HAVE NO INTENTION of “naming names” during this article. Doing so would only cause hurt feelings, and I don’t need that; I have enough problems in my life! In any event, the 1990s saw the formation of certain “Reform of the Reform” (RotR) groups. These Catholics felt that sanctity and holiness were lacking in post-conciliar celebrations of Mass—and they were undoubtably correct. I was very young at that time, but my family came under the influence of such groups. I believe these groups had every good intention…but they made serious errors. 1
The following errors were asserted quite forcefully by 1990s RotR groups:
1. We were told that “Sacramentary” is a dirty word.
This is false. There’s nothing wrong with the word “Sacramentary.” Indeed, some of the oldest liturgical books are called this: Leonine Sacramentary, Gelasian Sacramentary, Sacramentary of Charles the Bald, Corbie Sacramentary, Rodrade Sacramentary, Nonantola Sacramentary, Gellone Sacramentary, and so forth. Their efforts make about as much sense as attacking the word Evangeliarium. This failure to call a book by its name caused major issues.
2. We were told it was close to heresy to say “we believe” instead of “I believe” in the Creed.
That’s fallacious. The reality is, there’s nothing heretical about “Credimus in unum Deum.” Indeed, Credo VI in the Liber Usualis was written for that version. You can see this in ancient manuscripts, such as this breathtaking example from the 11th century. We must learn to distinguish between things that make a tremendous difference (such as goofy and irreverent music by Haugen, Haas, Inwood, Landry, etc.) and things that hardly make a difference.
3. We were told that any music from the 19th century was “good” and “traditional.”
The RotR promoted sappy, gushing, awful hymn melodies and hymn texts from the 19th century, many of them Protestant. Needless to say, there’s much beautiful music from the 19th century—but much was saccharine.
4. We were told to embrace “legal positivism.”
Legal positivism is the erroneous belief that anything approved by the Church authorities is “good”—by virtue of the fact that some bishop has approved it. This is dangerous. The RotR groups promoted anything “approved,” whether it be reception of Holy Communion in the hand, female altar servers, laymen touching the SANCTISSIMUM with their bare hands, etc.
5. We were told to follow the ideals of the “liturgical movement.”
The liturgical movement was not perfect—not by a long shot. Some of the ideas promoted by it were hideous, such as the 1950s “dialogue Mass.” The liturgical movement said it was a good idea to have “congregational singing” at any cost. They promoted the entire congregation attempting to sing complicated and melismatic Gregorian Ordinaries, whereas the traditional way (where the choir sings those) made a lot more sense. It is better to have congregations sing simple, dignified melodies such as those in the Brébeuf hymnal. That is something they can do extremely well.
6. We were told that “the old Latin Mass” had tons of silence, and we need to recover that.
The truth is that the “Extraordinary Form” (1962 Missal) Solemn Mass had almost no silence at all—and you can verify my claim. It was almost constant singing by the Choir, the Deacon, the Subdeacon, the Congregation, the Priest, and so forth.
7. We were told that we must “say the black and do the red.”
The RotR people erroneously said all our problems would be solved if we just “followed the rubrics.” The reality is, the Ordinary Form allows tons and tons of options, which are fully legitimate. For the last twenty years, I have been studying the Ordinary Form, and I can assure you the number of options is mind-boggling. (This is not to in any way excuse priests who deliberately distort the rubrics.)
8. When it came to “words being added” to items like the AGNUS DEI, we were told this was close to heresy.
The truth is, “tropes” are a major part of our liturgical heritage, and there’s nothing bad about them. The Kyrie was troped, the Gloria was troped, the Agnus Dei was troped—even the readings were troped!
A Powerful Troped Kyrie
We should evaluate things based on their merit, not whether an RotR group tells us we are supposed to “hate” or “love” something. Consider the following troped Kyrie: is it not gorgeous? Is it not powerful? Do you know anything more beautiful than this?
* PDF Download • KYRIE II TROPED
—From a manuscript created circa 1290AD.
Some people refer to troping as “farcing”—it’s all the same thing. Tropes were done in Latin, Greek, German, and even in French, as shown by this article. If you examine that troped Kyrie, you will see that the melody is the same as Kyrie Fons Bonitatis, but the words are different—something I find absolutely captivating. (I provided three different scores for Kyrie Fons Bonitatis in this article.)
Many people who love the Extraordinary Form feel that troping should be revived.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 When I say “errors,” I mean foolish statements. For instance, just the other day, a National Catholic Register author started a Facebook discussion about the way ashes will be distributed this year (due to Covid). People were going nuts, making all kinds of claims about this being a “new heresy” from Vatican II. What they failed to realize is that this year’s distribution of ashes—dropped on the top of the head—is the traditional way of distributing ashes.