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.
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.