Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Bitter Trial

A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes Edited by Scott M. P. Reid

"Evelyn Waugh was remarkably prescient about what radical liturgical reformers would do with their newfound post-conciliar freedom. Below are excerpts from Fr. James Schall's review:

"The 'bitter trial' was Waugh's reaction to the changes in the Church, especially in the Liturgy, stemming from Vatican II. Heenan seems to play the role of a sympathetic Prelate who listens to his famous countryman with patience but with little awareness that what Waugh feared would mostly come about. Waugh seeks to inform the British Prelate of the reactions of many an English Catholic, especially a convert like himself, of a sense of betrayal and a loss of dignity and beauty in the worship of the Church."
"Waugh could be acid in his description of movements in the Church. 'If the Mass is changed in form so as to emphasize its social character, many souls will find themselves put at a further distance from their true aim.' Waugh thought that the liturgical changes were largely the product of the Germans-'I think it a great cheek of the Germans to try to teach the rest of the world anything about religion.' Waugh could be biting: 'The Mass is no longer the Holy Sacrifice but the Meal at which the priest is the waiter. The bishop, I suppose, is the head waiter.'
"Waugh was also acutely aware that there were theological problems barely below the surface of the changes in the Mass. 'More than the aesthetic changes which rob the Church of poetry, mystery and dignity, there are suggested changes in Faith and morals which alarm me. A kind of anti-clericalism is abroad which seeks to reduce the priest's unique sacramental position. The Mass is written off as a "social meal" in which the "people of God" perform the consecration.'" --Rich Leonardi

"As an orthodox Catholic convert with a fondness for high quality British fiction, I had to have this book of Evelyn Waugh's gripes and barks at poor Cardinal Heenan concerning the end of the Latin Liturgy following Vatican II. As you would expect, Waugh comes off as witty, sardonic, and somewhat tenderly brokenhearted. It is rare to see Waugh in this mode, but you can tell he felt the changes in the Mass on a personal level. Modernity drove Waugh to drink & bouts of fantastic & biting satire, but in these letters he comes across like a very intelligent child who has lost it's mother. Heenan is the villain of the piece, though no fault of Waugh: the Cardinal's letters show him to be a smooth liar firmly bent on pursuing the Gospel of Trendiness with little regard for the feelings of his flock. All in all, a poignant chronicle of one man's dealings with a Bishop-as-Bureaucrat."--K. Derek E. Gray