How John Paul II Restored Liturgical Sanity

We tend to think of the papacy of Benedict XVI as the papacy that put the Catholic liturgy back together again, turning the “hermeneutic of rupture” into the “hermeneutic of continuity.” Rarely receiving the credit for preparing the way is John Paul II, who labored mightily and brilliantly during his pontificate—in a long and consistent series of liturgical teachings—to restore what had been lost and to prepare for a brilliant future. The July 5 announcement by Pope Francis of John Paul II’s pending canonization offers an opportunity for us to recall his extraordinary contribution to the restoration of sacred art, music, and liturgy.

The legacies of John Paul II and his successor Benedict XVI are obvious from every liturgy we observe today at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and also many places around the world. Beauty is back. Chant is back. Even the traditional Latin Mass, the form used to open the Second Vatican Council but was later suppressed, is said in St. Peter’s daily, and is taught at seminaries around the world.

It turns out that the Age of Aquarius did not overthrow all things. Indeed, long-time observers of Vatican liturgy tell me it is more beautiful and more historically rooted today than it was in the decades prior to the Council. The message has been decisive and clear: The Catholic liturgy is ever old and ever new. The forms of the past remain valuable to us today, just as the developments of the future must necessarily be rooted in a deep love and respect for liturgical tradition.

These are lessons we know today but were evidently lost on that generation that took charge after the Council closed. They bequeathed to us a few harrowing decades. From one generation to the next, the liturgical forms became unrecognizable. Tearing up the pea patch was the prevailing sport. Everything new was admitted and encouraged while everything old was frowned upon or banned. It was a classic revolutionary situation, one with massive casualties and one never intended by the fathers of the Council.

The Council taught that Gregorian Chant should have first place at Mass but by the late 1960s, it had no place at all. Pope Paul VI was distraught and spoke with sadness: “we are in the process of becoming, as it were, profane intruders within the sanctuary of sacred letters… We do indeed have reason for regret, and to feel as it were, that we have lost our way.” And yet he pressed on, seeming to reflect in his own words this spirit of disorientation, rupture, and even revolution.

Karol Józef Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II eight years after the reformed Mass came into the world. The dust was far from settled. On the contrary, the earthquake that began immediately following the Council’s close was still rocking the Catholic world. The folk Mass—supposedly more “authentic” than music for the liturgy used for 1,000 years—had become the new normal. Old books, vestments, and statues filled the landfills. The old rubrics were wiped away. The priestly orders and convents were melting down. “Wreckovations” gutted great Churches and cathedrals. The only consensus was the absence of consensus.

In the course of John Paul II’s 28-year papacy, he undertook many initiatives to restore beauty to the liturgy, make it clear that not all art forms are admissible at liturgy, heighten respect for the past, and to take the first steps toward the restoration of older liturgical forms.

He took on directly what we might call the “cult of the ugly” that came to dominate Catholic culture since the mid and late 1960s. You could see it in the clothes, hear it in the music, and observe it in the architecture. The prevailing idea, rooted in a form of nihilism, was that high artistic sensibilities were necessarily elitist and inherently exploitative of genuine human emotion, which can only be expressed through spontaneous outbursts and improvisation. Choirs were gone, training put down, and excellence in general was disparaged and dismissed.

John Paul II, trained and experienced in the arts and holding a profound appreciation for the role of the arts in the expression of the faith, set out to inspire a new kind of idealism in the Catholic world, one that necessarily spoke to the liturgical and musical problems of the day. He took on the prevailing ethos and gradually but firmly got us back on course as a Catholic culture with a purpose and a dignified bearing.

Below I list what might be called the top ten of his statements as they pertain to art, music, and liturgy, in the chronological order in which they occurred. You can observe in the course of them a growing intensification concerning the liturgical crisis, and the way out through a growing appreciation of history, legislation, scripture, and art. These statements prepared the way for the new renaissance in Catholic liturgy that we experience today.

1. Quattuor Abhinc Annos (1984). This important legislation took place during the crisis over the status of the Priestly Order of St. Pius X. After the order created Bishops without Rome’s approval, the Pope gave overt permission for what never should have been suppressed in the first place. This was a lifeline for millions of Catholics who had been cruelly cut off from the liturgy of their youth, and the liturgical forms of the previous 500 years. This legislation became the basis of the broader permission under Benedict and really began to heal the rupture between old and new. Today the ordinary and extraordinary forms of Mass are considered two expressions of the same rite. This understanding is rooted in this document.

2. Letter on the Occasion of the Fourth Centenary of the Death of St. Philip Neri (1994). Here was a very pointed statement that foreshadowed many that followed. He spoke of how St. Philip “undertook to reform and elevate art, restoring it to the service of God and the Church. Convinced as he was that beauty leads to goodness, he brought all that had an artistic stamp within the realm of his educational project.” He said that the contribution made by St. Philip to sacred music was “incisive and exemplary; he urged it to be elevated from a source of foolish amusement to being a re-creation for the spirit. It was due to his initiative that musicians and composers began a reform that was to reach its highest peak in Pierluigi da Palestrina.” Musicians understand the significance of such a statement: it took what had only recently been demonized in many Catholics circles and made it an ideal again.

3. Ad Limina Address of Pope John Paul II On Active Participation in the Liturgy  (1998). In the years before this statement, the slogan “active participation” had become the great excuse for tossing out all choirs, serious polyphonic music, and Gregorian chant. Anything not conducive to instant sing alongs was considered banned. John Paul did the take down: “active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty.”

4. Letter to Artists (1999). This statement is worthy of a line-by-line commentary due to its depth and profundity. It continues to inspire Catholic sculptors, architects, composers, organists, singers, and artists of all types, toward the goal of rejecting the cult of ugliness and nothingness and finding true beauty and expressions of faith. “The Church needs art,” he wrote. “Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.” With regard to music, he writes to praise the past that it had been so fashionable to condemn: “How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship.”

5. Address to Participants in the International Congress of Sacred Music (2001). Here came total clarity on the subject of Gregorian chant, the very art that had been purged by publishers and was hardly heard in parishes. “Sacred music is an integral part of the liturgy. Gregorian chant, recognized by the Church as being ‘specially suited to the Roman liturgy’ (ibid., n. 116), is a unique and universal spiritual heritage which has been handed down to us as the clearest musical expression of sacred music at the service of God’s word. Although the Church recognizes the pre-eminent place of Gregorian chant, she has welcomed other musical forms, especially polyphony.” The Pope then again heralded “the work of Pierluigi da Palestrina, the master of classical polyphony.” He then made a statement that must have given heartburn to countless music publishers at the time: Palestrina’s “inspiration makes him a model for the composers of sacred music, which he put at the service of the liturgy.”

6. Address to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music (2001). Here the Pope spoke to the guardians of St. Pius X’s push for chant to be the foundation of liturgical song. And contrary to every trend at the time, he spoke very clearly that some forms of music are privileged and others not. He cites the Council directly. “You, teachers and students, are asked to make the most of your artistic gifts, maintaining and furthering the study and practice of music and song in the forms and with the instruments privileged by the Second Vatican Council:  Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony and the organ. Only in this way will liturgical music worthily fulfill its function during the celebration of the sacraments and, especially, of Holy Mass.”

7. Chirograph for the Centenary of the Motu Proprio (2003). This statement thrilled every serious musician in the Catholic world, for it went a long way toward renewing the beautiful dream of St. Pius X from 1903, the Motu Proprio that led to the revision of the chant books and the publication of the Roman Gradual. The Pope made it clear that the teaching from before the Council pertained all the more after the Council. Sacred music must be beautiful, universal, and holy.  “Liturgical music must meet the specific prerequisites of the Liturgy: full adherence to the text it presents, synchronization with the time and moment in the Liturgy for which it is intended, appropriately reflecting the gestures proposed by the rite.” Further: “The musical aspect of liturgical celebrations cannot, therefore, be left to improvisation or to the arbitration of individuals but must be well conducted and rehearsed in accordance with the norms and competencies resulting from a satisfactory liturgical formation.” That sentence alone might as well have been an open rebuke to three decades of liturgical malpractice.

8. General Audience on Psalm 150 (February 26, 2003). I recall this one so well, because it was clearly turning up the heat. He suggested that in matters of sacred music, the abuse was so serious that it was time to raise the problem of sin itself. “We must pray to God with theologically correct formulas and also in a beautiful and dignified way,” he stated with utmost clarity. “In this regard, the Christian community must make an examination of conscience so that the beauty of music and hymnody will return once again to the liturgy. They should purify worship from ugliness of style, from distasteful forms of expression, from uninspired musical texts which are not worthy of the great act that is being celebrated.”

9. Spiritus et Sponsa, on the Centenary of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (2003). This statement really began the Papal initiatives to reclaim the constitution of 1963 on behalf of continuity rather than rupture. This was the most overt statement that not all innovations have been good and, indeed, some have been truly terrible, and that such approaches are not only absent in the Council’s intentions but aggressively contradict its aims. The only path forward, said the Pope, is through adherence to norms and traditional forms. “Lack of respect for the liturgical norms can sometimes even lead to grave forms of abuse that obscure the truth of the mystery and give rise to dismay and stress in the People of God,” he wrote. “This abuse has nothing to do with the authentic spirit of the Council and should be prudently and firmly corrected by Pastors.”

10. Mane Nobiscum Domine (2004). This is the final statement on the matter of the Eucharist in which the liturgy plays a very important part. He states: “Holy Mass needs to be set at the center of the Christian life and celebrated in a dignified manner by every community, in accordance with established norms, with the participation of the assembly, with the presence of ministers who carry out their assigned tasks.” Part of this requires that “singing and liturgical music be suitably sacred.” He urged that every parish community undertake to study the General Instruction of the Roman Missal—a task that would have led every parish to discover the propers of the Mass, Gregorian chant, the centrality of silence in liturgy, as well as solemnity and dignity of form as guiding principles.

No list would be complete without due mention of the document that came not directly from John Paul II but was issued under his leadership by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001. This was Liturgiam authenticum. Nearly forty years following the permission for the vernacular, Rome was finally intervening to guide translations and take seriously its responsibility for the unity of the Roman Rite. This one document is the reason we now enjoy much more beautiful and faithful translations of the Mass every week—much to the relief of millions.

This was a process that began not under Benedict XVI but Pope John Paul II, who might also be considered a mighty shepherd of the Roman Rite in times of grave upheaval. We are all deeply in his debt, for he took a liturgical world of chaos and confusion and pastorally turned it back toward a solemn and beautiful order that points toward the eternal.

Editor’s note: The photograph above depicts Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass at Westminster Cathedral in 1982.

Jeffrey Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America. He writes a bi-weekly column on sacred music and liturgy for Crisis Magazine and also runs the Chant Cafe Blog.

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  • Dick Prudlo

    Following on the footsteps of the likely canonization, I fully expected a rousing memo in Crisis on the contributions of the late John Paul II. It gets very droll having to read this stuff. My take, in all modestly, is the Church will do him a great service in raising him to the highest podium She can confer. The power of “binding and loosing” will provide him with the one great honor before God, and that is something we would all desir

    • Tony

      Droll? What is that supposed to mean? Mr. Tucker has been writing about the liturgy for a long time, and this is just one article in a series.
      He’s also showing us that Pope John Paul was always a lover of genuine beauty in the liturgy, as witness his letter to artists, and of course his own artistic oeuvres.

      • Dick Prudlo

        To me, Tony, it is entertaining. I too like beauty and agree with you that JPII was not an iconoclast. Therefore, I guess we both should be elevated to the Church’s highest honor?

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  • Beatriz

    Being myself a musician, and very interested of all sorts of arts, I must say i was a bit worried about the future of the sacred music in the church. I usually attend chanted mass and vispers at the Westiminster Cathedral. I appreciate a lot the information you share in your articles.

    Thank you for the information about John Paul II. I thought it was Pope Benedict XVI the one who restored the traditional music in the services.

  • hombre111

    During the last years of his life, Pope John Paul was barely competent. Living through this drove Pope Benedict to resign rather than put the Church through similar trauma. And yet, so many of the thrilling reforms cited above occurred during his last years. Somebody was pulling the strings on the puppet.

    • asa2222

      speculative conspiracy theory

    • JustaThought

      Well, he is the Vicar of Christ. So maybe it was God?!

      • hombre111

        Naah, Probably it was Ratzinger. When Pope Benedict realized that someone was going to pull his puppet strings in a little while, he resigned.

  • quilisma

    Nice article Jeffrey. Actually, I didn’t read who the author was prior to launching into the article and found the article quite objective and balanced. I do find that you labour some points occasionally, but this wasn’t one of those. Excuse the last slight criticism, I do know that sometimes you DO have to labour points for the general masses to get it. Perhaps I read as one already enlightened and don’t appreciate this.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Daria

    Good list, but incomplete without Inaestimabile Donum of 1980. Among other things, that one forbid use of baskets and other such junk as vessels for the Eucharist or its pre-consecrated elements. Also dealt with placement of tabernacle, importance of genuflection, and Eucharistic adoration outside of mass.

    • excellent point

    • Tantem Ergo

      I feel so blessed by the knowledge of the faith taught here, thank you Mr. Tucker from – a grateful new reader. To Daria, we have a church in our community that remodeled, placing tabernacle in back of church, I found this egregious, am I wrong?

      • Here’s what the document I referenced earlier says: “24.The tabernacle in which the Eucharist is kept can be located on an altar, or away from it, in a spot in the church which is very prominent, truly noble, and duly decorated, or in a chapel suitable for private prayer and for adoration by the faithful.[34]

        25. The tabernacle should be solid, unbreakable, and not transparent.[35]

        The presence of the Eucharist is to be indicated by a tabernacle veil or by some other suitable means laid down by the competent authority, and a lamp must perpetually burn before it, as a sign of honor paid to the Lord.[36]

        So perhaps a chapel at the back of the church could follow these guidelines (prominent, noble, suitable for private prayer,etc.) but I’ve heard of too many churches placing the tabernacle in such obscurity that newcomers feel like Mary Magdalene: “They have taken the body of my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

        • Tantem Ergo

          Thanks Daria, and thanks for the excellent reference to St. Mary Magdalene, her feast day approaches on July 22!

  • Dolorosa

    Join us on Facebook: Catholic-Prudence-Counsels-NOT-to-Canonize-John-Paul-II-in-Haste/192580334096734

  • John_O_Neill

    lex orandi, lex credendi; here is to more and more Latin being returned to the sacred liturgy and just maybe more sacred music and less muzak.

  • Joe+

    Thanks be to God that John Paul will soon be Pope St. John Paul II! The Latin Mass is alive and well in West Texas. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Odessa celebrates the Latin Mass one Sunday a month in the afternoon and every Tuesday morning at 6 AM thanks to Fr. Mark Woodruff.

  • Tony

    A few days ago I met a gentleman painting the windows in a small rural church in Nova Scotia. We got to talking, and he said that there used to be plenty of statues in the church, but that a certain priest — well known, I believe, in Canadian Catholic circles at that time — ordered that they be removed. Not into the homes of the believers, no, perish that thought. They were dumped off the dirt-bike trails in the woods, so that, years later, somebody going on a hike or hunting grouse might stumble upon the arm or head of a saint, the wood rotted through and the paint peeling away.
    In particular, there was a large hand-carved wooden Pieta in the vestry, which this man was in the middle of painting. He arrived at the church one day to find that it had been thrown away, without anybody telling him about it.
    I find it infuriating, this wanton destruction of popular art, some of it kitschy, but most of it quite good, and some of it unique and priceless. We would not do to an old post office what these people did to our churches. And then there’s the music — centuries of music, all trashed, all sent down the memory hole, so that in every parish across the country you can hear the same ten or twelve miserable show tunes, regardless of the liturgical season: Here I Yam; Gather Us In, the Nice and the Naughty; One Bed, Two Bodies; Yahweh, I Know You are Near; Sing to the Mountains; Sing a New Heresy into Being; Let Us Build a City for Poor Ol’ God …

    • hombre111

      The year before I was ordained, in 1964, two young priests ordained the year before, for Montana, came back and boasted that they had done a similar thing, dumping the statues in the Missouri River. I was appalled. I was also appalled when, years later, I was assigned to a tiny parish in my diocese, and discovered that a pastor had discarded a magnificent baptismal font, replacing it with a bathroom sink set into a table! I finally located the old font in somebody’s barn, but it been left to the weather and the pigeons and was beyond repair. I considered such a thing beyond a mere crime, and sadly, such stories can be repeated again and again.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        One recalls the words of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, “We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable reverence.

        To which the Council Fathers responded, ” So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which hath made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church…. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this…”

        • hombre111

          I don’t know about anathemas, but I wish I had gone past being scandalized, and had reported those two smug idiots to their bishop.

  • hombre111

    Pope Francis has shown he doesn’t need all the clap-trap shown in the photo above, and he just used a wooden chalice made out of a boat that had been carrying refugees from North Africa.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      Father, why can’t we have both?

      • hombre111

        My question, exactly. I have no quibble with the desire to return to the good old days, which only a few, like myself, actually remember. But it is not the superior path. Just a path.
        As I occasionally attend Mass with the ordinary folks in the pews, I can see that the Mass as a ritual capable of lifting people to God gets about a C, even when it is done as well as possible. Augustine said that when the people said the great Amen, it sounded like a thunderclap. What was being done then that inspired such awe and enthusiasm? I wish I knew. But whatever it was, it is not being done now.

        • Glenn M. Ricketts

          I wonder, then, what was in the hearts and minds of those in Augustine’s time? For me, the externals of the Mass as it is usually celebrated at the parish level – where I myself am a musician – are often intrusive and indistinguishable form the parish picnic. They don’t connect at all with Catholics believe occurs on the altar, as I don’t think that they would for those 4th century folks at Augustine’s church either.
          Full disclosure: I much prefer the “claptrap” approach of the old rite, although I’m only able to attend it every 3-4 years due to parish obligations. I just wish that I didn’t have to keep repeating “ex opera operato” as much as I do

          • hombre111

            As a retired parish priest, I have learned a lot simply by being with the folks in the pews. I decided that, by nature, it is a restless place. Squirmy little kids with their parents who have to figure out how to keep them still. Some give them a vicious pinch, which seems a little unChristlike. Others ply them with Cheerios. Babies who let out a howl every time their parents have to stand or kneel. Bored teenagers. A bad sermon. Or a mediocre sermon. Or a sermon preached to deaf people by a priest with a heavy accent. The priest is far away and invisible, just a voice. The Eucharistic Prayer recited at a gallop. Or in a singsong way. Once in a while like a real prayer. My own intrusive thoughts, which I never had the luxury to have when I was the celebrant every Sunday. The fact that I often just don’t feel like singing, but would rather just be within my own prayer. And Etc. Step away from the idealism, and this is reality. I can sympathize with somebody in the choir, especially with the director, because you deal with the same struggles as the presiding priest.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts

              Thanks, father.
              Isn’t the that situation in the pews the one we’ve had more or less always? No doubt we can both speak as ex-kids who wanted to be ANYWHERE except at Mass on Sunday.
              I guess for me the question is what to do for the ones who come with a sense of the Real Presence as did the worshipers of Augustine’s time. What distracts me is what I encounter pretty routinely, and that’s the fact that the “successful” Mass seems to depend on the showmanship of the celebrant, who adds all kinds of one-liners, inside jokes, personal asides or improvised versions of the liturgy or the scriptural readings. It’s not so bad where I am now, but has been a major issue for me over the years.
              As for children, having taught 2nd grade CCD for 15 years, I do think it’s possible to cultivate in them a sense of the sacred, particularly if you set an unobtrusive but proper example. Let them see you regard the tabernacle with reverence and respect, etc. week after week, and I’ve seen it catch on. I’ve actually heard several of my charges, with no prompting from me, tell their parents to be quiet – we’re in church. I used to teach my classes to sing – for their First Communion Mass – either Tantum Ergo or Panis Angelicus. At the next class after one such occasion, I remarked to the kids that they sang so beautifully that their parents didn’t even clap. One of the little girls captured the moment perfectly: “Mr. Ricketts, I don’t think Tantum Ergo is a clapping song.”
              It can be done, it just usually isn’t.

              • hombre111

                Just one quibble. During Augustine’s time, I am not sure if there was a sense of the real presence, because I am not sure if the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the presence of the people was a common custom at that time. Mass as a silent experience in a ceremony presided over by a silent priest did not appear until the 800’s. Was it a more “charismatic” ceremony? Also not sure.
                I attended Mass with my sister last Sunday. It was more or less as I described above. A gentle uproar. On that day, I gave thanks for a good choir which sang well out of the OCP hymnal. The priest did not do a good job on any level, with an especially clumsy improvised off the cuff sermon. But the choir, as it often does, saved the day.

                • Glenn M. RIcketts

                  You’re right, I wasn’t clear. True, tabernacles and terminology such as transubstantiation came later, but I think belief in the reality of the sacrifice was there and powerful. Think, for example of St. Paul’s admonitions to the lax worshipers of his own time on how to conduct oneself at the eucharist and why they should. That part, I think, is constant.

  • mv

    We have Pope Francis now and let me tell you…in time things will change again.

  • Tantem Ergo

    Great piece Mr. Tucker. Our parish is very lax with what I believe are liturgical errors, kiddie parade at offering, “hyms” at communion that have no reference to Eucharist, altar servers in flip flops, it so saddens me but as a sole parishioner I feel like a lone voice in a wilderness, the orthodox Catholics in our congregation agree with me but are passive. Is it common for parishes to have ignored or missed JP II’s leadership with liturgical reverence?

  • Fr. Greg Markey

    Thank you Jeffery for this encouraging list. I do think (St.) John Paul II’s final juridical document, Redemptionis Sacramentum, should be included. For priests in the trenches who were willing to do battle, R.S. provided much needed support for the work of ending liturgical abuse. However, the document, for the most part, was largely ignored.

    • sharon boland

      Thank you Fr. Markey for the remarkable work you do. I travel a good distance many Sundays to attend the 9:30 a.m. EF Latin mass at St. Mary’s. Your work and dedication are appreciated as is your consistent dedication to the Pro-Life message.
      Pax et Bonum from a grateful Catholic in the pews.

  • John A. Dempsey

    As John Allen attested, there was no puppeteer in JPII’s last years other than the saint himself who had the full obedience of his aides, including that of Joseph Ratzinger. Pope Ratzinger resigned because he knew that he himself had chosen his own aides poorly and he feared that his final days would the complete opposite of those of “the great pope’s.”

  • Cyril

    How does hiring Piero Marini as Papal MC restores liturgical sanity, pray tell?


    “Pope Paul VI was distraught and spoke with sadness: “we are in the process of becoming, as it were, profane intruders within the sanctuary of sacred letters… We do indeed have reason for regret, and to feel as it were, that we have lost our way.””

    Is this the same Pope who promulgated the new missal in 1970 that made this intrusion possible? As for JPII, I wonder if he, or any other Pope, would have bothered with any restoration if Archbishop Lefebvre hadn’t done what he did. I think Lefebvre deserves most of the credit.

    • Patrick Joseph Wells Jr

      Agreed. Archbishop Lefebvre will be canonized in two hundred years for his work in actually preserving the Roman Rite.

      • Janet Curran

        Archbishop Lefebvre died excommunicated because of his disobedience to Peter. We should be praying for his soul more than anything else. The power to bind and loose was given to Peter not to Bishop Lefebvre.

  • Latin Responder

    It’s hard to know how to take Jeffrey Tucker’s thesis seriously when so much historical evidence points to the exact opposite. The Latin rite has been put through a horrific passion since 1970, and JPII was an integral part of it, including, but not limited to, female altar servers and Eucharist in the hand. As for papal masses, experimentation was endless including rock music, a topless female lector, and rattle-shaking Aztec dancers.

    The allowance for the traditional Mass would never have happened had SSPX not come into existence, questioning and defying the liturgical collapse overseen by the Holy See. And Rome made clear in the 1990s under JPII that indults for the TLM were designed simply to bring traditionalists to Novus Ordo so the TLM could ultimately be dispensed with.

    “I am convinced that the ecclesiastical crisis in which we find ourselves today
    depends in a great part upon the collapse of the liturgy…” That was Cardinal Ratzinger writing in 1997. Care to guess, Mr. Tucker, which pope was presiding over the most recent 19 years of the collapse that the cardinal referred to in 1997?

    • Glenn M. RIcketts

      Much as I respect Jeffrey Tucker’s writings overall, I sadly have to concur with your dissent.
      John Paul II did indeed issue the liturgical documents cited in the article – as he did in others areas of church policy and governance, but I can’t reconcile the substance of the documents with actual deeds. If these documents indeed reflect JP II’s views of the liturgy, then why did allow papal ceremonies to proceed as they did during his entire pontificate? Instead, he maintained a serene detachment and relentless optimism in the face of a steadily worsening situation in the Church. The pope seemed to see nothing but sunshine everywhere no matter what might have been happening.

      During those often bewildering years, I found it useful to read Cardinal Ratzinger’s appraisals, which then and now struck me as far more realistic than the puzzling optimism of his boss.

  • Joe DeCarlo

    I realize that saints are made because of the lives that they lived. I’m sure John Paul II was a very holy man. On the other hand, his papacy saw a tremendous decline of Catholicism in Western Europe, his home grounds. He did nothing to bring Catholics back to the church, or even bring non-Catholics (though, conversion is no longer on the agenda of the Church) to the church. Why would they? The pope said that salvation can come from other Christian faiths or even non-Christian faiths. The present pope said that even atheists can be saved. Do you wonder why the Catholic church is on the decline? We haven’t had a strong pope since Pius XII. After Vatican II, the clergy became mush-mouths.

  • John Albertson

    John Paull II issued many fine statements and then permitted
    contradictions of them by his own MC, Piero Marini, and many others. in
    the same way, his 1999 Letter to Artists” said one thing and then he
    sanctioned the construction in Rome of a church for the Great Jubilee
    which turned upside down everything in his letter. In a “First
    Things” review of Marini’s book in which John Paul II’s MC defended
    Bugnini and scorned Ratzinger, Father George Rutler spoke of
    “…Gnostic-Docetic innovations such as dancing (referred to in a
    prescriptive text as “pious undulations”)” and said ” Hula dancers at
    beatification of Father Damien in 1995 hardly gave a sense of
    verisimilitude in Brussels. The papal flabella and burning flax having
    been eliminated as the detritus of imperial Rome, it was even more
    anachronistic to trumpet the Great Jubilee in modern Rome with costumed
    men affecting familiarity with the art of blowing elephant tusks.”
    Father Rutler summed up the state of the Liturgy during the time of the
    pope’s MC by referring to the “obliviousness of experts to the damage
    all around them” and said it was like watching “a venerable procession
    of Alcuin, Ivo of Chartres, Gueranger, Fortescue, and Jungmann and
    finding at the end, Inspector Clouseau.”

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  • Kenneth J. Wolfe

    This would make a most excellent piece for Eye of the Tiber.

    • Latin Responder

      Kenneth Wolfe, great to have you commenting here! And a great comment it was!

  • tim

    this is intellectually dishonest. he was pontiff for most of the implementation,

  • Chip Awalt

    Could someone point me to the document where the suppression of the traditional Latin Mass was enforced…from my understanding it was more like abandoned that officially suppressed

  • Wilf Jones

    Where do you think that the sacking of Domenico (now Cardinal) Bartolucci in 1997 fits into this? Or indeed the appointment of Archbishop Pierro Marini in 1987?

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  • schmenz

    Mr Tucker:

    Am I supposed to take the title of your article with a sense or irony? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here but the liturgical banalities and scandals that marked the papacy of John Paul surely cannot be called a return to sanity – unless we have been living in an insane asylum all our lives.

    I know you mean well and are earnest in your writings but surely you can see that the Liturgy was then under John Paul and still is a calamitous mess, and has been one since the disastrous New Mass was shoved down our unwilling throats forty years ago.

    As for this proposed canonization of the man, it is dubious at the very best. He said many wonderful things, particularly about the horrors of abortion, yet he refused to govern the Church that was given into his care and the results of that lack of hands-on management is quite obvious all around us. Let us by all means admire the man for what he said. But let us not forget the evils he allowed to go on either.

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  • poetcomic1

    My Jewish grandma used to say, “Don’t put sour cream on s–t and tell me its blintzes.” But then she was just an ignorant peasant with a third grade education.

  • Timothy J Williams

    What utter rubbish this article is! JPII was a disaster for the Catholic liturgy.