Newsletter of the District of Asia

 August 1997

Dossier on the Novus Ordo Missae

Fr. Couture addressing the military officers at Camp Capinpin, last June, 1997


Is the New Mass really Protestant in its origin?

Chapter XI of


 (1st Edition) by ANGELUS PRESS, 2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64109, USA

by Michael Davies

Preparatory Measures

Mgr. Hughes has provided an excellent picture of the religious life of the British people on the eve of the Reformation and what he writes, with regard to the Mass, is applicable until the accession of the young King Edward VI in 1547.  Henry VII had shown himself very conservative as regards changing the established forms of worship.

Each Sunday, Mgr. Hughes explains, all went to their parish church for Mass, “a Sacrifice really offered by the Priest, offered in the name of the Church and also offered by him as the human agent of the great real offerer, the Divine Priest, Jesus Christ Himself; a Sacrifice in which the Victim was Jesus Christ.  The Mass was Christ once again offering Himself to the Father as a propitiation for the sins of the world, not in order to merit forgiveness for them, as at Calvary, on the Cross but in order to provide particular men with a means of making that forgiveness their own, in order that the merit won by the Cross should be applied.  Sunday, from the earliest times, had been with Catholics what the Sabbath was - is - to the Jews; the day of the Lord, consecrated by the testimony of the whole community present at a ritual worship and by their abstinence from ordinarily toil.  The neglect to assist at Mass on Sundays and on these special feast days was held a serious sin, as also was the neglect to observe the law forbidding ordinary work on these days.

“Around the church, there were placed statues of the Saints and painted on the walls, pictures that told the story of the great events narrated in the Scriptures or in the lives of the Saints.  One very favourite subject was the Last Judgment, Christ at the last day of all, judging mankind.  Very notable among the Saints were the special patron of the particular church or village, the Saints traditionally associated with that countryside, above all others, a Saint in a class apart, Mary, the Mother of the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

“These churches generally, were the great pride of the village for their statues and pictures and silken hangings, for some specialty in a vestment or in the chalice and other sacred vessels.”1

A number of means were employed to prepare the people for the replacement of this traditional Latin Mass by a vernacular Protestant Communion service.


In order to overthrow the Mass and with it all that remained of the Catholic Faith, the Reformers adopted a cautious approach.  They realized that an open frontal attack could rebound on themselves.  The way was first prepared with the help of the press.  In 1547, a campaign against the Mass was initiated alleging, among other things, that “such as honour the bread there for God do no less idolatry than they that made the sun their god or stars.”

Gardiner complained that “certain printers, players and preachers make a wonderment, as though we knew not yet how to be justified, nor what sacraments we should have.”2  The authorities expressed disapproval in public but their failure to take any active steps to suppress these books made it obvious where their sympathies lay.  By the end of the year, the floodgates were opened and books began to appear filled with abuse of everything Catholic - and even dedicated to the King himself and the Lord Protector.  The Blessed Sacrament is described as “a vile cake to be made God and Man” and the Mass as “the worshipping of God made of fine flour.”  Many of these books were written by continental reformers, among them Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melancthon, Bullinger, Urbanus Regius, Osiander, Hegendorp and Bodius.3  While these books shocked and outraged most of the ordinary faithful and parish clergy, they made a great impression on those who liked to consider themselves an educated and enlightened élite - almost invariably men of influence in some sphere or other.

Those wishing to defend the Mass found it very difficult to do so as the Reformers had total control of the means of communication.  “Here and there, possibly a book might be published bearing the name of an author and printer which was distasteful to Cranmer and the Council but there can be no doubt that this would be done at the peril of those concerned.  And as a fact, on examining the bibliography of these years, it is remarkable that hardly a single book or pamphlet written in support of the ancient doctrines appears to have been issued from the English press.  Such treatises as those of Gardiner and Tunstall on the Sacrament had to be printed abroad and in secret.

“On the other hand, the country was flooded with works, either translations of the labours of foreign reformers, or original compositions, inveighing against Catholic observances and specially against the Mass.  These bore the name of author or printer and were mostly of the booklet class, which could be sold for a few pence and were evidently designed for wide circulation among the people.  In the circumstances, there can be no doubt whatever that this style of literature, which is so abundant, could not have had currency without the connivance or good will of the government and that it really represented beyond question their wishes and intentions.  Nor merely was the circulation of such literature, which is chiefly of a profane and scurrilous character, not prohibited or even moderated by any of the numerous proclamations of the time but express license was given to printers of such works.”4


Another effective means of propagating the revolutionary ideas was through sermons - preachers with a license from Cranmer could go from town to town, attacking beliefs which, in theory, he still held himself and was upholding.  Under Henry, for example, while “men and women were dying for beliefs which the Archbishop privately shared, he subscribed to the ruling orthodoxy and imposed it upon others.”5  While the Reformer-dominated King’s Council issued proclamations forbidding irreverent attacks upon the Sacrament and listing punishments for those who did so, in practice it could be called a “round robin” or “Jack in the box” with impunity.  One preacher with Cranmer’s license - Thomas Hancock - was arrested after saying, among other things, “that which the Priest holdeth over his head you do see and kneel before it, you honour it and make an idol of it and you yourselves are most horrible idolators.”  He was completely discharged at the instigation of the Protector Somerset himself.  Cranmer alone had the power of granting a license to preach and his attitude can best be seen by quoting from an instruction issued by the Privy Council to licensed preachers in June, 1548, forbidding them to bring “that into contempt and hatred which the prince doth either allow or is content to suffer,” but at the same time permitting “the lively teaching of the word of God by sermons made after such sort as for the time the Holy Ghost shall put into the preacher’s mind.”6

In his famous sermon “of the plough” preached at St. Paul’s on 18th January, 1548, Latimer openly attacked Catholic practices before the whole court, declaring them and the Mass itself to be the work of the devil whose “office is to hinder religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all kinds of popery . . . where the devil is resident and hath his plough going, there away with books, and up with candles; away with bibles, and up with beads, away with the light of the Gospel, and with the light of candles yea at noon-day . . .  Where the devil is resident, that he may prevail, up with all superstition and idolatry; censing, painting of images, candles, palms, ashes, holy water and new services of men’s inventing . . .  Let all things be done in Latin; there must be nothing but Latin . . .”7


This policy of upholding the traditional faith in theory while allowing it to be undermined in practice extended to liturgical innovations.  “. . . On the one hand the Council was issuing orders to restrain innovations in the liturgy and on the other was allowing it to be understood that such innovations were not displeasing to them . . .”8  Cranmer’s programme for overthrowing the established liturgy described at the beginning of this chapter was divided into four stages.  It has already been explained in Chapter VIII why he deemed it imprudent to do too much too soon.  Stage one was to have certain portions of the unchanged traditional Mass in the vernacular.  Stage two was to introduce new material into the old Mass, none of which would be specifically heretical.  Stage three was to replace the old Mass with an English Communion service which, once more, was not specifically heretical.  Stage four was to replace this service with a specifically Protestant one.  As will be explained in Chapter XVI, the psychology of this process was very sound.  Very few men have the courage to be martyrs and even those with strong convictions are liable to seek a compromise where one is possible.  Such a compromise was possible with each of Cranmer’s first three stages - and once the process of compromising has been entered into, it tends to be self-perpetuating.  A man who has been making continual concessions is liable to lack the will to make a stand and to feel that, “in any case it is too late now.”  Prominent among the liturgical innovations which prepared the way for or accompanied the 1549 Prayer Book were the principles that the liturgy must be in the vernacular and audible throughout; Communion under both kinds; a new order of Communion to be used with the old Mass; the replacement of altars with tables.


Although a number of the Reformers began by using a modified traditional or newly composed Latin liturgy, it soon became a sine qua non of Protestantism (but for some Lutherans) that worship must be exclusively in the vernacular.9  Statements such as the following, taken from the writings of the Reformers and condemned by Trent, provide an accurate summary of the Protestant standpoint: “The rite of the Church of Rome by which the words of consecration are said secretly and in a low voice is to be condemned and the Mass ought to be celebrated only in the vernacular language which all understand.”10  The use of the vernacular even before the introduction of the new services was, in itself, “indeed a revolution.”11  It was also an effective instrument for revolutionary change as it accustomed the people to the idea of drastic change in their manner of worship.  Where the ordinary Catholic was concerned, Cranmer’s revision of the Latin Mass in his new rite of 1549 did not appear as startling as the transition from Latin to English while still using the old rite.  Even an Anglican author can see clearly that by introducing English into the traditional services “Cranmer clearly was preparing for the day when liturgical revision would become possible.”12

As early as 11th April, 1547, Compline was being sung in English in the royal chapel.13  The opening of the first Parliament of Edward’s reign was made the occasion for a far more significant novelty as it touched the ritual of the Mass itself.  The King rode from his palace of Westminster to the Church of St. Peter with all the lords spiritual and temporal for a Mass during which the Gloria, Credo, and Agnus Dei were all sung in English.14  Even the more conservative Bishops were now prepared to concede that while Latin should still be the general rule during Mass, especially “in the mysteries thereof, nevertheless certain prayers might be in the mother tongue for the instruction and stirring of the devotion of the people as shall be thought convenient.”15  By the 12th May, 1548, it was possible to have a totally English Mass at Westminster, including the consecration.16

“It is difficult,” writes A. L. Rowse, “for anyone without a knowledge of anthropology to appreciate fully the astonishing audacity, the profound disturbance to the unconscious levels upon which society lives its life, of such an action as the substitution of an English liturgy for the age-long Latin rite of Western Christendom in which Englishmen had been swaddled time out of mind . . . nothing can detract from the revolutionary audacity of such an interference with the customary, the subconscious, the ritual element in life.”17

As well as insisting upon the vernacular, the Reformers demanded that the whole service should be audible to the congregation.  A rubric in the 1549 Prayer Book requires that the Priest “shall saye, or syng, plainly and distinctly, this prayer following,” namely the Canon.18

The Council of Trent pronounced anathemas upon anyone holding the propositions either that “the rite of the Roman Church whereby a part of the Canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone is to be condemned; or that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only.”19  These anathemas do not, of course, preclude the possibility of these practices being permitted within the Roman rite.


One of Cranmer’s first important innovations was to impose the practice of communion under both kinds for the laity at the end of 1547.  Many Catholics both in England and abroad, made the mistake of conceding this change without opposition for the sake of peace.  “It was, after all, only a matter of ecclesiastical discipline, although some innovators, in urging the incompleteness of the Sacrament when administered under one kind only, gave a doctrinal turn to the question which issued in heresy.  The great advantage secured to the innovators by the adoption of communion under both kinds in England was the opportunity it afforded them of effecting a break with the ancient missal.”20  Every such break with tradition lessened the impact of those to follow so that when changes that were not simply matters of discipline were introduced, the possibility of effective resistance was considerably lessened.


The printing of “The Order of Communion” - a booklet of only three or four leaves - was finished on 8th March, 1548.  This was to be used in conjunction with the traditional Mass and must not be confused with the wholly new Communion service contained in the 1549 Prayer Book.  The 1548 rite contained exhortations addressed to those about to receive the Sacrament which, according to Mgr. Hughes, contained “ambiguities designed to make the rite one which could be conscientiously used by those who did not believe that he (Christ) was there present except to the communicant in the moment of receiving Holy Communion and who believed that the presence, even at that moment, was not in what was received but only in ‘the heart’ of the receiver.”21  The book also included a ritual for the administration of Communion under both kinds and these prayers, with a few modifications, were incorporated into the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.  Mgr. Hughes’ assessment of the ambiguous nature of the new rite is shared by the Protestant historian S. T. Bindoff.  “The new service contained little or nothing clearly inconsistent with Catholic doctrine.  At the crucial points its phraseology was ambiguous and the statute embodying it explicitly renounced any intention of condemning rites used elsewhere.”22

Just how pleasing this new rite was to discerning Protestants was made clear by no less a person than Miles Coverdale who translated it into Latin and sent a copy to Calvin declaring it to be “the first fruits of godliness (according as the Lord now wills his religion to revive in England)...”23

n his proclamation giving effect to the new service, the King admonishes such radical Protestants as Coverdale “to stay and quiet themselves with this our direction - and not enterprise to run afore and so by their rashness to become the greatest hinderers” of change.  But at the same time he speaks of a “most earnest intent further to travail for the reformation and setting forth of such godly orders.”24  The radicals did not need to “quiet themselves” long and the further “godly orders” were to be imposed in the following year.


This was another step directly in line with the liturgical policies of the continental Reformers, the final product of which is well summarized by a description of the Communion service at Strasbourg after 1530 when Bucer’s influence became dominant.  “So, Mass, Priest and altar are replaced by Lord’s Supper, minister and Holy Table and the westward replaces the eastward position of the celebrant.”25  (It is worth repeating that Bucer influenced Cranmer and hence his new liturgy, more than any other continental reformer.)  On the same theme, Calvin explains that God “has given us a table at which to feast, not an altar on which to offer sacrifice, He has not consecrated Priests but ministers to distribute the sacred banquet.”26

The wholesale destruction of altars in England did not take place until after the imposition of the 1549 Prayer Book but a start had been made in 1548 with the altars of the chantry chapels which Cranmer has suppressed.  After 1549, the stone altars upon which the Sacrifice of the Mass had been offered were replaced with wooden tables placed in the chancel.  On 27th November, 1548, John ab Ulmis wrote to Bullinger as follows: “At this time those privileged altars are entirely overthrown in a great part of England and by the common consent of the higher classes, altogether abolished.  Why should I say more?  Those idolatrous altars are now become hog-ties (Arae factae sunt harae), that is the habitation of swine and beasts.”27

During vacancy in the See of Norwich when it came under Cranmer’s jurisdiction (1549-1550), “The most part of all altars” in this diocese were taken down.28  In a series of Lenten sermons preached before the King and Council, Hooper urged the complete abolition of altars and the substitution of tables because there were only three forms of sacrifice which Christian men could offer and these did not require an altar.  They were sacrifices of thanksgiving; benevolence and liberality to the poor; and mortifying of our own bodies and to die unto sin . . .  “If we study not daily to offer these sacrifices to God, we be no Christian men.  Seeing Christian men have none other sacrifice than these, which may and ought to be done without altars, there should among Christians be no altars.”  While altars remained, he insisted, “both the ignorant people and the ignorant and evil-persuaded Priest, will dream always of sacrifice.”29

On 27th March, 1550, after the appointment of Ridley to the See of London, Hooper wrote to Bullinger:  “He will, I hope, destroy the altars of Baal, as he did heretofore in his church when he was Bishop of Rochester.  I can scarcely express to you, my very dear friend, under what difficulties and dangers we are labouring and struggling, that the idol of the Mass may be thrown out.”  He was able to add, “Many altars have been destroyed in this city (London) since I arrived here.”30  Hooper’s expectations of Ridley proved to be well founded.  Within three months he had issued injunctions calling for the removal of the altars from the Churches in his diocese.31  Altars were “too enduring monuments” to the age old belief in the sacrifice of the Mass.  Altar-smashing was already a well recognized mark of the Reformation on the Continent, where the practice had been the normal accompaniment of the abolition of the Mass.”32  On 24th November, 1550, the King’s Council ordered the universal implementation of this policy in England, “that all the altars throughout the kingdom should be destroyed.  For the future, whenever the rite of the Holy Eucharist was celebrated, a wooden table was to be used, covered, during the rite, with a cloth of linen.33  This was intended “to avoid all matters of further contention and strife” and in a set of reasons accompanying the instruction (signed by Cranmer among others), it was explained that:  “First, the form of a table shall move the simple from the superstitious opinions of the Popish Mass unto the right use of the Lord’s Supper.  For the use of an altar is to make sacrifice upon it: the use of a table is to serve for men to eat upon.  Now when we come again unto the Lord’s board, what do we come for?  To sacrifice Christ again and to crucify Him again; or to feed upon Him that was once only crucified and offered up for us?  If we come to feed upon Him, spiritually to eat His Body and spiritually to drink His Blood, which is the true use of the Lord’s supper; then no man can deny but the form of a table is more meet for the Lord’s board than the form of an altar.”34

“Then throughout the land the consecrated altars of the Christian sacrifice were cast out and in the account books of country parishes such items as this appeared: ‘Payd to tylers for breckynge downe forten awters in the cherche’ . . .”35

A descendant of Bishop Ridley writes in a biography of his reforming ancestor that the destruction of the altars which the ordinary people considered sacrilege shocked them into a full realization of the extent of the revolution which had taken place: “. . . The removal of altars brought home to every subject in the kingdom that the central object which had stood in the churches for over a thousand years and which they had watched with awe every Sunday since their early childhood, was condemned as idolatrous and thrown contemptuously away by the adherents of the new religion which had been forced upon them.”36

The fact that the word altar is used in certain of the rubrics of the 1549 Prayer Book might appear to involve some inconsistency with the teaching of the Reformers.  This point is dealt with in the explanation which accompanied the order of the King’s Council demanding the destruction of altars.  It explains that “it calleth the table where the holy Communion is distributed, with lauds and thanksgiving unto the Lord, an altar; for that there is offered the same sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”37  Nevertheless, the word ‘altar’ was struck out of the 1552 Prayer Book and was not subsequently replaced.  Archbishop Laud ordered the communion tables to be placed altar-wise, against the east wall, in about 1636.38

There were a good number of other innovations, some of which might appear of minor importance but nonetheless played their part in contributing to the general atmosphere of change, disturbance and unrest.  The most important of these was the widespread destruction of statues.  The Reformer abolished such well loved ceremonies as the carrying of candles on Candlemas day, the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday and of palms on Palm Sunday.39  “In these years 1547 and 1548 consequently, the popular mind was being stirred up by changes in old established ceremonial, by novel introductions into the services, by intemperate preaching and by profane tracts scattered broadcast over the country, attacking with scurrilous abuse what the people had hitherto been taught to regard as the Most Holy.”40

The seeds of revolution had been sown.  All that remained was for the revolutionaries to reap their harvest.


The books referred to in the notes on Chapter XI of CRANMER’S GODLY ORDER have been abbreviated as follows:

CT           THE CHURCH TEACHES (Documents of the Church in English Translation), translated by J. F. Clarkson and others (Rockford, Illinois, 1973).  This is an English version of the Denzinger ENCHIRIDION SYMBOLORUM and references to Denzinger in the notes, indicated by “D”, can be located in this book.

CW          THE WORKS OF THOMAS CRANMER (two volumes), Parker Society.

D             See: CT above.

EBCP       EDWARD VI AND THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, Gasquet & Bishop (London, 1890).  In the interests of brevity, only the first of the authors is mentioned when reference is made to this book.


FSPB        THE FIRST AND SECOND PRAYER BOOKS OF KING EDWARD VI, D. Harrison (Dean of Bristol) (London, 1968).

PHR         THE REFORMATION - A POPULAR HISTORY, P. Hughes (London, 1960).

PS            Parker Society.

RIE          THE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND, P. Hughes (three vols.) (London, 1950).

RMP        THE REFORMATION, THE MASS AND THE PRIESTHOOD, E. C. Messenger, (two volumes) (London, 1936).

TE           TUDOR ENGLAND, S. T. Bindoff (London, 1952).

What is doctrinally wrong with the New Mass?

Letter from Cardinal Ottaviani and Bacci

to his Holiness Pope Paul VI

Rome, September 25th, 1969

Most Holy Father,

Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:

1.  The accompanying critical study of the Novus Ordo Missae, the work of a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls, shows quite clearly in spite of its brevity that if we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted, which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent.  The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.

2.  The pastoral reasons adduced to support such a grave break with tradition, even if such reasons could be regarded as holding good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem to us sufficient.  The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place, if it subsists at all, could well turn into a certainty the suspicion, already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound for ever.  Recent reforms have amply demonstrated that fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful who are already showing signs of restiveness and of an indubitable lessening of faith.  Amongst the best of the clergy the practical result is an agonizing crisis of conscience of which innumerable instances come to our notice daily.

3.  We are certain that these considerations, which can only reach Your Holiness by the living voice of both shepherds and flock, cannot but find an echo in Your paternal heart, always so profoundly solicitous for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church.  It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law.

Therefore we most earnestly beseech Your Holiness, at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the faith and the unity of the Church, lamented by You our common Father, not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of the Missale Romanum of St. Pius V, so highly praised by Your Holiness and so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic World.

/s/  A. Cardinal Ottaviani

/s/  A. Card. Bacci

Feast of St. Pius X


I.  History of the change.

The new form of Mass was substantially rejected by the Episcopal Synod (1967), was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the Episcopal Conferences and was never asked for by the people.  It has every possibility of satisfying the most modernist of Protestants.

II.  Definition of the Mass.

y a series of equivocations the emphasis is obsessively placed upon the “supper” and the “memorial” instead on the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary.

III.  Presentation of the ends.

The three ends of the Mass are altered; no distinction is allowed to remain between Divine and human sacrifice; bread and wine are only “spiritually” (not substantially) changed.

IV.  Presentation of the essence.

The Real Presence of Christ is never alluded to and belief in it is implicitly repudiated.

V.  Presentation of the four elements of the Sacrifice.

The position of both priest and people is falsified and the Celebrant appears as nothing more than a Protestant minister, while the true nature of the Church is intolerably misrepresented.

VI.  The destruction of unity.

The abandonment of Latin sweeps away for good all unity of worship.  This may have its effect on unity of belief and the New Order has no intention of standing for the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent to which the Catholic conscience is bound.

VII.  The alienation of the Orthodox.

While pleasing various dissenting groups, the New Order will alienate the East.

VIII.  The abandonment of defenses.

The New Order teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the purity of the Catholic religion and dismantles all defenses of Faith.

(The full text of this study is available at our “Aquinas Book Centre”, 2 Cannon Road, New Manila, Quezon City 1112 for US $2 (P 60) post included.)

The labyrinth of illegalities in the imposition of the New Mass

In his historical novel Mitre and Crook, Fr. Bryan Houghton describes the heroic efforts of Bishop Edmund Forester to bring back the traditional Latin Mass in his diocese of Stamford, England.  We reproduce here most of the bishop’s third letter to the clergy of his diocese in which he was attempting to answer questions and to guide them “in the labyrinth of documents in which the Mass has been lost”.  This letter is dated January 31st, 1977.  All the informations, dates and names of documents are historically exact.  The style alone is of the author.


It should be remembered that until 1570 no Pope and no Council had ever legislated over the rite in which Mass was celebrated.  The astonishing similarity between the rites in the Western Church arose from the fact that no bishop or priest dared innovate in anything so sacred.  If in doubt, they discovered what was the common practice in Rome.  The attitude was notably different from that of some contemporary priests who seem to imagine that the Eucharist would be invalid if they failed to tinker with it.  Actually, the only attempt to unify the rite came from civil, not ecclesiastical authority.  After the conquest of Old Saxony, completed in A.D. 785, Charlemagne was faced with the problem of its evangelization.  To facilitate and integrate the missionaries’ work he instructed the Anglo-Saxon, Alcuin of York, to unity the rites current in the Empire.

It was the Protestant reformers who first dared to touch the rite of the Sacred Mysteries.  Eucharistic forms multiplied with the same rapidity that they do today.  It was to restore order in existing chaos that the Council of Trent called upon the Pope to establish a norm for the celebration of Mass.  Hence the first Papal legislation on the subject, the Bull Quo Primum of St. Pius V of July 19th, 1570.  What did this Bull do?

1.  It consolidated and codified (statuimus et ordinamus are the operative words) the Immemorial Roman Rite.

2.  It made its use compulsory throughout the Latin Church, except

3.  when other rites had a continuous usage of over two hundred years, such as those of Sarum, Lyons, Toledo, Milan, the Dominicans, the Carthusians, etc.

4.  It granted a perpetual Indult to all priests under any circumstances to celebrate according to the Immemorial Roman Rite thus codified.

It is to be observed, therefore, that the so-called “Tridentine Rite” does not exist by the positive law of one Pope which the next is at liberty to undo.  It exists by immemorial custom to which the laity who attend it have as much right as the clergy who celebrate it.  Is it not possible that this point has been overlooked?  Anyway, an immemorial right can be extinguished by two means:

a) by a solemn pronouncement of the Sovereign Pontiff abrogating the customary right on the grounds that its continuance would be contrary to the common good;

b) by the customary right falling into desuetude -- along with the custom the right lapses.

On the other hand, what is of positive law in the Bull Quo Primum is the exclusively granted to the Immemorial Roman Rite, apart from rites over two hundred years old.  This exclusivity can clearly be modified by a succeeding Pope without any appeal to “reasonableness” and the “common good.”


Such was the position on which we were all agreed, Pope, bishops, priests, laity, up to and including the Council.

In November 1963, the Council promulgated its Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.  It should be noted that this document is a Constitution, the most solemn form of legislation of which a Council is capable.  What does it do?  Does it abrogate (=abolish), obrogate (=substitute) or derogate (=make exceptions to) previous legislation and notably the Bull Quo Primum?  Not a bit of it; it takes it all for granted.  It merely speaks of instauratio.  The Latin instaurare does not mean to restore in the sense of restoring a ruined building.  It means to restore in the way we restore our tissues in a restaurant.  In fact it means to refresh.  Even the refreshment was to be pretty abstemious as we learn from article 36:  “The use of the Latin language shall be maintained (servetur) in the Latin rites.”  Article 54 allows for the local dialects “above all for the lessons and community prayers. . . also in the responses of the people.”  In fact a vernacular dialogued Mass was permitted although not made compulsory.  (...)

So far we have two laws, both duly promulgated in the most solemn form of which the Church is capable:

1.  A Papal Constitution, the Bull Quo Primum of 1570;

2.  A Conciliar Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium of 1963.  (...)


Two months later, on January 25th, 1964, Pope Paul VI issued a motu proprio called Sacram Liturgiam.  A motu proprio is a binding Papal document, be it legislative, judicial or administrative.  What passes belief is that this is the only one on the liturgy which the Pope has issued to date, that is in thirteen years.  This unique document fixes the parts of the Mass to be said in the native dialect as recommended by article 54 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the introductory psalm, epistle and gospel, etc.  Unfortunately, it also announced the creation of a special Consilium (with an ‘s’ in the middle, consequently, an advisory body) to put into effect the Council’s recommendations.  This was duly established on February 29th under the chairmanship of Cardinal Lercaro.

It took a little time for the Consilium to warm to its work and its first publication, the Instruction Inter Oecumenici of September 26th, 1964, could, with a bit of pushing and pulling, be fitted into the Council’s Constitution.  It permitted (but did not enjoin) the whole of the Mass apart from the Preface and Canon to be said in the vernacular.  It reintroduced the bidding-prayers (. . .).  It also delegated liturgical powers to bishops.

It was from this moment onwards that serious opposition began to be felt.  For instance, I think the Latin Mass Society was founded early in 1965.  Several perfectly reasonable priests rang the alarm.  Myself, being neither a theologian or Canon Lawyer but a clerical accountant, thought Inter Oecumenici unwise but not impossible.  I became your bishop.

Owing perhaps to the opposition, the Consilium remained reasonably inactive for nearly three years.  Then, on May 4th, 1967 it produced its Tres Abhinc Annos, better known as the Instructio Altera.  This, my dear Fathers, was the revolution.  Permission was granted for the whole Mass, including the Canon and Consecration, to be said aloud and in the vernacular.  (. . .)  It was, of course, a derogation from the law, a pure permission, but we were all made to realize that laws were no longer meant to be obeyed whereas permissions were obligatory.

What is the legal value of such an instruction?  It is not easy to determine.  The Consilium, as its name implied was a counseling body.  It should therefore have induced either the Pope to issue a motu proprio or the Ministry concerned, the Congregation of Rites, to send out a Notification.  It did neither but issued its own Instruction.  Whatever its value, one thing is quite certain: it cannot derogate from any existing law, in the particular case from the Pope’s motu proprio of January 25th, 1964 and from the Council’s Constitution.  It was a try-on.

The trouble is that it worked.  Neither the Pope nor the episcopate questioned the Instructio Altera.  From that moment onwards the progressive bureaucracy knew that it was master.  The bishops, from Rome to Stamford, had abdicated.

The extent of the abolition became almost immediately evident.  In October of the same year, 1967, the Consilium produced its Missa Normativa at the Synod of Bishops.  It was rejected by 104 votes to 72.  What did that matter?  It has become law as the New Ordo.



This has the most puzzling history of all.  May I remind you, Fathers, that we already have two documents of the highest conceivable authority: the Bull Quo Primum and the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (. . .).  What happens next?

On April 3rd, 1969, a Papal Constitution entitled Missale Romanum was promulgated purporting to be the law governing the New Order of Mass, as yet unpublished.  In this original version it is not a law at all but an explanatory introduction to a permission.  Even the word Constitution is nowhere to be found in the text, merely in the title.  There is no abrogation of previous legislation and no clause ordering the use of the new rite.  There is no sentence to show that it is obligatory, let alone exclusive.  There is no dating clause to show when it should come into effect.

This, of course, did not prevent the powers that be from saying that it was a binding law.  To do so they had recourse to a mistranslation.  What is so curious is that this mistranslation was common to all languages.  I have read it myself in English, French and Italian; I am told that it is the same in German and Spanish.  How can all these expert translators make the identical howler?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Here is the sentence, the fourth before the end of the original version, the fifth in the Acta: “Ad extremum, ex iis quae hactenus de novo Missali Romano exposuimus quiddam nunc cogere et efficere placet...”  I have underlined the mistranslated words.  Cogere et efficere is a well-known Ciceronian phrase to be found in most dictionaries.  Even if the translators could not be bothered to look it up, it is perfectly clear that quiddam cogere breaks down into agere quiddam con = to work something together, which is in the context “to sum up.”  Equally, quiddam efficere breaks down into facere quiddam ex = to make something out, which is in the context “to draw a conclusion.”  The sentence therefore means:  “Lastly, from what we have so far declared concerning the New Roman Missal, we should now like to sum up and draw a conclusion.”  And what did all the translators make of it?  “In conclusion, We now wish to give the force of law to all We have declared...”; and in French, “Pour terminer, Nous voulons donner force de loi à tout ce que Nous avons exposé...”; and in Italian, etc. ...  It is strange, my dear Fathers, but such is the truth: “to sum up and draw a conclusion” becomes “to give the force of law.”

And what did I do about it?  Absolutely nothing for the simple reason that I did not bother to read the Latin until two or three years later.  Do not judge me too severely.  Have you read it?

But that is not the end.  Worse is to come.  The Acta for June 1969 were published as usual about two months later.  When it appeared a brand new clause had been inserted into the original document as the penultimate paragraph.  It reads: “Quae Constitutione hac Nostra praescripsimus vigere incipient a XXX proximi mensis Novembris hoc anno, idest a Dominica l Adventus.”  That is: “What We have ordered by this Our Constitution will begin to take effect as from November 30th of this year (1969), that is the First Sunday of Advent.”  You will notice that for the first and only time the word Constitutio appears in the text.  For the first time, too, a word signifying “to order” is introduced - praescripsimus.  For the first time a date is given on which the order is to become effective.  Thus is a permission turned into a law.

Actually, there are a couple of snags even about this insertion.  The word praescripsimus - We have ordered - is not the proper term in Latin, but I shall not bother you with such refinements.  More important, it is in the wrong tense.  Up to this point the legislator has prescribed nothing at all.  It is precisely in this clause that he claims to do so.  The verb, therefore, should be in the present tense, praescribimus - “what We are ordering by this our Constitution”: not in the perfect, “what We have prescribed.”  The only explanation I can think of for this howler is recognition by its author that he is tampering with a pre-existing text.  Moreover, the logical conclusion from the use of the wrong tense can scarcely be what its author intended; since nothing was prescribed, nothing is prescribed; and the legislator, to boot, is still prescribing nothing.  What a mess!  I wonder how long a civil government would last which thus tampered with its own laws?

There is a last remark I wish to make about this strange document.  It winds up with the usual clause de style: “We wish, moreover, that these decisions and ordinances of Ours should be stable and effective now and in future, notwithstanding - in so far as may be necessary - Constitutions and Apostolic Regulations published by Our Predecessors and all other ordinances, even those requiring special mention and derogation.”  At long last - indeed it is the last word - there is a technical term in the Constitution, so we know exactly where we stand: “derogation.”  The New Ordo is therefore only a permission after all.  It is merely a licit exception, a derogation, to the previous laws which are still in force.  They have not been abrogated.  But surely it is only a mistake?  The author of the praescripsimus clause forgot to alter the clause de style?  Maybe, but it proves three things: (1) one’s sins always find one out; (2) the author has a highly efficient Guardian Angel; (3) it is nonsense to claim that the Bull Quo Primum has been abrogated.

Mistranslation, insertion, error: it is all highly distasteful.  Needless to say there has been no apology, explanation or withdrawal.  It is those who point out these irregularities who are accused of being disloyal and divisive.

Do these irregularities invalidate the Constitution?  Of course; it is a valid law in the terms published in the Acta.  At most it could be maintained that the wrong tense of praescripsimus makes its meaning doubtful and lex dubia non obligat - but it does not much matter as it is only a permission anyway.  No, the irregularities do not invalidate the law.  All they do is to make me highly suspicious of the present administration.  (...)


One of the reasons why the all-important Constitution received such scant attention was that on April 6th (consequently two months before its publication in the Acta) the New Mass were released, preceded by a theologico-rubrical introduction called the Institutio Generalis.  I am ashamed to say that it was received with unctuous enthusiasm by us bishops, although the Mass rites were practically identical with what our synod had rejected in October 1967.  You, priests, were marginally better; you received it with glum gloom but little protest.  Opposition was left to the laity.  It became highly vociferous and found expression in the Critical Study presented by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to the Pope on September 25th of the same year.  If you have kept a copy of the Critical Study, please re-read it.  You will notice that it does not merely criticize the theology of the introduction but the Mass rites which give expression to that theology..

This opposition did in fact have some effect.  On October 20th, less than a month after the Critical Study had been presented to the Pope, the Consilium issued an Instruction Constitutione Apostolica, delaying the introduction of the New Ordo from November 30th, 1969 to November 28th, 1971, nominally to give time to prepare vernacular translations.  In the meantime the New Ordo could be said in Latin.  On the other hand, in this document also we hear for the first time that the Immemorial Mass may only be said by aged priests sine populo, without a congregation. This is pure usurpation of power and has no basis in law.

On the following March 26th, 1970, a new edition of the Institutio Generalis was issued.  The heretical clause 7 - “The Mass is the sacred synaxis or congregation of the People of God” - was made merely ambiguous and clauses 48, 55, 56 and 60 were amended.  So much for the permanent value of the most solemn Roman documents under the present administration.  Not only is there tampering with the basic law governing the New Ordo, but its theological justification has to be amended within a year of publication.  This certainly calls for blind obedience since it is difficult to obey with eyes open.  What remains quite inexplicable, however, is that the Mass forms themselves have not been changed.  Their theological justification has gone; they are unaltered.

Incidentally, it is in the same year, the year of opposition, that the English Martyrs were canonized and Cardinal Heenan of blessed memory secured his Indult.


As I have said, the opposition was almost exclusively lay.  The powers that be could not deal with it as summarily as they could with the clergy.  There was over a year of patient waiting to see if the laity could organize themselves.  It became clear that with an inadequate supply of priests and no bishop they could not.  Hence we got the second revolutionary document.  You will remember that the first was the Instructio Altera of May 4th, 1967, which decided, contrary to the law, that the whole of the Mass, including the consecration, should be said aloud and in the vernacular.  Well, this time it is a bit worse.  On June 14th, 1971, the Congregation for Worship issued a Notification granting to Episcopal Conferences the right to impose the exclusive use of the vernacular in the New Ordo, once the translations had been approved.  It thus became illicit to celebrate the New Ordo in Latin.  (. . .)  It also repeated the provision in the instruction of October 20th, 1969 that the Old Mass could only be said by aged priests sine populo.

Be it noted that a Notification is a purely administrative document and has no legislative authority whatsoever.  Moreover, this particular one was itself undated and unsigned.  It is therefore worth less than the paper on which it was printed.  The bishops, from Rome to Stamford, remained mute.

Of course, the inevitable result of this particular piece of administrative folly was to throw all Latinists into the arms of the Tridentiners.  There was no alternative if the New Ordo was illicit in Latin.  It became imperative to divide the opposition, especially as Archbishop Lefebvre had cropped up in the meantime.  The laity had thus found a bishop with the promise of future priests.  Hence the Notification of October 28th, 1974.  This document reverses the previous ruling:  the New Ordo may now be said in Latin or vernacular with equality off esteem.  The New Ordo, however, is obligatory “notwithstanding the pretext of any custom whatsoever even immemorial”.  The importance of this last remark is that for the first time the establishment admitted the existence of immemorial rights, even if only to brush them aside.

From this moment onwards the assault against the old rite slightly changed tack.  At the beginning of this Ad clerum I wrote: “An immemorial right can be extinguished by two means:

a)  by a solemn pronouncement of the Sovereign Pontiff abrogating the customary right on the grounds that its continuance would be contrary to the common good;

b)  by the customary right falling into desuetude - along with the custom the right lapses.”

It would not be easy to prove that the Immemorial Mass had been contrary to the common good.  Who would believe it?  Moreover, by 1974 it was a bit late to start saying so, especially as the Council had said nothing of the sort.  The alternative was to crush the custom as rapidly as possible, preferably under the existing administration.

This explains the extraordinary animosity against Archbishop Lefebvre: he is busy perpetuating the immemorial custom.  It also explains the astonishing pressure brought to bear on the English hierarchy to petition for the withdrawal of Heenan’s Indult. In its humble way, the Indult too is preserving the custom.  (. . .)

Great tragedies are heightened by farcical interludes.  Four days after the Notification of October 28th, on November 1st, 1974 the Congregation promulgated its two little Eucharists for Reconciliations and three for kiddies.


You may well ask, in this plethora of Constitutions, Institutions, Instructions and Notifications, has the Pope done or said nothing?  The two questions are rather different.  What he has done is restricted to: a) the motu proprio, Sacram Liturgiam, of January 25th, 1964, which in practice was rendered nugatory by the Consilium’s Instructio Altera; b) the Constitution, Missale Romanum, of April 3rd, is a very different matter.  In 1969, there is the Allocution of April 28th, of November 19th, and again of November 26th.  As the years roll by, so do the Allocutions.  However, they are all summed up in the Consistorial Allocutions of May 24th, 1976, to which the anonymous Canon Lawyer refers.  It is a little more harsh than the rest because it was directed against Archbishop Lefebvre.  I translate the relevant passage.

“It is in the name of tradition itself that We require all our sons and all Catholic communities to celebrate the liturgy according to the renewed rite with dignity and fervour.  The use of the New Ordo is by no means left to the discretion of priests and faithful.  The Instruction of June 14th, 1971, has provided that the celebration of Mass according to the Old Rite should only be allowed, with the permission of the Ordinary, to aged and sick priests when celebrating with nobody present.  The New Ordo has been promulgated to replace the Old after mature deliberation and in order to fulfill the Council’s decisions.  It is in exactly the same way that Our predecessor St. Pius V made obligatory the Missal recognized by his authority after the Council of Trent.  By the same supreme authority, which We have received from Christ, We decree the same prompt obedience to all the other reforms, be they liturgical, disciplinary or pastoral, which in recent years have grown up out of the decrees of the Council.”

And what is one to say to that?

Well, in the first place the translators have been at it again.  In the passage concerning Pius V, the Latin has:  “. . . St. Pius V made obligatory the Missal recognized (recognitum) by his authority” - which is perfectly correct; whereas the Italian has “. . . reformed (riformato) by his authority” - which is perfectly incorrect but suits the argument better.  The whole point is that Pius V reformed nothing at all: he codified the Immemorial Rite; whereas a little later in the same passage Paul VI admits that “the New Ordo has been promulgated to replace the Old.”  So the New Ordo is not even a reform but a “replacement” or substitution - for which the technical term is abrogation.  But not even a Pope can abrogate an immemorial custom - unless there are two or more immemorial customs running concurrently and one is substituted for the other.  A new usage cannot abrogate an immemorial custom unless the latter is first abrogated, abolished; only then can the new usage fill the void.  Therein, I think lies the real importance of the text: the admission that the New Ordo is not a reform of the Mass but a substitute for the Mass.  Anyway, the statement is nonsense:  Pius V did not make the old Ordo exclusive since he allowed all rites over two hundred years old to continue.  Neither has Paul VI made the New exclusive since only eighteen months previously he had permitted the rites for Reconciliations and kiddies.

I suppose I should mention briefly a few other points.  A Consistorial Allocution is a speech.  It is not a law.  In the present case it illustrates Paul VI’s deep affection for the New Ordo.  This is perfectly natural: most parents believe that they beget nothing but swans.  More significant is that His Holiness should make no appeal to the only laws on the subject to which have been duly promulgated: his own Constitution of 1969 and the Council’s of 1963.  Concerning the latter he uses a euphemism: “the reforms . . . which in recent years have grown up out of the decrees of the Council.”  (. . .)  His Holiness is therefore led to appeal to what he calls the “Instruction” of June 14th, 1971.  This is most unfortunate.  As we have seen, the document issued on that date was a mere Notification, itself undated and unsigned.  Its legal value is nil.  It does, however, contain the gratuitously cruel clause that aged and infirm priests may (with permission, of course) say the immemorial Mass provided nobody is present.  This His Holiness does not blush to repeat.  Lastly, the emotional appeal of the passage consists in calling upon the faithful to discard the tradition of worship in the name of the tradition of obedience.  Does His Holiness not realize that the tradition of obedience is even more delicate than that of worship?  He complains bitterly that he is no longer obeyed.  No wonder: tradition as such having been undermined, the tradition of obedience has vanished.  It is all terribly sad.


At this point, fathers, I can well imagine you saying: “The old Bishop naturally makes out a good case in his own cause.  But how can I tell that his opponents could not do as much?  I certainly have no time to verify the documents he mentions, let alone the ones he does not.  It is beyond me.  I shall just obey, even if I am called a weathercock.”

Well, I think you can judge the truth of my contention from the least expected of sources: the Lefebvre affair.  Everyone knows that the real trouble with Archbishop Lefebvre is that he sticks to the Immemorial Mass and is training priests to do the like.  Agreed?  Of course.  Then, why is it that he was not suspended for that?  Wasn’t he?  No, he was not.

A devious way was found.  He is not a diocesan bishop and consequently has no title, no right, to ordain priests.  To get round this difficulty he founded the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X as a diocesan congregation in the diocese of Fribourg.  Thus, as bishop-superior of his congregation he could ordain his own subjects.  Rome then suppressed his congregation (legally or illegally is beside the point), so that he no longer had the right to ordain.  He did ordain.  He was suspended.

You see the point?  It is precisely because Archbishop Lefebvre could not be suspended for saying the Immemorial Mass that a devious means had to be employed.  The Establishment is determined to crush the Old Mass: it cannot do it straight so it will do it crooked.


Nunc quiddam cogere et efficere placet.

The summing up.

1.  You will have noticed that in all the documents I have quoted it is taken for granted that the Mass is the private property of priests.  It is not.  The priest is the executor of the Testament of God Incarnate but the faithful are just as much beneficiaries under the will as he.  It is they, the faithful, who have the right to the Immemorial Mass.  They can demand that the legacy be paid in a currency which has held its value from time immemorial.  They are aware that we live in an age of inflation and bright new notes are soon devalued.

2.  The Immemorial Mass has not been abrogated - even if it could be.  Its use is therefore licit as well as valid.

3.  The attack against it is devious: to suppress the custom thanks to the abject conformism of bishops and the servile obedience of priests.

(...) (conclusion).

* * *



Father Gregoire Celier.

For some time “conservative” publications of the conciliar Church such as “30 Days”, or “La Nef” have informed us of a future “Reform of the Liturgical Reform.”  According to some well-informed sources, Rome would seriously consider calling into question certain aspects of the liturgical reform undertaken under the authority of Paul VI.

Some clear signals would render this hypothesis very plausible - such as the success of the two books by Bishop Gamber, recently published with a foreword by Cardinal Ratzinger, the article by Father Armogathe - ‘Save the Ritual’ - in Communio of July/August 1993, or the book form Dom Nocent, a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, published in 1993 and called “The Liturgical Renewal, a Reappraisal.”

Of course, this project rejoices all the “conservatives” of the conciliar Church and particularly the “Ecclesia Dei” Catholics.  It lets them hope for a true renewal of the Church on this crucial point.  This is the case, for example, of Father Christian Laffargue, one of the founders of the Fraternity of St. Peter, who declared that he expected from Rome . . . “that it gives back the principles of a true Liturgical Reform as it did for the Catechism.”1

What should one think of the “Reform of the Liturgical Reform”?  Is it a sign for a return by Rome to a healthier view of the situation, after so much blindness?  Are we going to witness a real re-thinking of the spiritual disaster which was caused by this Liturgical Reform?  Or, are we going to witness again a deception, a trickery, a deceit, a snare?

To affirm that there is really something changed in Rome, that a new spirit reigns in the conciliar Church, that we are on the brink of a time more favourable to Tradition, would require that two essential conditions be combined.  On the one hand, that the previous Liturgical Reform had been confirmed as unchangeable and on the other hand that this proposed ‘Reform of the Liturgical Reform’ would correspond to a real change of mind, to a real break with previous thinking.

To put it in other words, if this project of the “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” only represents a follow up of an already ancient plan, in direct continuation of the reform inaugurated by Paul VI, far from rejoicing one should fear a dramatic increase in the damage caused by this reform.

Thus, for those who are informed about the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II, this proposed “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” is nothing new or extraordinary.  On the contrary, it has always been an integral part of the reform itself: right from the beginning of the reform, a “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” has been considered by the reformers themselves.

We have available on this subject, hundreds of perfectly explicit statements, issued by some of the most reliable and well informed authors but as space is not available, we will satisfy ourselves today with a modest selection of statements bearing on the first twenty years of the Liturgical Reform.  Our readers will thus readily be able to appreciate that this project of the “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” has not anything new nor does it, above all, give notice in any way, of a true return to Tradition.

“What we must convince ourselves of and strive to promote in those under our charge, is the transformation of a static, rubrical conception of the liturgy (and of liturgical Music) to a liturgy and music newly felt, re-discovered like an expression in itself of the life of the Church, that is to say - life characterized by movement - no longer stationary and threatened with sclerosis but on the contrary, active, dynamic and in a certain way evolving”2 wrote Father Picard, General Secretary of the French Union of Sacred Music in 1965.

“It is quite certain that the spirit and dynamism which motivates these new rules will, without delay, translate itself into reform and structure even more decisive.  Would it be possible to say that some day, it could be announced that these reforms are completed?  Would this new movement not be a permanent part of the Church?”3  This question was asked in 1967 by Father Maertens, a member of the Consilium of the Liturgy which is the Roman organization which had prepared and put together the Conciliar Liturgical Reform.

“This reform is not an occasional happening but a permanent condition,”4 was a comment made in 1968 by Father Maldonado, Director of the Superior Pastoral Institute of Salamanca in Spain.

“The fact of looking upon the Reform of the Liturgy as a limited effort, undertaken to fashion a permanent Liturgy for many centuries to come, would be as regrettable an error as could be.  Similarly, the creation of a new Liturgy to which we have referred, far from appearing to be a temporary task, represents on the contrary, a permanent obligation to renewal.”5  This opinion was maintained, in 1969, by Father Rennings, Professor at the Liturgical Institute of Treve and Secretary of the German Liturgical Commission.

“The official texts of today’s Liturgy itself no longer claim the permanence which characterized those of previous times.  It is unthinkable that the Missal of Paul VI promulgated after Vatican II on the 3rd April 1969 should last four centuries like that of Pius V promulgated on the 14th July, 1570 following the Council of Trent,”6 said Father Gantoy, Director of the periodical Paroisse et Liturgie in Belgium, in 1972.

“The spirit of Vatican II appears to be far from being spent as long as it is not congealed by reforms prematurely stated to be final.  In fact, Liturgical Reforms are only beginning.”7  This fact was underlined in 1972 by Father Duchesneau, a member of the National Centre of Pastoral Liturgy of Paris.

Cardinal Knox, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, that is to say, the heir to Consilium, submitting the work of his Congregation to the Synod of Bishops in 1974, confirmed: “Subsequent to the production of the new liturgical books, on no account must it be said that the Reform of the Liturgy has reached its final point.  New problems arise, the requirements of people become clearer, just as the comparison in the manner of speaking of the liturgical books and that of today’s men.”8

“No-one can foresee what the Liturgy will be in ten or twenty years.  If the Liturgy has changed much in the last ten years, it is quite certain that it will continue to change in the following decades.”9  This was confirmed, in 1975, by Father Rouillard, Professor at the St. Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.

  “What the Liturgy of Christians will be in one or two generations, no-one can tell but one can assume from the changes in ritual which have occurred within the last ten years in the Roman Catholic Church that they will only be the fore-runners of deeper changes in the behaviour of Christian gatherings.”10  These were the words, spoken in 1976, of Father Gelineau, an ex-member of the Consilium of the Liturgy.

“Even most of the observers and particularly the Priests agree that this Liturgical Reform is only a first step: a renewal of the Roman Rite with a first effort to conform to the different cultural spheres, in the shape of translation and partial adjustments,”11 was submitted, also in 1976, by Father Dye, a member of the Dominican Commission for Reform of the Liturgy.

“In the first place, one must recognize the results as well as the limits of the Liturgical Reform undertaken since Vatican II: the Aggiornamento is an essential step but it is only a step which must not put a full stop to further research,”12 said Father Lecuyer, former Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers and former member of the Consilium of the Liturgy, in 1978.

“As Monsignor Noe, the present Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, explained to the American Bishops last June, the Liturgical Reform has not finished.  It would be a mistake to think that the Liturgical Renewal, which was initiated with the Council twenty years ago, was completed apart from some minor details.”13  This was a reminder, in 1984, by Father Crivelli, Director of the Liturgical Centre for the French-speaking Switzerland.

Thus, as we have been told by those who appeared and achieved the Liturgical Reform under the guidance of Paul VI and with his formal approval, the reform must be continuous in keeping with the daily changes which occur in a world in evolution.  That is why a “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” is normal, natural and essential on account of the time that has elapsed since Vatican II.  “After twenty-five years of practical applications of the Constitution on the Liturgy and while praising their fully justified diligence, it would not be showing a lack of respect to mention that while praising the enormous amount of work undertaken in the past for the Liturgical celebrations, there already appears certain gaps where one or the other lacks adaptation.14

Far from bringing a return to Tradition, the “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” would only be a furthering of the plans of the Liturgical Reform itself under some partially renewed appearances because “The Liturgy is not monolithic but because it is alive, it must retain an adaptability which makes it accept to be and to remain forever an object of reform.”15

In fact, it is the principles themselves which prompted the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II, put into effect by Paul VI, which makes this reform essentially obnoxious and pernicious for the true Tradition.  That is why any “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” cannot be accepted or considered before these false and destructive principles have been expressly rejected and solemnly condemned.  Any “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” which would be undertaken on the basis of these false principles would only be a deception and a trap because it would only follow a road which leads the Church to its ruin and souls to their loss.

To finally convince us that this “Reform of the Liturgical Reform” does not, in any way, show a return by conciliar Rome to the past, because it had already been foreseen from the beginning, we will finish by quoting three extremely enlightening extracts from the publication Notitiae which was at first the publication of the Consilium of the Liturgy and became that of the Congregation for the Divine Worship when Consilium merged with it.

“The work of the Liturgical Reform is not completed and in furtherance with the spirit of the Council, must not have a final ending.  If one looks at it from its human aspect, the Liturgy as well as the Church, is inescapably subject to a continuous reform, born from ecclesiastical life, in order that the Church will truly conform to modern time, today’s culture and to the contemporary moment.”16

Indeed, “new problems arise each day, which demonstrate the necessity of a continuous renovation and at the same time, the importance and the effectiveness of the Liturgy in the Church.”17

That is why “the Liturgical Reform will continue without any limits of time, of space, of person and initiative, of form and of rite, in order that the Liturgy will remain alive for the men of all times and of all generations.”18


1 Benoit Pesme, “L’abbé Christian Laffargue: Itinéraire d’un pionnier”, France Catholique 2409, 25 Juin 1993, p. 15.

2 François Picard, “Problème et perspectives de la musique sacrée”, Etudes, Février 1965, p. 257.

3 Nouvelles instructions pour la réforme liturgique, présentation de Thierry Maertens, Centurion, 1967, p. 37.

4 Luis Maldonado, “La réforme liturgique à venir”, Concilium 32, Février 1969, p. 77.

5 Heinrich Rennings, “Objectifs et tâche de la liturgie”, Concilium 42 Février 1969, p. 117.

6 Robert Gantoy, “composer des prières pour aujourd’hui”, Paroisse et Liturgie 1, Janvier-Février 1972, p. 20.

7 Claude Duchesneau, “Improvisation sur le thème de la créativité liturgique”, La Maison Dieu III, 3 trim. 1972, p. 82.

8 Jacob Robert Knox, “Relatio de laboribus et inceptis Sacrae Congregationis pro cultu divino ad synodum episcoporum 1974”, Notitiae 99, Novembre 1974, p. 356.

9 Philippe Rouillard, “Liturgie aujourd’hui”, encyclopédie Catholicisme, Letouzey et Ané, 1975, VII, col. 892.

10 Joseph Gélineau, Demain la liturgie, Cerf, 1976, p. 7.

11 Dominique Dye, “Statut et fonctionnement du rituel dans la pastorale liturgique en France après Vatican II”, La Maison Dieu 125, 1 trim. 1976, p. 148.

12 Joseph Lécuyer, “compte rendus”, La Maison Dieu 134, 2 trim. 1978, p. 141.

13 Jean-Claude Crivelli, “La réforme liturgique est encore à faire”, Vie (bulletin des paroisses catholiques romandes de Suisse), Décembre 1984, p. 10.

14 Adrien Nocent, Le renouveau liturgique: une relecture, Beauchesne, 1993, p.8.

15 Ibid., p. 10.

16 Anscar J. Chupungco, “Costituzione conciliare sulla sacra liturgia. 15 anniversario”, Notitiae 149, Décembre 1978, p. 580.

17 “Sic decies, sic vicies”, Notitiae 101, Janvier 1975, p. 4.

18 “Rinnovamento nell’ordine”, Notitiae 61, Février 1971, p. 52.

The Position of the Holy Father, John Paul II:

Here are a few passages of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter on the liturgy called Vigesimus Annus.  The document was signed on December 4th, 1988, and published May 14th, 1989.  This letter is the famous document that was long awaited, which was going to give priests all over the world ‘carte blanche’ to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass “where pastoral needs exist”.  However, pressures from Bishops’ Conferences, (especially those of France, Germany, America and Switzerland) led to a different result: an official disavowal of the attachment to the liturgy of all times.

4 (. . .)  This work (the liturgical reform) was undertaken in accordance with the conciliar principles of fidelity to tradition and openness to legitimate development, and so it is possible to say that the reform of the Liturgy is strictly traditional (sic!) and in accordance with ‘the ancient usage of the holy Fathers’.”

11 (. . . )  Some have received the new books with a certain indifference, or without trying to understand or help others to understand the reasons for the changes; others, unfortunately, have turned back in a one-sided and exclusive way to the previous liturgical forms which some of them consider to be the sole guarantee of certainty in faith.(. . .)”

12 (. . .)  These are all reasons for holding fast to the teaching of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium and to the reforms which it has made possible: ‘the liturgical renewal is the most visible fruit of the whole work of the Council’.  For many people the message of the Second Vatican Council has been experienced principally through the liturgical reform. . .”

“16.  Another important task for the future is that of the adaptation of the Liturgy to different cultures. . .”  (That is called inculturation: mixture of Catholicism and any culture even pagan).

1 PHR, p. 30.

2 EBCP, p. 120.

3 Ibid., p. 125.

4 Ibid., p. 118.

5 TE, p. 152.

6 EBCP, pp. 108-9.

7 SERMONS, P.S., pp. 70-1.

8 EBCP, p. 102.

9 FSPB, Introduction.

10 RMP,  vol. 1, p. 211 (citing Calvin).

11 RIE, vol. II, p. 113.

12 FSPB, Introduction, p. x.

13 EBCP, p. 58.

14 Ibid., p. 64.

15 Ibid., p. 89.

16 Ibid., p. 102.


18 FSPB, p. 221.

19 D. 956.  The Council of Trent explained that “Since the nature of man is such that without external means he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things, Holy Mother Church has instituted certain rites, namely that some things in the Mass be pronounced in a low tone and others in a louder tone.  She has likewise, in accordance with apostolic discipline and tradition, made use of ceremonies such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be emphasized and the minds of the faithful be excited by those visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.”  D. 943.

20 EBCP, p. 79.

21 RIE, vol. II, p. 102.

22 TE, p. 153.

23 ORIGINAL LETTERS, P.S., pp. 31-2.

24 EBCP, p. 95.

25 FSPB, Introduction, p. vi.

26 INSTITUTES;  IV, xviii, 12, col. 1059.


28 EBCP, p. 256.

29 EARLY WRITINGS, P.S.., p. 488.

30 ORIGINAL LETTERS, P.S., vol. I, p. 79.

31 ESR, p. 188.

32 Ibid., p. 187.

33 RIE. vol. II, pp. 120-21.

34 CW, vol. II, p. 524.

35 ESR, p. 189.

36 J. G. Ridley, NICHOLAS RIDLEY (London, 1957), pp. 218-9.

37 CW, vol. II, p. 525.

38 RMP, vol. II, p. 219.  Note 1.  A rubric in the 1552 Prayer Book directs that the minister shall stand on the north side of the table and no longer face east as in the traditional liturgy.  A Protestant author, Dr. Strawley, admits in his book LITURGY AND WORSHIP that this was to “emphasize the idea of the ‘communion feast’.”  p. 308.

39 EBCP, p. 98.

40 Ibid., p. 128.

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