How machinations led Paul VI in the liturgical reform

Fr. Hunwicke has an interesting post about the machinations of the late (Archbp) Annibale Bugnini with Paul VI to slam through the former’s desired changes.

Here is a taste…

(1) He relied upon dishonest people for advice. (a) From the Memoires of Louis Bouyer: “At different stages, be it with regard to the dumping overboard (sabordage) of the Liturgy of the Departed, or again in that unbelievable enterprise of expurgating the psalms in view of their use in the Office, Bugnini came up against an opposition, not just massive, but one could say pretty well unanimous. In some such cases, he did not hesitate to tell us ‘But the Pope wants it!’. [Which was probably false.] After that, to be sure, there was no longer a question of discussing it.” Bouyer recounts how he once met Bugnini in circumstances in which the latter, mistakenly, believed that he, Bouyer, had just been with Pope Paul … whom Bugnini was on his way to see. “On seeing me, he not only turned completely white but, visibly, was knocked for six (non seulement il blemit, mais, visiblement, il fut atterre)”. “The answer was to be presented to me, but some weeks later, by Paul VI himself. Nattering with me about our famous labours, which he had confirmed, he finally said to me ‘But why, then, did you put into this reform …’ (Here, I have to admit that I don’t recall any longer which of the details which I have mentioned particularly irritated him.) Naturally, I replied ‘But purely and simply because Bugnini guaranteed to us that you were absolutely set on it (avait certifie que vous le vouliez absolument).’ His reaction was immediate: ‘Is it possible? He said to me personally that you were unanimous in this respect!'”.


As well as the human and historical tragedy, there is an ecclesiological point here. If you blend together in one saucepan an exaggerated notion of papal authority (as analysed by Joseph Ratzinger) with the activities (described in detail by Louis Bouyer) of unscrupulous and dishonest and ruthlessly determined manipulative individuals who have the pope’s ear, you are gravely at risk of having a disaster the results of which it may well take generations to mitigate. Quod factum est.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ProfKwasniewski says:

    The wonderful news is that the English translation of Bouyer’s Memoirs will be appearing in print THIS SUMMER. Stay posted for it! It’s a wild ride… and so magnificently written!

  2. Legisperitus says:

    All one can do is shake one’s head in disgust and have a good old Paul-VI-during-the-Octave-of-Pentecost cry.

  3. robtbrown says:

    Legisperitus says:

    All one can do is shake one’s head in disgust and have a good old Paul-VI-during-the-Octave-of-Pentecost cry.

    Bugnini had lost his positions in 1962. Paul VI brought him back and gave him power. Papa Montini put his liberal buddies in positions of influence. When they burned him, he did little except cry and make excuses.

  4. Sonshine135 says:

    Pope Paul VI is still to blame here. As much as history has been correct about Bugnini’s changes, Paul VI proved to be out of touch with his subordinate, and he permitted the implementation of the newer form of the Mass. He could have prevented it by taking a step back. Yet, he was committed to the reform, and fell to the all-to-human failing of “pushing ahead” when it is unreasonable to do so. This is the mountain on which he chose to die.

  5. robtbrown says:


    Paul VI was the doctrinal version of Bruce Jenner. He was a liberal in a Catholic body.

  6. Prayerful says:

    I get the impression that Pope Paul VI was no radical liberal like Abp Bugini, but was far too weak a leader for the Church, especially at the time of seminal Church Council.

  7. TomG says:

    I am about half way through Roberto DeMattei’s trail of tears known as The Second Vatican Council – The Unwritten Story. The machinations of Bea, Rahner, Kung and so many others – for the most part, dishonest, unscrupulous men (but then “progressives” always are) – leave you exhausted after a while. Interesting that both Pius XI and Pius XII contemplated a new Council (believe they regarded it as a council to complete the work of Vatican I), but in PXI’s case, senior cardinals talked him out of it (for all the reasons we know to be valid) and PXII seems to have dropped the idea himself. If one thing regarding the use of authority in the Church is clear, if you don’t kill something completely dead, it will come back to bite you. Unfortunately, as with so many other things in the 20th Century, the two great wars allowed Satan to retrench and fight another day.

  8. HeatherPA says:

    May God have mercy on these men who thought it wise to hoodwink, lie, connive, and dishonor their priesthood. Didn’t they know they would have to account before The Lord?

  9. Dienekes says:

    Personally I have always been leery of sheep and shepherds with ulterior motives. The Church has enemies enough in-house.

  10. Muzhik says:

    @TomG, You’d think with all their years of experience, they would know about burying something in consecrated ground, with a mouth filled with blessed salt and a crucifix through its heart.

    In all seriousness, in studying history one thing comes through loud and clear: the necessity for leaders (kings, presidents, and dictators alike) to have close advisors who are more concerned with the safety of the realm than the safety of their careers or the security of their own ideology. I recall one comment about the advisors surrounding President Kennedy, how that person wished just one of them had served in public office.

  11. albizzi says:

    With Bugnini, we have the same pattern as with another “protégée” of Paul VI named Alighiero Tondi. This man, a jesuit priest, was a close advisor of Montini when he was the Undersecretary of State in the Vatican under Pope Pius XII’s papacy. He was a communist mole who betrayed the Church by transferring to Moscow the informations about the priests whom the Pope secretly sent beyond the Iron Curtain. Useless to say that they all were taken, tortured, killed or ended in the Gulag.
    This man was unmasked by a french counterspy agent, the Colonel Arnould, who occasionally was entrusted of special missions by the Pope.
    Too indulgent, Pius XII fired Tondi who later defrocked and married a communist woman and Montini left the Secretary of State.
    Once he became Pope, Paul VI again hired this man to another job in the Vatican !!!!!
    “A tout péché, miséricorde”…

  12. robtbrown says:

    Prayerful says:

    I get the impression that Pope Paul VI was no radical liberal like Abp Bugini, but was far too weak a leader for the Church, especially at the time of seminal Church Council.

    He was not weak dealing with the SSPX, but he was in dealing with liberals.

  13. benedetta says:

    When I consider this historical account alongside the WH Mr Earnest video posted yesterday, I can’t help but consider what men of supposed integrity and authenticity, who even pride themselves upon these, and their keen sense of justice and their ministrations and exercise in seeking after it — when certain achievements are founded upon deception, what does that say about the achievement itself? It cannot be said that it was grounded in the will or desire of the people, nor based in reason. When one has to resort to secretive manipulation, back door dealing and double speak to effectuate one’s aims, it calls into question completely the truth and goodness of those aims in the first place. If one has to lie to the very people the policies affect, what good is that? How is that just in any conceivable secular relativist imagining?

  14. Fr_Sotelo says:

    My new favorite quote of Dr. Robtbrown: “Paul VI was the doctrinal version of Bruce Jenner.” I don’t agree, but it’s a funny quote.

Comments are closed.