Monday 14 June 2010

Annus mirabilis 1962?

"Liturgical decline began
In nineteen-sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) ..."

The Society of St Tarcisius is not a campaigning or controversial organization. It is devoted to giving practical and spiritual support to servers of the traditional mass. However, when honest questions are asked about its aims and objectives, honest answers may be given.

It has been asked, what is mean by the statement in the membership leaflet that: "The Society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin liturgy of the Catholic church, in a form no later than that current in 1962." What is meant by "in a form no later than that current in 1962?"

What is referred to as the 1962 Missal is the revision of the Missale Romanum that came into effect in December 1962. It differed little, to the uneducated eye, from what went before, but there were simplifications to the rite of mass, and some changes to the calendar. This was part of a process that went back at least to 1955 - a simplification of the rubrics, of the calendar, of the text. There was a wide expectation of further revision and simplification, which was of course what happened!

In retrospect, the 1962, though much closer to the traditional missal than anything that came after, was a transitional form - a creeping towards the changes that came later.

Why has the 1962 Missal become the most common one used by traditionalists, and others who make use of what they refer to as the 'extraordinary form'? Partly, of course, because that is what was explicitly authorized by the 1988 Ecclesia Dei indult, and more recently has been referred to in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. But the roots seem to go back to the early 1980s, when Archbishop Lefebvre, dealing with disagreements in his Fraternity, decided on the 1962 Missal as a way of excluding a number of hard-liners, who were not flavour of the month at that time. That's all ancient history now; but the 1962 Missal has stuck. Before 1988, at least in England, there was a variety of usage, and quite commonly the rubrics in use before 1962 were adopted.

Many priests who use the old rite say that they want to stick rigidly to the rubrics of 1962, because they believe that their obedience and loyalty to the pope require this. That is a respectable position, though I would observe that very few masses that I have attended have actually observed the revised rubrics fully. The most well-known difference is the omission of the Confiteor before communion, but it's not the only one, and these other changes are commonly ignored.

Whether the rubrics of 1962 are strictly observed or not, I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would argue that this form of the Missal is liturgically perfect - the culmination of the organic development of the Roman Mass. It is clearly a staging post on the way to the Novus Ordo - and that is good or bad, depending on your perspective. If you disapprove of the the changes to the liturgy, then 1962 is less than ideal, because the process has started. If you approve of the changes, then 1962 is less than ideal, because it doesn't go far enough. If anyone wants to maintain the theoretical perfection of 1962, I'd be interested to hear the argument.

Comparisons between 1962 and its predecessors have been made in extenso elsewhere, and need not be rehearsed here. See, for example, the excellent blog of the St Lawrence press, who also publish an excellent ordo:

1962 is the standard 'compromise' Missal, de facto, for 'extraordinary form' masses, at least for the moment. There seems no reason, however, to commit the SST, in its foundational document, to a Missal which many traditionalists would argue is a staging post towards liturgical decline. The SST does not campaign on this issue - after all, as I said, it is not a campaigning organization - and individual members hold their own views on this. Similarly, a variety of views on the Novus Ordo are to be expected; there is no party line.

There are enough schisms in the church, and disagreements among traditionalists. There is a variety of views on when the liturgical decline set in, and what version of the Missal is the last one before the deluge. There is nothing the modernists would like better than to see us rend one another over this issue. Let any debate be courteous, respectful, and self-disciplined, in the true spirit of Catholic tradition.

Benedicamus Domino!



  1. An honest answer at least. It is true that because the late Archbishop reverted to the 1962 Missal (after using the 1965 Missal for some years) traditionalists have been lumbered with it. He was faced with a hard decision but I don't think he may have realised the long term consequences of his final actions. We can only hope that the SSPX sees sense one day and starts reverting back to the traditional Roman rite and other Ecclesia Dei communities follow suit.

  2. David,

    Thank you for mentioning the 'Ordo'.

    Of course it is easy to forget, and impossible for the many younger people interested in liturgical matters to know, that before 1983 the SSPX used the pre-Pius XII liturgy in this country (and some others). The LMS, though not consistently, also would celebrate according to older rubrics and a friend remembers a magnificent celebration of Ash Wednesday in Oxford in mid-1980s with folded chasubles etc.

    At Econe the 1967 rite was used with three books necessary for the High Mass. A missal on the altar, a missal at the lectern for the readings and a missal at the sedilia for the collect etc. The French clergy wanted to go back to 1962, the American, English and German i.e. the minority, used earlier forms. The first 'General Chapter' in 1976 agreed to tolerate existing diversity of practice then in use.

    The late Michael Davies, in a letter in my possession addressed to a friend of mine, said that Abp Lefebvre had mentioned the use of the 1962 books during his negotiations with Rome in the early 1980s. Mr Davies believe this was intimately connected with the appearance of the indult Quattuor abhinc annos in 1984. Mr. Davies further stated that he had correspondence relating to this first series of negotitation which he wanted to publish at some stage. He never did and I understand his papers were burnt by a family member after his death. The refusal to use the 1962 books was the 'trigger' for the split of the 'Naughty Nine' in 1983.

    Even in later years some SSPX clergy used the Old Rite. Fr. Edward Black carried on with the Old Rite until 1991 with the exception of Holy Week where a 'mix N match' rite was used. Other clergy followed suit with the current UK Superior celebrated Old Holy Week, at the old times, at Highclere, in 1991 for the one year.

    Indeed the Ordo I currently compile and publish began with the inspiration of Fr. Peter Morgan and the rubrical brilliance of Mr. John Tyson. When Fr. Morgan left the SSPX Fr. Black published the Ordo under the auspices of the SSPX until 1983. After the Archbishop's decision to forbid the Old Rite Fr. Black went to some lengths to ensure the Ordo continued to be published.

  3. I'm a long-term fan of your Ordo, and keep it by my desk - I've been using it since it was produced by John Tyson. I first saw it in the sacristy of St George's House Wimbledon in the late 1980s, where it was clearly the Ordo in use.

    I also think that my friend the late Miss Penny Renold had something to do with it in the early days - possibly even typed it out for Fr Morgan.

    The mix and match celebrations of Holy Week at St Joseph's were my first exposure to these ceremonies, and are remembered clearly. I didn't make the 1991 celebration at Highclere, though a friend of mine was there at the time and reported them to me. (I was slightly to the 'right' of the SSPX at that time, and stayed away.)

    Why the SSPX in this country changed to pure 1962 in this country at the time it did I don't know, but I imagine that it was pressure from HQ. Quite a few of us at the time were tempted to want to emulate Oyster Bay, and perhaps the SSPX leadership became nervous? Who knows the internal politics of the SSPX!

    There are times when I think that I would like to compile a full-length history of the traditionalist movement in this country, from 1965 to say 1995. There are many recollections which are in danger of being lost entirely - in fact, quite a few probably have been already. Such accounts as have been published are partial. "The living flame" history of the SSPX was interesting, but clearly not a full and impartial account, and they haven't been the only players. Are there enough people still alive from the early days, do you think? Have enough written materials survived to make this feasible? Would enough people be prepared to tell the truth?


  4. David,

    Indeed Miss Renold typed the Ordo for Fr. Morgan, a not inconsiderable task as John Tyson's handwriting has the appearance of Classical Armenian. The first, 1973, Ordo being published by the 'Saint Pius V Information Centre, London' then later editions by 'Saint Pius V Association, 6 Forest Side, Worcester Park'. Later the publication address was Tile Barn, Newbury before appearing as St. Michael's House, Highclere. The 1979 edition bore the publisher's name as SSPX and so it remained until the 1983 edition.

    I believe it would be invaluable to have an objective history of the traditionalist movement. There were not insignificant numbers of parish clergy who refused the 1956 Holy Week. A good friend of mine knew one such elderly priest who along with similar minded colleagues had just 'carried on' hoping the thing was just a 'blip'. Sadly, that generation has now passed and it is very difficult to get information about the period.

    I think you should certainly try and put something together before another generation passes.

  5. "Catholic traditionalism in Great Britain, 1955-2005." I can see it now.

    I can also see 10 years of my life being consumed by it!

    At least we're still at the stage where there are people around who can remember those who were active up to 1975, and there may well be documentary evidence in fragments.

    I'll give it some thought, and couldn't do much just yet anyway owing to other commitments.

    If I do decide to take it up, I hope you'll be willing to share some of your extensive knowledge and a few leads, to help the project to fruition.


  6. Have enough written materials survived to make this feasible? Would enough people be prepared to tell the truth?

    If you want information then the I believe the archives held by the SSPX priory at Preston are very extensive and have newspaper clippings from the late 60s onwards - even a Tablet report that was sympathetic to the Econe ordinations of 1988!

    They might even have a tape recording of the famous "All Saints" mass at Downham Market.

  7. Thank you for the suggestion of the SSPX in Preston. Any suggestions of other sources of archives would be welcome.

    My own tape recording of the Mass at Downham Market is still in good working order ... if I was more technologically capable, I'd transfer it to electronic form.

  8. Ah, but wasn't the point to the question focussed on the "specifically committed" rather than on the particular Missal? In other words, a question about the relation - or perhaps the non-relation - of the SST to the Ordinary Form/Missal of Paul VI?

  9. @Joe. That wasn't the question I was answering - I was asked to elucidate 1962 versus pre-1962.

    The Novus Ordo question is, in fact, partially answered in what I wrote: "a variety of views on the Novus Ordo are to be expected; there is no party line."

    I know that the SST has some members who serve at the Novus Ordo, others who attend Old and New, others who avoid the New where possible. All of these are welcome to join.

    But the Sodality, as such, is concerned with the Old Mass, not the New.