.- The newly published memoirs of Fr. Louis Bouyer, who was intimately involved in the reform of the Roman liturgy following Vatican II, reveal some of the relevant committee’s doings, a prominent vaticanista has noted.
“Being called to serve on one of the preparatory commissions for Vatican II, Bouyer immediately realized from his own experience its greatness and its wretchedness, and soon pulled back from it,” wrote Sandro Magister Sept. 16 at his Settimo Cielo blog for the Italian publication l’Espresso.
The text of Magister’s post was translated into English by Gregory DiPippo, managing editor of New Liturgical Movement.
The occasion of the post was the publication, earlier this year and in French, of Fr. Bouyer’s “Memoires” by Les Editions du Cerf.
Fr. Bouyer was born in 1913 in Paris to a Lutheran family, and became a minister of that confession. Through his study of the Church fathers, he converted to the Church in 1939, “drawn to it above all by its liturgy, of which he quickly distinguished himself as a gifted enthusiast with his masterful study on the rites of Holy Week, ‘The Paschal Mystery’,” Magister wrote.
The Frenchman joined the Congregation of the Oratory, and in time was appointed a peritus at Vatican II. Magister wrote that Fr. Bouyer’s experience led him to find “the cheap ecumenism of that crazy era unbearable, like ‘something from Alice in Wonderland.’”
Fr. Bouyer’s memoirs hold high praise for Joseph Ratzinger, Magister noted, and Fr. Bouyer in turn was highly regarded by Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, who in 1963 was elected Bishop of Rome and took the name Paul VI.
“Montini wanted Bouyer on the committee for the reform of the liturgy,” Magister wrote, “presided over ‘in theory’ by Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, ‘a generous man’ but ‘incapable of resisting the maneuvers of the criminal and unctuous’ Annibale Bugnini, secretary and factotum of that same body, a man ‘as devoid of learning as he was of honesty’.”
Fr. Bugnini, who was later consecrated a bishop, was secretary of the Consilium, the committee which produced the revised order of the Mass following Vatican II; Fr. Bouyer, in turn, was a member of the Consilium.
According to Fr. Bouyer’s memoirs, Fr. Bugnini, whom he called “contemptible”, would dismiss other committee member’s concerns about certain changes by saying, “The Pope wants it so.”
Following the reform, Fr. Bouyer wrote, he was discussing one of the particular reforms with Paul VI “which the Pope had found himself approving without being in any way more content with it than I was.”
When Fr. Bouyer told Paul VI that he had been involved in the reform because he was told the Pope himself desired it, Montini responded in turn, “but is it possible? He told me that you were unanimous in approving it …”.
Archbishop Bugnini served as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship from 1969, when the new order of Mass was published, until in 1976 he was apostolic nuncio to Iran, a post in which he died in 1982.
Archbishop Bugnini’s personal secretary, Piero Marini, was papal master of ceremonies from 1987 to 2007, and according to Magister “is now even spoken of as a possible prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.”
The congregation’s prefecture has been vacant since Aug. 28, when Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera was transferred to become Archbishop of Valencia.
Among the incidents recalled by Fr. Bouyer in his memoirs is the composition of Eucharistic Prayer II.
“It was Bouyer who had to fix in extremis a horrible formula of the new Second Eucharistic Prayer, from which Bugnini wished to expunge even the ‘Sanctus’,” Magister wrote. “And one evening, on the table of a trattoria in Trastevere, he had to rewrite the next of the new canon which is read today at Mass, together with the Benedictine liturgist Bernard Botte, with the added worry of having to deliver the whole thing by the following morning.”
The priest’s memoirs also reveal that Paul VI had wanted to make him a cardinal, though he was deterred from doing so by the opposition of the French bishops.
Among Fr. Bouyer’s other works are Liturgical Piety, The Decomposition of Catholicism, and Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer.
He died in 2004.
His “Memoires” in French, filling 327 pages, are available for Euro 29 ($37).