Bugnini and Benedict

Recently, Peter Kwasniewski had a piece at New Liturgical Movement about St. Josemaría Escrivá’s attachment to the traditional Latin Mass. It’s an interesting piece, but it highlights a question about what form of the Mass St. Josemaría celebrated. The suggestion is that he continued celebrating the Mass of St. Pius V—one imagines in the form set forth in St. John XXIII’s books—even after the liturgical reforms of the 1960s. Prof. Kwasniewski links to a piece at Corpus Christi Watershed by Jeff Ostrowski. (You may know Corpus Christi Watershed from its indefatigable work publishing PDFs of wonderful liturgical resources, like the New Westminster Hymnal.) Ostrowski links to another piece, though the link appears to be broken. This piece reports a conversation its author had with “Giuseppe Soria,” Josemaría’s doctor. (We suspect that this is a translation error: Fr. Jose Luis Soria was, indeed, Josemaría’s doctor and present at the saint’s final moments on earth.) The upshot of all of it is that apparently, St. Josemaría had great difficulty reading the new Missal, try as he might. (We have heard other versions of this story, as has Prof. Kwasniewski, apparently. You probably have, too, dear reader.) So, his secretary, Álvaro del Portillo—now himself a beatus—called none other than Annibale Bugnini to obtain an indult for Josemaría. Bugnini’s response: “You don’t need permission from me. Just continue to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V.”

This is an interesting anecdote for many reasons, but we were particularly struck by the resonance between Bugnini’s alleged comment and the fundamental realization in Summorum Pontificum that the Missal of 1962 was lawfully promulgated by St. John XXIII and “never abrogated.”  Indeed, the insight that the older form of the Mass was never abrogated is in some ways the crucial insight of Summorum Pontificum. Fr. John Hunwicke observes that there was a key distinction on this point between Missale Romanum, Paul VI’s apostolic constitution promulgating the new Missal, and Laudis canticum, his constitution promulgating the Liturgia Horarum. That is, Pope Paul clearly abrogated the old Breviary (except under rather limited circumstances), but he did not quite so clearly abrogate the old Missal. In a later post, Hunwicke suggests, building upon writings of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, that the Church does not suppress or abolish liturgical forms. At any rate, Benedict’s insight also echoes the much-discussed report of the commission of cardinal canonists in the 1980s who came to the same conclusion: no one ever actually bothered to suppress the old Mass. One could even go so far as to say that even the Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei adflicta indults assumed that the Mass of Pius V was not abrogated, even though one may also say that the Roman authorities sure acted like it was.

It is extremely interesting, therefore, to read the alleged remark by Bugnini that no permission from him was needed for St. Josemaría to continue celebrating the traditional Mass. Of course, who better than Bugnini to know whether or not the old Mass was suppressed, abrogated, or otherwise disfavored in the law? Something about kidding a kidder?