"'Tis Mystery All" – Benedict heals wounds inflicted by Bugnini

Fr Neuhaus lays out simply one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era in the Catholic Church:

Nobody seems to know why Pope Paul VI allowed Bugnini to take such liberties with the Church’s worship, or why, in 1976, he “exiled” him to a diplomatic post in Iran, where he died.

Essentially, you can speculate all you like about what went on in that decade, but in the end, we will never know what Pope Paul thought Cardinal Bugnini was doing with the “reform” of liturgy. But it seems he woke up to it eventually. Contra Piero Marini (who, it seems, knew perfectly well what Bugnini was up to), what happened was not according to the “Spirit of Vatican II”, unless there can be contradiction between the “spirit” and the “letter” (as so many seem happy to imagine).

There are many who will point to the “horror years” and say “This proved that the Catholic Church isn’t who she claims to be” (I have my eyes on you, PE), but the indefectibility does not mean that from time to time the Church doesn’t get the “wobbles”! A quick glance at Church history should be enough to prove that point. Forty years is such a short time in Church history, and often major upheavals take more than a century or two to sort out and usually leave their mark in some way upon the Church’s life–usually, be it noted, to the eventually betterment of the Church and of her proclamation of the Gospel.

This is in itself a great mystery, and one that we see working out again under the current pontificate. In his column, Neuhaus points to well known passages in Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy”, where he speaks of the pope’s responsibilityfor the organic growth of the Church’s life, worship and doctrine. In a memorable image, Ratzinger described the role of the Pope as

the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile.

Neuhaus also reminds us of the rule in the Church (expressed in the Catechism and many other places) that “no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community.”

Perhaps that gives us some clue as to why the Pope “tolerates” the sort of thing that happened at the Nationals Stadium and will probably show the same toleration to what happens here on World Youth Day. Chalk it up to being pastoral. He doesn’t impose his own liturgical preferences upon the Church no matter how well grounded they may be in theology and tradition. He trusts that the guidance of the Holy Spirit will not abandon the Church and that with firm but gentle teaching, guidance and example, the Church will regain its liturgical balance–and be even richer and stronger liturgically for the experience of the recent hardships.

To use another image, rather than that of gardener/technician, broken bones need to be re-broken in order to be reset, but wounds need to be tended with the tender applicatoin of oil and wine (to use Jesus’ own image) if they are to heal. It will forever remain a mystery why or how Paul VI let his guard down and allowed Bugnini to hack away at the liturgy in the way that he did, but Benedict’s strategy for healing the wounds is no mystery at all.

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23 Responses to "'Tis Mystery All" – Benedict heals wounds inflicted by Bugnini

  1. Past Elder says:

    The Bug Man? Judas, is it STILL 1968 in the RCC?

    Bless us and save us, Mrs O’Davis.

    Great Zeus Cloudgatherer!

    God bless me ten times. These Aussie blogs are worse than a synodical convention report! I come off one, to be probably taken as a crypto-Papist lusting after Rome (probably, hell) and now show up here to be anticipated to shout Whore Of Babylon, Anti-Christ, or por lo menos (Bless me sideways, now I’m lapsing into Spanish, my favourite language) a crypto SSPXer.

    Gott hilf mir. Fertig? Well then, so as not to disappoint:


    Neuhaus is such an incredible drag. Althaus, besser. Holy free falling frogs.

    Is it STILL 1968 in the RCC? Wirklich! I am so bloody glad that I did not have to endure another papal visit to the US as an RC. What an incredible agony, hanging on to words in books against reality, having to impose a mental image of what the Church “really” teaches and does over what the Church really teaches and does.

    Also sprach der Vorsteher: we Lutherans have our experiences too in Yankee Stadium. Was noch? The only thing good that EVER happens in Yankee Stadium is when somebody beats the Yankees. I am a member of Red Sox Nation (Boston) living in the Diaspora.

    Good Lord, is it STILL 1968 in the RCC?

  2. Schütz says:

    For which I thank you, PE. I am glad that there are still some things on this earth that are as sure and certain as the sunrise.

  3. LYL says:

    but the indefectibility does not mean that from time to time the Church doesn’t get the “wobbles”

    It’s been wobbling almost non-stop for nearly 2000 years!

  4. Joshua says:

    PE, I’m sure your admirably wide range of perfectly clean expletives all mean something, but they’re so far outside my experience that I don’t get what they signify at all. What, for example, is your reference to 1968 meant to say? Who is Mrs O’Davis?

  5. Joshua says:

    Anyway, David, to answer your plaintive question, Michael Davies himself told me that the reason for Bugnini’s most abrupt dismissal and reassignment was as follows: after a meeting in Rome in 1976, one priest, upon getting home, opened the briefcase he had brought back to find he had made a most intriguing mistake, for it was (i) not his, (ii) full of Masonic plottings and (iii) Bugnini’s own briefcase – and the priest had the presence of mind to send this damning evidence to the Vatican pronto, hence Paul VI closed down Bugnini’s outfit the very next day and sent him off into exile usque ad mortem.

  6. Schütz says:

    Who’s Michael Davies? How reliable is this information? Wonderful story, though! I thought you were going to say the briefcase contained all Bugnini’s plans for the future of the liturgy!

  7. Past Elder says:

    Good Joshua, perhaps one day it will be our good fortune to meet other than in cyberspace, and I hope you find my range of other expletives equally admirable!

    I can understand your not knowing who is Mrs O’Davis — but Der Schuetzmeister not knowing who is Michael Davies?

    Mrs O’Davis does not exist. Well, more accurately, the phrase does not refer to any Mrs O’Davis who does exist. It waw a rhyme once common among Catholics, but as with so much else once common among Catholic, now lost among Catholics. In American English, save us and Davis rhymes. Vowels are a little different. I remember my Aussieralian room-mate working hard to pronounce the name of the hall in which we lived, Slater, slay-dur instead of slight-uh.

    The reference to 1968 is this: post-conciliar “Catholicism” hasn’t changed a bit since the council ended, except forty some years on the proclamations that the horror years, silly season, or whatever, are over sound thinner than ever.

    I can’t believe Bugnini still gets any attention whatever — although, the 1962 rites clung to by supposed traditionalists are Bugnini too, you know. So you get early Bugnini in the 1962 crap and mature Bugnini in the 1970 novus ordo crap.

    Can Michael Davies prove John XXIII was a Mason too, as he is alleged by some to have been?

    That’s what I love most about this blog — it reminds me of three things: one, the Roman Catholic Church is dead and buried and some sort of church in ecclesiastical drag is impersonating it; two, I have left absolutely nothing behind and nothing has changed whatever to warrant any reconsideration; three, life as either a traditional Catholic or a real as opposed to spirit of Vatican II Catholic consists in maintaining a mental vision of what the church is to blot out what the church is, kept alive by the thought that things have finally turned the corner.

    IOW reading this stuff if like stepping back forty years in time for me. Same stuff, different faces. Been there, done that, and no thanks.

  8. Joshua says:


    Michael Davies (RIP) is a most famous UK traditionalist Catholic, author of numerous books and pamphlets, and possessed of a most lucid and readable style.

    He told me that he had no proof of the tale, but that, whether or not Bugnini was a Mason, it appears from the precipitate action of Paul VI that His Holiness thought that Bugnini was a Mason.

    PE – you bore me. I don’t like being told over and over that I’m delusional, especially by someone who has followed a rather eccentric path as you yourself have revealed to us. The idea that the Church has changed in its essentials is silly: the idea that many Catholics have changed their belief in essentials is, obviously, quite true, but the Church is not a democracy, thank God: the teachings of the Church are the standard by which to measure dissent, and the teachings haven’t changed; don’t mistake the erring opinions of layfolk, priests, theologians, even bishops for the true Faith.

  9. Victoria says:

    Fr Brian Harrison relates a similar story about Bugnini. I think I read it on the Roman Theological Forum.

  10. Past Elder says:

    Ah yes, the true faith, the teachings of the church.

    It has been my repeated point that what impelled me to leave the RCC was not the erring opinions of whoever, but precisely the documents of the post-conciliar church itself, that true faith and true teaching one is to imagine into existence regardless of what is really there.

    If anyone can find the Catechism of the Catholic Church either Catholic or for that matter even a catechism, there is silliness and delusion indeed. If anyone can find the traditional worship of the Western church and the novus ordo two forms of the same thing, there is silliness and delusion indeed. (Actually, finding the novus ordo one form of the same thing requires a bit of a stretch.) There is absolutely no way to conclude the Roman Church remains essentially one over time unless one concludes it is so because it must be so therefore it is so — another feat of imagination willed into existence. The Church Is My Idea, by Benedict Schopenhauer.

    How utterly irrelevant to Christ and his Church.

  11. Joshua says:

    Oh what ranting nonsense!

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a most beautiful and rich exposition of the faith once delivered to the saints, just as is the Catechism of the Council of Trent – and please, chapter and verse on the supposed differences?

    And quite simply, as I would have thought any Lutheran would agree, the Verba Domini, which effect the consecration upon either Catholic or Lutheran theories of the Eucharist, are present in both liturgies old and new of the Roman Rite, together with perfectly express formulae of oblation.

    If the words, say, of the fourth Eucharistic Prayer, “…we offer you [God the Father] his [Christ’s] body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your Church…” (…offerimus tibi ejus Corpus et Sanguinem, sacrificium tibi acceptabile et toti mundo salutare. Respice, Domine, in Hostiam, quam Ecclesiæ tuæ ipse parasti…) do not express the Catholic concept of offering up the Sacrifice of the Mass, then I’m Mrs O’Davis!

    The accidents clothing these essentials – sacrament and sacrifice – are quite different, but a young thin fit man and a fat old unfit man are the same man, just the latter needs to reform his life via better diet and more exercise.

  12. Past Elder says:

    You may find chapter and verse in the sidebar on my blog titled “The Tiber, for Swimmers et al.”

    Nowhere did I say that as a Lutheran I believe the Real Presence is absent from Catholic liturgies of any time, including the novus ordo. Nor do I say that.

    Once again, my rejection of post-conciliar Catholicism was entirely on Catholic grounds, twenty years before professing the Lutheran faith. And were I to abjure the Lutheran faith the next moment, that rejection would remain.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is nothing more than, to paraphrase Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, phenomenology for the masses. The Gospel according to Max Scheler. A miserable, hideous document, unworthy to line a bird cage.

    Is it STILL 1968 in the RCC?

    Back to the Bug Man — it is ironic to no end that the 1962 liturgical books commonly used by so-called traditionalists and the novus ordo and sacrosanctum concilium are equally Bug Man productions, he being secretary to the commissions that produced them all. 1962 or novus ordo, tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, two points in one continuum, now the extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Bugnini Rite.

  13. Joshua says:

    Don’t be silly, PE – while of course the 1962 books did suffer some changes orchestrated by Bugnini et al., the changes made are extremely minor (e.g. suppression of some minor feasts, simplification of some rubrics), leaving most Masses completely unchanged, and in any case nearly all Traddies actually use 1950’s rubrics or earlier, without attracting any blame.

    Your vitriolic abuse of the Catechism is precisely that: vitriol, and unworthy of a Christian. But perhaps worthy of a disciple of the foulmouthed Luther.

    Shame on you!


    David, read Michael Davies’ article in AD2000 – “How the liturgy fell apart: the enigma of Archbishop Bugnini” (June 1989, page 17); he confirms in print what I heard from him:


  14. Past Elder says:

    Magnificent. Romanism at its best. On the one hand, speak of differing accidents clothing the same essentials and revisions in minor matters, and on the other, quote Davies’ article leading to its conclusion “Liturgy Destroyed”.

    One either makes the Roman Church ones functional god or one accepts the Roman Church is not the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church either co-extensively or as that in which its fulness subsists.

  15. Joshua says:

    Nothing worse than a bitter ex-Catholic.

  16. Past Elder says:

    Hah! Bitterness was there when I was in Rome. It left when I did.

    Fresh air is great! The RCC is kind of like a poorly maintained public restroom — the longer you’re in there, the less you notice the stench. But once out, fresh air returns!

    And, should you happen by to talk to someone unfortunately still in there, you remember how bad it really is.

  17. Joshua says:

    Just to clarify that I hope I have not offended against charity – being a strong-willed person, I don’t deal well with any opposing views, right or wrong…

  18. Christine says:

    Joshua, you will soon come to see the pattern in PE’s (and I really do have a lot of high regard for PE — I just think he’s plain wrong) discourses, always followed by “nowhere did I say …..” (i.e.,
    Nowhere did I say that as a Lutheran I believe the Real Presence is absent from Catholic liturgies of any time, including the novus ordo. Nor do I say that. Mighty generous of him.

    Like many ex-Catholics, he simply can’t leave it alone. If he were truly “done with it” he wouldn’t feel the need to keep talking about it.

    You have no need to apologize for your stand, Joshua. Good for you.

  19. Past Elder says:

    Well, Joshua, the pattern you might see is that rather routinely on this blog I am reacted to for things I did not say, which is why I say I did not say them.

    In this specific instance, it is simply that I do in fact hold that the Real Presence is not necesarily absent from Roman Masses of any ordo, which is not to be generous, just accurate.

    In fact I am quite happy to “leave it alone”. I only knew of this blog because its author turns up from time to time on a Lutheran blog I frequent (guess who), and I found it doubly amazing — for one thing, that a Lutheran could fall for this load, and for another, that the load could be mistaken for Roman Catholicism.

    Actually, it serves a constructive purpose now — should I ever doubt that whatever the Roman Church is, it is foreign to the Roman Church, I need only come here.

  20. Joshua says:


    I just don’t understand you – maybe the way you write has something to do with it – but I just don’t see the allegedly perfidious trickery and doubletalk of the Church’s teachings pre-, mid- and post-V.II, and I am very much a straight-down-the-line objectivist.

    Please at least, to spare my sensibilities, drop the egregiously offensive coda about Roman pagan religion, which all Romanists would utterly abhor, and which I think is rather like my temptation to indulge in rude comments about black-hearted Protestants…

  21. Christine says:

    Actually, it serves a constructive purpose now — should I ever doubt that whatever the Roman Church is, it is foreign to the Roman Church, I need only come here.

    Since you now self-identify as an (LCMS — for now) Lutheran, why would you need to?

    and I found it doubly amazing –for one thing, that a Lutheran could fall for this load, and for another, that the load could be mistaken for Roman Catholicism.

    Another point that PE keeps repeating. Are there any words or phrases in this Universe, PE, that could convince you that those of us who have chosen to become Catholic have done so freely, willingly, knowledgeably and joyfully?

    Because we really have found fulfillment as Catholics.

    Now, why aren’t you busy on LCMS blogs trying to reroute your brethren and sistren in the direction of the BOC before they flame out in [A]blaze ™ of American Evangelical fervor ??

  22. Christine says:

    drop the egregiously offensive coda about Roman pagan religion,

    Let’s put this nonsense about the Church and “pagan Rome” to rest once and for all.

    Have any of you seen the wonderful presentation Rome: the HBO series?

    Well, a brief summation from Sherry Weddell’s excellent “Intentional Disciples” Blog:

    Set in the Rome of Julius Ceasar and Cicero, and Cato, and Brutus and Pompey, the series doesn’t attempt to portray the political and military history of the period with meticulous accuracy – but it does go to great length to portray characters operating from within a truly Roman worldview and the result is both amazing and disturbing.

    There was no concept of “morality” as we understand it – because there was no idea of universal right and wrong. (There was duty – to the state, to one’s family, according to one’s status is life.) “Universal human rights?” Unknown. Your “rights” were linked inextricably to your status, not intrinsic to your humanity. A single all powerful, God of self-giving love who is utterly committed to your good, to your ultimate, eternal, happiness, to your salvation, and desires an intimate relationship with you? A God whose character and purposes are pure, incorrupt, and utterly trustworthy? Unimaginable.

    “God” as we understand him does not exist. Life is saturated with religion but it has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is a religion of fear – because the gods are to out to get you. There are gods for everything – from war to door hinges – and human beings spend their lives constantly sacrificing to (and you have to do the ritual exactly right or its no good) and placating these gods cause if you don’t, these powerful, self-absorbed, divine and semi=divine bastards are going to make you pay.

    So you invoke the gods to protect your child (as one character does by having a bull slaughtered above and being drenched in the bull’s blood) and to destroy your enemy (in one of the most chilling scenes, an elegant matron curses her enemies and promises the gods she will rejoice and sacrifice to them if her enemies are destroyed).

    As the historical consultant to Rome points out over and over here, our contemporary western ideas of right and wrong and assumptions about the universe are the outgrowth of Judeo-Christian values which are profoundly different from those that Romans knew before Christ. He also pointed out that many viewers liked the idea of having the “burden” of Judeo-Christian morality lifted from them.

    Which is titillating, I suppose, if you are sitting in your clean, bright, safe 21st century living room watching your 50 inch plasma TV.

    But what if you were one of the millions of slaves that were the source of Roman wealth. One of the startling things about the series is watching the casual way in which patrician Romans strike and whip their slaves on a whim. Slaves were regarded as being without a soul and kindness to a slave was considered weakness. Slaves who were to testify in court were required by law to be tortured first. Read St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon in light of that reality.

    Or if you were happily married and your father or mother simply informed you that you would be divorced and married to someone else. Marriage was not a sacrament and the pater familia retained total power over children through out their lives.

    Husbands could beat their wives and children whenever they felt like it – to death even – if they were sufficiently displeased. (One main character, Niobe, lives in terror that her soldier husband will find out that she had an affair after being told that her husband had died in battle. Because as she tells her daughter, if he finds out, he will kill us all.) Now re-read Ephesians 4 and see how it sounds.

    They tell of a actual letter written by a Roman man to his wife in which he ends matter of factly with this words: “About the child you are about to bear. If it is a boy, keep it. If it is a girl, expose it.”

    The cumulative force of watching human beings wrestling with the burden of life in a world devoid of the gospel and all it has generated over 2,000 years is stunning.

    I saw part of the series and it was truly amazing. It also confirmed the college world history courses I took.

    In the meantime, the early Christians (including the Roman Christians) firmly adhered to the value of life at all its stages – no abortion, no putting away the elderly, and marriage and children were held in high regard. Their belief in the one, true God who revealed himself in his only-begotten Son made their values radically different in the eyes of pagan Rome.

    To equate the Catholic Church with Rome’s polytheism and alien moral universe is utterly absurd.

  23. Past Elder says:

    “Are there any words or phrases in this Universe, PE, that could convince you that those of us who have chosen to become Catholic have done so freely, willingly, knowledgeably and joyfully?

    Because we really have found fulfillment as Catholics.”

    None are needed. I never disputed that that is your perception. Oh well.

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