Thursday, 24 July 2014

In the Outbox...

Dear reader,

Liturgiae Causa has been in decline for well over a year now, the result of sheer weariness of the subject - not of liturgy, which remains as interesting to me as the literary works of J.R.R Tolkien, but of the Roman Rite, the Papacy and "Traddieland" (which now includes the Ordinariates). The blog used to be very busy, with posts appearing daily and with many comments from readers, but the bulk of my readers have since gone elsewhither - and I don't blame them. Nowadays I update it a handful of times per month and even then posts are about subjects other than liturgy. Liturgical posts are ignored for the most part as their quality has declined. It is a depressing topic. If you want a flavour of what Liturgiae Causa used to be I should start from the beginning (Whitsun 2010) and continue reading until roughly two years ago. This is, in my opinion, the only post worth reading this year and the quality of this exposition of the recent history of the Roman Rite was met with no comment whatever. That alone tells me that Liturgiae Causa is finished.

In answer to your questions: [1, What is your problem with transubstantiation? 2, Why do you consider the historic intervention of popes in matters liturgical to be bad in every respect?].

1). Transubstantiation is an abomination. It renders the Eucharistic Sacrifice an act of sorcery, with the "balance of power" (so to speak) resting with the priest's recital of magic words of institution rather than with the Almighty Himself who deigns to send down the Holy Ghost upon the altar. In the West, ordained priests have been seen (since about the 13th century) as alter Christi as opposed to delegates of the Bishop sent to the parishes on his behalf to minister to congregations. This shift had its uttermost origins in the pontificate of that awful pope Innocent III, the man whose mission seemed to be to bring about a real schism between East and West (by legitimising the Latin Emperors of Constantinople and their abysmal treatment of the Orthodox Church, its rites and customs) and whose Lateran Synod of 1215 introduced a number of pernicious innovations, disguised by RC apologists as "developments," into the Roman communion which weakened the Latin Church's connexion to her own traditions as well. The Lateran Synod, in addition to defining transubstantiation, introduced eucharistic reservation under lock and key, a development which would have disastrous consequences not only for the daily celebration of the Liturgy but upon the most solemn and serious rites of Holy Week. Transubstantiation gave way to the "low Mass mentality" (a phrase coined by a friend of mine). It's quite simple. If procurement of the Eucharist boils down to a priest, and there are plenty of those, saying a few words and making a few signs, then what's the use of musick, of ceremonies, of all those people, all that time spent preparing for high Mass or for the manifold Offices, when you could fill up churches and monasteries with side altars and have everybody say their private masses, several times a day? Just think of cashing in on that abundance of Grace! The real nail in the coffin was when the Council of Trent legitimised low Mass and the 1570 missal mandated a set of rubrics for it. Then came the Baroque period, the Jesuits and their notorious "food for the mission" mentality. The ruin of the contemporary Roman liturgy goes back much farther than 1969!

2). Well, popes have been, for the most part (there have been exceptions), aliturgical. The irony is that some of the most aliturgical popes have been canonised, placing their actions above reproach! This tendency goes back many centuries; I suppose, for argument's sake, we could start with the 11th century. Gregory VII was one of the "great reforming" popes; typically obsessed with unity and subjugation of the whole of Europe to his will. His treatment of the Mozarabic Rite was hardly saintly, though. Simply because the venerable Spanish liturgy differed from the customs of Rome, it could not be borne and so with the spread of the Gregorian reform in Spain by the Cluniac monks, out went legitimate local traditions in favour of Roman ones, a tragic loss for Spain. The Slavonic liturgy in Bohemia suffered a similar fate, thanks to the "apostolick labours" of Gregory VII. Pope Nicholas II attempted (unsuccessfully) to suppress the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, beaten only by mass revolts and the disgust of the Milanese themselves at such shabby treatment. Skipping a few centuries, the Council of Trent placed liturgical regulation squarely into the hands of the reigning pope, an act of unprecedented liturgical centralization. The liturgy since that time, that is, in Western dioceses, has been something not traditional to the place but imposed from on high - reminiscent of Pius XII's reversal of the Lex Orandi in the encyclical Mediator Dei of 1947. This is, curiously, diametrically opposite of St Gregory the Great and Preacher of Dialogue's counsel to our father in faith St Augustine of Canterbury on the mission to England: non pro locis res, sed loca pro bonis rebus! Post-Tridentine liturgical developments have since proved to be pernicious and arbitrary, from Gregory XIII's new kalendar to Urban VIII's sterile and ridiculous Breviary hymns (corrected, partly, by the Liturgia Horarum). But this Papal contempt for liturgy was not solely limited to the Roman Rite (as Gregory VII has shewn). The Chinese Rites controversy springs to mind, as well as the treatment of the Maronites, the Malabarese, the Chaldeans and the Ethiopians by colonial powers, with full papal encouragement. The quintessential mentality of the Papacy, until the time of Leo XIII, in all these cases was: anything that is not the Roman Rite is inferior and must be altered, with complete disregard for legitimate local traditions and the sentiments of the faithful. The Uniates of Byzantine tradition have suffered notorious Papal-endorsed latinization of their churches and rites.

As for the Roman Rite itself, the 1911 Breviary reform was revolutionary - greater, said Tolkien, than anything the Second Vatican Council could have achieved. Rubricarius specialises in those reforms so I would encourage you to read the articles on the St Lawrence Press blog. All these reforms, no matter how great or insignificant, they all of them beg the question: why? To what purpose? Like the construction of St Peter's Basilica (which replaced the old Constantinian basilica), do they represent a kind of imperialism or triumphalism? To me they have little to do with pastoralism or, if you like, cultivation of farmland (that is, to compare the Sacred Liturgy unto a tree, with the popes as arborists): to me, they represent the exercise of raw power. A power that is not apostolick or legitimate, a power that has been usurped and consistently misused. So, for me, the Roman Rite is a lost cause. Even if the Papacy were obliterated the sorry state of the Roman Rite would still remain for reasons beyond the scope of an e-mail; it is the result of centuries of abuse, neglect and bad theology. If you have read The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's description of the obscene and parched lands about Mordor is most apposite.

So, are you an ex-Anglican? I'm afraid the Ordinariates are outside the range of my sympathy. "Patrimony," for example, is a trite term with little meaning. If an ex-Anglican prelate who celebrates the modern Roman Rite, styles himself "monsignor" and wears Roman liturgical attire circa 1970 thinks he is safeguarding Anglican Patrimony then I think "patrimony" means something different for Keith Newton than it does for me. I own a copy of the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham and there is nothing Anglican about it! What could be more traditionally Anglican than the King James Bible, for example? The kalendar authorised for the Ordinariate follows the pattern of the modern Roman one, with a smattering of English saints here and there. May 1st is notorious. Open a Prayer Book kalendar for May 1st and you'd find Sts Philip and James, as you would in the historic Sarum Missal or the Roman Missal until 1954. Does San Giuseppe Comunista represent Anglican Patrimony? What the Ordinariates represent is Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholicks, who already eshew the authentic Prayer Book traditions, joining the Roman Communion and carrying on as they are and they are little different from either mainstream Roman Catholicks or Traddies. Prayer Book Anglicans, if they are still extant in some remote corner, are not interested in Rome. And I can see no real evidence that Rome is keen on Anglican traditions, a legacy of mutual contempt that goes back to the Elizabethan Settlement.

I should like to know why you think that Benedict XVI is wonderful. To me, he is no different from Pius X or Pius XII. A servant of crime whose liturgical theories will bear fruit in bitterness.


  1. I already have the main lines in my head of a reply to the article of Summorum Pontifcum that you link to here, but I need to do a bit of background reading first. It could be a month or more.

  2. Mr. Graham,
    I shall look forward to reading that very much. Perhaps your reply will be the first intelligent apology for SP.

  3. Apologies, I completely forgot to leave the link to my reply, written hastily a month ago and without any research whatsoever. I'm happy to be torn to pieces, but I have fairly and honestly tried to meet the objections to SP canvassed here.