Feb 7, 2008

What if? The Good Friday Prayer for the Jews

My post is inspired by a long email received from two handsome young traditional Catholics who are members of SSPX communities. They are quite upset with Pope Benedict's announcement that the Good Friday prayer for the Jews will be modified in the Missale Romanum of 1962 which is used for the offering of the old Latin Mass. Rorate Coeli has received at least 178 comments on the Papal announcement, including "this is part of Benedict's way of proclaiming the traditional Faith in somewhat more positive terms (i.e. 'enlightening their hearts' vs. 'removing the veil').

My young friends state that while "the new prayer is decent," the change is a "capitulation and a continuation of the destruction of the Roman Rite." I beg them to consider what would have happened if conservatives had been able to control Vatican Council II. What if the schemas prepared by the Central Preparatory Commission (CC) had not been abandoned? I think this would be a interesting exercise in historical speculation and would make a fine story.

To briefly recap events, Pope John XXII stunned the world on January 25, 1959 with his announcement of Vatican Council II. He then appointed an Antepreparatory Commission to begin preparation of the Council. On June 7, 1960, the Pope appointed 25 members to a larger Central Preparatory Commission, to be led by Secretary General, Archbishop Pericle Felici, who also had led the Antepreparatory Commission. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), was a member of the 25-member CC.

The CC prepared significant material for consideration and debate by Vatican Council II, but these schemas were considerably thinned out by late 1962. A new agenda was developed by liberal bishops that resulted in different and more liberal documents, and a longer council. The remaining conservative material prepared in advance of the Council by the CC came under continued attack in 1963. Consequently Vatican Council II abandoned most of the conservative material prepared by the CC under the command of Pope John XXIII.

The abandoned preparatory work of the CC is discussed only briefly in Ralph Wiltgen's The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, and in the new 5-volume History of Vatican II edited by Giuseppe Alberigo. The earlier volume is preferred, but the latter books contain more data. The latter volumes exhibit a preference for the positions of the "progressives" who ultimately were able to take control of Vatican Council II and to substitute their own liberal schemas for the ones prepared earlier by the conservative CC.

I've not found any book or documents (maybe I haven't looked far enough) that give samples of the preparatory work of the CC. What would the documents of Vatican II have looked like if Council had actually used the schemas developed by the CC?

What could the Church have looked like in the 21st century had the 1960-1962 preliminary schemas have survived for Council deliberation? My own view is that it is likely that organic changes to practices in the Church would have taken place--but not radical assaults on traditional Catholic beliefs. [Remember that the Holy Spirit remains the protector of the Church--regardless of the Pope and the Councils.]

I believe Pope Benedict XVI is trying to do the kind of thing the CC intended--make small organic changes. By modifying the old Good Friday prayer for the Jews, the Pope continues to reflect the same intention as before, but now roots the new prayer in the New Testament and with a more obvious charity.


bobw45 said...

I'm a cradle Catholic from a large Catholic family, educated through high school by Jesuits and/or sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I'm an old baby boomer. It has always been my opinion that the only thing good that came out of Vatican II was a better relationship and less antagonism towards the Jewish people.

Liturgy said...

Thanks for the reflection.
There's a short history here