Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ultramontane Holy Week

Until quite recently, good discussion on the rites of Holy Week was not readily available. In the past few years traditionalists have found themselves able to critique the rites of Pius XII on their own merits and often reverted back to older usage irrespective of last year's Ecclesia Dei (RIP) indult. Consideration tends to focus on the antiquity of the older rites, their more popular appeal in terms of ceremony, their theological cohesion, and their greater conformity to the traditional liturgy.

Once upon a time the best and most powerful objection was that the 1955/6 Holy Week represented an experiment with the Pauline reforms in mind. The FSSPX accepted the changes as did a large congregation of sedevacantists. The hold outs in the old days tended to be sedevacantists who would not touch anything that smelled of the new rite, regards of its own demerits. As such, we find Anthony Cekada respectfully telling Pius XII that he would prefer to retain the Presanctified Mass on Good Friday because Paul VI, his successor, later wrote that the Pian changes were meant to evolve the reformed liturgy. There is no question of the rites themselves representing something troublesome or ill-fit for use because a pope published them.

In this stance, the Reverend Father Cekada represents an older form of Traditionalism that looks back to the halcyon, Ultramontane days before Papa Giovanni and upholds their standards as normative, whereas modern, mainstream Traditionalists who recognize Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope find him wanting and are cured of whatever Ultramontanism Pius XII or Benedict XVI may have planted (the former by desire and the latter by his good deeds). Indeed, could the revival of Holy Week in the Trad world have transpired without the less legalistic, more pastoral papacy of Francis?


  1. I see this side of Fr. Cekada quite well, when he insists Pius X's reform of the Breviary wasn't much different from that of St. Gregory the Great and St. Pius V (although both latter popes hardly changed the length of the hours), and that the Supreme Pontiff is the legislator and whatever he says goes (although how he justifies going against Pius XII is pretty weak, to tell the truth; picking and choosing which is orthodox since the there is no Supreme Legislator is quite problematic in a number of ways).

  2. I suppose the 'conversation' does have some amusement value but I cannot think that is anything but a fantasy. I am quite convinced that if Papa Pacelli did travel back through time he would be appalled at the idea of anyone, without exception, daring to oppose anything that the Vatican structure had promulgated. I have no doubt that Fr. Cekada (and many others) would feel Pacelli's wroth PDQ and find themselves vitandus excommunicates.

    There seems to have been some obscure process whereby anyone who spent anytime at Econe had their critical faculties muted and their contact with reality lessened. Pius X's reforms were radical and unprecedented. Whatever the higher arguments about supposed weekly recitation of 150 Psalms etc whatever was the excuse for changing the antiphons of Sunday Vespers when the psalmody itself was not changed? This was pure change for change's sake and produce of an all engulfing Ultramontanism.

    In 1913 Pius X promised a wholesale general liturgical reform but death took him before he could motivate this objective. It is no coincidence that this idea was picked up again with the establishment of the historical section of the SCR thirty years later.

    As to the argument, to which 'Paul' alludes above, that the Supreme Pontiff can do whatever he likes it does not make any sense to say this is true of Pius X, or Pius XII but not of Paul VI.

    1. Rubricarius,

      True, but I think Paul, above, was alluding to the sedevacantist supposition that because there is no Supreme Legislator one may do whatever one deems orthodox.

      Chiron's book discussed in a prior post, utilizes the internal discussions of the Pian commission to confirm that Pius XII indeed had an interest in a more extensive reform than what he accomplished. From what has made its way into English from Pius X and Pius XII's days, I wonder if they'd have supported such an extensive revision of the Ordo Missae itself; they were certainly interested in the kalendar, music, and, in Pacelli's case, vernacular, but the Ordo perhaps not.

  3. RadTrad,

    Proposals from the early 1950s that were certainly seen by Pacelli such as getting rid of the prayers at the foot of the altar, introducing a two or three year cycle of pericopes, reducing the number of Signs in the Canon and genuflections, re-ordering the prayers after the Pater noster etc are well documented elsewhere.

    It is worth bearing in mind that Jungmann's first paper at Maria-Laach in 1951 was about reform of the Ordo Missae and the next on perceived issues in the Canon.

    This post, and several recent ones, all touch on the same issue. I believe there is an interesting dichotomy in that whilst it is generally true to say the the majority of the Council Fathers were not in favour of significant changes to the liturgy there were powerful Curial forces, with the backing of Pius and Paul, that were very much in favour of change with the growing idea that simplification and, supposed, return to ancient practices would be a huge pastoral success.

    The tragedy is that as soon as any change received open papal support that muted any criticism. To the Ultramontanist mind criticism of a Council, of bishops etc is fine but criticism of a pope is another thing altogether.

  4. Rubricarius,

    There seems to have been some obscure process whereby anyone who spent anytime at Econe had their critical faculties muted and their contact with reality lessened.

    It might be more that the unreality came with them - projects like these draw the intense and highly idealistic to begin with.

    But I think we also need to be fair to them, too. The 1960's amounted to a genuine revolution which would have been badly disorienting to even the most balanced and holy Catholic mind. But these were also men who had drunk deeply of the ultramontane liquor which Papa Pacelli had imbibed, too.

    The liturgical revolution was only possible because two phenomena came together: 1) Post-Enlightenment rationalist and primitivist impulses (drawn most immediately from historical critical schools but with obviously deeper roots, as we know from Geoffrey Hull's fine work here), and 2) an ultramontane understanding of the papacy sufficient to mute all opposition. Early traditionalists like the main sedevacantist players (such as Fr Cekada) were happy to fire the former out the airlock, but were far more unwilling or even unable to reexamine the latter. Thus it is not a surprise to see his argument against the 1955 Holy Week operates only on legal and prudential grounds, rather than theological ones.

    We might not be Fortescues quite yet, but it is remarkable to see how traditional Catholicism has been able to open up modern understandings of the Papacy - so universally received over the previous century - for reexamination. And Francis's pontificate surely has been an accelerant in this chemical reaction.

  5. It seems that their choices are not limited to the Holy Week. Breviary.net which is affiliated with Fr. Cekada's group uses pre-1955 rubrics for the whole year.