First, the beginning of the [long delayed] series on the early traditionalist movement is a few weeks away, but close. The first three entries with be on Msgr. Alfred Gilbey, Mrs. Mary Ball-Martinez, and Abbé Quintin Montgomery-Wright. The last two have proven challenging objects of research, particularly the obscure Mrs. Martinez. We will also be reviving our series on the Lesser Known Fathers next week with the challenging Shepherd of Hermas.
Reproduced below is a cleaned up version of an e-mail to a reader who wanted to know about the emergence of the neo-Gallican "Jansenist" rites of France. It represents the final thoughts I have on the matter. My thoughts can only apply to the Missals. The breviaries departed more heavily than the Missals from the received tradition, particularly with regard to the distribution of psalms, which inspired the 1911-1913 reforms (did Papa Sarto violate Quo primum's older brother, Quo a nobis I wonder?):
The neo-Gallican rites are complicated. France had local rites galore. I am starting to think that the Norman liturgical family (which includes Sarum, Rouen, York, Dominican, maybe Braga and many others) may be somewhat distinct from the Roman. See here.
I am unsure as to just how different the rite of Paris was, for instance, from the others originally. If you go through some of my older posts on the Parisian rite—for instance—you will find that I compared some of the propers (variable daily texts) from a Missal from 1300 with the 18th century books and found considerable variance. While the Sarum/Dominican/Norman tradition often had unique texts on the great feasts, the Parisian Mass was almost exactly the same as the Roman rite that was codified in 1570 and used until the mid 20th century, word for word! This suggests that the Parisian rite was perhaps a distinct rite from the Roman in other regards (ceremonies, the Divine Office etc), but used the Roman texts originally. However, this may not necessarily be the case. In the Middle Ages—hell, everywhere before Trent—Mass differed diocese to diocese and sometimes even within single churches. Priests in monasteries and cathedrals would be assigned one altar in perpetuity for their daily Masses and would celebrate as they wished at that altar (the fact that no one dared touch the Roman Canon for 14 centuries should show you just how strong their sense of tradition was). We have no idea where in Paris that Missal was used or by whom. The University of Paris was constantly at odds with the local Archbishop, so the popes placed the university under the Holy See's direct jurisdiction and protection (St Thomas Aquinas and Innocent III were both students). Could the Missal have been used by the University in school services as part of their patronage under Rome? Could it have belonged to a Roman priest studying there? Could the Roman rite have been used everywhere in Paris? Not enough remaining manuscripts to come to a conclusion.
Regardless, the Parisian and French rites were closer to the Roman rite originally than the books I examined in my blog series (all 18th and 19th century). The books I examined had either been altered in text (many propers changed) or in translation (ditching the Old Roman psalms for the Vulgate psalms of St Jerome). The Ordo Missae of Rouen and Paris are the Roman Ordo Missae with French modifications, not the Norman/Sarum/Dominican Ordo Missae.
What I think happened was that after Trent most of France took on the Roman books because bishops did not want to have to monitor and approve liturgical changes when some office of monsignori in Rome could do it, leaving the bishops to their own devices. Over time, the people and clergy of those various dioceses using the Roman books became disillusioned for many reasons and sought to return to their heritage or to insert new content. Some features like the available alternative readings for ferial days (when the Sunday Mass is repeated during the week) would be restorations of the Norman practice. Others are interpolations of Norman features into the Roman Mass (like the archbishop giving the pontifical blessing during the Canon of the Mass and reciting the Last Gospel in the recession to the sacristy rather than at the altar). And some others are just different altogether (see the Secrets and post-Communion chants for many weekdays and feasts). While Gueranger cried Jansenism, I see no evidence for it (and plenty textual evidence against it) other than the [puzzling] octave of St Augustine, which was only strange but not heretical by any means. What I think happened was a conflux of:1-a resurgence in classical education and Latin literacy being expressed in very vivid new texts
2-a revived liturgical interest in the local clergy and the people of the dioceses, wanting their own traditions back
3-desire on the part of the bishops to curry favor with the kings of France by demonstrating their independence from Rome
4-boredom with the existing, rather tame ceremonies (compare a Roman high Mass with the Pontifical Mass in the Lyonese rite that I described here)
Clearly, the neo-Gallican books were justifiably called neo-Gallican and not just Gallican. Some of their changes were bad, but I think many were good for their local tradition (like the Palm Sunday rites in Paris). While the texts had some anti-Roman elements (like the psalm translations), that means the books needed adjusting, not discarding. Roman wanted to end the neo-Gallican uses for some time, but could never quite do it until the middle to late 19th century. Whether it was because of centralization or orthodoxy, I cannot say. I am inclined to say that the neo-Gallican books do continue a unique tradition in those dioceses because Roman could not entirely apply Quo primum, which bans liturgies less than 200 years old, to those rites. They may have been rites similar to Rome's initially, yet still unique enough to call rites. Pius VII officially recognized those rites as part of his peace with Napoleon. Then came the Liturgical Movement, Gueranger etc.
All right. End of rant. Does that clear things up?