30 December 2010


Well blow me down with a feather. Good old Patricius has lifted the lid. Some Pillars of Tradidom are DIY merchants, if not rampant cafteteria traditionalists.

A Subdeacon
 In an entirely inconsistent moan about “Why can’t I play subdeacon too?” he has prompted revelations that stand to undermine pillars of traddidom this side of the pond and over there.

Where to begin? Perhaps with Patricius himself, though no pillar he. Consistency aside, his post bites the sacerdotal hand that feeds him, which the Pimpernel thinks is a jolly knavish thing to do.

Then there are his comments. His words “I could potentially be a member of the '62 police - you just have to piss me off enough” say a lot. More than enough in fact.

Besides this startling self-revelation he has opened a pandora’s box. First, he states that “since I have taken an oath never to attend, support or ratify any celebration of the Liturgy according to the liturgical books of 1962 I wouldn't still be going there if that were the case.” “There” happens to be the parish of a good, hardworking priest who doesn’t need the publicity, Patricius. You are not helping. Do you want him apprehended by the forces of the Revolution?

Then we find that he has published comments by others, impugning none other than the great Father "x" for celebrating midnight Mass at which the second [sic] confiteor was sung, and rejoicing at his saying over cheese and Chianti that "he is not a big fan of the '62 Missal, that if he had his way, he would have set things back to before the Pian reforms of 1955." Father "x" is entitled to say what he wants over cheese and Chianti and not to have it reported, the Pimpernel thinks. But he has published and relentlessly promoted the "1962" line on his blog about translations. A priest celebrant is responsible for the Masses he celebrates: no excuses there. Sounds like a bit of a 'pick-and-choose' aprroach to the rubrics to me. "Make up the red and say whatever you think should be in the black" as the coffee-mugs say.

But that is not all. The infamous "not-a-minute-before-1962" MC of the English Latin Mass Society is reliably reported to have subdeaconed the Easter Vigil in London two years ago. There are plenty of pictures, including some of him seated in a biretta. Did the Archdiocese of Westminster agree to this? Is this the sort of example the Latin Mass Society holds up as good practice? Did he obtain an indult for this in 1962?

Rubricarius assures us, though, that the offender "is one of the kindest, most Christian and the very best of men". We must put such gratuitous ad hominem remarks aside. Is he an acolyte in the Roman Church? Is he in any way a cleric or in religious vows? If not, what is he doing parading as a subdeacon? Sorry Patricius (et. al.), whilst the praxis of other Churches and ecclesial communites may be of interest, and may even teach us about what we should do, there were and are rules about this in the Latin rite, and just any layman won't do.

This pick-and-choose cafeteria traditionalism does no honour to the sacred liturgy. There are rules of engagement, at least for gentlemen. It may be too much to ask that some blogging individuals show deference to the Church's liturgical legislation and to exercise some discretion in their reporting of its infractions, as opposed to legitimately discussing its value and making proper submissions about possible changes. But is it too much to ask our pastors and MC's simply to do what the Church allows? In that, the Pimpernel believes, lies honour. Or has Traddigate already gone too far?


  1. The Ecclesia Dei Commission has given permission to include the Second Confiteor, an unbroken traditional almost worldwide.

  2. Interesting Castoro. If true it is a turn-around, possibly a welcome one. Do you have a reference to the rescript?

  3. Only in polish - http://www.nowyruchliturgiczny.pl/2010/12/sprawa-iii-confiteor.html

  4. I know for certain that permission was given to a certain very prominent church. perhaps it was given orally and not in written form. a written rescript might open a pandorra's box in traddyland and send the blogsphere pulpits into pandaemonium. all such issues are being discussed at Ecclesia Dei, with the new, sympathetic staff.

  5. There is something unseemly about all of this ‘1962 or bust’ blather. That someone will avoid Holy Mass because every jot and tittle of one’s own myopic view of the liturgy is not minutely observed, says more about the subject than the object.

    When did we get so absorbed in the minutiae of liturgical ceremonies? When did everybody and his brother become self-described experts? There is Phariseeism at work here (“my phylacteries are bigger than your phylacteries”) and Our Lord was none too pleased with that.

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and consider what they came out to see. I can be as displeased with rubrical aberrations as the next person – and we have had our fill of them these past 50 years – but if I let them turn me away from Holy Mass then the Devil has won and I am no better than someone who never darkens the door of the church for other reasons.

  6. I'm greatly enjoying your expose of Cafeteria Traditionalism (a brilliant soubriquet by the way). Isn't it interesting how both the Uber-Traddies and the Strict 62ers do what they want when it suits them.

    However, I don't think that the 62 reform is above criticism. Its clear from Bl John XXIII's Motu Proprio that it was only ever intended as a temporary measure, and there seems to be an increasing consensus that some of the changes were ill thought out or prompted by questionable theology. Practically, I'm inclined to think that we should follow the 1962 rubrics, but be tolerant of minor deviations. (e.g. I can't think that it matters in the slightest whether one says the second confiteor or lights the consecration candle). A layman who hasn't been instituted as an acolyte is another matter. I doubt very much whether there is a precedent for that or whether it would have been tolerated under the Ancien Regime.

  7. I confess to finding the sight of the good Mr. Dimon (or anyone) in a violet tunicle on Holy Saturday deeply shocking.

  8. It may well be that the subdeacon had to cancel at the last minute and the MC had to fill in. This is nothing I would do, but I would not assume any bad intention, sometimes things just do not work out, and some people make unwise decisions when in a hurry (naturally, I would also prefer a folded chasuble to a purple Dalmatic, if that were uncontroversial).

    Generally, I fear that there is in the moment no real alternative to a 'cafeteria' approach to liturgy. Apart from priests in traditional institutes (and the FSSP and the ICKSP have quite different customs from each other, I think) most priests who celebrate the old liturgy either do what they remember from the distant past or try to make sense of the rubrics on their own, quite a few of them have probably never seen any other priest celebrate in this form. Even if they have good intentions they sometimes do not have enough knowledge of the traditional forms to get everything right (or to realize what they do not get right). Some even think that they can introduce some elements from Novus Ordo they regard as quite nice and fitting and cannot see why they are not allowed. Elderly priests who have still some recollections to the time before 1969 may regard some short-lived reforms of the 1960s and some liturgical experiments like the 'dialogue mass' as the gold standard of liturgical tradition. Servers and MCs who try to stick to the rubrics can then be told that they propagate a museum-style liturgy, or that they do not things as they were done in the 1950s and hence are not properly traditional.

    Naturally, one has also to be careful to distinguish between venerable local traditions and bad habits. In Munich I was, for instance, confronted with the habit that the acolytes and thurifer do not stand up after the Elevation of the Chalice, as e.g. Fortescue recommends, but only after the priest has kissed the altar in the 'Supplices'. I believe that this is a more ancient local tradition and therefore should be respected, but I have no idea where it comes from.

    Outside traditional institutes it is probably impossible to follow all the rubrics in the Missal (I wonder how some bishops would react if they were asked to consecrate a chalice with chrism or to bless altar-clothes), and if one ignores some, one is tempted to ignore many.

    It is difficult to see a way out of this confusion. The Latin Mass Society tries it with a very rigid application of the 1962 rubrics - but this means to a certain extent forcing through reforms that had been widely ignored when they came in originally - and some of these reforms are just so badly crafted that they are counterintuitive for celebrants and servers (like the sitting-down at the Epistle). One would hope that Rome would at some point make 'Reform of the Reform' of the 1962 rubrics and then started with a good teaching campaign (without trying to stamp out what are really venerable local customs). However, I cannot see that done in the near future. It seems to me that Ecclesia Dei is now primarily not dealing with liturgy but with doctrine, to facilitate the regularisation of the SSPX.

  9. But he has published and relentlessly promoted the "1962" line on his blog about translations. A priest celebrant is responsible for the Masses he celebrates: no excuses there. Sounds like a bit of a 'pick-and-choose' aprroach to the rubrics to me. "Make up the red and say whatever you think should be in the black" as the coffee-mugs say.

    After 40 years, a contra legem custom has force of law. If he was to celebrate where such a custom does not obtain, I expect he'd follow the '62 rubrics. Where such a contra legem custom exists, he rightfully follows the law of the place.

  10. Not so simple SJH. Read canons 23-28 of the Code. Then, if you can, apply it to liturgical law. It is not at all easy.

    One thing emerges though. If, as a certain blogging priest reports, the competent authority has reproved the practice, the custom argument falls. He really shouldn't have asked Ecclesia Dei the question in the first place. Having asked the question, to disobey the response...well.

    Traddies claim custom without any regard for the law for whatever they want to do at times. This sort of thing is Cafeteriaism at large, thinks the Pimpernel.

  11. Read canons 23-28 of the Code. Then, if you can, apply it to liturgical law. It is not at all easy.

    I don't see what's so hard about it. If you have an actual argument, please make it, don't just point to a section of the Code and say "It's hard." If you don't have an argument as to how this usage is not a custom then you should not accuse people of violating the law.

  12. SJH: you, sir, are the one trying to make an argument here (that custom may permit the practice), and the Pimpernel for one would be interested in reading it if it includes a basis in custom as recognised by law (which is the only ground for its practice). So make your case, and do it well, and in a gentlemanly manner.

    That someone shouts in a cafeteria changes nothing of their attitude to the menu. That a Fr Y may have got it wrong in thought, word or deed is not 'a priori' impossible.

  13. Can. 23 Only that custom introduced by a community of the faithful and approved by the legislator according to the norm of the following canons has the force of law.

    This canon has two requirements: 1) that the custom be introduced and 2) that it be approved by the legislator in accordance with the following canons.

    1) The custom of the confiteor before communion has been introduced in the Archdiocese of New York.
    2) Deferred to the answers regarding the following canons.

    Can. 24 §1. No custom which is contrary to divine law can obtain the force of law.

    The confiteor before communion is not contrary to divine law.

    §2. A custom contrary to or beyond canon law (praeter ius canonicum) cannot obtain the force of law unless it is reasonable; a custom which is expressly reprobated in the law, however, is not reasonable.

    The many hundreds of years tradition of using the confiteor before communion shows that it is reasonable as a custom and while it has been prohibited in the 1962 rubrics, its use has not been reprobated (a specific and higher level of dissproval.)

    Can. 25 No custom obtains the force of law unless it has been observed with the intention of introducing a law by a community capable at least of receiving law.

    The Archdiocese of New York is a community capable of receiving law. The custom has been employed nearly universally by the priests of the Archdiocese who celebrate the 1962 rite.

    Can. 26 Unless the competent legislator has specifically approved it, a custom contrary to the canon law now in force or one beyond a canonical law (praeter legem canonicam) obtains the force of law only if it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. Only a centenary or immemorial custom, however, can prevail against a canonical law which contains a clause prohibiting future customs.

    The use of the confiteor before communion has been observed publically for more than 30 years in the Archdiocese of New York, including in the Archdiocesan cathedral, in the presence of officials of the Archdiocese, etc. etc.

  14. Re: Subdeacons....

    It is intirely permissable for a lay man to substitute for an installed acolyte out of necessity. It is the role of "straw" subdeacon. If we look to Can. 230 §1. Lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.

    Nevertheless, the conferral of these ministries does not grant them the right to obtain support or remuneration from the Church.

    §2. Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.

    §3. When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside offer liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law.

    It is §3 which allows for a lay man to substitute if the need arise. So fear not, it isn't "wrong" for a lay man to subsitute if the need arises.

  15. SJH, Please bear in mind that liturgical law, is respected by the Code. Summorum Pontificum establishes the books of 1962 as normative for such celebrations, as did Pope John Paul II's legislation (1984 & 1988). All of these acts reprove the custom you claim existed (more that 30 years? That seems a bit hard to assert pre-1984?). The abolition of the confiteor before communion is part of liturgical law (1960) and has been reinforced by the competent authority in its mandating of the 1962 books on every occasion it has spoken about the older form. You are not on sound legal ground in continuing the practice as it is a practice, not stricly a custom, clearly contrary to the law reasserted by the competent authority. If it is that important, the responsible pastors should apply to the Holy See for an indult.

    Andy, there are specific regulations from PCED pertaining to who may act as subdeacon and these are binding. The examples you cite are examples of the proper authority having to make similar regulations when they foresee that the need would arise. It is permissable for a layman to act as subdeacon in those situations foreseen by the PCED regulations and by the liturgical law of the books of the Old Roman Rite, but not otherwise. In the case in this post, the Pastor concerned was not free according to law to agree to the young man's request.

  16. Canonist, a law, and even the reassertion of the law is not the reprobation of a contrary custom, which has a specific legal meaning (as you, anonymous canonist, should know).

    Furthermore, a contra legem custom is, as the name suggests, ALWAYS established in contravention of the existing law.

    If there are specific regulations from the PCED on who can act as a subdeacon, please cite them so that others can be informed, don't just assert that they exist.

    Andy Milam's argument is appealing (an acolyte can substitute for a subdeacon and per the 1983 Code, a layperson can substitute for an acolyte and therefore a layperson can substitute for a subdeacon), but Archbishop Burke has argued that the 1983 laws don't generally preempt the 1962 liturgical laws in this way.


  17. SJH the 2009 edition of Fortescue has the PCED ruling as well as a discussion of liturgical law and the 1983 Code.