Tuesday 3 November 2009

Confiteor or not-Confiteor?

In the past, I have been involved in some disagreements over the traditional rites, largely for my careful adherence to the 1962 Use, to which some take exception. My adherence is often misunderstood as a principled upholding of the particular changes that had taken place to the rite by that date—people have said that they cannot understand my interest in the Sarum Use, while I insist on the 1962 Use in Roman Masses.
The blogger who appears in many places as 'Rubricarius' has a very good site raising awareness of the modifications of the rite prior to the Council, and he might be surprised to read that broadly I agree with him. I don't happen to think that the Holy Week services as reformed in the 1950s are better than the services that were celebrated before. I'm not sure, really, that Pius X did us a service in his reorganization of the Breviary (though I'm grateful not to have to say 18 psalms at Sunday Matins).
The point is that every age has tinkered to some extent: I remember seeing a Roman Missal of 1478, and there were quite substantial differences to that of 1570—not of the Ordinary, but things like Prefaces and Sequences. 
Where is the golden age that we can return to? Professor Laszlo Dobszay asserts persuasively that the real Roman rite is not to be found in the Tridentine Missal, which is actually a cut-down Curial version of it, but in an analysis of all the other Roman family Uses (Sarum, Paris, Freising, Premonstratensian, Dominican &c &c) which preserve the authentic Roman tradition far better.
The difficulty is that everyone would have their favourite Use and period once they come to rummage around in liturgical history. There is no one obvious Use that people can agree on. 
Except, hang on, didn't somebody say that the Church likes us to use 1962? Well, my personal wish-list would include things like the older forms of Holy Week, but for now, until things stabilize and, the traditional rites are happily bedded in once more as part of the normal worship of the Church, when we (the Church, I mean) can look at this again and see what needs amending or improving, well I will use 1962 for the sake of Unity, and wish that others would do likewise. I make no criticism of those who disagree with me; I just wish we were more united.


Ttony said...

Dear Father, thank you for posting this. If EF priests won't follow the rubrics of the 1962 Missal, how can we complain when OF priests play fast and loose with the current rubrics?

Mark said...

This is indeed an interesting subject, Father.

Ordinarily, I am like you and would want to use the '62 mostly.

Then again, I also agree with the 'Second' Confiteor for a number of reasons:
- it is really the Servers saying it in place of the Deacon;
- in a dialogue Mass it is important in its own right because it could be said to be truly personal to the Servers; and
- if any fault has been committed since the beginning, then all good to have another Absolution (just like a 'Sacrosanctae').

With the Holy Week rite I'm a little more conflicted... I do like the reformed practice of the vigil in the night, but I like the Subdeacon banging on the Church door on Palm Sunday, and some other parts of the pre-'55 rite.

I pray for, and hope to foresee and see, a day when things will be normalised with the Novus Ordo, and also certain overzealous 20th Century 'reforms' in the EF "fixed"!

Rubricarius said...

Thank you Fr. Sean for the compliment of having a good blog.

'Ttony' one of the issues, which I suspect Fr. Sean is indicating by his choice of title for his post, is that the 'EF' rubrics are hardly strictly followed by anyone.

The use of the Confiteor before the distribution of Holy Communion is too well known to comment. But what about bows to the altar Cross (abolished in the 1962 Missal except when the celebrant is at the centre of the altar), the use of the 'middle voice' at Orate fratres and Nobis quoque peccatoribus, the omission of the last Gospel on various occasions etc.

Celebrations of the 'EF' often routinely 'disobey' these changes because people don't like them.

When the "Heenan indult" appeared in 1971 it specified the use of the 1967 rite but everyone ignored it and carried on with what they had been using (generally what we would now describe as the 'pre-Pius XII' rite). The Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, the charming and much missed Geoffrey Houghton-Brown, wrote a letter to 'The Tablet' basically saying that the indult was all very well but that the use of the old rite was defended by customary law and that the old rite hadn't really been used since Pius XII's changes.

Fr. Sean's post gives a list of changes through history and I would agree with him. The Roman rite was better before Pius XII's changes than after them; it was better before Pius X's changes than after them. The variants on the Old Roman rite (essentially derivatives from the parish churches of Rome) that became the rites of the Religious and regional rites such as Sarum were, generally, superior to the litury of the Papal Court which, by necessity, became rather abbreviated as the officials had other things to do.

Surely, if one thing comes across from the history of liturgical reform, it is that 'liturgy by decree' causes immense problems. A much under appreciated case in point is seventeenth century Russia. A very authoritarian Patriarch, Nikon, imposed a radical reform because he believed the rites had become corrupted and had departed from 'pristine' forms. His model for these 'pristine' forms was contemporary Greek praxis which we now know had developed significantly from the time the Slavs first received the Greek books. The consequences were burnings of Old Believers and a schism which is only now being slowly healed.

The implication in Fr. Sean's post is that before centralisation there was for more variation at local level. I believe that was a good thing and don't think uniformity equates with unity.

As the compliler and publisher of a liturgical Ordo what I can say is that sales are now booming comparted with even five years ago. A quick search of blogs shews that the interest in pre-1962 liturgy is growing, not diminishing.

As a follower of the late Dom Aidan Kavanagh I strongly believe in the primacy of liturgical theology. What I find interesting, and indeed saddening, is that whilst many people see the importance of liturgy, and indeed liturgical theology by extension, so often this becomes relegated to secondary or tertiary importance due to jurisdictional issues. If the sole basis for celebration of pre-Paul VI liturgy now rests on legal positivism then any future backlash, which is likely, will be a disaster.

I believe a little more mutual tolerance could actually be rather beneficial for everyone.

Antonio said...

Did anyone in 1962 follow the rubrics of the 1962 Missal? I would venture that the most part of the clergy didn't, with the barrage of the changes that were coming in.

Do a pre-62 rubric or even rite, can hardly be compared to liturgical dancing. The former was lawful then and, in spirit, remains valid now. It's time to re-evaluate what is held as the "traditional" Roman rite.

Pastor in Monte said...

Thank you everyone, for your comments, especially Rubricarius.
Antonio: actually, I think that now is NOT the time for assessment. Now is the time for quiet re-establishment of the traditional forms in a commonly accepted shape as an alternative to the Novus Ordo. Time will show which one is the superior, if the level playing field which our holy Father has established is allowed to continue. We must not expect everything to be achieved in our lifetime. God, and the Church, think in centuries.

Annie said...

At least most people can now get hold of a 1962 missal. Until the 1962 is to some extent accepted by those who are currently, er, less than supportive of even that (given how hard it is to even get a 1962 Mass said in an ordinary parish where there is a demand for it and someone able and willing to say it), I don't think there's much chance of introducing people to all the older rites.

gemoftheocean said...

I for one am glad the 2nd confiteor is OUT.

The reason being that the server has already said it--and if they really mean what they SAY they mean regards the server doing everything for the people, then it should follow the people need not say it.

[Personally, I think the people SHOULD all say the confiteor when the server says it, and ditto the creed and gloria, if there are one. the clergy and schola get all too grabby with this in the EF. Dumb illiterate peasants are one thing, but there's no excuse for it now. Certainly not on a Sunday Mass (unsung).

The Eastern Rite is MUCH better, IMO, as regards what's assigned to the priest and people. Sorry, but Sunday Mass in the EF form is still entirely too "spectator like" for me.

Unknown said...

There is a very old-fashioned Anglican Episcopal chruch in Manhatten (Resurrection Church, with a website) that still does the very old-unreformed Holy Week Rites. Apparently you can still get real triple candles for Holy Saturday over there. I read somewhere recently that very few people went to them - or the Vigil of Pentecost. By the time I got involved as a young teenage Anglo Catholic in 1962 all that had gone.

Rubricarius said...


A very fair point but to me the issue is that we were using the older rites at one time.

In this country there were not insignificant numbers of priests, particularly in the North-West, who thought the changes in the 1950s would be reversed and so carried on using the 'pre-Pius XII' liturgy. In Rome itself the then Rector of the English College celebrated the pre-Pius XII Holy Week rites in 1956 and 1957 right under the nose of the SRC etc.

During the 1960s and 1970s some priests quietly continued to celebrate Mass as they always had done. Although not easy to find such Masses could be found with a little searching. When Fr. Peter Morgan was ordained by Abp. Lefebvre and came to England in 1973 this is what the 'Mass centres' he created used and Fr. Morgan attracted over twenty retired priests to join him.

What then became the SSPX in England carried on using the pre-Pius XII rites up until 1983. Indeed the SSPX published the same Ordo that I now produce until the same year. The LMS too tended to use the same rite and I know a good friend of mine still talks of a splendid LMS Ash Wednesday Mass at Blackfriars in the early 1980s when he first saw folded chasubles.

Everyone used arguments 'from immemorial custom' to continue doing what they always had. When I moved to London in 1990 I got up at an unearthly hour to get to the Oratory for Mgr. Gilbey's Mass at 7:30 each morning. He celebrated the pre-Pius XII liturgy until the day before he died.

In the 1980s the situation changed (not for the better IMHO) and other 'juridical' arguments took over. Interestingly the Old Holy Week rites continued to be celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem until 1997.

Fr. Sean mentions the splendid Sarum Masses that took place in Oxford (I wish I had known about them at the time). According to Quo primum and custom the Saraum rite is what we might call the 'natural' rite for England. However, when someone questionned the legality of using Sarum Rome came down like a ton of proverbial bricks and said it was not allowed.

Quite how they can presume to make that judgement eludes me as if anything can be described as the patrimony of the English Church it is surely the Sarum Rite. I do think our basis for what we do needs to be on firmer ground than the 'latest decree' otherwise when the next decree comes along and, possibly, says that is now illegal too we are in trouble.

Personally, I think the Use of Sarum would attract far less hostility than more recent recensions of the Roman Rite. Indeed my view is that its celebration would actually attract support from some of those intrinsically opposed to the 'Extraordinary Form'.

berenike said...

My university chaplain walked into a newly-opened Catholic bookshop, stopped in the doorway, took a look round, said "Never, in the history of the Church, have so many books been written about prayer, and so few prayers said!", and walked out again.

I'm rather with the vallic pastor on this one, both in general idea and in lack of stressing about it. I don't think there has ever been so much time spent talking about liturgy, and so little praise of God carried out. Some Catholic blogs or websites or Facebookers sound like Anglo-Catholics, the amount of time they spend on considering and explaining and making coy jokes about their liturgical preferences! ARGH!

Annie said...

Hi Rubricarius :)

I would love to see the Sarum Rite celebrated all over the place, nothing would give me a better buzz! But to most folk who have never had anything to do with any of the old rites, I think it might be thought even more off the wall than 1962 is, and that's hard enough to get people to consider. I'm not sure it would bring over the fundamentally entrenched. Those I have met who are, all seem to have more *ishoos* about the role of women than is healthy and like singing the Gathering Hymn. I'm not sure flagging up Sarum would ever persuade them.

Me, I'm not hung up about 1962, and I don't believe uniformity = unity either, so bring on the older rites. That said though, 1962 is a good intro in many ways, and you've got to work with what you've got.

Anonymous said...

Which "B" connects the Agatha Christie Indult, Archbishop Piero Marini and the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII? and why has no-one yet mentioned him in this discussion?


Bryan Dunne

Pastor in Monte said...

Well yes, Bugnini is always there, but I really think that we need to look deeper than the bogey man of twentieth- century Liturgy. I dare say Bug thought he was doing the Church a favour, and he would have been able to do nothing had the Church not been receptive at some important levels.

Berthold Kress said...

It is also my experience that in many places the Missal of 1962 remained dead letter (since it was only in force for two years I am not sure as to how many parishes actually bought it). I believe that never attended an Old-Rite Mass in Germany, in which the second Confiteor was omitted.

Since an increasing number of priests start learning the Extraordinary Form (instead of merely following what they had learned in their youth) the question of '1962' is become more urgent.

On the one hand I do appreciate if a priest wants to celebrate the Mass as prescribed by the liturgical books, especially since the chaos of the last years.

However, the 1962 books were never thought as permanent, they only make sense as preparation of a more radical reform (e.g. the abolition of the Last Gospel on Palm Sunday has no liturgical reason apart from making the faithful used to its general omission that came with the 1964 Missal, I believe).

Furthermore, as an MC I realized how impractical many of the provisions of the 1962 Missal are (e.g. there should be no Prayer at the Foot of the Altar after the Candlemass Procession - but since this feast has a very long Introit it forces the priest to wait endlessly for the choir to finish; and it is both illogical and impractical why the celebrant should be at the Sedilia during the Epistle but jog back to the altar in time to bless the Subdeacon immediately afterwards).

Some of the new provisions (e.g. the suppression of Proper Last Gospels or of many prophecies in the Easter vigil) directly contradict the Mandate of the Second Vatican Council to provide a richer selections of biblical lessons.

These questions do not seem to play a great role in the current debate, but it is really important that the competent authorities look into them and make sure that the liturgy that is permanently to be used as 'Extraordinary Form' makes sense and is freed from transitional features. The question is not to determine the date of the 'Golden Age' but to evaulate the reforms of the past and to make sure which did and which did not bring improvements.

Maybe trying to keep a discussion on these points alive could encourage authorities to give serious consideration to this topic.

Anonymous said...

As to the breviary - why not go back to the pre-Pius X arrangement of the psalms, but re-ranking most of the double feasts so that only doubles of the first class, and the more important double feasts of Our Lady, the Apostles, Christ the King, All Saints and very important local feasts displace Sundays?

Also, dispense priests not obliged to recite the office chorally, on Sundays, from Lauds, prime, terce, nones, and compline??

Also, during the week, clergy who do not recite the office in choir should only have to recite Matins, Lauds, one little hour and Vespers. If they want to say more, they can.

Unknown said...

I lean in my views toward Rubricarius. We are in a fluid period right now and to a certain extent I suspect there might be a bit of a grass roots effect in the future. After all, as Berthold Kress points out, the 1962 Missal was a transitional book and since the transition did not, in the end, work out all that well we might go back to before it. In this sense I suspect it might be advantageous that priests do NOT stick rigidly to 1962. We live in an interesting period. SP may prove to be more revolutionary than anyone expected.

Quiggles OP said...

Father Andrew Southwell celebrated the pre-1955 Holy Week services this year at St bede's, Clapham Park. I understand it all went well.