John Carmel Cardinal Heenan
I came across a review on the "New Oxford Review" site of a book republished last year in an expanded edition - "A Bitter Trial" correspondence between John Carmel Cardinal Heenan and Evelyn Waugh on the liturgical changes in the 1960's. Many of you will have come across the book before but the review itself, by Philip Blosser, Professor of Philosophy at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, is well worth reading to get a flavour of the bewilderment that both Waugh and Heenan seemed to have gone though in suffering the changes to the Mass. It is commented on by Alcuin Reid, Joseph Pearce and Clare Asquith.
Here are some tasters:
Waugh was only in his late twenties when he was received into the Church. “I was drawn, not by splendid ceremonies but by the spectacle of the priest as a craftsman,” he writes, using a simile suggested by G.K. Chesterton. “He had an important job to do which none but he was qualified for. He and his apprentice stumped up to the altar with their tools and set to work without a glance to those behind them, still less with any intention to make a personal impression on them.”
It is easy to forget that the Church in the decades preceding Vatican II, whatever her problems, experienced what Pearce calls a “burgeoning Catholic revival” and a nearly unprecedented heyday of notable conversions. Pearce writes, “that the preconciliar Church was so effective in evangelizing modern culture, whereas the number of converts to the faith seemed to diminish in the sixties and seventies in direct proportion to the presence of the much-vaunted aggiornamento, the muddle-headed belief that the Church needed to be brought ‘up-to-date.’"
Waugh suffered immensely. In a 1965 letter to Archbishop Heenan, Waugh begged him, “Please pray for my perseverance.” He declared further that “every attendance at Mass leaves me without comfort or edification. I shall never, pray God, apostatize but church-going is now a bitter trial.”
Heenan himself admitted to his fellow bishops in Rome, “If we were to offer [in England] the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel (a demonstration of the Normative Mass) we would soon be left with a congregation of mostly women and children.”
Waugh told Heenan that he also detected a new kind of “anticlericalism” that tended to “minimize the sacramental character of the priesthood and to suggest that the laity are their equals.” Heenan responded, “Of course you are right. That is why they are playing up this People of God and Priesthood of the Laity so much. The Mass is no longer the Holy Sacrifice but the meal at which the priest is the waiter.”