Il Giornale: The Mass in Latin returns – The Pope’s decree is ready

Over at Rorate Caeli there is an entry about the rumored papal document freeing up the use of the older Missale, the so-called "Tridentine" Mass. Rorate provided a translation of part of an article in Il Giornale about this, which provides some interesting info I had not read elsewhere. Here is my own translation of the whole thing. Rorate did a pretty good job but it might have been a little too fast. Also, the section he did not include is also of interest. Here we go. My emphasis and comments in […] added:

The Mass in Latin returns – The Pope’s decree is ready

by Andrea Tornielli

Rome – The text is ready, and it lacks only the Pope’s signature. Benedict XVI could publish a "Motu proprio", even before the end of 2006, with which the use of the pre-Conciliar Missal would be freed up, thus allowing groups of faithful to request the celebration of the old Mass without encountering negative responses, often unjustified, from individual bishops. The document will "rehabilitate" the Mass, sometimes called that "of Saint Pius V", celebrated in the Latin Catholic Church until 1969, and never declared abrogated, defining it as an "extraordinary" universal rite, alongside the ordinary Roman Rite, which is the post-Conciliar one. In this way, the old Mass would return to full citizenship, just as other Catholic rites enjoy, such as the Byzantine, Mozarabic or Syro-Antiochian. And bishops would not be able to refuse its concession, as often happens today.

The thought of Pope Ratzinger about this matter has been known for a long time now: in the liturgical sphere a real break with the past has been substantiated and the reform following Vatican II not only went far beyond the letter of the same Council, but also was and still is badly implemented in many countries, where many liturgical abuses take place which wind up reducing Mass to a show. Thus, just about anything is being tolerated at the altar, but the doors are slammed on those faithful who, also because of these abuses, have remained attached to or have rediscovered the old Rite. "Unfortunately for us", Cardinal Ratzinger had asserted some years ago in the book length interview Salt of the Earth, "there is a nearly limitless tolerance for spectacular and adventurous alterations, while effectively there is none at all for the older liturgy. We are in this way surely on the wrong path". The future Benedict XVI also added, "Personally, I maintain that there is needed a more generous attitude in granting the old Rite to those who desire it. You just can’t see what could be so dangerous or unacceptable in that. A community calls itself into question when it suddenly considers forbidden what until just a little before seemed sacred and when it makes the very desire for it seem reprehensible. Why must these things still be believed? Isn’t it possible that what is being enjoined today will be forbidden tomorrow?"

After having consulted the cardinals of the Roman Curia and having posed the question also to the Consistory of last February, clearly stating that the theology of the Tridentine Mass cannot be defined as "reductive" [this means "characterized by too narrow", more on this below], Benedict XVI charged Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of [the Congregation for] Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" with moving forward. Subsequently, a first draft of the text was composed, which the Pope then forwarded to the Congregation for Divine Worship [and Discipline of the Sacraments]. Here the progress of the decree was made more difficult, due to various internal obstructions at the dicastery: it was initially thought to fix a minimum number for faithful making the request at 100, which was then lowered to 30, and references to liturgical abuses were removed from the draft. The text was thus returned to the Pontiff and to "Ecclesia Dei". In addition to Castrillón, Julián Cardinal Herranz, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, was also engaged in drafting the text.

The "Motu proprio" for the liberalization ["freeing up"] of the new [sic] Missal, an initiative encountering considerable resistance inside and outside the Roman Curia, ought to facilitate also the achieving of full communion with the Lefebvrites of the Society of Saint Pius X, who have always fought for it [that is, "freeing up" of the use of the older Missal]. Obviously, if the Pope signs the document, as he seems disposed to do, it will not mean that the average faithful will in his parish find Mass celebrated in the old way overnight. It will be necessary to balance the needs of the traditionalist faithful with those of other parishioners.

I must add a comment expanding on Pope Benedict’s affirmation that the theology of older form of Mass, is not "reductive".

Consider that the rite of Mass, with its texts and rubrics, both reflects the Church’s Faith and undergirds the Church’s Faith. Lex orandi – lex credendi … the way the Church prays has a reciprocal relationship with what she believes. If we believe certain things, we will pray in a certain way. If we pray a certain way, we will more strongly hold to certain things. So, when someone makes the accusation that the so-called "Tridentine" edition of the Roman Missal was "reductive", that levels a serious accusation of narrowness, or lack of enlightenment, against the Church herself for, literally, centuries. Benedict XVI had been trying to dismantle that false accusation for decades. Thus, he says that the theology of the older form of Mass is not, in fact, "reductive". What does this mean?

This "reductive" in Italian, is a hard word to translate. The impact of saying that the theology of the pre-Conciliar Missale is not "reductive" ("la teologia della Messa tridentina non può essere definita «riduttiva»)" means that many of the old chestnuts progressivists or modernists, or whatever you want to call them, toss around about the old Mass are simply not true. You will often hear that the older form of Mass is "too vertical", while the newer form is more "horizontal", that the older form places too much emphasis on the sacrificial dimension and not enough on the "meal" aspect, that the older form does not take into account a true necessity for "active participation" as a constituent element of liturgical action, that the older Mass reduces people to "passive spectators" (that makes me CRAZY!), while the newer Mass "allows" people to "participate actively". To say that the theology of the older Missale is not "reductive" is to say that these things are no more true about the "Tridentine" Missale than they are about the Novus Ordo. Both editions of the Roman Missal, old and new, must be given a fair shake. This is the beauty of the Pope’s argument for years now, nay decades. Setting the two editions, Tridentine and Novus Ordo, on a much more equal footing will reveal that much of the progressivist criticism has no foundation while showing at the same time that the Novus Ordo clearly opens up for us some advantages, from which even those attached to the older form can benefit.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA, WDTPRS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Boko Fittleworth says:

    What advantages, Fr. Z, do yo think the Novus Ordo opens up for us?

  2. Boko: As I have written many times before, the experience of the Novus Ordo, for good or often also for bad, has taught many priests something value about their manner of celebrating Mass and has helped many people attending celebrations of the older form to engage it in a new way.

  3. In my observed experience, the folks complaining about not having enough to do
    during the “old” Mass are probably currently attending a Mass where the GIRM
    is seldom followed anyway.

    We are all called to participate in the same way no matter which form of the
    Mass you attend.

    Honestly, I think more of us (myself included) need to work on our interior
    prayer life.

  4. Mila says:

    Father, don’t you think that the term “active” participation has been rendered incorrectly? From all that I have read in documents, and what has been explained here in your blog, I thnk that what has been termed “active” would more accurately be rendered as “conscious”. We are supposed to take part in the Mass with full consciousness of what it is we are doing. It’s not so much how much we holler the responses or how loudly we sing, but how conscious we are of what is taking place at the altar and what is our part in it. Am I wrong?

  5. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Fr. Z,

    What might the impact of this restoration be on future Church architecture? Does the venerable rite have any architectural requirements such as an altar rail or other elements?


  6. fr.franklyn says:

    The traditional roman rite does not rquire an altar rail but because of practical concerns one would be wise to have one since kneeling for holy communion is required.Mass in the traditional rite may be said versus populum but usually it is said ad orientem or facing the crucifix.In this case there would have to be enough room for you to genuflect.

  7. Fr. John Pecoraro: I do not believe that such a concession will necessarily require changes to existing structures except, perhaps, in the those places where some changes were made that would militate against use of the older Mass if and when it is deemed opportune to use it. After all, altar rails are great, but not really obligatory. They are convenient and beautiful and symbolic and edifying, but not absolutely necessary.

  8. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Thanks Fr. Franklyn,
    Since I am presently in the position of building a new church, these questions need to be asked. As Fr. says because kneeling is required for receiving communion it seems logical to me that a altar rail will almost have to be present, which is good news to me. If the TLM is fully restored, I will have to make appropriate decisions regarding its design that will accommodate both rites equally well. Any other suggestions are indeed welcome.

  9. Fr Con says:

    Fr Pecoraro,

    You raise a very interesting point. If the classical liturgy is again allowed to every priest, then every sanctuary will have to allow its celebration. Even in the most liberal parish I may turn up and present myself to say my Mass (sine populo), and it will be my right to celebrate according to the ancient rite. This will have to affect the way new churches are built. Please God it will also lead to the restoration of so many devastated sanctuaries.

    Best wishes with your own building project.


    Fr Con.

  10. Fr Con: Sure! I suppose that is so. Provided the priest has a proper celebret, he ought to be allowed (nay rather welcomed) to say Mass at a church if he is travelling, etc. Since this draft document has moved also through the hands of the Pont. Council for Legislative Texts, I imagine there wil be norms about this. At the same time, I think the very BEST approach to this, since it will be hugely controversial and very touchy for some, it is use cheerful discretion obviously gentle gratitude about the new development and never force an issue. o{]:¬)

  11. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    I would think that all parishes will need to at least equip themselves for the rite with the necessary hardware such as vestments (maniple),the Missale, altar crosses and cards, communion patens and such, wether a particular parish celebrates the TLM or not. I plan to equip my parish with the necessary items since the “old rite” will be of equal status to the Novus Ordo, I think its just in good form to say the least.

  12. Fr. John Pecoraro: That is a noble attitude. What you are talking about is, at the very least, polite!

  13. Scott says:


    I am enjoying the discussion–thanks to all of you.

    Here’s my question: what is the risk that the Traditional Latin Mass could fall victim to some of the same “innovations” and liturgical abuses we’ve witnessed in the Pauline rite?

    God bless. AMDG.

  14. Maureen says:

    When I was a kid, my church still used patens. I don’t really see why we don’t now; it would be much neaterand prevent accidents. (Also, if people want to be up in front, they can hold a paten and feel happy.)

  15. claiborne says:

    I’ve been surfing the web for more info on this potential
    development, and this site has been the most informative.
    Thank you, Fr. Z, and all of you other fathers for taking
    this news seriously and for being interested (and of good
    will) when discussing the ramifications at the parish level.
    My heart swells and my pulse increases; I NEVER would have
    dared think that I could be reading these comments, and
    that the Mass of the Ages could become a (much more) common
    reality, particularly in my diocese. Fr. Pecoraro, I am a
    traditional Catholic man in the same diocese as you, and
    attend Mass at an urban parish (St. Suburban and All SUV’s)
    so you have an idea why my hope of regular TLM’s throughout
    the diocese seemed, until this week, just a pipe dream.
    I have attended one of your NO Masses, and found it to be
    BY FAR the most reverent I had heard. I look forward to
    making the drive to hear you say the Tridentine someday.
    Viva il Papa!

  16. May I remind everyone that, until a document is actually promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff, all of this is chat and hearsay. With Popes, the written documents are what count in these matters.

  17. Eric the Read says:

    I was an altar boy in the ’80s, and we stil used platens back then.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind having the option to occasionally attend a Tridentine Mass; I don’t know if I’d want to do it every week, but maybe once a month might be nice.

  18. Fr. Totton says:

    There is a lot of speculation here about whether and when His Holiness will issue
    such a motu proprio. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that churches ought to be
    constructed in such a way (whatever the status of the indult) that Mass can be
    celebrated ad orientem (or versus populum) with a truly free-standing altar.
    It has been my experience that “free-standing altars” are often posed on a step or a
    a precipice so as to render them useless in the celebration ad orientem.
    A truly free-standing altar would provide ample space on either side for the priest
    to stand and genuflect as necessary!

    On a related note – and Fr. Z., feel free to pick this up as a topic, if you have not already –
    I was recently at a conference on the Sacred Liturgy (it was sponsored by the Fellowship
    of Catholic Scholars) at which Mons. Moroney (of USCCB liturgy dept. fame) made the comment
    that recent docs (Redemptionis Sacramentum and the IGMR) seem to make the strong
    preference FOR versus populum (and therefore frown on ad orientem) I don’t remember
    encountering any such preference in thos docs (maybe I did not read them close enough)
    but I wonder if Mons. Moroney was interjecting his own preference and passing it off
    as that of the Congregation for Divine Worship, etc.

  19. David J. White says:


    I’m not one of the Fathers, but I think that one of the things that will
    help protect the traditional Mass against liturgical abuses is the
    principle of “no mixing of rites”, that has been assiduously observed at
    every indult Mass I have attended. That is, the traditional Mass must be
    celebrated according to the traditional *rubrics* — no communion in the
    hand, no altar girls, etc. The fact that the traditional Mass is so
    deliberately programmed and leaves little for the celebrant to do at his
    own whim is another thing that helps prevent liturgical abuses.

    One thing I do worry about is celebrations of the traditional Mass by
    priests who don’t understand it very well and don’t really know how to
    do it properly. Someone is going to have to enforce standards.
    Seminaries would have to be sure that all new priests are properly trained
    in how to say it — which, at minimum, means making sure that new priests
    know enough Latin. For current priests, perhaps there will have to be
    some sort of “continuing education” courses to make sure that they
    know how to say it.

  20. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    To Claibrorn, Thank you for your kindness, my best teachers on how to say mass was all of the celebrants who celebrated mass poorly, I just decided to do the opposite. I do indeed hope to celebrate the venerable rite at my parish, but not until all of the elements are in place, including my own abilities. To comment on potential abuses: I pray that every priest who chooses to celebrate the rite commits to learning it with extreme care and accuracy. The abuses that occurred with the Novus Ordo cannot be allowed to trickle in to the TLM. I see this as a precious opportunity to perhaps reform the Novus Ordo and give the laity an opportunity to see what transcendent liturgy can be. I had a conversation last night with a parishoer who is a convert. She used to attend Mass in the early 1960’s, and while she “didn’t understand a thing” she recognized a deep reverence and transcendence that she says that she just doesn’t feel now with the new rite. The re-establishment of the TLM along with the re-introduction of beautiful church architecture I think will have a deep impact on the worship of the Church in the US ( I pray).

  21. Jim Morgan says:

    Regarding patens, my parish (St. Francis de Sales, Purcellville,
    Virginia) recently adopted, or readopted, the practice of using
    them. The altar boys will hold them under the chins of those
    receiving on the tongue and under the hands of those receiving
    in the hand. I was delighted to see this rather sudden reappearance
    of patens.

  22. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Totton writes: It has been my experience that “free-standing altars” are often posed on a step or a precipice so as to render them useless in the celebration ad orientem.
    A truly free-standing altar would provide ample space on either side for the priest
    to stand and genuflect as necessary!
    I attend Our Lady of Peace Shrine in Santa Clara, CA. The church was built in the 1960s, but it is a “traditional” NO church. The free-standing altar is a huge wooden table that is portable (“2 men and a boy”) and is reverently moved on First Saturdays when the FSSP visit to offer the TLM; plenty of manoeuvre room for kneeling. During the regular NO Masses, the altar rail is used by those who wish to kneel; otherwise, they may opt for one of the EMCHs. We can receive either standing or kneeling, in the hand or on the tongue. *AND* we still have our kneelers in the pews.

    After reading comments by others on different blogs/fora, I see how truly fortunate I am.

    I think our parish is the perfect test-bed for a TLM renewal.


Comments are closed.