Strange Moments In Liturgical History – How a Paragon of Liturgical Tradition May Have Caused Unintended Effects

121614In the modern struggles and disagreements over the Liturgy, there tends to be a list of friends and opponents depending on one’s stance. For those of us with a more traditional leaning, Pope St. Pius X looms large as a friend and an image of tradition. He is usually seen as a defender of the tradition and a great proponent of what is called today the Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)—so much so that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) takes its name from him.

And yet things, people, and movements are seldom as simple as we would like them to be. Despite many good reasons for admiring Pope St. Pius X’s attention to the Sacred Liturgy, he also (arguably) helped lay the groundwork for the revolution that would follow, not so much by his ideas but by his rather sweeping use of papal authority to influence and change the Liturgy in his day.

One of the most far-reaching things he did had little impact on the average Catholic but it had a dramatic effect on the Breviary, the prayers said by priests each day in the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours). What makes what he did so significant was his use of papal power to rather summarily effect the change, a change that arguably did away with almost 1500 years of tradition, just because he wanted to. More of the details on that in a minute. Perhaps a little background first. (If you want a shorter read, go to the red line below.)

The Roman Rite of the Mass developed and came to fundamental form very early in the Church and had its most basic elements in mature form by the 5th Century, though it dates back far earlier in most of its elements. Due to the influence of the Roman See, it was largely the pure template for the liturgical practice of the Western Church. However, there were a lot of local variations to the Roman Rite, some of them significant enough to permit the use of another name altogether (e.g., the Gallican Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, the Sarum). In addition to these, there were many smaller variations and local usages.

This diversity of liturgical practice caused tension at times, if for no other reason than its bewildering complexity. There were various attempts made from time to time to unify the Liturgy throughout Europe by recourse to the Roman Rite and the fundamental purity and antiquity it was accorded. Most notably, the Council of Trent decreed that any form of the Liturgy that was less than 200 years old should be suppressed in favor of the Rite as celebrated in Rome. As such, there was a reverence for antiquity and a concern for novelty and recent innovations.

Yet even after Trent, especially in places like France, there was a tendency for accretions and innovations. Sometimes called “Gallicanism,” the decrees of the Council of Trent were either ignored or gradually less enforced. And thus many local variations began again to develop. By the 18th century, many liturgists began to critique the disorderly state of affairs and emphasized a kind of ultramontanism (a term meaning literally “beyond (or over) the mountains” and referring to Rome), which sought to establish the Roman Rite more purely.

By the time of the First Vatican Council (1869-70), papal influence was already well established from antiquity, but was also growing against Gallicanism and other local episcopal influence. Weariness over local European divisions was also part of the growing influence of the Pope. The Dogma of Papal Infallibility, proclaimed at the First Vatican Council (though narrowly construed and only invoked in very specific circumstances), served only to highlight papal power and influence.

Thus by the time of Pope Pius X (1903-1914), the relative “booster shot” given to the papacy enabled him to flex his papal muscles and extend his influence in more sweeping ways. And this leads us to the liturgical changes introduced by Pope Pius X.

It was in 1911, with the publication of Divino afflatus, that rather dramatic changes were made to the Roman Breviary. Some of the changes were small: cleaning up some accretions, adjusting the calendar, and giving greater priority to the temporal cycle over the more erratic sanctoral cycle. The obligations of what parts of the office and other prayers had to be said by priests were also clarified. All fine.

But among these changes was a casting aside of the very ancient arrangement of the psalter. Most notably, the ancient and almost universal tradition of praying the Laudate psalms (148-150) every morning and again every night at Compline was simply removed and replaced. No tradition in the Church was as universal and ancient as this, and with one stroke of a pen, Pope Pius X did away with it. Almost no liturgist of that time or since can describe what the Pope did as anything less than dramatic and sweeping.

Alcuin Reid, OSB quotes the views of a number of liturgical scholars on this action by Pope St. Pius X:

1. Anton Baumstark (in a scathing remark): Down to the year 1911 there was nothing in the Christian liturgy of such absolute universality as this practice in the morning office, and no doubt its universality was inherited from the Synagogue … hence, to [this “reform”] of Psalterium Romanun  belongs the distinction of having brought to an end the universal observance of a liturgical practice which was followed by the Divine Redeemer himself during his life on earth.

2. Pius Parsch commented, It is rather amazing that despite the conservative character of the Church Pius X should have resolved on this vast change which went counter to a practice of 1500 years’ standing.

3. Robert Taft, SJ: …this was a shocking departure from the almost universal Christian tradition.

4. William Bonniwell, OP: In the revision of Pius X the venerable office of the Roman Church was gravely mutilated.

All these quotes are from Alcuin Reid’s The Organic Development of the Liturgy (pp. 74-76).

Frankly, Pius X’s move was unprecedented in liturgical history. And though Urban VIII’s unfortunate redaction of the Latin Hymns of the Breviary was also an unfortunate and imprudent mutilation of ancient masterpieces, their use in the Church was less universal than the psalms of Lauds, and the redaction was not imposed by judicial power.

The issue may seem minor to those unfamiliar with the Office, but the precedent of using sweeping judicial power to simply end an ancient tradition is not minor at all. It is the same thinking that would later allow a sweeping change of the Mass to be promulgated in 1970 and for the Old Rite to be “abolished” by judicial fiat of the Pope. The Mass promulgated in 1970 was not specified by the Second Vatican Council Fathers, but by a small consilium. It was not marked by organic change but (as Pope Benedict and others have observed) rather was characterized by a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity. Only later would Pope Benedict XVI teach that there was no precedent for or right to abolish the older form Roman Rite (a rite far older than 200 years).

But all this heavy-handed use of papal power ironically had a precedent in Pope St. Pius X, the favored saint of many lovers of tradition. And there were other liturgical waves that emanated from this indisputably good man and pope that have troubled us since. Among them was the disruption in the order of the Sacraments when Pope Pius X moved First Communion to early youth but did not attend to the Sacrament of Confirmation. Thus the ancient order of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist was disrupted and Confirmation became a kind of “hanging” Sacrament, detached from its liturgical and theological moorings. The result was its reduction to a kind of Catholic Bar Mitzvah and a lot of other questionable paradigms.

Further, Pope Pius X was also dismissive, if not juridically forbidding, of orchestral masses. And while he fostered chant—a good thing—he also suppressed a musical form that had inspired most of the classical composers (e.g., Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven) to contribute to the Church’s musical patrimony. It would be 70 years before such Masses would again be heard widely in the Church.

Again, all these issues are less significant for their immediate effect and more significant for the groundwork they laid for what came later in the century.  The sudden liturgical changes of  the 1960s would not have been possible in previous ages since, though the Pope and Rome were strongly influential, local bishops and churches had a lot more leeway and influence on the Liturgy.

As stated above, this setup is not without its own troubles. Too much diversity leads to chaos and difficulty. Some general norms need to hold sway and regional and even ecumenical councils need to help clean out extreme diversity by reasserting proper liturgical principles.

However, centralizing power over the liturgy within the papacy also presents serious difficulties. Plainly put, the Liturgy is just too important to have it all depend on the notions of one man, even a holy man like Pius X. Many of his reforms were good, even necessary, and his sanctity is not in dispute. But even saints do not get everything right, and some of what they say and do may later be exaggerated or corrupted by those that follow.

In recent decades, traditional Catholics have looked to Rome to resolve liturgical debates. At one level this has been necessary, since many local bishops and churches have seemingly abdicated their responsibility to oversee the Liturgy, correct abuses, and guarantee the legitimate rights of the faithful.

However, traditional Catholics would also do well to understand the problems inherent in having an overly centralized control of the Sacred Liturgy. More needs to be done by traditional Catholics to build a foundation for good Liturgy in the local churches where they reside by building a culture that is respectful of tradition and sober about the pitfalls of depending too much on papal authority.

How strange it is that the paragon of traditional Catholicism should have, even if unwittingly, helped paved the way for the (I would argue) excessive use of supreme judicial authority in regard to the Liturgy, a use so sweeping that even Pope Benedict would have to announce that the suppression of the older Roman Rite was neither possible nor in effect.

Just one of those strange moments in liturgical history.

97 Replies to “Strange Moments In Liturgical History – How a Paragon of Liturgical Tradition May Have Caused Unintended Effects”

  1. Was St Pius’s dismissal of orchestral Mass not part of a long tradition of preferring human voice? And were there not ample church documents banning orchestration?

    1. I recall reading that some of the orchestral masses were up to three hours–not inherently a bad thing– and that Pope St Pius X lamented that the music had become the central focus of the masses, rather than the Holy Sacrifice.

    2. For wind instruments, Pope Saint Pius X actually required (in his motu proprio Instruction on Sacred Music) “the consent of the Ordinary” (see #20) for their use at Mass. So orchestral Masses were limited, but not prohibited, by Pius X.

    3. What about what St Pius X said about the TANGO!!!!!!

      ……”Parents will have to answer to God for exposing their children to this unchristian dance!”

      Thought that would be more important monsigneur.

      Considering the base and absolute lack of morality all over the world , St Pius X saw sin and named it and condemned it. Unlike today’s church heirarchy, sadly.

      1. The Argentine tango is a lewd and distasteful dance that originated in the port bordellos of Buenos Aires . That the pope would even condone, much less admire this dance is bizarre.

  2. I completely agree, dear Monsignor. The bishop of the diocese is the moderator of the liturgy, and each diocese prior to Trent had at least some variance in its liturgy. There is no reason for Rome to centralize like it did *after* Quo Primum. St. Pius V was conservative. Each diocesan chapter had to unanimously vote on adopting the Missale Romanum of 1570 over their own protected usage, and I think it was probably necessary for uniformity in light of the Reformation as well as the cluttered situation of the 14th & 15th centuries that newer missals be abolished. The Quinones Breviary also was a break with tradition, and thankfully Pius V abolished that in 1568.

    It’s pretty amazing that I am in agreement also with both Archimandrite Taft and Fr. Parsch… The former doesn’t care much for the EF, and Fr. Parsch, while doing at least some things I can support, moved far ahead of the church in his practices.

    That being said, until the Roman Office is restored to something much closer to the pre-1911 scheme, I’m more than happy to pray the 1961 Office. Whatever the merits of vernacular liturgy are, the LOTH is weak, and even liberals are unhappy with it (PrayTell blog has some illuminating commentary on that score).

    Further, I am so happy to see someone arguing that St. Pius X neglected Confirmation even as he paid careful attention to Holy Communion. Confirmation ought to be dropped to at least the same time as Communion, if not to infancy. I love Confirmation and the pontifical liturgy accompanying it. But there isn’t a theological reason to limit Confirmation to bishops except for the Easter Vigil and other special cases, though I’d be happy so long as it is dropped below Communion!

    1. In the Diocese where I reside, the Sacrament of Confirmation has been put off until the 8th grade, in an attempt to keep students enrolled in Parochial School.

      Our family, has Byzantine relatives, and it is so beautiful that upon their Baptism, those souls in the Byzantine rite also receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and the tiniest portion of the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. They are fully prepared by their instructors and the Priests for their First Confession and Reception of the Eucharist when they are older, of course, but it is a truly beautiful Baptismal Ceremony and very reverent, Unlike what I have attended lately in the Roman Rite Parishes. My goodness they clap and cheer and never speak of Original Sin; it is just a welcome to the Parish ritual!

  3. I dont know if this bothers others, but i dont like having to stand to pray the Our Father and the sign of peace to otjers. Id much rather remain kneeling after the consecration. Plus doesnt it make sense to make “peace” with my brother prior to offering up my gift? So why wait until after the offertory to make a sign of peace? Is this post Vatican 2 stuff?

    I know Monsignor doesnt like questions, but im just wondering what others think.

    1. In the pre-V2 Roman rite, the Kiss of Peace was exchanged by the three sacred ministers before Communion. That’s probably why it’s there in the Ordinary Form.

      In the Byzantine liturgical tradition, we stand for most of the Divine Liturgy.

      1. Putting the kiss of peace after the consecration diminished respect for the real presence. When God is in the room, suddenly you take your attention off him and focus on people around you in an empty, route, almost fake sign of love that may or may not really exist? It makes perfect sense for the three at the altar to engage in a “symbolic” kiss of peace. To have the whole congregation engage in it merely expands the “symbolic” nature of the act until “symbolic” becomes “fake:”

    2. @ Fuji

      There is an article in Catholic Encyclopaedia (Published 1907-1912) that has a very comprehensive article entitled ‘kneeling and genuflection’ in the context of prayer and in Divine Worship.
      Standing for prayer is in the tradition of the Old Testament. “In the Jewish Church it was the rule to pray standing, except in time of mourning”
      “Christ assumes that standing would be the ordinary posture in prayer of those whom He addressed:” And when you shall stand to pray”, etc. (Mark 11:25)”
      “But when the occasion was one of special solemnity, or the petition very urgent, or the prayer made with exceptional fervour, the Jewish suppliant knelt”

      ” Thus Solomon dedicating his temple “kneeling down in the presence of all the multitude of Israel, and lifting up his hands towards Heaven”, etc. (2 Chronicles 6:13; cf. 1 Kings 8:54). Esdras too: “I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands to the Lord my God” (Ezra 9:5); and Daniel: “opening the windows in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem, he knelt down three times a day, and adored, and gave thanks before his God, as he had been accustomed to do before” (Daniel 6:10), illustrate this practice.
      Of Christ’s great prayer for His disciples and for His Church we are only told that “lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said”, etc. (John 17:1); but of His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani: “kneeling down, he prayed” (Luke 22:41). The lepers, beseeching the Saviour to have mercy on them, kneel (Mark 1:40; cf. 10:17).”

      Standing and kneeling at Holy Mass are in the Biblical tradition and of those used by Jesus Himself.

    3. We kneel out of reverence and adoration for the MOST AWESOME mystery of the Incarnation and the Holy Sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son dying on the Cross for us sinners. He is way higher than a CEO, a president, or a king or queen. He is the King of Kings in all his unspeakable majesty. St John recounts in the Book of Revelation, how, when he was permitted to see Heaven, he encountered Our Lord. Our Lord was so glorious that St John fell down flat at his feet. St John did not jerk his head fractionally (as so many do when greeting Our Lord in the Eucharist, if they do anything). Nor did he say “Hiyah Buddy”, although if anyone had a right to be familiar with Him it was the Beloved Apostle.

    4. Very good question. Well done for asking. The sign of peace does not represent the faithful reconciling themselves before offering their gifts. It is easy to confuse it for this judging by the emphasis these days placed on people greeting each other. Instead, it follows immediately after the Priest conveys to the people the peace of Christ which flows from His Holy Sacrifice on the Cross, which is represented really but unbloodily upon the Altar during Consecration. The idea is that the people communicate to each other this once more freshly given peace, thus promoting unity of the community dimension. The regulation of the Church, sadly abused so often, requires that the Priest MUST NOT LEAVE THE SANCTUARY if he has invited the faithful to exchange a sign of peace. When the Priest romps around the Church hugging and kissing the ladies and greeting the men with all manner of gestures (hi-fives, bops, etc.) the true significance of Christ’s peace which has just been radiated from the Altar is totally lost, and the high point of the Mass becomes a synthetic “feelgood-fest”. Priests: we look to you to have learnt basic principles in Seminary, to live them out, and to teach them clearly and simply so that we can learn to do proper homage to Our Lord. We look to our Pope to defend the honour of our Saviour, the fullness of His truth, and to teach these simply and unambiguously. Please deliver.

      1. Thanks. That it the first time in 40 years that anyone has explained why this kiss of peace is where it is. How far we have deviated from the true meaning. As far as I know it has never been explained to me as anything more than a feel good gesture towards my neighbor in the pew, coming strictly from the person.

  4. Monsignor Pope,

    This article is timely as we remember the 100 years after the death of Pope Saint Pius X. No one questions this Pope was the “hammer of the Modernists” or that he loved Christ. But saints are recognized for holy lives, not perfect decisions…as even great saints can make errors, whether a Saint Andrew of Crete or a Saint Jeanne du Lys.

    Most folks probably are going to focus on the breviary, which is your larger point. But as a young man who has grew up with Confirmation as “choosing the Faith,” as the “Catholic Bar Mitzvah,” I can say this viewpoint is devastating. So many of my K-12 schoolmates given this model no longer practice the Faith. It was of course, not the sole cause of so many in the last twenty years, turning away, but it doesn’t help. Just as infants need baptism; children need the graces imparted by Confirmation.

    And let me read your article again, to the sound of the Lord Nelson mass, recently heard on the Dormition-Assumption. God bless you Monsignor, & God-willing I’ll see you on Epiphany-Theophany.


  5. I’ve given up having an opinion about it all. I just try to do whatever they tell me. I trust even if it’s wrong that God will at least honor my obedience.

      1. Please review the entire catechism’s sections on obeidence. I get the impression that you believe that all Catholics are just to decide for themselves on everything. Conscience is much more than 1) what you think, or 2) what you think after reflection, or 3) what you think after reflection and prayer,or 4)what you think after years of reflection and prayer.

      2. Not always. Only if your conscience has been properly formed with the mind of the Church and conforming with Her teachings.

        The practice of any other form of conscience is merely eth exercise of one’s opinion, which does not rise to the level of conscience.

  6. Msgr Pope,

    A reading of Divino affiatu shows that Pope St Pius X considered the psalter revision to have been called for within the Church, including his considering it a continuation of the work of I Vatican Council.

  7. Msgr Pope stated: “The Mass promulgated in 1970 was not specified by the Second Vatican Council Fathers, but by a small concilium. It was not marked by organic change but (as Pope Benedict and others have observed) rather was characterized by a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.”

    The statement completely dismisses the existence of Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium it being the God-willed catalyst for change and what it absolutely requires, active participation in the liturgy by the faithful, that participation not possible in the EF / TLM.


    1. The “Sloppy” is meant for all of the writings which seek to discredit the works of Vatican II. I would suggest to those who struggle with the NO, don’t blame the popes for disruption; blame God and then ask for forgiveness for faithlessness.

      I think that you have a lot of excellent material in here Msgr Pope, but there are some serious loose ends regarding Fr Benedict’s concern about the NO. Remember that he has stepped down, and we should take that as God’s will – a sign, and not Fr Benedict’s own…and for good reason.

      1. Doesn’t the Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium call for the Mass to be said Latin with Gregorian Chant? I do not think it mentions the priest facing backwards, communion in the hand, armies of Eucharistic ministers and altar girls. All that came after VII with no roots in VII.

    2. Read the quoted sentence again Taylor, read it slowly and less emotionally. Note the distinctions made and avoid using words like “completely” and other absolutes such as “not possible”

      For the record, which I shouldn’t have to refer to since my record on these matters is well known, I celebrate the NO (as you call it) and work with it well. There are many good aspects, and other aspects I would like to see changed (e.g. eastward orientation ). But the whole manner in which the “NO” was instituted did involve a a hermeneutic of discontinuity and it was not a liturgy approved by the Council but by the small concilium (Bugnnini et al) and the Pope. Suppressing the older form (now called the Extraordinary Form) did involve an act that violated the rights of the faithful and jettisoned the prior norm of 200 years etc. The true Mass of the Council is arguably the 1965 Missal, of which I have a copy. It exhibited a lot more continuity. It did provide for greater use of the vernacular but retained the orientation, simplified some rubrics etc. and applied the many of the things SC had delineated. SC is a much more modest reform that the 65 missal missal reflects. But the radically of what came later was a bridge far removed from the 65 missal. Restoring continuity will be a long process.

      1. Father:

        was the 1965 rite published as an Editio Typica, or was it an altera, just implementing the directions of Inter Oecumenici – which came from the Sacred Congregation of Rites?

        1. The frontis says, Ordo Missae Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae C 1965 Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The English translation copyright (for the English reading and prayers) have various copyrights and indicate they were approved in in Rome by the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on October 15, 1965.

      2. ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’ calls for reform and renewal of the liturgy and specifies the ways of doing this. The work was entrusted to a commission appointed by the Pope and bishops of the church, who subsequently endorsed and approved the results of its work, the selfsame Pope and bishops who made up the Council. How can we say, therefore, that the resulting liturgy is not approved by the Council when it is a direct outcome of the Council’s decisions?

        I find that traditionalists tend to exaggerate the discontinuity and rupture involved in the new liturgy. Pope Benedict said that the EF and the OF are two forms of the one Roman Rite. In this light talk of a hermeneutic of rupture is very misleading and continuity is such a weasel word. The question always is, continuity with what? The greatness of Vatican II to my mind lies in its being in continuity with the truest and most authentic tradition of Christian faith and practice and its realising that where they had been distorted and overlaid in the course of time various aspects of that needed to be reformed and renewed, things that we need very much not to be in continuity with. I would instance the distortion of authentic Christianity by the influence of Roman imperialism, even extending to the way we see God, and the accompanying liturgy of grandiose spectacle – the worship of the remote all-powerful deity.

        1. Reginald, the work of the Concilium disregarded parameters laid down by the Council; i.e. that the Latin was to be retained for most of the Mass, except for the readings which were to be read in the vernacular, and that Gregorian Chant was to have “pride of place” compared to all other musical forms. Disingenuous liberals at the Council managed to insert some vaguely worded “exceptions” in SC and true to form, at the diocesan and parish level, their compatriots locally transformed those “exceptions” into the norm to get around the will of the Council.

          A bit of reading might assist you to have a less jaundiced view of Pope Benedict’s knowledge and wisdom of liturgy and the hermeneutic of rupture (a phrase coined and popularized by the pope). I find it amusing that your tone assumes the air of a liturgical expert against his actual authority, both legal and scholarly. Your description of the “need” to undo what came before merely indicates you drank the Kool-Aid years ago while remaining insufficiently informed.

          Oh, I do not consider myself a traditionalist for a number of reasons, but mostly because I am a knowledgeable NO Catholic who is sympathetic to their plight and persecution by “spirit of VII” liberals over the years. I don’t support their anger but I understand it in light of that persecution, which seemingly has been revitalized and escalated to new heights in the oppression and persecution of at least two religious orders under the new regime.

    3. “The statement completely dismisses the existence of Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium it being the God-willed catalyst for change what it absolutely requires, active participation in the liturgy by the faithful, that participation not possible in the EF / TLM.”

      I think this is begging the question. One can’t assume that Sacrosanctum Concilium was “God-willed” in the sense that He actively willed change in the Roman Rite. Furthermore one can’t assume that active participation isn’t possible in the older form.

      Last, one can’t assume that the newer form of the Mass was what was willed by the Council.

      1. First, “participation” doesn’t mean you have to be doing something other thanpraying with the servers, much lessas as banal as clapping or hand shaking… the Dialogue Mass should have been enough of a concession to such ideas, even if it misses the larger theological point: we need God, but God does not need us.

        1. Monsignor Pope, if I may link to an article relevant to the topic of “full, conscious, and active participation,” Peter Kwasniewski wrote an excellent article a few days ago comparing the Ordinary Form to the Extraordinary Form in terms of the participation of the faithful. He’s goes so far as to argue that the Extraordinary Form provides the faithful a better opportunity to participate.

          1. I have read, studied, and discussed SC with other Catholics a few years back, and I suspect several commenters here have as well. However, we can hardly say more because you have failed to specify who you are addressing and where your disagreement lies.

    4. “active participation in the liturgy by the faithful, that participation not possible in the EF / TLM”? One participates at Mass predominantly by prayer and showing due reverence. This is about getting to Heaven, not getting entertained. The prayers can easily be followed by reading the Missal. The translation is all there, plain as a pike-staff. It is ironic that in this age of almost universal literacy that the Priest has to do very much more at Mass by reading out those parts that he would normally pray silently on behalf of all the people, all because it would be too much like hard work for the congregation to be expected to do a little reading. To follow the Mass in the Missal faithfully, perhaps with struggle to keep up, is surely much better participation than vacantly waiting for the Priest to finish saying “his bit” before we can do fun things like sing kumbayah and “Happy Birthday”, none of which will get us to Heaven nor direct our thoughts there.

  8. Less than 15%. That is the number of Catholics who reside in the Archdiocese of New York that attend Sunday Mass regularly. The NYT this week published an article about another round of planned parish closures coming right on the heels of closures this past Fall. No one seems overly alarmed, which is troubling. Is it possible that one of the reasons could be what Msgr. Pope is discussing here?

    1. Yes. To be fair, there are surely a lot of issues as your “one of the reasons” comment states. We been through a cultural revolution unimaginable 60 yrs ago. But it did not help that the liturgy and the Church overall took us on so wild and unpredictable a ride. All our moorings were swept away and the place where we could have found some refuge from the storm and sure advice was largely in disarray and redfining itself from moment to moment and uncertain of its own teachings. Things have improved since the 70s and 80s (thank God for the Catechism) but as the last turmoil in Rome over the Synod shows, we are still in an easily confused stance.

  9. Alcuin Reid’s history is an interesting reductio ad absurdum; it’s funny how hard it is for the anti-Vatican II crowd to see this. In order to really hate on liturgical reform, you end up having to say Pius X is a modernist.

    Second, and more profoundly, you have to determine that your (private) interpretation of the tradition is correct (indeed infallible) and a century of popes are wrong. Pius X read his reforms to be in line with the tradition; his detractors have to say that their read of the tradition is right and his wrong. The central question is what is truly essential — just as later the question arises whether what is essential to the Vulgate is that it is in Latin, or that it is (as the name implies) in what was for a millennium the vulgar tongue.

    I agree that “the Liturgy is just too important to have it all depend on the notions of one man.” Would that people saw that Alcuin Reid is also “one man” — and, like Luther, standing against the papacy.

    The view that private interpretations of the tradition trump the pope’s interpretation of the tradition — of a century of popes and an ecumenical council — is simply Anglicanism, or maybe eastern Orthodoxy.

    Finally, note the plain contradiction, too, of Benedict XVI. Fr. Pope: “The Mass promulgated in 1970 was not specified by the Second Vatican Council Fathers, but by a small concilium. It was not marked by organic change but (as Pope Benedict and others have observed) rather was characterized by a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.” Has anyone actually bothered to read Summorum Pontificum? Because Pope Benedict said EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE: “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.” The rupture is in the way the new missal was USED, not the missal itself. That is BXVI’s position; Fr. Pope directly rejects that interpretation.

    Note that the very name of the document, “Summorum pontificum,” is precisely aimed at Alcuin Reid’s thesis. The papacy is not the enemy of tradition, or of right worship — at least not in BXVI’s read. He begins, “The Supreme Pontiffs have to this day shown constant concern that the Church of Christ should offer worthy worship to the Divine Majesty.” Then he argues that the great popes throughout history HAVE taken concern for the liturgy: “Eminent among the Popes who showed such proper concern was Saint Gregory the Great. . . . ” “Outstanding among them was Saint Pius V, who in response to the desire expressed by the Council of Trent, renewed with great pastoral zeal the Church’s entire worship, saw to the publication of liturgical books corrected and “restored in accordance with the norm of the Fathers,” and provided them for the use of the Latin Church.” “It was towards this same goal that succeeding Roman Pontiffs directed their energies during the subsequent centuries in order to ensure that the rites and liturgical books were brought up to date and, when necessary, clarified. From the beginning of this century they undertook a more general reform. Such was the case with our predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII.”

    Would that lovers of the liturgy would rally to the side of the Church, instead of attacking her.

    1. Alcuin Reid is not the subject of this post. And what you describe as his thesis is not his Thesis. For the record his work is scholarly and not the way you describe it at all. He has plenty of challenges for traditional minded folks too who dispute some of his views. Overall, what he writes is well documented and the forward from the Book is from Pope Benedict.

      Your use of the phrase “exact opposite” is too strong. I do not argue any “contradiction” in my remarks, I am speaking of continuity vs discontinuity, organic change vs. rupture. Contradiction is not a word I use.

      I will let others respond to the rest of your remarks which I think are far to strong and an absolutizing of what is written and interpreted through a hermeneutic of suspicion and cynicism. e.g. words like “absurd” are not necessary for a fine and scholarly work like Reid’s Feel free to disagree with me (or him), but why not just state your views instead of trying to directly engage me (or Alcuin Reid). Just say what you think. You don’t need to try and discredit others or try to insert hostile interpretations rooted (possibly) in your own anger. Just say what you think. For example you could say: “I don’t think there is discontinuity and here’s why…” or “I think Pope Benedict is being misconstrued here and here is why. He says “….” and thus I think he should be understood to being saying ‘…'” IOW you don’t need to go after people, just stay with the topic. Say what you mean, mean what your say, but don’t say it mean.

    2. Tradition is what is handed down and received, so it to state that St. Pius X radical breviary reform was not traditional is simply stating a fact, not private opinion. He took what was given to him, a Psalter in use for many centuries, and forbid its use by priests of the Roman Rite. That is not tradition.

    3. “The central question is what is truly essential — just as later the question arises whether what is essential to the Vulgate is that it is in Latin, or that it is (as the name implies) in what was for a millennium the vulgar tongue.”

      The truly essential is reverence for Our Lord, who is Christ the King. “King” is a concept that is most often not understood. Too often “King’ is thought to mean some kind of Elvis Presley, nothing higher. A real King has power, majesty and glory (and all the more so when he chooses not to exercise it). He is held in awe, right fear, admiration and love to the point of wanting to lay down one’s life for his designs. Our Lord is the highest of kings. Justice requires that we give Him the highest reverence and honour. That is not done when we are “self absorbed promethean” neo-entertainment seekers. We need to return to being more Christocentric rather than egocentric. Pope Benedict XVI brilliantly condemned the transient religious titillation of liturgical practices which are intended to interest and entertain rather than honour the Blessed Trinity.

      BTW, the language of the liturgy in the very early Roman (ie Latin speaking) Church, was Greek, and the liturgy was more structured than even the EF/TLM. The language used is intended to promote reverence, not familiarity.

  10. Pope St. Pius V, the great Dominican pope that implemented many of the reform of Tent, is probably to blame for promulgating a universal Missal. Turns out, centralization of power is never a good thing.

  11. An interesting post. There were, indeed, changes done under St. Pius X that were not – perhaps in hindsight – desirable. However a problem with the breviary before 1911 was that the psalter was hardly every recited in its entirety in a given week. It was to all intents and purposes, sadly defunct. Pope Pius X, and the revisers of the breviary, had to try to find a way which allowed the psalter to be recited in its entirety as much as possible while at the same time keeping the great veneration and devotion which the Latin Church has for the saints. While this reform was certainly not beyond criticism, it was certainly a good solution.The psalms were ‘spread out’, and this was not without precedent – e.g. ps. 118, and the reform made to the office of Prime in the first edition of the breviary. To impose the old and, although venerable – like so many things from the Early Church, defunct psalter – on every priest every week would have been a great burden, and also the problem remains with how this could be accommodated with the sanctoral, where the festal psalms were largely, almost daily, used for Matins, Lauds and Vespers. Interestingly Alcuin Reid, in the book you quoted from, said of the reforms of Pius X, that while ‘the abolition of ancient elements of the received tradition was to the detriment of the Roman breviary… this break with tradition was not so great as to be complete: the structure of the breviary
    remained the same, the texts of the offices themselves were not completely recast, and the redistribution of the psalter followed traditional and not purely Gallican lines’: Reid, ‘The Organic Development of the Liturgy’, p. 67. So I think we should have a little sympathy with the problems faced by Pius X, even though we see now the pitfalls of certain reforms. What happened under BL. Paul VI was far worse.

    1. I think you have good points here Rev. Fr. There were necessary and good revisions needed for the breviary and there is always the on-going struggle of the sanctoral cycle overwhelming the more systematic following of the yearly patterns of psalms and readings. I find that a problem today as well. I almost always prefer the readings slated for “daily mass” over the options related to the saint of the day since I strongly prefer the lectio continua of the daily lectionary. Luckily we can almost always stay with those, but the occasional “feast” and surely solemnities often required us to veer away from the lectio continua and that is not without challenges. At any rate the tension is always there and requires a sort of house cleaning from time to time. So I am not disputing that many good things were done and needed.

      The “object lesson” for me in this is to avoid “allowing” such processes to simply devolve to the level of a small group or one man (though holy and Pope). Care is necessary and many traditionalists (for the reasons stated in the article) have been too willing to send everything to the pope’s desk. This something to be more sober and more careful about. At least that is the lesson I take. Recent revisions especially with the translation, though lengthy I think were more inclusive and careful. But even there, some Vatican Official (unnamed) made MANY last minute changes to the “new translation” so carefully vetted throughout the English speaking world AFTER the Bishops had approved it. Some of the revisions seemed arbitrary and violated the consisted rules used throughout and involved mistakes that a first year Latin student would not have made. Many at ICEL were shocked and many Bishops infuriated. But the “official” remained unnamed and the changes stood. All stage and very “top-down” Anyway, a lot of lessons learned.

      So we need the Pope to referee our differences and make final decisions but liturgy is too important to simply relegate it to Rome and some of us more traditional minded folks need to take this into consideration even as we appeal local issues to Rome.

      1. Thank you Mgr. for your thoughts on this. Respect for liturgical tradition and ‘legitimate organic growth’ are something which need to be re-discovered in the Western Latin Rite, ‘the liturgy as it is received’ is what I think Jungmann called it. God bless you.

        1. But surely, the Breviary (though vital) is one thing, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is something altogether more important?

          Some changes from the EF/TLM to the post V2 Mass were major breaks with tradition with its profound theological and pastoral rationale, and we are not just talking about the dropping of Latin. If these changes were intended to inspire people to return to the faith they failed spectacularly. The fruits of these changes are obvious: indifference, boredom, lack of vocations, self-deception about the true nature of mercy, creation of God in one’s own image and likeness, all of which pave the broad road to perdition.

    2. @Fr. Anselm,

      Yes, the ancient psalter existed more in theory than in fact in the centuries immediately before 1911. To accomplish a return of the possibility of praying all 150 psalms, it should have been noted that there was a significant increase of Duplex feast days in the span between Trent and 1911 which lead to the problem of the psalter’s neglect. When S. Pius V cleaned the calendar in 1570, there was a fairly good balance between the temporal and sanctoral cycles; a given week outside the very festal times had a decent chance of praying all 150 psalms or an amount very close to all. An alternative, and in my view, correct, option to deal with the problem as it came to be by 1911, would have been to prune the calendar again. And seriously, did every canonized saint who was added to the calendar after 1570 have to given the noble rank of Duplex/Double? It seems counterintuitive to assign a S. Aloysius Gonzaga the same rank as a S. Ambrose. To me, most of those new post-Trent saints should have been assigned a Simplex rank while particular orders or dioceses could have observed their home saints with higher dignity. Yes, the Duplex Office allowed one a reprieve in terms of time and all the extra Suffragia and Preces under the old system, but one of the greatest ironies is that the Pian reform made the festal Office more burdensome than the ferial!

      1. This is the real crux of the issue. The latent struggle between the sanctoral and temporal have been continuous in the Church.

        At the same time, Fr. Bonniwell OP reports how badly the Dominican Breviary was effectively destroyed and replaced with a Dominican Use of the Roman Breviary. Divino Afflatu should not have been inflicted on Regulars at all. They should have been left their own calendar, Missal, and Breviary that they so carefully preserved for seven centuries and alone preserved the ancient Roman Office.

        In hindsight, a calendar reform was very much needed though the complete reorganization was not. It would have been more advisable to eliminate the Greater Double rank, reclassify 16th and 17th century Italian confessors as Simplex or Semi-Doubles or to local calendars and off the universal calendar. Rubrics could have mandated use of the Ferial Psalter in place of the Sunday/Festal Psalms for anything but a feast of Our Lord, instead of a complete reorganization. To reduce the burden on the clergy, the obligation to recite the entire cursus could have been dispensed (after the first five Psalms at Lauds, for example) while leaving the Breviary structure itself intact – and lauded, perhaps with indulgences attached to encourage their full usage with the understanding it wouldn’t be possible for many parish priests. This wouldn’t have given precedent to a far less carefully well thought reform of the Missal under the sole basis of papal authority.

  12. Were these Psalms actually said twice a day year-round? I note that they each contain the word that is generally not said during Lent (and, in those days, during Septuageisma). Or was that word omitted during those seasons?

    Seems that the world is in need of Ps. 149 more now than ever.

    1. No, they were a consistent feature of Morning Prayer (lauds) much like the invitatory (Psalm 95 or other options) is today. Night Prayer also featured the a fixed set of psalms that was the same each night, though I am less familiar with that issue.

  13. I believe the Laudate Psalms have ever only been used daily at Lauds and not at Compline also. They are still said daily at Lauds in the traditional monastic office.

  14. Absolutely agree. The change to the psalter was drastic, as St. Pius X himself recognized.

    Most lay Catholics don’t know the obligation, or “job”of the cleric is not the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which is an immense privilege), but the recitation of the Office aka Hours. The changes to the Mass were not demanded by the laity, but led by prelates who came into their own after the changes to the breviary.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium allowed for some use of the vernacular, but certainly did not ban Latin. Same with chant, which was instead exalted as especially suitable, yet was completely lost to the vast majority of parishes within a generation. No Council document called for the iconoclasm that pulled down the high altars & destroyed so much beautiful art or stole 17 centuries of tradition from the next generation.

  15. “liturgy is too important to simply relegate it to Rome”

    Other than the Pope, who is Patriarch of the Latin Church, who would have legislative authority over liturgy?

  16. I do not understand, Monsignor. You offer the Novus Ordo. You point out its discontinuity ( as did Pope Benedict). No bishop can order you to say the NO. You mentioned Bugnini ( a freemason as you know but did not say, see the warning that Italian journalist Tito Cassini sent to Paul VI about Bugnini). So, why use the Novus Ordo? Why face the people ever? I do not get it with you priests who see the problem but go along to get along. Be a real man of God. Stop saying this pathetic excuse for a liturgy. If you cannot do that, how can you expect to be taken seriously on the issues that you so admirably hold the Catholic position for? I do not understand!

    1. Well, maybe it is because all of us human beings need to learn to live in the world as it is, rather than the world as it ought to be. Most change needs to happen organically and slowly. Grace builds on nature. The Novus Ordo is the Mass attended by 98% of Catholics. I serve Catholics, I am a pastor of souls. I engage in discussions to open doors and the lay the groundwork for on-going reform. I am no radical. I am going to guess Kelso that I could find many areas of your life where you wish things were different, say in your career or family. Would you just walk away if things are not 100%? Probably not, you’d stay, work with what you could and try to move the ball. On the other hand maybe you are a radical who can and does live in a tiny little stovepipe where only a very few like-minded can fit. I dunno, but I want to walk all over Galilee with Jesus, be able to engage people in Samaria and Jerusalem, cause that’s where people are. They are all in various stages of a journey and attached to different traditions and liturgical preferences. As long as the Church permits it, I am willing to meet them there and encourage them to see things they may not have considered. Burning bridges to others tends only to isolate, I prefer to reach people on a broad range of issues, but telling them they’re no damn good or unmanly because they don’t always face east or say the NO is neither true nor advisable.

      As for you Kelso, you may wish to avoid personal attacks and questioning the character of people you don’t agree with. I don’t know if Bugninni was a Mason or not. I don’t like some of what he did, so I’ll focus on that instead of passing on hearsay, which could be a very serious sin if it destroys another’s reputation. If Bugninni was a mason, shame on him, but unless you are very sure, and not just passing on hearsay, then shame on you and off to the confessional with you. I’ll warn further and say to you that you might wish to consider your pride and anger which seem evident here. If you don’t and they continue to lead you to the kind of nasty and unnesscary attacks you do here, you could go to hell. Is that manly enough for you?

      Your assessment of my character is also out of line. You don’t even know me. And while I am no judge in my own case, I can reasonably assert that I I am a “real man,” I am surely no coward, I am out here every day blogging under my own name. I just don’t follow your narrower agenda exactly. You ought to repent of your character assassinations. I don’t owe my manhood to your “pathetic” (to use your word) assessment.

      Learn to meet people where they are Kelso and start having conversations rather than assassinations.

    2. Kelso, you are too extreme with criticism. You know how to drive don’t you? You don’t immediately step on the break at high speed because the car will skid or flip over.

      98% of Catholics attend the NO mass (Novus Ordo), so what do you want the Msgr. to do?
      But HE IS OFFERING THE TLM to steer people to the right direction.

      Pope Benedict and Msgr. Pope are doing their best to steer the ship to the right place and IT AIN’T EASY.
      Welcome to the world after Original Sin where some bishops and priests sinned and do STUPID PROTESTANTS STUFF in the Catholic Church.

      Ever heard of Judas?
      Ever heard of Martin Luther?

      Eventually, things will turn around for the better. Because the Church is the Bride of Christ even though some of her children are sinful.

    3. The simple fact is that most Catholics, at this point, vastly prefer the Novus Ordo to the TLM. In my opinion, this is primarily because of ignorance and a great deal of propaganda that has been sown. But priests will, and should, say the mass that most people will come to. What good does it do if you say the TLM and most people turn away? We have tried twice to get the TLM going in our parish but have not yet been able to get the required stable group. More education is needed. That’s all. A good Novus Ordo is still a good and holy mass. So much depends on the attitude of the priest. A good priest can turn the Novus Ordo into as holy a moment as the TLM ever was. The fact that the TLM is perhaps better and deeper does not turn the Novus Ordo into something that is bad.

      I consider the Novus Ordo a “mass for beginners” The TLM is for advanced people, who know what the mass is all about, know and understand the prayers, and are ready to participate in their hearts as the priest offers sacrifice. Most Catholics are not there yet. We are still recovering from “the great drought” of catechesis

    4. The Mass of Paul VI can be celebrated in a more catholic way, or it can be celebrated in a more protestant way, in it’s ethos. The choice is in the hands of the individual priest and it is up to him to do his best to celebrate it according to that which his forefathers would identify as catholic.

      I sympathize with both the perspective of Kelso and Fr. Charles. On some level I agree with what both are have said. Different people have different abilities to compromise. Some will feel others have compromised too much, while others may be seen as too rigorous in a refusal to do so. Finding moderation is difficult, but it is key.

      Here is the middle ground as I see it. While I would not fault a priest for pointing out superior qualities of the 1962 Missal compared to 1973 Missal. I would fault a priest for continueing to celebrate both with a wide range of discrepancy between them when he has the option to celebrate both forms in a manner which is more consistently similar. Pope Benedict had a vision of avoiding that discrepancy.

      If there is a conscientious decision to celebrate the Mass of Paul VI in a way that is lacking in majesty, reduced toward simplicity, and with a protestant ethos, that is the where a priest will be accountable before God. Unless of course he does not know any better, which is often the case. This is why we must be merficul toward priests personal character. we can judge if some decisions appear to be mistaken, but the reasons for them are often,from his perspective, beyond his control.

      In other words, one can have a Mass of the Missal of Paul VI and continue to celebrate it facing eastward. One can incorporate the sung propers of the mass in english language, according to the book “The American Gradual” or “Simple English Propers”. One can in fact celebrate a Novus ordo mass with traditional music. This is what is done at most anglo-catholic Parishes. To the extent that Holy comforter and St. Cyprian diverges from St. Paul’s on K Street, there is a problem. Both could have the similar music used, but is this the case? If it is not the case, that is a problem.

      I too have a copy of the 1965 missal. I recognize it as being a reasonable compromise at this time, and basically a tridentine mass in english. It probably will be recognized as a missal to use someday in the future, along with or in conjunction to the anglican catholic “anglican use” missal(s). The Ordinariates of St. Peter and Our Lady of Walsingham point toward the future direction of the Mass in vernacular or at least other liturgical languages.

  17. Excellent article, Monsignor – the role of St. Pius X’s changes in laying the groundwork for future changes is seriously underestimated.

    I think the challenge in balancing season vs. saint that the Roman Rite (in whatever form) has is the way the feasts of saints are handled. For the last millennium at least, if not slightly longer, the Office and Mass of a feast essentially displaces those of the season; this is mitigated somewhat in the 1960 rubrics and in the NO during Lent and to some extent Advent, but was not the case for many centuries. I recall reading that this came about because originally the ferial office was always said, and then a smaller festal office in memory of the saint of the day was added to the end – perhaps the origin of the old “double feast” terminology? Anyway, as the cult of saints grew throughout the Middle Ages, the original ferial element withered away until it was replaced entirely by the celebration of the saint, which used the festal psalmody; only during Advent and Lent and a handful of other ferial days (e.g., Ember Days) was the ferial office even commemorated.

    In contrast, the Byzantine Rite, both canonical hours and Divine Liturgy, are quite fixed day to day, and festal elements are inserted at particular points into the fixed schema, rather than having its own “office.” Thus there are no “ferias” in the Byzantine Rite – every day has saint’s feasts observed. The number of saints on the calendar can and does continue to grow, with no pressure to prune it over the centuries, because the multiplication of commemorated saints does fairly little to change the day’s celebrations.

    I certainly wouldn’t advocate the Roman Rite becoming the Byzantine, but it is probably worth noting that the way the cult of saints became expressed in the second-millennium Roman Rite is in a way the source of the perpetual season vs. saint “problem.”

  18. Sheesh……the liberals and modernists did some real damage to the Church after Vatican II (and still are unfortunately). We lost a lot.

  19. Stunning.

    “Thus the ancient order of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist was disrupted and Confirmation became a kind of “hanging” Sacrament, detached from its liturgical and theological moorings.” I may have noticed this myself from a different point of view. The Catechism says: “1310 To receive Confirmation one must be in a state of grace.” We all know in time the quality of catechesis is at times questionable. So what of someone who isn’t in the state of grace who receives Confirmation?

  20. Interesting that you should mention Pius X as a liturgical “modernizer” – I’ve always seen it that way actually. It’s pretty clear that the road to the Novus Ordo began with Pius X. But even though I’m a devoté of the TLM, I still think that’s a good thing. I know the point of your article was more about the use of papal authority than the changes themselves but here’s why I think Pius’ (and ultimately John XXIII’s) changes were good.

    I see the history of the breviary as moving from something only monks would do, to something all priests would do and ultimately all laypeople. The ultimate underlying theory behind the NO/LOTH is that laypeople should be more engaged in the mass and office. That’s what Pius began both with his changes to the office and his prohibition on orchestral masses. From my experience I can tell you that the single biggest obstacle to me praying the breviary (I try and try!) is repetition. I know it sounds bad… But praying the same psalms every day is just laborious sometimes, and I feel I’m just “going through the motions). Whatever the other potential criticisms of the LOTH, I don’t think there’s any argument that it solved that “problem” and the result is a breviary that is much friendlier to laypeople. The precursor to the LOTH was the genius (IMHO) changes of John XXIII (changing double, semi double, simple, etc to a simple I, II, III class scheme that is much easier for the average person to work with).

    With the mass, my opinion is that even though orchestral masses are beautiful, they definitely diminish my engagement. Like I said, I’m a whole-hog TLM guy, and I love to join in singing the Gregorian chant. But when there’s an orchestral (or even polyphonic) mass, I feel more like I’m just listening. Not totally disengaged, but definitely less of a sense that I’m ‘present’ at the mass. I think that’s what’s Pius was aiming at fixing.

    1. A little public service announcement here — if there are men who like to sing at High Mass, there is likely a local Gregorian chant schola that would love to have you join!

  21. God bless you, Msgr. Pope! Your clarity and perspective (both historical and pastoral) are an inspiration to the bewildered average Catholic, such as myself, sitting in the pews between his factional brethren. I’m totally in agreement with your logic. Please keep fighting the good fight. This is an important article for the faithful facing these ecclesial issues in every day parish life.

  22. Funny, this eye-opening post comes just as I’ve begun to pray parts of the ’62 (or ’60?) Breviary. It has left my head spinning a bit. It hasn’t discouraged me from persisting with the old breviary. It has made me want to study Reid’s book. And more on the history of the liturgy, too.

    Your citations about the reactions to SPX’s reforms are quite interesting. As is the thesis of the effects of the consolidation of liturgical influence in the person of the Pope. I’m reaching back into dusty corners of my liturgical education, but the substantial integration of the Roman Liturgy was itself a powerful move on the part of Gregory the Great, or some other significant pontiff, no? Perhaps, while the breadth of SPX’s reforms might not have been completely unprecedented, they are still the sort that come around every thousand-or-so years. And perhaps history will reveal these last hundred-or-so years as part of an era of similarly needful top-down reform.

    Top-down reform can have powerful far-reaching effect. But, I’m discovering that when that reform does finally reach street level it’s still flesh and blood, hearts and souls that have to carry it out. The practicality of good reform can take quite some time to be worked out by the ordinary faithful as well as require quite a bit of care.

  23. Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, spoke of the church’s liturgy as being “corrected” and “reformed” continuously from above. Reading that greatly boosted my sense of confidence and assurance, in the light of all the experimentation we’ve seen.

  24. Interesting topic and comments, esp. for laity like me who has stayed with the rosary …

    The article helped with looking up more on the issues and has been almost shocked at the mention on Pope Paul V , how he promulgated the MIssal and the breviary , with the declaration that nothing can be added or omiited from same ‘forever ‘ , without coming under the wrath of God and the Apostles !

    Does that mean that the alterations can only be done at the papal level …

    and if the Dogma of Papal Infallibility has been a merciful way to circumvent such declarations , taking away from them , the ‘perpetual ‘ character of the declaration , by making them less in its intented role …( that Dogma was seemingly allowed and brought forth , by The Spirit , mostly to help the Orthodox , to free them from hidden , possibly enforced pacts with the Islamic rulers, with its destructive effects – the swallowing of the camels or camelisation, which The Lord had warned against !)

    Picked up the good point that the more ‘pleasant ‘ praise psalms are there to be recited even daily ..

    Wonder if there are more mysterious reasons why Bl.Mother invite persons to stay with /say the Rosary ( whch is all that , may be many lay people could manage ; have tried for some of the more ‘difficult ‘ /vindictive psalms , to be more of compassion / deliverance by being on the side of the sinner too – ‘have mercy on us ‘ , as in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy .

    On this birthday of Pope Francis , one who seems to like simplicity , wonder if he has plans to bring surprise /freedom , including focus on perinent issues of the times such as more emphasis on need for ministry of deliverance !

  25. Very fine article and I’m very pleased to see this issue raised on a mainstream blog. I am willing to go a step further and say the increasing centralization of power in the Papacy since Vatican I has had deleterious effects on more than just the liturgy. Everyone hangs on every word of the pope as if doctrine is changed at his mere whim. Many of Newman’s criticisms have proven rather accurate and I think we need to move back towards the proper view of the role of the Pope as guardian of doctrine and Tradition, instead of as a dictator of the Church that is infallible in all things.

  26. I do not think I have ever been to any mass other than NO. I would like to.

    The Church is large and complex and simply cannot turn on a dime, nor should it. Moving in the direction of a return to ancient traditions will be effected as God permits. None of what has transpired in the last 100 years has been contrary to His will.

    It is so easy for us to sit as judge and jury on the matter. We can easily throw out blame and kudos as we see aspects of our own personal sensibilities come to light in all this. But being human, we are notoriously near sighted. We cannot know how the last 100 years will impact the next 100, or even get a whole picture of how it has impacted the present.

    As I said, I would like to attend a mass in traditional form. I would like to attend a mass in Latin. Sadly, the bishop of my diocese has been notoriously obstinate on such matters. Few Latin masses are allowed, and until I began to read Fr Pope’s blog, I had no idea the current form was liturgically “new”.

    Blessed be The Lord. His will is all I need.

  27. While on the matter of the Laudate psalms you may be right, several previous popes had already tinkered with the arrangement of the psalter, so St. Pius X’s reform cannot be dismissed as unprecedented. If someone wants the real deal for a primitive arrangement, he should go back to reciting psalms 1-108 in large 18-psalm lumps in the morning and 109-147 in the evenings. Two stops in church is all you need.

    On orchestral Masses, I suspect what the Pius X had in mind was not so much Mozart, Haydn and Schubert, but the their 19th century schlock imitators. The Manfred Hoessl site has acres of this junk, and many of the scores from Germany and Austria are unusable because they leave out substantial parts of the texts for the Gloria and the Creed.

    As regards confirmation, church law still prescribed that it be conferred BEFORE First Communion, and this continued to be the practice in in many places, but it also allowed it to be conferred afterwards where this was not practical, due, presumably, to the unavailability of a sufficient number of bishops.

    1. I think your distinctions here are helpful. Re the Breviary, it is clear enough that it had been adapted and overhauled a good deal down through the centuries. I suppose though that is what makes the incising of the Lauds psalms so significant, namely that they were such a fixed feature of an otherwise changing landscape. The Breviary has indeed had a tension in that what is an essentially monastic cycle comes to be required of parish priests who live very different lives.

      The main point of the article is not to magnify or oversimplify the particulars of these examples, but more to set forth an object lesson that centralized papal authority over the Liturgy is a two edged sword and that those who love tradition must be sober that one Pope may take up their cause, but there may “arise a Pharaoh who knows not Joseph.” I’m not sure were the real solution lies, except to say that the piety of the faithful, and their devotion, along with reform and intensity in Consecrated religious is what usually drives reform, not popes and bishops, or priests. And thus lovers of Tradition ought to build their case locally by holy lives, big families, evangelical outreach, etc. Not just rely on “Rome”

    2. Terrific points, Father Cekada. The 1922 “black list” captures many of the schlock and schmatlz:

      The good news is young adults today recognize the name “Palestrina” and seem to prefer sacred polyphony to late 19th and early/mid/late 20th century liturgical music. Coupled with a near-universal appreciation of Gregorian chant since the mid-1990s (thank you, Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos!) we are moving in the right direction of restoration. Now it’s just a matter of more choirs working to sing the music.

  28. Informative and well-written post, Msgr. I wanted to ask for a little clarification on your statement that “It would be 70 years before [orchestral] Masses would again be heard widely in the Church.” What I’ve read elsewhere seems to indicate that there were more orchestral Masses in the years before the novus ordo than afterward. Is there evidence to the contrary, as your post seems to suggest? I do know that St. Pius X made an exception to the restrictions of his motu proprio specifically for Vienna, which you can read about in Fr. Anthony Ruff’s book Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform.

    I’m too young to remember the “old days” myself, and I’m a convert, so none of my family can fill me in on Catholic practice before the changes. My impression from talking to musically-inclined older Catholics is that while Low Mass was the norm in most churches even on Sundays and holy days, most of the High Mass music in parishes fell into the following categories: 1) psalm-tone propers, 2) hymns of varying quality sung by unison voices, and for the ordinary either 3) 19th-century drivel (like what Fr. Cekada referred to above), 4) Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis), or 5) Mass XVIII (Mass for the Dead). Then, as now, those who had orchestral Masses by great composers were very fortunate, but I do think one was more likely to find an orchestral Mass in the old days versus today. Now we have wealthy parishes with thousands of families that offer the likes of “On Eagle’s Wings” and “Here I Am, Lord” led by amplified soloists at multiple weekend Masses, and this is supposed to be an improvement over the old model of several Low Masses in the morning plus one High Mass at noon with orchestra and chanted propers.

  29. @John King As a devotee of the Liturgy of the Hours myself I appreciate your perspective. My own ideal for the prayer of the Church would be something like a pyramid of prayer: the current LOTH for the laity, though with the ENTIRE AND UNEDITED psalter included (the psalms should never have been edited; that was a travesty), something like the Breviarium Romanum for the clergy and active orders, and a monastic office for the contemplative orders. But that is just my opinion.

  30. On Gallicanism. In some areas, it was not the continuation of local usages, but was tied into 18th-century Febronianism, embracing notions of a “rational” clarity and simplicity of signs in liturgical worship, along with a greater independence for local Churches that sometimes slid toward state control. This sort of thing started under Franz Joseph in Austria and was tied into anti-Papalism and rationalism in France. Unfortunately, it contributed also to a reaction, a slide toward an equation between Catholic identity and authoritarian loyalty to the Pope — which ironically laid the groundwork for the wholesale abandonment of tradition in the wake of Vatican II, a papally-convoked council. A lot of this is dealt with in summary and useful fashion in Aidan Nichols’ book “Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of Its Contemporary Form.”

  31. Many new facts and viewpoints in this article (as usual on this blog), but what I’ll keep is this quote:

    “More needs to be done by traditional Catholics to build a foundation for good Liturgy in the local churches where they reside by building a culture that is respectful of tradition”

    Attributing right or wrong in discussions on tradition and modernism is very hard.

    Today I had a discussion with the children on how to make the sign of the cross. It was clearly for them only a detail, why should we do it this way or that way, what does it matter? The discussion went on much too far, my fault, I regret, but then I wondered… My great (great…) grandparents had no schools and learned their children how to make the sign of the cross. My grandparents had great catholic schools to which they delegated the learning of the sign of the cross to their children. My parents were thaught the sign of the cross in school, so they assumed my ‘catholic’ school would do the same to me. Bummer. I’ve started from scratch and now I’m back to square one. No catholic schools around and I’m again trying to learn my children how to make the sign of the cross. (OK, the history is dramatized quite a bit, but you get the idea?)

    My great grandparents were raising their kids in the Pius X era. Lots of things have changed tremendously since then, some for better, some for worse. Some driven by the papal forces that he relieved, some out of his control. At least in my country (Belgium), catholicism has boomed in the mid of the 20th century because of the excellent system of (government-funded) catholic schools, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that this system has in fact disempowered families of transferring faith. Maybe the ubiquitous catholic schooling system was even at the cause of the 60s movements ‘against the systems’? I won’t say, but my bottom line is that faith belongs to the families. If faith doesn’t grow in the family, it won’t grow at school either. Delegating faith education may work, but only if it’s experienced strong within the family as well.

    Now we shouldn’t make this mistake again!

    PS. I’ve no intent to blame my parents or grandparents of anything, but this is how I feel history has made some mistakes that may have seemed like a very good idea all along…

  32. Regarding the orchestral Masses of the classical ‘Viennese’ school, notably the six late Haydn Masses, the five by Hummel and the Beethoven Mass in C, which were written for the Esterhazy court, I have it on good authority that they would not have been part of a Solemn or sung Mass. The soloists, choir and orchestra would have performed them against the background of a Low Mass. The late Beethoven Mass in D (the ‘Missa Solemnis’) is a different matter since it was expressly written for a solemn occasion (the archiepiscopal consecration of the Archduke Rudolf) but it was not ready in time and its use liturgically would do no favours either to the liturgy or to the work itself.

    The fact that some composers omitted part of the text (Schubert is often guilty of this) is not significant if these settings simply embellished a Low Mass. Nor did it matter if the chanted Gradual and Alleluia were replaced by an instrumental piece (the so-called epistle sonata) in a sung Mass, since the priest would read them from the missal anyway.

    I can see where Pius X was coming from. Even Renaissance polyphony is better when alternated with chant. I once attended a Solemn EF Mass where both Ordinary and Propers were polyphonic (because the otherwise highly proficient choir were not trained to sing chant) and it was quite frankly tedious. A Mass entirely in chant is never so, since it is the music uniquely proper to the Roman Rite.

  33. I attend a local orchestral mass as much as I can. I sometimes worry about whether the focus is on the elaborate, elegant and historical music, or on the mass itself. So far, the church has done a great job of keeping the focus on the mass. i can see where it could get out of hand, though, and become a performance, as Benedict warned us against.

    Again, it all depends on the other parts of the mass – the reverence, the intensity, the focus on the rest of the mass.

  34. Having sung in many a church choir, I must note that indeed that at least for many performers, the Mass loses its prayer and becomes a vehicle to display one’s talents, not so much as a prayer to God but for adulation of one’s self. It also can become not a prayer to God for the congregation but a concert to enjoy. This is a very human thing to happen. Any church choir director needs to be instructed on these tendencies and to teach choir members, that no matter how professional or beautifully they sing, the focus needs to remain on the Mass as worship of God and the continued offering of God’s only Son to the Father under the species of bread and wine. This is an issue that needs to be discussed by the parish priests and the musicians. This is a matter of helping each other become better Catholics and more faithful to our relationship with God.

  35. I am surprised that the name Laszlo Dobszay has not appeared in this discussion. Sadly, he died within the last two years. Dr. Dobszay had been a professor of musicology, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, and co-director Schola Hungarica. He was an excellent liturgical thinker (this is not say that I agree with every conclusion of his) and seemingly modest. On the following page: , one can find his three books; only the first three are his. The first two concern us here: “The Bugnini Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform” and “The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite.” I cannot consult either book now because the first seems to be in storage (question of space) and the second I do not own (question of finances and priorities). Dr. Dobszay recognizes the difficulty that existed with the recitation of the Office, in various respects, for the secular clergy at the beginning of the 20th century and before, but he also also recognizes the anything-but-conservatism of Pius X in his reformation of the Office (Discussions, sometimes quite learned and valuable, based on the erudite blog entires, have appeared in the com boxes of the blog: of the very learned Fr. Hunwicke). Dr. Dobszay analyzes the problems with actions then and then proposes a series of solutions to be undertaken now.

    I acknowledge the sanctity of Pius X; he loved the liturgy as perhaps best seen in “Tra le Sollecitudini”; he fought modernism with strong measures, even if it may be the case that many modernists moved into other less controversial areas or went underground, and even if his solutions may be questioned in some ways. Sadly, even if the reform of Pius X were the best, in the matter of the Office, he contributed to the false conception that the pope was above the Liturgy and above Tradition instead of being limited by both, a servant to both. He also began the process, although with some temporal distance between him and Pius XII, for whom I also have affection, of making the Liturgy to be a regularly changing entity by the constant tinkering of committees. Sadly this deprived some clergy from knowing the liturgy as a constant monument, even if it might by custom here and there, even sometimes contra-legem custom, grow a flower here or lose a small limb there (the rightful organic metaphor).

    Here I will be vague, but the scandalous actions, then and now, of many faithful clergymen, showing no resistance, in part, are explained by this process sadly initiated by Pope St. Pius X. I do hope for those interested, especially for any liturgical authority who might read this blog, that the works of Dr. Dobszay be consulted and additionally that both blog entries and the com box discussions at be searched and read.

    Please pardon any typographical error.

  36. I am constantly astounded by Msgr.’s ability to bring little known aspects of Church history and theology into a relatively mainstream venue. This piece of the Church’s liturgical history should be better known.

    I first became familiar with Pope St. Pius X’s alterations of the Roman liturgy during my Novitiate with the OPs. I did a research paper on the Dominican rite. fr. Bonniwell’s “History” (see: is the (for now) authoritative English-language text on the subject. One of the side-effects of Pius’ reforms of the liturgy was to make it impossible for the Dominicans to maintain their own liturgical tradition (see Chapter 25). Thus, the Dominican rite was effectively defunct by the end of Pius’ reforms, despite this being a high-quality rite with an 700-year history that was deliberately given a pass by the Tridentine reforms so that it might remain in existence.

    fr. Bonniwell points out that the Church has generally given deference to the antiquity of liturgical rites, maintaining a relatively “liberal” spirit with regards to worship. It was a shock to my spirit to realize that the Apostolic See has perhaps been very imprudent with her authority over the worship of the Church, paving the way for the complete [add your preferred verb here] of the liturgy in the post-Vatican II period.

    What does the future hold? I offer a suggestion for all liturgy lovers out there: give-up trying to recreate the past, and start requesting from your Bishops the permission to develop the liturgical life of the Church anew. Start new, small experimental parishes. Found new institutes of liturgy. Start re-introducing the treasures of the past through modern cultural means. Celebrate new liturgical forms outside of the context of the Eucharist (why does everyone think we must implement every last little liturgical idea within the Mass?). We can’t escape the stifling mediocrity of the Church’s present liturgical situation without a new attitude towards worship in the Church.

    I do have two caveats. First, liturgical renewal is impossible without a general renewal of the Church. While liturgy has a formative aspect to it, it is more the case that good liturgy arises from a Holy Church. Second, Catholics need a real education in the complexity of our liturgical history. Otherwise we can’t learn from the mistakes of the past, nor learn of how we were traditioned the treasures of worship which we retain today.

    In Dominic, A Friar

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I think your suggestion is akin to what Pope Benedict had in mind, hoping that the two forms would influence each other. I am personally interested in seeing a reexamination of the 1965 Missal and the use of some of its aspects. I hope to write an article on that form of the Mass. This does not mean an exact implementation, but I think it provides a good overall framework that respects the old and addresses the modern needs. At any rate, Amen.

      1. Msgr. Pope,

        Yes, mutual influence is the key. I plan on learning the “extraordinary form” for two reasons: (1) so that it will influence how I celebrate the “ordinary form” in the future, and (2) so I can give pastoral support to those Catholics who find the way liturgy is celebrated in many parishes to be disturbing, and would rather attend the Tridentine Mass as an alternative. But I firmly hope for an eventual convergence of liturgy within the Church in the next 100 years (yes, that long!), and I pray that I may be a part of it.

        One thing you might find interesting. Even priests devoted to the extraordinary form are starting to talk about the possibility of liturgical development of the 1962 Missal. Antiphon Vol 10, No. 1 published an article by Fr. Sven Conrad, FSSP in 2010 which talked about the principles of reform laid out at Vatican II, and he spoke favorably of a gradual development of the Tridentine rite in accord with these principles. The article was titled “Renewal of the Liturgy in the Spirit of Tradition.” It’s available here:

        In Dominic, A Friar

  37. I think this is a great article. Really interesting. However, the video clip at the end is depressing. To see what the Church gave away is just depressing. Can that movement in the Church be attributed to the Holy Ghost?

  38. I was forced to conclude some time ago that virtually all of the 20th century liturgical reforms – beginning with Pius X’s overhaul of the Psalter – were highly regrettable, both in substance and as exercises of papal power.

    “However, centralizing power over the liturgy within the papacy also presents serious difficulties.” Indeed. Very serious difficulties.

  39. Those who are affiliated with SSPX-led masses don’t necessarily place emphasis on St. Pius X’s mass as the only legitimate form of the mass. Many are quite sympathetic to Eastern Catholic liturgies as well. They admit that some liturgical change is good. Their main issue is the Novus Ordo changes in general have been so drastic that the mass is hardly a mass. Take examples of many Novus Ordo masses where people are clapping their hands and what-not in the mass. And to be fair, not all Novus Ordo masses do this either, but the problem is that they POSSESS liberty to do these things in the first place.

  40. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I have seldom enjoyed a weblog entry as much as I have enjoyed reading this entry, or many of the comments afterwards. I believe that you have made your point, quite convincingly, that a number of perhaps ill advised liturgical reforms can find their root in the changes imposed by His late Holiness, Pius X. I would agree with many of the more astute commentors, however, that the reforms of His late Holiness, Paul VI, the subsequent railroading by the Consilium, and the refusal of many priests to honor the rights of the Catholic faithful in providing them with the spiritual gifts of the Church, all had their impact upon the current crisis.

    That said, however, I believe that a major cause of the crisis in the Church has been the failure and refusal of most seminaries to educate candidates to the priesthood in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vatican II decree on priestly education, Optatam Totius. I have written a series of essays on that failure, which may be found here:

    Links to the remaining parts of that extended essay may be found there. I would invite your reading, and your comments, as I find you to be, by contrast, one who seems to be educated according to the abovementioned norms.

    Thanking you in advance for your consideration, and for your excellent weblog, which I shall be following from now on, I am

    Very truly yours,

    Bernard Brandt

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