Rorate Caeli

“Is There a Mass of the Council?” — Article by Michael Charlier

Papal High Mass with Pope John XXIII in St. Peter's Basilica for the opening of the Council

(Published in German on November 19, 2022: source.)

Funny question  of course there is. It is the Mass celebrated by 10,000 participating priests and bishops on all days of the Council, and by the Roman clergy as well: the Mass whose Ordo had been purged of some of the errors of the then-modern age after the Council of Trent on its behalf, and so promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570. Not as a "new" Missal  in many respects rather restored to the state of the 13th century  and a fortiori not as a new and exclusive form of the lex orandi of the Roman rite, but as the Holy Mass as it had been since time immemorial (Pope Damasus in the 4th century, Pope Gregory in the 6th century) and always should be in the future.

But if this Mass was the "Mass of the Council", if all the bishops and priests celebrated it devoutly every day in order to make the Lord's redemptive sacrifice present in an unbloody way, how could there have been any other "spirit" in the Council Hall and later in its documents than the very one that the Council Fathers implored every morning in the prayer "Veni, Sanctificator omnipotens"? What do these Rochegrillos expect of us when they claim, without sinking into the ground with shame, that the Council Fathers invoked a spirit with an expiration date in the morning and then listened to that of the future in the afternoon? Is the Holy Spirit schizophrenic? Or is it not rather the Bergoglian master thinkers who want to sell us their invention of the no longer compatible leges orandi. And they do not even want to "sell" it or make it otherwise palatable. They want to force it on us, under blatant abuse of their official power, in a manner that has never been seen before in the Church.

But if the Mass of the Novus Ordo of 1969/70, thus declared to be sacrosanct and the only blessed-making Mass, is not the Mass of the Council, then... what is it? Now that is a really good question — and you can tell it's a good question just by the fact that it is by no means easy to answer.

To start on the surface: The Novus Ordo is a new rite developed by the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia commission, appointed by Paul VI in 1964 under the direction of the controversial Annibale Bugnini, and then promulgated by the Pope in 1969. It is an official rite of the Roman Church  though no longer the Roman rite as celebrated from Gregory the Great to John XXIII. It was put into effect in 1969, although the conditions for its use had not yet been satisfactorily created. There was not, for example, even a regular Novus Ordo missal in Italian on the date of its official introduction. Nevertheless, the mere legality of Paul VI's act can hardly be disputed  a pope would have to drastically violate every applicable law to justify a negative judgment on that head. But strong doubts remain about the legitimacy and prudence of his action.

One doubt about legitimacy is based on the fact that the Consilium went far beyond the mandate given to it  which, moreover, was formulated in a highly imprecise manner  to "execute the Constitution on the Liturgy," and that this Constitution  like all documents of Vatican II  is not free of unclear and contradictory statements.

Doubts about the prudence, that is, about the wisdom and appropriateness of the promulgation, can also be justified after 60 years in a very practical way by the fact that the reform in its execution has literally nowhere achieved even a single one of the goals whose hoped-for achievement was the sole justification given for the overhaul. As a general rule, the Council Fathers had decreed at the time: "Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing" (SC 23). Now that the damage is unmistakably before everyone's eyes, it would be an imperative of honesty and truth to take this into account and to undo what has brought no benefit.

However, there has long since been no agreement on exactly what is benefit and what is harm. What the supporters of tradition deplore as damage is seen by the propagandists of synodal ways almost as confirmation of their reformatory ideas! Decreased participation in the divine service, for them, corresponds only to the general (inevitable as they think) social tendency. Disappearing belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament... well, for them, that's only a dogma that has become untenable owing to modern science. Leveling of the liturgical role of the priest in the liturgy — why, that's the way it has to be in the democratic society of the free and equal! Reservation of the role of "alter Christus" at the altar only for men (and, for that matter, the reservation of the role of bearer of new life only for women!)  these are really outdated role clichés, from which the church must emancipate itself as quickly as possible, in company with secular society.

The often heard criticism that the "reformers" of liturgy (and of doctrine) always recommend, as a remedy against the misery, only more of that same medicine that has already proved its ineffectiveness for decades, is based on a misunderstanding on the part of the critics. The "reformers" themselves do not see any misery, and all the more have they no desire to cure any "disease." "Disease" and decay  in their eyes these are no more than the birth pains of a new and better world. They believe firmly and unbreakably  just as their ancestors had believed in supernatural salvation  in a development dictated by the spirit of the world and of the times, the great Progress that leads to ever greater heights of humanity. To rigidly refuse this Progress, to stop it nostalgically or even to want to undo it "indietristically"  well, this is the sickness, this is the only sin that remains and must be overcome in a world that has freed itself from sin. "Forward always, backward never"  that was the great motto of the great Chairman of the Council of State Erich Honecker, who by that alone has earned himself a place of honor among the church fathers of the New Church.

But why then do they always speak of "the Council" and praise "the Mass of the Council," supposedly decided by the Council, incessantly in the loudest tones? Doesn't such an assembly of old white men per se represent something outdated? Isn't it the expression of a spirit whose overcoming has been imperiously put on the agenda by the commandment of Progress?

You must see this dialectically, dear friends and comrades. On the one hand, the canonization of the Council is an excellent means to grab the backwardist Catholic people by their instincts to be faithful to tradition, to the bishops, and not least to the Pope  and to grab such an instinct and then bend it into its opposite is of course a hellish pleasure for every propagandist of dialectics.

And then, of course, there is some truth in the matter  at least if you look at it from the right perspective. For instance, if you look at it from the perspective of Karl Rahner SJ and his descendants, the Council was the beginning of a beginning, the starting signal for a stormy development, yes; and where to? Forward, of course; and away from everything that was before. Seen in this way, every departure from what was before the Council is nothing other than the faithful fulfillment of the Council's very mandate. And 2 + 2 = 5, at least for the Jesuits — and if they have their way, for everyone.