Intermissal Intermission

With all the blogosphere focused on the Holy Father’s visit to Turkey, the liturgy posts are drawing less discussion today. Which is as it should be. I was a little surprised that this open book post on Liturgical Matters had so few comments.

I’m returning to my 2006 New Year’s Resolution of posting once per thread, so I thought I’d import the discussion on the relative merits of the 1570/1962 and 1970 Missals.

I’ve never given much credence to the “abolitionist” argument. Supposedly the traditional Roman Rite was abolished to be replaced by a new rite. In those terms, I don’t think the term is defensible.

Granted, there’s no denying that the Vatican II reforms as implemented were a huge break from what went before. Our examination of Sacrosanctum Concilium bears out that to a great degree, these reforms were anticipated. The actions of the bishops and Rome in the years after the council support the belief that substantial reform was the next step after the council, and something good for the Church. Organic development, a favorite principle of the reform2 crowd, is mentioned once in all of SC. Pastoral principles such as participation and spiritual principles such as intelligibility and the striving for holiness, weigh far more heavily in any big-picture reading of the document. It is simply impossible to take Vatican II teaching on liturgy as a source for one’s personal proof-texting.

My post at Amy’s:

The fussing about abolition is a smokescreen for the reality of the situation:

1. There are not two Roman Rites, but one.

2. The Missal of 1970 was a reform of the previous Missal.

3. The use of the 1570/1962 Missal, unreformed by the directives of Vatican II, remains a curiosity at best, and a distraction or a banner for schism at worst.

4. The continued emphasis on the 1570/1962 Missal draws energy and effort from the real task of the Catholic liturgy: making it as humanly effective as possible by means of great music, great preaching, great art and architecture, etc..

If lovers of high church ritual, smells, bells, and the like want to continue, there’s nothing stopping them from having a Latin-language Mass celebrated with appropriate pomp and spirituality–except perhaps that the traditionalist clergy are fixated on an unreformed and outdated Missal.The wishful thinking about a “liberation” of an old Missal, given the repeatedly dashed hopes of every “leaked” promulgation date, is a little embarassing.

I think it would be better for Roman Catholicism to put the Missal of 1962 to rest. My opinion, period. If reform2 folks and others who are loyal Catholics feel the 1970 Missal in the vernacular is insufficient artistically and theologically and spiritually, then a reexamination of the 1970 Missal with a view of praying it in Latin is what is needed. Not seeking a continual justification for praying a Missal untouched by council reforms.

Here’s a list of what won’t be found exclusively in the 1570/1962 Missal: Latin, chant, incense, male-only acolytes, a sense of church triumphant, traditional architecture, traditional posture for clergy, polyphony, a sense of reverence and awe. The list goes on.

One anonymous commenter said:

It’s pretty clear that something is in mind. That you can’t acknowledge that says more about your rigidity than anything. You come across as one angry and in denial about the situation.

Oh, I have no doubt something is afoot with regard to the 1962 Missal. I’m not at all in denial there may well be a loosening of the conditions for the indult. My stance is that regardless of what is promulgated, or who promulgates it, I judge it to be a bad idea, theologically and pastorally.



Rather than being angry, I’m more resigned to the notion that after every council, people get scared about the new directions. There always has been some backtracking on the Church’s course. This as much a symptom of fear and worry than anything else.

And all the fuss last Lent about an immanent “freeing” of the 1962 Missal? I was more embarassed for my internet friends and foils it didn’t take place.

Richard asked:

Do those (post-conciliar) changes end up making a new rite rather than a reform of the old? That’s fodder for a real discussion, not a simple off-hand statement, I think.

That’s a sound question, extremely polite for the blogosphere. My thoughts are a bit deeper than the appearance of an off-hand statement, and I continue to ruminate on them. I used to refer to the Tridentine Rite, the 1570/1962 Rite, etc., but I’m not so sure that language is accurate. I’ve changed my view.



We are Roman Catholics. Our identity as Roman is based largely on our liturgical observance. Catholics worshipping by 1570, 1962, and 1970 nearly all identify as Roman Catholics. (The exceptions are as much a matter of politics than anything else.) Does the talk of different rites damage our expression of unity? On that basis, I’m convinced a lot more caution is needed before we allow traditionalists to frame the discussion in terms of “separate rites.” As of today, we have one Rite, two Missals. But if someone wants to make a case otherwise, I’m not cemented into my position on it.



Richard also surfaced the issue of continuity. That matter was touched upon by the council bishops. But other concerns were more vital in their eyes. I don’t buy the argument that the 1962 Missal is “closer” to tradition than the 1970 Missal is. Certainly, it contains elements which make it more connected to the immediate past centuries, and in some cases, the Middle Ages. But the pre-conciliar liturgy of the Church made no provision for a catechumenate, an expanded Lectionary, or very much of the ritual contributions of believers outside of Rome, certainly exceedingly little outside of the Ambrosian, Gallican, Mozarabic or other western rites.



Personally, I think the liturgical reforms were too hastily put into place. Ten or twenty years more would have been better. Parish clergy were drastically unprepared. Bishops not much better. I do think the hierarchy was largely ignorant and unprepared for implementing the full liturgical vision of Vatican II. And while some religious and laity got off to a misstart in the vacuum of leadership, there has been a great deal resurfaced from older Christian traditions, as well as worthy elements from the modern day.



Richard leaves off with one last quote from an eminent theologian:

“One cannot manufacture a liturgical movement but one can contribute to its development…J.A. Jungmann, one of the truly great liturgists of our century, defined the liturgy of his time, such as it could be understood in the light of historical research, as ‘a liturgy which is the fruit of development.’ …What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufactured process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”

– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, preface to the French edition of Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background

My readers won’t be surprised as I take issue with a few particulars of this quote. “Fabrication” is an overly emotional term in this context. The pastoral issues are up for debate: was reform too much, too soon? I’m not prepared to argue against that view. But the uncovering of ancient traditions such as the Eucharistic Prayers? The scrutinies of the catechumenate? Scripture-based music in modern musical idioms? These are hardly fabrications. It’s all been done before.



One example: the desire to harmonize the presidential prayers with a three-year Lecitonary cycle instead of the traditional one-year Roman plan: this is a valid attempt to more tightly yoke Scripture and the ritual prayers of the Mass for the benefit of believers. Who could argue against the notion that the liturgy of the Word and Eucharist be so tightly interwound that they serve as one single act of worship? The CDWDS, apparently.

In my view, “the organic, living process of growth” was abandoned after Trent, not Vatican II. Given the fuss over the addition of Joseph into the Roman Canon, can there be any doubt the hermeneutic of resistance was strong in the curia and elsewhere before the Council? And it remains strong today, emboldened by the ascendancy of liturgical conservatives.





And banal? If the Roman Rite is experienced as such (and I have no doubt it is) the problem lies with the clergy and other leadership. Not the council. Not the poor implementation of the council in another generation.



Long enough! Let the commentariat take over!

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to Intermissal Intermission

  1. Gavin says:

    After some thought, I came out against the make-believe “November indult”. My reasoning is something like what you touched on: if the Tridentine Mass becomes celebrated by (who else?) traditionalists, who will be at the Novus Ordo? It seems that progress is now being made towards a more reverent NO, and all of a sudden people are saying “we’re tired of fighting off Haugen and triangle-shaped buildings! Let’s just go back to 1930!” I fear that if Tridentine Masses become widely available, the people left at the Novus will be the same baby boomers who started the whole “folk Mass and rainbow vestments” craze. If that happens, the Novus will die out with that generation. Somehow, I don’t see that as what the council had in mind. Not to mention the fact that the Church DID write the Novus Ordo. Let’s give the authors the benefit of the doubt that if we just follow the directions it will go well.

    And what’s up with that BS about “well if we have the Tridentine Mass everywhere, the Novus Ordo will get better.” Someone please explain how that even makes any sense.

  2. Tony says:

    I’m one of those people who likes the Tridentine rite, but I’ve found that the most vocal proponents of it are dyed-in-the-wool trads like are found in the comment boxen at NLM (which if the term applies to the bloggers there, it certainly does not apply to the commenters who are genreally for a return to the OLD liturgical movement).

    I look at the indult with a chuckle. When I went to my priest with the news and exclaimed “now it will stop being next to impossible to find an old mass!”. He replied: “What do you mean? Anyone can celebrate the old rite, all you have to do is make a phone call to the Bishop”. :)

    We have exactly one (1) indult mass within 75 miles. Why? Because within 75 miles there is only one priest who is able and willing to celebrate the indult mass.

    I think that with the exception of diocese like Orange or Los Angeles, where Bishops are actively hostile to the TLM, it’s really easy to get an indult. But those diocese get the most press because when something is forbidden, all of a sudden everyone wants it, when it’s easy to get, it’s not quite so attractive.

    Even if they have a universal indult, I don’t think much is going to change. Much like the hanging on every musical pronouncement that Francis Cardinal Arinze says regarding chant. He says chant should have a place of honor in the liturgy, so people will get a square note score, frame it and hang it next to the sanctuary. There! It has a place of honor.

    I agree with Gavin that we don’t need those who have a connection with the sacred to bail and find an old mass to celebrate. That takes the “governor” off the NO and will make it spin wildly out of control with clown masses, rock masses, halloween masses and any new musical and liturgical gimmic to make it more “relevant” to the remaining people who are looking for entertainment.

    Those who want Latin can have it. Those who want chant can have it. Those who want altar rails can have them. Those who want the tabernacle in the sanctuary can have it. Those who want communion on their knees on the tongue can have it. Those who want altar boys only can have them.

    No indult is required. You can modify the NO that way right now.

    You want change? Lobby for it. Start with your parish priest. We wanted weekly rosary, so we did it ourselves. We wanted Benediction, so we encouraged the pastor to provide it, which in most cases he’s happy to do.

    Our mass is reforming before our eyes. It became possible when the liturgist left. (Not to tar all liturgists).

  3. John Heavrin says:

    Trent codified the Roman Missal of a millenium’s standing, and made it normative for the entire Church BUT allowed any rite which had been in place for 200 years to remain in use. If Vatican II had done likewise, the 1962 Missal could have remained for those who wanted it, and a “reformed” missal could have been promulgated as well.

    But that wasn’t done, and one wonders why not? Did the Council fathers, advised by the liturgical movement types, fear that without the abolition of the old rite, the new rite for which they longed would never get off the ground? That priests wouldn’t go along? That the destruction of church sanctuaries, altar rails, etc., could not take place if the old rite were still an option? In short, did the believe that the new rite wasn’t wanted, so it would have to be forced upon the faithful, and the removal of any other options had to be accomplished?

    Sure seems like it.

    In your opinion, the liberation of the pre-conciliar missal is a bad idea. In my opinion, it’s a great idea, one that I hope the Holy Father will have the fortitude and courage to undertake. I pray everyday for him and that he will persevere in this regard.

    The Holy Spirit is in control of the matter. Rather than wasting your time telling traditionalists what they should do (insufferably arrogant of you to presume to tell us we should abandon the pre-conciliar rite and instead devote our efforts to “traditionalizing” the rite of Paul VI–funny that you urge this…something tells me that if “your” parishioners suddenly expressed a wish for a Latin, ad orientem novus ordo, with exclusively male servers, etc., you’d be resistant, not congratulatory), or ignorantly tossing around the term “schism,” perhaps you should consider that by authoritarian overreaching, those who contrived and implemented the novus ordo ensured its failure. Can’t unbake that cake, Todd; the fatal mistake was made, and the Pope himself agrees.

    Gavin — wow, do you really think that if the Tridentine Mass is liberated, that the novus ordo will be promptly abandoned by all but the floweriest of the flower children? That it will dry up and and be “blowing in the wind?” Lol…even the most ardent traditionalists don’t dare to fantasize that, not right away, anyway. But from your mouth to God’s Ear.

    It’s not very nice of me, I know, but if I find the panic, thinly-veiled as righteous outrage, over this matter from the French bishops, NCR, and all the usual types, to be greatly encouraging.

    One last thing: it’s not about dates, Todd, so you don’t need to be “embarrassed” on anyone’s behalf about what you perceive to be disappointment. It might be next week, next month, or a year from now. If the Holy Spirit wants a traditionalist restoration, or anything approaching it, He will have it, in His own time. There’s nothing you can to do stop it; pray for the will of God to be done, and for the grace and patience to conform your own to it. That’s what I do.

  4. Tony says:

    In your opinion, the liberation of the pre-conciliar missal is a bad idea. In my opinion, it’s a great idea, one that I hope the Holy Father will have the fortitude and courage to undertake. I pray everyday for him and that he will persevere in this regard.

    John, I really don’t think anything is going to change. Are they teaching the pre-conciliar rite in the seminaries? (Well except for SSFP or other “pockets of traditionalism). Do priests nowadays have the training and the desire for the TLM? I fear that liberation of the TLM will be like throwing a party that nobody comes to. Reconciliation with the SSPX might help, for a while anyway. But what is going to work is to increase a sense of the sacred among the faithful. That won’t be done by shoving the TLM down their throat (like the Novus Ordo was shoved down mine), so I am speaking from experience here. What is needed is an awaking within the hearts of the faithful. A more dignified celebration of the Latin rite (in whatever form) will follow.

  5. Richard says:

    Hello Todd,

    This is “Richard” with the lengthy post at Amy’s. We’ve talked before.

    I have some more thoughts on this, chief of which is that I’m pleased that you’re taking a thoughtful approach over here than you did at Amy’s.

    I’m not a traditionalist even if it sometimes sounds like it. The frozen-in-amber brigade of traditionalists must understand that a) the liturgy was always meant to develop, not stay frozen – not even in the long almost-stasis that Trent locked it into. As you state: “In my view, “the organic, living process of growth” was abandoned after Trent, not Vatican II.” That’s perhaps a fair point to make, but lack of growth in the Tridentine period cannot in turn justify wild, inorganic growth in the few brief years after V2, can it? And that’s what it was. I think the stunning (and slapdash) alterations in the collects of the propers as documented by Lauren Pristas recently makes that evident, and that in turn is why I think that Ratzinger’s epithet of “fabrication” is not out of place.

    OTOH, it was also meant to develop organically and slowly. I think, like Alciun Reid, that it is impossible to characterize what happened in 1965-1970 in this manner. The current situation is in many respects unprecedented, and thus why we’re even talking about the (also unprecedented) possibility of two at-large rites. Or, if you prefer, two forms of the same rite.

    Everyone assumes that this move is about bringing the SSPX back into the fold. I suggest that it’s only one, and perhaps not even the major motive. I think that by its greater exposure it is meant to help guide the ongoing reform of the novus ordo back to something much more in continuity with the tradition of the Roman Rite. Gavin above suggests another possibility: “if the Tridentine Mass becomes celebrated by (who else?) traditionalists, who will be at the Novus Ordo?” Perhaps there will be mass defections of just the sort of laity we need just when we need them, but I in the aggregate, I doubt it. I think it will create pressure to traditionalize the novus ordo in many places.

    “If the Roman Rite is experienced as such (and I have no doubt it is) the problem lies with the clergy and other leadership. Not the council. Not the poor implementation of the council in another generation.” You know what? I’d agree with you – and, I suspect, so would many cranky reform-of-the-reform types. In so many ways we’ve been let down by the ordained (and even lay) leadership in the post-conciliar period.

  6. Richard says:

    Hello Tony,

    “I’m one of those people who likes the Tridentine rite, but I’ve found that the most vocal proponents of it are dyed-in-the-wool trads like are found in the comment boxen at NLM (which if the term applies to the bloggers there.”

    I think that’s really an unfair characterization of the mean over at NLM.

    Most of them, like Shawn, don’t strike me as frozen-in-amber types. The hardcore types are really at places like Rorate Caeli.

    I agree that lifting the indult requirement won’t change much right away in many places. I also agree that it’s a bootless exercise without priests trained to say the (demanding) rubrics. But the manifest injustice with which many bishops have refused the “wide and generous” application called for by the Pope in 1988 requires at least this much – and leaves us hoping for more over the long run. (And if you think all of the requests refused were from obnoxious RadTrad firebombers, I’ve got another tale to tell, from personal experience. )

    And it is in the long run that the Church really lives and changes.

    “No indult is required. You can modify the NO that way right now.” You’re right, but in too few places is it happening. This motu proprio may be the kick in the pants needed to get some bishops nudged in the right direction.

    The biggest positive change that could happen is an easy one: Restore celebration of at least the liturgy of the Eucharist to ad orientem. And catechize why the Church, East and West, did so for virtually its entire history.

  7. TerryC says:

    I saw your comment over at Amy’s, and while I did think the post itself was somewhat less than diplomatic I find myself agreeing in principle with just about every one of your points.
    I find myself agreeing with your comments here. It seems that every day we see a story about some liturgical abuse that takes place at some parish in the United States where either the priest or the laity have taken it upon themselves to make some illicit change to the rite of the Mass. Yet we seldom hear of a parish where any of the allowed options you mentioned are practiced.
    Is even ad orientem prevented by the Roman Missal 1970?
    So why are priest not celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin, with Gregorian Chant, and antiphons instead of Hymns? Is it indeed a matter of what is being taught in the Seminaries? Is it a lack of a movement on the part of the laity to request such a Mass?
    I would agree that it is very hard for a priest to turn down something a large number of his parish wants, unless he can point to such action being illicit. If laity in the parishes were pushing for the N.O. in Latin, with Latin Chant, then more priest would be doing it.

  8. Cantor says:

    Honestly, a lot of priests really don’t know they can celebrate ad orientem. Look at Fr. Fox (, who only a few days ago realized that the CDW has explicitly given permission for it. A local Dominican priest I know was unaware until I told him.

    The seminaries don’t teach this, I guess. They also are arguably not in accord with Canon law in assuring that seminarians have a good grasp of Latin ( I presume, in good faith, that they are teaching gritty stuff about Scripture, Church history, doctrine, etc.

    On a side note, one thing we are dealing with now is that it would be impossible to return to days when the priest could be relied upon as “knowing everything”. I knew about the purification business before my pastor did; when I first asked him about it, he wasn’t aware of anything. (And is now committed to dragging his feet on it as long as possible.)

  9. Richard says:

    Hello Cantor,

    I think seminary formation is one of the biggest culprits. Latin training is still minimal in most places. Liturgical training isn’t much better. And in truth many bishops are so vested in the current rubrics that they fight any effort to employ valid options which seem more traditional. The scuffle between Mother Angelica and Bishop Foley over the televising of ad orientem mass at their monastery is a case in point. Ultimately Medina-Estevez had to intervene with a letter making clear that yes, celebration ad orientem is entirely licit. The most Foley could do was forbid it to be televised.

    Tony says: “You want change? Lobby for it.” Honestly, I think he underrates how difficult this can be at times. My perspective is quite different from Todd’s, and occasionally he’s said some bald things in the blogosphere, but in the end I get the sense that wearing his liturgist hat he’s reasonably open to lay feedback and suggestions. That’s sadly not true of many liturgists and priests – the former who treat the liturgy as a personal possession and plaything, and the latter who too often want to offend as few parishioners as possible. Thus the old joke, which I know Todd is tired of hearing, about the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist.

    The laity can make a difference if they’re educated and energetic enough. But they have to have good bishops to work with.

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