Photo found at The Leaven, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Original caption: ‘CNS PHOTO FROM KNA Father Joseph Ratzinger, right, talks with an unidentified prelate in this photo taken in 1962 during the Second Vatican Council. The future Pope Benedict XVI attended all four sessions of the council as a theological adviser to German Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.’

Catholic fact check: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the fabricated liturgy

The following quotation is attributed to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI:

The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.

Did he say it?

(With extra-strange fact checks, I like to put this section near the top, rather than at the bottom.)

Yes! The translations vary, but Ratzinger did indeed say the quotation in German, which later was translated into French15 and English5. The attribution to the journal Theologische got a bit garbled over the years, but that is of interest only to nitpickers such as myself. Below are all of the iterations I found:

Ratzinger in the book Simandron, der Wachklopfer: Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) (1989)

Es ist nicht lange her, daß mir ein junger Priester sagte: Wir brauchen heute eine neue liturgische Bewegung. Das war Ausdruck einer Sorge, der sich heute wohl nur noch gewollte Oberflächlichkeit entziehen kann. Diesem Priester ging es nicht darum, noch kühnere Freiheiten zu erobern - welche Freiheit hat man sich eigentlich noch nicht genommen? Er spürte, daß wir wieder ein Anfangen von innen her brauchen, wie es die liturgische Bewegung im Besten ihres Wesens gewollt hatte, als es ihr nicht um das Machen von Texten, urn das Erfinden von Aktionen und von Formen ging, sondern um die Wiederentdeckung der lebendigen Mitte, um das Eindringen in das innere Gewebe der Liturgie zu neuem, von innen her geformtem Vollzug. Die liturgische Reform hat sich in ihrer konkreten Ausführung von diesem Ursprung immer mehr entfernt. Das Ergebnis ist nicht Wiederbelebung, sondern Verwüstung. Auf der einen Seite steht eine zur Show degenerierte Liturgie, in der man die Religion mit modischen Mätzchen und mit kessen Moralismen interessant zu machen versucht, mit Augenblickserfolgen in der Gruppe der Macher und mit einer nur um so breiteren Abwendung von seiten all derer, die in der Liturgie nicht den geistlichen Showmaster suchen, sondern die Begegnung mit dem lebendigen Gott, vor dem unser Machen belanglos wird und dem zu begegnen allein den wahren Reichtum des Seins erschließen kann. Auf der anderen Seite bietet sich die extreme Konservierung ritueller Form an, deren Größe immer wieder bewegt, aber wo sie Ausdruck eigensinniger Absonderung ist, hinterläßt sie am Ende nur Traurigkeit. Gewiß, es gibt die Mitte der vielen guten Priester und ihrer Gemeinden, die die neugeformte Liturgie ehrfürchtig und festlich feiern, aber der Widerspruch von beiden Seiten stellt sie in Frage, und der Mangel an innerer Einheit in der Kirche läßt am Ende auch ihre Treue vielen zu Unrecht nur als eine private Abart von Neokonservativismus erscheinen. Weil es so steht, ist ein neuer geistlicher Impuls vonnöten, der uns Liturgie als gemeinschaftliches Tun der Kirche zurückgibt und sie dem Belieben der Pfarrer oder ihrer Liturgiekreise entreißt.

Eine solche neue liturgische Bewegung kann man nicht “machen”, wie man überhaupt nichts Lebendiges “machen” kann, aber man kann ihrem Heraufkommen dienen, indem man selbst den Geist der Liturgie neu anzueignen sich müht und für das so Empfangene auch öffentlich eintritt. Ein solcher neuer Aufbruch braucht “Vater” die Vorbild sind und den Weg nicht nur mit Worten zeigen. Wer heute nach solchen “Vätern” sucht, wird unweigerlich auf die Gestalt von Msgr. Klaus Gamber stoßen, der uns nun leider zu früh genommen worden ist, aber vielleicht durch sein Weggehen erst ganz in seiner wegweisenden Kraft gegenwärtig wird. Gerade als von uns Gegangener dem Parteienstreit entrückt, könnte er in dieser Stunde der Not “Vater” eines neuen Aufbruchs werden. Gamber hat die Begeisterung und Hoffnung der alten liturgischen Bewegung von ganzem Herzen mitgetragen. Wohl vor allem, weil er aus einer fremden Schule kam, blieb er in der deutschen Szenerie ein Außenseiter, den man nicht recht gelten lassen wollte; noch jüngst entstand für eine Dissertation eine erhebliche Schwierigkeit daraus, daß der junge Gelehrte zu ausführlich und zu freundlich Gamber zu zitieren gewagt hatte. Aber vielleicht war dieses Außenbleiben auch providentiell, weil es Gamber von selbst zu einem eigenen Weg zwang und ihn des konformistischen Drucks enthob. Es ist schwer, das eigentlich Entscheidende und Unterscheidende im Streit der Liturgiker in wenigen Worten auszusagen. Vielleicht kann der folgende. Hinweis hilfreich sein. J. A. Jungmann, einer der wirklich großen Liturgiker unseres Jahrhunderts, hatte seinerzeit das westliche Verständnis von Liturgie, wie sie sich vor allem durch die historische Forschung darstellte, als “gewordene Liturgie” gekennzeichnet, wohl auch in Abhebung von einem orientalischen Konzept, das in der Liturgie nicht das historische Werden und Wachsen, sondern einfach den Abglanz der ewigen Liturgie sieht, deren Licht durch das heilige Geschehen in unsere sich wandelnde Zeit in unwandelbarer Schönheit und Größe hereinleuchter. Beide Konzeptionen haben ihr Recht und sind im letzten auch nicht unvereinbar. Was nach dem Konzil weithin geschehen ist, bedeutet etwas ganz anderes: An die Stelle der gewordenen Liturgie hat man die gemachte Liturgie gesetzt. Man ist aus dem lebendigen Prozeß des Wachsens und Werdens heraus umgestiegen in das Machen. Man wollte nicht mehr das organische Werden und Reifen des durch die Jahrhunderte hin Lebendigen fortführen, sondern setzte an dessen Stelle - nach dem Muster technischer Produktion - das Machen, das platte Produkt des Augenblicks. Dieser Verfälschung hat sich Gamber mit der Wachheit eines wirklich Sehenden und mit der Unerschrockenheit eines rechten Zeugen entgegengestellt und uns demgegenüber unermüdlich die lebendige Fülle wirklicher Liturgie aus einer unerhört reichen Kenntnis der Quellen heraus gelehrt. Als einer, der die Geschichte kannte und liebte, hat er uns die vielfältigen Formen ihres Werdens und ihres Weges gezeigt; als einer, der die Geschichte von innen heraus sah, hat er gerade in diesem Werdenden und Gewordenen den unantastbaren Abglanz der ewigen Liturgie gesehen, die nicht Objekt unseres Machens ist, die aber wunderbarerweise weiterreifen und sich entfalten kann, wenn wir von innen in ihr Mysterium einstimmen. Der Tod dieses großen Menschen und Priesters sollte uns aufhorchen machen; sein Werk könnte uns zu einem neuen Aufbruch helfen.

Ratzinger as quoted in the journal Theologisches (February 1990)

Die liturgische Reform hat sich in ihrer konkreten Ausführung von diesem Ursprung immer mehr entfernt. Das Ergebnis ist nicht Wiederbelebung, sondern Verwüstung. […] Was nach dem Konzil weithin geschehen ist, bedeutet etwas ganz anderes: An die Stelle der gewordenen Liturgie hat man die gemachte Liturgie gesetzt. Man ist aus dem lebendigen Prozeß des Wachsens und Werdens heraus umgestiegen in das Machen. Man wollte nicht mehr das organische Werden und Reifen des durch die Jahrhunderte hin Lebendigen fortführen, sondern setzte an dessen Stelle - nach dem Muster technischer Produktion - das Machen, das platte Produkt des Augenblicks.22

Ratzinger in his foreword to Monsignor Klaus Gamber's La Réforme Liturgique En Question (1992)

Ce qui s'est passé après le Concile signifie tout autre chose: à la place de la liturgie fruit d'un développement continu, on a mis une liturgie fabriquée. On est sorti du processus vivant de croissance et de devenir pour entrer dans la fabrication. On n'a plus voulu continuer le devenir et la maturation organiques du vivant à travers les siècles, et on les a remplacés-à la manière de la production technique- par une fabrication, produit banal de l'instant.15

Ratzinger as quoted by Father Patrick de la Rocque in “Considerations on Cardinal Ratzinger,” Angelus (April 2002)

The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.9

Ratzinger in his Collected Works, published by Ignatius Press (2014)

What happened to a great extent after the Council has quite a different significance: instead of the developed liturgy, some have set up their self-made liturgy. They have stepped out of the living process of growing and becoming and gone over to making. They no longer wanted to continue the organic becoming and maturing of something that had been alive down through the centuries, and instead they replaced it—according to the model of technical production— with making, the insipid product of the moment.20

Says who?

Many online sources attribute this to Ratzinger. The first ‘mainstream’ source is Dr. Taylor Marshall's website1 in 2013, but by no means was he the first. The quotation has also appeared:

  • In 2013, on Latin Mass Society Chairman2
  • In 2009, on The Gregorian Rite3
  • In 2008, on FishEaters forums4

if any further attribution is given, it is always exactly the same:

Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104

I tend to view this unerring consistency as a red flag. Humans are typically inconsistent with attribution. A quote from Pride and Prejudice may be attributed to the author only, or the character, or author and book title, or author and book title and publication year, and so on. While the attribution may be perfectly legitimate, it could also be a sign of a poor game of Internet telephone, with endless copy-pasting without checking the original source.

A familiar echo (the Gamber Version)

Those familiar with the quotation under review have possibly noticed that it bears a strong resemblance to another Ratzinger quotation:

What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.5

This quotation is also decently widely cited. It is discussed at length at Patheos,6 and is attributed to Ratzinger's foreword in the book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Monsignor Klaus Gamber.

For now, we'll set this aside.

For clarity's sake, I will refer to this quotation (“What happened after the Council…") as the Gamber Version. I'll refer to the quotation under review (“The liturgical reform…") as the Theologische Version.

Finding the journal

Update from 05/28: This section ended up pursuing a red herring; the correct journal is Theologische, not Theologische Revue. Please enjoy the now-useless agonized research methods below.

It is rare that I have this much bibliographic information, down to the page number, so I initially hoped this quest would involve only a quick interlibrary loan request.

I ran into immediate problems. My husband speaks German, and had already cast an eyebrow at the spelling and syntax of the journal title. Sure enough, I couldn't find any journal called Revue Theologisches.

I did find a similarly titled journal: Theologische Revue. Such a major mistake this early on is a bit concerning.

“Volume 20” was published in 1921, not 1990. Volume 86 would be the correct volume for 1990.7 I have page numbers and a month, but who knows if they're correct given that the volume number is wrong? I wasn't sure if I had an article author - it's unclear if Ratzinger wrote or was simply quoted in the Theologische Revue - and I didn't have an article title.

I was not too confident about my interlibrary loan request, but I took the plunge and requested volume 86, pp. 103-104. Neither page, nor several surrounding pages, made any reference at all to Ratzinger, Gamber, or the liturgical reform. What the pages did tell me is that the journal, as its title suggests, focuses on book reviews.

The journal isn't available online for free, but it is indexed in Google Books8. On a hunch that maybe there was a review of Gamber's book that maybe quoted Ratzinger, I searched for Gamber's and Ratzinger's names in volumes 86 and 87. I submitted additional requests for those pages, all of which turned out to be irrelevant.

This seemingly robust citation was a total dead end. Short of reading the entire run of Theologische Revue, I had to rule it out and start from scratch.

The SSPX and Angelus Press

In my online travels, I had encountered the Theologische Version of the quotation in one other place: a 2002 article9 in the Angelus by Father Patrick de la Rocque, SSPX.

(Two profiles of Fr. de la Rocque can be found at Angelus10 and Traditio, the latter of which is a case study in ‘nothing is ever Trad Enough.11)

In any case, Fr. de la Rocque's article, as Angelus tells us, was “Translated from Nouvelles de Chrétienté, No. 71, Jan. 2002.” This article is the earliest example I can find online of the Theologische Version, both the quotation and the erroneous Revue Theologisches attribution.

The Nouvelles de Chrétienté is a newsletter of the SSPX. I contacted the SSPX's website to see if I could request a copy of the article, but unfortunately never heard back. I've been unable to track down this 2002 Nouvelle de Chretiente article. Nevertheless, it gave me an important clue.

A trip to Fontgombault Abbey

Fr. de la Rocque's article was a discussion on some recent events; namely, a conference on the liturgy at Fontgombault Abbey, July 22-24, 2001. Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, was one of the speakers. His remarks, “The Theology of the Liturgy,” appeared in conference proceedings (published in 200212 and translated into English in 200313 by Margaret McHugh and Father John Parsons). It is unclear if Fr. de la Rocque attended the conference himself, but he seems to have read the proceedings.

Ratzinger's speech directly referenced a book published by the SSPX:

I mention this strange opposition between the Passover and sacrifice because it represents the architectonic principle of a book recently published by the Society of St Pius X, claiming that a dogmatic rupture exists between the new Liturgy of Paul VI and the preceding Catholic liturgical tradition.5 [/…/] [Footnote] 5. Cf. The Society of Saint Pius X, The Problem of the Liturgical Reform, Angelus Press, Kansas City 2001.13

The Problem of the Liturgical Reform was edited by de la Rocque14, so it is quite possible that de la Rocque and Ratzinger were aware of each other.

At this point, I had no clues as to where my Theologische Version quotation might be. I'd requested the 1990 and 1991 Theologische Revue journal issues, which yielded nothing. I'd requested de la Rocque's 2002 French article reprinted in the Angelus, which did not get a response. Ratzinger's speech from the 2001 Fontgombault conference, while thought-provoking, did not have my quotation either.

A return to Monsignor Gamber

Because I was out of leads, I decided to check the similar-sounding quotation, the Gamber Version. I requested a copy of Ratzinger's Gamber foreword, in the original French. Call me untrusting. I received the foreword, and did indeed find the Gamber Version in its French glory:

Ce qui s'est passé après le Concile signifie tout autre chose: à la place de la liturgie fruit d'un développement continu, on a mis une liturgie fabriquée. On est sorti du processus vivant de croissance et de devenir pour entrer dans la fabrication. On n'a plus voulu continuer le devenir et la maturation organiques du vivant à travers les siècles, et on les a remplacés-à la manière de la production technique- par une fabrication, produit banal de l'instant.15

At this point, it would be instructive to set our quotations - the original French, the Gamber Edition, and the Theologische Edition - side-by-side.

I added green highlights to exact (or near-exact) matches, and red to major differences.

It finally dawned on me how remarkably similar these two English quotations were.

A proposed timeline

Update from 05/28: I have added 1989 and 1990 to the timeline, and revised several other points.

Here is what we know for sure:

  • 1983: Monsignor Klaus Gamber publishes Die Reform der Romischen Liturgie.
  • 1989: A collection of essays, mostly German, is published in honor of Gamber.21 Ratzinger's quote about the fabricated liturgy appears here, possibly for the first time.
  • 1990: The journal Theologische reviews the essay collection in its February 1990 issue, and quotes Ratzinger at length.
  • 1992: Die Reform is reprinted in French as La Reforme Liturgique en Question, with a foreword by Ratzinger.15
  • 1993: La Reforme is reprinted in English as The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background.5 The French and English editions contain the Gamber Version.
  • July 22-24, 2001: Fontgombault Abbey hosts a conference on the liturgy. Ratzinger gives a talk called, “The Theology of the Liturgy.”
  • 2002, January: Fr. Patrick de la Rocque of the SSPX writes an article for the SSPX newsletter about Ratzinger and the conference. Fr. de la Rocque gives the Theologische Version of the quotation, citing as his source Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104. Fr. de la Rocque's article is translated and republished in Angelus, thus debuting the dubious Revue Theologisches attribution into the English-speaking world.
  • 2002: Fontgombault conference proceedings are published in French.12
  • 2003: Fontgombault conference proceedings are published in English.13
  • 2008: The Theologische Version appears on FishEaters forums4, and begins making the copy/pasted rounds in article comments on numerous Catholic websites.
  • 2013: Taylor Marshall uses it.1
  • 2014: Traditional Catholic Priest uses it.16
  • 2017: Aleteia uses it.17
  • 2019: Catholic World Report18 and One Peter Five19 use it.

Update: 05/28/2021

In a thrilling turn of events, I have not one, but two updates from readers.

The first update concerns the quotation itself, by way of an alternative English translation, from Ignatius Press.

This translation has a few key differences - I am most interested in the subject changes from “we” to “they.” As the original French quotation uses the subject “on,” I leave that particular debate to the French experts among us.

The second update concerns the attribution: Revue Theologisches, volume 20, February 1990, pp. 103-4. My initial conclusion was that it was wrong, because there's no journal with that name. There is a Theologische Revue, which has as of this morning proven to be a red herring! I must extend my gratitude to Jorgen Vijgen, who informed me that in fact the correct journal title is Theologisches! Sans the word Revue, the attribution is otherwise correct. Theologisches is available online; the direct link to the correct volume is here: http://www.theologisches.net/files/20_Nr.2.pdf

Pages 103-4 are a book review of Simandron, der Wachklopfer: Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989)21, a collection of essays in honor of Monsignor Gamber. The reviewer quotes extensively from Cardinal Ratzinger's contribution to the book. The quotation is long, and quite strongly worded, but it is indeed there.

As this book was published in 1989, predates everything else I've found. So indeed, as I should have suspected given the quote's author, the first occurrence of the quote is not English, not French, but German. (Likely unsurprising to some of you, but I have a knack for complicating things.)

I will make a few edits to the original post, but in the name of transparency I intend to keep most of it as is. Let it be a lesson to both the complexity and the unexpected simplicity of these quotation adventures.

Sources


  1. Marshall, Taylor, “Eleven Great Quotes from Pope Benedict Xvi on Liturgy and the Holy Mass,” Dr. Taylor Marshall, January, 2013, https://taylormarshall.com/2013/01/eleven-great-quotes-from-pope-benedict.html.

  2. Shaw, Joseph, “Is the Novus Ordo an Authentic Expression of the Tradition?,” LMS Chairman, December 14, 2013, http://www.lmschairman.org/2013/12/is-novus-ordo-authentic-expression-of.html.

  3. Kopp, Brian, “Archbishop Nichols Versus Cardinal Ratzinger,” The Gregorian Rite, August 7, 2009, https://summorum--pontificum.blogspot.com/2009/08/archbishop-nichols-versus-cardinal.html.

  4. user Historian, “Ecumenism Returned,” FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums, December 13, 2008, https://www.fisheaters.com/forums/showthread.php?tid=23595.

  5. Gamber, Klaus. The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background. San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; Harrison, N.Y.: Una Voce Press ; Foundation for Catholic Reform, 1993.

  6. Armstrong, Dave, “Traditionalist Misuse of the Ratzinger “Banal” Quote,” Patheos, December 17, 2015, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/12/trad-misuse-of-ratzinger-banal-quote.html.

  7. Universität, Münster. “Theologische Revue.” (1902-2007). https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100009081.

  8. Universität Münster, and Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät. Theologische Revue. Aschendorff, 1990. https://books.google.com/books?id=vmUwAAAAYAAJ.

  9. de la Rocque, Father Patrick. “Considerations on Cardinal Ratzinger.” Angelus, April, 2002. http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2130#3B.

  10. “Doctrinal Discussions in Rome.” Angelus, May, 2010. http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2873.

  11. “SSPX Prior Publicly Embrances a Novus Ordo Service; Accepts Benedict-Ratzinger's Idea to Create a More Traditional “New Mass”,” Traditio, October 26, 2006, http://www.traditio.com/comment/com0610.htm.

  12. Journées liturgiques, and Abbaye Notre-Dame de Fontgombault. “Autour De La Question Liturgique: Avec Le Cardinal Ratzinger: Actes Des Journées Liturgiques De Fontgombault, 22-24 Juillet 2001.” Fontgombault, France, 2001. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/469164518

  13. Fontgombault Liturgical Conference, Pope Benedict XVI, and Alcuin Reid. “The Theology of the Liturgy.” In Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference. Fontgombault, France, 2003. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55538982

  14. “Leader of Fraternity of St. Pius X Names Theological Commission to Study Vatican Ii.” Catholic News Agency, October 16 2007. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/10682/leader-of-fraternity-of-st-pius-x-names-theological-commission-to-study-vatican-ii.

  15. Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. “Klaus Gamber: “L'intrépidité D'un Vrai Témoin”.” In La Réforme Liturgique En Question, edited by Klaus Gamber, 6-8. Caromb: Éd. Sainte-Madelaine, 1992.

  16. Carota, Father, “Traditional Catholics, Canonical, Sspx and Sedevacantist Pray, Work Together,” Traditional Catholic Priest, March 15, 2014, http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2014/03/15/traditional-catholics-canonical-sspx-and-sedevacantist-work-together/.

  17. “A “Devastação Da Liturgia” Em 10 Declarações Do Cardeal Ratzinger,” Aleteia, April 17, 2017, https://pt.aleteia.org/2017/04/17/a-devastacao-da-liturgia-em-10-declaracoes-do-cardeal-ratzinger/.

  18. Stravinskas, Peter M. J. “Revisiting “the Spirit of the Liturgy”.” Catholic World Report, February 4 2019. https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/02/04/revisiting-the-spirit-of-the-liturgy/.

  19. Kwasniewski, Peter, “How the New Lectionary Treats (or Doesn’t) the Antichrist,” OnePeterFive, November 6, 2019, https://onepeterfive.com/lectionary-antichrist/.

  20. Pope Benedict XVI, and Gerhard Ludwig Müller. 2014. Collected works, volume 1. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

  21. Gamber, Klaus, and Wilhelm Nyssen. 1989. Simandron, der Wachklopfer: Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989).

  22. “Simandron - Der Wachklopfer. Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989). Hrsgg. von Wilhelm Nyssen. Luthe- Verlag Köln 1989, 347 Seiten. Schriftenreihe des Zentrums patristischer Spiritualität KOINONIA-ORIENS im Erzbistum Köln, herausgg. von Wilhelm Nyssen, XXX.” Theologisches, Vol. 20, No. 2, Feb. 1990, pp. 103-104. http://www.theologisches.net/files/20_Nr.2.pdf

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Sharon Kabel
Librarian; Nuisance

I like Catholic newspapers, amateur data visualizations, and walls of text.

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