Bugnini Collaborator: “Work of Human Hands” Defames Paul VI’s Reform

Rev. Matias Augé

MUCH TO my surprise, the first non-traditionalist writer to weigh in with a review of Work of Human Hands (albeit brief) was a liturgist who actually had a hand in creating the New Mass.

Rev. Mathias Augé, a Claretian priest and liturgical scholar, worked in the 1960s for Consilium, the Vatican agency headed by Rev. Annibale Bugnini that was charged with the task of overhauling the liturgy. Fr. Augé assisted Consilium Study Group 18b, which revised the orations — the variable prayers in the Missal that change according to the liturgical feasts and seasons.

In particular, Fr. Augé was responsible for rewriting the collects (opening prayers) for the temporal cycle of the liturgical year (the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, etc.).

In Chapter 9 of Work of Human Hands, I cite Fr. Augé’s own commentary on his work, “Le Collete del Proprio del Tempo nel Nuovo Messale” (Ephemerides Liturgicae 84 [1970], 275-98) in which he explains how the reformers sought to eliminate from the collects various concepts “of little relevance to the mentality of modern man.” These concepts, he explained, included punishment for sin, divine anger or wrath, damnation, eternal punishment, etc. — a category he and the other reformers referred to as “negative theology.”

I used his article, and that of Bugnini’s assistant, Rev. Carlo Braga CM, as a starting point for analyzing how Fr. Augé and his collaborators at Consilium applied this principle to the liturgical texts they created for the Missal of Paul VI.

I was therefore very interested to read Fr. Augé’s commentary on Work of Human Hands. It is entitled “A Polemic against the Missal of Paul VI,” and was posted on his blog, Liturgia Opus Trinitatis, on October 27, 2010:

In 1982 those who had worked on the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms with Archbishop A. Bugnini presented the bishop with a collection of studies on the reform entitled Liturgy: A Divine and Human Work. Nearly thirty years later, the Rev. Anthony Cekada has published a book critical of the Mass of Paul VI entitled Work of Human Hands. The title itself is an open polemic against the Pauline reform — as if it were nothing more than the product of human scheming.

I thank the publishers who have sent me this hefty volume of 445 pages with notes and references. I started leafing through it with interest, but I realized very quickly that the book is more than a “Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI,” as the subtitle says. It is a voluminous polemic [un voluminoso pamphlet] that aggressively defames the Pauline reform. It takes just a few examples to understand this:

“The changes made in the prayers of the Missal of Paul VI have been made to destroy Catholic doctrine” (p. 245).

“The Lectionary of the Mass of Paul VI is a gigantic fraud” (p. 274).

“The only victim offered in the new presentation of the gifts is the Catholic doctrine — a ‘living sacrifice’ to ecumenism in a rite reeking not of oblation, but of Luther and Teilhard de Chardin” (p. 304).

The title of Chapter 12 reads: “The Eucharistic Prayer: Deplorable Impoverishment” (p. 305).

The title of Chapter 13: “The Communion Rite: Impiety in Action.”

The author shows himself a true disciple of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who ordained him a priest in 1977. I thank him anyway for the four times that he deigned to mention one of my studies (in a critical way, of course). Bear in mind, though, that I do not belong to [the Masonic lodges] P2 or P3, as the author suggests when he writes of “Augé and company” (p. 222); I have my way of evaluating things, and I express it sincerely. Works like this sadden me because they show the arrogance with which some set themselves up as defenders of tradition (theirs) and teachers of doctrine in the Church of God.

In response, I posted on Fr. Augé’s blog the following comments:

Please excuse me for writing in English, rather that in your sonorous and poetic language.

First of all, the English phrase “Augé and company” is merely an American colloquialism, and did not suggest any Masonic affiliation.

I wish that Fr. Augé had not merely denounced my conclusions, but instead addressed the evidence I presented for them.

In the matter of the orations in the Missal of Paul VI, for instance, I cited several hundred passages where the language had been changed in order to eliminate references to miracles, the true Church, heresy, the merits of the saints and what Fr. Augé himself called “negative theology” — Catholic teachings that modern man finds offensive: hell, contempt for the world, punishments for sin, divine wrath, etc.

Surely the elimination of such concepts from the lex orandi [law of praying] harms Catholic doctrine.

Similar procedures were followed with the new lectionary. It was presented by the reformers as “more Scripture.” But the revisers eliminated, passed over, relocated, or made optional many verses “modern man” would find “difficult.” I provide many citations to the new lectionary to demonstrate this.

If one disputes my conclusion that the lectionary is a “gigantic fraud,” one should at least deal with my evidence.

As for “deplorable impoverishment,” the expression comes not from me, but from Mgr. Bugnini, who used it to describe the unvarying use of the Roman Canon throughout the centuries, rather than multiple Eucharistic Prayers (p. 313).

Fr. Augé (understandably) disagrees with my conclusion that the reform was a bad thing. But leaving that aside, he and others should at least give a fair hearing to my evidence that the changes in the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass introduced by Paul VI and Consilium represent a substantial theological shift for the lex orandi.

After all, even a liturgical scholar on the “progressive” side of the reform like Jesuit Father John Baldovin has stated that “the reformed liturgy does represent a radical shift in Catholic theology and piety” (p. 4). If Father Baldovin and I draw the same conclusion from the examining the new rite, perhaps there is more to my argument than just polemics.

Thank you, Father and readers, for your patience!

Those who reformed the Mass told us they were changing its “doctrinal content.” That they actually did so is verified by comparing the texts and rites of the old Mass with the new.

It is therefore unreasonable for the reformers to claim that Catholics who discover this years later and object to the results are merely engaging in “polemic.”

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