Friday, 14 March 2014

Lewis, Lefebvre and such...


Fr Hunwicke has been synthesising the works of C.S Lewis and Marcel Lefebvre recently. Confessedly, I never thought I'd see those two names in the same sentence. I wouldn't presume to disagree with a man as well-read as Fr Hunwicke lightly but my impression of Lewis and Lefebvre is that the only thing they had in common was their distinct lack of subtlety. They were otherwise two very different men. I doubt either of them would have accepted the Ordinariates. Lewis, I expect, would view them in much the same way as I do: Rome, being a monster with an insatiable hunger, glut to the point of bursting the traditions of churches other than herself. Lewis remained (as Tolkien often said) an "Ulster Protestant," despite the more catholic elements in his apologetical works. Lefebvre would undoubtedly have viewed the Ordinariates with suspicion too, though for very different reasons. The raison d'être of his Society was to oppose such innovations as ecumenism (those terrible other "Christians"), the use of vernacular tongues in the Mass (the Greeks and the Protestants are all wrong!) and the adulteration of the liturgical texts (ha!). For the "Conciliar" Church to create a body in which these things would be enshrined would be anathema to him; a modernist error! Incidentally, is anybody aware of an official position of the $$PX on the Ordinariates? Do they see the adoption of Cranmerian texts by Rome, hitherto condemned by popes as "impious rites," as a legitimate enrichment of the Roman liturgical tradition? I have read tracts on Lefebvrist and Sedevacantist websites attacking the very notion of vernacular liturgy! 10 years ago, when I was giving serious thought to joining the Lefebvrists, I'd have been up in arms about even the faintest suggestion that Rome would sanction elements of Cranmer into our Tradition. First the "mess" of Bugnini, now this? What could Cranmer, who was certainly Satan himself, have to offer our glorious rite of 1962, which is the culmination of all liturgical perfection?

Some have argued, even recently, that my position on 1962 is a bit extreme. They have said that 1962 is in some sense the stimulant of tradition; that as the 1962 missal was the building block upon which the later liturgical reforms were built, so the 1962 missal can be seen, in the light of Summorum Pontificum, as the building block upon which to reconstruct a holistic liturgical tradition for the modern Church. They then consider the Ordinariates in conjunction with 1962 (despite their hybrid rites) as an enrichment of modern praxis, indeed the "mutual enrichment," envisioned by Benedict XVI. This amazes me! For on the one hand they admit that the state of the Roman liturgy in 1962 was...what would they say, exactly...imperfect? In fact a Dr Kwasniewski, in his article on the New Liturgical Movement condemning 1965, suggested that "1964" was "the beginning of the end," a position which seems arbitrary to me. But on the other hand they have no qualms about supporting the use of 1962 as a forma extraordinaria as an official adjunct to the rite of Paul VI until some nebulous other time. There are several things to say about that:

1. The premise that the 1962 Missal was never juridically abrogated has proven to be a lie. The prominence of this edition of the MR is due entirely to its imposition in the Society of Pius X by Marcel Lefebvre in 1983, a decision which had its uttermost origins in the liturgical heteropraxis of many Lefebvrists at the time (including the man himself).

2. There was considerable outrage in the Seminary at Ridgefield when, in the name of "unity," Lefebvre imposed the liturgical books of 1962. The Reverend Fr Eugene Berry composed a letter to Lefebvre, signed by eight other priests of the Society (the "naughty nine"), in which he said:

"Our people would be shocked by any liturgical change. To introduce a change in the direction of the Council would be seen as one step toward the changes of the 1960's. We simply could not stand up in front of our congregations and tell them that we were abandoning the Missal, Calendar and Breviary of our Holy Patron, St. Pius X, for that of John XXIII — one, the greatest pope of the century, the other, the originator of the aggiornamento whose effects remain with us today."


They were all of them forced out by Lefebvre less than a month later. In after days it was seen that the liturgical books of 1962 guaranteed not unity, but hatred and division.

3. What Fr Berry says rings very true for me. It is true, and this is a point in which we are all in agreement, that the average parishioner is not a liturgical expert; he is a bus driver with a mortgage! And so, why would he go to a "traditionalist" church? He would go there earnestly, in good faith and without guile seeking "Tradition." Now this presents something of a moral problem for all concerned when what he is presented with on Sundays and Feasts is anything but Tradition, especially when the priest in charge, the serving team, the choir etc all know that what they do is contrary to Church Tradition. During Lent, for example, our bus driver might expect to see the ministers of high Mass in planetic plicatis, a self-evident distinction between traditional praxis and the rite of 1962; but, expecting Miranda, he is greeted by Caliban!

4. As has been noted, the modern traditionalist maintains his "sober" aversion to the rite of 1962 yet concedes to its prolific use. Therefore when people like Fr Berry and I come out and condemn use of the rite of 1962 on moral, canonical, liturgical, aesthetic and customary grounds it cannot be born. To discredit our position we are labelled extremists, liturgical fetishists, that we revel in the exaltation of form over substance and that our views are not in accord with the sentiments of the bus driver or the old Irish peasant woman. I say, on the contrary! My views and those of Fr Berry are at the service of the parishioner. They, not us, are the salt of the earth and they come to church in good faith expecting nothing less than the most sublime sacrifice of praise to the glory of God. You, the 62ists, are the extremists! You seek the mastery of every parish and to keep the parishioners thereof in ignorance of their tradition. When, pray, is this fanciful future time when use of the liturgical books of 1962 will cease to be expedient? Doomsday, perhaps? Until then you make an arbitrary set of principles the litmus test of their loyalty; as arbitrary as, "don't pick your nose in church but you may scratch your testicles." Ye blind guides which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!

All this is just to say that use of the rite of 1962 is a profound moral sin. It is a grotesque affront to the innocent and the simple. They ask you for Tradition and you give them novelty. Are you sick?

15 comments:

  1. The adoption in 1983 by the $$PX of the 1962MR – with certain adaptations such as ‘what Mgr. liked – is conveniently forgotten by most of those who throw accusations of ‘sedevacantism’ at others with wild abandon. Prior to that unhappy time the $$PX were ‘broad church', liturgically speaking, with the UK, most of the USA, Germany and Australia using ‘pre-1955’, the French – mainly – using something close to 1965 and Econe an even later collation. The appearance of 1962 in the 1984 indult was no coincidence and Michael Davies told me that this was a result of the negotiations between Rome and Econe in the early 1980s. The same was confirmed from the opposite end of the Traditionalist spectrum by Bishop Donald Sanborn who was, back in those days, the seminary Rector at Ridgefield.

    It is quite extraordinary [pun intended] that some 1962 fetishists cannot see any difference between their beloved ‘Mass of Ages’ and the use that preceded it. One would have thought the difference between a chasuble and a dalmatic was pretty obvious but there again one suspects that if a pig was dressed up in a lace alb and board chasuble it would be described as having said a lovely Mass by some of the 'EF' supporters.

    The new Ritus of the 1962MR makes hundreds of differences in terms of bows, the tones of voice, the position of the celebrant's hands etc so the 1962 people seem to be lacking powers of observation so engrossed that they must be in their Baronius reprints. Of course, many celebrants cheat and still makes bows to the Cross at the Holy Name etc and like to delude themselves they are ‘saying the black and doing the red’ when they are tacitly ignoring the rubrics they make so much fuss about ostensibly following.

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    1. Thank you for your informative contribution, Rubricarius. You're right to point out the lack of coincidence in Quattuor Abhinc Annos and what happened to the Lefebvrists in '83. And yet there are people out there who wish to draw attention away from Lefebvre's actions relative to the '62 missal and to point out the "generous provision" of Benedict XVI. Why should we all be grateful for a rite which is incomplete, defective and experimental/interim by nature?

      The fact is that if the prominence of the '62 missal is due to Lefebvre's actions in 1983, and he was by no means a liturgical man, then to argue that the ritus of 1962 is a legitimate stimulant for tradition more so than, say, the 1965 Ordo Missae, is arbitrary.to say the least. It always seemed strange to me that traditionalists would value the preparatory prayers and last gospel (two quite late additions and by no means part of the rite of Mass anyway) to the rites of Holy Week as sabotaged by Pius XII.

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    2. Indeed there is clearly an intimate relationship beween Lefebvre's actions and QAA. According to Bishop Sanborn Lefebvre was basically asked what he wanted and didn't feel he 'would get away' with pre-Pacelli - of course he never managed to see through that and happily embraced it all when he was in Dakar etc. Rome's desire to accommodate Lefebvrism is deeply disturbing to say the least. One can see the same pandering from Ratzinger to Fellay in the last few years and the deceit of SP.

      The 1962 fetishist will loudly proclaim how awful 1965 is with missing out the preparatory prayers and the last Gospel but happily not notice those omissions when the occur in the 1962MR - that after all is different and must be OK as it was before the 'Wicked Council'.

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    3. It is disturbing that Rome was, under pope Benedict, enthusiastic to the point of obsession about reunion with the Lefebvrists. By granting the liturgical books of 1962 a kind of "official" status pope Benedict has, in effect, sanctioned a kind of liturgical and ecclesiological relativism which seeks to undermine the integrity of Vatican II among a significant portion of Roman Catholicks. Put simply, if Lefebvre chose 1962 purely because that was the liturgy in situ before Vatican II, then to pander, as you say, to this whim of the Lefebvrists for the sake of unity is bound to undermine the teaching authority of the Council, which the Lefebvrists reject almost entirely. Summorum Pontificum is as much about ecclesiologies born in the Lefebvrist schism as defective liturgy, and the two go hand in hand.

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    4. This is where I lose patience with the debate. Both of you two, despite your deep liturgical learning, grossly mischaracterize the pragmatic defense of the 1962 liturgical books in order to make your respective positions appear stronger. Nobody -- not the least I -- is arguing for the superiority of the 1962 books, nor are we blind to the changes which took place between 1954 and 1962. I have, and use, a 1945 edition of the Benzinger Brothers Breviary; trust me, I know how different it is from the new 1962 edition put out by Angelus Press a few years ago. All the same, my point is that most in the pew know nothing, or very little, of these differences and there is no empirical evidence that their faith is being injured or they are risking adopting a "modernist mentality" because they hear one to two less Collects at Mass on Sunday. As for the other liturgical elements of which you speak, again, their impact on faith and morals is probably, well, nonexistent.

      With that said, a thoroughgoing discussion ought to be had about the 1962 books and what elements of the pre-1962 use ought to be reintroduced. There seems to be a lot of support at the academic (and a bit at the popular) level for restoring the pre-Pius XII Holy Week rite. That would be a nice start. Everything else should be considered in due course.

      If anti-1962 folks were really serious about reinvigorating the spread of the older form of the rite, they'd do well to invest more resources in making it available. If I am ever strapped for cash, I can sell off my 1945 breviary set for a cool $400-600 (it's an excellent shape with tight binding). That's simply out of the price range for most folks.

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    5. Thank you, Modestinus, for your contribution. I can't speak for Rubricarius but I am personally arguing from a wood-between-the-worlds, skeptical/apathetic position. And so some might question my actual involvement in the debate altogether. For somebody who doesn't go to church on Sundays I have very strong views on what sort of liturgy should be provided on Sundays in an ideal world...but again, to what purpose is my involvement? I don't do anything myself so why should I criticise the inaction of others?

      Nowadays I would say that I have just an intellectual interest in Christianity. I have certain beliefs about the Church but I can't really be bothered.

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  2. I am curious, what is your position on the Western Rite within Orthodoxy?

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    1. Unknown, in short, a dead horse. Were I to "create" a Western Rite liturgy for the Orthodox Church the first thing to go would be the two major elevations during the magic words of institution. But who, among those attached to any "Western Rite," would see them go?

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  3. My name is Alex. I'm not sure why it is coming up as Unknown. What are the origins of the elevation? Are you against it just because of how much the traddies love that part?

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    1. Sorry, Alex, I too don't understand why your name doesn't work.

      Regarding the origins of the two major elevations, I plan to look at that in a post I have prepared (weeks ago but still unfinished) on the subject. My objection is that it is bad theology. It is incidental that the traddies love it so much.

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  4. I would have thought that pointing out the significant differences between respective editions of liturgical books is hardly a gross mis-characterisation but a simple statement of fact. Supporters of the 1962MR vociferously proclaim it to be ‘The Mass of Ages’ (e.g. Rorate, yesterday) blatantly ignoring that the rite contained in the book was in use for just over two years and was never intended to be anything other than an interim arrangement. That position, if anything, is surely a gross mischaracterisation as well as being fundamentally untruthful - although truth does not seem highly prized by 1962 Traddies.

    As to those in the pews I suspect the picture is actually more nuanced than the one Modestinus suggests. Certainly there have been some who were acutely aware of the changes as they happened, one need look no further than Evelyn Waugh as a prime example and someone who was not really interested in matters liturgical per se. Back in the early 1980s I well recall several old ladies who attended the 11:00am at Brompton telling me that it “old rite” and that the Oratorians “had never changed.” Personally, I suspect that the vast majority of current church attending Catholics in the West are happy with what they are getting and have no desire to see anything else. One suspects that the major decline in church attendance has far more to do with societal change than anything to do with matters liturgical. The tiny minority of those who are less than happy with the liturgical reforms are extremely fragmented: the root cause of that fragmentation being a desire for conformity/respectability with a corresponding willingness to attempt to ‘paper over the cracks’ as a small price to pay for the stamp of approval and a sense of security. Fr. Chadwick wrote on his blog a few weeks ago (27/2/14) the following about this very subject:

    “Having known men like Fr Quintin Montgomery-Wright, Fr Jacques Pecha and some of the priests of Opus Sacerdotale who came to visit us at Gricigliano, there was a change. It was imperceptible, but as attachment to the Tridentine rite became more mainstream from about 1984 (date of the John Paul II indult), traditionalists and American-style (and stuffy English style too) conservatives started to mix together – and traditionalists took the ultramontanist ideology onboard. They were no longer “Lefebvrist” dissidents but conservatives with a preference for the old rite. In comes the rubricism and the tightening screws, and the result is a caricature of the pre-Conciliar Church. Eventually, as the Society of St Pius X started its dialogues with Rome, they also took on the conservative spirit.”

    On a personal note I went to my last ‘EF’ a few years ago for the funeral of an elderly lady who had supported the $$PX from the days of the St. Pius V Association. The service was held at the $$PX chapel in north London. It was a curious mixture of pre-1962 and 1962. So there were bows to the Cross at Oremus etc, Orate fratres and Nobis quoque peccatoribus etc were said in the mid-voice yet there was no last Gospel. I sat though the service thinking ‘Dear Lord spare me this appalling crap’ and realised in answer to my prayer that this was the last time I would ever be present at an ‘EF’ as there is no one I now know who did not ‘know any better’ so no more funerals to attend out of respect for the deceased – what a wonderful blessing! I really cannot see that the 1962 books have any intrinsic value in themselves and do hope with the passing (of not too much) time they will disappear from the scene. Until there is a period of stability it would seem premature to consider re-printing books. I suspect there is major upheaval ahead in terms of changes (liturgical and non-liturgical) that will make the changes of the past fifty years seem tame indeed.

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    1. "One suspects that the major decline in church attendance has far more to do with societal change than anything to do with matters liturgical."

      I have just read an obituary of Dr Robert Currie, an eminent social historian with a particular interest in Victorian religion. He noted that the decline in churchgoing coincided with the rise of the indoor loo, and surmised that the connection lay in a decline in the fear of the dark induced by nocturnal trips to the outhouse. I have heard worse theories.

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    2. That sounds very plausible to me.

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    3. Highly plausible I would have thought too. One can imagine someone rushing to the jakes in the middle of a cold, dark, night mumbling 'Lighten our darkness' out of fear of what perils might be in the dark both supernatural and natural - such as tripping up and breaking a leg.

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    4. I sounds just like my time at Bouloire with Fr Pecha. There was an indoor loo in the presbytery but also the outdoor one from before the bathroom built onto the back of the kitchen. Country priests tend to piss in the garden, as it saves loo flushing water.

      People often wonder what the little south choir door was for. Simple, for canons to relieve themselves between the nocturnes at Matins!

      Perhaps pissing outdoors gives us a sense of the liturgy?

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