Saturday, May 13, 2006

the “active participation” question

It really is remarkable to read Bugnini’s “The Reform of the Liturgy”. (If you don’t have a copy, I recommend it.) Here is probably the biggest counter-example to the idea that Vatican II had no intention of replacing Latin with the vernacular and so forth; so many things we reformers of the reform look at as “they didn’t mean for that to happen”.....well, it kinda looks like this guy, who happened to be the guy in charge of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Consilium to revise the liturgy post-V2, did mean for those things to happen.

The bone of controversy around him (to my understanding) is that around 1975, evidence was submitted to Pope Paul VI that Bugnini was an active freemason. Within a month, Bugnini was transferred to Iran and basically stripped of anything to do with liturgy. The Vatican never denied the charges of freemasonry, and the rapidity with which Bugnini was basically exiled suggests that, whether or not the charge was true, Paul VI believed it.

Anyway, a couple interesting passages. The first, near the beginning of the chapter on “Song and Liturgy”:
(Some musicians) regarded singing as primarily the task of specialists; (other musicians, liturgists, and pastors), on the other hand, while acknowledging the indispensable role of the schola cantorum, thought it wrong to take away from the congregation the possibility of expressing itself in communal song.”

One interesting thing here is the thinking of “taking away from the congregation” - in a sense, I wonder if this is mistranslated, since they couldn’t “take away” from a congregation what it had not done in recent times. The other is how we kinda take the opposite approach these days: while we don’t deny the indispensable role of congregational singing, we (rather boldly, I feel) examine the role of liturgical music sung by specialists.

Later on, in the chapter devoted to the formation of Musicam sacram (which underwent 12 drafts, or schemas....whew!), we find: the view of the liturgists the people must truly sing in order to participate actively as desired by the liturgical constitution; in view of the musicians, however, even “listening to good, devout, and edifying music ... promotes ‘active’ participation.”
These and other observations betrayed a mentality that could not come to grips with new pastoral needs.

So, here we have it: the definition of “active participation” has, at least since V2, been a bone of contention. Reid’s “The Organic Development of the Liturgy” gives examples of this conflict from the early 20th century as well, decades before V2.
Notice, too, the “hermeneutics of discontinuity” subtly underscored in Bugnini’s phrase “new pastoral needs”. Active participation as listening was the “old mentality”, while the “new pastoral needs” dictated that active participation meant physical action and singing. And of course, if “the more the merrier”, then the best path is to maximize “active participation” by having everyone sing everything.

It is understandable that someone who reads Bugnini and thinks, “this is what V2 really meant, even if it didn’t say it” would look on our current Pope as wanting to get rid of V2.


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