13 July 2014

Straw In The Wind

I managed to get hold of a first edition of O'Connell's Celebration of the Mass which he published in 1940.  It is interesting for all sorts of rubrical reasons but I must say that I was caught by the following (O'Connell is discussing Custom):

"On the other hand it is very difficult to establish a real custom contrary to liturgical law (as found in the rubrics and in general decrees of the SRC) because of the resistance of the Holy See, owing to its desire for uniformity in matters liturgical.  a) SRC in its decisions admits the force of custom only in minor matters and for particular cases (it seldom approves of a general usage contrary to the rubrics); b) each new typical edition of a liturgical book is prefaced by a decree approving its contents 'contrariis non obstantibus quibuscumque'; c) the volumes of the decrees of SRC are approved with a special decree containing the same clause; d) each new general, or equivalently general, decision of SRC has this clause also, and decrees of  special moment add the words 'etiam speciali mentione dignis'.

Decisions of SRC which oppose existing usages at once abolish these - and this even if they are immemorial - for they prevent the consent of the legislator which alone can change a usage into a custom."
Now, there is a lot about the SRC not worrying too much about minor things: the use of a wooden stand instead of a cushion to support the Missal during Mass, for example; but we can establish from this that in 1940 the author of the manual which would become the standard for priests in at least England and Wales took as read that Rome wanted uniformity in matters liturgical and felt that it had the power to abolish anything contrary to any decision it took in this regard, no matter that the custom might predate Pius V.

This is not Bugnini's fault: at the time O'Connell was writing this Fr Bugnini was a curate only four years ordained and still not marked out for liturgical study. 

This is yet another example of the fact that the worm had got into the apple before Pius XII became Pope.  It is saying that the Pope can make any change he likes to the liturgical books simply because he is the supreme legislator, and that an appeal to custom cannot bind his hands.

These are deep waters.


GMMF said...

I've enjoyed reading your posts on liturgical history, but I think this is a case where you will keep finding this authority asserted and used the farther back you go, all the way to the beginning of the Church. It was not made up in the 20th century.

In the 19th century, Bl. Pius IX clearly asserted the authority of the Apostolic See over the liturgy in his encyclical Omnem Sollicitudinem and that only the Apostolic See could approve innovations or permit the usage of rites, no matter how old.

Even Quo Primum of St. Pius V is founded on the Pope's authority over the liturgy. Even though he chooses to leave untouched rites of a particular arbitrary age (200 years), he makes clear that this choice itself is an exercise of his authority.

The Council of Trent, in the 21st Session, declared: "It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, it may ordain,--or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places."

The Pope of course exercises the full authority of the Church, so since this power is in the Church, he can exercise this power.

Trent proves this power is in the Church by demonstrating that St. Paul claimed this power and exercised it: "And this the Apostle seems not obscurely to have intimated, when he says; Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. And indeed it is sufficiently manifest that he himself exercised this power,- as in many other things, so in regard of this very sacrament; when, after having ordained certain things touching the use thereof, he says; The rest I will set in order when I come."

St. Gregory the Great himself exercised this authority, probably moreso than any other Pope until Paul VI. He not only significantly revised the Roman rite and stated his authority to interfere in the rites of Constantinople if appropriate, but, as St. Bede notes in his well known history, he gave St. Augustine of Canterbury the authority to cobble together a new liturgy for the English people if he thought it expedient.

If the Church of the first few centuries had the authority to develop new rites or modify existing ones, then so does the Church of the 20th century and every century in between, otherwise, it wouldn't be the same Church.

From a moral standpoint, the Pope should choose to exercise this authority in all prudence and discretion, but that is ultimately a matter of his private conscience. His authority in this regard is public, however, and always has been.

If Christ did not want this authority in His Church, He would have written a Missal Himself. For better or worse, He left it in the hands of His ministers at the beginning, not just in the 20th century.

GMMF said...

Sorry, just to add one more point to my already too long comment: reaction to the Protestant Reformation was really the end of organic liturgical reform and development and the beginning of the more active role of Rome and her experts (St. Pius V explicitly entrusted his reform to a committee of experts, for example, although even St. Gregory noted some parts of the Roman rite at his time were composed by "scholastics").

But while prior to that time liturgical change and the development of rites were more organic,grass roots, and diffused throughout the whole Church (rather than exercised primarily from the top down), as I noted above, Rome still claimed that authority and exercised it sporadically because it claimed to exercise the authority of the whole Church.

So while the authority was always claimed and exercised, the more active micromanagement on Rome's part (which is what you may actually be most interested in) really began with Quo Primum.

Ttony said...

Thanks for your comments.

The research I'm carrying out at the moment suggests that there is a qualitative change in the twentieth century. I hope to blog a week by week Ordo next year for the Church in England and Wales in the 1860s which is as different from the 1950s Ordo as 2014 is, but in a different direction.

When people discuss Pius X's reforms, it tends to focus on his changes to the Office, rather than the Mass. The changes in the calendar affect both equally, but it is the Mass rather than the Office that affects the rhythm of the layman's life.

Rubricarius said...

Good luck Ttony with the idea of a comparative Ordo - it will be very interesting to see. Indeed the liturgy in 1860 was very different from that a century later. The 1860 vintage though was, apart from new feasts, virtually the same as had been celebrated for centuries even including the revisions following Trent. The changes of 1911-13, and 1951-1970 were unlike anything that had ever happened in the history of the Roman rite before..