Monday, November 16, 2020

The Sanctoral Killing Fields: On the Removal of Saints from the General Roman Calendar

Saints defaced by Protestsant iconoclasts, church of Saint Martin, Utrecht
At the London Oratory on December 13, 2013, the founder of the Benedictine monastery in Norcia and a professor of liturgy at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., delivered a paper entitled “Summorum Pontificum and Liturgical Law,” in which he said the following:
The history of the Roman Missal from 1570 until 1962 is one of organic growth and development. The fundamental content and structure remain the same, while minor corrections, additions, and subtractions are made in order to respond to the needs of the Church at that particular historical moment. The 1970 Missal, however, is in a totally different category. The three basic elements of the Roman Missal are radically changed: that is, the orations, the readings, and the chants. The corpus of orations is modified in two ways: greater recourse is made to the euchological tradition of the ancient sacramentaries, and texts are edited to reflect contemporary theological positions. The lectionary is radically altered to respond to the expressed wish of SC 51 that the treasures of the Bible be opened up more lavishly to the faithful. Whether such radical changes were necessary in order to respond to SC 51 is a question open for debate. The chant texts were not altered to the same extent as the readings and the orations, but in practice, the chant repertoire has been almost universally abandoned.
He continues:
The other important elements of the Roman Missal are the Ordo Missae, the calendar, and the rubrics. The Ordo Missae of the 1970 Missal was radically changed: in fact, we call it the “Novus Ordo [Missae].” Concerning the calendar, and especially the superabundant growth of the sanctoral cycle, there has always been need of periodic pruning. But in the 1970 Missal, the pruning was so radical that the original plant is sometimes unrecognizable. The protective fence of the rubrics, carefully developed over centuries in order to guard the Holy of Holies, was taken down, leading to unauthorized “creativity” and liturgical abuse.
Fr. Cassian claims that the pruning of the sanctoral cycle was “so radical that the original plant is sometimes unrecognizable.” This complements a rather more brusque description offered by Fr. Louis Bouyer in his Memoirs:
I prefer to say nothing, or little, about the new calendar, the handiwork of a trio of maniacs who suppressed, with no good reason, Septuagesima and the Octave of Pentecost and who scattered three quarters of the Saints higgledy-piggledy, all based on notions of their own devising! Because these three hotheads obstinately refused to change anything in their work and because the pope wanted to finish up quickly to avoid letting the chaos get out of hand, their project, however insane, was accepted!
It is a little hard to know which three maniacs Bouyer is referring to; there were so many involved in the project. The Consilium Coetus for the calendar comprised Bugnini, A. Dirks, R. van Doren, J. Wagner, A.-G. Martimort, P. Jounel, A. Amore, and H. Schmidt, though we know that Jounel was the leading spirit. That the thinning out of the sanctoral cycle had long been on Bugnini’s mind is evident from his 1949 article in Ephemerides Liturgicae, “Per una riforma liturgica generale” (“Towards a General Liturgical Reform”). Bugnini pressed the need for “a reduction of the Sanctoral . . . which requires not only a reduction of the present calendar, but also fixed and prescriptive norms to prevent new Saints’ days from piling up again.” Yves Chiron summarizes:
A list of thirteen saints or groups of saints was already drawn up for elimination from the universal calendar, with no justification for any of them (Saint Martin for example), whereas the calendar was supposed to abbinare (“pair together”) fourteen more Saints “because their life and work were alike or close to it,” for example Saint Thomas Becket and Saint Stanislaus or Saint Peter Canisius and Saint Robert Bellarmine. (Annibale Bugnini: Reformer of the Liturgy, 34)
Just how bad were the casualties of the Battle of the Calendar, 1964–1967?

An article published on May 10, 1969, in The New York Times bears the headline: “200 Catholic Saints Lose Their Feast Days.” It’s worth a look:

Yet The Times, as it turns out, was in error. The toll was higher.

My NLM colleague, archivist, and data cruncher extraordinaire, Matthew Hazell, ran the numbers, using the 1969 editio typica of the Calendarium Romanum. A total of 305 saints, plus unknown companions, were removed from the calendar. (Groups such as the famous Forty Martyrs of Sebaste on March 10 and the Seven Maccabees on August 1, present on the calendar for many centuries, sometimes for over a millennium in East and West, are counted as 40 saints and 7 saints respectively.) As a matter of procedure, Hazell did not count the removal of “duplications” (e.g., the commemoration of the Apostle Paul on the Chair of St Peter; the commemoration of St Agnes on 28 January; the commemoration of the stigmata of St Francis on 17 September), or feasts of Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin Mary which were removed. This is because although some of their feasts or commemorations have been deleted, these saints (along with Our Lord!) are still on the calendar in one way or another. He also made no attempt to calculate which saints in the 1961 calendar were converted into optional celebrations in the 1969 calendar, which would obviously have much bearing on the way their cultus is conducted liturgically.
It deserves to be pointed out that, since very few Catholics today are utilizing the Martyrology either for study or in a liturgical setting, the cultus of saints was dealt a severe blow through this loss of hundreds of saints whose intercession was asked, whose merits were expressly leaned upon, whose example was set forth, whose accidental glory was augmented; moreover, the integrity of tradition, guarded up until the 1960s, was sorely compromised by the loss of many of the most ancient commemorations in the Roman rite.

The list of casualties is presented below, which is, as far as I am aware, the first time this information has been collected in such a useful manner.

In the table:
  • “removed” equates to terms like expungitur or deletur used in the 1969 CR;
  • “particular calendars” means that the 1969 CR says something like Calendariis particularibus relinquitur, i.e. the saint has been removed from the universal calendar but Coetus I considered them suitable for inclusion on local calendars where appropriate;
  • “titular basilica only” is the equivalent of Calendario eius basilicae titularis relinquitur in the 1969 CR, i.e. Coetus I has removed the saint from the universal calendar and recommends they be celebrated only on the particular calendar of their basilica/titular church.

We are greatly indebted to Mr. Hazell for this detailed work, which, like his invaluable Index Lectionum, furnishes yet another tool for the growing critique of the reform and another incentive for the restoration of our Roman tradition.

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