Benedict’s Revolution: The Return of the Old Latin Mass

When the secular media suddenly start talking about Catholic liturgy, something is afoot in the life of the Church. By the second year of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, that’s exactly what happened. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report — the subject was everywhere.


The reason for all this attention was the pope’s long-awaited motu proprio that would make the traditional Latin Mass of the pre-conciliar Church (or the 1962 Missal) more widely available. That used to be considered a dangerous idea. It’s now mainstream.
The consensus today — which echoes the conclusion of a blue-ribbon commission of cardinals in 1986 — is that although Pope Paul VI had devoutly wished that the new missal would supplant the old, no action officially suppressing the traditional liturgy was ever taken, and thus the old missal, even if largely eclipsed in practice, has continued to be a living part of the Church these past four decades.
This is the view of — among other Vatican officials — Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission and former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévez, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It also happens to be the view of Benedict, who noted in his recent letter to bishops that “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.” The 1986 Commission added that any priest ought to be able to choose which missal he wanted to use. Initially sympathetic, Pope John Paul II ultimately shelved the idea.

What We Lost

With the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the idea of freedom for the old missal — and not just the Mass but all the sacraments, and even the old Breviary — is back.
The secular media, so often wrongheaded and hostile when it comes to the Church, were correct to sense that Benedict’s desire to bring back the traditional liturgy was something momentous. Still, some managed to get the issue entirely wrong: Some people want “Mass in English,” they report, but others want “Mass in Latin.” But the issue at stake has never been merely one of language. It is a question of two different liturgical books and two different ways of saying Mass.
Benedict’s move is an act of generosity, justice, and simple common sense. When the Church possesses something of priceless worth like the Missal of St. Pius V — which is itself the consummation of centuries of gradual development — and when some of her faithful seek to nourish their souls at its copious font of grace, who could be so petty as to deny it to them?{mospagebreak}
Countless figures of prominence recognized what the Church was losing in the old rite. When nearly four decades ago it seemed as if the traditional Latin Mass would never be heard from again, a group of British intellectuals, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, issued a protest to the pope urging him not to carry out such a terrible offense against Europe’s cultural patrimony. Signatories included Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, and Malcolm Muggeridge. It read, in part:
If some senseless decree were to order the total or partial destruction of basilicas or cathedrals, then obviously it would be the educated — whatever their personal beliefs — who would rise up in horror to oppose such a possibility. Now the fact is that basilicas and cathedrals were built so as to celebrate a rite which, until a few months ago, constituted a living tradition. We are referring to the Roman Catholic Mass. Yet, according to the latest information in Rome, there is a plan to obliterate that Mass by the end of the current year . . . . The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts — not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians.
The petition concluded with a plea to the pope: “The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere. They wish to call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to allow the traditional Mass to survive, even though this survival took place side by side with other liturgical forms.”
Pope Paul VI responded to the petition with an indult for England and Wales that retained the old rite as an option for special occasions. The old rite had won a tiny victory. More significant was what the petition itself seemed to show: that even non-Catholics perceived something alienating — unjust, even — about the simple suppression of something as stupendous as the traditional Latin Mass.
That’s where the matter stood until John Paul II issued an indult allowing the traditional liturgy on a limited basis in 1984, broadening that allowance somewhat in 1988. The world’s bishops often neglected the pope’s call to be “generous” toward those who favored the old rite. John Paul, who had little interest in the matter, didn’t push it.

The Benedictine Difference

It is possible to argue, as some indeed have, that the Church’s liturgical problems are really only a secondary matter, and that it is more important to concentrate on the faithful transmission of the Church’s teachings on faith and morals. But the liturgy is at the very heart of the Church — Vatican II describes the Eucharistic sacrifice as “the source and summit of the Christian life” — and cannot be so neatly isolated from these other things. Pope Benedict XVI, while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, argued that the crisis in the Church was closely related to the crisis in liturgy: “I am convinced,” he wrote in his memoirs, “that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”
Now let us be clear: Cardinal Ratzinger did not regret that the liturgical reform ever took place. He declared himself pleased with the additional scriptural readings in the new missal, and the greater allowance for vernacular languages. Still less did he maintain that the new missal expressed the truths of the Catholic faith less precisely or explicitly than the old. In a 1983 letter to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, he pointed to the new missal’s retention of the venerable Roman Canon (now known more prosaically as “Eucharistic Prayer I”) and its unambiguous references to the Eucharistic sacrifice to show it was beyond theological reproach. (The Roman Canon was itself saved from the chopping block, though, only by the personal intervention of Pope Paul VI.){mospagebreak}
Ratzinger’s unhappiness with the liturgical reform, therefore, did not include concerns about the doctrinal rectitude of the new missal. Those concerns were most clearly and consistently expressed by the late British author Michael Davies. Davies, along with the vast majority of traditionalist supporters of the old liturgy, never questioned the validity of the new form of the Mass. His complaint — expressed most systematically in his book Pope Paul’s New Mass — was that it did not convey Catholic teaching, particularly on the nature of the ordained priesthood and the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, as consistently and precisely as did the traditional liturgy.
Davies never said that heresy had been inserted into the new missal; what mattered was what had been suppressed. He argued that the changes to the missal did not seem random: Their tendency was consistently to remove or diminish prayers and gestures that highlighted these Catholic teachings. The new missal referred to the idea of sacrifice with language ambiguous enough to satisfy even some Protestants. Eucharistic Prayer II failed to include the word “victim,” which in this context refers to Jesus Christ as the Divine Victim whose sacrifice on Calvary is made present on Catholic altars during the Mass. The indefectibility of the Church, argued Davies, meant that we could be sure that the Church would never fail in her mission, and thus the new rite was certainly valid. But it did not mean that she would always use the most effective or felicitous language to express her teaching, and that was Davies’ point.
It seems likely that these kinds of criticisms, even if not shared by Benedict himself, are not altogether forbidden to Catholics of good will. Following Davies’s death in September 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a moving eulogy to a man with whom he had had a good working relationship.
I have been profoundly touched by the news of the death of Michael Davies. I had the good fortune to meet him several times and I found him as a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering. Ever since the Council he put all his energy into the service of the Faith and left us important publications especially about the Sacred Liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter and that the Faith can find its fullness and maturity only in union with the successor of St. Peter. Therefore we can be confident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We commend his soul to the Lord’s mercy.

The Failure of Liturgical Reform

Even if Cardinal Ratzinger could not endorse the traditionalists’ critique of liturgical reform in its entirety, some of their concerns were also his own. His writing on the liturgy emphasized a number of key factors, some of which were intrinsic to the reform and others that were merely its unfortunate byproducts.
For one thing, he contended that the new missal gave rise to excessive creativity in liturgical celebration. This development undermined the very essence of liturgy and cut Catholics off not only from their past but even from the parish down the street, where Mass was different. In Feast of Faith, Ratzinger wondered, “Today we might ask: Is there a Latin Rite at all any more? Certainly there is no awareness of it. To most people the liturgy seems to be rather something for the individual congregation to arrange. Core groups make up their own ‘liturgies’ from week to week, with an enthusiasm which is as amazing as it is misplaced.”
The very idea that liturgy is something to be made reflects a complete breakdown of liturgical consciousness. Ratzinger wrote: “Neither the apostles nor their successors ‘made’ a Christian liturgy; it grew organically as a result of the Christian reading of the Jewish inheritance, fashioning its own form as it did so. In this process there was a filtering of the individual communities’ experiences of prayer, within the basic proportions of the one Church, gradually developing into the distinctive forms of the major regional churches. In this sense liturgy always imposed an obligatory form on the individual congregation and the individual celebrant. It is a guarantee, testifying to the fact that something greater is taking place here than can be brought about by any individual community or group of people.”{mospagebreak}
There are those who complain that requiring strict fidelity to the rubrics infringes on the freedom of the “faith community” to devise the kinds of liturgies that suit them best. Ratzinger disagreed, and suggested that “the obligatory character of the essential parts of the liturgy also guarantees the true freedom of the faithful: it makes sure that they are not victims of something fabricated by an individual or group, that they are sharing in the same liturgy that binds the priest, the bishop and the pope. In the liturgy, we are all given the freedom to appropriate, in our own personal way, the mystery which addresses us.” In fact, he turned the complaint around, noting that these manufactured liturgies themselves amount to a kind of tyranny exercised over hapless congregations, the vast bulk of which do not belong to parish liturgy committees. “Those able to draw up [manufactured] liturgies are necessarily few in number, with the result that what is ‘freedom’ for them means ‘domination’ as it affects others.”
On the one hand, Ratzinger argued, this was not the fault of the new missal. Speaking on the tenth anniversary of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, John Paul II’s 1988 document on the old liturgy, he cautioned that “the freedom that the new Ordo Missae allows to be creative, has often gone too far.” So far had it gone, he said, that there was often a greater difference between two celebrations of Mass according to the new missal than there was between properly celebrated offerings of the new and old missals.
On the other hand, he seemed to suggest, the new missal was not altogether blameless:
As concerns the Missal in current use, the first point, in my opinion, would be to reject the false creativity which is not a category of the Liturgy . . . . In the new Missal we quite often find formulae such as: sacerdos dicit sic vel simili modo [the priest speaks thus or in words to this effect] . . . or, Hic sacerdos potest dicere [Here the priest may say] . . . . These formulae of the Missal in fact give official sanction to creativity; the priest feels almost obliged to change the wording, to show that he is creative, that he is giving this Liturgy immediacy, making it present for his congregation; and with this false creativity, which transforms the Liturgy into a catechetical exercise for this congregation, the liturgical unity and the ecclesiality of the Liturgy is being destroyed. Therefore, it seems to me, it would be an important step towards reconciliation, simply if the Missal were freed from these areas of creativity, which do not correspond to the deepest level of reality, to the spirit, of the Liturgy.

Losing the Sacred

A second major theme in Ratzinger’s corpus of liturgical writing is what he called desacralization. He told the Chilean bishops in 1988 that although many reasons could be cited to explain why a great many people “seek a refuge in the traditional liturgy,” the primary one was that “they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there.”
After the Council, he explained, many priests “deliberately raised ‘desacralization’ to the level of a program.” They argued that the New Testament had abolished the cult of the Temple, and that the tearing of the Temple veil from top to bottom upon Christ’s death was meant to signify the end of the sacred. “The death of Jesus, outside the City walls, that is to say, in the public world, is now the true religion. Religion, if it has any being at all, must have it in the nonsacredness of daily life . . . . Inspired by such reasoning, they put aside the sacred vestments; they have despoiled the churches as much as they could of that splendor which brings to mind the sacred; and they have reduced the liturgy to the language and the gestures of ordinary life, by means of greetings, common signs of friendship, and such things.”
A sure sign of desacralization, and the replacement of the sacred by a more familiar, man-centered ethos, is the reduction or even elimination of kneeling in liturgical settings. Ratzinger was a consistent opponent of the fanaticism against kneeling, and in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy recalled a revealing story from the sayings of the Desert Fathers. When God once compelled the devil to show himself to Abba Apollo, what was most striking about his hideous and emaciated frame was that he had no knees. “The inability to kneel,” Ratzinger wrote, “is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”
As we saw Ratzinger observe above, the sheer variety and instability that characterizes the new rite in actual practice (whereby the offering of Mass in one place is unlike how it is celebrated somewhere else) raises the question of whether there even exists a coherent Roman rite. Yet for all this diversity, he said, there was one consistent feature on which the contemporary Mass-goer could confidently rely: they will all be aesthetically dreadful. On that point these divergent celebrations of Mass do indeed resemble one another. “It is strange,” he wrote, “that the postconciliar pluralism has created uniformity in one respect at least: It will not tolerate a high standard of expression.” {mospagebreak}
And here again we encounter the phenomenon of desacralization, for how else are we to describe the substitution of 1970s banalities for the extraordinary range of Catholic musical patrimony?

Breaking with the Past

Ratzinger’s third major criticism of the liturgical reform was that whatever its virtues, the new missal, both in particular sections and in its entirety, leaves the impression of a rupture with the past, and can seem contrived. It resembles more a compilation by a committee of professors than the organic development of a truly living liturgy. “In the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy,” Ratzinger wrote. “We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
Again Ratzinger faulted the liturgical books themselves, and not merely their clumsy implementation. “Even the official new books, which are excellent in many ways, occasionally show far too many signs of being drawn up by academics and reinforce the notion that a liturgical book can be ‘made’ like any other book.” The new missal “was published as if it were a book put together by professors, not a phase in a continual growth process. Such a thing never happened before. It is absolutely contrary to the laws of liturgical growth.”
Ratzinger cited the reform of the liturgical calendar as an example of “the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth.” This approach was “one of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform.” Those responsible, he said, simply “did not realize how much the various annual feasts had influenced Christian people’s relation to time. In redistributing these established feasts throughout the year according to some historical arithmetic — inconsistently applied at that — they ignored a fundamental law of religious life.”
Ratzinger’s claim that the organic development of the liturgy gave way in the liturgical reform to “fabricated liturgy” raises a more fundamental question, albeit one that he himself never confronted directly: Does the pope possess the moral or even the legal right to make radical revisions to the Church’s liturgy? There had been a great many changes to the Roman liturgy over the centuries, to be sure, but they had been gradual and organic, and typically imperceptible. There was never anything like what happened in 1969-1970.
Alfons Cardinal Stickler, for one, has his doubts. Stickler, the retired prefect of the Vatican library and archives, was a peritus (expert) on Vatican II’s liturgy commission. “I have never cast in doubt the dogmatic or juridical validity of the Novus Ordo Missae,” Stickler recorded in his memoir. But “in the case of the juridical question serious doubts have come to me in view of my intensive work with the medieval canonists. They are of the unanimous opinion that the popes may change anything with the exception of what the Holy Scriptures prescribe or what concerns previously enacted doctrinal decisions of the highest level, and the status ecclesiae.”
Although the concept of the status ecclesiae defies perfectly clear definition, it refers to aspects of the Church’s life “over which even the pope has no right of disposal.” According to Cardinal Stickler, there is good reason to believe that the liturgy itself “should belong to the status ecclesiae.”
Msgr. Klaus Gamber likewise doubted the pope had any such power. Gamber, an accomplished, respected, mainstream liturgist, included a chapter called “Does the Pope Have the Authority to Change the Rite?” in his book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background. “Since there is no document that specifically assigns to the Apostolic See the authority to change,” he concluded, “let alone to abolish the traditional liturgical rite; and since, furthermore, it can be shown that not a single predecessor of Pope Paul VI has ever introduced major changes to the Roman liturgy, the assertion that the Holy See has the authority to change the liturgical rite would appear to be debatable, to say the least.”{mospagebreak}
Ratzinger wrote a laudatory preface to the French-language edition of The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, endorsing Monsignor Gamber’s work and commending the author to readers worldwide. It must surely be licit to hold this opinion, therefore, for otherwise the cardinal — now pope — would never have endorsed such a book or author.

Reading between the Lines

Although Ratzinger himself never addressed the question head on, it is perhaps suggestive that while Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on liturgy, says no priest may change the liturgy on his own authority, the new Catechism — in the writing of which he himself played a great part — goes much further and says that even the supreme authority in the Church “may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.”
In The Spirit of the Liturgy Ratzinger came as close as he ever did to raising and answering this interesting canonical question. What we do know is that he will have no truck with those who take the essentially anti-intellectual position that the pope’s authority is bound neither by tradition nor reason, and that his wishes and commands are ipso facto good and justifiable:
After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not ‘manufactured’ by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.
In light of these criticisms, it is not surprising that Ratzinger should have favored the wide availability of the 1962 Missal, since it pre-existed the abuses and problems that have accompanied the new missal. But he supported the wide availability of the old liturgy not simply because he shared some of the concerns of traditionalists who were skeptical of the new, or as a grudging allowance to those stubborn souls who refused to get with the times — as the motu proprio was dishonestly spun even before its release. It came instead from a deep personal love for the traditional liturgy that he shares with traditionalists.
Thus in 2001 Ratzinger told a liturgical conference at France’s Benedictine abbey of Fontgombault: “I well know the sensibilities of those faithful who love this [traditional] Liturgy — these are, to some extent, my own sensibilities.” On the tenth anniversary of Ecclesia Dei he expressed his delight at the fruits that that papal initiative had borne: “I think it is above all an occasion to show our gratitude and to give thanks. The diverse communities born thanks to this pontifical text have given to the Church a great number of vocations to the priesthood and to religious life.”
Ratzinger was also concerned that the Church’s credibility was compromised by the Orwellian claim that what was once the Church’s greatest and most cherished treasure could become forbidden overnight, and that a fondness for it could actually give rise to suspicion or derision. In the interview that became his book Salt of the Earth, he declared:
I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.{mospagebreak}
The cardinal returned to this theme again and again. In Fontgombault he said that “in order to emphasize that there is no essential break, that there is continuity in the Church, which retains its identity, it seems to me indispensable to continue to offer the opportunity to celebrate according to the old Missal, as a sign of the enduring identity of the Church. This is for me the most basic reason: What was up until 1969 the Liturgy of the Church, for all of us the most holy thing there was, cannot become after 1969 . . . the most unacceptable thing.” This, among other reasons, is why he “was from the beginning in favor of the freedom to continue using the old Missal.” “There is no doubt,” Ratzinger said, “that a venerable rite such as the Roman rite in use up to 1969 is a rite of the Church, it belongs to the Church, is one of the treasures of the Church, and ought therefore to be preserved in the Church.”
As for suppressing the old Mass — which happened de facto if not de jure — Ratzinger considered the idea not only pastorally unwise, but also completely at odds with all previous liturgical history.
It is good to recall in this regard what Cardinal Newman said when he observed that the Church, in her entire history, never once abolished or prohibited orthodox liturgical forms, something which would be entirely foreign to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, a liturgy which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of various ceremonies which one may put together in a positivist and arbitrary way — today like this and tomorrow like that. The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of a dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are the expressions of the life of the Church in which are condensed the faith, the prayer and the very life of generations, and in which are incarnated in a concrete form at once the action of God and the response of man.
To be sure, for a variety of reasons liturgical rites can die. The Church, moreover, “can define and limit the usage of rites in different historical circumstances.” But “the Church never purely and simply prohibits them.” And while Vatican II “did ordain a reform of the liturgical books,” Ratzinger reminded listeners that it “did not forbid the previous books.”

Pope Benedict Acts

For decades, Catholics have been told that the new Mass is the traditional Mass — that its promulgation by Church authority made it ipso facto traditional. The chaplain at a well-known Catholic university recently rebuked traditionalist students who asked for the traditional Latin Mass with precisely this brand of legal positivism: the Novus Ordo is the traditional Mass, he insisted. Benedict (and great liturgists like Monsignor Gamber) will have none of this nonsense: The old rite is the old rite, the new rite is the new, and they are not and never have been the same.
These, in brief, were the liturgical concerns of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. All of these themes can be found in Pope Benedict’s extraordinary motu proprio, and in the letter to bishops that accompanied it.
Benedict speaks of the destruction wrought by liturgical creativity on the mature liturgical sense that is supposed to inform Catholic piety. In many places, he says, celebrations “were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”
He likewise urges the revival of a sense of liturgical continuity, and warns against the Orwellian world in which what was once considered holy and beautiful must suddenly be denigrated and forgotten: “In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”{mospagebreak}
We are likewise reminded of what a great treasure we possess in the 1962 Missal. The two documents speak of its “sacrality,” describe it as “sacred and great,” and demand that it “be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage.” This is a treasure of the Church that should be embraced (or at least respected) by all.
This treasure, moreover, is not something to be confined to older Catholics with a nostalgic longing for the religious practices of their childhoods. Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles tried to argue that John Paul II’s allowance for the 1962 Missal had been intended only for old people; he was soon corrected by Rome. That interpretation has now been absolutely excluded, by the Church’s highest authority. The pope specifically notes that “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”
Now in addition to arguments from theology, philosophy, and ecclesiology, there is also a specific pastoral concern in Benedict’s mind: those million or so faithful who have wandered from the Church’s official precincts, so great has been their alienation by the postconciliar changes. It was Ratzinger who primarily brokered the agreement that would have reconciled Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in 1988, and he wept after the proposal collapsed. As frustrated as he has grown with them at times, Benedict has had a sympathy for the SSPX over the years that has been understood by few and shared by fewer, even among those who describe themselves as his biggest supporters. Early in his pontificate Benedict held a private audience with Bishop Bernard Fellay, SSPX superior general.
At the same time, it would be a serious mistake to suggest that the motivating factor behind the pope’s motu proprio was exclusively the reconciliation of the SSPX. That is doubtless among the reasons that compelled the pope’s initiative, but it is surely not the only or even the most important one. As we have seen, the pope has many and varied concerns about the condition of the liturgy in the Church today, and he is likewise disturbed about the appearance of discontinuity in the Church’s liturgical life. He has long wished for the Church to come to terms with her own liturgical tradition, and the reintroduction of the old missal alongside the new makes that possible.
Especially revealing is that the pope has fought to make the Church’s traditional liturgy available not only against liberal opposition — who expected the vandals to give up without a fight? — but even in the face of indifference and hostility from his own friends in the episcopate, where the silence about Benedict’s initiative in the preceding months was glaring. Benedict’s heart is really in this.{mospagebreak}
Benedict’s views are surely a source of embarrassment to those in the Catholic world who have spent the past four decades lecturing others for their supposedly misplaced devotion to the old missal. Some appear to have believed that they could prove their Catholic credentials in proportion to their dismissals of the traditional liturgy.I am thinking in particular of the papal Latinist who called the old rite a “useless Mass,” adding that “the whole mentality [motivating its return] is stupid,” and the well-known head of a religious order who once told his friars, “Anyone who wants to say this Mass is wasting his time and wasting his life.”
To the contrary, Pope Benedict says simply, “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”
We can surely agree, in light of Benedict’s own comments, that there is something deranged about this kind of loathing for something that had been so fundamental to Catholic life for so long, and so deeply venerated by so many generations of saints and ordinary faithful.
For more than a generation, decent Catholics have been denounced and had their motives questioned for saying the very things our current pope has spent much of his career saying. Although a lot of apologies are owed to a lot of people, it is a misplaced effort to demand them now.
This is instead a time to rejoice, for the Church has at last made peace with her own tradition. She once again openly acknowledges the riches that Pope Benedict XVI — and a great many other good Catholics — have long pointed to in the traditional Latin liturgy. What was holy and beautiful yesterday remains holy and beautiful today. Orwell has not had the last word after all.

Thomas E. Woods Jr.


Thomas E. Woods Jr. is the author of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization and the first-place winner in the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Awards for The Church and the Market. His most recent book is Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts will Make Everything Worse. Dr. Woods earned his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University.

  • HK

    He speaketh out of both sides of his mouth. The old rite is wonderful, and is allowed Pope Benedict says, the problem being it takes 7 years in a Traditional Seminary to learn the Tridentine Mass, yet the Novus Ordo has NO such Seminaries, so that AS Benedict knows all too well, his alleged desire to have the old Mass is quite impossible inside the Novus Ordo hierarchy….One must attend Mass outside the local Dioces to have a true Tridentine Mass….

  • Odessa

    What a fascinating article. I can’t possibly compete with the vast knowledge of the other posters and I’m embarrassed to say, some of the finer points of the article went a little over my head. I was born in 1965, so all I’ve ever really known is the New Mass. I can remember one of the Nuns at Resurrection Academy in Rye, NY, extolling the virtues of the New Mass when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I distinctly recall her telling us something along the lines of the Old Mass being stuffy and no-one knowing what was going on. Two thousand years of no-one knowing what was going on when they attended the Latin Mass? Well, okaaay…if you say so.

    I never really thought much about Vatican II and it’s impact until I became an adult. My conclusion is that it is the worst thing ever to happen in the history of the Catholic Church and I really mean it when I say that Satan himself couldn’t have done more to undermine the glory, strength and power of the Church had he come up with Vatican II himself.

    Growing up, I could never understand what it was about attending Mass that I found so relatively unfulfilling. What was missing? I found myself becoming extremely annoyed with guitar-strumming, hand holding, arm-raising Masses-so much so, that at times, I just walked out in disgust. I was not disgusted with God, but with what seemed to me a complete lack of reverence and solemnity and something else (but what WAS it?) for the Mass.

    Like a wandering puppy, sometimes I would get an inkling. The wedding scene in The Sound of Music, for example, just mesmerized me. Now that’s what a Catholic ceremony should look like, I would always think. Why isn’t it like that today, I wondered. Weddings these days are full of giggles and applause, just like the Masses, not coincidentally. Ughh. I still didn’t have an answer to what was gnawing at me, though.

    Then my parents became members of the Society of Pius X. They had never been particularly religious, as I recall, although maybe they were moreso than others. Anyway, we always attended Mass, but it was always the New Mass.

    My parents’ reversion to the old Mass caused me to research the Latin Mass vis a his Vatican II, and it only took one Latin Mass for me to conclude, as I stated before, that VII is simply the worst thing to happen to the Catholic Church. Ever.

    Attending the Mass, I finally figured out that other factor that was missing that I had been searching for in the New Mass, but could never, and would never, find in it; glorious mysticism and, I guess, some sort of supernatural beauty that entirely relates back to Christ’s suffering and Resurrection and the founding of the Church. The Passion of the Christ also was a major eye opener. The fact that there is such a huge disconnect between the characteristics I find inherent in the Old Mass and The Passion of the Christ and, completely lacking in the New Mass, tells me everything I need to know about the effects of VII.

    I am by no means a theologin, but I do know this; there is something fundamentally weird about going to ten different churches and having ten different experiences. It’s like staying at ten different hotel chains; they all fall under the rubric of “hotel”, but they can all be very different. Only when you stay at ten hotels under the same business chain are the visits the same. Similarly, VII’s ripping apart of the one fundamental thing that held us all together worldwide-i.e. The Latin Mass-has created a MILLION different hotels worldwide. No wonder most Catholics wander about and have no clue about the real meaning of the Church.

    I also don’t appreciate that the Priest faces us during the New Mass. What’s up with that? I remember that same Nun extolling the virtues of the Priest now being closer tithe people as a result, but excuse me, isnt Mass supposed to be about getting closer to God? Why is the New Mass now so centered on the person? Also, there is something fundamentally extremely creepy about the Priest standing there, with his back to God. It just looks so, so wrong and to me, sends a very sinister message.

  • Odessa

    Oops- too wordy.

    Anyway, as I don’t harbour much good will towards those who created this monster known as Vatican II, nothing will ever convince me that at least some of those who decided that the Priest should have his back to God didn’t know exactly whatthey were doing and didn’t have evil motives. I have half the knowledge and brain power of these educated Cardinals and even I can discern the perverse nature of this act. They knew better but mandated it ANYWAY.

    In sum, I am one of the very people to whom VII sought to “reach out”. It only served to drive me away, and because of the swift, overwhelming and complete removal of all the relevant pre-Vatican II elements, I was basically brainwashed into thinking that the New Mass had always been the long-standing, 2,000 year reflection of the Church. No wonder I always felt something was amiss and empty inside at Mass and thank God for the Old Mass people who stood by their guns and were/are around to educate those who will never get the true story and history of a proper Mass from a post VII church.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know full well many will disagree with me. That said, anyone interested in illustrating the wonderful ramifications of VII need only attend a New Mass anywhere in the world today: People dress like pigs, one cannot tell if they are in a Catholic or Protestant Church, since the priestly vestments are gone, the Church building often looks like some weird sci-fi creation and, of course, there is plenty of joviaiity all around. Yay! I’m so glad everyone’s having fun!

    I tried to attend a VII Mass one Ash Wedsday. I would have stormed out in disgust, as I usually have, apologizing to God, Jesus, and Mary for the disgrace that they now have to witness in their “new and improved” Church. Only this time, I didn’t have to; the “Mass” was a whopping 25 minutes long, probably do as to not “drive away” those “Catholics” who have a very busy schedule. After all, we can’t inconvenience the congregants!

    Way to go, Vatican II, way to go.

  • Christine


    Isn’t the Priest facing Christ during communion? He is facing the Eucharist and the Sacramental Wine when he consecrates it.

    Do you mean that he is not facing the Sacristy?

    Being a female, I wasn’t an altar server, so I was just wondering if I am missing something.



  • Deacon Ed

    from the creative interpretation of the Novus Ordo has been the number of Catholics who no longer believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar. This is only my opinion but I have observed a correlation between statistics I’ve seen over the years on this belief and the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

    My second observation , and this mainly from my experiences with RCIA over the years, is that I have never heard anyone tell me that they were attracted to our faith on account of the liturgy, whereas I have heard anecdotal reports prior to Vatican II of people coming into the faith because they experienced something namelessly transcendent about the Latin Mass.

    My third observation – and this as a college student when the ‘changes’ were instituted – was that this was an attempt to simulate as closely as possible Protestant forms of worship with the intent of quickening a hoped-for reunification of various denominations with the Catholic Church. In the process, the churches were not united and the ranks of Catholics was decimated. Experiment failed!

  • Christine

    I don’t know, but all of this talk the past few days about the Latin Mass has got me thinking about the Church and the role of the various forms of Mass we do have.

    Deacon Ed, I am coming to the same conclusion that you have regarding the new mass and that it was meant to assist in trying to bring converts back from other Christian denominations. I don

  • georgie-ann

    Christine,…in our church & in most traditional style churches, the tabernacle where consecrated hosts are kept is in the center, behind the altar & under the crucifix,…this is where God lives in a catholic church, even when no mass is happening at the moment,…i think that this location is the significant factor as to the direction the priest faces,…with the priest facing in the same direction as the people face (therefore his back to the people), and all of us worshipping and offering the sacrifice together, facing God in the same direction, i think it gives a sense of all of us facing the Holy of Holies (sp?) together in a profound way,…the preparation of the gifts for Consecration is still done in front of the priest, but is now in between him & God,…he stands in between us and the consecrated host and God in the tabernacle to perform the sacrifice of the Mass,…that is why his role is so important and significant,…

    if an expert can weigh in here on this more expertly, please do so,…

    all i can say about this article is a great big WOW!,…it and the comments certainly put a lot into perspective!,…& a lot to think about too,…thank you so much,…a “mystery” becoming clearer,…God Bless!,…

  • Marie

    Mr. Woods,

    In quoting from Pope Benedict’s “Feast of Faith,” (pp 82-87)you missed the following parts:

    “Hence those who cling to the “Tridentine Missal” have a faulty view of historical facts. Yet at the same time the way in which the renewed Missal was presented was open to much criticism. We must say to the “Tridentines” that the Church’s liturgy is alive, like the Church herself, and is always thus involved in a process of maturing which exhibits greater and lesser changes. The Missal can no more be mummified than the Church herself.”

    In my view, a new edition will need to make it quite clear that the so-called Missal of Paul VI is nothing other than the renewed form of the same Missal to which Pius X, Urban VIII, Pius V and their predecessors have contributed, right from the Church’s earliest history.

    It is of the very essence of the Church that she should be aware of her unbroken continuity throughout the history of faith, expressed in the ever-present unity of prayer. This awareness of continuity is destroyed just as much by those who “opt” for a book supposed to have been produced 400 years ago as by those who would like to be forever drawing up new liturgies. At bottom, these two attitudes are identical.

  • Marie
  • Dan Carter

    Since the total change in the mass that occurred in 1970-75 or so, I have been blessed with having a Tridentine latin mass near me. First it was Society of St Pius X, then the Fraternity of St Peter. I was losing my faith, and I found a traditional latin mass. Thank God. I dont begrudge the people who have loved the changes in the mass….but you must understand how, in many cases, we feel the mass has become people centered and not God centered. Hand clapping, distractions, great voices in a choir, for sure, but they sing this opera-like and Broadway music-style PRRRROOOODUCTIONS!!!!, that are sooooo loud and oh Lord !!!…unnatural and out-of-place “sign of peace”, which many times is a forced “wave” of the hand or pasty smile, and communion in the hand (no way–I dont have consecrated hands)….its just not the faith I was raised on in the 50s and 60s. And what I like is that there are so many young families that are now at the trinentine mass and they will continue the love of the mass. Im glad we have it. Go ahead and go to the new mass…most people do…but leave my Tridentine Latin mass alone !

  • meg

    Bishop Slattery of Tulsa explains ad orientum:

  • Christine

    Thanks for your answer Georgie Ann.

    I thought that everything was removed from the tabernacle during Mass.

    It looked like everything from the tabernacle was removed during mass and placed on the altar from my perspective, but I never sit in the front row. I either find myself sitting in the choir loft or by the Statue of Our Lady at any church I attend.

    You will find this pretty amusing, but where I live in liberal California, the N.O. masses are very uniform and most of the Churches where I have attended Mass have artwork. Priests don’t tend to make many changes to the wording for the Mass, although I agree that look forward to the upcoming changes and I love the Latin Chants. Maybe I haven

  • Cody

    Very good article!

    I personally find this whole thing very fascinating, especially as a newer convert to the Faith. The most important thing to remember here is that something that is approved by the Holy See, approved by our Holy Father is perfectly acceptable, good, and fine. If you love the old Mass, shop around and find a parish where they do the old Mass! Love it, enjoy it, and let that be the end of it.

    I work in campus ministry where we have a variety of Masses, one of which being a more “production” (as the poster said above). Do I hope to see the focus changed a bit to make sure it’s inline with the Holy See’s documented requirements of what comprise “Sacred Music”? Absolutely! I may not like it, but I hold my personal comments. Trusting and knowing that our Priests are always overseeing and will correct when necessary.

    We all have our opinions, and to be 100% correct, there will always be a specific style of liturgy that speaks to each individual the most. The universality of the Catholic Faith is that we can have a old or a new Mass, as well as perfectly acceptable liturgical dancing in Africa. It may be apples and oranges, but please remember that your preferences are personal, and they are culturally motivated. Stop comparing them, and start enjoying, learning, loving, and living the grace that you receive from the Holy Mass!

    PS: And for the Love of God, stop comparing how people receive the Eucharist!! You don’t have consecrated hands, or consecrated tongues, our humanity is fallen, non of us are worthy to receive the Eucharist … recall the response before we receive! This again is an important point to note: Tongue reception is the universal norm, but here in the US we DO have a dispensation, where our Bishops have decided it’s perfectly fine. Enough said! It’s not something that can be compared, if one was better the Bishops would allow one and not the other.

  • Bill Sr.

    Saved and served by the old missal. A little humorous story for you.

    In the early 1950

  • Aaron

    A bag of Doritos and a six-pack of Coke may be a “valid” meal that contains calories and will keep you from starving, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Likewise, the new Mass may be valid, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the faith and salvation of those who have been formed in it. Today, 75% of Catholics never go to Confession, and various polls show that from 1/3 to 2/3 don’t believe in the Real Presence. The new Mass may not be solely responsible for this disaster, but it’s not an innocent bystander either. It’s both a cause and a symptom.

    Odessa, I agree with you: I think some of the people who pushed the changes knew exactly what they were doing. They may honestly have thought it would draw more converts to the Church, but they also knew they were changing the Church radically to bring that about. (And it didn’t work anyway.) The way they surgically removed certain aspects of the Mass, like the focus on Sacrifice, are too thorough to be accidental. The many similarities between the Novus Ordo and Cramner’s Protestant Lord’s Supper make it clear that the intention was to de-Catholicize the Mass–even if we didn’t have quotes from the reformers saying exactly that.

  • Ken

    Ha, Bill Sr. — good story.

    I am always amazed at how many otherwise smart Catholics fear going to a traditional Latin Mass because they think the homily will also be in Latin.

  • Ed

    The venerable practice of ad orientem (meaning “toward the east,” but a.k.a., ad Deum, ad apsidium–that is, “toward God,” “toward the apse”) did not begin as a turning of the priest toward the tabernacle. Rather, I think that the tabernacle’s placement may be related to the priest’s orientation. At any rate, see Joseph Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy and his Feast of Faith for a fine explanation.

    The practice began with the idea that the morning’s returning sun could be used to symbolize the return of THE Son. One theologian (whose name I can’t recall at the moment) showed that in some early churches, the doors would be built to face the east so that at the consecration, the raised Sacrament would be surrounded by a halo of sunlight. Powerful stuff, no? While the use of the doors fell out of practice, what didn’t cease was the recognition of the importance of priest and people facing the same direction–the east–with the implication that they together (through the person of the priest, who, as in persona Christi, manifests Christ the Head) face the Eucharistic altar in anticipation of Christ’s imminent sacramental return and future personal return. (In Spirit of the Liturgy, Ratzinger does away with the idea that this is counter to the liturgy Christ celebrated at the Last Supper.)

    Versus populum is technically allowed in the older rite as well (think, for example, of the papal altar), but was rarely practiced. Ratzinger emphasizes this by recounting an historical epoch that saw the people in St. Peter’s “turning their backs” to the priest in order to face the east. IT WAS THAT IMPORTANT! Just so, read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: ad orientem is clearly assumed, despite the use of versus populum.

  • georgie-ann

    i was going to mention the east as a factor, but then realized our church wasn’t aligned in that direction, so left it out,…thanks for explaining,…(-:

  • Charles in CenCA

    Though I personally am a proponent of the “ad Deum” posture for both forms of the Mass, I am grateful to the Holy Father and those bishops and celebrants who have embraced the so-called Benedictine Altar arrangement, inwhich the celebrant’s “facing the people” is mediated by the presence of a central crucifix on the altar facing the celebrant. I don’t understand why so many “boomer” generation celebrants find this arrangement repugnant; I mean “really?”
    What I see from the pew when a priest re-presents the sacrifice through the consecration of the elements is morealter Christus” and less “Father _______’s” celebrational style.

  • georgie-ann

    actually, our doors might face east, as you said,…i’m going to bring my compass next time to see!,…very interesting details,…my faith experience will still be the same, but maybe just a little bit deeper & more intimate,…the more you know about someone you love, the better it is!,…

  • Jitpring

    Dusty old priest, many thanks for your thoughts. Very well said.

  • meg

    Yes, thanks from us, too, Father, and God bless. We will pray for you (and all priests as you requested).

  • I am not Spartacus

    That aside, the convert Mr. Woods has done a tremendous amount of good inside the Catholic Church.

    Thank you, Mr. Woods. Kudos

  • J Peterman

    Born in 1970, I only knew the “newrite” Mass. Now finally I have been attending the TLM every Sunday and I can honestly understand why it WILL be returned as the ONLY Mass. It’s just unbelievable how everything is focused on worship of our Lord truly present and how EVERYTHING in the new Mass is basically a distraction from doing the same. Everyone must attend this Mass so, brick by brick we return to the truth. What especially impressed me was the outright anger and disdain “catholics” and non catholics alike had/have for the TLM. This lets me be 100% confident I’m home in the right place. If it angers, bothers, and disturbs them that much (eg: the Rabbi in NYC who recently lamented the “regrettable” TLM) like “brute beasts” as St Jude refers, it can only be the right Mass and the right place to be on Sunday morning.

  • JM

    Thanks Mr. Woods for a balanced take on the return of Tridentine ritual and the validity of the Ordinary Form. I still hear people arguing outlandish arguments about the ‘invalidity’ and even ‘evil’ of the Ordinary Form. The Latin typical text of the OF was always orthodox — it’s just that we’ve had to wait forty years to find that out in English!
    Even the strongest argument for Catholic orthodoxy won’t change the minds of those who cast aspersions onto the Ordinary Form. Even so, I’m glad you wrote a detailed and principled defense.

    An opinion on Pope John Paul II and _Ecclesia Dei_: I doubt that JP II ignored traditional Catholics. Rather, he tried a voluntary approach with the episcopate. Given the hostility of many bishops to John Paul II’s good-will effort, Pope Benedict’s tactic of absolute legislation has certainly worked better. Then again, our Holy Father passed _Summorum Pontificum_ almost ten years after the Econe consecrations. _Ecclesia Dei_ was an immediate Vatican reaction to Lefebvre’s grave act of schism. For this reason, _Ecclesia Dei_ should be viewed as emergency legislation rather than a comprehensive safeguard of traditional Catholic aspirations. _Summorum Pontificum_ permanently codified the interim measures of _Ecclesia Dei_, and should be viewed as the more solid foundation of a previously temporary structure.

  • Randy

    Did anyone ever notice the DATE on which Summorum Pontificum was pomulgated and when the Tridentine Mass was ‘released’ from restriction.. July 7,2007…. 7/7/07… 777 Hmmm.

    I was made aware of the importance of the number ‘7’ actually, by an 80’s Christian band that would put number 777 all over their insturments. When asked about this, they explained that ‘7’ represented in scripture spiritual perfection of spiritual fuffillment.

    Do you think that the Holy Spirit could be trying to send us a message through his Vicar about the the importance of the Tridentine Mass, and it’s importance of being a more genuine tool to attaining spiritual perfection, other than the Bud Lite Rite, where you go and there’s very little reverence, devotion, everybody acts bored, few believe in the real presence, liturgical abuses are rampant, priests never preach about hell or sin, every sermon is a feel good story, love peace, joy, gifts, healing, witness, healing, touchyfeely etc etc.

    The conclave chose THE most conservative cardinal to become pope and then, he releases the Tridentine Mass. It’s obvious to me that the Holy Spirit wants the Church to return to a more conservative, traditional direction.

  • ajay

    I am very fortunate to live near a chapel that only uses the Latin Mass. I was raised in the Byzantine Catholic Church so I feel at home with this more devout mass.

    Much more is lost than an old language.

    I missed mass at my little chapel Sunday so decided to attended an evening mass at one of the local mega Catholic churches at 5:30PM this past Sunday. This place is huge. It must seat over 2000 people at a mass. The band was practicing before mass and they were loud. I counted 16 piece band heavily mic’d with loud rock guitar. (I spent half my life as a musician so I like music.) I could not concentrate on my rosary, it was impossible to pray before the blessed sacrament before mass.

    The rosary is said before every single mass in my little church. There is silence when we enter. Christ is present. We believe this with our hearts, souls, and minds. The Eucharist is not a symbol. It is Christ. He is there and we/I act like it.

    My church still insists we kneel to receive communion and only a priest administers it. This church had men and women rushing to their posts to give out communion. Everyone took it in their hand. When did “communion in the hand” become the norm. I also thought that one was always suppose to have an opportunity to kneel to receive the communion in every church in the world. I thought kneeling was always to be an option. Not here. Hurry up, get to the corner of your section, hold out your hand, and move on.

    In the words of Our Savior, “This is a house of prayer and you have turned it into a den of theives.” My experience was more like, “This is suppose to be a house of prayer but you have turned it into a PTA social hour and rock concert.” Someone in this church has forgotten that the sanctuary houses Christ. Maybe because the Tabernacle was located far behind the band and about 35 yards from the center of this altar. Nothing, nothing is more important than praying and spending time before mass in adoration of the blessed sacrament–so I thought–I saw no such thing gloing on here. I didn’t see any praying going on. 1000 people or so and I saw 3 rosaries–counting mine.

    If you saw the Son of God with your very own eyes in His glory would you not get on your knees? We need not see to believe and behave accordingly. We believe He is present. This reality did not exist in this church. How did this happen?

    I could go on and on. There were no missals in any of the endless rows of pews. No one was following the readings. There was 30% mass and 70% song after song, after guitar solo, after more songs. It was like a high mass without the mass. I won’t be attending this ever again. It makes me appreciate the treasure of this little Latin Church of mine.

    Don’t mean to blame or be critical at anyone. I just felt such a loss and a sense of grief of what I was seeing. It’s probably more pronounced for me because I have fallen in love with this little church and these very holy, and yes, old priests. I hope they both live to be 100. These priests are two of the wisest and most compassionate confessors I ever have encountered in my life and I’m 55.

    Enough. My little ranting lament.

    Pax Domini set semper vobiscum.
    (May God’s peace always be with you.)


  • Just a regular Catholic

    I was raised as a child on the Latin Mass, grew up as a teenager in a Byzantine Catholic Mass…fell away from the Church as a young adult, and came back to the Novus Ordo Mass where I go and spend my time at Mass in prayer instead of judging everyone else for not doing it “right”.

    While I understand the value and beauty of the old Latin rite…and I often use Gregorian chant for meditation…I find myself very disgusted at the self righteousness of those judge what the rest of us find to be very spiritually fulfilling. I have had no problem recognizing the real Presence in the Eucharist…and while I prefer to receive Communion on the tongue, my kids receive by hand…we go to confession, we say the Rosary, we know our faith. I don’t go to Church to be spoon fed my faith – aren’t we individually responsible for forming our conscience and learning what the Church teaches?

    I am ok with the coming changes, simply because I trust that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and so I am sure that I will find Jesus in the Tabernacle just the same as always. If Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict are right or wrong in setting specific Mass standards…it’s not really my concern. They have to answer to God for those directions, not I. My job is to submit my will in obedience to the Church, rather than imagine I am more Catholic than the Pope.

    I think that the mass, in whatever form, should be approached with humility and obedience.

    So many times, I have attended mass, not dressed properly for some, or perhaps with a screaming child, or maybe with soaking wet hair because I rushed from the shower, or received Communion incorrectly, or did some other thing that the rest of you proper Catholics frown on.

    I think Christ was happy to see me, regardless of the judgement going on in the pews around me. At those times of my life, it was all I could do to get to mass at all. No thanks to those of you sitting in the pews behind me, fuming that the mass wasn’t being conducted right and probably blaming the Vatican II for why I was so disrespectful.

  • Tony Esolen

    I’m of two minds on this issue. I see the beauty of the old rite, and the beauty of the newrite, when it is celebrated reverently, as my pastor does. One of the things that English speakers have labored under is the unconscionably bad translation — the downright dishonest translation; I can’t go on too much about this, except to say that if you think the translation of the common prayers of the Mass has been poor, that is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared with the destruction of beauty and meaning and Scriptural resonance wrought by the 1970’s translation of the collects and prefaces and prayers of blessing. We might all have a different attitude toward the Novus Ordo if we had been accustomed to an accurate and reverent translation of the Latin text. And — if we had not been cajoled into accepting things that were never mandated by the Novus Ordo, such as the destruction of art, the dismantling of altars, the removal of communion rails, and then the regular invasion of the sanctuary by bossy lay men and women — not merely to read the readings and assist at Communion, but to be present and evident and crypto-sacerdotal all through the Mass. And — if we had not seen the Mass commandeered by liturgical committees, music directors who think the Mass depends upon them and them alone, Mr. Caruso raising his hand at the microphone to part the Red Sea and make Catholics sing, or Mrs. Sills floating her voice into a soprano range that not even she can manage, while people drop dollar bills into the open hat on the piano on their way back from Communion …. And — if the tabernacle had not been removed to a cloak room, and the impresaria did not take it upon herself before Mass to announce the names of all tonight’s Guest Stars …

    People will say that the Novus Ordo encourages these abuses. I rather believe that bad theology has done it, and must remind myself, as against my inclinations, that the Anglican Church has a magnificent liturgy, and is moribund anyway (sorry). A good friend of mine, a convert, reminds me all the time that Jesus deigns to show up even at Masses where “On Turkey’s Wings” is sung …

  • Chris in Maryland

    The de facto ban of the Roman Canon has greatly impoverished the Novus Ordo Mass for the faithful. The Roman Canon is where the liturgical continuity from the 1962/63 Missal to the Novus Ordo is strongest. That the ban is so complete betrays that the ban was orchestrated…so uniformly that one can say that Eucharistic Prayer No. 2 is imprinted as the de facto American Canon of Am-Church. For those of us who are 50-something and older, we can remember the parts of the 1962/63 liturgy of the Mass that still echo, such as the roll-call of those who have gone before us “…Linus, Cletus, Clement and Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian….

  • Brian Pessaro

    I’ve never understood how the same pope that issued the prophetic encylical, Humanae Vitae, could be the same pope that screwed up the Mass. Am I the only one who’s confused by this?