Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Unserious Criticisms of the "Tridentine Mass," Part 1: History

Some have asked why I question the liturgical/historical pronouncements of Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller. Keller has been for years a relentless critic of the Antiochian and ROCOR Western Rite: our piety, our practices, our laymen, our clergy, our hierarchy, and our liturgies. At every opportunity, he presents his "Old Sarum Rite Missal" as a more ancient liturgy than any of those approved by either canonical Church. But his comments often force one to pause.

When the subject turns to the ancient Liturgy of St. Gregory, he avers, "Truly, the Tridentine use was a break from the traditions of the past and was an abrogation of the full majesty of old Western Gregorian Roman liturgy." He explained, although Gregorian Mass proponents claim Trent was creating a unified Mass, "Within fewer than 300 years a Protestant innovation (the Novus Ordo) itself became that 'single, unified liturgy.' Verbum sapienti." (Ironic Latin in original.) The Missal of St. Pius V was promulgated in 1570; the Novus Ordo promulgated exactly 400 years later, in 1970.

This is the same man who has written A Pocket Church History (!) for Orthodox Christians (which he still offers for sale on the website of his defunct church).

In that volume, Keller insists, "Pius V severely curtailed ["the Old Roman Rite"] with his reformed Tridentine Rite, and after Vatican Council II the depleted remains of the Rite were utterly swept out of the Roman Catholic Church in 1969."

Well, gee whiz, what did that mean ol' Pius V do, Wally? Keller tells us:

A new rite of worship called the Tridentine rite was appointed for the Roman church, drawn up by Pope Pius V, a former inquisitor. [Booga-booga! - BJ] It was based on the original traditions of the Western Church, but many of them it sharply curtailed. In order to compete with the less-demanding Protestant groups, worship began to be shortened and was more and more spoken rather than sung; rows of pews, for the first time in Christian history, replaced the open naves of churches where once the people had stood and moved about freely; ancient chant was replaced by secular-styled music using various musical instruments as well as the voice....Old Western rites such as England’s Sarum, York, and Hereford rites fell into oblivion before the advancing Tridentine rite. Only certain monastic orders and specific installations in Lyons, Milan, and Toledo retained modifications of their ancient liturgical rites.
As Dom James Deschene of Christminster Monastery (ROCOR), once told me, "The problem is that word 'Tridentine.'" Pope Pius V did not create a new Mass de novo: his missal merely harmonized the rubrics of the Western liturgy, standardized certain practices, and curbed abuses by banning any liturgy not at least 200 years old. Somehow Keller portrays this ultra-conservative measure, which turned the clock back centuries and deleted heterodox abuses, as a revolutionary new liturgy. (Since he footnotes none of his contentions that Pius V introduced pews and "secular" music, one can only guess where he developed such misguided notions.)[1]

Of course, the Sarum, York, and Hereford uses were long suppressed by the time the "advancing Tridentine Rite" was standardized by the Missal of Pope Pius V in 1570. The First Act of Uniformity, passed by British Parliament, demanded that by Pentecost 1549 every church in England celebrate Mass according to the first Book of Common Prayer, and "none other or otherwise." This suppressed the Sarum Use. And the "Tridentine" Mass. On penalty of being drawn and quartered.

After Queen Mary's interlude (d. 1558), Queen Elizabeth I officially ended the Sarum Use's use in England for good; Trent had nothing whatever to do with her Sarum suppression policy, enacted a dozen years before there was an "advancing Tridentine Rite" to advance.

In fact, the Council of Trent banned only those liturgies not at least 200 years old at that time, retaining the Sarum, York, and Hereford uses (which were by then also suppressed by the Crown), and others. By the time Roman Catholics were allowed "above ground" in England, the Sarum Use had long since fallen out of use. According to Dom James Deschene, Roman Catholics debated reintroducing Sarum but concluded this would be reviving a dead rite.

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of British history -- liturgical or secular -- knows this. These are basic facts one could learn in any Western Civ 101 course. If he does not understand such basic history in his field -- and has not shied away from propounding on the subject in error, anyway -- should one believe he can navigate the labyrinth world of such a varied and diverse body of literature as Sarum use liturgical texts? Which he claims to be doing in greater depth than virtually anyone in history? Does it give one great confidence when his final products (for that's what they are) differ from those published by every other scholar who has ever investigated the matter?

Such glaring factual errors and blatant misrepresentations will not prevent some from placing blind trust in his words. But they should.


1. Choir stalls had been introduced in some churches at least 100 years earlier, the organ longer before. Nicholas of Cusa, who by 1570 had been dead more than a century, "as papal legate, wanted to restrict the use of the organ to the Mass of the Catechumens," and the synod of Trier, a long holdout against organ use, ruled on restricting the use of organs already in its churches in 1549. (J.A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development. Vol. 1, p. 124; and vol. 2, p. 341.)

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Blogger Father Aristibule Adams said...

Well, there are a few details I'd have to offer corrections on:

1) Though 'Sarum' was suppressed by the Elizabethan Anglican Church, its use continued by the English Secular clergy. In some cases, their Sarum service books lasted up til Emancipation.

2) The myth of 'Tridentine' being imported during the Proscription is easily taken care of by examining the texts in use: for the non-secular clergy (Jesuits) - rather than Tridentine, they had a use for England, Ireland, and Scotland... which scholars have noted follows Sarum norms (in some cases, such as Nuptial Mass, Sarum to the letter.)

2) With Emancipation the first Breviary printed for English Catholics was Sarum. There were around a dozen churches built specifically for Sarum use (including Grace Dieu, when Ambrose Phillips DeLisle converted.) That, being distinguished form those simply 'Sarum style'. Tridentine only began in England with the 19th c. Irish migration. The decision to go with Tridentine rather than Sarum has to do specifically with one new Bishop who had it out for the English old Catholics, as well as new converts for Anglicanism (his words still last til today - that he turned his work towards chaplaincy for the Irish migrants, and with a purpose turned his back to the English Catholics.)

3) The founders of Anglo-Catholicism first got their ideas from the Sarum chapels of the English old Catholics. The 'Sarum thread' of Anglo-Catholicism stems from that connection, and their adoption and attempted revival.

4) When the 19th c. speak of 'dead' or 'revived' - they mean not in general use, rather than that it only existed in books or the imagination.

5) All of that history of Sarum has no bearing on OSRM.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Ari,

Good expansion. I didn't have time/space for it, as the thrust of the article was the defects in Keller's arguments. And yes, all I meant by dead was definitely not in mainstream use.

Thanks for posting!

3:08 PM  

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