Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Food Tower in Alma, Michigan

Special Thanks to Dr. Mary Rebecca Koterba, RSM for providing such a grand Food Tower.

Sisters and Pies in Alma, Michigan

Sisters and Pies

‘This Holy Man’ – Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony by Gillian Crow

from ‘ This Holy Man ‘ – Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony by Gillian Crow

“In 1973 Metropolitan Anthony ordained Basil Osborne as priest at the request of the Oxford parish where he had spent four years as a deacon, gaining the respect and trust of the community.  This was the normal way clergy were chosen in the diocese. When the need arose for a priest the parish concerned would identify a candidate from within the congregation whom people felt would make a good pastor and confessor. Metropolitan Anthony would then make a judgement. Men who presented themselves to the Metropolitan in isolation, asking for ordination because they imagined they had a vocation, were generally given short shrift.”

Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2005

p. 147-148


Those who read my “Simplex Priests Now!” may understand from this subsequent posting what my intentions are for the prototype of Dr. McGillicuddy. 

The Xinjiang Procedure: Published in The Weekly Standard (

Where have all the Uighurs gone?

The Xinjiang Procedure:  Beijing’s ‘New Frontier’ is ground zero for the organ harvesting of political prisoners.

Ethan Gutmann
December 5, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 12

To figure out what is taking place today in a closed society such as northwest China, sometimes you have to go back a decade, sometimes more.

One clue might be found on a hilltop near southern Guangzhou, on a partly cloudy autumn day in 1991. A small medical team and a young doctor starting a practice in internal medicine had driven up from SunYat-sen Medical University in a van modified for surgery. Pulling in on bulldozed earth, they found a small fleet of similar vehicles—clean, white,with smoked glass windows and prominent red crosses on the side. The policehad ordered the medical team to stay inside for their safety. Indeed, the view from the side window of lines of ditches—some filled in, others freshly dug—suggested that the hilltop had served as a killing ground for years.

Thirty-six scheduled executions would translate into 72 kidneys and corneas divided among the regional hospitals. Every van contained surgeons who could work fast: 15-30 minutes to extract. Drive back to the hospital. Transplant within six hours. Nothing fancy or experimental; execution would probably ruin the heart.

With the acceleration of Chinese medical expertise over the last decade, organs once considered scraps no longer went to waste. It wasn’t public knowledge exactly, but Chinese medical schools taught that many otherwise wicked criminals volunteered their organs as a final penance.

Right after the first shots the van door was thrust openand two men with white surgical coats thrown over their uniforms carried a body in, the head and feet still twitching slightly. The young doctor noted that the wound was on the right side of the chest as he had expected. When body #3 was laid down, he went to work.

Male, 40-ish, Han Chinese. While the other retail organs in the van were slated for the profitable foreigner market, the doctor had seen the paperwork indicating this kidney was tissue-matched for transplant into a 50-year-old Chinese man. Without the transplant,that man would die. With it, the same man would rise miraculously from his hospital bed and go on to have a normal life for 25 years or so. By 2016,  given all the anti-tissue-rejection drug advances in China, they could theoretically replace the liver, lungs, or heart—maybe buy that man another 10 to 15 years.

Body #3 had no special characteristics save an angry purple line on the neck. The doctor recognized the forensics. Sometimes the police would twist a wire around a prisoner’s throat to prevent him from speakingup in court. The doctor thought it through methodically. Maybe the police didn’t want this prisoner to talk because he had been a deranged killer, a thug, or mentally unstable. After all, the Chinese penal system was a daily sausage grinder, executing hard core criminals on a massive scale. Yes, the young doctor knew the harvesting was wrong. Whatever crime had been committed, it would be nice if the prisoner’s body were allowed to rest forever. Yet was his surgical task that different from an obstetrician’s? Harvesting was rebirth, harvesting was life, as revolutionary an advance as antibiotics or steroids. Or maybe, he thought, they didn’t want this man to talk because he was a political prisoner.

Nineteen years later, in a secure European location, thedoctor laid out the puzzle. He asked that I keep his identity a secret.Chinese medical authorities admit that the lion’s share of transplantorgans originate with executions, but no mainland Chinese doctors, evenin exile, will normally speak of performing such surgery. To do so wouldremind international medical authorities of an issue they would ratheravoid—not China’s soaring execution rate or the exploitation of criminalorgans, but rather the systematic elimination of China’s religious andpolitical prisoners. Yet even if this doctor feared consequences to his family and his career, he did not fear embarrassing China, for he was born into an indigenous minority group, the Uighurs.

Every Uighur witness I approached over the course of two years—police, medical, and security personnel scattered across two continents—related compartmentalized fragments of information to me, often through halting translation. They acknowledged the risk to their careers, their families, and, in several cases, their lives. Their testimony reveals not just aprocedure evolving to meet the lucrative medical demand for living organs, but the genesis of a wider atrocity.

Behind closed doors, the Uighurs call their vast region in China’s northwest corner (bordering on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia) East Turkestan. The Uighurs are ethnically Turkic, not East Asian. They are Muslims with a smattering of Christians, and their language is more readily understood in Tashkent than in Beijing. By contrast, Beijing’s name for the so-called Autonomous Region, Xinjiang, literally translates as “new frontier.” When Mao invaded in 1949, Han Chinese constituted only 7 percent of the regional population. Following the flood of Communist party administrators, soldiers, shopkeepers, and construction corps, Han Chinese now constitute the majority. The party calculates that Xinjiang will be its top oil and natural gas productioncenter by the end of this century.

To protect this investment, Beijing traditionally depicted all Uighur nationalists—violent rebels and non-violent activists alike—as CIA proxies. Shortly after 9/11, that conspiracy theory was tossed downthe memory hole. Suddenly China was, and always has been, at war with alQaeda-led Uighur terrorists. No matter how transparently opportunisticthe switch, the American intelligence community saw an opening for Chinesecooperation in the war on terror, and signaled their acquiescence by allowingChinese state security personnel into Guantánamo to interrogate Uighurdetainees.

While it is difficult to know the strength of the claimsof the detainees’ actual connections to al Qaeda, the basic facts arethese: During the 1990s, when the Chinese drove the Uighur rebel trainingcamps from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan and Pakistan, someUighurs fled to Afghanistan where a portion became Taliban soldiers. Andyet, if the Chinese government claims that the Uighurs constitute theirown Islamic fundamentalist problem, the fact is that I’ve never met aUighur woman who won’t shake hands or a man who won’t have a drink withme. Nor does my Jewish-sounding name appear to make anyone flinch. In oneof those vino veritas sessions, I asked a local Uighur leader if he wasable to get any sort of assistance from groups such as the Islamic HumanRights Commission (where, as I found during a brief visit to their Londonoffices, veiled women flinch from an extended male hand, drinks are forbidden,and my Jewish surname is a very big deal indeed). “Useless!” he snorted,returning to the vodka bottle.

So if Washington’s goal is to promote a reformed China, then taking Beijing’s word for who is a terrorist is to play into the party’s hands.

Xinjiang has long served as the party’s illicit laboratory: from the atmospheric nuclear testing in Lop Nur in the mid-sixties (resulting in a significant rise in cancers in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital) to the more recent creation in the Tarim Desert of what could well be the world’slargest labor camp, estimated to hold 50,000 Uighurs, hardcore criminals, and practitioners of Falun Gong. And when it comes to the first organ harvesting of political prisoners, Xinjiang was ground zero.

In 1989, not long after Nijat Abdureyimu turned 20, he graduated from Xinjiang Police School and was assigned to a special police force, Regiment No. 1 of the Urumqi Public Security Bureau. As one of the first Uighurs in a Chinese unit that specialized in “social security”—essentially squelching threats to the party—Nijat was employed as the good cop in Uighur interrogations, particularly the high-profile cases. I first met Nijat—thin, depressed, and watchful—in a crowded refugee camp on the outskirts of Rome.

Nijat explained to me that he was well aware that his Chinese colleagues kept him under constant surveillance. But Nijat presented the image they liked: the little brother with the guileless smile. By 1994 he had penetrated all of the government’s secret bastions: the detention center, its interrogation rooms, and the killing grounds. Along the way, he had witnessed his fair share of torture, executions, even a rape. So his curiosity was in the nature of professional interest when he questioned one of the Chinese cops who came back from an execution shaking his head. According to his colleague, it had been a normal procedure—the unwanted bodies kicked into a trench, the useful corpses hoisted into the harvesting vans, but then he heard something coming from a van, like a man screaming.

“Like someone was still alive?” Nijat remembers asking.“What kind of screams?”

“Like from hell.”

Nijat shrugged. The regiment had more than enough sloppiness to go around.

A few months later, three death row prisoners were being transported from detention to execution. Nijat had become friendly withone in particular, a very young man. As Nijat walked alongside, the young man turned to Nijat with eyes like saucers: “Why did you inject me?”

Nijat hadn’t injected him; the medical director had. But the director and some legal officials were watching the exchange, so Nijatlied smoothly: “It’s so you won’t feel much pain when they shoot you.”

The young man smiled faintly, and Nijat, sensing that hewould never quite forget that look, waited until the execution was over to ask the medical director: “Why did you inject him?”

“Nijat, if you can transfer to some other section, then go as soon as possible.”

“What do you mean? Doctor, exactly what kind of medicine did you inject him with?”

“Nijat, do you have any beliefs?”

“Yes. Do you?”

“It was an anti-coagulant, Nijat. And maybe we are all going to hell.”

I first met Enver Tohti—a soft-spoken, husky, Buddha of a man—through the informal Uighur network of London. I confess that my first impression was that he was just another emigré living in public housing.But Enver had a secret.

His story began on a Tuesday in June 1995, when he wasa general surgeon in an Urumqi hospital. Enver recalled an unusual conversationwith his immediate superior, the chief surgeon: “Enver, we are going todo something exciting. Have you ever done an operation in the field?”

“Not really. What do you want me to do?”

“Get a mobile team together and request an ambulance.Have everyone out front at nine tomorrow.”

On a cloudless Wednesday morning, Enver led two assistantsand an anaesthesiologist into an ambulance and followed the chief surgeon’scar out of Urumqi going west. The ambulance had a picnic atmosphere untilthey realized they were entering the Western Mountain police district,which specialized in executing political dissidents. On a dirt road bya steep hill the chief surgeon pulled off, and came back to talk to Enver:“When you hear a gunshot, drive around the hill.”

“Can you tell us why we are here?”

“Enver, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask.”

“I want to know.”

“No. You don’t want to know.”

The chief surgeon gave him a quick, hard look as he returnedto the car. Enver saw that beyond the hill there appeared to be some sortof armed police facility. People were milling about—civilians. Enver half-satiricallysuggested to the team that perhaps they were family members waiting tocollect the body and pay for the bullet, and the team responded with increasinglysick jokes to break the tension. Then they heard a gunshot, possibly avolley, and drove around to the execution field.

Focusing on not making any sudden moves as he followedthe chief surgeon’s car, Enver never really did get a good look. He brieflyregistered that there were 10, maybe 20 bodies lying at the base of thehill, but the armed police saw the ambulance and waved him over.

“This one. It’s this one.”

Sprawled on the blood-soaked ground was a man, around 30,dressed in navy blue overalls. All convicts were shaved, but this one hadlong hair.

“That’s him. We’ll operate on him.”

“Why are we operating?” Enver protested, feeling forthe artery in the man’s neck. “Come on. This man is dead.”

Enver stiffened and corrected himself. “No. He’s notdead.”

“Operate then. Remove the liver and the kidneys. Now!Quick! Be quick!”

Following the chief surgeon’s directive, the team loadedthe body into the ambulance. Enver felt himself going numb: Just cut theclothes off. Just strap the limbs to the table. Just open the body. Hekept making attempts to follow normal procedure—sterilize, minimal exposure,sketch the cut. Enver glanced questioningly at the chief surgeon. “Noanaesthesia,” said the chief surgeon. “No life support.”

The anaesthesiologist just stood there, arms folded—likesome sort of ignorant peasant, Enver thought. Enver barked at him. “Whydon’t you do something?”

“What exactly should I do, Enver? He’s already unconscious.If you cut, he’s not going to respond.”

But there was a response. As Enver’s scalpel went in,the man’s chest heaved spasmodically and then curled back again. Enver,a little frantic now, turned to the chief surgeon. “How far in shouldI cut?”

“You cut as wide and deep as possible. We are workingagainst time.”

Enver worked fast, not bothering with clamps, cutting withhis right hand, moving muscle and soft tissue aside with his left, slowingdown only to make sure he excised the kidneys and liver cleanly. Even asEnver stitched the man back up—not internally, there was no point to thatanymore, just so the body might look presentable—he sensed the man wasstill alive. I am a killer, Enver screamed inwardly. He did not dare tolook at the face again, just as he imagined a killer would avoid lookingat his victim.

The team drove back to Urumqi in silence.

On Thursday, the chief surgeon confronted Enver: “So.Yesterday. Did anything happen? Yesterday was a usual, normal day. Yes?”

Enver said yes, and it took years for him to understandthat live organs had lower rejection rates in the new host, or that thebullet to the chest had—other than that first sickening lurch—acted likesome sort of magical anaesthesia. He had done what he could; he had stitchedthe body back neatly for the family. And 15 years would elapse before Enverrevealed what had happened that Wednesday.

As for Nijat, it wasn’t until 1996 that he put it together.

It happened just about midnight, well after the cell blocklights were turned off. Nijat found himself hanging out in the detentioncompound’s administrative office with the medical director. Followinga pause in the conversation, the director, in an odd voice, asked Nijatif he thought the place was haunted.

“Maybe it feels a little weird at night,” Nijat answered.“Why do you think that?”

“Because too many people have been killed here. And forall the wrong reasons.”

Nijat finally understood. The anticoagulant. The expensive“execution meals” for the regiment following a trip to the killing ground.The plainclothes agents in the cells who persuaded the prisoners to signstatements donating their organs to the state. And now the medical directorwas confirming it all: Those statements were real. They just didn’t takeaccount of the fact that the prisoners would still be alive when they werecut up.

“Nijat, we really are going to hell.”

Nijat nodded, pulled on his beer, and didn’t bother tosmile.

On February 2, 1997, Bahtiyar Shemshidin began wonderingwhether he was a policeman in name only. Two years before, the ChinesePublic Security Bureau of the Western city of Ghulja recruited Bahtiyarfor the drug enforcement division. It was a natural fit because Bahtiyarwas tall, good-looking, and exuded effortless Uighur authority. Bahtiyarwould ultimately make his way to Canada and freedom, but he had no troublerecalling his initial idealism; back then, Bahtiyar did not see himselfas a Chinese collaborator but as an emergency responder.

For several years, heroin addiction had been creeping throughthe neighborhoods of Ghulja, striking down young Uighurs like a medievalplague. Yet inside the force, Bahtiyar quickly grasped that the Chineseheroin cartel was quietly protected, if not encouraged, by the authorities.Even his recruitment was a bait-and-switch. Instead of sending him afterdrug dealers, his Chinese superiors ordered him to investigate the Meshrep—atraditional Muslim get-together promoting clean living, sports, and Uighurmusic and dance. If the Meshrep had flowered like a traditional herbalremedy against the opiate invader, the Chinese authorities read it as adisguised attack on the Chinese state.

In early January 1997, on the eve of Ramadan, the entireGhulja police force—Uighurs and Chinese alike—were suddenly ordered tosurrender their guns “for inspection.” Now, almost a month later, theweapons were being released. But Bahtiyar’s gun was held back. Bahtiyarwent to the Chinese bureaucrat who controlled supplies and asked afterit. “Your gun has a problem,” Bahtiyar was told.

“When will you fix the problem?”

The bureaucrat shrugged, glanced at his list, and lookedup at Bahtiyar with an unblinking stare that said: It is time for you togo. By the end of the day, Bahtiyar got it: Every Chinese officer had agun. Every Uighur officer’s gun had a problem.

Three days later, Bahtiyar understood why. On February5, approximately 1,000 Uighurs gathered in the center of Ghulja. The daybefore, the Chinese authorities arrested (and, it was claimed, severelyabused) six women, all Muslim teachers, all participants in the Meshrep.The young men came without their winter coats to show they were unarmed,but, planned or unplanned, the Chinese police fired on the demonstrators.

Casualty counts of what is known as the Ghulja incidentremain shaky. Bahtiyar recalls internal police estimates of 400 dead, buthe didn’t see it; all Uighur policemen had been sent to the local jail“to interrogate prisoners” and were locked in the compound throughoutthe crisis. However, Bahtiyar did see Uighurs herded into the compoundand thrown naked onto the snow—some bleeding, others with internal injuries.Ghulja’s main Uighur clinic was effectively shut down when a squad ofChinese special police arrested 10 of the doctors and destroyed the clinic’sambulance. As the arrests mounted by late April, the jail became hopelesslyovercrowded, and Uighur political prisoners were selected for daily executions.On April 24, Bahtiyar’s colleagues witnessed the killing of eight politicalprisoners; what struck them was the presence of doctors in “special vansfor harvesting organs.”

In Europe I spoke with a nurse who worked in a major Ghuljahospital following the incident. Nervously requesting that I provide nopersonal details, she told me that the hospitals were forbidden to treatUighur protesters. A doctor who bandaged an arm received a 15-year sentence,while another got 20 years, and hospital staff were told, “If you treatsomeone, you will get the same result.” The separation between the Uighurand Chinese medical personnel deepened: Chinese doctors would stockpileprescriptions rather than allow Uighur medical staff a key to the pharmacy,while Uighur patients were receiving 50 percent of their usual doses. Ifa Uighur couple had a second child, even if the birth was legally sanctioned,Chinese maternity doctors, she observed, administered an injection (describedas an antibiotic) to the infant. The nurse could not recall a single instanceof the same injection given to a Chinese baby. Within three days the infantwould turn blue and die. Chinese staffers offered a rote explanation toUighur mothers: Your baby was too weak, your baby could not handle thedrug.

Shortly after the Ghulja incident, a young Uighur protester’sbody returned home from a military hospital. Perhaps the fact that theabdomen was stitched up was just evidence of an autopsy, but it sparkedanother round of riots. After that, the corpses were wrapped, buried atgunpoint, and Chinese soldiers patrolled the cemeteries (one is not farfrom the current Urumqi airport). By June, the nurse was pulled into anew case: A young Uighur protester had been arrested and beaten severely.His family paid for his release, only to discover that their son had kidneydamage. The family was told to visit a Chinese military hospital in Urumqiwhere the hospital staff laid it out: One kidney, 30,000 RMB (roughly $4,700).The kidney will be healthy, they were assured, because the transplant wasto come from a 21-year-old Uighur male—the same profile as their son.The nurse learned that the “donor” was, in fact, a protester.

In the early autumn of 1997, fresh out of a blood-worktour in rural Xinjiang, a young Uighur doctor—let’s call him Murat—waspursuing a promising medical career in a large Urumqi hospital. Two yearslater he was planning his escape to Europe, where I met him some yearsafter.

One day Murat’s instructor quietly informed him that fiveChinese government officials—big guys, party members—had checked intothe hospital with organ problems. Now he had a job for Murat: “Go to theUrumqi prison. The political wing, not the criminal side. Take blood samples.Small ones. Just to map out the different blood types. That’s all youhave to do.”

“What about tissue matching?”

“Don’t worry about any of that, Murat. We’ll handlethat later. Just map out the blood types.”

Clutching the authorization, and accompanied by an assistantfrom the hospital, Murat, slight and bookish, found himself facing approximately15 prisoners, mostly tough-guy Uighurs in their late twenties. As the firstprisoner sat down and saw the needle, the pleading began.

“You are a Uighur like me. Why are you going to hurt me?”

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just taking blood.”

At the word “blood,” everything collapsed. The men howledand stampeded, the guards screaming and shoving them back into line. Theprisoner shrieked that he was innocent. The Chinese guards grabbed hisneck and squeezed it hard.

“It’s just for your health,” Murat said evenly, suddenlyaware the hospital functionary was probably watching to make sure thatMurat wasn’t too sympathetic. “It’s just for your health,” Murat saidagain and again as he drew blood.

When Murat returned to the hospital, he asked the instructor,“Were all those prisoners sentenced to death?”

“That’s right, Murat, that’s right. Yes. Just don’task any more questions. They are bad people—enemies of the country.”

But Murat kept asking questions, and over time, he learnedthe drill. Once they found a matching blood type, they would move to tissuematching. Then the political prisoner would get a bullet to the right sideof the chest. Murat’s instructor would visit the execution site to matchup blood samples. The officials would get their organs, rise from theirbeds, and check out.

Six months later, around the first anniversary of Ghulja,five new officials checked in. The instructor told Murat to go back tothe political wing for fresh blood. This time, Murat was told that harvestingpolitical prisoners was normal. A growing export. High volume. The militaryhospitals are leading the way.

By early 1999, Murat stopped hearing about harvesting politicalprisoners. Perhaps it was over, he thought.

Yet the Xinjiang procedure spread. By the end of 1999,the Uighur crackdown would be eclipsed by Chinese security’s largest-scaleaction since Mao: the elimination of Falun Gong. By my estimate up to threemillion Falun Gong practitioners would pass through the Chinese correctionssystem. Approximately 65,000 would be harvested, hearts still beating,before the 2008 Olympics. An unspecified, significantly smaller, numberof House Christians and Tibetans likely met the same fate.

By Holocaust standards these are piddling numbers, so let’sbe clear: China is not the land of the final solution. But it is the landof the expedient solution. Some will point to recent statements from theChinese medical establishment admitting the obvious—China’s medical environmentis not fully ethical—and see progress. Foreign investors suspect thateventually the Chinese might someday—or perhaps have already—abandon organ harvesting in favor of the much more lucrative pharmaceutical and clinical testing industries. The problem with these soothing narratives is that reports, some as recent as one year ago, suggest that the Chinese have not abandoned the Xinjiang procedure.

In July 2009, Urumqi exploded in bloody street riots between Uighurs and Han Chinese. The authorities massed troops in the regional capital, kicked out the Western journalists, shut down the Internet, and, over the next six months, quietly, mostly at night, rounded up Uighur males by the thousands. According to information leaked by Uighurs held in captivity, some prisoners were given physical examinations aimed solely at assessing the health of their retail organs. The signals may be faint, but they are consistent, and the conclusion is inescapable: China, a state rapidly approaching superpower status, has not just committed human rights abuses—that’s old news—but has, for over a decade, perverted the most trusted area of human expertise into performing what is, in the legal parlance of human rights, targeted elimination of a specific group.

Yet Nijat sits in refugee limbo in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, waiting for a country to offer him asylum. He confessed to me. He confessed to others. But in a world eager not to offend China, no state wants his confession. Enver made his way to an obscure seminar hosted by the House of Commons on Chinese human rights. When the MPs opened the floor to questions, Enver found himself standing up and speaking, for the first time, of killing a man. I took notes, but no British MP or their staffers could be bothered to take Enver’s number.

The implications are clear enough. Nothing but self-determination for the Uighurs can suffice. The Uighurs, numbering 13 million, are few, but they are also desperate. They may fight. War may come. On that day, as diplomats across the globe call for dialogue with Beijing, may every nation look to its origins and its conscience. For my part, if my Jewish-sounding name tells me anything, it is this: The dead may never be fully avenged, but no people can accept being fatally exploited forever.

Ethan Gutmann, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wishes to thank Jaya Gibson for research assistance and the Peder Wallenberg family for research support.

Copyright 2010 Weekly Standard LLC.

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“Jansenism and Liturgical Reform” from American Benedictine Review (1993)

Jansenism and Liturgical Reform

Dated on the anniversary itself, December 4, Pope John Paul II in 1988 issued an apostolic letter commemorating the twenty-fifth year since the Second Vatican Council’s document on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium.[1]  Perhaps that letter went somewhat unnoticed, but students of the liturgy did take livelier interest when the real “insider’s story” finally came out two years later in the translation of Annibale Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975.[2]  This was a more detailed account from the administrative viewpoint of some of the warm reminiscences sketched earlier by Dom Bernard Botte and translated under the title From Silence to Participation: An Insider’s View of Liturgical Renewal.[3]

Both Bugnini the curial prefect and Botte the scholar and consultant give us rich anecdotes and documentary evidence about how the conciliar liturgical reform was actually carried out, how the books were revised by compromise and even intrigue, and how the antecedents of the liturgical movement before the council were converted into these revised rites. Conventional church historians such as Roger Aubert identify the roots of our century’s reform in the efforts that began with Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875) in the nineteenth century. Aubert says:

“All things considered, the liturgical movement of the interwar period, despite its efforts to reach out to the steadily increasing masses, kept to the ideal of ‘restoration’ that had inspired Dom Guéranger, in other words it attempted to  satisfy a nostalgia by retracing its steps back beyond the Counter-Reformation to an imago primitivae Ecclesiae. Pius X, it is true, had tried to do more and embark on reform, but his two successors did little to follow his lead, and outside Rome his work was felt by pioneers of the liturgical movement to be more in the nature of ‘a successful restoration, analogous to the architectural restorations executed by the Romantics’.” [4]

The Romantic movement had given great impetus to the Catholic revival after the devastation of the French Revolution.[5]  But when it came to things liturgical, the most it could engender was a reconstruction, perhaps artificial, based on love of the ancient church and the ages of faith. The liturgical aestheticism of some Anglo-Catholics after the Oxford Movement in this regard too frequently illustrates a Romanticism with not enough real depth.

However, though the Church may be governed in Rome, it was also long accustomed to have its thinking done in France. Guéranger was a personal favorite of Pius IX who had taken special care to invite him to the deliberations of Vatican I.[6] And Guéranger’s well-known “romanizing” tendencies made him particularly hostile to the original and positive contribution available from the small but important Jansenist liturgical movement.[7]  In 1853 Pius IX wrote Inter multiplices which strongly approved the adoption of the Roman liturgy throughout France, recommending it in preference to local gallican liturgical rites.[8]

An American scholar, F. Ellen Weaver, has analyzed the relevant documents, especially the ceremonial books and ritual books with their own notes, which pertain to this Jansenist interest in the reform of the liturgy.[9] Nearly all the themes familiar in our own day after Sacrosanctum concilium were pursued by the Jansenist reformers–introduction of the vernacular, a greater role for the laity in worship, active participation by all, recovery of the notion of the eucharistic meal and the community, communion under both kinds, emphasis on biblical and also patristic formation, clearer preaching and teaching, less cluttered calendars and fewer devotions which might distract from the centrality of the Eucharist. Even the “kiss of peace” was practiced at Port-Royal, and a sort of offertory procession was found there and elsewhere among Jansenist liturgical reformers.[10]

One of the few Jansenist reforms which would be unfamiliar to us today would be their use of public penance. But this insistence was not confined to the Jansenists, since it had been called for by the council of Trent as a return to an ancient rite. The Jansenists, on this point, just took Trent more literally and more seriously than anybody else.[11]

Some Jansenist bishops wished to abolish priestly celibacy. Two of the more famous in Italy were Giovanni Andrea Serrao of Potenza, during the period of the French occupation, and Giuseppi Capecelatro, archbishop of Taranto early in the restoration era.[12]  We should not be led to believe, however, that they acted upon their opinion, any more than bishops today who hold the same opinion.

Moreover, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Jansenists were even accused by the Jesuit polemicist, Henri Michel Sauvage, of having women priests.[13]  While there is as yet no real evidence for his charge, it does illustrate how their enemies perceived them as a people whose liturgical reputation was suspect. Sauvage may have been exaggerating, but even this shows the form of the conceivable.

On the question of the vernacular, both the protestants and the gallicans used it in their liturgy in the seventeenth century in France. As Joseph Andreas Jungmann says when writing of the Liturgical Movement, breviaries and missals in French appeared as early as 1680,[14] before being suppressed. Even the Jesuits sought indults from Rome for the use of the vernacular in mission lands, notably for China and Quebec. However, these missionaries would have been content with their Latin liturgical books had there been no real need to address the non-European mentality of the new converts. This was not the thoroughgoing and more systematic Catholic reform envisioned by the Jansenists which Weaver calls their “lex docendi, lex orandi”. The whole of their reform program was to seek its expression liturgically.

Even the Italian Jansenists of Tuscany and Pistoia centered their reform on liturgy:

“Inside the parish church the service must be made congregational. And here doctrine entered. The liturgy was not an act done by priest for the people, it was ‘a common act of priest and people’.  Therefore all the liturgy, even the prayer of consecration which was said secretly, should be said in a loud voice, and the congregation was to be encouraged to share. The reformers asked themselves whether logic must not demand liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin, and plainly believed that in principle this would be right; but knew that in practice neither their people nor the Church at large would tolerate such radical departure from hallowed tradition. Nevertheless the people should be helped to understand by being provided with vernacular translations and by readings of the gospel in the vernacular after the Latin reading.” [15]

The most obvious reason why the Jansenists got opposition to their liturgical ideas, of course, is that such were understood to be protestant.[16]  Even today the same ideas are still rejected in some circles on these grounds. Despite Paul VI’s deliberate insertion of ##6-9 into the General Instruction on the Roman Missal of 1969, an assortment of tridentinists, traditionalists, lefebvrists, and sedevacantists continue to claim the reform was a protestant conspiracy. They think the missal of 1570 is an immutable bulwark against protestant influence, even though J.D. Crichton has rightly pointed out that this edition is nearly identical to the first printed one of 1474,[17] several years before the birth of Luther.

Weaver tells us that Dom Guéranger had a personal antipathy toward the Jansenist reform. In speaking of the innovations of Jacques Jubé of Asnières, she cites Guéranger as saying “it was an example of the deviations to which liturgy was liable when the Roman Mass books were not adopted”.[18]

Neither Pope John Paul II, nor Archbishop Bugnini, nor Dom Botte, nor the Second Vatican Council, nor Dom Prosper Guéranger give the Jansenist liturgical reform movement any notice at all for being ahead of its time–it is never mentioned either for its catholicity or its importance as an orthodox, or mostly orthodox, alternative to the mandated liturgical reforms of Trent. Since the canons of Trent were introduced very late in France, it had been up to individuals and small groups to conduct the Counter-Reformation by themselves in what now looks to us to have been an often unsystematic way. Were it not for unfortunate political entanglements which are notorious, Jansenism might have been integrated into the mainstream of the church, not expelled from it altogether. Though their liturgical ideas did not die, but resurfaced in Europe in different contexts, they were always tainted until well into the twentieth century.[19]  Jansenists have often been misunderstood or falsely blamed. Currently, though, church historians are re-evaluating the sources and are able to show that specific liturgical ideas congenial to us were flourishing inFrance andItaly during the early modern period when the Jansenists tried, but failed, to introduce them as reforms into the actual life of the Catholic church. Credit should be given where credit is due. We can recognize ourselves in the Jansenist liturgical reform.


      [1]See Origins, May 25, 1989 (vol. 29, no. 2).

     [2]Collegeville,MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990.

     [3]Washington,DC: The Pastoral Press, 1988.

     [4]Roger Aubert, The Christian Centuries, vol. 5, “The Church in a Secularized Society” (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 599.

     [5]Romantic thinkers usually looked back lovingly to monarchy and the Old Regime, but Jansenist political reformers in Italy, such as the priest Eustachio Degola of Genoa, opposed the Old Regime and allied themselves with French republican ideals. See Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 455. Again, in 1799 the anti-revolutionary peasant army of Arezzo after marching on Florence arrested the famous Jansenist Bishop Scipione de’ Ricci, retired bishop of Pistoia, due to his sympathies for the French military occupation. This was but a few years before Chateaubriand published Le génie du Christianisme in April, 1802. Ibid., p. 473. In general, Chadwick’s estimation of the Revolution is the most succinct way to contrast it with the new Romanticism: “The Revolution did to the Roman Catholic Church what the Reformation failed to do. It appeared to have destroyed its structure if not its being.” Ibid., p. 481. Religious Romanticism surely hoped to bring back both.

     [6]Weaver remarks, “It is interesting and rather pathetic to note that when the Roman Catholic Church condemned all Jansenist teachings, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ–so thoroughly pauline, and orthodox–became suspect. In fact at the First Vatican Council in 1870 the definition of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ was rejected as Jansenist.” See F. Ellen Weaver, The Evolution of the Reform of Port-Royal: From the Rule of Cîteaux to Jansenism (Paris: Éditions Beauchesne, 1978), p. 104, n. 95.

     [7]Aubert says of Guéranger, “…il dénonçait avec acharnement ‘l’hérésie antiliturgique’ en accusant les liturgies françaises d’être tout imprégnées de tendances jansénistes.” See Roger Aubert, “La Géographie ecclésiologique au XIXe siècle”, in L’Ecclésiologie au XIXe Siècle, ed. M. Nédoncelle (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1960), p. 22.

     [8]J. Derek Holmes, The Triumph of the Holy See (London: Burns and Oates, 1978), p. 125. Holmes also says, “Guéranger believed that liturgical ceremonies should express the continuity of tradition and that the principle of liturgical unity should correspond to the visible unity of the Church. In 1840 he published Liturgical Institutions advocating a return to the unity of Roman liturgical practice. There followed an open controversy in which no less than sixty French bishops opposed Guéranger. During 1842 the Pope declared that it was deplorable to have a variety of liturgies, but only half a dozen bishops had adopted the Roman liturgy by 1848. Nevertheless Guéranger continued his campaign and between 1849 and 1851 several provincial councils came out in his support and Pius IX informed the French bishops of his wish that they should adopt the Roman liturgy. By 1864 eighty-one out of ninety-one dioceses had adopted the Roman liturgy and before Guéranger died all the French dioceses had adopted the liturgy of Rome.” (p. 138)

     [9]See “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform” by F. Ellen Weaver, in Church, State, and Society Under the Bourbon Kings of France, ed. Richard M. Golden (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1982).

     [10]Ibid., esp. pp. 62-70. See also Chadwick, p. 428.

     [11]Ibid., pp. 59-60.

     [12] Potenza is in Calabria, southern Italy. Bishop Giovanni Andrea Serrao took office in 1782. When the Parthenopean Republic was under siege Bishop Serrao was murdered in his bed by counter-revolutionary members of the Potenza guard who cut off his head and carried it triumphantly upon a pike around the city. See Chadwick, p. 475. Archbishop Giuseppe Capecelatro (1744-1836) of Taranto was one of the most urbane prelates of his day, and a Jansenist by conviction. He also was said to prefer a married clergy. Ibid., p. 548.

     [13]La Réalité du Projet de Bourg-Fontaine (Paris: 1755), vol. II, p. 302.

     [14]See Sacramentum Mundi, vol. 3,  “Liturgical Movement” (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 319.

     [15]Chadwick, p. 421. He further adds: “In this was nothing specially Jansenist. Muratori asked no less.” The multiplication of private Masses, and the separation of communion from the Mass itself were two other objects of reform, and were the concern of different kinds of reformers, too. Often Enlightenment-era Catholicism and Josephism overlapped with Jansenist liturgical and other goals. Ibid., p. 506. Even in Spain when the guerrillas were revolting against the Napoleonic occupation, their assembly was described thus: “The Liberal majority of the Cadiz Cortes was thus in line with the Catholic reforming movement of the eighteenth century which was still assailed as ‘Jansenist’.” Ibid., p. 533.

     [16]On this point see Chadwick, p. 394.

     [17]The Once and Future Liturgy (Dublin: Veritas, 1977), p. 7.

     [18]Ibid., pp. 64-65. In another place, Weaver stresses that the Jansenists were not protestant, for very good reasons. See The Evolution of the Reform of Port-Royal, p. 102. Furthermore, their emphasis upon infrequent communion can be interpreted in a non-protestant and positive way–the respect they had for the Catholic doctrines of the eucharist and the priesthood kept them in such awe that adequate preparation was necessary to partake of the sacrament.

     [19]See Aubert, ibid., p. 541; also Alec C. Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution (Baltimore: Penguin, 1961 and 1968), pp. 31-32.

Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Published in American Benedictine Review 44:4 (December 1993) 337-351.
American Benedictine Review.  Fifty Year Index.
Published as ABR 51:4 (2000).
Edited by Terence Kardong OSB, monk of Assumption Abbey.
Van Hove, Brian, S.J., “Jansenism and Liturgical Reform,” 44:4 (1993) 337-351

From a Venerable Correspondent on the “infallibility” of Vatican Council II

“Vatican II was not entirely infallible because it “ha evitato di pronunciare in modo straordinario dogmi dotati della nota di infallibilità [avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way (new) dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility]” (Pope Paul VI audience, 12 January 1966) and “In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so,” which it never did (Council’s General Secretary, 16 November 1964).”

So there.