Rorate Caeli

Original Sins: Eucharistic Prayer II - composed in a few hours in a Roman Trattoria

Perfect for "a banal on-the-spot product"
The unbelievable scene is not unknown, it has been mentioned elsewhere before, but now confirmed in the published recollections of one of the two men involved: during the mad rush to have the Novus Ordo Missae (the New Mass of Paul VI)  ready as soon as possible, the Consilium, the 1963-1970 organization charged with the upheaval and destruction of the Roman Rite under the guise of "reform" and under the control mostly of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, had reached a new level of ignominy in composing a new "canon". The draft was so bad and dangerous that the new Eucharistic Prayer had to be rewritten in a hurry and at the last minute during a late-night meeting by two men in a Roman restaurant. 

For one and a half millennium, the Canon of the Roman Mass had been almost completely unchanged (which is why it was called a Canon, a rule, unchanged and unique). Now, after the Council, and without a single mention in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), the Consilium decided to offer new Anaphoras as if they were ice cream flavors. The new "Eucharistic Prayers"  were released in the fateful month of May 1968, while Western youth was on worldwide revolt (therefore, theoretically, for the 1965-1967 maimed version of the ancient Ordo Missae, but in truth preparing the way for the New Mass introduced in 1969). Why the rush? As with everything in the liturgical revolution, Bugnini and his minions knew they had to get everything done as fast as possible before they could be stopped by a dangerous wave of common sense. They won. And the Church got an aggressively-imposed new multiple-choice rite stuck in 1968.

The story of what would become the most popular of the new "Eucharistic Prayers" (Eucharistic Prayer II) is so insulting to the venerable Roman Rite that it beggars belief, and shows once again why the New Mass is the opposite of everything that is true and tested. It is a shallow committee-work of out-of-touch "experts" so proud and revolutionary that they thought they were entitled to pass judgment on the immemorial heritage of almost 2,000 years of organic development and sincere devotion of saints, priests and faithful, something so bizarre that wiser minds have called it "a banal on-the-spot product." 

Cardinal Ratzinger was right to call the New Mass thus, as Sandro Magister makes clear below (translation from his Italian-language blog) when speaking of the memoirs of Fr. Louis Bouyer, one of the (later much disappointed) consultants of the Consilium. The memoirs were recently published in France by Éditions du Cerf:

The Fiery Memoirs of the Convert Paul VI Wished to Create Cardinal

Sandro Magister

Paul VI was seriously at the point of making him a cardinal, if he had not been held back by the ferocious reaction that the nomination would have certainly provoked among the French Bishops, led then by the Archbishop of Paris and President of the Episcopal Conference, Cardinal François Marty, a personality of “crass ignorance” and “devoid of the most elementary capacity of good sense.

To have missed out on the cardinal’s hat and branded his arch-enemy in such a way was the great theologian and liturgist Louis Bouyer (1913-2003), as we learn in his blistering posthumous work “Mémoires”, published this past summer by Éditions du Cerf, ten years after his death.

Brought up as a Lutheran and later a pastor in Paris, Bouyer converted to Catholicism in 1939, attracted mainly by the liturgy, in which he distinguished himself before long as an expert authority with his masterpiece “The Paschal Mystery”, on the rites of Holy Week.

Called to be part of the preparatory commission for the Second Vatican Council, he understood immediately and instinctively its greatness as well as its poverty, and he got out of it fast. He found the cheap ecumenism “from Alice in Wonderland” from that age unbearable. Among the few conciliar theologians spared by him was the young Joseph Ratzinger, who gets only praises in the book. And vice-versa, among the few high churchmen who immediately appreciated the talent and merits of this extraordinary theologian and liturgist, the one who stands out most is Giovanni Batttista Montini, who was still Archbishop of Milan.

On becoming Pope and taking the name of Paul VI, Montini wanted Bouyer on the commission for the liturgical reform, “theoretically” presided over by Giacomo Lercaro, “generous” but “incapable of resisting the manipulations of the wicked and mellifluous” Annibale Bugnini, Secretary and factotum of the same organism, “lacking as much in culture as in honesty”.

It was Bouyer who had to remedy in extremis a horrible formulation of the new Eucharistic Prayer II, from which Bugnini even wanted to delete the “Sanctus”. And it was he who had to rewrite the text of the new Canon that is read in the Masses today, one evening, on the table of a trattoria in Trastevere, together with the Benedictine liturgist, Bernard Botte, with the tormenting thought that everything had to be consigned the following morning.

But the worst part is when Bouyer recalls the peremptory “the Pope wants it” that Bugnini used to shut up the members of the commission every time they opposed him; for example, in the dismantling of the liturgy for the dead and in purging the “imprecatory” verses from the psalms in the Divine Office.

Paul VI, discussing with Bouyer afterwards about these reforms “that the Pope found himself approving, not being satisfied about them any more than I was,”asked him. “Why did you all get mired in this reform?” And Bouyer [replied], “Because Bugnini kept assuring us that you absolutely wanted it.” To which Paul VI [responded]: “But how is this possible? He told me that you were all unanimous in approving it…

Bouyer recalls in his “Mémoires” that Paul VI exiled the “despicable” Bugnini to Teheran as Nuncio, but by then the damage had already been done. For the record, Bugnini’s personal secretary, Piero Marini, would then go on to become the director of pontifical ceremonies from 1983 to 2007, and even today there are voices circulating about him as the future Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship. ...

[Source, in Italian (main excerpt). Translation: contributor Francesca Romana]

For more on the origins of the made-up new Eucharistic Prayers, see, among others, this 1996 article by Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, who would later become the founding prior of the Monastery of Saint Benedict in Nursia (Norcia), Italy.