The Broken Liturgy

I would like to point you to a very interesting link on the question of the reform of the reform, theme so dear to Pope Benedict XVI, and what we Anglicans have been doing with the Prayer Book for quite some time.

Would the solution be a wholesale return to the liturgy of Pius V with the various modifications between 1570 and 1965? The comments are worth looking at. In the early 1980’s I had a discussion with a young man whose opinion was that the Roman liturgy was broken to such a point that the only remaining legitimate liturgical tradition was the Byzantine rite. I cannot subscribe to such a narrow notion of liturgical tradition, but I can understand it in a perspective according to which any discontinuity entails the destruction of the rite.

I feel no longer qualified to say to Rome that it should get rid of its Novus Ordo. My own intuitions on the matter are known, that we need to “feed” the liturgical tradition with local uses and rites, even those that have been out of regular use for a few centuries and would be about as familiar as the Dominican rite. We find many similar ideas in the mind of Benedict XVI, even though he had to tow the party line with the so-called “ordinary form”.

There is also a very real problem with using versions of the old Roman liturgy with the first elements of the Bugnini reform, taken for granted by most traditionalists willing to two the party line sufficiently so as not to be taken for “extreme” traditionalists or cranks.

Time will tell. Benedict XVI was asking questions that just no longer seem to be on the agenda. Some might say that we have returned to the 1970’s. Forty years ago, there were people who remembered the 1950’s. People now no longer had the references they had in 1974. How much influence could the various traditionalist institutes and societies have? As a former member of the Institute of Christ the King, I would venture to say – precious little.

The conservative Roman Catholic media – paper and electronic – still try to maintain the myth of a conservative Pope. Benedict XVI was / is no conservative. He is very open as a theologian and interested in the liturgy for reasons different from that of many conservative traditionalists.

Two French articles are interesting. They are both by Fr Claude Barthe, a priest of vast intellectual stature for whom I have a great amount of esteem:

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10 Responses to The Broken Liturgy

  1. The Rad Trad says:

    ” Benedict XVI was / is no conservative. He is very open as a theologian and interested in the liturgy for reasons different from that of many conservative traditionalists.”

    Very true. My personal opinion is that Benedict was more concerned with using the liturgy to bridge the immediate pre-Conciliar Church (c.1960) with today’s Church than he is/was concerned with restoring the traditional worship of the Roman rite.

    • Patricius says:

      Hence all the fuss about the “hermeneutic of continuity.” A plaster placed over an enormous gash!

    • I would have been tempted to accuse Benedict XVI of intellectual dishonesty or somehow foisting nonsense with the idea of the “ordinary form” and “extraordinary form”. As I see it, he came up with this idea as a pastoral expedient to avoid polemics and conflict as much as possible. He had either to toe the “party line” or abolish the Novus Ordo and cause a complete all-out blow-out and split-up. We might think that’s what he should have done, but we don’t have to carry the responsibility. He tried a compromise, and it failed to convince the hard-line old guard. You are right. He was trying to restore peace and harmony, in the hope the problem would sort itself out through “organic development”.

      I believe Benedict XVI acted with good intentions, but laboured under illusions. He probably had this in mind when he abdicated. As for his intentions of restoring the traditional Roman rite, this can only be ascertained from reading his writings and deciding for yourself what seems most likely. He was freer as a Cardinal under John Paul II than as Pope.

      The “hermeneutic of continuity” and “organic development” are over. As far as the liturgy is concerned, Pope Francis has taken the RC Church back to the days of Paul VI, except that Benedict XVI’s legislation (Summorum Pontificium and Anglicanorum coetibus) is still in place – for the same reason as why Benedict XVI left the Novus Ordo in place. The progressives are the winners. The traditionalists just don’t seem to have the fight in them as in the days of Archbishop Lefebvre and Monsignor Ducault Bourget.

      I would like to see a new kind of Catholic traditionalism without the “Social Kingship of Christ” politics and Counter-Reformation ecclesiology. Perhaps more convergence with Anglo / Anglican Catholicism might make it more attractive, certainly to me. We’ll see…

      • The Rad Trad says:

        I think assuming Benedict was intellectually dishonest would entail him not believing in what he was saying. Despite his well received writings on the Roman liturgy I am not convinced that he knows that much about it; for example he stated last year that when he was baptized on Holy Saturday the word Alleluia was not said during the entire day when in fact is was sung at Mass, Vespers, Compline, Mattins, and Lauds several times each. He oddly rejected “fabricated liturgy” but called the Pauline liturgy a contribution to the Church in practice. He really is a synthesis of a thesis and an antithesis, but perhaps that derives from his pluralistic attitude.

        I would also be happy if the traditionalist movement became re-invigorated sans the baroque mindset and political affiliations.

  2. Christopher William McAvoy says:

    Fr. Anthony, as you mentioned shortcomings with the ’65 missal, would you be able to explain the specifically what the most pressing ones are? Is it not still the tridentine mass? Someone posted the whole missal online as a .pdf recently. Other than the beginnings of bad artwork, the removal of the psalm at the foot of the altar and joahnnine dialogue, I couldnt see any difference between ’62, minus one allows for other vernacular languages and whereas the other does not.

    • This is quite an interesting criticism of the 1965 rite compared with the 1962.

      It’s a question of the integrity of the Ordo Missae, which I find of lesser importance than certain rubricists I have known. Actually the 1965 rite took away the notion of the Roman liturgy being a Low Mass surrounded with the High Mass ceremonies as “unnecessary” embellishments. Frankly, I am not so concerned about exact details of ceremonial.

      The big problem since 1570 has been putting the liturgy under the control of the Papacy and its bureaucracy. Where is the line drawn, since the post Vatican II reforms essentially started in 1950. Authority and law and placed over tradition, custom and auctoritas (cf. Fr Huwicke’s way of explaining auctoritas).

      It all seems a little academic now that the party’s over with hermeneutics of continuity and organic development.

  3. Rubricarius says:

    The ‘Elephant in the room’ is always laying any blame at the feet of the papacy itself. The contemporary RC traditionalist movement has carefully re-written its own history so that now the problem is absolutely the Second Vatican Council and what followed from it. People like Archbishop Bugnini are vilified and even demonised whilst it is conveniently forgotten that the man was hand-picked by the highest authority in the RCC. In the contemporary situation men like Evelyn Waugh would be seen as ‘cranks’ for objecting to changes mandated by Pius XII or have their views re-presented so that they become critics of the NOM despite in Waugh’s case his death taking place in 1966 – One cannot see that he would be very pleased with the idea of the 1965MR either.

    As Fr. Anthony alludes some of us are old enough to have met people who belonged to the ‘proto-Traditionalists’ and those people would be dismayed at some of the suggestions being made on NLM today. Sadly the history is one of compromise in the desire for respectability.

    As Fr. Anthony once pointed out in conversation a huge problem of the whole process of twentieth century liturgical reform in the RCC is its lack of consistent methodology. One moment a decision is made on an historical basis, the next on a pastoral one etc. Furthermore as Shawn Tribe pointed out several times on NLM issues surrounding aspects such as the Kalendar, the Ordo Missae etc are different and don’t necessarily require the same treatment or vintage.

    Sadly, I cannot see a happy future ahead but fragmentation and disintegration.

    • A lot of food for thought, my dear friend Rubricarius. I have noticed throughout my student years when I was up at Fribourg in the company of some astute German friends (former students of Msgr Gamber) that the Pauline reform is in a perfect hermeneutic of continuity from the entire process of reforming the liturgy. It happened in stages, beginning with the reversal of the lex orandi principle in such wise as Pius XII suggested that the law of prayer would be governed by the law of faith – or current trends in theology. John XXIII had more liturgical sensitivity than Pius XII. This entire movement was in a hermeneutic of rupture from the liturgical tradition as subsisted in the western Church before the Council of Trent and in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      Continuing Anglicanism seems to have more in common with the traditional Church than the RC conservatives and traditionalists.

      Some might ask the question – Why bother with liturgy at all? What would a Church be without it? The spiritual desert wasn’t entirely due to a liturgical problem, but a church without liturgy is locked, damp and has a floor green with mould. Its furniture is rotting and the whole place reeks of mould. If you don’t believe me, come to France and see for yourselves. People stay at home on Sundays, play sports, etc. unless they have converted to the Evangelicals – or Islam.

      A future of fragmentation and disintegration. It seems to be just beginning in the US. Here in Europe, it is our history and the process of de-Christianisation is just about complete (except the ethnic communities in the cities). I don’t know anyone in my village who has the slightest curiosity about Christianity. So we stay and wait, and do our stuff like monks do in their communities. The doors are open and people can come along if they want. Otherwise, too bad…

      • Rubricarius says:

        Well quite. The whole twentieth century reform is a staged process. One has to factor in the ongoing centralisation that had taken place since Trent (and before) and the impact of printing etc. No one, I am sure, set off with the intention of wanting to make a complete hash of things but liturgy was just treated as a minor adjunct to Canon Law that could be changed at whim.

        Looking at the current comments on blogs regarding the supposed end of the ROTR it is astonishing to see the 1965 Ordo suggested as an answer. Una Voce and the Latin Mass Society were founded and energised in opposition to those changes and also led to a retired bishop of the Holy Ghost Fathers being asked to form more tradition minded seminarians… It is as though history is completely ignored.

        Is there a solution? I would say not and all one can do is simply carry on, let the structures built on sand fall apart and hope some interested persons are around to pick up the pieces.

      • I would go further about the staged process. Don’t forget the Enlightenment and the Synod of Pistoia. I’m not sure when the liturgy was last anything other than an adjunct of canon law. Perhaps up to the 1540’s (in England) and all part of a mess that underpinned popular culture.

        Actually, Archbishop Lefebvre had the 1965 Ordo in the early years of Ecône, or at least some aspects of its ceremonial. Idem with the old parish priests I knew in France like Fr Jacques Pecha at Bouloire until his death in 2002. Most of them just followed and stopped dead. In other places, there was a greater awareness that the reforms didn’t just come out ex nihilo as a result of a Masonic conspiracy but developed from earlier reforms that were accepted. The Benedictine monasteries in France are all doing 1965.

        As for your final paragraph. I think that’s what is going to happen. 19th century churches are being demolished here in France without too much compunction. When the graded medieval building are all that is left, questions might be asked about what they were for. This era may well be a process of purification. The trouble will be knowing where the money will be coming from. There is a possibility that when it will be forgotten, that will be it – just books in libraries and no one to read them…

        This is where I believe there is a role to play for Churches not in communion with Rome. In the ACC, we use the Anglican Missal which is substantially the Roman missal of the 1920’s. I use Sarum, but few others do.

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