Tuesday, January 19, 2016


The following are excerpts from a paper by Fr. Anthony Chadwick. I find these interesting. You can read his article HERE:

...the various commissions and advisers at the Council of Trent found, there were serious abuses in the liturgy. They could not have made them up! The study of liturgy was in its infancy at that time, which is putting it mildly. Many mistakes were made in pruning the old Roman liturgy, though fewer than the Protestants. I have become increasingly aware over the years that the 1570 Roman Rite is far from perfect, and there are frustrating incoherences here and there. No liturgy is perfect, and the more it is tampered with, the more frustrating it becomes!
...(The Council of Trent call) a general congregation of the 20th July 1562 appointed a Commission of seven prelates[2] to look into the problem of abuses in the eucharistic celebration[3]. It met in six sessions[4].

The abuses they listed were in six categories: the Mass, the celebrant and ministers, the vestments and material requisites, the place of worship, the time of Mass, and connected with the lay assistance (auditoribus).

 Liturgical abuses in particular

Concerning abuses in the Mass in itself, the Commission reported that many apocryphal texts: introits, prefaces[6] and prayers, had crept into the Mass[7]. The prelates found confusion in the rubrics, and desired uniformity in the question of rites[8]. Significantly, they observed that, at the offertory, the non-consecrated bread and wine were respectively called a holy and immaculate host and the chalice of salvation[9]. They objected to the multiplied signs of the cross over the consecrated elements[10], which are not in fact an abusive practice, but long established in liturgical tradition. The practice of farcing was considered an abuse[11]. They warned of the custom of deploying a specified numbers of candles for certain feasts[12].

We now come to those abuses arising from avarice on the part of the clergy. Some priests took several stipends for one Mass[13], or even worse, took the money and failed to celebrate the Mass. Parish priests were not celebrating Mass in their churches on Sundays and Feast Days, for they were celebrating Votive or Requiem Masses elsewhere[14]. The prelates reported on the problem of missæ siccæ and Mass celebrated several times a day. The Commission disapproved of the practice of celebrating several successive Masses[15] or of celebrating private Masses while a Solemn Mass was being sung in the same church[16]. It was observed that bodies of the deceased in a state of advanced putrefaction, lying in chapels of repose under the church, were a disturbance to people at High Mass. All kinds of suggestions were made to abolish pecuniary abuses and to avoid offences against Christian modesty and decency, such as licentiousness and drunkenness at the occasions of processions and first Masses of newly ordained priests[17].

The seven prelates recommended that priests were to celebrate Mass with devotion and due preparation, in order that the Sacrifice is fruitful and that scandal is avoided, lest religion be brought into disrepute. Priests were also to respect the rubrics and liturgical uniformity[18]. They added their own improvised prayers to the official texts of the Mass and made ridiculous gesticulations. Priests bowed their heads when elevating the Host, and ran the risk of spilling the chalice when holding it over their heads as they genuflected or bowed. Liturgical gestures were grossly exaggerated and indecent, such as licking the paten after communion. The practice of elevating the host during the Pater noster was not unknown[19], Some priests left the altar during Mass without just cause.

The Commission recommended that clerics, priests in particular, should be correctly dressed in a cassock and the prescribed vestments, and to shave their beards and tonsures. Only clerics were to assist the priest in the sanctuary, and were to wear the surplice. They were to learn Latin and pronounce it correctly. The mention of all this indicates that discipline was very slack in the late middle ages. All occasion of scandal was to be avoided, thus drunkards and public sinners were to be excluded from the church. The prelates noted every detail from their observations, to the point of remarking the bare feet and legs of Franciscan priests[20].

The altar linen was frequently dirty, and vestments were ill maintained[21]. The Commission recommended that chalices should be made only of precious metal. Masses were being celebrated in profane places, and fetid and semi-putrid bodies of the dead were being brought to church for burial. Churches were turned to profane use and parodies of the Mass were performed on occasions[22]. Churches were becoming places of ridiculous spectacles.

 It had been a long tradition in the Church that Mass was not to be celebrated before dawn or in the afternoon or evening. This prescription was not always observed. Priests were marrying couples at the wrong times of the year[23].

The abuse, concerning the laity, against which the Commission spoke the most severely was the non-observance of silence at Mass; people talked among themselves and walked around the church[24] during the ceremonies. Vagrants begged in churches, and the prelates suggested that they should be made to remain outside the doors of the church. Some people came to church indecently dressed and allowed animals to wander into the sanctuary. The Commission wished to see the ancient discipline restored concerning the unbaptised and excommunicated. They should be allowed to assist only at the Mass of the Catechumens. They desired also that people should attend services in their own parish churches and cathedrals[25].

Deliberations of the Fathers concerning remedies

From this long list of abuses, the prelates drew up a Compendium abusuum circa sacrificium missæ[26]. The most salient point of this new document is the first paragraph that calls for a reform of the Roman Missal in order to assure the uniformity of the eucharistic celebration. All that was abusive was to be abolished. The rest was to be continued and propagated by all priests, regular and secular[27], The rest of the Compendium draws up the previously mentioned abuses in a more concise form, but no longer in the form of observations, but of proposals for reform.

On the l0th September 1562, nine canons on abuses in the Mass were submitted to the Fathers for examination[28], The first one of these proposes to abolish profani lucri et sordida cupiditas and to root out fraudulent practices in regard to stipends[29]. The second calls for an end to missæ siccæ[30]. Canon 3 desired that priests should celebrate no more than one Mass a day, unless pastoral need necessitated it, on pain of suspension[31]. The fourth called for a restricted use of Votive Masses, and that these were not to be celebrated on Sundays and Feast Days[32]. The fifth concerns the Mass of the Dead and the right occasions for its celebration[33], Canon 6 expresses a desire, out of respect for the Holy Mysteries, to abolish the celebration of Mass anywhere but in a consecrated building. In cases of necessity, priests would have to consult their Ordinary[34], Canons 7 and 8 concern the care of liturgical material and the way of saying and singing the Mass[35], The final canon (9) recommends the exclusion from churches of the excommunicated and public sinners[36].

 The abuses that headed the list for condemnation was the question of Mass-stipends:

The local ordinaries shall be zealously concerned and be bound to prohibit and abolish all those things which either covetousness, which is a serving of idols, or irreverence, which can scarcely be separated from ungodliness, or superstition, a false imitation of true piety, have introduced. They shall in the first place, as regards avarice, absolutely forbid conditions of compensations of whatever kind, bargains, and whatever is given for the celebration of new masses; also those importunate and unbecoming demands, rather than requests, for alms and other things of this kind which border on simoniacal taint or certainly savour of filthy lucre”.

The Fathers were unanimous in declaring:

that irreverence may be avoided, each in his own diocese shall forbid that any wandering or unknown priest be permitted to celebrate mass. Furthermore, they shall permit no one who is publicly and notoriously wicked either to minister at the altar or to be present at the sacred services; nor suffer the holy sacrifice to be celebrated by any seculars and regulars whatsoever in private houses or entirely outside the church and the oratories dedicated solely to divine worship”.

The question of unsuitable music comes up, as does that of the conduct of those assisting at Mass:

They shall also banish from the churches all such music which, whether by the organ or in the singing, contains things that are lascivious or impure; likewise all worldly conduct, vain and profane conversations, wandering around, noise and clamour, so that the house of God may be seen to be and may be truly called a house of prayer”.

The Fathers imposed discipline and condemned once and for all the use of unlawful “liturgical” texts and superstitious customs:

Finally, that no room may be given to superstition, they shall by ordinance and prescribed penalties provide that priests do not celebrate at other than proper hours; or make use of rites and ceremonies and prayers in the celebration of masses other than those that have been approved by the Church and have been received through frequent and praiseworthy usage. They shall completely banish from the Church the practice of any fixed number of masses and candles, which has its origin in superstitious worship rather than in true religion; and they shall instruct the people”.

Some Fathers wished for slight amendments on doctrinal grounds. One Father, Lavellinus, desired to abolish the use of portable altars[39]. Nevertheless, the decree was promulgated. It was certainly in the light of this that the Roman Missal was to be reformed.


Gene said...

Dang! You sure this wasn't written in 2014?

James said...

There's a nice recording on YouTube of the Preces speciales composed by Jacobus de Kerle for use at the Council of Trent:

John Nolan said...

Although this article is old hat, published five years ago, it is interesting and not for the most obvious reasons.

1. The Commission was appointed on 20 July 1562, met on six days between 24 July and 6 August, and the report was published on 17 September. An astonishingly short timescale by modern standards.

2. We have no idea how widespread or frequent these abuses were.

3. Some of the liturgical abuses the Commission mentions (multiple signings over the elements, mention of 'immaculatam hostiam' and 'calicem salutaris' in the Offertory prayers) were retained in the 1570 Missal and indeed in the most recent form of the Roman liturgy, the Ordinariate Missal.

4. These Offertory prayers were indeed suppressed by the compilers of the Novus Ordo and the Jewish table prayers which replaced them are regarded by most liturgical scholars as a major weakness of the new Mass. However, the 1960s reformers acted contrary to the spirit of the Tridentine reform in greatly expanding the number of Prefaces. And their changes to the Ordinary, particularly as regards the options for the Eucharistic Prayer mark a distinct rupture with the Roman Rite.

5. Quibbles about the number of candles show a somewhat puritanical and minimalist attitude common to liturgical reformers then and now. Trent pruned the liturgy too drastically.

An unintended effect of the promulgation of the new rite by Paul VI, which he clearly intended to be normative and binding on the Latin church, has been the extent to which we have become multi-ritual. But whereas pre-Trent the rite in a particular region would remain the same, we now have a plethora of different interpretations in a limited geographical area, and different vernaculars add another complication. Had the post-V2 reform been more limited it might indeed have become normative, but the reformers had other ideas. Whereas historically the different Uses were subject to a centripetal pull towards the Roman Use, the modern idea of inculturation implied a centrifugal movement away from Rome. That this diversity was centrally directed is one of the many paradoxes of the modern era.

On Sunday I was in Edinburgh and whereas the FSSP church is some way out from the city centre, the cathedral was opposite the hotel. I found the 10:30 Mass there was in Polish. I speak not a word of that language yet the Mass was reassuringly familiar since it was done 'straight' - and even with sermon, bidding prayers and notices lasted barely 50 minutes. Some lugubrious Polish hymns were sung, with hardly any of the congregation joining in. Functional, ex opere operato, but is this what the reformers intended?

DJR said...

The "abuses" at the time of the Reformation don't hold a candle to what we have witnessed in our era.

The word "abuses" isn't really the proper word anyway. It should be "blasphemies" or "sacrileges," and such things occur even during papal liturgies right in the very heart of Christendom.

"Abuses" seems like a tame word in comparison.

Gene said...

DJR, you are correct. And, the blasphemy is more shameful because it is so banal. Most of the OF's I attend are just that...banal. Lazy Priests, haphazard processionals, sloppy altar servers, cheap vestments and linens, trite homilies, awful music, and obligatory Communion. A Bishop who gives a hoot should spend a year going to different Churches and, after sprinkling Holy Water on his shoes, kick the butts of these lazy Priests in the fashion of a Drill Instructor. Give 'em three months to get it right or they get sent to Bugeye, Ga. or Whoshotya, Mississippi.