A new treasury of primary source material for Vatican II

The main purpose of this post is to celebrate the splendid work that Matthew Hazell, of New Liturgical Movement, has been doing for several years. He has located many primary sources for research on Vatican II and has been making high-quality scans of these available online. He previously prepared the Acta Synodalia of the first and second sessions of the Council, and has now provided scans of the “antepreparatory” and “preparatory” material.

These documents are not that old, but many had become difficult to find. Some were originally issued sub secreto, unavailable except to the preconciliar commissions. Matthew’s painstaking work has opened a treasure trove of material, especially for those of us who don’t have easy access to first-class ecclesiastical libraries.

To honour his labours, I would like to reflect briefly on some of the material Matthew has recently made available.

Set aside some of the crazier claims made about the Second Vatican Council – for example, that it was not validly convoked, or that because it never issued anathemas, was “merely pastoral” and had no intention of teaching. If we are to take the Council seriously – not as the only or final word of the teaching Church, but very seriously – then it helps to understand the thinking of the Council fathers and the material they studied. This is where Matthew’s contribution adds so much value.

There are all sorts of stories told about the process that led to the Council’s documents, especially on the liturgy. Some assert that the Fathers were for the most part “conservative”, but were hijacked by a small but highly organized “Rhine” contingent. Others insist that the preparatory material for the liturgy debate, created by the much-criticised Annibale Bugnini, imposed changes on the bishops that none would have wanted on their own. And others say that a generally “progressive” group of bishops waged war on a curia that was largely “conservative”.

The material that Matthew has made available suggests that these labels and stories fail to reflect the complexity of the situation of the Church as the Council undertook its work. The preparatory document on the liturgy, large parts of which appeared, somewhat modified, as the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, called for substantial changes to the liturgy, but also had strongly “conservative” moments. The document makes constant references to Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei – a document that, I think, warrants a lot more study.

For example:

Intentio generalis huius sectionis est sollemniter affirmare doctrinam Litt. Enc. Mediator Dei de relationibus inter Liturgiam et vitam spiritualem singulorum: in specie, de perfecta possibilitate, immo de omnimoda necessitate, “omni oppositione exclusa”, ad debitos fructus ex Liturgia percipiendos, unionis inter participationem celebrationum liturgicarum et sinceram pietatem, quae etiam interne singulas personas afficiant. Immo, urgetur conceptus de unitate vitae spiritualis; et ideo dicitur plenam participationem Liturgiae necessario exigere et praerequirere generale exercitium pietatis et christianarum virtutum in tota vita individui, etiam, uti patet, extra Liturgiam.

It is the overall intent of this section to solemnly affirm the teaching of the encyclical Mediator Dei on the relationship between the liturgy and each person’s spiritual life. In particular, the benefits we receive from the liturgy include the complete possibility – indeed, the necessity – of congruence between participation in liturgical celebrations and sincere personal piety, interior and exterior. We stress the unity of the spiritual life, and therefore insist that full participation in the liturgy requires the exercise of individual piety and the Christian virtues, including, of course, outside of the liturgy itself.

It goes on:

Ex hoc apparere debet commendationem Liturgiae nihil officere, sed, e contra, vehementer exigere intensam curam vitae spiritualis, etiam extra actiones liturgicas, cum omnibus mediis asceticis consuetis et notis in traditione christiana. Pia exercitia in genere, uti Via Crucis, Rosarium et alia huiusmodi, valde commendanda sunt, uti explicite inculcavit Pius XII in Litteris Encyclicis Mediator Dei.

Hence it should be clear that a focus on the liturgy does not in any way hinder the intense development of the spiritual life; rather, it advances this development. And this includes extra-liturgical actions, including all of the ascetic paths, documented and customary, of the Christian tradition. Pious exercises such as the way of the Cross, the Rosary and suchlike, are to be strongly commended, as Pius XII explicitly drove home in Mediator Dei.

[All of the translations in this post are my own; they were done quickly and without much research. I have aimed for idiomatic English rather than “slavish” renderings; I think I have accurately conveyed the sense of the Latin, but welcome any corrections.]

In addition to the official preparatory document on the Liturgy, the online treasury includes many of the vota, or responses, from bishops around the world, who were asked what they would like to see the Council discuss. And it provides much of the Analyticus Conspectus; in this collection, as Matthew notes, “all the responses of the bishops, prelates and religious are distilled into 9,348 brief propositions, organised by subject, with each proposition having one or more diocese/religious order cited in the footnotes.”

I found these propositions fascinating, because they again reflect a combination of the “conservative” and the “progressive”. The Conspectus makes it clear that many changes to the liturgy were in the mind of the worldwide Church long before the Consilium started its work, indeed well before the beginning of preparatory work for the Council.

[As with the translations, I have selected material rapidly and not systematically, and I welcome corrections and challenges.]

Quidam in administratione sacramentorum neglegunt « caeremonias secundarias » utpote non ad validitatem necessarias. Ideoque Concilium affirmet praeter efficacitatem signi attendendum esse ad significationem ipsam secundum multiplices sensus in signis sacramentalibus contentos.

Some people, as they administer the sacraments, regard “secondary ceremonies” as of no consequence because they are not necessary for validity. Accordingly, the Council insists that, beyond the mere effectiveness of any sign, it is important to pay attention to its deeper meaning, exploring the many senses entailed in a sacramental sign.

Permittatur laicis designatis administratio Baptismi.

Designated laypeople should be permitted to administer Baptism.

Permittatur laicis designatis S. Communionis distributio.

Designated laypeople should be permitted to distribute Holy Communion.

Aliqui laici etiam uxorati, auxiliares cleri in statu quodam clericali constituantur.

Some lay people, even married ones, should be established as auxiliaries to the clergy, and given a standing that is to some extent clerical.

Si diaconatus restauratio non convenit, concedantur sororibus missionariis facultates convenientes circa praedicationem, conservationem, distributionem Eucharistiae, etc.

If it is not practical to restore the diaconate, missionary sisters should be allowed to preach, reserve the Sacrament, distribute Holy Communion, etc.

Agatur de potestatibus quae dari possint mulieribus (praesertim monialibus) in cultu divino.

Consideration should be given to the roles that women – especially monastics – could be given in divine worship.

In administratione sacramentorum adhiberi possit lingua vernacula, exceptis verbis quae « sacramenti formam » exprimunt.

The vernacular should be allowed in the administration of the sacraments, except for the words which convey “the form of the sacrament”.

Baptismus in pluribus sectis acatholicis invalidus est ex intentionis defectu, ergo, iudicio Ordinarii, baptizari debent omnes ex his sectis neo-conversi.

In many non-Catholic sects, Baptism is invalid because it lacks the right intention; therefore, based on the judgement of the Ordinary, all who convert from these sects should be baptised.

Ritus Baptismi parvulorum, praesertim quoad primam partem, notabiliter brevietur.

The rite of infant baptism, especially the first part, should be greatly abbreviated.

Abrogentur infusiones salis et salivae.

The imposition of salt and saliva should be removed from the baptismal rite.

Agatur de usu et abusu S. Communionis.

Consideration should be given to the use and abuse of Holy Communion.

Osculum anuli Episcopi ante Communionem supprimatur.

The kissing of a bishop’s ring before Communion should be eliminated from the rite.

Catholici, in pagis sine ecclesia et sacerdotibus catholicis, recipere possint S. Communionem in ecclesiis acatholicorum.

Catholics in regions lacking a Catholic church and Catholic priests should be able to receive Holy Communion in non-Catholic churches.

Liceat S. Communionem ministrare, ut in primis christianismi diebus, sine tot requisitis secundariis ut v. g. altari, ieiunio, paramentis, mappis, cereis, etc.

It should be allowed to celebrate Communion as the early Christians did, without all the extras – for example, an altar, fasting, altar cloths, candles, altar adornments, etc.

Maior fiat simplificatio legum circa ieiunium eucharisticum.

Rules concering the eucharistic fast should be greatly simplified.

* * *

The vota call into question the notion that the Council fathers could not possibly have anticipated the changes that appeared in the post-conciliar work of the Consilium, or the way in which parishes around the world have implemented the Mass of Paul VI. They also illustrate the inability of simple narratives or labels (“traditional”, “conservative”, “progressive”, etc.) to shed much light on the Second Vatican Council and its work.

More systematic research into the preparatory documents themselves, and the vota, should yield interesting insights. Matthew Hazell’s work has made this important material accessible to the many.

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17 comments

  1. This research is needed, if only to preserve history.

    But after reading this article, I found myself quite discouraged. The council documents themselves are notoriously ambiguous. If we have to interpret the council in the light of the preparatory texts, that only adds yet another layer of ambiguity which I suspect will only create more division rather than less.

  2. Actually I believe that studying preparatory texts will shed light that will bring more clarity about where the Council had a desire to limit some practices and where they wished to open up practices based on pastoral need, church practice, and the development of tradition (T and t) over the centuries. These texts are exciting. Thank you for posting them, Anthony.

  3. Very interesting. This will among other things help to clarify the meaning of the Council documents apophatically. If a proposal in the preparatory texts did not make the final cut then it could be said to have been rejected (even if only informally) by the Council Fathers.

  4. Ben, the preparatory draft (“schema”) on the liturgy maps fairly well onto the final constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium. I don’t think that this is the case for most of the schemata. It could be difficult to apply the analysis-by-difference method that you suggest.

    Even Sacrosanctum Concilium needs to be read as a whole, rather than a collection of individual proposals.

    One immediate difference I notice is that Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on the liturgy, is referenced again and again in the liturgy schema. It doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in Sacrosanctum Concilium, in the body of the Constitution or in the footnotes. Yet much of SC is in the spirit of Mediator Dei and MD clearly informed the preparatory material for the final Constitution. I wonder why it wasn’t referenced?

    1. @Jonathan Day (#6):

      It’s even more interesting and curious than that. If you look at the Acta Synodalia for the second session of Vatican II, the vast majority of the references to Mediator Dei were still in Sacrosanctum Concilium right up until the very last minute, when they all disappear, along with a number of other references to documents such as Tra le sollecitudini. The only dates on which the Council Fathers were asked to vote on a text of SC that didn’t contain references to MD were November 22, 1963 (the final vote on the whole constitution before promulgation) and December 4, 1963 (the date SC was promulgated). And as yet I can find no explanation as to why these references were suddenly removed.

      For those who are interested, as well as the Acta Synodalia volumes themselves, Susan Benofy gave a list of the removed citations and references back in 2015, in the Adoremus Bulletin (issue 21.1).

      (Oh, and thank you for your kind words!)

  5. Acta et documenta Concilio Oecumenico Vaticano II apparando is a series of oversized volumes produced by the Vatican Press, 1960-. When I used to spend time in Alcuin Library, I looked once at a part of vol. 2 in Series I, Antepraeparatoria, vol. 2, pars 8, Superiores generales religiosorum (Oversize BX830 1962 .A2 1960). From what I could make of the comments, most in Latin, offered by the superiors general in advance of the Council’s first session, it seemed, I remember, there was wide support, especially among the Cistercians, that Mary be declared Mediatrix of All Graces. Where people were in the late 1950’s is not where they found themselves at the end of the Council. Matthew has done a great service to scholarship and the church.

  6. Isn’t this absence of citations normal practice for magisterial documents? Statements are being made with the Church’s voice, not another authority’s, not even the Pope’s. I glanced through VI footnotes and they are all scripture or material from previous councils.

    John Allen recalled a similar practice after Laudatio Si came out: “It comes in the footnotes, which in a papal text typically are almost entirely devoted to citations of other popes and official documents such as the Bible or the Church’s catechism.” His point was that Francis cited bishops conferences to sort of share out the authority behind the teaching.

    So drafts were circulated with citations, to help bishops understand and accept the ideas, but the document lacks them because the council is the authority even if others have said things like it before.

    Hopefully someone will correct me if that is wrong, I’m barely half remembering the subject.

    1. @Jim McKay:
      Jim, looking at a few Vatican II documents on the Vatican website, I notice lots of inconsistencies in footnotes and reference styles: from one document to another, and between the Latin and English versions, etc.

      In the Latin text of Lumen Gentium, for example, the biblical references are embedded in the text itself, in parentheses, with references to previous papal and patristic texts — there are lots of these, including work of Pius XII and Leo XIII — in the footnotes. But in the English version of the same document the biblical references appear in one set of footnotes, the papal texts in a separate set of “supplementary notes”. Other documents have one set of footnotes combining reference types. SC has fewer references, as noted on this thread. I haven’t discerned a pattern, but then again I haven’t studied this in any depth.

      My strong guess is that the missing footnotes are a result of Vatican randomness rather than of a sinister plot to make SC look as though it came from nowhere, to undermine the so-called “hermeneutic of continuity”. It would have been of benefit to the liturgical reformers to show that their work followed tracks laid down by previous popes … as it did.

  7. A veritable Lodi, or worthy appendix thereof. Too many varied people have contradictory opinions about what was said, done, led up to, and culminated in the final document. I think most importantly is how the liturgy was initially implemented and how, 50+ years later, it continues to unfold.

    Attempts at regression must surely be temporary as even Lit Auth is now under scrutiny for perhaps its unauthentic tenor. I find the evolution and subsequent devolution of vernacular translations to be the most interesting because these on the whole are still transliterations and fail to reflect the cultural depths of the societies in which they are supposed to be effective. Stealing from the tenets of liberation theology, I would maintain that for liturgy to be authentic, it has to be effective in people’s lives, and not just of the churched but of the entire mass of humanity. We still have a long, long way to go.

    Beginning with the Roman model is perhaps the wrong approach. Perhaps we ought to have started with the cultures in which the renewed liturgy is supposedly embedded.

  8. Liceat S. Communionem ministrare, ut in primis christianismi diebus, sine tot requisitis secundariis ut v. g. altari, ieiunio, paramentis, mappis, cereis, etc.

    It should be allowed to celebrate Communion as the early Christians did, without all the extras – for example, an altar, fasting, altar cloths, candles, altar adornments, etc.

    I found this bit most fascinating, since for many people in the late-60s and 70s this seemed to be the take-away from Vatican II.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
      Interesting that that only refers to S Communionem, not the S Missa, perhaps reflecting the centuries of praxis where the rite of Holy Communion (for laity) was not equated with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  9. In addition to the question of whether the Council was “conservative” or “progressive”, the material posted here sheds interesting light on the on-going debate as to whether the liturgical reform was meant to be an exercise in continuity or rupture. If what we are reading here is representative, it seems the answer is, “Yes”.

  10. Karl, I had also wondered about that, and I think you may be right.

    Ministrare has a primary connotation of ‘attend, wait upon, serve, esp. at table, to serve up, pour out, hand food or drink’, and Communionem is accusative, suggesting that it’s what is being served. The word appears in the Missal of Pail VI, adstare coram te et tibi ministrare, now somewhat weirdly translated as “to be in your presence and minister to you”.

    However ministrare has a secondary sense of ‘take care of, manage, govern, direct’.

    The Conspectus uses about every term you could want — nouns like Missa, Eucharistia, Communio; and a range of verbs: distribuere, celebrare, ministrare, administrare. No surprise there, because it was gathered from bishops around the world, who would have used Latin in differing ways.

    I translated ministrare as “celebrate”, because the context makes it clear that it’s broader than “distribute”. But it’s also clear that the writer was speaking primarily about the communion rite, not the whole of the Mass.

  11. Todd – I’m sure you’re right. I suspect they were mostly trying to figure out how to adapt the liturgy to a rapidly changing world.

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