Theologically Modernist, Liturgically Traditionalist

The blog by this name, until now a newly-opened blog with no articles, is now in business. The sub-title I know nothing. There is nothing that I know. But the heart senses certain things might seem an anti-intellectual point of view, but joins the Romantic message I have conveyed in some of my articles as well as the Franciscan tendency in the middle ages to give primacy of the heart over the faculty of reason. We also see a reflection of the via negativa in eastern Christian theology and spirituality.

I thank Xryztofer for his article Liturgical Sun-Tzu, in which he refers to a previous article of mine. His main question is what to do in the present situation of the Roman Catholic Church. The situation is unenviable, but it seems rather simple:

  • Go along with everything as it is,
  • Join a traditionalist group,
  • Get out and join another Church,
  • Give up religion.

There’s not a lot else I can say. The choice is limited if you are bound by the “true church” stuff, which obviously does not concern me. I was only an unwelcome guest in their Church for about fifteen years. I find the subject tedious and tiring.

Xryztofer has been to visit an Anglo-Catholic parish (A visit to the Anglo-Catholics). I looked at the church website, and found a church building in somewhat garish taste. I would encourage him to continue his exploration outside the ECUSA institution and look around some of the continuing Churches. Here are the official sites of most of the major jurisdictions with links to their parishes in the USA and elsewhere:

It is entirely up to him. We Continuing Anglicans have other problems of our own, and we are all human. At least we have no major issues causing problems of conscience. We are there but exert no pressure on anyone to join us.

I was quite amazed at the time when the Ordinariates were emerging that those involved felt that some new liturgy had to be invented. In the end, it was an improved version of the Book of Divine Worship with some bit and pieces of the old Roman rite via the Anglican Missal being reinstated. Some suggested Sarum, and I wrote some articles in the now-defunct blog The Anglo-Catholic when the question was being discussed:

It was not to be, but I made the point that there was no need to invent something new. The Use of Sarum has already been translated into Cranmer style English and can be used as it is. If anything, it is simpler and more sober than the Tridentine Roman rite and no more complicated than the Dominican rite. But, it is taboo and “smacks” of archaeologism and irrelevance. So be it. I do it with the blessing of my Bishop and I really don’t care if no one else is interested.

I used to get very demoralised about all this stuff, but I have developed a thick skin. I beat my own drum on this blog, and it does good for some but not for others. You can’t please everybody. The Orthodox have their own problems with their reading of history and anachronisms. That’s their problem. We all have our own problems. I only conclude that most religion in the world is a front for a sick and deluded mind, of disordered personalities and various forms of evil. It is for each of us to distinguish between the gold and the dross, the baby and the bathwater, the spiritual and the narcissistic cult of power and domination. I do think the world would be much worse without faith and spirituality.

I think that the disarray of all church institutions makes us all ask questions and seek the essential, the very things that no one can take away from us. We see the parallels between our own time, that of Tyrrell and that of William Blake. Perhaps Modernist is not a very good term to use. I prefer Romantic.

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37 Responses to Theologically Modernist, Liturgically Traditionalist

  1. Xryztofer says:

    “I looked at the church website, and found a church building in somewhat garish taste.”

    I thought the same when I first looked through the parish website, but it looks a lot better when seen first hand. Of course, that’s coming from someone whose only point of reference is suburban church architecture from the 50s onward. When you’re in the desert, even a cup of stagnant water will taste like Chianti.

    • I remember a visit to Pennsylvania in 1998 and driving a hired car to Scranton via Amish country. This is one of the oldest parts of the country with diverse European cultures. It was very strange to me to notice a 19th century house, church or civic building, because few buildings are older than the 1950’s and 60’s. I found the same thing in two other parts I visited in Tennessee and west Florida. We Europeans see the USA as a cultural wilderness. That is a shame, because you do have music, literature, art and poetry. Walt Whitman is a great favourite of mine. But the layers and times get buried and superseded, whereas in Europe, they superimpose and enrich each other.

      You sound as though you need to travel…

  2. Xryztofer says:

    “The Use of Sarum has already been translated into Cranmer style English and can be used as it is. If anything, it is simpler and more sober than the Tridentine Roman rite and no more complicated than the Dominican rite.”

    I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Pearson edition of the Sarum Missal, which I ordered just the other day. One of the things that I find appealing about it is the simplicity of the Offertory rite; I much prefer it to the Tridentine offertory, which strikes me as overblown and somewhat jarring (“hanc immaculatam hostiam”?).

    • I prefer the Warren version. I have it in a printed book. The web version is:

      Vol. I: https://archive.org/details/cu31924092460033

      Vol. II: https://archive.org/details/cu31924092460041

      The Scripture readings are not included, so I have done a lectionary: http://civitas-dei.eu/sarum_lectionary.doc

      I agree with you about the French offertory, much more concise than the German-Franciscan-Roman tradition. If you read French, I recommend:

      Paul Tirot, Histoire des prières d’offertoire dans la liturgie romaine du VIIe au XVIe siècle, Rome 1970, ISBN 13: 9788885918245. It seems to be out of print, but you might be able to find a second-hand copy or one in a library. Here’s an article I have written on the offertory prayers: https://sarumuse.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/offertory-prayers-reprint/

    • Dale says:

      The Cowley Missal was only one in a long line of early missals that utilised the Sarum rite melded with the BCP rite. In the beginning of the ritualist movement the direction was not to use the Roman Tridentine, but to use Sarum forms, many of the earlier Book of Hours were indeed simply translations of the Sarum Day hours Palmer, besides his Gradual, based on the Sarum tones, produced a very nice translation of the Sarum Day Hours for the St Mary Sisterhood). But someplace along the line the Roman rite and Tridentine rubrics won out in the Anglo-Catholic world (much of this, I think, was that the question of eventually unity with Rome began to be a fixation of many within the Anglo-Catholic world, and it seemed that this could best be accomplished by using Roman forms over Sarum ones). I do believe on this site quite some time ago, I did list the publications of many such Sarumesque Missals and office books; virtually all of the early sisterhoods used the Sarum offices and not the Roman ones; later they were almost all superseded by the Roman, often at the beginning of the 20th century (the negative effect of much of this was when the Roman Church rejected the old Roman rite for the pottage of the novus ordo, so did most of the Anglican religious orders as well, along with most of the Roman rite Anglican parishes).

      • Dale says:

        Oh, just took a look at my liturgical library, one Missal, seldom seen today is the “Altar Book containing the Order of Holy Communion According to the Use of The Church of England with Additions from the Sarum Missal edited by a Committee of Priests”; this edition, the one I have was published in 1914 by Rivingtons, has the full Sarum rite with the possibility of also using it along with the BCP rite; the Music and all of Holy Week are Sarum as well. I have also taken a second look at my Cowley Missal, and it is far, far more BCP than Sarum, it also contains the full South African rite as well.

  3. David says:

    So, among these options….

    Go along with everything as it is,
    Join a traditionalist group,
    Get out and join another Church,
    Give up religion.

    Does “Join a Greek/Oriental Catholic Church” count as the third one?

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Is this a question of ‘parish’ or of jurisdiction on another level, or both?

      An option that occurred to me was ‘peregrination’, but what ‘parochial’ and/or other ‘point of departure’ (and formal membership), would any peregrination usually entail?

      • David says:

        Well, I’m technically still Roman Catholic (though I’m not sure about my documentation; It might be a bit irregular… Baptism from a Feeneyite Independent Priest and Confirmation from the SSPX) though I attend a Greek Catholic parish. I haven’t bothered to make the “official” switch yet.

        Imagine the nightmare St. Jerome would have faced in this current bureaucratic structure!

        If I remember correctly, he was ordained in Antioch despite being baptized in Rome.

    • No, I meant joining a Church not in communion with Rome like the Anglicans or Orthodox. I would suggest that going oriental rite would be assimilated to joining the traditionalists.

  4. If you wanted the two volume Warren edition of the Sarum Missal, I’d be happy to send you my copy but you’d have to foot the bill for postage from Australia.

    • Thank you for the offer. I already have a hard copy. If anyone would like to take up this offer, please reply to this comment and I will give you Clare Gichard’s e-mail address by private e-mail to make practical arrangements.

      • I know you have a copy, Father. My offer was intended for Kryztofer, or anyone else interested. I should have made that clear It is in good condition with no annotations. I also have the J.D. Chambers Sarum “Psalter, or Seven Hours of Prayer” (1852).

      • Xryztofer says:

        Hi Clare, I’d definitely be interested. Can you email me at alcuinyork (at) ymail (dot) com so we can discuss the details?

  5. Stephen K says:

    It is for each of us to distinguish between the gold and the dross, the baby and the bathwater, the spiritual and the narcissistic cult of power and domination.

    This is very consistent with the thought of Jiddhu Krishnamurti that In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.

    More famous still was his urging in 1929 when he told his followers in the Order of the Star to cease following him or anyone else:

    I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path. … This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.

    I found much value in this, and this is I think, Father, why your adoption of the Sarum usage, despite any objections to the contrary, is a sign of your own spiritual maturity and freedom.

    • (…) sign of your own spiritual maturity and freedom.

      It’s interesting you should say that. On a forum where men who want to grow their hair long are encouraged, I quote someone who recently got a new job and has many contacts with colleagues and clients. One fellow that I really hit it off with today said: “As soon as I saw the ponytail, I knew you were a Free Spirit”. Definitely a great compliment.

      I replied: I’m sure the idea of free spirit must mean different things to different people. I like it as an expression. There were the Brethren of the Free Spirit, inspired by the Franciscans in the 14th century, and who were horribly persecuted by the Inquisition.

      Freedom is something that is hard to win, and takes a lot of self-knowledge and psychological work. My own decision to grow my hair came from this motivation. As a boy of 12 or so, I understood that haircuts meant conformity and subjection to convention and authority. Long hair was always symbolic of someone who had found inner freedom.

      There is also the virtue of prudence, and in some circumstances of life it is wise not to provoke trouble. Hair can be tied up into a neat ponytail and nobody thinks any the worse!

  6. caedmon says:

    Do any of the American jurisdictions you listed have links with those African Anglican church leaders who think it is alright to kill gays? If so would you really advise Xryztofer or anyone else to have anything to do with them?

    • I have no knowledge of any continuing Anglican bishop advocating the killing of anyone (outside legal capital punishment in the case of those who might be in favour of it). If such is known to you, I would appreciate quotes and sources for any such alleged hate speech. I would also appreciate names of African church leaders, quotes of what they said and evidence of links of continuing Anglican bishops with them. Thank you.

      • caedmon says:

        I understood that the leaders of the Anglican church in Uganda and Nigeria were in favour of their government’s anti-gay legislation, and that one of the continuing groups in America is receiving oversight from them. I think it’s the Anglican Province of America.

      • What about the leaders wanting to kill people? Anti-gay legislation is one thing, but doesn’t necessarily involve killing. Does it?

      • ed pacht says:

        It’s not the APA (Anglican Province of America) which is not under higher supervision by anyone. Portions of the complex group known as the Anglican Church of North America do retain a more-or-less tenuous connection with various African jurisdictions, various of which did institute American missions as the Episcopal Church became stranger. Almost anything that is said about such links is going to prove vastly oversimplified, and in most respects just wrong.

  7. A new blog to make me think; thanks.

    St. Mary’s, Amityville looks charming, and orthodox, thanks to Episcopal semi-congregationalism giving Fr. Geminder a lot of autonomy.

    “Theologically Modernist, liturgically traditionalist” sounds a lot like the Episcopal Church or where it seems to be heading. I think that needs some explaining. The out-and-out Modernism, the agnosticism, of a James Pike, John Spong, or even Katharine Jefferts Schori is passé. The Episcopalians seem to be heading to a back-to-basics movement paralleling Pope Benedict’s in the Roman Catholic Church, credally orthodox, more like Rowan Williams than the people I just mentioned. Theologically “left,” liturgically “right” this way is common in Anglicanism but unknown in Roman Catholicism (American Catholic liberals are anti-high church). Derek Olsen seems part of the Episcopal renewal, liberal high church or the new Anglo-Catholicism as I call it.

    • Xryztofer says:

      One of the things I hope to eventually show is that what’s called “Modernism” these days has hardly anything in common with the thinking of the original Modernists like Fr. Tyrrell, Baron von Hügel, et al. To be honest, the way most Traditionalists use the term, it’s basically synonymous with “evil,” and so has become nothing more than an empty term of abuse for pretty much anything they don’t like.

      • I have understood this for a long time, ever since I began to read Tyrrell instead of demonising him in the light of Pascendi. The term “modernism” refers to many things. See Modernism. At its base was a second wave of Romanticism at the end of the 19th century, in which was situated the Arts and Crafts movement, Comper, Dearmer, William Morris, Lutyens and many others in art, architecture and philosophy. Then came a movement involving the destruction of form in art and architecture, of harmony in music, and in theology a sort of reconciliation with its former “liberal” nemesis.

        Indeed, the term modernism is abused and made into an empty insult. The current left-wing tendency in the Anglican Communion and the RC Church follows the deconstructionist tendencies against which Tyrrell and others fought in their attempt to come up with new and convincing apologetics. Lumping it all together and opposing scholasticism was truly a mark of bad faith and intellectual dishonesty.

      • Stephen K says:

        Indeed, the term modernism is abused and made into an empty insult. The current left-wing tendency in the Anglican Communion and the RC Church follows the deconstructionist tendencies against which Tyrrell and others fought in their attempt to come up with new and convincing apologetics. Lumping it all together and opposing scholasticism was truly a mark of bad faith and intellectual dishonesty.

        I don’t understand what you are trying to say here, Father. Are you saying that the condemnation of Modernism by Pius X confused a via media of Tyrell with the deconstructionism of earlier modernists because Pius X thought that (a) both opposed scholasticism (yes) and (b) anything that opposed scholasticism was bad (no)?

        And, as a corollary, are you saying that all deconstruction – of the constructed – is bad?

      • I am simply making the distinction between Modernism à la Tyrrell on one side and Bultmann, Spong and Harnack (only Harnack was contemporary with Tyrrell) on the other side, and claim that these two opposites were rolled together as a single “heresy” opposing scholasticism and Thomism. Whether the writer of Pascendi (I heard it was Cardinal Mery del Val) really believed that or just wrapped it up at a pragmatic level as he did with the question of Anglican Orders under Leo XIII, that is open to question and discussion.

        The kind of “deconstructionism” I am talking about is the tendency to reduce Christianity to some kind of do-good materialistic philosophy against the desire of Tyrrell and others to emphasise the spiritual and mystical dimension as opposed to formalism, legalism, immobilism and institutionalism.

        My attempt to over-simplify can be questioned, but we have to have some way to think and discuss.

      • Dale says:

        I do agree with you Fr Anthony on the question of modernism in its more traditional forms. One of my favourite theologians has always been Charles Gore and his seminal work, the “Reconstruction of Belief”; this had a profound effect upon me in seminary, only later in life did I find out that he was considered a Modernist!

        What we seem to consider modernism today is indeed a form of theological and liturgical existentialism and deconstructionism; far, far different and far removed from the Catholicism of Gore and company. One could actually posit that the modern liturgy is more a form of existentialism, or even post-existentialism than it ever was “modernism.”

    • And that’s spelled Olsen, the Danish way. I’d looked it up and thought I’d fixed it.

      • I corrected your comment and incorporated a link to his blog. I esteem this gentleman. I suggest you do a little study on analogy as a way of using words and concepts. It rounds out our way of thinking a little. There is a difference between the “New Anglo-Catholicism” as you call it and Roman Catholicism. In the former you get “liberal” theology and liturgical “traditionalism” (for want of a better word). In Roman Catholicism, in most of their churches, both theology and liturgy are “low” and “liberal”.

      • Thanks.

        There is a difference between the “New Anglo-Catholicism” as you call it and Roman Catholicism. In the former you get “liberal” theology and liturgical “traditionalism” (for want of a better word). In Roman Catholicism, in most of their churches, both theology and liturgy are “low” and “liberal”.

        Exactly the point I was trying to make. It’s NOT the Unitarianism in vestments that many conservative Roman Catholics think it is.

      • It’s interesting that you should bring up Unitarianism. It would never tempt me, since I believe in the Trinity, but I have a lot of sympathy with their universalism and openness. My father has very little to do with organised religion, but one of his best friends is the local Unitarian minister. Freedom is something within us and is a quality of the spirit. If that is what the Unitarians contribute, then there is something very good and Christ-like about them.

      • Xryztofer says:

        “It’s interesting that you should bring up Unitarianism. It would never tempt me, since I believe in the Trinity, but I have a lot of sympathy with their universalism and openness.”

        I find myself thinking along similar lines. When I hear all the renewed cries of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus!” and the idea that people won’t convert if they’re not told that “there’s one true Church (and ours is it)”, I can only scratch my head and wonder what’s going on here. Is brow-beating people into submission really the approach of the New Testament? Maybe we should try a little less shouting “Join us or burn forever!” and put a little more effort into giving people a reason once again to exclaim “See how they love one another!” (and it does seem that others outside the “one true Church” often do a better job of that).

  8. Paul Goings says:

    My very general answer to this question is that I want to be someplace where I can worship and live as a catholic traditionally would have, insofar as that is possible in this day and age. For this purpose S. Clement’s (even in ECUSA) worked admirably well for some twenty years. Others would have disagreed with me about this, and did so during my time there. My guess is that my time at S. Clement’s may be coming to an end, as it already has for so many of my friends, who have made one or another other arrangements during the past three years or so. And I should say that none of them find the arrangements that they have made to be in every way ideal, and they have said this to me unambiguously. But they feel that they have done the best that they can for themselves, and they are not I, nor I they. For myself, I do not know what will come next, and I am not ashamed to admit that this uncertainly engenders no little amount of fear after such a lengthy time in one place.

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