Rorate Caeli

Dominican Theologian Attacks Catholic Tradition (Part 3): Getting Our Dogmatic Facts Straight

Dominican Theologian Attacks Catholic Tradition (Part 3):
Getting Our Dogmatic Facts Straight

Dr. John R.T. Lamont

(See Part 1 and Part 2.)

Third argument: the Novus Ordo is nothing other than a revised Roman rite

"The missal of Paul VI is simply a revised and reformed version of the Roman rite that has always existed. The changes to the missal introduced by Paul VI were no more than a return to earlier features of the Roman rite. Dr. Kwasnieswki’s assertion that the missal in use prior to the missal of Paul VI cannot be suppressed because it contains the immemorial Roman Rite is therefore baseless, because the immemorial Roman rite is contained in the missal of Paul VI just as much as in any previous missal."[1]

This position contradicts easily verifiable historical facts. The entire lectionary, large numbers of orations, and three of the new Eucharistic prayers in the Novus Ordo are new productions that have no sources in the Roman rite. The materials of much of the Novus Ordo were taken from older liturgical books, but they were not simply inserted into the new missal; they were ‘centonized’—broken up into component phrases and rearranged to say something entirely different. The Novus Ordo is a liturgical innovation with no precedents in history.
A common defence of this argument is given by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household. His words cast light on the beliefs and motivations of those who make this claim about the Novus Ordo.

At the beginning of the Church and for the first three centuries, the liturgy was truly a “liturgy,” that is, the action of the people (laos—people—is among the etymological components of the word leitourgia). From St. Justin, from the Traditio Apostolica of St. Hippolytus, and other sources of the time, we obtain a vision of the Mass that is certainly closer to the reformed one of today than to that of the centuries behind us. What happened? The answer is an awkward word which, however, we cannot avoid: clericalization! In no other sphere was it more conspicuous than in the liturgy. Christian worship, and especially the Eucharistic sacrifice, underwent a rapid transformation, both in East and West, from being an action of the people into being an action of the clergy. Christian worship, and especially the Eucharistic sacrifice, underwent a rapid transformation, both in East and West, from being an action of the people into being an action of the clergy. For centuries, the central part of the Mass, known as the Canon or Anaphora, was pronounced by the priest in a low voice, in Latin, behind a curtain or a wall (a temple within a temple!), out of the sight and hearing of the people. The celebrant only raised his voice at the final words of the Canon: “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” and the people replied, “Amen!” to what they hadn’t heard, let alone understood. The only contact with the Eucharist, announced by the sound of the bells, was the moment of the elevation of the Host.

There is an evident return to what was going on in the worship of the First Covenant. The High Priest entered the Sancta sanctorum, with incense and the blood of the victims, and the people stood outside trembling, overwhelmed by the sense of God’s tremendous holiness and majesty. The sense of the sacred is at its highest here, but, after Christ, is it the right and genuine one? ... The holy has changed the way of manifesting itself: no longer as a mystery of majesty and power, but as an infinite capacity of hiding and suffering.[2]

This is a pure ideological fantasy. St. Justin Martyr, the tradition of Hippolytus, and the other early sources on the Christian liturgy either contradict or do not support this account.[3] At no time was the Eucharistic sacrifice an “action of the people.” The power to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been held to be the defining attribute of the priest—as St. Justin Martyr among others make clear. This was taught moreover by the Second Vatican Council in its decree Presbyterorum ordinis. The features of the liturgy that Fr. Cantalamessa repudiates as “clericalization” are features of the eastern Catholic liturgies, which the Council ordered to be valued and preserved.

This rejection of the spirit of the worship of the Old Covenant, and the claim that the holy now manifests itself as hiding and suffering rather than as majesty and power, is repellent and absurd. The whole point of the worship of the Old Covenant was to signify and foreshadow the action of Christ; to reject its spirit is therefore to reject Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection were not the abdication of majesty and power, but their highest manifestation, a manifestation which all the elaborate worship of the Old Covenant could only feebly suggest. The TLM and the other traditional liturgies of the Church, with the architecture and music that were created to accompany them, are all designed to convey this majesty and power. The idea that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was simply an experience of hiddenness and suffering is reminiscent of Lutheran soteriology, and is incompatible with Scripture and with Catholic teaching and tradition. By Fr. Cantalamessa’s logic, the Eucharistic liturgy should as far as possible convey hiddenness and suffering; this can be passed over without comment.

Fourth argument: Benedict affirmed the unity of the two “forms” of the Roman rite

"Pope Benedict XVI taught that the missal of Paul VI is not a different liturgical rite from the TLM. Dr. Kwasnieswki’s claim that the two missals are fundamentally different, and that the missal in use prior to the missal of Paul VI cannot be suppressed because it contains the immemorial Roman Rite, thus contradicts Catholic teaching."[4]

Fr. Donneaud rejects Dr. Kwasniewski’s claim that the TLM and the ritual of Paul VI are so different in content that the latter can in no way be considered as a revision or a new version of the former.[5] On the criteria that Fr. Donneaud advances for the identity of the Roman rite, this is undoubtedly correct. As we have seen in Part 1, these criteria state that a ritual that preserves the matter and form of the sacraments, and that is presently being used by the Bishop of Rome is the Roman rite.

It is difficult to see how Fr. Donneaud could explain the instructions of the Second Vatican Council on the basis of these criteria; did Sacrosanctum concilium, when stating that the substance of the Roman rite should be preserved in any liturgical revision, mean only that the matter and form of the sacraments should be preserved? Such an instruction would have been so unnecessary as to be absurd, and it is not plausible to claim that it is what the Council meant.

In fact, the Council understood the substance of the Roman rite to consist in more than the matter and form of the sacraments. This is also Dr. Kwasniewski’s understanding, and the understanding of any sound theology or historical scholarship. Dr. Kwasniewski would agree that the Novus Ordo is celebrated by the Bishop of Rome, and that it preserves the matter and form of the sacraments; he rejects the idea that these two factors are sufficient to make a ritual a form of the Roman rite. He holds that any form of the Roman rite must contain the substance of the content and structure of the historical forms of the Roman rite as they have existed at least since Pope Gregory the Great. This position is correct, so Dr. Kwasniewski’s thesis that the TLM and the Novus Ordo are different rites should be evaluated by his own criteria for identity of rites, rather than by Fr. Donneaud’s.

Fr. Donneaud accuses Dr. Kwasniewski of formally contradicting papal teaching by maintaining that the missal of Paul VI cannot be considered as a revision or a new version of the missal of John XXIII or of any of its predecessors:

However, when Benedict XVI teaches that the missals of Pius V and Paul VI are “two implementations [mises en œuvre {sic}] of the same rite” he does not limit himself to describing a fact that is open to question and to pronouncing a personal opinion; he declares with the authority of the successor of Peter that these two missals express the same truth of the lex orandi, evolving but without rupture, of the Roman rite.[6]

The assertions that Summorum pontificum and its accompanying letter make about the missals are misrepresented by Fr. Donneaud, and do not contradict Dr. Kwasniewski’s thesis about the two missals.[7]

In the authoritative Latin version of Summorum pontificum, the text that Fr. Donneaud quotes above reads thus: “Hae duae expressiones ‘legis orandi’ Ecclesiae, minime vero inducent in divisionem ‘legis credendi’ Ecclesiae; sunt enim duo usus unici ritus romani.” The text asserts that the two missals do not create any division in the lex credendi of the Church. This does not imply that the later missal is simply a version of the earlier one; this could be said with just as much truth of the TLM and the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

The text does not say that the two missals are “mises en œuvre,” implementations, of the same rite. It says that they are two uses of the same rite. This is a legal statement that is needed in order to permit priests to say both the TLM and the Novus Ordo. A priest is not entitled to celebrate the Eucharist in a rite to which he does not belong, unless given specific faculties to do so. If the TLM and the Novus Ordo had been characterized as different rites in the motu proprio, this would have legal force, and priests ordained in one of these rites would not be able to say Mass in the other one without being given special faculties for it. Such a consequence would have frustrated the goal of the motu proprio, and it was therefore necessary for Benedict to specify that the TLM and the Novus Ordo are to be considered to be the same rite, at least for canonical purposes. He characterized the difference between them as a difference between uses of the same rite. A use is a variant of a given rite, such as the Use of Sarum, and there is no obstacle to a priest saying Mass in any use that belongs to his own rite.[8]

This characterization does not have to be understood as a recognition of a pre-existing fact about the two missals, with the difficulties that the postulation of this alleged fact would involve; it need only be read as a legal decision that states that the two rituals are to be treated for canonical purposes as two uses of the same rite. There is no magisterial teaching asserting that the missal of Paul VI is a revision or a new version of the missal of John XXIII in this text.

Fr. Donneaud alleges that Dr. Kwasniewski’s position on the difference between the two missals contradicts Benedict XVI’s teaching 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.” This statement needs to be considered in its context in the letter. This context is as follows:

I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden.

This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.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 earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.

When he states that there is no rupture in the history of the liturgy, Benedict XVIX is not talking about the extent of the differences between the missal of John XXIII and the missal of Paul VI. The rupture that Benedict XVI refers to is the rupture that would be involved in legally suppressing the missal of John XXIII. Benedict points out that this rupture never occurred in law, regardless of what was done in practice; “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.” This permission to use the old missal is then confirmed by his decree in Summorum pontificum guaranteeing the right of every priest of the Latin rite to use this missal. The content of this decree rules out this rupture occurring in the future. That is what Benedict XVI meant by there being no rupture in the history of the liturgy.

The titles of Summorum pontificum and Traditionis custodes indicate that they are intended for legislative purposes. Both of them describe themselves as apostolic letters given motu proprio on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to 1970. Their contents should therefore normally be understood as legislative enactments rather than as magisterial teachings. However, as Fr. Donneaud observes, legislation in the Catholic Church should have a dogmatic basis.[9]

In Summorum pontificum and its accompanying letter, Benedict XVI made three fundamental legal rulings: (1) the missal of John XXIII was never abrogated; (2) its celebration was in principle always premitted; (3) its use together with the use of the other books of the Roman rite that preceded the books promulgated by Paul VI was henceforth permitted under the terms specified in the motu proprio. He then explains the theological reason for these rulings: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

This theological reason is the dogmatic fact presented in Summorum pontificum and its letter of accompaniment. It can therefore be seen that it is not Dr. Kwasniewski, but Fr. Donneaud, who is denying a dogmatic fact. This fact is not taught with the highest degree of papal authority—perhaps Benedict XVI in his innocence thought that its obvious truth would be sufficient to secure assent to it—but it is taught in an official document. The tactic of falsely accusing an opponent of the very offence that one is committing oneself is a common one in propaganda. It is surprising and unfortunate to encounter this tactic in scholarly publications printed in respected academic journals.

Fr. Donneaud does not address the substance of Dr. Kwasniewski’s case for the TLM and the Novus Ordo being different rites. He can dismiss this case out of hand if he is granted his own criteria for the identity of the Roman rite, but since these criteria are not in fact correct, he would have had to respond to Dr. Kwasniewski’s arguments in order to have a basis for rejecting his position.

Annibale Bugnini

Dr. Kwasniewski cites Abp. Annibale Bugnini, the main architect of the new liturgy, as evidence for his claim:

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.[10]

Dr. Kwasniewski’s careful description of the numerous fundamental differences between the TLM and the Novus Ordo show that Abp. Bugnini achieved his ambition.[11] This is scarcely surprising, in view of the obvious artificiality and implausibility of the claim that the Novus Ordo is a version of the TLM. The radical difference between the two forms of worship is the first thing that strikes anyone who is familiar with the Novus Ordo and attends a TLM for the first time. This radical difference is the reason why there is a debate over the two missals in the first place. It is the reason why Benedict XVI had to issue Summorum pontificum, and why Francis issued Traditionis custodes in response to Summorum pontificum.

The radical difference between the two missals is acknowledged by most of the important supporters of Traditionis custodes, and is given by them as the reason why Francis’s motu proprio was necessary and a good idea.

Cardinal Arthur Roche, the prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship who has been working to eradicate the TLM, gave this reason for the suppression of the old missal:

You know the theology of the Church has changed. Whereas before, the priest represented, at a distance, all the people. They were channeled, as it were, through this person who alone was celebrating the Mass. It is not only the priest who celebrates the liturgy but also those who are baptized with him. And that is an enormous statement to make.[12]

Andrea Grillo

Andrea Grillo, professor of Sacramental Theology and Philosophy of Religion at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome (Sant’Anselmo), has maintained that the TLM differs fundamentally from the Novus Ordo, and has argued that these differences require the suppression of the TLM:

The liturgical reform has profoundly altered the understanding of the celebrating Church, the subjects involved in it and the tradition to which they acknowledge they belong. The space of an “actuosa participatio,” which the preconciliar rite had profoundly forgotten, reappears at the center of experience and demands new subjects, new actions, new spaces and new times. To remain (or return) to Pius V is to have failed to understand this profound change and/or to want to explicitly contradict it.[13]

Grillo consistently rejects as false Benedict XVI’s teaching that what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.[14] He locates Traditionis custodes within Pope Francis’s general policy of suppressing old Catholic teachings and practices that need to be dispensed with. Grillo considers that just as the TLM is based on wrong and outdated conceptions, so the Church’s teaching on the nullity of marriage is based on wrong and outdated teachings. Both the TLM and the teaching on the nullity of marriage must therefore be rejected, and Pope Francis is worthy of praise for doing just that: rejecting the TLM in Traditionis custodes, and rejecting the nullity of marriage in Amoris laetitia.[15] 

Grillo makes a significant criticism of the TLM’s formularies.[16] He cites the collect and postcommunion prayers for the 1962 missal’s Votive Mass in Time of War, and a Prayer Against Enemies from the same missal:

O God, Who dost stamp out wars and vanquish the assailants of them that hope in Thee, help us when we cry to Thee, that the ferocity of our enemies may be brought low, and we may praise Thee with unceasing thanksgiving. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.[17]

O God, Who hast dominion over all kingdoms and all kings, Who dost both heal us by smiting and preserve us by pardoning, stretch forth Thy mercy toward us, that we may employ for the uses of correction the tranquility and peace secured by Thy power. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.[18]

O Lord, may this communion release us from sins: and defend (us) from the plots of enemies.[19]

Grill denounces these texts as scandalous. Their offence, in his eyes, is that they present God as being capable of approving of one side in a war as just, and the other side as unjust:

God is made the authoritative and somewhat blind principle of a broken reality, torn and harshly divided into two opposing sides, between friend and foe, good and evil, positive and negative. God becomes the guarantee of despair, not hope; he becomes the principle of curse, not blessing; of envy, not praise; of ingratitude, not thanksgiving.[20]

The Collect of the Missal of 1962, the last exemplar of the Tridentine tradition, and which some today claim to use as if nothing happened, sounds like a prayer toward a God who “takes part in the conflict,” who has enemies and helps one side against the other.[21]

Seeing any human act of violence as justified by God is according to Grillo itself an act of violence towards God. Grillo acknowledges that the understanding of God and His involvement in history found in the 1962 Missal is also found in the Old and New Testament, but he does not consider this to be an excuse for the old liturgy. Grillo considers the prayer for enemies to be scandalous because it presumes that the person uttering the prayer has enemies. As well as this inadmissible presumption, the prayer presents a face of a God who chastises and punishes his servants (“ricostruisce un volto di Dio che castiga e punisce i suoi servi”). Grillo contrasts these prayers of the old rite with the prayers in the 1970 missal for Votive Masses in Time of War or Civil Disturbance, which do not have these objectionable features.[22] Rejection of these attitudes of the old missal—and of the Scriptures—is in Grillo’s view “a moral growth and cultural deepening that cannot be considered ‘optional’” (“la riforma liturgica non è soltanto un passaggio tecnico tra diversi riti, ma una crescita morale e un approfondimento culturale che non può essere considerato ‘opzionale’”).

Grillo’s analysis here is a useful supplement to the work of Dr. Lauren Pristas, who has examined the  differences between the theological outlooks of the TLM and the Novus Ordo.[23] Grillo further confirms Pristas’s demonstration that the TLM and the Novus Ordo are not only very different, but very different in their theological message. Grillo adds what Pristas is generally too tactful to say, which is that these differences are incompatibilities, that they were the main reason for the production of the Novus Ordo in the form it was given, and that they are the reason for the rejection of the TLM by many clerics and theologians today.

We can note that Fr. Donneaud does not extend his horrified disapproval of Dr. Kwasniewski to Prof. Grillo, or indeed to Abp. Bugnini, despite their public agreement with Dr. Kwasniewski about the fundamental differences between the Novus Ordo and its predecessor.

Fifth argument: The Holy Spirit does not inspire liturgical rites

"Dr. Kwasniewski argues that the TLM is essential to the good of the Church, and that as a result no ecclesiastical authority can forbid its use or promulgate a different form of worship for the Latin rite. The reason he offers for this assertion about the TLM is the claim that the Roman liturgy has developed in two stages; a first stage, in which the liturgy developed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and a second stage, in which the development of the liturgy was substantially complete, and the task of the Church is to preserve and practice what the Holy Spirit had produced. This reason contradicts the Catholic teaching that revelation is complete with the death of the last apostle, and hence that no new divine revelation can occur after that event."[24]

The author of the present article should note that he has himself advanced a thesis along the lines of this claim of Dr. Kwasniewski’s about the liturgy, and used it to argue that the Novus Ordo is illicit.[25]

Fr. Donneaud’s argument is fallacious. We agree that revelation came to an end with the death of the last apostle. This can provide an objection to Dr. Kwasniewski’s claim that the Holy Spirit guided the development of the TLM during the centuries after the death of the last apostle, only if this guidance is held to include providing new divine revelation in the course of formulating the liturgy. But Dr. Kwasniewski does not make this claim, and there is nothing in his position that gives any grounds for making it.

St. Thomas does not agree with Fr. Donneaud on this question. In IIIa q. 83, article 3, he asks: “Whether this sacrament [the Eucharist] ought to be celebrated in a house and with sacred vessels?” In his sed contra supporting an affirmative response to this question, he asserts: “On the contrary, the Church's ordinances are Christ’s own ordinances; since He said (Mt. 18:20): ‘Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’” This answer is not based on the assumption that the liturgy of the sacrament was developed before the death of the last apostle! In his reponse to article 4 of the same question, an article which asks if the words spoken in this sacrament are properly framed, he states: “On the contrary, We find it stated in De Consecr., dist. 1, that ‘James, the brother of the Lord according to the flesh, and Basil, bishop of Caesarea, edited the rite of celebrating the Mass’: and from their authority it is manifest that whatever words are employed in this matter, are chosen becomingly.”

Dr. Kwasniewski is in fact simply putting forward an idea already advanced by John Henry Newman in his Essay on the Development of Doctrine:

The view on which it is written has at all times, perhaps, been implicitly adopted by theologians, and, I believe, has recently been illustrated by several distinguished writers of the continent, such as De Maistre and Möhler: viz. that the increase and expansion of the Christian Creed and Ritual, and the variations which have attended the process in the case of individual writers and Churches, are the necessary attendants on any philosophy or polity which takes possession of the intellect and heart, and has had any wide or extended dominion; that, from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; and that the highest and most wonderful truths, though communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers, could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients, but, as being received and transmitted by minds not inspired and through media which were human, have required only the longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation.[26]

The italics for the word ritual above are mine. Newman in this work applies his theory to the development of doctrine rather than the development of liturgy, but he states in the above passage that the theory applies to Catholic ritual as well as Catholic doctrine. As the apostles possessed the fullness of Christ’s revelation, but did not and (for practical reasons) could not express this fullness in the detailed and explicit form found in later Church teachings,[27] so the worship of the Church could not take its full form in the time of the apostles. We may grant the the apostles had a full comprehension of the purposes and teachings of the liturgy, but that does not mean that they had the suitable means to fully express these purposes and teachings in ritual form, or that the other members of the Church in the apostolic era would have had the capacity to benefit from or put into practice a fully developed liturgy.

Although Newman speaks here of the dogma of the Church being received by minds that are merely human, he did not of course think that the subsequent development of doctrine was a merely human work that was subject to error. As a Catholic, he considered that the highest expressions of dogmatic teaching were preserved by the Holy Spirit from any possibility of error. The existence of the infallible magisterium of the Church disproves the contention that no divinely instituted features of the Church can date from after the apostolic age. This magisterium only came into existence after the death of the last apostle, since its function is to enable the Church to preserve the divine revelation that is completed by that time. Its infallibility, surpassing as it does the power of created being, must be the result of divine action.

There is thus no difficulty in principle in holding, with Dr. Kwasniewski and St. Thomas, that an analogous divine action guided the development of the traditional Catholic liturgies. Such a development would be parallel to the development of the law of the Church mentioned above, the development that Popes Zosimus and Boniface I considered to have authority over the exercise of the papal office. 

There is a difference between divine guidance of the understanding of doctrine in the Church and divine guidance of the development of the liturgy. Since the development of doctrine is a development of our the Church’s understanding of God and his actions, there is in principle no limit to it. No matter how deeply the Church penetrates the divine mystery, there will always be infinitely more to come to know. The liturgy, however, is finite of its nature, because it is an activity of a finite institution, the Church, and it has to be performed in a finite repeating cycle. Its development cannot be limitless, and will instead be directed to a term and a completion – as is the case with all finite things. Arrival at this term is the point to which Dr. Kwasniewski refers when he describes the second stage of a Catholic liturgy, the stage at which it is substantially complete. It is during this second stage that the liturgy fully answers to the purposes for which God calls it into being. We should therefore expect this second stage to be reached reasonably early in the history of the Church – not that long after the point at which the conditions required for this stage come into existence. This is what we see happening in Church history; Catholic liturgies reached this stage of substantial maturity during the ninth to the eleventh centuries.

Part 4, the last, will discuss head-on the question of whether Dr. Kwasniewski’s argument is right, what is actually at stake in the attempt to suppress the TLM once and for all, and how Fr. Donneaud and Andrea Grillo are in fact working on the same team, as were Pilate and Herod.


[1] Fr. Donneaud expresses this argument here: ‘ ... En faisant de ce qu’il appelle « le culte liturgique traditionnel de l’Église », tel que fixé une fois pour toutes dans le missel de S. Pie V, « une expression fondamentale, normative et immuable de sa lex credendi » (p. 46), l’auteur dénie à Pie XII et à Paul VI, et donc à tout Pontife romain postérieur à Pie V, le pouvoir légitime de réformer le Missel romain et en particulier d’en produire une nouvelle édition qui, tout en assurant fidèlement la transmission de la substance de l’Eucharistie, en restaurerait nombre d’éléments que le cours des siècles aura altéré.’

[2] Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, Sermon, March 24th 2023, at

[3] For an account of the early development of the Catholic liturgy and the Roman rite, see Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, The Roman Mass: Early Christian Origins to Tridentine Reform (Cambridge: CUP, 2022), and the series of articles on this subject by Fr. Lang in the journal Adoremus. Particularly relevant are,,,,

[4] Fr. Donneaud states this at greater length here: ‘En réalité c’est l’auteur lui-même qui contredit frontalement Benoît XVI en prétendant « que le rite romain classique et le rite moderne de Paul VI sont deux rites liturgiques différents—si différents dans leur contenu, qui comprend les textes, la musique, les rubriques, les cérémonies et les accessoires, que le second ne peut en aucun cas être considéré comme une simple “révision” ou une “nouvelle version” du premier » (p. 57). Benoît XVI, dans l’article premier de Summorum pontificum, avait enseigné formellement le contraire : « Ces deux expressions de la lex orandi de l’Église n’induisent aucune division de la lex credendi de l’Église ; ceux sont en effet deux mises en œuvre de l’unique rite romain » (AAS 2007, p. 779). Et le pape de préciser la chose dans la lettre d’accompagnement : « Il n’est pas convenable de parler de ces deux versions du Missel romain comme s’il s’agissait de “deux rites”. Il s’agit plutôt d’un double usage de l’unique et même rite » (AAS 2007, p. 795). Fidèle à sa définition d’une « herméneutique de la réforme » opposée à une malheureuse et maladive « herméneutique de la rupture », Benoît XVI avait pris soin d’affirmer « qu’il n’y a aucune contradiction entre l’une et l’autre édition du Missale romanum. L’histoire de la liturgie est faite de croissance et de progrès, jamais de rupture » (AAS, p. 798). Le Souverain Pontife ne pouvait l’enseigner plus nettement : le missel de Paul VI ne marque aucune rupture avec le missel tridentin, seulement sa réforme dans la continuité, selon une synthèse de fidélité et de dynamisme. L’auteur prétend pourtant le contraire : « Nous n’avons pas à faire à une simple version légèrement révisée du même missel, mais à une véritable rupture telle qu’il existe deux rites romains dont les causes, les principes, les éléments et les manifestations sont conflictuels et concurrents » (p. 57). Or lorsque Benoît XVI enseigne que les missels de Pie V et Paul VI sont « deux mises en œuvre du même rite », il ne se contente pas de décrire un fait discutable et d’énoncer une opinion personnelle ; il déclare avec l’autorité du successeur de Pierre que ces deux missels expriment la même vérité de la lex orandi, évolutive mais sans rupture, du rite romain. Libre à l’auteur de s’estimer dispensé de donner son « assentiment religieux » à un tel enseignement ; plus délicat, pour un docteur catholique, le fait d’y porter contradiction publique et péremptoire, en vertu d’un jugement se prétendant supérieur à celui du pontife romain.’

[5] Dr. Kwasniewski’s full argument for the conclusion is found in his book The Once and Future Roman Rite: Returning to the Traditional Latin Liturgy after Seventy Years of Exile (Gastonia, NC: TAN Books, 2023).

[6] Or lorsque Benoît XVI enseigne que les missels de Pie V et Paul VI sont « deux mises en œuvre du même rite », il ne se contente pas de décrire un fait discutable et d’énoncer une opinion personnelle ; il déclare avec l’autorité du successeur de Pierre que ces deux missels expriment la même vérité de la lex orandi, évolutive mais sans rupture, du rite romain.

[7] This is not surprising, since Benedict XVI is known to have expressed views in a private capacity that were close to this thesis. Cardinal Ratzinger was already quoted above as saying ‘The problem of the new Missal lies in its abandonment of a historical process that was always continual, before and after St. Pius V, and in the creation of a completely new book’. He also stated: ‘[I]n place of the liturgy that had developed, one has put a liturgy that has been made. One has deserted the vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. One no longer wanted to continue the organic developing and maturing of that which has been living through the centuries, but instead, one replaced it, in the manner of technical production, with a fabrication, the banal product of the moment. (Commentary in Simandron—Der Wachklopfer. Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989), ed. Wilhelm Nyssen [Cologne: Luther-Verlag, 1989], 13–15, cited in Theologisches, 20.2 (Feb. 1990), 103–4.)’

[8] I owe this point to Gregory diPippo; see

[9] He writes: “en régime catholique, la détermination disciplinaire du bien à accomplir, le ‘quoi faire’, doit reposer, loin de tout arbitraire passionnel, sur l’explicitation doctrinale de ce qui est vrai, conforme à la vérité des choses, en particulier à la vérité de la foi et de son expression liturgique, le ‘ce qui est’.”

[10] Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts, ed. International Commission on English in the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn., The Liturgical Press, 1982), n. 37.

[11] A good account of this case is given by Dr. Kwasniewski in two chapters of The Once and Future Roman Rite, based on lectures available here and here.

[12] Cardinal Arthur Roche, interview on BBC Radio,, 19 Mar 2023.

[13] ‘La riforma liturgica ha modificato profondamente la comprensione della Chiesa che celebra, dei soggetti in essa implicati e della tradizione a cui essi riconoscono  di appartenere. Lo spazio di una “actuosa participatio”, che il rito preconciliare aveva profondamente dimenticato, riappare al centro della esperienza e pretende nuovi soggetti, nuove azioni, nuovi spazi e nuovi tempi. Restare (o tornare)  a Pio V significa non aver compreso questo profondo mutamento e/o volerlo esplicitamente contraddire.’

[14] ‘Perché TC non tutela solo la liturgia, ma anche la ecclesiologia, le forme del ministero e della spiritualità, dove non si può mai assumere come principio che “ciò che è stato sacro per le generazioni precedenti, deve restarlo anche per le successive”. Questo non è un principio teologico, ma un problema di comprensione distorta della tradizione, che non è anzitutto un monumento da custodire, ma un giardino da coltivare.’



[17] ‘Deus, qui conteris bella, et impugnatores in te sperantium potentia tuae defensionis expugnas: auxiliare famulis tuis, implorantibus misericordiam tuam; ut, inimicorum suorum feritate depressa, incessabili te gratiarum actione laudemus. Per Dominum.’

[18] ‘Deus, regnorum omnium regumque dominator, qui nos et percutiendo sanas et ignoscendo conservas: praetende nobis misericordiam tuam; ut tranquillitate pacis, tua potestate servata, ad remedia correctionis utamur. Per Dominum.’

[19] ‘Haec nos commúnio, Dómine, éruat a delíctis: et ab inimicórum deféndat insídiis. Per Dóminum.’

[20] ‘Si fa di Dio il principio autorevole e in qualche modo cieco di una realtà spezzata, lacerata e divisa duramente in due parti opposte, tra amici e nemici, tra bene e male, tra positivo e negativo. Dio diventa la garanzia di una disperazione, non di una speranza, diventa principio di maledizione, non di benedizione, di invidia, non di lode, di ingratitudine, non di rendimento di grazie.’

[21] ‘La colletta del messale del 62, ultimo esemplare della tradizione tridentina, e che alcuni oggi pretendono di usare come se nulla fosse, suona infatti come preghiera verso un Dio che “prende parte al conflitto”, che ha nemici e che aiuta una parte contro l’altra.’

[22] The equivalent prayers run: ‘O God, merciful and strong, who crush wars and cast down the proud, be pleased to banish violence swiftly from our midst and to wipe away all tears, so that we may all truly deserve to be called your children. Through our lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘O God, author and lover of peace, to know you is to live, to serve you is to reign; defend against every attack those who cry to you, so that we, who trust in your protection, may not fear the weapons of any foe. Through our lord Jesus Christ.’

[23] See Lauren Pristas, “Missale Romanum 1962 and 1970: A Comparative Study of Two Collects,” Antiphon 7:3 (2002) 29-33: “Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970),” The Thomist 67 (April 2003) 157-95; “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision,” Communio 30:4 (Winter 2003) 621-53; “The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examination of the Revisions of Vatican II,” Nova et Vetera 3:1 (Winter 2005) 5-38: Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council, Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

[24] This condenses Fr. Donneaud’s argument given here: ‘Ce petit opuscule, reprise augmentée d’une conférence donnée en octobre 2021, développe une thèse que l’on peut résumer ainsi : l’obéissance, en particulier dans l’Église, est tout entière encadrée et conditionnée par le service du bien commun (p. 13-36) ; or le missel de S. Pie V appartient au bien commun de l’Église, de sorte qu’aucune autorité ecclésiale ne peut en interdire l’usage non plus que promulguer une forme de célébration différente (p. 36-57) ; donc, la réforme liturgique promue depuis Vatican II ayant bouleversé les rites traditionnels de l’Église et ainsi attenté à son bien commun, les fidèles, en conscience, ne sont pas tenus de s’y soumettre et doivent plutôt, par obéissance à la tradition véritable, s’y soustraire (p. 58-86). Le développement initial sur l’obéissance, puis celui, dans la dernière partie, sur les droits de la conscience seraient de bonne facture thomiste, s’ils ne donnaient trop de gîte du côté d’une défiance envers l’œuvre liturgique de tous les pontifes romains depuis au moins Pie XII, de sorte qu’aucun des successeurs de Pierre, depuis le milieu du XXe siècle, ne semble pouvoir être tenu pour un guide sûr, digne d’être obéi. L’idée même d’une telle déficience dans l’assistance divine du Siège apostolique ne laisse pas d’offusquer un sens catholique un tant soit peu aiguisé. Le défaut le plus flagrant affecte la mineure du raisonnement. L’auteur fonde en effet celle-ci sur une thèse théologique tout à fait novatrice, inconnue de la tradition, sans aucun appui dans le magistère, et qui frôle tout simplement l’hétérodoxie. La « liturgie traditionnelle », - selon que l’auteur désigne la messe tridentine, - jouirait en effet d’une autorité quasiment divine, découlant d’une inspiration directe par l’Esprit Saint, quasiment à l’égal de l’Écriture, de sorte que le missel de S. Pie V, qui en est le vecteur, serait en lui-même immuable et inaltérable, sans qu’aucun pontife romain ne puisse décider son remplacement jusqu’au retour du Christ. Faute d’une saine théologie fondamentale, l’auteur prétend relire l’histoire de la liturgie chrétienne selon deux grands moments : durant une première phase, qui semble correspondre aux quinze premiers siècles de l’Église, la liturgie aurait connu un processus de développement progressif, sous l’effet d’une « inspiration » de l’Esprit saint, jusqu’à ce que soit atteint, - de toute évidence avec le missel de S. Pie V, - « une plénitude d’expression doctrinale, une saturation symbolique », de sorte que ses rites cessent alors de se développer pour entrer dans une seconde phase qui ne sera plus que de conservation, l’Esprit saint y intervenant non plus pour « inspirer » mais seulement pour « maintenir l’héritage » : «Comme l’histoire le démontre, l’action de l’Esprit passe progressivement de l’inspiration de prières entièrement nouvelles à la préservation et à la sanctification des prières inspirées, du culte déjà familier, aimé, normatif et participant des qualités de la révélation de Dieu » (p. 39). On reste stupéfait devant l’énormité d’une telle affirmation, qui ne fait rien moins qu’étendre la phase d’accomplissement de la Révélation constitutive, avec son autorité divine, bien au-delà du Christ et des apôtres, durant des siècles, jusqu’à ce qu’un événement dont rien n’est dit avec précision par l’auteur, - faute évidemment de tout appui dans la foi et la tradition de l’Église, - vienne marquer le terme de cette révélation plénière de la liturgie et inaugurer une phase purement conservatoire, en laquelle rien ne peut plus être changé par l’Église dans ses rites, sinon de façon accessoire et mineure (ajout de nouvelles fêtes, de nouveaux saints). Laisser penser que la révélation n’a pas été « achevée avec les apôtres » et se serait poursuivie, en matière liturgique, bien des siècles après eux, encourt la censure du n° 21 du décret Lamentabili de Pie X contre une erreur typiquement moderniste (DzH 2021).’


[26] John Henry Newman, Essay on the Development of Doctrine, ‘Introduction’, at

[27] Newman states: ‘…the Apostles had the fullness of revealed knowledge, a fullness which they could as little realize to themselves, as the human mind as such, can have all its thoughts present before it at once… the Creed (i.e. the Deposit, I say the Creed as more intelligible since it consists of Articles) was delivered to the Church with the gift of knowing its true and full meaning…there is nothing which the Church has defined or shall define but what an Apostle, if asked, would have been fully able to answer and would have answered, as the Church has answered, the one answering by inspiration, the other by its gift of infallibility…the differences between them being that an Apostle could answer questions at once, but the Church answers them intermittently…and secondly and on the other hand, that the Church does in fact make answers which the Apostle did not make, and in one sense did not know, though they would have known them, i.e. made present to their consciousness, and made those answers, had the question been asked.’ Newman, John Henry. (1958) ‘An Unpublished Paper by Cardinal Newman on the Development of Doctrine’, ed. C. Stephen Dessain, Journal of Theological Studies, p. 333.