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Thursday, January 6, 2022

TRADITIONIS CUSTODES: What We Can Learn from English Catholic Resistance

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TRADITIONIS CUSTODES: What We Can Learn from English Catholic Resistance

As the potentially dark days of Traditionis Custodes approach us, it might be opportune to remember a time long ago when the Latin Mass was changed and then eventually violently suppressed by liturgical reformers. Those reformers were part of the English Reformation. The goals, policies, and tactics of these so-called reformers may ring a bell. The quotations used in this article are taken from the book, “Elizabeth and the English Reformation: The Struggle for a Stable Settlement of Religion,” written by William P. Haugaard in 1968.

The process began by minor alterations of the Latin Mass:

In the first year the Privy Council, ruling in the name of the king, altered the ordinary liturgical and devotional life of Englishmen more than Henry had ever done or permitted. Injunctions, largely brand new, accompanied a royal visitation of the kingdom. These introduced a series of reforms which prescribed a greater use of English scripture in church services and ordered the destruction of images which gave occasion to ‘idolatry’. The following year the Council used the difficulty of determining such images as an excuse for ordering wholesale iconoclasm...

At the behest of the government, Parliament passed a bill ordering holy communion to be given in two kinds. In implementing the act, the Council took the opportunity to introduce into the Latin Mass the 1548 ‘Order o£ Communion’, a series of vernacular devotions which later became an integral part of the Prayer Book Eucharist... The first Prayer Book of 1549 reformed the traditional services by replacing Latin with English, by eliminating many old ceremonies, and by changing certain theological emphases of the rites... The Elizabethan bishop Richard Cox had been one of Cranmer’s assistants in drafting the book.

The reception of Holy Communion while standing was so repugnant to one of the lead reformers, Thomas Cranmer, that he refused to implement it.

The reforms then went further:

Less than nine months before Edward VI died, Englishmen heard a new revision of their vernacular liturgy read in their churches. To the 1549 rites, Cranmer added didactic exhortations, simplified ceremonies and vestments, and rearranged the Eucharist to move the English Lord’s Supper a further step away from the Latin Mass.

Ironically, one reform of the Novus Ordo Mass common in churches today, the reception of Holy Communion while standing, was so repugnant to one of the lead reformers, Thomas Cranmer, that he refused to implement it:

Cranmer stubbornly refused a last-minute Council request to eliminate kneeling to receive communion, but he did agree to an added rubric in black print which declared that kneeling implied no ‘real or essential presence’ of Christ in the eucharistic elements.English Martyrs

See if these other reforms sound familiar:

The ‘Six articles’ would have required that ‘in all parish churches the minister in common prayer turn his face towards the people; and there distinctly read the divine service appointed, where all the people assembled may hear and be edified’. This would have been an explicit interpretation of the rubric in the 1552 Prayer Book, dropped in 1559, which had ordered the officiant at the office to be in such place and ‘so turn him as the people may best hear’. A little more vaguely, the ‘Seven articles’ directed the minister to stand ‘in such convenient place of the church, as all may hear and be edified’. The Elizabethan Book had rather directed the minister to be in the ‘accustomed place’, unless the bishop ordered otherwise. The characteristic Reformation stress on edification underlay the request —a stress that was often insensitive to the advantage of an architectural setting that suggested the mutual participation of officiant and congregation in an act of praise directed toward God. To many of the precisians, any focusing of congregational attention on the holy table was suspect because it recalled the idolatry which they believed had been practised before images and the reserved sacrament.

It is interesting to note that when certain jailed Catholic bishops were offered their freedom if they would simply attend the reformed rite without actively participating in it, they still refused.

The following reform might be useful for Pope Francis as he has repeatedly refused to kneel for Our Lord in the Eucharist. However, he would have to make a canonical exception that would still enable him to kneel to wash the feet of non-Christians on Holy Thursday. In addition, we see in this “optional” reform the insidiousness of the “optional practices” of the Novus Ordo Mass such as Communion in the Hand, Eucharistic Ministers, etc. which have all now become standard practice:

Another set of proposed alterations in the Prayer Book are found only in the documents prepared during the course of Convocation itself. Kneeling at communion had been unpopular with the more militant reformers ever since John Knox had preached against it before the king in 1553. Both the ‘Seven articles’ and the more widely supported ‘Six articles’ would have left kneeling at communion to the discretion of the ordinary. Although the ‘ Six articles’ mentioned ‘age, sickness, and sundry other infirmities’ as the reasons for introducing an option to receive without kneeling, it was obviously horror at those who ‘superstitiously both kneel and knock’ which led them to make the demands. As if any priest with die slightest sense of his pastoral responsibilities has ever refused to communicate a parishioner physically incapable of kneeling! The discretion left to the ordinaries would have probably meant that the majority of bishops would have gladly granted the option and that the others would have been under importunate pressure from zealous reformers in their dioceses to do likewise. The precisians knew that it would not take too long to turn the option into a prohibition of kneeling.

The following reform is reminiscent of Francis’ encyclical, Amoris Laetitia, his approval of Joe Biden receiving Communion, and the sacramental theology of Cardinal Blaise Cupich who once opined that we are all unworthy of Holy Communion, and then somehow concluded that we all should receive It.[i] Of course, this Eucharistic generosity doesn’t apply to rigid Traditional Catholics who should leave the Church before Communion:

The second distinctive proposal of the ‘Twenty-one articles’ would have required all those who did not intend to receive communion to leave the church before the general confession. By not permitting non-communicating attendance at the Supper itself, the proposal stressed the importance of full participation in the sacramental rite—a stress shared by all sixteenth-century reformers, but not expressed by all in such a regulation.

The government thought that they were offering sufficient concessions to the prisoners’ consciences; the prisoners judged otherwise, and in the Tower they remained until the government relaxed its requirement.

The following change in law is reminiscent of the incremental Vatican II liturgical reformers who always like to keep the door open to future “developments” of their reform until the old order is completely gone as well as the leftist priests of the Novus Ordo who want to be free to innovate and violate even the Novus Ordo rubrics with no consequence:

They asked that the thirty-fourth Article of Religion, on traditions of the church, be changed to mitigate the section which states that those who break traditions and ceremonies of the church ‘ought to be rebuked openly...as one that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren’. On principle, the precisians would have disliked the inclusion of any such defence of ceremonies in a formal confession of doctrine, but their protest here seems much more practical. Even assuming that the ‘Seven articles’ were adopted as they hoped, apparently even these modifications of the Prayer Book would not have satisfied many of them, and they wanted to be assured that they might change or omit rubrical ceremonies without danger of violating the official doctrinal articles. In effect, these clergy wanted to retain the right of conscientious disobedience to the prescribed liturgy without jeopardizing their ministries in the church. They dared not ask for more sweeping changes in the liturgy than the relatively few points they proposed, but they served notice that even these proposals would not satisfy tender consciences that the Church of England really had returned to ‘the godly purity and simplicity used in the primitive church’.

It is interesting to note that when certain jailed Catholic bishops were offered their freedom if they would simply attend the reformed rite without actively participating in it, they still refused:

Just as English envoys abroad were instructed to attend Latin rites while refraining from active participation or sacramental communion, apparently Elizabeth and her government thought that the bishops ought to be willing to attend the Prayer Book offices. Officials were not prepared at the beginning of 1561 to release the bishops without a demonstrable act of obedience. According to Sander, when Heath had been offered liberty in exchange for mere attendance at service, the former archbishop replied,

“In principle it is the same to be schismatic in one point as to be schismatic in all, and therefore he was minded to countenance none of these doings either by word or deed, nor to suffer his back to be seen where none could read his heart.”

The government thought that they were offering sufficient concessions to the prisoners’ consciences; the prisoners judged otherwise, and in the Tower they remained until the government relaxed its requirement.

The most remarkable thing about English Catholic resistance to these reforms is that their spirit of resistance did not emanate from blind obedience or loyalty to the pope, but from the Latin Mass, their Catholic Faith, their devotions, and Tradition.

The following may be a premonition of the state of the Latin Mass in our own future:

Secret Latin Masses had continued in the homes of some of the gentry, and the first major attack on the practice came in April 1561 when Cecil ordered the arrest of almost two dozen ‘mass-mongers’ including two of Queen Mary’s councillors.

The laws against the Latin Mass then began reaching fever pitch:

The precisians, moreover, wrote into their prospectus, ‘General notes’, two items which the Lower House picked up in ‘ Articles for government’ almost without change and these were specifically directed at Roman Catholics:

Whosoever shall at any time hereafter say mass, or procure mass to be said, or willingly suffer it to be said in his house, and.. .be lawfully convicted. . .within 2 years.. .shall be judged in law a felon and shall suffer the pains of death and forfeiture of goods...

Whoever shall hear mass and be.. .convicted.. .within 2 years... shall forfeit for every mass that they shall hear 100 marks, if they be worth so much, and if they be not, then they shall forfeit all their goods and chattels...

Martyrs 2Faced with such a dilemma as attendance at the reformed rite or penalties such as imprisonment or death, the Spanish ambassador to England petitioned Rome on their behalf to see if an exception could be made under the circumstances as the reformed Rite, like the Novus Ordo, did not contain anything openly heretical, although what was omitted was telling:

Many Englishmen loyal to the papacy thought they might, without offence, obey the provisions of the Uniformity Act requiring them to attend church. In the summer of 1562 some of them requested de Quadra to obtain an authoritative Vatican judgment. The Spanish bishop himself clearly argued in favour of a qualified permission:

“What.. .has to be considered.. .is the great unusualness and novelty of the case,.. .it being here prohibited by law to be a Catholic and capital punishment assigned to anyone here who will not live as a heretic.... That .. .which they call Common Prayer.. .contains no false doctrine or anything profane, because it is entirely Scripture or prayers taken from the Catholic Church (although from some of them everything has been omitted that mentions the merits and intercession of the Saints), so much so that leaving aside the sin of dissimulation and the harm that would accrue from the example, the act of taking part in this [worship] is not in its nature evil. The Communion is not before us now. They only ask if they can attend this service of Common Prayer which I have mentioned.”

He also asked for terms of absolution for those who repented of their conformity to the established religion.

At the same time the Portuguese ambassador asked for a similar decision at the Council of Trent. The Office of the Inquisition and the Council’s committee which had been assigned the inquiry both gave the same answer: under no conditions might the faithful attend the Prayer Book offices. The resolute stand of the imprisoned bishops was vindicated by the highest councils of the Roman Church.

In conclusion, the most remarkable thing about English Catholic resistance to these reforms is that their spirit of resistance did not emanate from blind obedience or loyalty to the pope, but from the Latin Mass, their Catholic Faith, their devotions, and Tradition.

By 1560 the Roman Catholic authorities actively began to persuade their English adherents not to compromise with the independent national church. Their task was formidable, for it was not, by and large, respect for papal authority which led men and women to reject the national church and her new ways. Rather, they loved the familiar pattern of church life: the Latin Mass, the regular shriving, the invocation of favourite saints, the anointing on the death-bed, the liturgical petitions for family and friends who had died. To them, these things, with the teachings that underlay them, belonged to the heart of the Christian faith, and they would not give them up.

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[i]             https://www.chicagocatholic.com/cardinal-blase-j.-cupich/-/article/2021/06/03/we-are-all-unworthy

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Last modified on Thursday, January 6, 2022