Thursday, December 19, 2013


Having taken enough abuse from fellow lovers of Catholic tradition in the last few years—although the readers of this blog have been very well behaved and civilized until recently—I have decided to leave this little blog and spend my free time focusing on prayer and reading the Fathers.

I began this blog over a year ago at the urging of my closest friend, who suggested it might be an outlet for me to express my opinions and network with others who share them. In this the blog was a success, as I have made acquaintance with many of you and enjoyed our correspondence. In that, I hope to continue knowing many of you. If any of you wish to contact me and have not done so I can be reached at

The blog will remain up so readers can see prior posts.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. God be with you.

UPDATE: Alright, maybe I "jumped the gun" a bit soon, but I am certainly stepping away for a while. Perhaps I will return at some point in January (after the Octave of Epiphany at the earliest). In the mean time, thank you all very much for your support. Do say a pray for me at some point in the next month!


Many of you will be aware of a theory that posits the Apostolic See in Rome has not been occupied by a genuine incumbent since at least the mid-1960s (some think Paul VI may have been Pope and forfeited his office during Vatican II) while most agree that the seat has been vacant since the death of Pius XII in 1958. Adherents to this theory, called sedevacantism, are tiny in number, even among traditionalists, because the idea is understandably odd or unusual to Catholic ears. What are the origins of this movement? What are its merits? Does it have theological or historical precedent? In a short period of time we shall try to answer some of these questions.
Note to sedevacantists: I will be referring to John XXIII, Paul VI, the two John Pauls, Benedict XVI, and Francis as popes because—as National Review journalist and sedevacantist Mary Martinez pointed out—we ought to discuss these men as the world knows them.


At first sedevacantism was not so much a movement or group within the traditionalist Catholic world as much as it was a private opinion. In the early days of the Society of St. Pius X the fraternity's efforts incorporated their own clergy—some of whom were sedevacantists—and diocesan clergy willing to work for the older rites and traditional teaching methods. In France the SSPX used the 1962 Missal. At Econe, according to a former postulant, they used 1965 with some modifications. The United States used "pre-1955," suggesting big bad Bugnini was the turning point in the liturgy and not his employer. And the rest of the world, both SSPX and diocesan, used liturgies pre-dating the papacy of Pius XII. A general chapter of the SSPX, held in 1977, confirmed recognition of these local usages and resolved to leave them alone.
Newly cassock'd Anthony Cekada
with Msgr. Lefebvre
All of this began to change in the early 1980s. The few sedevacantists in the SSPX, between nine and a dozen, held the Popes after Pius XII to be dubious in their authority and the 1968 rite of episcopal consecration to be outright invalid, consequently making ordinations of priests invalid. Around 1982, cognizant of his age and the growth of his canonically troubled apostolate, and desirous of legitimizing his work and consecrating a successor, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre began a six year long process of normalizing his relationship with Rome and Pope John Paul II. In order to give a good report of himself to Rome Lefebvre imposed liturgical uniformity on his Society in the form of the 1962 Missal and 1961 Divine Office. Moreover, he accepted into his Society priests ordained in the new rite and by bishops consecrated in the new rite. He even made his priests accept the local diocesan tribunal's decisions with regard to annulments. His point? To operate as closely to canonical norms as possible.
For his sedevacantist clergy accepting supposed non-priests, flimsy annulments, and a Missal published by an anti-Pope would not be possible. Lefebvre himself, a man given to changing his mind, at first thought the new ordination rites invalid, but eventually revised his opinion. Nine firmly believing sedevacantists published a letter to Lefebvre denouncing his perceived misdeeds, a missive that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Depending on one's perspective, the nine either left on their own accord or suffered expulsion from the Society. The nine, almost entirely American, decided to hang onto the Society's real estate in the United States, resulting in a law suit which allowed the Society to keep about half of its holdings while the nine get out with the rest, giving the sedevacantists a platform to launch their activities and hitting the restart button for the SSPX in America.
"How about Oyster Bay and St. Gertrude's for the rest of the Midwest?
The salmon's great, by the way!"
The newly formed Society of St. Pius V eventually split, with Frs. Sanborn, Cekada, and Dolan heading out West while Fr. Kelly and his followers remained in the northeastern United States. Kelley obtained episcopal consecration from Alfredo Méndez-Gonzalez, retired from his see in Puerto Rico, while Sanborn and Dolan found episcopal orders from descendants of Archbishop Thuc, retired ordinary of Vietnam who consecrated anything with a pulse and who could never quite decided if he too was a sedevacantist. The SSPV is not officially sedevacantist and gives Communion to other hardline traditionalists such as laity who attend Mass with the SSPX (although the SSPX does not necessarily reciprocate). The Dolan/Sanborn/Cekada group, in union with the CMRI on the West coast, excludes non-sedevacantists from its Sacraments and is, generally, more in line with the sedevacantist mainstream. The SSPV, scandalized by some of Thuc's choices for consecration, holds the validity of Sacraments descended from Thuc-ite bishops and priests to be dubious and hence discourages its followers from attending CMRI chapels or churches run by the Sanborn/Dolan/Cekada apostolate.
Bishop Dolan begins to consecrated holy oils according to the
un-reformed rites on Mandy Thursday.
Liturgically they are a mixed bag. The SSPV and Sanborn/Dolan/Cekada use the mythical "pre-1955" rites while CMRI, holding Pius XII to be the last Pope and his laws still "on the books," uses the liturgy as it existed in 1958. St. Gertrude's in Ohio, the main church in bishop Dolan's network, is possibly the most liturgically competent community in the world which follows the older Roman liturgy.

Who Are They?

With no statistics on hand, and none likely recorded, the following will be entirely anecdotal, but honest from the Rad Trad's perspective.
Sedevacantism is more or less an American phenomenon with small pockets in the French speaking world and in Mexico. These tend to be places where Catholic culture was very strong prior to Vatican II. The Church in America was expanding like the rabbit population in the Spring. France, although beleaguered by the Revolution, still had a strong Catholic culture in the countryside. Mexico's Catholic culture went deeper than either. When the Masonic president of Mexico, Calles, imposed violent anti-Catholic regulations the laity, athwart the laxity of the clergy, rose up in armed revolt and achieved complete victory over army and Calles government before Cardinal Gasparri convinced Pius XI to sue for peace and have the "Cristeros" surrender un-conditionally. While the Rad Trad cannot speak of the specifics of Mexico and France he can say that the places where sedevacantism thrives in the United States, particularly in Long Island, NY and in West Chester county, Ohio are areas that remain demographically conservative, white, and wealthy. In short, they are well suited to maintain the America of 1958.

Their Claims

Sedevacantists claim that the documents of the Second Vatican Council contain heresies and deviations from the accepted teaching of the Catholic Church. Additionally they claim that the new ordination rites are invalid as well as the Mass Paul VI promulgated in 1969. The Rad Trad has already voiced his opinion on the validity and legality of the Pauline Missal here and will not rehash old material now. Because the Pope is infallible and because the Church cannot be defective these heresies and vain rites cannot be part of the Church, reasons the sedevacantist. Therefor the men who brought about these errors cannot be true Popes. Ergo, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II—despite being validly consecrated bishops by sedevacantist standards—never obtained the Papal Office. Similarly Josef Ratzinger is only a priest and Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps not even a deacon.
They see the Second Vatican Council as the product of "modernism" which had crept about in obscure places for decades before finally manifesting itself in St. Peter's Basilica between 1962 and 1965 under the leadership of anti-Popes bent on creating a new and ecumenical religion. Because the Council was so arrantly un-Catholic and because the Pope cannot be wrong in matters of faith or morals, the Council is invalid and the Popes who put their seal on the Council were not Popes.
Bishop Rifan, ordinary of the Administration of
St. John Vianney in Campos, Brazil.
A secondary consequence of their view is that the Church hierarchy no longer exists. With no bishops outside of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches valid Holy Orders are only to be found in sedevacantist communities, the SSPX, and in Campos, Brazil. Eastern Catholics are in union with Rome, making them adherents to the new religion; the Orthodox are schismatic; the SSPX are schismatic from the sedevacantist perspective and exercise the detestable "recognize and resist" method; and the same problem with the Eastern Catholics applies to the priests under bishop Rifan. In short, it is sedevacantism or nothing. Authority has disappeared.
The last claim, and equally as serious as the others, is that the Popes after Pius XII could not possibly have been Popes because in his Cum ex apostolatus Paul IV forbade heretics, even furtive ones, from validly assuming ecclesiastical office. John XXIII and Paul Vi were obviously heretics and hence could not be elected to the Papacy.

Evaluating the Claims I: Validity of the New Ordination Rites

The central point of contention, before Cum ex apostolatus, is that the Pope cannot be the source of evil done to the faith. One would be hard pressed to find a graver evil than an absence of Sacraments, which is precisely what sedevacantists allege the Council and new liturgy accomplished. The new rite for ordaining priests, they argue, is doubtful and the new episcopal consecration is certainly invalid. Why? Because they fail the tests of Sacramentum Ordinis (Pius XII 1947) and Apostolicae Curae (Leo XIII 1896).
The first bull, by Pius XII, defines the exact formula for the consecration of a bishop according to the pre-1968 episcopal rites. He found the formula to be: "Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing" (S O 5). Of course were Paul VI not Pope the new rite could not be valid in contrast to the older rite merely because it is not the Roman rite. Then again neither is the Maronite rite. What would the new rite be to a sedevacantist? A schismatic rite of course. When was the last time a Pope judged the validity of a schismatic rite? When in 1896 Leo XIII declared ordinations done according to the ordinal of Edward VI invalid in his Apostolicae Curae. In this document Pope Leo determines that the form can be judged based upon what it means to say rather than its historical precedent. The intention of Anglican clergy was not to ordain priests and bishops in the Catholic sense, using the terms as euphemisms for other ideas and invalidating the rites on the grounds of form and intent (AC 33). More plainly: "A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do (intendisse) what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament."
What does the new rite of episcopal consecration say? "So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name." What is wrong with it? According to Fr. Cekada, working off of Pius XII directly and Leo XIII indirectly, a rite needs the explicit statement of what it confers and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Does the new rite have this? Fr. Cekada says no. The Rad Trad says yes!
Indeed, while the older rite is far more beautiful with its talk of perfection and fulfillment it is not on its own very clear and is given context by the examination before the Mass, by the anointing rites during the ceremony, by the enthronement, and by the blessing of the people (all things retained in revision in the new pontifical books). The newer rite is actually clearer on both counts. The much disputed "governing Spirit" term refers both to the Holy Spirit, Who came at Pentecost and is passed on in ordinations and consecrations, and the authority to teach and govern God's Church that He brings. Indeed, if Fr. Cekada is right and context does not save an iffy form then must we not conclude that the old rite, not the new, is invalid? This would be ridiculous of course, as would be declaring the new rite invalid.

Evaluating the Claims II: the Heresies of Vatican II

The Council is every traditional Catholic's compass for evaluating the state of the modern Roman Catholic Church. Religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), the relationship between the Church and non-Catholic religions (Lumen Gentium), and the relationship between the Church and the modern world (Gaudium et Spes) are the most controversial issues discussed at Vatican II and the most enduring problems flowing from the Council. Sedevacantists interpret these documents, or parts of them, to be a either a wholesale or subtle departure from the perennial "Magisterium" of the Church. This is far too great a claim to judge or consider in a single blog post, so we will  only ask a few questions and consider a few items for readers' private reflection.
Was the Church's teaching on religious liberty—something condemned by Gregory XVI, Pii IX-XI, and Leo XIII—beyond reform or just the teachings of the 19th and 20th century Popes? This is a very serious question. The theology of "Christ the King" is certainly very important and Our Lord deserves public respect and His Church deserves public recognition. But is the extent of this, such as a Catholic state, an actual dogma or just the Church's historical experience integrated into her theology? One would be hard pressed to dogmatize an idea not explicitly discussed prior to the 19th century. There is really little on the topic at all, if anything, in the Church Fathers. After Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire the Byzantine Church developed a theology of the Emperor as the living icon of God, a theological tradition that endured until 1453. The Roman Church was far more practical. The Pope would favor whichever monarchs helped the Church and the Papal States. It was not until the Europe built by Ss. Benedict and Gregory the Great out of the broken foundations of the Roman Empire began to collapse that a stronger relationship between Church and State entered common and explicit teaching. Given the anti-clerical, revolutionary, and secular dreams of the new European governments the Papal reaction was understandable and even laudable. What do we make of Dignitatis Humanae then? When the Rad Trad first read this [very] short document he was struck not only by the vague and un-directed articles of the document, which call for nothing specific and define nothing in particular, he was also struck by the recurrence of the word "coercion." In context we understand that DH was directed against Spain, where dictator Francisco Franco used Catholicism as a means of cultural consolidation. The lack of any particular directives, probably intentionally, gave the impression of a new teaching. The Rad Trad, for one, thinks the writers of the document intended this while the bishops mostly thought about disestablishment in Spain. This makes the document a break with the teachings of the Popes from Gregory XVI until Pius XI, but not necessarily heretical.

Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ
Patron saint of Americanism
Another point of contention is the belief proffered in Lumen Gentium that non-Catholic religions enjoy some degree of truth or communion with the Catholic Church. Is this not true with the Orthodox, who have valid Sacraments, a hierarchy dating to Apostolic times, and a genuine theological tradition dating back to the Desert Fathers, the Greek Fathers, and the Byzantine era? Sure, the separation from Rome is no small matter, but there is a world of difference between being Orthodox and being a lapsed Buddhist, is there not? This relationship breaks down greatly when discussing Protestantism; it breaks down even further in considering non-Christian groups; and entirely disappears in considering non-theistic religions.
Vatican II's great problem does not always seem to be ambiguity, but authority and ownership. What does Dignitatis Humanae really mean? What the periti wanted it to mean or what the bishops thought it meant at the time?—oddly John Paul II, Cardinal Dolan, and Archbishop Chaput all seem to favor the former. Does one have to believe in what was said in Lumen Gentium about non-Catholic religions? Is there any note binding Catholics to its words? This is especially troublesome because it departs from the approach of previous teaching, but in no part forces itself upon the faithful. And yet, despite its seemingly novel approach, does what it says not have some very narrow applicability? Questions, questions.

These questions could even be asked of Pope Pius XII's Mystici Corporis, a favorite of the FSSP/SSPX segment of the traditionalist world. MC, although it has good footnoting and is well grounded in the Fathers, promotes an organic and—dare we say—oriental view of the Church which at the time of its introduction was quite foreign. Readers of MC, mostly clergy, would have been accustomed to an organizational understanding of the Church or the "Church as a perfect society." While MC was not unprecedented it was certainly a break from the teachings of Pius XII's more immediate predecessors. Avery Dulles admitted as much.

Evaluating the Claims III: Cum ex apostolatus

Cum ex apostolatus by Pope Paul IV in article II excludes heretics and schismatics from obtaining office under the laws of the Church. It must be emphasized that this is a canonical pronouncement, not a religious one. The election of the Bishop of Rome is an act of business, not—as many wrongly believe—an act of God. People, according to the existing laws, vote for someone who, should he accept election and be a bishop, becomes the Pope of Rome. Cum ex apostolatus sets down administrative and canonical rules as to who can participate or be elected in that process.
There are three problems with using this criterion against the Popes from John XXIII onward:
  1. Heresy and schism are public acts against the Church's authority and teachings. Article 5 suggests in its first line that such deviations must be publically known before a cleric can lose his standing. Angelo Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Montini, Albino Luciani, and the rest did not incur the public judgment of the Church prior to their elevations. Indeed they all advanced greatly at the behest of Pius XII, the last man sedevacantists accept as Pope.
  2. When the law and the reality no longer agree the law is irrelevant. Did anyone really dispute the legitimacy of the Popes "elected" during the eras of Byzantine and Frankish dominion over the Papacy? No, even though, in principle, the people of Rome elected their bishop. A validly consecrated bishop was accepted by the laity and clergy of Rome, and by the Church abroad, as the Bishop of Rome and without any rival claimants. How could this man not be Pope?
  3. Was the bull superseded or voided with the introduction of the 1917 Code of Canon Law by Benedict XV? Certainly Pius XII's alterations make the longevity of the Pauline bull doubtful (see AAS 1946, 36).
Contrary to the sedevacantist view the general outlook of those who considered the matter seems to favor the legitimacy of a given incumbent of the Petrine See, even if the incumbent is a spiritually dangerous figure. St. Robert Bellarmine and Cajetan pondered this issue. Cajetan did not believe a heretical Pope incurs ipso facto deposition. Nor did Bellarmine, although Bellarmine did believe that a Pope obdurate in heresy after being accosted by the Church twice would lose his office (De Romano Pontifice II). As a possible proof that a public heretic can be elected Pope, the Rad Trad offers the example of Vigilius who, as a deacon, furthered the aims and ambitions of monphysite aristocracy in Rome and in Constantinople. Although he reverted to the orthodox position after his elevation and suffered tremendously for it, here, if anywhere, is a historical example of a man who appears to be a public heretic assuming the highest office in Christendom.

Historical Experience of the Church

Despite what opponents of sedevacantism would like to think, there are actually many historical precedents for the position, all of them on the wrong side of history.
The most consistent place for judging a Pope, real or potential, is in the setting of an ecumenical Council. Honorius I, who may not have even been a heretic, was anathematized by an ecumenical council after he died for his word choices in a letter decades earlier. Pope Innocent III in De consuetudine states that a Pope opposed to the customs and teachings of the Church need not be followed, not that he is not Pope. The robber-Council of Pisa comes the closest to sedevacantism and occurred at a time when, by sedevacantist standards, valid Holy Orders and a hierarchy still existed. Pisa, through the inspiring words of Simon de Cramaud, who announced that Pope Gregory XII and rival Benedict XIII
"are recognised as schismatics, the approvers and makers of schism, notorious heretics, guilty of perjury and violation of solemn promises, and openly scandalising the universal Church. In consequence, they are declared unworthy of the Sovereign Pontificate, and are ipso facto deposed from their functions and dignities, and even driven out of the Church. It is forbidded to them henceforward to consider themselves to be Sovereign Pontiffs, and all proceedings and promotions made by them are annulled. The Holy See is declared vacant and the faithful are set free from their promise of obedience,"
 proceeded to elect a credible anti-Pope named Alexander V, in turn succeeded by John XXIII. Pisa failed and the schism continued, but it did pave the way for a genuine Council at Constance a few years later, which deposed all three claimants to the Papacy and elected Martin V, a portly pontiff. Interestingly the Great Western Schism began after a dispute over the legality of a conclave's decision. Many holy men, including St. Vincent Ferrer, sided with the anti-Pope over the genuine one.

Where to Go from Here?

Sedevacantism, the theory's proponents will say, leaves one in mystery, but not in contradiction. Having spent the above words questioning whether recognition of Francis and his predecessors really does leave one in contradiction, the Rad Trad heartily agrees that the theory leaves one shrouded in mystery. Without cardinals, a hierarchy of bishops, diocesan clergy in Rome, a Frankish overlord, or a Byzantine emperor how can a new Pope be elected? A conclave is out. An ecumenical council is out. The only real options are a miracle from above or converting the people or Rome to sedevacantist Catholicism and having them elect a Pope as a mob, as was done in the first millennium. Given Europe's religious trends, Rome is more likely to embrace Jupiter or Saturn than it is to convert to sedevacantism.

Are They Catholic?

The Rad Trad, unlike other conservative or traditional persons, readily considers sedevacantists Catholics and not because he thinks their theory is a valid one. These men, like St. Vincent Ferrer, adhere in principle to the Apostolic See but make an error in judgment concerning the man who upon it. They do not deny the authority. They mistakenly deny the person who exercises it. This is not a minor error, yet it has precedent even among the saints.

Getting the Narrative Wrong

Conspiracy at work?
The most confusing point in the Rad Trad's mind is the choice of Pius XII as the last true Pope among sedevacantists. Pius XII, more than anyone, is responsible for the current state of the Catholic Church. It was during his Papacy that the new relationship between the Church and other religions and between Church and secular society was fostered. It was during his Papacy and under his very interested and watchful eye that the new liturgy was formulated and slowly introduced. It was during his Papacy that preliminary studies concerning an ecumenical Council were made. It was during his Papacy that the "Novus Ordo Popes" and their enablers rose through the hierarchy and gained positions of power. Paul VI was intended, if anything, to complete the work of Pius XII. In this he did not entirely succeed, but that was the goal, as Cardinal Heenan recounts in his autobiography.
So did not all these "errors" and "evils" really originate during the years of Pope Pius? Why not go after Benedict XV, who used very humanistic language in his writings about international affairs during World War I and who presided over a liberalization of the seminaries in Rome and Louvain which produced most of the world's bishops? John XXIII, a very quiet man who signed not one document of Vatican II, is an utterly absurd choice for an anti-Pope.

Understanding of Infallibility and Indefectibility

By conflating various issues—massive loss of faith, the introduction of new rites, instability, bad teaching—sedevacantists assume that should the recent Popes indeed be Popes then Our Lord Jesus Christ's promise that the "gates of hell would not prevail" against the Church would be violated. This is a narrow understanding of the Papacy grounded in the affairs and interests of the Popes in the 19th and early 20th century, an understanding which neglects the Church's historical experience in preserving her teaching and in judging its visible leaders. The decree Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I is far more conservative and light handed than most Ultramontanists, be they sedevacantists or Francis-ists, would like to admit. PA lays down the primacy of the Pope, the necessity of communion with him, and his infallibility when he defines a doctrine to be held by all Christians. In their eagerness to make infallible the encyclicals and decisions of the Popes from Gregory XVI until Pius XII sedevacantists lose sight of just how specific and limited infallibility really is. Too much infallibility, the kind Pius IX wanted to have, would logically lead one to sedevacantism. The promise of Christ to Peter and the teaching of Vatican I encompass very little. When viewed through the history of the Catholic Church and especially through the history of the Papacy one sees how little is actually promised to the Roman See, but also how firmly upheld that promise has been.

Quick Conclusion

Sedevacantism is a negative reaction to confuse and disorder that engulfed the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s. As a theory it misses critical distinctions and a broad theological and historical view necessary to comprehend the current affairs in the Church, instead discounting and discarding them in favor of Catholicism as it was known at a certain point in the past.
The Rad Trad hopes he was able to provide some reflections and insights into this phenomenon that readers have not found in the conventional traditionalist tracts concerning this matter.

Legacy of the Council

This fellow does not seem too on board with the previous pope's continuity program. About four minutes into the clip Fr. Ruff asks a question about Summorum, the response to which I find less that enlightening.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Adonai

O Adonaï, et dux domus Israël, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso. O Adonaï, and leader of the house of Israel! who appearedst to Moses in the fire  of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai;  come and redeem us by thy  outstretched arm. 
O Sovereign Lord! O Adonaï! come and redeem us, not by thy power, but by thy humility. Heretofore, thou didst show thyself to Moses thy servant in the midst of a mysterious flame; thou didst give thy law to thy people amidst thunder and lightning; now, on the contrary, thou comest not to terrify, but to save us. Thy chaste Mother having heard the Emperor's edict, which obliges her and Joseph her Spouse to repair to Bethlehem, she prepares everything needed for thy divine Birth. She prepares for thee, O Sun of Justice! the humble swathing-bands, wherewith to cover thy nakedness, and protect thee, the Creator of the world, from the cold of that mid-night hour of thy Nativity! Thus it is that thou willest to deliver us from the slavery of our pride, and show man that thy divine arm is never stronger than when he thinks it powerless and still. Everything is prepared, then, dear Jesus! thy swathing-bands are ready for thy infant limbs! Come to Bethlehem, and redeem us from the hands of our enemies.

From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia; veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things with strength and sweetness! come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Uncreated Wisdom! that art so soon to make thyself visible to thy creatures, truly thou disposest all things. It is by thy permission, that the Emperor Augustus issues a decree ordering the enrolment of the whole world. Each citizen of the vast Empire is to have his name enrolled in the city of his birth. This prince has no other object in this order, which sets the world in motion, but his own ambition. Men go to and fro by millions, and an unbroken procession traverses the immense Roman world; men think they are doing the bidding of man, and it is God whom they are obeying. This world-wide agitation has really but one object; it is, to bring to Bethlehem a man and woman who live at Nazareth in Galilee, in order that this woman, who is unknown to the world but dear to heaven, and is at the close of the ninth month since she conceived her child, may give birth to this Child in Bethlehem, for the Prophet has said of him: "His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. And thou, O Bethlehem I art not the least among the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee He shall come." [Mich. v. 2; St Matth. ii. 6.]. O divine Wisdom! how strong art thou, in thus reaching Thine ends by means which are infallible, though hidden! and yet, how sweet, offering no constraint to man's free-will! and withal, how fatherly, in providing for our necessities! Thou choosest Bethlehem for thy birth-place, because Bethlehem signifies the House of Bread. In this, thou teachest us that thou art our Bread, the nourishment and support of our life. With God as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, Living Bread that hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may approach to thee and be enlightened [Ps. xxxiii. 6.] by thy light, and by that prudence which leads to salvation.
From Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year 

Monday, December 16, 2013

From the Catholic Herald

December 5th, 1958 (gratitude to Rubricarius for bringing this delicious tidbit to my attention). Let none doubt the continuity of the efforts of the 20th century pontiffs.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Allure of Confession

We are sinners. We are fallen. We often cannot control our bad habits and sinful tendencies. Conversely we often have difficulty doing the things we are supposed to do, even when those things would be good for us and to our benefit. We buy into the falsehood of the time-value theory of money, that it is worth paying more tomorrow for the convenience of doing something today. We pay spiritual interest on our souls, sinning becomes a moral credit card that we rarely pay off even though we know we ought to get out of debt and shred the plastic. Paying off the debt and shredding the card is the Confession of sins and the resolve to sin no more.
Troubled Catholics and former-Catholics (lapsed or otherwise) are the most difficult people in the world for me, and yet I love them all to bits. One such fellow I know—broken family, poorly catechized, went off to serve in the Army, and then had way too much "education" at Georgetown University—is a self-described "half Roman Catholic pro-Zionist Deist." He is a fan of "Yeshua Mashiach," Dick Cheney, and "believes in God for scientific reasons." And yet this same fellow is very much haunted by his own sins and his own understanding of the power of private reasoning. Constantly he asks about the faith, the teachings of the Church, the authority of the Church, and the meaning of the Sacraments. This is not a reaction of childhood conditioning to modernity, the poor fellow never really had a strong Catholic culture. The most telling moments of his struggle transpire whenever I visit him and, for whatever reason, find myself going to Confession.
The last time I visited him I went to the basilica in his town, built by a Vincentian up for canonization. There were four confessionals open, each with an enormous line. I waited for about 30 minutes before my turn. I confessed, received from the priest Our Lord's forgiveness, and knelt in a pew near the altar to do penance and say my Rosary. I noticed my friend at the back of the Confession line. After some time he decided against it, saying "Nah, I've got too much. I would take too long." "It's his job to wait and listen to you," I replied. My protest was in vain. This was not the first, nor will it be the last, time I have seen him staring at the confessional. The mercy of God mesmerizes him as it does many other people who see it, but are afraid to touch it, much like Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited when Charles meets her during a transatlantic crossing.
People fall away from God, first and foremost, when they forget what it means to be a sinner. Before the Passion of the Lord most of the Apostles seemed utterly clueless, nigh stupid, until the Holy Spirit finally enlightened them. Judas was the exception. He was clueless, yet he thought he knew what he was doing. One might imagine the Apostles watching in confusion and unease as the sinful woman washed Our Lord Jesus' feet with the vial of perfume, but only Judas had the gall to speak up and suggest that he knew better than what pleased Christ. I have come to believe Judas was not a "bad guy." He was probably very pleasant and acceptable to people of many social circles: the Temple Jews, the Pharisees and Scribes, the revolutionaries, and the followers of Jesus. His betrayal of Our Lord was probably done under a troubled mind polluted by the lies of the evil one, but it was a betrayal all the same. Was St. Peter's betrayal any lesser? Denying Our Lord not once, as Judas did, but three times?
Herein is the difference. Peter sought forgiveness after the Resurrection. Peter, although confused, must have maintained some loving pity and sorrow, sorrow for one's sins rather than for one's self. This preserved him until he could see Jesus again. Judas however fell into despair immediately. Yes, he wanted to undo what he had done. He threw the silver coins at the Sanhedrin hoping they would accept the money, instead of making a property purchase, and return the Lord. They did not and his despair worsened. He hanged himself. Peter overextended his spiritual credit, but desired at some level to "pay it off" and turn himself around. Judas did, too, but for the wrong reasons. Peter was the rock of the Church, the Prince of the Apostles, a Saint to all Christians in every place, and the one honored with the grandest of all churches. Judas? Dante put him in the deepest part of Hell. St. Therese held out some hope for him and prayed for his soul. There is a world and an afterlife of difference between being great among the saints and, at best, a pessimistic literary subject remembered for the worst betrayal in history. What was that world and afterlife of difference? The nature of their contrition.
Confession keeps our contrition forthright and honest. Humility, not just habit, brings one to kneel in a dark, quiet cell once a week and say "I have sinned." Humility builds the habit, not the other way around. The less one makes this act of deprecation, of violence to the ego the more one drifts into private judgment, replacing the Revelation of God to Man with Man's Revelation of God to Himself. The most common consequence of this is the loss of faith, much as the most common consequence of excessive spending is a credit rating of zero. And yet there are some who still hear faint echoes of the voice of God in the backs of their minds and souls, telling them to repent. Best repent now, lest the ears and heart become too hard to listen. Confession is always available at a parish near you. Shred the "card" and the sins before you cannot keep up with the bills it brings. Then you may never come back.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Parisian Missal IV: Feasts & Commons

The time has come to resurrect our defunct series on the Parisian usage of the Roman rite and its unique Missal which drew the ire of the 19th century Ultramontanists under Dom Gueranger. Thus far we have examined its rubrics, the Ordo Missae, its Holy Week and Pascha, and its Sundays per annum. The point is to gain a holistic understanding of the Missal's features and evaluate the claims levied against it by the Ultramontanists. Thus far no certain signs of Jansenism have appeared. Indeed, only one collect was found to be the least bit strange.
Today we shall examine the third Mass of Christmas day, the Mass for All Saints' day, the Common of a priest/bishop martyr outside Paschaltide, and the votive Mass of Ss. Peter & Paul outside Paschaltide. The selections are intentionally random.


The Parisian Missal, in both Holy Week and Christmas season, includes a reasonable amount of material that one would normally expect to find in a breviary. The genealogy of Our Lord is given after the Mass of Christmas Eve and is to be read following the last response at Mattins and [immediately] prior to the first Mass of Christmas day. Lauds is given for immediately after that Mass.
Third Mass of Christmas day
from a 1300 Parisian Missal
The third Mass of Christmas day is more or less the same as in the Roman rite, but, as we have found to be normal, with some local modifications. The familiar introit Puer natus est nobis is instead Parvulus natus est nobis. Parvulus is certainly acceptable and is used in the Vulgate translation of Isaiah 9:6, but it makes very little sense here at first. The Roman rite uses a pre-Vulgate translation of the Scriptures for the proper chants and antiphons, both in Mass and the Divine Office. Local rites agree with this. My copy of the Sarum Missal shows Puer natus est nobis as well. In fact a scan of a Parisian Missal from 1300 also has the more ancient wording. In lieu of this alteration and in the elimination of Roman vestments like the folded chasuble one wonders if the Parisian liturgy's real sin was not Jansenism as much as it was de-Romanization. The copy of the Parisian Missal we are examining, 1738, comes after a century of French aggression against Rome by Cardinal Richelieu and later Louis XIV. Could these men, or their servants, have taken to removing some distinctly Roman features of the liturgy which were read daily by the institutionalized intelligentsia known as the priests?
The epistle is the same as in the Roman and Sarum books (St. Paul to the Hebrews)—although to be accurate Sarum also reads from Isaiah today. The gradual is entirely different from the Roman/Sarum rite, taken from psalm 97. As is the norm on great feasts in the Norman rites there is a sequence after the Alleluia. The sequence is not a restoration, but an original composition and a very beautiful one at that; the word play is similar to Pange lingua:
Tu lumen de lunime/Ante solem fundere:/Tu numen de numine/Ab aeterno gigneris/Patri par progenies.
Tantus es! et superis/ Quae te permit caritas,/Sedibus delaberis:/Ut surgat infirmitas,/Infirmus humi iaces.
Not Roman, but hardly the makings of Jansenism. The Gospel is In principio as in the Roman rite and the Gospel of the Epiphany is read as the Last Gospel at the end of Mass, again as in the Roman rite. The Offertory verse differs, extracted from the Epistle to the Hebrews rather than from the psalms. The secret, different again from the Roman and Sarum rites, asks that we "may be reborn" through the sacrifice offered on this solemnity, the solemnity of the "worthy birth of the Son of Man." The Communion verse is not the Roman one, but the post-Communion prayer is.

All Saints

The Solemnity of All Saints begins with an introit extracted from St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews, which alludes to the "heavenly Jerusalem" and the "celestial armies." The collect and epistle are the same as in Rome, but not the gradual. There is a gorgeous sequence following the Alleluia ascribed to one "John de Contes, Deacon of Paris"—who apparently lived in the previously century. The sequence Sponsa Christi can be read in a very good translation here. The Gospel pericope is the same passage recalling the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew as is found in the Roman books. The Offertory verse is taken from psalm 67 rather than from Wisdom, but the Secret is the Roman prayer. The preface is of All Saints and will be for the entirety of the octave. The Communion verse focuses on the remaking of man by God through Christ's redemption, visible in His saints: "And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10). The post-Communion petitions the Lord that the "table of pilgrims" may "pass to the heavenly homeland" one day. One might argue that this constructs the Mass as a meal, a protestant heresy, but such an interpretation, while possible during the Counter-Reformation emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, would make Pangue lingua, the Communion prayers in the Byzantine rite, and the Mandy Thursday Communion verse of the Ambrosian rite all heretical. All Saints' day in the Parisian rite was a lovely feast indeed.

Common of a Priest/Bishop Martyr outside Paschaltide

This common is quite different from that in the Roman books (which would be the familiar Statuit ei Mass). The introit comes to us from Acts of the Apostles and is very fitting for a martyr cleric: "That bands and afflictions wait for me at Jerusalem. But I fear none of these things, neither do I count my life more precious than myself, so that I may consummate my course and the ministry of the word which I received from the Lord Jesus." There are three potential collects, two for a bishop and one for a priest. The prayer for feasts of martyr priests may be an elaboration of the matching collect in the Roman Statuit ei Mass. The epistle, from 1 Corinthians chapter 2, matches not the Statuit ei Mass, but does match another Roman common for martyr bishops, the Mass Sacerdotes Dei! The Gradual comes from Acts of the Apostles and the Apocalypse, and the Gospel from Matthew chapter 10 rather than either of the matching Roman commons. The Offertory verse carries on the theme of the martyr as one who suffers for the Lord: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church." The first given Secret appears to be an elaboration of that in the Sacerdotes Dei Mass, but the other two are unique. The Communion verse comes from psalm 22 (not Roman). The first post-Communion prayer is very vivid, speaking of the intercession of the day's saint against lions and demons which bother the saints. The other two options, quite similar to each other, follow the simple Roman style of petition. Once again, not Roman and not heretical!

Votive Mass of Ss. Peter & Paul outside Paschaltide

Our introit is the same as is given for the feast of St. Bartholomew, psalm 95 (instead of Rome's psalm 138). The collect Deus cuius dextera should be familiar to anyone who has prayed the un-reformed Office. The epistle recounts St. Paul's shipwrecking in Acts chapter 27 and the conversion of a Roman centurion. The Mass's Gospel text is Christ's walking on water and Peter's near drowning. This contrasts with the Roman votive Mass, which focuses on St. Peter in both texts. The secret is actually the post-Communion prayer in the Roman rite and while the Parisian post-Communion oration is its own thanksgiving prayer—very similar to an oration used on the fourth Sunday of Advent in the Mass of Paul VI oddly. The Offertory and Communion chants are, again, taken from the Parisian texts for the feast of St. Bartholomew, but are not the Roman texts.

Other Note

While perusing the month of August I came across the collect Veneranda for the Assumption of Our Lady, the same collect used on that day in the Dominican and Sarum rites, which explicitly mentions the Virgin's death (the ancient belief).

Brief Conclusion

Thus far there is still no reason to doubt the orthodoxy of the Parisian rite, the only crime of which, it seems, is having intentionally departed from some Roman practices, possibly owing to political motivations. The Missal contains beautiful poetry and orations, and displays a literary expression of a vivacious and strong French Catholicism.
Our next, and last installment, will examine a few votive prayers. Then on to the rite of Lyons, the rite celebrated by St. John Vianney.
Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII), then nuncio to France, about to
celebrate Mass according to the rite of Lyons.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sedevacantist Dating Update

I have removed the image of Fr Anthony Cekada from my previous post about a Sedevacantist dating website in response to Marko and Rubricarius' comments. While I agree with Not Spartacus that Fr Cekada has a good sense of humor and may not be so bothered, his image does not make so much sense in the article. The reason for putting his picture there was really that he is, to my knowledge, the most prominent sedevacantist in the world now that Bishop de Castro Mayer is dead.
The post was not meant to mock sedevacantists, only to get a little laugh in over such a curious niche in the dating scene.
There may be a post forthcoming with the Rad Trad's [serious] views on sedevacantism....

Monday, December 9, 2013

This Pope

The incumbent of the Roman bishopric has caused tremendous confusion since his elevation in March, elating liberals into thinking that Church teaching would change, only to burn him in effigy. Ultramontanists like Fr. Longenecker have expressed their disappointment in the Pope's attacks on doctrinaire Catholics while Fr. Zzzzzzz is convincing his readers than Francis is just as traddy as Benedict XVI (who was just so trad himself). And then there is the SSPX/Rorate Caeli group whose thoughts can be summed up in the words of Bernard Fellay: "We have a modernist pope."
Clearly this Pope, whether he means to do so or not, is perturbing many Catholics. While many readers may suffer scruples and difficulties owing to Roman politics and even the Pope's own words, let not your hearts be troubled! "Lutheran Satire," a conservative protestant pundit group, has come up with an amusing bit of insight into the current pontificate.

Pope Paul Reacts to JFK's Death

Much was made last month of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. Apparently Pope Paul VI invited a TV crew into his office to record his condolences for the American public. The Pope is visibly disturbed, himself having met Kennedy as president once and probably, when Montini was a monsignor and Kennedy was a rich man's son, earlier as well.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Dating Website

Single? Lonely? Dislike the Pope? Cannot seem to find the right lady with your unique theological outlook on matters? With you in mind the boys over at C.M.R.I. have come up with a solution! Introducing! will have nothing on this new site, which is dedicated to the dating prospects of those who believe the Pauline Mass invalid. If—and I doubt it—any of my readers are sedevacantists this may be the opportunity for you to find the un-reformed Catholic of your dreams. But if any of you marry, be careful with which sedevacantist community you join. You must not join any group condemned by the other sede's!

From the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

"Today the Virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth to the
Eternal Word of God in an ineffable manner. Rejoice therefore, O universe, when you hear
this news, and glorify, with the angels and the shepherds, Him Who shall
appear as a new child, being God form all eternity."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick Word on Suffering

In Advent it is fruitful for us to consider the Second Coming as we prepare to celebrate the First Coming. "God became Man so that Man might become God," St. Athanasius wrote in De Incarnatione. Why? He was the Second Adam, the new Adam, the perfect Man, everything Adam was supposed to be and more, infused with the Divine life!
Much is made of Christ's parallels with Adam, His title "Son of Man," teaching us that He was fully human and that, by His humanity, we men benefit by His salvific work. Yet the most illustrating moment in Our Lord's life that proves He was the new Adam was in a moment when He did the opposite of Adam, the defining moment for the human race as I see it. In the Garden of Eden Satan, that lying rat serpent, tempts Eve into eating the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, going so far as to tell Even that she and Adam will be "like God." The serpent lied to Eve, but Adam knew better. Far from being like unto God, Man fell and became "human" as we know humans, creatures that die.
Our Lord, also in a garden—at Gethsemane, was tempted in His Agony to make full use of His Divinity and "let the cup pass" from Him. Yet in His moment of trial He did not. He embraced the purpose of His Incarnation and made full use of His humanity by dying in it and suffering greatly. Adam decided against his purpose and nature in favor of one he thought easier to live and superior in state, falling into death. Christ took up His purpose in His assumed humanity, taking on a world of suffering with Him, and, while dying, rose up to life.
This is suffering. Far from permitting pain with fists clenched and knuckle white, we should allow some degree of suffering where God offers it to us. He will never give us a cross we cannot bear, even if the burden seems tantalizingly brutal during the moments of pain. We must not be masochists and love suffering. We must embrace the Cross where we find it and make use of our redeemed nature, redeemed by the new Adam, He Who will be born in nineteen days.

The Immaculate Conception and Liturgical Development

As the feast of the Immaculate Conception approaches an opportunity presents itself to demonstrate that, while the Roman liturgy on the whole was in a slide since the Council of Trent (owing to centralization, I actually like the 1570 Missal's balance quite a bit) there were spots of legitimate and true development. One was the feast of St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church instituted by Pius IX. Another favorite example of mine was also instituted by the same Pius IX, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The celebration of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is well attested in older manuscripts of Latin rite liturgies. One edition of the Sarum Missal shows a variation of the Gaudeamus omnes introit and Mass used in that diocese. The Roman practice is more difficult to ascertain. Several scanned copies I possess of the 1474 Missale Romanum list the "Conception" of Our Lady for December 8th, but gives no actual Mass in either the temporal or sanctoral cycles. Alas, one copy does indeed give an actual Mass for that day, with an introit based on 3:11 of the Canticles of Solomon, Egredimini: "Go forth and see your queen, daughters of Sion...." The Gospel is from St. Luke, not that of the visitation, but that of the Marian votive Masses. For whatever reason St. Pius V more or less abolished this text in favor of the familiar formulary Mass Salve Sancta Parens which we often hear on Saturdays. Indeed it seems to be, more or less, the same Mass as on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, September 8th, with a few words altered for the difference. Perhaps the saintly pontiff was overcome with a little Dominican prejudice against the Scotistic argument in favor of the Immaculate Conception? Having no manuscript scans of the Roman Breviary I cannot comment on its contents for December 8th.
St. Pius V's decision to employ a formulary Mass rather than a proper one demonstrates a unique feature of the Roman rite, the "Common" Masses for various types of feasts (Virgin martyrs, abbots, confessor bishops etc) when the local rites would have a unique Mass. Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement is in the midst of an interesting series on weekday lectionaries in the Latin rite which covers this topic more than I will today. Indeed one must ask if the actual parishes of Rome, before the Franciscans persuaded Pope Nicholas to impose the Curia's books on everybody in the City, had their own readings for certain days such as December 8th. Again, as has been said elsewhere on this blog, the Curial books are far less elaborate than most diocesan rites and seem to be abbreviated rites for use by people who have limited prayer time throughout the day. It seems possible that having so many Commons and formulary Masses may well have been one uniquely Curial trait that became a general Roman trait.
This Salve Sancta Parens Mass lasted until Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception, necessitating, it seems, a more unique Mass for the occasion. The result, the Gaudens gaudebo Mass of today, is on the whole an improvement and development. The introit is a little odd to me, I guess one may say that Our Lady was filled with joy of Our Lord's making. The collect is a recovery from the pre-Tridentine Roman books, discarded in 1570: "O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, prepared a worthy dwelling for Your Son, and Who, by Your Son’s death, foreseen by You, preserved her from all taint, grant, we beseech You, through her intercession, that we too may come to You unstained by sin." The Gospel is very on message, opting for the Annunciation recounted by Luke, during which Our Lady is called "full of grace," precisely what the Immaculate Conception means. The Angel's greeting is repeated in variation throughout the Mass to drive home the point.
The two downfalls I can see are that 1) the Mass began a process present in the reforms of Pius XII and Paul VI whereby every feast of Our Lady seems to use the Annunciation Gospel reading. This is particularly apparent in the new Assumption feast of the same Pius XII, which suggests Our Lady was assumed into heaven after her death not because her womb was holy and had born the Son of God (older Assumption Mass), but because She was "full of grace" (newer text), which is not wrong, but it is off message. 2) The other issue is that the new Immaculate Conception Mass came with an octave, which in turn supersedes the ferial days of Advent. This second issue was "fixed" when Pius XII axed practically all the octaves in the Roman rite, swinging this week from one extreme (during which the ferial Mass would not be said once) to another (no octave at all). Given that prior to St. Pius X all octaves were treated a bit differently perhaps there simply could have been a rule that the Sunday Mass had to be repeated on the first ferial or simple day, after which the octave could be observed.
The Immaculate Conception was a positive development in the post-Tridentine Roman liturgy, codifying the Church's belief, giving a feast some uniqueness, preserving ancient texts, and having some didactic qualities to its own.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Greek Ecumenism

An article about the ecumenical view on Mt. Athos:

The Greek government sent riot police to Mount Athos in Northern Greece this morning, to forcibly remove a group of monks from Esphigmenou monastery, one of the twenty monasteries that form part of this famous Eastern orthodox complex. Esphigmenou monastery is renowned for the war it has waged against the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which it accuses of betraying the Orthodox Church by opening ecumenical dialogue with the Vatican. A war which has been going on since the 70s. According to an Associated Press report, the traditionalist monks threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and judicial officials as they attempted to storm the building .Patriarch Bartholomew declared the monks of Esphigmenou an illegal brotherhood in 2002 and ordered their eviction. But the monks ignored this, claiming the Patriarch of Constantinople does not have the power to evict them.  
The conflict has been going on for decades: it all began when Paul VI visited Patriarch Athenagoras in 1967. The Esphigmenous community protested against the two religious leaders praying together by famously raising black flags displaying the message “Orthodoxy or death”. Patriarch Bartholomew decided to resolve the question by contacting the Greek Foreign Minister who - according to the complex jurisdiction regulations which apply to the Hagiorite institutions - is in charge of the security of the twenty monasteries which make up the monastic community of Mount Athos. Over the years, the Greek authorities have tried almost everything to get the Esphigmenou community to back down. They even tried cutting off food supplies to the monks, but in vain.  
The situation was complicated further after a Greek court granted an injunction allowing the new brotherhood Bartholomew wants installed, to replace the old monastic community. There are 500 thousand Euros at stake, which the European Union could dish out for restoration work to be carried out on the 11th century monastery. But given the current crisis Greece finds itself in, the funding has been yet another cause for tension between the rebel monks and Constantinople.  
Local sources say about twenty monks have barricaded themselves inside their monastery. Some supporters apparently joined them this afternoon. On the Esphigmenou monastery website, the monks are calling on faithful to support them and accuse the government of “giving the green light to the police to raid the monastery,” ignoring the fact that “this could cause bloodshed among the monks at Mount Athos.” .

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Today 50 Years Ago (EXPANDED)

Paul VI concelebrates Mass according to the 1965 Missal,
essentially the 1962 rite with some modifications
according to Sacrosanctum Concilium
Sacrosanctum Concilium was released. Today we are still trying to figure out what it means, or what it was supposed to mean.


The main issue the Rad Trad has always had with Sacrosanctum Concilium is its meaning. What exactly does it mean when it says "rites should be simplified" or that change in the liturgical should only be done for the "good" or that chant occupies a special place or that Latin ought to be preserved? There were really three groups of people who votes on this document, and they all virtually voted for it:
  1. The liberal periti: the periti at the Council were by and large liberals freshly minted by a revolutionized Catholic seminary education system. They wanted to tear down the barriers to a reform of the Roman liturgy. Holy Week was an early triumph, but SC was, on the whole, just as great. This crowd looked at SC as an opportunity for further expansion. Although not of the same origin, I would classify Pope Paul VI in this crowd.
  2. The moderately conservative: these men were the bishops under the influence of their periti. These men held onto the basics of the traditional liturgy, yet thought some expansion of popular participation through the use of vernacular and other experiments, like lay readers, would be a minor change with great reward. These were apodictic fellows, excited and uneasy about the changes they were passing along.
  3. The old guard: the Roman Curia. Paul VI had to bypass these men, which included the intractable Congregation for Rites, and create a shadow liturgical commission, the Consilium—which had more real power than the actual Congregation for rites. Men like Enrico Dante had no illusions about where this document was headed.
Unlike the other documents of the Council, SC was not drawn up by a committee of dubious periti, so one cannot accuse it of sloppy style, unintentional ambiguity, or even a double meaning. It was one of the original schema drafted by the preparatory commission (which included Marcel Lefebvre) after John XXIII called the Council and, in all likelihood, had its origins in drafts written during the last years of Pope Pius XII, during which much of the Council was conceived.
Many, including the Pope emeritus, have said that this document was misapplied, that the Council called for authentic liturgical development for the benefit of the faithful, that the Pauline rites were a "banal" and "on the spot" fabrication inconsistent with this call. Unfortunately the same man who wrote this document, Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, also headed the same commission, the Consilium, which created the Pauline Mass and Liturgia Horarum, which throws the misinterpretation hermeneutic out the window. Did Msgr. Bugnini not know his own mind, or that of Pope Paul, when he crafted the new Roman rite? The Pauline Mass, although it has a very skeletal Ordo Missae, has a three year lectionary, 1,300+ orations, an endless series of special blessings, a unique kalendar from the older rite's, and a matching breviary with a four week psalter and a three year reading cycle. Is there the slightest chance that the majority of this new liturgy was not already drafted by the time SC was presented to the bishops at St. Peter's Basilica in December of 1963? It did not appear out of no where in 1967 when Paul VI presented it to the Roman Synod (which in turn rejected it, oh well).
The man who wrote it and the Pope who approved it meant for SC to ratify a transitional liturgy. In some sense the 1955 kalendar and Holy Week, the 1960 Missal, and 1961 Divine Office are transitional, but these changes would have gone unnoticed by the majority of the laity. SC would put most men in the pew on notice that more major changes were in the makings. Any hope the semi-conservative bishops had for a reformed or tinkered "Tridentine" rite was short lived.
Christmas Mass at Our Lady of the Lake, Verona, NJ
in 1965.
Despite its transitional nature, if one wanted to test the principles of SC one could hardly say it was ever implemented. I once had access to a 1964 Missal (1962 with modifications before the new typical edition of 1965) and studied it in depth. The changes made were mind numbingly odd: the Ordinary of Mass (unchangeable day to day) was put into vernacular (even though these were the parts people would be able to learn) while the orations remained in Latin! There was the nonsense of the priest beginning Mass from a chair, as if he was a bishop. The prayers at the foot of the altar remained in an abbreviated form and the Last Gospel dropped (it could have remained instead as a private prayer). The Missal actually calls for lector to read the Epistle and the proper chants (rather than sing them in vernacular or Latin) and a commentator who, at the ambo, explains what is happening! Concelebration was permitted so long as there was room at the altar for all the concelebrants (which is why, in the picture above, the altar of St. Peter's was expanded). It begs the question: what were these people thinking? In a very real way the Oratorian style Latin Novus Ordo Mass is more popularly accessible and in line with SC than the confusing 1964 Mass promulgated along the lines of SC. Were these changes for the common good? Did they make the rites more understandable? When were the changes supposed to stop? Did the bishops know what they were getting when they voted for SC?
Five decades later the answers to these questions are as ambiguous as they were when the document made its debut appearance.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Papacy

Readers will by now have noticed that the Rad Trad is not one partial to Ultramontanism, that odd Jesuitical view of the Pope as the active will of God on earth. He has written on Ultramontanism here and given a favorable review to anti-Utramontanist Dr. Adrian Fortescue's history of the papacy in the pre-Chalcedonian Church here. Indeed this blog has argued in favor of a more local approach to disciplinary and liturgical matters in principle (fully aware that such a move would not be successful in practice given the current state of affairs). Still, while a de-centralized approach would be beneficial, we ought not forget that the Pope, unlike Patriarchs and Archbishops, has a Divine commission to a very important ministry in the Church. I would advise all to read this sober little musing by Fr. John Hunwicke. It is very much in line with Dr. Fortescue's four-fold concept of the Petrine office rather than the hyper-Papalist whims so fashionable in the last two centuries.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Thought on Confirmation

Earlier the Rad Trad posted a quick reflection on the meaning of the Sacrament of Confirmation (or Chrismation in some rites). Beyond the meaning there is also a practical aspect of Confirmation to be considered, a very nugatory consideration at that.
Pius X, a canonized saint yet not wise in all his dealings, altered the age at which Roman Catholics may begin to receive Holy Communion from the time of Confirmation to age six or seven. In previous times one could only communicate from the time of Confirmation onward because Confirmation completes what Baptism begins: one is baptized into the new creation and anointed into the new priestly people at Confirmation. The two were once done together. In Apostolic times most people being received into the Church were adults, with infant Baptism usually only coming with an entire family's conversion. As Baptism became more regularly an infant's affair the Roman Church reserved Confirmation for the age of reason (usually the early teenage years) and the Eastern rite Churches kept the two together, even in the cases on infants. There is some wisdom to the Roman practice, as it ensures that every cradle Roman Catholic will receive a Sacrament from his bishop at some point in life. Despite the interim of several years without Confirmation, the order or the Sacraments was preserved. Enter Papa Sarto.
Papa Sarto had a strong devotion to the frequent reception of Communion and desired that even the youngest be able to participate in this practice. In the United States—I cannot speak for Europe and the other continents—this had no resonance in practice of the faith among Catholics. When the Catholic culture of the United States went into decline in the 1960s baptized Catholics, who had been receiving Communion for years, began to see Confirmation—given during the hormonal period when one begins high school—as the exit from the childish years of youth and an entrance into the world of drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll. In all seriousness Confirmation has become a sort of "Congratulations, your childhood is over!" and that childhood includes religion. Another problem, aside from the social context, that engenders this lapsing after Confirmation is that Confirmation began one's reception of Communion, investing the Confirmed's future in the Church. The later date of Confirmation does the exact opposite. So what can be done about this?
I can see three potential solutions:
  1. Least likely: restore the pre-Pian practice and merge first Communion and Confirmation again. This would probably be very unpopular at the parish level, as a great multitude of people would go absolute bonkers at the thought of one less family party and gift giving opportunity.
  2. More likely, but improbable: make Confirmation part of the Baptismal rite again. This would be a restoration of the most ancient of practices, but it still unlikely given that most so many theologians equate Confirmation with the "age of reason."
  3. Most doable and socially acceptable: restore the old order of Baptism-Confirmation-Holy Communion, but leave the time of administration at the discretion of the pastor. I heard of one pastor so tired of the poor state of religious education he instituted a parish policy that "If you want a Sacrament, you need to meet with me and be able to explain to me what it is." Aside from keeping the order of the Sacraments proper, it would not upset families (even though their disturbance would be for material purposes) as much as the other two options and gives pastors some influence in investing their faithful in a personal knowledge of the Sacraments.

Do I expect Pope Francis to call me for a full paper on the matter? No, but I do think this is an important issue for the future of the Catholic Church in the Western world.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dialogue on Validity, Form, and Intention

Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV celebrates the Divine Liturgy at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, 1954
source: P. Pfister, Pages de Rome Immortelle, Arthaud 1954, p. 155
The Rad Trad has been privileged to correspond with several of his readers—you know who you are—over the last year. Discussion usually beings with a question or an opinion about some liturgical matter. A recent series of exchanges between the Rad Trad and a reader was no different.
Enter the blogger "Maestro" of the page Foretaste of Wisdom, a site certainly worth a look. The Maestro is a Thomistic-minded Catholic and a student at Thomas Aquinas College. We recently exchanged thoughts on an article by Br. Ansgar Santogrossi, a professor at the FSSP seminary in Nebraska, concerning the Thomistic notion of "form" of the Consecration of the Eucharist and the implications for the validity (or invalidity) of the Addai & Mari rite used in the far east. The original article, which I cannot reproduce here owing to copyright, appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of Nova et Veterea should any readers wish to follow the discussion more closely. The Maestro has kindly given me permission to post some excerpts of our exchanges below. Readers may find the discussion and the historical/theological citations interesting. The exchange is given in chronological order. It is the sort of thing one can scroll through in search of a passage of particular interest rather than labor through the entire thing.
Thomists: please don't be too hard on me!
The Rad Trad: I have read the first third of the article and will finish it tomorrow with my fuller impressions. Thus far I think the author is trying very hard to fit his theological system (neo-Thomism) into texts written and prayed by people who did not believe that a particular set of words "did the deed" on their own. The quotations he adduces from Ss. Ambrose and Justin the Martyr do not really indicate that "This is my body" and "This is my blood" effect the consecration at all, just that they are the pretext for the celebration of the sacred mysteries and that it is by Christ's words that the change takes place. Perhaps the author will investigate the matter further, but the idea of "Christ's words" or "Word of God" has a very broad meaning and could (probably) means that it is Christ Who makes the change happen, rather than referring to a few specific sentences. Sure, some prayers were more important than others (which is the only reason low Mass can be permissible), but the concept of a particular set of words doing the Sacrament really does not find much evidence until the rise of the Latin Schoolmen (for all the good they did—and they did a lot—I've never been too keen on their Sacramental theology).
I hope the author goes into the texts of the Addai and Mari rite in some detail, as this would help him make or break his case.
The Rad Trad (fuller answer): I have finished the article and found it somewhat wanting. The author's premise is basically that everyone from Apostolic times knew that "This is my body" and "This is my blood" make the change happen, and that since the Addai and Mari rite does not (or no longer does) contain these words it does not successfully consecrate the bread and wine. Unfortunately he does not make a very conclusive case from the historical evidence.
As I said before he conflates the "Words of the Lord" with the institution narrative from St Paul used in every other celebration of the Eucharist. It gets especially bad when he begins calling the institution narrative the "words of consecration" as if it is and always has been a settled question, effectively making the rest of the article a circular argument. However in the Eastern Churches (Byzantine and otherwise) there is an emphasis on Christ doing what happens at the altar with the priest presiding in His physical stead. They do not have a concept of the priest in persona Christi, but rather say that the priest "serves" Christ's true priesthood. For instance in the Coptic liturgy (Catholics and Orthodox use it) the epiclesis is "He makes this [bread] His precious Body!" and the same is said of the chalice. Moreover words are spoken with air and breath. Perhaps you know that the Greek and Hebrew for Holy Spirit is actually "Holy Wind" or "Holy Breath?" It makes Christ's consecration a work of the Holy Spirit effected by Christ's intercession (which is why the Byzantines, for instance, insist that in their rite the consecration happens at the epiclesis). In none of the evidence proffered is it clear that the institution narrative is the consecration. 
Lastly, he assumes that the lack of an institution narrative is a relatively new omission in the Addai and Mari rite, which betrays a certain degree of historical ignorance. His best grounds is that according to one 18th century Roman account and a few 19th century Anglican accounts there was a narrative in variable places. However these accounts center on the Chaldean Catholic Church, which formed around that time as a far Eastern Church in communion with the Roman See. What he neglects to mention, or realize, is that most Eastern Churches that joined the Catholic communion at that time were forcibly Latinized and made to conform to Western theology and practices—a problem we have only just begun to solve in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Could the narrative not be a Latinization? The author constantly quotes that judgment from an older document that the absence of a narrative is a "grave abuse" but no where did it said the absence necessarily invalidated the Eucharist. He gets around this by equating it with the attempted ordination of women by some dodgy 5th century bishop who was promptly corrected.  
On the whole not very impressive. Even Aquinas admitted to some extent that his analysis was based on the Latin liturgy, which was the only liturgy he knew. This article absolutizes that analysis and tries to fit it into other Apostolic Churches' systems. Bad history, bad ecclesiology, bad theology. Your thoughts, sir?
The Maestro: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have a couple questions which are purely theological....
St. Thomas quotes St. Ambrose, also from the de sacramentis: "The consecration is accomplished by the words and expressions of the Lord Jesus. Because, by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings, and others; but when the time comes for perfecting the sacrament, the priest uses no longer his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is Christ's words that perfect this sacrament."
An alternate translation: "How can that which is bread be the body of Christ? By consecration. But in what words and in whose language is the consecration? Those of the Lord Jesus. For all the other things which are said in the earlier parts of the service are said by the priest—praises are offered to God, prayer is asked for the people, for kings, and the rest; when it comes to the consecration of the venerable sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own language, but he uses the language of Christ. Therefore, the word of Christ consecrates this sacrament."
I don't recall Br. Ansgar quoting this in his article, but this passage seems to me to more clearly emphasize the efficacy of the actual words spoken by the priest, in bringing about the consecration - that's the impression I get. Would your interpretation of this be more along the lines of a "spiritual" language or word, in line with your broader understanding of the "Word of Christ"?
Also, I'm sure you are aware of the Council of Florence on this matter: "The words of the Savior, by which He instituted this sacrament, are the form of this sacrament; for the priest speaking in the person of Christ effects this sacrament. For by the power of the very words the substance of the bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the substance of the wine into the blood; yet in such a way that Christ is contained entire under the species of bread, and entire under the species of wine."
Obviously, the term "form" is being borrowed here from St. Thomas and Aristotle. So according to your view, would this teaching apply, like that of St. Thomas, only to the Roman liturgy? 
The Rad Trad: I would say that the last sentence in those two translations displays quite a disparity. The latter indicates a broad possibility of meanings (a spiritual idea of the "Lord's word", the institution narrative, the entire anaphora after the preface etc). Even if it refers to the narrative that would put St Ambrose in Br Ansgar's camp, but does not make the case for any sort of consensus, even in the Latin Church, prior to the Middle Ages. The quotation he used from St John Chrysostom certainly has no where near the message he thinks it has (the narrative-as-consecration just is not part of the Byzantine tradition). 
Florence is obviously referencing St Thomas, but St Thomas's analysis really cannot go beyond the Latin rite (which uses the Roman Canon—except the rite of Milan, which uses a variation of it, and the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, a very odd liturgy). From a historical perspective it is clear to me in Summa pars III question 78.1 that there was a very wide array of views on the matter at the time, even within the Roman Church. And if we are to take Aquinas as far out of his Roman context as Br Ansgar does, must we not conclude that the Byzantine rite and the Novus Ordo Mass are invalid (pars III, article 78.3, answer before the reply) because they lack the words mysterium fidei, making for an imcomplete form? 
One last note about Florence: it was not a teaching council in the same way Nicea, Chalcedon, Lateran IV, Trent, or Vatican I were teaching councils. It was a disastrous attempt to re-unite the Latin and Greek Churches. The Byzantine emperor was desperate for political capital and soldiers to fight the Muslims on his doorstep and the Roman authorities saw an opportunity to force Roman theology, customs, and discipline upon a Greek Church which would give them anything. For example the famous Cantate Domino bull by Eugene IV was actually a thinly veiled letter to the Eastern Churches saying "Join me or go to hell;" ditto for Boniface VIII and Unam Sanctam. One must take time to learn about these councils and documents and how the Church historically uses them and receive them before applying them in theological and liturgical discussion. My impression is that the above passage from Florence was an attempt to Latinize the Greek Church's theology. 
I may be wrong though!
The Maestro: Looking again at the whole of the Ambrose quote, it seems to me that his emphasis on the priests words, which, he says, are also Christ's words, indicates something very like the words of institution. And to which quote from Chrysostom are you referring? Is this the one? "It is not man who causes what is present to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself Who was crucified for us. The priest is the representative when he pronounces those words, but the power and the grace are those of the Lord. “This is My Body,” [h]e says. This word changes the things that lie before us; and as that sentence “Increase and multiply,” once spoken, extends through all time and gives to our nature the power to reproduce itself; even so that saying “This is My Body,” once uttered, does at every altar in the Churches from that time to the present day, and even till Christ’s coming, make the sacrifice complete."
I'm curious, what do you take this passage to be saying, if not that the actual words of institution, repeated by Christ, bring about the change? I also found this from St. Athanasius: "You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ....When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body."
Granted, it doesn't yet establish a general consensus, but it's something...  
And I'm not certain that St. Thomas intends for every word that he discusses to be an essential part of the form. For example, he says that the word "for" ("enim") isn't actually part of the essential form, although the Roman Church uses it (III, Q.78, A.2, ad.5). He also says generally that if different words were used to communicate the same meaning it would still be valid (III, Q.60, A.8). I'm not sure that the omission of mysterium fidei affects the essential sense of the words.
St. Thomas has other arguments for the necessity of specific words in the sacraments. Since you do not consider a specific "form" or set of words to be the cause of transubstantiation in the Eucharist, would you hold a similar position with regard to the other sacraments, such as Baptism? It seems evident at least that for Baptism a specific set of words is necessary for the sacrament to be effected. St. Thomas speaks of Baptism as example for his argument that all the sacraments require words, and he quotes St. Augustine (III, Q.60, A.6). And it seems evident from Scripture too, for Christ commanded the apostles to baptize all nations "In the name of the Father," etc. If from that we can draw the necessity of a determinate set of words, why not also from the words of institution also recorded in Scripture? 
I'll have to study more on the history of the Council of Florence, but from what I gather from Catholic Encyclopedia, it seems that the main controversy there was whether the epiklesis or the words of institution brought about transubstantiation. It's not clear to me that a case like that of Addai and Mari would even have been considered - whether by the Latins or the Greeks. Isn't true that Addai and Mari has neither the Words of Institution nor an Epiklesis? I could be wrong, but it seems as though at Florence, the only two options were either the words of institution or the epiklesis.
The Rad Trad: I will refrain from further comment on the Golden Mouth's quotation until I can look up some commentaries and more translations. The bit from St Athanasius does not really suggest anything concrete at all to me. In fact, as Patriarch of Egypt his current successor is Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Church, a church which uses the liturgy I mentioned earlier which claims the change takes place as the words "He makes [the bread] into His Body" and the same for the chalice. 
A further difficulty is that writers in this time tended not to reflect too deeply on the liturgy because they took it as a given. They wrote about the natures of Christ and the Trinity because Jesus' divinity was in question. They wrote about icons because icons were in question. We, in the West, wrote so much about the Eucharist and priesthood because the protestants questioned those things. No one, until the 16th century, really questioned what happened on the altar so they did not dissect and analyze it. Moreover, there are some manuscripts from that era, but not many. They just followed what St Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11: I have passed onto you what I have received. A Melkite Catholic priest once said to me something to the effect that "We don't dwell on minimal things like validity or forms. We just do what was given to us and we only do that." 
I only adduced the bit from the Summa on the consecration simply to show the effect of over-applying the liturgical theology of one rite to another, even another Roman liturgical rite. 
There are indeed many different forms for many of the Sacraments throughout the Catholic Church. Your example of Baptism mostly holds. All valid Baptism is "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" but that is it. Romans baptize with the words "I baptize you in the name....." while the Byzantines baptize with "The servant/handmaiden of God is baptized in the name......" Roman and Slavic rites absolve sins with "I absolve you...." while the Byzantines say "Jesus Christ absolves you." Indeed it has to be verbal, because it is a prayer after all, and there are some guidelines, but the exact formula is not entrenched. 
The main controversies at Florence were (in order of importance):
  • The doctrinal soundness/legality of the filioque in the Latin version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed
  • The use of unleavened bread in the Latin liturgy
  • The extent of Papal power outside the Roman patriarchate
  • The conflict between Scholastic ideas about the un-knowability of God versus the Hesychast Greek theology of God's un-knowability in essence and knowability in energies 
Again, it was supposed to be a reunion Council and one that did not work out. I suspect your excerpt above might be from the part of Florence wherein they discussed Scholastic theology's role in the Universal Church. The Greeks, eager for some money and soldiers, did not make much of a case for their position, except for Mark of Ephesus, who [helped] ruined the reunion upon his return to Byzantium. 
The Maestro: What I was wondering was whether the case of Baptism is at all analogous to that of the Eucharist. From all the examples you mention - if I understand you correctly - it seems that the same essential form is used throughout all of those rites (" the name of the Father, etc"), with only the minor differences which St. Thomas says do not change the meaning. So as far as I can see, there is a set formula, but which allows for minor variations. The formula does appear to originate directly from the words of Christ Himself, in all of these cases. Whereas, according to your position, the case is not so with regard to the Eucharist: the Roman "formula" consists in the words of institution, the Byzantine in the epiklesis, and the Addai and Mari rite doesn't even seem to have a formula. So there doesn't seem to be an analogy between Baptism and the Eucharist, in this respect: for in the latter case, in some rites, it appears that the crucial words are not those of Christ. So my question was why, if in the case of Baptism, the "formulae" for all Catholic rites seem to be drawn from the words of Christ, the same could not be said of the "formula" for the Eucharist. Of course, perhaps the same could not be said for some of the other sacraments either... I've seen a distinction between those Sacraments whose forms were given by Christ (as evident in Scripture) and those whose were not.
In any case, I am also wondering about the extent to which theological variety is acceptable in the Church. You've mentioned several times now the tendency to universalize the Thomistic theology and apply it to other rites. Obviously, there is some room for variation and theological opinion, but I'm not entirely clear on how we can hold St. Thomas' sacramental theology to be true only in the Roman Rite, or even Eastern theology to be true only in the Eastern rites... It seems to me to be more than a question of method, but of the actual theological truths. Or are we really to hold that, in the Roman Rite, the consecration really does take place at the words of institution, but in the Byzantine Rite, it really does take place at the epiklesis; and further, that in Addai and Mari... do we even know when it takes place? So if the consecration takes place at a different moment for each of these rites, what is that determines which moment? Is it simply the belief of the people within each rite? That is, does the Roman consecration take place at the words of institution because the Romans believe so, and the Byzantine at the epiklesis because the Byzantines believe so, etc? That seems to make it very subjective. Which is why, I think, we see that tendency to universalize theology, especially among the scholastics: because the nature of truth doesn't allow for that much subjectivity.
Even if we were to try to address this problem simply by saying that in all these liturgies the consecration does take place at some point, and that is what matters, nonetheless that seems to me to avoid, rather than solve, the problem...
As to Florence, the quote I gave earlier is from "Exultate Domino" bull concerning union with the Armenians. I'm not entirely sure of what all the content was (I've only skimmed it) but it does go through each of the seven sacraments. It seems almost like a catechism on the sacraments... (It's somewhere in this link: The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a brief summary of the debates that occurred concerning the Eucharist, and it seems an important one was concerning the words of institution versus the epiklesis.
The Rad Trad: You may find this commentary on the Addai & Mari rite, provided by the Chaldean Catholic diocese of the USA, heuristic:
The baptismal rites all use "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" not because the clergy of those rites though Our Lord gave them a formula, but because He gave them a command: to reveal the Trinity and baptize people into the Triune Godhead, to the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Similarly with the Eucharist, He did not necessarily mean to restrict His command to the repetition of words over bread and wine, but to communicate the need to repeat an action. The Greek for "Do this in memory of me" is actually very strong, meaning "Do this for the anamnesis of me" (do this action as I do it). By that He meant the entire Eucharistic action: thanksgiving, the establishment of the purpose of the bread and wine, and the offering of Himself on the Cross—the sacrifice made present on the altar, and the rising up on the third day. One would be hard-pressed to find a Eucharistic prayer East or West that does not repeat this pattern. Also, the Eucharist was instituted in the context of a meal, which indicates to me at least that the eating and drinking in His sacrifice is the action being continued, not the specific words alone. If you have a strong enough interest in this matter I suggest you track down a copy of Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy, a monumental book on liturgical history (some of his work is outdated, but it is still the best book of its kind) which frames its discussion around the idea of anamnesis. Dix ws an Anglo-Catholic, but, aside from the chapter on the Anglican liturgy (which I ignored) it hardly shows. 
The consecration, to my mind, does take place at different times in the different rites owing not only to the form, but also to the intention. Can a priest accidentally consecrate, as would be the case in the Byzantine rite at the narrative, when he does not intend to do so? The priest is given power to "offer sacrifice for the living and the dead" (old ordination rite) and to "offer the Eucharist" (new ordination rite), not to use a particular formula. If the priest has the power and intention, and he offers the Eucharist in manner hallowed by time and which the Church has accepted, who am I to tell him he's doing it wrong or that the change happens in a way otherwise than what his rite's tradition says? 
I think St Thomas's writing on the consecration is very limited to the Roman rite, not least because he does not purpose to offer an a priori form for consecration, but rather the form for consecration in the only Eucharistic prayer he ever knew. He is using Scripture as evidence, not as a starting point. He really is holding the liturgy as a revealed truth (as do I) and attempting to understand it; the issue is that he had one datum. 
Another factor may have been that a century before St Thomas lived priests began to elevate the Host and Chalice at Mass (people would actually yell from the nave "Show us" and "Let me see"), a kind of piety that substituted for the actual reception of Communion (from the 9th century until the 18th Communion was never really distributed at Mass, only at side chapels and on major feasts due to popular fear of unworthy reception). I think those elevations may have popularized discussion as to the exact moment of change.  
With Florence, as with most Councils, one must contextualize what they are saying to understand the extent of it. In the Eastern Churches, for instance, they say there are "at least seven Sacraments" whereas we say "there are seven sacraments and then many sacramentals." The Easterners refer to Sacraments as Mysteries and lump Mysteries and Sacramentals into Sacraments (all possible means of transmitting grace). It takes some patience to understand and might be at the heart of the bulls to the Armenians and Copts.
The Maestro: The idea of anamnesis does intrigue me, though I am wondering - and perhaps I misunderstand - why would that concept not include the words by which Christ consecrated the bread and wine?
So according to your position, the most essential validity of the sacrament, for whatever rite, is determined by the power and intention of the priest, and the approval of the Church? I wonder though, has the Church officially approved of the idea that the Byzantine consecration occurs at the epiklesis, or that the Addai and Mari consecration occurs... whenever it does? As I understand, the Church thus far has attempted to "universalize" the Thomistic account of the consecration, as at Florence - unless I am missing something. Furthermore, has the Addai and Mari rite actually been magisterially approved? I am not certain that the CDF qualifies as a strictly magisterial authority, when compared to something like Florence or Trent, or the common opinion of the theologians and scholastics. Has the Church approved of it elsewhere? As for the power and intention of the priest, if the approval of the Church is doubtful, intention seems a week foundation; and the exercise of power seems properly to imply the need for some instrument or means by which it is exercised - such as a set of words - or else the priest could say any prayer he likes, with the intention, and effect the consecration. It's similar to my earlier problem: it seems very subjective.
You make interesting points about St. Thomas and the history of the elevation and so forth. 
The Rad Trad: Dix does not necessarily exclude the importance of the institution words, but he does not think they are strictly needed (as evidenced by the anaphora of St Hippolytus for instance) for the action, though he does not see a conflict there either. I will let his book speak for itself.
The idea of the Church approving something "magisterially" is actually quite novel and quite new (Counter-Reformation era, before only grave matters went to Rome and the bishop most often passed judgment). The older concept is summed up by St Vincent of Lerins: "If it is tradition it needs no explanation. If it is not tradition then it has no explanation." Time and perpetual use gives a rite the Church's approval, not the stamp of a congregation in Rome or the Pope (if what he does is novel). The Church has not magisterially approved the apparition of the Empty Tomb to Mary Magdalen and the other Mary in the year 33, she has just always believed and taught it. The Byzantine rite was never "approved," nor was the Roman rite until 1570. Heck, the Mass of Paul VI was released by a congregation in Rome, not by the Pope. Is it approved? The Addai and Mari rite pre-dates the Pauline Mass by approximately 1,600 years, which, in Scholastic terms, would indicate its approval by the "Universal Ordinary Magisterium" to me. The approval of the Church is not doubtful to me. It is not even doubtful to Br Ansgar, given the rite's constant use, which is why he attempts, with debatable success, to demonstrate that it originally had an institution narrative which disappeared. Intention is a necessary condition, not the primary condition, for a Sacrament to take place. Time and use hallows rites, intention grows out of them (which is why I mentioned the elevations which began in the Middle Ages—a positive development to be sure).
The Maestro: Perhaps the main problem in my mind is whether the truth of the matter determines the intention of the priest and faithful, or whether their intention is what determines the truth of the matter. In other words, have the faithful always believed the rite is valid because it is so, or is it valid because they have believed so? If the truth is determined by their belief and intention, then it seems the answer is the latter. Granted, normally speaking, that a certain belief is in the tradition is evidence for its truth - and I don't think I could answer such an argument, at this point - but that's different than saying that it's being in tradition is the cause of its truth. Are you proposing this latter?