On 3 May 1970 La Documentation Catholique published the text of a speech made by Pope Paul VI to the members of the Consilium, the body responsible for implementing the very generalized principles of liturgical reform included in the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II. I have shown in Pope John's Council the extent to which this reform not only failed to correspond with the revisions envisaged by the Council Fathers but acted in formal contradiction with both the Liturgy Constitution and the papally-approved liturgical movement. The cover of this issue of La Documentation Catholique was devoted to a picture of Pope Paul VI posing with the six Protestant Observers who had been invited to participate in the work of the Consilium. This photograph proved to be a source of astonishment and even scandal to large numbers of the faithful who had had no idea that Protestants had played any part in the compilation of the new Catholic rites. It resulted in public controversy in a number of countries, which was followed by official denials that the Observers had, in fact, played any part in the compilation of the new rites. These denials have since been cited by apologists for the official reform as "refutations" of the allegation that Protestant Observers had taken an active part in the compilation of new rites. There is, however, a considerable difference between a denial and a refutation, and these particular denials are totally gratuitous and contradict the available evidence.

In the July-August 1974 issue of Notitiae, official journal of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Bugnini (its Secretary) claimed that the Observers confined their role simply to observing (pp. 249-250). Here are his exact words:
On 25 February 1976, the Director of the Vatican Press Office gave the following reply to a question by the journalist Georges Huber as to whether the Protestant Observers participated in the elaboration of the New Mass:
This denial was printed in La Documentation Catholique on 4 July 1976.

In contrast with this Msgr. W. W. Baum (now Cardinal Baum), an ardent ecumenist, made the following statement in a personal interview with the The Detroit News, 27 June 1967:
In order to place this statement in its correct context it must be made clear that, at the time he made it, Msgr. Baum was executive director of the American Catholic Bishops' Commission on Ecumenical Affairs, and the first Catholic spokesman ever invited to address the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, an American Protestant denomination. During his address he revealed to the delegates that Protestant scholars "have had a voice" in the revision of the Catholic liturgy. As a follow-up to this revelation, Harold Acharhern, Religious Correspondent of the Detroit News, obtained the interview with Msgr. Baum from which I have quoted.

The account given by Cardinal Baum, and the denials issued by Archbishop Bugnini and the Vatican Press Office, are clearly contradictory. In order to discover the truth, I wrote to one of the Observers, Canon Ronald Jasper. Before giving his reply it is necessary to explain the manner in which the Consilium did its work. Firstly, there were the study sessions during which the practical details of the reform were worked out, discussed, and modified. Then there were the formal (plenary) meetings during which the draft services which had been compiled in the study sessions were debated and voted upon. In my letter to Canon Jasper, I explained that I was working upon a series of books on the liturgical reform and that I particularly wished to know whether the Observers had had a voice in the new rites of Mass and Ordination. In his reply, dated 10 February 1977, he explained that the Observers received all the documents from the drafters of the new service in the same way as did other members of the Consilium. They were then present at the debates when they were presented by the experts and debated by the Consilium, but the Observers were not allowed to join in the debate.

In the afternoon, however, they always had an informal meeting with the periti who had prepared the draft services and at these meeting they were certainly allowed to comment and criticize and make suggestions. It was then for the periti to decide whether any of their points were worth taking up when the general debates in the Consilium were resumed. But, explained Canon Jasper in conclusion, these informal meeting were a complete free-for-all, and there was a very frank exchange of views.

Exactly the same process took place during the course of Vatican II. The Protestant Observers, while not allowed to speak in the plenary sessions, were able to take an active part in the informal discussions where the real work of drafting the documents was done. Their influence is visible in the finalized documents themselves, and evidence of it is provided in Chapter IX of Pope John's Council. In addition to this evidence, the following testimonies are relevant.

Archdeacon Pawley, an Anglican Observer, reveals that:
Robert McAfee Brown, a Presbyterian Observer, remarks:
Dr. McAfee Brown also reveals that there were occasions when the Observers were able to have a direct voice on the floor. "Is there anything you Observers want said on the Council floor about De Oecumenismo?" one bishop asked. The Observes then put their views in writing, to be incorporated into written interventions made on their behalf, by bishops.

Thus, although it could be argued that officially the Observers played no part in drafting the counciliar documents, as they could neither vote nor speak in the debates, it is clear that they were able to influence the final format of these documents. This is precisely what took place with the formulation of the new liturgical rites by the post-conciliar Consilium.

- "Pope Paul's New Mass" (The Angelus Press, 1980), by Michael Davies, pages 585-588, used with kind permission.

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Last modified 19th June, 1997, by David Joyce.