If the Second Vatican Council Had Never Happened, Would We Still Have a "New Mass?" … Quite Possibly

010615One of the unfortunate couplings with those who lament the loss of the “pre-Conciliar” Mass (a.k.a. Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), Extraordinary Form, 1962 Missal, etc.) is the linking of the “New Mass” (a.k.a. Ordinary Form) wholly with the Second Vatican Council. This connection, while understandable given the emergence of the Ordinary Form just after the Council, is too simplistic and is unhelpful for a number of reasons. Without the Second Vatican Council, would the Ordinary Form of the Mass be similar to what it is today? We can only speculate. But given what was under way long before the Council in both the Church and Western culture, it seems likely that, Council or not, there would have been a heavy altering of the Mass as it was known mid-century.

I will attempt to make this argument historically in a moment, but first consider why this is strategically and pastorally important.

I. Strategy – It is significant as a pastoral stance to articulate why we should decouple concerns about the Ordinary Form of the Mass from the Second Vatican Council. It is one thing to express concerns with the current state of the liturgy, which of itself is a focused matter, capable of reconsideration, organic developments, and the exercise of legitimate options. But it is another matter to enter into a dispute with an entire Ecumenical Council, a Council that considered many things of varying theological weights and issued two dogmatic constitutions. While no new dogmas were proposed, Lumen Gentium (on the Church) and Dei Verbum (on Sacred Scripture) were important reaffirmations of the Church’s teaching regarding what are some disputed matters today.

Whether the perception is fair or not, many who favor the TLM are seen as repudiating the Second Vatican Council in general. Allowing such a perception to continue takes the legitimate discussion of liturgical concerns down a lot of rabbit holes that broaden the conversation into unnecessarily wider ideological categories (such as right vs. left, new vs. old, progressive vs. antiquarian, etc.). It also lights up other more serious matters such as ecclesiology, authority, sacramental theology, and so forth. We who love liturgical tradition would do well to focus the discussion on liturgical matters and leave other theological concerns about the Council  (if we have them at all (many of us do not)) for other times.  Further, recourse to the actual Council documents is both salutary and necessary in order to enhance ongoing liturgical excellence.

II. History – In terms of decoupling the Ordinary Form from the Council it is also helpful to recall some history that most of us know, but tend to underemphasize.

1. The “Liturgical Movement” had been underway for almost 60 years prior to the Second Vatican Council. Most liturgists fix the date of 1909 and the Malines Conference as the official beginning of the Liturgical Movement that sought to address liturgical disputes and concerns that had been brewing for centuries. Some of the concerns were very understandable: a cluttered calendar and related complexities such as multiple Collects and observances.  It’s hard to doubt that the increasing notion of “modernity” likely influenced desires for change in a more problematic way and that this idea grew through mid-century.

2. Even before 1906, Pope Pius X began an overhaul of the Breviary as he saw fit. More on that here: Strange Moments in Liturgical History

3. Then came the two World Wars. But despite that, liturgists were still meeting and writing.

4. Things started to get official in the mid-forties. The Sectio Historica of the Sacred Congregation of Rites formally commenced the work of reform in 1946 with a Promemoria intorno alla riforma liturgica. This was presented to Pope Pius XII in May. With papal approval, Austrian Redemptorist Joseph Löw began to draft a plan for a general reform. This was completed at the end of 1948 and published the following year as Memoria sulla riforma liturgica. A papal commission for liturgical reform was established in 1946, but it was May 1948 before its members were appointed. [Annibale] Bugnini, its secretary, … observes that it “worked in absolute secrecy” and enjoyed the “full confidence of the Pope” [Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, p. 150-151].

5. So note: nothing less than a papal commission was already beginning the work to set forth a plan for a “general reform” of the Liturgy. And note, too, the coming to the fore of one A. Bugnini.

6. The commission came out rather quickly with the overhaul of the Holy Week Liturgies in 1951. While well received by most, the changes were sweeping. Even more, they set forth some problematic principles later critiqued by Louis Boyer and others, including Alcuin Reid.

7. Among the shifts in principles that developed through the 1940s and 50s, was a tendency to emphasize the needs of “modern man” (as if we were some new sort of species) and to heavily weight antiquity over legitimate developments from other ages, especially the Medieval period.  Joseph Jungmann, S.J., though having authored a well-researched study of liturgical history in The Mass of the Roman Rite, tilted heavily in other works toward the ancient liturgy. Jungmann became very influential. And though Pope Pius XII warned of “antiquarianism” in Mediator Dei, the balance decidedly shifted there anyway through the 1950s and beyond.

8. Finally came the Second Vatican Council. The output of the papal commission for general reform was taken into the Council process largely “as is” and support for it expanded.

I do not in any way affirm all these. I simply note them and point out that they were under way well before the Council.

III. All of this leads to the focal question: If there had been no Second Vatican Council would we still have witnessed a significant change in the Mass and its celebration?  The answer would seem to be yes. As I have tried to show, things were already advancing quite rapidly prior to 1960 and would likely have continued apace. While the Council may have infused a widespread notion of “aggiornamento” that added rapidity and the expectation of change, the Liturgical Movement, for better or worse, was already moving along quite rapidly and deeply and would likely have continued to do so.

Clearly, I speculate here. But, frankly, so do those who would dispute the answer. None of us can really know for sure what would have happened in an alternate universe, absent the Council. However, some significant overhaul of the liturgy seemed to be in the offing, for better or worse, Council or not. (Arguably, the Ordinary Form promulgated in 1970 is not the actual Missal of the Council; the 1965 Missal is. I’d like to review its elements next week and show that the changes in it fell far short of the changes that were ushered in with the 1970 Missal.)

My real point in raising this is to encourage those of us who love the TLM and other older forms to be careful to distinguish the Second Vatican Council from the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I encourage this for the two reasons stated above: first, a strategy that allows us to be identified (fairly or not) with the repudiation of an entire Ecumenical Council is an unwise strategy; second, knowledge of the history of the whirlwind 20th century shows that the relationship of the liturgical changes to the Council are more complex than generally appreciated by a simplistic “pre-Conciliar vs. post-Conciliar” mentality.

None of what I write should be taken to mean that the Ordinary Form in its exact specifications was inevitable, or that those who love the TLM are on the “wrong side of history.” On the contrary, we should see ourselves as a legitimate part of today’s liturgical diversity and should seek to influence the discussion today rather than returning so regularly to rehash a complex Council that occurred over fifty years ago. Decoupling our stance from an assessment of the Second Vatican Council is an important element in advancing the conversation today.

OK, take what you like and leave the rest. But as with any discussion on Liturgy, try to avoid personal attacks and campy simplifications. For the record, I celebrate both forms of the Mass and find pastoral blessings and challenges in each. But let’s avoid a combox discussion that generates more heat than light. Be of good cheer; we are in the realm of speculation, not fact. In terms of strategy, reasonable people will differ.

Here is an example of how the older “ars celebrandi” can help with either form of the Mass. Most of the advice given in this video could be easily applied to the new form. Some may dispute an overly rigid mannerism, but allowing room for personal adaptation, the principles here are helpful advice.


59 Replies to “If the Second Vatican Council Had Never Happened, Would We Still Have a "New Mass?" … Quite Possibly”

  1. The fallacy of the argument, however, is that it attempts to hide God’s will as literally expressed in a Constitution of an Ecumenical Council…Sacorsanctum Concilium of Vatican II Council. One can not separate the command to reform the liturgy from VATICAN II council even if God was moving those close to Him to act earlier. Nessentially, adherrence to the TLM, though authorized by the pope, does not serve God’s will…TLM is the object of God’s requirement to reform.

    1. SC is very general and I encourage you to look at the 1965 Missal. e.g. VC II did not mandate guitars, it encouraged chant, organ and polyphony. Much of what traditionalist lament is not mandated by the council or as you say “literally expressed” But at the end of day your comment miises the whole point of the article which is that the VC II or not we would probably have had a sweeping change in the Missal.

      1. SC called for the organ, not guitars, but it does call for pastors to respect the needs of local cultures I think (I.e., mountain folk music, southern gospel music, Vietnamese prayer chant, etc). So, it seems that those who can not open their hearts to love their brothers of another culture in their parish should go to another parish for the TLM. The other thing is that pastors and bishops should exert a little more leadership and management over their sacred music programs. Got to admit that it is hard to screw up in the TLM because few understand what they hear and see and the music is sung by someone else and the laity are not allowed to pray or chant much with the priest and altar servers or acolytes. TLM answer is to remove the people from liturgical action, watch, and be ready to make the proper maneuver when the bell rings…go around the people and their culture rather than incorporate the people and their culture…easy solution (which is not really a solution).

        1. Ok, but the point is you’re missing the point of this article and getting comments off to a bad start. I get that you do not like the TLM, you are a sharp critic any time it is mentioned. But that does not give you the right to speak of others who do as having closed hearts or speaking of a legitimate Rite of the Church as having the people “removed” from the liturgical action. And simply telling people to go away or to another parish is under appreciated, thank you.

          But again, none of this is point. Please read the article and comment on the point (Hint: the point is in the title) and refrain from commentary on the TLMass per se.

          1. I respect the TLM, but I respect more the fact that God wills that we reform the TLM into liturgy which involves the laity more actively or actually. When I see a pastor not supporting that reality, but glorifying the unreformed of that which God wants reformed, it concerns me. If the directive was to reform the TLM, but due to disagreements the pope allowed a special promotion of the TLM as it was before the reform, that must be seen as a temporary, remedial action similar to that action wherein Moses allowed divorce even when God did not will or desire divorce ( and which God Himself had to correct). Perhaps someone needs to have the courage to help others see and consider things like this for their own sake as pastors of souls…Not all of what you post is sound nor free of vice and personal bias…I really think most of what you post is very good and sound, but some statements seem to defy or fall short of Catholic theological logic. I can express the opinion, or I can close off the opinions completely here. Just let me know, and I will comply. Mit is your choice.

          2. I wonder if you have any idea of how ugly you sound. Imagine even analogizing as you have that the permission for the TLM is akin to the permission Moses gave for divorce. Taylor, at this point you just need to stop talking about this and pray a lot. What you call courage here is disrespect of a high order, for you not only disrespect people but an ancient and venerable form of the Liturgy that was known and experienced by most of the saints. You obviously do not respect the TLM despite your opening claim. You seem particularly hostile to this issue. Not sure what that is about, but all the more reason for you to pray.

            Frankly you have become a poor interlocutor. In this single comment alone you have used words like “unreformed” “glorifying” (by which you mean to make others look like extremists), compared the permission to permission for divorce, impugned the pastoral skills of many good priests (including me) asserting of priests like us qualities such as uncourageous, unsound, illogical and vicious, you assert vice in your opponents (for no other reason it would seem than they don’t share your pastoral view). [You have been reading here long enough to know that I have expressed both concerns about the TLM, (especially as it was routinely celebrated in 1950s in a rushed and hurried manner 98% low mass etc). I have also expressed concerns for the OF, and support for both. I DO think that the OF has substantially restored a sense among the faithful that they are to be engaged in the Liturgical action. On account of over forty years of formation in this regard the people at the TLM are very engaged in the Mass. They do not recite lengthy Latin responses but do actively follow in their missals and are careful to follow the Mass. There is good cross-pollination going on.

            But as for your question, Something has gone very wrong with you in recent months. Your comments have gone straight downhill. You have become argumentative and personally nasty. At this point I think you should go away from this discussion. Your words show that hold those who disagree with you is disdain and even contempt. For some reason you seem to have particular venom regarding this issue. Maybe you should find out why.

          3. Yes, I have had very good reason to be grumpy over the last several months. I have had much, much less exposure to the Sacraments, and am lacking that grace on which I normally depend. You are spot on there. Thanks for calling it the way it really is.

            The saints respect what God wills they respect. God willed the TLM in their time; they respected that. God does not will the TLM as it was before Vatican II; I respect what God has enacted through Vatican II. Saints today will write of their respect for the Ordinary Form of the Mass because they believe that this is what God wants and directed through Sacrosanctum Concillium.

            As a convert to Catholicism and an educated, minor Catholic theologian (taking my conversion seriously, I spent years studying theology from a Vatican-approved, orthodox college and got the degree), and also given my ability and desire to believe and accept what I have been taught as being true and good, and making good use of the talents which the Lord has granted to me (except in failing to temper my words appropriately at times and my other personal sins), I think that there is a serious problem in the Church today regarding the Liturgy and faith in general, especially since a Constitution of an ecumenical council is VERY clear on the subject of Liturgical reform (the primary object of that directive being the TLM which has been reestablished in opposition of that call for it to be reformed). We all know that it is the Holy Spirit who directs the actions of every ecumenical council, and that we are all called to give our assent of faith to the works of every ecumenical council. So, this is why I believe the opening up of the TLM is a remedial action aimed at those who can not adapt…It is like God sending quail to fill the mouths of the Israelites who complained in the desert – so much that it was to fill their nostrils…and perhaps lead to some distress afterwards as a result. Pope Benedict XVI’s stepping down, in my opinion, can be compared to Moses’ not being allowed to cross the river Jordan, as a punishment. One may not want to think or believe that, but God set the precedent with Moses; He can do it again. Pope’s don’t just step down because they are tired or fed up – this is not normal. Look at Pope St. John Paul II; he was loyal, loyal, loyal and generated much fruit based upon Vatican II and endured excruciating pain until the end…with God’s constant help, until he died. Perhaps former Pope Benedict XVI thought it better to relax Vatican II for the sake of the SSPX, a group notoriously disloyal to the Holy Spirit’s works in Vatican II? And then he stepped down and is resting well; he was not exiled. Perhaps this is his reward? I don’t know. But, there is a pattern here.

            I’m saying that all is not well, and we should be aware that all is not well and work to correct what has gone wrong. Is returning to the TLM a fix for what has gone wrong? What has gone wrong? Isn’t it that people and clergy have failed to properly execute the will of the Holy Spirit as enacted through Vatican II? Perhaps. But is the fix to reverse the reform? I don’t think so; that is a remedial action. The fix is to fix what went wrong with the reform; some of the fix may be to correct priests who are doing a disservice to the exercise of the OF of the Mass through their personal mismanagement of their own liturgical programs; perhaps even some priests sabotage their own OF liturgical programs for the sake of leading people to the TLM? I would not be surprised; I see a lot more energy going in to building up the TLM and I see a lot more lethargy in some cases with properly executing the OF of the Mass. Priests complain about their own OF liturgical programs – not liking the music, etc. They have the power to change that; they don’t. They turn to the TLM instead. It’s easier. That’s my observation.

            Whatever the case, separating Vatican II (the WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT REGARDING THE LITURGICAL REFORM) from the TLM is an interesting platform…just doesn’t make sense to me. I just keep thinking about how the Israelites complained against God, wanting to return to slavery for the sake of eating better food and the result of the complaining was met with very serious chastisement.

          4. Taylor,

            You keep asserting God’s will was to reform the TLM, accepting Fr.’s point about the changes already underway, your assertion demonstrates your own failure to understand God’s will in creating the sacrament of ordination and magisterial authority.

            All the things pointed to by those in the TLM/Trad crowd, extremists aside, are merely pointing at factual abuses of the magisterial doctrine regarding the Mass as defined in the documents of the magisterium.

            It really comes down to simply this. The progressive/modernist forces willfully disregarded the known intended nature of the Rubrics as a proscriptive instruction.

            The cook who ignores their master’s “prepare and cook this meal with this recipe” is the one not doing the master’s will. Those the master invited to the meal telling the cook he is disobeying his master is not in the wrong – certainly not so when it comes to following the master’s will.

            The grave problem of betrayal is, and it is the gravest betrayal within the church since Judas betrayed Christ, in the abuses of Vatican II that have been performed by those who make claims such as yours – based on their spirit of “reading” Vatican II.

            This ‘spirit of Vatican II’ error is in truth a natural fruit of the errors of Sola Scriptura and the Protestant Schism. It is far more grave however because it has been truly the “Smoke of Satan entering the Sanctuary”, the smoke from this deadly spirit is now killing those who now come to stand beneath Christ’s Crucifixion; such is the metaphor.

            ” Isn’t it that people and clergy have failed to properly execute the will of the Holy Spirit as enacted through Vatican II? Perhaps. But is the fix to reverse the reform?”

            Yes, it is. Christ did not call out to those who walked away from His “until you eat the flesh of the Son of man”…

            I for one think the Holy Ghost is speaking very clearly and loudly on the “reform” of the TLM going to far; both through the numbers who have walked away from The Mass – because it is no longer a place of His Holy Sacrifice on the Cross, but rather a place where calves are prepared according to individual tastes, and through the collapse in the numbers hearing the call to the priesthood and to be nuns.

            If my comment seems overly pointed, it’s not intended to be so on a personal level but rather a principle level. I’m a bit older and as such am not as prone to the corollary effect that I think weighs heavily on those generations formed more recently. Which is simply this. The corollary effect of formations emphasizing “emotional-intelligence” is an increased sensitivity of “emotional-egoism”, which leads to an increased sensitivity to personal attack when one is challenged without being prefaced with the now requisite niceties. I’m old school. One can say virtually anything about me or a position I defend and the attacks roll off my ego like water off a duck; I experience no emotional impact or disorder.

            With that said, I have a serious and honest request.

            You said “Constitution of an ecumenical council is VERY clear on the subject of Liturgical reform (the primary object of that directive being the TLM which has been reestablished in opposition of that call for it to be reformed).”

            Can you point me to where in Vatican II’s magisterial documents this clarity exists?

            I have found no such clarity in my readings.

            Thanks, and I’m glad to see you and the Msgr. close your conversation with a Catholic tone.

          5. If you left out the middle, long paragraph your response would have been reasonable since you state your disagreement about the issue. But your middle paragraph is way out of line. Comparing Catholics who love the TLM to the Rebellious Israelites in the desert and then to go on and say that Pope Benedict was punished by the Holy Spirit and force to resign over it, is just crazy tinfoil hat stuff. You are sitting in a judgment seat you have no right to ascend to. And when you disclaim by saying “I don’t know” you’re darn right you don’t and at that point you should have gone up and deleted that whole paragraph.

            Look to yourself Taylor and see what you have done here. I remember a Taylor who was not this way. Who was not so ungracious and mean-spirited, who could disagree pleasantly and focused on the issue. Its one of the reasons I have even taken up this thread. You don’t have to like the TLM and can have doubts as to the wisdom of allowing its wider use, but whatever your point was/is is drowned by the harsh personal attacks on your interlocutors. Not the Taylor I remember.

            By the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but my original post was actually a move in your direction as I cautioned Catholics devoted to the TLM to be careful not to simplistically link the liturgical situation to the Council, that it is a bad idea to take a stance against an ecumenical council. Clearly liturgical changes were underway before and would have continued Council or not. Some readers argue that the Council added swiftness and radicalism to the situation and thus the two ARE linked more than I would state. I’m not so sure. You and I differ over whether SC was general or specific. I think the principles it enunciated were more general and less sweeping than the 1970 Missal reflects. You argue not. Reasonable people will differ over these things but I think the discussion and distinctions about such matters is worth the time as we all sort things through. All the more reason that personal attacks be avoided, which only harden positions rather than encourage thoughtful insight.

          6. You are right about the “crazy tin foil hat stuff”. I actually had the same thought about myself after dwelling on the topic a few hours later. “What was I thinking when I wrote that? I must really appear to be paranoid…running from or chasing nonexistent laser beams from enemies that do not really exist.” Oh well, that’s life.

            Thank you for your kind and generous attention to my situation.

      2. Father:

        I may be wrong, but wasn’t the 1965 Missal simply an edited 62, without being an editio typica, but an altera version? I think one could even argue that Tres Abhinc Annos in 1967 completed the intentions of the Council, and not the 1965 altera.

        Further to this, traditionalists will often point to the Agatha Christie Indult for England as maintaining use of the old rite. However, the Agatha Christi indult only allowed for the 1967 Missal as revised by Tres Abhinc Annos, and this indult is still in effect.

        Therefore, England is in the unique situation of being allowed the 2003 Missale Romanum, the 1967 Missale Romanum, the 1962 Missale Romanum, the Pre 55 Holy Week (at the parish the Institute of Christ the King manages) and the Anglican Ordinariate Missal.

        —- Agatha Christie Indult follows just for the record…..

        E Civitate Vaticana, die 5 November 1971
        Prot. N. 1897/71

        Your Eminence,

        His Holiness Pope Paul VI, by letter of 30 October 1971, has given special faculties to the undersigned Secretary of this Sacred Congregation to convey to Your Eminence, as Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, the following points regarding the Order of the Mass:

        1. Considering the pastoral needs referred to by Your Eminence, it is permitted to the local Ordinaries of England and Wales to grant that certain groups of the faithful may on special occasions be allowed to participate in the Mass celebrated according to the Rites and texts of the former Roman Missal. The edition of the Missal to be used on these occasions should be that published again by the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (27 January 1965), and with the modifications indicated in the Instructio altera
        (4 May 1967).

        This faculty may be granted provided that groups make the request for reasons of genuine devotion, and provided that the permission does not disturb or damage the general communion of the faithful. For this reason the permission is limited to certain groups on special occasions; at all regular parish and other community Masses, the Order of the Mass given in the new Roman Missal should be used. Since the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, it is necessary that the use of the Order of Mass given in the former Missal
        should not become a sign or cause of disunity in the Catholic community. For this reason agreement among the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference as to how this faculty is to be exercised will be a further guarantee of unity of praxis in this area.

        2. Priests who on occasion wish to celebrate Mass according to the above- mentioned edition of the Roman Missal may do so by consent of their Ordinary and in accordance with the norms given by the same. When these priests celebrate Mass with the people and wish to use the rites and texts of the former Missal, the conditions and limits mentioned above for celebration by certain groups on special occasions are to be applied.

        With my highest respects, I am
        Yours sincerely in Christ,
        (Signed:) A. Bugnini
        Sacra Congregatio
        pro Cultu Divino

        1. Not sure what typica v. Altera makes. Im not a canon lawyer. However if the 65 is an altera it is significsnt different enough from the 62 to make it seem more than an altera

          1. As an altera, it really is just the 62, but modified by the Second Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Sacred Liturgy. It was not the typical edition, Hence, the reason why Lefebvre went all the way back to the 62 Rite rather than the 65 or 67. He had no problem offering the 65 or 67 during those years, but he returned to the last typical edition.

            The 65 Rite just implemented the Second Instruction and the 67 the Third Instuction. All they really did were drop prayers and drop adherence to certain rubrics. They didn’t change the Ordinary or vast majority of Propers of the Mass.

            It was originally expected that there would be a 68 or 69 editio typica, rather, we got the Pauline Rite.

    2. Here is a quick answer for you Taylor: It was also God’s will (to allow) JUDAS to be one of the twelve. Why? Because God gave man free will to do STUPID things.

      Again, you are comparing the Majestic TLM with Divorce. Are you…..normal?

  2. Monsignor, did you mean to include a link to your earlier post where you say “more on that here” (in point #2 under “II History”)? (Feel free to delete this comment)

  3. I agree that couching the liturgy arguments together with Vat II is hampering the resolution to this liturgical quagmire. The real resolution will only come if the Bishops at the diocese level endorse and encourage both forms of Mass to be liberally used. They should educate the priests and faithful about the sacredness of both forms without bias. Priests should be encouraged to take “continuing education” training in the TLM. Without this, it is still political and falls back to a connection with Vatican II. Let time and practice by the faithful be the guide going forward.

    One small point, worth noting, but not in any way a criticism of you (no heat):

    Your use of the term “liturgical diversity” sounds so politically correct it dilutes, in my mind, the real intent of the Mass. It also conjures up thoughts of the well publicized liturgical abuse that so diminished the sacredness of the New Mass. I only mention this so you are aware of the impact of using “liturgical diversity” in today’s society. Your argument is about the practice of only two forms of Mass as it relates to Vatican II.

    1. Yes, but diversity v. uniformity has always been a tension in the Church. Considering that we have a good number of ancient rites that are very different, East and West, But even in the West: Ambrosian, Sarum, Gallican, Dominican etc…. So there has been a lot variety and that has been in tension with the need for uniformity. Trent tried to “clean house” a bit with the 200 year rule. So whatever you want to call it, it is not just a modern problem. Granted, the Ordinary Form permits a great deal of leeway and will therefore have a diversity within the OF that can too easily deform to a kind of niche marketing and too much particularism. Even in my own parish, we have a quiet brief Sunday evening mass, but at 11 AM there is a lengthy Mass that features Gospel Music, another mass is just hymns, and we also Do a good number of TLMs. What other word would you use than diversity to describe the worldwide situation all they way down to the parochial level?

      1. Agreed.

        In answer to your question, it is not only words that matter. I guess getting to the core purpose of the Church and Mass, the salvation of souls, is really the issue. If getting souls to Heaven is the goal, the Church needs to offer guidance and encouragement, with uniformity, towards our ancient rites and the New Mass. I am still, for example, hung up on the issue of Mass as a Sacrifice, Celebration, or both. It is a very spiritual question that is very personal to me. The choice in the Mass form really is that question. Out of necessity, I do attend both forms, but I view the Mass as an integral part of my spiritual salvation.

  4. A very nicely written analysis, Monsignor, on a misunderstood and turbulent time for the Church. We can all agree that the novus ordo liturgy that exists today in 99.9% of Catholic parishes is radically different from what was expected by most 50+ years ago. The only ones who predicted today’s Mass chaos were traditionalists. For instance, Evelyn Waugh described going to Mass following the Second Vatican Council (before the novus ordo, during the 1964/5 missal) as “a bitter trial.”

    However, the main point seems to be: “All of this leads to the focal question: If there had been no Second Vatican Council would we still have witnessed a significant change in the Mass and its celebration?”

    I would differ by saying the answer would seem to be no.

    The liturgical commission assembled by Pius XII (headed by the eventually-exiled Archbishop Bugnini) indeed made sweeping changes to the Mass and calendar in the 1950s, but even the final changes to the 1962 missal were not earth-shattering. That is the missal that is used today under Summorum Pontificum. Not perfect, but not a rupture.

    It was the Second Vatican Council that caused a true rupture. The legal illustration of this comes from a basic reading of Sacrosantum Concilium. There is absolutely no way the traditional Latin Mass could exist, even as reformed by 1962, under the demands set forth from the Vatican II document:


    Contrast that documement with Pius XII’s encyclical, Mediator Dei, where the venerable pope wrote that the idea of changes to the traditional Latin Mass “pained” him “grievously”:


    While, again, we agree that the novus ordo typically offered today does not resemble a fair reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium, we must also recognize it is totally a product of it. When the organ is preferred, but other instruments are allowed, of course there will eventually be bongos. When Latin is preferred, but other languages are allowed, of course there will be vernacular usage. If given the option for something easier or trendier, that is always where society will go. This is why clarity was key and widely employed before Vatican II. The commandments didn’t say Thou Should Hopefully Not Steal, But…

    The liturgical debates will continue beyond our lifetimes, but the reason why there is a novus ordo liturgy is because one of the 16 documents of the Second Vatican Council mandated reforms (to please Protestants, as Bugnini later admitted) that were not compatible with the 1962 missal. I think it’s important to identify the root of a mandate. Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium was that legal root, and it paved the route for earth-shattering liturgical liberalizations.

    Benedict XVI of course understood all of this, as #28 of the instructions for Summorum Pontificum (Universae Ecclesiae) draws the line in the liturgical sand at 1962 when governing the traditional Latin Mass and its use: “Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.”

  5. An additional historical point —

    While there may be a temptation to view liturgical change as top-down impostion, in fact, as explained by people like Father Joseph Ratzinger in his book on the Council, in the first half of the 20th century, there were a lot of people who were starving liturgically. They wanted something, they needed something, that would nourish their souls and they were not getting it. Hence you had a lot of people who may have come to Mass in the body, but were engaged elsewhere in mind and/or spirit. Bishops and priests all across the world saw that this was a problem. It was anything but a golden age of liturgy.

    1. There are numerous roles for “starving” congregations. Men can form Gregorian chant scholas. Boys can be altar boys, considering the priesthood one day. Choirs can be assembled by laity in the parish for beautiful High Masses (the ideal liturgy). Socials after Mass can be organized by the congregation for fellowship. CCD teachers can volunteer to teach children the faith. The clergy can be assisted with keeping the church — especially the altar and santuary — beautiful. A rosary before Mass can be led by the faithful in the pews. Clubs and groups can be led by the laity at the parish throughout the week.

      I don’t see how the novus ordo liturgy has seriously fed any starving congregation, based on a Mass attendance of around 75% in the U.S. before Vatican II and around 20% today. If anything, the “fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product” (Cardinal Ratzinger’s view of the novus ordo liturgy, as cited by another commenter here) has been harmful — not helpful — to nourishing souls. There will of course be a handful of people who sincerely claim otherwise, but we need to face reality that the overwhelming majority have experienced the opposite.

      There were much better options available for “starving” laymen than the novus ordo liturgy. Ask any pastor, and he will offer a zillion suggestions to anyone still hungry at a parish.

  6. While some changes may have been made and even more vernacular added, my thought–although totally moot–is that there would have been a faithful translation of the mass of the ages and not a new ‘banal’ (as C. Ratzinger called it) liturgy. Except that it was not a new liturgy but a protestant one from the 16th century which was tweaked a bit.

    And the change in the liturgy along with the jettisoning of devotions, charisms, and traditions has reaped a bitter fruit and the loss of countless souls to the faith.

  7. Maybe the council (of which I fully accept and love) led, incidentally not causally, to the hermeneutic of rupture rather than continuity. Maybe if the council never happened we would have had a, relatively speaking, nice transition from one to the other and had it seem more like an organic development rather than a change. As someone who has attended both forms, I can’t help but think that these two things can’t last together. Two forms of the Roman Rite just doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe we in the next half-century can take the good that came from the reform, reincorporate some of what was lost, and be better off for it. Enough of the division that the two Rite system (for lack of a better term) can, but doesn’t always, bring.

    For me that means more Latin (not everything but more than is common in the OF), more scripture (love the new lectionary for its amount of scripture, but could use some work), more incense (holy smoke is lovely), more music (God forbid we use guitars AND organ, hearing Matt Maher AND St. Thomas [*GASP*]), more participation (I really don’t like the distinction those on the right make between ‘actual’ and ‘active’… how about both!), more reverence (genuflecting, kneeling more, less gum chewing, less talking [it’s hard to teach my children to be quiet when adults are chatting behind me])… you get the picture.

  8. Very interesting thoughts. As someone who grew up only knowing the “new” mass, its is hard to imagine anything else. I have joined in celebrating TLM. I’ve also had the privileged of celebrating the “new” mass in different countries and in different languages. The Mass is very powerful in any language. To the point of Msgr’s blog, I suspect the change to use the local language was a force already in motion. It seems the church is growing in areas of the world where Latin was never used as a language. So it would be very difficult for the church to grow if the Mass was said in a language that was never practiced in that country. Not now, and not ever. While not everyone agrees with every change, appreciating the historic evolution of this change was something I did not know until reading this post.

    1. Your argument doesn’t stand. Northern Europe, Latin America, etc. all converted under a liturgy using Latin. Tradionalist communities do fine in places all over the world. The primary impediment is bishops who hate the TLM.

  9. Ok I guess I’m just naive because I thought the point of the mass was to give worship to God, not ourselves.

    Everyone seems to have a preference and vehemently defends it, but honestly, I’m just happy to be called to the Supper of the Lamb. I appreciate which ever form is being used as long as we are adequately adoring our Lord with the Angels and Saints.

    Am I missing something?

    1. I think you are in your assumption that concern for liturgical matters in merely rooted in ego-centric preferences. I would avoid characterizing the motives of others you have never met in such pejorative sense. I think that most readers are aware that we are worshipping God, not ourselves. The questions center around what proper and worthy worship is like. God actually has a few things to say about that in Scripture, e.g. up on Sinai and later in the Book of Revelation, and other places such as 1 Cor 11 – 14.

      1. Ok, then why doesn’t the discussion begin there? The further away from that we get the more we start to see with our own eyes and not the Lord’s, right?

        I’ve just always found when you think you’re off track, you go back to the last place where you knew you were on the right path. If you have to go all the way back to see if you’re still on the right path is that really so bad?

        1. And I do not characterize anyone’s motives or opinions, only the veracity and emotion with which they seem to give them. I don’t get why people appear upset, please tell me.

  10. My response is…. That although these modern, liberal, protestant and freemason errors, heresies, etc. began way before Vatican ll, they were being combated vigorously, not like after Vatican ll, which the documents confirmed, by their unclear, confusing words* and by not exercising their God-Given Authority to excommunicate those who were teaching and acting on these LIES! As more and more novelties, as they say, continue, more of the Traditional Teachings handed down for over 1,965 years have withered away. Maybe the Popes of the Pre- Vatican era changed some things (talking about Disciplines and Devotions here, not Dogmas) but always to edify and make us holier…..kind of like Jesus who, didn’t come to abolish the Old Law, but to fulfill and make it Supernaturally Better in the New Law!

    * I must admit I have not read all the Vatican ll documents, if very little, but it doesn’t take one with knowledge, but “reason” to see what has, is and will continue to happen to Our Beautiful Catholic Faith, the Faith of Our Ancient Fathers.
    No…the New Mas never would have happen, if the Vatican ll Fathers had stuck to the program laid out in the Council of Trent by confirming those Teachings.

  11. I barely remember the Latin Mass I attended as a child and my formation in the faith was next to nothing. I do remember my parents going from parish to parish, after the changes in the Mass, trying to find one without guitars or priests preaching that if your children do not want to go to Mass, you should not force them. We would go to Mass and then my parents would rant for two hours about the experience. I stopped going at the age of 15. Would I have stayed in the Church if there had been a gradual change or no change? I don’t know.
    The Lord brought me back at the age of 51. He brought me to a Charismatic Catholic Church. I was confirmed at age 52 and I go to Mass daily. My living room holds a statue of St. Anthony that had been tossed out of Catholic Church in the 70’s and rescued by my great aunt. I have left the Charismatic Church. There is a time to mature spiritually. I have attended the Latin Mass and I love it. I have no idea what is going on, but the reverence is real and kneeling to receive the Eucharist brings on tears, but I want to hear the prayers being offered up. I do not belong to the parish that has the Latin Mass.I belong to a parish that is still wacky from the 70’s and where things occur that make me shudder. However, the current priest is very holy and he is helping several generations of people totally unformed in Catholicism learn what it is about and what it is to follow Christ and what it means to be a sinner and what the mercy of God is. I too thirst to be led by someone who truly lives in, with and through Jesus Christ. I watch as slowly changes come about, not just brought in by Father, but in the hearts and actions of the parishioners. I went there because I am being fed and am growing spiritually.
    I guess I am trying to make the point that I think the Mass would have had to change as there was already a generation or more of the faithful who knew nothing about the faith. They were not going anywhere. They attended out of obligation and fear of the Lord. If there had been no Vatican II, all would have unraveled at some point with the sexual revolution.
    What I have discovered in the past seven years, is that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist at every Mass, no matter where I attend. . He is pouring out grace on the faithful and the Holy Spirit is bringing great conversion to many hearts and God is not leading them all to the Latin Mass. We need to rejoice over every person who shows up in a Catholic Church, regardless of the Mass and we need to be witnesses to this incredible gift of the Eucharist and the Church. Whatever happened, and I think most will agree, it was chaos and many were lost, we need to be united now.
    Thank you Msgr. for giving us this background. Maybe it will help people see that it is not an either/or with the Mass. Maybe they need to merge, the Traditional Missal, in English…………. and no guitars or bongos or drums of any kind and definitely no tambourines.

  12. Thank you for this essential perspective, Monsignor. I would add two observations:

    1. The Liturgical Movement arguably could be said to be rooted in Dom Gueranger’s restorative and instructive work at Solemnes in the early-to-mid 19th century.

    2. The notion that what is “done” at Holy Mass depends on the participation of the people is a distorted characterization. To assist at Mass is an oblation and a surrender to the action taking place upon the altar, in which the priest acts in persona Christi, not as presider over a corporate project. Poor attitudes regarding the Mass and the Eucharist (some resulting directly from the Novus Ordo Missae and its General Instruction) result in countless losses of opportunities to correspond with grace, and invite chronic sacrileges that must surely grieve Our Lord and His faithful servants.

  13. Monsignor makes a good point. Modern church architecture and abstract “worship spaces” preceded Vatican II, so the liturgical change cake was already baking. As someone that grew up with the OF and Greek Catholic liturgies (if you’re from Western PA you know what I mean) and now only attends TLMs in DC with the periodic visit to the Ukrainian Church, I see the liturgical landscape as primarily cultural. Greek Catholic liturgies are marvelous culturally-specific expressions of faith and the Holy Mysteries that do not seem universally exportable. The ancient Roman Rite may be in a similar category. The sobriety, precision, rigor, clear hierarchy and contained ecstasy of the traditional rite is Western European man worshiping at his best. I know that the EF was the Mass that conquered continents and converted the world, but at its core, it is very European. Quite frankly, I think that’s why it has helped me to go further into my faith than the NO. I certainly feel a similar way about Greek Catholic liturgies. There has always been room for diversity in the the Church, but there is much to be said for continuity within that diversity. I recognize the possibility that I am profoundly mistaken about this and that cultural arguments can be seen as delicate.

    That said, I think the best way forward for those of us that like liturgical “splendor” is just to provide a cheerfully relentless good witness for the faith. And bring a friend to Mass.

  14. I am one of those people who wonder if God allowed the disaster of the Novus Ordo in order to preserve the TLM from being destroyed by the reformers. At least with the way events played out, the great treasure of grace and holiness that is the TLM has been largely preserved from the insanity of the last half century.

    1. you really should not call a “disaster” what God Himself set in motion. If all was okay with the TLM, there would not have been a Holy Spirit-inspired call for its reform. Try to think these things through Nate….faith AND reason.

  15. I have recently gone to a church where the FSSP are and the TLM was beautiful. I have personally been experiencing a time of confusion trying to sort all of this out. I have been exercising courage and fortitude for 20 years at my parish and with the priest we have now, who publically stated he is not into the “Mary thing” and we don’t have to believe She was ever virgin and immaculate I have had enough! I am of the mind that by God’s mercy we still have the TLM so as to have the “plumb” line. Without it we would descend into chaos and all lose faith! One thing for sure…the TLM teaches us the faith. It literally guides us in the 4 great ends of why we are commanded to go! The NO Mass and my experience of it teaches NOTHING of the sort. My adult children are weak and are also going to attend the TLM with me. We grieve unspeakably to see so many lost souls at our parish. It’s awful. I’m not judging. I’m just not blind. Our parish does VERY little to aid souls to Heaven, but in fact aids many to hell. It is actually scary to me.

  16. An evolutionary revision along the lines of the 1965 missal might well have occurred without Vatican II (and likely was in the works already). But how likely is it that so revolutionary reform as the 1970 missal—with its deleted offertory and multiple Eucharistic prayers, for instance—could have occurred without the “cover” provided by the aura engendered by the Council?

  17. I believe that to understand the postconciliar period, the liturgical revolution must be placed smack in the center of the whole thing. It is the key which unlocks what happened, much of which is frankly bewildering otherwise.

    Our Faith is a SACRAMENTAL religion. Signs and symbols are at the very center of how we experience God, and how we express our Faith. They affect us very deeply, often far more deeply than we understand.

    Once upon a time, there was a central Symbol, right at the heart of the Church’s life, which affected everyone (85% of Catholics attended Sunday Mass in 1963). It was an ancient rite, deeply venerable (had Gregory the Great, who died in +600, wandered into your parish church, he would have been perfectly comfortable following along). It was sacred. No one trifled with it. The message was conveyed strongly: This Is What Christ Does For Us.

    Now, if you take that rite, so central to all, and you do a Winged Monkey on it (remember the poor Scarecrow and the Winged Monkeys? “Oh, first they took my stomach and threw it over there, and then they took my legs and threw them here…”). Showly at first, then with increasing persistence the venerable rite was dismantled and played with. What had been something lovingly received from one’s ancestors, to be preserved and handed on, became a vehicle for self-expression to be tinkered with. Where once we had what Christ does for us, now we have what We Do, and shape to our will.

    Once that message got around, it wasn’t lost. There was the decamping of those who felt robbed of what they had valued (“Damn, Mabel, the one peaceful hour of my week gone. And who bought that nun that guitar??”) — a sixty percent drop in Mass attendance in thirty years.

    But there was more. If you could do that with the sacred Liturgy, you could do that with… Catechesis. Christian Family Life. Catholic Action. The traditional devotions of the Church. Religious Life (ah. perfect. We go from the traditional understanding of communal vowed life, to “You each have to discover within yourself what your vow means for you”). Seminary life. Priesthood. Catholic Higher Education. MORAL THEOLOGY (Bingo! If you can do THAT to the Mass, surely it’s a small step to enshrining sexual autonomy as the goal, albeit unspoken, of your new, paperback-enshrined ethical musings).

    So, the postconciliar chaos is best understood if the rough-handling of the Mass is used as the key to unlock it. How often have I heard, “You can’t blame all of this on the new Mass.” Well, yeah, I can!

    What if there had been no Vatican II? Well, Monsignor, I believe that there would have been an organic development of the liturgy. After all, Trent seriously discussed vernacular liturgy and communion in both kinds in the xvi century.

    But I do not think the changes would have been done in the kind of confused context we saw after 1965. There was a spirit of adolescent rebellion back then, an anger at How We Were Trained. Anything that expressed the ability to get away from formal, traditional expressions of faith was embraced then. Had the liturgical renewal been addressed naturally, without that fermenting revolutionary energy, there would have been reverence, and appreciation for tradition. Too many things jumped into the pot, of which sexual autonomy was the most dangerous.

    And today, we have what we have! -Fr Wilson

    1. It has been almost 20 years since then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote this — and how right he was/is:

      “what we previously knew only in theory has become for us a practical experience: the Church stands and falls with the Liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the center of any renewal of the Church whatsoever.”

    2. Thank you, Father! What you said! And you did not even go into the great difference in the collects. The new collects reflect perfectly the poison bits of rotten doctrine in the area of religious freedom, ecumenism, and collegiality. Any person who compares the old and new collects will get it. Subtle but powerful rhetorical changes.

    3. I am profoundly grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for the liturgical restoration of parts of the NO several years ago. We still have miles to go, but it was an excellent start. I have wondered that if Pope Benedict had not “retired” would he have next turned his restorative hand to the the liturgies of the other sacraments–and the current funeral liturgy? Do Msgr Pope and/or Fr. Wilson have thoughts about that?

      1. Right on target. Improving the Ordinary Form of the Mass is the right approach for the long term.

        1. Perhaps. But, other than the extraordinary form, what reliable template is there for improvement of the ordinary form?

          1. Maybe actually reading and implementing the council rather than it’s “spirit” 😛

            But as Msgr’s article is about the speculative time lacking a council, maybe looking at the early church might be a good place, too.

  18. I would imagine that certain guidelines for outward participation of the faithful would have been standardized according to the discretion of bishops’ conferences (as opposed to local diocesan discretion), and that parishes would either “turn their altars around” or they would not, varying from one locality to another, much as you see with Anglicans and Lutherans. As to use of the vernacular, it would seem that a more congenial co-existence would occur, especially with respect to the readings, the introduction of “the bidding prayers” (general intercessions), and certain other parts in the Rituale (baptisms, weddings, etc). The wave of popular culture of the 60s and 70s would leave its mark, but probably would not be as indelible. Other than that, I wouldn’t care to guess.

    1. Fair enough. I also think Council or not the kind of growing “ultramontanism” regarding liturgical matters allowed for the locus to shift from local adaptations (which have their own difficulties) to central control and this allowed the notion by the late 1960s that Rome can do what it wants and we just have to do it mentality. Bishops started deferring to “Rome” actually to the liturgist who said they spoke for Rome and the “Spirit of the Council” and so we had both sweeping and radical change on the mere pretext that this what the Council and Rome were calling for. Alcuin Reid pretty systematically deals with all this in his book. Bottom line there was a lot of back and forth and abdication of authority from bishop toward liturgist who claimed to be implementing the Council. When people got wise to them and could not find such direction in the documents the experts began invoking the Spirit of the Council. That went on for about another ten years until enough people got fed up with thinking clown masses (bozo nose and all) and polka were the “spirit of the council.”

  19. i am perplexed at how easy it is for some to ignore Sacrosanctum Concilium and go backward to that which the Constitution had as its object for reform. It just does not make sense to me.

    It, to me, would be like persons opting now to speak and write in Old English instead of today’s contemporary English, using as their reason that too many new [and useful] words have “corrupted” the venerable “Old English” and this after entire generations have been taught to forget the Old English and use a language which has proven useful and which proliferates now in textbooks, dictionaries, legal systems, and economic systems. So now, much overhead must be spent and limited, dwindling resources must be focused on using the Old English while the vast majority still need to write and read and hear contemporary English. Wise?

  20. Msgr. Pope, Vatican II has 6 Protestant ministers who were “observers”. I believed that had much influence on the changes in the mass, because the Novus Ordo Missae is hardly distinguishable from a Protestant service. I believe the Protestant “observers” helped with the changes in the mass. Why? because of ecumenism, which was forbidden by Church teachings prior to Vatican II. There was ecumenism prior to Vatican II, but only to try and convert non-Catholics.
    It seems that the Post Vatican popes only quote pre-Vatican popes when they agree with their writings.

    1. Do you really think the indistinguishable? The protestant services i see are lectures with entertainment interludes. No eucharistic prayer etc. surely your premise is hyperbole

  21. What have we gained and what have we lost in moving away from the highly formalistic rubrical conventions? Could those conventions have stood up in the face of the legitimate contemporary practical variations involving Holy Communion?

  22. No Taylor, the Mass of the Ages will not be suppressed. Nice try. Get behind me Satan.

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