Monday, 1 July 2013

Tradition, Modernism, and Liturgical Change

The liturgical reform which occurred after the Second Vatican Council brought with it a host of problems for the Catholic Church. In this post I will attempt to argue that the Novus Ordo is a product of a Modernist or Neo-modernist idea of change, which rejects the notion of a stable tradition in the Church, both doctrinally and liturgically. I will begin by addressing the relevant teaching of Modernism on this point, and then I will specifically apply it to the Novus Ordo, explaining along the way what legitimate liturgical development means.

Pope Pius X, in his authoritative encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, explains that according to the Modernist heresy, religion has its roots and origins not in any external revelation, but in the subjective consciousness of man. Man has within him a subconscious need for the divine; hence he naturally tends to form religion, in order to satisfy this need. But because this need rests within man himself, and because man's needs are inherently changeable, constantly taking on different forms as man progresses and evolves through time, it follows that religion is therefore an inherently changeable thing, itself able to take on different forms. Thus, religion originates solely from within man, and as such it derives its truth and credibility from its conformity to man's ever changing inner needs and necessities. Thus, according to Modernism, the very substance of religion in its entirety can and should undergo a continual change throughout the ages; a religion which does not do so is not a true religion.

It follows that, in the Catholic Church, the Magisterium becomes merely a means by which religion, a changeable product of man’s consciousness, is given official sanction. Such sanctions are not signs of any kind of immutability or stability; they are mere expressions, which are themselves subject to the ever fluctuating tendencies of the religious consciousness. This applies to every aspect of religion. Thus, in Catholicism it must be admitted, according to this doctrine, that religion can and should undergo change in its dogmas, its disciplines, and its liturgies. Pope Pius explains that according to Modernism:
religious consciousness is given as the universal rule, to be put on an equal footing with revelation, and to which all must submit, even the supreme authority of the Church, whether in its teaching capacity, or in that of legislator in the province of sacred liturgy or discipline.(1)
Because the religious consciousness is the rule from which religion stems, even in the realm of liturgy, the very purpose of liturgy is to meet the inner need of giving expression to the inner religious sentiments of man. Indeed, the entire doctrine of Modernism is founded upon this concept of inner needs and necessities. Again, Pope Pius X explains:
For them [the Modernists] the Sacraments are the resultant of a double need - for, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities. In the present case, the first need is that of giving some sensible manifestation to religion; the second is that of propagating it, which could not be done without some sensible form and consecrating acts, and these are called sacraments. But for the Modernists the Sacraments are mere symbols or signs, though not devoid of a certain efficacy - an efficacy, they tell us, like that of certain phrases vulgarly described as having "caught on," inasmuch as they have become the vehicle for the diffusion of certain great ideas which strike the public mind. What the phrases are to the ideas, that the Sacraments are to the religious sentiment - that and nothing more. The Modernists would be speaking more clearly were they to affirm that the Sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith - but this is condemned by the Council of Trent: If anyone say that these sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith, let him be anathema.(2)
In other words, liturgy and the Sacraments originate, like all religion, from within man, as an expression of his religious sentiment, the forms taken on by his inner needs and necessities. It should be plain what conclusions must be drawn from this principle, namely that liturgy is subject to the changing needs of man, and therefore ought itself to be changed.

Pope Pius further explains that the authority of Church, whether in doctrine, discipline, or liturgy, has its origin in the collective conscience, as it were, of the faithful, again ultimately being subject to the whims of the religious consciousness. 
[The Church] is the product of the collective conscience, that is to say of the society of individual consciences which by virtue of the principle of vital permanence, all depend on one first believer, who for Catholics is Christ. Now every society needs a directing authority to guide its members towards the common end, to conserve prudently the elements of cohesion which in a religious society are doctrine and worship. Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical. The nature of this authority is to be gathered from its origin, and its rights and duties from its nature...Authority therefore, like the Church, has its origin in the religious conscience, and, that being so, is subject to it.(3)
As a consequence, religion must be in constant evolution. The Pope explains again, later on in the encyclical, that the Modernists apply this principle not only to dogma, but also to liturgy. For according to the Modernists:
To the laws of evolution everything is subject - dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself.... The chief stimulus of evolution in the domain of worship consists in the need of adapting itself to the uses and customs of peoples, as well as the need of availing itself of the value which certain acts have acquired by long usage.  Finally, evolution in the Church itself is fed by the need of accommodating itself to historical conditions and of harmonising itself with existing forms of society.(4)
This passage seems to be speaking of something very similar to the notion of "aggiornamento," an "updating" of the Church to the modern world; a notion which became popular around the time of the Second Vatican Council, under Pope John XXIII, and which Pope Paul VI adopted as the particular focus of his pontificate. The aggiornamento seems to follow easily from the principles of Modernism, for if religion and the Church are subject to the religious consciousness of man, then as man changes in history, so ought religion and the Church to change; and as is evident from the Holy Father's words, this applies to the liturgy as well as to doctrine. This teaching, along with all other teachings of Modernism, is condemned by Pius X as quite contrary to the Catholic faith. Thus, it must be concluded by the faithful Catholic that true religion cannot and ought not to change in its substance, and that it is stable before it. This is true of Catholic doctrine, discipline, and liturgy.

This being said, religion can legitimately undergo an organic development in those elements of it which do not belong to its very substance. Hence we have what is known as the development of doctrine, which consists not in a change in the doctrine in itself or its meaning – i.e. its substance – but in a movement from the implicit to the explicit, such that what was previously not clear becomes clearer. But in addition to this, in the realm of Catholic worship, there is also the organic development of the liturgy, which, again, consists not in any substantial change, but in a gradual development, in which the substance remains the same. Thus, development in the Church is always something which is subject to tradition, and not the other way around.

Granted, Catholic discipline is inherently more changeable than Catholic doctrine, for whereas doctrine concerns eternal truths of the speculative order, discipline is concerned to a greater extent with contingent realities of the practical order. But first, this does not mean that discipline is to be determined by the mere arbitrary will of the Church's authority, based on the arbitrary evolution of human needs, for Catholic discipline has a real connection to immutable Catholic doctrine. Nor can it be said that discipline in the Church is not guided by the same general principles of legitimate development which apply to doctrine. This is especially true of the sacred liturgy, whose very purpose is the external expression of the faith in the direct worship of God. As such, it is something which belongs at the very heart of the Church, for it is the prime means by which the Church expresses that which she believes, which is itself immutable. Liturgy is concerned to the highest degree with the immutable doctrines of the Church. Therefore, it is highly unfitting that liturgy be treated as an essentially changeable thing. This point cannot be too strongly pressed. It is of such great importance that Catholics have a very grave moral obligation not to bring about liturgical changes unless the good of the Church truly and genuinely demands it. Thus, while liturgy as discipline is admittedly more changeable than doctrine, by no means does this entail that the liturgy may be changed freely at all.

The only change that may be permitted with regard to the liturgy is that which does not in any significant way change its substance, and which occurs as a gradual process, for the common good of the faithful. Michael Davies, in several of his works (such as his article on The Development of the Roman Rite, and in his Brief History of the Mass) demonstrates that before the Second Vatican Council, the Mass grew by a gradual, organic process of development, such that when Pius V finally sanctioned the Roman Rite in the bull Quo Primum, he did not actually introduce a new mass of any kind. The mass of Pope Pius V – also called the Tridentine Mass – may be likened to a tree which has grown from a sapling, but ever remaining the same plant in itself. This is a true example of homogenous development, i.e. gradual change in which the substance remains ever the same. 

On the other hand, a simple study of the Novus Ordo, and a comparison of it to its Tridentine predecessor, reveals that it is in fact a complete rewrite of the Mass in its near entirety -- anything but an instance of organic development. The Novus Ordo is really and truly a different liturgy than the Tridentine Mass. The drastic nature of this change is, to quote Michael Davies, "totally without precedent in the history of the Church" (and he adds, "Its closest parallel is with the reform of Thomas Cranmer").(5) Cardinal Ottaviani wrote a brief but definitive critique of the New Mass, in which he stated that:
the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent...a grave break with tradition...
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in his preface to the French edition of Msgr. Klaus Gamber's study on The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, lamented the fact that:
[after the Council,] in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, a  banal on-the-spot product.
And of course, Msgr. Gamber himself writes the following words:
At this critical juncture, the traditional Roman rite, more than one thousand years old, has been destroyed...Was all this really done because of a pastoral concern about the souls of the faithful, or did it not rather represent a radical breach with the traditional rite, to prevent the further use of traditional liturgical texts and thus make the celebration of the "Tridentine Mass" impossible - because it no longer reflected the new spirit moving through the Church?"(6)
But this is also admitted by those who were responsible for the change. The nature of this change was conceded by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini himself, who was the main architect of the Novus Ordo. In his words, “it is a question … I can say almost [of] a recasting…"(7) "Tradition must insert itself in the historical context of every time, faithful to the doctrinal principles, but adapting itself on the practical level of actualizations."(8) And further, "[the liturgy] is the result of many factors, among them...the adaptions of forms of worship to the necessities of the times and the needs of souls."(9) Note here the prominence he gives to the concept of aggiornamento.(10)

Father Joseph Gelineau, one of Bugnini’s primary henchmen, enthusiastically insisted on the point that “it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.”(11) Pope Paul VI, in an address he made on November 26, 1969, spoke the following, truly stunning words, in which he admits of a break from tradition in the New Mass: 
We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of the Mass. This new rite will be introduced into our celebration of the holy Sacrifice starting from Sunday next which is the first of Advent, November 30 [in Italy]. A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. It seemed to bring the prayer of our forefathers and our saints to our lips and to give us the comfort of feeling faithful to our spiritual past, which we kept alive to pass it on to the generations ahead....We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits....So what is to be done on this special and historical occasion? First of all, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing.
In an audience on July 2 of the same year, he gave the reasons for the reforms which occurred after the Second Vatican Council, including the liturgical reform. Again, these are his words: "If the world changes, should not religion also change? . . . it is for this very reason that the Church has, especially after the Council, undertaken so many reforms. . . ." It is notable that in the same address he speaks in high praise of the concept of novelty.(12) Again, note here the prominence of aggiornamento.

Thus it is quite evident that the rite of the Novus Ordo is really and truly a substantial departure from the Roman Rite which had developed and been sanctioned by Pope Pius V. When even those figures who were responsible for the change insist that there has been a break in continuity, one wonders why anyone would attempt to argue otherwise.

What else can be concluded from this, except that the Novus Ordo is a product of the Modernist mentality? As we saw above, one of the many corollaries of Modernism is that the liturgy itself ought to change in its very substance, so as to adapt to historical circumstances and the needs and necessities of man. The Novus Ordo seems, by all appearances, to be exactly such a change, in every aspect save the sacrament and the sacrifice itself (it was thus saved from being a complete destruction of the mass). It represents a true substantial change of the Roman Mass.

Some may come to the defense and accuse us traditionalists of rejecting the authority of the Church in matters of discipline; for it is her authority which has given us the Novus Ordo. How then can we make such radical claims, namely that it is the product of a heretically influenced mentality? Should we not rather accept it humbly and gratefully as a product of the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit working in the Church? 

But such an objection cannot be justified unless it be posited that the authority of the current Magisterium must always outweigh the authority of the previous Magisterium as the standard of orthodoxy. Before Vatican II, it was held that it is tradition which constitutes the rule or standard for Catholics; for the tradition consists in the continuous authority of generations and ages of magisterial pronouncements, of which there is a great deal more than whatever novelties are promulgated by the current Magisterium. In other words, tradition consists in the great substantial continuity which exists between the scriptures, the writings of the saints, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the rites of the Church, and most importantly, the acts of the Magisterium. When there is not such continuity, there is not tradition. Thus, whenever the current Magisterium introduces something novel, the norm is to adhere to what is traditional. 

It is worthy of note that if one holds the current Magisterium alone to be the rule of orthodoxy, one submits, at least implicitly, to the Modernist teaching that religion must constantly be evolving; for if this is true, then it can only follow that the rule of religious orthodoxy derives from whatever happens to be current, i.e. the latest product of the religious evolution. 

This is not to deny the authority of the current Magisterium, but rather to affirm that the very nature and purpose of the Magisterium in general is ordered to the passing on of the tradition, i.e. the teaching of the faith and everything annexed to it, in the way that it has always been taught. This, rather than the invention of novelties, is the duty and purpose of the Magisterium. For the First Vatican Council proclaims:
the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.(13)
This applies indirectly also to the Church’s authority in matters of discipline, especially liturgy, because such matters are inherently directed to the expression of the doctrines of faith, and are connected to them by more than merely accidental bonds. I quote the words of Pope St. Leo the Great: 
Teach nothing new, but implant in the hearts of everyone those things which the fathers of venerable memory taught with a uniform preaching ... Whence, we preach nothing except what we have received from our forefathers. In all things, therefore, both in the rule of faith [and] in the observance of discipline, let the pattern of antiquity be observed.(14)
We have also the authority of the Council of Trent:
If anyone says that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, accustomed to be used in the administration of the sacraments, may be despised or omitted by the ministers without sin and at their pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones, let him be anathema.(15)
Hence, we have it on infallible authority that the liturgical traditions of the Church may not be so freely changed by any pastor within the Church. This must also include the Pope himself, for he is the supreme pastor within the Church. Indeed, this duty is binding upon the Pope in a very particular way, for while he alone is given authority over such matters, he is morally bound to keep the substance of the liturgical traditions intact. Again, in support of this I quote Cardinal Ratzinger, from The Spirit of the Liturgy:
The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity...The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of the Scared Tradition.(16)
From all of this, it follows then that it is tradition which is the rule of faith, the standard of Catholic orthodoxy, whether in doctrine or in discipline. Thus, whatever comes to us from the current Magisterium is to be evaluated in light of the tradition. Consequently, traditionalists act according to the principle that the present ought to be judged in the light of the past, and not the other way around. In general, if what is given to us in the present is in continuity with what was given in the past, it is accepted and venerated as part of the Catholic tradition and heritage. If it is not in continuity with the past, it is seen as problematic and a departure from Catholic tradition. It should be clear from this that traditionalists cannot be said to reject the authority of the current Magisterium as such; rather, they affirm its true nature and its limits, and they accept it accordingly.

According to this principle, traditionalists judge the Novus Ordo in the light of its predecessor, the Tridentine Mass, and discover that there is not a substantial continuity between them. Therefore the Novus Ordo is not in harmony with Catholic tradition, but is a true novelty, a substantial difference. As such it is part of the Modernist or Neo-modernist mentality, which alone can condone such a novelty.

All of this having been said, I do not believe that one may deny the validity of the Novus Ordo. Although it is really and truly a product of the spirit of Modernism, insofar as it is a radical break from tradition, nonetheless it does not in itself contain anything which would affect its validity. The rulers of the Church are morally bound to adhere to the rule of tradition in both doctrine and discipline, but this does not mean that while overstepping these bounds in disciplinary matters they are not protected from promulgating anything which is intrinsically contrary to the Catholic faith. Thus, while the Novus Ordo represents a drastic break from tradition, and while this is indeed a very grave problem, it is nonetheless protected, even if only barely, from actually containing anything which detracts from its validity. This is because the Church is gifted with disciplinary infallibility, insofar as the disciplines which she implements contain nothing which actually contradicts the doctrines of faith, even if they are ambiguous and misleading. This is contrary to the teaching of some extreme traditionalists who believe that the Novus Ordo actually contains error and is thus invalid. (Again, this is a subject which I hope to discuss later.)

But the theological problems of the liturgical texts themselves is a different problem for a different article, or articles (I've addressed some of those problems here). The essential point here is that the Novus Ordo represents a grave departure from the tradition of the Church, a change which can only be truly justified by a Modernistic theology. 

(Many of the quotes in this article were found in other sources, such as Don Pietro Leone's The Roman Rite, Michael Davies' books and articles, and Alcuin Reid's The Organic Development of the Liturgy.)

1. Paragraph 8
2. Paragraph 21
3. Paragraph 23
4. Paragraph 26
5. Michael Davies, The Development of the Roman Rite
6. Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Pgs. 99 and 100
7. Bugnini, La documentation catholique
8. Bugnini, La Riforma Liturgia. 
9. Bugnini, Why the Liturgy Reform?, an article published in a journal by the name of Worship, in 1955
10. There is, perhaps, a legitimate understanding of the concept of aggiornamento, i.e. an adaption to historical situations. Pius XII speaks of this in his encyclical Mediator Dei, and Bugnini often attempts to justify his reform on the principles laid down in that encyclical. (In fact, in the quotes given, he even uses similar wording.) However, in the same letter, Pius XII condemned the invention of novelties and innovations in the liturgy, even making specific mention of certain changes which actually did occur later under the Bugnini reform. It would seem, then, that Pius XII was speaking of a different kind of liturgical development. Consequently, Bugnini's attempts to justify himself on Pius XII's principles ultimately fails. Hopefully I will treat this subject with more depth in a later post.
11. Gelineau, Demain la Liturgie. 
12. I find Pope Paul's statements to be somewhat conflicted at times. For example, he admits quite clearly that there is a novelty of considerable degree, a break with venerable tradition; and yet in other places he insists that the tradition in its substance is preserved, that the New Rite has not come from nowhere, and he discourages the reference to a "new mass." He speaks in praise of novelty, and yet seems at pains to reconcile novelty with tradition.
13. Vatican IPastor Aeternus (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
14. Letter 129
15. Council of TrentSession VII
16. The Spirit of the Liturgy, pg. 166

1 comment:

  1. You should publish this in The Romish Papist, a fledgling traditional Catholic periodical. Contact Steven Alvey regarding this; he's looking for good writers on these topics.