Category Archives: Liturgy

Alcuin Reid on Klaus Gamber

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Review of Msgr. Gamber’s Classic Study by Dr. Alcuin Reid

Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background, Roman Catholic Books 2006, 224pp pb. $24.95

Reviewed by Dr. Alcuin Reid

The news that Monsignor Klaus Gamber’s book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background has been brought back into print by Roman Catholic Books is very good news indeed, for it is a seminal work which has done much to expose the extent of discontinuity in the post-conciliar reform. It stands alongside Archbishop Bugnini’s own book, The Reform of the Liturgy, as essential reading – though Gamber is certainly the more accessible of the two.

Gamber’s book is in fact two books. The first examines the overall work of the changes made to the liturgy in the 1960’s. He sees the question of whether or not the changes were an organic development as crucial. His conclusions speak for themselves: “Obviously, the reformers wanted a completely new liturgy, a liturgy that differed from the traditional one in spirit as well as in form; and in no way a liturgy that represented what the Council Fathers had envisioned, i.e., a liturgy that would meet the pastoral needs of the faithful” (p. 100). Gamber is clear and unequivocal: a large mistake has been made with regard to the liturgy, unprecedented in the Church’s history.

However, it would be wrong to align Gamber with traditionalists who draw a line at 1962, 1955, or even earlier, beyond which all change is anathema. Gamber is a critical liturgical historian, as shown by his precise and detailed discussion of the question of which way the liturgy should be celebrated, which comprises the second book in this volume. (A more recent and comprehensive treatment of facing east, including a critical evaluation of Gamber’s contribution, is to be found in Fr U.M. Lang’s Turning Towards the Lord.)

Gamber’s concerns are historical, doctrinal and pastoral. He readily accepts the appropriateness of vernacular readings, and even of the pruning of some of the later accretions to the Traditional Roman Rite (Psalm 42 from the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Offertory prayers, the last Gospel). These prudential decisions can be argued about, as they were at Trent. But he staunchly defends traditions integral to the Roman Rite throughout its history, e.g., facing eastwards and the Roman Canon, and deprecates “the cold breath of realism [that] now pervades our worship” (p.13).

Gamber speaks frankly of the destruction of the Roman Rite after the Council, the last example of which can be found in the Ordo Missae promulgated in 1965 as the reform called for by the Council. Significantly, Archbishop Bugnini dismissed this 1965 reform as insufficient because its alterations were merely “peripheral”, insisting that “radical” changes were what was needed.

It is Gamber’s brave but loyal ‘critical traditionalism’ that gives such importance to his writing. His theses are well documented, and his research is impressive. One hopes more of his writings will be made available in translation.

After reading Gamber (and also Bugnini) it is difficult if not impossible to maintain an uncritical acceptance of the new liturgy, even when it is celebrated devoutly and with the right intention. When we recall the doctrinal importance of the liturgy (lex orandi, lex credendi), we realise that the question of how we worship is central to our faith. What then is to be done?

“What we need today … [are] bishops like those who in the fourth century courageously fought against Arianism when almost the whole of Christendom had succumbed to the heresy. We need saints today who can unite those whose faith has remained firm so that we might fight error and rouse the weak and vacillating from their apathy,” writes Gamber (p.113). At tall order, certainly, but not beyond the possibilities of Divine Providence.



Today's Homily - Video 2

Daily Catholic Mass – 2016-04-13 – Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Easter Weekday

The Leonine Prayers—for the “Conversion of Russia” ?

To the Reader,

You may wish to bring information about the Leonine Prayers to the attention of your associates. People mistakenly refer to those prayers (and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel) as formerly “for the conversion of Russia” which is just not church history.


Austin Ruse gets it wrong in 2014! *

Kevin Di Camillo gets it wrong in 2016! *

*[too much Regnum Christi and too little scholarship?]


What will be the interpretation of this film?

Cannes: Prominent U.S. Indie Producers Team on Miracle of Fatima Film

See below.


The Leonine Prayers are a set of prayers that from 1884 to early 1965 were prescribed by the Popes for recitation after Low Mass. They are still sometimes used at celebrations today. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has restored the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, as have younger pastors around North America.

These prayers did not form part of the Mass itself, but were prescribed for specific intentions. The original intention was the defense of the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See. After this problem was settled with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Pope Pius XI ordered that the prayers should be said for the restoration to the people of Russia of tranquility and freedom to profess the Catholic faith. This gave rise to the unofficial and inaccurate use of the name “Prayers for the Conversion of Russia” for those prayers which were also known, less inaccurately and informally, as the “Prayers after Mass.”

The final form of the Leonine Prayers included three Ave Marias, a Salve Regina followed by a versicle and response, a prayer for the conversion of sinners and the liberty and exaltation of the Catholic Church, and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. Pope Pius X permitted the addition of the invocation “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us,” repeated three times.

The Holy See’s 26 September 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici, which came into force on 7 March 1965, declared: “The Leonine Prayers are suppressed.” This removed the obligation and the prayers became optional then and remain so today.

Since then, the Leonine Prayers or parts of the set of them have been revived in some places.

Note:  The expression “for the conversion of Russia” if it is used at all might
better refer to Madame Blavatsky  [Елена Петровна Блаватская, 1831-1891] and others promoting Satanism in Western Europe.  Russia was seen by many as the launching zone for neo-occultism which became fashionable among some Western European elite.
Final Note:
In 1929 when the Leonine Prayers were mandated, Russia was mostly
churched. The people belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church which was
being persecuted, but to say they needed “to be converted” is wrong.
There were relatively few real Bolsheviks, but they had all the guns and
bullets and international support especially in the universities. Why not
pray, “For the Conversion of the Communists?” But the prayers were alleged
to be mandated for “For the Conversion of Russia.” Orthodox Christian Russia
did not need to be converted to Christianity in 1929 (in the same way as China or
Japan, let us say). This expression is a false popularization.
Read my posting above concerning what the prayer intention really was
according to Pope Pius XI.

Product Details

Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael


by Kevin J. Symonds, John Parrot, Justin Eldracher and Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Ordo Incensationis Altaris


Published in 2011: Still Relevant Today: “Simplex Priests Now!”

Simplex Priests Now!

Michael F. Hull, S.T.D. in HPR makes a passing reference to “simplex” priests without suggesting that we need them now. [“Challenges to preaching Paul” by Michael F. Hull, HPR (July 2008)]. A simplex priest does not have faculties to preach or hear confessions. To require a priest to read a printed and published homily from the bishop’s office might give many of the faithful more content and information than they usually get, at least in the United States. Maybe getting some form of a simplex priesthood back again is not a bad idea. Perhaps through them we could get more of Paul’s preaching.

Under the 1917 Code, faculties for preaching (17:1337) had to be specifically granted to clerics, unlike today  (83: 764) where faculties to preach are automatic upon ordination. Preaching  faculties are only subject to revocation by the Ordinary under specific conditions. Regarding confessions, under the 1917 Code the restrictions on faculties to absolve were stricter than they are today (limited to territories, and sometimes only available after successfully passing an examination [17: 871-878]).

So, under the 1917 Code, a priest might not be granted faculties to preach, and he might not hold an office to which faculties for confession were attached (e.g., pastor); so therefore he could well be without faculties for confession. Such a priest was known as “simplex” even if the term was not used. A simplex priest could celebrate Mass (usually), but because there was no preaching allowed it would more likely be a private Mass with only one server present.

But the revival of the simplex priest, a priest with restricted faculties, quickly becomes political in the Church. Bishops since the Council of Trent are accustomed to “seminary” priests; thus returning to the apprentice model or adopting any other type of training seems foreign. Yet seminaries were not made in heaven, and far too often their products are found wanting. A revived simplex priesthood would not be about “seminary-trained” priests.

Most urban and rural parishes have traditional, pious laymen who are daily communicants. Perhaps we can cite a fictional Dr. Michael McGillicuddy to be our example.

Dr. McGillicuddy was professor of French Literature for decades at the local state university. His beloved Maureen died last year. All six of their children are grown and married, and they have moved away to other cities. Dr. McGillicuddy goes to daily Mass at his parish, and he is what we call a “literate Catholic” who studies. He keeps abreast of various aspects of worldwide ecclesiastical life. He knows something about Hans Urs von Balthasar. He was involved in relief efforts for Mosul. Professor McGillicuddy is 66 years old and in excellent health. He even lives ten minutes away from the cathedral.

One day the bishop requests a meeting with him. “Mike, I have known you for many years. We were in high school together. Despite dark days you have been faithful in every way. Christ has always been the center of your personal life and your family life. Now we need a priest at the cathedral. Monsignor is too overburdened, and I am afraid he just has too much to do already and the situation is worsening. Would you be willing to be ordained to the priesthood? You would be responsible for celebrating a quiet daily Mass at the cathedral and for anointing the sick at two local hospitals. Effectively, you would put in three hours each day to help with our sacramental needs. You would not have to go to a seminary. You would not have to preach, and you would not hear confessions. Simplex priests go to the clergy meetings, but that is all. You would be required to make an annual retreat and to serve under the strict supervision of Monsignor who is the rector of the cathedral. I will suggest a few books for you, but probably you have already read them before I even think of what might be suggested.”

Let us say Dr. McGillicuddy accepts the position that the bishop requested. The bishop informs the Holy See that he intends to ordain a simplex priest within the next months; by special arrangement given to our episcopal conference, the permission is granted. A simplex priest is expected to provide for his own finances, and our retired professor has enough retirement money to take care of himself.

It is reasonable that Father McGillicuddy would have ten good years to give to the Church. Ordaining a widower would soften the voices of those who say we have a shortage or that the Church should ordain “married men and women” when we know this is contrary to authentic tradition and nuptial theology. A man should be of one wife, and that wife is the Church. A woman does not image the Christ but rather the second Eve, His Body the Church. Thus she cannot offer the One Sacrifice according to ancient tradition and the Divine Will.

Father McGillicuddy would lead a humble and low-profile life. Perhaps from time to time he would be asked to take care of some extraordinary assignment for the bishop that his background in academics would equip him to do. It is feasible that he would draft pastoral letters for the bishop who tends himself to be too busy and who could use some fresh ideas.

One bishop (again fictitious for our purposes) does not approve of the simplex priestly vocation, and the neighboring diocese does not ordain them. The bishop—and he is not alone—is afraid of a “race horse/ plough horse” division in the presbyterate. He does not wish to see a rivalry. But then he is reminded of other divisions that coexist—liberal/ conservative, old/ young, homosexual/ heterosexual, 2007 motu proprio/ anti-motu proprio, and versus populum/ ad orientem. Since Father McGillicuddy has a doctorate and is well-published, it would be hard to consider him a “second-class” priest. In fact, given his erudition, he provides an example for other priests who allegedly have not read a book since the day they left the seminary.

Not long ago I met a man who is fifty years old and who was newly married. A few years earlier he applied to his diocese and was told by the vocation directors that he was too old to be considered for the seminary. Before that I met another man in his late forties. He was told the same thing by another diocese: that he was too old to fit into the pension plan for diocesan priests. These artificial judgments are a conspiracy to deprive us of dedicated priests. If a man can support himself or even if he cannot support himself, and if he can be judged worthy, then the bishop should be free to ordain him simplex. Going to a seminary should not be required in all cases, and restricted faculties render a candidate maximally suited to assist with our real needs. A case-by-case scrutiny may reveal no impediment for men who do not fit the classic “seminarian” model. Every diocese should have a few simplex priests. Just a few for now.

Seminaries were invented by the Council of Trent. Before then we had the apprentice system in most of Europe. A candidate would live near the priest who showed him what he needed to know, and then the priest would recommend him to the bishop when he believed the candidate was prepared.

During the Ottoman period when they had no institutions, the Greeks did not even have seminaries. The bishop would travel to a village where the priest had died, and there he would identify an older man who was pious and who knew the Divine Liturgy by heart. He would ordain him for the village, equivalently “simplex” with no added faculties to preach or hear confessions. This work was done by itinerant monks during the holy season of Lent.

Can we say that seminaries are beyond criticism? Can we ask if they have always helped the Church or sometimes hindered the Church by at times producing candidates who are neither doctrinally orthodox nor faithful celebrants of the Church’s liturgy? Could we predict that men drawn from the ranks of the faithful to alleviate the clergy shortage on a highly selective basis would serve less well than the ones we have from the seminary system?

At least in North America and in Western Europe the so-called “shortage of priests” is used to justify all manner of proposals which deviate from the norm of celibacy and masculinity. Sacramental signs are not arbitrary, and we should never think of them as negotiable. Simplex priests would maintain the full sacramental symbolism.

Why should simplex priests be preferably older candidates? They do not have to be older. But generally a man with a successful career is respected in the community. Father McGillicuddy is both well known and revered in his parish and even throughout his diocese. To elevate him to the priesthood is virtually a normal step in view of the death of his wife and the independence of his children. The bishop can rely upon a man such as Dr. McGillicuddy; he can be trusted to carry out his duties; his maturity is beyond doubt. The bishop should also be free to ordain young men as simplex priests, at least in principle.

Some bishops are afraid to endanger the “seminary only” model. They fear any competition with it. The Holy See has not been accustomed to thinking in terms other than the “seminary only” system. But both Church History and our practical needs come to the rescue to help our thinking. The pope could authorize this with the stroke of a pen. More unexpected things have happened in our lifetime!

We should never discard any method of identifying candidates for the priesthood. Minor seminaries should be retained; the apprenticeship method should be retained; the seminary system as we have it—but reformed to reflect more accurately our doctrinal and liturgical tradition—should be retained; and the introduction of a small number of simplex priests as we had in former times, before the 1983 Code of Canon Law attached faculties to priestly ordination itself, should be supported.

Anything new should be monitored, but simplex priests are nothing new given the wider perspective of history. We are not talking about “part time” priests like Pentecostal ministers who work at the post office and who preach on Sundays. We are talking about men who have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and who offer the One Sacrifice in persona Christi.

Early in 2009 in the Diocese of Linz, Austria, the secular press carried an article about Dean Josef Friedl who lives in concubinage. He is one of the priests protesting the potential appointment of Gerhard Maria Wagner to be the Auxiliary Bishop of Linz. Would it not be desirable for the Ordinary, in the style of St. Francis de Sales, to send Father Friedl to a life of reserved penance and prayer in a monastery? Then the bishop could proceed to fill this vacancy by ordaining “Dr. Wolfgang Schneider,” a respected linguist and academician of the parish and the fictitious equivalent of our “Dr. Michael McGillicuddy,” as a simplex priest. Schneider could serve as temporary pastor until other arrangements are made and the damage to the parish can be corrected. Why not?

Father Schneider would be either a celibate or a widower, in keeping with nuptial theology and the tradition of the Church. He would be carefully chosen for his life of virtue and fidelity even in the sad times of the former administration. The bishop would help by sending a printed homily each week to Father Schneider to read on behalf of the bishop. A monk could visit the parish periodically to hear confessions and preach a mission. It is not necessary in this context for Father Schneider to have a degree in theology or philosophy. He has a sufficient understanding of the Mass and the sacraments to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice worthily, more worthily than his predecessor.

The reintroduction of simplex priests is not the perfect solution to the need for more priests, but it is a preferred solution to refute those who would step outside the tradition. People attending Mass either in the ordinary form or in the extraordinary form should not be able to tell by looking whether the celebrant is a seminary priest or a simplex priest.

Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma,  Michigan
A version of this article appeared as “Recovering Simplex Priests”  in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, vol. 111, no. 9 (June/July 2011): 24-27.

Re-read Martin Mosebach’s “The Heresy of Formlessness”

The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy
by Martin Mosebach
translated from the German by Graham Harrison
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006
Pp. 210, no index; paperback $16.95
ISBN 978-1-58617-127-8
ISBN 1-58617-127-5
LCCN 2005938824
Review-Essay by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008

Martin Mosebach writes to convince the reader of the spiritual superiority of the classical rite, the Mass of the missal of 1962. With the talent of an artist and a dedication to Jesus Christ, he tells the story.

The church is torn by a civil war over liturgy. Some hold that the reform did not cut deep enough, that yet more radical adaptation and accommodation are needed. Others think the reform can be reformed, and in this camp we include the pope and the policy of Ignatius Press. There are those who believe that only the old rites, restored fully and integrally, provide the solution to the crisis. And of course a large number of Catholics are apathetic and accept the present situation uncritically (and unthinkingly).

Mosebach chooses the path of restoration, and he does so with quality, intelligence and sophistication. He is a thoughtful religious man of a type hardly found any longer inEurope. His meditation on Mary, chapter eight, is enough to prove that. His essay “Revelation through Veiling in the Old Roman Catholic Liturgy” (pp. 161-173) is a work of religious art.

Louis XIV was crowned in 1654. It was said nobody at court in theRheimscathedral understood the rare liturgy for the coronation of a king. The masters of ceremonies just followed the prescriptions set down from time immemorial. They assigned seven archdeacons to stand here, and seven archpriests to stand there, and so on. The choreography was perfect, and no ingredient was left out of the complicated recipe. The music was excellent. The new king was anointed. Everybody knew he was crowned, and everybody had a sense of the sublimity of the occasion. Even so, later proponents of liturgical reform would criticize such a liturgy on the basis that only a few technician-clerics engaged in any kind of “active participation”.

Mosebach rejects such an analysis as a caricature. Without mentioning it by name, he would insist that this particular liturgy carried the soul aloft, despite any alleged lack of rational grip on the archaic rite. Prayer and rationality are two wings of a bird, two distinct modes of understanding. Only when the holy is concealed is it revealed. A “see-through glass chalice” is a contradiction in terms.

The author makes no reference to Catherine Pickstock, but in After Writing (1998) Pickstock lamented that owing toTrent, and especially to the historical work and interpretation of Josef Jungmann (1889-1975), the Tridentine liturgy became highly rationalized, and this rationalism broke with the medievalMass. Her explanation was complex, but she was not a believing Catholic, and Jungmann definitely was. Jungmann accepted transubstantiation and sacramental realism, whereas it is unknown what Pickstock really believed. While Mosebach disagrees with the post-Reformation Jesuits who introduced dominating vernacular hymns into the liturgy in Catholic Germany (pp. 42-43), he is not inclined toward Pickstock’s philosophical evaluation of the rite so mildly revised afterTrent. As an orthodox, believing Catholic, he is not her ally. Let traditionalists on this side of the ocean know that.

Mosebach opposes the idea that the missal ofTrentwas a break with medieval ritual and symbology. If he follows any contemporary writer on the subject, it is Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) who decades ago exposed the faulty archaeology and weak liturgical history upon which the reform was built. (p. 32) It is the missal of 1969 which is the product of pure rationalism, not the missal of 1962 which the author prefers to call “The Mass of St. Gregory the Great”.

The First Liturgical Movement (1860-1960) called for clarity and simplicity in the rites. In that precise historical setting this was something good and needed, so the argument went. Such a call was not then doctrinal in nature. On the contrary, the movement hoped that doctrine would become better understood through uncluttered liturgy when the ancient beauty of the church could be seen for what it was. Scraping off the accretions was claimed to help the ship sail faster.

A pity the dream of the older generation of scholars, especially Jungmann and a host of Benedictines inEuropeandNorth America, was incrementally hijacked by a dedicated cadre during and after Vatican II. Can anyone say that transubstantiation was understood by the average member of the church in 1980 better than in 1950? Paul VI had to issue an encyclical defending it! (“Mysterium Fidei”, 1965).

Mosebach’s list of German-speaking culprits in this saga of liturgical reform differs from our list, but for us here inNorth Americawe count McManus, Dieckmann, Funk, Mitchell, Empereur, Hovda and Huck among the best known “modern liturgy” and “celebrational style” practitioners. The historic break between Rembert Weakland and Richard Schuler shows that at least a few, like Schuler of St. Agnes inMinneapolis, offered resistance in the worst decades since the council. Like Michael Davies in the English-speaking world, Mosebach blames the dark side of the reform on Pope Paul VI (pp. 24, 91, 115); unlike Davies, Mosebach does not focus on the role of Annibale Bugnini. The author is obviously critical of the German episcopal conference. (p. 63) These and other bishops went well beyond the reform introduced by Paul VI. (p. 172)

Thus, we can now speak of “going back” to the reform of Paul VI! The real reform of the reform may just be the original reform intended by the council and the pope.

In Europe, both Louis Bouyer and Hubert Jedin in 1968 and 1969 publicly objected to the reform process directed by Annibale Bugnini, but they were ignored. (Bugnini did not leave Rome until 1975—it should be remembered by us readers that Frederick R. McManus wrote the lines found on the dust jacket for the English translation of Bugnini’s personal account of his role in the reform.)

Privately, Jungmann denounced the altar “versus populum” (or “coram populo”) as an aberration. Later, under his own name Gamber took the same position.

In 2003 Lauren Pristas analyzed the Latin of the revised Mass (and since then of other revised rites). While not using the expression herself, she concluded that it consists of “junk Latin”. (“Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal [1970]” in The Thomist 67 [2003]: 157-195). An exception is Eucharistic Prayer IV which was composed in a much finer Latin. Here Mosebach rejoins that what matters is that such texts are “received”, not “composed”.

A surprising number of motivated reformers promoted a conscious, deliberate rupture with our liturgical past. They quietly ignored the principle of organic development, though this principle was an official one. A stubborn, misguided and iconoclastic anti-traditionalism created an unnecessary catastrophe. Contempt for the old rites was mood-driven and self-conscious.

In chapter four Mosebach gives a vivid example of exactly how the iconoclasm unfolded in 1968 in Neuenheim nearHeidelberg. The cameo-like story is familiar to all of us who lived through that time. It was the same inIowaorOntario. Mosebach shows his knowledge of art history in order to explain the deeper philosophy behind iconoclasm. The destruction of the interior of the parish church at Neuenheim is heartbreaking.

The Benedictine monastery of Fontgombault in France is the living ideal of liturgical spirituality for the author. He does not mention that a very high percentage of the monks are Americans, and probably he does not know that the monastery happily celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae in Latin until the abbot imposed the old rite on the monastic community in the 1980s. The abbot made the point that it was the rite of his ancestors who died in the French Revolution. Many say that the abbot was influential in gaining the indults associated with the Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, though Mosebach himself does not say this. He idealizes the monastery’s every detail, which will cause some readers to be suspicious. No place can be “that” perfect, and one is reminded of the axiom “the only perfect liturgy is in heaven”. But the affairs of Fontgombault are the exception.

Nearly everywhere, the Mass today fails to unite Latin Rite Catholics, even juridically. Liturgical law is rejected, ignored or paid mere lip service by the modernizers (whom Mosebach calls “late Catholic Puritans”―p. 135) who always know more than the Church. Some years ago, reformers replaced the older formalism and legalism with the formlessness decried by Mosebach in his book’s title. Formlessness is the enemy. (For an articulate discussion of what he means by the contemporary rebellion against “form”, see pp. 104-106; 147). A denial of beauty produces formlessness. Formlessness is a heresy when it refuses certain revealed truths. They are mediated by material, concrete signs and symbols which are in themselves beautiful. In a word, Mosebach is preaching sacramentalism. Loss of form means loss of content! (p. 206)

On the other side, most of the antiquarianism Martin Mosebach so well understands is lost on contemporary Catholics, as it was said to have been lost on the French court in 1654. People know too little of their own church history and they have already for too long been deprived of their liturgical tradition. Those who still go to Mass in the industrialized West are minimally catechized. Perhaps it was always this way, everywhere. The elite with Mosebach’s level of erudition could be stuffed into a telephone booth, as a professional liturgiologist once expressed it.

But Mosebach rejects that line of thinking. He tells from his own experience how today simple South German women instinctively, without instruction, wash the purificators after an old rite Mass. Seemingly for him, things would naturally fall back into place when the old rite is restored universally. (pp. 28-29) However, he is pessimistic that this will happen soon. (p. 73)

In our culture wars―broader than the narrower Catholic liturgical crisis―a few voices have been raised to promote and defend beauty. Beginning with Dostoevsky, renewed by Solzhenitsyn, and expressed by Gregory Wolfe, the tradition is formulated in the phrase, “beauty will save the world”. (Gregory Wolfe, “Beauty Will Save the World” in The Intercollegiate Review 27:1 [Fall 1991]: 27-31). Using different vocabulary, Mosebach subscribes to this cry. His chapter six is named “Liturgy is Art”. “Christ desired to make his sacrifice ever-present, and so he poured it into the shape of liturgical art.” (p. 111) The liturgy is like a finished sculpture―all it needs is unveiling.

But practically, what to do? Pastors need a strategy. Mosebach argues that the liturgy itself is the strategy. Of itself it will bring light and salvation. The liturgy “is not a human artifact but something given, something revealed.” (p. 71)

So what went wrong with the reform? We know that after the Second Vatican Council the church lacked pastoral liturgists. Nobody knew what to do, and nobody knew how to implement the norms found in the revised books. The mood of the times was unstable and anti-institutional. Liturgy became highly politicized. What filled the vacuum left by an older certitude was confusion, fashion, whim, ephemeral enthusiasm, and then a surprising agenda to abolish the sacrificial nature of the Mass.A prominent theologian said in this reviewer’s hearing: “I am no longer able even to pronounce the word ‘sacrifice’.” Thus a “protestant-fellowship-meal” resulted from too much talk about banquets. What ensued was a doctrinal battle. Just a bit earlier, this state of affairs was unthinkable.

Horror and devastation remain. Ugliness and confusion reign. With the symbolic language interrupted and its sweet speech broken off, the mystery is reduced to wordiness and meaningless motion and chatter. Aroma therapy is more exciting to some than the holiness of the Mass.

Unbelievers or secular art historians, who happen to visit our churches, remark about the vulgarity and banality. Those from other liturgical traditions which have not degraded as completely, scoff at the debris of what once was the Roman Rite. The “New Mass” is unhesitatingly thought to be something absolutely distinct from the old, even if, in some instances, the new rite is celebrated with concern for aesthetic detail and perfection. Those instances may be found more inEurope, of course, than inNorth Americawhere a greater tolerance for philistinism is acceptable.

Everyone knows from the 1950s that the old rite was usually celebrated in a perfunctory, mechanical manner. (pp. 38-39) Mosebach adds that at least it had potential, whereas the new rite is so deeply flawed that it has no similar potential. One cannot “invent new forms” and expect them to succeed. This is not exactly what happened with the Missal of Paul VI, but it is very close. Those favoring the “reform of the reform” are well advised to make the new rite look as much as possible like the old rite, or face extinction. The lefebvrists think they are the true church, and that the “novus ordo” church will eventually disappear. The Western Rite Orthodox use the most archaic rites possible.

Mosebach’s insights are precious and serious, but he gives no blueprint about how to educate our people in beauty. Yes, one of the first acts of the new pope after his election was to restore Latin to St. Peter’s Basilica in 2005. But his efforts, including the ideas in his books from the 1990s, have not trickled down to parishes in California or Michigan (or Bavaria) where the “new rite” is carelessly and sloppily performed.

In fact, Ratzinger’s books on the liturgy were received with outright hostility in places where, of course, nobody ever expected him to become pope. They shuddered in their boots on the day of his election as it was no secret he would be “the liturgy pope”. In 1992, writing in the preface to the French edition of a book by Klaus Gamber, Ratzinger took the position Mosebach takes in judging the missal of 1969― “a liturgy that had grown organically had been pushed aside in favor of a fabricated liturgy”. (p. 192)

In a short time, the situation in most parishes may become desperately irreformable, so total is the rupture with the heritage of the old rite(s). The “sit down” masses among aging, graying Religious illustrate the finality of this rupture and the abject failure of the official reform. Mosebach says, “A detailed study would be required to show why, for the Catholic Church, an attack on her rites has almost fatal consequences―but space forbids.” (p. 192)

Mosebach’s criticism of the reform employs an underlying philosophy of liturgy. He rejects the very concept of liturgical reform. (p .34) “We are constantly being astounded by the reform introduced by Jesus Christ―the only reform that deserves this name.” (p. 70) We do not shape the liturgy. Rather, the liturgy shapes us. This may be easily understood by his reference to Pavel Florensky, the Russian priest executed by the Communists in 1937.

Eastern churches shun the temporal and locate their worship in eternity. The Divine Liturgy is not made by human hands, and neither hierarchs nor scholars may tinker with it―goes their thinking and that of Mosebach― “academic answers are completely useless in questions of liturgy”. (p. 30; 35) Sacred Tradition formed the Liturgy, and only the Holy Spirit can change it, not bureaucrats inRome, much less diocesan dim-lights. Mosebach is suspicious of bogus scholarship which has been used to promote an agenda. The Eastern Church provides a model of failure when the reforming Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681) was responsible for the Old Ritualist schism in Russia.

The Orthodox Church is rooted in Christian Platonism. The Orthodox Liturgy is described as an ontology, something true in itself, seen in this imperfect world imperfectly, but faithfully representing and accessing our goal in the Heavenly Liturgy. Mosebach favors something like this view for the Roman Liturgy―“We can say that, like Jesus, it is ‘begotten, not created’.” (p. 35) Or again, “Since Holy Mass had no author, since a precise date could be allotted to practically none of its parts―as to when it originated and when it was finally and universally incorporated into the Mass―… it was something eternal, not made by human hands.” (p. 35) In the chapter on the physical structure of the liturgical books themselves, there is a touching passage explaining the celebrant’s submission to the traditional order of prayer as something not made by him, as something given or received. (pp. 200-201) The Book of Seven Seals is the missal, the church’s revealed worship! (p. 209)

In our church few have written from this point of view, not even Klaus Gamber who was no friend of the official reform. Mosebach appeals to him for aid to build his case. The Roman Rite, and liturgy in the West more generally, have traditionally been regulated by pontifical legislation, not one-sided organic evolution. Attila Miklósházy wrote about the “theological foundations” for liturgical renewal and this assumed both the orthodoxy and the need for prayer reform.

We all knew the role of conciliar and pontifical legislation when a post-Tridentine pope suppressed local liturgies inEurope. Very few survived the reform of Pius V—the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites are still living, but barely. The old Celtic liturgies vanished. The Old Sarum Usage disappeared from the life of the church. It is known only to scholarly specialists.

If a liturgy is an “ontology”, no pope could abolish it. But rites were indeed suppressed by ecclesiastical authority. Mosebach minimizes this history, though he claims to have done his homework. (pp. 25; 32). He knows about the “two-track” history of parts of the old Mass, and this shows a higher degree of historical knowledge than most amateurs. (pp. 42; 52)

He does not mention that the missal of 1962 already shows sign of pontifical reform because, for the first time in the history of the Roman Missal, the rubrics were minutely codified and systematized. This codification by the Congregation of Rites undoubtedly was an effect of the First Liturgical Movement and Pius XII’s “Mediator Dei”.

Yet, Mosebach presents an airtight case for restoration. Once you enter through his door, it will shut behind you, and you are inside his liturgical world. He writes this meditation for the young, for priests and seminarians of the next generation seeking relief from the conflict of our vexing civil war. He writes for those who find the liturgy a difficult burden. He writes for the whole church, though he is forced to say the prospects for a liturgical Christianity are poor. (p. 72)

Our hunger and thirst for beauty will never leave us. There is hope for the future because of the way we are made. We are made for beauty. Superficiality and ugliness are a choice, not an inevitability. Some of Mosebach’s deepest insights, what might be called his spirituality, must be part of that future in the church. Perhaps there is more reason to hope than Mosebach is willing to admit. Only “perhaps”.

In the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 22, we read that the book of the law was lost in the rubble of the temple. When later it was found, it was presented to King Josiah who rent his garments out of grief.

If Mosebach is correct, something analogous to this exaltation can happen when our youth discover the enduring Mass which is “ever old and ever new”. “I take up the old Missal as if I had found it on some deserted beach. I open it and enter into its rich and ordered life, full of meaning. Here is the standard.” (p. 49)

On Saturday, 7 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum”, on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962. Martin Mosebach might reply that this is only the beginning.

Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008

“Jansenism and Liturgical Reform” from American Benedictine Review (1993)

Jansenism and Liturgical Reform

Dated on the anniversary itself, December 4, Pope John Paul II in 1988 issued an apostolic letter commemorating the twenty-fifth year since the Second Vatican Council’s document on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium.[1]  Perhaps that letter went somewhat unnoticed, but students of the liturgy did take livelier interest when the real “insider’s story” finally came out two years later in the translation of Annibale Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975.[2]  This was a more detailed account from the administrative viewpoint of some of the warm reminiscences sketched earlier by Dom Bernard Botte and translated under the title From Silence to Participation: An Insider’s View of Liturgical Renewal.[3]

Both Bugnini the curial prefect and Botte the scholar and consultant give us rich anecdotes and documentary evidence about how the conciliar liturgical reform was actually carried out, how the books were revised by compromise and even intrigue, and how the antecedents of the liturgical movement before the council were converted into these revised rites. Conventional church historians such as Roger Aubert identify the roots of our century’s reform in the efforts that began with Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875) in the nineteenth century. Aubert says:

“All things considered, the liturgical movement of the interwar period, despite its efforts to reach out to the steadily increasing masses, kept to the ideal of ‘restoration’ that had inspired Dom Guéranger, in other words it attempted to  satisfy a nostalgia by retracing its steps back beyond the Counter-Reformation to an imago primitivae Ecclesiae. Pius X, it is true, had tried to do more and embark on reform, but his two successors did little to follow his lead, and outside Rome his work was felt by pioneers of the liturgical movement to be more in the nature of ‘a successful restoration, analogous to the architectural restorations executed by the Romantics’.” [4]

The Romantic movement had given great impetus to the Catholic revival after the devastation of the French Revolution.[5]  But when it came to things liturgical, the most it could engender was a reconstruction, perhaps artificial, based on love of the ancient church and the ages of faith. The liturgical aestheticism of some Anglo-Catholics after the Oxford Movement in this regard too frequently illustrates a Romanticism with not enough real depth.

However, though the Church may be governed in Rome, it was also long accustomed to have its thinking done in France. Guéranger was a personal favorite of Pius IX who had taken special care to invite him to the deliberations of Vatican I.[6] And Guéranger’s well-known “romanizing” tendencies made him particularly hostile to the original and positive contribution available from the small but important Jansenist liturgical movement.[7]  In 1853 Pius IX wrote Inter multiplices which strongly approved the adoption of the Roman liturgy throughout France, recommending it in preference to local gallican liturgical rites.[8]

An American scholar, F. Ellen Weaver, has analyzed the relevant documents, especially the ceremonial books and ritual books with their own notes, which pertain to this Jansenist interest in the reform of the liturgy.[9] Nearly all the themes familiar in our own day after Sacrosanctum concilium were pursued by the Jansenist reformers–introduction of the vernacular, a greater role for the laity in worship, active participation by all, recovery of the notion of the eucharistic meal and the community, communion under both kinds, emphasis on biblical and also patristic formation, clearer preaching and teaching, less cluttered calendars and fewer devotions which might distract from the centrality of the Eucharist. Even the “kiss of peace” was practiced at Port-Royal, and a sort of offertory procession was found there and elsewhere among Jansenist liturgical reformers.[10]

One of the few Jansenist reforms which would be unfamiliar to us today would be their use of public penance. But this insistence was not confined to the Jansenists, since it had been called for by the council of Trent as a return to an ancient rite. The Jansenists, on this point, just took Trent more literally and more seriously than anybody else.[11]

Some Jansenist bishops wished to abolish priestly celibacy. Two of the more famous in Italy were Giovanni Andrea Serrao of Potenza, during the period of the French occupation, and Giuseppi Capecelatro, archbishop of Taranto early in the restoration era.[12]  We should not be led to believe, however, that they acted upon their opinion, any more than bishops today who hold the same opinion.

Moreover, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Jansenists were even accused by the Jesuit polemicist, Henri Michel Sauvage, of having women priests.[13]  While there is as yet no real evidence for his charge, it does illustrate how their enemies perceived them as a people whose liturgical reputation was suspect. Sauvage may have been exaggerating, but even this shows the form of the conceivable.

On the question of the vernacular, both the protestants and the gallicans used it in their liturgy in the seventeenth century in France. As Joseph Andreas Jungmann says when writing of the Liturgical Movement, breviaries and missals in French appeared as early as 1680,[14] before being suppressed. Even the Jesuits sought indults from Rome for the use of the vernacular in mission lands, notably for China and Quebec. However, these missionaries would have been content with their Latin liturgical books had there been no real need to address the non-European mentality of the new converts. This was not the thoroughgoing and more systematic Catholic reform envisioned by the Jansenists which Weaver calls their “lex docendi, lex orandi”. The whole of their reform program was to seek its expression liturgically.

Even the Italian Jansenists of Tuscany and Pistoia centered their reform on liturgy:

“Inside the parish church the service must be made congregational. And here doctrine entered. The liturgy was not an act done by priest for the people, it was ‘a common act of priest and people’.  Therefore all the liturgy, even the prayer of consecration which was said secretly, should be said in a loud voice, and the congregation was to be encouraged to share. The reformers asked themselves whether logic must not demand liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin, and plainly believed that in principle this would be right; but knew that in practice neither their people nor the Church at large would tolerate such radical departure from hallowed tradition. Nevertheless the people should be helped to understand by being provided with vernacular translations and by readings of the gospel in the vernacular after the Latin reading.” [15]

The most obvious reason why the Jansenists got opposition to their liturgical ideas, of course, is that such were understood to be protestant.[16]  Even today the same ideas are still rejected in some circles on these grounds. Despite Paul VI’s deliberate insertion of ##6-9 into the General Instruction on the Roman Missal of 1969, an assortment of tridentinists, traditionalists, lefebvrists, and sedevacantists continue to claim the reform was a protestant conspiracy. They think the missal of 1570 is an immutable bulwark against protestant influence, even though J.D. Crichton has rightly pointed out that this edition is nearly identical to the first printed one of 1474,[17] several years before the birth of Luther.

Weaver tells us that Dom Guéranger had a personal antipathy toward the Jansenist reform. In speaking of the innovations of Jacques Jubé of Asnières, she cites Guéranger as saying “it was an example of the deviations to which liturgy was liable when the Roman Mass books were not adopted”.[18]

Neither Pope John Paul II, nor Archbishop Bugnini, nor Dom Botte, nor the Second Vatican Council, nor Dom Prosper Guéranger give the Jansenist liturgical reform movement any notice at all for being ahead of its time–it is never mentioned either for its catholicity or its importance as an orthodox, or mostly orthodox, alternative to the mandated liturgical reforms of Trent. Since the canons of Trent were introduced very late in France, it had been up to individuals and small groups to conduct the Counter-Reformation by themselves in what now looks to us to have been an often unsystematic way. Were it not for unfortunate political entanglements which are notorious, Jansenism might have been integrated into the mainstream of the church, not expelled from it altogether. Though their liturgical ideas did not die, but resurfaced in Europe in different contexts, they were always tainted until well into the twentieth century.[19]  Jansenists have often been misunderstood or falsely blamed. Currently, though, church historians are re-evaluating the sources and are able to show that specific liturgical ideas congenial to us were flourishing inFrance andItaly during the early modern period when the Jansenists tried, but failed, to introduce them as reforms into the actual life of the Catholic church. Credit should be given where credit is due. We can recognize ourselves in the Jansenist liturgical reform.


      [1]See Origins, May 25, 1989 (vol. 29, no. 2).

     [2]Collegeville,MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990.

     [3]Washington,DC: The Pastoral Press, 1988.

     [4]Roger Aubert, The Christian Centuries, vol. 5, “The Church in a Secularized Society” (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 599.

     [5]Romantic thinkers usually looked back lovingly to monarchy and the Old Regime, but Jansenist political reformers in Italy, such as the priest Eustachio Degola of Genoa, opposed the Old Regime and allied themselves with French republican ideals. See Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 455. Again, in 1799 the anti-revolutionary peasant army of Arezzo after marching on Florence arrested the famous Jansenist Bishop Scipione de’ Ricci, retired bishop of Pistoia, due to his sympathies for the French military occupation. This was but a few years before Chateaubriand published Le génie du Christianisme in April, 1802. Ibid., p. 473. In general, Chadwick’s estimation of the Revolution is the most succinct way to contrast it with the new Romanticism: “The Revolution did to the Roman Catholic Church what the Reformation failed to do. It appeared to have destroyed its structure if not its being.” Ibid., p. 481. Religious Romanticism surely hoped to bring back both.

     [6]Weaver remarks, “It is interesting and rather pathetic to note that when the Roman Catholic Church condemned all Jansenist teachings, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ–so thoroughly pauline, and orthodox–became suspect. In fact at the First Vatican Council in 1870 the definition of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ was rejected as Jansenist.” See F. Ellen Weaver, The Evolution of the Reform of Port-Royal: From the Rule of Cîteaux to Jansenism (Paris: Éditions Beauchesne, 1978), p. 104, n. 95.

     [7]Aubert says of Guéranger, “…il dénonçait avec acharnement ‘l’hérésie antiliturgique’ en accusant les liturgies françaises d’être tout imprégnées de tendances jansénistes.” See Roger Aubert, “La Géographie ecclésiologique au XIXe siècle”, in L’Ecclésiologie au XIXe Siècle, ed. M. Nédoncelle (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1960), p. 22.

     [8]J. Derek Holmes, The Triumph of the Holy See (London: Burns and Oates, 1978), p. 125. Holmes also says, “Guéranger believed that liturgical ceremonies should express the continuity of tradition and that the principle of liturgical unity should correspond to the visible unity of the Church. In 1840 he published Liturgical Institutions advocating a return to the unity of Roman liturgical practice. There followed an open controversy in which no less than sixty French bishops opposed Guéranger. During 1842 the Pope declared that it was deplorable to have a variety of liturgies, but only half a dozen bishops had adopted the Roman liturgy by 1848. Nevertheless Guéranger continued his campaign and between 1849 and 1851 several provincial councils came out in his support and Pius IX informed the French bishops of his wish that they should adopt the Roman liturgy. By 1864 eighty-one out of ninety-one dioceses had adopted the Roman liturgy and before Guéranger died all the French dioceses had adopted the liturgy of Rome.” (p. 138)

     [9]See “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform” by F. Ellen Weaver, in Church, State, and Society Under the Bourbon Kings of France, ed. Richard M. Golden (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1982).

     [10]Ibid., esp. pp. 62-70. See also Chadwick, p. 428.

     [11]Ibid., pp. 59-60.

     [12] Potenza is in Calabria, southern Italy. Bishop Giovanni Andrea Serrao took office in 1782. When the Parthenopean Republic was under siege Bishop Serrao was murdered in his bed by counter-revolutionary members of the Potenza guard who cut off his head and carried it triumphantly upon a pike around the city. See Chadwick, p. 475. Archbishop Giuseppe Capecelatro (1744-1836) of Taranto was one of the most urbane prelates of his day, and a Jansenist by conviction. He also was said to prefer a married clergy. Ibid., p. 548.

     [13]La Réalité du Projet de Bourg-Fontaine (Paris: 1755), vol. II, p. 302.

     [14]See Sacramentum Mundi, vol. 3,  “Liturgical Movement” (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 319.

     [15]Chadwick, p. 421. He further adds: “In this was nothing specially Jansenist. Muratori asked no less.” The multiplication of private Masses, and the separation of communion from the Mass itself were two other objects of reform, and were the concern of different kinds of reformers, too. Often Enlightenment-era Catholicism and Josephism overlapped with Jansenist liturgical and other goals. Ibid., p. 506. Even in Spain when the guerrillas were revolting against the Napoleonic occupation, their assembly was described thus: “The Liberal majority of the Cadiz Cortes was thus in line with the Catholic reforming movement of the eighteenth century which was still assailed as ‘Jansenist’.” Ibid., p. 533.

     [16]On this point see Chadwick, p. 394.

     [17]The Once and Future Liturgy (Dublin: Veritas, 1977), p. 7.

     [18]Ibid., pp. 64-65. In another place, Weaver stresses that the Jansenists were not protestant, for very good reasons. See The Evolution of the Reform of Port-Royal, p. 102. Furthermore, their emphasis upon infrequent communion can be interpreted in a non-protestant and positive way–the respect they had for the Catholic doctrines of the eucharist and the priesthood kept them in such awe that adequate preparation was necessary to partake of the sacrament.

     [19]See Aubert, ibid., p. 541; also Alec C. Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution (Baltimore: Penguin, 1961 and 1968), pp. 31-32.

Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Published in American Benedictine Review 44:4 (December 1993) 337-351.
American Benedictine Review.  Fifty Year Index.
Published as ABR 51:4 (2000).
Edited by Terence Kardong OSB, monk of Assumption Abbey.
Van Hove, Brian, S.J., “Jansenism and Liturgical Reform,” 44:4 (1993) 337-351