A fascinating essay posted on TheAngoCatholic blog by Fr. Chadwick of the TAC, from an essay forwarded to him by Dr. Geoffrey Hull. It covers a lot of territory. Dr. Hull authored
Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church
The blog link is here:http://www.theanglocatholic.com/2010/04/the-proto-history-of-the-roman-liturgical-reform
There's some great quotes in here, very much in the mindset of the SSPX, in which Tradition (capital T) is placed above papal authority. The references to the practices of the churches of the East caught my eye (compared favourably to the Roman attitude). Some salient bits:
Indeed Mediator Dei, so often cited by traditionalists, makes it clear that the Pope “alone has the right to permit or establish any liturgical practice, to introduce or approve new rites, or to make any changes in them he considers necessary”. The tragedy is that in making this forceful statement with the evident intention of safeguarding our liturgical inheritance, Pius XII set before the Church a Pandora’s box which his successors were tempted to open, and did....
Considering much of what has taken place in the sanctuaries of the Latin Church since Mediator Dei, Pius XII’s reversal in that encyclical of the historical principle legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, i.e. “let the rule of prayer establish the rule of belief”
, is no less disturbing:
“Indeed if we wanted to state quite clearly and absolutely the relation existing between the faith and the sacred liturgy we could rightly say that the law of our faith must establish the law of our prayer:’
This liberty taken with a theological tradition going back to apostolic times has been considered by some a most serious flaw in an otherwise excellent exposition of Catholic teaching on the liturgy. The maxim quoted above was first expressed in the fifth century by Prosper of Aquitaine in an anti-Pelagian treatise entitled Indiculus de gratia Dei, and it is commonly shortened to the aphorism lex orandi, lex credendi
The basic meaning of the teaching is that in the traditional liturgy we have the oldest witness to what the Church believes, since Christians were worshipping God in public well before the first theological treatises were composed. Living tradition is bipartite, its two aspects distinct yet interrelated. ‘The rational aspect of Catholic Tradition consists of the Magisterium which interprets Sacred Scripture and apostolic teaching, while the sacred liturgy constitutes its symbolic and mystical aspect, and the latter has a chronological primacy over the former. Given, therefore, that the sacred liturgy is not something arbitrarily devised by theologians but theologia prima, the ontological condition of theology, the Church’s teachings must always be in harmony with the beliefs that the traditional liturgical texts express. This is of course very different from George Tyrrell’s modernistic abuse of Prosper’s maxim, by which doctrines are valid only insofar as they are found in the liturgical texts and have produced practical fruits of charity and sanctification.
However, given the normative and testimonial nature of the liturgical tradition whose historical growth hag its own dynamic, there can be absolutely no question of artificially restructuring sacred rites to make them reflect new doctrines or new doctrinal emphases, which is precisely the Protestant approach to liturgy.
This rigorously conservative attitude on the question of ritual reform is also the constant teaching of the Eastern Churches. The Russian Orthodox theologian George Florovsky makes the same point rather more bluntly when he says that “Christianity is a liturgical religion. The Church is first of all a worshipping community. Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second”. It is the Christians of the East who have best preserved the classical Catholic approach to worship and who consequently have preserved their litugical traditions intact in modern times. The present liturgical chaos in the Western Church is due in no small part to the emphasis that Latin Christians have always placed on dogma, with the consequent tendency to regard the liturgical texts as a mere locus theologicus, a means to an end, rather than a living source of doctrinal truth.
Thus orthodoxia, which originally meant ‘right worship’, gives way to orthopistis ‘right believing’, or orthodidascalia ‘right teaching’. When taken to the extreme, this exclusive emphasis on the rational culminates in that heresy which rejects the living components of tradition in favour of the written records of the Early Church, the Bible and Patristic writings, and which we know as Protestantism and full-blown Jansenism. The rejection of the liturgical tradition thus implies a rejection of the Church itself.
In the light of this typically Western aberration one can understand the Orthodox jibe that Protestantism was hatched from the egg that Rome had laid. For according to Timothy Ware,
“The Orthodox approach to religion is fundamentally a liturgical approach, which understands doctrine in the context of divine worship: it is no coincidence that the word ‘Orthodoxy’ should signify alike right belief and right worship, for the two things are inseparable. It has truly been; said of the Byzantines: ‘Dogma with them is not only an intellectual system. Apprehended by the clergy and expounded to the laity, but a field of vision wherein all things on earth are seen in their relation to things in heaven, first and foremost through liturgical celebration’”
A similar outlook is by no means absent in the Latin West today, even if it is a minority view. Commenting on Pius XII’s reversal of Prosper of Aquitaine’s dictum, American Benedictine liturgist Dom Aidan Kavanagh notes that:
“To reverse the maxim, subordinating the standard of worship to the standard of belief, makes a shambles of the dialectic of revelation. It was a Presence, not faith, which drew Moses to the burning bush, and what happened there was a revelation, not a seminar. It was a Presence, not faith, which drew the disciples to Jesus, and what happened there was not an educational program but His revelation to them of Himself as the long-promised Anointed One, the redeeming because reconciling Messiah-Christos”.
Indeed the radical impulse to destroy the entire liturgical tradition and go back to Eucharists in the manner of the Last Supper is the inevitable consequence of applying the criteria of theological analysis to the sacred liturgy which, as a slowly growing humanly-ordered thing, cannot possibly have “come from the Lord complete and perfect” as Bossuet the elder said of the deposit of faith.
I come finally to the other immediate cause of the liturgical revolution, a new and particularly destructive form of ultramontanism, which in my view is the only way of explaining how recent Popes could have made such an astonishing about-turn on the question of liturgical tradition. The term ‘Ultramontane’ first coined by the French Gallicans of the seventeenth century, normally refers to those who supported the definition of the dogma of Papal Infallibility in 1870. However, on the popular level ultramontanism has manifested itself in the cult of the person of the Pope, which hardly existed before Pius IX, but is still very much with us today. In the nineteenth century the enemies of the Ultramontanes were the Liberal Catholics; the Ultramontanes of today, who abide loyally by all the decisions of the Papacy, rejecting criticism and even discussion of any of them, are opposed not only by the heirs to the Liberal Catholic tradition, but also by the Traditionalists. Fully aware of the consequences of their action, traditionalist Catholics feel bound in conscience to criticize certain aspects of the Second Vatican Council and to reject the official and unofficial liturgical reforms that ostensibly issued from it.
To the Ultramontane mind, which is also the mind of the Popes of our day, one cannot adopt the traditionalist stance and remain authentically Catholic. It is often not appreciated that in the discussions preceding the dogmatic formulations of the First Vatican Council, Pius IX strongly favoured the interpretation of Papal Infallibility as meaning Papal inerrancy in matters of Church discipline as well as in dogmatic definitions, an exaggerated claim at odds with the teaching of the Church. But when – so the story goes – Fr. Guidi, Superior General of the Dominicans, pointed out to the Pope that his idea of Papal infallibility was against Tradition, Pius IX angrily reminded him that “La tradizione son’io!” – ‘I am Tradition’, a symptom of Papal megalomania providentially checked by the Holy Ghost.
Unfortunately, there is ample evidence today that the modern Popes consider themselves the infallible arbiters of disciplinary and liturgical tradition rather than its respectful custodians. John Paul II, for example, has been known to act arbitrarily and inconsistently in contravention of established liturgical law. One famous episode was during his visit to West Germany in 1980 when, in contradiction to the firm Papal policy of not giving Communion in the hand, he administered the Sacrament in this manner to a small boy by way of exception, thus establishing an irrevocable precedent. On another occasion, I am told, the Pope incorrectly knelt during a Papal ceremony in Rome, and when his Master of Ceremonies discreetly directed him to rise, John Paul remained on his knees and retorted pointedly: “II Papa s’inginocchia!” – “the Pope is kneeling!”. With such a subjective attitude towards liturgical tradition, unthinkable in any of the Eastern Churches, it is understandable that the modern Popes and the ultramontanist Curia should view traditionalist rejection of the liturgical reform as incompatible with Catholic orthodoxy which they narrowly understand as right belief and right morals.
From the traditionalist standpoint, it is an abuse of power for the modern Papacy; however orthodox in its dogmatic teaching, to Command the faithful to accept an anti-traditional liturgy in the name of obedience to the supreme ecclesiastical authority. If the Papacy, in an official document, can reverse a fundamental teaching of orthodox Christianity by totally subordinating the liturgy to the interests of new ‘orientations’, one is forced to conclude that recent Popes, in turning their backs on their own past for whatever noble motives, have placed themselves above Tradition and abused their position as the supreme legislators in disciplinary matters. For a Catholic to make such an admission is painful, and from the ultramontanist point of view disloyal, not to say actively schismatical.
There is unlikely to be agreement on this question until the Holy Father comes to a deeper understanding of his own action in re-legalizing the traditional Roman liturgy, which logically considered, entirely contradicts his thinking on the post-conciliar reform, which is substantially that of Paul VI and of the episcopal conferences. Yet this contradiction which has created a dynamic tension in the Church must ultimately be resolved, and we may optimistically regard it as a sign of hope for the eventual restoration of the patrimony of which Latin Catholics have been unjustly deprived. In the meantime, as Archbishop Lefebvre remarked shortly after his audience with Pope John Paul II in 1978: “We can at least pray to the Blessed Virgin that when he becomes aware of the enormous difficulties he will meet in the exercise of his power as Pope, he will reconsider his stance and perhaps conclude that he must return to Tradition ".