Blog Archives

The Antiliturgical Heresy


In recent years the Church has witnessed an increasing appreciation for the writings of Benedictine priest Dom Prosper Guéranger. Abbot of Solesmes Abbey, founder of the French Benedictine Congregation, and author of both “The Liturgical Year” and “The Holy Mass”, Dom Prosper is widely considered one of the foremost liturgists of the nineteenth century. 

In his contemporary classic, “The Organic Development of the Liturgy”, Dom Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. discusses the twelve characteristics of what Guéranger called the antiliturgical heresy. Guéranger’s list today reads like a litany of the supposed liturgical reforms of the post-conciliar years. Dom Reid lists the twelve as follows:

The first is the hatred of Tradition in the formulas of divine worship.

The second is the substitution of writings from Sacred Scripture for formulas composed by the Church.

The fabrication and introduction of new liturgical formulas is the third.

Fourth is the contradictory principle that operates from an affection for antiquity that seeks to “reproduce divine worship in its original purity” while spurning development later in liturgical Tradition and yet introducing new elements of “incontestably human” origin.

Fifth, noting that similar attitudes are to be seen in Protestant liturgical reform, Guéranger proscribes the rationalistic removal of ceremonies and formulas that leads to a loss of the supernatural or mystical element of the Liturgy without regard for its tangible and poetic nature.

The sixth characteristic is the total extinction of the spirit of prayer or unction from the Liturgy. Guéranger speaks here of pharisaical coldness and cites the Protestant insistence on the vernacular by way of example.

The Protestant exclusion of the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints…is the seventh characteristic.

The use of the vernacular itself is the eighth. Here Guéranger warns of the transience of the vernacular and of the dangers of using mundane language in worship.

An overriding desire to lessen the burden of the Liturgy (by shortening it) is the ninth characteristic.

Rejection of all things papal or Roman is the tenth.

A consequent presbyterianism that downplays the ministerial priesthood forms the eleventh characteristic.

Finally, Guéranger deprecates secular or lay persons assuming authority in liturgical reform lest the Liturgy, and consequently dogma, become an entity limited by the boundaries of a nation or region.

Reid, Alcuin O.S.B. The Organic Development of the Liturgy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005. pp. 58-59

%d bloggers like this: