Friday, 19 December 2014


This post was first published on 27th December 2010. It still rings true to-day.

Where does one ''draw the line''? Exactly where are the boundaries between the periphery of reasonable conviction and fringe lunacy? Moreover I'd like to know who decides these boundaries. I ask because ''fanaticism'' seems to be a common accusation against me; that and holding ''erroneous beliefs'' about various things. What things? That I don't believe that the ends justify the means? That I see the separation of Pope and Liturgy as a good thing? What about evening Mass, or Mass facing the wrong way? Both are damnable practices, and yet some Catholics, of the kind who think I have ''erroneous beliefs'', seem to think that other things, such as some Trad bishop wearing a bit of extra lace on his rochet, or the Pope wearing the camauro, add extra ''solemnity'' and ''tradition'' to the Church, and are signs of a new Pentecost of liturgical renewal - never mind that Mass is still said (not sung) facing the wrong way in every corner of the West, and at a liturgically inappropriate time! Oh no wait, sorry, the Benedictine Altar arrangement rectifies this problem! How it angers me! To quote Aragorn: ''Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.'' Let me explain. Traddies may pride themselves on their staunch opposition to doctrinal relativism, but their liturgical convictions are certainly wanting. There is a strong tendency among Traddies to criticize local bishops for their ineptitude. I can't say that I blame them for this per se; many of the bishops often are inept. I would say, however, that the Pope is no different. The Pope is not above reproach; he does not have some special insight into the Sacred Liturgy as universal pastor, nor does he embody in some mystical way the collective wills, sentiments and prayers of the Catholic Church; he is merely the bishop of the city of Rome, and knows little more about Liturgy than his lordship bishop So-and-so of the ''spirit of Vatican II'' diocese. Therefore if the Pope celebrates Mass facing the wrong way, how is this any different from Bishop So-and-so doing exactly the same thing? If the Pope has a lovely Postcommunion dance featuring Lady Gaga, how can you criticize the local bishop for delegating children to read a different sentence from the Gospel pericope of the day, or permitting girls to minister at the Altar? Is liturgical abuse one thing among the bishops, who are nice scapegoats for the Traddies, and another thing among the Popes?

I don't think I shall ever attend another evening Mass again. Is this fanaticism? I ask in all sincerity. I don't think it is at all, and I am sure that more sensible Traddies agree with me that evening Mass is an abomination - and that the Church is WRONG to permit this abuse. So who decides what constitutes real conviction as opposed to fanaticism? In terms of demonstrably untraditional and pernicious liturgical abuse I don't see how anyone can. The image was sent to me about a year ago by a friend. I think it depicts Pope Benedict XIV celebrating Mass facing the people in Vienna, indicative of the loss of the knowledge that the Patriarchal Basilicae in Rome were built for practical purposes facing Westward - and that therefore the Popes celebrate Liturgy in those churches facing the people incidentally. How far back the malaise goes!


  1. Patricius,
    I follow the musings on your blog with interest. May I ask if you have ever read Dix's Shape of the Liturgy? If not already on your shelves, it certainly should be! It is, I think, still in print, though it should be possible to pick it up second-hand at a much more reasonable price.
    Apart from the famous "purple" passage "Was ever any command so obeyed?" there is also his digression upon the number of candlesticks on the altar [pages 419-421] which you may find relevant. Do read the whole and enjoy, if you have not already done so.

    Turning to your present piece, you ask
    What about evening Mass, or Mass facing the wrong way? Both are damnable practices, . .
    I don't think I shall ever attend another evening Mass again. Is this fanaticism? I ask in all sincerity. I am sure that . . . that evening Mass is an abomination - and that the Church is WRONG to permit this abuse.

    I believe it is fanaticism to issue a blanket condemnation and anathema sit in such sweeping terms. "damnable"?; "abomination"?.
    So, Patricius, you condemn the Intitution by our Lord Himself on Maundy Thursday evening??

    So, Patricius, you damn millions of Christians who have participated in evening celebrations?

    No, the Mass of itself can never be damnable, whatever time of the day it is celebrated.
    What may be licitly condemned, or perhaps better to say strongly criticized, however, are the abuses that ensued from the introduction of evening Masses as a norm. I refer, for example, to the desuetude of the Eucharistic fast, as the hours of fasting were reduced, first to three hours, then to one hour, arriving at one hour before the moment of Communion - a nonsense! Or to another unforeseen result, of everyone trooping up to the rail [where it survived the iconoclasts], whether in a state of grace or not...
    St Paul's warning "Let a man examine himself . . ." falls on increasingly deaf ears as a creeping belief in Universal Salvation enters the mindset of the man in the pew, much as it did with the Corinthians...a sort of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we are saved" mentality.

    Attack the abuses which creep in, and advocate reforms which lead to the spiritual health of the worshipper --- which may mean, for example, increasing the Eucharistic fast, curtailing or abandoning Mass after Noon [not after Nones, which led to Nones getting later and later!!!]

    Kind regards
    John U.K.

  2. John F H H,

    Funnily enough about five years ago (when I was myself a Trad) I did in fact purchase Dix's Shape of the Liturgy, and upon skimming through I realised he was an Anglican took it back to the shop demanding my money back (stupidly thinking that no Anglican knew anything about Liturgy - how far I have come since then!). Since then I have read bits here and there, but never cover to cover. I really ought to.

    I don't condemn anyone on this blog (except Traddies), I condemn demonstrable abuses which are neglected by the uber-bloggers like Fr Z, who seems to champion the liturgical books of 1962 as though they are the best thing since sliced bread. The Trad approach to Liturgy pretty much emulates the malaise of 20th century Catholicism. You only have to look at the ''Mass Supplement'' in the Latin Mass Society magazine to see plenty of ''Low Mass at 4:00pm, Second Friday of the Month''. Trads seldom organise any other Liturgy than Mass - and High Mass is usually for something silly like the feast of the Sacred Heart. Vespers gets an appearance sometimes but is mostly followed by Benediction. Mattins and Lauds hardly ever occur, and the Little Hours never at all. But what annoys me most is their persistent use of '62, or where they do get it right something else happens to ruin it. I expect that half the reason they don't do Sarum is because there is no Fortescue for Sarum so it would require actual research!

    As regards the Lord's Supper...this is a subject beyond my skill to discuss. I would say, though, that the Mass is at once the Sacrifice of Calvary and the anamnesis of the Lord's Supper, and so meal and sacrifice in unison and reconciled. If you conceive of the Passover setting as Christ facing the Apostles around a table in the Upper Room you are quite mistaken. At any rate the ancient direction of Christian prayer is to face Eastwards, towards the Rising Sun and towards Jerusalem, from whence Christ shall come again. To face the people in a church facing eastwards, except for the Readings and beckonings to prayer and attention, is to turn one's back on the Christian Tradition of prayer. It is, in fact, a Protestant innovation.

  3. Yes, you did ought to read Dix :-)

    No, I was not suggesting the Lord reclining at the table in the Upper Room a precedent for "over-the-counter" celebration . . both examples were contra an unwise condemnation of evening celebrations per se.

    With regard to facing east, the original emphasis was undoubtably on facing geographical east, literally oriented correctly.

    But this does raise some interesting questions. If, in the basilican plan, the bishop and his presbyters are seated around the western apse [facing real east] and descend to the altar (once the deacons have prepared the gifts at the offertory) for the Sacrifice, do the people remain facing west, or turn to the east so that the Sacrifce takes place behind them?

    Where the basilican plan had the apse in the east, is it true that the at the offertory the bishop and presbyters descended to stand at the west side of the altar, so that all, laos and clergy, faced east?

    Kind regards,
    John U.K.

  4. Dear Patricius,

    The world has been in a mess since the Fall. Salvation came at the Incarnation, and the Victory over the dominion of Sin and Death in mankind was shown concretely at the Resurrection. The reuniting of mankind with God was fulfilled at the Ascension. Now it is up to us to realise this, each one in our own life; and it is very difficult. Yet we are enlivened, renewed, and strengthened by the Eucharist and all the other communal Liturgical and "extra Liturgical" acts of the Church, in the measure in which we participate.
    I wholeheartedly agree with the very measured and gentle remonstrance of Fr JJH to your use of "damnable" and "abomination" in the context of evening Masses. The intemperate language betrays the turmoil of your mind due to the wounds of your sensitive heart.
    May I suggest that you husband your finite strength and master one question at a time?
    You cannot sort out all the Church's problems and the question of your loyalties within it simultaneously, because your perspective will shift constantly. Where is your fixed point, the ground of Truth on which you stand?

    As a person living in the world, you have all the assaults of the devil and his agents to contend with in your daily life; that is too much for most people to resist, and hence the widespread apostasy.
    As a young man, you have so many possibilities open before you, most of which will prove sterile, many lead to damnation, and one difficult road leads to God, wherein you shall know, as you have been known. I pray you follow it, looking forward to your goal like the ploughman, and not aside judging others in their very apparent delinquencies or inadequacies.

    If you want a devotional life in which the Little Hours are accessible, the situation now is no different from the situation in the 1930's in the Roman Catholic Church. Only the monastic life, or some later derivative, could give you that. Sunday Vespers in a parish were such a rarity in the 1950's as to be unknown by the majority outside London, Birmingham and perhaps other places. Lauds only appeared in the truncated form following the Resurrection Mass at the reformed Easter Vigil. Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was the standard and near universal devotion for the Evening. The Mass was the only "Liturgical" act most Catholics ever saw or knew of. The displacement of this Eucharistic devotion by evening Mass constituted a narrowing of the "menu" in most parishes, with the result of the present widespread ignorance, and senseless abuse, of Our Lord in His Sacrament by those who call themselves His own.

    None of us will make reparation for that abuse by calling names, using intemperate words, or judging others, especially "the princes of the people." God bless you and give you the full measure of joy and Grace at Christmas.

  5. This is the $$$million question that you have ever asked here; when does a reasonable practice become madness ? For many people going to Mass in latin in any rite is "madness-fringe looneyness" and for others going to an independent chapel or sede-vacantist church is "madness". I used to find exactly the same problems as an Anglo-Catholic : how high can you go; do you follow The Parson's Handbook or do you follow the complete pre-VaticanII roman practice of the now destroyed, St Saviour's, Hoxton. My parents thought that having a Cross on the Altar was "madness" and they were keen anglicans. Alan Robinson

  6. B flat, thank you for your intersting contribution here, and your good wishes for Christmas which I reciprocate. I'm not sure John F H H is Fr Hunwicke but if he is then I am genuinely flattered that he would condescend to read this blog - what with me being so rustic and untutored, and angry. One purpose of this blog is to expose the Papacy and its dealings with Liturgy, but also to satire Traddieland liturgy with all its defects. I do not aim at doing evil here, or causing trouble, but at rendering some good and contribution to the renewal of the Liturgy in the Roman Church. I think this is a realistic ideal only if such cliches as lace cottas, the big six, Low Low Mass, the Benedictine Altar arrangement and '62 can be overcome.

    Alan Robinson, I like to think that I go to Mass where the Liturgy is good, but I don't. Liturgy in my parish church is passable most weeks, on a few occasions has been superlative and very moving, and on other occasions has been downright appalling (though the Traddies seem to think it's good every time). That said I am in a fortunate minority that Mass in the Old Rite (of a rather modern and tasteless kind) is sung every week on my very door step - just a great accident of circumstances I suppose. I just happen to live in this corner of the world! Having said all this I do sometimes go to a leading Anglo-Catholic church in London, and various Orthodox churches around London for Liturgy.

    Interesting observations though, about madness. I would say that using lace cottas, a '62 Missal, gradines, the big six, not allowing me to be Subdeacon or tunicled Crucifer is madness. I would say that the Rood of the great loft separating the Choir from the Nave provides the crucifix of the Church, not a brass one raised above several shelves, and over a Tabernacle in the wrong place. Side altars are madness. Benediction is madness. Not having sung Office on a Sunday is madness. Low, Low, Low, Low Mass is madness. Baroque liturgy is madness. Is using the Latin language in liturgical celebration madness? Not at all since this is the tradition of the Roman Church. Is using Prayerbook English in liturgical celebration madness? Not at all because the style is of a more courteous and dignified character. Is using a false English vernacular made up in Rome (Old and New ICEL) madness? Yes because it doesn't convey holiness or mystery but rather pretence and artificiality. I could go on...

    I am supremely confident that my liturgical opinions are correct and ought to be followed.

  7. The questions that really matter, we answer with our life.
    The answer to the question in your first sentence is:
    You draw the line on the road from yourself to Christ.

    Isn't that clever? It is of very little help, and gives no comfort. But I think it is literally true. I really do sympathise, and went through all this, and worse, in the late 1960's and 70's, when the Pope was quite different and the devil raged triumphant in the East, the last Christian Emperor was killed in Ethiopia and even the Carthusians were overcome by the innovators demanding obedience while a very inadequate Pope watched his flock being ravaged by the wolves and wrung his hands uselessly. It broke my heart, but God turns evil to good purpose and never abandons his creation. He always keeps faith.

  8. I think that half the problem with Tradworld is that they let their beliefs get in the way of Liturgy.

  9. I am supremely confident that my liturgical opinions are correct and ought to be followed.

    I think when anyone is supremely confident in themselves, it is almost certainly a sign of insanity or at least delusions of grandeur.

  10. I believe I coined the term ''delusions of grandeur'' Auricularis...

  11. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
    Without belief, is liturgy any more than a devilish mime?
    The bells and smells grow out of the dogma. Divorce them from belief, and they are reduced to a make-believe, a game at best, or - God forbid - a blasphemous parody.

  12. B flat, I'm afraid ''dogma'' doesn't do much for me. One doesn't get through the pearly gates simply by believing a set of dogmas. Trads may mock Anglo-Catholics for the ''invalidity'' of their Orders (soundly refuted by Saepius Officio in my opinion), and by extension Liturgy, but I see little difference between a school play or local panto and a small boy with no knowledge of Liturgy wearing a tiny lace cotta and walking about the Sanctuary with a thurible clearly too big for him...there is no accounting for liturgical propriety in Traddieland.

  13. Ah, I don't go to evening Masses either. I don't consider them an abomination or anything, it's just that I think that there was a reason the Mass used to be celebrated before noon. And I also find it ironic how "traditionalists" can't celebrate any other service other than Mass (+ Benediction).

    And to tell the whole truth, I don't believe that most people should receive Holy Communion more than a few times a year. I am sort of a Jansenist that way.

  14. One doesn't get through the pearly gates simply by believing a set of dogmas.

    Then surely the same must be true for liturgy. The knife must cut both ways.

    And Saepius Officio (SO) can hardly be considered a scholarly response, since many low church and evangelical sects of the Anglican denomination distanced themselves from it. In any case, the response of the Catholic bishops at the time to SO was enough to demolish that.

  15. One doesn't get through the pearly gates simply by believing a set of dogmas.

    No, but, According to the Athanasian Creed (originally a liturgical formulation) "Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est ut teneat Catholicam fidem, quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit."

  16. @Patricius
    Condemning a Mass/Liturgy because it's in the evening? I believe that is going way too far. My church does Feastday-weekday Liturgies at 7pm so they can be attended by the congregation after work.

    Please elaborate. I find the view to be almost opposite of my own.

    @B flat
    Liturgy IS belief. It is the highest belief. Without Liturgy, we are like the Baptists or any group of non liturgical Protestants.

    Christ didn't hand the apostles a Baltimore Catechism with a pre-defined set of dogmas. He gave them a way of life, a way of life with Liturgy at the center. Liturgy then developed as years went by and doctrines grew naturally from the prayers.

    My Greek Catholic priest put it best, "Listen to the prayers at vespers and the liturgy and then reflect on them. You will know what it is you must believe."

    Mediator Dei is blasphemy and heresy. Lex Orandi lex Credendi

    1. Lord of Bollocks, these were views expressed four years ago. I can't say they have changed much even if they have become more nuanced since then. I still stand by my view that evening Mass is an abomination and inverts the liturgical day. Much as I think that complete liturgy is desirable I don't think that in a parish setting it is necessary. In fact, now I think that much that is peculiar to parish liturgy/customs etc should be revoked and restored to the cathedral of the diocese.

      On another note, I very much doubt whether any of the people who left comments here four years ago still read Liturgiae Causa. Certainly Arturovasquez and I fell out over this blog and the direction it took.

    2. Perhaps that is true for a Roman diocese. But what of the Greek Catholics, whose dioceses span as much as half the United States? Clearly, a priest must utilize that which is available to him.

      Know this, Patricius. Know that even in my most intoxicated moments I pray for your soul. That you may find the love of the Divine. The only pure love that fulfills our longing. The Love to which all humanity is called. I only ask that you do the same same for mine.

      May God have mercy on us. All of us...