Friday, July 25, 2014

Sadness and Confusion in the Sixties

This is a sad book. Reading about Evelyn Waugh's confusion and sorrow as he witnessed changes in the Mass during and after the Second Vatican Council is heartbreaking. Reading it now, seven years after Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, is still heartbreaking, because Waugh demonstrates how so many Catholics suffered so much sadness, confusion, anger and pain. With a foreword by Joseph Pearce, an introduction by Alcuin Reed, and an afterword by Clare Asquith, the Countess of Oxford, the one thing the book does not do is clarify the historical context. Waugh died before the promulgation of the Missal of Pope Paul VI--what he endured was the confusing period when the Mass seemed almost a laboratory. Waugh laments, for example, the sudden change when he was no longer to genuflect during the Credo when the Incarnation was proclaimed--he was forbidden, in fact, to genuflect, with no explanation. The translation from Latin to English was in process, but the vernacular was introduced anyway. This review of the edition from The New Oxford Review makes that context more clear:

The first liturgical changes remarked upon by Waugh were the revisions of the Easter vigil in 1951 and the abbreviated new rite of Holy Week in 1955, with its changes, omissions, and “endless blank periods,” which left him “resentful of the new liturgy.” Other changes included the dialogue Masses of the 1950s, which were never made obligatory until the introduction of the vernacular in the 1960s, accompanied by persistent confusion occasioned by conflicting statements from Rome. “Repeatedly standing up and saying ‘And with you’ detracts from [the] intimate association” of uniting oneself to the action of the priest, he complained in 1965. Waugh lived through the Second Vatican Council, which nearly undid him.

One wag suggested that Waugh suffered “Death by Novus Ordo,” though the jest is more clever than accurate. Pope Paul VI’s New Mass was not promulgated until 1969; Waugh died three years earlier, about an hour after attending a private Latin Mass on Easter Sunday celebrated by his friend, Fr. Caraman. Yet, if the liturgy were understood as a “permanent workshop” of innovation — as it was by Fr. Joseph Gelineau, S.J., whom the chief architect of the new Mass, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, described as “one of the great masters of the international liturgical world” — it would be accurate to say that Waugh’s bitter trial was an effect of the accelerating and seemingly interminable experiments in what he called “the new liturgy,” which he endured in the decade until his death the year after the Council ended.

Waugh certainly appreciated the connection between the Church's worship and the Church's teaching--he predicted that Catholics would become confused about doctrine: the Eucharist, the priesthood, the Incarnation because of the changes and confusion he was experiencing at Mass. He and Cardinal Heenan corresponded about the changes that were occurring and Heenan tried to console Waugh that in the end, it wouldn't be that bad and that surely some provision would be made for the Mass in Latin according to the Tridentine Rite would still be available. Cardinal Heenan did petition Rome for such permission and Paul VI granted it--the so-called "Agatha Christie" Indult, which was limited and restrictive indeed.

Again, it's wonderful that with Summorum Pontificum, what Pope Benedict XVI called the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite is more freely available, when a group of dedicated laity gather and request it, provide for it, prepare for it, and support it. But reading A Bitter Trial--and that title comes from Waugh's comment that attending Mass had become a bitter trial to him, testing his faith, hope, and charity--it's a sorrowful mystery that Catholic laity had to suffer such a trial in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment