8 November 2017

How do you tell whether liturgical change is 'organic'?

Some years ago, while looking through the library of the late and learned and very lamented Fr Michael Melrose, Successor Martyris as Vicar of S Giles, Reading, I spotted an unusual little volume (well, there were plenty of those: what a Library!): very slender, published in 1912, it gave the Psalter as rearranged by S Pius X. In other words, when S Pius made his revolutionary changes to the distribution of the psalms, you didn't have to buy a new Breviary; you bought the Slender Volume and used it in conjunction with your old Breviary.

But you did have to make some such provision to say the psalms in the new arrangement. The Decree Divino afflatu makes clear that if, after a certain date, you fail to fall in with the new order of things, you are not fulfilling your obligation to say the Divine Office. Fierce!!

In this, it differs considerably from the decree Divinam Psalmodiam of Urban VIII (1631). Urban's decree is full of fire-breathing menaces for anybody who shall print unamended texts after the decree, but he permits books already printed to go to the booksellers ... and books in the bookshops to be sold ... and books in use to continue to be used. In other words, Urban was content to rely on a gradual process of books wearing out and being replaced.

Something like this human and common-sense approach can be found as late as 1902 in the Edition of the Ambrosian Missal promulgated that year by Andrew Cardinal Ferrari. He required his new edition to be used "in virtute sanctae obedientiae", but with this let-out clause: "Concedimus tamen, aequis de causis, ut donec a Nobis aliter disponatur, vetera approbata exemplaria adhuc adhiberi possint; ita tamen ut nullum eorum ex quocunque titulo abhinc acquiratur ad Sacram Liturgiam peragandam". In other words, if you've got a previous edition in your sacristy, you may continue to use it, but you mustn't "acquire" another copy of that old edition.

It is my view that a rough but good and healthy rule of thumb as to whether a 'reform' is or is not 'organic' [vide Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II] is the consideration: Does it render all existing liturgical books totally obsolete after a certain date? When people defend the process of imposition under Blessed Paul VI of his new books by reminding us that changes had been made in earlier times, I don't think they realise the depth and rapidity of the Pauline rupture, compared with pre-1950 discontinuities. The same is true, of course, of the slash-and-burn approach adopted by Pius XII and his side-kick Bugnini to the ancient Roman rites of Holy Week.

Nobody is entitled to disagree with me about this if they have not compared, firstly, the Missal of S Pius V with the first printed edition of the Roman Missal a century earlier; and, secondly, the Missal of B Paul VI with that promulgated by his predecessor less than a decade earlier.

And there is no way that the printers could have confected a Slender Volume aided by which you could use an old Missal to say the Novus Ordo. The changes are vastly too massive.

And yet, curiously, although B Paul VI's decree Laudis Canticum was explicit in displacing and suppressing the Breviary hitherto in use, his decree Missale Romanum did not state that the Old Mass would be illegal after the New came into use. Was that an oversight? Did the canonists drafting it think that it was too obvious to need saying? I suspect that something like this may be the answer.

My theory is that this funny little lapse was the ground upon which a Commission of Cardinal canonists decided by a majority vote that the Old Missal was not abrogated - a verdict finally published and confirmed in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

17 comments:

Joshua said...

As I was discussing with a friend, if one reads nine lessons pro pia devotione rather than the three of a IIIrd Class a la 1962, this fulfils any obligation since the greater includes the lesser.

Yet while obviously to read the pre-1912 arrangement of the Psalms would be longer than to read the post-1912 arrangement, by Papal decree such a work of supererogation would be, well, of supererogation only, and would not suffice to fulfil the pensum sacerdotis.

Interesting...

MaestroJMC said...

Thank you for this, Fr. Hunwicke. This is a question I have been considering for some time, and discussing with friends who are sceptical of the very idea of organic development as something actually discernible and distinguishable from "inorganic" change. I still have a question about this... whether change is considered as organic only when it is SLOW enough, or whether, more fundamentally, it must also be in harmony with the previously existing tradition. For example, if the rite of Paul VI had been "developed" "slowly" in the manner you described, without being imposed in such a way as to automatically render obsolete previous uses, right away... Would it not still be a rupture, even if it occurred more slowly in this hypothetical scenario? And thus, inorganic? And is there a solid principle by which this would be established with clarity, say, by comparison to the existing tradition of the liturgy?

Fr PJM said...

But, if a priest prayed the entire Liturgy of the Hours early in the morning, he would be free to pray any old Office that he wanted, pro pia devotions, during the rest of the day.

The Archlaic said...

To go a step further: was that "funny little lapse" the work of the Holy Spirit? In due course it did prove to be quite providential...

Jacob said...

Father, this is most interesting and I thank you for it. I have always wondered just how "organic" change is supposed to take place. Father Z is always talking about how organic change is what needs to return rather than top-down implementations, but I've never seen him explain how that works in a world of "say the black, do the red."

"Organic" in the post-Tridentine world up to Saint Pius X seems pretty top-down to me, even if it is gradually implemented.

Jonathan Dandridge said...

In the software development world we have a concept of "deprecated" where a function or interface may still be used by existing code but new development should use the new improved version. We don't want users to upgrade and then find to their shock that they have to make massive and disruptive changes to their application.

It is unfortunate that the modern Church is not as solicitous of the needs of their flock when it comes to arbitrarily making massive and disruptive changes.

Arthur L. Gallagher said...

I suspect that a great many priests do not read their breviary at all, that others use whichever version they like, and that the majority struggle along with the horrible (current) edition put out by the Catholic Book Publishing Company, with its plastic cover, and its ugly "art"

The irony is that the priests who really obey the rules are probably the ones who would appreciate the older editions most.

Fr. Yousuf said...

Did Summorum Pontificum have the effect of undoing Paul VI abrogation of the old breviary?

nomothetes said...

Fr. Yosuf, I think this question hits the nail on the head!

Summorum pontificum does guarantee the right of ordained clerics to "use the Roman Breviary promulgated in 1962 by Blessed John XXIII."

Now, as Fr. Hunwicke mentions, Laudis canticum abrogates the old breviary in quite explicit terms. But then, at least with regard to the Divine Office, Benedict XVI. was able to undo a full and proper abrogation of a liturgical tradition carried out by his predecessor.

Therefore, it would seem that the proposition "the old missal was never abrogated" cannot be taken to refer to a mere historical and/or legal fact. If it did, the restoration of the old breviary could not be justified in the same way (which, as far as I can see, it was).

The more probable conclusion seems to be, not that the older liturgical traditions "were not" abrogated, but rather that they "could not" be abrogated, as a matter of a more fundamental theological principle. As such, any past attempts to abrogate them can (and should) be repealed.

See "On the pre-juridical aspects of Summorum pontificum", https://nequeliber.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/on-the-pre-juridical-aspects-of-summorum-pontificum/

Sadie Vacantist said...

Until the last gospel is restored then we will remain liturgically handicapped going forward. My problem with the current state of affairs in general is that the NO has rendered me a consumer. The TLM removes that possibility. The priest is in his World and I am in mine. I leave the Church pondering as to why we always hear that final gospel? Why that one? Not a bad question for a Christian to ponder. An organic development would have been to demand that the celebrant recite it Greek.

Pulex said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke, an very interesting take on the concept of development. I though until now that "organicity" refers not to the mode of promulgation, but, instead, organic development is the sum of disparate partial changes, introduced in different times and ways for different reasons, which only with hindsight is perceived as "development". In other words, there is no grand plan of "reform". It means that now, too, the organic development is going on, even if we are not conscious about it. One of its components might be the local reintroduction of various pre-1962 elements.

To Joshua: today, the use of pre-1911 Breviary would mean not just praying more, but praying different texts, except for the feasts where the festal Psalms are used.

To Fr. Yousuf: Yes, SP allows now to use the old Breviary according to its 1962 edition.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Following one what Fr. PJM writes, "But, if a priest prayed the entire Liturgy of the Hours early in the morning, he would be free to pray any old Office that he wanted, pro pia devotions, during the rest of the day," a "patrimonial" method would be to incorporate the offices of the LotH into an older version, much like many Anglo-Catholic clergy once recited the Canon and Offertory from the Roman Missal silently during an otherwise BCP service.

ansgarus said...

Very good point, Fr. Yousuf. If the church is not in a position to forbid liturgical practice dating from the earliest times - and what other could it mean when Benedict XVI stated

"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."

then this nullifies also the previous verdicts about century-old liturgical practice like the traditional Roman arrangement of the Psalter as basically preserved untouched in the Temporale of the pre-Pius X editions of the Roman Breviary and familiar breviaries.

I very much recommend everyone to recite at least one week the Matin psalms acc. to the pre-Pius X praxis, possibly adding also the missing 5 psalms out of the ferial Prime to the Sunday Matins. Even though the Matins, especially on Sunday, become longer, it is stunning how much more organic the arrangement is, because the psalms follow the order in the Psalter, and connections between Psalms which are close to each other can be understood much better. Moreover, it is possible to recite this traditional Psalter much smoother thanks to less interruptions, as there are no divisions within a Psalm (an element introduced by Pius' commission of a few liturgy experts, in view to the practice as usual f.i. in the Benedictine breviary, but absolutely unfamiliar to the Roman breviary which never used devisions until Pius X start of the liturgical revolution of the 20th Century, of which we are still suffering). Therefore, my experience has been, that the traditional Roman Breviary ends up almost same in length as the Pius X arrangements. However, Pius X was right in his restoration of the use of the ferial Psalter, and these his rules I would apply also if I would use a Pre-Pius X edition, e.g. application of the ferial arrangement of psalms also on semi doubles and minor doubles.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

It is surely arguable that St Pius X's rearrangement of the psalter was ultra vires and therefore an abuse - and that his attempts to invalidate fulfilment of the obligation according to the immemorial ordo recitandi were null and void.

Marco da Vinha said...

Thank you for posting this, Father! I have for years asked myself what is the meaning or "organic development" when it comes to the Liturgy and have never gotten a satisfying answer. It is a term which seems to get bandied about quite a bit. This post has given me a new perspective on the matter.

Tom Broughton said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke,

Why do some people refer to the "celebrant" as the "presider"? The priest who celebrates the Mass is called the CELEBRANT. Or better yet, why did Vatican II change the nomenclature from "celebrant" to "presider"? Can these two words be used interchangeably? Many thanks in advance for your time.

Tom

Rubricarius said...

I would echo both 'ansgarus' and 'Albrecht von Brandeburg' view. The re-casting of the Roman Office in 1911-13 was a triumph of legalism over tradition and praxis. The supposed aim of the Pian Committee could have achieved, as 'ansgarus' points out, by a simple change to a rubric and having the ferial cursus of psalms at Mattins and Vespers for lesser feasts of nine lessons.

Committee produced liturgies are the antithesis of organic development.