29 November 2009

Forty Years

November 30 marks forty years since the Novus Ordo Missae was unleashed upon the Catholic Church. I have been trying to work out for some weeks how I would mark this momentous occasion, and I figured that I would offend people no matter how I approached it. In the end, I thought I would just lay it on the line.

Did any good come out of all this? Sure-- God is good and never abandons His Church. The Mass is inherently good, as it is the re-presentation of Calvary, however much is truth is obvious or hidden. But using an analogy, one could say that good came out of the protestant "reformation" because the Church was prompted to consolidate, enforce ecclesiastical discipline, promote and defend the faith, and vigorously engage in the battle for souls in a new way. Yet, the protestant revolution is not something to celebrate in and of itself.

Therefore, I will leave the silver linings for another day, and another post. Today, I just want to focus on the problems with a liturgical reform that has not borne good fruit, and which even began without accurately implementing the relatively modest changes contemplated by the Second Vatican Council.

Two Popes, two quotes

Pope Paul VI was the Pope who promulgated the New Mass. Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that the Traditional Mass had not been abrogated by the promulgation of the New. The forty year gulf separates the two. In preparing this post, I came across a passage from each that sums up what I feel on the occasion.

At Rorate Caeli, I found the following quote from Paul VI in a general audience preceding the release of the new missal:

We may notice that pious persons will be the ones most disturbed, because, having their respectable way of listening to Mass, they will feel distracted from their customary thoughts and forced to follow those of others.
Not Latin, but the spoken language, will be the main language of the Mass. To those who know the beauty, the power, the expressive sacrality of Latin, its replacement by the vulgar language is a great sacrifice: we lose the discourse of the Christian centuries, we become almost intruders and desecrators [intrusi e profani] in the literary space of sacred expression, and we will thus lose a great portion of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual fact that is the Gregorian Chant. We will thus have, indeed, reason for being sad, and almost for feeling lost: with what will we replace this angelic language? It is a sacrifice of inestimable price.
And, to bookend the issue from the perspective of the author of Summorum Pontificum, here is what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote of the liturgical reform:

What happened after the Council was totally different: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy.

We left the living process of growth and development to enter the realm of fabrication. There was no longer a desire to continue developing and maturing, as the centuries passed and so this was replaced - as if it were a technical production - with a construction, a banal on-the-spot product.

While one would be tempted to claim that this lament is not for the Mass as promulgated, but rather for the abuse of it, this claim flies in the face of the language he uses, and the undeniably bureaucratic way in which the New Mass was devised. It was an on-the-spot fabrication-- you can decide for yourself if it was banal, but I agree with the Pope.

The Ottaviani Intervention States the Obvious: "A striking departure"

Back when I first became familiar with the Traditional Mass, I came across one of the works dear to many traditional liturgy adherents-- the famous Ottaviani Intervention. During the drafting of the Novus Ordo, some prelates had concerns about the product. Among these prelates were Cardinal Ottaviani and Cardinal Bacci, who sent their deep concerns to the Holy Father. It is a very sobering read. Here is the preface, in and of itself it hits the nail squarely on the head:

Letter from Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to His Holiness Pope Paul VI
September 25th, 1969

Most Holy Father, Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:

1. The accompanying critical study of the Novus Ordo Missae, the work of a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls, shows quite clearly in spite of its brevity that if we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. The "canons" of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.

2. The pastoral reasons adduced to support such a grave break with tradition, even if such reasons could be regarded as holding good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem to us sufficient. The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place, if it subsists at all, could well turn into a certainty the suspicions already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound for ever. Recent reforms have amply demonstrated that fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful who are already showing signs of restiveness and of an indubitable lessening of faith.

Amongst the best of the clergy the practical result is an agonising crisis of conscience of which innumerable instances come tour notice daily.

3. We are certain that these considerations, which can only reach Your Holiness by the living voice of both shepherds and flock, cannot but find an echo in Your paternal heart, always so profoundly solicitous for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church. It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law.

Therefore we most earnestly beseech Your Holiness, at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the Faith and the unity of the church, lamented by You our common Father, not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V, so highly praised by Your Holiness and so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic world.

A. Card. Ottaviani
A. Card. Bacci

Obviously, whatever the concerns of Pope Paul VI, and whatever misgivings he may have had, the New Mass was issued. Forty years later, the results are not good. The pews emptied, the families became smaller, religious vocations dramatically decreased, Churches and altars were desecrated, the faith was not passed on with vigor and, frankly, souls were likely lost that may not otherwise have been lost.

Forty years later, signs of hope reemerge. The Church has persevered in a hostile world. And no one can say what would have been if the traditional Mass had not been jettisoned.

Yet, I ask readers' pardon if on this anniversary I do not celebrate.


X said...

It was a revolution, not a reform, nor was it on-the-spot.

Fenian said...

If anyone has any doubts that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite cannot be celebrated in a reverent manner, they should take the time to attend mass at St. Mary of Victories. At 9:30 on Sundays, the mass is a Novus Ordo mass, but celebrated in Latin.

The Society of the Oblates of Wisdom accepts the changes of Vatican II, but only if they grow from tradition. That is why there is Gregorian chant instead of contemporary rock and why they use the communion rail instead of an army of "extraordinary ministers" of holy communion. The priest also faces the altar during the consecration.

Here is a link to their site:

Finally, there is arguably one benefit from Vatican II which is a greater number of Scripture readings in the 3 year Sunday and 2 year weekday cycles.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone go to St. Mary when they could go to de Sales?

Long-Skirts said...

When Pope SAINT Pius the Tenth was asked "Which would you build first, a Church or School?" He answered "Schools...we must educate the Catholic not only about the Liturgy but the whole Faith."


And where are the schools?
The daily Mass,
Lines to confess,
A uniformed lass?

And where are the schools?
The Latin class,
Cassocked priest,
Candles in brass?

And where are the schools?
To strengthen souls,
Shape their wills,
Set the goals?

And where are the schools?
The altar boy,
Assisting priest,
Like Christ, their joy?

And where are the schools?
Oh, time you lied,
Two generations
Have gone and died.

And where are the schools?
Which don’t derive,
That two plus two
Are sometimes five?

The non-diocesan,
They’re found in large,
Where struggling families
Let priest take charge.

For the good of the whole,
Priests’ lives are laid,
So many may come,
Not be afraid.

And win the Faith,
From Christ-like hand…
St. Pie the Tenth
Two and two are grand!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Timman:

I'm too depressed to comment.


P.S. On second thought, perhaps I should share this.

Yesterday, we attended the local novus ordo. I thought for sure that this particular parish, so stuck in the sixties, would comment on the anniversary, but not a word. However, I was so saddened, more than usual, by how Our Lord is treated there. He is totally ignored. And most of the mass-attendees are in their sixties, seventies and eighties...certainly can't say they don't know better.

The atmosphere is so casual. They remind me of people waiting for a movie to begin in a theater. Talking before, during and after. Very few genuflect. It's all about them and "community". He's not even acknowledged.

I couldn't get out of my mind that picture entitled "Despised and Rejected by Men". That says it all.

As my husband is fond of saying, "They've done their job well."

Alison said...

I am not expressing my opinion here but I am curious of what you think of the comment by one of my favorite former bloggers that the Third Eucharist Prayer is superior to the Tridentine Eucharistic Prayer.

just wondering said...

just a few thoughts on this anniversary of sorts. first we have to ask, at the TM is there a better Jesus? a more perfect sacrifice? Christ knew as He was offered up what the future would hold in the lives of the faithful, and yet He asks, "when I return will I find any faith on earth?" this tells me that "it ain't what you know, it's Who you know." i know some will think my thoughts foolishness, but when you attend the TM are you thinking about how awful the NO mass is? of course not. i guarantee that if you are a faithful Catholic attending a NO mass, and you are witnessing the abuses you are experiencing a tremendous amount of suffering as a result of the abuses. are we to abandon the Lord in His house? i will not. it would be like leaving Calvary before Christ died. if the NO mass becomes a thing of the past and is no more, then so be it if it is God's holy will. but until that happens, i will attend both, but i will not abandon one for the other.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record...I went to the NO in Latin, at a near downtown parish that has been named on this blog as a "good NO Mass".

I didn't see the point. It was still the NO Mass. Just in Latin.
Sure there was a few "traditional" postures, but it's still the NO.

The Latin Mass is far more than the Latin language it's said in.

It is far more beautiful. The prayers alone, that the NO doesn't have is reason for me to attend the Latin Mass over any "good" NO.


Fenian said...

Anon @ 15:15-

I was simply pointing out that some have rejected the popular (and incorrect) interpretations of Vatican II.

I get the impression that many dismiss all NO masses as being the same kumbaya my lord, guitar masses that have turned liturgical abuses into an art form. I think you would be surprised if you attended once.

I have been to mass at de Sales, as well as Little Flower with Fr. Rodis. I just happened to find my spiritual home elsewhere.

Different strokes for different folks. We are all one Church and I get the impression that sometimes people can lose sight of that.

Anonymous said...


I always enjoy your comments on this blog and I am sure you are a holy person - I am glad you have found a Mass that you connect with, that is your home.

I'm just saying that I'm genuinely confused as to why it connects with people.

To me, everything about it that is good in the Mass seen at St. Mary's is largely indistinguishable from the Tridentine Mass (the Latin language, ad orientem, use of incense, reverential silent moments conducive to meditation, etc.). Whereas, what the Mass at St. Mary's shares with the N.O. as we see it in the average parish today (the substance of the prayers themselves, the responsorial psalm, pretty much everything pointed out in the Ottaviani Intervention) is deficient compared to the Tridentine Mass. So I am truly befuddled as to why someone could like the Mass at St. Mary's over the Tridentine Mass.

I at least understand people who like an English N.O. over the traditional Mass(even though I think they are seriously mistaken). And anyone who goes to St. Mary's obviously goes there out of disatisfaction with the standard English N.O. of most parishes today.

But anyone who likes those aspects of the Mass at St. Mary's that distinguish it from the average N.O. (namely, the things that are traditional) can have all of those things at the traditional Mass, plus the other superior aspects mentioned above. No disrespect intended, but I just don't get it.


Anonymous said...

Just Wondering:

You have quite a point. No doubt about it...there's more suffering as a result of attending the novus ordo.


Fenian said...

Anon @ 15:15-

No disrespect taken at all.

I can see why anyone who prefers the Tridentine Mass would have trouble seeing why one would prefer that style of worship when it more resembles the Tridentine Mass than it does NO in many respects.

I know that my view on this subject may not be the most popular, but I will let me opinion be heard. I do not think that the post-conciliar mass is flawed in and of itself. Vatican II just needs to be interpreted properly, which is obviously not what happens in the overwhelming majority of parishes. If it does not flow from tradition, then there is an obvious problem.

I can't really explain it better than that, but it just feels right to me.

just wondering said...

anon 15:15, what in all earnestness are you referring to when you say, "the other superior aspects" and what are those aspects superior to, and are those aspects what you find consoling in the TM? i was just wondering.

just wondering said...

"can the life of a Christian be anything other than being nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ?"
St. John Vianney

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't think we are going back far enough in time when trying to bring back the Old Mass. I don't believe Jesus uttered one word in Latin during his life. He spoke Aramaic, and most of the Gospels were written in Greek.

The Greek language is far more of a rich language centered on verbs, while the cumbersome Latin is centered on nouns. The word "Ruah," for example, is a verb meaning breathing (alive) was translated into a Latin word for "breath," a noun. There are rich nuances lost when we say that "Jesus is the breath of life" versus "Jesus is the living/breathing of life."

I'm not fixated on rituals, but suspect that the NO brought us a lot closer to the way Jesus celebrated HIS Last Supper with his disciples than the trappings of the middle ages.

Anonymous said...

Fenian -

I would not say that the post-conciliar mass is "flawed" either, if by "flawed" you mean containing error. I just think that a comparison of the two masses, in their promulgated Latin forms, reveals the superiority of the traditional mass.

Just Wondering -

Just read the Ottaviani intervention. That pretty much explains it all. http://www.fisheaters.com/ottavianiintervention.html


thetimman said...

To all, I am glad to see the discussion ongoing. It shows it is indeed possible to disagree without seeing the opponent as attacking oneself personally. The discussion of ideas and rational argument used to be more usual than it seems to be these days.

I said my piece in the original post re: novus ordo v. tlm, Latin or no, ad orientem or no. So, I am glad to let the others continue the discussion.

I did want to respond to the commenter who thinks the novus ordo is closer to how Jesus celebrated the Mass. I have commented on this before, but of course it is not capable of resolution until judgement day. But I think it is absolutely probable that Jesus spoke Latin. He conversed with Pilate, and the Centurion. Could this have occurred in Aramaic? Sure. But I only mention that there is no reason to conclude absolutely He only spoke Aramaic.

Likewise, people like to say that the apostles received communion in the hand at the last supper. There is no proof either way (though if they did remember they were priests-- another topic).

And finally, regardless of the ancient forms of Mass in earliest times, whether the issue is language, rubrics or what have you, we know that the mere fact that a practice is older than some other practice is insufficient to change the liturgy as it Organically developed. Pius XII condemned this proposition directly. This may surprise some that a traditional Catholic would cite this, but the argument for the TLM does not rest on its age per se, but rather on many factors, including age, yes, but also in the way it was created and developed.

Sean said...

I read this blog through RSS and rarely see the comments, so I hope I'm not covering old ground.

I recently visited the Extraordinary rite with a good friend. As someone totally uneducated in Latin, I could not follow anything that was going on. The only time I knew what was happening was during the homily and at Holy Communion.

I came out of that Mass with a renewed gratitude that the Ordinary Mass is in English. I think it no wonder that the faithful didn't know their faith and were falling away--something the above quote from the Ottaviani Intervention says was happening BEFORE the new Mass appeared--because they would have to learn a foreign language before they could begin to understand their faith. Thanks be to God that any English speaker can go to Mass in English and understand from the prayers themselves the great Sacrifice that is present there.

In a time when the Church has been struggling to catechize children and adults alike, and indeed many who know their faith have learned it under their own initiative, we can hardly ask the whole community of the faithful to learn Latin.

As a newcomer, I don't want to be taken as hostile to all you Traditional Mass lovers, either. Thank you for standing up for the Faith, even if we disagree on some other things.

15:15 said...


1) The catechetical deficiency so common today is found almost exclusively among those who go to the new mass - something which would not be the case if your view were true.

2) The mass is not primarily about catechesis at all - the family and schools are for teaching. The mass is for worshiping.

3) Whether the traditional mass takes with you is largely a function of your disposition going in and your willingness to open up. I was skeptical and self-assured going in as well, but I changed. It sounds to me like you weren't terribly worried about liking it going in. It takes a few times attending it (with a willingness to be changed) to plumb its depths. It changed my life and now nourishes me daily, and seemed to do the same for other Catholics for over a thousand years. Or, you could stay in your comfort zone.

thetimman said...


Well put.

Sean said...

Thanks for your response.
(1&2) I think there is a clear reason for this difference in catechesis. Those who attend the Extraordinary Mass do so largely because they were already well catechized, and then sought out the Traditional form. Anyone who is not well catechized will certainly not seek it out. My point is that Latin adds just one more hurdle to understanding the Faith, one more (formidable) topic for catechesis--not that the main purpose of the Mass is catechesis (though it does serve that purpose--Lex orandi, lex credendi). My viewpoint is supported by the fact that the catechesis problem existed before the new Mass appeared--but obviously those already poorly catechized defaulted to the Mass in English.

(2&3) I didn't say that I wouldn't go back--just not on a weekly basis. I don't reject the Latin, but I am grateful for a Mass that I understand without studying a foreign language. The Mass is precisely about worship, and English speakers can best enter into that worship in their heart by hearing the great prayer of the Mass in English. I would equally welcome a celebration (were it permitted) of the Traditional form in English.

*Apologies to any international readers: by English I mean "the vernacular"

15:15 said...

As to the catechesis point, correlation does not equal causation. As to the rest, I pray God opens your heart to the same treasures he did mine.