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August/September 2004

The Getting of Wisdom


"Certainly, we will preserve the basic elements, the bread, the wine, but all else will be changed according to local traditions: words, gestures, colours, vestments, chants, architecture, decor. The problem of liturgical reform is immense."

One might be forgiven for attributing these prophetic words to Archbishop Bugnini himself. Yet they were not mouthed by the infamous architect of the New Mass. In fact, this enthusiastic endorsement of Bugnini’s liturgical agenda was made by the present Holy Father during a 1963 interview in Rome, around the same time that he was singing the praises of Vatican II periti like Hans Kung [Mon Ami: Karol Wojtyla, Fr. M. Malinksi, Le Centurion, 1980, p.220].

It explains a lot. Such as why the Pope calls repeatedly for a "wide and generous" provision of the Old Mass, on the one hand, yet participates in Novus Ordo travesties the world over, on the other; why he chose Bugnini’s former personal secretary and protégé, Msgr Piero Marini, as his liturgical choreographer [see "Beatification Abomination" this issue]; why he stubbornly maintains the transparent fiction that the New Rite, despite a few glitches, is a blessing and a joy.

It explains, in other words, why John Paul II was never going to take the runaway liturgical bull by the horns.

Quite simply, like Cardinal Arinze, his Prefect for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments who is charged with overseeing the implementation of Redemptionis Sacramentum, the latest Vatican attempt to stamp out liturgical abuse, the Holy Father is a Vatican II-cum-Novus Ordo man to the core of his being. Along with his post-conciliar peers, he has staked his entire career and reputation on rationalising the success of these two key platforms of the post-conciliar revolution.

The minimal reform of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal as requested by the Council Fathers, therefore, was not an option under this pontificate.

God willing, that reform will finally be addressed by a no-nonsense pontiff in the mould of Pius V or Pius X: a future Pope Saint who comprehends that pandering to the New Mass, á la Redemptionis Sacramentum, is an exercise in futility, and that only freeing up the Traditional Mass will address the liturgical crisis at its roots. After all, as Father John Parsons pointed out in our November 2000 edition:

When they voted for the conciliar decree on the liturgy, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council never imagined that they were launching a process whereby the Mass rite that most of them had known all their lives would disappear. They thought, as they declared in their decree on the Oriental Churches, that the various rites were of equal dignity and that "the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular church or rite to remain whole and entire". In decreeing a reform of the Roman Rite, the Council Fathers did not authorise the introduction of alternatives to the Roman Canon as the sole eucharistic prayer; yet many have been introduced. The Council Fathers did not authorise the destruction of the immemorial Roman Lectionary; yet it was destroyed. The Council Fathers did not authorise a recasting of the annual cycle of Sundays or any change to the very ancient Sunday collects; yet both these changes were made. The Council Fathers did not authorise a redistribution of saints days; yet that is what was undertaken. The Council Fathers did not authorise the abandonment or tendentious alteration of over eighty percent of the orations (Collects, Secrets and Postcommunions) throughout the Missal; yet this momentous step was taken.

The truth is that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council assumed that the great Roman Rite as known to history would be maintained in all its essentials and would continue to be the principal form for the celebration of the Catholic Eucharist. In this they were deceived. … The reform as implemented is not the reform the Council authorised.

Sacrosanctum Concilium presupposes that the Missal of 1962 is the benchmark from which any change in the Roman Rite will commence. After all, the Latin majority of the bishops at the Council, and of Catholics around the world, were using the ancient rite in its 1962 edition to celebrate Mass each morning during the years in which the Council met. Proposals based on Sacrosanctum Concilium must therefore be proposals to make variations in that Missal, with everything in it remaining in force unless otherwise specified.

It is tiresome to have to state such historical facts and spell out the obvious practical and spiritual advantages of the Old Rite again and again. Yet re-state and re-spell them we must. For irrational indifference or hostility to the revered rite of the saints and martyrs, and a stubborn refusal to discuss the roots and relative merits of the ancient liturgy vis-à-vis the new, is endemic. Even and especially among circles of informed and faithful neo-cons who should know better.

Somersaults are turned and conversation politely redirected in order to avoid confronting this pivotal subject. The most asinine comments are proffered by the best Catholics to rationalise their preference for the New Mass, including mantras like this: "If the priest says the words of consecration in silence we can’t be sure he has said them correctly"!

It was not a scrupulous, fourth century Donatist heretic but an exemplary, twenty-first century Catholic who recently trotted out that excuse to me, one I’ve also heard elsewhere. It is singular testimony to the drip-feed Protestantisation of hearts and minds under the Novus Ordo regimen, since the very notion was anathematised in Canon 9 of the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned … let him be anathema."

In order to confront this eerie blind-spot on the neo-conservative radar, which has ‘Satan At Work’ scrawled all over it, and to quell the false-hope generated by the periodic likes of Redemptionis Sacramentum, it is not enough merely to sing the praises of the Traditional Mass.

Of course, we must all persevere in doing whatever we can within our own spheres of influence to sustain and promote the Traditional Mass. In which regard, readers are reminded that our free Mass Server Cards are still available in ‘pdf’ format on request, fifty grateful internet browsers from around the globe having already taken up our offer (email:

Yet we also need to remind confused, ignorant or just plain pig-headed neo-cons who refuse to grasp the liturgical nettle, of the multitudinous defects of the Novus Ordo itself. The truth may hurt. But only as iodine stings and cleanses a self-inflicted wound.

To this end, just as my eminent predecessor decided to give over our entire April 1995 edition to a reprint of the famous 1969 Ottaviani Intervention - the "Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae" in which the Cardinal Prefect of the Holy Office presented Paul VI with a concise and brilliant explanation of the grave dangers posed to the Faith and faithful by the New Rite of Mass - it is now time to reprint herein the multiple reasons for eschewing the New Rite as published by Brazilian priests of the Campos diocese twenty years ago.

Often drawing on the Ottaviani Intervention, these compelling arguments confront anew the tragic reality of the Novus Ordo – a rite fabricated 35 years ago; ostensibly a meal; centred on Man; half Protestant; contrived after Vatican II; barren; an experiment which failed. Together with all the ensuing reports and critiques, they point to the urgency of restoring the Traditional Mass – a rite organically developed over millennia; clearly a sacrifice; centred on God; completely Catholic; codified by the Council of Trent; fruitful; never abrogated.

Nor is CO alone in this latter regard.

Once considered the fanciful musing of nostalgic ‘trads’, our restorative call was recently trumpeted by Inside the Vatican [ITV]. A mainstream monthly of predominantly neo-conservative bent, its May 2004 editorial trumpeted: "Restore the Old Mass"!

An express reaction to the superficiality of Redemptionis Sacramentum, readers will deeply appreciate this extract from ITV editor Robert Moynihan’s passionate plea. Let us hope and pray that his words of sanity and truth, like the harsh realities depicted throughout this edition, mark the beginning of liturgical wisdom for neo-conservatives everywhere:

… I am persuaded that the restoration of the old Mass would be a "festival day," a day of universal celebration and, as such, would mark the beginning of a great renewal in Church life."

Some will argue that such a restoration would be disrespectful toward Pope Paul VI, who promulgated the new Mass in 1969. I disagree. Paul VI himself was hesitant about the new Mass, as he was about so many things. He approved it half-heartedly. It is said that after he attended a "trial run" of the new Mass, he said, "But where is the mystery? The mystery is gone!" He himself felt something was missing in the new Mass, but promulgated it anyway.

In April I had a conversation with Fr. Jean Marie Charles-Roux, 90, one of the priests who celebrated Mass for Mel Gibson in Rome during the filming of The Passion of the Christ. Charles-Roux was ordained in the 1950’s. He knew Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI personally. In 1971, after celebrating the new Mass for about 18 months, he asked Paul VI to receive him at Castel Gandolfo. Paul agreed. Charles-Roux said to Paul: "For 18 months I have celebrated the new Mass, but I cannot continue. I was ordained to celebrate the old Mass, and I want to return to it. Will you permit me to do so?" And Paul said: "Certainly, I never forbade celebration of the old Mass; I have only offered an alternative."

The alternative has become the norm, and the perennial liturgy of the Latin West is celebrated in only a few chapels here and there, almost furtively, as if in hiding, as if in a time of persecution.

So let us read the sign of the times and restore the liturgy of the ages, the liturgy of Gregory the Great and St. Augustine of England, of Francis and Clare, of Aquinas and Bonaventure, of Ignatius and Bellarmine, of Newman and Chesterton, and our own parents and grandparents.

Let us preserve from oblivion the beautiful and holy liturgy which we inherited from our forefathers, that our posterity may thank us for having the courage to do what is fitting and just in an age of iron and lead.

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