Newsletter of the District
- June 1999
By Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., Abbot of Solesmes
Dom Prosper-Louis-Pascal Gueranger, founder of the Benedictine Congregation
of France and first abbot of Solesmes after the French revolution,
wrote in 1840 his Liturgical Institutions in order to restore
among the clergy the knowledge and the love for the Roman Liturgy.
Here we present to our readers a fragment of the Liturgical Institutions,
where Dom Gueranger summarizes what he calls the anti-liturgical
heresy, a summary of the doctrine and liturgical practice of the
Protestant sect, from the XIVth to the XVIIIth century. As it can
easily be seen, many of these principles have a striking similitude
with the post-Conciliar liturgical reform . . .
The first characteristic of the anti-liturgical heresy is HATRED
OF TRADITION AS FOUND IN THE FORMULAS USED IN DIVINE WORSHIP. One
cannot fail to note this special characteristic in all heretics,
from Vigilantus to Calvin, and the reason for it is easy to explain.
Every sectarian who wishes to introduce a new doctrine finds
himself, unfailingly, face to face with the Liturgy, which is Tradition
at its strongest and best, and he cannot rest until he has silenced
this voice, until he has torn up these pages which recall the faith
of past centuries.
As a matter of fact, how could Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism
establish themselves and maintain their influence over the masses?
All they had to do was substitute new books and new formulas in
place of the ancient books and formulas, and their work was done.
There was nothing that still bothered the new teachers; they could
just go on preaching as they wished: the faith of the people was
henceforth without defense.
Luther understood this doctrine with a shrewdness worthy of the
Jansenists, since he, at the beginning of his innovations, at the
time he still felt he should maintain a part of the external form
of the Latin cult, gave the following rule for the reformed Mass:
“We approve and preserve the Introits of Sundays and of the
feasts of Our Lord, that is to say Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.
We should much prefer that the entire Psalms from the Introits should
be taken, as was done in former times; but we will gladly conform
to the present usage. We do not blame even those who would wish
to keep even the Introits of the Apostles, of the Blessed Virgin
and other Saints, since these three Introits are taken from the
psalms and other places in Scripture.”
He hated too much the sacred songs composed by the Church herself
as the public expression for her faith. He felt too much in them
the vigor of Tradition, which he wanted to ban. If he granted to
the Church the right to mix her voice with the oracles of the Scripture
in the holy assemblies, he would expose himself thereby to have
to listen to millions of mouth anathematizing his new dogmas. Therefore,
his hatred for everything in Liturgy which does not exclusively
derive from Holy Scripture.
This, as matter of fact, is the second principle of the anti-liturgical
sect: TO SUBSTITUTE FOR THE FORMULAS OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL TEACHINGS
READINGS FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURE.
This involves two advantages: first, to silence the voice of Tradition
of which sectarians are always afraid. Then, there is the advantage
of propagating and supporting their dogmas by means of affirmation
and negation. By way of negation, in passing over in silence, through
cunning, the texts which express doctrine opposed to errors they
wish to propagate; by way of affirmation, by emphasizing truncated
passages which show only one side of the truth, hide the other the
eyes of the unlearned.
Since many centuries we know that the preferences given by all heretics
to holy Scripture, over Church definitions, has no other reason
than to facilitate making the word of God say all they want it to
say, and manipulating it at will.
( . . . ) Protestants . . . have nearly reduced the whole Liturgy
to the reading of Scripture, accompanied by speeches in which one
interprets by means of reason. As to the choice and determination
of the canonical books, these have ended by falling under the caprice
of the reformer, who, in final analysis, decides the meaning of
the word itself.
Thus Luther finds that in his system of pantheism, the ideas
of the uselessness of good works and faith alone sufficing should
be established as dogmas, and so, from now on, he will declare that
the Epistle of St. James is a “straw epistle” and not canonical,
for the simple reason that it teaches the necessity of good works
In every age, and under all forms of sectarianism, it will be the
same: No ecclesiastical formulas, only Holy Scripture, but interpreted,
selected, presented by the person or persons who are seeking to
profit from innovation.
The trap is dangerous for the simple, and only a long time afterwards
one becomes aware of having been deceived and that the word of God,
“a two-edged sword”, as the Apostles calls it, has caused great
wounds, because it has been manipulated by the sons of perdition.
The third principle of the heretics concerning the reform of
the Liturgy is, having eliminated the ecclesiastical formulas and
proclaimed the absolute necessity of making use only of the words
of Scripture in divine worship and having seen that Holy Scripture
does not always yield itself to all their purposes as they would
like, their third principle, we say, is to fabricate and introduce
various formulas, filled with perfidy, by which the people are more
surely ensnared in error, and thus the whole structure of the impious
reform will become consolidated for the coming centuries.
One will not be astonished at the contradictions which heresy
shows in its works, when one knows that the fourth principle, or,
if you will, the fourth necessity imposed on the sectarians by the
very nature of their rebellious state is an habitual contradiction
of their own principles.
It must be this way for their confusion on that great day, which
will come sooner or later, when God will reveal their nakedness
to the view of the people whom they have seduced; moreover, it is
not in the nature of man to be consistent. Truth alone can be consistent.
Thus, all the sectarians without exceptions begin with THE VINDICATION
OF THE RIGHTS OF ANTIQUITY. They want to cut Christianity off from
all that the errors and passions of man have mixed in; from whatever
is “false” and “unworthy of God”. ALL THEY WANT IS THE PRIMITIVE,
AND THEY PRETEND TO GO BACK TO THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS.
To this end, they prune, they efface, they cut away; everything
falls under their blows, and while one is waiting to see the original
purity of the divine cult reappear, one finds himself encumbered
with new formulas dating only from the night before, and which are
incontestably human, since the one who created them is still alive.
Every sect undergoes this necessity. We saw this with the Monophysites
and the Nestorians; we find the same in every branch of Protestantism.
Their preference for preaching antiquity led only to cutting
them off from the entire past. Then they placed themselves
before their seduced people and they swore to them that now all
was fine, that the papist accretions had disappeared, that the divine
cult was restored to its primitive form . . .
Since the liturgical reform is being undertaken by the sectarians
with the same goal as the reform of dogma, of which it is the consequence,
it follows that as Protestants separated from unity in order to
believe less, they found themselves led to cut away in the Liturgy
ALL THE CEREMONIES, ALL THE FORMULAS WHICH EXPRESS MYSTERIES.
They called it superstition, idolatry, everything that did not
seem to be merely rational, thus, limiting the expression of faith,
obscuring by doubt and even negation all the views, which open on
the supernatural world.
Thus, no more Sacraments, except Baptism, preparing the way
for Socialism, which freed its followers even from Baptism. No
more sacramentals, blessings, images, relics of Saints, processions,
pilgrimages, etc. No more altar, only a table, no more
sacrifice as in every religion, but only a meal. No more church
but only a temple, as with the Greeks and Romans. No more religious
architecture, since there is no more mystery. No more Christian
paintings and sculpture, since there is no more sensible religion.
Finally no more poetry in a cult which is no longer impregnated
by love or faith.
of the mystical element in the Protestant liturgy was bound to produce,
infallibly, the total extinction of that spirit of prayer, which
in Catholicism, we call unction.
A heart in revolt can no longer love, a heart without love will
be all the more able to produce passable expression of respect or
fear, with the cold pride of the Pharisee. Such is Protestant liturgy.
Pretending to treat nobly with God, Protestant liturgy has no
need of intermediaries. To invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin,
or the protection of Saints, would be, for them, a lack of respect
due to the Supreme Being.
Their liturgy excludes that entire “papist idolatry” which asks
from a creature what only should be asked from God. It purges the
calendar of all those names of men, which the Roman Church so boldly
inscribes next to the name of God. It has a special horror for
those names of monks and other persons of later times who one can
find figuring next to the names of the Apostles, whom Jesus Christ
had chosen, and by whom was founded this primitive Church which
alone was pure in faith and free from all superstition in cult and
from every relaxation in morals.
Since the liturgical reform had for one of its principal aims the
abolition of actions and formulas of mystical signification, it
is a logical consequence that its authors had to vindicate the
use of the vernacular in divine worship.
This is in the eyes of sectarians a most important item. Cult
is no secret matter. The people, they say, must understand what
they sing. Hatred for the Latin language is inborn in the hearts
of all the enemies of Rome. They recognize it as the bond among
Catholics throughout the universe, as the arsenal of orthodoxy against
all the subtleties of the sectarian spirit. ( . . .)
The spirit of rebellion which drives them to confide the universal
prayer to the idiom of each people, of each province, of each century,
has for the rest produced its fruits, and the reformed themselves
constantly perceive that the Catholic people, in spite of their
Latin prayers, relish better and accomplish with more zeal the duties
of the cult than most do the Protestant people. At every hour of
the day, divine worship takes place in Catholic churches. The faithful
Catholic, who assists, leaves his mother tongue at the door. Apart
form the sermons, he hears nothing but mysterious words which, even
so, are not heard in the most solemn moment of the Canon of the
Mass. Nevertheless, this mystery charms him in such a way that
he is not jealous of the lot of the Protestant, even though the
ear of the latter doesn’t hear a single sound without perceiving
. . . We must admit it is a master blow of Protestantism to have
declared war on the sacred language. If it should ever succeed
in ever destroying it, it would be well on the way to victory.
Exposed to profane gaze, like a virgin who has been violated,
from that moment on the Liturgy has lost much of its sacred character,
and very soon people find that it is not worthwhile putting aside
one’s work or pleasure in order to go and listen to what is being
said in the way one speaks on the marketplace. ( . . .)
In taking away from the Liturgy the mystery which humbles reason,
Protestantism took care not to forget the practical consequence,
that is to say, liberation from the fatigue and the burden of the
body imposed by the rules of the papist Liturgy.
First of all, no more fasting, no more abstinence, no more genuflections
in prayer. For the ministers of the temple, no more daily functions
to carry out, no more canonical prayers to recite in the name of
Such is one of the principal forms of the great Protestant emancipation:
to diminish the sum of public and private prayers.
The course of events has quickly shown that faith and charity, which
are nourished by prayers, were extinguished in the reform, whereas
among Catholics both still nourish all the acts of devotion to God
and men, since they are impregnated by the ineffable resources of
liturgical prayer as accomplished by the secular and regular clergy,
and in which the community of the faithful participate.
Since Protestantism had to establish a rule in order to distinguish
among the papist institutions those which could be the most hostile
to its principle, it had to rummage around in the foundations of
the Catholic structure to find the corner stone on which everything
rests. Its instinct caused it to discover first of all that dogma
which is irreconcilable with every innovation: Papal authority.
When Luther wrote on his flag: “Hatred for Rome and its laws”, he
only promulgated once more the underlying principle of every branch
of the anti-liturgical sect. From then on he had to abrogate, ‘en
masse’ both cult and ceremonies as the idolatries of Rome. The
Latin language, the Divine Office, the calendar, the breviary: all
were abominations of the great Harlot of Babylon. The Roman Pontiff
weighs down reason by his dogmas and the sense by his ritual practices.
Therefore, it must be proclaimed that his dogmas are only blasphemy
and error, and his liturgical observances nothing but a means of
establishing more firmly a usurped and tyrannical domination. (.
One should here bring to mind the marvelous reflections of Joseph
de Maistre in his book The Pope, where he demonstrates with
so much wisdom and depth that, in spite of the disagreement which
should isolate the different sects, there is one thing in which
they are all alike, namely, they are non-Roman.
The anti-liturgical heresy needed, in order to establish its reign
for good, the destruction in fact and in principle of all priesthood
in Christianity. For it felt that where there is a Pontiff, there
is an Altar, and where there is an Altar there is a sacrifice and
the carrying on of a mysterious ceremonial.
Having abolished the office of Supreme Pontiff, they had to annihilate
the character of the bishopric, from which emanates the mystical
imposition of hands, which perpetuates the sacred hierarchy. From
this derives a great presbyterianism, which is nothing other than
the immediate consequence of the suppression of the Supreme Pontiff.
From now on there is no longer a priest, properly speaking.
How could simple election without consecration make a man sacred?
Luther’s and Calvin’s reforms only know of ministers of God, or
of men, as you prefer. But this is not enough. Chosen and established
by laymen, bringing into the temple the robe of a certain bastard
ministry, the minister is nothing but a layman clothed with accidental
functions. In Protestantism there exit only laymen, and this necessarily
so, since there is no longer a Liturgy. (. . .)
Such are the principal maxims of the anti-liturgical sect. We certainly
did not exaggerate in any way. All we did was to reveal the hundred
times professed doctrines of the writings of Luther, Calvin, the
One Hundred Signers of Magdeburg, of Hospinien, Kemnitz, etc. These
books are easy to consult. That is to say that what comes out of
them is under the eyes of all the world. We thought it useful to
throw light on the principal features of sectarianism. It is always
profitable to know error.
It is now up to the Catholic logician to draw the conclusions.
From Faith of Our Fathers, New Zealand Dec. 1988