“The most beautiful thing this side of heaven” — this is how the celebration of Holy Mass in the classical Roman rite is often referred to, since God, the Most High, is at the center of all prayers, ceremonies, music, and ecclesiastical architecture. Traditional believers take advantage as often as possible of the opportunity to participate in these celebrations of Mass and to receive the other sacraments in this form as well.
Liturgy as God’s action
The celebration of Holy Mass (and the administration of the other sacraments) is not an action of “the people” dependent on time and place, but an action of God through selected, specially commissioned, consecrated persons. The form of the liturgy is not arbitrary but refined and perfected over centuries of practice in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. The faithful may participate in the liturgy, enhancing its beauty and solemnity by their contributions (architecture, music, floral decorations…), but it is not for them to alter the essential character of the celebration.
After the Second Vatican Council, the internal Church dispute over the content of the faith and the liturgy intensified, accompanied by ever new attempts to abolish the traditional liturgy, which had grown and matured in the Church for over 1,000 years, and to establish instead Paul VI’s missal, the result of the liturgical reform of the late 1960s, as the sole form of “lex orandi.”
Pope Benedict XVI, with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum published on July 7, 2007, succeeded in increasing intra-ecclesial liturgical peace by stating that the old, “extraordinary” rite had never been forbidden and should be open to all priests and faithful alongside the new, “ordinary” rite. The publication of the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes [TC] on July 16, 2021 was therefore a great shock to all traditional Catholics. They reacted with incomprehension and annoyance to TC. This reaction increased even more after the Responsa ad Dubia [RAD] shortly before Christmas 2021.
Why is the relative liturgical peace that had come after the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum being destroyed without need? No one is being forced to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass—it is “one offering among many.” That the celebrations of Mass in the classical Roman rite are attractive to many faithful, including young people and young families, due to these celebrations’ orientation toward God, their solemnity as befits the Most High, and the consistency one sees there between faith and life—is surely not a fault of the traditional Latin rite. On the contrary, priests and bishops all the way up to the pope should be pleased with anyone who still finds God and practices the Faith today.
Does the Novus Ordo fulfill the requirements of the Second Vatican Council?
How can one claim that the Novus Ordo “fulfills the will of the Council Fathers” when a simple comparison of the real-life celebrations of Mass in the Novus Ordo with the text of the Council Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] reveals that this is not the case at all? Some examples:
“The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”—“Provision is to be made so that the faithful of Christ may also speak or sing to one another in Latin the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which belong to them.”—“The Church regards Gregorian chant as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy; accordingly, it is to occupy the first place in her liturgical actions.”—“No innovations are to be introduced unless a real and surely to be hoped for benefit of the Church demands it.”
Where are the extensive studies that prove, or at least convincingly demonstrate, for every change in the Novus Ordo from the Traditional Latin Rite, that a real and certainly to be hoped for benefit of the Church demanded that very change?
There would be many other points to mention, e.g., the increasingly widespread opinion (even among theologians) that THE COUNCIL turned the altars around and prescribed the celebration versus populum (while even in the Novus Ordo the direction of celebration ad orientem is the rubrical norm!)—or THE COUNCIL introduced communion in the hand (which even until now in the Novus Ordo is only an indult, a special permission)—all elements that were definitely not decided by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
Does the Novus Ordo correspond to the intentions of the Council Fathers?
How does the claim that the Novus Ordo is the fulfillment of the Council’s “intentions” fit with the contrary statements of many contemporary witnesses and Council participants? Here are some examples:
Joseph Cardinal Frings: “We Council Fathers did not decide this, it is against the decisions of the Council. I cannot understand how the Holy Father could give his consent to something like this.”
Bishop Domenico Celada: “The gradual destruction of the liturgy is a sad fact universally known. In less than five years, the millennial structure of divine worship has been dismantled…. Instead of it, an infantile, noisy, crude and highly tiring form of the rite was introduced. And the alienation and reluctance of the faithful were hypocritically ignored.”—“I regret having voted for the Council Constitution in whose name—but in what way—this pseudo-reform was carried out. If it were possible, I would take back the vote I cast.”
Alfonso Maria Cardinal Stickler: “You can understand my astonishment when, on taking note of the final edition of the new Missale Romanum, I found that its contents in many respects did not correspond to the texts of the Council with which I was well acquainted, much was changed, expanded, even directly contrary to the decrees of the Council.”—“Never because of this, in any area of Christian Catholic rites, has there been a break, a radical new creation, not even in the Roman Latin, except for the present post-conciliar liturgy of the reform, despite the fact that the Council…repeatedly demanded the absolute preservation of Tradition for the reform…. Nothing new may be introduced, says expressly the Council to the reform desired by the Fathers, which is not demanded by a real and as such proven benefit of the Church.”
Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer: “Who would have dreamed on the day Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated that in a few years, in less than a decade, the Latin tradition of the Church would be all but extinguished and become a slowly fading memory? The thought of this would have horrified us, but it seemed so inconceivable that we considered it ridiculous. And so we laughed about it.”
Joseph Gelineau: “It must be stated unequivocally: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.”
Prof. Joseph Ratzinger: “The deep displeasure of some fathers with the so-called liturgical reform found expression in vehement statements. Bishop Donal Lamont of Umtali in Rhodesia stated succinctly on October 24: ‘We are poisoned by the renewal’ (sc. of the liturgy). Cardinal Secretary of State Cicognani indignantly exclaimed, ‘Sat experimenta, sat innovationes!’ (‘Enough of experimentation, enough of innovation.’)”
In 1967, a so-called Missa normativa was celebrated in the Sistine Chapel to show the bishops participating in the Synod of Bishops (Sept. 29-Oct. 29, 1967) the state of liturgical reform and to solicit their opinions. Annibale Bugnini, the architect of the liturgical reform, judged the event as follows: “It must be said right away that the experiment did not succeed. On the contrary, in a certain way it had the opposite effect and affected the vote in a negative sense.”
Prof. Georg May: “So there was a very strong opposition to the new Order of Mass from the bishops participating in the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. But this opposition was surprisingly passed over and had no effect…. With intransigence, intolerance and defiance, the authors and promoters of the so-called liturgical reform persisted in their erroneous ideas.”
Where is the “unity” in the Novus Ordo?
Why is it that in the Novus Ordo all sorts of alienations, dilutions, general deviations from the rite of Mass are accepted and yet there is talk of “unity”—even though two Mass celebrations in the Novus Ordo are rarely the same?
How, in the name of “unity,” can Latin be rejected as the liturgical language used worldwide, and instead categorized pastoral care separated by language groups be carried out everywhere? (In almost every large city there are Italian, Polish, Croatian, English, Portuguese, etc. parishes with their own Mass celebrations and their own events.) Especially in a multicultural society like today’s, a common language of prayer—as it exists in most world religions—is important for unity.
Is the Novus Ordo the only expression of the “lex orandi” of the Roman Rite?
The question is repeatedly asked, “Has the classical Roman Rite been abolished?” Cardinal Stickler said in an interview: “In 1986, Pope John Paul II asked a commission of nine cardinals two questions. First, ‘Does Pope Paul VI or any other competent authority prohibit the widespread celebration of the Tridentine Mass in modern times?’ The answer given by eight out of nine cardinals in 1986 was, ‘No, the Mass of St. Pius V was never banned.’ I can say that, because I was one of the cardinals.
“There was another very interesting question: ‘Can a bishop forbid a priest in good standing to continue celebrating the Tridentine Mass?’ The nine cardinals were unanimous that no bishop can forbid a Catholic priest from celebrating the Tridentine Mass. We have no official ban, and I believe the Pope would never issue an official ban … precisely because of the words of Pius V, who said this Mass would be forever.” The nine-member commission included Cardinals: Ratzinger, Mayer, Oddi, Stickler, Casaroli, Gantin, Innocenti, Palazzini and Tomko.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2007, “What was sacred to previous generations remains sacred and great to us; it cannot suddenly be forbidden all around or even harmful.” The Constitution on the Liturgy states : “In matters that do not concern the faith or the common good, the Church does not wish to make a rigid uniformity of form obligatory.”
According to many authoritative statements, nothing was changed in the contents of the faith by Vatican II as a purely pastoral council. Therefore, the lex orandi of the traditional Roman rite, which before the Council had corresponded to the lex credendi of the Church, must still do so after the Council.
Development after Traditionis Custodes
One year after the publication of TC, the German-speaking countries [Note: Pro Missa Tridentina focues its work on these countries] are better off than some others—for example, there are dioceses in France and in the USA where Mass celebrations in the old rite have been rigorously cut back, in some cases to only 20 percent of what they were. In Central and South America, too, there have been some blatant cuts (Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, …). The number of TLM Mass locations in the German-speaking world has decreased by a total of about 10% in the last 12 months—but the number of actual Mass celebrations in the traditional Latin rite decreased by only 3.5%.
This correlates with the fact that Masses celebrated mainly by diocesan priests have been eliminated. In most cases this is not a consequence of direct prohibitions due to Traditionis Custodes and its successor documents, but of normal fluctuations (merging of parishes into parish associations, relocation of the celebrant, old age, illness, …) in which not all Mass locations were preserved.
“Unity” does not mean uniformity. This realization has been generally present in the Church for a long time and must be regained and implemented, e.g., through a regulation similar to that in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Unity in faith embraces that which has been “believed everywhere, always, and by all.” This faith can be further deepened, just as a photograph whose colors are intensified and whose brightness or contours are improved can become more beautiful as a result—but it is impossible to change or even exchange the motifs in the picture and then claim that the photograph still represents the same object as before. It is the same with faith and liturgy.
Prayer and liturgy that focus on God, not on people and their ever-changing preferences, have a missionary effect and thus help seekers to find the Faith, or find it anew, and to deepen it through catechesis and reading. We should therefore work hard to keep the traditional Latin rite present in as many places as possible—in an extraordinarily beautiful, solemn, God-pleasing form—so that more and more of those who are open to it will be given access to the richness of God’s love.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam.
President, Pro Missa Tridentina
July 15, 2022
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