Monday, 13 September 2010

How would you feel?

How would you feel if somebody burned down the National Gallery or the British Museum? Pick any great masterpiece - Michelangelo's...well anything by Michelangelo, Perugino's Crucifixion triptych, the Saint Chapelle, the beautiful perpendicular style church at Long Melford. If somebody took it upon themselves to corrupt or destroy these masterpieces, to take them apart piece by piece and reconstruct them according to their own fancies, how would you feel about the loss of the original masterpiece? Well this is how I feel about the fate of the Roman Liturgy at the hands of the Popes.

Last night I had a very extraordinary dream, and old Pius XII was in it. I asked him why...and he said, with a look of proud contempt which shook me: ''because I can.'' Popes are not above reproach, and it would go to my heart like draughts of good wine if more Catholics questioned not the Second Vatican Council and the changes in the aftermath of that Council (which had demonstrably little to do with the changes), but questioned the changes to the Sacred Liturgy under the direct supervision of Pius XII. It is my sincere belief that those changes were both utterly wrong and deeply pernicious.

So how do my readers feel?


  1. You know, you have to go back before the time of Pius XII. After all, as I'm sure you'd agree with, even Popes are human. I think Pius XII didn't think he was imposing anything or doing that much, but all the experts were saying this or that should be done and Cardinal Bea definitely had his ear. What about when Urban VIII allowed the old hymns of the breviary to be screwed with to make them more like Ciceronian Latin?

    The liturgical "reform" with Vatican II was an abomination. The previous reforms were the pre-game scrimmages for the more radical reform. I share your strong distaste of even the "reforms" that happened under Pius XII and John XXIII. However, in the current state of things, a return to the 1962 books would at least be a good respite of sanity until things can be put into proper order by rolling back all the Bugnini innovations.

    I'm glad at least some people don't take these "mandates" too seriously. I've been lucky to assist at Masses of the ICRSS (very recently) in which they used the folded chasubles and the broad stole. I'm also glad that many of the churches of the FSSP use the second (third, depends on how you count it) confiteor, etc.

  2. How would I feel? For material objects, we learn from the Gospel that we are to not get attached to them, for they are of this world. What then of Liturgy? It is guided by God, but conducted by man. Therefore, it will suffer, but in the long run remain true.

    Trust in God.

  3. In a word, similar.

    But here's a question, if Bugnini was the real power behind the throne for the 1950s changes, who was influencing Pius X... or would you just consider him nutty? ;-P

  4. I am saddened that you have so little trust in the integrity and honour of His late Holiness Pius XII as even to suggest that he made any changes simply to prove that he could. I think it may be taken as read that any changes which he authorized were authorized because he was satisfied after prayerful consiedration that this was what God wanted . . . and even if he was wrong in that, it is unfair and unjust to suggest that he acted out of a desire for personal gratification.

  5. In retrospect it is easy to see that it was a consequential error for the fathers at Trent to entrust the task of revising the liturgical books to the pope. That decision basically ended the process of organic development with the Roman liturgy. The establishment of the SRC within a generation sealed its fate.

    One must also bear in mind the development and growth of printing and the effect that had on liturgical editions. There was a broad correlation between the availability of (relatively) cheap printed books and the centralisation process.

    Pius XII stated in Mediator Dei (#58) that he, or rather the papacy, alone had the right to make changes to liturgical rites. Well he certainly had a jamboree of making changes but was certainly not the first or last to do so. Pius X's revision was as radical, if not more so, than the Pacelli arrogance (and gross ignorance) with respect to Holy Week etc. Mgr. Bugnini cannot be blamed for 1911-13 and is blamed rather treated as a scapegoat for the later devastation IMHO.

    The sensible solution may be the return of the control of liturgical praxis to its rightful place i.e. the diocese, its bishop and his counsellors. However, having tasted such omnipotent power the popes are not going to give it up easily. Something Lord Acton said comes to mind...

  6. If the Pope can insert the Filiogue on his own authority then he can pretty much do whatever he wants with liturgy.
    If you recite the Creed with the Filioque then you've already acknowledged that there is no end to the Pope's power over the liturgy (and over all matters of dogma for that matter).
    As one Orthodox bishop put it, "a Roman Catholic can never really know what the Pope might have him believe tomorrow."

  7. If the Pope can insert the Filiogue on his own authority then he can pretty much do whatever he wants with liturgy.
    If you recite the Creed with the Filioque then you've already acknowledged that there is no end to the Pope's power over the liturgy (and over all matter's of dogma for that matter).
    As one Orthodox bishop put it, "a Roman Catholic can never really know what the Pope might have him believe tomorrow."

  8. He'd probably have said:

    "From time immemorial the ecclesiastical hierarchy has exercised this right in matters liturgical. It has organized and regulated divine worship, enriching it constantly with new splendor and beauty, to the glory of God and the spiritual profit of Christians. What is more, it has not been slow - keeping the substance of the Mass and sacraments carefully intact - to modify what it deemed not altogether fitting, and to add what appeared more likely to increase the honor paid to Jesus Christ and the august Trinity, and to instruct and stimulate the Christian people to greater advantage." (Mediator Dei:49)

    - which is pretty nearly the opposite of the truth, but doubtless he believed it, along with 99% of Roman Catholics at the time, and 98% of Roman Catholics today. No doubt he also believed that whatever might be proposed by the Holy See in respect of the liturgy couldn't fail, as being underwritten by "Peter" and the Holy Spirit. No doubt he considered that in an age of Revolutions, it fell to the Roman Church to make one "top-down", one which alone could be uniquely authentic and successful, being underwritten by "Peter" etc, etc...

    Who knows? One must assume he considered himself to be acting in the best interests of the Roman Catholic Church, with the assistance of "Peter", the Holy Spirit, etc. At any rate it certainly seems implicit that more, soteriologically, might be expected from history; Paul VI, his faithful amanuensis and the executor of his liturgical project, certainly thought so, going by some of his comments on the significance of the Council. Modernism, that's called.

  9. Why are the western churches so obsessed with institutional continuity at the expense of everything else? Where does that come from? Radical discontinuity in terms of doctrine and worship can be stomached (and most of the time not even noticed) provided that the management remains the same. The church in which Jonathan Edwards preached still exists in Connecticut. But I read somewhere that it now belongs to the ultra-liberal Church of Christ and the pastor is a woman. I can imagine a descendant of one of Edwards' original congregants sitting in the family pew, serenely unaware that what he hears on Sunday bears no relationship to the religion of his ancestors. Because, well, you know, the bricks are the same. Am I nuts for believing that Catholicism is the religion of the Roman rite and Anglicanism is the religion of the Prayer Book? Without the Roman Missal and the Prayer Book you have different religions. Full stop. And low and behold what do you find when you enter the vast majority of Catholic and Anglican parishes now? Radically new religions that no member of those communions who died more than fifty years ago would recognize. How do you practice a religion that is less than half a century old and pretend that it is 2000 years old? I don't get it. The popes are understandable because Acton was right. It is hard to have power and not use it, unless you are a saint. But the people in the pews mystify. How do you not notice that your religion has been stolen?

  10. All of your comments are most welcome.

    Dominic Mary, I'm sorry but Catholicism of the kind that you propound, and that you champion, seems alien to the Gospel to me. You seem to have replaced Tradition with authority, and acceptance of authority for authority's sake. You seem to be the sort of Catholic who if the Pope declared solemnly, and infallibly, that belief in the Divinity of Christ was superfluous to the Gospel you would just go along with it - because he is the Pope, and he is infallible. If you cannot admit that the Popes can err then you have more or less made a god out of the Pope.

    I am not ignorant of the changes to the Sacred Liturgy before the 1950s - some of my previous posts are enough to show this, but the focus of this post was Pius XII. It is without question that what he did was unprecedented in the entire history of the Church. Urban VIII's hymns can be said to be worse in a certain sense - the imposition of taste upon exquisite, and in some cases very old, Latin hymnody. Also Pius X's reform, as Tolkien said, was the greatest in his lifetime. The point of this post was that my convictions about Liturgy will not change, and they are real convictions. I am not prepared to accept that what Pius XII did was trivial in comparison to what came after, neither am I prepared to accept that what he did was the legitimate use of his office as pastor of the Universal Church. It was an abuse, a heinous abuse, of power and did more harm to the Church than even the worst of his 10th and 15th century predecessors.

    I'm sorry but the Catholic Church was wrong - utterly wrong - to endorse these changes. The New Rite has no intrinsic worth; it is defective Liturgy and history will show it up for what it really is - an aberration. If Traditionalist Catholics do not agree then there is a serious flaw in their logic.

  11. Am I correct in understanding your particular distress at the changes of Pius XII comes from the universal understanding that Holy Week was the most ancient part of the Roman liturgy, and therefore his reforms signaled the triumph of Papal will over tradition? After all, even the Pope who convened a council to declare himself infallible still had that sliver of traditional sense to disclaim the authority to change the Roman Canon.

    I agree with Rubricarius that Trent marked the beginning of the end, and for that reason I think that Pius V probably deserves more blame than Pius XII. The latter's actions seem almost the be the logical outcome of a power grab set in motion 400 years earlier.

  12. Okay.
    I think I understand; sorta.
    My conflict is with the fact that I believe in the Papal authority...whether I "like" it or not...
    I agree that the changes of Pius X and the subsequent changes by Pius XII were probably not in line with tradition nor of the authentic reform of the Liturgy.
    But that is opinion, based upon scholarly research.
    Who am I to determine what the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church to do?
    That's my question.
    I hope and pray there may be an authentic restoration of the Tradition; maybe not in my lifetime (I'm 50 years)...maybe in your's, P.
    I know that sounds awfully "pissy"; but I've lived through a revolution.
    I'm just grateful to celebrate the '62 Mass and Rites without provocation.
    Your generation will have to fight for full restoration, I guess.
    I'm sorry.
    I'm getting old. And decrepit. Pray for me, will you?

  13. "Why are the western churches so obsessed with institutional continuity at the expense of everything else?"

    - because in the absence of asceticism, Christianity degenerates into ideology and sentiment; because whether Tradition is junked, or re-defined as a power of the Magisterium, all you're left with is institutional loyalty.

    I've asked this before, and I'm very curious to know: when did the ideological formula "loyal to the Magisterium" as a synonym for "orthodox" first become commonplace?

  14. "If the Pope can insert the Filiogue on his own authority then he can pretty much do whatever he wants with liturgy.
    If you recite the Creed with the Filioque then you've already acknowledged that there is no end to the Pope's power over the liturgy (and over all matter's of dogma for that matter)."

    Exactly. Complaining about liturgical tinkering while singing the filioque is absurd.

  15. Han, pretty much yeah. If Holy Week becomes meaningless what shall we say of the rest of the liturgical year? Of course the reforms of Pius XII were not solely limited to Holy Week, and the Ordinary of the Mass remained not unscathed.

    Interestingly my parish priest and I were discussing this recently, and he asked a cogent question, which I couldn't answer. He said: When I go into the Sanctuary with the Ministers what would you have me do?

    Moretben, loyalty to the Magisterium no matter what is an attitude entirely repugnant to the Word of God.

  16. As for when loyalty to the Magisterium became synonymous with orthodox, I remember reading about one of Pio Nono's disputes with Newman. Pius IX insisted that even curial pronouncements were binding on Catholic consciences. You can't bind the noose much more tightly than that. Newman, God love him, was appalled and not slow to point out how novel such a requirement was.

  17. So what do my readers think?

    Perhaps need to take a holiday or get yourself tweeded-up like your hero Tolkien

  18. '62, not '62, at least it's in Latin and ad orientem. I would close my eyes, bow my head, and think of England, sort of like Queen Victoria.

    Once you start thinking of church as a relatively painless ordeal you have to suffer through every week, you might be on the road to sanity. Particularly for someone so young.

  19. Narazreth Priest,

    Regarding whether you have authority to discern whether the Holy Spirit is working in the Church, of course you have the authority. Every baptised and chrismated Christian has both the authority and duty to safeguard the tradition of the Church. Because all the baptised and chrismated are members of the Church, all are responsible for safeguarding tradition. No Christian may abdicate this responsibility by delegating it to a subset of the Church, nor may a subset of the Church usurp this authority from the whole of the Church. We must all evaluate a new development according to our God-given reason, and test it against what has been handed down to us. Existing practice and existing teaching is the compass that we use to stay orthodox, and we put our faith in the Holy Spirit--trusting that He will not allow the whole of the people of God to be fooled by error so long as we hold firm to tradition.

    Anticipating the inevitable Roman Catholic reply, I would say that the Roman Catholic notion that doctrinal chaos is the necessary result of the absence of Papal supremacy is simply wrong, and their shibboleth of "private judgment" is no more than a ploy to avoid discussion while vaingloriously asserting their humility. Indeed, it is no less an exercise of private judgment to avoid the decision than it is to make a decision. The difference is that in the former case, responsibility has been abdicated and one becomes less a member of the body of Christ and more of an associate. Such people are sort of like those gentile associates of the Temple in Jerusalem during the time of Christ--they were not Jews and were not responsible for obeying the Law of Moses, but they associated themselves with the Jewish religion. But we believe that Christ came and fulfilled the Law, making it possible for all to be full members of the people of God--for all to be part of the royal priesthood and the holy nation. Protestantism then is not the result of having no Pope, it is what happens when each individual chooses to be his own Pope. The mentality, however, is still the same: The elevation of the judgment of one man over the tradition of the entire Church.

  20. Well, well, well.. Aren't we all so very opinionated. Love it.

    My 10 cents:

    I think Patricus is quite right to insist on being Catholic, but not *Roman* Catholic. I say that I'm an American Catholic of the Roman Rite. All this ultramontagne cult of personality papiolatry is for crap. Vatican I & II are all going to fade and in a couple hundred years are going to have as much relevance as the Council of Rimini (say) does today.

    I have to say though that the ideas that the Novus Ordo is "illigitimate" or that Catholicism is a different religion than it was 50 years ago is utter bosh. You might as well say that all Christian Traditions (the all so obsessive Orthodox included) are a different religion than that described in the early pre-Constantinian penitential lists that had penitents excluded from the assembly (not merely eucharistic communion) for decades after committing common sins.. Or go try and parse out who was in communion with who during the Arian controversy.

    The filioque - which is fact orthodox doctrine (cf. John 14:16 & 15:26) - is small beer next to Arianism, and Arians were in Catholic communion with the Orthodox for centuries. I should also point out that the filioque was ambient in the Western church for six centuries before it was added to the Roman diptychs, and that the Carolingians (for example) were great champions of it, long before the papacy adopted it. Again, even the ridiculously incoherent Orthodox were in communion with many who recited the filioque for centuries, and it was local bishops, synods and "secular" governments who were promoting it in the 1st millenium, in the face of Roman indifference and opposition, neither of which really mattered to the "filioquests" in Iberia, Gual and Germania..

    All of which is merely to say that modern Orthodox and "Roman Catholic" ecclesiology has nothing to do with the reality of the Church in the 1st Millenium prior to the Gregorian reform.

    Dear old Cardinal Newman was right about the development of doctrine. So much of what we take for granted as perpetual is in fact emphemera, and must be taken in context to be understood.

    Most essentially, the mature theology of Eucharist and priesthood (and all the liturgical traditions that accompany them) is not found in the New Testament, and are a development of the 2nd Century, after the 70 AD destruction of the temple and the Jewish sacrifice, which is to say the final rupture of the Church with pharisaic Judaism.

    Pope Paul was allowed to revolutionize our liturgical tradition. But was Pius V. We've allowed the Papacy to dictate to us all, a revolutionary and dare I say it very "progressive" and liberal force that has vacated the organic traditions of the Western Church. Tant f*'n pis. That's our reality, cope. Many of us are beginning to push back and think outside the box. We're engaged and young, and we'll have influence.

    me, I will continue to refuse to make a fetish out of the liturgy or anything else. The challenge is - as it always has been - is to be faithful, coherent and charitable. I will try to bring as much intelligence and knowledge as I can to my discourse, and will press for my more or less traditional prejudices (iconodule, in favor of beauty and an emphasis on the transcendent) in the liturgy and all that, won't get my knickers in a bunch when my aesthetic preferences are ignored or offended..

    Too much of an obsession over such things is for dilettantes, cranks and schismatics.

  21. Thanks, Han. Really.
    I would love to celebrate the Holy Week ceremonies pre-195whatever (can't remember the date)...I have an old hand Missal with all the prayers and ceremonies...very profound. What happened?
    The conflict/tension between obedience to authority in the Bishop/Pope and the love of/obedience to Sacred Tradition is something I have not reconciled.
    I LOVE the holy Catholic Church; I'm a convert from Methodism.
    But I realize all of the problems/inconsistencies/betrayals(?) and somehow as a monastic priest I have to live with it.

  22. Han;
    'No Christian may abdicate this responsibility by delegating it to a subset of the Church, nor may a subset of the Church usurp this authority from the whole of the Church.'
    In other words, you'd be happy to allow those who want 'the Spirit of Vatican II' to take control of the Church as long as they can win the vote by gaining control of the majority of the current Church.
    That's the situation the Church of England is in, and that is exactly why I, and many like me, made our submissions to the Holy See; because salvation lies in the certainty of God's revealed will. We may not always like it, but at least in the Catholic Church we can be sure that we have it.

  23. Dominic Mary,

    Not at all. It is about adhering to tradition. It is a sad reality that some part of the Church will try to sell out the faith from time to time. For example, the emperor, a bunch of scholars and some hierarchs might try to rush into false union in some vain attempt to gain political support or dabble in contemporary philosophic trends, but because the Holy Spirit does not abandon the Church forever, there will always be people like St. Mark of Ephesus or St. Gregory Palamas to keep the Church orthodox.

    Less polemically, if there is any hope for your communion, it will not come in the form of some saviour Pope in Rome, but from ordinary Catholics returning to tradition. Perhaps with more monasticism (meaning monasticism--not busy apostolates with vows), more fasting, and more respect for your liturgical calendar. Ultramontism is not a solution--it is the cause of your current complaint. This "Spirit of Vatican II" could never have deluded so many had the Roman Church not fetishised power for so long. The fallout was inevitable precisely because Roman Catholics see things in terms of power. All Vatican II did was signal to some that they could create alternate power centers. Consider, as a thought experiment, what might have occurred if the as part of Vatican II, the Pope defined the Patriarchate of the West as Western Europe, and granted North America autocephaly. I bet that the American Catholic Church would be in a much better position because the American bishops would have been forced to see themselves as successors to the Apostles, and therefore responsible for passing on the tradition. As it is today, they are priests with jurisdiction--middle managers of a Roman corporation. The only true bishop in Roman Catholicism is the Pope of Rome. The others have no real responsibility to the tradition, just a responsibility to Rome, and like so much in corporate politics, there will be those who advance themselves by sucking up to the boss, those who instead try to care out their own little fiefdoms, and those who try to use external pressure to force internal change. Why was there such rejoicing by some and such dismay on the part of others when +Benedict was elected Pope? Why should it have mattered? It mattered because Roman Catholics no longer understand their Church as a home of tradition, but rather as a forum for politics, and the election of +Benedict was a political victory (or defeat) which could affect what the Catholic Faith becomes in the next few decades.

    If, on the other hand, everybody is responsible for the tradition, everybody reinforces each other in orthodoxy. Because we are human, schisms and heresies might pop up from time to time, but in the long run they fail--not because some powerful individual quashes them, but rather they are defeated by the example set by those who adhere to the true faith in true worship. Sometimes it is a courageous bishop who holds the line, sometimes it is a monastic community and sometimes it is ordinary lay persons immersed in the faith who know when their so-called leaders are trying to lead them astray and they reject the innovation. In the end, it is not obedience to any particular center of power (or adherence to any particular basket of ideas) that makes one Orthodox, it is the cultivation of an Orthodox way of life that makes one Orthodox. The election of any particular patriarch or bishop is of far less consequence because the content of Orthodoxy is fixed and it is known, and so there is a measure against which the Church can test its own hierarchs.

  24. Nazareth Priest,

    Thank you for taking my comments in the spirit that I intended them. I sympathise with your current predicament, and I hope that as a hieromonk, you are at least less affected by the conflict than your secular priest brethren.

  25. You are all aware, I'm sure, that it was local bishops that inserted the filioque into their liturgies long before the bishop of Rome did such a thing. When Rome finally allowed the filioque in its liturgy, it had long before become traditional to do so elsewhere in the West. Typically Roman, to be so behind the times.

    When have Eastern bishops ever had control over the rite in their eparchy? Do they not defer to their patriarchs in liturgical matters? Not so in the West, at least not before Trent. It was after Trent that the pope (finally) took up his patriarchal duties, and ordered a liturgical restoration that had a wide (though not universal) effect outside of Italy. By that time the other western rites were in a sorry state, and so naturally most liturgists preferred the Roman rite to their own. And so slowly the papacy was "easternized" into a practical (as opposed to merely nominal) patriarchate.

    Did the reforms of Pius V, Pius X, Pius XII, and Paul VI directly affect rites besides the Roman? Then why have the other rites been abandoned by their guardians in favor of the Roman? Was it not because the local bishops and abbots have preferred the Roman rite to their own ancient rites?

    I don't have to imagine what would happen to the liturgy under the careful watch of my own diocese; I see it every Sunday. You will have to pardon me if I view his Holiness and the Roman church with gratitude as the guardian of tradition and the defender of my rights.