Rorate Caeli

10 Years Without Michael Davies
- I - Protestant Liturgical Revolution as Precursor of Catholic Upheaval

Michael Davies in 1959. He was 23 at the time,
and a recent convert from a Protestant background.

Traditional Catholics seem to be few and spread our in our age -- but they are actually many and vibrant in large clusters spread in much of the world. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, instead, their most prominent leaders could fill at most a large van, and all the faithful would not fill more than a few additional buses...

In those days of violent repression and unjust persecution, while modernists were free to do what they pleased, after the advent of Pope Paul VI's new rite, the Traditional Rites of the Latin Church were considered "forbidden" and "ab-rogated" for all intents and purposes, and those who dared offer them and attend them were condemned to either disdain or ignominy on a level that it would be hard to fully comprehend today. Because while we are persecuted relentlessly, there are many islands of peace and tranquility, and we are many more than they were.

They were few -- but they were great. Most were in Europe, a few in the United States, a couple in Australia and South America or elsewhere -- two bishops in all, out of thousands around the world, and hundreds of conservative Fathers of the Council. How can we ever repay them? The least we can do, other than prayers and Masses for their souls, is to remember them.

Michael Davies was one of those handful of giants, one of the few Traditional Catholic laymen to have mightily influenced the course of events with his writings that, even more so in those pre-internet days, were essential to make many perplexed Catholics aware that they were not alone, and that their utter confusion before what they had been witnessing since the Council was perfectly rational and shared by many. Davies would also serve as a longtime president of the International Una Voce Federation (1995-2003). He died 10 years ago, in September 2004. But the justice for which he fought would be accomplished by the Pope elected on the following year with the publication of Summorum Pontificum and its recognition that the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass, "was never ab-rogated," because, "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful" (Letter to Bishops).

Davies in 2003, in a meeting with the Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Card. Joseph Ratzinger
During the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of his death, we will post excerpts of some of his influential writings.
A characteristic of the Protestant innovations is that in both doctrine and liturgy they were imposed from above by clerics backed by the support of those holding civil power. There was little enthusiasm for the changes among the mass of the Faithful and sometimes fierce opposition! Commenting on the introduction of Cranmer's first (1549) Prayer Book the Anglican Dean of Bristol, Douglas Harrison, admits: "It is not surprising that it met with a reception which was nowhere enthusiastic, and in the countryside there was violent opposition both in East Anglia and in Devon and Cornwall, where ten thousand 'stout and valiant personages' marched on Exeter demanding their old services in Latin."

In order not to over-alarm the Faithful, the first Protestant Communion Services tended to be interim measures, ambiguous rites which could pave the way for more radical revisions to be introduced at a more opportune moment. To assist in this purpose the basic structure and many of the prayers of the Roman Mass were retained where possible, sometimes even in Latin.

"To build up a new liturgy from the very foundation was far from Luther's thoughts. . . . He preferred to make the best use of the Roman Mass, for one reason, as he so often insists, because of the weak, i.e. so as not to needlessly alienate the people from the new Church by the introduction of novelties. From the ancient rite he merely eliminated all that had reference to the sacrificial character of the Mass. The Canon for instance, and the preceding Offertory. He also thought it best to retain the word 'Mass'." Mgr. Hughes has this to say concerning the transformation of religious life in Saxony: "That the Mass must go because the Mass was a blasphemy was one certain first principle. But since, as Melanchthon said, 'the world is so much attached to the Mass that it seems impossible to wrest people from it', Luther wished that the outward appearance of the service should be changed as little as possible. In this way the common people would never become aware there was any change, said Luther, and all would be accomplished 'without scandal'. 'There is no need to preach about this to the laity.' Even the communion was to be given under one species only to those who would otherwise cease to receive the Sacrament. Forms and appearances were comparatively unimportant, and in the later years Luther could say 'Thank God . . . our churches are so arranged that a layman, an Italian say, or a Spaniard, who cannot understand our preaching, seeing our Mass, choir, organs, bells etc. would surely say . . . there is no difference between it and his own.' " Needless to say, although the other reformers began their revolutions with interim, ambiguous rites, the difference between their finalised services and the Mass would quickly have been apparent to any layman familiar with the former rite.

Like Luther, Cranmer included the word "Mass" in the description of his 1549 communion service: "The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse."

The Spaniard, Francis Dryander [Francisco de Enzinas], writing to the Zurich Protestants from Cambridge concerning this service remarked: "I think, however, that, by a resolution not to be blamed, some puerilities have still been suffered to remain, lest the people should be offended by too great an innovation. These, trifling as they are, may shortly be amended." On the same 'puerilities' Bucer explains that these things " . . . are to be retained only for a time, lest the people, not having learned Christ, should be deterred by too extensive innovation from embracing his religion."

Dr. Darwell Stone writes that "it is probable that the Prayer Book of 1549 represented rather what it was thought safe to put out at the time than what Archbishop Cranmer and those who were acting with him wished, and that at the time of the publication of the book they already had in view a revision which would approach much more nearly the position of the extreme Reformers." Canon E. C. Ratcliff makes the same observation: "Its promoters regarded it as an interim measure preparing the way for a more accurate embodiment of their reforming opinions." The general policy of Cranmer and his friends was "to introduce the Reformation by stages, gradually preparing men's minds for more radical courses to come. At times compulsion or intimidation was necessary in order to quell opposition, but their general policy was first to neutralise the conservative mass of the people, to deprive them of their Catholic-minded leaders, and then accustom them by slow degrees to the new religious system. Cranmer accordingly deplored the incautious zeal of men like Hooper, which would needlessly provoke the conservatives and stiffen the attitude of that large class of men who, rightly handled, could be brought to acquiesce in ambiguity and interim measures." Thus in England, as in Germany, "in the first reformed liturgy, while there was a resolute expunging of references to the offering of Christ in the sacrament, much remained to the scandal of the more uncompromising of the Reformers."

Many of the clergy "endeavoured to make the best of an evil situation, and used the new communion service as though it were the same as the ancient Mass, which, of course, it was never intended to be." This happened to such an extent that Bucer complained: "The Last Supper is in very many places celebrated as the Mass, so much indeed that the people do not know that it differs beyond that the vernacular tongue is used."
A final principle of the Reformers was that there was no necessity for liturgical uniformity among the different churches. They maintained that a diversity of rite, traditions, ordinances and policies may exist among the churches. Such diversity "doth not dissolve and break the unity which is one God, one faith, one doctrine of Christ and His sacraments, preserved and kept in these several churches without any superiority or pre-eminence that one church by God's law may or ought to challenge over another." As Cranmer made clear, once the Reformers were in a position to enforce their new services they were far more insistent upon the need for uniformity than the Catholic Church had ever been. Needless to say, the Catholic Church had never insisted on absolute liturgical uniformity-----far from it. The various authorised rites within the Church were allowed to keep their own customs, rituals and liturgical languages without interference from Rome. Even within the Latin rite itself there was a degree of pluriformity in that there were differing usages, or in other words, not independent rites but variants of the Roman rites. The Dominican or Sarum Missals provide examples. ...[T]hese usages within the Latin rite did not differ from the Missal of St. Pius V on any important point. What the Reformers were trying to justify in their demand for pluriformity was the right to take an unprecedented step in the history of Christendom, the right to concoct new services. This in itself would have been a complete break with tradition-----up to this point the liturgy had developed by a process of natural evolution. Some ceremonies and prayers were gradually discarded as the centuries passed, for example the Bidding Prayers or the practice of having two lessons before the Gospel. Others were added, such as the Last Gospel. Any attempt to bring about a clear break with any traditional usage should automatically arouse the suspicions of the orthodox, even if ostensibly plausible motives are adduced for doing so.
Michael Davies
Cranmer's Godly Order