One of the greatest problems with the traditionalist movement, in my view, is its tendency to latch onto some particular practice or period, claim it for 'tradition', and defend its priority over all competing positions for reasons of sentiment rather than logic.
Rorate Caeli's's current series defending Pope St Pius X's reform of the Roman Breviary is such a case in my view.
Pope St Pius X's liturgical revolution
Many traditionalists (and catholics more broadly) will be unaware that Pope St Pius X was a liturgical reformer on a scale unprecedented until Pope Paul VI.
Other Popes have certainly made their mark on the liturgy: Pope St Pius V and Pope Pius XII for example, both made significant changes to rubrics and practices of the Office and Mass. Their aims at least, whatever the ultimate reality, were relatively modest, namely seeking to standardize, restore and protect the integrity of the liturgy.
Not so Pope St Pius X.
Amongst many other reforms, he not only changed the rubrics of the Roman Office drastically, but entirely dumped the ancient ordering of the psalter in favour of an entirely new one.
He reversed the traditional order of reception of the sacraments and lowered the age of first communion.
He made significant reforms to Church music.
And he reversed the long tradition of the Church when it came to the frequency of reception of communion.
I'm not saying that all of the changes he made were bad: the rubrical changes to the Office of 1911 in particular had a lot of merit, and the other measures he took were pastoral responses to the pressures of the time. Others, such as the ordering of reception of the sacraments, are now being reversed. Others still have had unforeseen consequences - in particular, encouraging frequent communion to counter Jansenism may have made sense when the sacrament of confession was still practised, now it just leads to mass sacrilege.
Regardless of their individual merits or otherwise though, his programme surely constituted a liturgical revolution, and, as many such as the late Professor Dobszay (Note: PDF) have eloquently argued, they set a precedent for the post-Vatican II wholesale junking of the existing form of the Mass and Divine Office and their replacement by something altogether new.
If it had been any other Pope...
In this light, there is a certain irony in the traditionalist Society adopting him as their patron saint.
But of course, Pope St Pius X is also a hero of the anti-modernist fight, and as a result, some find it necessary all of his legacy, not just those components of it that have stood the test of time.
Take Rorate's defense of his breviary reforms. There clearly was a problem with the rubrics of the Roman Office before 1911 and the accretion of prayers, feasts and other elements that made it a real burden on priests. But there were other ways these problems could have been addressed than a wholesale reordering of the psalter.
Indeed, so hard is it to find fans of Pope St Pius X's reforms that Rorate has had to resort to giving space to a sedevacentist priest for the task!
The problem with the 1911 psalter
In the end the proof is in the fruits of the Reform, and the bad fruits therein have been drawn out at length by a number of recent studies.
Far from making priests comfortable with a shorter Office, it led to pressure to shorten it even further, hence the modern Liturgy of the Hours.
Far from providing a coherent framework for the passage of the day, most priests I know who say the 'traditional' Office (in reality the 1911 Office updated by the 1962 rubrical changes) treat it as something to be gotten through as quickly as possible.
The original form of the Roman Office offered priests a combination of solid meat, particularly in the relatively long hour of Matins; and familiarity, with day hours that could be memorized in the form of that extended meditation on the law, in Psalm 118 said each day. It had a Lauds that reminded of the reality of sin and the necessity both of repentance, in the form of the daily recitation of Psalm 50, and of the importance of hope and joy, in the Laudate psalms (Psalm 148-150). And it followed the monastic Office in keeping Compline fixed each day, a quiet wind down to sleep. It had a clear internal logic.
Changing all of things has had, in my view, serious spiritual and psychological effects, as I've suggested in my own series comparing various Office psalm schemas.
Pope Pius X's reforms made the Office shorter.
But most find few other virtues in it.
Time for some reform of the reforms?
I'm not one of those who advocate reform of the 1962 Mass, despite some of the obvious problems with it, any time soon.
But I do think there is a good case for tossing out both the 1962 and 1970 Roman breviaries right now and doing a thorough reboot.
And in the meantime, the Benedictine Office, which retains the psalm ordering set by the saint some 1600 years or so ago (and was itself a reform of the original Roman Office), with rubrics of 1962, provides, in my view, a far superior, and certainly genuinely traditional, alternative to the Roman...
The positive side of the Rorate series, I suppose, is that it shows that even the hardest of hardline traditionalists apparently accept that some liturgical reform is possible, even desirable, at times...