Saturday, June 28, 2014

Correcting the Moderates

I read Fr. Hunwicke and generally like what he has to say, but on this matter he and some of those who comment on his blog are just plain wrong! Of what could I be speaking? Of how far back to turn the clock on the Roman rite. As his Holiness, Sixtus VI, has written before there were actually five different incarnations of the Roman rite last century, which can loosely be categorized as:
  1. 1900-1910: the ancient rite, although swollen with Double rank feasts.
  2. 1911-1954: the liturgy of St. Pius X. A new breviary, loosely based on the old Roman Office and the neo-Gallican psalters. New, but balanced, kalendar system.
  3. 1955-1964: the liturgy of Pius XII. Deranged Holy Week, novel kalendar system, reduction in many prayers, and experimentation in the liturgy to come.
  4. 1965-1969: the liturgy of Vatican II. The Pian (XII) rite without Prime and with varying degrees of vernacular.
  5. 1970-present: the liturgy of Paul VI.
Fr. Hunwicke essentially proposes to go back before the nineteen regrettable years of Pius XII and the liturgical destruction of that papacy. Some readers and commentators agree with the good, learned, and wise Fr. Hunwicke about the shortcomings of the "EF" Mass and Office, but disagree that now is the time to worry about such things. Should we not be more concerned with spreading use of the "EF" and of traditional Roman Catholicism, hitherto satisfied with what Pope Benedict gave us in Summorum Pontificum? Would it not be better to worry about such things in say 100 years, when surely Traddieland will have had its victory? His Traddiness says "No and hell no!"

While the pre-Pius XII liturgy is vastly superior—and I cannot emphasize that enough—to what came after it, that ritual is still not entirely the old rite. I propose to turn the clock all the way back to 1570, with its full psalter and kalendar system. Yes the kalendar is sparsely populated with saints, but that is a good thing. It means a chance to re-consider which saints from the Counter-Reformation period and from more modern times (like Padre Pio) should be added as well as an opportunity to re-visit the isse of ownership of the liturgy. Does it belong to a congregation in Rome or to those who use it?—which includes 1400 years of dead Roman Catholics, many of whom have gone to their eternal reward after praying the old rite.

I am convinced a return to a living liturgical tradition will be a key element in the recovery of the Roman Church from her long malaise and spiritual dormancy. If God is a living God and the Church is His body, why ossify the liturgy in the tomb of 1962? Rigor mortis is no less attractive in liturgical matters than it is in a morgue. The 1570 rite has the potential to be that living liturgy the Roman Church needs because it could be developed organically. In my research on the French rites and some other local liturgies I have observed that few of the Roman simplex rank saints are celebrated and in their place is celebrated French or Portuguese or English saints, depending on the area, emphasizing that the saints, those friends of God, did the same things we do now, in the same way, and in the same place, giving us hope for our salvation. I have also proposed a return to the "minster" manner of running a diocese, a proposal which I doubt will ever get any traction, but some religious communities are thriving and diocesan ordinaries should ask why.

End of rant. For more on the pre-Pius XII rite, see the Saint Lawrence Press. To understand what my proposal would look like in action, take a peek at the Current Tridentine Ordo.


  1. I would be delighted if this were to happen. But is this really the time to introduce the idea? It seems to me that a traditional Catholic mindset - which we want to encourage! - justly bristles at the idea of choosing which liturgy to return to, especially if it is not a liturgy within living memory! It's already a problem in the traditionalist movement because for many of us the 1962 was chosen rather than inherited, and that *choosing* is itself foreign to the idea of tradition. It's an aberration to be tolerated for the sake of the next generation. The fact that other living persons have received this liturgy and kept it alive for us makes our non-traditional act of choosing more tolerable. The whole concept of liturgy as something *received* by means of tradition would seem to be seriously undermined when choosing a liturgy that no one living remembers celebrating. If that makes any sense.

  2. Maybe at Nicaea III we will go back and revisit the liturgy. They should make you a special expert at the council.

  3. This isn't even so much contra Hunwicke as it is contra tradition. As Fr. Hunwicke and any liturgical scholar worth his salt has pointed out time and again, there is nothing more un-traditional than a frozen rite. I would go a step further in saying there are few things more radical than wiping clean 500 years of ritual changes. 1570 was not a golden year; it was not ordained by God. I mean, for crying out loud, why don't we just go back to the pristine Greek-Roman Rite of St. Pius I? You know, before all of those Latin corruptions snuck in.

  4. I don't what the Rad Trad is proposing amounts quite to freezing the Roman Rite. Couldn't also be true that going back to 1570 gives us the opportunity to reconsider the damaging changes that did happen, so that the liturgy might then develop in a way that is truly healthy?

  5. Perhaps it could be good to go back, aside to 1570 Roman books, also to the local (and monastic) rites, as far as they have left monumenta allowing us to celebrate the mysteries according to them. And, of course, to develop them organically.

    A question: does anyone here know if there is any traditional monastery where the Monastic Missal (Benedictine, Cluniac, Ciscercian, or another) is used, instead of 1962/65 used by Le Barroux and Fontgombault?

    Kyrie eleison

  6. Thanks for the plug, Rad Trad. My reading of Fr. Hunwicke's recent post(s) is somewhat different. He, like you, seems clearly distanced from all things Pacellian, especially and surprisingly so with even the earlier Pacellian changes (e.g. the multiplication of Marian feasts at whim). However, my take is that he was zeroing in on the Missale only with his reference to 1939. I would happen to agree that 1939 would mark a point of departure as far as the Missale itself is concerned, leaving aside the question of the kalendar. His post made no mention of the Breviary, which of course, has its own point of departure in 1911, and I suspect he would agree with that assessment of the BR. I also suspect he is in favor of a return to local Uses, which I think would accomplish the 1570 proposition without stating such that that is what is being done.

    CTO aside, a case can be made for Pius X's kalendar system, taken in isolation apart from the Psalter. It's still similar enough to what came before it at least to order the days. I think we need a gradual approach to undue the damage. Right now, I think we are transitioning from a hard 1962 adherence to an openness and some experimenting with the pre-Pacellian elements. This opens the door to further investigation into orthopraxis in the Liturgy. The felix culpa of Benedict's abdication is the growing questioning of Liturgy by papal fiat as a matter of principle.

    1. This is all quite silly. The Catholic Church is not going to go back to 1570 and "start over." That suggestion is so divorced from reality as to be next-to-impossible to take seriously. Among the spectrum of traditional Catholics out there, there are probably less pro-1570 (or pro-pre-1911) voices out there than there are Catholics in Antarctica. As noted, 1570 was not a golden year. I am sure an argument could be made for an earlier time than that, each claiming that their person preference ought to be the starting point. What principles are being used? What is the basis for the principles? Is there even a basis at all? Etc.

      The defense of the 1962 books is exponentially less rabid than the over-the-top attacks upon it. Everyone knows the story of Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX using them as a litmus test for sedevacantism and so forth. The problem is, nobody has produced a compelling argument that the 1962 books are spiritually and/or theologically damaging. Sure, they are imperfect and betray a very clumsy approach to liturgical abbreviation, but neither charge renders them the traddie equivalent of a clown mass. A supermajority of traditional Catholics aren't even aware of the changes that were made. Very few pray the breviary. (And before someone starts arguing that they ought to, show me a time in Church history where, outside of public recitation, the laity frequently prayed the office.) It's really a debate that concerns clerics and liturgical nerds (no offense -- I consider myself one as well). As for the missal, most of the changes from 1939 to 1962 are, again, unnoticeable to the laity. The absence of a commemoration or two at Mass is trivial; it's certainly not essential to the Mass itself. While I fully support their reintroduction and praise groups like the Institute of Christ the King for never dropping them (at least in Chicago), they are, at best, secondary considerations (maybe even tertiary).

      There is more going on in and outside of the Church than the liturgy. The 1962 books do need a thorough looking at for the purpose of re-aligning certain elements with discarded features from the Church's earlier patrimony, but they will suffice for now. The harder -- and far more practical and beneficial -- work is making sure that the vetus ordo continues to grow in the Church and that more and more faithful are brought to the beauty and richness of the traditional Mass.

    2. Read what I actually wrote and the explanatory comments of above readers and you may learn that your cathartic explosion of words is reacting to a parody of what you imagine my views to be.