Liturgy by Committee

The Banished Heart
Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church
Geoffrey Hull
T & T Clark, $34.95, 383 pp.

The banished heart of Geoffrey Hull’s title is the traditional Roman liturgy; his subtitle refers to the present liturgical practice of the Catholic Church; and the purpose of his book is to explain the liturgical revolution that led from one to the other. In Hull’s view, it was “the worst wound ever inflicted on the Mystical Body.”

After an initial chapter that reviews, far too summarily, the process of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council, Hull sets out the primary assumptions on which his work rests: that in the life of the church the lex orandi, actual worship, has priority over secondary reflection on it, the lex credendi. Until Vatican II, he argues, the development of the liturgy, in both East and in West, was organic and achieved in an immemorial past by the gradual addition of new elements initiated locally, spread by a natural process, and only later ratified by official liturgical books. For Hull such organic growth is not perpetual but reaches an identifiable term of structural maturity, a stage reached for all the church’s rites by the end of the Middle Ages. In the Roman rite it was enshrined in the order published by Pope Pius V, after which only minor, cosmetic, rubrical changes were made. To this rite, “universally considered mature and fixed in its essentials,” no one dared introduce radical changes until Pope Paul VI, that “reckless innovator,” under whom revolution replaced evolution. Then the relationship...

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.