Letter 25
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Arnaud Join-Lambert received his doctorate in theology at the University of Fribourg and is professor at the Catholic University of Louvain where he teaches practical theology and liturgy. He is notably the author of Les liturgies des synodes diocésains français 1983-1999 (Paris: Cerf, 2004) and of Guide pour comprendre la Messe – Préface de Mgr Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin (Paris: Mame, 2002). He was taken to task in our Letter #22 and has sent us the following response. We publish it here unabridged. We also add a reaction of our own, the lot being as it were a stone added to a future theological debate we wish for just as he does.

I - A "Liturgist-Professor's" clarifications regarding Newsletter # 22

Neither at war nor enemies . . . it is therefore as a brother in the faith that I am responding to the most recent letter of Paix Liturgique, which takes me to task in a virulent way. As I am not at all accustomed to this very aggressive style, I wondered where the problem was in our primarily theological interrogations. I'll leave aside Mr. Madiran's violent, contemptuous, and outrageous text, which does not do honor to Paix Liturgique. I belong to the "John Paul II generation," hold a doctorate in Catholic theology and a teaching mandate from Rome, and I am very committed to serving the Church in Belgium. The other "liturgist professors" who were pilloried are nearly all like this, including monks, religious, and priests (including a seminary rector). I would like to take this opportunity to clarify why I believe that the coexistence of the two forms of the Roman rite, one old and one new, does not provide a miracle solution to the current crisis of faith and of the Church. I situate myself in full continuity with Pope John Paul II in his desire for a new evangelization as well as with Pope Benedict XVI in his permanent and untouchable alliance of faith and reason. It is in fact the union between fides and ratio that is the foundation of theology; that is what I work, teach, and do research at the University for.

It has nothing to do with a "rearguard action."

First of all, such a coexistence of two forms of a single rite, one old and one new, is in total rupture with the entire Latin Catholic tradition. Such novelty within tradition deserves serious examination. Remaining at the pastoral arguments of Ecclesia Dei (1988) poses no problem, since the point is to live out this post-conciliar period as best we can.

To go any further and to try giving it a theological foundation is hazardous because in this instance tradition is of no help. That is why I argue for true theological reflection. To achieve this end it is useful to distinguish four successive phases of the recent liturgical reform, each of which is more or less "open to discussion":

1) The liturgical movement (1903-1962): an increasing awareness of the need to modify elements of the liturgy (doublets, additions, inappropriate formulas, no longer understood rites, etc.). Born in monastic circles and in youth movements, this movement was carried along in a few parishes, by more and more priests and bishops as well as by Roman authorities, including Pope Pius XII who launched a few important reforms (the Encyclical Mediator Dei in 1947, the Easter Triduum and Holy Week) plus other lesser ones. All this is well known thanks to multiple historical studies.

2) The conciliar Consititution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy (1963). Let us be clear here: it is beyond discussion! This text belongs to the highest magisterial authority of the 21 Councils. To refuse it is not to be Catholic! Certain passages, however, may be interpreted in several ways. Historical and theological work is therefore useful. In any case, no ordained minister of the Catholic Church can ignore this major text, including those who celebrate the extraordinary form.

3) Liturgical implementation (1964-early 1970s, in general terms). By this I mean the redaction of liturgical books and the publication of several magisterial orientations. The initial work was certainly that of specialists (especially historians and dogmatists), but not only them. Most of the texts were sent to local bishops, sometimes even for the purpose of trial runs. And above all, Pope Paul VI personally looked over every project, marking them up in the margins. These precious documents manifest his very strong commitment to this reform. Paul VI and numerous bishops are therefore among the "cobblers together" of which your newsletter speaks. The term is improper in the light of history (not to mention disrespectful).

This third phase of the liturgical reform must be regularly evaluated and, if the good of the faith requires it, modified. This is the bishops' mission and the work of liturgists. Thus the third edition of the marriage ritual is a very good result which brings out even more clearly the specifically Christian dimension of sacramental marriage. The marriage ritual in the 1925 Rituale romanum was 6 pages long whereas that published in 1990 has 164 pages. One can well imagine elements of the old Roman liturgical form being used to enrich the current one (which already contains an enormous amount of them), but for example in the case of rites such as marriage or the anointing of the sick it is hard to see how. More broadly, this necessitates theological work and pontifical and episcopal discernment. For my part, I see no older sacramental rite that could return in its entirety to fuse with the current one, only scattered elements.

4) Pastoral implementation (1960s-2011). Here it is difficult to make an evaluation: it goes from some very good and successful aspects to the mediocre and barely acceptable. This implementation raises more questions about the formation and discernment of pastors than about theological (point 2) and liturgical (point 3) foundations. One may also wonder whether the faithful are "capable of liturgy," to quote Romano Guardini's famous question.

What should one derive from these four phases of the liturgical reform? There isn't much room to interpret conciliar principles: one must know them in order to remain fully within the Catholic Church. Liturgical and pastoral implementation is to be evaluated and improved for the here-and-now celebration of Christian revelation and of the salvation offered to all of humanity in a ceaselessly changing world.

The extraordinary form of the Roman rite is the source of the ordinary form. There is both continuity and discontinuity (as the SSPX correctly points out regarding the offertory in its Lettre à nos frères prêtres of Sept. 2011). It is therefore the notion of continuity, so dear to our Pope Benedict XVI, that presents a theological problem for the long-term permanence of the two forms' coexistence.

The liturgy is alive. Here is where the extraordinary form can, in several points, contribute to this regular revision for the good of the faith. For this good program, theological formation and reflection are urgently needed. Forgetting reason, intimately connected to the faith, is in my view the dominant characteristic of the sometimes violent conflicts about the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. If it is nourished with theological reflection, the hoped-for liturgical peace will arise in a more solid and lasting manner.

Dr Arnaud Join-Lambert
Professor of Liturgy
Catholic University of Louvain

II - Paix Liturgique's reflections: towards a "true theological reflection"

We thank Professor Join-Lambert for his response's moderate tone as a "brother in the faith." At the beginning of our Letter #22 we duly noted his restraint in La Croix of 10 September 2011. But, as is well known, liturgical matters beget polemic, especially when they present themselves as particularly violent, as was the case in the very radical reform of the late 1960s. Hence our own expressions may have seemed too "touchy" to him.

In reality, the essential point of out Letter #22 is in agreement with that of Prof. Join-Lambert: "The coexistence of two forms of a single rite, one old and one new, is in total rupture with the entire Latin Catholic tradition. Such novelty within tradition deserves serious examination." This is true and, in our view, all of its consequences must be drawn. Arnaud Join-Lambert argues for a "true theological reflection."

We earnestly desire for him to be heard.

On the other hand, the presentation of four phases into which he fits the reform is, as he states himself, more or less open to discussion. We'll discuss them as follows:

A/ He presents phase 1 (the liturgical movement, 1903-1962) as a consistent and coherent whole. In reality its protagonists were very diverse and their aims were often at odds and, for each of them, sometimes complex. In brief, the Liturgical movement as understood, for example, by Solesmes and its followers on the one hand, and the Liturgical movement as understood by the National Center for Pastoral Liturgy of Paris and the Liturgical Institute of Trèves (Trier) on the other hand were more than divergent. It is obvious that the reform that followed the council was along the lines of the latter, very "advanced" current. It is no less obvious that Pope Pius XII's 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei, his speech to the International Pastoral Liturgy Congress at Assisi on 22 September 1956, and many others of his interventions amount to so many efforts at rectifying, correcting, and refocusing this current, which was already at the time dangerously disturbing for the continuity of Roman forms of worship.

B/ Regarding the second phase he mentions, i.e. the conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, Professor Join-Lambert says: "it is beyond discussion!" Oh no it isn't! In our view, the Constitution may be discussed in three ways:

It may be discussed theologically, as the text of a council that claims to be "pastoral," i.e. non-normative as such for the profession of the faith. The conciliar Consitution, as do many Vatican II texts, allows for diverse interpretations, in this case worship-related; in contrast, it would have been impossible to see substantially different liturgical books emerge from the Council of Trent than those published in 1568-1614. Vatican II is comparable to no earlier council: it is just as much a global event as a collection of texts, the more "open" of which are moderated by traditional declarations while the more classical texts are sprinkled with "markers" allowing for their sterilization. In the case of the liturgy there is the famous motion concerning Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended" (#36). The thesis, as is only too well known, was later subverted by the hypothesis.

One may also discuss whether the reform is in continuity or rupture with the Constitution. In his most recent intervention on this theme, a few months before his elevation to the sovereign pontificate, in the review he wrote in 30 Giorni (Dec. 2004) of Fr. Alcuin Reid's work The Organic Development of the Liturgy (Farnborough: St. Michael’s Abbey Press, 2004), Joseph Ratzinger was calling for another liturgical reform, a reform that would represent a true "organic development" from the liturgical movement as it had been taking shape until 1948 and was embodied in the reforms of Pius XII. He presented the post-conciliar reform as an interpretation in rupture with the true reform that was underway during Vatican II and which the council, according to him, wished to continue harmoniously.

Lastly, Summorum Pontificum goes one step further. Theological discussion must deal with this, too. The Motu Proprio is careful to specify that the "extraordinary form" of the rite is governed by the liturgical books dating to before the latest reform, i.e. as the official editions were in 1962, date of the last editio typica of the Tridentine Missal. Still, the Motu Proprio is also careful not to assign to this "extraordinary form" any magisterial reference earlier than the Council. In this way, it leaves open--it even implicitly encourages--the common reference of either "form" of the Roman rite to the Vatican II Constitution on the liturgy, Sanctorum Concilium. This has a double effect: it relativizes the post-conciliar reform, to the extent that those who make use of the non-reformed books also have the right to claim to be following the Council; conversely, it encourages the traditionalization of the latest reform by placing it (just as it does the "extraordinary form") not only in the wake of the conciliar Constitution but also in that of the magisterial tradition preceding it. In other words, one may infer from Summorum Pontificum that the Paul VI liturgy is virtually, so to speak, under the governance of Mediator Dei, the last properly magisterial act on the liturgy. To put the matter otherwise: if the Tridentine rite and the new rite both can claim to follow Sacrosanctum Concilium, sooner or later the reform of Paul VI will have to match up with the texts that came before the council, especially Mediator Dei. Even if this entails a very profound readjustment.

C/ And it is precisely regarding the third phase (post-conciliar reform) that Arnaud Join-Lambert admits that it "must be regularly evaluated and, if the good of the faith requires it, modified." One could not put it better. Since the reform began, the most competent critics, whose words we are merely repeating, have leveled the following charges against it:

-As to form, they say that it is the most radical upheaval ever wrought in the name of a "return to the sources" (itself debatable from a scientific point of view with forty years' hindsight) and in the name of inculturation (incidentally incomplete and a source of frustration for a good number of its advocates) in a "culture" that is per se foreign to the Christian message and its worship.

-As to substance, limiting ourselves only to the new rite of the Mass, they criticize it for the innumerable variants in its celebration: it manifests (lex orandi, lex credendi) an immanantization of the Christian message. Specifically, in contrast to the Roman Tridentine rite and the different Oriental Catholic rites, the doctrine of the Mass as the unbloody renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered for the living and the dead, the adoration of Christ's Real Presence, the specificity of the hierarchical priesthood, and generally speaking the sacred character of the Eucharistic celebration are expressed in a sensibly weaker manner than in the traditional rite.

We can only repeat that today no specialist in the history of the Roman liturgy would dare defend most of this reform's key options: the suppression of the sacrificial Offertory (a liturgical pleonasm) that had been deemed a "doublet" (yet the liturgy repeats itself to infinity), which Offertory has an equivalent in all Catholic liturgies; the hastily thrown-together lectionary assembled from whole cloth; the multiplication of new Eucharistic Prayers (including, in the second Prayer, the excessively rash reconstitution of an Anaphora allegedly from the Apostolic Tradition or Tradition of Hippolytus), etc. Not to attribute more to his words than what he intended, but it seems to us that Arnaud Join-Lambert grants that there is indeed "discontinuity" in the abolition of the Offertory and that "for a long-term permanence of the two forms' coexistence," he deems it useful to reflect on the "notion of continuity."

D/ The fourth phase that Arnaud Join-Lambert presents, the reform's implementation, could therefore only contain "the mediocre and barely acceptable" (more than gravely spoiling the "very good and successful aspects", which for our part we have trouble discerning). Certainly one can sometimes badly celebrate the so-called Tridentine liturgy (too fast, for example) but never to the extent of making it say anything else than what is said in its ritual, which has been built up over ten or fifteen centuries' use. On the other hand, even when celebrated with as much "ritualism" as possible (which is extremely rare and contrary to its nature), a reformed Mass retains the same intrinsic deficiencies as have been listed over the past forty years. As for "the abuses," which are often invoked as excuses ('the reform is good, but deformed in practice'), their incidence is inherent to a multiform and multi-optional rite.

When all is said and done, are these the deficiencies of a new lex orandi? We would say that the deficiency seems to lie in the nature of the new liturgy's lex, which falls short of the level of lex because it is splintered into innumerable modalities, choices, and options. This is more radically the case because it is not intended to be a norm of faith in the same way as the one Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon actionis, which by reason of its unicity was for Rome something equivalent to a creed about the sacramental Sacrifice. This is in analogy to the new teachings of Vatican II (e.g. ecumenism), which are not intended to be a norm of faith in the way that the dogmas of Trent were.

Lastly Arnaud Join-Lambert affirms the liturgy's "alive" character. We can only agree with him, except that we surely do not ascribe the same theological meaning to that adjective: for him the liturgy is alive, it would seem, to the extent that its celebration must always undergo improvement in order to adapt its message of salvation to humanity "in a ceaselessly changing world"; for us the liturgy is alive, exactly as the tradition of which it is a part (the Church's tradition which hands on the Apostles' constitutive tradition with a view to spreading it) is alive and, by way of analogy, as the Magisterium is alive. Past developments in divine worship, which were very often nearly imperceptible (and in any case always in a Romanizing direction and therefore with a strongly traditional aim) made explicit the original good deposit by progressing (never by regressing) in the same direction and with the same outlook (to evoke Saint Vincent of Lerins).

But we duly note that Fr. Join-Lambert speaks of an "alive liturgy" essentially with a view to proposing that recent implementations ought to "be evaluated and improved." In this perspective he calls the extraordinary form a "source" that "can, in several points, contribute to [a] regular revision for the good of the faith."

The traditional liturgy as a standard: it could not be said better. Is this not one of the deep motifs of Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio? This is one of the ways for us to express why we seek to bring about its inevitable rebirth.