Saturday, March 21, 2015

The problem with the old canard

A very good post that examines the fundamental problem with the theory of the "organic development of the liturgy" as expounded among many "new liturgical movement types."

Piety and an excessive concern for "Catholic identity" has obscured the historical fact of the liturgy being regulated and relatively formed by the bishop of the diocese (or abbot of the monastery) in the West. Consolidating regulatory authority to a centralized congregation that functioned as the administrative arm of the bishop of Rome runs contrary to the Western tradition. This is a crucial point, if only because acknowledging the historical fact seriously questions one of the most prized tenants of "organic development," that treats of the liturgy as though it were a nebulous, ethereal thing with its own laws, logic, and action. In truth, some bishop or some abbot made calculated decisions when regulating the liturgy in their diocese or monastery.

To ignore that the liturgy was regulated by the local church ignores how much imposition of Roman authority diverged from the Tradition. To ignore the historical (and very human) factors in the development the Western liturgies risks a very dualistic liturgiology. While such a liturgiology fulfills romantic notions of the liturgy, it fails to carry full historical weight of the Tradition in its argumentation. The very real justification for certain historical forms that have been lost in recent decades is therefore reduced to pious delusion.


  1. In short, if I may summarize, the problem with an alleged 'organic development of the liturgy', is that for the Roman Catholic Church, and for the last half of a millenium, there has been no such animal. For all of that time, the historical record has been plain that there has been top-down standardization of the Roman Rite, and minimization of alternative cognate rites (e.g., Mozarabic, Gallican, Sarum, etc.).

    Further, this standardization and minimization has been at the expense of the wealth of Holy Tradition, which has largely been lost as a result of the process. Further, the gains, particularly those of the reforms of Latin hymnography, the monastic Divine Office, and the recent changes in the Divine Liturgy, have been problematic at best.

    Would that be a fair summary of Patricius' and your own position. Because if it is, I would have to agree with you on all counts.

  2. For all intents and purposes, I suppose that is a good summary of my position.

    The challenge for the Western Church, particularly in Rome, is finding a way to undue top-down liturgics. I do not expect this to come by papal directive or perogative, nor do I think this will involve the "old" Latin liturgy at all. The books promulgated by the Paul VI, whatever their faults, will likely be the vehicle for this, if it is ever to happen. I would refer back to the edition of the Liturgy of the Hours published by the Kenyan Bishops. It is, as they say, "out of model" as pertains the translation of the psalter, some of the collects, and other material. But it is what the Kenyan church wanted to use and it carried Arinze's clout.

    Is this the ideal? From the stand point of the medieval liturgy, no. Then again, from the stand point of the Byzantine/Orthodox liturgy, the medieval Latin liturgy isn't much of an ideal. But it is a start nevertheless. We'll have to see where it goes.