Catholiques et Comtois: Liturgie diocésaine et identité régionale au XIXe siècle. By Vincent Petit. [Histoire religieuse de la France, No. 36.] (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf. 2011. Pp. 720. euro44,00. ISBN 978-2-204-09395-8.)
After decades of neglect, interest in the French diocesan liturgies of the sev- enteenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries is slowly but surely growing. Modern technology and the online sources available to researchers now pro- vide the means for a more systematic scientific study. Part of the responsibil- ity for the neglect of these liturgies is attributable to Abbot Prosper Guéranger of Solesmes, who treated them with such negative polemical passion in his writings that he damaged their respectability. Although these diocesan litur- gies are not autonomous rites alongside other liturgies of both the Eastern and Western Churches, they should not be regarded as deviations that were toler- ated for the sake of conserving peace and unity within the Church.
The recent change of perspective in historical research means that the French diocesan liturgies need to be placed both in the context of European intellectual history and in the political and social conditions of the time. Such an approach is to be found in the work of Vincent Petit. His examination of the cultural, social, and religious setting of the liturgy of the Archdiocese of Besançon has enabled him to show its impact upon the formation of the Catholic identity of Franche-Comté in the nineteenth century.
The work is divided into three sections, each covering approximately a quarter of a century: the period leading up to the liturgical controversy, the period of the return to the Roman liturgy, and the peculiar situation of the Archdiocese of Besançon. Petit shows that the movement for the return of the French archdiocese to the unity of the Roman liturgy was facilitated by the Ultramontane movement, rooted in the teachings of Joseph de Maistre and Félicité de Lamennais.
In the Archdiocese of Besançon, the presence of influential Ultramontane clergy such as Emmanuel Bousson, Philippe Gerbet, Thomas Marie Joseph Gousset, and Jean Marie Doney might have led one to suppose that the Church in Besançon would have been in the vanguard of reform. Yet despite such strong pro-Roman influence, the Archdiocese of Besançon was not swept away by the tide of reforming enthusiasm. More than thirty years were to pass from the beginning of the "liturgical controversy" before Besançon renounced its own diocesan books. …