Rorate Caeli

Mediator Dei - 60th Anniversary

...while We derive no little satisfaction from the wholesome results of the [Liturgical] movement ..., duty obliges Us to give serious attention to this "revival" as it is advocated in some quarters, and to take proper steps to preserve it at the outset from excess or outright perversion.

Indeed, though we are sorely grieved to note, on the one hand, that there are places where the spirit, understanding or practice of the sacred liturgy is defective, or all but inexistent, We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence. Not seldom, in fact, they interlard their plans and hopes for a revival of the sacred liturgy with principles which compromise this holiest of causes in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine.
Pius XII
Mediator Dei, 7-8

Two years after the end of hostilities in Europe, Pope Pius XII, considering the several and growing abuses of the corrupt wing which was threatening to engulf the Liturgical Movement -- abuses which had multiplied in intensity during the 1930s and in the war years, particularly in the Germany he knew so well and loved so much, in Belgium, and in France -- decided that the time had come for the Apostolic See to take control of the Movement once again and to deter and subdue its bizarre deviations.

More than forty years had passed since the stern measures by which Pope Saint Pius X (whom Pope Pacelli would soon beatify and canonize) successfully tamed the great impulses which had characterized the Liturgical Movement since its beginnings in the previous century and guided them towards its true Traditional end: "the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church" (Motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini, 1903).

It was clear to Pius XII that the worst aspects of Modernism (as well as several Jansenist ideas on Sacred Liturgy) had infiltrated the Liturgical Movement. Or rather: the measures adopted by Saint Pius X against Modernists had been so successful at driving them underground that their worst ideas survived only as corruptions of the Liturgical Movement. Mediator Dei was, then, a solemn gesture to hold in place and within the limits of orthodoxy the centrifugal forces which were causing increasing distress and scandal throughout the Church.

Yet, it would not be appropriate to limit the scope of this majestic encyclical to the abuses of the Liturgical Movement. It was, first and foremost, the definitive and unsurpassed Papal document on Sacred Liturgy, as current today as it was then, as we will examine in detail in the next few weeks.


  1. Anonymous1:47 PM

    While Pius XII was a great Pope, it is sad to remember the new Psalter he introduced (now an embarrassment, and totally discredited), and many of the changes he made to Holy Week. One may also question the drastic reform of the Breviary carried through by Pius X. It seems that the 'rot' had set in a long time before Paul VI. It is interesting to ask, in the light of our present appreciation of organic development, whether we can really approve of the major innovations introduced by two holy Popes. In any case, there will hardly be any going back. Damage limitation is now the name of the game.

  2. "and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine.Pius XII"

    St. Pius X
    Ora Pro Nobis

    Merci Marcel!


    Tradition drives in cars
    Through country and through city,
    While Bishops shift in sand
    And sink with souls, a pity.

    Tradition flies in planes
    From ocean coast to coast
    Under Mary's mantle blue,
    Our solitary boast.

    Tradition travels far,
    Twas all in Our Lord's plan
    To preserve the Holy Faith
    For woman and for man.

    Tradition lives and moves,
    The pews, the families fill,
    While Bishops sink in sand...
    Tradition takes the Hill!

  3. Anonymous2:25 PM


  4. Anonymous9:08 PM

    It is not impossible to go back in time to a better Church and Mass, the pre-Vatican II Church.
    The SSPX has proven that it is possible to go back. All of their seminaries and religious Orders and Churches are flourishing, compared to the Vatican II institutions which are dying.
    Since the Motu Proprio, there has been a huge resurgence of the traditional Catholic Mass, and the traditional Church. The popularity of it has hardly been expected.
    In Italy, people are flocking to the Tridentine Latin Mass, but have no enthusiasm for the Novus Ordo. Where the Tridentine Latin Mass has been's been packed in Italy. Much a surprise.
    Perhaps not in the USA, but in parts of Italy already, (especially in Rome), the Tridentine Latin Mass is gathering more devotees and support than the ordinary Novus Ordo.
    Not surprising at all. Especially not to the Pope.

  5. Anonymous9:41 PM

    The point about Pius XII and St. Pius X's changes to the liturgy is well taken. A question for those better informed than me; have there been any actual alterations of the liturgy by Popes that have been undoubtedly a good thing? (St. Pius V's missal of 1570 I don't consider as an alteration, since it just selected between alternative standard practices and codified them.)

  6. There is room for debate in regards to the wisdom and prudence of Pope Pius XII's changes to the Roman Rite. There are at least plausible arguments for some of the Holy Week changes. Or at least I'm willing to consider them.

    The real problem (I would argue) was less the changes themselves than their mere fact. That so much (relatively) could be changed so easily in so short a period of time opened the possibilities up for those with much more radical reforms in mind, if they could only be given the opportunity.

    And in the 1960's, they were finally given that opportunity. And they ran with it.

    But obviously the rot had set in earlier. Bugnini and the consilium did not spring up ex nihilo.

  7. "...We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence...."

    At time of stating, in France and USA especially. The "innovators" also observed & condemned by Pope St Pius X in "Pascendi.." advocated noxious pseudo-dogmas of evolution and novelty which were also being insidiously grafted onto the modern understanding of the faith. In some respects, therefore, it is inexplicable that Pope Pius XII should have opened the way for the devious hand of Bugnini to insert itself into every aspect of liturgical life up to the late 1960s. This reached its crowning achievement in imposing the use of the vernacular anathematised by The Council of Trent(12:9).

    For further liturgical manipulations & fabrications with their prophesied consequences note

    "..........Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul." ["Quo Primum"]

    Given at St. Peter's in the year of the Lord's Incarnation, 1570, on the 14th of July of the Fifth year of Our Pontificate.

    The saintly Holy Father forewarned The Church. So did the same pope who wrote "Mediator Dei" as a cardinal in the 1930s:

    "I am concerned about the confidences of the Virgin to the little Lucia of Fatima. The persistence of the Good Lady in face of the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that the modification of the Faith, liturgy, theology, and soul of the Church would represent." (G. Roche et P. St Germain - Pie XII devant L'Histoire - Laffont:1972).

    While he was a very saintly chief pastor there is no doubt that his suspicions of those who promulgated novelty and revision of immemorial ecclesiastical custom should have been sufficient to warn him off modifications of the liturgy. This is a road without end. Consequently, we are now living in the days of "the wrath".

  8. Holy moly. Pius XII wrote this 60 years ago? It looks like something that could have been written yesterday.

  9. Might I be permitted to strike a discordant note? Mediator Dei is not the unmixed blessing many Trads believe it to be. I generally dislike the habit of people linking to their own blogs in comboxes, but I trust New Catholic will forgive me. The alternative is posting the whole article here.

  10. The same may be said of the SP - it is a mixed blessing. The fact that it requires follow up clarifications demonstrates this. While it has given priests due and fitting access to The Latin Mass, the version a la Bugnini is implicated which therefore keeps the door open to the threat of further modernist subversion.


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