3 May 2022


Yes; wise readers will have remembered, from their frequent use of their glorious and capacious Fr Zed mug, that May 3 is the obitus of the greatest pontiff of the Second Millennium, Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini. But what is it that makes him such a great figure, and one so relevant to our own degenerate days?

In my opinion, it is his combination of the virtues of Enlightenment scholarship with his understanding of the normativeness of Tradition; and a hefty dollop of fine judgement.

As a Enlightenment man, respected as such even by English Whig intellectuals (ex. gr. Horace Walpole), he was aware that 'Tradition' does not mean "How I'm almost sure things probably were in Grandmother's time". His immense erudition ensured his profound awareness that the Past is a country of very considerable complexity. He combined with this understanding an extremely sound sense of judgement, enabling him to discern what really matters in 'the Past'.

The story of his (ultimately unsuccessful) attempts to reform the Breviary exemplifies this. He was aware that things needed to be changed ... not least, in some of the 'historical' lections. But did this mean that the whole shooting-match had to go into the melting pot?

He gathered a group of 'consultators'. They, also, were discerning and adept historians. Their report reminded the Pontiff that some of these questions had arisen under Clement VIII (1592-1605), when that pope's advisers had concluded that the distribution of the psalms in the Divine Office should not be changed. The reasons they adduced were those advanced by S Gregory VII ('Hildebrand'; 1073-1085). "Is igitur  qui nunc in Ecclesia Romana viget divinae psalmodiae ritus vetustissima antiquitate utitur, a qua sine aliqua novitatis nota ac sine periculo recedi vix possit." The central words here are, of course, vetustissima antiquitate ... 'the very oldest ancientness'! 

The Pope's experts surveyed the views of the learned men of the medieval and renaisasance periods; and ended up with a quotation from Radulphus de Rivo: "Stick with (it is far safer) what foresighted antiquitas et auctoritas teach, rather than what reckless novitas et infirmitas have dreamed up."

Readers will have no difficulty understanding the Latin words I have left in Red!

This was the sound and well-judged liturgical culture over which Papa Lambertini presided. It is a shame that S Pius X, and his successors, poor poppets, did not have rather more of those instincts!


Pulex said...

It seems to me that the central words are rather these: "sine aliqua novitatis nota", i.e. an appearance or shade of some novelty is in itself an argument against the reform.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. We have gone from this:


Errors Once Condemned, not to be Discussed Again *

[From the epistle “Licet inter varias” to Honorius, Bishop of Dalmatia, July 28, 493 (?)]

161 (1) [For] it has been reported to us, that in the regions of the Dalmatians certain men had disseminated the recurring tares of the Pelagian pest, and that their blasphemy prevails there to such a degree that they are deceiving all the simple by the insinuation of their deadly madness. . . . [But] since the Lord is superior, the pure truth of Catholic faith drawn front the concordant opinions of all the Fathers remains present. . . . (2) . . . What pray permits us to abrogate what has been condemned by the venerable Fathers, and to reconsider the impious dogmas that have been demolished by them? Why is it, therefore, that we take such great precautions lest any dangerous heresy, once driven out, strive anew to come [up] for examination, if we argue that what has been known, discussed, and refuted of old by our elders ought to be restored? Are we not ourselves offering, which God forbid, to all the enemies of the truth an example of rising again against ourselves, which the Church will never permit? Where is it that it is written: Do not go beyond the limits of your fathers [Prov. 22:28], and: Ask your fathers and they will tell you, and your elders will declare unto you [Deut. 32:7]? Why, accordingly, do we aim beyond the definitions of our elders, or why do they not suffice for us? If in our ignorance we desire to learn something, how every single thing to be avoided has been prescribed by the orthodox fathers and elders, or everything to be adapted to Catholic truth has been decreed, why are they not approved by these? Or are we wiser than they, or shall we be able to stand constant with firm stability, if we should undermine those [dogmas] which have been established by them? . . . .

to now in which only things previously condemned are allowed to be discussed.