The Liturgical Establishment

An “establishment” can colloquially be defined as a dominant group of people or school of thought in any field.  There is a radical evolutionary “establishment” that opposes any rethinking of “Darwinian Orthodoxy” (even from non-Christians like David Berlinski), a Climate Change “establishment” that refuses to acknowledge any scientists who posit that a global warm period could be beneficial, and a political establishment in nearly every country which will use any tactics to banish the rogues (like Nigel Farage, Jean-Marie le Pen, or Ron Paul) and belittle their ideas.

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Traditionalists in the latter half of the last century rose up in arms against one such establishment in the Church.  This group’s main philosophy was that the Roman Rite was antiquated and needed to be reformed to better reflect the modern world and the needs of the modern man.  The traditional laity and their few priests were frustrated time and time again when their initially reasonable wishes and concerns were dismissed as contrary to the wishes of Church “authority”.  Unable to make any progress by legitimate means, they turned to action that were technically “illicit” until more reasonable authorities forced the establishment to revise and moderate their stance.  Without traditionalist disobedience, their would be no significant traditionalist movement whether SSPX or “good behavior” (it would have limited to the fringe of SSPV-type or sedevacantist groups after the independent and retired old priests died out).

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Those who have followed this blog or that of his Tradiness for some time likely know that this establishment was already in place long before Vatican II and had been revising the Roman Liturgy since Pius XII, with their first test in 1950 on the Assumption Mass.  Using the reversal of Lex Orandi in Mediator Dei as their carte blanche, they changed Holy Week to the point where it was unrecognizable, added a feast to a suspiciously socialist interpretation of St. Joseph, overhauled the Kalendar in 1960, did away with a few octaves, and so on, and so on.  The enthusiastic and young Liturgical Movement of Jungmann and Bouyer became disillusioned quickly when their hopes of resuscitating a liturgy neglected by low mass devotionalism ran into the existing commissions of Bugnini and Pius XII who had been at work for years (the Liturgical Movement would have to settle with mitigating the damage the commission wished to do).  Years later, the fruits of the Liturgical Movement can be seen in Africa and the growing “Reform of the Reform” school of thought.

I would posit that the Liturgical Establishment had its roots long before the 20th century and that its handiwork can be seen in the changes done to Eastern-Rite Christians.  The basic principal of the Liturgical Establishment is as follows: The authorities and experts in Rome are the highest source of liturgical correctness and may modify liturgy whenever they believe it does not conform to their standards or theological principles.

Some might recognize that this is the anti-liturgical heresy of which Dom Gueranger warned, but the irony of it is that the very Rome Dom Gueranger defended was itself infected by it.  Jesuits, Fransiscans, and Latin bishops would modify Eastern Liturgies when they decided it did not fit into their post-Tridentine neoscholastic box.  The Anaphora of Addai and Mari was forcibly modified, centuries of writings from Malabar Christians were burned, and the Ethiopians were almost made to just do the Latin Rite in Ge’ez.  The suppression of the neo-Gallican uses can be considered and extension of this, as I have yet to hear of any concrete Jansenism found in them.

This establishment’s influence can even be found in the writings of Adrian Fortescue, whose writings are sometimes avoided by Eastern Christians due to a few parts of Roman Triumphalism.  This author wonders, though, whether these are actually Fortescue’s opinions or were inserted to placate the authorities (“But of course the Nestorians removed the Words of Institution from Addai and Mari and they had to be reinserted!  Of course the Roman Rite is the most authentically unchanged rite in the Church (as beautiful as the Malankara or Byantane Rites are)!”).   Pierre Batiffol was not so fortunate, losing his position for daring to state that the early Christians did not hold a scholastic view of transubstantiation though they did believe the bread and wine they ate was Christ himself (Duchesne avoided anything more than having a couple books placed on the index; the lesson here is to make sure you are well-connected).

Traditionalism is the result of the Liturgical Establishment turning inwards and applying its rationalist principles to the rite of the church that created it.  Traditionalists will never be much good at protecting the Roman Rite unless they understand the roots of the changes and how to avoid them.  Traditionalism cannot remained holed up in its bunkers, waiting for “Big Bad Novus Ordo” to vanish.  Rather, they should join forces with the “Reform of the Reform”, learn to live in a normal diocesan setting, embrace the liturgical diversity of the church, and work to spread the Faith.  There does not need to be a distinction between “traditional” Catholics and orthodox “Neo-Catholic” Catholics any more.  There are Catholics; and those Catholics have many variations on the rituals they use to worship their Creator.

If the current trends of more conservative parishes are anything to go by, then maybe the Pauline Rite will look more like this in a couple decades anyway.


One thought on “The Liturgical Establishment

  1. I completely agree. Right now, many (if not most) traditionalists are still stuck in the 50s or 60s, along with the banal or simply bad vernacular hymns of the few past centuries, all the while still believing they are praying the same as their forefathers. The problem is their forefathers didn’t sing any saccharine songs posing as Marian hymns or the same old Mass VIII and Credo III Gregorian chant settings for every High Mass! They also didn’t have sermons always focusing on some devotion or another, but on the Epistle or Gospel of the day; even the SSPX falls to this when it comes to Fatima!


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