Rorate Caeli

“Two ‘Forms’ of the Roman Rite: Liturgical Fact or Canonical Fiat?” — Full Text of Dr. Kwasniewski’s Norwalk Lecture

In June 2017, I gave a lecture at St. Mary’s in Norwalk, Connecticut, on the intellectual and historical incoherence of the notion of “two (equal) forms” of the Roman Rite. Given the rapid progress that has been made in liturgical discussions over the past three years, with many more people now attending the traditional Latin Mass and seeing for themselves the truth of Mosebach’s words—“No one who has eyes and ears will be persuaded to ignore what his own senses tell him: these two forms are so different that their theoretical unity appears entirely unreal”—I have decided to make the transcript of the lecture available, and have chosen this date, September 14, for the symbolic reasons one might infer. The text below has been rewritten for its inclusion as a chapter in a forthcoming book with the tentative title: “Pass on Real Gold, Not Counterfeit”: The Immemorial Roman Mass and Fifty Years of Rupture, which I hope will appear from Arouca Press in 2020.

Two “Forms” of the Roman Rite: Liturgical Fact or Canonical Fiat?

Peter A. Kwasniewski

Every Catholic in the world—where he knows it or not—is indebted to Pope Benedict XVI for “liberating” the traditional Latin Mass with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. We may grumble about various things Pope Benedict did not do that we feel he ought to have done, but we must never fail to be grateful for the courageous steps he took, in matters in which nearly the entire hierarchy of the Church stood opposed to him. It was deeply against his nature to impose anything that would not be welcomed by at least a large number, and in this act he stood nearly alone. The motu proprio has caused innumerable flowers to flourish, countless fruits to be harvested. In this lecture, I come neither to praise nor to bury Pope Benedict, but rather, to examine an operative assumption in the motu proprio: that Paul VI’s Missale Romanum of 1969 (the “Novus Ordo”) is, or belongs to, the same rite as the Missale Romanum last codified in 1962, or, more plainly, that the Novus Ordo can be called “the Roman rite” of the Mass. This, I shall argue, cannot withstand critical scrutiny. Although I will be referring primarily to the Roman missal and the Mass, my argument would apply, mutatis mutandis, to the rites of the other sacraments, to blessings and rituals, and to the Divine Office and its substitute, the Liturgy of the Hours.

As a preliminary, we should define the terms rite and use, since they play a prominent role in any interpretation of Summorum Pontificum.[1] Apart from rarefied liturgical circles, very few Catholics ever speak of “uses.” We tend to say “rite” of a host of different phenomena: (1) a family of related liturgies, as when we say “the Roman rite includes the Sarum use”; (2) a specific member of that family, as when we say “the Missal of Pius V contains the Roman rite of Mass” or “the Dominican rite is making a comeback today”; (3) any particular liturgical service, as when we talk of “the rite of baptism” or “the rite of confirmation.” These ways of speaking are analogous applications of the word ritus, which originally simply meant “ceremony,” especially of a religious type.[2]


The distinction between “rite” and “use” has never been officially laid out by Church law, but we are on safe ground if we take “rite” as the broader of the two terms, referring to a constellation of liturgy, doctrine, spirituality, history, culture, language, and law proper to a certain church. A “use,” on the other hand, is a variation or local tradition within a certain rite. For instance, in the Byzantine rite there is the Greek tradition and the Slavonic tradition, which differ considerably in their features, but both are clearly Byzantine, as we see in their adherence to the Divine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. In the Western or Latin sphere of Christianity, history has known a variety of uses that may be considered variants of the Roman rite (broadly speaking), such as the Sarum use, the use of Lyons, the use of Braga, and the uses of religious orders such as the Cistercians, the Carthusians, and the Dominicans.[3] One might compare a rite to a species of flower, and a use to a varietal, or perhaps a color variation due to soil.


To identify a certain use as belonging to the Roman rite, one need only verify that the essential characteristics of the Roman rite are present in it. This would include the structure of the Divine Office and the structure of the Ordo Missae (not only the Canon, but also the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, etc.). With minor variants—usually of order, rather than of text—the vast bulk of the material will be the same from use to use as well.[4] One who looks though every single Missal or antiphonary of every use of the Roman rite will find the Introit Ad te levavi on the first Sunday of Advent, Populus Sion on the second, and so forth, and all with very similar chant melodies. Moreover, granting that there were many regional accents or touches of local color, it is obvious that the doctrine, spirituality, history, culture, language, and law distinctive of the Roman church permeated all these liturgical uses throughout Western Europe.


When traditionalists speak of “the Roman rite” nowadays, they commonly mean the use of the Roman curia that formed the basis of the Missal of Pope St. Pius V. In the remainder of this chapter, “Roman rite” will therefore refer to the use of the papal court that was extended to the whole Catholic world by the Bull Quo Primum of 1570, implementing the wishes of the Council of Trent, and which, for that reason, is often referred to as the “Tridentine” liturgy, the adoption of which was obligatory in any setting where a distinctive liturgical use of at least 200 years’ standing could not be demonstrated.


The problem


Now, we are all aware that Pope Benedict asserted, or established, or proposed, in Summorum Pontificum and in its accompanying letter to bishops Con grande fiducia, that there are “two forms” of the Roman rite and that the newer form is in continuity with the older form. He speaks also of a “twofold use of one and same rite” and “two usages of the one Roman rite.” He said, moreover, that “there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.” What does this claim of unity and continuity actually amount to? Can it be sustained?


Let me begin by stating the obvious. Never before in the history of the Roman Church have there been two “forms” or “uses” of the same local liturgical rite, simultaneously and with equal canonical status. That Pope Benedict could say that the older use had never been abrogated proves that Paul VI’s liturgy is something novel, rather than a mere revision of its precursor—pace progressives who wanted us to believe that it was but a new version of what came before; indeed, pace Paul VI, who seemed to think the new Missale Romanum was to replace the old Missale Romanum, just as every earlier edition since 1570 had been replaced by every subsequently promulgated editio typica (such as, in our own times, that of 1920 was replaced by that of 1962[6]). When Benedict XVI recognized that the former Missal had never been abrogated and that its use may be continued ad libitum, he intensified Paul VI’s resemblance to an autocrat: never before had a pope dared to change the Roman rite to such an extent that it could be treated by a later pope as if, for all intents and purposes, it were a new liturgy, not a revision or new edition of the same one. Dr. Joseph Shaw gives a knock-down argument based on the language of the motu proprio:


The traditional Mass is called the “former [earlier, older] liturgical tradition”: traditio liturgica antecedens (from Article 5). This tradition is not “expressed” by the Novus Ordo; if it were, people attached to it would be attached to the Novus Ordo, which is not the sense of the passage. On the contrary, it seems this is a different liturgical tradition: there are two, in fact, an older and a newer one. The fact that there is some important difference between the older tradition and the Novus Ordo is implied in an even more important way by the claim in Summorum Pontificum that the 1962 Missal has never been abrogated (numquam abrogatam, Article 1). Normally, each edition of the Roman Missal is replaced by the next; that this had happened to the 1962 Missal was a very common argument made by canonists before 2007, and this was the reason it was supposed that celebrations of it required an indult or special permission. Summorum Pontificum says that this did not happen. The explanation is not made explicit in the document, but it is clear enough: the 1970 Missal is not simply a new edition of the Missale Romanum like all the earlier (and, indeed, later) ones. Something different happened: it was a new Missal in the sense of being a new start, a new tradition, and therefore it did not replace and exclude (‘obrogate’) the earlier Missal.[7]


One winces at the palpable oxymoron of a “new tradition,” a philosophically incoherent notion.[8]


Thus, while Benedict asserts that there is no contradiction and no rupture, at the same time, and startlingly, he allows for the coexistence of two canonically equal forms of one and the same liturgical rite—an unprecedented and, in many ways, unintelligible situation. As we have seen, there have always been many different “uses” in the Latin Church, but that the use of Rome should be thus doubled has never been seen before. It may be likened to a case of dissociative identity disorder, or schizophrenia.


In reality, as Msgr. Klaus Gam­ber argued so many years ago in a book praised by Cardinal Ratzinger,[9] the modern rite cannot be regarded as the Roman rite or a use thereof, regardless of what Paul VI, Benedict XVI, or anyone else wishes to call it. To unpack the significance of this statement will require a critique of the inadequate mode of theologizing about the liturgy that has dominated the West for several centuries and has prevented us from recognizing our errors, repenting of our follies, and restoring our authentic traditions.


Neoscholastic reductionism


The principal objection likely to be raised to any claim of rupture between the classical rite and the modern rite will go something like this: “All of the differences you are pointing to are incidental; after all, if the consecration happens, it’s the sacrifice of Christ, and the rest is window-dressing.” Often summed up in the trite statement “The Mass is the Mass, after all,” this objection is built upon a neoscholastic reduction of the Eucharistic liturgy to the moment of consecration. This ahistorical and rationalistic reductionism deserves to be rejected because it dismisses the constitutive role of historically articulated tradition in God’s self-revelation to mankind.[10] It vitiates any notion of identifiable families of rites derived from apostolic churches, with venerable texts, chants, gestures, and ceremonies, handed down within irreducibly distinct traditions of theology, spirituality, and custom that interpret, enrich, and contextualize the sacrificial offering while instructing and nourishing the faithful who take part in it. All of this—the rites, their specific content, and the understanding and way of life that go along with them—deserves religious respect and preservation, in deference toward our predecessors and in charity for ourselves and our descendents. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger:


The “rite,” that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living Tradition in which the sphere using that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit that is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis, the handing-on of Tradition.[11]


The neoscholastic reductionism that defines the essence of the Mass as “having a valid consecration” is a major premise of liturgical progressivism. In almost any conversation about whether and to what extent the rite of the Mass can or should change, the proponent of tradition is challenged with: “But you can’t prove that the Novus Ordo [or any fabricated, experimental liturgy] is a bad thing. It has the words of consecration.” If one adopts this reductive vision of Mass, nothing will be left of liturgy as such. The “essence” will be identified with a particular formula and act of God, and the substance in which the essence resides, together with the multitudinous accidents by which the essence expresses its full meaning and power, will be lost. It would be like defining man as his intellect, rather than as a body-soul composite of a given sex and a given race, existing in space and time. Akin to the human person, the liturgy is a hylomorphic composition, not a disembodied consecration.[12] Again, Ratzinger identifies the problem with his usual perspicacity, warning us


against the wrong path up which we might be led by a Neoscholastic sacramental theology that is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the “substance” to the material and form of the sacrament and say: Bread and wine are the matter of the sacrament; the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary; everything else is changeable…. As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly “pastoral,” around this remnant, this core that has been spared and that is thus either relegated to the realm of magic or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of Tradition that had taken concrete form, that cannot be torn apart into little pieces but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.[13]


Since nearly everyone who came to the Second Vatican Council or who worked for the Consilium had been brought up on this superficial neoscholastic reductionism, they felt free to rip apart and reconfigure the Roman rite as long as they kept the words of consecration (more or less) intact. In this regard they were lab technicians committed all along to the result of a valid Mass but not feeling themselves ethically bound to any particular content or process. Indeed, the arrogance of the reformers could not stop at the threshold of the holy of holies, but went so far as to tamper with the formula of the consecration of the wine by removing the phrase mysterium fidei from within it, even though these words were uttered at that moment for as far back as we have written records of the Mass, which explains why St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century could plausibly claim apostolic pedigree for it.[14]


Reducing the Mass to a valid consecration is like reducing the nuptial act to a successful conception of a child. I sincerely hope no one is foolish enough to define the nuptial act as the conception of a child. The nuptial act is naturally ordered to the conception of a child, to be sure, but it has its own reality, its own meaning, that comprises more than conception; it is an expression of spousal love, which is designed to culminate in new life. Since, by God’s institution, life is supposed to proceed from love, both dimensions—the unitive and the procreative—are included in the defintion of the act. If the sole meaning or value of the union of man and woman were a viable zygote, the Church would have no reason to oppose in vitro fertilization. In like manner, the Mass is a privileged microcosm of unitive prayer with a Eucharistic finality. The presence of the sacrificial victim who is to be our divine food is conceived, as it were, by the liturgy in its totality. Even if the consecration takes place at a certain moment,[15] it has been prepared for and will be followed by a manifestation of love that suits us to receive the Lord and rejoice in His presence. When this does not happen, we face the specter of what might be called in vitro transubstantiation. The lab technicians, Ratzinger seems to imply, would raise no objection.


In sum, the problem with the neoscholastic reductionist approach is that it falsifies the reality of a liturgical rite as a concrete embodiment of apostolic tradition existing over the course of history—a history fraught with meaning and value, establishing a cumulative lex credendi (law of believing) for successive generations. The faithful are permitted to enter into this inheritance on condition of remaining humble recipients; the moment they dare to stand before a liturgical rite as its master and possessor is the moment they forfeit their claim to its fruits. 

Each rite has its own deep characteristics that make it irreducibly itself. No one would dream of defining the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as “essentially” a valid consecration, to which a multitude of florid prayers and hymns have been attached in order to give the people and the deacons something to do. In like manner, no one with a modicum of sense could define the Roman rite of Mass apart from the Roman Canon, which is its defining feature, or insist on the insertion of an explicit epiclesis when it never had one and does not need to have one. These rites are what they are—and thanks be to God for that.


What makes the Roman rite itself?


Without a doubt, we need to start over again with better questions. We should not ask: What is it that makes transubstantiation happen, but: What is it that makes a liturgy to be a Christian liturgy? And still more importantly, what makes this liturgical rite to be itself—Roman, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Byzantine, Syro-Malabar, etc.—and no other? When these are the questions we pursue, we find rich answers that show us the fittingness, the beautiful complexity and sufficiency, of each rite of apostolic derivation, and therefore, expose the anti-liturgical, anti-ritual, and ultimately anti-Catholic nature of the postconciliar liturgical reform.


Obviously, there are elements more and less central to a given rite; our list could be longer or shorter depending on how general or detailed a consideration we make. Some things can belong to the core identity of a certain rite and yet not be restricted to that rite, being found also in several other rites or even in all traditional Christian rites.[16] What, then, belongs to the “personality,” the identity or inner core, of the Roman rite?


I propose at least nine crucial elements: (1) the Roman Canon; (2) the use of Latin; (3) Gregorian chant; (4) the lectionary; (5) the calendar; (6) the Offertory; (7) the ad orientem stance; (8) parallelism of liturgical action; (9) the separate communion of the priest. The first six are, in content, specific to the Roman rite, although all traditional rites, Eastern and Western, have their own analogous versions of them; while the last three of these elements, which describe not so much content as manner of worship—eastward orientation, parallelism of action, and the separate communion of the priest—are found in all traditional liturgical rites. These three deserve to be included here because they, too, sharply distinguish the Roman rite from its modern impostor.


I shall expand a little on each of these elements.


First and most importantly, the Roman Canon, the sole anaphora of all uses of the Roman rite for 1,500 years, which goes back in its elements to the earliest centuries. So monolithic is the connection between this anaphora and this rite that we may safely formulate the rule: where there is the Roman rite, there will necessarily be the Roman Canon; and—outside of the special case of the diocese of Milan[17]—where there is the Roman Canon, there is the Roman rite. No Roman Canon, no Roman rite.


Second, the use of the Latin language, which began in the fourth century when Pope Damasus made the momentous decision to transfer the liturgy of Rome from Greek to Latin. Instead of referring to this step as the “vernacularization” of liturgy (as modern liturgists tendentiously do[18]), it would be far more accurate to call it the “Westernization” or even “Romanization” of liturgy, when it ceased to be tethered to the ancient Greek world and was firmly implanted in the Roman world as it had developed in contradistinction to the East.[19] From this point onwards, Western liturgies would remain in Latin for over 1,500 years, as befitted a culture and a civilization that always retained a fundamental unity in its marvelous variety. (Thus we speak tellingly of “Romance” languages and of “Latin” America.) The use of a single language of worship throughout the sphere of Roman Catholicism both reflected its unity and continually effected it: it expressed a true commonality and impressed it on the people wherever they lived and whatever vernacular they spoke.[20]


Third, the liturgical “vesture” of Gregorian chant, which is not a mere add-on or ornament, but the liturgy-as-sung, the liturgy in tones, rhythms, and cadences. The chant stands to the liturgy as bone of its bone, flesh of its flesh. The Proper and Ordinary chants articulate the shape of the rite, fill its content, sustain its spirituality, and guarantee its substantial continuity from one age of the Church to another. Without the non-negotiable presence of Gregorian chant in the sung liturgy, and without an identifiable and stable body of chanted texts for the Introits, Graduals, Alleluias, Tracts, Offertories, and Communions, we may safely conclude that we not looking at the Roman rite any more.[21]


Fourth, the cycle of readings, namely, the lessons and Gospels at Mass.[22] This is a topic on which much has been written in recent years; here it suffices to note that the Roman lectionary, almost as venerable in its antiquity and universality as the Roman Canon, was supplanted by the novelty of a multi-year lectionary constructed by “experts” for the Missal of Paul VI. The old and new lectionaries have very little overlap, as Matthew Hazell has shown.


Fifth, the calendar, with its particular clusters of Roman saints and its rhythm of Sundays, Holy Days, Ember and Rogation Days, vigils, octaves, and seasons, including Epiphanytide, Septuagesimatide, Passiontide, Ascensiontide, the eights days of Pentecost, and the Sundays after Pentecost. It is true that the calendar had a lengthy development, but there is no question it developed organically in certain distinctively Roman ways, which had always been preserved until various reforms of the twentieth century mutilated the calendar almost past recognition, beginning with the abolition of most of the octaves and vigils by Pius XII in 1955 and ending with the imposition of a new calendar in 1969.[23]


Sixth, the great Offertory of the Mass, which originated in the Middle Ages (its oldest prayer, Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas, having appeared in the Echternach Sacramentary of 895 AD). By “Offertory” here, I mean of course a true and proper Offertory characterized by prolepsis,[24] wherein the sacramental immolation of the victim is anticipated in oblative language that sets aside the gifts solely for a sacred use and firmly establishes the priest’s intention to offer an expiatory sacrifice for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Taken en bloc, the Roman Offertory prayers are unique.[25] The genuine Roman offertory is deeply in accord with the genius of the rite and was universally received and inflexibly maintained. In light of the principle of organic development, it may be compared with a branch successfully grafted into a tree so that it loses all foreignness and becomes a major part of the flourishing organism. Its removal in 1969 was not like a haircut but like the amputation of an arm or a leg; its replacement—a quasi-Jewish presentation of gifts, in which their divine, natural, and human origins are called to mind, and the people respond with a generic acclamation—is like nothing ever seen in Christian liturgical history.


Seventh, the ad orientem stance. We have no way of knowing just how early on this stance became normative, but we know that by the time the Church emerged from persecution into favor with the Roman state, it had become a universal practice in East and West, which could never have happened were it not apostolic in origin, as the Church Fathers claimed.[26] It belongs to the original configuration of all of the great historic rites of Christianity. Without it, a liturgy is no longer in actual continuity with apostolic tradition, however much it may enjoy a technical validity of the reductive sort mentioned earlier.


Eighth, parallellism of liturgical action. Even as eastward orientation is found in all liturgies of Eastern and Western Christendom, so too is the presence of many-layered simultaneous actions on the part of different ranks of clergy and laity. Because liturgy is an act of God in man, and of man towards God, rather than a human activity directed to the people, its prayers and rituals are frequently not intended to be seen or heard by the congregation, but are offered up directly to God. Traditional liturgy is not linear, discursive, and modular, but circular, intuitive, and organic. There is a progression from beginning to end, but it is the progress of a differentiated people towards a heavenly city, that is, the image of a hierarchical society moving towards its exemplar. The modern rite is sequential, like an agenda for a business meeting (in other words, usually only one thing is supposed to be happening at any given time, and everyone’s attention is supposed to be fixed on it); the classical rite builds up layer upon layer of action, done for God’s eyes and ears.[27] The one is a closed circle, rational and verbose, in which someone is always in charge; the other is eccentric, ecstatic, superrational, in which many are busy with their work and no one stands over against the group.


Ninth, the communion of the priest prior to, and in a manner ceremonially differentiated from, that of the people. His communion is required for the completion of the sacrifice; the people’s is desirable but optional. Again we see the same kind of distinction between clerical communion and lay communion in all traditional rites. It expresses the dogmatic truth that the priest acts in persona Christi capitis by virtue of a sacramental character of priesthood that sets him apart from and hierarchically above the simple baptized.[28]


It should go without saying that a liturgy is far more than a collection of texts in a book, the doctrinal orthodoxy of which one might evaluate in a philosophical vacuum. A liturgy comprises the chant melodies to which texts have been sung, century after century; it includes vestments, ceremonies, gestures, postures, actions. For example, the celebration of liturgy ad orientem is part of its nature, part of the ensemble of symbols that constitute the rite; it is no superficial, indifferent accident. A liturgy versus populum would be a different liturgy even if the texts were the same.


The modern rite is not the Roman rite


Now, it cannot escape the notice of anyone that, in regard to all of the foregoing elements, the modern rite of Paul VI is a striking departure from the Roman rite. It is possible for it to be celebrated in a way that follows some of the rite’s precedents, but it is equally possible for it to be celebrated in a way that is at variance with all of them. A very great number of celebrations, certainly the vast majority, are at variance with the Roman tradition, because


– the Roman Canon is not used;
– Mass is not offered in Latin;
– the liturgical texts are not recited or chanted; e.g., the Propers and Ordinary are absent, mangled, or delivered in a way inconsistent with their origins;
– the multi-year lectionary, that novelty of novelties, is employed;
– a severely reduced calendar is followed;
– the traditional offertory is lacking;
– Mass is not said ad orientem;
– the liturgy is sequential, a sure sign of the influence of Enlightenment rationalism;
– the priest’s and faithful’s communions are conflated.


Proponents of “mutual enrichment” or “the Reform of the Reform” might object that I am portraying a worst-case scenario. Surely, if the Novus Ordo were celebrated ad orientem with the Roman Canon and chanted Ordinary and Propers, would we not have a rite that is recognizably Roman? My response is that it would have some of the appearances of the Roman rite, but not the inner essence, for two reasons. First, it would still favor the sequential over the parallel, it would still lack a true and proper Offertory, and it would still follow both a novel calendar and a novel lectionary. Second, and more importantly, it would achieve these appearances of continuity only by means of the celebrant’s choice. That is, its continuity would be willed as a possible realization rather than received as a necessary rule of prayer. In this way the liturgical action remains the voluntaristic product of its users, even if its “externals” were borrowed from the Roman tradition with impeccable taste. One could also make this argument in a slightly different way: since the modern missal permits not only the Roman Canon but also alien life-forms like the “Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation,” we must judge the modern missal by the deviations it officially permits, not by the illusion of continuity it may support in the generous hands of Oratorians. This is simply an application of the proverb that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.[29]


Another way of seeing the same truth is to examine the euchological material of the missals, particularly the content of the orations (collects, secrets, and postcommunions). According to one scholar, only 17% of the orations of the old Missale Romanum survived unchanged in the missal of Paul VI. Let’s ponder this a moment. If my body lost 20% of its parts, I might still be alive, as long as those parts were external limbs; but if my body lost 83% of its parts, I would no longer exist. A liturgy that has lost 83% of its euchological material is no longer the same rite as its predecessor; it is a different entity. Or one could argue from the analogy of DNA. Nothing in a liturgical rite is merely “external,” any more than a person’s face, voice, or skin color is merely external. These things well up from our DNA, which carries the detailed instructions by which they are produced.[30] If we did a forensic DNA profiling of the “two forms” of the Roman rite, would we find them to be fraternal twins? Could a court of law establish the kinship?


Moreover, it would make no difference even if every prayer newly incorporated into the Novus Ordo had been taken verbatim from some ancient sacramentary. (Of course, this is not the case: almost nothing was left unedited, “negative” or “difficult” language was systematically removed or dampened, and many particular elements were fabricated from scratch. But let us assume the premise for the sake of argument.) There would still be rupture and discontinuity with the Church at prayer, with the real incarnate Church as she existed and exists, with her lex orandi, with the actual dispositions of the Holy Spirit. There would still be the ravages of an artificial and arbitrary antiquarian­ism; there would still be the rejection of the liturgy as it matured in the faith-life of the Church. Even in this best-case scenario, we could excoriate such a reform as unfitting, uncatholic, untraditional, un-Roman. What happened in the abattoir of the Consilium was, in actual fact, very nearly the worst-case scenario, not the best.


At this point, we could also “pull a Michael Davies” and appeal to the well-documented fact that those who were most closely involved in the liturgical reform made no attempt to hide their glee (Bugnini, Marini, Braga, Gelineau, et al.) or their chagrin (Bouyer, Martimort, Antonelli) at the retirement and replacement of the classical Roman rite, while those who deeply loved this rite (Lefebvre, Gamber, Dobszay, et al.) deplored the obvious rupture and discontinuity of the new liturgical books. Martin Mosebach comments:


No one who has eyes and ears will be persuaded to ignore what his own senses tell him: these two forms are so different that their theoretical unity appears entirely unreal. It is my experience that the pros and cons of “Mass reform” in the Church actually cannot be debated dispassionately. The opposing sides on this question have long faced each other with equally irreconcilable and fixed resolve: there can be no question of debate. Those who refused to accept that what had been everything was now nothing formed a tiny circle: in the words of the theologian Karl Rahner they were “tragicomic, peripheral human failures.” They were mocked, and at the same time regarded as highly dangerous.[31]


Putting the myth to bed


So much for the myth of “two forms of one Roman rite.”[32] When Roman Catholics attend the Novus Ordo, they are getting a Mass—but not the Mass of the Roman rite. They are getting what Klaus Gamber called “the modern rite,” whose genesis and scope are well described by liturgist John F. Baldovin:


The implementation of the reform, under Bugnini’s tutelage and involving dozens of experts in the fields of history, theology, and pastoral practice, resulted in the complete vernacularization of the liturgy, reorientation of the presiding minister vis-à-vis the assembly, an extensive and even radical reform of the order of Mass, and a major overhaul of the liturgical year, not to mention a complete revision of every sacramental liturgy and daily liturgical prayer.[33]


It is worth noting that Baldovin is by no means an opponent of the reform, so he is not intending, in a polemical way, to exaggerate postconciliar changes. His research supports the statement read at a press conference on January 4, 1967, by the aforementioned Annibale Bugnini:


A reform of Catholic worship cannot be accomplished in a day or a month, nor even in a year. The issue is not simply one of touching up, so to speak, a priceless work of art; in some areas, entire rites have to be restructured ex novo. Certainly this involves restoring, but ultimately I would almost call it a remaking and at certain points a creating anew. Why a work that is so radical? Because the vision of the liturgy the Council has given us is completely different from what we had before. . . . We are not working on a museum piece, but aiming at a living liturgy for the living people of our own times.[34]


The mentality at work is aptly skewered by Louis Bouyer: “If there is one fantasy absorbing us moderns, it is that of pure futurity. We would fain believe that the future, an untrammeled, creative future, is everything, and in order to enter upon it we are prepared cheerfully to sacrifice our entire past.”[35] Or, as Bishop Robertus Mutsaerts of ’s Hertogenbosch put it more succinctly: “We want to be relevant, apparently, at the expense of our own identity.”[36]


Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes this modern rite, we should at least agree not to call it the Roman rite. Calling something that which it is not is an abuse of language, which stems from an abuse of power and further perpetuates it.[37] Calling something that which it is not only strengthens the relativistic mentality of our age, which considers that whatever can be pronounced corresponds to something real. One is feeding the illusion that the power to say the words “2 + 2 = 5” makes the statement true![38] As the philosopher Charles De Koninck puts it:


One can say and write things that one cannot think. One can say, “It is possible to be and not to be at the same time and in the same respect”; “the part is greater than the whole,” though one cannot think such things. But yet, they are grammatically correct phrases. Transcendent power of language: one can say both the thinkable and the unthinkable.… I can say: “I do not exist.” And with that, I can found “I exist” on pure non-being. I say it! Who will stop me?[39]


We see how real and extensive is the damage wrought by the mentality of neoscholastic reductionism. It is the only atmosphere in which the outrageous enterprise of creating a modern rite in the 1960s could have sprung up. The same mentality has, over time, propagated itself to other areas of Catholic life as well. For example, that people today ask whether adulterers and sodomites may receive Holy Communion, as if the answer were not already obvious from Catholic tradition, shows that the Most Holy Eucharist has been reduced in the minds of many to a mere sign of belonging, foodstuff for the “table of plenty”—not a supernatural mystery that requires the full commitment of one’s mind, heart, soul, and strength to Jesus Christ really present, against whom one mortally sins by unworthily receiving Him.[40] Such moral and disciplinary reductionism is not, however, surprising against the backdrop of the wave of liturgical reductionism that went before, the “poster child” of which is the removal from the new lectionary of St. Paul’s warning against unworthy communions in 1 Corinthians 11:27–29, which, in contrast, was and is read at least three times each year in the traditional Roman rite.[41] Our age has provided a nearly scientific demonstration of the axiom lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.


It is more necessary than ever for Catholics to work for two great goods that stand or fall together: the recovery of a sound Eucharistic theology and the reestablish­ment of the actual Roman rite of the Mass.[42] Good theology and authentic liturgy work together to unveil to the eyes of faith the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the entire liturgy and, above all, in the miracle of the host and chalice, in such a way that Catholics will be able to experience once more the terrible beauty and challenging joy of Eucharistic communion, and will strive to order our lives and our societies according to Its demands.


Positivism vs. Tradition


The fundamental divide today is between a positivistic understanding and a traditional under­stand­ing of what liturgy is and what constitutes it as liturgy. If you adopt positivism, you can swallow the Novus Ordo or anything thrown at you, as long as it is done by so-called “legitimate authority.” If you adhere to tradition, as Catholics by definition should do, you will never be able to accept the Novus Ordo as a legitimate use of the Roman rite, even if you have to suffer through it to fulfill your Mass obligation.


I once saw a billboard along a highway. It had the names of a bunch of Christian denominations printed all over it in smaller letters, and then in the middle, in big letters: “Which is the real Jesus?” (Evidently, the toll-free phone number was meant to connect you with the real Jesus, or at least with those who presumed to speak for Him.) Then I began to think about a similar billboard that would have on it a bunch of liturgical rites, old, new, and imaginary, with “Which is the real liturgy?” printed on it. We don’t have a toll-free number to call, so how do we know which is the real liturgy? How could we know, apart from tradition? Even the papacy is something contained in and handed down by Tradition. If a liturgy cannot be traced back step by step over centuries of gradual development, we can recognize it as a rupture, a construct, an imposture, not a real liturgy in the full sense of the word.


Although still whispered rather than proclaimed out loud, this negative assessment is becoming more widespread among thoughtful Catholics—and they are acting on it. For example, the number of places that have quietly returned to the pre-1955 Holy Week is an astonishing advance that one could barely have imagined ten or fifteen years ago. Summorum Pontificum has set in motion a reform, the logical principles of which will lead back before the time of Pacelli and Bugnini.


We must, indeed, go back. Unlike modernity, Christianity is not based on the supposedly self-evident truth that we must always be “moving ahead.” The Christian Faith is a permanent tension between, on the one hand, memory—hoc facite in meam commemorationem, lingering over the life of Our Lord and entering into the transtemporal mysteries of His factual, incarnate, historical life, preserving at every step our bond with what has been handed down—and, on the other hand, looking forward not to a man-made future but to the second coming of Christ from the East. The modern notion of progress is foreign to Christianity, even antithetical to it. As believers, we are always striving to be equal to our past, to be humble and grateful inheritors of it; we are not better than our past, we must never think ourselves to be better, or we will be guilty of the sin of pride. At the same time, we are striving to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord and the establishment of a new heavens and a new earth, which is His prerogative, not our product. This continual preparation or receptivity by which we allow the soil of our souls to be cultivated and sown with the givenness of the Christian Faith is what makes us bear fruit—thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold—the more we receive and then transmit what we have received, enriched with whatever offerings the Lord has enabled us to add to it. A fruitful development is certainly possible, but only on condition of fidelity, reverence, and awe towards our inheritance.


The liturgical reformers rejected many prayers (e.g., the Offertory) as useless accretions; they saw them as pointless or even erroneous and therefore harmful. This attitude and the actions to which it led are reprehensible; indeed, one must call them a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They are certainly an insult to Our Lord, an insult He has punished in His loving justice by visiting upon the Novus Ordo a spirit of narcissism, dryness, and boredom, an astounding lack of fruitfulness, and an appalling dearth of vocations to priestly and religious life, in proportion to the number and needs of Catholics. To lovers and haters of liturgical tradition may be fitly applied the words of the psalmist: “With the holy, thou wilt be holy; and with the innocent man thou wilt be innocent. And with the elect thou wilt be elect: and with the perverse thou wilt be perverted. For thou wilt save the humble people; but wilt bring down the eyes of the proud” (Ps 17:26–28). The fact that vocations and large families abound wherever the traditional liturgy flourishes ought to be sufficient cause for a radical reexamination of the entire approach of the past sixty years, with its vain quest for contemporary relevance. The abuse of power, like the abuse of language that cloaks and sanitizes it, cannot last very long; it is like a man sitting up in a tree, sawing off the branch on which he is sitting. If the Lord intends the Church to endure in this world, a time must come when tradition is vindicated, and the project of modernization is exposed as the Satanic ploy it has always been.


I come, now, to several conclusions.


It is not any pope’s authority that makes the Church’s liturgy to be her liturgy. Papal authority may establish the edition of a liturgical book for the sake of unanimity of usage, but it is tradition that makes a liturgy to be itself. We know this to be true because Christians were celebrating their liturgies for over 1,500 years before any pope ever legislated a missal. The fact that St. Pius V legislated a revised missal in 1570 does not mean that popes always implicitly had the authority to establish or revoke liturgy at their whim or that, after 1570, they explicitly have the authority to do so. Rather, St. Pius V was codifying an existing apostolic rite, with such minor modifications as he deemed pastorally necessary. There was no question of a wholesale recasting of the rite from the ground up; no one would have dreamed of such a thing. It was literally unthinkable—and so it remains. As Michael Fiedrowicz writes:


Even the highest authority of the Church may not change at will the ancient and venerable liturgy of the Church. This signifies an abuse of power (abusus potestatis). The authority of the bull of promulgation Quo Primum is especially grounded in the fact that here a pope regulated the liturgy in the exercise of the fullness of his papal power and in complete consensus with the vote of an ecumenical council, and in addition, he found himself in accordance with the unbroken tradition of the Roman Church, as well as—regarding the fundamental parts of the Missal—in accordance with the Universal Church. Above all, the fact that the Missale Romanum of 1570 was intended to be the most perfect liturgical expression of the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, as the Council of Trent had defined it for all times over against Protestant errors, is a significant argument that the Missal itself, as well as the dogmatic definition of Trent, should remain substantially unchanged for all time.[43]


What Paul VI did was ultra vires papae, beyond the legitimate authority of the pope.[44] He created a pseudoliturgy or a paraliturgy that resembles the Roman rite; in no sense did he “revise the Roman rite.” He replaced the Roman rite with a new ritual that maintains sacramental validity but lacks honorable parentage. It must be considered a prayer service with a consecration, which confects the Body of Christ in an extra-ordinary fashion and not as the culminating point of an authentic historic liturgical rite of apostolic derivation. In this sense, it would have been far more accurate to call the Missal of Paul VI the “extraordinary form” and the Missal of John XXIII the “ordinary form,” since the latter is still largely in continuity with preceding editions of the missal, while the former falls outside of this missal tradition. The traditional Mass is a true liturgical rite, with all of the qualities or properties needed to merit that distinguished title; the modern Mass is a sacramental delivery system made up of parts manufactured by committee and newly assembled by each celebrant’s set of choices.


Like the entire Church, the pope, too, receives the liturgy as an inheritance; and even as he is supposed to conserve and defend doctrine in faith and morals, so too, and for precisely the same reason, he is supposed to conserve and defend the liturgical rites. Thus, the difference between Pius V and Paul VI comes down to this: Pius V recognized a rite as that of the Church, whereas Paul VI attempted to constitute a rite as that of the Church. It belongs to the Church to regulate rites, but not to create rites, as Joseph Ratzinger acknowledges:


After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West.… The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities…. The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.[45]


Pentecostal hermeneutics


This leads me to a final broad thesis. The Second Vatican Council was billed as a “new Pentecost.”[46] But a new or second Pentecost is impossible. Pentecost is the mystery of the Church’s identity and vitality down through all ages until Christ returns in glory; Pentecost is not a human event like a Fourth of July fireworks display, repeatable at will, but a permanent dynamism, expressed in the perennial freshness of the liturgy over which “the Holy Ghost … broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings,”[47] warmly remembered in all those Sundays after Pentecost that fill the authentic Roman calendar with bright green. Abbot Ansgar Vonier cannot find forceful enough words to drive home this truth:


The advent of the Spirit is as complete at the first Pentecost as will be the coming of the Son of God in the glory of the Father at the end of the world…. It is on account of this full measure of presence since Pentecost that the Kingdom of God is truly said to be with us on this earth, because the Spirit abides with us in the fulness of His divinity, not with a transient and provisional economy… No one ever came with such completeness as did the Spirit; no one ever arrived with such a resolve to abide for ever as did the Paraclete. For it is in the very nature of His coming that He should abide…. He came finally, totally, permanently, establishing the Kingdom of God of which there shall be no end…. The finality of the advent of the Spirit is one of the pivotal truths that make Catholicism what it is.[48]


There can be a new Pentecost only if the old one has failed; and in like manner, there can be a new liturgy only if the old one has failed.[49] If there can be a new Pentecost, there can be a new form of Catholicism, with new doctrines, new morality, a new liturgy, for a new humanity in a new creation—all of which can be openly in conflict with their old counterparts.


Martin Mosebach eloquently diagnoses the problem:


The “spirit of the Council” began to be played off against the literal text of the conciliar decisions. Disastrously, the implementation of the conciliar decrees was caught up in the cultural revolution of 1968, which had broken out all over the world. That was certainly the work of a spirit—if only of a very impure one. The political subversion of every kind of authority, the aesthetic vulgarity, the philosophical demolition of tradition not only laid waste universities and schools and poisoned the public atmosphere but at the same time took possession of broad circles within the Church. Distrust of tradition, elimination of tradition began to spread in, of all places, an entity whose essence consists totally of tradition—so much so that one has to say the Church is nothing without tradition. So the post-conciliar battle that had broken out in so many places against tradition was nothing else but the attempted suicide of the Church—a literally absurd, nihilistic process.

          We all can recall how bishops and theology professors, pastors and the functionaries of Catholic organizations proclaimed with a confident victorious tone that with the Second Vatican Council a new Pentecost had come upon the Church—which none of those famous Councils of history which had so decisively shaped the development of the Faith had ever claimed. A “new Pentecost” means nothing less than a new illumination, possibly one that would surpass that received two thousand years ago; why not advance immediately to the “Third Testament” from the Education of the Human Race of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing? In the view of these people, Vatican II meant a break with the Tradition as it existed up till then, and this breach was salutary. Whoever listened to this could have believed that the Catholic religion had found itself really only after Vatican II. All previous generations—to which we who sit here owe our faith—are supposed to have remained in an outer courtyard of immaturity.[50]


What we have seen in the past six decades is a clumsy revival of the medieval Joachimite heresy by which the Church would have entered the third and final age, a new age of the Spirit, which leaves behind the Old Covenant of the Father, represented by the tables of the decalogue and the animal sacrifices, and the New Covenant of the Son, represented by the Constantinian conjunction of Church and State and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The new age ecumenically and interreligiously “moves beyond” commandments and Christendom and traditional divine worship. With Paul VI’s liturgical reform, we move beyond the inherited liturgical tradition; with John Paul II’s Assisi meetings, we move beyond the absolute difference between the true religion and false religions; with Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, we move beyond the rigid confines of the Decalogue and the Gospels.


So many and such great novelties amount to a new religion, and a new religion is a false religion. The peculiar features of the “new Pentecost” or “new springtime” are manifestations of a neo-Joachimite heresy incompatible with confessional Catholicism. The collapse of the Church in our times has been the divine stamp of disapproval on the deliberate departure and the passive drifting away from Scripture, Tradition, and (yes) Magisterium, in these decades when amnesia has replaced anamnesis and sacrilege has supplanted sacredness. As obvious as the collapse has been—and it threatens to become only more earthshaking with each passing year—many are the blind eyes and deaf ears that register nothing but a narrowly-construed institutional self-interest. The ones who have noticed and responded to the unfolding ecclesiastical chastisement are the faithful, equipped with that sensus fidei by which they can discern between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, right worship and its deviations.[51] As an online writer noted:


It is the general untrustworthiness of much of the official Catholic media and printing houses that has made blogs so popular. This is especially true regarding the obvious cognitive dissonance any serious Catholic feels between the placidity and jolliness of the official media, and the reality seen on the ground, from the abuse of children to the abuse of sacraments, from the abuse of liturgy to the abuse of confidence, from the promotion of dissidents to the hiding of the statistics of the general collapse of Catholic demographics and practice in most of the world since this wintriest of springtimes began.[52]


The Church today suffers from heart disease: she is lethargic from fatty tissue and clogged arteries. She needs a heart transplant—but instead of getting a different heart, she needs to get rid of the artificial mechanical heart installed by her ill-informed doctors and take back the heart of flesh that her tradition grew within her. When this occurs, we shall witness, not a new Pentecost, but a renewal of the age-old and ever-youthful Christian worship of God in spirit and in truth, even as Our Lord prophesied and has already provided for us in His unfailing Providence. Dom Paul Delatte, abbot of Solesmes from 1890 to 1921, wrote of the Church’s traditional sacred liturgy:


In it the Holy Spirit has achieved the concentration, eternalization, and diffusion throughout the whole Body of Christ of the unchangeable fullness of the act of redemption, all the spiritual riches of the Church in the past, in the present, and in eternity.[53]


No wonder Dom Guéranger said, in a line I love to quote: “The Holy Spirit has made the liturgy the center of his working in men’s souls.” This is where our Pentecost is to be found; this is where the Church is perpetually reborn in her youth, finding ready to hand the one common language with which to praise, bless, glorify, and adore her heavenly King, until He returns from the east in glory. “I will go up to the altar of God, to God, who giveth joy to my youth.”


Another priest recently ordained in and for the Roman Rite


The notes will be further developed in the version published in book form.

[1] For this paragraph, I am indebted to P. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., “Due leges orandi, una lex credendi. Una riflessione sulla lettera ‘motu proprio’ Summorum Pontificum,” a paper given on June 13, 2015, as well as Gregory DiPippo, "The Legal Achievement of Summorum Pontificum," New Liturgical Movement, July 5, 2017.

[2] Suetonius equated ritus and caeremonia. Forcellini gives as the definition of ritus: “mos et approbata consuetudo, et praecipue in sacrificiis administrandis.” See William W. Bassett,  The Determination of Rite: An Historical and Juridical Study (Analecta Gregoriana, 1967), 22–23.

[3] Before the Tridentine reform, variants were almost always referred to as uses. For example, the frontispiece of the Sarum Missal reads: “Missale ad usum insignis et celeberrimae ecclesiae Sarum.” After Trent, the term “use” became rare, and “rite” was used in its place.

[4] As a consequence, any proper Mass or Office written for the one can be transposed into any of the others with no difficulty at all. E.g., St Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican and wrote the Office and Mass of Corpus Christi according to the medieval French use followed by his order—nine responsories at Matins, rather than eight, a versicle between Matins and Lauds, etc. Almost nothing needed to be done to adjust these texts for the “use of the Roman Curia,” which became the basis of the Missal and Breviary of St. Pius V. However, when the same Mass was added to the Ambrosian rite, all kinds of adjustments had to be made; the addition of a first reading, the antiphon after the Gospel, the oratio super sindonem, and the transitorium, none of which exist in the Roman Rite, as well as the removal of the Sequence, which has never existed in the Ambrosian rite. Vice versa, if one wanted to take the Ambrosian Mass in honor of St. Ambrose and transpose it into the historical Roman rite, one would need to mutilate it very badly, adding a Psalm verse and Gloria to the ingressa, removing the first reading, the antiphon after the Gospel, the oratio super sindonem and the transitorium, etc.

[5] The uses of Braga, Lyons, and Sarum continue to be used occasionally either for the Mass or the Divine Office or both; the Praemonstratensian use has reappeared; the Carthusian exists in a semi-reformed condition. The great exception would be the Dominican use, which is experiencing something of a renaissance among the younger generations of friars.

[6] A major edition of a liturgical book, promulgated in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, is called an editio typica. The 1920 and 1962 were such. The editions of the Missale Romanum from 1924, 1939, 1953, etc. are editiones post typicam of 1920. Similarly, the changes of 1964 and 1967 are considered variations on the 1962.

[7] “Is the Novus Ordo an authentic expression of the Tradition?,” LMS Chairman, December 14, 2013.

[8] Needless to say, Dr. Shaw is not meaning to assert this notion in his own name. A German canonist, Markus Graulich, argued with some plausibility that there is a distinction between the abrogation or derogation of a liturgical book, and the removal of the permission of clergy to utilize that book. He maintains that the old missal, as such, was never abrogated, but that the permission of priests to utilize it was restricted by Paul VI, who substituted for it the permission to use the new missal. Therefore, arguably, an indult was required by the celebrant so that he could licitly make use of a liturgical book which, in itself, had not been formally abrogated. This may seem like splitting hairs, and perhaps it is, but if true, it would better explain what Pope Benedict intended to do in Summorum, namely, having admitted that the old missal had never been abrogated, to proceed to grant a universal permission or faculty to all clergy in good standing to avail themselves of this missal (and of other traditional liturgical rites). See “Vom Indult zum allgemeinen Gesetz: Der Gebrauch des Messbuchs von 1962 vom Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil bis Summorum Pontificum in kirchenrechtlicher Perspektive,” in Zehn Jahr Summorum Pontificum: Versöhnung mit der Vergangenheit—Weg in die Zukunft, ed. idem (Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 2017), 13–54.

[9] Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background, trans. Klaus D. Grimm (San Juan Capistrano, CA: Una Voce Press and Harrison, NY: The Foundation for Catholic Reform, 1993).

[10] As I noted in chapter 1, “tradition” in its broadest sense encompasses even Sacred Scripture, which records the historical deeds and sayings of Israel, and is passed down within the Church (taking Israel as part of the Church, as Augustine and the Fathers do). All of God’s revelation to mankind comes in the form of paradosis or traditio, something handed down from above to the people, and from one generation to the next.

[11] Reid, Organic Development of the Liturgy, Preface, 11.

[12] Of course, the Divine Office fared even worse under the influence of liturgical reductionism, since the Office has nothing equivalent to the confection or conferral of a sacrament under a definite form and matter. Because it is purely a set of texts to be sung or recited, the possible extent of its deformation and corruption is almost endless. The only thing that could hold back the violent hand is respect for tradition, e.g., that such-and-such psalms have always been prayed at particular hours on particular days. We know that such respect was not a notable characteristic of the liturgical revolutionaries. The Liturgy of the Hours promulgated by Paul VI bears at best a vague resemblance, at worst none at all, to the Divine Office as it had been prayed for most of the Church’s history.

[13] Reid, Preface, 11. Ratzinger says at one point that “modernists and traditionalists are in agreement” on this reductionism. I am not quite sure what he means. Undoubtedly before the Council, everyone was teaching about sacraments in a reductive neoscholastic manner, but once it became clear that the progressives had embarked on a process of dismantling and reconstruction that would not honor any of the existing forms, a genuine traditionalist movement was born that took with utter seriousness the organic, holistic, aesthetic, and historical dimensions of liturgy. The figure of Dietrich von Hildebrand comes immediately to mind, as does, in a later generation, the learned Abbé Franck Quoëx.

[14] See my article “The Displacement of the Mysterium Fidei and the Fabricated Memorial Acclamation.” As if the loss of mysterium fidei in the words of consecration were not bad enough, translations into many languages falsely rendered pro multis as “for all,” causing confusion among Catholics educated enough to recognize that this verged on tampering with the very form of the sacrament.

[15] As a Thomist, I certainly accept that there is a moment of consecration, as I have defended in my article “On ‘Pinpointing’ Consecration: A Letter for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas,” New Liturgical Movement, March 7, 2016, and elsewhere. But if one looks at Summa theologiae III, q. 83, one will see that St. Thomas is far from being a liturgical reductionist. He sees the complexity of the Roman Rite, the meaning and value of each of its parts, and the respect with which it ought to be treated by those who worship in it. Scholastic precision does not have to devolve into neoscholastic reductionism.

[16] This is the approach I took in chapter 2, when contrasting the Novus Ordo with any traditional liturgy.

[17] The Ambrosian rite also features the Roman Canon. There is still a lack of scholarly consensus on the question of whether this Canon was always used in it or whether it was “imported” at some point to replace an earlier specifically Ambrosian anaphora. Our sources for the Ambrosian Rite are far fewer and later than they are for the Roman Rite.

[18] This way of speaking is deceptive, because the Latin utilized was a special type of Christian Latin developed for the purpose, with an elevated and hieratic register; it was by no means the common or “vulgar” language of the people.

[19] As Patrick Owens notes: “The elevated register of Christian Latin ultimately replaced Greek in the sacred rites of the West, in part because it was more palatable to the educated Roman elite than Greek or vulgar Latin. The evangelization of the Roman cultural aristocracy was the primary impetus behind the development of Rome’s own liturgical idiom” (Introduction to Spataro, In Praise of the Tridentine Mass and of Latin, Language of the Church).

[20] It is true that in rare cases the Latin liturgy existed in non-Latin forms, e.g., the Glagolithic Mass, the Slavonic Mass, and the Iroquois Mass. But these were the rare exceptions that proved the rule. Latin was always the dominant, nearly exclusive custom, and jealously guarded and valued as such.

[21] Even the Low Mass bears witness to this normativity of the chants of High Mass by requiring the recitation of the texts of the chants, although this is somewhat like a two-dimensional drawing versus a three-dimensional sculpture.

[22] For a thorough discussion and critique of the new lectionary, see Kwasniewski, “When the Yearly Biblical Readings of Immemorial Tradition Were Cast Away,” Rorate Caeli on May 24, 2019.

[23] The situation is rendered even worse by the constant “adaptations” that are permitted to episcopal conferences. To take two familiar examples in the United States, it is sheer liturgical nominalism to “transfer” the Ascension and the Epiphany to the nearest Sundays. By divine revelation we know that Our Lord’s Ascension takes place forty days after the resurrection, and therefore on a Thursday. Epiphany is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. It is one thing to celebrate the feasts on their proper days and then add so-called “external solemnities” on a nearby Sunday; it is quite another to abolish the proper days and simply shift them to the nearest Sunday. This is the liturgical equivalent of “gay marriage”: it is doing violence to the nature of things.

[24] Prolepsis is a figure of speech that means representing something as existing before it actually does; thus the Offertory speaks of “the immaculate victim” while the unconsecrated bread is being held aloft. Such ways of speaking are universal in liturgical traditions: the chanted antiphon that has always been called the Offertorium; the  Secret prayers; the Canon prior to the consecration. The Byzantine rites do it as well. The only thing that is strange, in fact, is the Novus Ordo’s avoidance of prolepsis.

[25] No other use has the first three prayers, or if they do appear, it is the result of a process of Romanization. The other elements all appear in the majority of uses, but mixed up in various orders. The Suscipe, sancta Trinitas is by far the most widely used. Although the wording varies, the substance is always the same.

[26] For example, St. Basil the Great, in his treatise On the Holy Spirit of 375 AD, argues that we should take seriously the divinity of the Holy Spirit for the same reason that we take seriously the celebration of the liturgy eastwards—namely, that it was handed down to us from the Apostles, and therefore is not subject to dispute. In other words, Basil takes ad orientem as an uncontroversial basis on which to defend the controverted divinity of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity!

[27] I do not deny, of course, that parts of the liturgy are for the people, but there is no part that is simply for the people, the way the “Liturgy of the Word” in the new rite is done. The way the old liturgy serves the needs of the people is by relentlessly ordering them to the divine.

[28] See my comments on the importance of the “Confiteor” before the people’s communion as marking a definite caesura in the rite: “Why the Confiteor Before Communion Should Be Retained (or Reintroduced),” New Liturgical Movement, May 27, 2019.

[29] It is not by an Oratorian Novus Ordo with a Latin Roman Canon, etc., that we must evaluate the missal of Paul VI, but by the most discontinuous celebration still permissible by the rubrics, e.g., one that is said versus populum, in the vernacular, with no Propers, no Confiteor, the second Eucharistic Prayer, communion in the hand, etc. Such a Mass is no less perfectly the Novus Ordo than the most glorious smells-and-bells Mass. Put differently, what is most characeristics of the Novus Ordo is not this or that configuration, but its ad libitum configurability. For this reason alone it has no claim to be in the family of the Roman rite. Instead, it is the modern papal rite, which happens to allow the Roman Canon and so forth as options.

[30] The phenotype derives from the genotype interacting with environmental conditions. The entire physical dimension is, moreover, the metaphysical counterpart of the individual rational soul, which is expressed through them.

[31] Heresy of Formlessness, new edition (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2018), 163.

[32] DiPippo ("The Legal Achievement of Summorum Pontificum”) defends Benedict XVI’s inventiveness by noting that he was attempting a stable canonical solution to a uniquely intractable problem. Had he estsablished that there were two Roman rites, the liberalization of the Vetus Ordo would have instantly granted biritual faculties to 400,000 priests; but calling them uses would have falsified the historical meaning of the term. He therefore invented the new concept of “form,” as if recognizing an absolutely anomalous situation in which two rites or uses have so much in common generically, and yet are so radically different in detail.

[33] “The Twentieth-Century Reform of the Liturgy: Outcomes and Prospects,” Institute of Liturgical Studies Occasional Papers 126 (2017): 1–13; at 4–5.

[34] Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979, n. 37.

[35] Cited in Lemna, Apocalypse, 52.

[36] “For the Record—Dutch Bishop: ‘In the synod, nonsense that would embarrass Luther and Calvin: and the Pope is looking on,’” Rorate Caeli, October 23, 2019.

[37] See Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power.

[38] On Fr. Spadaro's claim that in theology, 2+2 can make 5, see George Weigel, “Theology Isn’t Math; But It Is Theology,” First Things online, January 25, 2017.

[39] On the Primacy of the Common Good, Aquinas Review, vol. 4 (1997), 86–87.

[40] “Worthy reception” does not mean that we are already perfect, but, as John Paul II explained in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, that we have renounced mortal sin and have an intention of living according to all the commandments of God.

[41] See my article “The Omission that Haunts the Church—1 Corinthians 11:27–29,” New Liturgical Movement, April 11, 2016.  

[42] I have targeted neoscholastic reductionism, but what of St. Thomas Aquinas? Does he not bear some of the responsibility for this reduction of the Mass or the Eucharist to transubstantiation, about which he speaks at such great length, defending in detail the proposition that “the words of consecration” are the sole cause of the miracle? Thomas had a metaphysical mind that was uniquely qualified to tackle some of the thorniest difficulties in sacramental theology, but he does not deny the larger biblical and patristic framework of the entire discussion. Indeed, he shows that he is aware of it (as in III, q. 83, on the rite of Mass), even though he is far more eager to dig into the philosophical perplexities. In any case, it is important not to take St. Thomas as the be-all and end-all of theology. He is the Common Doctor, our guide to the discipline of theology; but he himself would be the first to command us to sit at the feet of the authors of Sacred Scripture and the great Fathers of the Church to whom he looked as constant reference points. He does not repeat what they have done, but develops into a system the principles and conclusions to which they bear witness. We still and always have need of the original data in the original manner of its proclamation. Scholasticism will aid us in our search for the truth, focusing our minds and purifying them; it will not substitute for a lifelong apprenticeship to the liturgy, the Bible, and the Fathers.

[43] The Traditional Mass: History, Form, & Theology of the Classical Roman Rite (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020), 36.

[44] Here I think it is valuable to make a distinction between power as coercive force and power as moral authority. Any pope has the raw power to promulgate a rite of Mass with a valid consecration, even one that has nothing to do with the Roman rite; but he would sin gravely in doing so (cf. Sire), for he has not the moral authority to act outside of the tradition he is to guard and defend.

[45] Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, Commemorative Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018), 180.

[46] For references to statements of John XXIII and others, see Thomas Hughson, S.J., “Interpreting Vatican II: ‘A New Pentecost,’” Theological Studies 69 (2008): 3–37.

[47] Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur.”

[48] Anscar Vonier, The Collected Works of Abbot Vonier (London: Burns Oates, 1952), vol. 2, pp. 9, 10, 13. See also Cardinal Journet on apostolic privileges in Theology of the Church.

[49] In fact, a “new liturgy” is a contradiction in terms; the Church has no mandate to institute such a thing. Even the Apostles developed their liturgy out of the Jewish temple and synagogue rituals and the Passover modified by Christ. No true rite is the work of a committee.

[50] “On the Occasion of the 90th Birthday of Benedict XVI,” Foreword to Peter Kwasniewski, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2017), xii–xiii.

[51] See Roberto De Mattei, Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church.

[52] “Alternative Catholic Media: Into the Catacombs,” Rorate Caeli, May 2, 2014.

[53] Commentary on the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, 133.