On this seventh anniversary of the great act of justice by Pope Benedict XVI in recognizing the continued vitality of the traditional Mass, I rework a post from a few years ago, still timely today:
In the wake of the Council of Trent, when Pope St. Pius V standardized the Roman Missal-- the Roman Rite, with minor discrepancies in various places, which had pre-dated Trent by more than a thousand years-- he made his wishes very clear in the great Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum:
...whereas, by this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it under the penalty of Our displeasure.
...in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force...
I can only imagine that the great saint was very displeased with the way things turned out in the late 1960s. The Novus Ordo Missae certainly was a change. And yet some will cling to the amusing notion that there were significant changes to the Roman Missal from 1570 to 1955, when Bugnini began the demolition process through the "restored" Holy Week ceremonies.
Those events of the sad past did not work to undo the fact that the Paul VI did not effectively suppress or abrogate the Roman Missal, which had most recently been published in 1962. This position was legally correct, even being confirmed by a commission of Cardinals convened by Pope John Paul II: the Roman Missal was still in force, and any priest could say it.
We know, however, that the many modernists in the Church, both clergy and laity, practically suppressed the traditional Mass, and acted as though it were lawfully suppressed. Surely many did this in good faith as they saw it, and in ignorance. But some did not possess that good faith. And so, without any mandate from Pope or Council, without any direction to do so in the new Missal or from any authoritative Church document, the altars were smashed, altar rails ripped out, sanctuaries whitewashed, the truths of the faith that so naturally informed the Church's liturgy, and which liturgy supported them in return, were discarded. And people went away. And souls were lost.
Even John Paul II, who in some respects made the traditional Mass more available, phrased access to it in the terms of "indult" (as though it were a permitted deviation from the law), first in 1984, and then again in 1988 as he sought to calm the waters after the stand-off with the SSPX over the episcopal consecrations of that year.
From 1984 to 2007, there was progress in the spread of the availability of the traditional Mass, but this progress was halting, and could reasonably be described as glacial in pace. And yet...
It did spread.
The liturgy of the Church compels. It is the most perfect combination of beauty and truth that we shall see in this vale of tears. The irregular situation of the SSPX put the issue in a political bind, but the truth was always the same: The Mass had never been abrogated or suppressed. The SSPX kept the Mass going. Other priestly societies with clear canonical faculties arose: the FSSP in 1988 as it split with the SSPX over the consecration dispute; the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 1990; Campos, Brazil was granted an Apostolic Administration for the traditional Mass and sacraments. There were others, too, some societies of priests, some religious orders, and the few courageous parish priests who braved the displeasure of their ordinaries, the scorn and derision of their confreres, and even the anger of their flocks, to keep the Mass alive.
The struggle of the outcasts, the faithful Catholics who kept the traditional Mass alive in hotel rooms, funeral parlors, private homes, and in Churches, too, is one to which I was very late in coming. By the time I was drawn to the timeless Mass-- and knew that I had to let others know about it-- the iceberg was already beginning to break apart. All those who stood strong, struggled and suffered, deserve our thanks, and for those who have passed on, our fervent prayers. For all of the problems arising after 1988, it is undeniable that Archbishop Lefebvre was a stalwart in the struggle for the Mass. And many others: Davies, Siri, Ottaviani, Castro Meyer, and too many more to list.
I cannot end this post on the anniversary of Summorum Pontificum without expressing my gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, Who so cares for us; God the Son, Who did not abandon His Church; and God the Holy Ghost, Who despite our efforts preserves the Church from error and from the gates of hell.
In the temporal realm, I must also thank Pope Benedict XVI for his great act of justice, for his mercy to his flock, and for his efforts to restore the great guardian of truth in the Church-- her liturgy.
Furthermore, I would like to express my gratitude for our beloved Cardinal Burke, who, when he was Archbishop and to this day, understood and understands the necessary connection between the Church's celebration of her liturgy and her adherence to the truth. He anticipated Summorum Pontificum by bringing the Institute to La Crosse, then to Saint Louis, and by personally ordaining priests in the traditional ordination rite in his own See. No one who was there can forget the event that was the 2007 ordinations of Canon William Avis and Canon Matthew Talarico at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis-- three weeks before the motu proprio was released. The Cathedral was packed with more than 1,300 faithful from all over the country who witnessed what many thought might never be again; the traditional Mass in all its glory in an Archdiocesan Cathedral and the ordination of priests in the beautiful and ancient form that so greatly emphasized the love and sacrifice inherent in that priesthood. It was a watershed moment.
Even to this day, St. Louis is still fortunate to have an ordinary in Archbishop Carlson who allows the Oratories established by Cardinal Burke to continue their mission. In today's climate, that is a cause for thanks, too. Even this year, he has granted his blessing to the event to be held on August 5 at the Oratory-- the Ordination of four more American priests in the traditional rite by Cardinal Burke. Praise God for His Blessings.
Finally, I give thanks to God for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, because it has been an instrument of God in the deeper conversion of my family and me. And at the core of all of it has been the Mass. The loving care for souls that the Institute shows flows directly and immediately from its loving care for the liturgy.
So, today is a day to celebrate. If you have never read Summorum Pontificum, read it here. And then read the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Universae Ecclesiae here.
God bless you all.
St. Pius V, pray for us!
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!