Fr. Bugnini’s defense of Mass antiphons against vernacular hymns

I had this from a reader, with my emphases and comments.

Does this eye-opening piece by Jeffrey Tucker … at NLM bear further comment?

___

Can Hymns Licitly Replace Propers?

In short, in 1969 the [Bugnini] Consilium was asked this question. Their reply:

"That rule [permitting vernacular hymns] has been superseded. What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not "something", no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the Mass. Because the liturgical service is one, it has only one countenance, one motif, one voice, the voice of the Church. To continue to replace the texts of the Mass being celebrated with motets that are reverent and devout, yet out of keeping with the Mass of the day amounts to continuing an unacceptable ambiguity: it is to cheat the people. [That seems on the surface to be precisely the sort of thing I have argued with WDTPRS for years.] Liturgical song involves not mere melody, but words, text, thought and the sentiments that the poetry and music contain. Thus texts must be those of the Mass, not others, and singing means singing the Mass not just singing during Mass."  [Right… the texts and music must not be separated and sacred liturgical music is not simply an add-on.]

This response was cited by the USCCB BCL newsletter in 1993. Jeffrey says he’s "still trying to think through the implications".

___

Pretty obvious, aren’t they?

My initial reaction is to say… "Yep!  Sounds right to me!"

But… we must consider the source.

I don’t think that what is being advanced by Fr. Bugnini, under the guise of … dare I say it… liturgical continuity in the texts of Holy Mass – are entirely "obvious".

I suspect another agenda.

It seems to me that this is part of Bugnini’s jihad against a centralized control of liturgy, against a "Roman" control resting in the Curia.

Bugnini worked zealously that local churches should develop their own translations without interference from Rome.   The texts and their translations were part of the arsenal he fired against the Congregation for Rites. 

The use of non-liturgical hymns would have dulled the urgency for translations and slowed his deeper agenda.

To get a sense of what Bugnini was really trying to do, read the book that came out under [Archbp.] Piero Marini’s name, A Challenging Reform, which lays out with amazing clarity – the clarity of open admiration – what the Consilium was engaged in.

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32 Responses to Fr. Bugnini’s defense of Mass antiphons against vernacular hymns

  1. Copernicus says:

    Oh for goodness sake! I think sometimes you let personal animus get the better of you, and it prompts you to write egregious claims of the kind you’ve written here, Fr Z. [I framed what I wrote in terms of a suspicion and I also gave a source/book in which I think you will find enough evidence for why I propose that as a possibility. Read it and get back to me.]

    If there’s an ‘agenda’ in Bugnini’s thinking, I’d say it was transparently a case of the reformer’s zeal for the text ad litteram over the looser practice of adorning the liturgy with beauty for its own (prayerful) sake. [Wellll…. maybe. But I think there is more to it than that.]

    Which of the two approaches might be right deserves more mature and considered discussion than we can see above. [Perhaps… but I am not sure your addition here really moved the ball forward on that one.]

  2. Latekate says:

    When I began homeschooling my kids I learned the value of Latin and the classical curriculum. The TLM and substitution of parts of liturgy with locally chosen hymns or even translations of the liturgy into the local vernacular lends itself to the corruption of the meaning of the Mass.
    Living languages are easily corrupted to mean anything, Latin is not. I’m certain that’s why progressive Catholics detest the TLM, it can’t be monkeyed with and Catholicism “redefined” into a mere prop of statism.

  3. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I think whatever “spirit” was behind this ruling pales in comparison to its letter. Perhaps the Holy Spirit got one over on Bugnini here? ;)

  4. I think Copernicus missed the point.

    I also think Fr. Z.’s suspicion is accurate given how Bugnini did things. Fr. Z’s theory is based on pretty solid ground whether Copernicus thinks it’s personal animus or not. That is how Bugnini operated.

    However, given the 2002 GIRM, this point seems a bit moot to me since the vernacular hymns are listed as a legitimate option to replace the propers. As long as the law is that way, I don’t see much change happening in the typical parish.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I thought Bugnini was an archbishop? [Eventually… but not when he was helping to run the Consilium.]

  6. carl says:

    It is rather eerie to see Fr Z and Abp Bugnini agreeing on something.

    “You unlock this door with the key of imagination…”

  7. Mark says:

    If loosening central control and developing local traditions is what Bugnini wanted, then, as a medieval trad, I’m all for that! For a Church that professes to believe in subsidiarity, we certainly don’t act that way in our own organization!!

    I just dont see how they went so wrong in achieving that goal. I dont see how you can hope for local tradition by uprooting everything that came before and trying to start with a clean slate. If local tradition and decentralization was going to happen (and it should) it should have started with the Traditional Rite. Foisting a new rite on everyone (which neocons ironically then treat rubricistically and in a Vatican-centralized manner anyway)…doesnt strike me as the best way to accomplish those aims, to say the least.

  8. dcs says:

    He was not a bishop in 1969 – he was consecrated in 1972.

  9. Latekate:

    I may be wrong, but–my understanding is that signing hymns at Mass in place of the propers was a practice long before the Council; particularly at a “low” Mass, with the people singing a hymn at pretty much the same places they still sing hymns.

    As one who has no memory of “the old days,” this surprised me, and this information, plus the history of attempts to revive Gregorian chant, leads me to read the Council’s injunction about giving Gregorian chant “pride of place” (I here stipulate that Fr. Z has a better translation of what that phrase really says, but I do not recall what it is) as endorsing further moves toward chant, not as a insincere nod to the past.

    In those squabbles you have in parishes, some will label what they don’t like as “pre-Vatican II” — but with this in view, the truth is the opposite: those who insist on familiar hymns, rather than the propers, whether in Latin or the vernacular, are the ones guilty of “clinging” or “going back to” something that Vatican II really did seek to get rid of. I find it amusing, but those who are unhappy on this count, usually do not.

  10. AM says:

    In e.f. Low Mass the the propers are said -and- hymns can be sung.

    In o.f. Mass the propers are said -or- hymns can be sung.

    For a typical parishioner, these may seem the same: but in the old form, he is singing while the rite is being carried out, but in the newer form, he is actually singing the text of the rite.

    So in the newer form, hymns are _part of the ritual_ and so (according to the rule lex orandi lex fidei) are actual expressions of Catholic faith. I think therefore that, assisting at the o.f. Mass, one is positively obligated to refrain from singing doubtful hymns, much more than at Low Mass in the extraordinary form.

  11. Supertradmom says:

    As a student of history, conspiracy theories are usually wrong. However, there does seem to be a record of “individual interpretation” of liturgy concerning Bugini, and therefore, unless he has had a tremendous conversion to a more conservative viewpoint, in the best understanding of the word, it seems like an odd statement. As in all things, “consider the source”.

  12. AM says:

    For those who know the lingo: hymns at Mass in the ordinary form are exactly what us software security guys call an “injection attack vulnerability”. Paragraph 48 of the GIRM is the API that allows input injection into the ritual instruction stream; and it also describes how to avoid it using the unreliable Bishops::Conference.approve() library function). And Marty Haugen is the script kiddie.

    ( :-) )

  13. Scott says:

    Bulls-eye FrZ!

  14. Stating the obvious here, but OH MY how only singing the Propers would circumvent a large percentage of the chaos at Masses worldwide. There was a time in the Church when hymns were forbidden, I imagine because of the same kind of chaos we suffer today.

    wouldn’t that be a relief?

  15. prof. basto says:

    Fr. Fox,

    The practice of singing hymns during Mass in place of propers originated with an instruction by the Sacred Congregation for Rites of September 3, 1958. Thus, we were still in the pre-conciliar period but reformers were already in high authority. Pope Pius XII died in the next month after the publication of that document.

    The 1958 Instruction, valid for low Masses and low Masses only, contemplated the possibility, as a faculty, of having hymns, even vernacular hymns, sung during low Mass. Before the Council, however, those hymns did not replace the recited propers, but were in addition to them, according to the source quoted by the NLM.

    I don’t know if an additional document was issued whereby hymns, when used, came to actually fully replace propers (i.e., be sung with the total omission of the text of the propers) in the period between 1965-1969, but, from the wording of the 1969 letter of the Consilium, that seemed to be the case.

    Once the Novus Ordo was completed, the Bugnini Consilium received a query about wether or not the practice of replacing the propers with hymns could continue, and (stunningly, in my opinion, given that we came to associate the Consilium only with the bad and poor actions that made it famous), the said Dicastery, perhaps in a moment of divine inspiration, reaffirmed that hymns could not licitly replace propers, that the Mass was promulgated to be recited according to the books, and that doing otherwise would be to cheat the Christian people.

    However, I’m not sure that the Consilium’s reply was the last word on the subject in terms of official documents from Rome. Jeffery Tucker seemed to believe that it was, and if it was, it would certainly be a good thing. It would mean that what we see everyday in parishes with the constant replacing of the propers are nothing but abuses, and that we have a right to demand that only the propers be recited, without being replaced by something else.

    It seems, though, according to certain comments that one can read in the NLM in response to Mr. Tucker’s post, that presenly there is indeed authority to replace propers with hymns in the Novus Ordo, due to the language used in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in force.

    And we must sadly ponder, also, wether or not the September 1958 instruction is still in force in the extraordinary form, given the terms of Summorum Pontificum (due to the fact that the 1958 instruction was in force in 1962, and was part of the liturgical laws that existed immediately before the reform).

  16. AM says:

    “It seems… that presenly there is indeed authority to replace propers with hymns in the Novus Ordo, due to the language used in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in force.”

    To wit: (48,) … Adhiberi potest sive antiphona cum suo psalmo in Graduali romano vel in Graduali simplici exstans, sive alius cantus, actioni sacræ, diei vel temporis indoli congruus,

    The clause is modified, with approbation, in all the national GIRMs,. to say some version of “a suitable song approved by the Bishops’ Conference”.) (Well, I looked at the German, English, French, Italian, and Polish ones, which all say that.)

  17. Chironomo says:

    The GIRM, even the 2002 GIRM…DOES NOT suggest replacing the Propers with hymns. It does not suggest that the use of hymns in place of the Propers is even preferable. It allows the use of “another suitable hymn or song” as the least desirable option (option #4 of 4), and it seems, given the circumscriptions of the three previous options, that hymns for such purposes would have to be approved by the local Bishops Council for such use.

    Note that in Musicam Sacram, it allows that “another suitable songs” (alius cantus aptus) may be used, provided that it is keeping with the part of the Mass, or with the specific feast or season. Keeping with the part of the Mass would mean that it uses a Proper text. Keeping with the specific Feast or Season would be a hymn for a specific feast day (Easter, Ascension, Immaculate Conception, etc…) or for a specific season (singing “Adeste Fideles” for the Sundays after Christmas maybe…).

    If those criteria are not applicable, one would have to return to options 1-3. There is no approved set of hymns and Psalms for the Antiphons in existence, so option 3 is not possible at this point in our history, so we’re back to options 1 & 2… the Antiphons from the Graduale Romanum or the Garaduale Simplex.

    I don’t see how, even in the 2002 GIRM, this is ‘allowing hymns to replace the propers”, unless you mean ONLY in those specific situations where option 4 is applicable.

    Of course, actual practice is far from this, and that is why it is a “moot point”….

  18. AM says:

    In Canada there is an “official” (i.e. Conference-of-Bishops-approved™) Hymnal, so option 4 is a “legal” possibility. Of course the decision of what is “suitable” is left, in the case of my parish, to guy who plays the piano.

  19. mpm says:

    “If loosening central control and developing local traditions is what Bugnini wanted, then, as a medieval trad, I’m all for that! For a Church that professes to believe in subsidiarity, we certainly don’t act that way in our own organization!!” — Mark

    In Europe, where there was a Catholic Church in the middle ages, one might imagine
    that this authorized a return of earlier forms of celebration.

    Now, think about the Americas, especially Protestant America, Africa, and the Far
    East. How does subsidiarity work there? USA solution has been Collegeville, MN,
    I think. What has been “organic” about that?

    Give us a couple more hundred years or so!

  20. Danny Mary-Joseph says:

    I think that people dont seem to grasp the difference between a hymn and a song. we dont sing hymns at mass these days, only songs, and bad ones too. Sing the mass, and on some occasions sing a hymn, but dont you dare sing a song. Chant is the best thing since unleavened bread and should be used much more. Its more accesible for non-musical types, and more beautiful for being simple. It doesnt try too hard either.

  21. Paul J. B. says:

    “The practice of singing hymns during Mass in place of propers originated with an instruction by the Sacred Congregation for Rites of September 3, 1958. Thus, we were still in the pre-conciliar period but reformers were already in high authority. Pope Pius XII died in the next month after the publication of that document.

    The 1958 Instruction, valid for low Masses and low Masses only, contemplated the possibility, as a faculty, of having hymns, even vernacular hymns, sung during low Mass. Before the Council, however, those hymns did not replace the recited propers, but were in addition to them, according to the source quoted by the NLM.”

    This is true, but rather misleading, since it was (I believe) just a return to the situation before Pius X’s reforms in favor of chant. Before that motets and the like were occasionally used to replace propers, and had been for centuries.

    In fact, as is well known central and eastern European Catholics continued throughout the 20th century their tradition of singing vernacular songs, esp. about the Mass, at Mass. Legally, though, these may have had the status of devotions done at Mass (like the rosary).

    Today, I would settle (in average parishes) for having more liturgically appropriate hymns with a requirement that the priest at least say the actual proper.

  22. Tom says:

    The so called tradition of sing vernacular hymns (not songs), during Mass can only be around 200 years old at most. Traditional communities in Switzerland, have hymn books with suggestions of hymns to be sung instead of the propers, they have an imprimatur, and one I have seen was published around 1900!

    Of course before this idea that we had to sing in the vernacular, we of course sung in hymns in Latin, Gueranger’s liturgical year is full of the Latin Hymns the faithful of Europe used to sing.

    Here is London, England we follow the former rule that only Latin can be sung at EF Mass, We also follow the (former?) rule that the propers have to be sung at all High Masses / Missa Cantata. The text of the Propers being sung has to follow the Graduale Romanum or Missale Romanum, the texts are not always identical! The style of the music is usually the ancient chant, but Psalm toning is also acceptable. The idea of singing motets instead of the Propers is also a legitimate options, some motets have the same text as the propers, and have been written to be used in that way. The Requiem Mass is an example, where there are plenty of polyphonic settings for the Propers / Ordinary.

    The many Latin Hymns some written over 1500 years ago are sung at our Masses, after the Offertory and during the Communion. Hopefully more Parishes will discover the rich treasury of our Traditional (Latin) hymns.

  23. brian says:

    “To get a sense of what Bugnini was really trying to do, read the book that came out under [Archbp.] Piero Marini’s name, A Challenging Reform, which lays out with amazing clarity – the clarity of open admiration – what the Consilium was engaged in.”

    another good book is
    The Reform of the Liturgy (1948-1975) (Hardcover)
    by Annibale Bugnini
    he doesnt hide any of his intentions

    HERE.

  24. jayeverett says:

    The antiphons are absolutely beautiful whether spoken or sung. But we must remember that the Catholic Church of the United States is quite different than ROME. We are running down the steep slope toward protestantism and are half way there now. All of our singing befor during and after mass are basically what you will hear each Sunday in the First Baptist Church. But then you can see how disjointrd we are by the variety of comments printed herein….

  25. Larry says:

    I am impressed by the response of Consilium. While Fr. B. is the supposed author that is not established. The point is here that this is an official response to an issue and hence carries a certain amount of authority. Fr. Z argues from the perspective of Fr. B’s “agenda” which in fact may have been his intent. But his intent is not an official document carrying authority. Fr. B’s book is his personal opinion and may be of value in assigning blame or credit but it is not an official document. The difference is of singualr importance. Why? Because the Church relies on authority as presented in her official teaching documents and not on the personal relfections of various figures in the Curia be they Fr. B. or Cardinal Ratzinger. When studying Church teaching we are not terribly concerned with “framers intent” and we are with correct understanding of what the document says. While conservative judicial opinions in the US rely on the Constitution as a static document ( it means what it says) and tend to recoil from the notion of the Constitution as a “living document” the Church views Her Magisterium as very much alive and always open to new understanding. It is in this way the Holy Spirit always wins the day because He guides and inspires the Church. Hence regardless of Fr. B’s original intent the document from Concilium must be understood by what it says and what it says today. Pope Benedict has made it clear in his book on Jesus that it is written as a personal opinion and is open to criticism on that level even though it was written by a sitting Pope. It is quite another matter to criticise the Pope when he speaks or writes “as the Pope.”

  26. Paul J. B. says:

    “The so called tradition of sing vernacular hymns (not songs), during Mass can only be around 200 years old at most. Traditional communities in Switzerland, have hymn books with suggestions of hymns to be sung instead of the propers, they have an imprimatur, and one I have seen was published around 1900!”

    There is massive evidence to the contrary. In 15th century Poland, for instance, there were already complaints that in some (Franciscan probably) Churches the proper chants were rarely heard anymore because of hymn singing. And the Poles were in this a couple centuries behind the Germans!! There is a source from the 13th century to the effect German visitors were surprised at the ability of many lay Poles to sing along with the Latin chants–an ability apparently already lost in Germany–or at least the part of it these visitors came from. In Germany by the 13th century, German “troping” of the propers was growing apace, and soon spilled into fully independent German texts. In certain sixteenth century German ceremonial documents, is likewise assumed that rural parishes, at least, will sing in the vernacular.

  27. Paul J. B. says:

    One last addendum to the previous post for those not up on the history of Central Europe in the later medieval and renaissance periods–German speaking lands were very decentralized politically, culturally, and ecclesiastically. So what was common in one area might be rare or even forbidden in another. There is evidence of something of a “liturgy war” in late Medieval Germany over use of the vernacular in liturgy, at least in some places.

    But for the record, I’m all for more use of Latin–obviously for E.F., but also for O.F. of the Mass

  28. Tom says:

    I can quite accept that some places were singing in the Vernacular in the late medieval period, especially with the influence of the rites from the East.

    We do however have plenty of evidence that latin was being sung on a regular (perhaps only) basis in large part of central Europe. There are plenty of books listing latin hymns and even (latin) sequences, Gueranger lists quite a few, as being in use and even written between the 13th and 16th centuries.

  29. Paul J. B. says:

    Hello Tom,

    Yes, you are quite right in principle. Latin was the rule, and vernacular elements in liturgies were relatively few and regarded as a kind of special “concession.” Germans seem to be to more responsible for this development, more than the Western Rite Catholic Slavs (exception: the Croat, and Slovenians.)

  30. Tom says:

    Hello Paul

    I spend my time finding latin (chant) music for our choir(s) that sing around London and the South east of England, We generally have the rule that we can only sing Latin during the Mass (we only sing at the EF).
    We try to find music with some link to the Saint of season to sing. There is a document from Rome c. 1958, that says we cannot sing in the vernacular during Mass, which is enforced in several parishes.

    When we visit my wife’s family in Switzerland, vernacular hymns are described as being Traditional, and the singing of the Propers at the EF are rare, the good news is that the younger members of the congregation are very interested in singing the Propers and re-learning our Traditional Hymns.

    Looking at the imprimatur in the various German books, more than a few Germaninc bishops seemed quite happy for vernacular hymns to be sung instead of the latin Propers, although the earliest book (I have seen) of suggested alternative hymns is around the end of the 19th Century.

    The old Latin Hymns no doubt fell out of use with the spread of polyphonic music, with German hymns becoming more popular some time after that… It would be interesting to find out the date the various diocese’ decided to officially concede to the use of the vernacular instead of the latin Propers.

    Regards,
    Tom