Category Archives: Second Vatican Council
Many thanks again to Jaykay for kindly sending me these extracts from a fascinating (and quite beautiful) hand Missal from 1968. Jaykay notes that
This was given to my mother in 1968, although as far as I recall she continued to mostly use her old 1930s one. It’s interesting in that it shows the transitional stage reached by 1968, including the ICEL translation of the Canon which remained in place, with only minor changes, right up until now. I can clearly recall that they introduced the acclamation after the consecration during 1969, which isn’t shown in this version. In those days it was just restricted to “My Lord and my God”. I’m pretty sure the last Gospel had also gone by that stage as well. I also can’t honestly recall whether they used the Douay Reims translations for the Epistle and Gospel, or whether a more modern translation was used but the versions of the Gloria, Creed and Sanctus with the “thees” and “thous” remained in place until 1975, when they went over to the (now happily obsolete!) ICEL versions.
Monsignor Patrick Francis Cremin, Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, gave a four-part interview to the Irish Independent in November, 1978, denouncing the doctrinal turmoil in the Irish Church and the pastoral negligence of the Irish hierarchy. A theological conservative, Mgr Cremin grew increasingly disillusioned with the liberal drift of the Irish Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The first, second and fourth parts can be read in full here. Posted below is the third-part of the interview, which concerns Maynooth seminary, where he was chair of both Moral Theology and Canon Law from 1949 until 1980.
Mgr Cremin had been appointed by Pope John XXIII as an expert to prepare for the Second Vatican Council and served on three of the Council’s commissions. He served as a peritus to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and as an expert to the Irish bishops throughout the Council (as he did at the 1956 Maynooth Plenary Council) and was charged by the papal nuncio with giving the press conference on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae to an unreceptive Irish media, following its release in 1968. He would later become involved in drafting the new Code of Canon Law.
Mgr Cremin was an instinctively obedient churchman but felt compelled to speak out as a result of concern expressed by laity and fellow-clergy and because he felt the situation in the Irish Church had deteriorated to the point of desperation: “It should go without saying that for one in my position it is quite distasteful to make a contribution that is necessarily critical of the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs by bishops, who, in communion and subject to the Supreme Pontiff, occupy the sacred office of rulers in the Church of Christ. But I am moved to make it because of the great seriousness of the matter in question.”
There is, first, the fact that the Irish Bishops as a body, and especially some of them individually, have not taken the necessary steps to protect our Catholic Faith and Teaching, by ensuring that, in Ireland, professional theologians and pseudo-theologians (and priests influenced by them) were not permitted to propagate with impunity doctrinal and moral teaching that was misleading or unsound.
(i) But they have been permitted, and at a time when our faithful people have become particularly vulnerable to the effects of wrong or confused teaching, since the valuable, indeed the indispensable, programme of catechetical instruction, that had to be covered, in a two or three-year cycle, by priests in their sermons at Sunday Masses, has largely been abandoned.
Moreover, this has happened at a time when such systematic instruction has become particularly necessary for the reassurance of the faithful, who are disposed to think right but are bewildered because of the absence of confirmation of their religious views.
The result is that nowadays our people receive little solid instruction and rarely hear of the commandments of God, or of sin and repentance, or purgatory and hell, or of some of the great Christian truths and devotional practices, such as the sacrifice of the Mass or the value of devotion to Our Lady, especially in the Rosary.
In addition the faithful, and particularly parents of school-going children, have the further anxiety of having to try to cope with the “new catechetics”, and its delayed presentation or dilution (or worse) of the truths to be believed or of the moral principles to be followed by those who are members of the Catholic Church.
(ii) There is, secondly, the fact that the Irish Bishops have not taken the necessary measures, over the past several years, to save our national seminary at Maynooth from progressive deterioration and, as I believe, in certain respects near disintegration in vital areas of the life of the seminary and of the formation of the young men being trained in it for the priesthood.
One factor that has largely contributed to this has been the ill-conceived decision taken by the Bishops in 1966 to open our national seminary, in the way it was actually opened, to non-clerical students, including male and female lay students and nuns, without any proper planning or direction then or since, as far as protecting some seminary way of life and the proper formation of its resident clerical students was concerned.
I am not directly concerned here with the National University side of Maynooth College. As regards the seminary proper, things were just allowed to happen and happen, to the detriment of the seminary itself and therefore of the Irish Church, of which this national seminary had been the nerve-centre for more than a century and a half.
And the glory that once was Maynooth, especially in the English-speaking ecclesiastical world and in missionary lands, has vanished, perhaps never to return.
There has been no evidence of order in this seminary for many years, and I am not speaking here of order based on an application of the old strict Maynooth discipline. Moreover, there has been much evidence of disorder, and of lack of due respect for the standards of community living. In fact, when the infection discernible early on in our seminary was not dealt with, it inevitably spread to the point where disorder has gradually come to be taken for granted, and accepted by many as the “order” of the day.
Not only that, but there has been what rather incredibly appears to be a permitted policy of drift and of anarchy or absence of rule. And I am not speaking of authoritarian rule, but of the exercise of that rule which, as the Second Vatican Council emphasised, consists in service that consults the best interests of the individual and of the community.
These unwelcome facts — referred to only very briefly here — concerning our national seminary cannot be discounted by the whitewashing or window-dressing that has gone on, for a number of years now, on the part of some of those who, at the different level of administration and government, have had responsibility for the situation which the facts represent.
From time to time, in publicity exercises in the press or elsewhere, the public have been given to understand by some of them that “All, or nearly all is fair in the garden,” when in actual fact there is no longer any garden but something of a wilderness.
In a situation of this kind, no ordinary business concern could survive, not to speak of an institution comparable to Maynooth College, which is not just any institution but Ireland’s national seminary for the training of young men for the priesthood. But of course the question must be asked: Has our national seminary really survived, if survival is understood to involve the preservation of essential values and standards without which it is no longer what it was?
A tragic aspect of this situation is that those seminarians, who are seriously aspiring to the priesthood, are not receiving the full essential formation for which they came to Maynooth College, even though they are not only willing but anxious to receive it. Naturally they themselves or at least many of them do not even know what they are being deprived of, since they are not aware of what their formation should be. The students themselves, therefore, are the losers and the victims of the situation in the seminary, even without their knowing it.
After all, they did expect some challenge when they came to Maynooth College to be trained for the priesthood. But for that training the only real challenge ultimately is the practice of self-denial and the cultivation of the spiritual life. As a means to that end, some silence, some spirit of contemplation, some curtailment of liberty must be insisted upon, and must be accepted by those who are aspiring to become the official representatives of Christ, who appeals even to any ordinary follower of His to deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him.
It is not really too surprising then, if, not finding the challenge they expected in some form of curtailment of liberty and self-denial, some clerical students who did appear to have a genuine vocation to the priesthood, have left the seminary in their early years through disillusionment. Neither is it very surprising if, by reason of the confusion to which they have been exposed in some of their theological formation, other clerical students have left the seminary only at a very late stage in their course — perhaps, unfortunately, too few such students.
How many, notwithstanding some theological confusion, have been accepted by their Bishops for priesthood without their complete theological formation being assured, only to add to the confusion of bewildered members of their flock?
Even if our national seminary were to be recreated tomorrow in some appropriate, sensible form, and enabled to rise phoenix-like from its ashes; the question would still have to be asked — how badly served some Irish priests have been who were resident seminarians at Maynooth College during the past ten years. Only the passing of time in their ministry can answer that question for them or for those to whom they will have ministered.
At this stage, the reader must be asking a question he may well have asked for the first time many years ago: What ever went wrong with Maynooth College? Since this question can be answered definitely only by the Bishops responsible for governing the College, and perhaps only by those of them with first-hand knowledge of its government since it was opened to non-clerical students in 1966, one can only speculate on the answer to it.
Is it, perhaps, that the Bishops who did perceive the early ailments and the progressive sickness of our seminary, and who had the will and the courage to try to remedy them, were just not able to prevail against those, maybe only one or two, who gave a bad lead and were supported by others? Certainly, in the recent abnormal and critical years, as never before in the life of Maynooth College, a lead was needed which would be courageous as well as enlightened and wise; or was this too much to hope for in the disordered state of the Catholic Church? The lack of such a lead has cost our national seminary dearly, and therefore also the Irish Church.
For how long more, under Providence, must Maynooth College, and those who are attached to it or concerned about it, suffer in this way?
Read this for an insight into a very different Maynooth (and a very different Ireland). Mgr Cremin is actually mentioned on page 91.
Many thanks to Fr. Seán Coyle for these fascinating reminiscences:
Vatican II and the Church in Ireland:
The Irish bishops seemed to convey a sense of obedience: ‘This is what we’ve been asked to do so we’ll do it’. As I recall, they didn’t keep the people particularly well informed about the Council. Those who did were journalists as Kevin O’Kelly of RTE, Sean Mac Reamoinn [see here – Shane] and Louis McRedmond. All of these were committed Catholics even if the first two might have leaned towards the ‘liberal’ side’. This is not a negative comment. I’m not sure about Louis McRedmond, whether he was ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. These were journalists of integrity.
My Dad was a daily Massgoer and a man of habit but I never heard him comment on the change. He was also a builder’s foreman and when the EEC, as it then was, introduced metric measures into building he took it in his stride.
In the Archdiocese of Dublin Archbishop McQuaid ordered that one Mass every Sunday be in Irish. Someone said to him ‘You are starting a revolution!’ He replied. ‘No, preventing a rebellion!’ Some criticised having a Mass in Irish. This used to raise my hackles as it was usually from the kind of person who had ‘always gone to the 9 o’clock Mass and I don’t understand this language’ and who would never consider the possibility of going to Mass at 7, 8, 10, 11 or 12! [see also: Liturgical Reform in Ireland – Shane]
The introduction of English Masses in one or two breac-Gaeltacht parishes has caused great controversy on occasion.
I was on duty that day outside Croke Park as a member of the Congress Volunteer Corps, a group of Fifth and Sixth Year students from Catholic boys’ schools in Dublin. I had just finished my Leaving Cert in nearby O’Connell Schools. You can see members of the CVC in the video. The uniform was simple: dark trousers and white shirt, which we provided ourselves, a beret – yellow for those without any special jobs and other colours for those with specific responsibilities – epaulettes and a stick. The stick wasn’t to beat anyone with but could be helpful in crowd control, indicating a line. One of the members of the CVC was the now Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
One memory I have of that morning is seeing Sean T. O’Kelly, then in retirement, Frank Aiken and one or two other older members of Fianna Fail getting out of a very modest car. They got a big cheer from those nearby. Sean T was a very popular man and gave a wonderfully entertaining talk at the National Stadium during the Congress. He had everyone eating out of his hand. [see also this delightful clip of President O’Kelly going to Mass and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin on 17th March, 1950 – Shane] May they all rest in peace.
One thing I remember vividly was the 90,000 raising the roof with Credo III. I also felt an outsider, ( I don’t mean because I was outside the stadium) as I had never been taught it in 14 years in Catholic schools. The singing raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
The CVC, organised by the late Monsignor Tom Fehily, was formally disbanded by Taoiseach Sean Lemass outside Dublin Airport after Cardinal Agagianian flew back to Rome. However, it was soon to become the Archbishop’s Volunteer Corps that was to be involved in various projects in the Archdiocese of Dublin. It was later opened to girls. I’ve an idea that the AVC is no more but am not sure.
Some of us went on the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Beauraing, Belgium, that August, a wonderful experience. We were subsidised by the Archdiocese and paid only £5, which even in those days was a great bargain. We did ceremonial duty in Beauraing. The present Archbishop of Dublin was in the group that travelled.
Commenting on a previous post, Keiran Fagan also helpfully noted:
I was there too, only I had a red beret, as I was a “minder”, aide de camp Fr Tom Fehilly called it, for Cardinal Paolo Marella. It was a seriously cool gig for a 16-year-old, riding around in the front of a big Austin Princess limo, opening doors for the cardinal and making sure nobody, not even a reverend mother, got to put milk in his inevitable cup of tea. I saw up close John Charles McQuaid and Eamon de Valera who was totally blind by then. John Charles had three great cars, a Citroen Light 15 (Maigret had one) a Hudson Fluid Drive limo with eight cylinders I think, and a beautiful Citroen DS. I even got to sit in the back of Dev’s 1947 or 8 blue Rolls Royce ZJ 5000 while it was parked in the yard in Dublin Castle. Great times, but I don’t recall any religious epiphany moments. Says more about me than anything else I reckon.
Writing in 1974, John Feeney (the late journalist and editor of The Catholic Standard) described the Patrician Year Congress as the summit of Dr. McQuaid’s tenure as Archbishop of Dublin. Feeney was very much a Vatican II Catholic. At UCD he founded the ecumenical Student Christian Movement. He also became chairman of Pax Romana and leader of Grille, a left-wing Christian movement. As a leading Catholic radical, Feeney had reason more than most to resent McQuaid’s conservative views. Nevertheless in a critically sympathetic biography, he gives a largely positive assessment of the archbishop’s legacy and challenges some of the lazy caricatures then being propounded by vituperative critics.
Feeney contrasts the pre-revolutionary tranquility that characterized the Patrician Year celebrations in 1961 with the post-conciliar chaos soon to emerge. He believed that the Irish Catholic laity and hierarchy were deeply attached to the old order and were ‘oblivious to the vast changes in the whole world outlook of Catholics which was to come': “There was little evidence after the election in 1958 of Pope John that the nature of Catholicism would change greatly…matters were much the same as ever for the majority of Irish Catholics. They had a saintly, loveable Pope who commanded respect but there was little understanding of the new thinking he was initiating…almost three years after the election of Pope John, there seemed to be little change in Dublin…the success and triumphs of the 1950s continued.” The faithful, Feeney asserts, responded enthusiastically to the Congress with “a mixture of nationalism, religious fervour and civic pride” and he quotes the pious report of the Irish Catholic Directory: “A majestic carillon pealed, a silver-voiced fanfare of military trumpets sounded in Royal Salute, ninety thousand lips moved in silent prayer.” For Feeney, the Patrician Year celebrations give “a glittering bejewelled spectacle of Catholic life just before the Council — it was a garden party before the outbreak of war, before the realities of the Church in the world impinged too strongly on Ireland.”
The Most Rev. Joseph Walsh, Archbishop of Tuam, concelebrating Mass on the 8th September, 1966, at Ballintubber Abbey, on the occasion of the Abbey’s 750th anniversary.
The Standing Committee of the Irish Hierarchy at its meeting at Maynooth today had under consideration the implementation in Ireland of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, in accordance with the result of the Motu Proprio of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, of January 25, 1964.
A report from the Liturgical Commission appointed by the Irish Hierarchy last December and reports from different dioceses were before the meeting. Several degrees and methods of utilising the vernacular Irish and English, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were formulated, and these will be submitted for decision to the plenary meeting of the Irish Hierarchy in June. The final approval of these decisions rests with the Holy See.
The Standing Committee also considered the application of the new liturgical laws of the Divine Office and the Ritual for the Administration of the Sacraments and the funeral service. It will be recalled that the Ritual which was introduced in Ireland by the Hierarchy in 1958 with the approval of the Holy See, already anticipated many of the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council with regard to the use of the vernacular.
Given at Maynooth on 7th April, 1964.
Signed on behalf of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland.
+WILLIAM CARDINAL CONWAY,
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
Bishop of Achonry.
The following regulations, of an initial character, concerning the use of the vernacular in the Sacred Liturgy, shall come into effect throughout the Archdiocese of Dublin, on Sunday, March 7.
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by Brendan Clifford,
Labour & Trade Union Review, No. 11
If Britain had, like the United States, citizenship tests for immigrants, the basic test as to whether an immigrant had caught the British spirit should be the answer to the question: Do you accept that the right to blaspheme is an inalienable human right?
Societies flourish in connection with their communal piety. Britain is the first society which has flourished through impiety.
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Below is the introductory foreword in the inaugural issue of The Furrow from 1950. The author is the editor and founder of The Furrow, Canon J.G. McGarry, then Professor of Sacred Eloquence and Pastoral Theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Accompanying this foreword was an article warmly commending the editor’s programme by the Most Rev. John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, along with a message of fraternal support from The Catholic Standard.
The Furrow is something new. It is new in the ground it opens. Many branches of pastoral work to which our times have given a special importance demand a fuller treatment — preaching, pastoral organisations, the liturgy, the Church, its art and architecture. And it is in such matters especially that theory needs to be confirmed and corrected by practice. The pooling of experiences in varying conditions of work and the exchange of views on new pastoral methods are means hitherto little used, yet they can give valuable help to all who are charged by God to keep His field.
A new opportunity is offered in The Furrow for the sharing of such experience. Moreover, recent years have given evidence of an increasing interest in writing on the part of our younger priests. Life in the priesthood and Christian culture offer to such young writers rich and fertile themes, opening to them a new way of serving the Church, its faith and civilisation. The Furrow will consider it a point of duty to support and encourage such writers.
In pursuing these aims The Furrow will be guided by the mind and spirit of the Church. Obedience to the Vicar of Christ and to His bishops, whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to govern His flock, will be the corner-stone of its policy. But besides this higher allegiance there is place, too, for a special, domestic loyalty. Reverence for the traditions of the Irish Church and pride in its distinctive way of life must be an influence upon the policy of any Irish Catholic review. For us this reverence is more than an influence. Our past is our special glory: Kells and Cashel, Cong and Glendalough are a rich inheritance, challenging their heirs to high endeavour, to call forth new treasures from old.
How frequently Christ speaks of His Kingdom as the field — the field that is sown with good seed and bad, field of the hidden treasure, the field challenging the ploughman’s courage and persistence! Only the tiller of His field does not work alone; the sower needs the weeder’s help, the ploughman is nothing without the reaper. To all who work in that field the call is to come and share with their fellow-workers the labours of the harvest, to be men of His meitheal.
Yet co-operation alone is not enough. “We are God’s workmen; you are His field,” St. Paul writes to his Corinthians. But the workman counted for nothing, neither Paul who sowed, nor Apollo who watered. The harvest was the gift of God alone.
May He who gives the harvest prosper this sowing.
The Bishops Conference of England and Wales released the following statement on the 17th September, 1968, after a seven-hour emergency session held to discuss the fallout from the release of Humanae Vitae:
1. When Pope Paul issued the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae” he asked the bishops to see that his teaching was presented in its true light “that is, to show its positive and beneficent aspect.”
The Encyclical, nevertheless, concerning as it does the source of human life, was bound to arouse strong feelings. Whatever decision the Holy Father made was bound to be a test of faith. Some Catholics were convinced that a change in the moral teaching and practice of the Church was inevitable. Others were just as strongly convinced that any change would be a betrayal of the faith.
The following sermon (posted below) was given by the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, at thanksgiving devotions in the Dublin Pro-Cathedral on the 9th December, 1965. Following the devotions — which had been organized in response to the specific requests of Pope Paul VI — the Archbishop imparted Benediction, at which the Te Deum was sung.
The sentence quoted in the title is often represented by Establishment commenters (whether media, academic, or ecclesiastical) as epitomical of Archbishop McQuaid’s reactionary attitude towards change in the Church.
During the first session of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop McQuaid distinguished himself as the only member of the Irish hierarchy to make a contribution — and did so from a predictably conservative standpoint. As a lover of Latin language and culture, he viewed proposals for an all-vernacular liturgy as tantamount to vandalism. He also expressed his opposition towards suggestions that competence over the local liturgy be transferred from individual bishops to national episcopal conferences. Xavier Rynne (the chronicler of the Council) records that “Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin came out once more against any thought of change”. Sensing the progressive trajectory of the Council (as well as the lack of receptivity towards his conservative positions) he remained aloof from the next three sessions.
Archbishop McQuaid took a low view of ‘aggiornamento’ and found it very hard to adapt to the rapidly changing Church of the 1960s. Indeed, he has been demonized ever since as an obscurantist authoritarian. His implementation of the liturgical reforms was very conservative, and frustrated more radical, younger clergy (some of whom would later defend his legacy against lazy liberal caricatures).
For five long years the bishops of the world have been sustained by your constant prayers. In the very laborious session of the Council we have felt the power of your prayers, and if the Council was concluded in a spirit of peace and unanimity we owe that grace to God the Holy Ghost and to the intercessions of Our Blessed Lady.
On Wednesday, 2,300 fathers parted. It was a sad moment, for we shall never again see one another in this life. Drawn from every corner of the world, the Bishops had prayed and worked together for a long time.
Now is our work completed: in union with the Pope, our decrees were drafted, voted on and preached. One could not but feel that God the Holy Ghost had guided our deliberations and gently brought them to a firm conclusion. You may, in the last four years, have been disturbed by reports about the Council. May I, who have assisted at every meeting of the Council, assure you that the Council was a wondrous example of dignity, seriousness and courtesy.
You may have been worried by talk of changes to come. Allow me to reassure you. No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives. For, time after time, Pope John XXIII and our present Holy Father have insisted — but the point has been sadly missed — that our deliberations in the Council had only one purpose: to search the deposit of the Faith, to look more deeply into the teaching of the Church.
The Council has one meaning only for us — in all its constitutions and decrees: how can each one of us in his personal and family and social life be faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, as the Church makes known that teaching in the Vatican Council.
As the months will pass, the Holy Father will instruct us gradually how to put into effect the enactments of the Council. With complete loyalty, as children of the one, true Church, we fully accept each and every decree of the Vatican Council.
Debates at the Vatican Council are no longer secret, but discussions in the Conciliar Commissions remain confidential. It is not yet possible, therefore, to disclose full details of the agenda for the session due to commence in September. But speeches of the Pope and some of the cardinals in Rome make it fairly clear that certain subjects are bound to be debated. It seems likely, for example, that the Council will issue a statement on religious liberty and on the Jews. Decrees on Christian unity will be promulgated. These are eagerly awaited in this country, since they will enable the Hierarchy to draw up rules for the guidance of clergy and laity in ecumenical work.
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The following speech was given by Cardinal William Conway, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, at the annual prize-giving in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth on the 19th June, 1966:
Today and for a long to come much of the life of the Church will be dominated by the teaching and decisions of the great Vatican Council which has just been concluded.
It is often said that the Council was the Church adapting herself to the conditions of a changing world.
I believe that the changes which have taken place in the world in recent years, dramatic though they be, are but a foretaste of a profound transformation of human society and human thought which has only just begun and which may take anything up to a hundred years to work itself out.
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The following press release was issued by the Irish hierarchy following their meeting at St. Patrick’s Maynooth on the 21st-22nd June, 1966:
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MAYNOOTH
The Second Vatican Council has called for the development of Catholic University facilities, especially in the sphere of philosophy and theology, in order to show the harmony of Christian teaching with true human culture and scientific development, and to provide all priests, religious and laity with the fullest opportunity of Christian formation.
The Irish bishops at their June meeting have had under consideration how this development could be secured in this country, and propose to develop Maynooth as an open centre of higher studies, and to extend its facilities and courses so as to meet the requirements, not merely of priests, diocesan and regular, but also of brothers, nuns and laity.
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The following press release was issued by the Irish hierarchy following their meeting at St. Patrick’s Maynooth on the 22nd-23rd June, 1965:
Among the matters discussed were:
In addition to proposals for more extensive use of the vernacular, draft texts of the “Prayer of the Faithful” and of the funeral service also were considered, and were referred to the Episcopal Liturgical Commission for revision.
A number of decisions also were taken to ensure the proper formation of the students of Maynooth in the doctrine and principles of the Constitution on the Liturgy. A Professor of Sacred Liturgy has been appointed and will pursue special studies at a liturgical institute before taking up his duties.
Liturgical actions in the college are to be carried out in conformity with the new liturgical norms. One of the oratories in the college is to be remodelled with an altar facing the congregation in order to familiarise the students with the new structure of the ceremonies.
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by Brendan Clifford,
Church and State; Third Quarter, 2008
Oxford University was appealed to by Raymond Crotty (founder of the Irish Sovereignty Movement) to take Ireland in hand intellectually, because the Irish were unable to think for themselves. It has now published a volume on Ireland as part of its Oxford History Of Modern Europe. But, alas, it farmed out the work of writing it to a Stickie academic, who was a political adviser to David Trimble during the years when Trimble was leading the Ulster Unionist Party to disaster, and who has now joined his leader in the House of Lords.
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Donald J. Thorman: “It seems to me that if labels are useful, the one I’d have to pin on today’s laity: The Uncertain Catholic. The characteristic note of today’s American Catholic is confusion, indecision; we are treading water, waiting, wondering what is going to happen next. This is the age of the question mark. We no longer feel certain we have all the answers to all of men’s problems. We are no longer certain if we know all the right questions.” (America, Jan. 14, 1967, p.39)
Celledoor Miscellany has reposted these historic articles from back issues of Life magazine, which I highly commend to your attention. They give a vivid insight into the collapse of the ecclesiastical ancien régime following the Second Vatican Council and the internal turmoil facing the Church in the United States. Overall they make for very depressing reading.
I recently happened upon a succinct but comprehensive little booklet, concerning the same theme, entitled Keeping Your Balance in the Modern Church by Fr. Hugh J. O’Connell, C.SS.R., PhD. It was published in 1968 by Liguorian Pamphlets and bears the imprimatur of the Archbishop of St Louis, John J. Carberry. (Interestingly my pamphlet is also signed in pen by the conservative Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin.) It is a must read for any Catholic who has ever asked himself: ‘How did everything that was so good get so bad?’ While Fr. O’Connell’s pamphlet is largely specific to the American situation, it seems to me that strong parallels existed between all the churches of the English-speaking countries. All these local churches were dominated by Irish immigrants or their descendants in countries which had remained unconquered by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and where there existed no serious prospect of a communist takeover. None of these characteristics hold true for the countries of the Rhine basin, whose prelates led the push for change in the Church at the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore all the English-speaking local churches were known to have exhibited comparatively less enthusiasm for the pre-conciliar ressourcement and liturgical movements while (or perhaps because) they were still able to boast of high levels of Mass attendance, vocations, popular catechetical knowledge and devotional practice.
Fr. O’Connell contends that the American Catholic Church was caught off guard by the Second Vatican Council:
The Church in North America — laity, priests, nuns and even bishops — was almost completely unprepared for the way things turned out at Vatican Council II. This was the result of a number of factors.
1) Americans had remained relatively untouched by World War II. They experienced little of the ferment and unrest, the need to reassert the value of the individual person, which in Europe flowed from the struggle against Nazism and Fascism.
2) Americans, including theologians and bishops, had little or no acquaintance with the new personalist and existentialist philosophy. This had been developed in Europe, chiefly outside the church. Introduced by certain European theologians, this philosophy exerted a powerful influence on the deliberations of Vatican II and on Catholic life and teaching since the Council.
3) American Catholics were for the most part unaware of the writings of Protestant theologians, both orthodox and liberal. The ecumenical temper of the times brought these ideas to the attention of Catholic theologians, particularly in Germany, France and Holland.
Fr. O’Connell believes that the breakdown of theological censorship has facilitated doctrinal dissent and spread confusion among ordinary lay Catholics:
A good many of the religious problems of the average Catholic laymen, priests and nuns, who make no claim to be specialists or scholars, stem from the new air of freedom of theological thought and discussion resulting from Vatican II.
[…] The great danger, as every reasonable man must recognize, is that freedom brings with it the possibility that it will be abused. In the days before Vatican II, there was actually a very considerable amount of theological speculation and innovation; there were battles quite as heated as those going on today. The only difference was that such ideas were quietly presented in theological journals, and were subjected by experts to analysis and investigation, to weighing of reasons pro and con, to a more or less general acceptance or rejection by qualified theologians before they ever came to public attention.
Moreover, among Catholics the shock of new religious ideas on the minds of those who were not experts was cushioned by the censorship of books and articles and by the index of prohibited books. Before a book treating on religion could be published by a Catholic, it had to be submitted for censorship in order to obtain an imprimatur. If the book was considered to contain opinions contrary to Catholic doctrine, to the decrees of the Holy See, or even too wild and revolutionary, permission to print would be denied. To the liberal, who claimed the right to make up his own mind about religious truth, such censorship was intolerable. To the person who felt no competence to judge between truth and error in complex religious questions, it was a comfort.
Fr. O’Connell is convinced that the actual documents of the Second Vatican Council are capable of an orthodox interpretation, though a tinge of regret for their formulation is easily discernible. He likens the conciliar Fathers’ critical adoption of personalism to St. Augustine’s critical use of Plato or St. Thomas Aquinas’ blending of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian revelation.
Then came Vatican II. We have described how the North European group of bishops, headed by Germany and France, exerted a dominant influence in the Council. Moreover, their theologians wrote the revised versions of the more important schemas which served as basis of discussion in the Council. As a result, these schemas reflected a strong tone of personalism.
Of course, as was mentioned before, these documents were debated by bishops of every caste of mind. Some of the schemas were sent back for correction four or five times. The final version blended both the new personalism and the traditional acceptance of objective truth.
Many thanks to Jaykay for recounting his experiences of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms:
The new version came in from the first Sunday in January 1970 – at least in Armagh Archdiocese. That would have been Sunday 4th January. I clearly remember that the church was packed. We kids had got our new books just after Christmas (probably again in Woolworths!) and I recall that it was quite confusing as we hadn’t done any of the preparatory stuff in school before Christmas. Even the priests made loads of “mistakes” (and at that time it was still common for older priests to lapse into Latin if they got distracted e.g. to say “Dominus vobis… erm, eh… The Lord be with you…”). Nobody laughed in those days, of course! We had to learn the new versions of the confiteor and Domine non sum dignus (we were still told to strike the breast at the correct places – something me and some people of my generation still do) but otherwise the Ordinary was unchanged – until 1975.
Cardinal Conway was in charge and was quite conservative, so there was very little, if any, “creativity” on the part of priests. Most of the older priests were also quite conservative so we still had loads of Latin Benedictions, 40 hours, confraternities etc. It really didn’t change until the 80s. It’s still not too bad in my neck of the woods, but the banality is everywhere e.g. no incense at the main Mass on Easter Sunday and the usual flat, boring “let’s get it over with” attitude. No wonder the average age is about 50+!
The following is an editorial from Church and State magazine (the organ of the old Campaign to Seperate Church and State), January, 2010:
“The Age Of My Craven Deference Is Finally Over.” That was the headline on Professor Ronan Fanning’s article on the Murphy Report (Sun. Independent, 6 Dec.). Well, it was almost the headline. Fanning used the collective “our” rather than the personal “my”. But in the case of the Professor of Modern History at the chief College of the National University the personal and the collective merge. The Professor (singular) determines in great part what characterised the plurality of those who went through the educational system to its highest level.
It became well known to us long ago that the paid intelligentsia of the state were craven in their attitude towards the Church. They were sceptics in private but were cynically respectful in public, because they were craven.
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The texts above were first introduced to Irish parishes on the 7th March, 1965. The Ordinary of the Mass remains essentially the same as the 1962 Missal but with the (partial) introduction of the vernacular and the omission of the Last Gospel and Psalm 42 in the prayers at the foot of the altar.
The 1965 Lenten pastoral letters of Irish bishops were almost wholly dedicated to explaining the reforms, most were very eager to remind the faithful that alterations to the liturgy involved no change of doctrine on the Mass as Sacrifice.
The following is the 1965 Lenten pastoral letter of the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland (slightly abbreviated):
The Vatican Council has spent several years in preparing the Constitution that regulates the manner of offering the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Fathers have had only one purpose in view: worthily to re-enact the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
In that unique sacrifice Jesus Christ as Man acknowledged the absolute dominion of God over all creation. He made full reparation for the insult of the sins of men against the Infinite God. He gave adequate thanks to God for all His benefits to mankind. In the certainty of being heard, He entreated and obtained from God every grace that human-kind can need.
Fr Reynold Hillenbrand celebrating Mass in 1957 at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Hubbard’s Woods, Illinois
The following is an extract from an article on ‘Active Participation in the Mass’ by Rev. John Fennelly, P.P., published in Doctrine and Life, November, 1955.
Discussion on the introduction of the vernacular into the Mass rite itself would be outside the scope of this article. An increasing volume of liturgical opinion favours a limited use of it in the forepart of the Mass. The Mass of Catechumens would therefore resume its former role and primary function of instructing the people. At the International Liturgical Congress in Lugano (1953), a strong recommendation was forwarded to Rome by the delegates assembled, that the Collects, Epistle and Gospel should be heard directly from the sacred minister or ministers in the language of the people. Permission to use the vernacular in the administration of some of the Sacraments has been granted to many countries.
The use of the vernacular by the people is a totally different matter. A notable change has taken place within the past thirty years in Church policy with regard to hymns and prayers for popular use at quasi-liturgical functions like a Holy Hour. The general tendency nowadays is to encourage the people to pray and sing in their own tongue. The Germans are permitted to sing the common of the High Mass in German. It does not seem reasonable to force Latin on the ordinary congregation, if the people can be permitted to ‘pray the Mass’ in a language they understand.
[…] Fr. Pius Parsch, an Austrian, who died in 1954, is credited with the discovery of the best method of popular participation devised in our time. Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J., the well-known writer and apostle of the liturgical movement, thus describes it in an article in the Catholic Herald, of April 30th, 1954. ‘Fr Parsch had many remarkable achievements in the practical sphere. He is likely to be remembered best for a certain form of communal public Mass called the Betsingmesse (“Prayer-hymn-Mass”), which has now spread throughout the whole of Austria and Germany. This is a very practical and logical combination of two forms already in use: the Missa recitata or Dialogue Mass and hymn-singing during Mass.’
[…] Common prayer, seasoned with a little singing, is a reasonable contribution to ask from the faithful towards the splendour, dignity and social character of the Sacred Mysteries. It is the most and the least to expect from the average congregation assembled for Mass in the Parish Church here in Ireland or, perhaps, anywhere.
[…] And though Penal days are long gone by, the people have not regained their voice or attempted to take their rightful place in the Sacred Liturgy […] Few are prepared to maintain that the Plain Chant revival movement, into which the schools have thrown themselves wholeheartedly, has yielded the results expected of it.
[…] The social and liturgical movements now stirring the Church are closely connected and inter-dependent. One cannot succeed without the other. Both set out to correct excessive Individualism and lead to the formation of the Christian community. Both derive their inspiration from the doctrine of the Mystical Body. Neither movement can be hurried. A whole generation may pass away before the social and liturgical teaching of the Popes becomes an active force influencing the public mind and penetrating into the sanctuary of the Church.
[…] It has been noticed that both these reform movements within the Church make striking progress in areas where the Church is subjected to severe pressure. At the International Liturgical Congress of Lugano, 1953, Bishop Weskham, of Berlin, could testify to the rapid progress of every kind of liturgical endeavour in the part of his diocese under Soviet control.
[…] There is no denying that the Roman Mass rite, as it stands, is ill-adjusted for teaching the populace or training their minds towards active, intelligent, and social participation. Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J., goes into this matter fully in his popular book on the Liturgy The Work of Our Redemption. Not only is there a lack of adjustment between the individualistic-minded laity and the communal-minded Liturgy, there is also an element of aloofness and elusiveness in the liturgy itself. In addition to the barrier of language, there exists a number of features that militate against intimacy. That is particularly noticeable at a low Mass. The priest has his back to the people and even when proclaiming the good tidings of the Gospel, does not face them. The present Mass rite and the rubrics governing its celebration were framed in the sixteenth century, at a time when participation on the part of the people was at its lowest ebb. Little change has been made since the time of St. Pius V. […] Admission of the vernacular into the Mass rite would, at the time, have been equivalent to sanctioning doctrinal error and opening the door to devotional and liturgical chaos […] The matter can now be debated on its merits.
[…] Many are unconscious of strong currents of social and liturgical reform moving within the Church, and, therefore, fail to understand a desire for change even when it is proved that the ‘innovation’ is a return to earlier and sounder tradition. They have no sympathy with the Pastor who would like to celebrate Mass facing his people at a small liturgical altar situated well down the Church, or who wishes for a revival of the Offertory Procession, the singing of the people during the distribution of Holy Communion, of the employment of Lectors to read the Collects, Epistle and Gospel of the day in the language of the people. These reforms are pressed for in regions where the Church can no longer control the school, and where religious education of any kind is banned in state schools.
[…] The new Easter Vigil rite incorporates many features that have long been desired by advocates of liturgical reform. It seems to be a portent of what may be expected in time to come. The Holy See will proceed slowly and with due regard for varying national conditions. But it cannot be doubted the liturgy has begun to move out of a feudal or ‘fossilised’ state.
[…] Should Pastors wait until reform measures are completed, or ought they take steps to prepare the minds of the people — especially youth — for impending change using the best means at present available? Mediator Dei leaves no room for doubt as to which course should be followed: ‘Strive earnestly, by methods and means which your prudence judges most effective, to bring about a close union between clergy and laity: that the faithful may take so active a part in the liturgy that it becomes really a sacred action in which both priest — especially the priest in his own parish — and people join in offering to Almighty God the worship which is His due’. Work on the people and with the people may begin under the direction of the Pastor with the approval and sanction of ecclesiastical authority.
The following statement was issued by the Bishops of the United States in December, 1963, in response to the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy promulgated on 4 December is the first achievement of Vatican Council II. It will affect the spiritual life of prayer and worship of all Catholics. It will make the Church more comprehensible to all men.
This is the first great step in the Church’s inner renewal begun by Pope John XXIII and now being carried out by all the bishops in union with the chief bishop, Pope Paul VI.
The bishops of the United States, having taken part fully in the discussion, amendment and acceptance of this document, welcome it wholeheartedly and dedicate themselves to fulfil its purposes.
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