A recent post on the Archdiocese of Washington blog by Monsignor Charles Pope, How a Paragon of Liturgical Tradition May Have Caused Unintended Effects, has gotten a good bit of attention in traditional circles.
In this post, Msgr. Pope attempts to make the case that the unilateral changes made to the Roman Breviary by Pope St. Pius X in 1911, which “arguably did away with almost 1500 years of tradition,” set a precedent for the “sweeping changes” that were inflicted upon the Mass by Pope Paul VI.
This premise leads Msgr. Pope to posit that “the Liturgy is just too important to have it all depend on the notions of one man, even a holy man like Pius X.”
As such, he imagines that the best case scenario is one in which the local bishop enjoys enough authority over the liturgy to prevent a future ham-handed pope from inflicting his personal tastes upon the Mass as it’s celebrated in his local Church, while at the same time keeping a sufficient degree of control in the hands of the pope in order to prevent “too much diversity” in the way the Rite is celebrated in various locations.
Msgr. Pope concludes, therefore:
Traditional Catholics would also do well to understand the problems inherent in having an overly centralized control of the Sacred Liturgy. More needs to be done by traditional Catholics to build a foundation for good Liturgy in the local churches where they reside by building a culture that is respectful of tradition and sober about the pitfalls of depending too much on papal authority.
I have to disagree all the way around, beginning with the premise.
The changes that were made to the Roman Breviary by Pope St. Pius X in no way set a precedent for the destruction of the Mass that took place at the hands of Paul VI for several reasons:
Monsignor Pope himself suggests the first of these when he states that “the issue may seem minor to those unfamiliar with the Office…”
Since the great majority of Catholics have little exposure to the Liturgy of the Hours, when a pope makes changes to the Office such as Pope St. Pius X did, he does so knowing that this will have but a limited, or perhaps secondary, impact on Catholic life as a whole.
Unlike the Breviary, assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is a precept of the Church that all must observe. Any changes made to the Mass, therefore, will necessarily have an immediate, universal, impact on Catholic life.
Given the principle “lex orandi, lex credendi,” the drastic changes that were made to the actual content of the Mass by Paul VI quite predictably led to a change in the content of what is believed by those who pray it. (Based on the witness of the last fifty years, could anything possibly be more obvious?)
As such, the burden placed upon Paul VI to tread with caution relative to the Mass was exponentially greater than that placed upon Pius X relative to the Breviary.
All of this having been said, it is important to note that Pope St. Pius X, properly speaking, did not change the content of the Breviary, but rather the arrangement of the Psalter. Now, one may wish to argue that doing so was a poor decision, but the reality is that the changes that were made in this case were of a disciplinary nature.
The same cannot be said of the changes that were made to the Mass by Paul VI.
On these points alone, the comparison being drawn by Msgr. Pope falls short; it is truly a matter of apples and oranges.
And then there is the matter of Quo Primum and its binding effect on future popes…
Rather than attempting to restate the argument here, I invite you to view the video below wherein canonist Fr. Gregory Hesse (starting at approximately the 7:40 mark) argues that the Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570, as decreed in Quo Primum, cannot be changed by future popes.
As for the notion that less centralized control of the liturgy can reasonably serve to curb the kind of destruction that was wrought on the Mass by Pope Paul VI, this strikes me as a recipe for further disaster.
While the Pauline assault on the Mass was unprecedented in the extreme, on a much smaller scale, we already know what enhanced “local control” looks like and it’s not very pretty.
There is a staggering degree of diversity in the way in which the Novus Ordo is celebrated even now, not just between various Sees in a given nation, but even among neighboring parishes in a given diocese. If you think we have too much liturgical diversity now at the hands of those who have usurped an authority that is not their own, just imagine the effect that a codification of enhanced local authority would have!
Not only would this exacerbate the problem of endless innovation in the Novus Ordo world (setting aside for the present discussion the deficiencies inherent to the rite), it could open the door for the same disease to infect the traditional Mass.
The problem under discussion; namely, that of the post-conciliar liturgical changes that run roughshod over centuries of tradition, stems neither from there being too much control in the hands of one man, nor the precedent supposedly set by Pope Pius X, but rather from a derogation of duty and a stunning lack of sensus catholicus on the part of the one man in whose hands that authority was placed on 21 June 1963; Pope Paul VI.
It was this that opened the way for him to do what no other pope in the previous four hundred years would even dare.
What Paul VI did to the Mass was not just the “heavy-handed use of papal power” as Msgr. Pope suggested; rather, it was a grave abuse of papal power and a clear violation of what every pope from Pius V forward, at least until the time of Pius XII, understood to be the law of the Church.
For this there simply is no precedent whatsoever to be found in the pontificate of Pope St. Pius X.
While it is true that even a holy pope can make an error in judgment, if the sacred liturgy is first and foremost an action of Jesus Christ, and we know that it is, it is right that its regulation should rest largely on the authority of His Vicar.
The one thing that is most needed in order to rectify the crisis at hand, liturgical and otherwise, is a pope who has an ability to sentire cum ecclesia; that is, a Roman Pontiff who genuinely thinks and feels and is willing to act according to the mind of the Holy Catholic Church as made known throughout the centuries.
May the Lord in His mercy grant us just such a Holy Father soon.
Methinks it is an ignorance of liturgical history which gives rise to the minimalistic impression that only the Mass is of obligation to Catholics. Certainly, it is the only part of the liturgy that has formal, legal obligation, but historically simply to be Catholic meant more than going to Mass on Sundays, but also participating in the entire liturgical life of the Church. In the middle ages, public celebration of the divine office was part of Catholic life, and the faithful regularly attended. That died after the Council of Trent, when the importance of the liturgy was reduced to the Mass. Certainly the importance of the liturgy is centered around the Holy Mass, but that is far from all of it. I think it is part of today’s liturgical crisis that the Divine Office is not recognized for its true value, and traditionalist Catholics are just as guilty of that, in most cases, as the rest of Catholics.
So while Pius X’s reform may have had a much smaller effect on Catholic life as a whole than Paul VI’s, this is in part because the Divine Office was by that time largely forgotten already. After Trent, the Office practically became private prayer for priests, instead of liturgy, which is public worship. So it was no longer nearly as important as it used to be.
While it is true that the nature of Pius X’s changes was less in respect of the content than of structure, unlike Paul VI who radically affected the content, I think modern trads are too accustomed to thinking that only content is important. The arrangement of the old Roman Psalter was not arbitrary, it had its reasons, grounded in the particular spiritual traditions of the Roman Rite and its approach to liturgy. Pius X departed from some of the more essential principles of that tradition. Even though his product might not have anything intrinsically bad in it, it nonetheless was an instance of discarding a very rich tradition that could have been preserved. It was a true loss. It changed in an inorganic way how Roman Catholics had traditionally lived their faith through the liturgy, and it was a departure from the normal, slow, organic development of the liturgy through history.
No Pope in history before Pius X had ever used his authority in that way. History after the Council of Trent, especially after Pius IX, shows a dramatic increase in the use of papal power generally speaking. The pope started to have a personality cult, in which everything he says goes. The pope acquired more authority, or use it more, in liturgical matters, where traditionally the liturgy was regulated naturally by tradition and local custom. The pope became the sole arbiter of the liturgy. This development very obviously leads straight towards what we’ve got today, where it is considered rebellious to question what the Pope says, which is why we traditionalists are so ill-regarded. It is precisely that situation in which Paul VI carried out his reform.
Certainly, local control of the liturgy can have its abuses too. What we have today is a situation in which both papal power and local diversity are abused. Previously, they existed both in harmony, in such a way as to preserve and protect tradition, and foster organic growth of the liturgy. Local bishops all celebrated the liturgy with certain variations (many of which were quite beautiful), while the pope placed a check on too much innovation. But both were ordered toward liturgical tradition, and governed by it. Pius X was the first pope who carried out so extensive a reform that was not guided by tradition, but by his own personal whims. Then later in the 20th century, local diversity took a similar path away from tradition. So we have chaos today, which has resulted from a series of papal reforms of the liturgy that have run contrary to tradition, in addition to the rampant local “do-it-yourself” liturgy on top of that.
The liturgy, including the Divine Office, is, as Monsignor writes, too important to be constructed by any one man and his personal ideas, even if that man is the Pope. Dogma is the same way: it is not invented by the Pope. The only difference is that the Pope is infallible in matters of dogma. But in both cases, the Pope’s power is subject to the authority of tradition. Paul VI did not do that. And neither did Pius X. (Or Pius XII, for that matter, in his reform of Holy Week… But that’s a different subject.)
Pius X wrote well and taught excellently on the evils of Modernism. As I see it, the essential error of Modernism is to subject religion to man, and not man to religion. Strangely enough, Pius X himself subjected the liturgy to a man, namely himself… Did he fall prey, perhaps unwittingly, to the very error which he condemned?
Is Vatican I infallible or not? If it is, then the Pope is the SUPREME governor of the Church. Period. Pope St. Pius X had as much as a right to change the divine office as Pope Pius XII had to change the liturgy of Holy Week and Pope St. John XXIII to change the canon of the mass and Blessed Pope Paul VI had to introduce the new order of mass and Pope Benedict had to allow free access to the ’63 missal. Again from Vatican I:
Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.
“Methinks it is an ignorance of liturgical history which gives rise to the minimalistic impression that only the Mass is of obligation to Catholics…”
Thanks for the comments, Maestro, you make some good points.
To be clear, however, nowhere does this post even remotely suggest “that only the Mass is of obligation to Catholics…”, nor does it maintain that “The arrangement of the old Roman Psalter was … arbitrary.”
I had this in mind, from your article: “Unlike the Breviary, assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is a precept of the Church that all must observe. Any changes made to the Mass, therefore, will necessarily have an immediate, universal, impact on Catholic life.”
I only meant to make the point that the Divine Office is more important than seems to be thought, or assumed (at least in practice), by most traditionalists. If it is as important as I believe it to be, then Pius X’s reform was unjustified and was an abuse of papal power, and resulted in a true loss of liturgical riches. I’m glad you don’t think that the Divine Office is unimportant or the old Psalter arbitrary; most traditionalists, I imagine, might not have a problem with those issues in theory. But in practice, it is treated as of much less importance than the Mass, which seems to be what allows many to dismiss Pius X’s reform as insignificant, when in fact it was very significant. Paul VI was following an example set by popes like Pius X and Pius XII.
Also, regarding Quo Primum and Fr. Hesse’s opinion, I have written an article on that subject here: http://foretasteofwisdom.blogspot.com/2014/10/quo-primum-and-liturgical-tradition.html
Interestingly enough, it is a rather unknown fact that Pius V, a couple of years before he published Quo Primum, also published Quod a Nobis, which is the exact equivalent of Quo Primum for the breviary. Quod a Nobis establishes the exact same legal protection, “in perpetuity,” with the exact same language, for the breviary, as Quo Primum did for the Missal. This means that if the missal promulgated by Quo Primum could not be changed by future popes, and Paul VI violated it, likewise the breviary Quod a Nobis could not be changed by future popes, and Pius X violated that extensively.
I, for the record, do not believe that either Quod a Nobis or Quo Primum bound future popes, so I think we have to make a different argument, as I show in the linked article.
Its amazing that there is such nit-picking regarding St. Pius X, while so many swallow in silence what’s involved in the news regarding Team Bergoglio…and how his minions have confessed to committing grave crimes…it seems that too many are quite happy to keep the man, regardless of deeper questions… see https://fromrome.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/the-great-reformer-francis-and-the-making-of-a-radical-pope/
Oh sure… But nowhere is it stated that a Pope can’t abuse said authority for the worse and make stupid decisions now does it?
David had the authority to change battle tactics to kill Uriah in a round-about way. I guess that Nathan guy was just a crypto-sede for exposing David’s crime?
Should Captain Ganganelli just follow the orders or God’s ordained King who is the supreme authority over all Israel?
Ganganelli, there is also something called the Second Council of Nicaea, which condemned ecclesiastical novelties! Here’s the canon in question: “If anyone rejects any written or unwritten Tradition of the Church, let him be
I just wonder if Monsignor Pope is playing the stalking horse for Cardinal Wuerl and his theological spin on things such as this. The God of Surprises waits in the wings.
Dear The Maestro,
You wrote: “..the liturgy, including the Divine Office, is…too important to be constructed by any one man and his personal ideas, even if that man is the Pope.”
We’d like to ask: if you object to Papal changes of any kind in the Liturgy, why then are you not insisting on a return to the very first Liturgy which Our Lord himself designed- at the Last Supper? ..and why not also the very first approved version of the Catholic Bible for the Psalter?
(Was Jesus not using the Jewish Seder Meal (at Passover), and reclining at Table with His Apostles all around Him?
[We were personally not very impressed with the attempts at “going back” which we experienced in the early 1970’s with N.O. priests- who insisted everyone form a circle around the altar.]
Also, regarding everyone using the Liturgy of Hours regularly, and reciting the Psalter daily; ; and the importance of the Mass. Two points, if you don’t mind:.
1. Most people we know don’t have the time or opportunity, to get to bed early enough to rise early to pray the Hours and the Psalter before going to work. Perhaps they could do it while driving, using a cd, but your expectations sound a bit unrealistic to us, in that area.
2. Can you tell us what is it you use to determine the relative “importance” of Praying the Hours versus the Mass?. We consider nothing to be more important than the Holy Sacrifice, in which Jesus comes to us personally in the Eucharist, and in which the redemption is re-enacted. How can you place a higher value on anything else?
I do not object to Papal changes of any kind, only to those which subvert liturgical tradition, as did Pius X’s and Paul VI’s.
True, not many people have time or opportunity for praying the office, but I didn’t say that they should pray the entire thing. Moreover, just because circumstances make something difficult doesn’t mean we can still aim for ideals.
My basis of judgment for determining the importance of the Divine Office is simply the tradition of the Catholic Church. Certainly it is not higher than the Mass, but its importance is ordered toward and centered around the Mass. The Divine Office and the Mass are not two different kinds of things, but parts of a single, whole liturgy. The old Code of Canon Law includes the Mass in its definition of the Divine Office.
That should be “…doesn’t mean we CAN’T still aim for ideals…”
Dear The Maestro,
Thank you for clarifying all of that. We had gotten a different impression from your first post about a number of those things. We don’t feel competent to speak about the Pius X’s changes–just have a lot of respect for him and his Holiness–but we do agree with your insistence that it’s good for everyone to try to participate in the prayers of the Church on a daily basis, and how closely the Liturgy of Hours dovetails with the Mass.
We’d mentioned earlier how impressed we were with the miracles worked by St. Pius X during his lifetime. The stories are very similar to those about Our Lord, except they took place in settings more familiar to us.
-One which amused us-tells of two extremely ill nuns who were taken by taxi to an audience with him. After asking to be cured, he asked them “why”?. They told him they wanted to be able to work for the Glory of God. He cured them both on the spot. They left, so completely healthy and full of joy, that the cabbie refused to drive them home, claiming he would wait for the two dying nuns he had brought there, and they couldn’t be them….
I think Our Lord spared Father Hess the papacy of Bergoglio. I can only imagine what he would be saying. Let us pray to Father Hess for guidance in the “Communion of Saints”.
For anyone who likes great child-harmony, but especially for those who speak Italian, St. Alphonsus de Ligouri gave this gem to the Church:
The Rorate Coeli -site posted a fascinating piece [ well worth reading in its entirety] called “A Christmas Special on Traditional Catholic History in Italy” – by Roberto de Mattei
–Well into his description of three “heroes” of the ongoing anti-modernist counter-revolution, [ and, as if in direct reply to your above-question,]
the author writes:
“Giovanni Volpe was an all-round man of the right- monarchist, anticommunist and traditional Catholic. Many of the meetings of the association “Una Voce” for the defense of Latin and Gregorian Chant..took place at the Volpe home. Volpe, himself, after the explosion of the “Lefebvre case”, was the author in 1976 of a work: La doverosa impossibile obbedienza (The Dutiful Impossible Obedience) in which he expressed these clear words:
“There is no doubt that obedience to the Pope is one of the pillars on which the Church is founded, but it is presumed that above it there is Revelation and that the Pope, to whom we owe obedience, is, in his turn, obedient to it and to the centuries old Tradition of the Church, not immobile, but not even in evolution with the world, with its dogmas, rites and customs, if it is true that Stat Crux dum volvitur mundus”
–“Obedience is owed to the Pope, but the Pope owes obedience to the Word and Apostolic Tradition.”
–” Obedience is owed to the Pope, but it is the duty of the Pope to give the character of possibility to this obedience.”
In a related entry in the above piece, the author relates this telling question of
Monsignor Lefebvre, who he says: “did not give the inflammatory speech that the media had expected, but explained calmly the reasons for his dissent with Rome:
“How is it possible by continuing to do what I have done for 50 years of my life – receiving congratulations and the encouragement of Popes, and in particular Pope Pius XII who honoured me with his friendship – that today I find I am considered practically an enemy of the Church?”
The problem with the N.O. Mass is the new theology. The post V2 church won’t admit it, but this “tongue in cheek” article says it all, Not really satire. It’s HERE!
I don’t think comparing the reforms of Pius X to Paul VI is an apples to apples comparison. There is a post on Rorate Caeli on this very topic entitled Divino Afflatu centennial – III The Centenary of Divino Afflatu and St. Pius X’s Breviary Reforms: A Personal Appreciation that goes into the reasons for the reform. It wasn’t just Pius X’s idea. I will try post the link after this, but it will probably get caught in moderation.
All that without mentioning the vernacular offering of brats & beer, pasta & chianti, pierogi & slivovitz, et cetera, et cetera…
sobieski – Very interesting. I enjoyed the link. Thanks.
Despite the reported increases in FSSP and SSPX attendance, the emerging picture of what lies ahead for the Faithful seems rather bleak, without Our Lady’s Triumph and the Collegial Consecration of Russia happening very soon..
As earth-shattering as the ongoing “Team-Bergoglio” self-excommunications are,-and they shouldn’t be underestimated, we agree– that road logically leads to even worse divisions at the top. Each cardinal has both enemies and supporters, who will be denouncing either the validity of the allegations against him or his denials of same. And with them all sworn not to discuss the conclave, can they even be forced to talk about these issues?
– What happens if Francis retires early due to ill health, or dies suddenly? What if (God-forbid) he named a successor before retiring, which is also a papal prerogative? And all this could be happening as own election’s validity is being seriously questioned–which it is. And are the Cardinals he is about to name in February, going to be valid Cardinals , eligible for the next conclave?
What a mess! Good thing we DO have Our Lady’s assurances, because the people in charge right now are really “making a mess of things” in obedience to the Pope’s directives..
Fr.Z shares this SNL skit. It’s somewhat relevant to the topic and the season…
Even the secular world doesn’t like the new liturgy!
–Here’s something you don’t see every day- A Jewish-born Atheist Confessingt how wrong he was about Pope Francis:
“..one of the most flawed articles of my journalistic career…so absurd it would be shameful not to admit it in public
..”If I were a Christian, some penance for the rash conclusions of 2013 would be in order….for Atheists- self-criticism is enough.”
..”I made the mistake of comparing him to his predecessors..”
..”I recognize today that the pope is leading a revolution in Catholicism, that must be observed and shared by the Progressive forces in the planet. I don’t know if he will be victorious, because the reactionary currents may still have immense strengths.”
WHAT HE’S MOST ASHAMED OF WRITING a year and a half ago:
–” The same dogmas are still standing…: the centrality of religious faith on political and social issues, the irascible combat against women’s right to the interruption of pregnancy, and the affirmation of heterosexuality as the only possible erotic-affective relationship.”
–… the Catholic Church presents itself with a new face, capable of captivating the world to the same ideas of all time.”
–“The rightwing finds, in this renewal, a good reason for enthusiasm.”
AND WHAT HE THINKS NOW:
“–Pope Francis has since then belied all these arrogant predictions.–Besides battling the Vatican court and their interests, he launched a crusade to take Catholicism back to being in touch with social movements, embracing their goal.
–He struggles to reform the Church’s discourse on civil rights, including subject that had up to now been forbidden, such as the welcoming of sexual diversity and the defense of women’s health when faced with religious dogma.
–He reached out his hand to the Latin-American left, supporting Progressive experiences and disavowing the links between Catholic organizations and conservative conspiracies.
–If that were not enough, pope Francis was decisive in the talks that led the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, after over fifty years of rupture.”
Hope the Faithful Cardinals are paying attention.
Yes, how all the atheist, God-hating, evil-promoting elite laud him. He is manna to them and their evil causes. Blessed Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle . . .
Dr. Alcuin Reid says in his book on the liturgical movement the St. Pius X considered changes to the liturgy as well but died before getting very far in the project. Also, although most lay people are unaffected by the Divine Office, monks are and the liturgical movement was driven by monks, especially Dom Lambert Baudoin.