Rorate Caeli

Work of human hands: interviews

Rorate disclaimer: as it has happened in such occasions in the past, our readers know that we post information we consider useful even if we deeply disagree, in fundamental and non-negotiable principles, with their authors. That is the case, for instance, when we post encouraging news from the Eastern Orthodox. And it is also the case today as we post two excerpts on an interview granted by Fr. Anthony Cekada exclusively related to the liturgical history of the Mass of Paul VI, as explained in his well regarded book, Work of Human Hands.

Work of Human Hands has been praised by reviewers as diverse as author Dr. Geoffrey Hull ("well documented… original and worthy of attention"), liturgical historian Dr. Alcuin Reid ("flags the big question we've not been prepared to face"), ICEL Director Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth ("an important contribution to the current debate"), and Dr. Stephen McInerney ("the definitive traditionalist critique"). One of Abp. Bugnini's closest collaborators in his liturgical work, Fr. Matias Augé, who was closely involved in preparing and organizing the orations in the Missal of Paul VI, declared about the book: "The title itself is an open polemic against the Pauline reform — as if it were nothing more than the product of human scheming."

With this disclaimer, we present the interviews, with introductions by the author himself.


First excerpt:

I began work on Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI on November 29, 1964, when I was thirteen years old. This statement is only a slight rhetorical exaggeration. The date is when the first post-Vatican II liturgical changes were introduced. Like many people, I didn't care for the new liturgy.

I mention this only because I am well known in traditionalist circles — O.K., "notorious" — for a specific theological position. But ages before that, the changes in the Mass left me uneasy. And these changes, not this position, are the subject matter of Work of Human Hands. So I suspect that many followers of this site would agree with much that I have to say about the Mass of Paul VI.

Stephen Heiner of True Restoration Press invited me to engage in a videotaped conversation with him about Work of Human Hands. He has has made two substantial excerpts from the interview available free of charge to Rorate followers. Today's excerpt explains my background, my experience with the liturgical changes as they were being introduced, how I became a Traditionalist, and some of the historical and theological background to the Mass of Paul VI, notably, the influence of Modernism.

I am grateful to Mr. Heiner for his work on this project, and to Rorate for allowing it to be made available. I hope it will contribute to making more people aware of the profound problems encountered in the liturgical reform.


Second excerpt:

Below is another excerpt from my video conversation about my book Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI.

This second excerpt touches upon a variety of issues: active participation, the 1955 Holy Week changes, Latin vs. the vernacular, the theology reflected in the 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal, and The Ottaviani Intervention.

The first half of Work of Human Hands deals with these topics in order to lay the groundwork for the detailed discussion of new rite itself that follows in the second section of the book.


  1. Gratias7:06 AM

    These interviews were very useful. Fr. Cekada describes how the Novus Ordo started decades before Paul VI. I learned how changing the Holy Week liturgy in the 1950s was the stalking horse for V2.

  2. Roger Peters9:25 AM

    Are the captions that fade in and out on the bottom of the screen for people with attention deficit disorder? How thoughtful!

  3. rodrigo10:52 AM

    As someone who is neither a sedevacantist nor an SSPX supporter, I must say that the book is astonishingly good, and a devastating blow against so much of what has been written in support of the Novus Ordo. There are a couple of passages which non-sedevacantist Catholics cannot - if they wish to be coherent - accept (the one on invalidity in particular) but this is a truly excellent work, with the kind of careful scholarship rarely seen in too much contemporary liturgical writing. Just superb, and deserving of all the praise it has garnered. In a saner world, it would have a big name publisher. Does for the post-conciliar liturgy what Romano Amerio did for post-conciliar teaching.

  4. Dear Gratias. Only a few days ago I was at Christ The King Catholic Church Chapel in Sarasota, Fl for a lecture delivered by Fr Austin, FSSP and he was not amused by the 1955 changes and he recommended we locate and purchase a pre-1955 St. Andrew's Daily Missal so we could read what was later excised from The Great Week

  5. Francis1:09 PM

    It would be wonderful if someday soon the TLM will be said using the pre-1955 missal (along with the original Palm Sunday and Good Friday prayers). Some of my fellow trads disagree with me on this, but I hope the Easter Vigil will still be on Holy Saturday night instead of in the morning. The early Church had the Vigil at night so I don't see anything unorthodox in having it at night. If permission were granted to use an older rite it will probably be years away but it's nice thinking about it, especially with Holy Week one week away.

  6. I am not a sedevacantist but I enjoyed listening to Father Cekada. I had never heard him speak before. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that the liturgical movement began with good intentions. I suppose because sedevacantists tend to be painted with horns and pitch forks and being conspiracy theorists, I wouldn't have expected him to say that. I haven't read the book but I am glad the day has arrived when something like this is being openly discussed by serious people and scholars. I liked the review by Alcuin Reid referring to the whole situation as the "elephant in the liturgical living room."

  7. Have these interviews been transcribed and those transcriptions placed online?

  8. Great points about "active participation"!

    The opposite of true active participation in the sacrifice of the mass, of course, are such antics as a youth mass where Cardinal Schonborn plays with balloons; does that help the youth understand mass as sacrifice, which in turn teaches the dogma of transubstantiation?

    Speaking of mass as sacrifice, the entire praxis of the Novus Ordo lends itself to a celebratory meal and community gathering. From the "gifts" of bread and wine, to the offertory of a grace before a meal, etc. See the excellent study, The Problem of the Liturgical Reform excerpted below, for more:

    Thus, in place of the Offertory, the architects of the new
    missal thought they ought to “place what we call today the ‘words
    of institution’ of the Eucharist back into their own context which
    is that of the ritual berakoth of the Jewish meal…”11 At the heart
    of the new “Presentation of the Gifts” will be prayers “in part borrowed word for word from the Jewish grace-before-meals”12:
    "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life." These words of thanksgiving (“Blessed are you”) are orientated
    towards the paschal meal (“It will become for us the Bread of Life”) and have replaced the words from the traditional missal: “Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this unspotted host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present: as also for all faithful Christians, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them for salvation unto life everlasting.”
    The tenor of sacrifice which characterized the Tridentine Offertory
    has thus disappeared from the “Presentation of the Gifts”: the Tridentine Offertory states that the sacrifice (the word is used four times) is offered for our sins (Suscipe sancte Pater), since by
    our contrition, we want to be separated from other sinners (Lavabo).
    We offer to God, therefore, the immaculate host (Suscipe sancte Pater) and the chalice of salvation (Offerimus) participating in the Redemption wrought by Jesus Christ (Deus, qui humanae and Suscipe sancta Trinitas) while relying on the intercession of the saints (Suscipe sancta Trinitas). We humbly implore God in His mercy (In spiritu humilitatis) to accept (ibid.) this sacrifice for theglory of His name (Veni Sanctificator; Suscipe sancta Trinitas) so that it may obtain salvation (Suscipe sancte Pater; Offerimus; Suscipe sancta Trinitas) both for the living and the dead (Suscipe sancte Pater). These numerous allusions no longer feature in the new “Presentation of the Gifts.” We too can state with official commentators, “We have gone from an offertory in the strict sense of the word to a simple presentation of gifts which will become ‘the bread of life and the cup of salvation.'"

  9. Clinton7:57 PM

    Why was the Holy Week liturgy changed in the 50's? I can see where it did set the stage for the radical change of the Mass in the 60's and 70's.

  10. Seraph9:57 PM

    Fr. Cekada also has a Youtube page for A Work of Human Hands.
    There are short 10-15 minute videos for each chapter of the book, in which he gives an overview about the content of the chapter.

  11. Roger Peters

    Those captions are there for the DVD, where they function as chapters, so the interview doesn't play as one whole piece.

    I'm sure the ADD people appreciate your sensitivity!

  12. Gregorian Mass1:49 PM

    I watched this series on yourtube..It was incredibly informative and well balanced. Afterwards, I must confess I felt a deeper saddness towards the Pontificate of Paul VI. He took or allowed to be taken so much which many Catholics will never know. His reign will forever sadden me. Pray for the restoration of the Church.

  13. I fail to understand how anyone can take seriously the work of a man who believes that the Pope is a heretic, and that the Catholic Church (the visible Church) is now but a false religion. He also believes that all priests, including FSSP priests, are invalidly ordained, and therefore they are not truly offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore there is no Real Presence in an FSSP celebrated Mass. He also believes that the Pope himself was invalidly ordained. And yet this man supposedly accurately presents the problems with the NOM? I don't think so.

    When a man enters into a purely intellectual understanding of the faith, so that he is informed only and solely by an intellectual approach, there will be problems in his understanding. The opposite extreme would be a liberal who only goes by "feelings" in his approach to the Faith. There is a moderate middle ground, which neither of the two extremes can understand, so therefore, they shouldn't be taken too seriously in matters of theology, especially when they do not have the lawful authority given by the Church to do so. Though such a person may believe that he is given authority directly from God, based on what he reads and interprets on his own, or by his feelings.

  14. I finished listening to the second interview; brilliant!

    I do not agree with Fr.'s SV position, but, remember, he is a validly ordained priest, and he denies no dogmas (in fact, he espouses dogmas many deny), and SV isn't brought up in his interviews, so why bring it up now? One can appreciate brilliant reasoning without agreeing with everything the writer ever wrote or thought (think St. Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception, or even Aristotle on Poetics).

    @10:10, et sequens, Fr. Cekada puts-forth one of the most cogent arguments on the mass in Latin that I have read or heard, as follows:

    1) Tradition. From St. Gregory the Great to St. Thomas Aquinas, and onward, we have used the same language at mass.

    2) Worship is set apart from everyday life. It is therefore good to use a separate language for it: to set us apart from the hum-drum sequence of life. Envelope us, in a sense, in beauty and mystery.

    3) Words and notions remain the same in Latin. The ideas that Latin expresses do not change; ideas in the vernacular to change in whichever vernacular language they express.

    4)The consideration of time. The universality of the Church, both now, and through the centuries. We can pray in a common language both now, throughout the world, but also through the centuries.

    Negatively: heretics, like Luther/Cramner, have been able to exploit translations of the Latin into the vernacular to make it fit their needs, and heresies. (E.g. Luther adding his own words, " faith alone...")

    As far as understanding Latin, one can easily pick-up parts of of the Latin Mass, which even he did as a kid, and my kids do today. But there are also missals to help us. But the ultimate point is lifting our hearts and mind to God, not a perfect comprehension of everything said, a point echoed by Evelyn Waugh:

    The nature of the Mass is so profoundly mysterious that the most acute and holy men are continually discovering further nuances of significance. It is not a peculiarity of the Roman Church that much which happens at the altar is in varying degrees obscure to most of the worshipers. It is in fact the mark of all the historic, apostolic Churches. I think it highly doubtful whether the average churchgoer either needs or desires to have complete intellectual, verbal comprehension of all that is said. He has come to worship.

    The interviewer also brings up a good point: "once something is fixed, you don't have to worry about going in and fixing it again."

    This point is echoed by Gherardini, who writes that:

    "There will soon be available a new translation of the various texts [of the Mass], certainly improved regarding some verses, but I will not marvel at all if for other passages there will be more problems than in the first edition resulting from certain exegetical or historical-theological eccentricities.” [Vatican II, a Much Needed Discussion]

  15. Knight of Malta,

    Priests do not interpret the teachings of the Catholics faith all on thier own. It is the visible Magisterium of the Catholic Church which is the authority given by God to interpret Scripture and Tradition.

    If a priests' SV belief does not matter, then presumably you must assume, then, that his philosophical premise that the Pope of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is heretic does not inform his intentions in writing a book on the Mass. Is this what you think?

    An SV priest is not a recognized theologian of the Catholic Church. Even if a lawful Monsignor of the Catholic Church agrres with some points that the SV priest presents, does it follow that the Monsignor advocates the position that the Pope is a heretic? No. This Sedevacantist priest uses words of those who are in communion with the Pope to try to prove his position. But why would he want to promote the opinion of those who belong (in his SV view) to the "false Church?" Why should the views of those in the "false Church" have any weight whatsoever to an SV priest? And those whom he quotes would not want to be associated with the SV position in any form whatsoever.

  16. Anonymous9:58 PM

    Enoch stated:

    "He also believes that the Pope himself was invalidly ordained"

    For clarification: Father does not believe that Pope Benedict XVI was invalidly ordained priest since he was ordained in the old rite. I believe he may hold his episcopal consecration invalid since he was consecrated in the new rite.

    Nevertheless it is a fantastic book. I assist at an SSPX chapel and do not hold to the SV view as does father. That, however, does not take away from the scholarly nature of this book.

    Pax Vobiscum

  17. A. M. D. G.10:14 PM


    I will only make this one point: What makes your solution to the problems the Catholic Church faces today any better than Fr. Cekada's? Are you a recognized theologian of the Catholic Church? Which seminary did you attend?

    Can't you see it is counter productive to make ad hominem attacks? I wonder if you have even read the book, or are just prejudiced against someone with a theological opinion and solution different than yours?

  18. Dear A.M.D.G. - I do not have a solution of my own for the problems in the Church today, because I look to those faithful servants of the Church (including the Pope) to make the decisions and find solutions. I am not a theologian, and, since I'm female, of course I have not attended seminary. A Catholic needn't be a scholar or even well-educated to know about the basic truths of our Catholic faith. Actually, focusing too much on scholarly endeavors can lead one away from the true Church.

    I don't think I am making ad hominem attacks, but rather just pointing out the elephants in the room. My hope is that this SV priest will one day (hopefully soon) reconcile to the True Church. He has much to offer, if he would join his heart, mind, and soul to our Lord and His Church (the visible Church). Until then, his position has much in common with that of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

  19. Why do so many Catholics have a problem with sedevacantism? It is common to the Catholic Church.Each time a Pope dies the See of Peter is vacant;Also on the 41 occasions an antipope "reined" prior to 1958 the See was vacant.Pope Paul IV issued the Apstolic Constitution "Cum Ex Apostalatus" in 1559.It states clearly that if anyone deviates from the Catholic Faith their election is null and void.Paul VI promulgated the documents of Vat11 that contradict the tradition teachings, particularly in Religous Liberty, Collegial Equality and Ecumenical Fraternity.A true Pope cannot teach error to the universal Church;But Paul VI did. We should not be surprised by this as Heaven has warned us of the universal apostasy on numerous occasions.The way forward is to pray for a holy Pope ,attend the tradition Mass and keep the holy traditions.Ross from Australia.

  20. BG Matt8:04 PM

    It seems to me noteworthy that regarding Latin liturgical use, it was only after the vernacular was sneaked in to Mass by stealth that the full volume of discord was to be achieved. The council fathers at Vat II were told, and it's in the documents, that Latin would be retained, and that Gregorian Chant would have "pride of place" in liturgical ceremonies. That was a big lie, often repeated. But then the reality took over by firestorm, starting in the summer of 1964, when "certain parts" of the Mass were said in local vernacular tongues all over the world.

    The Canonized Traditional Latin Mass was thought to be untouchable after Quo Primum. The Novus Ordo liturgy can never be canonized, for it does not come from Tradition.

    Pope John XXIII was well known for being an outspoken advocate for Latin in the Mass, but as he lay dying of stomach cancer, he was dismayed at the trend underway to replace Latin, and some say his last words were "For God's sake, stop the council!" Even so, for the first time in history, Protestants mourned the death of the Catholic Pope. The damage was well under way.

    Vatican I had been suspended by Pope Pius IX in October of A.D. 1870 without finishing its work and has never been resumed. It was left open for being re-convened sometime in the vague future. But Vatican II never fulfilled that role, since it was aggressively touted as a "pastoral council" not intended to be dogmatic. (Of course, years later the same voices who had denied its dogmatic aspect at the time, attempted to override the impotence of Vatican II by turning about-face and claimed that it had been dogmatic after all!) We could, therefore, simply set aside the numerous errors and doctrinal problems consequent to the unclean spirit of Vatican II by simply re-convening Vatican I: pick up where it left off. This would be a very direct and simple solution to a lot of our liturgical problems these days.

    As for validity of episcopal consecrations and priestly ordinations, sedevacantists place far too much importance on isolated texts. In the history of the Church, there have been many times when a cleric, even a pope, has been found guilty of heresy, but that has never caused him to lose his jurisdiction nor the validity of his sacraments. During the Arian heresy, which lasted over 100 years, the majority of the world's bishops denied the divinity of Christ, which made them heretics, but they ordained priests, consecrated bishops and elected popes, and Apostolic succession went on, nonetheless. There are other examples.

    The Nicene Creed, which we still hear at Mass in the Canonized liturgy, fought against the Arian heresy using the Church's doctrine on the divinity of Jesus; but curiously, it has no dogmatic power itself, since it contains no anathema. It is the Athanasian Creed (begins and ends with anathema) that gives authoritative power to the Nicene Creed, as they are both official creeds of the Catholic Church, of which there are three; what is the other creed of the Church?


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