I’m not a Historian, I’m afraid, so I can’t give you chapter and verse, but a quick look in Fortescue’s “The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy” suggests that already by the middle of the third century the only speaking part for the congregation was to answer the Intercessions (the bidding prayers) and an acclamation at the Consecration, and that by the time of St Gregory, everything was done by men in orders. The development of Low Mass (in which context I made this point) comes centuries later.

  7. Am stopping reading SC for the day but, with reference to q 3.8– I’m at §79, which in its third part directs that “some sacramentals, at least in special circumstances and at the discretion of the ordinary, may be administered by qualified lay persons”: Iay people do all sorts of things ecclesiastic these days but I’ve never seen anything justified by appeal to §79c.

  8. Lazarus says:

    3.7 What problems were the Fathers trying to fix?

    First, thanks particularly to Ben but also to the other who’ve contributed so far: I don’t think I’ve read SC all the way through before and I’m grateful for the prompting to do so!

    One issue that became prominent for me in reading the document is the ‘nostrae aetatis necessitates’ in the preface which suggests to me at least one source of some of the difficulties that have followed on: that there is some new circumstance or circumstances in the world that require the Church to adjust its (here) liturgical actions. (This fits in with the idea of ‘modernity’ that sociologists tend wave around: that there is something radically different about the culture and society of the world now, particularly in the economically developed West.) If I’m reading this correctly, the solution to the ‘problem’ of modernity, lies (amongst other things) in an increased understanding of the liturgy aided in part by an increased clarity in the liturgy. A key passage here is:

    ’50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

    For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.’ (ch II)

    From this one principle of increased comprehensibility, a lot of other issues flow both in the document and in the subsequent ‘Spirit’ with which it was applied: the dropping of Latin, simplification of music etc.

  9. bentrovato12 says:

    Reflecting on question 3.1, and suspending my own prejudices and prior understandings as best I could, I realised that the overall answer to this question is contained in the very first paragraph of the document (there’s a surprise). That is, they intended to undertake the ‘reform (instaurandam) and promotion of the liturgy.’ They cite four reasons for that:

    to reinvigorate the Christian life of the faithful
    to adapt to the needs of the time
    to foster Christian unity
    to evangelise beyond Christianity.

    More specifically, they intended:

    to establish principles and norms to guide that restoration and promotion (§3)
    that pastors ensure the faithful approach the liturgy with proper dispositions and understanding (§11)
    to restore and promote the liturgy so that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation (§ 14)
    to instruct the clergy so they are able to instruct their people (§14 -18)
    that pastors of souls promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally (§19)
    to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself (§21)

    These intentions were then translated into the norms (Latin norma – literally, a set square – ie a tool to ensure the job is done correctly) which are enumerated thereafter.

    I was interested to note from the Latin text of SC (here) that the same verb (instauro) was translated variously in the English text as both ‘reform’ and ‘restore’. These seem to me to have a different resonance in English, so I went digging a bit deeper (I am not a great Latinist, alas). I consulted Lewis & Short and found: to renew, repeat, celebrate anew; to repair, restore; to erect, make.

    in § 50 we find ‘to be revised’: Latin recognoscatur. Lewis & Short (L&S) say: To know again, recollect, recall to mind, recognize,… 2 To look over, review, investigate, examine, inspect…. In partic., to examine a writing in respect to its genuineness and value; to certify, authenticate: to revise and correct,

    Here we also find ‘restore’ in English; this time the Latin is restituo – L&S: to put or set up again, i. e. either to replace in its former position, or (more freq.) to restore to its former condition, to rebuild, revive, …. to give back, deliver up, return, restore … to bring back or restore to his previous state or condition; to recall, reinstate a person condemned, banished, deprived of his property, etc.

    So looking at all those verbs, I conclude that the idea of restoration was much more in the minds of the Fathers than the idea of reformation. I will come back to the actual norms when I have more time…

    I also conclude that liturgical instruction was at least as important to them as changing the liturgy – probably more so.

    • Lazarus says:

      Yes, when I read SC, variations on ‘instauro’ kept popping out at me. I’m not quite so sure that even translating them as ‘restore’ helps that much: the idea of going back to a pristine past (before distorting accretions set in) is precisely what was behind the Protestant Reformation after all. It does in any case fit in with the idea of ressourcement in theology which is surely part of the background here. (For good or ill.)

      • bentrovato12 says:


        Yes, I see what you mean. I suppose I am still wondering about the degree to which the texts agreed were understood differently by different Fathers of the Council (the Davies hypothesis, if you like). If some thought a few modest changes ought perhaps to be made, to restore clarity to the liturgy, and others thought a major reform of the liturgy were in order, one can see, perhaps, how both could find their views represented in this document. I’m not sure about that, just thinking out loud…

  10. bentrovato12 says:

    … which brings me to 3.8, Part Time Pilgrim’s question. It seems to me that the part of SC that has not been put into effective practice is the promotion of liturgical instruction. Unfortunately, the timing of the Second Vatican Council coincided with much broader social movements constituting a societal revolt against authority and instruction; this had an impact within as well as beyond the Church, and led, in my view, to a crisis in catechetics from which we have yet to recover. So we got the changes to the liturgy, without the accompanying catechesis (we did get some explanations of individual changes, but certainly in my experience they were both superficial and of dubious intellectual rigour…). So if there is something left to be implemented, that would get my vote: genuine, deep, well-researched, authentically Catholic instruction about the liturgy.

    • Idle Rambler says:

      ” . . . . genuine, deep, well-researched, authentically Catholic instruction about the liturgy.” Yes, that would definitely get my vote too. Another problem, this raises however, is that even if such instruction were to become available, how would people be persuaded to participate in this instruction? There appears to be a wealth of excellent instruction available at the moment on various aspects of our faith but so many seem not only totally unaware of this but also completely indifferent, if not apathetic, to deepening their understanding of the liturgy and their faith in general.

    • I think this analysis is broadly correct. Liturgical instruction, especially for Pastors, is more impoartant at a time of change than any other. Certainly clergy and laity with a better liturgical understanding woud benefit the church. And whilst it is moving away from the topic Catechesis generally has been poor. I think I am a bit optimistic than Ben about this – things are improving.

      • bentrovato12 says:

        I don’t think it is moving away from the topic: I think it was called for by SC but not delivered. As for optimism, nobody could be more optimistic than I am: the gates of Hell shall not prevail! I just think there have been some unfortunate local skirmishes, and we are still suffering some of the effects; but Christus vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat!

      • I meant discussing catechesis generally is moving away from discussing liturgical instruction (and I certainly didn’t mean to accuse you of one of the seven deadly sins).

  11. It doesn’t take much study to really make one wonder how they got to where we are now from what is written in SC!

  12. bentrovato12 says:

    Mark, That was Pope John’s view apparently – but the question of ‘how’ remains…

  13. bentrovato12 says:

    Thinking further about this issue of ‘restore’ and ‘reform…’

    If one undertook the restoration of an ancient painting, in order to regain its original clarity, see how elements now apparently disparate related to each other, and to remove later additions (eg removing the cloths added by Daniele da Volterra to Michelangelo’s work), one would proceed with great care and circumspection; removing a bit of grease here, a bit of later paint there, and so on: always with a view to revealing what was already there.

    But if one saw one’s task as reform, re-creating the painting in line with a hypothetical lost original, of which this was a copy which had been re-copied and changed over time, one would proceed differently. I think this latter approach is what the Concilium did. The question is, was this what the Fathers expected, or did they (or some of them) expect something more akin to the former?

    I think I need to dive back into the SC text with that specific example in mind, and see what I can deduce. I’ll be interested in anyone else’s thoughts in the meantime…

    • Lazarus says:

      1) On the expectations (or even intentions) of the Fathers, I wonder if this is an answerable question? For any assembly, you’ll get a mixture of some individuals with a clear agenda, some with vague ideas, some with conflicting agendas but looking for a form of words to achieve surface agreement….etc. How would you weigh this all up? In terms of what was actually said in SC, I think both interpretations are possible and (if you weigh in Patti’s thoughts below on the ecumenical sensitivities) the thought that we should restore some sort of ‘primitive’ united shape to the liturgy (whether this is of apostolic times, Patristic, or even just pre-1053) generates a real push to doing quite a lot of radical ‘restoration’.

      2) The ‘art restoration’ analogy is very helpful. For one thing, it does suggest a tension between the ‘organic growth’ view of liturgy (where it doesn’t make much sense to try and restore the original state (eg an acorn???); and the ‘original intention’ view where there is a sense in trying to get back to the original (artist’s/Church’s) plan.

  14. Patti Fordyce says:

    That image of a work of art that has become encrusted over time and is in need of restoration to its former glory is one that the Holy Father has used on more than one occasion, I think. He was, of course, sympathetic to the Liturgical Movement and, in particular, influenced by Romano Guardini, after whose, book, ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ he entitled his own 2000 work on the subject. However, reading RG’s book only makes one wonder how on earth we got from there to what we have now.

    This question of how we got to where we are now from where the Council Fathers argued is one that has interested me for some time. Given that the Council brought together nearly 3,000 bishops, speaking a number of different languages never experienced before, and who, for the most part knew almost none of their brother bishops, and given that they were presented with an unprecedented amount of text (70 schemata, totally nearly 2,000 pages – more than double the amount of text produced by all previous Councils put together)to digest, the likelihood that they would be able to scrutinise in any detail much of what was put before them was pretty slim.

    Of the 70 schemata, seven had been printed and circulated in advance. The first four of these were deemed too controversial (according to Ratzinger in ‘Theological Highlights of Vatican II’, pp.28-29) and two were incomplete; this left the document on the Sacred Liturgy as the only realistic choice for the first debate. Ratzinger notes that the Fathers came to this debate fresh from the opening ceremonies of the Council, which he describes as “endlessly long” and a source of “annoyance” to many participants (p.20). This leads to the suggestion of an answer to Ttony’s question (What problem were the Fathers trying to fix?): some 2,500 bishops felt themselves, together with the other clergy and lay faithful present, “relegated to the role of mere spectators at a ceremony in which only the celebrants and the Sistine Choir had a voice” (p.21). We can argue until the cows come home whether that should have been their experience; I suggest it might have been because it is likely to have been years since any of them had been at a Mass other than as the celebrant.

    Ratzinger notes that, by the time of the closing Mass of the first session of the Council, less than two months later on December 8th, 1962, “…the responses and other fixed parts were sung in unison by the bishops and all those present….the result of the bishops’ own initiative (pp.21-22). So why, having brought about such a change in such a (relatively) painless fashion, did the Fathers not simply leave the matter there? For an answer to this question, we probably need to go back to the aims, already noted by Ben, as set out in para 1 of the Introduction to SC. Not surprisingly, since this was the first piece of work undertaken by the Council, these four aims appear to be programmatic for much that followed. In particular, the desire “…to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ” seems to have permeated almost everything the Council did. This seems to have been attributable in large measure to the influence of Cardinal Bea, who had been confessor to Pope Pius XII and was known to have the ear of Pope John, who appointed him first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. During the course of the Council, decisions seem frequently to have been taken with a view to the possible reaction of “our separated brethren” (for example, the decision not to promulgate a separate document on Our Lady, but to include a section in the Constitution on the Church); over the course of the Council, there seems to have been a growing sense that all the Church needed to do was to strip away everything that made other ecclesiastical communities uncomfortable, and the re-unification of Christendom would automatically follow.

    Next, I’d like to turn to Question 4, re. the intentions of the Fathers, as outlined in Part III of Chapter I, and then, to Question 5, on language, but perhaps I’ve ranted on long enough for now.

    • Ttony says:

      I really like the the idea that the 2500 Bishops were so cheesed off by attending the first long boring service at which they weren’t presiding since goodness knows when that they decided that now was the time for change!

      Your reminding us that this was the first big subject to be taken by the Council Fathers, however, reinforces my belief that whatever their individual and specific beliefs, they either arrived convinced of the need for fundamental change or were convinced very soon after their arrival.

      By the way, I’ve looked up (the then Fr) Worlock’s diary of the opening ceremony and it reads like any big Vatican do. The points I noted were that Cardinal Godfrey had reluctantly postponed saying his Mass until the evening as they had to leave the English College at 7.30 am for the Vatican (but that was because of infirmity – the vast majority of the clergy present at the opening Mass would have said their private Masses already). He writes:

      “The ceremony was very long but reasonably straightforward. First, the hymn to the Holy Ghost, then a Mass of the Holy Ghost sung by the Cardinal Dean, then the obeisance
      made by the cardinals and representative bishops, followed by the profession of faith first by the Pope and then by the secretary of the Council, Archbishop Felici, on behalf of all bishops present.

      When it was all over I managed to regain access to the Cardinal who was in pretty good form in spite of the long ceremony.

      This wretched car had a faulty battery and I finished the morning in the humiliating position of having to shove the car across the cortile San Damaso in order to try to get it going. It really was the last straw and I was almost exhausted when we gotr back to the College soon after two o’clock.”

      Note that not even the Pope was saying Mass at this ceremony.

      But within a very few days, while Fr Worlock is recounting how he was busily trying to get a Bishop from E&W onto some commission or other he almost casually notes:

      “What had in fact happened was this. First there had been a low Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Florence with a dialogue Mass, I gather, answered by all those bishops. It must have been a most impressive ceremony.”

      So the idea of the Bishops answering the Mass while a bit of a novelty, doesn’t seem to strike the diarist as new or world-shattering.

  15. Ttony says:

    In answer to question 3.1, this is part of the text of the Address given by Pope Paul after signing Sacrosanctum Concilium. It shows quite clearly what he thought the intention of the Fathers was:

    “The arduous and intricate discussions have certainly borne fruit, for one of the topics – the first to be discussed and, in a certain sense, the first in order of intrinsic excellence and importance for the life of the Church, the schema on the sacred liturgy – has been brought to a happy conclusion. Today We have solemnly promulgated it, and We rejoice at this accomplishment.

    We may see in this an acknowledgment of a right order of values and duties: God in the first place; prayer our first duty; the liturgy the first school of spirituality, the first gift which we can bestow on Christians who believe and pray with us. It is the first invitation to the world to break forth in happy and truthful prayer and to feel the ineffable lifegiving force that comes from joining us in the song of divine praise and of human hope, through Christ Our Lord and in the Holy Spirit.

    We cannot here pass over in silence the great honor shown to divine worship by the faithful of the Eastern Church, and their accurate and diligent observance of the sacred rites. To these faithful the sacred liturgy has always been a school of truth and a flame of Christian charity.

    It would be good to treasure this fruit of our Council as something that should animate and characterize the life of the Church. For the Church is a religious society, a community at prayer. It is composed of people with a flourishing interior life and spirituality that is nourished by faith and grace. If now we wish to simplify our liturgical rites, if we wish to render them more intelligible to the people and accommodated to the language they speak, by so doing we certainly do not wish to lessen the importance of prayer, or to subordinate it to other concerns of the sacred ministry or pastoral activity, or to impoverish its expressive force and artistic appeal. On the contrary, we wish to render the liturgy more pure, more genuine, more in agreement with the source of truth and grace, more suitable to be transformed into a spiritual patrimony of the people.

    To attain these ends it is necessary that no attempt should be made to introduce into the official prayer of the Church private changes or unusual rites, nor should anyone arrogate the right arbitrarily to interpret the Constitution on the Liturgy before proper and authoritative instructions are published. Furthermore, the reforms to be prepared by postconciliar bodies must receive official approbation. The nobility of ecclesiastical prayer and its medodious expression throughout the world is something no one would wish to disturb or to damage.”

    (This latter point was to be repeated in his Motu Proprio in which the first norms to stem from it were established:
    “XI. Finally we wish to emphasize that—beyond what we in this apostolic letter on liturgical matters have either changed or have ordered carried out at the established time—regulation of the liturgy comes solely within the authority of the Church: that is, of this Apostolic See and, in accordance with the law, of the bishop. Consequently, absolutely no one else, not even a priest, can on his own initiative add or subtract or change anything in liturgical matters (CONSTITUTION, Article 22, paragraphs 1 and 3).” Motu Proprio Liturgiam Sanctam 25 January 1964 which can be read here)

    I think that this supports my contention that the Bishops had voted for Change (rather than small c change) even if they didn’t know what Change might be.

    It has also just struck me, on reading the Motu Proprio, that in the second sentence of §45: “Sometimes it may be expedient that several dioceses should form between them one single commission which will be able to promote the liturgy by common consultation” lie the seeds of the loss of authority over the Liturgy of the Bishop in his own diocese.

  16. I wanted to bring up a couple more issues with regard to SC revolving around a proper interpretation and concerning liturgical reform.

    1. What does SC teach about Holy Communion?
    2. What does SC teach about Latin?

  17. bentrovato12 says:

    Further to our discussion of SC, I have blogged about +Conry’s (mis) presentation of it here:

  18. Aria says:

    Hey guys if you want to watch a video of Sacrosanctum Concilium, this is the link. Hope you watch it!

    • bentrovato12 says:

      Aria, Thanks for posting this. A great idea to put up short videos of the Church’s teaching. However, I thought this one did not quite reflect SC accurately (see our preceding discussion). I will be interested in others’ views, as ever.

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