Wednesday, December 18, 2013

EF & OF: a note about the series

My post about the Novus Ordo being 'traditional' has turned into a series of posts, and I intend to extend this in response to comments and criticisms. Allow me to take stock a little.

I have addressed the claim that the Novus Ordo in in 'accordance with the Roman liturgical tradition'. In a sense it is: it is a legally promulgated, sacramentally valid Mass. (Members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate need have no qualms about swearing this.) In a sense it isn't: it didn't grow organically out of the previous edition of the Roman Missal. What I am most concerned about is that the second claim is legitimate: arguing for this doesn't make you a heretic, or, for those who prefer other terms, someone unfit to be a member of a religious order, or an unperson. After all, Pope Benedict implied precisely this in Summorum Pontificum.

Since we have to admit there are differences between the two Forms of the Roman Rite, the question arises about what their significance is. In my last post I pointed out that it is impossible for the Church to condemn the theology of a liturgical tradition as central the Church's life, and as long-standing, as the Roman tradition represented by the 1962 Missal. Again, cue Joseph Ratzinger (Salt of the Earth, 1997):

A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.

To those who wonder what all this defensive stuff is about, who is calling trads rude names, why trads can be so aggressive: just listen to what Cardinal Ratzinger is saying. For decades we have been told that 'the longing for [the EF] is downright indecent', and have been treated accordingly: as Ratzinger again said, like 'lepers': (Spirit of the Liturgy 2000)

Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here.

In the next few posts I am going to look at what Cardinal Ratzinger said about four differences between the OF and the EF. In each case these are connected with a theological issue: the new form seems to have theological implications at right angles to what the EF is saying. Cardinal Ratzinger's point, which I wish to make my own, is: first, these new theological implications (incompatible with the implications of the EF) are wrong; secondly, and partly for that reason, we can see that it is not being put forward by the Church's magisterium. Mountains of theology have been produced about these implications, and they may have been in the minds of the creators of the liturgy. But if they were not in the mind of the Church, if they were not part of the Church's perennial teaching, they should not be seen as asserted magisterially by the Novus Ordo, which was promulgated, remember, not by the officials who wrote it up, but by Holy Mother Church.

It is this which Cardinal Ratzinger meant by the 'hermeneutic of continuity', but I need to explain that some more.

The four issues are:

1. The language of sacrifice being taken out of the reformed liturgy.
2. The move from ad orientem to versus populum celebration.
3. The removal of silent prayers in the reformed liturgy.
4. The reduction of kneeling in the reformed liturgy.

I have created a 'label' for the series so from each post you can get them all: 'EF & OF: how they are related'


  1. Excellent idea and thankyou for your measured and sensible posts.

  2. Are the people who attack the claim that the new rite is not an organic development of the old also the ones who attack the theology of the old rite? Obviously these two positions are incompatible. If the two set of people are different, it is odd that the former set do not attack the later set as well as traditionalists - since the latter are denying the organic development of the liturgy.

  3. Well they can use the argument that the true meaning has been obscured by Medieval accretions until all was revealed in the NO as they understand it. But this relies on using the 8th century as the cut-off for postive development and all that stuff.

  4. Thank you, Joseph, for this valuable series.

    Your previous post shows that those who claim that the theology of the new rite corrects the supposedly heretical theology of the traditional rite take a logically self-defeating position. In this post you go on to point out that Benedict XVI, being altogether more intelligent, regarded it as axiomatic that the new rite must be (at least at the deepest level) in theological continuity with its precursor: his hermeneutic of reform in continuity.

    Now I take your point that what the creators of the liturgy thought they were doing counts for nothing against what the Magisterium has actually enacted: but doesn't that beg further questions?

    Does what the Magisterium said (or thought) it was doing count for more than the objective content of the reforms themselves? What do we actually mean by principle 'legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi'?

  5. The meaning of a magisterial act derives from its objective context in light of its context. Like the meaning of any statement.

    The kind of question which arises is, for example, Does the playing down of sin and penance in the Collects mean that the Church no longer thinks these things are important? It may mean that Bugnini thought that. It may even mean that Pope Paul VI thought that, as matter of *policy*, it is counter-productive to bang on about them. But the importance of sin and penance is ultimately a matter of doctrine, and (1) this doctrine is reflected by the liturgical tradition as a whole, and (2) it can't change.