Thursday, February 25, 2016

Liturgy & Law

I had wanted, and still do want, to post something on the architecture of Salisbury Cathedral for the Sarum series but I temporarily wish to divert into the matter of liturgy and law. Marko asks, not unreasonably, why we cannot be satisfied with the 1962 Missal and just do "what is in the book"? I answer precisely because of the question!

The liturgical changes of the 20th century were not uniquely the result of any one factor, be it vulgar theological trends, bad taste, poor scholarship, or bureaucratic centralization. All these things can be found in Eastern and Western Christianity at previous points in history; the Greek liturgy was standardized and centralized centuries before the Roman rite. What is at the heart of the problem and of Marko's question is just how far the liturgy is subject to positive law.

Positive law is the yielding to proactive legislation rather than prohibition. Pius X, Pius XII, and Paul VI all enacted what might be called positive law, mandating something new which came, troublesomely, at the cost of something old. Confusingly, positive law does not have a very healthy or well established disciplinary history in Latin Christianity. Traditionally the law confirmed custom and received, established practices; the law protected the lex orandi of the Church. For example, St. Gregory VII demanded clerical celibacy in Latin Christianity, something that dated back to the fourth century in the Western Church, which had a stronger preference for this status. Similarly, St. Pius V's bulls promulgating the Tridentine books nodded to local traditions of at least two centuries of continuous use and explicitly stated that those books could only fall out of public use if the bishop and the entire chapter of canons unanimously agreed to adopt the Roman rule. The real change may well have come with the erection of the Congregation of Rites in 1588, which did not stop liturgical custom, but it certainly chilled it.

Custom is a law unto itself, as Aquinas surmises in a passage posted from the Summa in our previous discussion. In HJA Sire's Phoenix from the Ashes, a good work with many flaws, he rightly derides the extensive efforts of reactionaries in defending their use of pre-Conciliar Missals on legal grounds: Paul VI clearly meant to suppress the existing liturgy, even if he failed to do so in a precisely way; those who resisted were not right on canonical grounds, but they were right on moral grounds. According to The Banish Heart Cardinal Quiñones's psalter was used one Holy Week in Toledo; the locals instantly recognized the departure from the received rites and forcibly expelled the canons from the Tenebrae service. One wonders if some Spaniard wrote a dubium to the Congregation in Rome first.

One commentator remarked that the difference between tradition and antiquity is continuity of use. Continuity forms the practice of the faith, it forms the believer, and it frames the worship of God. Antiquity is at best a way of understanding elements of continuous tradition. A return to the Roman liturgy as it existed before Pius XII or Pius X is simply a return to the received continuity, which is also the more historically justified legal mind of the Roman Church and a departure from newfangled positive law. Is the worship of God something applicable to positive law in the modern sense? The most remarkable indictment of the new liturgy's relation to the law is that no one has ever made an effort to improve it, only to celebrate it more reverently. It was clearly an experimental rite with minor variations from what was displayed before the 1967 synod in the Sistine chapel. Despite this, it has not developed its own tradition or been in the least synthesized with the received tradition. Is not interest in restoring the old rite more reflective of the conventional mindset of the Church?

After all, who would want to cross those hot blooded Spaniards?



  1. Hello!

    Since the new liturgy has been passed down from generation to generation for quite some time now, and is (to quote you) "the way [most Catholics] encounter with the Divine", doesn't it count as tradition?

    1. I'm inclined to say, using Pius V, that it should be abolished, since it has far less than 200 years of use. Antiquity and continuity of use, NOT one or the other. The Novus Ordo can't be considered as antique t all, but is a mishmash!

  2. In the cover letter to SP, Pope Benedict states,

    "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."

    Even though SP only allows for '62, Benedict's own words reveal the truth regarding custom.

    Now let us see those folded chasubles! Oh, and twelve prophecies on the Easter Vigil wouldn't be "harmful" either!

    1. VPL,

      I admire your enthusiasm, but then again many of the parishes engaging in restoration began with 1962 and have gradually been discovering the organic nature of the Mass and Office. I think some prudence and question as to the concept of liturgical law is necessary.

      Bring back the readings though!

  3. This brings up the topic of organic development of the liturgy. Do we know how liturgies "developed organically", or is this a convenient concept which no one knows exactly what it is? For example, was it bishops who would adopt new practices into the cathedral liturgy and these would spread as priests were formed/trained in cathedrals? I don't see a parish priest taking initiative in something like this, much less the laity.

    1. I believed that in the past they used the old trial-and-error method, keeping in mind the genius of each people. Thus the Gallicanized Roman rite was used in France, to suit the mentality of the Franks, etc.

    2. Or a Pope imposing a certain chant as protest against a certain Byzantine council.

  4. Again it's a very slippery ground.
    I see some good changes in the order of the Mass - e.g. restoration of sung Canon and Embolism. Some changes, like changes of the propers are an utter failure - like changing the Good Friday prayers. They were made to bow down to the sacred cow of political correctness. Even then we were the leaders of PC culture.

    But! But...
    What are we allowed to do and what should we do? Are we to ask permissions from the Apostolic See which will not be granted? Or are we to inform our bishops and convince them to return to some earlier practices without any allowance, just like that, and watch the rest do the same until the Apostolic See gives in to the "pressure"?

    I don't believe that something is good simply because it is the law. I'm not a legal positivist. But i wary of going against the law under pretenses of earlier custom - which was abolished - and customs can be abolished, and those which are abolished are forbidden to be resurrected.

    E.g. - sequences and tropes. There were a great many of them and formed a great and beautiful body of liturgical prose and poetry. They were abolished and nobody even thought of resurrecting them.

    Even folded chasubles - they were at some point restricted only to the penitential seasons - nobody wanted to extend the vesture to other seasons. Why? Because it was abolished even after a few hundred years of contrary usage.

    Baroque chasubles are contrary to tradition, but they still emerged, and what's more, ample, traditional vestments, were prohibited.

    So yeah. I am not the one who will be taking something from some arbitrary day and resurrecting it. I might like it. But no. I won't be doing that. It's not up to me.

    1. Well, still, it is liturgical anarchy, precisely because there was enacted so much positive law, that it was bound to rebound to the other direction, ignoring the law.

      As for sequences and tropes, I believe you're wrong on that. Prof. Dobzsay brought it up in his book concerning the Restoration of the Roman rite.

      As for folded chasubles and Baroque, despite positive law, they can't be forbidden. Priests are now realizing that the Pope is not arbiter of Tradition, but only should protect it, which it hasn't been doing for a long time now! If it looks like a slippery slope, it's because of all the mess of the past 200 years or so. People are allowed and did stop contrary usage from time to time, even at the time of St. Augustine, when they forced a bishop to use the old Scriptures instead of St. Jerome's translation. There's been too much of clericalism in the liturgy.

    2. "Or are we to inform our bishops and convince them to return to some earlier practices without any allowance, just like that, and watch the rest do the same until the Apostolic See gives in to the "pressure"?"

      This is actually not a bad idea, IMHO. This, coupled with individual priests on their own initiative, would show Rome and the bishops imposing only the Novus Ordo that the liturgy is not simple legislation and mere words but a living thing, just like the Mystical Body of Christ, and that there should be variation, even if not "approved" by modern authority.

  5. ...the locals instantly recognized the departure from the received rites and forcibly expelled the canons from the Tenebrae service.

    Would that our age possessed a few more hot-blooded Spaniards.

  6. This should be a good answer to Marko's objection:

    Here's a good excerpt:

    Besides the ancient Roman Tradition, Eastern Christianity (i.e. Byzantine Rite, etc.) preserved more fully the original and unified understanding of liturgical worship. Orthodoxy in belief and Orthodoxy as right worship are one and inseparable. For the East, Dr. Hull says, “Following the holistic approach of the Church Fathers, the Easterners refuse to make any practical distinction between the Apostolic deposit of Faith…and the body of individual traditions or immemorial customs (orthopraxis) that make up the Christian way of life.”[1] Or contrary to a somewhat common misconception heard today, classifying Tradition into “T” and “t”, which is in reality a false dichotomy because it presupposes that customs and rites may be discarded so long as doctrine is maintained, a notion completely contrary to the point here that right worship, which consists of the body of immemorial rites and customs received and passed down through the ages, precedes and gives life and definition to the truths of the Faith.

    1. I know all that and it still doesn't answer my questions.
      It seems to me you're just repeating yourself.

      To which point we hold on to orthopraxis when it's abolished? Can it be abolished? How do we respond to abolition? Do we resist as the SSPX do? Do we go sedevacantist? Do we separate ourselves and abandon the western notions of Papal primacy and supremacy, or deny 1st Vatican Council, or Council of Florence or whatever?

      How do you disobey the legislature of the supreme legislator?

      How do you defend the behaviour of st. Mary Norwalk in the face of today? How do you do it without sounding dishonest?

      Or is the only honest response to these questions "we do what ever the hell we wanna do, what suits our liturgical boutique and personal tastes, even if it means practical schism"?

    2. It is useless to pretend that it will all be fixed from the top down! "Practical schism," as you call it, is not of our making, but of our church leaders. It has always been the right of the laity to oppose innovations that threaten Tradition. That isn't schism on the part of the laity. I wouldn't call the opposition of the Spaniards to Quignonez's breviary schism, neither the opposition to St. Gregory's reforms, however good they were, nor the opposition of the Milanese to the imposition of the Roman rite. All those things, Papal primacy and the such, must be interpreted as they always were, in accordance with the full Deposit of the Faith. If the interpretations are wrong, they must be rejected, no matter how much authority is behind it. It is useless to appeal to law in the Roman church right now, since that law is so full of nonsense. Again, I don't see that we become schismatic by doing so, by asserting our right to liturgical Tradition, which we were robbed of slowly and ultimately culminating in the NO (despite whatever good it may have had brought).

    3. If priests didn't opposed the Novus Ordo back in the 70s, we would never have had this discussion IMHO and so thus accepting reluctantly that whatever the authority orders we do under obedience. Thank God for those priests who did, and braving the accusations of "schism" so that they could worship God in a more traditional liturgy.

    4. ""Practical schism," as you call it, is not of our making, but of our church leaders. It has always been the right of the laity to oppose innovations that threaten Tradition. That isn't schism on the part of the laity."

      That's what the eastern schismatics always said in respect to Rome.

      I get what you're saying but what i am looking for is an argument that's logically and theologically without reproach, wholly sound, and irreversible.

    5. St. Robert Bellarmine uses theological arguments himself that if the Roman Pontiff introduces customs contrary to Tradition, it is indeed lawful to oppose him and it doesn't equate to schism; if anything, it is the Pontiff that is in schism. I forgot where I read that, but it does apply directly to the liturgical situation, even if using that right may cause the unpleasant accusation of "schismatic."

    6. St Gregory the Great introduced liturgical customs which were contrary to tradition. The people rebelled, but the new customs prevailed. stuck and became tradition.

      What you're mentioning is from De Romano Pontifice book 2 chapter 29 - about resisting the Pope.

    7. I would argue that even though St. Gregory's reforms were radical, still the liturgy at that point wasn't exactly set in stone, and his reforms were only for his own city, not for anywhere else. And it must be admitted, that although he innovated, the reforms didn't weren't contrary to the whole of Tradition, although against the local ones in Rome. I believe the same cannot be said of the Novus Ordo as a whole. I also admit there can be some innovations; whether they'll be accepted or not is up to the people. In an ideal situation, the people should be conscious of their traditions and test innovations to see if they conform to Tradition. St. Gregory's reforms still conformed to Tradition, since they did come from the East, unlike the claims for Eastern inspiration for the Novus Ordo. I say this, bearing in mind that this is a pretty complex question.

    8. Everyone, enough talk of "schism" over folded chasubles....

      The idea proffered here is that the Church historically understands law as recognizing the liturgical traditions and customs of the Church, not dictating them. The older rites fit in with the traditional concept of custom, the continuous and developed use of a practice. As such, to dictate liturgy by means of positive law is inconsistent with the pre-Tridentine papacy and even with the pre-20th century papacy.

      I would like to add that St. Gregory's changes were made in his capacity as bishop of Rome, not as pastor of all Christians. The rest of Western Christendom adopted Roman practices in eagerness to imitate whatever Rome did, not because they were compelled. Would that it were still worth imitating!—Sistine screamers aside

    9. I think Marko is uncomfortable with the idea that inevitably many current useless and even unjust laws will be broken in the attempt to restore the liturgy.

      Still, I guess my point is that in order to continue restoring liturgy, it can't be helped that current laws would be broken, since there has been too much positive law overturning precious Traditions. Since the progressives have been ignoring current law, it would be good for those wanting to restore the liturgy to take advantage of that, although always going forward slowly and cautiously. There has been too much recklessness in the attempts at liturgical reform.