LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Right Rite

If you read many ‘traditional’ blogs, I think you will rapidly come to agree that many of those who write them, although grateful in principle for Summorum Pontificum, are not really enthusiastic about it, because for all sorts of reasons they simply don’t want the 1962 Mass : although further research will show that, although they almost all maintain that some other specific Rite is the only ‘genuine’ one, they’re not exactly united in their opinion of which one that is.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, they all seem to ignore the point which the Holy Father implicitly makes in Summorum Pontificum; namely that prior to Vatican II, the development of the Roman Rite was essentially an organic one – that there was, to use Fr Tim’s favour phrase, a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ – and that the real problem with the Novus Ordo was not that it changed things, but that there was at the same time a ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ which led to the unnecessary ejection of many babies and much bathwater simultaneously; and that it was really that, and not just the new Rite, which so damaged the liturgy.

If you want to persuade me that the 1955 Roman Rite is the best of all possible options, I’m entirely open to conviction on that point; but I’m equally open to being convinced that the original Missal of Pius V is best, or the Sarum Use, or even the Rite as used by Tertullian . . . but at the end of the day, whatever I finally decide, my choice is only a ‘snapshot’ of one point in the (essentially) organic development of the liturgy which happens to appeal to me, and to my particular viewpoint : and it has no more inherent logic or authority than that.

As I think I’ve said before, organic development is – I believe – part of God’s will for the world; it is how His Church retains its relevance to a world which He created with the ability to develop, and to which He gave ‘self-determination’, however much we (and He ?) may regret those generous gifts. It might well be very nice for us to have the liturgy go back lock, stock, and smouldering thurible to Pius V, or the Use of Sarum; but whether that would achieve much in terms of persuading today’s world that the Church had anything to offer is a very different question.

The Holy Father has very generously made it clear that those of us who prefer the Traditional Form of the Mass not only may have it, but indeed must have it if we want it, because our right to it never disappeared. At the same time, he is the Pastor of the Universal Church, and as such – it seems to me – he also has both the right and the duty to ensure that every part of the Church retains in contact with God’s world; and it ill behoves any of us to dismiss his generous concern by suggesting that the way in which he relates it to the needs of the Church as a whole is misguided – still less actively wrong.


  1. Where can I find what the Mass was like in Tertullian's day?

  2. I do understand the sentiments behind this post. Seems that after Vatican II, the papacy has become even more of a structure for various lobby groups within to try and gain precedence for their aims and objectives. Still, the Holy Father is called to be a servant of tradition and not give into novelty.

    Its going to take a very long time to put back all the worms that came out of the can.

  3. It can all get somewhat technical,can't it? It seems to me that there is a danger in all of this, not unlike that fallen into by many of the heretics down the ages, of somehow imagining that one has found a superior "route"- "what the Church really ought to be saying", "what the Church really ought to be doing". Intersting as isthe question of what Mass was like in Tertullian's day I would rather not end up a heretic like Tertullian!

  4. "..namely that prior to Vatican II, the development of the Roman Rite was essentially an organic one.."

    Can you please explain how this is so. The reforms of Pius V were carried out by a commission of experts in the sixteenth century. The reforms of Clement VIII and Urban VIII were too. More recently a commission of experts worked very quickly indeed, a matter of weeks, to produce the reforms of St. Pius X. Pius XII appointed members to a commission for reform in 1948, they produced a new Holy Week and two rounds of reform of the calendar and breviary amongst other things.

    So why when Paul VI appoints members to a commission e.g. for the reform of the Order of Mass (Wagner, Franquesa, Righetti, Schnitzler, Hanggi, Jounel, Jungmann, Agustoni, Gelineau, Vagaggini and Bouyer) is this different?

    Surely organic development is contrary to the very idea of committee work reform. One can argue that local customs and variations became enshrined into liturgical praxis as part of organic development but the setting up of commissions to undertake reform? To draw an artifical line and call committee work before the Council 'organic' and, by implication, committee work after the Council 'inorganic' seems at best sophistry. Pius X and Pius XII can set up commissions to reform the liturgy but Paul VI cannot - that seems very judgemental and unfair on Paul VI.