21 June 2009

Legal Confusion (1)

The liturgy imposed by the Reformation state on the Church of England was embodied in statute and interpreted by the organs of the Crown. In 1868 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council adjudged that " It is not open to a Minister of the Church, or even to their Lordships in advising Her Majesty as the hightest Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Appeal, to draw a distinction, in acts which are a departure from or violation of the Rubric, between those which are important and those which are trivial". Thus a legal straightjacket was deemed to exist unlike any which had ever existed in Catholic liturgical tradition. Before the invention of printing, in Gregory Dix's words, "broadly speaking, the sanction in liturgy was not 'law' but 'custom'."

But - you cry - especially those of you schooled by Fr Zed to Say the Black and Do the Red - what about the minute regulation clamped upon the Roman Communion by S Pius V? Was this not another Law of Medes and Persians?

No. Although the Counter-Reformation church was a tighter ship than the craft which had cheerfully navigated the preceding fifteen liturgical centuries, it didn't operate like the English Privy Council. As J O'Connell put it in 1940, "Even usage contra legem can obtain the force of custom, even against the rubrics ... the Sacred Congregation of Rites has never declared that no usage which is contrary to the rubrics may ever become a custom ... and from time to time it has not only tolerated usages contra or praeter legem, but has approved them, and sometimes even ordered them to be observed."

In the Church of England, the clergy of the Catholic Revival cheerfully operated on such principles and, by the second and third decades fo the 20th Century, a whole gamut of customs had been nurtured which went beyond (praeter) or contrary (contra) to the statute law. Bishops and Crown lawyers tried to do something about this. But what hindered them at every turn was the fact that it was not only Catholics who disregarded the law, but everybody else too. Evangelicals ignored what they saw as relics of popery surviving in the Prayer Book, and middle-of-the-road men interfered pragmatically and pastorally with the strict letter of the law.

Things got worse after 1928, Parliament turned down a new draft Prayer Book - and the Bishops promptly said that they would tolerate the use of it, thus conniving in the use of a rite which, in 'Establishment' legality, had no more authority than the Liturgy of S John Chrysostom. The 'authorities' would have liked to turn a blind eye to 'sensible' flexibility while exterminating 'Romish' illegalities ... but the illogicality and unfairness of attempts to do this were glaringly apparent. (Concludes tomorrow)


Antiphon said...

Hello Father Hunwicke

I wonder if you or other contributors might be kind enough to offer your opinion on this liturgical matter:-

I am a Roman Catholic layman. Inspired by your example, I have taken to using the 1962 Breviarium Romanum for Vespers on Sundays and major feasts, and the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office either in Latin or in the vernacular on other days. I have the edition of the 1962 Breviary which was recently published by Nova et Vetera.

However, when I read Vespers from the 1962 Breviary I make the following modifications:-

1) I always follow the current Roman calendar; for example, I observed Corpus Christi last Sunday as with the OF of the Missal and LOH, rather than on the previous Thursday as one ought to do with the EF.

2) I always recite the Pater Noster audibly, as with the current Liturgia Horarum.

2) I only ever use one collect, that for the day or the feast, as with the Liturgia Horarum and omit any other commemorations.

In short, I am using similar rubrics with the Breviarium Romanum as one does with the Liturgia Horarum.

I am aware that one should strictly use the old calendar with the EF and I would like to know if others think my current procedure is inappropriate, bearing in mind that I am a layman and not a priest.

If over a period of time a great number of priests chose to use the Breviarium Romanum in this way could it eventually become a legitimate usage, even although it is usage contra legem?

motuproprio said...

As a layman you are entirely free to construct your own devotional office, taking as much or as little from the Payer of the Church as you desire.

Ttony said...

Just remember, though, that it's your invention for your convenience and devotion, and, however useful to you and holy, it's not the Church's.

Antiphon said...

One other case known to me in which the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or Divine Office is subject to modification is that of the Abbey of Fontgombault, where I believe there are some minor deviations from the strict observance of the 1962 Missale Romanum, such as the singing of the concluding doxology of the Canon, as may be done when using the Novus Ordo.

I assume this is done with the permission of the Church, and is therefore legitimate.

Historically, I understand that when John Henry Newman was still an Anglican he recited the Brevarium Romanum according to the calendar of the Church of England, and also omitted the Marian antiphons. After his reception into the RC Church he of course observed the Roman calendar.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council there were various abbreviated forms of the Breviary in both Latin and English for the use of the laity, such as The Little Office of Our Lady, The Little Breviary and The Short Breviary. Would any lay person who used one of these not be praying in accordance with the wishes of the Church, either then or at the present time?

Also, if one were to recite the EF of the Breviary in English using a translation such as The Divine Office published by the Order of St Benedict at Collegeville, USA, in the early 1960s, would one not be praying in accordance with the wishes of the Church?

My suggestion would be that if one is in Holy Orders one is morally obliged to use either the Ordinary or Extraordinary form the the Missal and Divine Office strictly in accordance with the calendar and rubrics applicable to each.

One the other hand, a lay person is under no canonical obligation to recite the Divine Office at all, but may use other forms of prayer instead such as the Holy Rosary. Therefore, a lay person may recite whatever part of the Divine Office he or she is able to do, and may make minor modifications if they are not of substantial importance.

There is also the question of whether a priest or deacon might legitimately recite the Liturgia Horarum for some hours and the Brevarium Romanum for others, and whether the relaxed rule for fasting before communion according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law is now to be applied to Masses using the EF.

Please note that I am not proposing these questions in an argumentative or uncivil manner, but I am only wondering how they might be resolved in conscience.

Also, if any practice contra legem is ultimately to become legitimate through long usage, then I suppose it must be initiated in the first place, even if this goes against established practice.

I suppose that similar questions could be asked regarding liturgical practices within the Church of England.

Antiphon said...

I would add that my question about reciting the EF of the Divine Office in the vernacular rather than in Latin only applies to a lay person. A priest or deacon would of course be canonically obliged to recite it in Latin.

Little Black Sambo said...

How can a rigid insistence on either the old in its entirety or the new in its entirety be squared with the Pope's desire that the old and new should be allowed to affect each other, to the benefit of both? Or have I misunderstood him?

Antiphon said...

That is an excellent point; the old form of the liturgy ought to be allowed to enrich the new by a dignified observance of them both.

One innovation already introduced is that the readings may be proclaimed solely in the vernacular when using the EF of the Missal, without having to repeat them in Latin.

This is the kind of innovation which I feel may be beneficial.