Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Doctrine or Liturgy...

Ever since Pius XII reversed the ancient principle of the Lex Orandi in his infamous Encyclical Mediator Dei (absurdly upheld by Traditionalists as a great bastion of liturgical orthodoxy before the Council vis-à-vis the separation of Altar and Tabernacle, and all that) there has been a tendency in the Catholic Church to view correct doctrine (even if this is not in fact correct) and discipline as more important than the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. I have met many modern-day Catholics, of the ''conservative'' kind (right-believing, if a tad-Ultramontane for me, about such things as the use of artificial contraception, pro-Life issues, the indissolubility of Marriage etc), who are sometimes open to the Old Rite (but sometimes, and more often than not, not so), but don't really care much about how the Liturgy is celebrated, and often attack Traditionalists for not seeing the New Rite as ''valid'' and all that rubbish. This is a very eccentric kind of person to me. I spoke to a ''conservative'' Catholic once about Liturgy, Popes etc, and his view was that he preferred the New Rite because it was more open to the lay people, was in English and was fundamentally more Scriptural than the Old Rite. Also that he thought that Pope John Paul II was the greatest of all modern Popes, especially because he canonized so many Saints - indicating, so he said, the obvious sanctity of the Church. Another conservative Catholic I know thinks that to have liturgical ''opinions'' is a mortal sin - because such opinions fly in the face of the Magisterium, who have provided the Church with a nice homely Liturgy. Another conservative Catholic told me that my attitude to the New Rite was fundamentally wrong in and of itself, because you can ''prefer'' one rite to another rite, but that they are fundamentally the same - how very in the spirit of Summorum Pontificum!

Many conservative Catholics, many of whom (since the publication of Summorum Pontificum) have now joined the ''Traditionalist'' group (and have subsequently influenced it), seem to me to be just as bad as the Modernists of the 19th-20th century (which was a reaction against the heresy of Ultramontanism). Now Traditionalists, whereas before they were at variance with Rome, are seen (and I daresay, view themselves) as the bastions of Catholic orthodoxy (what kind of orthodoxy would this be, I wonder?) against the ravages of heathen men (the Modernists). But whereas proto-Traditionalists such as Evelyn Waugh and J.R.R Tolkien (two very different men nonetheless) saw the defence and right-celebration of the Sacred Liturgy as the prime aim of the ''traditionalist'' movement, modern day Traditionalists (the new kind) see this as just an afterthought - a return to traditional (by which they mean, not very ancient) doctrine and practice seems to them to be more important. In other words, everything before the Council was hunky-dory. Liturgy just becomes the ''tip of the iceberg'', an affectation, not very important in the great scheme of things. After a hard-day lambasting the Modernists, the Trads might like to retire for a nice evening Low Mass, vernacular hymns a plenty, with a chaplet of the Divine Mercy afterwards and other devotions at a side-Altar. This attitude, that of the subordination of right Liturgy to right Doctrine, is a heresy. It is in fact the anti-Liturgical heresy - and, most uncomfortably, the sources for this heretical notion are to be found in an ''infallible'' teaching of the Pope - Mediator Dei. Of course in reality Mediator Dei was not written by Pius XII but his underlings, and probably underwent many revisions before he eventually signed his name. Who really wrote it I wonder? Was it Bugnini? How very ironic that would be!


  1. Of course the tabernacle and altar thing is yet another red herring. Much is made of an instruction from the SRC in 1957 with the TradCons pretending by that versus populum celebrations were prohibited in churches only having one altar.

    The (relatively) conservative Joseph Loew's comments on the decree in 'Worsip' are quoted in isolation but the articles and comments by writers such as Bugnini and McManus are quietly ignored. Both explain that there is nothing to stop a temporary free-standing altar being set up in the sanctuary to allow Mass to be celebrated versus populum.

    Significantly, I suspect, Evelyn Waugh made the pertinent comment 'Many of the innovations, which many of us find so obnoxious, were introduced by Pius XII.' (Letter to the Editor of the Catholic Herald 7 Aug 1964 in 'A Bitter Trial', ed Scott Reid, St. Austin Press, London, 2000 p.40.

    Now the TradCons would regard what Waugh saw as obnoxious modernism as immemorial tradition as they have the blessed mutter of their evening Low Mass and Divine Mercy chaplet.

  2. Rubricarius, many thanks for your contribution here. I must say that it is ages since I read A Bitter Trial, but I shall return to that presently. I am actually re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four (a masterpiece in my opinion, and one of few political novels I have read and read again and again), and trying to equate the Ministry of Truth with the Papacy and his nasty little oligarchy the S.R.C! Who Controls the Present Controls the Past and all that...I'm sure you see the similarities of Popes trying to unwrite Tradition just as Winston Smith, labouring in his dirty office with the telescreens and speakwrites, unwrites History, and then using the principles of Doublethink, erases history from memory...as O'Brian said, ''I do not remember it.''

  3. I don’t think you are being fair to many traditionalists. See this link:


    I think there are plenty of traditionalists (including the SSPX) who seem to say that things were not “hunky-dory” before the Council. Every SSPX priest I have met has believed this. Nor do I think that most traditionalists are liturgical minimalists. Quite the contrary, at least on this side of the pond. See my article on this here:


    Seriously, I sing in the schola, and I am tired sometimes of having to do all of the Liber Usualis stuff. To quote one wise Anglo-Catholic priest: “What am I? A f%^*ing canary?”