2 November 2019

Pontificale Romanum: the Second Meddler

(This post presupposes that you read about the previous Meddler a few weeks ago.)

Thomas Cranmer faced, four hundred years before Bernard Botte, the prolixity of the late Medieval Rite for the Consecration of a Bishop. As Dom Gregory Dix enjoyed pointing out, the problem with the sixteenth century 'Reformers' was that they both knew very little about early Christian worship and were very determined to throw out all the Medieval bathwater. But in their profound ignorance, what they generally managed to throw out was the 'primitive' Baby, and the late medieval bathwater is what they sedulously preserved, enthroning it for veneration with all the gleeful fervour of a medieval monastic relic-hunter. Cranmer's revision of the Rite of Episcopal Consecration falls exactly into this pattern. The late medieval Imperative Formula Take the Holy Ghost becomes the centre-piece of his rite [later Anglicans were to make it more explicit: Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God].

The ancient and venerable Roman Consecratory Prayer got as short shrift from Cranmer in the 1550s as it was later to receive from Botte in the 1960s. It emphasised the significance of the vesture of the Aaronic priesthood, and both of our Meddlers undoubtedly will have felt very little enthusiasm for the typological significance of a lot of Hebrew needlework. In its place, Cranmer provided a prayer of his own composition. He was not lacking in self-confidence!

But Cranmer concluded his confection with a slightly abbreviated translation of the Missale Francorum interpolation into the Roman Prayer.

Neither of these two Meddlers, in my opinion, comes at all well out of all this. But, if you were to ask me which of the two of them preserved more of the traditions of the Western Church as they had received them, and moved the more 'organically' within a Hermeneutic of Continuity, I think I might plead that Cranmer wins by a rather dodgy microwhisker.


Michael Leahy said...

The latter really Botteched things up, didn't he?

PM said...

Eammon Duffy's analysis of the dreadful 1973 'translation' inflicted on English-speaking Catholics reached the same conclusion: that Cranmer, notwithstanding the occasional symptom of Protestant neuralgia about words such as merit, was a much better translator of the prayers from the Roman Missal.