Dialogue Mass - XXXIII
The Architect of the Liturgical Reform
Explains Vatican II
The Golden Altar in San José Church, Panamá City, glorifying God present in the Tabernacle expresses well what the liturgical reform wants to destroy
Contempt for Tradition
This reveals a calculated plan to demolish all the symbols of transcendence that awakened a sense of awe before the presence of God and reduce the unfathomable mysteries to a few simple formulas expressive of “the life and feeling of the people.” The reform would banish God from the centre of the liturgy (as happened in the ensuing Novus Ordo Mass) together with the spirit of adoration, the presence of mystery, and the atmosphere of holiness that characterized the traditional Mass.
The absurdity of the Vatican II reform lies in the fact that a Church that was notable for the orthodoxy and beauty of her liturgy was now being damned for her fidelity to Tradition. It is tantamount to saying that if it weren’t for Catholic Tradition, everything in the Church would be fine.
The Real Presence
Jungmann’s main objection to the practice of Eucharistic adoration was that it encouraged the faithful to concentrate on the Real Presence and deflected attention away from the activity of the gathered community. In support of this theory, dear to the Liturgical Movement, he quoted fellow-Jesuit Henri de Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum, (2) which had already been condemned by the Holy Office in 1950 for “pernicious errors on essential points of dogma.” (3)
Jungmann recommended especially the final chapter of this book in which de Lubac set out a theory, drawn from his ressourcement studies (resssourcement = return to the sources), that the doctrine of the Real Presence only entered the Church in the ninth century. (4) In his opinion, this “novelty” led the medieval Church to develop a false conception of the Eucharist as the verum Corpus, the true Body of Christ. (5) That title, de Lubac argued, belonged by rights to the body of people united around the Eucharist and should be transferred to them (6) on the assumption that this was the original belief of the early Christians.
De Lubac also brought into discredit orthodox medieval theologians (among whom we must include pre-eminently St. Thomas Aquinas) by accusing them of being so fixated with the doctrine of transubstantiation and the Real Presence that they overlooked the importance of the assembled people. Worse still, he charged, the doctrine of the Real Presence was a cause of division in the Church because it made the people (the “true Body of Christ”) become “detached from the Eucharist.” (7) This false accusation became the central paradox of the Liturgical Movement, a sort of Hegelian dialectic, which would be resolved by erasing the distinction between Christ and the people, between the supernatural and the natural, grace and nature, and pretending that they are identical.
Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J.
Like all progressivists, Jungmann did not approve of giving the Blessed Sacrament its traditional place of honor, as the following unwarranted complaints make clear:
“In church, the tabernacle takes the central place and outweighs the altar in importance. The idea spreads that a church is primarily the house of God… A sacramental piety develops that, even within the Mass, values and understands only the Consecration… Not all these developments can be approved. For the result of much far-reaching emphasis was to isolate the Blessed Sacrament from the original context of its foundation [a meal to be shared]. A static view of the Sacrament became all too often predominant; the main interest centered on the abiding Presence.” (10)
But, the abiding Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar has always been the focal point of the Church and the Mass since Apostolic times. Catholic belief in the reality of the Eucharist (which St. Thomas Aquinas called the res et sacramentum) long pre-dated the custom of fixed and permanent tabernacles.
It was only with the Liturgical Movement that the primary focus of attention would be diverted from the Blessed Sacrament to the “active participation” of the people, from the cult of the Eucharist to a “self-celebration” by the people, in other words, to the cult of man.
Since the abiding Presence was regarded as a hindrance to the “active participation” called for by Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, some radical changes were considered necessary to rectify what was a long-lasting and (for the reforming liturgists) an intolerable situation.
‘See what the enemy has done in the Sanctuary’ (Psalm 73:3)
So, they persuaded the National Conferences of Bishops around the world to make the following liturgical changes specially designed to alter Catholic belief, attitudes and behavior regarding the Real Presence:
- The Tabernacle is demoted from its central position on the altar and placed in an obscure corner or niche, preferably out of sight;
- The central altar versus Deum (turned toward God) was either entirely removed or kept as a mere artistic background and a table versus populum (turned toward the people), placed in the presbytery between the altar and the assembly, is now where the New Mass is said;
- Devotions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, such as Exposition, Benediction, the Forty Hours and Corpus Christi processions were suppressed, with consequent loss of faith and reverence;
- No one is required to genuflect when passing in front of the Tabernacle or keep a reverent silence in church, even when the Mass is not being celebrated;
- Minimalism became the keynote in modern church architecture and decoration so as to have no visual distraction from the liturgical action of the gathered assembly;
- Any lay person can be made a Eucharistic minister – after a speedy course – and handle and distribute Holy Communion to anyone, because it is no longer regarded as the object of adoration.
Christ the King Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a typical Vatican II church: no ornaments, no traditional altar, but a table facing the people, the tabernacle is at the right side - enlarged below
It is important to keep in mind that whereas devotion to the Blessed Sacrament survived the assaults of the 16th century Protestant “Reformation,” it could hardly survive the internal attacks launched by the 20th century Church’s own hierarchy and clergy.
- J.A. Jungmann, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” in H. Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, London and New York: Burns & Oates/Herder, 1967, vol. 1, p. 24.
- J.A. Jungmann, ibid., p. 118, note 87. Corpus Mysticum: l’Eucharistie et l’Église au Moyen Age (The Mystical Body: The Eucharist and the Church in the Middle Ages) (1944) was among several books by Fr. Henri de Lubac condemned by the Holy Office in 1950. All Jesuit Provincials in the world were ordered to remove it from their libraries and, where possible, from public circulation. Also under pressure from Rome, de Lubac was removed from his post as Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of Lyon and from his editorship of Recherches de Science Religieuse. But, he continued writing and giving conferences to priests. One of his books, Méditation sur l’Église, was published in Paris in 1953 during the period of his silencing by Rome. Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Paul VI) had an Italian version printed in Milan in 1955 and circulated among his priests.
De Lubac was rehabilitated by Pope John XXIII, who appointed him as a consulter to the Preparatory Theological Commission for Vatican II. He, then, became a perito at the Council and a member of the Theological Commission before being made Cardinal in 1983. De Lubac exerted a considerable influence on the drafting of the Conciliar documents Dei Verbum, Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes. He enjoyed the special esteem of the other conciliar Popes from Paul VI to Francis.
- Henri de Lubac, At the Service of the Church, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993, p. 68.
- Jungmann supports this point of view: “Out of the distant past, Eucharistic thought had gradually taken a new turn, so that from the time of Isidore and the controversies of the ninth century it began little by little to look upon the Sacrament (omitting its symbolism) almost entirely from the viewpoint of the Real Presence.” At this point Jungmann inserts a footnote referencing de Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum. See Jungmann, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 118.
- This chapter was called “Du symbole à la dialectique,” (from symbol to dialectic) (pp. 255-284). Here, de Lubac accused the Church in the 12th century of separating the sacramental Body of Christ from the ecclesial Body of Christ. He called this “une césure meurtrière” (a deadly break), alleging that it destroyed the symbolic unity of Christ and the Church.
- De Lubac purported to prove that the medieval Scholastics had reversed the Church’s original understanding of the Eucharist. Whereas they defined Christ’s Body sacramentally present on the altar as the “true Body” (verum Corpus) of Christ and the Church as His “Mystical Body,” de Lubac pointed out that some pre-medieval theologians had understood these titles in reverse fashion. By merely juggling these titles around, he sought to prove that medieval sacramental theology had gone astray from the original concept of the Eucharist held by the early Christians. But, he failed to prove that the content of the Faith had changed and could continue changing with time. Indeed, it would have been impossible for him to do so; for St. Thomas Aquinas had ably demonstrated that “the articles of Faith are not based upon mere opinion, but upon Truth and, therefore, cannot possibly change.” (Pope Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem, June 29,1923)
- De Lubac, Corpus Mysticum, p. 283. It was simply pure speculation, a product of de Lubac’s imagination, that when the term “Mystical Body” was applied to the Church, it caused a rift between Christ and His Church. “Thus the ultimate reality of the Sacrament, which was formerly the thing and the truth par excellence, is now expelled from the Sacrament. Any symbolism is now only extrinsic… For the moment it first became corpus mysticum, the ecclesial body has already become detached from the Eucharist.”
- The practitioners of the Nouvelle Théologie did not adhere to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas and, consequently, did not understand that only in the Blessed Sacrament does Christ’s Presence pertain to the ontological or metaphysical order, the order of real being. As Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., pointed out in Where Is the New Theology Leading Us? (1946): “The philosophy of being or ontology is substituted by the philosophy of action, which defines truth as no longer a function of being but of action.”
- De Lubac: “each one of us” in the Church is “the chief minister of all the sacraments.” Catholicisme, Paris: Éditions du Cerf,, 1952, p. 86.
- J.A. Jungmann, “Eucharistic Piety,” The Way: a Quarterly Review of Christian Spirituality, London, vol.3, n.2, 1963, p. 88.