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:
- 1900-1910: the ancient rite, although swollen with Double rank feasts.
- 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.
- 1955-1964: the liturgy of Pius XII. Deranged Holy Week, novel kalendar system, reduction in many prayers, and experimentation in the liturgy to come.
- 1965-1969: the liturgy of Vatican II. The Pian (XII) rite without Prime and with varying degrees of vernacular.
- 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.