Rorate Caeli

"Got a revolution, got to revolution!"
45 years of Pontificalis Romani and the new Roman Rite

Forty-five years ago, on June 18, 1968, Pope Paul VI signed the Apostolic Constitution Pontificalis Romani, which put into effect the first part of the first completely new liturgical book in the history of the Church imposed for use throughout the Latin Church, the new Rite of Ordination of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops of the new Roman Pontifical.

It was not a mere liturgical reform, but a brand new product, a fruit of the frenetic work of the Consilium ad Exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, under the presidency of Cardinals Lercaro and Gut and with the unifying influence of Monsignor Annibale Bugnini. After the profound reforms of some liturgical texts and rubrics in the post-Conciliar years, the New Rite of Ordination was something else entirely: a radically new text for a new People of God.

Dom Bernard Botte, chairman of the subcommittee for the New Pontifical inside the Consilium, recalled with his characteristic modesty the events which led to the new text of the rite of Episcopal Consecration (or, rather, Ordination):

The reform of these rites imposed a delicate problem: was it necessary to return purely and simply to the primitive tradition and to suppress all the subsequent additions, or should these alterations, which were justified by a largely millennial tradition, be preserved? ... To suppress with one stroke all which had been added throughout the centuries would be against the very laws of life. On the other hand, the Roman Pontifical could not anymore be considered an untouchable monument elevated to its perfection by a master of ceremonies of the 13th century. The study of the early tradition, on the other hand, made clear that, in many of its points, a deviation of the true tradition had taken place. A superficial revision of the text, therefore, could not be enough

The commission charged with the reform chose an intermediate way: to preserve, in the Roman tradition, whatever could be kept or adapted without compromising the essence. I say keep or adapt for certain rites, while themselves legitimate, could appear falsified by the formula which accompanied them .

Formula of Ordination:

What bolstered the formula of Hippolytus was, in first place, its doctrinal wealth and its clarity.

After the reading of the text [of the new formula of episcopal ordination], many Fathers [members of the Consilium] were delighted, yet others remained in doubt, and some were certainly hostile to the idea. What prevailed in the decision [favorable to the new text] was the ecumenical value of the text.
["L'ordination de l'évêque". Published in La Maison-Dieu, 98, 1969/2, p. 113-126]

In his short memoir (published in English as "From Silence to Participation: An Insider's View of Liturgical Renewal"), Dom Bernard Botte would recall the almost feverish mood of the Consilium which needed the temporary approval of the new text by the appropriate Roman authorities as soon as possible so that the first "New Episcopal Ordination" might take place - it was the ordination of the famous Swiss liturgist Anton Hänggi as Bishop of Basel, which took place on February 11, 1968.

The text of the new Rite, "De Ordinatione Diaconi, Presbyteri et Episcopi", was then approved by Pope Paul along with his Apostolic Constitution on June 18. Other new texts for rites included in the Roman Pontifical would be published in the following years.

What was then considered "solid scholarship" regarding the reliability of the liturgical formulas of "The Apostolic Tradition", by the Pseudo-Hippolytus, is very much disputed today (an introduction to contemporary criticism of the Pseudo-Hippolytus is available here).

Such formulas were, nevertheless, the basis for the Consilium's decision on the new rites of ordination in the Latin Church. The validity of such formulas is not in question*. Yet the lack of prudence and foresight of the scholars and prelates who approved, abetted, and promoted this upheaval is not immune to criticism.

This bold destruction of centuries of Catholic liturgy, of the gentle accumulation of layers of contributions added by men of all ages, by a committee of scholarly bureaucrats of the 20th century, who believed they were somehow "outside" History, that they could sit in judgment of their forefathers in the Faith and pick and choose what was "historical" and what was not, what was the "true tradition" and what was a distortion of it - this still strikes any observer as the epitome of arrogance and carelessness, of hatred for the magnificent edifice of Western liturgy.

It is curious to observe that those ecclesiastical bureaucrats, in their respectful meetings and silent work had the same attitude - if not the same mindset - of the barbarous youth protesting throughout Western Europe and North America in that year of 1968: they mistrusted all that was established, they needed to build something new, whatever it might be, to reflect modern thought, to attract "the man of today"... even if, in the case of the liturgists, their brilliant novelties were presented as refurbished antiquities, especially if they had a "trustworthy" Eastern appearance.

The New Roman Rite was born, exactly 45 years ago today.

*cf. "Why the New Rite of Consecration is Valid", by Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P., first published in Le Sel de la terre; translated and printed by The Angelus; more convincing arguments were penned by Brother Ansgar Santogrossi, O.S.B., and published by this weblog in 2007.

[Repost (original post, 2008)]


  1. As someone ordained priest under the new Pontifical and having been to countless diaconal and presbyteral, and a few, episcopal Ordinations I am more convinced than ever of the sheer banality and wordiness of the Rites.

  2. I have only been to one ordination. It was about 7 years ago in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. I had always heard how awesome and impressive ordinations were. This ordination was not either. I agree with Father (Presbyter) that the language is banal (what isn't since the dissenters implemented the Spirit of Vatican II?), but what took the cake was the rector trying to make everyone stand from the Sanctus to the Great Amen. His reason; so we could be uniform with one another (as opposed to the Church). Thankfully, the Church is Christ's and we have many wonderful priests who have been ordained pursuant to the new rite. And, some of them (including Presbyter), realize the shortcomings, albeit validity, of the rite. I have faith in the generations of Catholics to come.

  3. I have only been to one priestly ordination and it was under the old rite in 2011. It was awe inspiring.

  4. "Everything is bound up together. By attacking the base of the building it is destroyed entirely. No more Mass, no more priests. The ritual, before it was altered, had the bishop say, "Receive the power to offer to God the Holy Sacrifice and to celebrate Holy Mass both for the living and for the dead, in the name of the Lord." He had previously blessed the hands of the ordinand by pronouncing these words "so that all that they bless may be blessed and all that they consecrate may be consecrated and sanctified." The power conferred is expressed without ambiguity: "That for the salvation of Thy people and by their holy blessing, they may effect the Transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of thy Divine Son."

    Nowadays the bishop says, "Receive the offering of the holy people to present it to God." He makes the new priest an intermediary rather than the holder of the ministerial priesthood and the offerer of a sacrifice. The conception is wholly different. The priest has always been considered in Holy Church as someone having a character conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Yet we have seen a bishop, not "suspended," write, "The priest is not somebody who does things that the ordinary faithful don't do; he is not 'another Christ,' any more than any other baptized person." This bishop was merely drawing the conclusions from the teaching that has prevailed since the Council and the liturgy."

    - Excerpt from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's Book, 'Open Letter to Confused Catholics'

  5. The audacity of these deformers is astounding. The fact that they so willingly butchered the sacred texts shows their utter contempt for them. Why didn't they have a go at correcting Cicero's Latin, Shakespeare's English and Mozart's melody while they were at it?

    Now, as we are reaping their diseased harvest, they still will not admit that they were wrong. All the Catholic countries are turning pagan, even Ireland. What sign do they need to convince them of their folly? God save us from liberals, quick to act but slow to think about what they are actually doing.

  6. I started Catechism at age 6 in 1965. The words towards the end of this article, "their brilliant novelties were presented as refurbished antiquities". That is how my Catholic life was formed, or rather deformed. That was the time that many Priests and Religious abandoned their vocations. When the Church lost so many Catholics. We were told that the reforms were making everything better. The local Church at that time formed us into a Godless people. In my home town 80% of those around my age are now members of other Churches. They never received the Catholic Faith. Our parents were Mexican Migrants who never got a chance to receive Catholic instruction themselves. So they sent us to catechism believing that we would receive an informed Catholic Faith. We were instead poisoned. The errors of those who deformed us in our faith has a name. MODERNISM! Ironic that modernism is condemned as a Heresy by the Church, yet modernism rules the Church today.

  7. Sadly Charles F Byrne, previous pontiffs have had a go at correcting Latin from antiquity as a comparison of the hymns of the Roman office ('updated' to make them more like classical Latin) with those in the (unbutchered) Benedictine office will demonstrate, so in some regards 'the Vatican' has/had prior form ...

    However I wholeheartedly agree that what was done in the post-V2 changes is of a completely different and disturbing nature.

  8. Another thing happened in 1968 that has been overlooked- the publication of the "Credo Of The People of God" during the Year of Faith that he convoked in the 1967 68 year which as we all know by now. Pope Ven Paul certainly was at fault in this particular and other things but the point is this THOSE AROUND HIM WANTED RADICAL CHANGES but he himself did NOT but trusted these men who sadly took advantage of him

  9. Pius XII should have maybe added "but he probably shouldn't exercise it" to this one....

    "It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification. (Mediator Dei 58)"

  10. "A superficial revision of the text, therefore, could not be enough."

    The arrogance is simply breathtaking.

    "What prevailed in the decision [favorable to the new text] was the ecumenical value of the text."

    A single sentence which, alas, explains so much.

    One almost gets the feeling that we ought to have been running all of our new liturgical texts by the EKD Synod and Canterbury for approval. I'm sure Archbp. Bugnini could have found some seminarians to wax their cars while they looked them over.

  11. What is painfully obvious to most of the readers of this blog (i.e. that the new liturgy is at least inferior, if not a complete disaster; that the "renewal" has in fact created a wasteland; etc.) is, incredibly, not recognized by most of my colleagues at Franciscan, who continue to trumpet the Council and the liturgical "reforms" as wondrous events in the life of the Church.

  12. Here are the Byzantine rites of ordination to Priesthood and Diaconate. Of course, they take place during the Divine Liturgy.

    They are used not only by Orthodox but by Catholics of the Byzantine tradition.

    The Ordination (traditional word in the East) of a Bishop is similar, except there are three professions of faith before the imposition of hands.

    The word for conferring the major order is CHEIRTONOIA. The word for conferring minor orders, as well as various elevations and promotions is CHEIROTHESIA.

  13. These innovations will die a natural death.

  14. This puts me in mind of Chesterton (what doesn't these days!). He believed that true Conservatism arises out of love and most of us are here out of love for what was butchered, betrayed and disfigured by those who had no right to do so. Our love will win over their essential nihilism and pride.

  15. The hatchet-job done on the liturgy after V2 was absolutely horrendous, never mind the injustice perpetrated on at least two generations of Catholics deprived of a profound religious patrimony. Any talk of 'the fruits of the Council' or a 'new springtime' can only really be a form of denial given the evidence over nearly five decades.

  16. We're fighting a tough battle and the modernists still hold the high ground. My Father, who grew up with the TLM, returned to the Mass in the last few months. He told a friend he had begun attending the TLM and friend was stunned. He said he thought the TLM was illegal.

    It just goes to show how difficult the task is. Even those who attend Mass weekly have never heard of SP. It shows many, if not most of the Bishops, still strive to bring forth the "spirit of VCII".

    I suppose the one bright spot is the new generation of priests and seminarians are far more devoted to traditions than the political priests who came of age in the 1970's.

  17. I'm reading Michael Davies "Pope Paul's new mass right now. Reading all of what took place, is like watching the lord been tortured and stripped and scourged all over again.

  18. I read a time back that the Text of the Novus Ordo Missal sat on the desk of Ven. Paul Vl for 3 years before he signed it, he had his doubts. Cardinal Ottaviani and some other Cardinals brought it to the attention of His Holiness that there were some heresies in the new Missal. Ven. Paul Vl looked at them and ordered them removed. The new Missal intended for the Mass to be said Ad Orientem, that is Priest and people facing the same direction. Pope Benedict XVl made it clear many times that Mass facing the people started as a novelty. His intentions was for the Altars around the world to be turned back around gradually saying, "We must learn from our past mistakes. When the Altars were first turned around we lost many faithful Catholics". Annibale Bugnini called on the Congregation for Divine Worship to abrogate the Mass of St. Pius V, his request was denied. Many prayers were removed and Bl. John Paul ll said, "We cannot lose this great treasury of prayers". Pope Benedict XVl said that it was the will of God for the Usus Antiquior or the Old Mass to be placed back to its rightful place. I say we cannot reject God's will. Pope Benedict also said that the new Mass was created too quickly in a hazardous manner. St. Padre Pio and St. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer who both died after V2 and now Canonized, they would not accept the new Missal and had permission from Ven. Paul Vl to say the old Mass till their deaths. The SSPX has long said that the New Mass was created for the pleasure of Protestants. I always thought they were making this up. But this article proves me wrong. These are just bits and pieces I remember. But I believe they are well worth consideration. For years I have heard that the Church today is better than those pre-Vatican ll days. Being born in 1959 and not remembering the pre-Vatican ll Church, I totally disagree with them. Its time for modernists to face facts. The pre-Vatican ll Church was in fact 100 times better than the mess created by the officially condemned heresy of modernism. I am a Traditionalist Catholic, which means I love the Church not with lip service but with my whole being. We must give Spiritual Bouquets of repentance, prayer, penance, fasting and mortifications to the Most Holy Trinity, asking him to please save the Church now. Viva Cristo Rey!

  19. The irony of the matter is that in about 45 years from now the novus ordo will not be celebrated. For the simple reason that there will no priests left to celebrate it. The novus ordo does not produce any vocations. Paul VI and CAnnibale Bugnini put the church into the path of autodestruction. The only priests left by that time would be trained to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.
    Thank you very much for the article. It provides very crucial facts and information. I reposted it at the Ratzinger Forum; and, I provided all the appropriate links. Let me know if there is an objection.

  20. "The irony of the matter is that in about 45 years from now the novus ordo will not be celebrated." Yep, it will die a slow painful death unless we get a pope who will right the wrongs with strong action.

    "For the simple reason that there will no priests left to celebrate it." At the invitation of some SSPX friends I saw Bishop Fellay give a speech last year and he said in France and England half of young seminarians have a strong connection to the TLM. We can only pray that their superiors don't try derailing them as we are only too well aware of the hostilities toward the old Mass.

    "The novus ordo does not produce any vocations." Unfortunately the exception to this is Medjugorje conversions but hopefully that is put out of its misery sooner than later.

  21. Thank you for this great information . I too have returned to the Traditional Latin Mass ....thanks be to God!
    I thought like many others that this Holy Mass was gone...UNTIL I attended one (TLM) and I knew I was home. I am a faithful Catholic and have returned to embrace HER more watered down liturgy for me , I want THE MASS: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ...I pray for Holy Mother Church daily and for the end to all this madness ,,,truly what we are seeing has been told by Our Lady !


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