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Pope John Paul II Says:

Let Catholics Have the Traditional Mass

by Father Paul Leonard, B.Ph., S.T.B., M.Div.

On July 2, 1988, Pope John Paul II speaking of those Catholics who feel attached to the traditional Latin Mass stated in his Motu Proprio: "... I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to GUARANTEE RESPECT FOR THEIR RIGHTFUL ASPIRATIONS. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry of the Church." In this statement, the Holy Father has made it clear that Catholics do indeed have a right to their traditional rite of Mass, and he makes it equally clear that the bishops and pastors must respect this right.

Cardinal Silvio Oddi further clarified the matter when he stated: "It needs to be said that the Mass of St. Pius V has in fact never been officially abrogated. Paul VI's motu proprio instituting the new mass contained no form of words explicitly forbidding the Tridentine rite."1

Bishop Forester, quoted by Father Brian Houghton, also explained the matter when he wrote: "The New Ordo ... is merely a licit exception, a derogation to the previous laws which are still in force."2


Legally the traditional rite remains in force as it was mandated by Pope St. Pius V, while the Novus Ordo is merely an exception to the rule.

Nevertheless, a great number of bishops and other ecclesiastics who occupy positions of authority have attempted to unlawfully suppress the traditional Roman Rite of Mass.

The intolerance and injustice which a large segment of the hierarchy has demonstrated towards the rightful aspirations of traditionally-minded Catholics has prompted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to call for "an examination of conscience": "We should allow ourselves to ask fundamental questions about the defects in the pastoral life of the Church ...", Cardinal Ratzinger said.3

What About Vatican II and the New Mass?

Certainly there may be many who will ask: "What about Vatican II? Didn't the Council decree that there should be a new rite of Mass?" The answer to this question is a very emphatic NO. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the liturgy of the Roman Rite be revised. It did not decree a radical reform or an entirely new rite. The Liturgy Constitution, SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM, reads:

"The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as well as the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored according to the pristine norm of the Holy Fathers, to the extent that they may seem useful or necessary."4

There are some key passages in this text, and elsewhere in this conciliar document, that must be examined in order to determine if the creation of a New Order of Mass and the suppression of the traditional rite corresponds to the express wishes of the Second Vatican Council, or if it is rather a rejection of both that Council and the perpetual teaching and tradition of the Church:

1. The rite of the Mass is to be revised ...

The revision of the ancient Roman Rite is prescribed, there is no mention of a liturgical reform that will sweep away the old rite and replace it with a new one.

2. ... the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts ... more clearly manifested ...

The sacred mystery of the altar must be manifested more clearly, it must not be obscured in ambiguities.

3. ... restored according to the pristine norm of the Holy Fathers.

Restoration means that the ancient structure and form are to be preserved, and not be replaced with novel inventions.

In addition to these there are other passages of this document which express the mind of the Council in those matters concerning the revision of the liturgy:

Finally, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity; thatshe wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the present-day circumstances and needs.5

In order that sound tradition be retained ... there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.6

In this restoration both text and rites should be ordered so as to express more clearly the holy things they signify.7

Here are the key passages:

1. ... in faithful obedience to tradition ...

2. ... all lawfully recognized rites ... to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way ...

3. ... the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition ...

4. ... In order that sound tradition be retained ... there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them ...

5. ... any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing ...

6. ... In this restoration both text and rites should be ordered so as to express more clearly the holy things they signify.

Vatican II Preserves the Traditional Mass

It is absolutely clear according to the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, that the traditional rite of Mass of the Roman Church is to be preserved and restored, and it must clearly express the dogmatic truths that it had previously expressed. The Council very clearly did not call for the institution of an entirely new rite of Mass, but, not unlike the Council of Trent, it intended to revise and preserve the ancient Roman Rite.

Vatican II in the Tradition of Trent

In 1570, Pope St. Pius V revised and codified the Roman Rite of the Mass in the Bull Quo Primum. It is important to bear in mind that Pope St. Pius V did not institute the Tridentine Mass, but he merely restored and codified the immemorial Roman Rite of the Mass.

The Council of Trent had no intention to institute a new liturgy. "The Council of Trent (1545-1563)", Davies observes, "did indeed appoint a commission to examine the Roman Missal, and to revise and restore it 'according to the custom and rite of the Holy Fathers'. The new Missal was eventually promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1570 with the Bull Quo Primum."

In the Bull Quo Primum, Pius V did not institute a new rite of the Mass. Davies demonstrates this by citing eminent authorities:

"... Father David Knowles, who was Britain's most distinguished Catholic scholar until his death in 1974, pointed out" that:

The Missal of 1570 was indeed the result of instructions given at Trent, but it was, in fact, as regards the Ordinary, Canon, Proper of the time and much else a replica of the Roman Missal of 1474, which in its turn repeated in all essentials the practice of the Roman Church of the epoch of Innocent III, which itself derived from the Usage of Gregory the Great and his successors in the Seventh Century. In short, the Missal of 1570 was, in all essentials, the usage of the mainstream of medieval European liturgy which included England and all its rites.8

Although the rite continued to develop after the time of St. Gregory, Father Fortescue explains that:

"All later modifications were fitted into the old arrangement, and the most important parts were not touched. From, roughly, the time of St. Gregory we have the text of the Mass, in order and arrangement, as a sacred tradition that no one has ventured to touch except in unimportant details."9

Fortescue continues:

"So our Mass goes back without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world ... The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unresolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours."10

Father Louis Bouyer:

"The Roman Canon, as it is today, (written before Vatican II) goes back to Gregory the Great. There is not, in the East or in the West, a Eucharistic prayer remaining in use to this day, that can boast of such antiquity. In the eyes not only of the Orthodox, but of Anglicans and even those Protestants who have still to some extent, a feeling for tradition, to jettison it would be a rejection of any claim on the part of the Roman Church to represent the true Catholic Church."

Similarly, Kevin Starr in the San Francisco Examiner (April 15, 1978) explains:

It took the Latin Church 500 years to evolve a worship service equal to this awesome, compelling leap to the Godhead through the Risen Eucharistic Christ. For a thousand years Catholics prayed this way at Mass. In the 16th Century Council of Trent, this 1000-year-old Mass was standardized, codified, made the norm of the universal Church. Another 400 years went by — 400 years of dignified, compelling worship ...

In his recent work, The Eternal Sacrifice, Davies makes the important observation that:

At no time in the history of the Roman Rite was there ever any question of a Pope setting up a commission to compose new prayers and ceremonies. The ceremonies evolved almost imperceptibly, and in every case, codification, that is the incorporation of these prayers into the liturgical books, followed upon their development ... particular prayers and ceremonies were found in the Missal because they were being used in the Mass, and not vice versa. Professor Owen Chadwick, one of Britain's greatest historians, remarks: "Liturgies are not made, they grow in the devotion of the centuries."11

The great Apostle Saint Paul was so zealous that he was responsible for almost single-handedly Christianizing Europe. The wrath of St. Paul is invoked by St. Pius V against anyone, even a Cardinal, Bishop or Priest, who dares to interfere with the right of any Catholic Priest in good standing to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

The Papal Document "Quo Primum"

Precisely what St. Pius V did to the ancient Mass rite of the Roman Church is succinctly summed up by Davies:

The Bull Quo Primum of St. Pius V:

1) does not promulgate a new rite but consolidates and codifies the immemorial Roman Rite;

2) It extends its use throughout the Latin Church, except;

3) for rites having a continuous usage of over two hundred years;

4) and grants an indult to all priests to freely and lawfully use this Missal in perpetuity;

5) The Bull specifies minutely the persons, times and the places to which its provisions apply;

6) The obligation is confirmed by express sanctions.

Since that time, no Pope has ever himself formally decreed the abrogation or obrogation ofQuo Primum, and certainly no Pope has ever presumed to abolish the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass. From this it should already be clear that any priest of the Roman Rite is entitled to celebrate the traditional Mass anywhere, at any time, in accordance with liturgical laws ... (and) the laity are just as much entitled to assist at the traditional Mass as priests of the Roman Rite are to celebrate it.

The Doctrine of the Faith Protects Forever the Traditional Mass

The traditional Roman Rite of Mass is the universal and perpetual custom of the Church, rooted in Apostolic Tradition. It cannot ever be lawfully suppressed. The proposition that the established customary ceremonies and rites of the Roman Church can be suppressed and replaced by the innovations and inventions of bureaucrats is contrary to the doctrine of the Faith.

The Roman Rite, as we have seen, is the most ancient rite of Mass; and, as Jungmann points out, it grew out of the apostolic traditions. Concerning the Canon of that rite, the Council of Trent declared, "it is made up from the words of Our Lord from apostolic traditions, and from devout instructions of the holy pontiffs''.12 Very clearly, the ancient Roman Rite of the Mass is not something that a Pope instituted or decreed into existence. It is the sacred patrimony of the Roman Church, and it cannot be lawfully suppressed.

St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, wrote in his Summa Doctrinae Christianae: "It behooves us unanimously and inviolably to observe the ecclesiastical traditions, whether codified or simply retained by the customary practice of the Church."

We see the same teaching set forth by St. Peter Damien, also a Doctor of the Church: "It is unlawful to alter the established customs of the Church ... Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set." This doctrine is the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, and therefore it must be believed with divine and Catholic Faith, since it is set forth in the Profession of Faith of Pius IV:

"I most steadfastly admit and embrace Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Traditions and all other observances and institutions of the said Church ... I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church used in the solemn administration of the sacraments."13

Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI 
Never did Suppress the Old Mass

When Pope Paul VI approved the Missal for the New Rite of Mass, he did not abolish the Traditional Rite. Pope Paul's Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum is a very curious document. Being an Apostolic Constitution, one would expect it to solemnly decree legislation for the purpose of regulating the discipline of the Universal Church.

However, Missale Romanum does nothing of that nature.14 It does not establish any norms for the use of the new Missal in the churches of the Latin Rite. In Missale Romanum, Pope Paul VI did not even explicitly approve the text of the new Missal. He only decreed the inclusion of three new Eucharistic Prayers into the Missal and established the formula of consecration to be published in the new Missal.

Hence, when Pope Paul VI declared: "We wish that these our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our Predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation", he made no ruling over the discipline that governs the worship of the Church. Nothing at all is prescribed concerning where, when, and by whom this new liturgical book must, or even may, be used.

The use of the new Missal is simply not mandated. It is nowhere mandated that this Missal is henceforth to be used in the Churches of the Latin Rite by the clergy of that rite. The only thing that Missale Romanum mandates is the inclusion of prayers and formula into the book! It derogates the laws that had previously proscribed the publication of any new missal, but it does not derogate the previous legislation which forbids the use of any new missal.

Bishop Forester Explains Why the Confusion

Bishop Forester, in Father Brian Houghton's book, Mitre and Crook observes:

This has been the most puzzling history of all. May I remind you, Fathers, that we already have two documents of the highest conceivable authority: the Bull Quo Primum and the ConstitutionSacrosanctum Concilium, which are, moreover, in line with each other. What happens next?

On April 3, 1969, a Papal Constitution entitled Missale Romanum was promulgated purporting to be the law governing the New Order of Mass, as yet unpublished. In this original version it is not a law at all but an explanatory introduction to a permission. Even the word 'Constitutio' is nowhere to be found in the text, merely in the title:

1. There is no abrogation of previous legislation and no clause ordering the use of the new rite.

2. There is no sentence to show that it is obligatory, let alone exclusive.

3. There is no dating clause to show when it should come into effect.

This of course did not prevent the powers that be from saying that it was a binding law. To do so they had recourse to a mistranslation. What is so curious is that the mistranslation was common to all languages. I have read it myself in English, French and Italian. I am told that it is the same in German and Spanish. How can this possibly come about? How can all these expert translators make the identical mistranslation? Your guess is as good as mine.

Here is the sentence, the fourth before the end of the original version, the fifth in the Acta:

Ad extremum, ex iis quae hactenus de novo Missale Romano exposuimus quiddam nunccogere et efficere placet ...

I have emphasized the mistranslated words. "Cogere et efficere" is a well-known Ciceronian phrase to be found in most dictionaries. Even if the translators could not be bothered to look it up, it is perfectly clear that "quiddam cogere" breaks down into "agere quiddam con" = to work something together, which is in the context "to sum up". Equally, "quiddam efficere" breaks down into "facere quiddam ex" = to make something out, which is in the context "to draw a conclusion".

And what did all the translators make of it? "In conclusion, We now wish to give the force of law to all We have declared ..."; and in French, "Pour terminer, Nous voulons donner force de loi a tout ce que Nous avons expose ..."; and in Italian, etc. It is strange, my dear Fathers, but such is the truth: "to sum up and draw a conclusion" becomes "to give the force of law".

And what did I do about it? Absolutely nothing for the simple reason that I did not bother to read the Latin until two or three years later. Do not judge me too severely. Have you read it?

But that is not the end. Worse is to come. The Acta for June, 1969, were published as usual about two months later. When it appeared, a brand new clause had been inserted into the original document as the penultimate paragraph. It reads: Quae Constitutione hac Nostra praescripsimus vigere incipient a XXX proximi mensis Novembris hoc anno, id est a Dominica I Adventus. That is, "What we have ordered by this Our constitution will begin to take effect as from November of this year (1969), that is the first Sunday of Advent." You will notice:

1. that for the first and only time the word "Constitutio" appears in the text.

2. For the first time, too, a word signifying "to order" is introduced — "praescripsimus".

3. For the first time a date is given on which the order is to become effective. This is a permission turned into a law.

Actually, there are a couple of snags even about this insertion. The word "praescripsimus" — We have ordered — is not the proper term in Latin, but I shall not bother you with refinements. More important, it is in the wrong tense. Up to this point the legislator has prescribed nothing at all. It is precisely in this clause that he claims to do so. The verb, therefore should be in the presenttense: "praescribimus" = "what We are ordering by this our Constitution": not in the past perfect, "what we have prescribed". The only explanation I can think of for this howler is recognition by its author that he is tampering with a pre-existing text. Moreover, the logical conclusion from the use of the wrong tense can scarcely be what its author intended: since nothing was prescribednothingis prescribed; and the legislator, to boot, is still prescribing nothing. What a mess! I wonder how long a civil government would last which thus tampered with its own laws?

There is a last remark I wish to make about this strange document. It winds up with the usualclause de style: "We wish, moreover, that these decisions and ordinances of ours should be stable and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding — insofar as may be necessary — Constitutions and apostolic regulations published by Our predecessors and all other ordinances, even those requiring special mention and derogation." At long last — indeed it is the last word — there is a "technical" term in the constitution, so we know exactly where we stand: "derogation".The New Ordo is therefore only a permission after all. It is merely a licit* exception, a derogation, to the previous laws which are still in force. They have not abrogated ... It is nonsense to claim that the Bull Quo Primum has been abrogated.

*It is only Bishop Forester and not the author who says the new Mass is licit.

1. Silvio Cardinal Oddi, Camerlengo of the Sacred College, made this statement to Michael de Jaeghere in an interview published in the first week of August, 1988, in Valeurs Actuelles.
2. This quotation appeared in Father Byron Houghton's book, Mitre and Crook, and is reproduced at length below.
3. Address of Cardinal Ratzinger to the bishops of Chile, July 13, 1988, Santiago, Chile. Published in Italian in the July 30 - August 5 edition of Il Sabato, and in English by The Wanderer, September 8, 1988.
4. Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 50.
5. ibid., para. 4.
6. ibid., para. 23.
7. ibid., para. 21.
8. cf. Davies: The Tridentine Mass, p. 21; The Tablet, July 24, 1971, p. 724.
9. Father Adrian Fortescue: The Mass, London, 1917, p. 173.
10. ibid., p. 213.
11. Davies: The Eternal Sacrifice; Long Prairie, 1987, p. 14.
12. D 942
13. A Manual of Catholic Theology, Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas Scannell, Kegan Paul: London, 1909.

It must be recalled that it pertains to the very essence of the law that it:

1) Must be preceptive in its wording if it is going to make something obligatory.

2) It must specify who are the subjects of the law, and it must specify where and when the law will be in force.

3) The law must be publicly promulgated in the manner specified by law, by the competent authority.

It is manifestly evident from the above considerations that Pope Paul's Missale Romanum did not make the new Mass obligatory.

Continued In Next Issue,

Topics to be included are:

Problem Compounded by Illegal Actions of a Few Curial Officials; What Really is the Law Regarding the Mass Today?; The 1984 Indult; Catholic Dogma is Expressed and Safeguarded by the Traditional Mass; The New Mass is a Different Rite; The Smoke of Satan has Entered the Church — Pope Paul VI; We are Responding to Cardinal Ratzinger's Call for Examination of Conscience.