It was August 1940. Churchill was fighting the Battle of Britain. Half of Europe was under the Nazi boot. The Catholic Church in Germany was being persecuted, and the German bishops were gathered for their annual conference. To what grave matters might they have devoted their energies at such a momentous time? Being German bishops they could think of nothing better than to protect against the Holy See liturgists who were undermining their attempts to refashion the Church’s liturgical theology and discipline.
What concerned the Holy See was not really the practices promoted by German liturgists. These were not, in themselves, incompatible with the Catholic faith. Giving permission for some might have been wise. But even their illicit use was a secondary matter. The real problem was the theological errors upon which the German liturgists based their agenda. These included: 1) A distinction between what they called the “objective piety” of the liturgy and the “subjective piety” of such devotional and mental prayer. 2) Treating the “external participation” of the laity—singing or reciting certain prayers of the Mass in unison with priest, servers or choir—as virtually necessary.
Pope Pius XII condemned both positions, in Mediator Dei, in the following terms: