Massimo FAGGIOLI.  True Reform.  Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 2012.  pp. 188.   $19.95.  ISBN 978-0-8146-6238-0.  Reviewed by Paul MISNER, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881

A thoroughly grounded student of Vatican II, Massimo Faggioli  argues convincingly here that it might never have turned out to be such a weighty event in church history, had liturgical reform not been first on the Council’s docket.  After all, most bishops arrived at the Council with unformed ideas on how to go about responding to Pope John XXIII’s call for aggiornamento, for fitting the Catholic Church to respond more effectively to the needs of the time.  The other drafts that had been prepared for council documents were mostly conceived along juridical lines, with what passed for up-to-date approaches in contemporary scholastic theology.  Only the draft of the future Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, had the benefit of the biblical and patristic research that the liturgical movement had been promoting for decades, with a much more historically nourished sense of the Church’s tradition, broader and deeper, than was current in scholastic or curial circles.   

         One of the two leading themes of True Reform (the book) surfaces here at once:  the importance of theological ressourcement in all the work of the Council.  A second theme, rapprochement, owes much to Sacrosanctum Concilium as well.  The openness of the Church and her ecclesiology to the Jews, to other Christian bodies, to the modern secular world, was certainly an attitude that Pope John called for in his address at the solemn opening of the Council, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, without however outlining an agenda.  Again, it was grappling with the liturgical constitution that committed the Council to the path of ressourcement and rapprochement

After its initial discussion in St. Peter’s in October of 1962, the proposed draft of another conciliar statement, a dogmatic constitution on the word of God in revelation (Bible and Tradition) was distributed for discussion in the aula.  By this time, it was clear to the majority of the bishops that this curial product would not do.  With this realization, the Council was well and truly under way, with its clear majority and dogged minority.  This November turning point is well known; Faggioli makes the persuasive case that the engines of the new orientation were crafted in the genesis of the constitution on liturgical renewal, to the consternation of such as Cardinals Giuseppe Siri and Alfredo Ottaviani.

This is significant.  Sacrosanctum Concilium occupies the second tier of Vatican II documents after the “dogmatic constitutions” on the Church and on Divine Revelation, but it expresses some of the basic orientations of the Council, without the compromises that seemed necessary later.  The Church is presented as a communion of churches (communio ecclesiarum) as in the early centuries of Christianity.  The bishops are the leaders of the local churches gathered around them in the Eucharist.  The baptized people of God participate actively in the worship and other works of the churches.

The liturgical reform of Vatican II prepared a ground for a world Church, able to take the tradition from its European past but unwilling to be a prisoner of its history.  In this respect, the reform of the language of the liturgy, the principle of adaptation and inculturation of the rites, and the decentralization of decision making in the matter of liturgy represented a huge step in the direction of a reform of the institutions of the Church.  Since Sacrosanctum Concilium is not a law or a regulation but clearly a “framework law” in the hands—for the first time in history—of the national bishops’ conferences, it set a path for a Church reform that implied not only a theological reform but also a reform of Church governance (p. 144).

In sum, Faggioli, within one year, has published a second remarkable contribution to the interpretation of Vatican II, along with his Vatican II:  The Battle for Meaning (Paulist Press).  Both are seemingly based on an exhaustive knowledge of every bit of historical research on the Council (not just that of Giuseppe Alberigo’s Bologna Istituto per le Scienze Religiose, where he apprenticed).  True Reform is presented with a better design for scholarly work (indexes, e.g.) than the other, also important, work on postconciliar controversies to the present.  A must read for specialists, it is to be recommended for every academic library and for many a parish library and liturgical participant as well.