Straf! Straf! Straf alles!

A comment from Patrick Sheridan (who is open about his identity) brought me to look at his blog where he writes only rarely. I quoted the Naval officer on the subject of excessive punishment of sailors and its negative effect on morale onboard His Majesty’s ships. I also thought of the caricature of Hitler from 1940 by Charlie Chaplin ranting in gibberish that superficially sounds a little like German. Indeed, I have mentioned this film when describing what looks like a purge in the Roman Catholic Church of traditionalist milieux and diocesan bishops who have accepted them into the mainstream.

Patrick became Orthodox and has often expressed his frustration with some of the less coherent aspects of the traditionalist scene. I too left it to return to my native Anglicanism via the Continuum. As a priest, I do not use the Roman rite but rather the Use of Sarum from a version based on several sources from the 1520’s. My position in regard to the RC traditionalist scene is less severe even though I suffered from it. I have tried to see things a little more positively and in terms that transcend human vengeance and Schadenfreude.

I am still quite perplexed to see traditionalists attempt once again to reconcile the discredited doctrine of Papal infallibility with the way Pope Francis is conducting his ministry. Some traditionalists are criticising the motu proprio from a canonical point of view or one of auctorias. I studied the Roman missal of 1570 at university, and a pared-down version is published in Dom Alcuin Reid’s Companion to Liturgy.

I understand what has happened to Patrick: information overload. Many years ago, I met a student at Durham University by the name of Stephen Bicknell. He was just as passionate about the organ as I, working as I was at the time as an apprentice with Harrison & Harrison. He went on to the organ building world but down south, in London and with Manders. Rather than the usual way of doing a lot of woodwork and passing tools to the organ tuner on his round, he went in for organ design. His career was remarkable and his many creations include St John’s College Cambridge. He expressed a very positive opinion about the London Oratory organ designed by Ralph Downes and built by Walkers. After a time, something went very wrong with him, in his soul, and he left the organ world. I understand, because professional musicians and instrument makers can be a bloody-minded lot! He worked in some other line of technical work. I will not comment on his personal life. It sufficed to say that he contracted HIV and suffered from it for the rest of his short life. He was found dead at home at the age of 49 years.

The Church Fathers speak of the spiritual sickness of acedia, and the mental health profession speaks of depression. Perhaps. I have lived through seminary at Gricigliano where I didn’t do too badly, and then on pastoral experience in a parish in la France profonde, I became very discouraged. I could easily empathise with the story in the Journal d’un Curé de Campagne by Georges Bernanos – My parish is devoured by boredom... After the failure of my marriage which also had its effect on my priestly vocation, I have had to learn to keep the right distance in order to avoid acedia on one hand and bitterness on the other. These are things we have to sort out ourselves and have the will to overcome them.

For Patrick’s fixation on the question of the 1962 version incorporating the Pius XII Holy Week among other things, I observed even in my own time at seminary that there was a tendency to resuming some of the older rites of before Pius XII. Our protagonist for this question was the late Fr Frank Quoëx who was a seminarian at Ecône, went through a sedevacantist phase and ended up at Gricigliano before transferring to the Archdiocese of Vaduz in Leichtenstein. Perhaps had he lived longer than his 38 years, he might also have become saturated and molten down. Someone like Evelyn Waugh was particularly sensitive to these very human issues as is evident in Brideshead Revisited. I really do wonder what is traditional. Does everything in Christian life have to be traditional? I ask this question whilst I use a rite that is extremely archaic. At least Sarum gets me out of all these fixations centred on the Roman rite and its various versions since 1570.

What I have seen of the French traditionalist scene, after the various cranks and nutcases at St Joseph & St Padarn in Holloway Road, was mainly characterised by hard-line right-wing politics. Either Dieu et le Roi! C’est tout! – or a second best being some modernised half-baked form of Fascism. At Gricigliano, it was less political and less influenced by extremely twisted forms of popular religion. Was it narcissism or a Roman Catholic version of the Biretta Circle in southern English Anglo-Catholicism, the sodomites with unpleasant accents, quoting Evelyn Waugh again? There was still a heavy dose of caudillo-style politics, such as organising a meeting of the Front National in a village where the Gestapo had tortured and shot a number of young men fighting in the Résistance. There are some things you just don’t do! Please, a bit of tact…

If anyone had a reason for being bitter about the tradis, I would. The years have gone by and I have let go. L’amore fa passare il tempo, et il tempo fa passare l’amore, as the Italians put it. It is an illusion to think that Francis’ reason for getting his own back on the tradis was a question of the 1962 version, the Pius XII Holy Week or the 1911 Breviary of Pius X. It was ideology that had nothing to do with the liturgy. There are plenty of Novus Ordo communities that are just as caudillo as the tradis!

I see Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum as an attempt to settle differences that were not really liturgical. Thus we have ordinary use and extraordinary use, which have no analogy with the uses of Sarum, York, Paris or Rouen. C’est du bricolage! It was a pragmatic step by someone who is an intellectual and would know better in terms of church history. This was an attempt to defuse and soften the polemics, and it was successful to a great extent. Traditiones custodi reignited the old polemics from the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Patrick goes into an argument of Pope Francis making a distinction between the “unreformed” Roman rite and the 1962 version which would have been abrogated on the basis of it not being the traditional Roman rite. Maybe there is merit to this argument, but it is certainly not the reasoning of Pope Francis.

I too think that Roman Catholic traditionalism is untenable. Is Orthodoxy or Continuing Anglicanism any more tenable and viable in time? I know that each one of us is mortal and no one will care a toss when we are gone. With what is going on in the world, I really wonder. We still have the Covid epidemic. The Taliban has taken over Afghanistan and we can be expecting more export-a-terrorist to kill people where they feel like it. There is also climate change, which is up for discussion in the scientific world. People all around us are soaking up the Woke ideology and are speaking and thinking in terms that were unthinkable in the 1960’s and 70’s. Some speak of the collapse of western civilisation. Surely, the living would envy the dead! As an Idealist and a Romantic, I go along with the idea that reality comes from our consciousness, and that the quality of our spiritual life can change everything. If the tradis would take more notice of the ideas of Rod Dreher in the Benedict Option, there might be more to hope for. Everything has to be based on a high quality of Christian living and worship, and not on politics, ideologies or aggressive slogans.

As a convert to Orthodoxy, Patrick emphasises the need to abandon Papalism. I as an Anglican would agree. Our consciousness can only associate Papal infallibility with Orwell’s Insoc and Big Brother in his prophetic novel 1984. The Vatican is now at a level of corruption unrivalled since the time of Alexander VI and Lucretia Borgia. The credibility is gone. That much I agree. Perhaps Patrick would say “You now know that your Church has no credibility. Therefore, convert to Orthodoxy“, perhaps not. I have expressed my own forebodings many times. If I didn’t actually believe in the truth of Christianity, I too would have given up, as many have done so. Yet, atheism goes nowhere and satisfies no one.

If anyone can give an example of a future for Christianity, it is the monasteries. This is one reason why Dom Alcuin Reid has a powerful voice, not as a polemicist or a politician, but as a contemplative monk. Rod Dreher wrote his Benedict Option, but in an American cultural perspective. I myself wrestle with my own life and vocation and circumstances leading me to the hermit’s life. If being a hermit is being a recluse shut in somewhere, I see no point in it. Covid and separation have made me too much of a recluse, and I need to make the effort to have outside activities and some social life – for my mental health! Some do live such a life between their intense life of prayer, yet a contact with the world without imposing any kind of ideology. I think of Fr Charles de Foucauld who was a “traditional” hermit, but yet the “little brothers” inspired by him who were heavily involved in the Worker Priest movement in the 1950’s. We have to be a leaven in the desert. I see no other future for Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

I don’t like the Society of St Pius X any more than Patrick does. I found them very sectarian and invasive, rather like the notorious archetypical narcissistic personality manipulating and gaslighting their adepts. I have also observed even more extreme caricatures like Palmar de Troya, Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ – the latter two being in the mainstream Church and using the new rite. Palmar de Troya is still going and has not been forcibly dispersed by the Spanish police as would happen in Jacobin France. Laïcisme or its American counterpart Secularism are not such bad inventions, even when there are laws that violate or contradict Natural Law and Christian moral teachings. Even with the risk of dérives sectaires, I would not take repressive action against the Society of St Pius X whether as a high political figure or the Pope. Perhaps by calming the polemics, it would be possible to recognise the good in other Christians mutually.

Ironically, Jorge Bergoglio is open to question about collaboration or involvement with the Junta in Argentina until 1982. Pope Francis: questions remain over his role during Argentina’s dictatorship – article from 2013. It is something quite easy to understand: Cuius regno ejus religio. The Jesuits were always good at this kind of thing. The book Mission by Robert Bolt or the excellent film provide us with a parable of this kind of duplicity with anti-Christian powers. Bergoglio’s motives are not pure, any more than those of any other political leader. If that is all the Church is, then it is no longer a question of rites and liturgies!

Perhaps we could invite the newly-victorious Taliban in Afghanistan to come and sort it all out for us! I think we would regret it….

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9 Responses to Straf! Straf! Straf alles!

  1. Timothy Grahan says:

    Fr Anthony, I think you are right to hold up the monastic ideal. Which is really the Sermon on the Mount.

    I really enjoy Dreher’s blog partly because he seems to have been able to leave behind the crisis of faith that he experienced and make common cause with anyone who is trying to lay a foundation for a civilisation that might rise some day out of our present disintegration and self-destruction.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Your saying, “I need to make the effort to have outside activities and some social life – for my mental health!” made me think of St. Gerlach, a ‘miles’ become hermit, reported to live in a hollow oak – but also to walk in one direction to the Church of St. Servatius in Maastricht on weekdays to attend services, and to the Cathedral in Aachen for Mass on Sundays, in something like the opposite direction, living between them. A very liturgically – and, in some sense, communally – active hermit – who also received visitors and had wider correspondence, once being sent a gift by St. Hildegard of Bingen. Having said which, St. Brendan came to mind, too…

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I found Patrick Sheridan’s article variously unpersuasive, but it made me wish I knew a lot more liturgical history, and raised or accented weighty matters about (so to put it) hierarchical exercise and liturgical form.

    I’ve had assorted curious experiences the last two Holy Weeks through my various attempts to refer to a 1944 Missal, a 1956 Quindena Paschalis, and 1951 and 1961 editions of the Liber Usualis. I have read somewhere that the 1962 Missal reversed a lot of (late-ish) revisions made under Pius XII, and got some sense of that from trying to ue that 1956 book (!) In that sense, 1962 is indeed more ‘traditonal’-by-return, than things preceding it.

    But, using my handy 1944 Missal on the Feast of the Assumption after prepping with reading Pius Parsch, I encountered quite a different set of Propers in Church on Sunday (had I strangely forgotten this, or somehow never managed to encounter it?). The New Liturgical Movement site happily ended my bewilderment, and I note that one of the commenters on Michael Foley’s very interesting 14 August article writes, “In a future reform, the Mass (and Office) of the Assumption will have to be revisited. Expunging the dreadful Bea psalms from the Mass, and maybe reintroducing some of the traditional elements”. And I’ve certainly heard of people describable as ‘traditionalists’ both being open to, and in practice, going back to pre-Pius XII Holy Week liturgies – sensibly enough, I’d say.

    I also wish I knew more of the history of other Rites, often thinking of Dom Gregory Dix’s passage about how “the Greek patriarch of Alexandria then visiting Constantinople caused a scandal in the capital by celebrating according to the rite of his own church, S. Mark, and alarmed at the outcry, consulted Balsamon as to the lawfulness of the use of S. Mark and S. James. Balsamon replies that ‘the catholic church of the most holy and oecumenical throne of Constantinople in no way recognises these liturgies. We declare therefore that they ought not to be received. And even if they were written by these saints they ought to be condemned to entire disuse… all the churches of God ought to follow the custom of New Rome, that is Constantinople (and use S. Basil and S. John Chrysostom)'” – although “Balsamon was at this time Greek patriarch of Antioch, and yet had never even troubled to discover whether there did or did not exist a liturgy of S. James, the traditional rite of his own see! He knew of it only by hearsay from the Trullan canons. Along with S. Mark (centuries older than the Byzantine rite) it is swept into limbo on the strength of a misapplied sentence from Justinian.”

    • Rubricarius says:

      ‘I have read somewhere that the 1962 Missal reversed a lot of (late-ish) revisions made under Pius XII, and got some sense of that from trying to ue that 1956 book (!) In that sense, 1962 is indeed more ‘traditonal’-by-return, than things preceding it.’

      That is simply not true. There were various restorations such as adding most of the text of the Passions back and increasing the number of prophecies on Holy Saturday but that was the 1970MR under Paul VI.

      Many of the changes in the 1956 Holy Week were extended to the rest of the year with 1962MR: e.g. folded chasubles abolished for the entire year not just Holy Week; the celebrant sitting to hear lessons and epistles and not reading any pericope himself; suppression of Judica me etc and the last Gospel on a series of other days in the year; increased -albeit limited by later standards – use of the vernacular e.g. Litanies; renaming parts of the proper extended to the rest of the year ‘antiphon at the introit’ etc. The changes to Holy Week in 1962MR were actually slight and including the abolition of bows to the altar cross at the Holy Name etc.

      I thought Patrick’s piece rather good to be honest and my criticism would not be that there was too much information but the opposite. What he did not refer to was that Rome – in the person of Cardinal Seper during negotiations asked Lefebvre what liturgical edition he would be happy with which is where 1962MR comes back on the scene. I had that told me by persons at the opposite ends of the Traddie spectrum namely (now) Bishop Sanborn and the late Michael Davies.

      Patrick’s point was not that Francis gives a fig leaf over what edition of liturgical books is used but rather most of Traddieland has used 1962 as a mythial last bastion against the Second Vatican Council. The Holy See had been engaged in a progressive direction of reform since Leo XIII’s minor tinkerings increasing its pace after the 1939-44 War. Now Rome is acting to protect its reform from attacks by supporters of the 1962MR. If various rumours are true there is far more to come from Francis on this front.

      In retrospect it would have been far better if Lefebvre had specified the typical edition of 1900MR. It would then not have been able to use it to attack the SVC but they could have quietly got on with being liturgical. However as the $$PX have no real interest in liturgy that was as likely as flying pigs.

      • Thank you both for your highly informative comments.

        Rubricarius is a close friend of mine (even though I haven’t seen him for a long time), and I can vouch for his knowledge of the Roman liturgy and its various versions since 1570.

        Indeed, the 1962 books incorporated the revisions of Pius XII, notably the Holy Week and the common of popes (reinforcing Ultramontanism). Our MC at Gricigliano (the late Fr Frank Quoëx) did all he could to interpolate pre-Pius XII things like folded chasubles.

        I do understand Patrick’s reasoning, and I am not fond of the RC traditionalists myself. However, if Pope Francis suppresses them, as he threatens to do – leaving the SSPX, sedevacantists and independent priests and bishops to rake in the spoils, I wonder if any good would come out of it. Is Patrick being mean or nihilistic? I have been in the Institute of Christ the King, and my experience with them was not entirely good (English understatement).

        Les traditionalists à la Lefebvre have inherited the old contempt for the liturgy and beauty in favour of the hard-line moralism and right-wing politics. Their cultural reference is clearly the 1930’s or 50’s, hence Pius XII and the notion of avoiding “archaeologism”. If it were anyone other than Bergoglio, I would say that the traditionalists do need to be hauled over the coals and certain tendencies to be corrected. Bergoglio’s reference is not the traditional liturgy, but Church of England style bureaucracy, corporate management and secular social doctrines.

        The superiors of the FSSP, the ICR and the IBP are convened to Rome next month to meet the most “progressive” Cardinals and Arthur “Padlock” Roche. Perhaps “Pope Woke” will “cancel” them. It looks to me that some will align themselves with the three main groupings I mentioned above, the SSPX, the sedevacantists or the independents. Someone like Msgr Wach has been saying how schismatic they all are, so his alternative is conformity to “Pope Woke”!

        Patrick and Rubricarius became Orthodox. I went to the Anglican Continuum. Others go to various permutations of Old Catholicism or Old Roman Catholicism. I suppose the alternative is simply giving up religion! Yes, there is more to come from Pope Francis and his minions.

        Yes I agree that Archbishop Lefebvre should have taken more interest in liturgical culture, not only the older versions of the Roman rite but also local rites and uses. Some of the FSSP priests in Lyons have been reviving the Lyons rite – all to their credit. Others have been using the old Ambrosian rite in north-eastern Italy. Perhaps this shake-up is going to produce a new kind of traditionalism, though I fear that they will become more reactionary than ever.

        I would hope that “Pope Woke” will bring his own camp and Ultramontanism into question. There has to be a different understanding of Catholicity and the sacramental / mystical nature of the Church.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I would delight to know more about the details of changes in 1956, 1962, 1970. I suspect ‘not simply true’ re.1956 and 1962 would be more likely than “simply not true”. Perhaps I should do some sample collations of my Quindena Paschalis (“Nihil obstat: […] 9 Octobris 1956”) and one or another 1962 book – if I could get ahold of any… What else I own is a 1951 Liber Usualis, and I gratefully see a 1961 ed. is scanned online… My 1951 LU proved much more practical use to me in schola than my 1956 QP, though it was clearly not identical with what we were doing 1962-wise. One thing I think I recall reading (but alas did not save/note) was something Father John Hunwicke said about the restoration of pre-Cardinal Bea Latin texts, and one thing I remember wrong-footing me in practice this past Holy Week (which alas I cannot easily find back, though I certainly annotated it in QP) was a different verb, differently related to the notation in a Proper.

        I have not ‘caught up’ with Bishop Sanborn or Michael Davies, but got the impression from some videos I recently watched by the late Fr. Anthony Cekada that Archbishop Lefebvre had at times – even, long – been easy-going about the use of varying liturgical books. I don’t know that that need show a lack of “real interest in liturgy”. Perhaps the SSPX in practice still have an ease and flexibility as has been contended of Archbishop Lefebvre, varying locally and personally – whether one see that as evidence of “real interest” or simply thoroughly compatible with – and conducive to – “real interest”. That, in any case, has emphatically been my inescapable experience with them – e.g., obvious use of the Graduale Triplex (or so, again, different verbs in Propers suggest), some of the time, and 1962 MR/LU other of the time.

        I am interested – and delighted – to hear of some FSSP priests in Lyons reviving the Lyons rite and others using the old Ambrosian rite in north-eastern Italy. I have certainly talked with some people active with the SSPX about the possibilities and likelihood (or not) of occasional Sarum Use (following that FSSP First Vespers of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Philadelphia in 2020). It would be a good thing if the FSSP, the ICR and the IBP, together (in whatever ways and senses) with “the SSPX, the sedevacantists [and] the independents” pursued a new (dare I say ‘Quo-primum’-ish?) kind of traditionalism, which let liturgy and various liturgies flourish.

      • I think the three main clerical institutes are afraid of appearing not to be “serious” Catholics by taking too much interest in the liturgy. Gricigliano, thanks to Fr Quoëx, was more liturgically-inclined. He also dared to bend the rules a bit and not be strictly 1962. He was quite “Anglican” in that way. What poisons all this is the Ultramontanism and ideology of the Church’s temporal power. The same ideology manifests itself in different ways in the USA, France and Italy. As a native Anglican, I have always dreamed of the “Old Catholicism” of the Council of Constance which limited the power of the Pope in favour of the Ecumenical Council. One part of my experience is Anglo-Catholicism which fired the imagination of Benedict XVI when he thought of a different Catholic ethos in the Ordinariates. Bishop Peter Elliott in Australia (RC bishop of Anglican origin) had the idea of adopting the Sarum Use, but the idea didn’t “catch” and too much of Anglo-Catholicism is nearly “Roman” in its liturgical observance. Every time there is an opportunity, the ship seems to sail away. The one thing that has been successful was the liturgical movement based on the monastic revival under the influence of Romanticism. Gricigliano in the early days was formed by Opus Sacerdotale, a French movement of traditionalist parish priests in the 1960’s and 70’s that came under the influence of the Abbey of Fontgombault – the reason why Msgr Wach and his Institute got given the Villa Martelli in the Tuscany hills in 1990 to take over from the failed monastic foundation. I have been privileged to have been part of this history so that I could understand the subtleties.

        I know that my vocation is throwing out ideas but not receiving credit for them. I have seen too many coincidences, but I remain in my little corner of the world bashing away on a computer keyboard (when it isn’t the organ keyboard that does something else, and more beautiful).

  4. Rubricarius says:

    @David
    In the interest of comparison there are several commentaries. For the changes effected from 1st January 1956 J.B. O’Connell’s ‘Simplifying the Rubrics’, Burns Oates is excellent and O’Connell gives excellent coverage. Unfortunately his work on the 1961 rubrics does not give commentary but just a translation. However, something like McManus’ ‘Handbook for The New Rubrics’ is extensive with its commentary and, incidentally, gives a very clear indication of future direction.

    Whilst the best means of comparison is looking at the actual editions (the Church Music Association of America has a pdf of MR1962 which can be compared with older editions. However there does need to be some understanding of the application of rubrics to make the comparison worthwhile, e.g. the texts for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost are the same in MR1962 and earlier editions yet pre-1962 the feast of St James took precedence over the Sunday with the latter being commemorated. With MR1962, in sung Mass, St James does not get a mention. Similarly books can be confusing themselves. I have a 1962 printing of the Solesmes Liber Usualis. If I look at the Sundays after Pentecost it still says the second oration is A cunctis etc and one has to read the extensive section after the introductory pages to understand what has been cut out and changed. No digital publishing in those days.

    As the 1955 decree states it will take time before all the liturgical books can be reformed so the idea was to simplify the rite – bascially missing things out – so that older books could be used until the reform was completed.

    As to Lefebvre being ‘easy going’ on the use of various editions of the liturgical books that is only broadly true before 1982. From the founding of Econe there was a variety of praxis. Generally the French speakers favoured uses closer to 1969 such as ’65 and ’67 whilst English speakers (and German) used the ‘pre-55’. At the seminary High Mass ’67, or near-enough ’67, prevailed. In 1976 the first ‘General Chapter’ agreed that the variation continue but that there should be no changes. With the 1980s negotiations, and subsequent indult Quattuor abhinc annos in 1984 MR1962 became the order of the day and the previous agreement disregarded.

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