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December 2005

Active Liturgical Participation or
Active Liturgical Suppression?


Introduction: The Hostility of the Bishops

Bishops seem to need continual reassurance that Traditionalists are not a threat to the Post-Vatican II Church, for they continue to refuse access to the Old Rite despite the desire of the Supreme Legislator that the 1984 Indult be applied "widely and generously" in view of our "legitimate aspirations" (cf. Ecclesia Dei Afflicta, John Paul II - motu proprio - 1988).

Let us be blunt: Traditionalists can only be a threat to the Church if Her own Tradition is a threat to Her.

Many Bishops, clergy and people are annoyed by our preference for the Old Rite and by the fact that while we do not reject the validity, orthodoxy or legality of the Novus Ordo, we continue to say we experience it as more akin to Protestant than Catholic liturgy. But they cannot say the New Rite fully expresses Catholic belief for it was drawn up specifically to remove whatever was uniquely Catholic. This was the stated aim of the Consilum Secretary Fr. Bugnini prior to the drafting of the Rite:

"We must strip from our Catholic prayer books and from the Catholic Liturgy everything that can be a shadow of a stumbling block to our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants" [L’Osservatore Romano, 19/3/65].

It is this stripping out of our Faith from our Liturgy that disturbs us, for it means that we make Mass into an act of deceit perpetrated against Protestants by the veiling of our doctrine.

Hardliners might also say that: a) it fails to provide our own flock with the food God has given for their benefit, thus acting unjustly towards our own, and b) it fails in the duty to honour God, since God is honoured only when the Faith is professed, not when it is hidden.

While it is true that use of the 1984 Indult was to be granted by rare exception and the 1988 Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei given to assist those attached to Archbishop Lefebvre in a return to unity with the Church, it was not to be limited to this use.

The Supreme Legislator clearly decreed in Ecclesia Dei Afflicta that the Old Rite be permitted "widely and generously" in virtue of "rightful and legitimate aspirations." The Ecclesia Dei Commission has authoritatively stated the same:

The Motu Proprio does not speak of any restrictions, including age limits, on those who aspire to worship according to the liturgical books of 1962. Therefore those who are under 45 and who were never followers of Archbishop Lefebvre are not because of this abusing a privilege. [Reply from Monsignor Perl, Secretary, Ecclesia Dei Commission, to J. Gresser 19/9/95].

Some Bishops seem to limit the application by granting its use only to places in close proximity to a Mass Centre of the SSPX, but this does not reflect the generosity of the Motu Proprio or the declaration of the Ecclesia Dei Commission since it constitutes a restriction. It is possible that Bishops deny use of the Old Rite because they feel that by doing so they are defending Vatican II or the memory of Pope Paul VI (though it shows no such attachment to John Paul II), or are attempting to prevent a return to earlier years when clergy were allegedly more critical than compassionate.

Do they think Traditonalists absolutely reject Vatican II?

We do not, and we must return to this topic later. Here I want only to state that we do not reject Vatican II, only Modernist applications of its ambiguities which tend to place the Council in opposition to Tradition. This application abandons, even attacks, Sacred Tradition, in which is contained the word of God.

Baseless Criticisms

We do, however, speak out against the Bishops’ understanding of and manner of dealing with, Tradition-defending Catholics.

In such dealings, truly erroneous statements are made about Traditionalists. We are said: (1) to demand "our way of liturgy or no way at all"; (2) to "have no real attachment to the Church or the Diocese" while our young Traditional people are said (3) to be "engaging in a nostalgia for a past they never knew". This last remark is clearly one of derision since it presumes a lack of integrity.

Let us answer these criticisms here and now, for they are not based on evidence and as such can be described as prejudicial.

1. Since Traditional Catholics only seek access to the Old Rite without abrogation of the New, while those who support the New actively deny access to the Old, it is those who support the Novus Ordo who say "our way or not way at all". This is innately oppressive and oppression is an offence against justice.

2. By frequently and passionately petitioning Bishops for access to the Old Rite the Traditional Catholic is frequently and passionately demonstrating their desire to be a recognised and valued part of the Diocesan family and the Church Universal.

3. Young Traditionalists are being fulfilled by a Rite they have discovered and wish to retain today and tomorrow, not being nostalgic for a past they never had. When Bishops refuse them access to the Old Rite they thus deny these young people not only access to their spiritual heritage, but their place in the Church by active suppression of their rightful aspirations and spiritual needs.

Abuse of Episcopal Power

Such refusal, to Traditionalists young and old, can be said to amount to an abuse of Episcopal power, for this power is given "unto edification, and not unto destruction" [2 Cor. 13:10].

Many seem to forget - and this is of central importance – that the Church has tremendous power to forbid what is evil but absolutely no power to forbid what is holy, and the Old Rite has been recognised by the Church as a holy Rite. Therefore Bishops have neither the moral right nor the spiritual power to forbid access to the Old Rite.

To make another point, by being so reticent in regard to the Old Rite they are perpetuating the myth that it was banned by Vatican II and/or Pope Paul VI and thus very possibly perpetuating a prejudice among the people of God in which Traditionalists are seen as seeking to deny them something Vatican II decreed for them.

The consequence of this is that it creates a hostility in the people of God towards Traditionalists and the Old Mass, which may be demonstrated in the numerous communications to the Bishops which decry Traditionalists.

Compounding Injustices

A legitimate reason for denial of access might be the case of a priest who does not know Latin, such as myself.

Now, as a seminarian I was not taught Latin, despite this being an obligation of the seminary (cf. Canon 249). All I had was three months in a pre-seminary college. I have thus to study the language and the Old Rite privately, and consequently lack real competency.

A Bishops’ refusal to allow priests without real competency to celebrate the Old Rite may thus be read as legitimate, but not definitively so for the reality is that such a prohibition constitutes penalisation of an individual for the canonical failure of his seminary, leaving that individual on the receiving end of two injustices.

A third can be added: by refusing permission to offer Mass in Latin a Bishop thus denies that individual the right to offer even the Novus Ordo in its official form and thereby forbids what is granted to the priest by universal law. Can such a thing be right?

In the final analysis, and granting that it has an importance: is formal competency in a language more important than a profound sense of the prayers one is offering to Almighty God?

The Lex Credendi of the Old and New Rites

We are frequently told that the New Rite proclaims the same Faith as is enshrined in the Old. If this is true then the Bishops have nothing to fear in the Old.

On the other hand, if it does not retain the same theology then there is everything to fear, for it means we have abandoned the Deposit of Faith which is brought to us via scripture and Tradition [Dei verbum 8-10].

It may be that the Bishops are afraid of the Old Rite because if both Old and New had equal freedom we might get more vocations from Old Rite parishes than New Rite parishes and thus gain a natural ascendancy.

If this is indeed the case, the Bishops’ ought to be challenged by the words of Sacred Scripture itself: "if this thing is of man it will die of its own accord, but if it is from God…you might find yourselves fighting against God" [Acts 5: 38-39].

Are the Bishops afraid of what the Holy Spirit might be saying to the Church? It cannot be from loyalty to Vatican II or Paul VI that they deny access to the Old Rite, since neither of them banned that Rite, according to the 1986 Commission of Cardinals.

A real possibility for hostility towards the Old Rite, and which I get the feeling is the hidden motive of all its opponents, is perhaps two-fold:

First, opponents want the Mass to be something which is enjoyed; emotionally moving rather than spiritually stirring. This can be detected by the introduction of dances, mimes, jokes in the homily etc. They believe an enjoyable Mass will attract and hold. Falling Mass numbers and vocations demonstrate that the opposite is true.

Second, they dislike the clear proclamation of the Church’s hierarchical priesthood which the Old Rite contains; they want a democratic Church, for democracy brings power.

It is thus entertainment and power which is being protected, not Vatican II or Pope Paul VI.

That there would be no Lay Councils, Committees or Officers if the Old Rite were to gain its freedom is a groundless fear – these are not incompatible with the Old Rite.

However, when lay Councils wield power independently of the clergy veto, they are not only incompatible with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition but also incompatible and completely out of kilter with Vatican II!

Tradition and the Second Vatican Council

On the subject of Second Vatican Council I believe we must be clear that we do not reject it. It has been accepted by four successive Sovereign Pontiffs (Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) which means rejection of the Council is all but impossible.

We can only insist that it is to be interpreted in harmony with Tradition, which Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have all confirmed. Interpretations which ignore tradition are definitively wrong. What then, are the stands found among Traditional Catholics regarding Vatican II? I can only speak for myself.

In matters of Ecumenism, I accept that cooperation in social action can be a good thing: a united voice on the evils of today would surely be more powerful than a lone voice. I also accept that there should be joint study in the search for Christian Unity. This study and dialogue should, however, be free from a "false conciliatory approach" [Unitatits redintegratio 11] - something which can arise from an over-emphasis on what we share rather than areas where we diverge.

I also accept the need to work for Christian unity, but this must keep in mind that other denominations "…derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church…which is the all-embracing means of salvation" and into which "all should be fully incorporated who already belong in any way to God’s people" [ibid, 3].

Such a position denies neither their right to be called Christian nor the fact that salvation is open to them (by virtue of the Holy Catholic Church).

In matters of Religious Freedom I accept that man has a civil right to such freedom, for faith cannot be forced.

But I understand from the declaration of Vatican II that this is a civil rather than a spiritual right: "Religious freedom has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society" which therefore "leaves intact the Traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of men and societies towards the True religion and the one Church of Christ" [Dignitatis humanane, 1].

This must be so, because "Revelation does not affirm in so many words the right of man to immunity from external coercion in matters of Faith. It does however, disclose the dignity of man in its full dimensions" [ibid, 9].We can thus accept religious liberty as a pastoral policy based on respect for a man’s conscience, but we simply cannot overrule the commission of Christ to teach and baptise all nations, or contradict the word of God as expressed in Tradition which has always seen the Catholic Church in union with Rome as the One True Church (though with formal and informal members, cf. Mystici corporis, Pope Pius XII and the elucidation by the Holy Office). Since the Council stated clearly that its teaching on religious freedom "leaves intact the moral duty of men and societies towards the true religion and the true Church of Christ" [ibid], any interpretation of this most contentious and difficult text must not imply that Catholicism is a mere portion of the Church but uphold the Traditional Doctrine that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ.Religious Freedom viewed in this way is, I believe, as the Council Fathers intended: "Religious Freedom, which men demand as necessary to fulfil their obligation to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society." Engaging of the laity in the mission of the Church I also accept, for all the baptised are members of Christ who "came to serve, not to be served".

But I feel the authentic apostolate of the laity as declared by Vatican II is yet to be clearly and predominantly facilitated. That apostolate is one of "renewing the temporal order"; of "engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to the mind of Christ" [Apostolicam actuositatem 7; Lumen gentium 33]. This does not exclude participation in the mission of the hierarchy but - in line with the Council - this participation must be seen as received by delegation, for there remains a reality in which the lay person assists in "the teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical functions and the care of souls…fully subject to higher ecclesiastical direction in the performance of such work" [Apostolicam actuositatem, 24].

Indeed, the Council Fathers had already stated earlier in the same decree that while "the laity can cooperate directly in the apostolate of the hierarchy" they "function under the higher direction of the hierarchy itself…" (ibid, 20).

I recognise that a priest cannot do all things himself. There is need of people to take responsibility under him for the life of the parish and, under the Bishop, for the life of the diocese: "their activity is so necessary that without it the apostolate of the pastors is unable to achieve its full effectiveness" [ibid,10].

I could not visit, pray or support those in crisis if I must also manage the account ledger, run every catechetical programme, plan social activities etc. I certainly could not function without the advice of the Parish’s Pastoral Council and Finance Committee, the assistance of a Secretary etc.

Yet I maintain that we need to rediscover and promote the laity’s authentic vocation "to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can she become the salt of the earth" [Lumen gentium 33] for laity are called by Christ to "take on the renewal of the temporal order …Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, and motivated by love, let them act directly and definitively in the temporal order" [Apostolicam actuositatem 7, emphasis added].

This is not an oppression of the laity: being the leaven in the secular world is a central and indispensable apostolate.

A Traditionalist and the New Rite of Mass

I now find I have a serious question to answer: if I accept Vatican II, why is it that I am unenthusiastic about the New Rite of Mass?I can only say that since the Novus Ordo has been stripped of whatever is offensive to Protestants, that in the central action of priesthood I am unable to fully discover what is central to my life and spirituality: I must use a ‘neutral’ liturgy.It was perhaps to ensure the achieving of this stripping that six Protestant Ministers helped to draft the New Mass. We can easily demonstrate that this aim was achieved by noting that everything removed from the Mass by the 16th Century Reformers was also removed by the Consilium in order to form the Novus Ordo.This does not mean I believe we should treat the New Rite with the same contempt that so many treat the Old.I recognise that the General Instruction [IG] provides an orthodox Catholic context for the Rite (No.s 2, 3, 4, 5; also 72 and 79d); that it is the Missal as a whole which must be taken into account, and that it is a Missal which not only sets the Rite in a context of orthodoxy via IG but which retains the ancient Roman Canon so hated by the Reformers.I simply remain unsatisfied by the Novus Ordo’s minimalistic ritual and neutral texts, and disturbed by the abuses and innovations it accommodates.In regard to ritual, the most difficult thing to accept is that as God becomes present in my hands at the moment of consecration we do not immediately genuflect and adore Him. Genuflections before the elevations and the Per Ipsum are, I believe, sound ritual and not "unnecessary duplications."In regard to texts, the Preparation of the Gifts is the major difficulty for it is simply a ‘Grace before Meals’ and as such does not enable one to re-prime oneself in the immediacy of the moment for the Eucharistic action which is "pre-eminently…a sacrifice" [Redemptionis sacramentum 38].Christ gave us the Eucharist not so much to perpetuate the Last Supper but "in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages" [Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47]. Thus at Mass "the work of our redemption is carried out" [IG, 2].This is not to deny the Banquet of the Mass. Holy Communion is truly "a foretaste of the heavenly banquet" [SC, 8], "a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory given to us" [SC, 47].Both the Eschatological Banquet and Propitious Sacrifice, however, could both have been properly proclaimed by simply adding to the preparation of both bread and wine, the words: "The Victim of our salvation."

A Core Problem Found in Church and Liturgy:

Anthropocentricism (Man-Centredness)

A core problem today is that many Catholics have adopted the modernist philosophies and humanist psychologies of the secular world as their gospel. These theories place moral authority within the self, "free from all external oughts and shoulds." This is self-idolisation and is sadly reflected in our concrete forms of liturgy where the congregation "celebrates itself without it being able to do so" (Cardinal Ratzinger).

This self-idolisation has a catalyst in a single statement in Sacrosanctum Concilium; a statement that typifies and has perhaps promoted the post-Conciliar problem of humanism, relativism and subjectivism in the Church.

That single statement reads: "In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by the people is to be considered before all else" [SC 14].

At first glance appears this appears sound and in line with the teaching of Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XII who gave their approval to the Dialogue or ‘Community’ Mass: participation in the Holy Sacrifice is indeed necessary if Mass is not to become something we merely watch, like a Shakespearean play.

But the line found in Sacrosanctum Concilium is disturbing when it places man’s active participation "before all else" – even the adoration of God. Thus today’s liturgy is, in many places, not even as good as a Shakespearean play: with so much dialogue between the celebrant and the congregation it is more reminiscent of the Christmas pantomime – especially when the sanctuary is invaded by dancers and actors, with its musical accompaniment provided by pop groups.Sadly, with the common versus populum orientation of the priest for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the similarity to a Christmas panto is even clearer - for the congregation can, with assurance, shout out to the priest: "He’s behind you!" (unless the Lord has been placed in a corner like a naughty boy, or worse, made to leave the room).Certainly the orientation expresses the banquet of the Mass and cannot be denounced as entirely erroneous. But as we have seen, the banquet is not the predominant reality, which is, in any case, adequately demonstrated at the invitation to and reception of, Holy Communion - even in the Old Rite.We should be clear that facing the altar is a lawful and proper orientation for the Celebration of the Eucharist, being sanctioned not only by immemorial custom but by the General Instruction of 1970 (No’s 107, 115, 116, 198, 199, 227); the 2005 General Instruction (No’s 146, 157, 158, 181, 243, 244) and Paul VI’s 1970 rubrics (No’s. 19/25, 133, 134).

Article 299 of the 2005 IG unfortunately says the altar should be freestanding so that the priest may celebrate facing the people, "which is desirable whenever possible." It suggests that this orientation is the norm to be followed. But this phrase has been explained by the Congregation for Divine Worship as remaining a suggestion, not legislation: "expedit" is not a command, says the Congregation. In fact, the Congregation reminded one Bishop (of Birmingham Alabama, USA) that one cannot forbid a priest to celebrate Mass facing the altar, for both orientations enjoy the favour of the law:

This Dicastery wishes to state that Holy Mass may be celebrated versus populum or versus apsidem. Both options are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct.

"It should be borne in mind that no preference is expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position. As both positions enjoy the favour of the Law, legislation may not be invoked to say that one position or the other accords more closely with the mind of the Church.

The Diocesan Bishop…in exercising [his] responsibility… is unable to mandate or exclude the use of a legitimate option but is competent to provide further guidance to priests in their choice of various options permitted by the Roman Rite. [Cardinal Estevez, 26 September 2000, emphasis added].

Why then the scorn towards the versus apsidem orientation by so many today? It is scorned as an ‘excluding’ of the people, but this is not a sound argument.

The versus apsidem orientation does not exclude internal participation (which is to be considered ‘first and foremost’ - Musicam sacram, 15).

Nor does it exclude bodily participation since there remain the postures of standing, sitting, kneeling and genuflecting. Neither does it exclude verbal participation for there remains the common singing of hymns, the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei and Great Amen.

Indeed it does not exclude participation by vision either, for the priest can still be seen to perform the epiclesis; bow at the consecration, elevate the Sacred Species at the Consecration and genuflect at the repositioning of the paten, and these constitute the only actions of the Eucharistic Prayer, though the Fraction and commingling are not seen (though even when they are observed in the Novus Ordo, I have found that many think the portion of the Host in the chalice has come from someone’s mouth and so fail to receive the Precious Blood! Too much apparent knowledge can be a dangerous thing!)

I would argue then that the versus apsidem orientation (and indeed the Old Rite) fulfil every aspect of active participation by use of the heart, mind, body, voice and vision.

On Greater Understanding by Use of the Vernacular

In regard to the use of the language of the Mass I would argue that greater misunderstanding is produced by the vernacular than the Latin, for the vernacular permits for word-recognition in such a way that misunderstanding occurs by the individual interpretation of the liturgical texts.

I have demonstrated this several times in both RCIA courses and private conversations by asking what is meant by specific phrases of the Mass. Responses received show that understanding is lacking and that misunderstanding is the norm. Here are some examples:

• "May Your Angel take this sacrifice..." is frequently interpreted as meaning ‘an angel’, thus missing the point - indicated by the capitalisation of ‘Angel’ - that it is Our Lord Himself who enters heaven "taking with Him not the blood of goats and bulls, but His own Blood, which pleads more insistently than Abel’s" [Hebrews]. The whole of heaven is the altar of God or ‘place of offering’.

• "Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours..." is heard as meaning that priest and people offer the sacrifice in the same way, not as the priest completing and joining their spiritual sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ (see IG 5).

"May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands... for our good…" is variously interpreted: from the extreme of the priest alone offering the Victim (when in fact all offer but the priest alone consecrates the Victim, cf. Pius XII Mediator Dei, 1947; Innocent III, De sacro Altaris Mysterio), to the Protestant interpretation of ‘as our representative’ rather than ‘in the person of Christ’.

The Kyrie too is often misunderstood, being seen as addressed to Father, Son and Holy Ghost when in fact it is addressed only to Christ. Even priests misunderstand the Kyrie in this way and add a second error by using the Kyrie not as a song of praise, "You are son of God and Son of Mary…You are Word made flesh and splendour of the Father," but as an act of sorrow: "For the times we have…Lord have mercy." This is extremely common in school Masses, indicating that our teachers as well as our clergy suffer from liturgical misunderstanding.

Those who claim that the vernacular has aided understanding would then, be hard pressed to show how this understanding has been achieved when both simple texts and profound texts are so commonly misunderstood.


Active Participation and Misunderstanding of the Lliturgy Per Se

A further problem is that today, many see the Liturgy as something we do and not as the action of Christ, thus there are spurious additions, deletions and exchanges of wording, texts and ceremonies. Extended greetings and "Good Morning…thank you for coming …" which are not liturgical, are frequent at the beginning of Mass, while the changing of ‘brothers’ to ‘sisters and brothers’ is frequently used for political correctness - very nearly making the spiritual event into a socio-political one.

Such manipulation is at least treating God’s word as though it were inadequate or defective, if not actually offensive.

The distinction between the priest’s presidential (facilitating) role and his distinctly priestly role (of making an offering to God) is also lost whenever prayers directed to the Father are spoken out loud so that the people are not ‘excluded’, i.e. "May the words of the Gospel wipe away our sins … by the mystery of this water and wine … Blessed are you Lord God of all creation…" etc.

The need for saying quiet prayers quietly is recognised by both Rome (IG 2005, No.142) and the English Bishops in their publication (Celebrating the Mass, No.181).

Perhaps one of the most incongruent of actions is the showing of the bread and chalice side-to-side or stretched out towards the people during the consecration, for the consecration is thus presented as a story to be ‘acted out’ for the assembly by their president, and not a sacramental formula.

Yet the Missal specifically directs that the words of consecration be spoken distinctly, which does not simply mean ‘with good diction’ (catered for by the word "clearly" in the same rubric - 91) but more specifically, differently from the rest of the prayer so as to express their nature as a sacramental formula. This is not a mere narrative, for at this moment the priest acts absolutely in persona Christi; he does not ‘narrate’ (tell) but ‘consecrates’. As in baptism it is a sacramental formula he proclaims; neither are narrations; both are ‘in persona Christi’ moments.

The sign of peace, Traditional and good in itself, is mispracticed today.

As in the days of old when this gesture became excessive and was therefore abandoned, Rome has reminded us that (a) the celebrant is not to leave the sanctuary; (b) the people’s exchange must be done in a sober manner, and (c) given only to those closest to us [Redemptionis sacramentum 72].

Yet the noise and frivolity present at the exchange indicate that the exchange of Christ’s peace has been replaced with a social greeting of family and friends, which makes it a non-liturgical act. It is certainly not the exchange of the profound and penetrating peace that flows to us from the Prince of Peace now truly Present on the altar in a unique, and indeed a substantial, manner.

Genuine ‘Active Participation’

Of what then, does the active participation required by the Council actually consist?

The Council says participation is to be "by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, gestures and bodily postures" [SC, 30].

This is nothing more than a reinforcement of the principles of the Dialogue Mass and is as present in the Old Rite as in the New (i.e. the standing, sitting kneeling, singing of Gloria, Sanctus, Amen etc).

At the same time, active participation, being "first and foremost internal," is not in any case about ‘saying and doing’ but about ‘being’. Had the Council been looking for mere ‘action’ on the part of the people it would have used the word activus which it did not: it used the word actuosis which I am reliably informed includes activity of a contemplative kind.

We need to be clear, then, that active participation is not simply activity but a movement of the heart, soul and mind expressed by voice, posture and gesture.

In terms of liturgy, Vatican II has, I feel, been misused by the liturgical avant-garde who have misread or mis-implemented the phrase "active participation … above all else."

Vatican II on the use of Latin

Vatican II permitted a greater use of the vernacular, but we should note that it did not command it: "since the use of the mother-tongue may frequently be an advantage…the limits of its employment may be extended" [SC, 36].

Since use of the vernacular was not alien to the mind of the Council it cannot be completely refused, but its use was given in limiting terms: "it will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants…" [SC, 36, emphasis added]. Thus, it is clear that the Council Fathers did not vote for a fully vernacularised Mass and that such a Mass was not the mind of the Council. Rather, the mind of the Council was that Latin be retained, demonstrated by the fact that the Council Fathers specifically directed:

Particular law remaining in force, use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rites" [SC, 36]; "steps should be taken so that the people be able to sing or say in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them" [SC, 54]; "All other things being equal, Gregorian chant is to be given pride of place… [SC, 116].

This retention of Latin was underlined in 1974 when Paul VI furnished every Bishop of the world with a copy of Jubilate Deo, On the minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant, with a note from the Congregation for Divine Worship which stated that Pope Paul VI had a "desire often expressed that the Conciliar constitution be better implemented" [SCDW, April 1974].

If there is disobedience to the Council then, or to the mind of Paul VI, it is not from those who make use of Latin but from those who will not. Indeed the use of Latin is still envisaged by the General Instruction (No 41) by Redemptionis sacramentum (112) and upheld by British Bishops in Celebrating the Mass (No. 81 – though one wonders if this paragraph will prove to be little more than lip-service to Rome since so many of our clergy and laity are now hostile to Latin).This hostility to Latin remains, even though the IG states that "no Catholic today would deny the lawfulness and efficacy of a sacred rite celebrated in Latin" [IG, 12]. Sadly, there are some who not only think use of Latin is unlawful but that it is wrong, thus absolutising the vernacular; a step the Church simply has not taken and cannot take, since Tradition is the word of God and such a proposition is condemned by the Council of Trent as an error (cf. canons of the 22nd session).Bishops and liturgists who say the vernacular Mass was the mind/will of Vatican II are thus either grossly misled by their advisors and teachers, grossly ignorant of the Decree on the Liturgy or deliberately misinterpreting the Decree.

As the late Cardinal Wyszinski said on the subject of Latin, "the Mystery requires a mysterious language." And naturally so. A mysterious language conveys ‘mystery,’ which is the central reality of the Mass - The Mysterium Fidei - a Mystery we will never understand in this world. And perhaps not even in the next, for who as a finite creature can grasp the ways of the infinite God?

Cultural Adaptation

The Council also called for inculturation of the liturgy; that is, an arranging of the liturgy so that it can reflect the culture of the time and place in which it is celebrated: "In some places and times an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed and entails greater difficulties" [SC, 40].Such inculturation was, however, to be confirmed by the Holy See. In most places, things just happened (such as dances, dramas and mimes in the UK and USA) making these abuses of the liturgy since they were without Roman approbation.Communion in the hand also began as an abuse but was retrospectively ratified to prevent putting abusers into a state of disobedience: Pope Paul stating that elsewhere the Traditional practice was to be maintained (Memoriale Domini, SCDW, 1969) - though this was widely ignored. It is Article 40 that brought about such things as metal altars in areas where steel is manufactured and plastic altars in towns where plastics are manufactured, thus extolling the world and the community rather than Christ the rock and cornerstone.We should certainly rejoice in a renewed liturgy where genuine inculturation is found (such as bowing where this is a more sober greeting than handshaking; or sitting for the Canon in places where sitting is regarded as more deferential than standing or kneeling). But if we are to have the Liturgy of Vatican II we should have it as decreed by Vatican II, not as decreed by modernity’s man-focused ideology.The primary purpose of the liturgy is the adoration of God [SC, 33] which is always to be remembered and prioritised when discussing/planning liturgy. Sadly, it is a reality of liturgy most commonly overlooked.

I have heard it said that placing man before God is the mind of Vatican II, based on Article 59 of Sacrosanctum concilium which states that "the purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, build up the Body of Christ and finally to give worship to God." But this is not an Article giving a definitive hierarchy of the purposes of the Liturgy as a whole: it limits itself to describing why God gave us the sacraments in particular. It leaves intact the fact that "liturgy is principally the worship of the Divine Majesty" [SC, 33].


It is to be hoped that under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict and the Congregation for Divine Worship will set about a true renewal of the Liturgy, for the problems there are reflected in the whole of the Church’s life and perhaps even contribute to them: for in matters of morality and ecclesiology as well as liturgy it is very much a case of man "before all else," abandoning the God-given ‘external oughts and shoulds.’Too often in the last forty years we have been a community of transient ideologies rather than Eternal Truths. Unless we get the Liturgy right and God is considered "before all else", we will never recover from the terminal decline in moral living, vocations, conversions and Mass attendance that have plagued us for years.

I simply cannot see how Progressives can claim that accelerating diminishment in each of these central areas of the Church’s life constitutes growth. It is a strange kind of growth that is constituted by diminishment! Though growth in holiness can indeed go hand in hand with a purification by pruning, which the Church may yet have to suffer