Rorate Caeli

The Reform of Holy Week in the Years 1951-1956: A translation of the study by Fr. Stefano Carusi IBP

After many delays, Rorate Caeli presents the following translation of Fr. Stefano Carusi's work on the reform of Holy Week under Pope Pius XII. This translation is the work of a U.S.-based priest who had spent much time in Rome and who wishes to remain anonymous. [UPDATE November 2, 2010: the translator has given permission for his name to be appended to this post: he is Fr. Charles W. Johnson, a U.S. military chaplain.]
The text has been scrupulously translated, but the formatting has been changed slightly by turning the bullet points in the original Italian text into numbers typed in boldface.
This text is posted with the intention of encouraging civil and constructive discussions on the roots of the liturgical reform. Rorate does not take the view that important theological and liturgical disputes even within the Traditional Catholic world ought to be swept under the rug. CAP.
From Disputationes Theologicae:


by Stefano Carusi

"It was felt necessary to revise and enrich the formulae of the Roman Missal. The first stage of such a reform was the work of Our Predecessor Pius XII with the reform of the Easter Vigil and the rites of Holy Week (1), which constituted the first step in the adaptation of the Roman Missal to the contemporary way of thinking"
(Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, April 3, 1969)


In the course of recent years, the publication of numerous studies concerning the history of the theological and liturgical debate of the 1950's has cast new light on the formation and the intentions (which were not always openly declared at the time) of those who were the actual composers of certain texts.

As regards the work of the reform of Holy Week in 1955 and 1956, it is desirable to consider the declarations, finally made public now, of the well-known Lazarist Annibale Bugnini, and of his close collaborator and later secretary of the "Consilium ad reformandam liturgiam" Father Carlo Braga, and of the future-Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli, in order to establish whether or not their work of liturgical reform corresponds to a wider theological project and in order to analyze the validity of the criteria used and then reproposed in the reforms that followed. We shall consider the notes and minutes of the discussions of the preparatory commission, preserved mainly in the archives of the Congregation of Rites and recently published in the monumental work of the liturgical historian Msgr. Nicola Giampietro, which testify to the tenor of the debate.
In October of 1949 at the Congregation of Rites, a liturgical commission was named which would have as its object the Roman rite. (Actually, the commission was named on May 28, 1948, while the constitutive meeting of the commission was held on June 22 of the same year. See Fr. Thomas Richstatter's "Liturgical Law: New Style, New Spirit", Franciscan Herald Press 1977, p. 182. CAP.) It was to study whether eventual reforms should be adopted; unfortunately, the calm necessary for such a work was not possible on account of the continual requests by the French and German episcopates demanding immediate changes with the greatest and most precipitous haste. The Congregation of Rites and the Commission considered themselves bound to treat the question of the horarium of Holy Week in order to circumvent the imaginative creations of certain "autonomous celebrations," especially in regard to the Vigil of Holy Saturday. In this context, it was necessary to approve "ad experimentum" a document that permitted the evening celebration of the rite of Holy Saturday, i.e. the "Ordo Sabbati Sancti” [“The Order of Holy Saturday”] of January 9, 1951. (2) In the years 1948-1949, the Commission was erected under the presidency of its Cardinal Prefect Clemente Micara, replaced in 1953 by Cardinal Gaetano Cicognani; also present were Msgr. Alfonso Carinci, Fathers Joseph Löw, Alfonso Albareda, Agostino Bea, and Annibale Bugnini. In 1951 Msgr. Enrico Dante was added; in 1960, Msgr. Pietro Frutaz, Fr. Luigi Rovigatti, Msgr. Cesario d'Amato, and finally Fr. Carlo Braga. (3) This last-named was long a close collaborator of Annibale Bugnini; in 1955 and 1956, he participated in the work of the commission though not yet a member, and was moreover, along with the aforementioned Fr. Bugnini, the author of historical-critical and pastoral articles on Holy Week (5), which would eventually be revealed as "letters of transit," so to speak, for the changes which followed.

The Commission worked in secret and under pressure from the central European episcopates (6), though it is not clear if their pressure was meant to intimidate or encourage the Commission. So great was the secrecy that the unexpected and sudden publication of the "Ordo Sabbati Sancti instaurati" ["On the Restored Rite of Holy Saturday”] on March 1, 1951, "came as a surprise to the very officials of the Congregation of Rites," (7) as commission member Annibale Bugnini has stated. This same Fr. Bugnini informs us of the singular manner in which the results of the Commission's work on Holy Week were conveyed to the Pope: the Pope "was kept informed by Msgr. Montini as well as weekly by Fr. Bea, Pius XII's confessor. Thanks to this link, notable results could be achieved even in the period when the Pope's illness prevented anyone else from approaching him." (8) The Pope was afflicted with a serious stomach malady that required a long convalescence; and so it was not the Cardinal Prefect of Rites, in charge of the Commission, who kept him informed but then-Msgr. Montini and the future-Cardinal Bea, who was to have a great role in the reforms to follow.

The labors of the Commission were protracted until 1955, when, on Nov. 16, the decree "Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria" [“The Greatest Mysteries of Our Redemption”] was published, which was to take effect at Easter of the following year. The bishops received these novelties in various ways, and, beyond the façade of triumphalism, there were not lacking laments over the introduction of these innovations, and indeed requests began to multiply for permission to retain the traditional rites. (9) But by now the machine of liturgical reform had been set in motion and to halt it in its course would have proven impossible and moreover inadmissible, as the events to follow would demonstrate.

Despite the wish that the liturgists should sing, as it were, in unison—compounded by a certain monolithic attitude, which in the 1950's was meant to show unity of purpose—authoritative voices were raised in dissent but promptly constrained to silence despite their competence. Such was the case not only for certain episcopates but also for certain liturgists, such as Léon Gromier, who, notable for his well-documented commentary on the Caeremoniale Episcoporum, (10) was also a consultor for the Congregation of Rites and a member of the Pontifical Academy of the Liturgy. In July of 1960 in Paris, in a celebrated conference, he spoke his mind [on all of this] in a heated but well-reasoned manner. (11) Pope John XXIII himself, in 1959, at the celebration of Good Friday at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme followed the traditional practices, thus making evident that he was not in agreement with the innovations recently introduced and that he recognized the experimental nature of those changes.

Certain reforms introduced experimentally in 1955 and 1956 were clearly inserted into the fabric of the ritual in a clumsy manner, so much so that they were easily corrected in the reform of 1969. But that topic deserves a separate treatment.

In order to sketch the importance of the reform of Holy Week, both liturgically and theologically, mention must be made of the commentary provided by two of the greatest protagonists of this event, so that the intentions of those who labored over this project might be brought into focus. Father Carlo Braga, the right arm of Annibale Bugnini and for years at the helm of the authoritative review Ephemerides Liturgicae, defined the reform of Holy Saturday in bold terms, calling it "the head of the battering-ram which pierced the fortress of our hitherto static liturgy." (13) The future-Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli defined it thus in 1956: "the most important act in the history of the liturgy from St. Pius V until today." (14)


We now arrive at a detailed analysis which will cast in relief some of the more obvious changes brought about by the "Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus" [“The Restored Order of Holy Week”] of 1955-1956 and which will explain why this reform became the "head of the battering-ram" in the heart of the Roman liturgy and "the most important act since St. Pius V until now."
For each of the innovations cited there is given as well a commentary which relies as much as possible on the what the actual authors of the texts later stated; then there is also a brief sketch of the traditional practice.


1. Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae of 1955-1956 (hereinafter: OHS 1956): innovation of using the color red for the procession with palms but violet for the Mass. (15)

Commentary: In the archives of the Commission we read: "One thing that might perhaps be done ... the color red might be restored as was used in the Middle Ages for this solemn procession. The color red recalls the royal purple." A little further on: "In this way, the procession is distinguished as something sui generis." (16) One does not wish to deny that red might signify the royal purple, although the assertion that this was the medieval practice remains to be proven; but it is a peculiar way to proceed, this search for things that are sui generis [sic], and then the decision that red must have a positively determined symbolism on Palm Sunday, even though red in the Roman rite is the color of Martyrs or of the Holy Spirit. In the Ambrosian rite it is used on this Sunday to symbolize the Blood of the Passion and not royal status. In the Parisian rite, the color black was used for both ceremonies [procession and Mass--transl.]. In some dioceses it was foreseen that one color would be used for the procession and another for the Mass, a practice borrowed perhaps from the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, (17) and one which does not make much sense when applied to Palm Sunday, as Léon Gromier relates. This innovation must be attributed, not to a documented practice, but to an extemperaneous idea of a "professor of Pastoral Theology at a Swiss seminary." (18)

In the Missale Romanum of 1952 (hereinafter: MR 1952): there is the unvarying use of violet for both the procession and the Mass. (19)

2. (OHS 1956): Abolition of the folded chasubles and, consequently, the "broad stole" or stola largior. (20)

Commentary: This touches on one of the oldest customs, one which had survived from earliest antiquity until then and which showed forth the ancient nature of Holy Week, which no one had ever dared alter because of both the veneration with which it was regarded as well as the extraordinary nature of these rites and of the extraordinary sorrow of the Church during the days of Holy Week.

(MR 1952): Use of folded chasubles and the broad stole during the singing of the Gospel by the deacon. (21)

3. (OHS 1956): Novelty of blessing the palms while facing the faithful, with back turned to the altar, and in certain cases, turned to the Blessed Sacrament. (22)

Commentary: For the sake of the participation of the faithful, the idea is introduced of liturgical actions done facing the people, but with the back turned towards God: "Influential [in the reform] was the visibility of particular gestures in the celebration, detached from the altar and performed by the sacred ministers while facing the people." (23) A blessing was invented that was performed over a table which stood between the altar and the altar rail, while the ministers faced the people. A new concept was introduced of liturgical space and of orientation during prayer.

(MR 1952): The palm branches are blessed on the altar, on the Epistle-side "horn," after a reading, a gradual, a Gospel, and above all a Preface with a "Sanctus" that introduces the prayers of blessing. This is the extremely ancient rite of the so-called "Missa sicca." (24)

4. (OHS 1956): Suppression of the preface which speaks of Christ's authority over the kingdoms and powers of this world. (25)

Commentary: It is astonishing to note that the intention to proclaim solemnly Christ's kingship (26) is carried out by suppressing the preface which describe His kingship. This preface is declared superfluous in no uncertain terms and therefore to be eliminated: "Considering the little coherence of these prefaces, their prolixity, and, in certain formulations, their poverty of thought, their loss was of little relevance." (27)

(MR 1952): The Roman rite often uses, for certain great liturgical moments, e.g. the consecration of the oils or priestly ordination, the singing of a preface, which is a particularly solemn way of calling upon God; likewise for the blessing of the palms a preface was prescribed which spoke of the divine order of creation and its subordination to God the Father, i.e. the subordination of the created order, which is admonished through kings and governments to be duly obedient to Christ: "Tibi enim serviunt creaturae tuae quia te solum auctorem et Deum cognoscunt et omnis factura tua te collaudat, et benedicunt te Sancti tui: quia illud magnum Unigeniti tui nomen coram regibus et potestatibus hujus saeculi libera voce confitentur" ["For thy creatures serve Thee, because they acknowledge Thee alone as their origin and God, and all thy work praises Thee together, and thy Saints bless Thee: for they confess with unfettered voice the great Name of thy Only-begotten before the kings and powers of this world"]. (28) In a few elegant lines, the text of this chant reveals the theological foundation of the duty of temporal governments to be subservient to Christ the King.

5. (OHS 1956): Suppression of the prayers concerning the meaning and the benefits of sacramentals and the power that these have against the demon. (29)

Commentary: The reason for this--explains a note from the archives--is that these prayers are "replete ... with all the showy display of erudition typical of the Carolingian era." (30) The reformers agreed on the antiquity of the texts but did not find them to their taste because "the direct relation between the ceremony and daily Christian life was very weak, or rather [between the ceremony and] the pastoral-liturgical significance of the procession as homage to Christ the King." (31) It is apparent to no one how there is lacking a connection to the "daily life" of the faithful or to the homage to Christ the King in its full "pastoral-liturgical significance." Clearly, the plan was one of a kind of rhetoric that today appears dated, but at the time had a certain cachet. Though desiring a "conscious participation in the procession, with relevance to concrete, daily Christian life," (32) they relied on arguments that were neither theological nor liturgical.

The "concrete, daily Christian life" of the faithful is then indirectly disdained a few lines later: "These pious customs [of the blessed palms], although theologically justified, can degenerate (as in fact they have degenerated) into superstition." (33) Apart from the poorly concealed tone of rationalism, one should note that the ancient prayers are deliberately replaced with new compositions, which, according to their authors' own words, are "substantially a new creation." (34) The ancient prayers were not pleasing because they express too clearly the efficacy of sacramentals, and it was decided to come up with new prayers.

(MR 1952): The ancient prayers recall the role of sacramentals, which have an effective power against the demon ("ex opere operantis Ecclesiae" [“by the action of the Church as acting”). (35)

6. (OHS 1956): Novelty of unveiling the processional cross, (36) even though the altar cross remains veiled.

Commentary: We admit that the liturgical significance of this innovation completely escapes us; the change seems to be a liturgical "pastiche" born of the haste of the authors rather than something related to mystical symbolism.

(MR 1952): The altar cross is veiled as is the processional cross, to which is tied a blessed palm, (37) a sign once again on this day of the glorious Cross and the victorious Passion.

7. (OHS 1956): Elimination of the cross striking the closed doors of the church. (38)

Commentary: This rite symbolized the initial resistance of the Jewish people and the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, but also the triumph of Christ's cross, which throws open the doors of heaven just as it is the cause of our resurrection: "hebraeorum pueri resurrectionem vitae pronuntiantes" ["the children of the Hebrews declaring the resurrection unto life"]. (39)
(It should be noted that despite the absence of this little rite from the post-1955 liturgical books of the Roman Rite, it continues to be inserted into not a few Palm Sunday processions celebrated according to either the 1962 or 1970 Missal. CAP.)

(MR 1952): The procession returns to the doors of the church, which are shut. A sung dialogue between one choir of cantors outside, alternating with another inside the church, precedes the opening of the church doors, which takes place after the foot of the processional cross strikes against them. (40)

8. (OHS 1956): Creation of a prayer to be recited at the conclusion of the procession, at the center of the altar, the whole of which is recited facing the people (“versus populum”).

Commentary: No one can decide where the missal is to be placed or who is to hold it while on the step, because in the haste for reform, no one took note of this lacuna, which required a further rubric—i.e., rubric “22a” or “22-bis”—which is more confusing than the one that precedes it. (42) Its insertion, in effect, “gums up” the preceding ceremonies thanks to its arbitrary nature: “At this point, i.e. to give the procession a precise termination, we decided to propose a particular Oremus [prayer].” (43)

Father Braga likewise openly admitted, fifty years later, that the creation of this oration was not a happy choice: “The element that is out of place in the new Ordo [of Holy Week] is the concluding oration of the procession, which disrupts the unity of the celebration.” (44) The “experimental” changes, motivated by a desire for innovations, have revealed with time their inadequacy.

(MR 1952): The procession ends as usual, and then the Mass begins, as always, with the prayers at the foot of the altar.

9. (OHS 1956): The distinction between the “Passion” and the Gospel is eliminated. Moreover, the last sentence of the Passion is suppressed (most likely due to a publishing error, as other explanations seem implausible). (45)

Commentary: The Passion had always been marked by a narrative style; it was divided among three voices and was followed by the Gospel, which was marked off by the fact that it was sung by a single deacon on a different tone, and was accompanied by the use of incense (but not torches). The reform confuses these two aspects. Passion and Gospel are melded into a single chant, while meretricious editing crops verses at the beginning and the end [of the passage]. In the end, accordingly, the Mass, as well as the deacon, is deprived of the Gospel properly so-called, which is, in effect, suppressed.

(MR 1952): The chanting of the Passion is distinct from that of the Gospel, which ends at verse 66 of Matthew, chap. 26. (46)

10. (OHS 1956): Elimination of the Gospel passage which connects the institution of the Eucharist with the Passion of Christ (Matthew 26: 1-36). (47)

Commentary: We now come to a pass that to us seems the most disconcerting, above all because it seems, as far as the archives reveal, that the Commission had decided not to change anything in regard to the Passion, since it was of the most ancient origin. (48) Nevertheless, we know neither how nor why the narrative of the Last Supper was expunged. It is hard to believe that for simple motives of saving time thirty verses of the Gospel would be struck out, especially considering the relevance of the passage concerned. Up till then, tradition desired that the narration of the Passion in the Synoptics always include the institution of the Eucharist, which, by virtue of the sacramental separation of the Body and Blood of Christ, is the herald of the Passion. The reform, with a single stroke aimed at a fundamental passage of Sacred Scripture, obscured the vital relation of the Last Supper, the sacrifice of Good Friday, and the Eucharist. The passage on the institution of the Eucharist was eliminated as well from Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday, with the astounding result that it is nowhere to be found in the entire liturgical cycle! This was the result of a climate of hasty change, which disrupted centuries-old traditions yet was incapable of considering the entirety of Scripture read during the year.

(MR 1952): The Passion is preceded by the reading of the institution of the Eucharist, indicating the intimate, essential, theological connection between the two passages.


(OHS 1956): The prayer “Contra persecutores Ecclesiae [Against the Church’s persecutors]” is prohibited, as is the prayer for the Pope. (50)

Commentary: This move abetted the elimination of all references to the fact that the Church has enemies. The reformers’ “reason” desired to obscure, with euphemisms and the suppression of entire passages, the reality of the Church’s persecution at the hands of enemies both earthly and infernal, who struggle against the Church with both violence and the insinuation of heresy among the faithful. (So one reads in the suppressed prayer.) This same irenic attitude is encountered again on Good Friday, as Fr. Braga frankly admits. (51) In the same context, the concurrent suppression of the prayer for the Pope is decreed; and so begins the practice of reducing the presence of the name of the Roman Pontiff in the liturgy.

(MR 1952): The prayer “Against the Church’s persecutors” and the prayer for the Pope are recited. (52)


(OHS 1956): Suppression of Mark 14: 1-31, thus shortening the Passion according to St. Mark. (53)

Commentary: Here is the second, disturbing elimination of the Gospel passage on the institution of the Holy Eucharist as placed in relation to the sacrifice of the Passion. The suppression of approximately thirty verses does not seem to have been solely for reasons of time, considering, once again, the importance of these verses.

(MR 1952): Mark 14: 1-31, the Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist, begins the reading of the Passion. (54)


(OHS 1956): Suppression of Luke 22: 1-39, thus shortening the Passion according to St. Luke. (55)

Commentary: This is the third time one is struck by the elimination of the Gospel passage on the institution of the Eucharist in its natural connection with the sacrifice of the Cross. In this instance, as in the preceding, it is difficult to believe that for simple motives of saving time these thirty important verses were eliminated.

(MR 1952): The account of the Passion is preceded by the institution of the Holy Eucharist with which it is related by its nature. (56)


1. (OHS 1956): Introduction of the stole as part of the choir dress of priests. (57)

Commentary: This is the beginning of the myth of concelebration on Holy Thursday. The bolder among the reformers wished to introduce it along with this reform, but resistance—especially from members of the Commission such as Cardinal Cicognani and Msgr. Dante—blocked this novelty. Father Braga writes: “As to the ‘participation’ of the priests, sacramental concelebration did not seem attainable (the mind-set, even of certain members of the Commission, was not yet prepared for it).” (58) In effect, there was a strongly hostile feeling against concelebration on Holy Thursday because it was not traditional: “Concelebration, whether sacramental or purely ceremonial, was to be excluded.” (59) To introduce the idea of concelebration, its proponents had to be content with the creation of the practice of having every priest present don a stole, (60) not at the moment of communion only but beginning with the start of the Mass.

(MR 1952): The priests and deacons wear the usual choir dress, without the stole, and put on the stole at the time of communion only, as is the usual custom. (61)

2. (OHS 1956): The practice is introduced of giving communion with only those hosts consecrated on this day. (62)

Commentary: It is incomprehensible why those present cannot communicate with hosts already consecrated previously. The Roman practice of the “Fermentum”—which is historically documented—was to communicate, in general, from a particle of the Eucharist from the Sunday prior, to show the communion of the Church throughout time and space, within the reality of the Body of Christ. This presence, being “real and substantial,” continues when the assembly departs and at the same time, with even greater logical coherence, precedes the reuniting of the assembly. With this [new] rubric, the idea is introduced of the Real Presence being tied to the day of the celebration, as well as the idea that one is obliged to communicate from hosts consecrated on the same day. It is as much as to say that those hosts are in some way different from those consecrated earlier. One should note that this obligation relates not merely to the symbolism of the tabernacle being empty before the Mass of Holy Thursday—which, at most, might have had some significance, albeit a novel one—since the text affirms that those who receive communion must receive only hosts consecrated on this day. (63) The underlying theology does not seem very solid, while the symbolism is debatable.

(MR 1952): There is no mention of this practice of giving communion with hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday. (64)

3. (OHS 1956): The washing of feet is no longer at the end of Mass but in the middle of Mass. (65)

Commentary: The reform appealed to a restoration of the “veritas horarum” [i.e., observance of the “true times” of the services], an argument used in season and out, like a veritable hobby horse. In this case, however, the chronological sequence given in the Gospel is abandoned. Rivers of ink flowed in order to convince others of the scandal of an horarium that was not in full accord with that of the Gospels, but in this case not only was a rite anticipated, or postponed, for practical reasons, but the chronological order of the Gospel narrative was inverted within a single ceremony. St. John writes that Our Lord washed the feet of the Apostles after the supper: “et cena facta” [“the supper having been finished”] (John 13: 2). It escapes understanding why the reformers, for whatever obscure motive, chose, arbitrarily, to put the washing of the feet directly in the middle of Mass. While Mass is being celebrated, consequently, some of the laity are allowed to enter the sanctuary and take off their shoes and socks. Apparently there was a desire to re-think the sacredness of the sanctuary and the prohibition of the laity from entering it during divine services. The washing of feet, therefore, is spliced into the offertory, an abuse whereby the celebration of Mass is interrupted with other rites, a practice founded on the dubious distinction of Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

(MR 1952): The rite known as the Mandatum, or washing of the feet, is carried out after Mass and not in the sanctuary, after the stripping of the altars and without interrupting Mass or allowing the laity to enter the sanctuary during the service, and withal respecting the chronological sequence given in the Gospel. (67)

4. (OHS 1956): Omission of the Confiteor recited by the deacon before Holy Communion. (68)

Commentary: The third, despised Confiteor is done away with, without recognition of the fact that the confession made by the deacon, or the server, although borrowed from the rite for communion extra missam [outside of Mass], is a confession of the unworthiness of the communicants to receive the sacred Species. It is not a “duplication” of the confession made by the priest and ministers at the beginning of Mass, since at that point they have simply recited their own unworthiness to approach the altar and to celebrate the sacred mysteries. (Hence, at a sung Mass it is recited sotto voce.) This is distinct from one’s unworthiness to approach Holy Communion.

(MR 1952): The Confiteor is recited before communion. (69)

5. (OHS 1956): At the end of Mass, during the stripping of the altars, it is mandated that even the cross and candlesticks are to be removed. (70)

Commentary: It was decided that everything should be stripped from the altar, even the cross. The rubrics of the reformed Holy Thursday do not explain, however, what to do with the altar cross, but one learns this by accident, as it were, from the rubrics of the following day. In effect, the rubrics of Good Friday speak of an altar without a cross, (71) which one can deduce from the fact that it was taken away during the stripping of the altars, or perhaps in a more private manner during the night. (This and other problems arise when one changes a liturgy which has benefited from layers of tradition and which is all but intolerant of hasty alterations.) Perhaps, on the basis of a certain liturgical archeologism, the reformers wished to prepare souls for the spectacle of a bare table in the middle of the sanctuary—something which makes little sense theologically.

(MR 1952): The cross remains on the altar, veiled and accompanied by the candlesticks, enthroned there in expectation of being unveiled the following day. (72)


1. (OHS 1956): The name “Solemn Liturgical Action” is devised, (73) thus eliminating the very ancient names “Mass of the Presanctified” and “Feria Sexta in Parasceve.”

Commentary: The terminology of “Presanctified” underlined the fact that the sacred Species had been consecrated at an earlier ceremony and showed the connection with the return of the Eucharist, an important and ancient part of the rite. But the Commission despised this concept and decided to reform the name along with the rite itself: “[We need] to trim back the medieval extravagances, so little noted, of the so-called Mass of the Presanctified to the severe and original lines of a great, general communion service.” (74) The usage “in Parasceve” [i.e., Friday “in Preparation”] was no longer in favor, even though its Hebraic overtones indicate its great antiquity.

(MR 1952): The name is “Mass of the Presanctified” or “Feria Sexta in Parasceve.” (75)

2. (OHS 1956): The altar no longer has the veiled cross (and candlesticks -- CAP) on it (76)

Commentary: The cross, especially the one on the altar, has been veiled since the first Sunday of the Passion, so that it should remain where it naturally ought to stand, namely at the center of the altar, later to be unveiled solemnly and publicly on Good Friday, the day of the triumph of the redemptive Passion. The authors of the reform apparently did not like the altar cross and decided to have it removed to the sacristy on the evening of Holy Thursday, and not in a solemn way but in the containers used to carry away the altar cloths after the stripping of the altars, or perhaps during the night in some unknown way, about which the rubrics for Holy Thursday are silent. On the very day of greatest importance for the Cross, when it ought to tower over the altar even though veiled at the beginning of the ceremony, it is absent. The fact that it remained present for nearly fifteen days on the altar, though publicly veiled, makes for the logic of its corresponding public unveiling, instead of an a-liturgical return of the cross from the sacristy as though someone hid it there in a closet during the night.

(MR 1952): The cross remains veiled at its usual place, i.e. on the altar, stripped of its cloths, and flanked by the usual candlesticks. (77)

3. (OHS 1956): The reading of the Gospel is no longer distinct from that of the Passion.

Commentary: The entire passage is given a more narrative title: “The History of the Passion.” The motive behind this change is not clear, given that the Commission seemed to oppose such a change in the analogous case of Palm Sunday. (78) Perhaps the intention was, as elsewhere, to do away with everything that made reference to the Mass, such as the reading of the Gospel, and consequently to justify the suppression of the name “Mass of the Presanctified.”

(MR 1952): The Gospel is sung in a way distinct from the singing of the Passion, but on this day of mourning, without incense or torches. (79)

4. (OHS 1956): The altar cloths are no longer placed on the altar from the beginning of the ceremony; at the same time, it is decided that the priest is not to wear the chasuble from the start, but only the alb and stole. (80)

Commentary: The fact that the celebrant wears the chasuble even for a rite that is not, strictly speaking, the Mass witnesses to the extreme antiquity of these ceremonies, which the members of the Commission recognized as well. On the one hand, they maintained that the ceremonies of Good Friday were composed of "elements that (since ancient times) remained substantially untouched," (81) but on the other hand they desired to introduce a change that would separate the Eucharistic liturgy from the "first part of the liturgy, the liturgy of the word." (82) This distinction, in embryonic form at the time, was to be marked--according to Father Braga--by the fact that the celebrant wore the stole only and not the chasuble: "For the liturgy of the word [the celebrant] was left only the stole." (83)

(MR 1952): The priest wears the black chasuble, prostrates himself before the altar, while the servers, meanwhile, spread a single cloth on the bare altar. (84)

The question of the prayer for the Jews, though completely pertinent to the study of Holy Week, cannot be addressed except by a study that gives clarity to the philological misunderstanding relative to the erroneously interpreted words "perfidi" and "perfidia." (85)

5. (OHS 1956): For the seventh prayer, the name "Pro unitate Ecclesiae" ["For the unity of the Church"] is introduced. (86)

Commentary: With this expressive ambiguity the idea is brought in of a Church in search of its own social unity, hitherto not possessed. The Church, according to traditional Catholic doctrine, solemnly defined, does not lack social unity in the earthly realm, since the said unity is an essential property of the true Church of Christ. This unity is not a characteristic that is yet to be found through ecumenical dialogue; it is already metaphysically present. In effect, the words of Christ, "Ut unum sint" ["That they may be one"], is an efficacious prayer of Our Lord, and as such is already realized. Those who are outside the Church must return to her, must return to the unity that already exists; they do not need to unite themselves to Catholics in order to bring about a unity that already exists. The aim of the reformers, however, was to eliminate from this prayer, says Father Braga, (87) some inconvenient words that spoke of souls deceived by the demon and ensnared by the wickedness of heresy: "animas diabolica fraude deceptas" and "haeretica pravitate." By the same logic, they desired to do away with the conclusion, which expressed hope for a return of those straying from the unity of Christ's truth back into His Church: "Errantium corda resipiscant et ad veritatis tuae redeant unitatem." At any rate, it was not possible to reform the text of the prayer but only the title, since at the time—laments Father Braga again—“unity was conceived in terms of the preconciliar ecumenism." (88) In other words, in 1956 the unity of the Church was conceived of as already existing, and God was being beseeched to bring back into this already existing unity those who were separated or far off from this unity. In the Commission there were members with traditional ideas who opposed the work of doctrinal erosion, though powerless to stop the creation of theological hybrids, such as the choice to leave the traditional text but to give it a new title. Annibale Bugnini himself, about ten years later, acknowledged that to pray for the future unity of the Church constitutes a heresy, and he mentions this in an article for L'Osservatore Romano that found fault with the title of the prayer "For the unity of the Church" introduced ten years prior by the Commission of which he was a member. Praising the prayers recently introduced in 1965, he writes that the prayer's name was changed from "For the unity of the Church" to "For the unity of Christians," because "the Church has always been one," but with the passage of time they were successful in eliminating the words "heretics" and "schismatics." (89) It is sad to note that these shifting maneuvers were employed with the liturgy in order to bring in theological novelties.

(MR 1952): The text is the same as that of 1956, wherein it is prayed that heretics and schismatics would return to the unity of His truth: "ad veritatis tuae redeant unitatem," (90) but without the ambiguous title of the 1956 version: "Pro unitate Ecclesiae."

6. (OHS 1956): At this point, there is the creation of a return procession of the cross from the sacristy. (91)

Commentary: This time, the cross returns in a liturgical manner, i.e. publicly rather than placed into the hampers used to collect the candlesticks and flowers from the previous evening [the Mass of Holy Thursday]. In the liturgy, when there is a solemn procession of departure, there is a solemn return; this innovation makes for a solemn return of a symbol that, the evening before, was carried away together with other objects in a private form, placing it—in the best-case scenario—in a wicker basket. There seems to be, in fact, no liturgical significance for introducing this procession of the return of the hidden cross. Perhaps we are confronted with a maladroit attempt to restore the rite carried out at Jerusalem in the fourth and fifth centuries and made known to us by Egeria: "In Jerusalem the adoration took place on Golgotha. Egeria recalls that the community assembled early in the morning in the presence of the bishop ... and then the silver reliquary [theca] containing the relics of the true Cross were brought in." (92) The restoration of this procession of the return of the cross took place in a context that was not that of Mount Calvary of the early centuries but in the context of the Roman liturgy, which over time had wisely elaborated and incorporated such influences from Jerusalem into a rite handed down over many centuries.

(MR 1952): The cross remains veiled on the altar beginning with Passion Sunday; it was unveiled publicly in the precincts of the altar, that is in the place where it remained publicly veiled until that point. (93)

Pope John XXIII adoring the cross according to the rubrics in effect prior to the reforms

7. (OHS 1956): The importance of the Eucharistic procession is downplayed. (94)

Commentary: The procession with the cross is a new creation, but the reform decides to downgrade the return procession with the Body of Christ to an almost private form in an inexplicable inversion of perspective. The Most Holy Sacrament was carried out the day before in a solemn manner to the altar of the Sepulcher. (We deliberately use the name "Sepulcher" because all of Christian tradition calls it thus, including the Memoriale Rituum and the Congregation of Rites, even if the Commission members barely tolerated this term (95); it appears to us profoundly theological and suffused with that sensus fidei [sense of the Faith] that is lacking in certain theologians.) It seems logical and "liturgical" that there should be for a solemn procession like that of Holy Thursday an equally dignified return on Good Friday. After all, here there is a particle of the same Blessed Sacrament from the previous day, the Body of Christ. With this innovation the honors to be paid to the Blessed Sacrament are reduced, and, in the case of Solemn Mass [of the Presanctified], it is the deacon who is instructed to go to the altar of the Sepulcher to bring back the Sacrament, while the priest sits tranquilly resting on the sedilia. The celebrant graciously arises when Our Lord, in the form of the sacred Species, is brought in by a subaltern, and then goes to the high altar. Perhaps it was for this reason that John XXIII did not want to follow this rubric at the Mass celebrated at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and desired to go himself, as Pope and as celebrant, to bring back the Most Holy Sacrament.

(MR 1952): The Most Blessed Sacrament returns in a procession equal in solemnity to that of the preceding day. It is the celebrant who goes to bring It back, as is natural. Since one is dealing with Our Lord Himself, present in the Host, one does not send a subordinate to bring Him to the altar. (96)

8. (OHS 1956): Elimination of the incensing due to the consecrated Host. (97)

Commentary: There is no apparent reason why the honors rendered to God on Good Friday should be inferior to those rendered on other days.

(MR 1952): The consecrated Host is incensed as usual, although the celebrant is not incensed. (98) The signs of mourning are evident here, but they do not extend to the Real Presence.

9. (OHS 1956): Introduction of the people reciting the Our Father. (99)

Commentary: "The pastoral preoccupation with a conscious and active participation on the part of the Christian community" is dominant. The faithful must become "true actors in the celebration .... This was demanded by the faithful, especially those more attuned to the new spirituality.... The Commission was receptive to the aspirations of the people of God." (100) It remains to be proven whether these aspirations belonged to the faithful or to a group of avant-garde liturgists. It remains as well to specify theologically what this above-mentioned "new spirituality" and its "aspirations" were.

(MR 1952): The Pater [Our Father] is recited by the priest. (101)

10. (OHS 1956): Elimination of the prayers that make reference to sacrifice while the Host is consumed. (102)

Commentary: It is true that on this day, in the strict sense, there is no Eucharistic sacrifice with the separation of the sacred Species, but it is also true that the consuming the Victim, immolated the preceding day, is a part, though not an essential one, of the sacrifice. This is, in a certain sense, the sacramental continuation of the sacrifice, because the Body, when consumed, is nevertheless always the Body as immolated and sacrificed. Accordingly, tradition always speaks of the sacrifice in the prayers connected with the consuming of the Host. Some members of the Commission held that after so many years of tradition the time had come to correct errors and to declare that words such as "meum ac vestrum sacrificium" ["my sacrifice and yours"] were "completely out of place in this instance, since one is not dealing with a sacrifice but only with communion." (103) The decision was then taken to abolish these age-old prayers.

(MR 1952): The prayer, "Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium, etc." is recited, but, given the unique context, it is not followed by the usual response. (104)

11. (OHS 1956): Placing a part of the consecrated Host into the wine in the chalice is abolished. (105)

Commentary: Placing a particle of the consecrated Host (a rite also known in the Byzantine rite) into the unconsecrated wine obviously does not consecrate the wine, nor was that ever believed by the Church. Simply put, this union manifests symbolically, though not really, the reuniting of the fragment of the Body of Christ with the Blood, to symbolize the unity of the Mystical Body in eternal life, the final cause of the entire work of redemption, which is not unworthy of being recalled on Good Friday.

The “Memoire” preserved in the archives of the Commission affirm that this part of the rite absolutely had to be suppressed, because “the existence of a belief in the Middle Ages that the commingling of the consecrated bread [sic!] alone in the wine was sufficient to consecrate even the wine itself also brought about this rite; once the Eucharist was studied more profoundly, the lack of foundation for this belief was understood. But the rite remained.” (106) This affirmation is rendered scandalous by the absence of any historical foundation and by the scientific method; and it implies quite profound theological consequences. In addition, it remains to be proven historically that during the Middle Ages the belief under discussion was in currency. Some theologians may have held erroneous opinions, but this does not prove that in fact the Roman Church fell into error to the point that she made it part of the liturgy with this precise theological view in mind. (The belief that the wine is consecrated by mere commingling with the Bread of Angels was not unknown among medieval Catholics, and is still held by the Greek Orthodox, as shown by the rubrics of the Liturgy of the Presanctified as observed by the Greeks and by some Slavs. However, it was never officially accepted by Rome as a legitimate belief, and it is interesting to note that by and large the Russian Orthodox share the Roman stand. CAP.) In this context, one would be affirming that the Roman Church, conscious of the serious error, did not wish to correct it; one would be maintaining [in effect] that the Roman Church could change her view over the course of the centuries on a point that is so fundamental; and one would also be affirming that the she could err in relation to a dogmatic fact (such as the universal liturgy), and that for several centuries. Perhaps justification was sought for the work of reform already undertaken, which sought to correct all the errors that entire generations of Popes failed to detect but that the keen eye of the Commission had finally unmasked.
It is not pleasant to note that these affirmations are imbued with a pseudo-rationalism of a positivist stamp, the kind in vogue during the fifties. Often it relied on summary and less than scientific studies in order to demolish those deplorable “medieval traditions” and introduce useful “developments.”

(MR 1952): A part of the consecrated Host is placed in the wine, but, with great theological coherence, the prayer before consuming the Precious Blood is omitted.

12. (OHS 1956): The change of times for the service, which could have been accomplished in harmony with popular customs, ended up creating notable pastoral and liturgical problems.

Commentary: In the past, pious customs and practices were developed in a way that was consonant with the liturgy. A common example in very many places: from noon, even today, a great crucifix is set up, in front of which the Tre Ore [“Three Hours”] of Christ’s suffering is preached (from noon until three o’clock). As a consequence of the change in time for the service, one is confronted with the paradox of a sermon delivered before the crucifix at a time when the crucifix ought to remain veiled, because the Good Friday service is to be held in the afternoon. (108) Some dioceses even today are constrained to hold the “Liturgical Action” [of the Passion of the Lord] in one church, while in another the ancient pious practices are conducted, in order to avoid a too obvious visual incongruity. Numerous similar examples could be adduced. It is clear, though, that the “pastoral” reform par excellence was not “pastoral,” because it was born of experts who had no real contact with a parish nor with the devotions and piety of the people—which they often enough disdained.
According to the reformers, during the hours of the afternoon a “liturgical void” had been created, and an attempt to remedy this was sought “by introducing paraliturgical elements, such as the Tre Ore, the Way of the Cross, and the Sorrowful Mother.” (109) The Commission decided, therefore, to remedy this scandal using the worst “pastoral” method: namely writing off popular customs and paying them no mind. The disdain in this type of “pastoral” method forgets that inculturation is a Catholic phenomenon of long standing. It consists of a reconciliation, one as generous as possible, of piety to dogma, and not of a unilateral imposition of provisions by “experts.”

(MR 1952): The problem is not a question of times: liturgy and piety have developed over the centuries in a fusion of one with the other, without, however, coming into conflict in an antagonism as pointless as it is imaginary.


1. (OHS 1956): A blessing of the Paschal candle is introduced using a candle that has to be carried by the deacon during the entire ceremony. (110)

Commentary: When this reform came into effect all the Paschal candlesticks in Christendom were rendered useless for Holy Saturday itself, even though some dated back to the dawn of Christianity. Under the pretext of returning to the sources, such liturgical masterpieces from antiquity became unusable museum pieces. The three-fold chanting of “lumen Christi” [“The light of Christ”] no longer has a liturgical reason to exist.

(MR 1952): The new fire and the grains of incense are blessed outside the church, but not the candle; the fire is passed to a reed, a kind of pole with three candles at the top, which are lit during the procession, successively with each invocation of “lumen Christi”; hence the three-fold invocation, one for each candle as it is lit. With one of these candles was lit the Paschal candle, which remained from the beginning of the ceremony on the Paschal candlestick. (In many early Christian churches, the height of the candlestick required the ambo to be built to the same height so that the candle could be reached.) [See the picture below. CAP.] The fire (the light of the Resurrection) was brought in on the reed with its triple candle (the Holy Trinity) to the great Easter candle (the Risen Christ), in order to symbolize the Resurrection as the work of the Most Holy Trinity. (111)

Ambo and Paschal candelabrum

2. (OHS 1956): The fabrication of placing the Easter candle in the center of the sanctuary after a procession with it in a church that is progressively lit up at every invocation of “Lumen Christi” [“The light of Christ”]; and at every invocation all genuflect toward the candle [sic!]; at the third invocation, the lights in the entire church are lit. (112)

Commentary: After the fabrication of a procession with the candle, it was decided to have it placed in the center of the sanctuary, where it becomes the reference point of the prayers, just as it was during the procession; it becomes more important than the altar and the cross, a strange novelty that shifts the orientation of prayer in successive stages.

(MR 1952): The candle remains unlit on its candelabrum, often (according to a rubricist I consulted, this should be "always". CAP) at the Gospel side; the deacon and subdeacon go up to it with the reed to light it during the singing of the praeconium [i.e., “Exsultet”]; until the singing of the “Exsultet,” the only candles lit from the “fire of the Resurrection” are those on the reed. (113)

The singing of the Exultet

3. (OHS 1956): A twisting of the symbolism of the “Exsultet” and of its nature as a diaconal blessing. (114)

Commentary: Some reformers wished to do away with this ceremony, but the love which the singing of the “Exsultet” was always enjoyed resulted in others opposing any change in the text: “the Commission, however, considers it opportune to preserve the traditional text, given that the passages to be eliminated are few and of little importance.” (115) The result was the nth pastiche of a traditional chant wedded to a rite now totally altered. Thus it happened that one of the most significant moments of the liturgical cycle became a theater-piece of astonishing incoherence.

In effect, the actions spoken of during the singing of the “Exsultet” have already been performed about a half-hour before in the narthex. For the grains of incense there is sung: “Suscipe, Pater, incensi hujus sacrificium vespertinum” [“Accept, Father, the evening sacrifice of this incense”], (116) but they have already been inserted into the candle for a good while. The lighting of the candle with the light of the Resurrection is elaborated with the words: “Sed jam columnae hujus praeconia novimus quam in honorem Dei rutilans ignis accendit” [“But now we know the tidings of this column which the flickering fire lights to the honor of God”], (117) but the candle has long been lit by then and a goodly amount of wax consumed. There is no longer any logic. The symbolism of the light is twisted even further when the order of lighting all the lights—the symbol of the Resurrection—is triumphantly chanted: “Alitur enim liquantibus ceris, quas in substantiam pretiosae hujus lampadis apis mater eduxit” [“For it is nourished by the flowing wax which the Mother bee has drawn out unto the substance of this precious Light”], (118) but it is sung in a church which for quite some time has been totally illuminated by the candles lit from the new fire.

This reformed symbolism is incomprehensible for the simple reason that it is not symbolic: the words being proclaimed have no relation to the reality of the rite. Furthermore, the singing of the Easter proclamation, in union with the actions that accompany it, constitutes the diaconal blessing par excellence. After the reform, the candle is blessed outside the church with holy water, but it was desired to retain a part of the ancient blessing since it had great esthetic beauty; unfortunately, this approach reduces the liturgy to theater.

(MR 1952): The singing of the “Exsultet” begins with the candle unlit; the grains of incense are fixed in it when the chant speaks of the incense; the candle is lit by the deacon and the lights in the church are lit when the chant makes mention of these actions. These actions, in union with the chant, make up the blessing. (119)

4. (OHS 1956): Introduction of the unbelievable practice of dividing the litanies in two, in the midst of which the baptismal water is blessed. (120)

Commentary: This decision is simply extravagant and incoherent. Never was it known that an impetratory prayer was split into two parts. The introduction of the baptismal rites in the middle is of an even greater incoherence.

(MR 1952): After the blessing of the baptismal font is finished, the litanies are sung before the beginning of Mass. (121)

5. (OHS 1956): Introduction of placing the baptismal water in a basin in the middle of the sanctuary, with the celebrant turned towards the faithful, his back to the altar. (122)

Commentary: Basically, it was decided to substitute the baptismal font with a pot placed in the middle of the sanctuary. This choice was dictated, once again, by the obsession that all the rites should be carried out with the “sacred ministers facing the people,” (123) but with their back towards God; the faithful, by this logic, become the “true actors of the celebration …. The Commission was receptive to the aspirations poured out by the people of God …. The Church was open to the ferment of renovation.” (124) These reckless decisions, founded on a pastoral populism that the people never requested, ended by destroying the entire sacred edifice, from its origins until the present.

At one time, the baptismal font was outside the church or, in succeeding ages, inside the walls of the edifice but close to the main door, since, according to Catholic theology, Baptism is the door, the “janua Sacramentorum” [“the door to the Sacraments”]. It is the Sacrament that makes those still outside the Church members of the Church. As such, it was symbolized in these liturgical customs. The catechumen receives [in Baptism] the character that makes him a member of the Church; therefore, he is to be received at the entrance, washed in the baptismal water, and thus acquire the right to enter into the nave as a new member of the Church, as one of the faithful. But, as a member of the faithful, he enters only the nave and not the sanctuary, wherein are the clergy, who are composed of those with the ministerial priesthood or who stand in relation to it. This traditional distinction was insisted on because the so-called “common” priesthood of the baptized is distinct from the ministerial priesthood and is distinct essentially, not superficially. They are two different things, not degrees of one single essence.

With the mandated changes, however, not only the baptized (as was already done on Holy Thursday) but even the non-baptized are summoned into the sanctuary, a place set aside for the clergy. One who is still “prey to the demon,” because still with Original Sin, is treated just like one who has received Holy Orders and enters into the sanctuary even though still a catechumen. The traditional symbolism, consequently, is completely massacred.

(MR 1952): The blessing of the baptismal water is given at the baptismal font, outside the church or near the entrance. Any catechumens are received at the entrance of the church, given Baptism, and then bid enter the nave, but not the sanctuary, as is logical, neither before nor after their Baptism. (125)

6. (OHS 1956): Alteration of the symbolism of the chant “Sicut cervus” [“Like the hart that yearns”] of Psalm 41. (126)

Commentary: After the creation of a baptistery inside the sanctuary, one is confronted with the problem of carrying away the baptismal water to some other location. It was decided, accordingly, to contrive a ceremony for carrying the water to the font after blessing it in front of the faithful and especially after conferring any baptisms as there might be. The transport of the baptismal water is accomplished while “Sicut cervus” is sung, i.e. that part of Psalm 41 which speaks of the thirst of the deer after it has fled from the bite of the serpent and which can only be slaked by drinking the water of salvation. At any rate, insufficient attention was paid to the fact that the deer’s thirst is sated by the waters of Baptism after the bite of the infernal serpent; for if Baptism has already been conferred, then the deer no longer thirsts, since, figuratively speaking, it has already drunk! The symbolism is changed and thus turned on its head.

(MR 1952): At the end of the singing of the prophecies, the celebrant goes to the baptismal font, to continue with the blessing of the water and to the conferral of Baptism as necessary; meanwhile, the “Sicut cervus” is sung. (127) The chant precedes, as is logical, the conferral of Baptism.

7. (OHS 1956): Creation ex nihilo of the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises.” (128)

Commentary: One is, in a certain sense, proceeding blind when devising pastoral creations that have no true foundation in the history of the liturgy. Pursuing the notion that the Sacraments ought to be re-enlivened in the conscience, the reformers thought up the renewal of the baptismal promises. This became a kind of “examination of conscience” concerning the Sacrament received in the past. A similar tendency was observed in the twenties of the last century. In a veiled polemic with the provision of St. Pius X concerning the communion of children, the singular practice of a “solemn communion” or “profession of faith” was introduced; children of around thirteen years had to “remake” their first communion, in a kind of examination of conscience on the Sacrament already received several years before. This practice—although without calling into question the Catholic doctrine of “ex opere operato” [“from the work performed”]—emphasized the subjective element of the Sacrament over the objective. The new practice eventually ended up obscuring and overshadowing the Sacrament of Confirmation. A similar approach will be encountered in 1969 with the introduction on Holy Thursday of the “renewal of priestly promises.” With this latter practice is introduced a linkage between sacramental Holy Orders and a sentimental, emotional order, between the efficacy of the Sacrament and an examination of conscience, something rarely encountered in tradition.

The substrate of these innovations—which have no foundation either in Scripture or in the practice of the Church—seems to be a weakened conviction of the efficacy of the Sacraments. Although not in itself a plainly erroneous innovation, it appears nonetheless to lean towards theories of Lutheran provenance, which, while denying that “ex opere operato” has any role to play, hold that the sacramental rites serve more to “reawaken faith” than to confer grace.

It is difficult, moreover, to understand what was actually being sought with these reforms, since in fact edits were made to shorten the length of the celebrations, but tedious passages were introduced which burden the ceremonies unduly.

(MR 1952): The renewal of baptismal promises does not exist, just as, in this form, it has never existed in the traditional history of the liturgy of either East or West.

8. (OHS 1956): Creation of an admonition during the renewal of promises, which can be recited in the vernacular. (129)

Commentary: The tone of this moralizing admonition betrays all too well the era in which it was composed (the mid-fifties). Today it already sounds dated, besides being a rather tedious adjunct. There is also the typical a-liturgical manner of turning to the faithful during this rite, a hybrid between homily and ceremony (which will enjoy great success in the years to follow).

(MR 1952): Does not exist.

9. (OHS 1956): Introduction of the Our Father recited by everyone present, and possibly in the vernacular. (130)

Commentary: The Our Father is preceded by a sentimental-sounding exhortation.

(MR 1952): Does not exist.

10. (OHS 1956): With no liturgical sense whatsoever, there is introduced here the second part of the litany, broken off at the half-way point prior to the blessing of the baptismal water. (131)

Commentary: Before the blessing of the baptismal water, the litany is recited kneeling; afterwards, a great number of ceremonies are performed, along with movements in the sanctuary; then there is the joy following the blessing of the baptismal water and any Baptisms that follow; and then the same impetratory prayer of the litany is resumed at the precise point where it was broken off a half-hour before and left hanging. (It would be difficult to determine if the faithful remember when they left this prayer half-finished.) This innovation is incoherent and incomprehensible.

(MR 1952): The litany, recited integrally and without interruption, is chanted after the blessing of the baptismal font and before Mass. (132)

11. (OHS 1956): Suppression of the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Psalm “Judica me” (Ps. 42), and the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass. (133)

Commentary: It was decided that Mass should begin without the recitation of the Confiteor or the penitential psalm. Psalm 42, which recalls the unworthiness of the priest to ascend to the altar, was not appreciated, perhaps because it has to be recited at the foot of the altar before one can go up to it. When one understands the underlying liturgical logic here relative to the altar viewed as the “ara crucis” [“altar of the Cross”], a place sacred and terrible, where the redemptive Passion of Christ is made present, a prayer expressing the unworthiness of anyone to ascend those steps makes sense. The disappearance of Psalm 42 (which in the following years would be eliminated from every Mass) seems, instead, to be a wish for a preparation ritual having to do with an altar that is, symbolically, a common table rather than Calvary. As a consequence, the holy fear and sense of unworthiness affirmed by the psalm are no longer inculcated.

(MR 1952): Mass begins with the prayers at the foot of the altar, Psalm 42 (“Judica me, Deus”), and the Confiteor. (134)

12. (OHS 1956): In the same decree, all the rites of the Vigil of Pentecost are abolished, except the Mass. (135)

Commentary: This hasty abolition has all the marks of being tacked on at the last moment. Pentecost always had a vigil similar in its ceremonies to that of Easter. The reform, however, was not able to deal with Pentecost. But then again, the reformers could not leave untouched two rites which, fifty days apart, would have been, in the one case, a reformed version and, in the other, a traditional version. In their haste they decided to suppress the one they did not have time to reform; the ax fell on the Vigil of Pentecost. Such improvident haste resulted in rapid editing of the rites of the Vigil of Pentecost, so that the texts of the Mass which traditionally followed those rites no longer harmonized with them. Consequently, in the rite thus violently mutilated phrases remain which are rendered incongruous with the words of the celebrant during the Canon. The Canon presumes that the Mass is preceded by the rites of Baptism, which have been, however, suppressed. As a result, thanks to this reform, the celebrant recites during the special “Hanc igitur” words related to the sacrament of Baptism during the Vigil, whether the blessing of the font or the conferral of the Sacrament: “Pro his quoque, quos regenerare dignatus es ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, tribuens eis remissionem peccatorum” [“For these, too, whom Thou hast deigned to regenerate with water and the Holy Spirit, granting them remission of their sins”]. (136) But there is not a trace of this rite anymore. The Commission, in its haste to suppress, perhaps did not notice.

(MR 1952): The Vigil of Pentecost has rites which are baptismal in character, of which the “Hanc igitur” of the Mass makes mention. (137)


In conclusion, as already affirmed, the changes were not limited to questions of the horarium, which legitimately and sensibly could have been modified for the good of the faithful; rather, they overturned the age-old rites of Holy Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday, a ritual of “versus populum” is created, so that the back is turned towards the altar and the cross. On Holy Thursday, the laity are made to enter the sanctuary. On Good Friday, the honors rendered to the Most Blessed Sacrament are reduced as is the veneration of the Cross. On Holy Saturday, not only is the reforming imagination of the experts allowed to run wild, but the symbolism relating to Original Sin and to Baptism as the doorway into the Church is demolished. In an era that claims it desires to rediscover the Scriptures, the passages read on this most important of days are reduced, and the Gospel passages on the institution of the Holy Eucharist in Matthew, Luke, and Mark are edited out. Traditionally, every time that the institution of the Eucharist was read during these days, it was placed in relation to the account of the Passion, to indicate how completely the Last Supper was an anticipation of the death on the Cross the following day, and thus to indicate how much the Last Supper is of a sacrificial nature. Three days were dedicated to the reading of these passages: Palm Sunday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday. Thanks to the reform, the institution of the Holy Eucharist disappears completely from the liturgical cycle!

The entire raison d’être of the reform seems to be permeated with the whiff of rationalism and archeologism, with at times dollops of pure imagination. It is in no way intended to suggest that these rites lack the requisite orthodoxy, both because it would be unfounded and because the divine assistance promised by Christ to the Church even regarding what theologians call “dogmatic facts” (among which, we maintain, the promulgation of a universal liturgical law must be included) prevents a clearly heterodox expression within her rites. Having made this stipulation, though, we cannot excuse ourselves from noting the incongruence and extravagance of some of the rites of the reformed Holy Week, while at the same time upholding the possibility and liceity of a theological discussion of the same, in order to discover a true continuity of the liturgical expression of Tradition. To deny that the "Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus" is the product of a group of expert academics—joined unfortunately by opportunistic liturgical experimenters—is to deny the reality of the facts. With due respect to the papal authority that promulgated this reform, we are allowed to advance the criticisms which follow, since the experimental nature of these innovations requires that a balance be struck between such criticism and respect for authority.

According to Father Carlo Braga, this reform was the "head of the battering-ram" which broke into the Roman liturgy for the holiest days of the year. Something so revolutionary was bound to have repercussions on the entire subsequent spirit of the liturgy. In effect, it signaled the beginning of a deplorable attitude by which things could be done or undone in liturgical matters at the pleasure of the experts. Things could be suppressed or reintroduced on the basis of historico-archeological opinions, without taking account later that the historians had been wrong. (The most egregious example as it turned out, mutatis mutandis, was the much touted "Canon of Hippolytus.")

The liturgy is not a toy in the hands of the theologian or symbolist most in vogue. The liturgy draws its strength from Tradition; from the Church's infallible use of Tradition; from those gestures which have been employed for centuries; and from a symbolism which cannot exist merely in the minds of free-thinking academics but which corresponds to the consensus of clergy and people who have prayed in that manner for ages. Our analysis is confirmed by the synthesis of Father Braga, a protagonist extraordinaire of those events: "That which was not possible, psychologically and spiritually, at the time of Pius V and Urban VIII because of tradition [and we would like to emphasize "because of tradition"], because of insufficient spiritual and theological formation, and because of a lack of acquaintance with the liturgical sources, was possible at the time of Pius XII." (138) While we share his analysis of the facts, we might be permitted to object that Tradition, far from posing an obstacle to the work of liturgical reform, is the foundation for it. To treat of the era following the Council of Trent with disdain and to define Saint Pius V and the popes that followed him as men of "insufficient spiritual and theological formation" is presumptuous and proximate to heterodoxy in its rejection of the centuries-old work of the Church.

It is no mystery that this was the climate in the fifties and sixties during the reform. Under the pretext of archeologism, the millennial wisdom of the Church was replaced by the caprice of personal judgment. Acting in this way, one does not reform the liturgy but deforms it. Under the pretext of restoring ancient practices--about which scientific studies of a dubious and fluctuating value have been written--one gets rid of tradition and, having torn the fabric of the liturgy, now makes a flawed patch job by sewing on an archeological discovery of unlikely authenticity. The impossibility of an integral revival of rites that—if they ever existed—have been dead for centuries results in handing over the remaining work of "restoration" to the free flight of the "experts'" imagination.

The over-all judgment on the reform of Holy Week is mainly rather negative: it certainly does not constitute a model of liturgical reform (thanks, in part, to the artificial way it was pieced together and its use of personal intuitions at odds with tradition). The case of the reform of 1955-1956 was analyzed because it was, according to Annibale Bugnini, the first occasion for the inauguration of a new way to conceive of the liturgy.

The rites produced by this reform were used universally by the Church for very few years, amidst a continual succession of reforms. Today, that artificial way of conceiving of the liturgy has been left behind. The great work of re-appreciating the riches of the liturgy of the Roman rite is making headway. Our sight must be set unceasingly on what the Church has done for centuries, in the certainty that those ancient rites have the benefit of the Holy Spirit's "unction." As such, they constitute an irreplaceable model for every work of reform. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger has this to say: "In the course of her history, the Church has never abolished or prohibited orthodox forms of the liturgy, because that would be foreign to the very soul of the Church." (139) These forms, especially those going back a millennium, remain the guiding light for every work of reform.

[1] Cf. S. Congregation of Rites, Decr. “Dominicae Resurrectionis,” Feb. 9, 1951: AAS 43, 1951, pp. 128 et ss.; Decr. “Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria,” Nov. 16, 1955: AAS 47, 1955, pp. 838 et ss.
[2] N. Giampietro, “A cinquant’anni dalla riforma liturgica della Settimana Santa,”in Ephemerides liturgicae, anno CXX, 2006, n. 3 luglio-settembre, p. 295.
[3] A. Bugnini, The Liturgical Reform (1948-1975), Rome, 1983, pp. 17 et ss.
[4] C.Braga, “‘Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria’: 50 anni dopo (1955-2005)” in Ecclesia Orans, n. 23 (2006), p. 11; the author clearly affirms that he witnessed the reforms first-hand and that he actively assisted it by his labors.
[5] A.Bugnini, C.Braga, Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae instauratus (Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae, sectio historica 25), Rome, 1956; for historical-critical commentary see also: Sacra Congregatio Rituum, sectio Historica, n. 90, De instauratione liturgica maioris hebdomadae. Positio: Typis Pol. Vaticanis, 1955. For the published works of Annibale Bugnini which were to prepare for the reform, cf: A. Bugnini, “De solemni Vigilia Paschali instauranda. Commentarium ad decretum 9 febr. 1951,” in Ephemerides Liturgicae 65 (1951) suppl. ad fasc. I (also published in the collection Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae, sectio historica 24); “Il primo esperimento della Veglia Pasquale restaurata,” in Ephemerides Liturgicae 66 (1952).
[6] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 300.
[7] A. Bugnini, The Liturgical Reform., op. cit., p. 19.
[8] Ibid..
[9] N. Giampietro, op. cit., pp. 320-327; the traditional rite, nevertheless, was allowed to be retained in the Holy Land up until 2000.
[10] L. Gromier, Commentaire du Caerimoniale Episcoporum, Paris, 1959.
[11] L. Gromier, Semaine Sainte Restaurée, in Opus Dei, 1962, n. 2, pp. 76-90. The French original is online at, while an English translation can be found in
[12] See the adjoined photographs and the confirmation given by Msgr. Bartolucci, who received the order from Msgr. Dante to use the traditional rites; P. Cipriani, S. Carusi, edd., “Intervista a Mons. Domenico Bartolucci, su Disputationes Theologicae” ( and translated by Rorate Caeli:
[13] C.Braga, op. cit,, p. 33.
[14] F. Antonelli, “La riforma liturgica della Settimana Santa: importanza attualità prospettive” in La Restaurazione liturgica nell’opera di Pio XII. Atti del primo Congresso Internazionale di Liturgia Pastorale, Assisi- Roma, 12-22 settembre 1956, Genova 1957, pp. 179-197, cited in C. Braga, op. cit, p. 34.
[15] Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus, iuxta editionem typicam vaticanam, Turonibus 1956 (hereinafter: OHS 1956), pp. 3 and 9; the pagination is identical to that of the “typical edition.”
[16] Archives of the Congregation of Saints (originally the Sacra Congregatio Rituum), “Annotazione intorno alla riforma della liturgia della Domenica delle Palme,” p. 9, cited in N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 309.
[17] Missale Romanum, Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini Restitutum S. Pii V Pontificis Maximi jussu editum aliorum pontificum cura recognitum a Pio X Reformatum et Benedicti XV Auctoritate Vulgatum, editio vigesima quinta juxta typicam vaticanam, Turonibus MCMXLII (hereinafter: MR 1952), p. 455.
[18] L. Gromier, Semaine Sainte Restaurée, p. 3.
[19] MR 1952, p. 129.
[20] OHS 1956, p. 3.
[21] MR 1952, xxvii.
[22] OHS 1956, p. 3.
[23] C. BRAGA, op. cit., p.22.
[24] MR 1952, p. 129-132.
[25] OHS 1956, pp. 3, 4.
[26] OHS 1956, p. 3; cf. as well note 13.
[27] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 306.
[28] MR 1952, p. 131, 132.
[29] OHS 1956, pp. 3, 4.
[30] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 307.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Ibid.
[35] MR 1952, pp. 133, 134.
[36] OHS 1952, p. 7.
[37] P.Martinucci, Manuale Sacrarum Caerimoniarum, Rome, 1912, Editio tertia, pars I, vol. II, p. 183.
[38] OHS 1956, p. 8.
[39] MR 1952, p. 135.
[40] Ibid.
[41] OHS 1956, p. 9.
[42] Ibid.
[43] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 309.
[44] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 25.
[45] OHS 1956, p. 14.
[46] MR 1952, p. 141.
[47] OHS 1956, p. 11.
[48] N.Giampietro, op. cit., pp. 304, 305.
[49] MR 1952, p. 137.
[50] OHS 1956, p. 15; the text contains a prohibition against adding the old prayers.
[51] C.Braga, op. cit., p. 28; N. Giampietro, op. cit., pp. 304, 305.
[52] MR 1952, pp. 118, 142.
[53] OHS 1956, p. 17.
[54] MR 1952, pp. 143, 144.
[55] OHS 1956, p. 22.
[56] MR 1952, pp. 149, 150.
[57] OHS 1956, p. 55, rubric n. 4.
[58] C.Braga, op. cit., p. 26.
[59] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 294.
[60] C. Braga, p. 27.
[61] P. Martinucci, op. cit., p. 201 (n° 24), p.73 (n° 293).
[62] OHS 1956, p. 55; also, the tabernacle must be emptied of any previously consecrated Hosts.
[63] Ibid.
[64] MR 1952, p. 154 et ss.
[65] OHS 1956, p. 57.
[66] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 17.
[67] MR 1952, pp. 158, 159.
[68] OHS 1956, p. 61.
[69] Caeremoniale Episcoporum, l. II, cap. XXIX, 3.
[70] OHS 1956, p. 64.
[71] OHS 1956, p. 65; alternatively, the removal of the cross is included in the vague passage: “celebrans (…) denudat omnia altaria ecclesiae” [“the celebrant …strips all the altars of the church”], ibid., p. 63, note n.7.
[72] MR 1952, p. 158.
[73] OHS, p. 65.
[74] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p.315.
[75] MR 1952, p. 160.
[76] OHS, p. 64.
[77] MR 1952, p. 171.
[78] N. Giampietro, pp. 304, 305.
[79] MR 1952, p. 164.
[80] OHS, p. 64.
[81] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 314.
[82] C.Braga, op. cit., p. 28.
[83] C.Braga, p. 30.
[84] MR 1952, p. 160.
[85] For the meaning to be assigned to these terms see the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of June 10, 1948, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XL, 1948, p. 342.
[86] We would add the evidence (on the level of the history of popular customs) of the missals which might be consulted or the “Ordo” booklets; there appear at this point hand-written corrections or little slips of paper which remind the celebrant, without obliging him to buy another missal, of the innumerable corrections to the prayers made at various stages, beginning with the 1950’s—an unequivocal sign of a liturgy, if we might be allowed the expression, “permanently evolving.”
[87] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 30.
[88] Ibid.
[89] A.Bugnini, “Le nuove orazioni del Venerdì Santo,” in L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965.
[90] MR 1952, p. 169.
[91] OHS 1956, p. 78.
[92] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 30, 31.
[93] MR 1952, 171.
[94] OHS 1956, 82.
[95] C. Braga, op. cit., p. 28. A confirmation of this aversion on the part of some members of the Commission for the expression “sepulcher” can be found in N. Giampietro, op. cit, p. 312.
[96] MR 1952, p. 174.
[97] OHS 1956, p. 82.
[98] MR 1952, p. 174.
[99] OHS 1956, p. 83.
[100] C. Braga, p. 18.
[101] MR 1952, p. 175.
[102] OHS 1956, p. 83.
[103] N. Giampietro, op. cit. , p. 297.
[104] MR 1952, p. 174.
[105] OHS 1956, p. 83.
[106] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 297.
[107] MR 1952, p. 176.
[108] OHS 1956, p. iv.
[109] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 314.
[110] OHS 1956, p. 86.
[111] MR 1952, p. 178.
[112] OHS 1956, p. 88.
[113] MR 1952, p. 178.
[114] OHS 1956, p. 89.
[115] N. Giampietro, op. cit., p. 318.
[116] OHS 1956, p. 94.
[117] OHS 1956, p. 94.
[118] OHS 1956, p. 94.
[119] MR 1952, p. 179-185; in terms of history, it is possible to discuss the evolution of the relation of the sung parts with the gestures, with various eras being assigned for the introduction of gestures in relation to the evolution of the text; nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the development of the symbolism of the ritual gestures and the meaning of the words has been fixed for centuries in a harmonious way and under the seal of tradition.
[120] OHS 1956, p. 101-102, 113-114.
[121] MR 1952, p. 207.
[122] OHS 1956, p. 103.
[123] C. Braga, p. 23.
[124] C. Braga, p. 18, 19.
[125] MR 1952, p. 199 et ss.
[126] OHS 1956, p. 111; a somewhat confusing rubric is foreseen for rubric no. 23 in the case of a baptistery located apart from the church; in this case, the “Sicut Cervus” is sung at a convenient point. It is impossible to understand the reason for this inconsistency which contradicts the preceding rubric.
[127] MR 1956, p. 199.
[128] OHS 1956, p. 112.
[129] OHS 1956, p. 112.
[130] OHS 1956, p. 112.
[131] OHS 1956, p. 113-115.
[132] MR 1952, p. 210.
[133] OHS 1956, p. 115.
[134] MR 1952, p. 210.
[135] OHS 1956, p. vi, note 16.
[136] MR 1952, p. 247.
[137] MR 1952, p. 336 et ss.
[138] C.Braga, op. cit., p. 18.
[139] Joseph Card. Ratzinger, “A dieci anni dal motu proprio Ecclesia Dei”, a conference given on Oct. 24, 1998.


  1. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Thank God this has been published. This is very helpful.

    I hope the recovators battering ram is turned against them.

    Please take note all you ilk of the historical critical method.

  2. \\Commentary: When this reform came into effect all the Paschal candlesticks in Christendom were rendered useless for Holy Saturday itself, even though some dated back to the dawn of Christianity.\\

    My comment: Christendom is NOT co-terminus with the Latin Rite.

    Not even all Catholics observe it.

    Therefore, the statement "all the Paschal candlesticks in Christendom were rendered useless" is historically false, as not all Catholics ever used one.

  3. Anonymous10:00 PM

    Dear Jack,
    You seem to say: "The nonexistent Paschal candlesticks not used by some Catholics were not rendered obsolete by the 1955 changes." Surely that's not contradicted by Fr. Carusi's saying that those actually existing candlesticks were indeed rendered obsolete, wouldn't you say?

  4. \\You seem to say: "The nonexistent Paschal candlesticks not used by some Catholics were not rendered obsolete by the 1955 changes." Surely that's not contradicted by Fr. Carusi's saying that those actually existing candlesticks were indeed rendered obsolete, wouldn't you say?\\

    Please read his full comment, which includes the words ALL THE PASCHAL CANDLESTICKS IN CHRISTENDOM.

    It sounds more to me like he's excluding all Eastern Catholics (who never used this appointment) from Christendom.

    But I've noticed that most Latin traditionalists have a very narrow view of the Church, and tend to think that all Catholics are Latin.

    It's precisely this parochial attitude that for decades kept me from seeking reconciliation with the Roman Church.

  5. S. Novius2:23 AM

    Is the IBP partial to the pre-Pius XII calendar, rubrics, and rites?

    The pictures I've seen online show the revised ceremonial, if I recall correctly.

  6. M. A.4:41 AM

    It is so good to hear from the IBP! This article only whets the appetite. I pray more critiques will follow.


    10. (OHS 1956): Elimination of the Gospel passage which connects the institution of the Eucharist with the Passion of Christ (Matthew 26: 1-36). (47)
    It comes as no surprise that the sacrificial aspect had to be de-emphasized or eliminated. Once the Mass is no longer considered the re-enactment of Calvary, a ‘presider’ can make of it anything he wants. It can become a vehicle for espousing “social justice”, “community”, “environmentalism”, “ecumenism” , even a pep rally for one's favorite soccer team -- anything but the true sacrificial offering of a Sacred Victim to His Heavenly Father for our redemption!

    God bless Fr. Carusi and the IBP!

  7. "It's precisely this parochial attitude that for decades kept me from seeking reconciliation with the Roman Church"

    Jack, as someone whom this legacy of modernist revolution has left a spiritual orphan, uncertain how simply to be received into the Church (and exposed to all manner of vices on account of it), I find the objection offensive. Those who want excuses will find them, but God help those who invent them. It reminds me of a something I heard said while I was inquiring with a community of (mostly) former Anglicans that had converted to and affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America: "I would have become Catholic, but I was just too prejudiced." What an uncomfortable joke! I will be the first to admit that my difficulties have occasioned excuses to remain a stranger at the gate--having avoided the invitation to receive conditional baptism from an independent traditional priest on account of what seemed dubious and misleading claims to canonical establishment and regularity made by the "priory" he ministered to being the first, and then (which I still believe justified, though I was elated at the prospect) having refused an offer to have my confession heard by a diocesan priest learning to offer the TLM because I would not have first made a formal profession (and the misgivings I was left with from the few suggestive jokes he directed to a married couple in the RCIA class he was leading.) My dilemma has boiled down to this: I want to be Catholic, not a party to mischief, to whom do I go?

    I apologize for turning this post into something personal, but I beg of you all prayers for the Church and for me, this blog is currently my only anchor to my convictions.

  8. Lautensack8:51 AM

    Many thanks for this detailed analysis. Like a series of articles on the New Liturgical Movement last year it highlighted that these reforms were done in a clumsy manner and could only be understood as preparations for more sweeping changes, hence it seems very strange to perpetuate them as part of the 'Extraordinary Form'.

    (By the way, many of the 12 readings of the old Holy Saturday have parallels in the Byzantine 'Vesperal Liturgy' of this day, so cutting them also means giving up a bridge between East and West.)

    Last year, the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship recommended in the preface to a book to use the traditional Vigil of Pentecost because it was much richer than the Novus Ordo, and with that he must have meant the Pre-Pian form. I am not sure if anyone followed this invitation.

    It would seem really necessary to lobby in Rome for a use of the Pre-1955 Holy Week. Summorum Pontificum is a wonderful, probably unique chance to restore our liturgy, and one should try to restore the best and richest traditions we have.

  9. liturgical commentator11:35 AM

    A very interesting article. Thank you for the translation.

    However, we should keep in mind that the Holy Week reforms were only a part of the pre-1962 liturgical revisions.

    Of course there was the reform of the breviary in 1911-13, and likewise prior to the formation of the Pius XII's commission, a new common office for popes was published in 1942. In 1950 a new office of the Assumption was published. In 1953, evening Mass was allowed and the ancient Eucharistic fast from midnight abolished. In 1955, vigils were reduced from 14 to 5 and octaves from 17 to 3. In 1960 new, much simplified and changed rubrics were published, which included the suppression of the majority of lessons at matins.

    My point is that the "1962 missal" (and "1961 breviary") with the old holy week rites restored would still be deficient.

  10. Carlos, thank you for getting the article translated.

    I had missed the point about moving the Mandatum ceremony and how it become asynchronous with the Gospel accounts in 1956. The claim for authentic times of celebration never made much sense, to me at least. All the ferial Masses of Lent are celebrated after the hour of None, not just those celebrated in the Triduum. If one was going to restore 'authentic' times of celebration why not have all the Masses of Lent in the afternoon and prohibit morning celebrations?

    A most important article and one which should be read alongside those of Gromier and Gregory DiPippo's series last year on The New Liturgical Movement.

    The dangers of committee-work liturgies...

  11. Absolutely excellent! This is the most thorough and detailed commentary I have seen on the question.

    It brought to light a number of details in the new rite that had been missed even by long-time critics like me.

    Everyone owes a debt of gratitude to Fr. Carusi. Bravo! And bravo to Mr. Palad and Rorate for making his work available.

  12. This study is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in, and certainly distressed by, the reforms instigated under Pius XII. Thanks Carlos for posting this.

  13. John McFarland4:00 AM

    It is interesting that Fr. Cekada praises Fr. Carusi's study, since he has just published a detailed doctrinal critique of the Mass of Paul VI under a title that is rather amusing, in a grim sort of way: "Work of Human Hands." I say this because Fr. Carusi seems to be at some pains to avoid any suggestion that the doctrinal unsoundness of the Holy Week reforms was intentional.

    The following remarks of Fr. Carusi are also interesting:

    "It is in no way intended to suggest that these rites lack the requisite orthodoxy, both because it would be unfounded and because the divine assistance promised by Christ to the Church even regarding what theologians call 'dogmatic facts' (among which, we maintain, the promulgation of a universal liturgical law must be included) prevents a clearly heterodox expression within her rites."

    Fr. Cekada uses essentially the same premises, when applied to the Mass of Paul VI, to support sedevacantist conclusions: since the Mass of Paul VI is in Fr. Cekada's judgement "a clearly heterodox expression within her rites," Paul VI could not have been the Pope when he made it the rite of the Latin Rite (or, as Fr. Cekada insists, promulgated it).

    So it will be interesting to see how Fr. Carusi deals with the Mass of Paul VI when he gets to it. But it would seem that he's bound either to deny its clearly heterodox inspiration, or become a sedevacantist. One might think of Fr. Cekada as in effect lying in wait for Fr. Carusi on the latter's journey towards 1969.

    The SSPX has long noted that conservative conciliarism and sedevacantism draw opposite conclusions from the same premises -- which premises it does not accept.

    These are all among the issues that should not be swept under the rug.

  14. Anonymous10:35 AM

    I am absolutely astonished!!! How wonderful and confirms my gut level feelings about the bad influence Bugnini had even in the early 1950's. We need a reform, of the reform, of the reform. A restoration.

  15. John McFarland2:21 PM


    Not to consider Eastern schismatics (or any other schismatics) as part of Christendom is not parochialism. It is Catholicism.

    As for Eastern rite Catholics, there are relatively few, and changes in the Latin Rite do not affect them. So I don't see how the failure to mention them here is parochialism either.

    So I think that the assertion of parochialism is quite unjust.

    As for those who do not accept the authority of the Holy Father, they are not part of the Church.

  16. In light of Mr. McFarland's comments (well put, as usual), I suppose I should restate my position on at least one aspect of the 1951–1956 Holy Week changes.

    Taken individually, none of the changes introduced (I offer a summary on pp. 68–69 of "Work of Human Hands") was evil in itself.

    But fifty years later, we recognize that these precedents and the principles behind them were the foot in the door to the eventual destruction of the Mass. Bugnini and company, after all, told us they were just one stage in the process of a wholesale liturgical reform — a "bridge," he said, to "a new city."

    In the very document promulgating the Novus Ordo, in fact, Paul VI himself points to the Pius XII legislation as the beginning of the process.

    Canonists and moral theologians (e.g., Cocchi, Michels, Noldin, Wernz-Vidal, Vermeersch, Regatillo, Zalba) commonly teach that a human ecclesiastical law can BECOME harmful (nociva, noxia) due to changed circumstances after the passage of time. In such a case it automatically ceases to bind.

    This I maintain is exactly the case with the 1951–1956 Holy Week rites.

    One cannot therefore maintain that the application of this principle (cessation) to the Holy Week changes contradicts the teaching of dogmatic theology that the Church is infallible when she promulgates universal disciplinary laws.

  17. Ioannes Andreades5:44 PM

    I have to admit to not having a firm grasp of what is meant by rationalism. I thought I understood it, but then it seemed to me that the entire argument adduced to criticize the placement of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday was based on rationalism, i.e. since the washing of the feet during the last supper was done after dinner, the washing of the feet should be done after mass. Maybe I don't understand it as well as I thought.

  18. John McFarland9:04 PM

    Joannes A.,

    I think that for current purposes, "rationalism" means a self-contained system of thought that rigs the premises and then takes into account only what follows from the rigged premises.

    An upscale version of this is Spinoza's Ethics, which generates a curious system (atheism disguised as pantheism) by deduction from a bunch of axioms whose only real virtue is that they provide the desired results.

    The liturgical reformers engage in a sort of down-market version of the same tactic. They insist that the "meal" element of the Last Supper is the primary element, and from that it follows that all its elements must conform to the meal paradigm.

    All this is also connected with another meaning of "rationalism": that the only source of knowledge is human reason, and hence that knowledge cannot come from divine revelation. When applied to religion, rationalism must pull revelation down to its own level. So the Mass is a meal, etc.

  19. liturgical commentator10:48 PM

    I think that people like Anonymous 10:35 should stop using Fr Bugnini as a liturgical bogeyman and look instead at the person who formed the Commission for Liturgical Reform, gave it its mission, appointed its members, and ordered its ideas to be implemented: the same person who, in giving the First International Congress in Pastoral Liturgy (Assisi, 1956) his "whole-hearted" Apostolic Blessing, praised the liturgical movement for making "undeniable progress... both in extent and in depth" and the new decree on Holy Week for having "helped the faithful to a better understanding and closer participation in the love, suffering, and triumph of our Lord". (The Assisi Papers, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1957)

  20. John McFarland1:00 AM

    Father Cekada,

    I don't quite see how X's being the beginning of the path to Y makes X no longer binding.

    Is the concept that the later and greater evil somehow assimilates the earlier evil?

    If so, it doesn't seem, well, very Thomistic.

  21. Anonymous2:01 AM

    Father Cekada has not told us why the Pius XII legislation, which he admits is not evil, is suddenly harmful. Merely stating that “Paul VI himself points to the Pius XII legislation” is not convincing enough to just set aside the Pius XII changes under a claim of cessation.

    The Pius XII legislation did not become harmful itself, as Father Cekada suggests.

    Furthermore, when Father Cekada says, “One cannot therefore maintain that the application of this principle (cessation) to the Holy Week changes contradicts the teaching of dogmatic theology that the Church is infallible when she promulgates universal disciplinary laws”, he is correct. But that is irrelevant to the question of whether the Pius XII legislation actually became harmful itself and can be cast aside.

  22. Anonymous2:22 AM

    Anonymous said...
    Father Cekada has not told us why the Pius XII legislation, which he admits is not evil, is suddenly harmful...

    .Why not read Father Cekada's book "Work of Human Hands"?

  23. "Work of Human Hands" does not answer Anonymous 2:01's or John McFarland 1:00's well-taken points. Its treatment of the Pian reform is incomplete and cursory (pp. 58-61), and its essential conclusion if that the '55 Holy Week was "yet another series of incremental changes put into place" that resulted in the Novus Ordo Missae. Even in the appendix (p. 405), the author simply asserts that the 1955-1962 changes were transitional. Nowhere does the author prove that the '55 Holy Week was per se harmful: from the text, we might infer that it was harmful in the sense that it represents a proximate developmental antecedent of the Mass of Paul VI, but that does not satisfactorily answer John McFarland 2:01's question. Until both commenters' concerns are fully addressed, Father Cekada's position remains untenable and eccentric.

  24. Anonymous 02:01 said:

    “Father Cekada has not told us why the Pius XII legislation, which he admits is not evil, is suddenly harmful.”


    I begin (like most proto-trads) from the assumption that the Mass of Paul VI is evil (= destroys Catholic doctine and piety).

    That said, among the principles and precedents introduced in the 1951–1958 liturgical changes, we discover the following elements that were subsequently incorporated across the board into the Mass of Paul VI.

    (1) Liturgy must follow the “pastoral” principle to educate the faithful.

    (2) Vernacular may be an integral part of the liturgy.

    (3) Reduction of the priest’s role.

    (4) Lay participation must ideally be vocal.

    (5) New liturgical roles may be introduced.

    (6) Prayers and ceremonies may be changed to accommodate modern “needs.”

    (7) “Needless duplications” must be eliminated.

    (8) The Ordo Missae itself may be changed, or parts eliminated.

    (9) The Creed need not be recited on more solemn occasions.

    (10) The priest “presides” passively at the bench when Scripture is read.

    (11) Certain liturgical functions must be conducted “facing the people.”

    (12) Emphasis on the saints must be reduced.

    (13) Liturgical texts or practices that could offend heretics, schismatics or Jews should be modified.

    (14) Liturgical expressions of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament may be “simplified” or reduced.

    For the particulars on each (warning — shameless product placement coming!), see Work of Human Hands, pp. 49–63.

    The 1950s liturgical legislation introduced these principles and practices only here and there. Taken individually, none was evil in itself.

    But fifty years later, we now recognize that these principles and precedents reflected a hidden agenda of modernists who were plotting the eventual destruction of the Mass.

    The men who created the New Mass (Bugnini, Braga, Jungman and Paul VI) told us so. Indeed, in a 1948 meeting held “behind closed doors,” Jungmann described for his fellow modernists his “Traum in Herzen” (heart’s dream) for a rite of Mass that is in most respects the Novus Ordo.

    Now, much that the liturgy communicates to us takes place through an aggregation of details. Continuing to follow the practices and the principles that these schemers insinuated piecemeal into the traditional liturgy promotes their lie that the New Mass did not represent a break with the past in doctrine and piety, but merely another stage in the organic development of the Catholic liturgy.

    Or to put the argument another way: If the vernacular, the passive presider, adaptation to modern “needs,” ecumenical modifications to texts, “simplified” expressions of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and ceremonies facing the people are OK when Holy Week rolls around, why are they not OK all year round with the Novus Ordo?

  25. John McFarland said...

    “I don't quite see how X's being the beginning of the path to Y makes X no longer binding. Is the concept that the later and greater evil somehow assimilates the earlier evil?”


    Not exactly. Behind the notion of intrinsic cessation is the idea that a human legislator cannot possibly foresee ALL future circumstances for the application of a particular law. Some of these might eventually turn out to be harmful or even frustrate the purpose of the law itself. In such a case, the law ceases to bind.

    Pius XII (obviously) could not have foreseen that some of his liturgical legislation would one day be used to justify an affront to Catholic doctrine and piety like the Novus Ordo.

    With the benefit of hindsight, though, we now can. Continued observance of the legislation, therefore, becomes harmful. Thus the obligation to observe it ceases.

  26. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Work of Human Hands" does not answer Anonymous 2:01's or John McFarland 1:00's well-taken points. Its treatment of the Pian reform is incomplete and cursory (pp. 58-61), and its essential conclusion if that the '55 Holy Week was "yet another series of incremental changes put into place" that resulted in the Novus Ordo Missae. Even in the appendix (p. 405), the author simply asserts that the 1955-1962 changes were transitional.

    Perhaps you need a picture drawn with crayons.

    Have you been living under a rock since the 1960's? Anyone who has any knowledge of the liturgical "reforms" can plainly see that they mimic the post 1955 Holy Week in many instances. Thus, if one concludes that the new rite of Mass is defective one can also conclude that the new Holy Week is also defective and, therefore, harmful. Even a simple layman can figure that out!

  27. The issue at hand is not about the defects of the rites; it concerns whether the '55 Holy Week was harmful based on its retrospective contamination with the Novus Ordo Missae.

    Defects may be essential or accidental, and one must demonstrate that the '55 rite had inherent essential defects in order to sustain the claim that it is harmful. We should bear in mind that some very pious and learned liturgists have cogently argued that there were defects in the reform of Pope St. Pius X without declaring his effort harmful to the faith.

  28. Anonymous3:31 PM

    Surely the strongest arguments in favour of the old rites are their intrinsic beauty and guaranteed orthodoxy along with them being sanctioned by tradition and custom.

    The novelties Fr. Carusi describes were further modified, although not as radically or inorganically as the 1956 makeover and lack the principle of stability. If in doubt stick to the old ways...

  29. Clark said...
    The issue at hand is not about the defects of the rites; it concerns whether the '55 Holy Week was harmful based on its retrospective contamination with the Novus Ordo Missae.

    Defects may be essential or accidental, and one must demonstrate that the '55 rite had inherent essential defects in order to sustain the claim that it is harmful.


    You're missing the point of intrinsic cessation: a law which had "no inherent essential defect" when it was promulgated can, due to the passage of time or a change of circumstances, BECOME harmful to the common good. The authors teach that in such a case a law ceases.

    That, I maintain, is the case with the Holy Week changes.

    And by the way, you don't necessarily have to be a sedevacantist to make this particular argument about using the old Holy Week rites. As they say in New York, "So enjoy!"

  30. Anonymous12:06 AM

    As I see it, the 1955-56 Rites of Holy Week and Vigil of Pentecost, were not only harmful in the long run, and in hindsight, but were wrong from the beginning, because they were a break with Tradition, the deliberate artificial creation by a commision of new, anti-Traditional rites to replace the divinely-inspired, organically grown, handed-down Rites. NO other arguments are needed to justify a return to the Traditional Rites of HOly Week and the Vigial of Pentecost. As for the infallibilty of disciplinary decisions, liturgical or otherwise, emanated and implemented by Rome, i am totally shocked! I have never heard of such unsound and untrue ultramontanism before! It is simply not true. One example suffices: the ''Breviary'' of Cardinal Quignon.

  31. Anonymous12:18 AM

    Father Cekada said ...

    "You're missing the point of intrinsic cessation: a law which had "no inherent essential defect" when it was promulgated can, due to the passage of time or a change of circumstances, BECOME harmful to the common good. The authors teach that in such a case a law ceases.

    That, I maintain, is the case with the Holy Week changes."

    We all agree that it can become harmful, but Fr. Cekada has not shown that the '55 Holy Week rites have in fact become harmful as '55 Holy Week rites.

    As I stated earlier, "Father Cekada has not told us why the Pius XII legislation, which he admits is not evil, is suddenly harmful."

  32. As for the infallibilty of disciplinary decisions, liturgical or otherwise, emanated and implemented by Rome, i am totally shocked! I have never heard of such unsound and untrue ultramontanism before! It is simply not true.

    It is Father Cekada who said, “One cannot therefore maintain that the application of this principle (cessation) to the Holy Week changes contradicts the teaching of dogmatic theology that the Church is infallible when she promulgates universal disciplinary laws.”

    Do you really think Father Cekada is an "ultramontanist"?

  33. Anonymous3:53 PM

    It seems to me, that extreme ultramontanism can lead to, and after Vatican II has led to, sedevacantism. When one falsely beleives that the POpe is a divine oracle, that everything he says and does is divinely inspired and infallible - such as disciplinary decisions - then, when one realises that a Pope - such as Paul VI - has enacted harmful legislation, one rationalises that his Pope must not be a true Pope, otherwise God would have prevented him from doing such a thing. The truth is that the Popes throughout history can and have made many, many mistakes: doctrinal, liturgical, disciplinary, political, judicial. I do not have to prove this statement: books of Catholic dogma, history, liturgy abound with examples. The ecumenical councils usually emit infallible dogmatic decress, but the Pope's infallibility is exceptional, and limited to two definitions thusfar: the Immcatulate Conception and the Assumption. The Pope must explicitly state that the definition he is solemnly proclaiming to the whole Church is infallible, for it to be so. Disciplinary decrees are never infallible. A Catholic would never need become sedevacantist if he only properly understood the scope and limits of the Papacy. In other words, the Pope is simply ot that important in Catholicism to ever warrant becoming sedevacantist. The centre of our faith is the Triune God and the Word made Flesh; the centre of our religion is the Holy Mass and Sacraments, as celebrated according to Rites determined by and handed down by Tradition. The Pope is the highest servant, defender and transmitter of the orthodox faith and catholic religion. He is not God, nor God's oracle, nor the Absolute Ruler over our faith and religion. Hereoin lies the misunderstanding of Fr. Cekada and other ultramontanists and sedevacantists. Sedevacantism - is seems to me - is choosy or even reverse ultramontanism: Pius XII and his predecessors, they say was infallible: Paul VI and his successors, they say, are false Popes. Every extreme holds within it the opposite extreme.

  34. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Fr. Carusi pointed out that "[t]he rites produced by this reform were used universally by the Church for very few years, amidst a continual succession of reforms" Accordingly, Anonymous 00:18 is right to demand that Father Cekada justify his position by detailing reasons why the rite is now injurious.

    Fr. Carusi persuasively documents the committee's bad taste, poor literary judgment, theological obtuseness, undue haste, and academic bias. But that alone surely cannot be sufficient to affirm that the disciplinary law of a pope, whom he seems to recognize as legitimate, is not binding. If it "became" harmful years after the rite ceased to be operative, what, then, are the specific circumstances that rendered noxious an apparently once doctrinally safe rite.

  35. Anonymous6:25 PM

    "The entire raison d’être of the reform seems to be permeated with the whiff of rationalism and archeologism, with at times dollops of pure imagination"

    Not to mention a particularly strong whiff of "de-Gallicanization"--later to become a cardinal feature of American liturgical thought before and during the Council- together with and an inordinate amount of attention directed to "streamling" the rites at any cost, and modernity for modernity's sake. These three principles formed the foundation to the liturgical revolution under John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.

    After the Holy Week reforms went into effect here in America, holy church bent over backwards everywhere to justify Pius XII's innovations. I recall publications and speakers at the time who wouldn't countenance criticism of these "reforms". Everyone was expected to fall into line without question. Just as we are hear from the arch traditionalists today.

    his is a wonderful analysis. It confirms what I've thought about the 1951 Holy Week rites, and it is reassuring to know others feel the same way about the Bugnini reforms, but aren't ready to plunge into sedevacantism because of them. The liturgy butchers destroyed much of the beauty and deep symbolism of some ancient rites. That can't be denied.

    I hope this pope will restore much of what was lost, but I don't expect the changes of Pope Pius will be reversed in toto.

    Apart from the fact that the Holy Saturday vigil was held in the evening hours, unless there are numerous baptisms taking place, you have no sense of a VIGIL at all. Restoring the twelve prophecies would go a long way in enhancing these rites and the rich didactive features this beautiful,ancient service of light, anointings, and prophecies once had.

    The blessing of the paschal candle could be done by the deacon as of old with candles being lit throughout the church. Why can't the anointing of the baptismal font be restored today? Especially, if there are no baptisms to be performed.

    The Holy Thursday and Good Friday stripping of the altar cloths, the censing of the Easter Sepulchre and the offices for these days should also be restored.

    The other points Father Carusi makes about the destruction of the Mass of the Presanctified, the shortening of the passion readings, the splitting of the litany at the Vigil, and the placement of the Mandatum are persuasivly made arguments for bringing them back. What a void exists today.

    I come away with the impression, Bugnini the Butcher did a real hatchet job on centuries of established liturgical and pastoral riches with which the Church has been endowed. However, the blame lies with the pope with the desk on which the buck stops. Wanton neglect, ignorance, undue haste, and bureaucracy at it's worst are the hallmarks of this era of so-called reform.

    Pope Benedict has an opportunity to reverse this and I hope he will do it and soon.

  36. John McFarland9:35 PM


    Among the reasons that Father Cekada is an SV are (1) he is an ultramontanist and (2) the Popes since 1958 are, to say the least, not ultramontanists.

    It is certainly true that (1) seems odd.

    But (2) seems -- and is -- a lot odder.

  37. Anonymous9:37 PM

    Anyone who expects "restoration" by Pope Benedict XVI along the lines expressed here is engaged in self-delusion. It's much more likely, if he lived long enough, that he'd make changes to the 1962 Missal and ritual books to reflect certain aspects of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

  38. John McFarland10:17 PM

    Father Cekada,

    I don't think we're talking about the same thing yet.

    The principle to which you appeal is that changed circumstances may affect the binding character of legislation.

    But I think that you are using "changed circumstances" to describe things that in fact are not changed circumstances, but something else.

    I don't see how the liturgical reforms subsequent to the Pian reforms analyzed by Fr. Carusi can be characterized as a change in the circumstances surrounding the Pian reforms.

    Rather, I think that they are best characterized as additional legislation that, insofar as it did not change the Pian legislation, has no juridical effect on the Pian legislation.

    My idea of changed circumstances would be, for example, the effect of the (alleged) phenomenon of international Islamic terrorism on such legal concepts as freedom of speech, the impermissibility of torture, and the impermissibility of one country's invading countries that have not committed acts of war against the third countries.

    Or let's try this. Suppose that I believe that the holding in Brown v. Board of Education (basically, that de jure school segregation is unconstitutional) is good law, but that the use of Brown as precedent for declaring segregation based on housing patterns (de facto segregation) unconstitutional is bad law. I don't see how the bad law of subsequent cases make Brown v. Board of Education bad law if it were good law in the first place.

    I am making heavy weather of this point because I suspect that at least one of your arguments in favor of rejecting the 1962 missal turns on your concept of changed circumstances.

  39. Anonymous12:02 AM

    "Disciplinary decrees are never infallible." - Albertus

    This is simply not true. They are indirectly infallible as the doctrinal judgment contained therein is infallible. The practical judgment only is subject to error.

    The real issue here is that Father Cekada has not shown why the '55 Holy Week rites are now harmful. As Father has correctly stated previously, this is not a sedevacantist issue. Even a sedevacantist priest can get it wrong.

  40. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Thank you. This is very helpful. I have felt uncomfortable with the 1962 mass. Now I see it is my duty to avoid it altogether, even though this will be a hardship for my family since the only traditional mass is far away. Too bad there is not a traditional mass in New York city. Now I understand why the Easter Vigil at Holy Innocents was virtually boycotted.

  41. John McFarland12:07 AM

    Anonymous 00:02,

    "[Disciplinary decrees] are indirectly infallible as the doctrinal judgment contained therein is infallible. The practical judgment only is subject to error.

    A disciplinary decree is by its nature practical; and, you say, subject to error.

    But then a disciplinary decree can't be infallible. The underlying doctrine can be infallible, but the decree can't.

    To talk of "indirectly" at best just confuses the issue.

  42. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Mr. McFarland,

    A disciplinary decree has two elements, a doctrinal element and a practical judgment. This is the common teaching of the Church's own authorized theologians. This teaching is given the "note" of theologically certain. Denial of this teaching is given the censure of mortal sin.

  43. Anonymous2:35 PM

    ''A disciplinary decree has two elements, a doctrinal element and a
    practical judgment. This is the common teaching of the Church's own
    authorized theologians. This teaching is given the "note" of
    theologically certain_. Denial of this teaching is given the censure
    of mortal sin.''
    I don't know who you are, nor who the ''Church's own authrosied theologians'' are, but i do know that the theology behind the above statement is very faulty, and the censure of mortal sin is not yours to ''give'' - thank God!

  44. Anonymous8:35 PM

    From Christ's Church, Monsignor G. Van Noort:

    Assertion 3: The Church's infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church. This proposition is theologically certain.

    By the term “general discipline of the Church” are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living. Note the italicized words: ecclesiastical laws, passed for the universal Church.

    The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church's rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a twofold judgment: 1. “This law squares with the Church's doctrine of faith and morals”; that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. (15) This amounts to a doctrinal decree.

    2. “This law, considering all the circumstances, is most opportune.” This is a decree of practical judgment.

    This is the common teaching of theologians. Can you cite some authority who teaches differently?

  45. John McFarland7:48 PM

    Anonymous 20:35 (=00:02?),

    I stand corrected. Let's see if I have it right.

    1. The judgment of opportuneness is not something that can be said to be infallible?

    2. But the law must be, apart from the judgment of its opportuneness, infallible. That is, the letter of the law can't contradict the infallible doctrine of the Church.

    But if that's right, I'm not sure that it matters.

    Let's go right to the New Mass.

    I don't think that you can make a case that the letter (words and rubrics) of the New Mass denies any dogma of the Church. It certainly eliminates and/or downplays elements explicitly or implicitly incarnating the traditional teaching of the Church, and is grounded in novelties that at best are flirting with heresy. But that's not the same as saying that there is dogmatic error in the words and rubrics of the New Mass.

    The General Instruction for the New Mass (GIRM), since it goes into some detail about elements of the new theology of the Mass, is much worse than the letter of the Mass. But it is, after all, an explanation of the New Mass, not part of the new rite that was adopted. So, subject to someone who knows something about canon law telling me otherwise, I don't think that an assertion that the GIRM contains errors would violate the principle that a legal pronouncement is indirectly infallible, because the GIRM is not a legal pronouncement.

    I think both sedevacantists and those who insist that the New Mass is basically OK are doing the same thing: implicitly or explicitly broadening the concept of infallibility to ocver the spirit or intention of the New Mass, rather than the letter (words and rubrics) of the New Mass.

    I submit that that sort of fuzziness is entirely foreign to the basic teaching on direct infallibility in Vatican I; and I can think of no reason why the fuzziness should be more acceptable in the understanding of indirect infallibility.

  46. John McFarland9:03 PM

    As regards "Gallicanism" and "ultramontanism":

    Gallicanism was a largely politically-motivated phenomenon of brief 17th century duration, which certainly contradicted the universal magisterium of the Holy Father. But it is now just a piece of history.

    The only other respectable use for the term is for the defenders of French usages against the centralizing push of recent (pre-Vatican II) centuries; but I think that that usage is misleading.

    There is a good brief analysis of real Gallicanism by Dom Gueranger in his Papal Monarchy. He was an energetic stamper-out of local French liturgical usages, but I strongly doubt that he ever called his opponents Gallicans.

    Nor do I think that it makes sense to call the proponents of collegiality (which is to say, virtually the entire episcopate) Gallicans. Their practical (and often enough theoretical) position is far more radical than anything that the Gallicans ever dreamed of.

    "Ultramontanism" seems to have been coined by the Gallicans; but since their time it has been used against the supporters of the universal jurisdiction of the Holy Father by those who deny that universal jurisdiction in theory and/or practice: from the regalists and the Febronians to the present day.

    Albertus uses "ultramontanist" as a devil term for some or all of a different set of phenomena: (1)the post-Vatican I tendency to treat the Pope as (so to speak) more infallible than in fact he is; and (2) since Vatican II, a theological formulation of
    (1) from which one of two things must follow: either (a) we must accept just about everything of consequence that the Pope says or (b) since we can't very well accept some of the things the Pope says, he must not be the Pope.

    I would suggest to Albertus that "hyperinfallibilist" is a more accurate and less confusing term for such folks.

  47. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Mr. McFarland said ...
    "I stand corrected. Let's see if I have it right.

    1. The judgment of opportuneness is not something that can be said to be infallible?

    2. But the law must be, apart from the judgment of its opportuneness, infallible. That is, the letter of the law can't contradict the infallible doctrine of the Church.

    But if that's right, I'm not sure that it matters."

    So Mr. McFarland admits that he didn't know what the dogmatic theology manualists taught about the infallibility of the Church's disciplines. But then he continues on to say, “I’m not sure it matters”.

    Monsignor G. Van Noort continues as well:

    “Although it would he rash to cast aspersions on the timeliness of a law, especially at the very moment when the Church imposes or expressly reaffirms it, still the Church does not claim to he infallible in issuing a decree of practical judgment. For the Church's rulers were never promised the highest degree of prudence for the conduct of affairs. But the Church is infallible in issuing a doctrinal decree as intimated above — and to such an extent that it can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls.

    The Church's infallibility in disciplinary matters, when understood in this way, harmonizes beautifully with the mutability of even universal laws. For a law, even though it be thoroughly consonant with revealed truth, can, given a change in circumstances, become less timely or even useless, so that prudence may dictate its abrogation or modification.


    1. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church was endowed with infallibility that it might safeguard the whole of Christ's doctrine and be for all men a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. But if the Church could make a mistake in the manner alleged when it legislated for the general discipline, it would no longer be either a loyal guardian of revealed doctrine or a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. It would not be a guardian of revealed doctrine, for the imposition of a vicious law would be, for all practical purposes, tantamount to an erroneous definition of doctrine; everyone would naturally conclude that what the Church had commanded squared with sound doctrine. It would not be a teacher of the Christian way of life, for by its laws it would induce corruption into the practice of religious life.

    2. From the official statement of the Church, which stigmatized as “at least erroneous” the hypothesis “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism. (16)


    The well-known axiom, Lex orandi est lex credendi (The law of prayer is the law of belief), is a special application of the doctrine of the Church's infallibility in disciplinary matters. This axiom says in effect that formulae of prayer approved for public use in the universal Church cannot contain errors against faith or morals. But it would be quite wrong to conclude from this that all the historical facts which are recorded here and there in the lessons of the Roman Breviary, or all the explanations of scriptural passages which are used in the homilies of the Breviary must be taken as infallibly true.(17) As far as the former are concerned, those particular facts are not an object of infallibility since they have no necessary connection with revelation. As for the latter, the Church orders their recitation not because they are certainly true, but because they are edifying.”

  48. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Your summary is excellent, to which i wish to add, that, it seems to me that Dom Gueranger was a stamper out of Neo-Gallican missals and breviaries, which in fact had nothing to do with ancient Gallican usage, but were rather of Jansenist origin.

    You write quite clearly and correctly exactly my meaning:
    ''Albertus uses "ultramontanist" as a devil term for some or all of a different set of phenomena: (1)the post-Vatican I tendency to treat the Pope as (so to speak) more infallible than in fact he is; and (2) since Vatican II, a theological formulation of
    (1) from which one of two things must follow: either (a) we must accept just about everything of consequence that the Pope says or (b) since we can't very well accept some of the things the Pope says, he must not be the Pope.''

    You suggest to use the term
    "hyperinfallibilist" for such folks, which I am quite happy to do in the future! I never new this term before, and am grateful to you for indicating it in your post as a more accurate subsitute for ''ultramontanist''.

  49. John McFarland9:20 PM

    Anonymous 30:37,

    Your extensive quote is instructive (for me, at any rate).

    But the punch line, so to speak, is the following: "[the Church] can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls."

    I construe "at odds with faith or morality" to mean at odds with infallible doctrine that is infallible either as part of the ordinary and universal magisterium, or as part of the extraordinary magisterium.

    As regards "or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls," my question is whether that language implies a situation in which something less than "at odds with infallible doctrine" would nonetheless be "by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls."

    The additional language would seem to suggest that it meant more than "at odds with faith or morality," or it would not have been added.

    But I see nothing in the Proof that sheds much light on the issue, since it seems to me that the Proof can be read consistently with the assertion that both "at odds with faith or morality" and "by its very nature conducive" can be read to refer to teachings at odds with infallible doctrine.

    But be that as it may, I nevertheless find it difficult to take seriously the judgment that the text and rubrics of the New Mass are "by their very nature conducive to the injury of souls." In scholastic terminology, "by their nature" is not a throwaway term.

    So subject to being further enlightened, I'm still of the view that I don't think that Msgr. Van Noort's analysis, however construed, requires me either to run up the liturgical white flag or become an SVist.

  50. John McFarland9:29 PM

    Anonymous 03:37,

    I forgot to address the second half of the Proof:

    "2. From the official statement of the Church, which stigmatized as 'at least erroneous' the hypothesis “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism."

    I would have to know a lot more about the background of this statement before I could comment upon it.

    I could make an argument that Pope Leo XIII's instruction to French Catholics to rally to the Third Republic, or Pope Pius XI's condemnation of Action Francaise, were dangerous, harmful and conducive to materialism. I find it difficult to believe that the statement quoted above would make that argument facially erroneous.

  51. John McFarland9:51 PM


    In mentioning Dom Gueranger, I was referred to his work in eliminating the perfectly legitimate non-standard usages that were in use in the French Church, not because they were bad, but because he considered liturgical unity a higher good. His efforts led, for example, to the elimination of St. John Eudes' very beautiful Mass and Office for the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

    I don't know anything about Jansenist tendencies in the liturgy and the breviary, beyond recalling very vaguely a remark in a book by E.E.Y. Hales, the English Catholic historian (probably Pio Nono), that Mazzini's mother was a Jansenist and had a Jansenist (missal? of her own creation?) from which the objectionable parts were excised.

    "Hyperinfallibilist" is certainly not my creation, but I do what I can to put it into circulation. It gets the discussion focused on the real issue.

  52. Anonymous3:57 AM

    From Van Noort, Christ's Church:

    2. From the official statement of the Church, which stigmatized as “at least erroneous” the hypothesis “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism. (16)

    (16) The bull Auctorem fidei (DB 1578).

  53. Anonymous8:13 PM

    John McFarland said...

    "So subject to being further enlightened, I'm still of the view that I don't think that Msgr. Van Noort's analysis, however construed, requires me either to run up the liturgical white flag or become an SVist."

    Nobody has said you must do either. What you cannot do, however, is claim that all of the 20th century manualists were "Hyperinfallibilists". All of the authors I have seen say basically the same things. It is up to you to produce a source that teaches differently, as your interpretation is at odds with an assertion that is theologically certain.

    Assertion 3: The Church's infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church. This proposition is theologically certain.

  54. John McFarland7:33 PM

    Anonymous 20:13,

    It does not help to repeat Assertion No. 3, which I presume has the authority that Msgr. Van Noort ascribes to it. The issue is: what does it mean as applied to specific discliplinary acts?

    It seems to me that in order for infallibility to extend to a some particular disciplinary act, the particular content of that act must be closely tied to particular infallible doctrine or doctrines. Doctrinal infallibility is very carefully defined. It seems implausible that indirect disciplinary infallibility can be any less carefully defined; and I can't think of any way to define it that does not involve tying it back to particular infallible doctrine.

    Now if that interpretation is right, it follows tht none of the liturgical reforms since 1951 can be considered infallible unless they are closely grounded in the infallible doctrine of the Church; and I think that it is obvious that none of them are.

    But the interpretation of Msgr. Van Noort's Assertion No. 3 is also of broader interest because of the tendency in some circles to exaggerate the reach of infallibility.

    It doesn't seem to me that Msgr. Van Noort says anything contrary to my interpretation that view. If there are authorities who do contradict my interpretation, I would be pleased to hear about it.

  55. John McFarland5:06 AM

    Anonymous 03:57,

    It is the judgement of many that the discipline involved in establishing the New Mass has caused incalculable harm to souls.

    To take a dramatic example, consider the conversion of the funeral Mass into in effect a welcoming of the deceased into Heaven, white vestments and all, even if the deceased is a thrice-divorced hardened sinner who hadn't been to Mass in fifty years.

    Are you going to tell me, on the strength of an obscure passage in the condemnation of the goings-on at the Synod of Pistoia, that these judgments are clearly erroneous -- unless, of course, the Pope responsible for these things was in fact no Pope at all?

  56. Fascinating work. I had always thought that whatever was lost in the 1955 reforms was more than paid for by the return of the liturgical action to their proper time of day (or night). (And I didn't really mourn the reduction of the twelve prophecies read on Holy Saturday to four.)

    Now after reading this, I find myself reassessing my opinion.

  57. Gregory Cantor9:09 PM

    To Mr. John McFarland

    Not willing to delve in the controversy, I think nonetheless that this precision might be useful:

    Mgr Van Noort says that general laws of the Church cannot be harmless to faith and morals. He does not speak of general laws of the LATIN Church, as is the case with the NO.

    Michael Davies held (in the book "I Am With You Always")that "general laws of the Latin Church" are the same as "general laws of the Church". If the NO were a general law of the Church, the Church would have had to establish a derogation, an indult or an explicit permission for the Eastern Catholic Churches to disregard it. We know this was not the case, because the NO was never intended to bind the whole Church. The Eastern Catholic Churches were understood to be simply out of its reach. So, I think M. Davies was mistaken.

    Therefore, you can believe the NO mass is invalid, harmful to the faith, etc, without slipping into Svism.

  58. Anonymous11:18 AM

    Gregory Cantor said...

    "Mgr Van Noort says that general laws of the Church cannot be harmless to faith and morals. He does not speak of general laws of the LATIN Church, as is the case with the NO."

    I assume you mean "harmful" in the above.

    Monsignor Van Noort also states very clearly:

    "2. From the official statement of the Church, which stigmatized as “at least erroneous” the hypothesis “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism. (16)


    The well-known axiom, Lex orandi est lex credendi (The law of prayer is the law of belief), is a special application of the doctrine of the Church's infallibility in disciplinary matters. This axiom says in effect that formulae of prayer approved for public use in the universal Church cannot contain errors against faith or morals."

  59. John McFarland3:47 PM

    Mr. Cantor and Anonymmous 11:18,

    Let me try to reorient this discussion in a way that might help us grasp the issues better.

    It seems to me undeniable that the New Mass and related reforms have done incalculable evil to the Church of Christ.

    If Msgr. Van Noort's teachings, which I'm prepared to believe are the teachings of all the pre-conciliar manualists who addressed the issue, can be interpreted as consistent with the facts -- and I think that they can -- well and good.

    But if the manuals cannot be interpreted in a way consistent with the fact, so much the worse for the manuals, and so much the worse for the theologians whose teachings the manuals summarize.

    As the scholastic maxim has it, principles must give way to facts. No matter how authoritative the non-infallible theological consensus, it cannot trump the facts.

    As regards the interpretation of the manualists, let me say this.

    I am a lawyer by profession, and every lawyers knows something that is very much relevant to the whole issue of interpretation.

    The books of legal opinions are filled with categorical statements that needed to be modified in subsequent legal opinions when the categorical statements come up against facts that were not part of what needed to be considered in the original opinion.

    Likewise, Msgr. Van Noort in his wildest dreams never entertained the possibility of a radical overhaul of the liturgy -- much less an overhaul whose effects were manifestly evil.

    I think it follows that we must be very careful about applying Msgr. Van Noort's statements, no matter how categorical, in the manifestly novel circumstance of the adoption of the New Mass.

    I've provided my own amateur suggestion to the interpretive issue -- basically, that infallibility of discipline must be grounded in infallible doctrine.

    Whether this is right or wrong, I'm not learned enough to say.

    But I am learned enough to say that any line of reasoning that requires me either to treat the legislation of the New Mass as infallible, or join the SVist canonical vigilantes, is dangerous nonsense.

  60. Anonymous11:24 AM

    John McFarland said:

    "If Msgr. Van Noort's teachings, which I'm prepared to believe are the teachings of all the pre-conciliar manualists who addressed the issue, can be interpreted as consistent with the facts -- and I think that they can -- well and good.

    But if the manuals cannot be interpreted in a way consistent with the fact, so much the worse for the manuals, and so much the worse for the theologians whose teachings the manuals summarize.

    As the scholastic maxim has it, principles must give way to facts. No matter how authoritative the non-infallible theological consensus, it cannot trump the facts."

    It could be that you are assuming a fact that you believe trumps all other facts; the papacy of Paul VI. There are so many other facts that you must simply discard or you must disregard the teaching of the manualists, which is the teaching of the Church.

  61. Anonymous1:34 PM

    This exchange is alas off course. The opinions - even certa ! - of manualists are NOT necessarily the unchanging teaching of the Church. Much of what manualists, such as Van Hoorn - who, nota bene - had and have no authority whatsoever to teach, sanctify and govern - has later proven to be false, or dubious, or changed by an Ecumenical Council, a Pope, or the newer consensus of theologians. From this exchange it is clear, that one has a very imperfect knowledge of Catholic theolgy. Please let us not turn deceased manualists into divine oracles. They were only attempting to present to lay people a summary of what they thought to be the most current theoligcal consensus , as well , of course as presenting the unchanging dogmas. One has to maintain the distinction between DEFINED (by Concils or Popes) dogmas of the faith - which are irrevocable, but which can be better explained in time - and various theological opinions, considered ''certain'' or ''commonly held'', which can indeed be changed, allowed to be forgotten, superseded or even condemned. Limbo puerorum is one such once-widely-held theory now fallen in disrepute.

  62. John McFarland2:45 PM

    Anonymous 11:24,

    I'm not sure what your point is. Perhaps it will help if I try to clarify what I am trying to say.

    The consensus of theologians is of great authority; and I would suppose that the pre-conciliar manuals generally accurately reflected that consensus. The theologians and the manualists were all priests. So it was hardly the place of any layman, much less one without formal theological training, to take issue with what was taught.

    But then came doctrine and discipline from the highest authorities that was not consistent with the dctrine of the Church, and any intelligent layman could see that. As Archbishop Lefebvre was wont to say, all you needed was the catechism.

    My point is that the heterodoxy of these changes cannot be refuted by reference to the non-infallible theological consensus.

    My instinct is that in most if not all cases, the apparent contradiction results from the fact that the pre-conciliar theological formulations never needed to deal with things like the things that have happened from and after 1962, and so now need refinement to deal with the new facts.

    But if the ultimate conclusion is that per the pre-conciliar theological consensus, THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED CANNOT HAVE HAPPENED, then the pre-conciliar theological consensus is wrong, BECAUSE THOSE THINGS HAVE IN FACT HAPPENED.

    It is important to realize this because of the instinctive tendency to think that if the Pope said and ordered it, then it must be so.

    In better days, the tendency to exaggerate the Pope's doctrinal and disciplinary authority was harmless.

    It is no longer harmless. Many have gone by obedience to apostasy.

  63. John McFarland3:23 PM


    As noted in my previous post, the theological consensus (and the manualist, to the extent that they properly describe that consensus) is of great authority. Before V2, I would guess, that consensus rarely changed in any significant way.

    The fact that a layman would even consider challenging it is dramatic evidence of how big a mess we're in.

    As for Limbo, let me suggest a couple of things.

    One is that the post-conciliar theological consensus, if there is such a thing, is not based on the effort to understand the faith delivered once for all to the saints. It is therefore inherently suspect.

    The second is that the real issue is not the existence of Limbo. The real issue is whether the unbaptized infants can go to heaven.

    The answer is that they cannot. That is de fide.

    On the other hand, they cannot very well be in the Hell of the damned.

    The doctrine of Limbo is therefore an explanation of where the unbaptized infants are, and in what state they are in.

    The traditional doctrine is that they are on the "fringe" (limbus) of Hell, because in the broad sense, all that is not Heaven is Hell; and that they are in a state of purely natural happiness.

    If you deny that doctrine, the question is: well, then, where are they, and in what state? What is an alternative explanation? St. Augustine suggested that they might be suffering some degree of pain, but support for that doctrine is long since gone. Whether unbaptized infants suffer some degree of pain is about the only issue, and it's long since settled in the negative.

    But the point of the recent pronouncements on Limbo is not the nature of Limbo. The point is to revise the doctrine that unbaptized infants cannot go to Heaven without admitting that that is what is afoot. It is just one more example of the confused but very evident momentum of the concilar magisterium toward universal salvation or something very, very close to it.

  64. Anonymous10:07 PM

    I am not a layman. I was ordained to the priesthood 33 years ago in Roma where i grew up and did all my studies. It is useless to continue a discussion with those here who seem not to have even basic theological knowledge. Your beliefs are simply not Catholic.


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