Organic Development of the Liturgy

I’ve been reading a fine text by Alcuin Reid entitled The Organic Development of the Liturgy. Cardinal Ratzinger reviewed this text with favor.

In chapter 1, Reid narrates a certain failed attempt to reform the Liturgy and draws an important lesson from it. Humanist Pope Leo X (d1521) wanted Breviary reformed. He wanted it simpler and less burdensome for the clergy. Two legitimate desires.

He commissioned Bishop Ferreri, who produced a highly stylized Latin text, which was approved by Pope Clement VII in 1523. This text was roundly criticized.

So, Clement appointed Cardinal Quignonez to produce another. Quignonez tried to go back to ancient practices, jettisoning countless marvelous the traditions that were added to it over the centuries, organically. He changed the distribution of the psalms, etc. In short, it was radically different; not an organic development.

In 1536 Pope Paul III approved and promulgated it. There it was, officially promulgated. But this too was widely criticized. It was so violent a development that it could not be called a development. It was eventually rejected by Pope St. Pius V of immortal memory. Here is the very poignant lesson Reid draws from this episode in Church history.

“The repudiation of this breviary by rescript of Paul IV in 1558, and its subsequent proscription by St. Pius V in 1568, is the pre-eminent demonstration in liturgical history of the priority organic development of the Liturgy enjoys over approbation by competent authority. The prudential judgment of Paul III promulgating this reform in 1536 was an error, finally corrected some five popes and thirty-two years later, in the light of the evident dissatisfaction of the faithful and at the prompting of scholars,” Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, p. 29.

This text speaks for itself. That Ratzinger received it favorably is significant; the same Cardinal who spoke of the problems connected with current practices of the liturgy as “banal”. For the only copy of his remarks that I can find in full, see here.