Sunday, 13 June 2010

Octave of the Sacred Heart...

This useless period of eight days was instituted by Pius XI in 1928 and abolished by Pius XII in 1956, so it lasted 28 years - older than me but still all in the lifetime of people still living - Pope Benedict XVI for one. Is it really worth observing an Octave that has no theological or liturgical value and was moreover (rightly) abolished in less than 30 years? I actually agree with Pius XII on this one, although our motives for the abolition would be different - rather like the time I spoke to a Jesuit about the Latin Mass Society; he said they have very strange ideas. I agreed, and after a short conversation, we both laughed - he didn't like them because they were ''too traditional'' - I have never liked them because they're not traditional enough!

Unlike Pius XII though I'd have gone further. I'd have used my God-given authority as Supreme Pontiff to utterly abolish the Feast altogether, and any traces of devotion to it. This we, the Vicar of Christ, the mediator of all graces, do solemnly publish, sanction, command, decreeing that this, our order, shall be always and everywhere effective unto the consummation of the world. Wherefore let no one infringe or oppose this, our abolition, and will. But if anybody shall presume to attempt this let, him know that he will incur the wrath of almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

This is usually how Papal bulls on matters end, with some threat of eternal damnation if you don't fall into line - this is how Divino afflatu ended at any rate - basically telling priests that anyone who adhered to Tradition rather than Papal authority would not be fulfilling their Office and would be moreover guilty of no small sin. But if the Pope threatened to abolish the Feast of the Sacred Heart, on pain of excommunication, there'd be a public outcry - pious people would accuse him of the misuse of his authority, of being unjust to many people devoted to the Sacred Heart and of wanton tampering with the Faith, etc. That is a reasonable way of looking at it. So why are Popes allowed to do what they want with the Liturgy?

That, I think, no one will ever know. Either the Pope has not the authority to do as he wants with the Liturgy, after the manner of an irresponsible tyrant, and therefore Papal reform of Liturgy is manifestly an abuse and not easily reversible. Or the Pope has this authority and...well I can't really conceive of ''what next'' I in danger of schism (or alone) in thinking that I would rather have an ancient liturgical Tradition than a despot Pope who thinks he can do what he wants with it? Because if Traditionalists think that Popes have this authority then there is no justifiable reason for them to ''prefer'' the Old Rite to the New Rite. Surely to ''prefer'' one aspect in the liturgical Patrimony is to fly in the face of the aforesaid Papal authority?

Is there a sort of Magna Carta that tells Popes what they can and can't do? If there is, I'd like to see it...


  1. On what would be the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, we should all heed his timely wisdom:

    ""Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies"

    (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi II, Messagero, Padua 1979, p. 37)

  2. Some reading that might interest you on these topics:

    You probably will not agree with my conclusion in the last article. I do think that the concept of “liturgy” in the West is problematic. In the Eastern Church, the difference between liturgy and popular devotion is less clear (pace Schmemann and all of the other vogue Orthodox theologians). Before the Counter-Reformation, and even after it in many places, the liturgical and paraliturgical were often joined at the hip. Penitentes, autosacramentales, the Ludus Danielis, and various forms of liturgical poetry were all in use before and after the Counter-Reformation, and often proved more formative in the lives of the faithful and many clergy than what we would call “liturgy”. Really, it was the printing press that created liturgy as something separate from the devotional lives of the faithful. It was your dreaded “low Mass” that created the need for Missals in the first place.

    I paint with a broad brush, but the relationship between Magisterium, tradition, and liturgy in the modern period has been very complex. My opinion is that to regard the Catholic liturgy as practiced in virtually all the churches today as illegitimate is not a viable option for a Catholic in good faith. I don’t like the contemporary liturgy, but I understand that liturgy in the West has been a dead letter for a very long time. For me, it makes more sense to create a phenomenology of what people actually believed in the past as an attempt to recover some sense of tradition. It seems the hierarchy for a long time has been woefully bad at this.

  3. Arturo,

    Interesting articles, as always.

    Part of the tragedy, as I see it, is that the revisionist re-write of recent history in the Roman Church is believed not only by 99% of Traditionalists but even by church leaders.

    I am not quite sure what you mean by phenomemology but am I on the right track thinking of Mexican people offering spirits and flowers to images and Irish people walking around in circles at Lough Derg?

  4. Why would you get rid of the feast, Patricius?

  5. Mark, I would get rid of the Feast because it is new - plus, as I said in my post about the Sacred Herat, I see the Feast as a triumph of popular Catholicism over liturgical tradition, and there is a danger of heresy in devotion to one aspect of Christ's Person.

  6. Thanks, Patricius. I must've missed your previous post. God bless.

  7. How old does something have to be for it not to be new? Keep in mind that any date that you care to name will be as arbitrary as the year 1962, so beloved of soi-disant traditionalists. In my opinion, rhetorical devices like this are less than helpful, and merely serve to promote one person's point of view while obscuring whatever objective principles may exist.

  8. Patrici, if Popes can't get rid of innovations in the liturgy, but destroy with the stroke of a pen a veritable and ancient part of our patrimony, it would suggest that the people have not inwardly digested the ancient part. The Popes would never take something away that we all know and love and would revolt over.

    Secondly, only two realities bind the Supreme Pontiff: The immutable doctrines of our holy religion and the right use of reason. Any papal law not in keeping with true reason is invalid.