Thursday, 27 February 2014


I always preferred Cecil Beaton (he and Waugh were contemporaries, having gone to the same school) but Waugh wrote iconic literature. In a 1962 article entitled The Same Again, Please, Waugh said:
During the last few years we have experienced the triumph of the "liturgists," in the new arrangement of the services for the end of Holy Week and for Easter. For centuries these had been enriched by devotions which were dear to the laity - the anticipation of the morning office of Tenebrae, the vigil at the Altar of Repose, the Mass of the Presanctified. It was not how the Christians of the second century observed the season. It was the organic growth of the needs of the people. Not all Catholics were able to avail themselves of the services but hundreds did, going to live in or near the monastic houses and making an annual retreat which began with Tenebrae on Wednesday afternoon and ended with midday on Saturday with the anticipated Easter Mass. During those three days time was conveniently apportioned between the rites of the Church and the discourses of the priest taking the retreat, with little temptation to distraction. Now nothing happens before Thursday evening. All Friday morning is empty. There is an hour or so in church on Friday afternoon. All Saturday is quite blank until late at night. The Easter Mass is sung at midnight to a weary congregation, who are constrained to "renew their baptismal vows" in the vernacular and later repair to bed. The significance of Easter as a feast of dawn is quite lost, as is the unique character of Christmas as the Holy Night. I have noticed in the monastery I frequent a marked falling-off in the number of retreatants since the innovations or, as the liturgists would prefer to call them, the restorations. It may well be that these services are nearer to the practice of primitive Christianity, but the Church rejoices in the development of dogma; why does it not also admit the development of liturgy?

What is striking about this is that Waugh was writing disparagingly of the reformed liturgy as it was in that arbitrary, yet significant, year 1962. 1962? Just think! This was before the Second Vatican Council; before whatever edition of the 1962 missal you like; before Sacrosanctum Concilium; before the various Pauline decrees which came after, Sacram Liturgiam (1964), Inter Œcumenici (1964), the new order of Mass (1965), Tres Abhinc Annos (1967); before new Eucharistic prayers (1968), before the promulgation of Missale Romanum (1969), which abrogated the 1962 missal. Long before the "Heenan indult;" long, long before John Paul II's provisions and "the" motu proprio which defiled Holyrood Day.

My questions, therefore, are simply: do you honestly think that Evelyn Waugh would welcome or even countenance Summorum Pontificum? Is it possible that, had Waugh lived to see the publication of Summorum Pontificum and had fallen foul of its provisions he'd have published his full blast against it, and them that welcomed it with open arms? Is it conceivable that, being a founding member of the Latin Mass Society notwithstanding, he'd have been thrust out into the cold dark of oblivion for his opposition, for his lack of vehement Ultramontane zeal? Would he have been treated as a pariah?

There are no prizes for guessing the answer to those questions. And answering those questions truthfully, ask yourselves this: is it really your moral obligation, as supposedly avowed of Tradition, to accept the "generosity" of Rome as expounded by pope Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum? Forget that mere generosity and the exercise of authority cannot compensate for decades of liturgical abuse. Have you not, rather, fallen into the Lefebvrist trap? The arrogant Lefebvrists may enjoy defective liturgy (let them get on with it!) but I really don't see why it should be accepted and promoted in the mainstream Church as a more decorous alternative to clown masses and such rot! I'm sure that Evelyn Waugh would think the same.


  1. You do not, I fear, sufficiently reflect about those parts of Catholic Christendom wherein the liturgical ravages (from the 1940's onwards) have been pushed to the extreme and the spirit and ethos of the Roman Rite have been reduced to naught, namely, Asia, Africa, America. In those parts, inculturation is the rule of the day, and the extremely flexible so-called Pauline Missal provides the basis for further experiments in inculturation and other acts of liturgical engineering by episcopal conferences with the tacit sanction of Rome.

    That in such areas the Motu Proprio, if at all publicized, has at least the merit of admitting the principle of a rite which is NOT the Pauline Missal, something which was historically prior (even 7 years, aye) thereto, must be recognized.

    I am not a fan of MR 1962 or of the "restorations" of Holy Week, of the abolition of the Pentecost Vigil, etc.

    Now the whole thing revolves upon the interpretation of the law and/or reviving the custom. Notwithstanding the express terms of Summorum Pontificum, one could on the strength of the wording "...that which has been held sacred by previous generations..." or words to that effect, interpret the intention, the mind of the legislator to include previous editions of the Missale Romanum, and even to refer to immemorial custom (granted, not that of the Holy Week rites or of 1962 MR), therefore, use the Missale Romanum of 1939.

    In those regions of the world, where Catholics hungering for the genuine liturgical worship, have no access to internet, are not properly catechised in the authentic spirit of the Roman(and Sarum) liturgy by the Rubricarii, Father Chadwicks, &c of this world, - access to the liturgical spirit through the MR 1962 represents a huge advance - it means the recovery of the lectionary, of the collects, etc - of course, Holy Week, Kalendar, and other such important issues remain.

    Granted, the Missale Romanum in its editio typica of 1939 should be used - but it makes more sense to move from 1962 to 1939, than from 1969 to 1939.

    Ultimately, what grates with you, and pray do correct me if I am wrong, is to describe the 1962 Missal as the epitome of the Roman Rite - a position I would completely adhere to. But this has more to do with ecclesiastical politicks than anything else, I suppose, to wit the case of the SSPX, - subordinating the liturgy to political considerations.

    1. Why 1939? Evelyn Waugh was of the opinion that the liturgy should be restored to what was on the table during the reign of Pius IX (1846-1878), which was a lot better than anything provided by Rome since 1911. I used to be of the same opinion myself but I am now of the resolve that the Roman Rite is a lost cause, and has been for a very long time.

      You seem to be under the impression that the liturgical books of 1962 - I mean, they're not even a complete set! - are, in some sense, superior to those of Paul VI. Why, may I ask? The standard of scholarship which produced the 1962 books was inferior to that which came after and they epitomise some of the worst excesses and problems characteristic of the Roman Rite since the 16th century.

      I'm sorry but there is nothing that anybody can say, let him be the wisest man in England, that can convince me of the integrity and worth of the liturgical books of 1962. In years to come I pray they will be regarded universally as what they undoubtedly are: an aberration.

  2. I am not making a case for their absolute integrity, Patricius, but for their relative and therefore temporary usefulness - the overall maintenance of the traditional lectionary and collects, but for aberrations. It is deception, in a way, but deception still clothed in the old garments and susceptible of being useful for the spiritual life - whereas what is the sense of the three-year lectionary, of the multiplication of canons, etc?

    I agree that in many things the Pauline reforms represent technical improvements -again relative - on the Pian, and there is no one north of Berwick who would rejoice more than me in seeing the pre-1911 Breviary and Missal restored.

    Yet in many situations the motu prioprio remains an opportunity - the means to open a door closed to most Catholics. It all depends upon whether one adheres to a strict 1962 view or, just pay the required lip service to it, and simply use the older, even pre-1939, books. I'd like to see whether any priest in our day and age would ever be disciplined and dragged in chains in front of the Holy Office or the Sacred Congregation of Rites (oops, these dont exist anymore) by his bishop for using the older books.