An “imperialism of novelty”

Peter Kwasniewski at NLM has a thoughtful piece, with which I agree, about trend over time in the celebration of the Novus Ordo.  When there are options provided, there seems to be an expectation that the least traditional option will be chosen, with the result that tradition is opted out of sight and mind.  He called this this an “imperialism of novelty”.

It’s a manifestation of the hermeneutic of disrupture.  “Optionitis”… “Tinkeritis”….

Think about it…

  • The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I)
  • Black vestments
  • Gregorian chant
  • Latin
  • Pipe Organ
  • ad orientem worship

Summorum Pontificum is so important.

A sample:

I was once talking with a priest about the strange phenomenon of options in the new rite of Mass and the other sacraments. He made the observation that whenever there are multiple options, one of which is traditional and the others more recent inventions, there seems to be a subtle pressure to choose the more recent inventions, with the consequence that, as he put it, the traditional practice is “optioned out of existence.”

Now we know that this happens a great deal when it comes to anything that’s longer or more complex, or requires a special effort. For example, if the lectionary provides optional readings for a particular saint or category of saint, chances are they’ll be skipped, just because it’s so much easier to march through the daily cycle page by page rather than being bothered to look up the optional reading. An example of length would be the Confiteor: it takes a little longer to pray the Confiteor and the Kyrie than to use the pseudo-troped Kyrie. And so the Confiteor often falls by the wayside.

A dangerous tendency is at work here. Although theoretically many options are put at the celebrant’s disposal, in reality there is a certain pressure against choosing the traditional option precisely because it is traditional and a certain pressure in favor of choosing the modern option because it’s modern, because it can be done, because perhaps it’s more politically correct, or it’s more feminist, or whatever it might be. One is reminded here of the arrogant vanity of modern applied science, which seems to function by the technobarbaric principle of “If we can do, we should do it.” No matter the larger questions of right or wrong, the nuclear bombs must be built, the organs must be harvested, the test tube babies produced, the embryos frozen, the animals cloned, or whatever it might be.

An excellent example would be how the missal says that the priest can say “Pray, brethren.” Nobody ever says “Pray, brethren”; they always say “Pray, brothers and sisters” (or sometimes “Pray, sisters and brothers,” although that’s not an option given in the missal).

What we see in the world of the reformed liturgy, in short, is a continual drift towards a more and more meaningless, vestigial, paper-thin permission for traditional practices — as if the traditional practices were a rare and dangerous species of delicate flower that’s being pressured out of its ecosystem by an aggressive, invasive species of noxious weeds or foreign frogs.

As a name for the phenomenon, I suggest “the imperialism of novelty,” [a manifestation of the hermeneutic of disrupture] a kind of unseeing, undiscerning, indiscriminate favoritism or advancement of all that is new and recent and shiny, the latest model rolling off the production line. Tradition has no voice with which to defend itself; it has no armies, no force. [It has Summorum Pontificum.] It compels solely by its inner rationale, its beauty, its value as something passed down to us. But because modern people don’t care about what has been passed down to us, tradition’s voice is muted; the moral force that it should have is tempered, if not suppressed altogether. Modernity is fundamentally anti-traditional: recall Thomas Jefferson talking about how the enlightened governments of his day will at last throw off medieval priestcraft and monkery and superstition as we embark on a new Age of Reason, Novus Ordo Seclorum. The only positions that have any clout are those that are espoused by people today — not surprisingly, because the people today who espouse them are alive, with muscles and vocal chords, and they will do what they want to do because they are in charge and they’re alive right now.


Read the rest there.

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  1. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Okay, but I doubt that the “traditional” option is avoided merely because of some preference for novelty. In all the cases listed, the more obvious reason is convenience.

    Eucharistic Prayer I is avoided because it is long: in fact, it IS more commonly used that EP 4, which is even longer. Latin is more work than English, hymns are less work than Gregorian chant. Strumming a guitar is easier than keyboard and peddles. Most places do not have black vestments, so it is easier to use white or violet. Finally, given the arrangement of most current sanctuaries, it is just easier to face the people, indeed, the steps often make ad orientem impossible.

    Yes, I know that some of these situations (no black vestments, no footpace in front of the altar) are he results of ideologies imposed decades ago, but the problem to day is “work” more than ideology.

  2. Guido03 says:

    I would also add the confetior to your list as well.

  3. ChesterFrank says:

    That was a superb article. I have not been to a Mass that uses the five items on your list . I only hear Eucharistic Prayer 2, have never heard Gregorian Chant ( something I would genuinely look forward to) or been to aa Mass ad orientem. I only recall Latin being used sparingly and briefly ( one month) when Pope Benedict requested that it be added to the Liturgy. I can understand not hearing the pipe organ as not every church has one, and many cant afford to have one built. I never see or hear a choir in a choir loft either. For the Confiteor , I used to hear that during Lent. I had wrongly thought it wasn’t being used to encourage people to go to confession. A lot of these could greatly improve the New Mass in parishes that are wary of the TLM.

  4. lmgilbert says:

    “Now we know that this [ ‘traditional practice being“optioned out of existence’] happens a great deal when it comes to anything that’s longer or more complex, or requires a special effort. ”

    Many years ago, not long after the new Eucharistic prayers were introduced, an older priest announced to our congregation that he would be using Eucharistic Prayer IV at that Mass. He added that it probably would be the last time we heard it and he was not far wrong. As I recall, it is the longest of the Eucharistic prayers by far, and gloriously replete with Scripture—than which nothing in the Church is more traditional.

    If I have heard it once a year since then, I’d be surprised, but this is a great pity, for we should be soaked in the Scriptural origins of everything connected with the Mass and the Paschal Mystery which it makes present.

  5. Aquinas Gal says:

    I like “the imperialism of novelty.” Many good points here.
    About the readings, though, I don’t think that point is really true, about it being too much bother to look up optional readings.
    Having sometimes set up the lectionary for Mass, it’s very easy to flip back and forth from the weekday cycle to the saint’s day. But my preference is to use the continuous reading from the weekday cycle except for special feasts, because I like reading as much of whatever book we’re reading, for example, Romans, etc.

  6. HighMass says:

    nothing to be said here that has not been said over the past 55 yrs or so….the progressives
    made sure to see to it that any fragment of the Mass of St. John XXIII vanished, for the most part.

    in there eyes the church was not alive liturgically until the novus ordo was mandated and the Latin Mass of Ages was done away with.

    ironically though Our Dear Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI changed that, as we know it took 50 yrs or so but it did happen. In our parish we have a High Mass once a month, its a start….and it is said by a YOUNG PRIEST! On Saturday we 5/13/17 beautiful Holy Mass Ad Orientum, Novus Ordo but beautiful, as Fr. Z says, brick by brick

  7. robtbrown says:

    From the preponderance of Second Eucharistic Prayers I’ve seen over the years, I would say it’s an Imperialism of Brevity.

  8. Adaquano says:

    I’m sure for many priests there were never really presented the traditional option? Are they also afraid if they opt for the Roman Canon, the pews will be less full the following the week? My own pastor has used the Roman Canon but very rarely, yet I know he has strong opinions on the beauty a church must hold and his disdain for modern designs. Still Latin is absent from our celebrations and I’d be shocked to ever hear chant.

    Still from what I have gathered when he arrived he moved the choir back to the loft, and dropped the piano in favor of the organ.

    Now if he can use fewer Extraordinary Ministers

  9. clare joseph says:

    Many years ago I had the joy of living in a religious community (which,alas,dissolved) whose chaplain rotated his use of the four Eucharistic prayers so that we got to hear all of them frequently. In this way I got to discover that I liked the 1st and 4th the best. Nowadays, as others have said here, I hear the 2nd very,very often. I also hear the 1st and the 3rd at times, but it’s been about two years now since I’ve heard the 4th – which I regret much, as it is so very beautiful. (From time to time I resort to reading it privately at home.) Very occasionally I’ll ask a priest why the 4th Eucharistic prayer isn’t being used, and generally the answer is because it is longer. Oh really? I hadn’t noticed. How much longer can it be? A few lines? And for this “reason” we’re deprived of it.

  10. Fr. Kelly says:

    With regard to the 4th Eucharistic prayer, its length cannot be the main reason it is not used much, since the Roman Canon is at least as long as it.
    The fact is it comes from so different a tradition than the Roman Canon or even than 2 or 3 that its preface cannot be separated from the Eucharistic Prayer.
    The 4th Eucharistic prayer can only be used with its proper preface and that means that it cannot be used when the liturgy calls for another preface. (as now for example)

  11. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    Our pastor usually uses Eucharistic Prayer II. EP III maybe once a month, and then EP 4. Haven’t ever (in over 10 years) heard the Roman Canon.

    And so he doesn’t offend anyone, when he says the 4th EP, he changes every occurrence of he/him that refers to mankind to “us” or “them” or “us” such as “Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to …” becomes “Even when we disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon us to …” Which is both changing the words and making the sense of the words wrong.

  12. Richard McNally says:

    I’m not sure what kind of “dictatorship” this is. The Missal of Paul VI provides for options and then priests make up their own. Many times manifesting sketchy theology and poor mastery of spoken English. Then they will almost always use the Second Eucharistic Prayer. No option there. I think that’s the brevity thing. After an overlong and very wordy Liturgy of the Word, we have to get through the Liturgy of the Eucharist as quickly as possible (enter Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers).

  13. I agree with my Dominican confrere above. Whatever the laity may think is happening in the priest’s mind the real story is perhaps more mundane. Convenience is the primary driving force – what is easiest and quickest. The pressure I experience is the expectation that one keep it simple and not take too long (I use, almost exclusively the confiteor, EP I, etc). In a sense it is a continuation of the pre-Conciliar preference for the ‘low Mass’ – a Mass without frills, quicker and easier (wasn’t there a requirement in the EF that Mass be completed within a certain time limit – 20-30 minutes?). I find that one is expected to delay the people as little as possible, in the confessional as much as at Mass, to cause as little inconvenience, so that they can get on with their lives. Some priests are still trying to celebrate well in the post-Conciliar sense but most seem to me to be just doing what is expected of them, what they have become used to. Habits, once formed, are powerful determiners of behaviour.

  14. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    I wish priests would be MUCH briefer in their homilies, to make room for what is better – the Confiteor and the Roman Canon.

  15. robtbrown says:

    Richard McNally,

    There was no mention of dictatorship. Imperialism is how an empire arises, but it doesn’t necessarily happen by the use of force. Vernacular versus populum liturgy did happen by force, but use of which EP is, as you say, a matter of option.

    Chris in Maryland,

    IME, it’s more a matter of the sometimes interminable Prayers of the Faithful. Among which, I once heard a prayer for those who are awaiting their annulments–as if they were ordered from

  16. iPadre says:

    Another reason I began using the Roman Canon exclusively 5-1/2 years ago when the new translation went into effect.

  17. majuscule says:

    One of our priests always uses the Roman Canon. Of course, he is the one who also offers the EF. Another priest always uses EP 2. Except one Easter I noticed he used the Roman Canon and I thanked him for that. He seemed to think it was more appropriate for “special occasions”. This year he used the Roman Canon on Holy Thursday. And EP 3 on Easter.

    I am not sure how many other people even notice.

  18. bushboar says:

    It is my impression that the confiteor is passed over for a different option (usually option C) because it makes the sins for which we ask forgiveness more personal (and of course we don’t want people to feel bad). In fact, option C doesn’t really require someone to personally acknowledge their own sins at all.

  19. Boniface says:

    The great Fr. Thompson, OP (pardon me, Fr, but I have read a couple of your masterful books) makes an excellent point above.

    I’m not so convinced by this article even beyond the aforementioned points, however. For example, the more traditional-leaning options for blessing, for example, holy water, palms, candles within the liturgy are usually option A, as in listed first, while the texts of more fuzzy language are options B, C, etc. And I have heard, I am pretty sure, more than one celebrant say “pray, brethren.” As a frequenter now for several years, now nearly exclusively, of the EF, but having grown up and into adulthood with the OF, it’s clear to me that while we can have productive, reapectful “in-house” conversations about missal comparisons and perhaps reform, the Novus Ordo itself is not the enemy, but rather the many elements of faux-Catholic culture that have so commonly enveloped it over the past 40-odd years. There are Novus Ordo celebrations at which I’ve assisted that are 90% in appearance like the EF: Latin, ad orientem, chant, Roman canon, tradiyional vestments, communion on the tongue at the rail, etc. etc. Had this been the normative ars celebrandi since 1969, how many people in the average pew would really have noticed much of the change?

  20. ajf1984 says:

    One of my all-time fav. Star Trek quotes applies, I think…“Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing.” (Kurtwood Smith’s Federation President, ST VI: The Undiscovered Country)

  21. Will Elliott says:

    I believe the confiteor is regularly avoided because “we don’t want to make people feel bad” (aka “we don’t do guilt anymore”) but also because Option C with the troped kyrie is the “let’s give the deacon or the cantor something to say” option.

  22. gsk says:

    I can always count on “brethren” from our dear young associate pastor. As a middle-aged lady-convert, I’m delighted!

  23. Filipino Catholic says:

    The only time to my knowledge that I have ever heard the Roman Canon was last Holy Thursday, and even then it was the version proper to that feast itself. I might have heard it during the Easter Vigil as well if my recollection of hearing the long list of saints (a dead giveaway for the Canon) was indeed legitimate.

    I want to hear it more often to be honest. The Canon of Hippolytus (E.P. II) has usurped its place for long enough.

  24. CharlesG says:

    Since the traditional options can validly be used, can’t there be a private association of priest that agree generally to use and promote the more traditional options? I agree brevity and convenience often drive these decisions. In my cathedral parish, we’ve heard practically nothing but the Apostle’s creed since the new missal allowed it, without even varying to the Nicene creed for some seasons. It makes me sad that the faithful in the parish will soon forget the Nicene creed, even though Catholics should be familiar with both creeds.

  25. WmHesch says:

    Has anyone ever used Option B for the Penitential rite? Ever?

    Would anyone in the pews even know how to respond?

  26. The Cobbler says:

    To add on the theme of technobarbarism and the Star Trek quotes, even Dilbert gets this one right:

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