Flattering…

This just came in from my editor, Dom Alcuin Reid. I will give a couple of comments after this review by the Jesuit priest Fr Baldovin.

* * *

T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy. Edited by Alcuin Reid. New York, NY: T&T Clark Bloomsbury, 2016. Pp. xix + 561. $172.

This book is a compilation of twenty-two essays by sixteen contributors. The editor, Alcuin Reid, wrote five of the chapters in addition to the introduction. The aim of the work is to provide an introduction to the study of Catholic liturgy that departs from the usual positive assessment of the post-Vatican II liturgical reform. In his introduction, R. does mention that a number of more “progressive” scholars (I am named among them) were invited to contribute but regrettably did not. For the most part the scholars represented in the volume could be identified as belonging to the “reform of the reform” position with regard to the post-Vatican II liturgy. An exception is Anscar Chupungco, the late Benedictine scholar well known for his work on liturgy and culture. It should also be noted that a welcome ecumenical element, an Anglican assessment, is offered by Ben Gordon-Taylor.

The book is divided into five parts. The first deals with the nature of liturgy itself— in a single essay by David Fagerberg, which articulates a position on liturgical theology that had been put forward by Alexander Schmemann, Aidan Kavanagh and others. This chapter is a succinct and very helpful introduction to a theological approach that has been widely accepted in academic liturgical circles, certainly among Roman Catholics. The second part consists of ten essays on the history of the liturgy. The third part treats the liturgy at Vatican II and after. This is followed by a part devoted to themes like architecture, music and translation. The final part is a single chapter entitled “The A–Z of the Study of Catholic Liturgy,” consisting of a glossary and short (and very useful) introduction to a number of important figures.

As is inevitable with a book of this sort, the quality of the pieces is uneven. Perhaps the most crucial chapters are contributed by R. himself. It is a review of the twentieth-century liturgical movement whose basic tenet is that the early movement’s intent to understand the liturgy of the church as it had been celebrated for several hundred years and thus help Catholics to participate in it consciously and intelligently was hijacked by a Vatican official, Annibale Bugnini (as well as others) in the wake of the council. For R. and a number of the contributors who agree with him, the reform was a radical departure from the organic development and reform of the liturgy that had been called for by the Vatican II Liturgy Constitution (no. 31). Even a pope has no right to change the liturgy radically, as Paul VI did. Indeed R. traces this error to Pope Pius X’s reform of the breviary at the beginning of the twentieth century. A second crucial chapter is R.’s vigorous defense of the use of the so-called Usus Antiquior or pre-conciliar liturgy. In it he accuses the opponents of Pope Benedict XVI’s liberalization of the use of this liturgy of being “positivistic” and assessing the post-Vatican II liturgy as “almost a dogma of the faith.”

This collection is argumentative and sometimes downright polemical. At practically every turn the liturgy produced by the post-conciliar Consilium for the implementation of the liturgy constitution under the leadership of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini is sharply criticized as at odds with the constitution itself. For the majority of the contributors twentieth-century “modernism” is to blame for many of the wrong turns the post-conciliar liturgy took, both in the creation of the liturgies themselves and in their pastoral implementation. Some authors (Robert Hayward and Daniel van Slyke) are very critical of the historical-critical method that has been adopted by many liturgical scholars with regards to the early liturgy. Other contributions, for example, Yitzhak Hen on medieval liturgy and Anthony Chadwick on the Roman Missal of the Council of Trent are extremely erudite. For the most part the bibliographies appended to the chapters are helpful and up-to-date.

To say the least, this collection will not find a welcome among the majority of liturgical scholars who hold academic positions today, some of whom are criticized quite harshly in various essays. This is not a book, however, that should be ignored or lightly dismissed by liturgical scholars and other theologians who consider themselves more progressive, since it contains many arguments that are well worth pondering and invite a reasoned and measured response. On the other hand, those looking for a more balanced and even-handed companion to Catholic liturgy need to look elsewhere.

John F. Baldovin, SJ
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

* * *

It is inevitable that any criticism of the status quo (the Pauline liturgy) will be branded as polemical. We do find the opposition between the “reform of the reform” under the previous Pope and its reversal by the present incumbent. Fr Baldovin evaluates the various essays making up this book in this perspective. I do remember from my university days that academic work needs to avoid ideology and any polemical tone and concentrate on factual and historical criticism. It would have been very difficult for Dom Alcuin to come up with a purpose of this book. I do agree that the status quo of professional liturgists needs to be challenged, and that the debate should be conducted on a level playing field. My university work, converted into my contribution to this book, stayed in a safe position by discussing a historical subject matter which would criticise the current situation of the liturgy only by analogy. My work has been flatteringly described as “extremely erudite”.

Over the long Roman Catholic period of my life, I became tired of the endless controversies between two positions, neither of which was ever my own. I do not believe that Bugnini’s reform was good, and I discerned the limits of the old post-Tridentine status quo as is the usage of Roman Catholic traditionalist groups. In terms of fundamental theology, I feel more at home with Modernists like Baron von Hügel, George Tyrrell and other historical critics of that period preceding World War I – than with the neo-scholastics and representatives of an increasingly repressive Papal Catholicism. The liturgical life of the Church, in my reckoning is eminently spiritual and contemplative, something Dom Alcuin would understand as a Benedictine monk. The problems in Roman Catholicism are less liturgical than ecclesiological. As a cradle Anglican, I moved to a form of traditionalist Christianity where things are situated differently and with more subtlety.

This book is very expensive, but I do recommend its being read and consulted, at least borrowed from a library. I feel very much as part of a team of academics who have done their bit to challenge certitudes and keep the dialogue going, so that there can be progress here and there. Certainly, my Roman Catholic period has influenced my present thought and life as a Continuing Anglican priest.

I have done little work of the Use of Sarum, since the real research was done by romantically-inclined Anglicans in the mid nineteenth century and up to World War I. It all colludes with the contemplative version of “Modernism”. Most of my own effort has been in “marketing” and overcoming the notion that anything that is no longer in current widespread use must be refused, leaving only Tridentine and post-Bugnini standards. I resist that kind of “bullet in the foot”, a kind of Achilles heel in Catholic Christianity to use the analogy of the same part of human anatomy.

How do we manage freedom and regulation in the liturgy or anything else in life, whether religious or secular? The best I can offer is the idea of challenging certitudes, all certitudes, so that there may always be movement and progress. The work needs to continue.

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8 Responses to Flattering…

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Congratulations! Excellent that your contribution is available – and among those of “a team of academics who have done their bit to challenge certitudes and keep the dialogue going” – and that both it and that are appreciated by this reviewer!

    It is saddening that interesting academic books are so often expensive, but there are probably many of us who look gratefully forward to visits to good libraries, to hope to catch up – I certainly do, where the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy and your contribution are concerned!

    • I have sent you the pdf of my chapter by private e-mail, as I am prepared to do for others who ask me. Of course, the cost of the book was outside my control, and I can only imagine it is because it was a small and highly specialised printing run.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you very much! It reminds me of the day (the last phase of which I am old enough to remember), when the author of an article or chapter was sent a certain number of offprints, which could be judiciously given to earnest inquirers.

        I am sure you are right that it is because it was a small and highly specialised printing run, and I am grateful publishers see ‘business’ in such worthwhile undertakings. (Of course, I wish they could expect a huge as well as an avid readership, too – but in such cases that would take a while to develop, if it does!)

  2. J.D. says:

    I too would love a copy of that chapter Father, as I do not have the almost 200 dollars for that massive tome.

  3. ed pacht says:

    Me too! It’s a good thing that such tomes can be published at all, but too bad that they need to be offered at such prices. If I can at least read your chapter, I’ll be pleased.

  4. Dale says:

    Father, could you please send me a copy as well.

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