Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jansenist echoes in the Bugninian reform?

I was looking through some archival material and stumbled upon this little history of liturgical errors by Father Laurent Demets, FSSP, based on the seminal work of Dom Gueranger. It is the first of an undisclosed number of lectures given five years ago by Fr. Demets to an Una Voce in Naples, Florida, and posted online under the title, "The Liturgical Stake" (Rorate Caeli, March 25, 2006).

I have extracted two passages in following. The first claims that, according to Dom Gueranger, some earlier pontifically authorized attempts at liturgical reform proved "disastrous" (Dom Gueranger's word). The second argues that Jansenist influences on 17th and 18th-century French liturgical deviations adumbrate key elements of the Bugninian reform following Vatican II.

As an example of earlier pontifically-authorized attempts at liturgical reform that proved disastrous, Fr. Demets describes the attempted reform of the Breviary during the Renaissance. He writes:
The idea was that the ecclesiastical Latin was too rudimentary. The pontifical court was then full of poets and writers for whom the goal was to reform the Latin and they started to compose again all the hymns for the liturgical year. Pope Leo X himself ordered the composition of a new hymnal. The hymnal of Ferreri – Bishop Zacharie Ferreri was the artisan of this hymnal – was finally approved by a Brief of Pope Clement VII in 1525. According to this Brief, every cleric could choose the prayers he wanted for the Divine Office. Ten years later a new breviary was also approved. It is known as the Breviary of Quignonez, from the name of its composer Francois Cardinal Quignonez. Cardinal Quignonez had the reputation of being a man of great piety and a sincere love for the liturgy. The intention was good: it was to renew the devotion of the clerics. Nevertheless the effects were disastrous, since they were made at the expense of Tradition.

If we take stock of this reform made under the authority of these three Popes – Leo X, Clement VII and Paul III – we can only say that is was a disaster – the word is from Dom Gueranger for whom Romanita cannot be suspected. It must be acknowledged that the University of Paris has censored this Breviary promulgated by the highest authority of the Church.

The commentary of Dom Gueranger is pretty interesting. The character of the influence The Holy See exercised on the publication of this Breviary of Quignonez contradicts all that we can see in all the centuries before or after. (That was written in the XIX century!) Rome seems to desire that we use this form of Office but on other hand seems to timid to make it law. We feel as though we are in a state of transition that will last until a Pontiff – Saint Pius V – chosen by God to succeed Leo, Gelasius or Gregory comes and reforms in a saintly way the Divine worship as the Church speaks.

This reform was about the Breviary and didn’t concern the Holy Mass. But the Divine office is still a part of the Liturgy of the Church and what happened in the XVI century can help us deal with the actual liturgical wreck. Dom Gueranger gives us some considerations we can apply, mutatis mutandis, to the actual situation.
  • In order first to last, the reform of the liturgy must be done by pious persons and not by erudite persons.
  • In a reform of the liturgy, we must beware of novelties.
  • Shortening the liturgy is not reforming it!
The liturgical deviations in 17th and 18th-century France were marked primarily by Gallican and Jansenist influences. Here I extract only those paragraphs highlighting the impact of Jansenism. The first attacks came in the 17th century:
First was the Rituale of Alet in 1667 whose Jansenist influence was great. The Breviary of Vienne in 1678 and the Breviary of Harlay in 1680 brought more novelties. This Breviary marked the reversal of the work of Charlemagne and the Popes. This Breviary, for the use of the diocese of Paris, created a new Office which had nothing to do with the Roman Breviary. After the Breviary, Harlay, who was archbishop of Paris, published his own missal. The principle was to use only texts from the Bible that was the idea Luther had. Nevertheless, the Missal of the diocese of Paris, in spite of unfortunate changes, was still the Roman Missal.

The Abbey of Cluny went further by exchanging its old breviary for a new one. Once again the idea was to use only the words from the Scriptures. Yet some new compositions by writers of this century appeared anyway, contradicting the purpose the innovators of this breviary had claimed to be their reasoning for the changes. They even changed the liturgical calendar. The admitted goal was to diminish the cult of the Saints, especially the cult of Our Lady.

You will not be surprised to learn that among the members of the committees for the redaction of the breviary of Paris and the breviary of Cluny, were some notorious Jansenists. They attacked the true Faith through the Liturgy.

... The parish of Asnières, a town near Paris, embodied perfectly the goals of the innovators. The pastor at Asnières was Father Jacques Jubé, a zealous Jansenist. Now, let me describe how the liturgy of this parish was – and I remind you this liturgy I am about to describe was a liturgy in the XVIII century.

There was only one altar in the church, called “Sunday altar” because Mass took place only on Sunday and feast days. When there was no Mass, this altar was totally stripped, as every altar has to be on Good Friday. For Mass, they just put one altar cloth and nothing else: no crucifix, no candle. The only crucifix in the sanctuary was the crucifix of procession that preceded the priest as he ascended the altar. After the beginning prayers of the Mass, he went to sit on a seat on the epistle side from where he started the Gloria and the Credo without reciting them in full, nor were the pieces sung by the choir. During the offertory, there was a procession and bread and wine were offered to the priest. Dom Gueranger says this custom was not reprehensible in itself since it was usual in France in many dioceses at this time, and came from an old tradition. The problem was that in the church of Father Jubé, they added fruits and vegetables which they placed on the altar along with the bread and wine to be consecrated. Then the chalice was brought to the altar without a veil. The priest and the deacon said the prayers of the offering of the chalice in a loud voice to signify that they offered it in the name of the congregation. The Canon was in a loud voice also. And there were no specific prayers before communion.

Are you not familiar with this liturgy? I would say, yes, except for one thing. It was still all in Latin. But as you see, our innovators of today have not come up with anything new. They have simply copied the liturgy of the Jansenists from the XVIII century....
The section on the "anti-liturgical heresy" of the Reformation period is also of considerable interest, but beyond the scope of this particular post.


John L said...

Geoff Hull's book 'The Banished Heart' is the best resource on this I think.

Alan Aversa said...

Thank you for Fr. Demets's speech. It seems quite good.

Alan Aversa said...

Also, what is the title of the work by Dom Gueranger to which Fr. Demets refers? Thanks

Pertinacious Papist said...

Fr. Demets does not cite his Gueranger source, and I won't waste our time guessing, though it's bound to be one of his historical works from the content, I should think.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

The whole idea of "liturgical reform" is a conundrum. How can that which is central and defining be "reformed" -- how can that which must be unchangeable be changed? The accretion and/or subtraction of minor prayers or gestures aside, "liturgical reform" is a self-contradicting concept -- at least it is to anyone for whom liturgy means anything in a Catholic sense. It is not surprising that the results of "liturgical reform" have been disastrous. Apart from their good intentions (or otherwise), the history of liturgical reform is strewn with names which glitter with a temporary iridescence: Bugnini, Guardini, Beauduin, Parsch, etc. In the end, ambition always seems to play a larger role than simple piety. The moving force behind "liturgical reform" is always intellectual presumption.