Rorate Caeli

Terminology: is "Extraordinary Form" an acceptable name? And is it the official name?

We never thought it would be necessary to write this, since both aspects we will treat seem to be obvious, and have seemed so since 2007. Yet, there have been so many misunderstandings regarding the expression "Extraordinary Form" that we feel constrained to make two points clear.

(1) Why was the name "Extraordinary Form" introduced by the Holy Father in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum? Answer: in order to solve a liturgical law conumdrum.

Traditionally, throughout the history of the Church - at least since the differentiation of rites became clear and attached to specific patriarchies and geographical areas - bi-ritual priests have been exceptional. They still are an exception. Additionally, the Pope felt the need to finally undo the injustice that had been kept - and defended by most canonists - since the advent of the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, of Paul VI (1969), that had created the Novus Ordo Missae: had it, and the previous and subsequent documents that modified all rites of sacraments, abrogated the Traditional Roman Rite?

The use of the term "form" solved both problems: it did not make all priests in the Latin Church, including the vast majority of secular priests, immediately bi-ritual (in law), which would be rather untraditional; and, most importantly, it solved the apparent problem of the impossibility of the abrogation of a liturgical rite of immemorial origin. (It was an apparent problem because, as the Pope implied when he said that "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful," the immemorial liturgical Rites and Uses of the Latin Church could not and cannot simply be abrogated.) In a sense it is an artifice, a noble intellectual construction, since the common celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass seem to express two very distinct rites - but the use of such legal constructions is quite common in law, and there is nothing immoral in it. The use of the terminology made clear that celebrating the Traditional Mass is a solemn right of each priest of the Latin Church.

(2) Despite this, the expression "Extraordinary Form" is NOT the "official" name of the Traditional Roman Rite. It is just one of the many ways to refer to it. In fact, as can be seen in the very texts of the official documents, several different names are used to refer to the Traditional Roman Rite.

The motu proprio itself speaks in its first words of the "extraordinary use" and of the "ancient form" (antiqua forma) of the Roman Rite. In its articles, mention is made of "the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII" (that is, Missal of St. Pius V also is as "official" as "Missal of Bl. John XXIII" - no wonder Cardinal Navarette-Cortes used the term in 2008); it is an "extraordinary expression" (extraordinaria expressio), and also "extraordinary form" (forma extraordinaria). It is also called by the motu proprio the "earlier liturgical tradition".

The rites of sacraments according to the Traditional Rituale Romanum are characterized as according to the more ancient ritual (Rituale antiquior), same adjective applied to the Pontifical, and to the form itself: earlier form (forma antiquior).

All these names are included in the short text of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum itself!

In the letter to bishops, mention is also made of "the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970". The Pope says in the letter that they are not "two rites" (though in the letter he uses the name "new rite"! - making us quite comfortable with also using the expression old rite...), but also uses different names for it therein: a "usage", the "earlier Form", the "1962 missal", the "old Missal", the "ancient Latin liturgical tradition" (a very beautiful name, by the way)

In the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, preference is given to the expression "forma extraordinaria", but also there all kinds of different expressions: "usage", "use", "Usus antiquior", "1962 Missal"...

These are just the "official" names used widely in the documents themselves - not forgetting the need for clarity that demands a continued use of expressions that are established in the vernacular, such as Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in English, and "Tridentine Mass" (even if not particularly exact) in English and in several European languages. Not to mention the very respectable use (for instance, by former President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos) of the expressions "Gregorian Rite" and "Classical Roman Liturgy".

THEREFORE: (1) do not feel forced in any way to use the name Extraordinary Form as if it were the only acceptable name - it is not even the exclusive name used in the documents themselves;

(2) do not complain when others use it, as if it were illegitimate or unacceptable; if you do not like it, fine, just do not use it yourself.


  1. And, also, stop bothering our moderating team about the use of "Extraordinary Form". All such comments in all threads will be blocked in the future.

    Thank you,


  2. Common Sense3:22 PM

    It is a sign of the times that this has to be explained in the first place. If it weren't for the diabolical disorientation caused by the very existence of the Novus Ordo mass, none of this would be necessary.

  3. croixmom3:43 PM

    When speaking to like-minded brethren, I simply use the term, The Mass.
    When speaking to NO's, I find they don't even know what EF or Extraordinary Form means anyway. They call it (The Mass) the Latin Rite. I'm not sure what rite they call the NO.

    Thank you, NC!

  4. Gravitas4:21 PM

    The easiest thing is to just say Traditional Latin Mass.

    No one outside trads and the most serious novus ordinians know what EF means. And when you say TLM, those typical Catholics either know what it means, or ask a question which makes it easy to explain.

    Enough with the extraordinary/ordinary mumbo jumbo. It's just an attempt to blur the lines through semantics.

  5. Dear N.C. Excellent piece. Kudos.

    I am waiting for the next Pope to refer to The Real Mass and The Lil' Licit Liturgy as a way of distinguishing the two.

  6. It is worth noting that the phrase "forma extraordinaria" in Latin does not have the same connotations as "extraordinary form" does in English.

    The Latin "extraordinaria" means "outside the ordinary" or even "something a little special". It does not carry the English meaning of extraordinary in the sense of something a little odd or peculiar.

    I prefer to use "usus antiquior" in a formal document and "older form" on other occasions.

  7. Rodez4:43 PM

    New Catholic, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.

  8. For the not very placid "Placido":

  9. A useful topic for debate - it’s a tricky one, no doubt about it. Most people, inside and outside the Church (those aware of different “versions” of the Mass) understand exactly what the “Old Latin Mass” is, even if they may be light on detail.

    TLM is also excellent and avoids distraction or uncertainty about missals of 1962 or other years.

  10. NIANTIC8:45 PM

    I prefer to say TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS (TLM). I think the meaning is clear.

  11. I say "True Mass".

  12. With labels such as these it is all the easier to hybridise. Traditionalists appear to have fallen asleep again celebrating the SP - Holy Latin Mass in Cambridge UK served by girl altar servers recently etc. Who could Cardinal Burke appeal to as the norm in this case - not chaotic NO praxis but indeed the Sacred Tradition of this liturgical rite mercifully created according to the needs of One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Rite - for men only.

  13. I prefer the 'Mass of All Time', but occasionally use 'usus antiquior' or the 'Traditional Latin Mass'.

    If I use 'Tridentine Rite' most people haven't a clue what I'm talking about.

  14. Introibo11:27 PM

    Most folk do not understand terms such as "usus antiquior" and personally I feel that it gives the impression that the only thing that matters to those of us attached to the older form of Mass is Latin. I always refer to the "Old Mass" and have found this to be completely unambiguous,easily understood and lacking in what could be construed as elitism.

  15. Fr Wilson4:24 AM

    When speaking to a modern, progressive Catholic, it is helpful to smile sweetly and refer to "The Missal of Blessed John XXIII."

  16. JTLiuzza5:58 AM

    Our Parish refers to this Holy Sacrifice as the "Gregorian Latin Mass" in the bulletin each week. The nomenclature I use I suppose depends on to whom I am speaking.

    If speaking to any of the folks who contribute to this site, I'd probably use TLM.

    When speaking to novus ordo folks, I go with "Mass of All Ages" or "Usus Antiquior," not as a bluster but to hopefully impress upon them what they usually don't know or haven't considered.

    Something so profound as this Mass should be draped in descriptions that are regal, or dare I say extraordinary.

  17. Ok you can assume that the term "form" is a solution, even a trditional one.

    But is very odd that the Old Liturgy that was 1.500 years the life of the Church must be considered a "extraordinary" form just as it was an alternative to the Rite.

    It must be the contrary. It must be the core cornerstone and foundation of the Rite.

    That is the problem with the terminology: the Theology it has inside. "Extraodinary" is not a good term. But if the Pope would say that it means too magnificient and basis form then it will no problem. Meanwhile extraordinary means only a thing that is not the usual one and form that of less importance in the faithful cult.

  18. GQ Rep10:57 AM

    Whenever I speak to friends, or priests I know referring to the "Extraordinary form", I just use the term, TLM, Tridentine Latin Mass, or the "old Mass".

    Somehow, at least to me, the term
    "Extraordinary form" sounds like it describes something that should be only rarely permitted...or something which isn't really acceptable or normal.

    I never use the term.

  19. Why bother with useless and meaningless terms?

    Traditional Latin Mass and Novus Ordo describe the Masses just fine and have been used for over 40 years.

  20. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Andrew K said...
    Why bother with useless and meaningless terms?

    Traditional Latin Mass and Novus Ordo describe the Masses just fine and have been used for over 40 years.

    That's not how we started out at the beginning of the changes. People used to just say "the old Mass" and "the new Mass." Not a soul misunderstood, at least in those days.


  21. Anonymous2:58 AM

    I usually just say the old Mass and the new Mass when talking with people and they know what I mean.

    I think the best term is simply The Traditional Mass [of the Roman Rite], no mention of the word Latin as this Mass would have once been in Greek? Mention of the Roman Rite shows that there are various ways of offering the Divine and Living Sacrifice in the Church, and no Gregorian as the Mass goes back to the beginning before St Gregory.

    Usus Antiquior (Ancient Use) would be a more 'official' term I would use. Interesting to note that in Universae Ecclesiae it is capitalised whereas EF (which I personally can't stand) is not.

    Just my 2 cents. God Bless. Fred.

  22. Lynda9:39 PM

    I still don't understand why it was ever decided to call the Traditional Mass, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Surely, it ought to be recognised as the Ordinary Form, as in the standard form?

  23. A Priest12:11 AM

    Talking to a precocious 9 year old a few Sundays ago, she said, "Amongst ourselves we tend to speak about the hard-back and paper-back Masses.

  24. Fair enough. It is good that you have clarified this issue


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