Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vatican II on liturgical preservation

Reposted from Feb 2014. The 'good bits' (from a conservative point of view) in Vatican II on the liturgy were completely without force during the reform which followed it. As Michael Davies wrote somewhre, the only passages in official documents which are of any real importance are those which allow what was previously forbidden, or forbid what was previously allowed. That's a lesson a lot of conservatives have been slow to learn.

Tenebrae: Solemn Offices of Holy Week, abolished in the Ordinary Form after Vatican II
This is what the Second Vatican Council  said about the Seasons of the liturgical calendar. (Sacrosantum Concilium 170)

The liturgical year is to be revised so that the traditional customs and discipline of the sacred seasons shall be preserved or restored to suit the conditions of modern times; their specific character is to be retained, so that they duly nourish the piety of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of Christian redemption, and above all the paschal mystery.

Not only is there no mandate to abolish the Season of Septuagesima, but it is clearly ruled out. Both because all the seasons are to be 'preserved or restored', and you can't preserve or restore something by annihilating it, and because this applied a fortiori to Septuagesima since it is part of the preparation for 'the Paschal Mystery', Easter, to which this passage (rightly) accords a special importance.

If you accept Vatican II, you'd better get over to Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form during this season. Because in the Ordinary Form it does not exist.

But we can say the same about a number of things. Take Latin. Here is Sacrosanctum Concilium again, section 36.

Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

You can't 'preserve' a thing by abolishing it. If you want to be faithful to the Council, you'd better attend a Mass in Latin. That will, sadly, be almost impossible in the Ordinary Form, so it had better be the Extraordinary Form.

Isn't this word 'preserve' interesting? Talking of rites in general, Sacrosanctum Concilium declares (para 4)

Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.

Following the Council, the Dominican Order effectively forbade the Domincan Rite, a situation which only changed with Summorum Pontificum in 2007. Forbidding something, however, is not a way of preserving and fostering.

The Dominican Rite: effectively suppressed after the Council
Of course the Council did mandate a liturgical reform. It says (50)

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance;

Again, it is impossible to preserve the substance of a rite by abolishing it. But that is what happened to the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel. The ancient Offertory Prayers were also removed, to be replaced with new ones with a markedly different 'substance'. They were not 'preserved'.


114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. 

Now music continued to exist after the Reform, but the process cannot be described as one of preservation. What existed before - Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony - was destroyed, with so few exceptions that, at its low ebb, they could be counted on the fingers of one hand, as far as the Ordinary Form is concerned.

Chant and Polyphony: for practical purposes they ceased to exist in the Ordinary Form

How about sacred art? Para 123:

Thus, in the course of the centuries, she has brought into being a treasury of art which must be very carefully preserved.

Again, 129:
In consequence they [clerics] will be able to appreciate and preserve the Church's venerable monuments, and be in a position to aid, by good advice, artists who are engaged in producing works of art.

To labour the point, art and monuments cannot be preserved by being destroyed. If it means anything, this clause means that what happened to St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, and to a million other churches around the world was wrong.

What are those who defend the liturgical reform to say about these passages? They can point out that Sacrosanctum Concilium is not infallible, since the only things in a General Council which are infallible are the anathemas (lists of condemned propositions which are found in every other General Council in the history of the Church, but which the Fathers of Vatican II eschewed).

They can point out that the practical decisions made in the course of a liturgical reform are prudential, and the guidelines given by the Council are generally prudential, and that applying them is prudential: in short, it is impossible to draw a simple line from doctrine to what actually happened in the reform.

They can point out that, as far as the law of the Church is concerned, the Pope has the authority to promulgate new rites, and the Council was actually not strictly necessary.

Defenders of the reform very seldom make these points, however: they prefer to ignore the problem. It is left to me to defend Pope Paul VI from the charge of heresy implicitly levelled against him by a liberal who thinks that deviations from Vatican II are incompatible with the Faith (or thinks that 'conservative' Catholics should think so).

The reason is simple: they don't want to shatter the illusion that those attached to the Traditional Mass are being wickedly disloyal to Vatican II, and have placed themselves irretrievably in the wrong. But if Traditionalists have done this, the reformers of the liturgy, and their supporters, have done it with knobs on.

Ruins of the Priory at Walsingham, visited by LMS pilgrims. From the point of view of
'preserving' sacred art, many Catholic churches haven't done much better since the Council.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Malta sinks

'Weep not for me, but for yourselves
and for your children.'
In World War II, Malta was described as the 'unsinkable aircraft carrier'. Well, it has sunk now. The Bishops  of Malta (both of them) have stated that anyone in an irregular union who feels 'at peace with God' should not be excluded from Holy Communion or from Sacramental Absolution: at least, that's what they seem to say. Readers can judge for themselves.

If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).


there are complex situations where the choice of living “as brothers and sisters” becomes humanly impossible and give rise to greater harm (see AL, note 329).

I wonder what would happen of a priest decided that an adulterer had not undertaken a process of discernment with the requisite humility? If he'd had humility, but not 'love for the Church'? Or maybe that his 'search for God's will' was not, as required, 'sincere'? Would Archbishop Scicluna congratulate such a priest for his pastoral sensitivity?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Photos of High Mass in Blackfriars

Yesterday the Oxford Dominicans celebrated a High Mass in their own, proper, rite, the ancient Dominican Rite, in honour of St Hilary of Poitiers.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

A footnote on Freemasonry

One of my favourite liturigical rituals, and one of the most dramatic and expressive:
the kiss of peace at High mass.
Further to my post on Freemasonry here, a comment left on my FB page is worth reproducing, from a mason.

Most Freemasons of my acquaintance are traditionalists in the sense that they value and appreciate traditional values, especially morality, so might there not be scope for traditional Catholics and Freemasons to be allies in the fight against the advance of inappropriate modernism? We could still agree to disagree on details of doctrine (Freemasonry is not, and does not claim to be, a religion).

In light of the Church's condemnations, the prospect seems a dim one. Perhaps Freemasonry may be a promising field for evangelisation. However, my experience of people who regard themselves as guardians of 'traditional values' outside the Church is that there is usually a lot less to this than meets the eye. A classic position of liberal elites shoring up the established order is trying to stop people not-like-us reproducing: the poor, the stupid, members of less favoured ethnic groups. I wonder what masons think about issues like that. Maybe they'll tell me in the combox.

All the same, the last word should go to Walton Hannah.

In general, Freemasonry is Scotland is more popular and relatively far more numerous than in England, partly because it tends to be cheaper, and because austere Presbyterianism has eliminated most of the colour, glamour, and ceremonial from Christian worship. When the soul is starved of these elements in religion, it will naturally tend to compensate for them itself in less desirable ways. It is not only the hostility of Rome that has left Masonry weak in Catholic countries.

Darkness Visible pp257-8.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A note on Freemasonry

Since Freemasonry is regarded as significant by Pope Francis, as well as many previous popes and in various private revelations by the Blessed Virgin Mary, I thought I'd try to educate myself a little about it. I can't say I've come to any very exciting conclusions, but I can recommend a couple of books, and make a few observations.

My interest has been in the philosophy (or religion, or ideology) of Freemasonry, as opposed to the extent it has, or fails to have, influence in local or world events. The second subject is one where reliable information is obviously going to pretty difficult to find, and I think that Freemasonic influence over the Church, specifically, is going to be of importance only if it is connected with a philosophy which is opposed to the Church's teaching. Many dubious people have had undue influence over the Church locally, or in Rome, over the centuries, but if what they are after is money or prestige then the damage they do to the Church, while real, is at least comprehensible and repairable. The ultimate threat to the Church, against which Christ has given his ultimate guarantee, is not prelatial nephews spending the revenues of dioceses they never visit on wine, women and song, or criminal gangs arranging flamboyant funerals for deceased mobsters, disedifying though these are, but the Church ceasing to proclaim the Gospel because of the influence of an alien ideology.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Will Pope Francis come after the Traditional Mass?

A recent Missa Cantata in Holy Trinity, Hethe, in Oxfordshire.
Having seen this story on Rorate Caeli and elsewhere, my own feeling, which I concede is very fallible and certainly isn't based on any very special intelligence gathered in Rome, is that Pope Francis isn't going suddenly to open up another front in the conflict he is currently engaged in. I don't see why that would make sense to him, at this point.

In brief, the story is that Archbishop Arthur Roche, formerly the bishop of Leeds in England and now the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship under Cardinal Sarah, has been charged with working to undermine in some way what was one of the key documents of the conservative counter-offensive in Rome, which took place from the mid-1990s to the end of Pope Benedict's pontificate: Liturgiam authenticam, an Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship published in 2001. This document is about the principles which should inform liturgical translations, and it completely overturned the consensus which had governed the dreadful translations of the 1970s, by saying that liturgical texts should aim not only for easy comprehensibility, but for accuracy, plus an elevated style which evokes the idea that one is engaged in a holy action. (Take note, Neil Addison, who never tires of criticising the LMS translation of the Ordinary of the Mass for doing exactly this. That's the price of fidelity to the living magisterium I suppose.) Unusually, Liturgiam authenticam not only supercedes but explicitely abrogates earlier documents about translations, which did not say this (for a flavour of those, see this):

8. The norms set forth in this Instruction are to be substituted for all norms previously published on the matter, with the exception of the Instruction Varietates legitimae (1994) ...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Epiphany in Oxford: photos


The celebrant was Fr John Saward, Priest in Charge at SS Gregory & Augustine's. We always have candles all round the church for Epiphany.