Rorate Caeli

The End of the "Reform of the Reform":
"I too came to see the futility of trying to repair
what is, at bottom, structurally unsound"

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, now prior of Silverstream Priory, in County Meath, Ireland, has always been one of our favorite reads on the web with his Vultus Christi blog. Since his position on the "Reform of the Reform" is now fully public, I believe I may now speak of one of our e-mail conversations many years ago when I repeated my permanent opinion, from since even before I joined the Catholic Church, that the "Reform of the Reform" was impossible in practice and throughout the width of the Latin Church (even if made with the best of intentions) because the Novus Ordo is liturgically "unsalvageable" — he said, in kinder words, he had at the time reached the same conclusion. Like most of the Brutalist buildings that ruined so many beautiful English towns and cities at the same time it was being put in place, the Novus Ordo is an unsound artificial accretion to a venerable organically developing being.

This does not mean that the Novus Ordo is not valid, or that many souls do not benefit from Sacraments and prayers dispensed with the made-up 1960s and 1970s rites, just that they are liturgically gravely deficient, historically untenable, prone to subjective whims and preferences, and simply irreformable. They are what they are, and that is that. While the present is discouraging in many ways, what the decades and centuries to come will bring is quite another matter. Let each one of us make our own effort according to our own state in life. Lest we be misunderstood, we are not gleeful great minds are reaching the same conclusion: it is instead terrifying to contemplate the work that is to be done by generations to come. May God help us  — and them.


Dom Kirby's words:

Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman, a Benedictine monk of Douai Abbey, has posted a brilliant essay on the sacred liturgy. For vast numbers of the faithful, the liturgy has become something unsettled and unsettling. Dom Hugh writes:

Monks live liturgy. “Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God” (Rule of St Benedict 43:3) our holy father St Benedict bids us. ... A monk with no taste for liturgy is akin to a bird who fears to fly: things can only be difficult and frustrating. ...

Father Thomas Kocik‘s article of 9 February 2014 discussing his long–standing and courageous commitment to the “reform of the reform” and his disillusionment with the possibility of it being realised dovetails with Father Hugh’s observations. I was, at one time, as deeply committed to the reform of the reform as was Father Kocik, having contributed to the Beyond the Prosaic conference at Oxford in 1996 and to the book that followed it. Like Father Kocik, although several years earlier, I came to see the futility of trying to repair something that, at bottom, is structurally unsound. Nowhere is the old adage, “Haste makes waste”, truer than when applied to the precipitous reform of liturgical rites and the books that contain them. In most places the liturgical landscape has become a dreary wasteland. The liturgical rites and books prepared so feverishly in the wake of the Second Vatican Council have been tried and found wanting.

There are, it is true, liturgical oases here and there, where the reformed rites are carried out intelligently, with dignity, reverence, and devotion — I am thinking of certain communities, monasteries, and parishes, the Communauté de Saint-Martin, for example — but these subjective qualities cannot make up for the objective flaws and structural weaknesses inherent in the same rites.

Although I am content with the sacred liturgy as we celebrate it here at Silverstream Priory, using the 1962 Missal and the traditional Benedictine choir books for the Divine Office — however modestly and humbly, and with limited means — I affirm and share the conclusions and aspirations of both Father Hugh and Father Kocik. The passing of the years has demonstrated the intrinsic inadequacies of the reformed liturgical books of the last post–conciliar era. The cracks in the post–conciliar liturgical edifice became evident almost as soon as the new rites began to be “lived in.” Today, the same edifice appears like so many shabby buildings put up hastily during an economic boom, now revealing their structural flaws, and threatening imminent collapse. [Source]

Our own Fr. Richard G. Cipolla discussed the same article a few days ago: The End of the “Reform of the Reform”: Father Kocik’s "Tract 90".