23 December 2010

Ownership of the Liturgy in the Roman Church

"Rubricarius" is a prolific commentator on liturgical blogs. He has even displayed his knowledge on the Liturgical Pimpernel. His name "Rubricarius" is misleading though, for he is concerned about more than rubrics.

On Patricius' latest post at Liturgiae Causa (a post possibly prompted by the Pimperel's previous 'impertinence' in calling Patricius to order) Rubricarius has made several comments, here. One such comment includes the assertation that "Ownership of the liturgy in the Roman Church belongs to the reigning pope."

The Pimpernel would agree that some popes have certainly behaved as proprietors in the past (from the twentieth century St Pius X, Pius XII and Paul VI figure prominently on any list). This proprietorial behaviour has contributed to our present liturgical malaise. He would also agree that centralism and ultramontanism have done damage.

But the currently reigning pope disagrees that such liturgical proprietorship should be or is in fact the case. His opinion of this as Cardinal is well known.

"The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the Liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity...The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition." (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 166).

What may not be so well known is Pope Benedict's homily on the occasion of his taking possession of St John Lateran in May 2005. Here he applies what he said as Cardinal to all of the Pope's activity.

"The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism."

Some parts of Summorum Pontificum are relevant also.

God grant our Holy Father health and long life! But even in the coming pontificates, it will be very difficult if not impossibe, especially with modern information technology, for a pope to behave towards the sacred liturgy as have some in the past or to undo the liturgical momentum fostered in this pontificate.

Now is the God-given time, with and under the Holy Father, to consider past errors and to work for their correction. It is not time to wallow in despair over the past and to look backwards, but to look and work hard towards the future in hope. Pope Benedict XVI is a providential gift of God to the Church, especially regarding the sacred liturgy. At least, that's what the Pimpernel thinks.


  1. I suppose this "liturgical momentum" comes as part of the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy and especially of the clergy, who have for years, generally neglected Tradition in the celebration of the liturgy.

  2. Hmmm - well I’ll say this by way of tangents: about two decades ago I conducted an appraisal of Warrington’s economic future (I know, the glamour!) and concluded that one of the town’s innate challenges was that it was “too Manchester” to be Liverpool and “too Liverpool” to be Manchester, with the consequence that neither wanted to acknowledge it.

    Thus Warrington ignored them both, got on with its own development and is now quite the commercial hinge between the two (there’s a similar analogy to be drawn with mid C20th attitudes to mixed race people in the UK: too black to be white, too white to be black...but I guess you know my drift now).

    Anyway, having spent the third decade of my 44 years on this planet searching for what was evidently missing from my Novus Ordo Catholic experience; and then the fourth decade knowing exactly what it was and then, having found it, acted to embrace it (76 “Extraordinary Form” Masses [the debate about that term’s usage is pointless] under my post Motu Proprio alter server’s cassock now), I’m simply not going to retreat from offering an input into the great liturgical renewal debate.

    “Everyone’s an expert in the Catholic blogosphere blah blah”. Sigh.

    I’m well aware of my green limitations and I blog in awe of exemplars like Rubricarius et al. At the same time, without being arrogant, I’m also aware that I’m on a different liturgical plane to the Novus Ordo crew I associate with by default (family, friends etc.).

    I occupy No Man’s Land. I belong to a “liturgical Warrington”.

    Well here’s a flash...

    * First to the Novus Ordo crew who seem horrified at all this “turning back of the clock lunacy”, especially from under 50s like me who “should know better”;

    * Second to those who could wipe the floor with me in a liturgical debate within thirty seconds (and I’d consider it a privilege to learn - hence why I hoover blogs like this for morsels);

    ...the Summorum Pontificum classes like me simply aren’t going to go or shy away - so you’d best get used to it!

    I simply refuse to spend the next 40 years - after the wastelands of the first 40 - waiting until I’m expert enough to contribute what I can. Yes, maybe we are “amateurs”. Well, happy to be so - in the truest sense of that word.

    I’m 44. I am where I am. We are where we are. The Church is where it is. Bugnini happened. Vatican II happened. I can’t change that. We can’t change that. The 1962 debate - yeah-but-no-but-no-but-yeah. We could go round in circles.

    We need to push on. And you’ll have to get used to a lot of Moto Proprio inspired Catholics involved in EF land who maybe don’t know a tunicle from a folded chasuble - but, hey, we’ll learn as we go.

    Thank-you, sincerely, for fighting the good fight. We’re here to help, learn and serve now.

    Quite literally.

    Do you think we could give it a chance?

  3. As well as being a Commentator Rubricarius also has two blogs on the Traditional Roman Rite and publishes an Ordo as well:



  4. Just looked at those blogs Bryan.

    One "publishes an Ordo Recitandi, in Latin, modelled on those produced in Rome in the middle of the last century before some of the unpleasant and unfortunate changes of the 1950's and early 1960's". Pretty academic. Also what if you don't like the Pius X changes? What if some of the changes he doesn't like were good.

    The link to the second one isn't right, but I found it through his profile. It's pretty academic too "This blog seeks to widen knowledge of the 1568 edition of the Breviary and 1570 edition of the Missal" but not much practical use. The Roman rite wasn't frozen in 1570 was it? What if you don't accept Pius V's changes and would prefer something earlier.

    Whoever rubricarius is he must be very smart. It all seems a bit eccentric to me. I suppose it takes all sorts.

  5. Anonymous 27/12 - you are too kind, thank you. I don't even have a doctorate yet, but it is coming. Across this side of the 'pond' we like being a tad eccentric. No, of course the liturgy wasn't frozen, although it became pretty chilled in 1588 I might argue, but neither was it frozen in 1962 either.

    Bryan - thank you too.

    Dear L.P., thank you too - nothing like publicity to help the Old Rite along.

  6. Rubricarius: "I don't even have a doctorate yet, but it is coming" - what are you doing it on and where? It sounds interesting.

  7. Rubricarius, you dissapoint your admireres. Do tell of your studies.

  8. LP,

    Concerning an aspect of Holy Week in an attempt to address the nonsense of the 1956 changes but if you think I am going to elaborate you are very much mistaken.


  9. Rubricarius, no need to be so defensive. It is good news that someone so knowledgable is doing a doctorate in that area. Elaborate when you will. You have the best wishes of the Pimpernel for your work! May it make a valuable and honourable contribution to the cause!