13 December 2010

Demned impudence!

We live in curious liturgical times in the West. Perhaps never have stances towards the sacred liturgy been so publicly diverse or divided, and certainly never has technology enabled practically anyone to pontificate on it according to their prejudices by means of a click without thought or responsibility. Once it was that one had to work to earn money to buy one's quill, ink and paper, and then successfully beseech a publisher, and then face the courts if one really wanted to libel someone. Now, well, we click and are not dammed.

The Liturgical Pimpernel is an admirer of the erudition of Fr Hunwick's Liturgical Notes and was impressed by his critique of the somewhat ubiquitous Diarmud McCulloch last week. One of his commentators, a certain Patricius, took the opportunity to impugn the reputation of another scholar. A quick investigation of the evidence he advanced revealed that he had got the matter horribly wrong, and we said so, stating our case. The topic piqued our interest, and the more we searched the clearer it became how erroneous the charge was, and how gratuitous. Patricius had drawn his sword rashly. You can read the sorry details in the comments here.

What is demned impudent, however, is that when fairly challenged, the man retreats into silence. He advances no evidence to support his charges. He refutes no evidence proffered against him. He offers no manly apology or retraction. Silence.

Young sir, a man who slinks away from a defeat so of his own making cannot do so with honour!

Patricius' mettle may be gauged through his blog, Liturgiae Causa. His published statements include silly errors of fact such as "folded chasubles...were abolished by the Pope in 1956" (28 Nov.). They were in fact abolished by the rubrical reform of 1960, though in 1955 they were dropped from Holy Week. A comment on his post, correcting his mistake, has not yet appeared.

His blog contains graver material. Try: "I cannot, in conscience, accept or approve of what Pius XII did to the Sacred Liturgy. I just cannot. I am supremely confident that those reforms were both deeply pernicious and wrought great evil in the Church (you can see the signs today)" (27 Nov). Then there is his "Oath against '62"  which culminates in the declaration "It is a fact that the ''liturgical'' books of 1962 are an aberration, and have no intrinsic value, whether in terms of Liturgy or even aesthetics - they will be an example, in the eyes of posterity, of the dangers of magisterial reform of the Sacred Liturgy" (15 Nov.).

The "1962 line" is artificial, and there is much to be said about it (more on that in a later post). But one wonders what would please him? 1950, before Pius XII's reforms? 1910, before Pius X's reforms? Earlier? And one has to ask: did nothing at all good happen after whatever date it is that you prefer?

Whilst Patricius decides on his ideal date, and then seeks its liturgical reincarnation in the twenty-first century, perhaps we should pray rather earnestly for him, for whilst his stances appear a-historical, and make silly mistakes (and impugn Popes and others with abandon), reading his posts also makes it clear that too much blogging and reading of blogs on liturgy is not always good for the health of a young man: "I am tired and bitter now, finding little consolation in that which of old gave me comfort. Even Tolkien, that kindly intercessor who has kept me in the Roman Church beyond all hope, said that the Church more often felt like a trap than a refuge in the 1960s. Though where could he go? Where can I go? I feel homeless, orphaned and utterly bereft" (27 Nov).

Perhaps we were better off when we had to save up for a quill, ink and paper? The honour of the sacred liturgy is not served by this sort of behaviour.


  1. I think 1937 was a good year for liturgy ;-)

  2. Yes, the fervor of youth burns brightly in "Patricius". I do not remember exactly where (yes I know it is shoddy scholarship)Aquinas recommends that moral philosophy should not be studied by youth due to the fervor of their passions. I would dare to improve on Aquinas and I would say the same for certain disciplines like liturgy.

  3. Old Irish Peasant Woman13 December 2010 at 15:08

    Folded chasubles were not used in the solemm celebration of Holy Week in the Roman rite from Holy Week 1956. In Holy Week 1955 they were still used.

    The rubrical reform of 1960 came into effect on 1st January 1961 so the preactice of not wearing folded chasubles in Lent happened for the first time in 1961 being used for the last time (until recently) in Advent 1960.

    I trust this silly error of fact is corrected on this blog.

  4. No error of fact here, Old Irish Peasant Woman: the November 1955 reform removed them from Holy Week, and the July 1960 reform of the rubrics removed them from everything else. But thank you for underlining the dates on which these reforms first came into effect. Either way, folded chasubles were not abolished by the Pope in 1956.

  5. Old Irish Peasant Woman13 December 2010 at 17:57

    Ah but your ad hominem attack on young Patricius is not the act of a real gentlman - you are clearly not a 'Sir Percy'. You criticise Patricius for inaccuracy yet your own post is capable of of conveying a contrary meaning as the 16th November decree removed folded chasubles for Holy Week of 1956, not 1955. Of course I sit by me peat fire having a good bit o' shag in me pipe reading the decrees of the popes but many have got better things to do these days since the television and the X-Factor came along.

  6. No ad hominem attacks here Madame! His self-published words and his acts (and lack of them) are what are criticised. As a man he may be better than all of us.

    “Capable of conveying a contrary meaning” you may assert, but that does not mean that they are not true. They are equally capable of conveying an accurate meaning.

    The Liturgical Pimpernel will gladly apologise for and retract any errors of fact he may make, as any gentleman should. However this, Madame, is not such an occasion.

    Enjoy your peat fire and pipe. I have heard of television, even used one, but what is this “X-Factor” thing that you say has “come along”? It may be of more use than worrying about folded-chasubles.

  7. He has Asperger's, guys, so lay off a little. His narrow focus on liturgy and "consistency," regardless of a more holistic or pragmatically nuanced picture is, I assume, related to this.

  8. Monkey, you are being very kind. But if the man wants to publish things he must be prepared to be held to account. Ad hominem excuses aren't enough.

  9. Having been trained as an historian of 19th Century Diplomacy, your erudition and literary style recall a former day of elegance and eloquence which is sorely lacking in quotidian discourse.