Vatican II rolled back by the restoration of Latin Mass?


Last year, Pope Benedict licensed the celebration of the old Latin Mass in France. He is reportedly deliberating whether to allow it to be more widely practiced. Some imply that this is a step towards the reversal of the liturgical changes that followed Vatican II. But if we examine his earlier writings on liturgy, we find more complex and interesting questions posed.

The Pope has long-held and passionate convictions about liturgy, sketched in many of his books. In his understanding, the rites, both of East and West, belong first of all to the whole Church. The different families of rites structure the ways in which Christians worship, think and act. Like the great declarations of Christian faith, they are a gift to the Church and grow organically within the Church. Christians of any period are shaped by them, and do not shape them. Indeed, not even Popes are free to do as they will with rites.

From this perspective, the extensive changes to liturgy that followed Vatican II are problematic. Cardinal Ratzinger believed that the Bishops at the Council wanted an evolutionary change that would continue the work begun by Pius X and Pius XII. This would free the rite of its Baroque additions. Their desires were reflected in the 1962 revision of the Roman Missal. But after the Vatican Council, liturgical experts carried through a more revolutionary change, leading to the new order of Mass in 1965. The Cardinal implied that their changes were inspired by historical scholarship and not by a theology centred on the Church.

In the Cardinal’s account, the changes were accompanied by essentially 'uncatholic' theologies. These included the Reformation emphasis on the local congregation at the expense of the universal church, on the priesthood of all believers at the expense of the ordained ministry, and on the Eucharistic meal at the expense of Eucharistic sacrifice.

For Cardinal Ratzinger, the revolutionary nature of the liturgical changes after the Council was embodied in the prohibition of the older form of the Roman rite. He believed that this violated the principle that rites grow organically, and that it had confirmed many Catholics in their alienation from the Vatican Council.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s approach to liturgy, like that of any Christian, is not solely theological. It also reflects a passionate personal sense of what is well-done liturgy. His childhood in Bavaria, in which the life of the town was integrated with the liturgy of the Church, and where good music flourished, surely influenced him. Other people may find that the kind of liturgy celebrated in Cathedrals and Abbeys does not help them to pray. But the Cardinal’s insistence that liturgy is a celebration of the whole Church means that his and others’ personal taste is of secondary importance.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings on liturgy displayed an intellectual gift for binding a range of phenomena into a coherent and formidable theology or anti-theology. The antics of a few clergy, the bad ideas of a few congregations, the theological barbarities of a few writers, and the slogans of a few debaters are organised into a coherent system of theology and practice. The risk of such synthesising is that it can be too easy – you can always put together examples of bad theology, rash practice, and overweening rhetoric from proponents of any church practice. To decide whether they are significant, or indicative of something larger, is a much more delicate task.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s account of the development of liturgy through Vatican II is also personal view. It deserves respect because he was involved in the Council as a young theological expert. Many Catholics have accepted it as authoritative, but in my judgment it needs to be supported by more careful historical research.

Assuming that he continues to hold the views he expressed as Cardinal, we may assume that Pope Benedict will want to allow the celebration of the older Roman Rite. He believes that the decision to forbid it was in principle wrong; to reverse it might perhaps win back people alienated from the Church.

The Pope’s own theological principles, however, make the restoration of the old rite delicate. He believes that rites are an expression of the universal Church. This means that when we celebrate, we celebrate in union with our local Bishops who today represent the apostles, in union with Peter. Our celebration of liturgy is an act of reception of liturgy and Church, not an act of choice.

Many French bishops have recently opposed the free use of the old rite precisely on these grounds. They consider that it will enshrine individual and sectarian choice: the choice of a form of Catholicism that rejects the universal Church as expressed through its local Bishops and in the documents of Vatican II. The Pope’s challenge, then, is how to ensure that the old rite unmistakeably expresses the unity of the universal Church. Cardinal Ratzinger, thinking aloud, spoke of anchoring it in particular abbeys, churches or a personal prelature. The last option echoes the ‘flying bishops’ created by the Anglican Church to solve similar problems.

It would be simpler, of course, to abrogate the changes of 1965 and make the old liturgy mandatory for everyone. But the changes have now been grafted into the Western rite and have grown organically. Pope Benedict will no doubt ask himself whether even a Pope could make such a revolutionary change.



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Existing comments

A rite is not a liturgical usage solely, it is a community of believers that finds its expression in a particular liturgical form. Thus separating community from liturgy does violence to both.

A tridentine rite presupposes a tridentine community within the universal church, with its own bishops and such.

FSRusso | 13 February 2007  

You hinted on the fact none want to express: universally, the Roman Church is now more Protestant than Roman; more choice than reception.

The Eucharistic sacrifice was an event fixed in time, yet once and for all. It is not an event subject to organic evolution, a choice-process which our culture now equates with Truth.

This demand is a cultural emphasis; and, not all things embedded organically are Truth. The answer does not exist in the Holy Father, but the Holy Spirit.

Two generations after Vatican II, it is now time for a new council to review the aggiornamento process and reconsider the true intent of the Holy Spirit in the work of Vatican II.

Armand Theriaque III | 13 February 2007  

The "Tridentine" Mass was never forbidden; it only needed an O.K. to celebrate from the local Bishopric.

There are many parishes which do so....
The "Novus Ordo" was intended originally [read Pope Paul VI's declamenture]to be celebrated in Latin as well, only after VaticanII did it begin to be celebrated in the vernacular....Many parishes still celebrate it in Latin, needing no Bishop's approval; or, at least 80% of the "Novus Ordo" is read/sung in Latin (excepting the readings and invocations)....just watch EWTN!

Many parishes still also celebrate the Mass facing East.
Both Masses are technically the "Latin Mass", since, the Roman rite is so-used in the West...even if not entirely in the universal Latin tongue.

As for the "Tridentine" Mass itself, see how many times Cardinal Ratzinger was its celebrant prior to his Papacy....

Christella Bernardene Krebs | 13 February 2007  

Our Lord said that we can know a tree bt its fruit. The sad result of Vatican II springs from a neglect of, indeed spurning of, the sacred.

The Holy Sacrifice took back seat to a banal touchy-feely communal meal. A real eye-opener would be to get a copy of an old English/Latin missal, and just in reading the English you will get an idea what we have lost with the "Novus Oh-no".

Richard Bohler | 13 February 2007  

In your article you say that 'The Pope’s challenge, then, is how to ensure that the old rite unmistakeably expresses the unity of the universal Church' - how can he hope to do this if only a few souls in the church understand the language of the liturgy?

You use the term 'old rite' and so you should. It is a treasured relic of the past and we should respect it as such. However, resurrecting the 'old rite' to serve a contemporary community is a nonesense.

I suspect that the recent movement to turn back the clock on liturgy will wane as people realise how truly foreign the 'old rite' really is.

Jenny Close | 13 February 2007  

I believe that the Traditional Rite should be available to all who wish to celebrate in this way.

However, I do not see this as catering for more than niche communities operating more freely and in more parishes than at the moment.

The real reform for Pope Benedict to attend to is the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass. It is my opinion that this Rite has never been celebrated in the Englsih speaking world, as yet! To celebrate it reverently, devoutly and fruitfully the use of the vernacular needs to be confined to the Liturgy of the Word and the Offertory, Preface, Eucharistic Prayer and Communion Rite needs to be in Latin.

This can be done if the rubrics are interpreted correctly and followed.

Fr Reginald Wilson | 13 February 2007  

In the Anglican Church we also have people wedded to the "old" rite of the 1662 Prayer Book, which is constitutionally our touchstone for proper liturgy and belief.

Here in Bendigo, with six Anglican parishes, the old rite is used only in the Cathedral, and only at 8am. Most Anglicans are grateful for the evolutionary reforms which have given us a liturgy in sober modern English.

Michael Grounds | 13 February 2007  

the debate is interesting but irrelevant to the real issues facing the church.

In the face of massive declines in church attendance, very few vocations and the enormous incursions of fundamentalist christianity in Latin America this is deck chair rearranging at its worst.

chris gow | 13 February 2007  

For "the church" to even consider abrogating the changes of 1965 would be folly indeed..and isn't it sufficiently embroiled sufficiently to date!

If the Pope is inclined to ponder and reflect on rites, traditions and cultures, he could do no better than reflect on our Lord's own clearly expressed comments on "the royal priesthood" which made it abundantly clear that everyone shares in it.

Perhaps the following could help mental stimulation:

The clergy without the laity = 0

The laity without the clergy = 0

The clergy & the laity = "The church" least as far as the Lord's concerned.

With fraternal regards,
Brian Haill (The Australian AIDS Fund Inc - a Catholic charity - Frankston,Vic)

Brian Haill | 13 February 2007  

More strength to Pope Benedict!

A.Donnithorne | 13 February 2007  

Fr Hamilton - Interesting contribution. But I'm not sure what to make of your opening two sentences. The Latin Mass has been available here in Melbourne for years (eg Caulfield and Kew), with the same rules as France. In France last year, the pope merely gave approval for a new institute, a bit like the Fraternity of St Peter, which only says the Latin Mass. The rumoured "universal indult" would perhaps allow any priest to say the Latin Mass any time - undoubtedly with some restrictions dependent on his bishop, I'm sure.

Michael | 13 February 2007  

If as you claim Benedit XVI is hankering for the past how far back should one go? Should we go to Pius X who put anathema on those who dare change the order of his Mass and notwithstanding the oath that each Pope takes on being elected not to change anything of what previous Popes have decreed still changes are made? Should we perhaps go back to the early church community who chose their 'Presbyter' by imposing their hands on him / her and invoked the unction of the Holy Ghost and together with the Presbyter repeated the 'breaking of the Bread' in memory of HIM. And speaking of the Past why wouldn't the Pope and his Curia divest themselves of the riches, pomposity and authoritarianism fashioned on the Roman Empire and build the Church on the Rock that is Christ and his Gospel.
Having said that I humbly stand to be corrected one each and every point I made

Geo Caley | 13 February 2007  

"Pope Benedict will no doubt ask himself whether even a Pope could make such a revolutionary change."

Rather it is questionable whether Pope Paul VI had the power to introduce the new Mass.

Christopher Gillibrand | 13 February 2007  

Given that I am a "child" of the Vatican II era I can safely say, "Benedict, bring it on!!!We want more of it!! Jettison forever those individuals who made it their business to ruin Christian culture.
The sooner they leave us the better.
I feel remarkably "empowered" (to use one of their words,) that A German, who at least attempts to play his beloved Beethoven or Mozart sonatas for at least one hour per day is "running" my religion at least here on Earth!!!!
Brent Egan
Stanmore NSW

Brent Anthony Egan | 14 February 2007  

Thank God for a German Pope!!!!

Brent Egan | 14 February 2007  

The Mass was never de jure banned, but was de facto! Local Ordinaries and the abominable Bishop's Conferences guided by self-styled liturgists and other advisers, all lying to both their clergy and laity. Outcome: the destruction of Mother Church.

Michael | 14 February 2007  

Please give us back the Latin rite.

It was taken from us and we were never asked why we attended Mass and loved the ceremony and actions of the Tridentine. Since the vast numbers have fallen aka Vatican 2 in my humble opinion it illustrates what we Catholics honestly think about what came out of Vatican 2. Restore our Latin Masses in every Parish across the globe. At least one Latin Mass each Sunday,to start & increase as Catholics return to their faith and a Mass known and understood. Please.Souls will be saved,attendance/participation enhanced.

Peter Dickinson-Starkey | 14 February 2007  

Would that post-Vat II liturgy, at least in the US, represented the 'antics of a few clergy, the bad ideas of a few congregations.' Rather, the antic badness seemed to take over the world, and at amazing speed. At age 7, I was receiving First Communion amid Latin and incense; by puberty I was dodging clown masses and wondering if Christ could somehow boycott Transubstantiation if the music were just insultingly bad enough. By adulthood, virtually universal liturgical mediocrity was a fact of life, enlivened by occasional exceptions. When I rediscovered my dad's old pre-Vat II Missal, the English translations moved me deeply, and I was shocked, even with no theological background, by the difference in depth and emphasis in the texts. I didn't (and don't) particularly want the Latin revived--after attending an Indult Mass, I had to reluctantly admit that "you can't go home again"--but boy, would I love to see a return to a sense of the sacred, of sacrifice and adoration, and of consistency in keeping with what we claim the Mass to be...

Brenda Becker | 14 February 2007  

For anyone to think outside the "Latin Mass" is the right or only way to go, they ought to read more about it.

The term Latin Mass may mean:

1. Tridentine Mass, i.e. the Roman Rite Mass celebrated, always in Latin, in accordance with the successive editions of the Roman Missal from Pope Pius V's 1570 revision, following the 1545-1563 Council of Trent, to the edition promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962;
2. The present-day form of Mass of the Roman Rite, celebrated in Latin;
3. Mass celebrated in Latin in non-Roman liturgical rites, such as the Ambrosian Rite and the Mozarabic Rite;
4. (Historically) Mass in the Pre-Tridentine Mass forms of the Roman Rite;
5. The Latin Mass, the Journal of Catholic Culture & Tradition, a Roman Catholic magazine dedicated to promoting the Tridentine Mass and Traditionalist Catholic culture and theology.

Leon Bernotas | 14 February 2007  

Let's look at this objectively. The liturgists have had their way, and their way isn't workong. The idea was to "open the windows and let in some fresh air". Unfortunately, the "air" at the tine stank with hedonism and "anything goes" mentality. The result was a "wine into water" theology,the loss of countless priests and nuns, and the dumbing down of religious instruction.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the representation of Once for All Sacrifice of Calvary, not some "happy meal" hosted by a master of ceremonies.

Richard Bohler | 14 February 2007  

Please let us not revert to a language nobody understands, not even in most cases the person saying the words! I came through Vatican 2 and can remember the priest before the changes being a remote character not even facing the people and nobody in the congregation even being involved. Most probably half asleep or with rosaries appearing to not even be aware that mass was in progress! I can remember the progressive changes where the priest faced the people and then the people were allowed to say some thing and then we were allowed to say it in words we could understand. Then we could have music that we could sing to instead of only the choir. We could now become involved.
The only issue now is that we have failed to continue to renew the mass and become more involved.
Remember that the younger generations have never heard the old versions so do not miss it. I don't think bringing back the old is suddenly going to make them return. Most people under 45 years old won't know about the old mass....
The issue of reducing numbers I don't think has anything to do with the change away from the Latin mass. People used to go because they thought they had to. Some coming from the pub and just standing outside! .. because they had to. Now people generally only come because they want to. If we want more to come we need to give them good reason why they should....I cannot see reverting to latin doing that!

Patrick Sawyer | 14 February 2007  

How questionnable is the sentiment expressed in the last sentence of this essay. These changes mandated by the new mass have a life span of only 40 years, while the traditional latin mass has a pedigree of centuries.

What this article reflects -- and what His Holiness most likely also suffers from -- is a simple lack of courage. The new mass is wrong in so many ways. It is too bad that Benedict XVI does not ask himself how a pope could make the revolutionary change of discarding that which was seen as the most sublime exercise of faith for nearly two thousand years.

What foolishness.

Christopher Rissetto | 14 February 2007  

"...the true intent of the Holy Spirit in the work of Vatican II."

Armand, your comment presupposes that it was in fact the Heilige Geist, and not the Zeitgeist that was at work in the unleashing of Vat II; the Holy Spirit, rather than the Spirit of the Times, or the Spirit of the World, neither of which have anything to do with the Parclete. We don't need another Council, and I guarantee that in these times, any attempt to convene one would split the church farther than it is split already.

If the Church is in fact more protestant than Catholic these days, then the schism is formal and those so believing and acting are gone already. So better to abandon the bitter and fruitless effects of the Vatican II ransack of Catholic spirituality, and let those who choose to do so go their way. Sometimes accomodation fails, and there are life choices to be made. Those times are coming. Steel yourselves to it.

Oh, and the argument about not understanding Latin is pathetic. We know the words of the ordinary whether we speak Latin or not, and if we haven't learned their meaning through forty years of vernacular liturgy, then the experiment failed and deserves to be ended. The arguments in favour of a universal language are manifold, logical and already proven by past experience. It is the present that has failed. On a wry note, it is amusing how many people would subscribe to the notion of karma, good intentions bring about good results, everybody in the world hug each other and all war will stop, things like that. But the same people snigger at the notion that if we all pray a standardised liturgical prayer in a universal language that we're just whistling Dixie.

Wake up. '60's feel-good-ism is over. There is no such thing as subjective Catholicism. But don't blame me. The fault lies with the generation who told you that there was.

Give us the Latin Mass, and our Catholic Identity back Holy Father, for our sake, and for God's.

John Polhamus | 14 February 2007  

Fr Reginald Wilson wrote: "The real reform for Pope Benedict to attend to is the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass. It is my opinion that this Rite has never been celebrated in the English speaking world, as yet! To celebrate it reverently, devoutly and fruitfully the use of the vernacular needs to be confined to the Liturgy of the Word and the Offertory, Preface, Eucharistic Prayer and Communion Rite needs to be in Latin."

The prayers you wish to have in Latin are all written in the plural. The priest is leading the whole community in prayer. Is the laity present to be denied their conscious participation as a community in some of the most magnificent 'total Church community' prayers ever composed?

Peter Ryan | 14 February 2007  

Peter Ryan: You have obviously never attended mass at the London Oratory if you think that the Novus Ordo has never been celebrated reverently in the English speaking world. There it is celebrated and interpreted in the light of tradition, ad orientem (they experimented with a coffee-table for about a month once, then ditched the thing), in latin, in Roman vestments, with polyphony and gregorian chant, while still incorporating hymns and vernacular's the model.

I myself have organized New Rite masses celebrated maximally, even celebrated with liturgical books obtained for my Gregorian (a men's liturgical prayer group called Chorus Breviarii San Diego) which include a Novus Ordo Latin lectionary, again ad orientem, ALL in latin, gregorian chant through and through, 100% Novus Ordo...and you know what, when you get to that point, it's still inadequate. It's full of stops and starts, with the celebrant standing around waiting for the sanctus to be over (as if the concept of musical overlay requires every member of the congregation to be Albert Einstein).

They know perfectly well what the rite can be, but cling to a dated, childish (not to be confused with childlike), and ulterior need for reform. Well guess what, we didn't all become protestant. Many have, but the doctrines and dogmas inconveniently didn't morph or go away. It's time for the liturgy to reflect those truths again, and the new rite, even done maximally, doesn't cut it.

John Polhamus | 15 February 2007  

I also lived through the Vatican II years. I saw first hand the cataclysm brought about by the "progressives" with their ejection of Latin.
There is something to be said in favor of a "dead" language; and that is that it's hard to tinker with. I am sick of the injection of P/C (usually feminist) language in the liturgy.The focus of the Mass is a vertical worship, but the Neo-Protestants have done their best to turn it into a celebration of our wonderful selves.

Richard Bohler | 15 February 2007  

If I read him correctly, Fr Hamilton suggests that part of the problem with restoring the "old rite" may be that the "new rite" has "grown organically" since Vatican II; thus, any widespread imposition of the "old rite" would cause the same sorts of disruptions as, presumably, introduction of the "new right" did post Vatican II.

He may well be right in this, but I suggest that this is only part of the problem. Of more immediate import is the fact that there are whole generations who have no familiarity with, or knowledge of, the "old rite"; thus, its widespread imposition would not merely involve getting used to a new style of liturgy so much as learning a new liturgy altogether. Moreover, it would be a liturgy that would be incomprehensible, and thus irrelevant to, the overwhelming majority of its audience.

I am a very example of this point. Whilst I was aware as a child/teenager that the Mass had once been said in Latin, I had no notion of what was actually involved. Indeed, during the first 21 years of my life, when I was a practicing Catholic, I never once heard the term "tridentine", nor was I informed what this term signified. Ironically, it was only until well into my adulthood, and after I had once again become a practicing (Protestant) Christian, that I discovered, for myself, what the "old rite" actually involved.

My point being that there are many Catholics my and subsequent generations for whom the "old rite" is utterly meaningless, not least because they know - and have been taught - nothing about it.

However, I suggest that a partial solution might lie in fostering the view of the "old rite" as part of the richness of Christian worship traditions, in the same sense that the Orthodox rite and sacred music, and the various forms of contemplative music (Taize) and worship modes (eg: Tenebrae) can be likewise regarded. In this understanding, aspects of the "old rite" and its music might usefully be employed in the vernacular service or on specific feast days; who makes such decisions about where and when might itself be problematic, although I would suggest that closer to the congregational level, the better (or, at least, a two tiered system where the Vatican establishes particular feast days where aspects of the "old rite" might be utilised, but gives congregations the freedom to incorporate these into ordinary time services). At the very least, such an approach might remove the pejorative stigma to which terms such as "old rite" and "new rite" give rise.

Granted, this will not necesarily deal with issues such as the Eucharistic sacrafice over and against the communal Eucharistic meal; however, I do suggest that it may be a way for the Catholic church to at least promote a better universal understanding of what the "old rite" actually involves, before any moves are made to give that rite a wider currency than presently obtains. And even if that wider currency never arises, this process might reatore, for many Catholics, a sense of their own living and historical tradition.

Brendan Byrne | 15 February 2007  

John Polhamus: You are exactly right: I've been to the Brompton Oratory with the New Mass celebrated according to the rubrics and traditional ceremonies. I still find it wanting for many reasons. Once example: If they choose to do the Asperges it replaces the penititial rite! No Confiteor? Ridiculous! I'll stop there, though I could go on.

Another matter: The New Mass does not conform to the decress of the Vactican II document on the Sacred Liturgy, even with it's weaknesses. The committee that fabricated the New Mass AFTER the Council ignored many of its exhortations.

Indeed the ZEITGEIST prevailed, not the Holy Ghost.

FranzJosf | 15 February 2007  

Where are the women respondents to this thought provoking article by Andrew Hamilton?

I counted three among the many men who responded.My guess as to why this might be so: tinkering with the language of an already troublsome practice is much like choosing the Australian Men's cricket team. Important for some male thinkers, I would put the current pope in this category, but not of interest to most. Blokes will be blokes and the Catholic Church has a few blokes running things.

Tom Kingston | 15 February 2007  

Why do you think that the bishops are afraid of the Traditional Mass? Why is the devil afraid of Saints?

Let not the bishops forbid the celebration of the Traditional Mass and the world and the Church will SOON see where the Holy Spirit is.

Richard | 15 February 2007  

The Tridentine rite was an organic development of the ancient Roman rite, not the invention of a committee.

The Catholic Church consists of a plurality of liturgical rites and usages. The Byzantine, Maronite, Armenian, etc. Even before Vatican II the Dominican, Bragan, Cistercian and Carthusian variants of the Roman rite existed side by side with the typical version.

The '65 revision of the Roman Mass acutally was in a way closer to the 1474 predecessor of the Tridentine rite. It was an organic development, unlike the synthetic rite of Paul VI.

John R | 16 February 2007  

There is a community awaiting the revival of the old mass. It's quite a few people and that number will grow once the mass has approval and is more widely available.
As it is now, many people mistakenly believe that there is something wrong with attending the old mass because of the extremely shabby treatment it has endured over the past 40 years.
There is nothing wrong with it. It was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for nearly 400 years! How can there be anything wrong with it??
Rather it is the people who have polarized the old Mass who are at fault. This started in the 60s and was part of the progressive push to get people to adjust to the new mass which has terrible problems.

michigancatholic | 16 February 2007  

Tridentine MAss is the Mass for all seasons. No one shall have change the Holy Mass. Pope Pius V has make it very clear that NO ONE shall amend the Latin Mass. Pope Paul VI has make a mess in the Roman Catholic Church with the introduction of the vernacular mass.

Francis Mah -Malaysia | 17 February 2007  

I just came from a "Novus Oh-no" Mass where the Communion "hymn" was the Protestant song "Lead Me, Guide Me."
Also, our parish just received a magnificent marble kneeling angel.
Wouldn't you know it... it was placed kneeling to the congregation instead of towards the tabernacle. Outside the church we have a statue of St. Patrick atop grass manicured into a giant four-leaf clover, the symbol of "good luck" instead of a shamrock, the symbol of the Blessed Trinity.
We have lost so much of our Catholic heritage to the modernist dumbed-down Catholicism! To those who oppose the return of the Latin Mass I say:" What have you got to lose... indeed, what have you got to (re)-gain?"

Richard Bohler | 19 February 2007  

The then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, writing the Preface to the French edition of Msgr Klaus Gamber’s The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background in 1993, expressed his view of the Novus Ordo Mass in very stark terms:

“J.A Jungmann…defined the liturgy of his time, such as it could be understood in the light of historical research, as a “liturgy which is the fruit of development”.

What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”

The expression “a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product” should be cause for reflection.

What readers need to realise is that to look back from the present to the Traditional Mass and evaluate its place is to err. Instead one needs to follow the organic development of the liturgy, not from 1570, but from the Sacred Scriptures themselves and view the recent liturgical changes in this perspective. The major developments in the structure of the Mass and the Canon were being settled during the Pontificate of St Gregory the Great. This provides a better understanding of Pope Benedict’s perspective as written above.

The point that needs to be made and which some do not wish to hear, or be reminded of, is that the Traditional Mass was never abrogated. An increasing number of voices from Rome are saying this. To “forbid” it was never and could never be justified.

Andrew Hamilton refers to “our celebration of liturgy” being “an act of reception of liturgy and Church, not an act of choice”. His argument used to identify problems with the ‘re-introduction’ of the Traditional liturgy also works as a justification for priests to offer the same, as this is the rite received via Sacred Tradition. Also, if a rite is recognised as Catholic then different rites of the same legitimacy should not act as an expression of disunity, but the very opposite.

Any priest who wants to offer the Traditional rite should be given every encouragement to, and provision should be made for its availability in parishes, as well as “anchoring” it here or there. The suggestion to “abrogate the changes of 1965 and make the old liturgy mandatory for everyone”, as an option, is ill judged. No one should be forced to attend one or the other rite. Instead; provide the opportunity for widespread usage of the Traditional Liturgy, employing appropriate resources such as for music, vestments and education, then let things develop as they will, or as Providence does.

The next statement by Andrew Hamilton, in reference to the Novus Ordo, that “the changes have now been grafted into the Western rite and have grown organically” is misleading. The Novus Ordo is not a graft onto the Western or Traditional rite, but a new creation. Of note, a prominent liturgical authority at the time of the liturgical changes, Fr Joseph Gelineau, wrote in 1976:

“Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can. Let them compare it with the Mass that we now have. Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists (le rite romain tel que nous l'avons connu n'existe plus). It has been destroyed (il est détruit).” (See

The Traditional Mass and all liturgical books associated with it are the heritage and inheritance of all Catholics, especially in the West. Rather than a museum piece it is the living connection with the Church through the centuries to the time of Christ as the means of praying with and through Him to Our Heavenly Father

Last, we should return to the original thrust of the Liturgical Movement as begun by Dom Prosper Gueranger, that is, worship of God should be preeminent in Liturgy over the didactic or any other concerns. We should not impose a rational restriction upon it to conform it to pre-set expectations of levels of understanding, dictating what the liturgy should be and how it is offered. We should be raised up, and make the effort to rise, to what the liturgy handed on to us is, and not conform it to what we think it should be and how it will serve current tastes.

Gerard Calilhanna | 21 February 2007  

Congratulations on the excellent conversation this article by Andrew Hamiliton has triggered.

The discussion has triggered two main responses in my own mind. The first is that I fail to understand why Benedict might believe that the developments in liturgy in the past 40 odd years HAVE NOT BEEN part of the "organic development" of liturgy as well. While I am partly persuaded with the criticism that the old liturgy should not have been banned, or suppressed, in the way it was it is also easy having that wisdom in hindsight. Given the behaviours we have seen the traditionalists exhibit it is a moot point if we might have had more or less of those litrugical terrorism type behaviours had the leaders of the time not taken the actions they did. One could, of course, argue that the "campaign of liturgical terrorism" has only been launched because of the suppression but there is also evidence a plenty had had the ban not been imposed the liturgical and other forms of ecclesial terrorism would have been far, far worse than they have been.

The second response I have is one of an even greater sense of being flabbergasted. If Benedict is so concerned with the relatively tiny proportion of the baptised population who may have been alienated from the institution because of the ban that was imposed, why does he not have the same sort of concern for the 85% who have been alienated through other causes. His behaviour, it seems to me, just strengthens the arguments I have advanced for a significant time now that at the highest level the institution literally seems to poop its pants over the behaviours of the insecure, the conservative and remnant-type sectors within Catholicism, attempting to appease their sensibilities at every turn and it could not give the slightest concern for the hundreds of millions of ordinary men and women who are spiritually famished in the Western world at the moment and who have streamed out the door en-masse in the last 40 years.

What I do agree with in Andrew Hamilton'sd assessment of Benedict's position is that liturgy belongs to all of us. Not even Pope's have ownership of it. There is much that I deeply love in the traditional liturgies and wider traditions of the Catholic Church. I also want to see those preserved, passed on and revered. I find most people seem to have an outlook like that. I don't think I know any person who does not have some kind of love for the hymns and liturgical and sacramental symbols that were used at various earlier times in our history. The greater upset in this broad population that has become upset with the institution is, to my mind, not essentially over liturgy and tradition. It is over a particular mindset, held by a minority and remnant sector within the traditionalist sectors of Catholicism, who are totally unable to concede that any other opinions other than theirs ought be listened to. Trying to constantly appease what are basically the psychological insecurities of these people at the expense of the spiritual needs of the hundreds of millions who are spiritually famished and litreally "turned out of the Church" by the behaviours of those with those insecurities is a total abnegation of our Christian responsibility and mission to "be bringing the Good News to ALL people".

The Church collectively (all of us) do have a responsibility to respect, and tend to the needs of the psychologically insecure. It is a total abnegation of our wider responsibility though to be totally and only attending to their needs while the rest of the world is left in some state of spiritual hunger. When is the rot going to stop?

Brian Coyne

Brian Coyne | 21 February 2007  

The very reason millions have left the Catholic church is the revisionist novus ordo liturgy which for all intent and purpose is a protestant aberration. The fact is and remains that the fastest element of growth in the Latin rite of the Catholic church is "the Traditionalist Movement". Millions around the globe have and are requesting the right to return to the Tridentine liturgy which in fact can NEVER be abrogated by pope, prelate, laity etc etc, it is protected in perpetuity by the Papal Bul "Quo Primum.It is the young that are filling Tridentine mass churches and chapels to standing room only, traditional Abbeys, convents and especially Seminaries are having "vocational problems" and that is lack of room for the thousands who are coming to their door requesting entry to Traditional, Orthodox Seminaries.In retrospect the novus ordo church is dying a slow painful death. Shalom

gloria | 22 February 2007  

One cannot ignore the Orthodox liturgies that have remained virtually unchanged for over a thousand years. The great strength of the thanksgiving prayers in modern litrgies mostly based on early texts is their flexibility

John Ozanne

john Ozanne | 24 February 2007  

While we're at it, think what the restoration of the Communion rail would do for the understanding of, and reverance for, the Real Presence. Impossible? The Church managed for quite a while doing it that way. Too bad the "spirit of Vatican II threw out the Baby with the bath water!

Richard Bohler | 25 February 2007  

1) There is simply no problem in restoring the Tridentine rite as one form of Mass and retaining the Vatican II rite (only with stricter rubrics to avoid priestly personalization) as another. The individual Catholic may choose one, the other or both. Why? Because the kinship of the canon in each liturgy is so close.

2)Any suggestion that Cardinal Ratzinger relied on the random or anecdotal to assume liturgical diffraction exists had better be we supported by more than a casual generalization. But then the author did not really mention the Cardinal in that very conveniently located slam.

Joseph M. A. Ledlie | 07 April 2007  

well done for this inclusion in Eureka St.

It should of course be pointed out that there are many Rites within the Church, and a number of others were suppressed by Vatican II in favour of a bland universalism which satisfied very few and alienated a vast array.

Thank God this Pope has the wisdom and courage to roll-back the narrow authoritarianism of Paul VI, which wreaked havoc on the Church and accelerated its decline, and to expand the trepidatious indult of John Paul II, which didn't go nearly far enough in rehabilitating the Tridentine Rite.

It is interesting to observe the high proportion of young people at indult Masses, and the high proportion of vocations that come from its centres of liturgical excellence. Compare that with the general malaise in novus ordo parishes and empty seminaries and religious congregations which capitlated to the New Reformation, and the facts speak for themselves.

In my view there can be no comparison between the mystical beauty and spiritual depth of the Tridentine liturgy and the pedestrian parlava of the Novus Ordo, and their respective religious consequences are self-evident.

This Pope has the brains and the balls to allow a free market of courses for horses. The Church universal can only benefit from the reversal of the previous disastrous policy which denied the fundamental rights of the faithful to be fed according to their needs. Paul VI was not a servant, but a dictator, whose misjudgment has caused the Church of the past 40 years a near fatal wound.

arthur hallett | 07 April 2007  

Just a not for Patrick Sawyer.

I am of the vintage, and my experience exactly mirrors that of Brenda Becker; save and except that I have sufficient recollection of the beauty and mysticism of the Tridentine Mass from my childhood, confirmed by recent re-experience of the indult Masses, to pray that the foreshadowed Papal motu proprio, will make it a universal option.

Everyone understood what was going on at a latin Mass in my childhood. Missals had both latin and english texts side-by-side for those who couldn't read or understand latin...and indeed many did learn latin, and the old liturgy was an impetus to education rather than any obstacle to understanding.

Moreover, in my experience the Novus Ordo is far less accessible and more incomprehensible for all its vernacular gab-fest.

Because one is now able to "participate" and say things like "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God", is one any more enlightened on the nature of the Trinity???

Does Joe Average at a North Boring Eucharist meditatively and contemplatively pronounce the words of the script? ever so much more spiritual and transformed by the experience??

Within months of the litugy's vernacularisation (and indeed vulgarisation) I found myself, after the initial novelty wore off, for years busying myself parroting formulae that meant nothing to me, didn't even register mentally, and only made me bored stiff. Familiarity bred contempt.

Moreover, "participation" in a verbal way, only distracted me from mystical absorption of the grace of the liturgy and its beauty, when one was allowed the privilege liturgically to sit and be still and move inward, instead of just moving ones lips!

arthur hallett | 07 April 2007  

Very interesting articule on the percieved views of the Pope on the return of the Tridentine Divine Liturgy. Keep it mind that another pope, one named Paul V1, in a dragonian and brutal manner forced a contrived, watered down, and essentially protestantize service on the Universal church the so-called novus ordo missae,aka venacular and also known to be the invention of an apostate archbishop and accused freemason annabale bugnini with a major assist from so-called protestant observers at Vatican 2 who were far more than observers but actively participated with bugnini and others to almost obliterate the ancient liturgy commonly know as the Tridentine Mass.The end result is the resistance of millions of Catholics in the form of the Society of St. Pius 10th, sedevacantism and literally 10s of millions of former Catholics who left the church for good in the 60's,70's,80's & 90's, people fed-up with the liturgical revisionism, clerical and liturgical abuses almost on a daily bases. With the advent of Pope Benedict the 16th the real renewal of the Catholic church may be just beginning. I suspect your use of the word moderate in this blog amounts to cencorship and probably will not see this articule on your blog-Shalom,Pacem,Pax

John | 13 April 2007  

As one who ceased to be a practising Catholic in the 1960s, partly as a result of the changes to the liturgy, I have always regretted the reception of Vatican II by the papacy, which seemed to me to undermine it in two fundamental ways.

First, its new emphasis on the authority of the bishops in college seemed to be rather marginalised, perhaps through an excessive fear of the dangers of loss of co-ordination. Secondly (possibly to distract the liberals and so soften the impact of the first) the Council's tentative giving of permission for a vernacular liturgy was overtaken by a radical banning of the traditional, rite which it seemed had never been intended by the Council.

The result of the first has I suspect been most serious, as the church has been weakened through the resulting barriers to intelligent engagement with the implications of social and political changes, especially for sexual and 'liberation theology' issues. But personally I have found the second more of a problem.

Mark O'Sullivan | 19 April 2007  

If you compare the Old Mass with the new the Old comes out well ahead. Firstly it has antiquity. Did you know that the committee that composed the New mass re wrote and removed ancient prefaces. Did you know that they aimed at removing negative concepts 'modern man' found hard. They added and removed as they saw fit and presented Paul VI with a fiat accompli.The abuses you mention are normal and wide spread. I go to one Church we play a tape recorder for music and have innane commentaries throught out Mass. I go to another Parish I get frizbee hosts.

Through out it all the focal point is the Priests face. His personality and his performance. The new Mass is inadequate in so many ways. The ancient structure of the Mass which is not baroque has been edited. The new Mass is not the Old Mass in English. If am I am forced to accept this 1970's creation then I will not practise my religion anymore because it is clear it has no respect for continuity and our Faith is built on the trustworthiness of the transmission of it truths from the Apostles. The Mass is a legacy and should not be amputated and reassembled by any committee. By the way Bugnini loaded the commitee with like minded vandals.

Christopher | 20 April 2007  

Does it really matter if the natives dance clock-wise or counter clock-wise around the camp fire if they are praising the same God? Vatican II was always about Church politics, one side controlling the other. If this put more catholics in the pews I am for it. If Vatican II did one thing wrong it needless scraped too much of what made the Church great.

If I never see another course advertisement at a Ctholic college for "Comptemporary Dance in Worship" I won't miss it.
If I have learned anything from the Church is that one size doesn't fit all. All those who worry about the Latin Mass shouldn't it.
Danny L. McDaniel
Lafayette, Indiana

Danny L. McDaniel | 09 July 2007  

With all the talk of the mystical and "oh so sacred experience" of attending the liturgy - it surprises me that Jesus Himself didn't think of that when He celebrated the first one. In all simplicity, with the most common of elements. And yes, making present His sacrifice, His entering into our death to transform it into Life, His "making sacred" again all that is human, and He did this in language that was understandable, in gestures visible, and told us to do the same. Where is the awareness of the historical and cultural accretions?
Where is the sense of invitation to the experience of a lived relationship meant to continue in the very "stuff" of our own here and now? How afraid are we of the "incarnation" so that we want to keep it all in that "nostalgic" time when we remember it all as more "holy," more "sacred." Or is it just our refusal to be truly present to what is here and now, and perhaps encounter the Holy Spirit here and now. There is no where else to "experience" God. but in the here and now. Be it ritual, be it in the "stuff" of our lives. Jesus, in language, in gesture, in stories, in images - never took the people out of their "here and now" - why do we keep trying to do it better than Him??????

Gene Barrette | 12 July 2007  

Latin is a dead language and God is the God of the living not of the dead. The Tridentine rite might satisfy latinolaters but it is not liturgy, i.e. the work of the people.I'd prefer the grteat liturgies of the early Greek! Now, there's real worship!!!

Francis | 12 July 2007  

"The antics of a few clergy, the bad ideas of a few congregations, the theological barbarities of a few writers, and the slogans of a few debaters are organised into a coherent system of theology and practice."
I am afraid you are wrong when you write "few". The abuses are institutionalised and wide spread. we are corrupted by the spirit of modernism that prevails in the Church. Everyone has a different angle on what is acceptable. That is because Vat II is seen as a repuditation of what went before. Also since one part of tradition -authority was used to force changes of every sort through. The Pope orders this, one bishop orders that, another bishop the opposite. No one looking to the overall tradition. More documents have been produced in the last 40 years than the last 1900 years! Many are contradictory and officious.
I go to Mass and we have extrordinary ministers giving out communion with the priest when there are 20 at Mass. We play tape recorded music at Mass. People dance in leotards during Mass. We have to hold hands during the Our Father. The priest tries to intrude his face and gestures so we all love him. Many of the changes are abuses. They are abuses in the same way as the medieval popes and bishops allowed or ignored abuses. Abuses like putting one consecrated host in with unconsecrated hosts before communion. Allowing priests to be ordained but never say Mass. Paying money to Rome so as to be made a bishop in a cetain diocese...or even have 2 diocese.
Of course we are too modern to admit we are just as fallen as our ancestors. By saying the Old Mass and Sacraments were never abrogate the Pope is doing a wondeful thing. He is restoring the primacy of tradition. He is letting our ancestors vote. Something from the Apostles and formed by the Holy Spirit over centuries is venerable and trustworthy. Changes that are modern are questionable and more likely to be wrong.

Christopher Forrester | 06 August 2007  

It is historically inaccurate to talk as Fr. Hamilton does of 'the changes of 1965'. Changes to the Rite there were indeed beginning from the First Sunday of Advent 1964. They involved the introduction of the vernacular 'at certain times, in certain places and in certain parts of the Rite'. This is sanctioned by Vatican II. The 'Novus Ordo' was introduced in its full form only in 1970. Until then it was possible to attend full Latin Masses in many parish churches in England celebrated according to the 'Tridentine Rite' - a term I had never heard until then though I was 25 in 1970 and Jesuit educated.
The 'revolutionary change' was made under the aegis of Paul VI by the commission led by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, whose signature is all over it. That was the 'Novus Ordo', a liturgy which did not grow organically out of what had gone before and which marked a radical change in the 1.5 millenia old practice of the Latin Rite Catholic Church.
If a Pope could do that - and he did - Pope Benedict should have no problem at all!
Vivat Benedictus, qui venit in Nomine Domini!

Paul Johnston | 01 November 2007  

I would never have thought I would be
defending the Tridentine Mass to Catholics maybe protestants, atheists, etc. Nor would I have thought we would be desecrating our own Churches.

Prior to this new order the Traditional
Mass was held to be our Most Holy and Sacred form of worship.

We weren't broke until they started to mess with the Sacred.

Colleen | 16 July 2008  

Vatican II was a mistake. It took away the living sacrifice of the Mass and gave us a dried up mouldy meal that rings of the Book of Common Prayer. Cranmer would have been delighted.

Peter Corr | 17 May 2010  

vatican 2 had some good ideas but what the mass is now is not what the council fathers had in mind. the new mass should have retained most of the character of the latin mass with latin used in the liturgy of the eucharist and english for liturgy of the word. the altar should be set up as the pope does mass with 6 candles and a crucifix. i hope the holy father can fix this mess.over zealous clergy took upon themselves to make drastic un-catholic changes i realy do not enjoy. where is the beautiful gregorian chant that is to be the western churches ofical music ?

THOMAS PATE | 17 July 2010  

Myself and my wife have been attending the Tridentine Mass in Perth for 4 and a half years what a beautiful Mass the hymns and the liturgy. The Novus Ordo miss the point mass, guitars, hymns and liturgy dont come close sorry, but they had it right, thanks FSSP, SSPX, ICKSP, and many diocesan priests for giving us our right the mass of all ages, Padre Pio asked for permission not to say the Novus Ordo (Pope Paul V1) mass he was given permission not to have to say the Novus Ordo mass. He knew no sacrifice no mass.

Declan O'Doherty | 27 December 2019  

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