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April 17, 2006



About the Tridentine Missal having been abrogated, I think that's well established. From Pope Paul VI's consistory allocution of May 24th, 1976:

"We must attach to this refusal to respect the liturgical norms laid down a special grievousness in that it introduces division where Christ's love has gathered us together in unity, namely, into the liturgy and the eucharistic sacrifice. For our part, in the name of tradition, we beseech all of our children to celebrate the rites of the restored liturgy with dignity and fervent devotion. Use of the old Ordo Missae is in no way left to the choice of priests or people. The Instruction of 14 June 1971 provided the celebration of Mass according to the former rite would be permitted, by faculty from the Ordinary, only for aged or sick priests offering the sacrifice without a congregation. The new Ordo Missae was promulgated in place of the old after careful deliberation and to carry out the directives of Vatican Council II. For a like reason, our predecessor St. Pius V, after the Council of Trent, commanded the use of the Roman Missal revised by his authority."

In all his public writings on the Liturgy, I don't believe Joseph Ratzinger ever hinted at a "right" to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. Curious, if he does indeed believe it exists.

Anyway, he can recognize the abrogation of the Tridentine Missal and still extend the indult. If Pope Paul VI could change the policy, why not Benedict?

Perry Robinson

Ok, someone please inform me. Was there a lack of males so that they had to have female altar servers?


So why do people think that Benedict might "do something?" Because of his previous writings, that's why.

It is important to remember, however, that Benedict the Pope does not have the intellectual freedom that Ratzinger the theologian had. Cardinal Ratzinger had the luxury of exploring and wondering and testing and prodding, as is the job of a theologian. He could give opinions. Pope Benedict, with the office of the magisterium does not have that luxury. Not everything that Cardinal Ratzinger wrote can necessarily be transferred to Pope Benedict.


Dear Amy: thank you for the 'if this is ok, why not this?' bit. Because that is really what the issue is all about in a nutshell, plain and simple.



Yes, Cardinal Ratzinger did indicate several times that he thought that Mass according to the old books has never been forbidden. For example, in the Raymond Arroyo EWTN interview in 2003: "The other [the question of the wider use of the Tridentine liturgy] is a different problem. I think generally, the old liturgy was never prohibited." He and all traditionalists do obviously understand that it was against the will of Pope Paul VI, as expressed in the allocution you cite. But allocutions don't themselves have canonical force.

The canonicial argument usually used to establish the continued legality of the old form of the Roman Mass goes something like this (this is an amateur's rough approximation)--

The New Mass is so substantial a change of the rubrics and texts as to amount to a complete abrogation of the traditional Roman Rite. Under the principles of canon law, in order to abolish a right based on an immemorial custom, there must be an explicit and overt legal act first recognizing and then abolishing that right. Such an abolition cannot be effected merely by revision and the statement that the pre-revision forms are now replaced, that's simply not explicit enough. This is because the original customary right does not simply stem from papal authority. St. Pius V didn't create it. It stems from the force of unbroken custom in the Church.

Think about it this way: What would it take for the Pope to suppress the Byzantine rite in the Church? A heck of a lot, wouldn't you say? He has the right to do it, but anything other than the most solemn formulation and declaration that he was exercising that authority would be insufficient to effect such an extreme outcome.

One might reply that the Pope is the head of the Latin Church and thus has a more immediate and ordinary authority over it's liturgy than he does over those of the East. But even as head of the Latin Church, the Pope has no such rights over the Roman Liturgy. He is only the custodian of the traditional liturgy. The Melkite Patriarch has no right to abolish the Melkite rite, nor does any synod of the Melkites. Such a legal act in either East or West, abolishing a traditional rite of the Church, would be absolutely unprecedented because it is virtually unthinkable.

In essence: There was an attempt to forbid the old liturgy which still appears on the books as a proscription. But the attempt to effect such an egregious change was canonically insufficient, so the right remains. This right is in tension with the principle of obedience to the Pope and Bishops. This tension has created a liturgical crisis and a way must be found for the two principles to be brought into harmony again in the Church.


To show how Cardinal Ratzinger viewed the importance of the continued vitality of the old liturgy, here is an excerpt from his most recent interview book, God and the World:

"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of the liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN HISTORY; IN DOING THIS WE ARE DESPISING AND PROSCRIBING THE CHURCH'S WHOLE PAST. HOW CAN ONE TRUST HER PRESENT IF THINGS ARE THAT WAY? I must say quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church. (My capitalization for emphasis)"

-God and the World, 2000, p416.

I think one can tell from this excerpt the strength of the Popes feelings on this matter. I don't think he regards it merely as a Ratzinger "opinion" to be submitted to curial or episcopal vote, but rather a matter of fundamental justice which pertains to the very structure of the Church and its worship. The continuing manifest injustice brings the message and life of the Church into disrepute among the Faithful and creates the impression that the life of the Church is "up for grabs" and at the mercy of any impulse of tyrranical abuse of authority that comes along the pike.

Consider those words again:




Now do you see why people think something is up with the old Mass and Pope Benedict?


Another illustration to make the principle of the argument that the old liturgy is not abolished clear:

Could the Pope abolish the Rosary? Could he forbid Catholics to say the Rosary on pain of mortal sin?

Clearly, he could.

But suppose the Pope said: "We are now revising the Rosary. There will be no more beads, but the Faithful will place their hands on their knees instead while seated on the ground. Then they will repeat the following formula ten times: Jesus, Jesus, you are true; Mary, Mary, we love you. They will meditate on the Beauty of Creation as they will. Oh, and the new Rosary completely displaces the old." Would that do the trick? Would the right of the Faithful to do the old fashioned bead-gabble be gone?

Now, the parallel is inexact; the Rosary is not an official act of the Church's worship. And I exaggerate for effect; I myself love the New Mass when properly celebrated. But you see the point? To do something like abolishing the ROSARY, for crying out loud, and forcing all Catholics to recite what is essentially another prayer, the Pope would have to be mighty forceful and explicit about what he was doing. See?

Now which has the greater sanction of Tradition? The Rosary? Or the Liturgy of the Mass? Which would be a greater injustice? To forbid the traditional Rosary? Or to forbid the traditional liturgical forms of the Mass?

Christopher Pearson

The quotation from God and the World says it all. It encapsulates liberal authoritarianism's most alarming feature : its propensity to reinvent the rules overnight with a minimum of explanation. How uneasily the clergy must have looked on - most of them, at least - while what was prescribed a fortnight previously became suddenly and solemnly proscribed.



Actually, it was clergy who by and large seemed to welcome the reforms, as best I can remember. Most clergy were not ideologues of reform, though, but habituated to doing the minimum necessary to effectuate rules, old or new.

I am not persuaded that the reformed missal is "essentially" a new prayer, so I am not persuaded by that line of argument. The habit of traditionalists to overargue their point (a tendency not unique to them, of course) is one reason they have been largely ignored by most folks in the pews, for whom this particular discussion is rather irrelevant.

Kevin Miller

it is also important that the proscription against the form of the liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted

Sounds like then-Cardinal Ratzinger did indeed believe that there was such a "proscription," even though he thought it unwise, and, therefore, that, in a sense - but not a "legal" one - there was still a "right" to use the old Missal.

Christopher Pearson


It seems to me that whether you think the old and new rites are fundamentally different prayers is, with respect, beside the point. What matters, as Cardinal Ratzinger said, is that those with an allegiance to the old were "treated like lepers" in what he called "a hermaneutics of disruption or non-continuity". That is to say, there was a lot of Orwellian "4 legs good, 2 legs bad" barracking for the Novus Ordo from people who should have known better, the whole point of which was to celebrate the difference and assumed superiority of the new rite.

As to the view of the ordinary person in the pew, I think you'll find that it's as true of American Catholicism as my own native Australian version...there are a variety of tribes, some of which barely speak to on another, and all generalisations tend to be hazardous. In Australia, as the Pope noted just before WYD, the Church is in uniquely dire disarray. Our mass attendances are in freefall comparable with those in France. Like the French,just about the only signs of youth and life are among Charismatic Catholics, Opus Dei, the Neo-Cats and the Latin Mass communities.A look at last week's published survey of French Catholics suggests that the Latin Mass will be the dominant element in France within 20 years because of the proportion of its numbers who are under 35 and starting large families.

American Catholicism is plainly much more robust. But think of all the blogs which take a dim view of Card. Mahony, Bishops Trautman and Gumbleton,for example, and the people crying out for restrained, dignified liturgies and complaining about the woeful preaching they have to put up with and the philistinism of parochial music. They're not all Lefebvists or Trads-in-the-making by any means, but they suggest that even in America there are significant pockets of real dissatisfaction and that the time is ripe for the 'reform-of-the-reform' liturgical project the Pope has long argued for.


A practical question: it's one thing if the congregation doesn't understand Latin, but it's another if the celebrant doesn't understand Latin. Who's going to say these Masses? I'll attend, but not if some celebrant is up there reading from a phoneticized text. I think this is a real issue.

Dave Pawlak


The younger seminarians choose to learn Latin now. A few dioceses and communities still require it. It won't be that much of a problem.



There aren't enough seminarians now, Latin speaking or not, to take care of our future Church.

Plato the Lesser

Yes, this is about what happens in l.a.

Dan Crawford

Both photos illustrate just how bizarre things can get in the Catholic Church. I'm not sure what either has to do with worship.

Donald R. McClarey

I have been reading the Cambridge Modern History volume on the Reformation lately. From the time of Luther posting his 95 Theses in 1517 to the closing of the Council of Trent in 1563 the Church was in a state of chaos that reminds me of our time. I am more and more drawn to the conclusion that Vatican II was the beginning of a process and not the end of one. The reforms of Vatican II are not necessarily permanent and I think some of the fiercest opponents of a Universal Indult recognize this. The direction that the Church will take in the future on so many questions is still completely up in the air.


Really, is this universal indult going to help the faithful or continue to drive an even deeper wedge between Catholic?

The Novos Ordo mass can be celebrated with just as much solemnity as the Tridentine mass.

Also, we are just one rite! We should celebrate the same mass everywhere (I am a proponent of increased use of Latin).


my feeling is that if one just reads the Pope's writings on the liturgy, it is very clear how he sees the liturgy. especially his Spirit of the Liturgy, he again shows how he embraces the council's reform in the tradition of Guardini, Bouyer etc.

It would seem that the way the blogger world went with this universal indult rumor during holy week, they may be totally misreading the Pope's teaching on liturgy. it would have been totally inconsistent for the Pope to do something like that during holy week. all it would have done is create a big storm of misunderstanding during the holiest time of the year. the blogging world is putting agenda over true reform and are as far off the reservation as the left in these things.

more informed commentators (as opposed to more tabloid bloggers) point out that there was just a synod on the Eucharist and soon the Pope will issue a follow up document....then we will get his direction on this issue for the universal church.

the currrent discussion at the Vatican all seem to reflect his concern over the schism with the tradtionalist groups and to find a way to gather them back into the fold (which he said was one of the most important roles of the pope when he talked about his pallium).

last weeks bloogers frenzy with the indult rumor suggests they do not really understand the pope's love of liturgy nor his style of living his petrine ministry.


Yes, I am with Nels, one can even see a clown tridentine mass down the road. My issue with this is the creation in the average catholics mind of "two rites" one for the latin fans, one for the rest. Now if those latin fans didn't seem to be almost uniformly white middle and upper middle class liberal arts grads, it might be different. But the attendances at the two rites would differ dramatically by socio-economic-intellectual class (I see this at the local indult parish here).

This will do nothing but help speed the schism. We need one effective rite, not two, or three. We need to be brought together as a church, especially at a time like now, not fractured.

This is all just my humble opinion, so flame away.

Daniel Kidd

Another issue, not often considered, is the ecumenical factor with the Orthodox Churches. They don't trust us, partly due to the messing with the Liturgy, by the Catholics. The universal approval of the use of the Missal of 1962 would help these concerns and be a step toward unity. If no unity with the Orthodox, with whom will we ever have unity?



Actually, my point precisely agrees with the condemnation of "a hermaneutics of disruption or non-continuity" -- a hermaneutics that has been both championed by the liturgical radicals and by traditionalists. When one argues that the preconciliar and postconciliar liturgies are "essentially" different, that is precisely the point the condemnation addresses. Hence, why I am not persuaded by it. Thank you for helping me make my point.

B.G. Gruff


It is immensely condescending to assume that poor, uneducated non-whites are incapable of appreciating the good, the true and the beautiful. This certainly was not the case prior to the imposition of the new liturgy, which, of course, was the brain-child of wealthy, well-educated whites and was crafted precisely to cater to their own thoelogical, philosophical and esthetic enthusiasms.

B.G. Gruff


The analysis at the Rorate Caeli site and its critique of the John Allen piece seemed pretty astute to me. The folks at Rorate Caeli don't seem to "misunderstand" the Pope at all. They also don't seem to be in much of a "frenzy."

B.G. Gruff


As for you comment about most clergy welcoming the reforms, I don't believe that the response of St. Josemaria Escriva (or Padre Pio, who died just as the reforms were starting in earnest) was all that uncommon among the clergy. However, clergy without the clout of St. Josemaria were treated brutally and their anguish was ignored.

Christopher Sarsfield

There have *always* been more than one western rite of the Mass, so the idea that we can only have one rite is not historical. Second I would say that currently we have as many rites within the Novus Ordo as we do priests celebrating. You have the youth Mass, the folk Mass, the organ Mass, etc. However, I know of only a handful of diocesan New Masses in the United States that would resemble the Masses celebrated by the Pope. Most average men in the pew would be unable to tell the difference between the Pope's New Mass and the traditional rite, so if they watch the news and are not scandalized by the Pope I doubt they will be scandalized by the Traditional Mass. Everyone talks about how solemn and reverent the New Mass can be yet where are these New Masses taking place in the US? I will tell you they are not taking place near me.
Finally, the problem goes well beyond the liturgy as has been pointed out. I attend the traditional liturgy in Pittsburgh (indult). When I go there are always confessions before Mass, and during Mass (which JPII said was fine if needed) and at least 40 people confess. The sermons are always an attempt by the priest to encourage people in their spiritual life by using the writings of the Saints, Fathers, and spiritual masters of Catholicism. In this blog during pro-life Sunday Masses the comments were full of how finally their priest was preaching the gospel because he gave a pro-life sermon. I was struck by what a desert they must be living in. Our priest never preaches exclusively on abortion (except tangentially) because not killing your babies is not the Gospel. Not killing your baby is part of natural revelation. My point is that many in the US seem to think this is as good as they get, and yet the preaching is not even specifically Catholic. Now let me close with a recent incident that I think demonstrates this. Holy Thursday I called the local parish (in the most "catholic"' town in America according to some) because I did not know if I would make it to Good Friday Mass in Pittsburgh and I wanted my family to have a chance to go to confession before Easter. So I call, and the priest tells me that there are *no* confession times scheduled during holy week! So I call the local Catholic University (one of the most orthodox in the country). They usually have confession three times a week. However, during holy week they only had confessions once on Tuesday. Now I am worried, because there is only one priest at the indult, and he will probably be busy preparing for the Good Friday services. I get there and there is not only one priest hearing confessions but two. So the indult rounded up 5 priests for Good Friday services (three to offer the liturgy) and two more to hear confessions. I just do not know how I could live my spiritual life if I was forced to count on the local diocesan parishes. I guess I would join one of the new movements (Opus Dei, Legionnaires, etc.) Perhaps I am universalizes my experiences but where I live it is bad.


Yes, Cardinal Ratzinger did indicate several times that he thought that Mass according to the old books has never been forbidden. For example, in the Raymond Arroyo EWTN interview in 2003

Thank you for the correction. He does go on to qualify himself, though:

"We need only norms how in peace, apply it so that the reformed liturgy is the normal liturgy of the community of the Church, but the other is always a valid use of the Church can be used but in obedience to the bishops and the Holy Father."

I'm not certain what he means by saying "the old Liturgy was never prohibited," but at the same time, he also seems to recognize that the reformed Missal should be "the normal liturgy of the community," and that the old Missal can only be used "in obedience to the Bishops and the Holy Father." I think the Bishops have been very clear that their permission must be sought to offer the Tridentine Mass. My only concern is rogue Priests who set themselves above the Bishop, and decide they can do whatever they want. But I definitely share the Holy Father's desire to see the Tridentine Missal venerated and "generously applied", as John Paul intended in "Ecclesia Dei".


BG Gruff

My comment about clergy reaction was admittedly anecdotal and based on what I remember (I was 9 when the new missal was implemented), as well as more careful listening as I grew older. I would say that, at least on suburban Long Island, most priests were not "into" liturgy and were more "into" doing what they were told. They seemed to welcome the vernacular and did not seemed particularly pained other than the pain that went with the annoyance of having to explain changes. People the pews mostly did not seem to mind -- I only heard positive things about the changes per se other than for us kids having to relearn things (and somewhat older kids relearning things twice in 5 years -- as the interim missal was implemented in 1965). I would venture that the only clergy who were upset were the Benedictines at our former (and neighboring parish), who were very much in the vanguard of the Liturgical Movement, and did not find their hopes and dreams fulfilled in toto by the reform, shall I say.

I will grant that it is likely that priests given to caring deeply about the liturgy probably were well represented at the poles of reaction to the reform (enthusiasm or disdain, that is). But I have seen no evidence that this was true for the mass of priests in the trenches in the US, at least. I think people are interpolating in that regard.


Oh, and just one more thing. When Ratzinger spoke of "fabrication" and what not, it seems to me that he was speaking of the "spirit" of reform that accompanied the reformed Missal, and not the Missal itself. For example, Liturgists who wanted to construct do-it-yourself Eucharistic prayers. In his writings, he always seems careful to emphasize that he is in favor of the reformed Missal itself, and wishes to see is continue as the normative Missal in the Latin Church.

B.G. Gruff


I was only 4 years old when the new Mass was imposed, but I recall priests in the 1970s in suburban Westchester Co., New York, who, although they towed the company line, opined wistfully about the superiority of the old Mass. Whether these particular men were inclined to do so or not, opposing the changes to the Mass, changes which today are widely recognized to have been horribly mistaken, was career suicide, as the examples of other priests have amply demonstrated. My evidence is as anecdotal as yours, so perhaps the huge numbers of priests who left the priesthood and the precipitous drop in both vocations and Mass attendance are better indicators of how well priests and laity have acquiesced in the new Mass.

Dennis Martin

John Paul II, before he died, subtly but in my view clearly enough, indicated his favor for permitting the two forms of the Latin rite to flourish side-by-side. Remember that he gave limited permission in 1984, broader permission in 1988, subject to the approval of the local bishop. It was his hope that local bishops would indeed permit widespread use of the 1962 Missal for those who wanted it. That did not happen. The opposition from bishops in Europe and America was strong. But he clearly from the beginning of his papacy believed that the manner of proceeding in the 1960s and 1970s was foolish and led to the Lefebvrist schism.

The Novus Ordo can indeed be celebrated with solemnity. We do so every week in my parish, St. John Cantius (www.cantius.org), both in Latin and in English. But we also have the 1962 Missal.

But there were several problems with the Consilium that carried out the revision. First, they seriously weakened the sacrifice language, particularly in revising the Offertory prayers. The dropped into the Offertory a totally anachronistic text taken from the Didache. It didn't fit aesthetically or doctrinally and it replaced a carefully choreographed crescendo of sacrifice language for both bread and cup. I cannot help but think that this was done out of a false spirit of ecumenism, to try to make the theology, not merely the form, of the Mass more acceptable to Protestants.

If the Catholic Church wished to change her theology about the Mass being a propitiatory sacrifice, she had plenty of opportunity at Trent and Vatican II to do so and refused. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, strongly reaffirms the sacrifice theology. For the post-Council committee revising the Mass on their own authority to modify (not change) the emphasis was, in my view, simply wrong.

And I am not a sedevacantist or Lefebvrist. I fully support every bit of Vatican II. I do, however, think that the post-council committee was unfaithful to it’s mandate. I can think of no other way to put it. And this is the sort of thing that Cardinal Ratzinger may have had in mind in his call for a reform of the reform, though he would be more subtle in his language.

It is said that Cardinal Ottaviani urged Paul VI not to approve the Novus Ordo and that the pope hesitated and agonized. I think he should have sent it back to the committee and told them to start over again. They defied the plain sense of the Council itself. But PauloVI did not send it back--he promulgated it. This was a disciplinary error, not a theological fallacy, so it does not affect his papal infallibility. It was imprudent because, while the church's teaching on Eucharistic Sacrifice remaained on the books as strongly as ever (reaffirmed in no uncertain terms by Paul VI in Mysterium Fidei and again in John Paul II Eucharistia de ecclesia), what was happening "catechetically" in the Mass was that the doctrine on the books was not being as effectively taught as it should have been.

In a more practical vein, Cardinal George gave an address on the 40th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium in 2003, pointing out nicely but firmly that the Consilium that revised the liturgy after the Council simply blew it big time anthropologically: one cannot disrupt a people's symbol system drastically without causing upheavel, anomie, disaffection. The reformers after the Council abandoned the original goals of the century-old Liturgical Movement, threw caution to the wind, destroyed millennia of symbol-system that we know from anthropological studies is crucial to maintaining unity and identity for any group of people--that's how God made us. Entrusting reform to a committee working "overnight" is already an imprudent thing to do--they can hardly fail to disrupt symbol systems, bu this committee gleefully trashed what they could, instead of doing their committee work prudently. Cardinal George gently suggests that the problem was less advanced knowledge of how symbol systems work (in other words, the science of anthrolopology was not sufficiently advanced so the members of the revising committee couldn’t have known better), but he’s just giving a face-saving explanation. For the text of his talk, see http://www.adoremus.org/0304CardinalGeorgeSC40th.html

If one wishes to see what the Liturgical Movement might have ended up looking like had a radical desire to placate Protestants not hijacked things, see the www.cantius.org website. The main Sunday Mass in many ways is the Novus Ordo in Latin, celebrated ad orientem. (Nothing in the post-conciliar legislation requires a free-standing altar with the priest facing the people and Cardinal Ratzinger was very strong in insisting that the recommendation for such a change was based on bad scholarship, misinterpreting key texts from the early church--Klaus Gamber’s famous thesis.) The Tridentine rite has a lot of devoted adherents but the parish is fully committed to the Novus Ordo side-by-side with the Tridentine rite. Even the English Novus Ordo Mass is celebrated facing the old high altar--which is perfectly legitimate in church law and makes total anthropological and theological sense: if the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice, then we are talking about ancient, premodern understandings of worship in which the priest as Christ-authorized leader of the people stands in front of them, all facing the altar where the Shekinah-Presence will descend. One of the few things that all Protestant Reformers agreed on was not Real Presence or infant baptism but a rejection of the theology of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice. This in fact is what distinguishes Catholicism and Orthodoxy from Protestantism, not Real Presence. And that means that our worship is ancient, not modern. So the deemphasizing of sacrifice language in the Novus Ordo, quite apart from any abusive adaptations of the official text of the Novus Ordo, is a deemphasizing of a fundamental Catholic point of identity, reaffirmed over and over again in the face of modern-Protestant challenges.

I repeat, this does not make the Novus Ordo heretical or theologically erroneous. It is a matter of disciplinary prudence and is unfortunate but does not invalidate. It simply means that the Novus Ordo is less fully affirming of the formal, official, dogmatic teaching of the Church than it really should be, not that the NO is wrong or in error. That’s what I mean (and I think Benedict XVI means) by “reform of the reform.”

These are some examples of how the NO needs to be reformed. However, bot Benedict and John Paul realize(d) that too many bishops had too much invested in in the Novus Ordo to move too fast. That the Cardinals who elected Benedict surely knew what he thought about reform of the reform and the flourishing of the 1962 Missal side-by-side with the Novus Ordo means, I think, that they were assenting to an eventual universal indult (which is a bad way to put it--to let the two Missals flourish means neither one is “indulged” but both are equal). So sooner or later the change will come. But clearly plenty of bishops and some of the cardinals are doing all they can to delay that “eventually,.”

None of this would have been necessary if the post-council committee had simply been honest and revised very sparingly. But they knew that the results of their work were disruptive and went too far, hence the 40 years of looking over their shoulders to make sure that their hasty and illadvised work doesn’t get undone. Benedict and John Paul both realized that having disrupted symbol systems drastically and foolishly once, the solution cannot be another wholesale disruption (suppressing the Novus Ordo in favor of the 1962 Missal). Letting both flourish is not an ideal solution but the alternatives (keeping the 1962 Missal as the poor relation existing on sufferage or suppressing the NO to try to turn the clock back) are impossible. Sadly, because the committee that revised the Mass went overboard, the 1962 Missal got frozen in time and was unable to continue it’s normal development. Cardinal Ratzinger made clear that he would favor modest revisions of the saints’ calendar in the 1962 Missal so that the most important new saints canonized since 1962 can be added. Had the committee been humble and cautious in their revising, we could have had everyone on board for a modestly revised Western rite whose calendar would have slowly changed over the years and no great anomie would have been caused. True, some diehards would still have opposed Vatican II itself regarding religious liberty etc. but they never would have gained traction--it was the foolish, stupid Protestantizing revision of the Mass (a matter of discipline, not doctrine) that sociologically gave the Lefebvrist movement its power. The committee led by Archbishop Bugnini has a lot to answer for and even Paul VI, in my view, has a lot to answer for because he approved, apparently against his better judgment, the foolishness of Bugnini. Read Bugnini’s memoirs and one sees that the committee knew very well that they were going beyond their mandate. They openly discussed the politics of what they were about, how they would have to “market” (not their words, but that’s what they were doing) their product. Boniface Luyckx, a member of the committee, later repented of his role and turned critic of the results.

It didn’t have to happen this way but it did. The damage has been huge. John Paul II started to repair it soon after his election and the repairs will go on for most of a century. But they must be made. Again, this is not a matter of dogma but a matter of human prudential errors in church leadership that, sadly, has probably led to the loss of many souls--though, most of those alienated from the Church by the foolishness of the reforms did not leave in full knowledge and deliberation and thus, in God’s mercy, will be saved. But human ly speaking, I have to think that it will go hard with the leaders who were so imprudent. May God (have) give(n) them the grace to repent of their imprudence before they face(d) Him as Judge.

So, the stakes are indeed very high, I think, but no, it is not a matter of dogmatic error, merely practical error, yet practical error on a very, very, very important aspect of Catholic life.


I go to an indult Mass most Sundays. I wish it was more available so more people could worship that way. It really seems like what we in the pews do at that Mass is qualitatively different than what we do at (most) NO Masses. Going to a NO Mass is like going to a lecture/sing-along (usually with horrible music!). With the classical form of the Roman Rite, I find it easier to try to unite myself with the actions at the altar. I'm not distracted by always having to be ready with my next line of dialogue.

Now, I have been to some of the best NO celebrations in the world. Brompton Oratory, St. John Cantius, St. Agnes in NYC (not in Minn., yet), the Toronto Oratorians... I find it easier to unite myself with Christ's action at the altar at those NO Masses; a well done NO Mass is, I find, just as conducive to truly praying the Mass (as a layman) as is the classical rite.

Still, the NO MUST be reformed, even those well-done NOs. Why? Look at the difference in the prayers (I'm thinking propers here; the specific example I read about was the Feast of St. Francis Xavier. I'll leave to the side the changes in the offertory, &c...). Bugnini and the manufactureres of the NO absolutely GUTTED the prayers of references to sin, penance, the supernatural, &c, &c... How can we allow this to stand? Compare the prayers side by side; they were obviously stripped of so many riches. We can't let those unbelievers, those impious rationalists, just take away treasure out of our prayers. We must demand them back!


BG Gruff

I have yet to see evidence that the widespread requests for laicization was largely due to dissatisfaction with the reformed liturgy. And similar with laity who stopped going to church. "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc" is a classical logical fallacy.



I would like to point out that Dennis' careful arguments (not all of which I agree with) are much more likely to persuade than the more overargued points people tend to make against the liturgical reform.


I would urge everyone who can to attend the Tridentine Mass several times. (It takes a while to start to "get it".) Follow along in the little red paperback missal they invariably have there. See if what you do there, if how you pray, isn't different (and, I think, better) than what you do at a NO Mass. Why not just try it? I think a lot of people will appreciate the results. I know I have. I think I even pray better at NO Masses because of my experience at Tridentine ones.

No polemics, no anger, just taste and see.

B.G. Gruff


Perhaps it was all just a coincidence, as you suggest, but it seems to me that a denigration of the Mass, the offering of which is the essential role of a priest, along with the general denigration of the priesthood that occurred throughout the 1970s could well have been causally related to the stampede of priests out the door and into other lines of work.

paul zummo

Well said, Charles, and I agree. It takes a few Masses to feel comfortable, but probably no more than that. It's not so different from the new rite, so if you've been going to Mass all your life you should be able to pick up on things rather quickly. The prayerful atmosphere at a Tridentine is much different, and much more spiritual.

I do also agree with those that have noted that a well done NO Mass also provides a very spiritual and prayerful atmosphere. But I think people would be well advised to at least try the Tridentine liturgy.

tony c

I think Dennis Martin's comments above echo my own thoughts and observations almost exactly.


BG Gruff

There were causes, but it would seem that the cause you suggest was true only for a relatively small minority.

In the First World, at least, the causes appear to be more closely associated with

(1) the collapse of authority in society generally during the socio-political upheavals of the decade, and in the sense of obligation arising therefrom. A collapse reinforced by the untoward speed of the reform (that is a criticism I can strongly embrace) as experienced by Catholics who had been very poorly catechized about liturgy in the preconciliar era -- many Catholics participating merely out of a sense of legal obligation. The brittle nature of that widespread liturgical catechical foundation was like tinder for the fire, as it were.

(2) Humane Vitae and the disappointment of rising expectations, as it were.

Combined, these things reinforced the sense that "rules" and obligations were arbitrarily imposed. Given the tenor of the era, that meant a lot of folks got off the train, as it were.


I also believe there were longer-term factors at play as well. For the US Catholic population specifically, there was the tremendous shift from primarily urban nest to the new suburban nest, and assimilation in the larger culture. These also tended to weaken the force of cultural tradition that helped sustain the continuity of many things, including ritual attachment. And then there were the World Wars, but I think they had a greater impact on other parts of the world than here.

James Kabala

I believe the words of tk were misinterpreted. He didn't say that only well-off white people were capable of appreciating the Tridentine Mass, but that, in his experience, this was the predominant type of person who attended Tridentine Masses in the U.S.

David Kubiak

Two things are often wrongly conflated in these discussions: the historical integrity of the traditional Roman rite and the disciplinary actions of Paul VI with reference to it. Many people make arguments that suppose since the Pope obviously did want to suppress the old rite -- whether he could legitimately do this is a debatable question, but 'de facto' the present Pope has acted as if he couldn't -- if he wanted to suppress it there must be something really bad about the old rite. Clearly this is a 'non sequitur'.

The sermon of Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos at the Pontifical Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore two years ago was a milestone. He said very directly what the Vatican had steadfastly refused to say up to that time: that the traditional Roman rite has a separate history from the Novus Ordo and deserves respect among the rites of the Church independently, i.e., the term 'Indult Mass' is now anachronistic.

None of these developments should surprise people. A Pope's immediate successor is not going to repudiate his policies publicly. 'Romanita' does not permit it. But as time passes and the distance between reigns becomes larger many, many times in the history of the Church we see what amounts to a major reversal in papal thinking. We are seeing that now.

If anyone is interested in observing the best attitudes towards the traditional liturgy, intellectual, spiritual, and juridical, come to the C.I.E.L. conference this September in Oxford.


Ok, someone please inform me. Was there a lack of males so that they had to have female altar servers?

All I know is that once "female altar servers" were allowed, I see a "male altar server" maybe about once-a-month. "Altar Server" has become a girl's club, pure and simple.

B.G. Gruff


Humanae vitae? World War II? The move to the suburbs? Have you forgotten your criticism of "post hoc, propter hoc"?

If you want to examine the failure to cultivate and retain priests, why not look at what the actual job of being a priest was like in the 1970s. I am younger than you, but even I recall the persistent overemphasis of the priesthood of the laity. If the priest is merely a presider and we are all priests anyway, why bother to devote one's life to a sacramental priesthood? That's a question I think a lot of priests had a hard time answering back in the day.


I was wondering if women who go to the TR Mass have to wear a veil.

RP Burke

Ken, I don't know about your place but we have male servers along with the female servers. In fact, at our Easter vigil the m.c. and the two servers were male, making an all-male altar party, and this at a relatively progressive parish. Not a word of complaint or comment, either.


B.G. Gruff

No I have not forgotten in the least. The reasons I suggest are closer to what people of the period discussed. Dismay with the liturgical reforms was far down on the list.

To some extent, what I was teasing out was something from the most common compliant heard after Humanae Vitae: how arbitrary the preconciliar rules appeared in retrospect once changed. The two biggest sources of jokes revealing this concerned the rules of fast and the rules regarding the recitation of the breviary. In both cases, rigid legalism that in practical catechesis rested almost entirely on the authority of precept was seen to be like the Wizard of Oz. "How could it not be a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday now when it was before?" The dark humor about the fate of priest's souls for failing to recite the breviary by midnight when they had exhausted themselves in charitable and other work. Et cet. With the collapse of authority and the increasingly attenuated connection to a specifically Catholic culture, the sense of obligation vanished for many. Priests and nuns left in droves to get married and have families, and to join their peers in self-actualization. That was not because they were disappointed by the supercession of the Pian rituals.

paul zummo


No, they do not have to, though in my experience most women do. But it's certainly not a requirement.

B.G. Gruff


It's strange that you would attribute (even if only in part) the dispondency of 1970s priests to things like changes in the rules regarding fasting and recitation of the breviary, but resist seeing any causal connection whatever between priestly dissatisfaction and the changes to the Mass. Doesn't the transformation of one's status from alter Christus to presider seem more likely to prompt a change of life than some adolescent unhappiness about "rules?" I don't claim that all priests were ardent liturgists and I don't want to try to reduce the disasters of the postconciliar Church to one cause, but the priest's identity is closely allied to the Mass and, as prayer is formative of belief for laymen, so much more is it for priests. The assault of the Mass was an assault on the priesthood and its effects are patent.


"I believe the words of tk were misinterpreted. He didn't say that only well-off white people were capable of appreciating the Tridentine Mass, but that, in his experience, this was the predominant type of person who attended Tridentine Masses in the U.S"

Thank you James, I knew my comments would be seen the OTHER way. I have attended numerous tridentine masses, and the attendees all look like members of the intellectual elite, and relatively well-off. And some of those comments about my post that are inaccurate are also very uncharitable. The knee jerked really fast, and hit the head. Which seems to happen a lot whenever this topic is brought up.

I mean, the Prsident of the Philipines does a mssive christian thing, saving 1200 lives from the death penatly, and it gets 8 comments, meanwhile, the prospect of two rites gets 7 times as many comments - to date. *sigh*


B.G. Gruff

First, because that's not something I ever heard or read at the time or in the decade that followed as a reason people gave for leaving. Whereas the reasons I summarized were commonly given and discussed. (I think you underestimate the capacity for folks in the 1960s and 1970s to behave like adolescents. That -- and the whole movement towards self-actualization as the summum bonum of personal development -- was the very zeitgeist of the time. And lingers strongly into our own decade....)

Second, and more importantly, the priest remains at alter Christus in the reformed rite. That has not changed. Perhaps that explains the above....

Ed the Roman

The priest remains an alter Christus, and the Mass of Paul VI can be celebrated solemnly, but the Mass of Paul VI is frequenly celebrated unsolemnly, in a way that obscures the priest's charism.

David L Alexander

"There have *always* been more than one western rite of the Mass, so the idea that we can only have one rite is not historical."

This is correct, in part. There have been numerous rites in use in the west, even after the reforms of Trent. However, there has historically been only one rite that was properly called "The Roman Rite," that is, originating and proper to the Church of Rome. That there are currently two forms of that one rite, is without precedent. And by "rite," the term implies something larger than merely one set of books versus another.



So the import of your comment is that the preconciliar rite, when badly celebrated, did not obscure the priest's charism as much as the reformed rite, when badly celebrated? Remember to compare apples to apples (bad celebration ot bad celebration). Remember, one major reason for the conciliar reforms, arising from the Liturgical Movement, was the array of concerns about poorly celebrated liturgy, where among other things quantity counted for more than quality (a concern also expressed at the Council of Trent, too).

If so, I am not so sure about that.

B.G. Gruff


You seem to have a priori ruled out any consideration of the effect of the Mass on the Church's ability to attract and retain priests. Far be it from me to defend the Age of Aquarias and the silliness that accompanied it. I claim that the New Mass is very much a cultural artifact of the '60s and that it is representative of the zeitgeist. But if you want to say priestly unhappiness was because of all the "rules," that rubric could easily be broadened to include the effects of the imposition of the Novus Ordo. That men who left the priesthood may not have cited (if indeed they didn't) the fact that they were marginalized by the new liturgy seems beside the point. I doubt if very many of them cited World War II or suburbia as reasons for the failures of their vocations, but you seem ready to run with those theories. That's why I find it strange that you seem to reject out of hand the disasterous impact of the New Mass.


>"However, there has historically been only one rite that was properly called "The Roman Rite," that is, originating and proper to the Church of Rome."<

We now have the making of multiple rites in the Church with the tridentine rite holding steady to preserve the Roman rite in it's historical relationship to the Church of Rome.
New developing rites as seen in LA and many other areas, are on a path of their own with less and less gravity towards Rome.

Mahoney is a leader of the 21st century 'new church' where Rome is a museum
of the past.

My take: you leave Rome and it's pinnings - you've left the Roman Catholic Church.

Ed the Roman

I don't think that the PV mass CAN'T be done badly. I do think ,based on admittedly far more experience with the PVI mass, that it is abused far more often, and in ways more apt to obscure things that are important.

There is also a lot of music that I think would never be put into the PV mass that *should* never be put in *any* mass.


BG Gruff

Perhaps the reason I don't buy the marginalization argument is that most traditionalists argue a contradicting argument: that the reformed rite vastly expanded the priest's identity and role in the liturgy.

Also, I didn't cite WW2 (and in that case not the US) or suburbia as direct causes but indirect: because of their insidious effect how the sense of the obligation was formerly maintained.

Finally, I don't reject your thesis "out of hand". I am not persuaded it was a dominant cause or concern, but I in fact granted that it was likely a cause or concern for a small minority.

B.G. Gruff


I had thought that Ed's response to your comment to me was obvious, so that I didn't need to address it. I guess it wasn't.

As someone posted above, the prayers of the new Mass were drafted so as to be different from those of the traditional rite. The sacrificial aspect of the Mass was purposely de-emphasized. Nowadays I think that the nature of these changes is beyond dipute. Moreover, I'm sure that there are many prepared to defend the use of pseudoclerical laity as lectors, etc., in the New Mass and I imagine that they would not be prepared to classify that as an abuse or as "bad liturgy." However, both of these changes to the Mass were an assualt on the priesthood. Additionally, there is the issue of how easily the Novus Ordo is susceptible to even grosser abuses. A hastily said traditional Mass in the bad old days before the Council is hardly the equivalent of the clown/folk/polka Masses with dancing girls that have become notorious. Clearly, I think Ed is correct to point out that the new Mass obscures the role of priest as alter Christus.


To those who advocated attending the Tridentine Mass a few times to see how you begin to pray differently: I've been to five Tridentine Masses to date, and my experience has been uniformly lackluster. Admittedly, none were High Mass, and I found the behavior of the congregation (much rosary-rattling, and no responses or singing at all), and the badly-read Latin of the priest (I've studied Latin) extremely distracting. Bear in mind that these five Masses were at four different locations, with four different congregations and five different priests, in three different parts of the U.S. (California, Washington, and Louisiana, if you care to know). It's not just one parish that's like that.

I've been to Novus Ordo Masses that were a lot more conducive to prayer, for my part. I agree that the Novus Ordo needs work, and it's celebrated pretty badly in most places, but I won't endorse the idea that the Tridentine Mass is inherently superior. I'm glad you like the Tridentine Mass, and I hope it becomes more widely available for those who prefer it, but please don't assume that your experience will be everyone's experience.


BG Gruff

I do not agree that the sacrificial aspect was deemphasized. There's still plenty of sacrafice in there, more than enough that it very much bothers liturgical radicals and Protestants. What happened is that other dimensions of the Eucharistic action were also brought into clearer light; you probably would see that as a zero sum game, but I do not.

Non-clerical lectors were used before the conciliar reforms, in case you were unaware of that. Laity regularly performed the role of subdeacon in order to have a solemn high Mass.

Were you aware how people might receive the Sacrament outside of Mass before the Council? It was a practice designed to ameliorate the effects of the Eucharistic fast? I do not see how the rubrics of either ritual inherenly invite or discourage abuse. Rather, it is primarily an issue of attitude.

Were the former ritual imposed worlwide tonight, tomorrow you would start seeing myriad abuses in its use. Right now, where the rite is confined to communities highly motivated and devoted to its proper and more solemn celebration, that is not the case. But that is more a function of the community and its culture than the rubrics themselves.

Which is not to say I have no criticisms of the reform. I have plenty. But I think you overargue your case, and thereby undermine its credibility.

B.G. Gruff


There is no contradiction in what traditionalists are saying in this regard. By obscuring the role of priest as alter Christus, the priest in the New Mass is forced to rely on the strength (or weakness) of his own personality. As a man-centered ritual, the personalities of the ministers (i.e., presiders, lectors, dancemeisters, etc.) dominate. That's why I say that it is odd that you don't attribute at least as much importance to the liturgy in the formation of priests as you do to the suburbs or World War II.



Just to give you a sense of where I think the reform implementation went wrong. I think that, after implementing the 1965 Missal, the focus should have been on the other sacraments. Then the Divine Office. And finally the Mass. Over a generation.

That said, there are things I dearly prefer in the reformed liturgy. I vastly prefer the lectionary cycle for the Mass, though I think it not fully ripened when launched and I think the gutting of the Paschal and Pentecost vigil lections (started in 1955) was wrongheaded. I think the calendar revision was generally an improvement, with the exception of the singularly inelegant way of how Sundays in Ordinally Counted Time (not "Ordinary Time) are "counted" (forward toward Lent, and in reality backwards from Advent). The recovery of the permanent diaconate will I think prove a major plus when netted out. And, while I enjoy Latin and believe the congregation should be very familiar with its parts in the ordinary in Latin (especially musically), I find I am able to draw much more from the liturgy when it is mostly spoken aloud and in the vernacular; the arguments in favor of secret prayers do not persuade me. Et cet.



Please don't assume that I'm assuming anything. I merely issued an invitation and shared my own experience. I'm sorry your experience with the Tridentine Mass wasn't as positive as mine. I guess after decades of On Eagles Wings and Gather Us In, I find a little Rosary-rattling rather refreshing. I don't want people to go because I had a good experience, nor to stay away because you had some bad ones. I'm just encouraging people to go and see where the Spirit leads them.

I also find your specific complaints puzzling. The priests read Latin poorly? Each one in four different places? How much of it was aloud at a Low Mass, anyway? And MUCH Rosary rattling? And no responses? I like dialogue Masses, but I'm not taken aback if there's no dialogue at what isn't a dialogue Mass. And no singing? What I wouldn't give for no singing.

I'm always puzzled when people's experiences (as opposed to their preferences) are that different from mine own. I've assisted at over 100 Tridentine Masses in 6 different states, and dozens at two locations in London. Maybe I'm just incredibly blessed that I've heard the 100 good Tridentine Masses that have been offered in the past ten years.

Dennis Martin

To TK: one of the quiet but firm advocates of the Tridentine rite in Chicago is Bishop Joseph Perry, who frequently celebrates at St. John Cantius. He is African-American, from Milwaukee, if I recall correctly. Yes, he is very well educated, including in canon law. But what's wrong with a well-educated African-American bishop, whose also just plain all around a fine, gentle, loving, decent man. None of that kept him from challenging firmly parishioners at St. John Cantius from the pulpit to beware of the sin of racism. But he just doesn't make that the only sin he challenges people to be aware of. He does not ignore race as a factor in our lives but he puts it in its proper place.

Isn't it a bit unfair to African-Americans to lump them all together as opposites of the well-educated? I really get tired of the race card being played, in this case, to discredit the value of the 1962 Missal flourishing alongside the 1970 Missal by claiming the former is (de facto) attractive mostly to one racial group.

The ancient Latin rite, which reached the form it held until 1969 in the 600s and 700s, was a powerful choreography of visual, olefactory, and aural praise of God. No, it does not excite what conventionally is thought to be the aesthetic preferences of African-Americans. But neither is it per se alien to them. Popular and conventional tastes in music, art, bodily motion etc. in worship rise and fall, change over time. The Mass always has been a hieratic rather than demotic spectacle, for reasons required by Catholic theology: this is, after all, an offering of praise to God, a sacrifice of Christ himself for our salvation. It ought not be merely demotic or merely popular.

The whole idea of high culture and low culture is fundamentally a modern invention--of people like David Hume who was incredibly bigoted toward the unwashed (see his essay on miracles and Chesterton's demolishing of it for its elitism and dogmatic reasoning in Chesterton's book Orthodoxy, ch. IV and IX). Peter Brown, one of the wisest, anthropologically sensitive historians, demolished the facile assumption of two cultures intention with each other when he pointed out that veneration of saints and their relics, thought by modern Enlightenment types to be low culture, superstitious, non-elite, actually began in the early church when the wealthy and powerful bribed and wheedled enough space for persecuted Christians to honor their martyrs. After the persecution ended, the bishops, like Ambrose, sensing the danger of elitism if the elite Christian families continued to sponsor the cult of saints, took over the veneration of the martyrs on behalf of the entire community. Thus it was that veneration of saints became a unity-building rather than divisive factor. It began at the top but was joyfully embraced at the bottom.

Something like that pertains to the liturgy. Yes, it requires learning a sacred, hieratic language--whether Cranmerian English or Latin (even Muslims have classical, elitist Arabic for the Koran; Eastern Orthodox employ a dead language that must be learned--precisely because it can do hieratically what kitchen-table demotic language cannot). But precisely the need to learn something sacral and the need for well-trained celebrants and servers and well-trained congregants unites everyone in something they all know is worthy putting effort into.

I do not understand those who recognize and cherish great energy put into learning parts, building sets, training and coaching and energy-draining performing effort when a Shakesepeare play or Verdi Opera is involved get all upset about "elitism" when it's the Sacred Liturgy at stake.

The foolish demoticism of the ICEL translators and even of the Bugnini commission has cost the Church greatly over the past forty years. Cardinal Ratzinger, no slouch when it comes to
"elitist" piano performance, with a brother who trained one of the best cathedral boys choirs in Europe--as Benedict XVI "gets" it. Far too many archbishops and curial cardinals don't get it. And why not? Because they are incurably clericalized.

The most non-elite thing one could do would be to teach everyone to at least appreciate and enter actively into (actuosa participatio) a liturgy that cannot be learned effortlessly. Sociologists tell us that precisely the organizations that have high entrance and adherence standards, that expect much from their members, are the ones with the strongest degree of loyalty.

I could give a lot more reasons, but I've exhausted everyone's patience, so I'll stop.

Dennis Martin

To Liam,

People can disagree in good faith, so let me say that I prefer the 1962 Lectionary. I've done a lot of thinking about this. For a year I followed the old annual cycle of readings and discovered that I actually remembered much more. I am convinced that, in pedagogical terms, the three-year cycle is too much. I think there was great wisdom in having about 50 sets of Sunday readings, repeated year-in, year-out, supplemented by the feast-day readings for the saints--many of which end up being the same reading. Saints that did not have their own propers got a set of readings from the handful of common readings. I began to remember, even to memorize, parts of the most often repeated sanctoral common readings. If one spent 30 or 40 years following (actuosa participatio) the readings (most nominal Catholics did not, but the devout could and did) over the year, you would actually remember and associate certain readings with certain weeks in Lent or Advent or Pentecost season.

In short, I am convinced that the average devout Catholic in the "old days" carried in his head and heart a much larger and better learned fund of basic biblical material than those who have grown up--even being regular and devout attenders--under the 3-year cycle.

What readings for any particular feast day or week in Lent, Advent, Easter, or Ordinary time (A, B, or C) can you recall off the top of your head? I don't mean knowing the words but how many of the parables or general content of a particular OT, Epistle, or Gospel reading for a specific Sunday do you recall? I'm sure you know a few--in some cases, they may be ones that were already associated with the Assumption or Transfiguration or Low Sunday.

But of those you do recall, I would bet that many are for major feasts or Sunday where (rarely in the NO) years ABC have a single common reading--which makes my point. We can recall perhaps what the Gospel is for those high holy days where we have the same text every year, but rarely can we recall the A or B or C reading, even for major events in the year. It's just too much to keep straight.

I could be wrong, but I do think that the Church was very wise in establishing a single, annual cycle of selected pericopes rather than trying to cover the "whole Bible" over a three-year cycle. (And notice, that here too, the revision of the Lectionary was motivated in part, at least, by a sense of self-doubt in the face of Protestant [false] charges that Catholics don't read very much of the Bible.)

I think the old lectionary, the product of centuries of wise development was in fact superior to the hastily conceived and implemented 3-year cycle. One-shot committees just don't do as well as the native wisdom of an institution established by Christ himself and guided by the Holy Spirit over thousands of years.

Of course, the old lectionary needed to be updated, with new saints' propers ane perhaps even some tweaking at the edges of the annual cycle. But the principle of an annual rather than 3-year cycle, it seems to me was superior.

Just a thought!

Susan Peterson

The Eastern Orthodox celebrations I have been to recently were all in English and yet were highly ceremonial. The Eastern Rite Catholic celebrations I have been to recently (plus one Maronite rite...they will tell you they are NOT Byzantine...) have been mostly in English with some parts done in a liturgical language (ie Church Slavonic, Aramaic) All of them involved the vast majority of the priest's words being spoken-or mostly, chanted, audibly and much response from the people. I have only attended the celebration of the Tridentine mass twice; (excluding going to it with my grandparents when I was a little girl of which I have very little memory.) I was very disconcerted by not being able to hear just about anything of what the priest was saying and by having so little part in any responses. Whereas I love the formality and cermony and chant of the Rite of St. John Chrysostum...another rite of just about equal dignity and age to the Tridentine (which of course is much older than Trent) rite. I really want to know why there cannot be an English translation of the Tridentine Rite, a good one, chanted, with the people making most responses usually made by the acolyte, and very few parts spoke in "secret. " Some few parts could still be said in Latin, as a few communities apparently do with the Novus Ordo. I myself would be perfectly content with the Tridentine mass ALL in Latin but in a dialogue mass form, and being able to hear what the priest says, as I know enough Latin to understand it. But I would like this mass to win the hearts of all Catholics, which I think it would if it were accessible,which would mean..in English (or other native language,French, German,etc) I would like this mass to win everyone's hearts and become predominant because it is our historic mass. Just think, right now every "rite" in the church uses its historic liturgy except the Roman Rite. And I kind of think that the reform envisioned by VII was more in line with what I am talking about than either the Novus Ordo or the Tridentine mass celebrated just the way it was before VII.

Just out of curiosity...has anyone here attended a celebration of the rites used by "Western Orthodoxy." They have the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon, which is a revised Book of Common Prayer mass, (they point out that it has its roots in older liturgies and that any exclusively reformation theology has been purged from their form of it) and the "Liturgy of St. Gregory" which is essentially the Tridentine mass with an expanded epiclesis. (Orthodox theology says the consecration, if it happens at one specific point, happens not at the "This is my body" but at the invocation of the Holy Spirit over the gifts, which occurs after the consecration in their liturgies.) Anyway, has anyone attended one of these? I would especially like to know how someone devoted to the Tridentine Rite would react to it. (Other than the feeling that "they" are using "our" mass, which they must surely feel when we use the Rite of St. John C. )

Susan Peterson



I should respond by noting that my response would not be fair because I worked with the cycle for years in programming music, so I became very familiar with the course of readings. One thing I love about the course of readings is that there is a much more deliberate structure of relationship Sunday-to-Sunday, so that Sundays are less isolated if you pay attention. That is, usually there is a unifying theme to a given group of Sundays (of course, in Cycle B, that is most dramatically obvious when we get the Johannine Bread of Life Discourses in August, but it is actually true for most of the year in each cycle). This encourages a more integrated approach to homiletics as well (though I admit that many homilists may fail to rise to that invitation). So there is more of an analog continuity than the digital pointalism of the preconciliar lection cycle.

The thing I do question is the nature of the course reading for the second reading in "Ordinary Time." Generally, the Gospel readings in that period are a course reading, and the first reading and psalm are keyed off of the Gospel, while the second reading is its own course; that's part of what I thought was unripe before launch, as it were.

I think the Council's goal of offering a richer array from Scripture was well-founded and will prove enduring. And I think the stronger emphasis on the two-year daily lectionary cycle over the sanctoral propers was also wise.


I can understand JaneC's lack of enthusiasm for the Tridentine Low Mass. Though I've since come to appreciate its spare silence and lack of audible responses, when I first began attending the Tridentine rite in 1998, it left me with the same lack of appreciation.

That is precisely why I take pains to recommend that newcomers to the old rite be sure to attend out parish's sung High Mass (Missae Cantata), and not the Low. (We are fortunate enough to have one of each every Sunday.)

Though I hesitate to reduce it to matters of taste, the Tridentine Low Mass was definitely an aquired "taste" (if you'll forgive the common expression.)

As for the Latin pronunciation, I am just now -- some eight years later -- getting over my college-borne predilection for classical pronunciation as opposed to so-called "Church Latin." At least I don't notice myself wincing quite so often.

In response to the comments about the Tridentine rite being the more or less exclusive province of middle and upper class whites, that doesn't square with my experience. My Latin Mass parish is composed of working class whites -- most of whom are economically challenged by the prospects of raising families of six, seven and even more children on a single income.


I know I am joining this conversation very late, but I cannot let the assertion that the Pian rite was abrogated be put forth without being challenged.

The floowing letter from the Pontifical Commission on Ecclesia Dei clearly demonstrates it was not, though the Pauline Rite is now the norm. I have the scanned copy if anyone wants it.


Prot. No. 61/2003
Rome, 2 May 2003

Manchester, GA 31816

Dear Mr. ,

We wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 26 March 2003 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos regarding lifting the restrictions on the celebration on the celebration of the so-called "Tridentine Mass". The Cardinal has taken note of your recommendation.

This is a matter which does not come within the immediate competence of Cardinal Castrillón, but rather belongs to the Holy Father because it would have consequences for the entire Roman Rite. All of the aspects of this complex question continue to be considered by Cardinal Castrillón and the other members of this Pontifical Commission. It remains then, for them to make any particular recommendations to the Holy Father.

We would point out further that this is not a matter of a "right that was affirmed in 1986" because the Commission of Cardinals meeting at that time was simply asked to make a recommendation to the Holy Father which was duly passed on to him. Their recommendations do not have the force of law. While it is true that the use of the prior edition of the Roman Missal was not abrogated or suppressed, its use still constitutes an exception to the present norm established for the Roman Rite by Pope Paul VI on 3 April 1969 in his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum by which he promulgated the present Roman Missal. With regard to the promulgation of that Missal he stated:

It is our will that these decisions and ordinances should be firm and effective now in the future, notwithstanding any Constitutions and Apostolic Ordinances made by our predecessors, and all other decrees including those deserving of special mention, no matter of what kind.

Commending the work of this Pontifical Commission to your prayers and wishing you a Blessed Eastertide, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Rev. Msgr. Camille Perl



Do you realize the subtle ambiguity of that document? It begins by noting that Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos lacked jurisdiction over the matter. So that begs the question over the authority of the letter itself! And, while on the one had it purports to state that the Pian rite was not abrogated or suppressed (begging the question of whether abrogation or suppression are alone what is necessary to regulate the continued use of the rite), it affirms that the matter comes under immediate jurisdiction of the Pope and reiterates Pope Paul's determination that his promulgation of the reformed missal was definitive notwithstanding any papal legislation to the contrary.

It's a masterpiece of Romanita in allowing any readers to read into it what they want.

Louis E.

From my non-Christian observer's perspective again...
I think,in response to Amy's original post,that the Traditionalists rejecting the Roman obedience at the moment have fundamental views about the provisions of Quo Primum that declare it to be of absolutely perpetual effect.Where appeal to change doctrines have been made by the laity who point to past changes (for example anti-abortionism only became a uniform and absolute doctrine in 1869) response is weaker than if the doctrine is something seen as utterly inalterable.For example,John Paul II's response to advocates of female priests that "it is not in the power of the church to ordain women"...Paul VI's treatment of the Missal as malleable notwithstanding,the rad-trads want a statement that "it is not in the power of the church to forbid the Mass of the Council of Trent."
I don't think Benedict XVI is inclined to grant them that but at the same time it's hard to see how anything less would be a sufficient smack upside the head to those bishops who feel castrated by any denial of the right to prohibit what their predecessors spent centuries and centuries requiring,never mind how hypocritical that makes the Church look.(Of course,the rad-trads try to ignore all the tinkering for centuries before 1955,say on the one hand that they avoid heresy and schism while on the other denounce being in communion with Rome and extol what Popes they venerate called the heresy of trusteeism in order to achieve a congregational community behind the missal of their dreams).
I don't know how Benedict is going to both make the church safe for those who want to worship in the traditional forms and get along with bishops who crave divergence and innovation...but I think a cohesive church can only be achieved by grabbing a large number of bishops,priests,and laity by the scruff of the neck and throwing them out the door.Otherwise,a house divided against itself will continue to crumble in chaos.
Again,I don't think that Christianity offers anything indispensable to man's search for God...but cacophony is not to be preferred in the name of peace,any more than repression justifies stability as alleged by the Chinese Communists.People not inclined to toe a Roman line simply shouldn't even try to belong to the Roman Catholic Church,nor should it seek their insincere participation in its rituals.

Dave Wells

Susan, I have not attended any of the Western Orthodox liturgies, but like you I have attended various Eastern liturgies. Despite the very valid arguments of those embracing the TLM, I don't think that the 1962 Missal will really appeal to most Catholics who have been raised on the Novus Ordo. I'm all in favor of a universal indult; I just don't think it will be as popular as proponents believe.

Folks, we are in a profound spiritual crisis. The issue at stake isn't which version of the Mass is more legitimate, or authentic to our Tradition; the real issue is whether we proclaim and believe the Catholic Faith that is found in both the TLM and the NO.

Of course, if a universal indult for the TLM is granted, it could strengthen efforts to restore dignity and reverence to the NO, leading to a "reform of the reform". OTOH, it could also weaken those efforts - "Let those wanting traditional Catholic worship attend the TLM, while the rest of us get on with our Happy-Clappy Mass." In many mainline/sideline Protestant churches today, there are often two services - a "traditional" service and a "contemporary" service. This dichotomy often leads to the marginalization of those wanting "traditional" worship while allowing an anything-goes mentality among those embracing the "contemporary" service.

Be careful what you wish for - remember the law of unintended consequences.



Not only do I realize the subtlety, but I only published it on my blog last year after consulting with consultors on both the CDF, PCED and Vox Clara.

This letter in some ways is very much definitive. It was published, in that format, after being reviewed by the third highest authority. They specificically chose one signture over two, to underline it's canonical status as guiding, but not definitively binding.

To this extent, it is the current guiding document to my knowledge and has been used in at least 23 sanatio radice (s) with respect to marriage.

Yes, I realize it's subtlety, and so does Rome.

Also, let me be clear.

1) I am not a follower of H.E. Lefebvre, or the affiliated group of Priests, the SSPX.

2) I normally attend the Pauline Rite of the Mass, though I honestly cannot stand the personalitic self-indulgent bullshit that orften, though not always, surrounds its ceremonies.

3) I used to work for the NCCB, so I actually know Romanita, probably better than you, as we were always trying to undermine Rome in that outpost of Hell on Fourth Street, NE in DC.

Dennis Martin

To Dave Wells,

I think you are incorrect in your speculation about whether the TLM appeals naturally to most people. I agree that the Low Mass form that was the most common form before Vatican II it is not at first blush appealing (an acquired taste, as someone else noted). But I have now sent 40-80 students once a year as a class assignment in my introduction to Roman Catholicism course to a sung Latin Mass (either NO or Tridentine). For all but a handful it was their first exposure. All of them were raised on the vernacular NO. Out of about 250 students, at most 4 or 5 found it dull and boring. The rest gushed over it. All of them said, basically, I never knew that something could be done with such solemnity (not their word but that's what they mean), I never knew such a thing was possible. These are students unschooled in liturgy, largely unschooled even in the Catholic faith, despite years of Catholic schooling in many cases. I have given them some preparation--they have been over the text of the Mass (both versions) and seen videos. But almost none of them know Latin, most can't follow along (I tell them not to try), but they are with rare exceptions impressed by the obviously active participation of parishioners around them, by the, to them, obvious religious devotion of the ministers and the congregation. They have no anthropological categories about symbol systems or hieratic language. They nearly all thought they liked, felt comfortable with, the vernacular NO liturgies of their home parishes.

Now, of course about half of them went to a Latin NO rather than Latin Tridentine. But the way the Latin NO is celebrated at St. John Cantius (celebrant ad orientem, same Sanctus procession, same mix of boys and young to middle-aged men altar servers, same communion rail, same reception on the tongue, same lines of people going to confession before Mass and so forth--phenomenologically what those who attend the Latin NO observe is fundamentally the same as the Tridentine because they don't know Latin and don't know the textual differences in the Offertory prayers etc. The main difference would be more audibility of the celebrant and more congregational responses in the Latin NO, but even there, in a sung Tridentine rite at St. John's, the Sursum Corda dialogue, the response after the Lord's Prayer etc. are not that different from the NO with Gregorian ordinary and propers where not everyone joins in on the Credo, for instance--and at the Tridentine, some of us do from the pews join the Schola as they sing the Credo and Sanctus and Kyrie--which makes it not unlike the NO with Gregorian propers and ordinary chants.

Are my students all brownnosing me when they enthuse about what they'[ve witnessed? A few, perhaps but by no means all of them. Some of course are not Catholic and don't know anything even about the NO in the vernacular. Yet even they come away moved by the experience.

True, the desultoriness of what they have been exposed to, whether in church services or in life in general, means that it shouldn't take much ceremony to impress them.

But what is interesting is that they do not question the link between highly developed ceremonial and sacral meaning, religious devotion. True, I have had two or three students who were active in their parishes, very knowledgeable about Catholicism, theology major, intending on careers in lay ministry, who found this entire new world of a Latin Mass disconcerting, upsetting what had become for them a comfortable field for expressing their sincere Catholic commitment (namely, leadership in their parishes and in the vernacular Mass they grew up with). These two or three through clenched jaws refused to consider that the Latin Mass could be a "good thing" and brought up the common excuses: elitist etc.

But they are the exceptions that prove the rule--I think I probably have a body of sociological data that no one else in the country or the world has. It seems to me empirically evident from my sample population that unless one has a major part of oneself invested in the NO, that is, if one approaches the TLM more or less as a tabula rasa, with rare exceptions (and perhaps excepting a certain percentage of shameless brownnosers), even those raised on the NO find the TLM religiously moving, intuitively powerful as an expression of religious faith.

Again, just some matter for reflection. I am not a sociologist and don't claim scientific validity of that sort but I do think the data cannot simply be ignored.

reluctant penitent

'If this is ok...why not this?'

There really is no answer to this argument for the Universal Indult. You can argue about V2 and the events that followed all you want, but the fact is that some version of the first 'this' is routine and not just restricted to LA. So why not allow the second 'this'? You don't have to impose it, just allow it.


What difference will it make? Somehow, I doubt the masses are clamoring for the TLM. Most priests I know have more than enough to do now. Does the priest who is already overworked take time to prepare a second homily every week, since the readings are different for the TLM? Does the priest who says mass in two or three different places every week (and maybe only one mass in each place) "use" one of these few masses to say the TLM, even though the vast majority of his congregation doesn't want it?



Of course what you did was send your students to a self-chosen congregation who were all there because the place was different, and they liked that form of different. Put in context, my parish used to be about as liberal as they come, and we had a lot of people who chose to come to our masses because they were different--and though these people were on the liberal end of the spectrum, they were at our parish because they loved our creative liturgies and our committment to social service. Then we got a new pastor who started moving the parish back to the middle. Many of the people who had been very active in the parish but lived outside the boundries left--I guess either for the new most liberal parish around, or, because ours was no different, for the parish in their neighborhood. You could tell a difference at mass, the singing wasn't as loud for one thing, nor the responses. The crowds were down too. In short, if the Pope said tomorrow that everyone everwhere was to attend the TLM, and that the NO was outlawed, I wonder if your students would feel the same way about the TLM.


Charles and fbc,

At the Masses I attended, the readings were done aloud, in Latin. One of the Masses I attended was for the feast of Corpus Christi, and the sequence was also read aloud. It's not the ecclesiastical pronunciation that I find difficult--I'm a singer, and sing in a schola for a Novus Ordo Missa Cantata, so I'm used to ecclesiastical Latin--it's that the priests are just bad at reading aloud in Latin. Admitedly, two of them were not so bad on the Latin front. But the priest for Corpus Christi mangled the sequence so badly as to render some of the words unrecognizable (I was following along in the missal I borrowed from my grandmother, and he definitely said things that I'm pretty sure are not real Latin words). The priest at the most recent Mass I attended frequently did not pause at the end of a sentence, but did pause in the middle of words, between the stem and the ending, to look more closely at the book so he'd get the ending correct. He also stumbled over the longer words. The overall impression was that punctuation made no difference to him and that he hadn't taken the trouble to practice reading it aloud (I have encountered priests who have the same problems in English, but I'd hoped that people would be more careful about practicing a reading that's not in their native language).

In response to fbc's reccomendation of the sung High Mass, fbc, you are lucky. None of the parishes which I attended offered a Missa Cantata. I have, however, attended two Novus Ordo Missae Cantatae which were celebrated ad orientem and in Latin, and count them as two of the most moving liturgical experiences of my life. One was at l'Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, and one was at Notre Dame du Val-de-Grace, the home of the Choeur Gregorien de Paris. If only the Novus Ordo were always celebrated with such beauty and dignity.

Dennis Martin

RAnn, no one is talking about the pope requiring everyone to attend the TLM. They could attend the Latin Mass at one of four different parishes; most went to St. John Cantius.

Of course it was different. That was the point. But what they commented on was not differentness per se but the specific form of differentness.

Sorry, but I think your objections fail even to engage the data. The changes you describe in your parish are exactly the sorts of changes that will be more widespread if the two forms are permitted to flourish side-by-side. You attribute people leaving to their not liking the "different." Yet you attribute my student's favorable comments to the mere fact that they saw something different. The two reactions to "different"--one embracing, the other rejecting indicates that the core of the issue is not mere "difference" but the content of the difference.

I qualified all the conclusions I drew from my data. I recognize that the overwhelmingly favorable response can in part be explained by other reasons--brownnosing, the "different" factor (read my post--I recognized that the mere difference explains some--but I do not think it comes close to explaining all), their very low expectations coming from typical desultory vernacular Masses. I pointed out that those who had invested a lot of themselves in the liberal/vernacular NO did not like the TLM. And that's what apparently happened in your parish--those fully invested in the extreme forms of the vernacular NO left when a pastor moved things back to the NO middle.

But why you have to close with a swipe at the TLM as if those who want a universal indult are asking it to be imposed on everyone, I do not fathom. None of the postings on this thread have advocated that. Why the defensiveness??


As a new Catholic at January 2006 following many years as Protestant minister I understand I am about to sound like an ignortant clod but I can only say in regard to this whole discussion I am darn fortunate to have Mass said in my own language. That I understood what was going on, could see what the priest was doing and created a desire in me to know more and to become Catholic so that I could receive the Lord, body, blood, soul and divinity. If I had been looking at backs and listening to a language I had no understanding of, regardless of how majestic is sounded, rather doubt I would have continued on a journey home. At least as important as this is the fact that my entire family of five made the journey with me and again, I doubt that would have happened if we could not understand the Mass.

Having said that, I am a contemplative and do not appreciate what I have seen of a Mass that looks more like a Protestant seeker sensitive church than anything remotely Roman.

I love our Pope and respect his authority and teaching. I love our local priests. I love my new Catholic Faith. I really respect the passion with which people write on all all sides of this matter. For all that, I am just not able to get caught up in the import of this discussion. I wish I could. I think I should but I can't.


I worship at an active, vibrant Anglo-Catholic parish in a large city on the East Coast. The notion that elevated liturgies are solely for the privileged classes was put firmly to rest for me by the active attendance of an African-American homeless man at our 6pm evening Low Mass. He attends most weekdays, and he joins in the Cranmerian congregational responses, often without the aid of the Mass booklets in the pews.

Following the consecration, when the priest presents the elements with the words: "Behold the Lamb of God-- Behold Him Who takest away the sins of the world," this uneducated man joins with the educated, the wealthy, the young, and the old in answering: "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof. But speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed."

Ask him whether the liturgy needs to be brought "down to his level," and I suspect he would give a pretty interesting answer.

Charles A.

JaneC, your comment really resonates with me.... I am all for the TLM as much and in as many places as possible - BUT, facility with reading/singing Latin aloud and understanding the gestures/postures is incredibly important.

Enthusiasm isn't enough - the traditional liturgy takes PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. How hard is it to read over and master the pronuntiation of a Mass formulary in advance?

Suggestion to priests: get the traditional Roman Breviary and READ IT OUT LOUD every day for several months before attempting to celebrate the old Mass!

Dennis Martin

This is for Owen. I might not have converted 13 years ago had I not begun attending the Easter Vigil Mass at Notre Dame 20+ years ago. The Tridentine rite would have been forbidding, true.

On the other hand, I might very well still have found my way to the Church because the liturgy was only one factor among many--the theological and cultural issues were dominant.

But when I first attended German Lutheran liturgies 35 years ago as a student at Marburg, that seemed to me forbidding, coming from a low church of the low churches background.

My point: of course liturgical worship needs to be learned. One cannot walk in off the street and follow it. You had to learn to follow even the vernacular Mass. The learning curve for the Tridentine rite was different but not really that much harder. They taught first graders how to follow it in the "old days" using cartoon booklets--the same booklets I use to bring college freshmen up to speed. Walking in off the street, no, one won't know what's going on, but neither will one know what's going on in the various office rituals of corporate America or at the liturgy known as a college football game (at Notre Dame, when they play Air Force the liturgy includes a flyover by whatever the Air Force precision flying team is called). We grow up learning some of these liturgies and rituals and don't think twice about it. When we encounter a new situation where we are strangers we expect to need to be taught or to have a guidebook. We don't expect to walk in cold and know what's going on. Why should liturgy be different?

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