Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, Part II

Fr. Le Guillou gave me some news about Fr. Dumont’s trip to Rome. There were comments concerning some of the appointments which seemed somewhat strange. It would seem that the appointment of Msgr. Calewaert [Karel Calewaert, Bishop of Gand] to the Liturgical Commission was the result of mistaken identity. He had been confused with the liturgist of the same name who has already died [Camille Callewaert, who died in 1943].

From 6 to 9 April, christological colloquium in Évreux. There I met Fr. K. Rahner. [Karl Rahner, SJ, was one of the leading theologians of the twentieth century. He taught at Innsbruck, then, from 1964 onwards, in Munich; he was a consultor on the Preparatory Commission on the Discipline of the Sacraments, and was to be appointed a Council expert in 1962.] Cardinal Ottaviani is against him, having recently summed up Rahner’s position on the Mass as follows: for Rahner one devout Mass is worth more than one hundred Masses that are not devout . . . So he is blocking him. But Cardinal König and two or three other bishops have insisted that he should be appointed to a Council Commission. He has just been appointed consultor to the Commission on the Sacraments… He himself considers it laughable.

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, pp. 20-21, 44. The 1100-page book can be purchased from Liturgical Press here. Part I of the Pray Tell series is here.


  1. This is a nitpick, but isn’t the English spelling of Calewaert’s diocese “Ghent”? Gand is the French spelling. Perhaps the translator did not translate the notes completely?

  2. Given the number of those who argue that the OF, even if valid, is less reverent and devout than the EF, and therefore problematic, I find a certain irony in Ottaviani, the great critic of the liturgical reform, criticizing the view that devotion makes any significant difference to liturgical efficacy.

  3. Fritz, I am guessing that much turns around that word ‘devout’.

    I will bet that the distinction that Ottaviani and Rahner were drawing was between a Mass celebrated “in private”, or (almost the same thing) one celebrated with the congregation virtually unaware of what was going on at the altar, except perhaps to pause at the sound of the bells.

    One perspective says that a hundred such “private Masses” accrue more merit than any single Mass; another that a single Mass with 100 people present and actively participating — at least in the sense of following the liturgical action — is preferable to a hundred “private Masses”.

    I think the idea of counting up Masses (or Rosary decades, for that matter) is silly; and Pope Francis seems to agree. But if you are counting, I will bet that this was the issue, more than the reverence or irreverence shown in any individual Mass.

    Does anyone know the French word that was rendered “devout”? Was it “pieux”? “dévot”?

  4. There was a viewpoint, which Pius XII criticized in Mediator Dei, that “objective” liturgical piety is indifferent to participation. The liturgy as objective reality rendered participation secondary at best and really, when you come right down to it, unnecessary. The important thing was merit accrued by a validly celebrated sacrament, and subjective participation was irrelevant to that, a nice extra but you didn’t need it. I do not know if Cardinal Ottaviani subscribed to such ideas, but they were in the air as the alternative to the call for “active participation.” I sense a whiff of this in the complaint about Rahner privileging a “devout” Mass.

    If I am on the right track here (and again, I do not know enough about Ottaviani’s views to say) this would not only apply to the issue of private Mass which Jonathan mentions @ #4, but also Masses with a non-devout congregation, i.e., people who come to church but aren’t devout, they just wish to avoid hell fire. This happened, because it was the law of the church and the church, like other rulers, could command and people obeyed. I can easily imagine Ottaviani wishing to protect that system.

  5. Rita – think you are on the right track. Given Sunday’s readings, here is something from J. Komonchak:

    Congar was leaving St. Peter’s and a few bishops thanked him for his work. Congar wrote in his journal that nite……”…..Looking at things objectively; I did a lot of work. I’ve always thought that we don’t have to seize anything, but to be content with what we have been given. This is, for everyone, his logike latreia,” his spiritual sacrifice.”

    Congar then reviewed the work accomplished to date and finished by writing….. “Servi inutiles sumus.” the last lines of Sunday’s parable.

    But he himself shows the attitude Jesus commends today: Be content with where you are and what you have. Meet the concrete needs that you encounter. Be sure that by using what is given to you and by doing well what is asked of you, you will be bringing God the spiritual sacrifice he most desires from us all. All the rest is in his hands.

    Thus, contribute, participate (versus buy or earn thru indulgences, etc.) but, in the end, it is God’s mercy.

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