Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci on Liturgy

Three days ago, I posted a notice concerning a significant book by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini. Today, I would like to give a hat tip to Carlos Antonio Palad at Rorate Caeli for making public another major monsignoral moment for tradition. I mean his English translation of an interview with Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, Maestro Perpetuo of the Sistine Chapel under five Popes. (The original Italian can be found here.)

In the interview, conducted by by Pucci Cipriani and Stefano Carusi, the accomplished church musician and liturgist says that he never gave up celebrating the traditional rite of Mass, and, further, “on the contrary, I sometimes found it difficult to celebrate according to the modern rite, even if I never said so.”

He humorously casts aside the oft-repeated criticism of traditional rite for its supposed clericalism and exclusion of participation by the laity: “So that you won’t think that I’m just saying anything, I know how participation in old times was like, both in Rome, in the (St. Peter’s) Basilica and outside it, for instance down here in Mugello, in this parish, in this beautiful countryside, which was then populated by people strong in faith and full of piety. During Sunday Vespers the priest could just start singing ‘Deus in adiutorium meum intende‘ and thereafter fall asleep on his seat to wake up only at the ‘chapter’, the peasants would have continued alone and the heads of the family would have intoned the antiphon!”

Monsignor Bartolucci was born in 1917, the year of the Fatima revelations. So he is older than the 85-year-old Brunero Gherardini, but not by much. And there is at least one connection between the two. In the introduction to the interview, Cipriani and Carusi note that on Monsignor Bartolucci’s desk lies a copy of Gherardini’s book. Whether or not they know each other and are coordinating their efforts on behalf of the Church’s tradition, these two Roman senior statesman are giving the world a 1-2-punch on doctrine and liturgy, one that is bound to resonate with younger clergy.

Here are a few more excerpts. I strongly recommend reading the whole interview at Rorate Caeli.

I beg your pardon, but the reform was done by arid people, arid, arid, I repeat it. And I knew them. As for the doctrine, Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli himself, once said, I remember it well: “How come that we make liturgists who know nothing about theology?”

It became a kind of fashion. Everybody talked about it, everybody “was renewing”, everybody was trying to be like popes (tutti pontificavano) in the wake of sentimentalism, of eagerness to reform. And the voices that raised themselves to defend the two thousand year old Tradition of the Church, were cleverly hushed. There was the invention of a kind of “people’s liturgy” … when I heard these refrains, it came into my mind something which my professor at the Seminary used to say: “the liturgy is something given by the clerics to the people” (“la liturgia è del clero per il popolo”). It descends from God and does not come up from the bottom. I have to admit, however, that this foul-smelling appearances have made themselves a bit more rare. The young generations of priests are maybe better than those who came before them, they do not have the ideological fury of an iconoclastic ideology, they are full of good feelings, however they lack in education.

Let us return to the crisis of the Church and to the fact that so many seminaries have closed down, do you, Monsignore, support a return to the continuation of Tradition?

Look here, to defend the old rite is not the same as being a worshipper of ancient times; it is to be “eternal”. You see, when one gives the traditional mass names like “Mass of Saint Pius V” or “Tridentine” one is wrong, it makes it seem as if it is a mass belonging to a certain epoch. It is our Mass, the Roman universal Mass, valid everywhere and in all times, a single language spoken from the Oceania to the Arctic’s.

Maestro, how far have we come in our days with the restoration of Sacred Music and the Liturgy?

I cannot deny that there some signs of restoration, but I still can see that there persists a certain blindness, almost a complacency for all that is vulgar, coarse, in bad taste and also doctrinally temerarious. Most important, do not ask me, please, to make a judgement on the guitar-players and on the tarantellas which are sung during the Offertory.….The liturgical problem is serious, do not listen to the voices of those persons who do not love the Church and who oppose the Pope and if you want to cure the sick then remember that the merciful doctor makes the wound purulent (fa la piaga purulenta).