The Development Of The Roman Rite
By Michael Davies
The Universe is the Catholic newspaper with the largest circulation in Britain. On 18 May 1979 its principal feature article was by one Hugh Lindsay, Bishop of Hexam and Newcastle. The Bishop's article was entitled "What Can the Church Change?" It was a petulant, petty, and singularly ill-informed attack upon Archbishop Lefebvre and Catholic traditionalists in general. It is not hard to understand why the Archbishop is far from popular with the English hierarchy, and with most hierarchies in the world for that matter. The Archbishop is behaving as a true shepherd, defending the flock from who would destroy it. He is a living reproach to the thousands of bishops who have behaved as hirelings since Vatican II. They not only allow enemies to enter the sheepfold but enjoy nothing more than a "meaningful dialogue" with them. The English Bishops are typical of hierarchies throughout the world. They allow catechetical programs in their schools which leave Catholic children ignorant of the basis of their faith or even teach a distorted version of that faith. When parents complain the Bishops spring to the defense of the heterodox catechists responsible for undermining the faith of the children. The English Bishops remain indifferent to liturgical abuse providing that it is initiated by Liberals. Pope Paul VI appealed to hierarchies throughout the world to uphold the practice of Communion on the tongue. Liberal clerics in England defied the Holy See and the reaction of the Bishops was to legalize the practice. The same process is now taking place with the practice of distributing Communion under both kinds at Sunday Masses. There are no stern words from Bishop Lindsay for priests who do this. Two English bishops are signatories to the three notorious Agreed Statements in which Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Papacy has been betrayed. But Bishop Lindsay is not concerned with censuring those who betray the faith, only those who uphold it. The situation is by no means unique in English history. The same thing happened in the sixteenth century when St. John Fisher upheld the faith in the face of apostacy by his fellow bishops. He was a living reproach to them just as Archbishop Lefebvre is a living reproach to so many bishops today. Bishop Lindsay's article poses a serious problem. He is either extremely ignorant or extremely dishonest. His article is so at variance with the truth that no other alternative exists. It is, of course, part of the traditional faith that we put the best possible interpretation upon the actions of those with whom we disagree and so I will conclude that the Bishop is an ignorant man making a fool of himself in public, rather than a wicked man deliberately trying to deceive the Catholic people. It is one of the spiritual works of mercy to instruct the ignorant and so I shall duly instruct the said Hugh Lindsay. As he made his ignorance public I shall make his lesson public. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that there can be occasions upon which the public rebuke of a prelate is a duty. Well this is not even a rebuke, it is a lesson, an open lesson.
The Bishop begins his article with a rather labored attempt at irony:
The people who call themselves "traditionalists" say the Church can change nothing. When we introduce lawful change they call us enemies of the Church . . . The Archbishop [Lefebvre] and his followers are often named "Tridentinists" after the Council of Trent but Trent is against them. In 1563 (Session XXI, Chap. 2) the Council declared that the Church always has power to make changes in the sacraments, including the Holy Eucharist, providing that their substance is safe-guarded.
Session XXI took place on 16 July 1562, but let that pass. What matters is that the Bishop's irony is not simply labored but unjustified. No responsible traditionalist has ever claimed that the Church has no right to modify any of the sacramental rites, which is presumably what Bishop Lindsay means by his sloppy phrase "to make changes in the sacraments." What traditionalists have done is to make specific criticisms of specific changes—a very different matter. No one with experience of the traditionalist movement would deny that there are some ill-informed traditionalists who sometimes exaggerate. This is understandable; unlike bishops, laymen and the ordinary clergy are not presumed to have expert knowledge of theology. Bishops are presumed to have such knowledge which makes Bishop Lindsay's ignorance somewhat culpable. It is even conceivable that some indignant layman, outraged by the latest liturgical abomination, has written to the Bishop claiming that "the Church can change nothing." Somehow I doubt it. However, Bishop Lindsay makes his accusation general—he does not say that one traditionalist has made this accusation, or even some, many or most. He makes his charge against all traditionalists which makes him appear ridiculous. If he cares to consult Appendix I to my book on the new ordination rite, The Order of Melchisedech, he will find that it is entitled "The Substance of a Sacrament" and deals in some detail with the right of the Church to make changes in sacramental rites.
Having attempted to ridicule and misrepresent traditionalists by accusing them of something they do not maintain, Bishop Lindsay continues the task of making himself appear ridiculous with a series of statements which it is hard to believe can be explained by ignorance alone. However, this is the interpretation which we will put upon his words even though it requires a conscious effort to do so. Three of these statements will be considered here.
1. Pope St. Pius V used the Church's power to make the changes in the Mass requested by the Council of Trent and to issue a revised Roman Missal in 1570. In exactly the same way Pope Paul VI made the changes requested by the Second Vatican Council and issues a revised Roman Missal in 1970. 2. So the "traditionalists" who don't like the revised Mass rite must themselves seek the guidance of the Church and make sure they are truly informed. 3. There have been some changes in the way Mass is celebrated but not in the Mass itself. The priest usually faces the people now and prays in English not in Latin. Some features have been restored, like a greater choice of readings, the homily, bidding prayers, and the offertory procession. Archbishop Lefebvre and others talk as though the revised rite were an un-Catholic prayer service. However, the essentials are mentioned even more often than they were in the older Missal. I will deal with the three statements in sequence.
1. Pope St. Pius V and Pope Paul VI revised the Missal in exactly the same way. Yes, I repeat, Bishop Lindsay really did make this claim. I have the relevant copy of The Universe open before me, I have consulted it again, and that is what he has written. The major part of this article will be devoted to examining the development of the Mass of the Roman Rite up to the reform of St. Pius V. This will make it clear that the reform of Pope Paul VI is totally without precedent in the history of the Church. Its closest parallel is with the reform of Thomas Cranmer. Note that I do not claim these two reforms are identical—I claim that close parallels exist. I have demonstrated this in great detail in my book Cranmer's Godly Order (which was banned in all the Catholic bookshops in Britain). As I will show, the reform of St. Pius V left the Mass virtually unchanged. He did little more than codify the existing liturgy. This great pope did not invite observers from heretical sects to advise him on the reform, he did not remove from the rite of Mass almost every prayer to which a Protestant could take exception. St. Pius V did not allow the Latin heritage of the liturgy to be cast aside or Communion to be distributed by laymen, in the hand, to standing communicants, and under both kinds. St. Pius V did not authorize the celebrant to improvise at certain stages in the Mass; he did not authorize a new canon (Canon II) which Protestants have stated they can use in good conscience.1 Let it be noted that Vatican II did not mandate any of these changes. It ordered that changes must not be made "unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them." Did the good of the Church genuinely and certainly require the changes I have just listed? Has there been a marked increase in Eucharistic piety? Has Mass attendance increased? 2. Those who do not like the revised Mass rite must seek the guidance of the Church and make sure they are truly informed. Obviously, the Bishop means that we must obtain the guidance of bishops like himself. The guidance he and his ilk are likely to provide has been made clear to those who have consulted them in such matters as defective catechetical instruction, sex-education, the support of Catholic organizations for movements calculated to advance Marxism, and even deviations from the new rite of Mass itself. The equation "Guidance of the Church=Guidance of the Bishops" does not always apply. It did not apply during the Arian heresy, it did not apply in England during the reign of Henry VIII. In order to become "truly informed" the faithful may have to weigh the guidance of certain bishops in the light of tradition. The question to be answered with regard to the liturgical reform authorized by Pope Paul VI is whether this reform can, in fact, be reconciled with Catholic tradition. The answer is that it cannot; it is unprecedented in two thousand years of Church history, as this article will demonstrate. 3. The changes in the Mass consist of the vernacular, Mass facing the people, etc. etc. As I have already shown the reform of Pope Paul VI does go somewhat beyond these peripheral matters. The most astonishing claim in this section of the Bishop's article is that the essentials of the Mass "are mentioned more often than they were in the older Missal." I would suggest a simple experiment to the Bishop Lindsay. Perhaps in some murky recess of his cathedral there may still remain a copy of the older Missal which has not been destroyed or thrown upon the trash heap by zealots of the "Conciliar Church." If he does not have a copy I would be happy to lend him one. The essence of the Mass lies in the fact that it is a propitiatory sacrifice offered to the Blessed Trinity by an ordained priest for the living and the dead. Let the Bishop go through the Order of Mass in the older Missal and the new Missal and see how many times sacrifice is referred to in each. Should he find it mentioned more often in the older Missal perhaps he would print a retraction in The Universe apologizing for misleading its readers. On the other hand perhaps he would not, similar errors have been pointed out to Bishop Lindsay before but there have been no retractions. He is better at denouncing than retracting. I have already provided a detailed analysis of the reform of Pope Paul VI in my pamphlet The Roman Rite Destroyed. This pamphlet provides a total and fully documented refutation of Bishop Lindsay's ludicrous assertions. In this article I propose to provide sufficient information on liturgical development within the Roman Rite to prove that the reform of Pope Paul VI constitutes a break with tradition.
To Be Continued...