Wholly Ours

In a conversation with a friend today it became clearer and clearer to me how the Second Vatican Council’s document on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, is entirely the property of … on the side of the traditional/conversative argument.

The usual narrative which has predominated over the last decades is that Sacrosanctum Concilium is the driving force behind liberal reforms.

Sacrosanctum Concilium is a conservative document which was hijacked.

It is wholly ours.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. cregduff says:

    I have been thinking over the past 2 months that there should be a shift in rhetoric and debate towards laying down the gauntlet at the feet of the liberal ecclesial establishment to point to where they can prove and document the norms and church laws that they say hold up the foundations for the murky, kooky liturgical and theological twists which have occurred and are, yes friends, still evolving, at a frenetic pace. I think that so much that has been done is built on sandy soil that the new practitioners of weak liturgy do not even realize how baseless their liturgical actions are.

    I do not hold up much hope for there to truly be a way to translate the documents into the praxis that followed. However, I’d like the opportunity to see it tried.

    Ed Casey

  2. Someday I’m gonna start a blog, Letter of Vatican II, dedicated to this coming convert’s musings on the documents as I read through them.

  3. Magpie says:

    I agree Father. With the invention of the internet, the ‘cloud of unknowing’ has been dispelled. It used to be the case that the average punter had no access to Church documents, but with the internet and the rapid communication and dissemination of information, it is no longer possible to continue to say ‘Vatican II said this…” Anybody can now check what did the Council really say.

    There is a programme I found recently called ‘Harvesting the Fruit’ by Louie Verrecchio, which enables lay people to study the documents in a structured way, and is endorsed by Cardinal Pell, amongst others. This is the sort of thing we need in parishes, along with good Catholic Bible studies.

  4. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The only problem, Fr. Z, is this statement of #21: “For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

    In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.”

    I would say that a conservative can be comfortable with this, but not the typical trad, because it clearly calls for changes in the rites as they were in 1962. Most traditionalists are more comfortable with the belief that the 1962 Missal is set in amber, so to speak, and should remain frozen and timeless. Any tampering, at all, with the EF Missal is unacceptable for them.

    That means that Vatican II itself for the typical trad is the hijacker, not merely liberal forces within the Church.

  5. Luke says:

    The key might lie in the first sentence of paragraph two, “When we meet at the table of Thanksgiving we should manifest to others the mystery of BLANK, the real nature of our pride.” When Christ and the Holy Sacrifice are viewed in a skewed manner anything is possible. When Christ is seen as getting in the way of “the Liturgy”, then anything is possible. It is even possible to read a heretical theology into the last sentence of paragraph four which states, “[That] the Rites be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.”

    Lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief and vice versa. When we change the prayer of the people we change their belief until anything goes.

    Let’s put on Christ again and give no thought to doing what the flesh and its concupiscence desire. Let us be transformed by a conversion of thought and action so that we may know what is good and pleasing and perfect. And then our spiritual worship will become reasonable again (Rm 13:14; 12:2 + 1).

  6. Charivari Rob says:

    “Wholly Ours”?


    The teachings, deliberations, history, etc… that have been handed down – they belong to all of God’s people, in order that those things might help guide them closer to Him.

    One might correctly say that such a thing is ignored, misapplied, distorted, abandoned or any number of things, but it does not belong to any one group. To imply that it does makes little more sense than claiming one could “own” the Nicene Creed.

  7. Andrew says:

    Ft. Sotelo:

    The English translation you quote above is, I dare say, deceptive. It conveys some notions that are not found in the original Latin text. I would have to write a long comment to go through it in detail, but some points that stand out immediately are:
    “not only may but aught to be changed with the passage of time”. That is false! The Latin reads: “possunt vel etiam debent, si in eas forte irrepserint …” That might be better translated as “can or even should be, if perhaps some things have crept in …” Otherwise, the Latin text does not say that they “aught” to be changed with the passage of time, but “might need to be changed if something had crept in with the passage of time”.
    Another part that is troublesome is the “texts and rites should be drawn up”. The Latin has “textus et ritus ita ordinari oportet”. The English “drawn up” conveys the idea of writing new texts. The Latin “ordinari” does not suggest coming up with news texts but with “having them arranged” in a certain way. Small differences can result in significant misinterpretations. I was suprised to read your citations and as soon as I reread it in Latin I realized that you get a different “drift” from the original text.

  8. TJerome says:

    It was easier in 1962 for the left-wing loon media and liturgical “progressives” (co-conspirators) to control the agenda. Now with the internet and folks like Father Z, that’s no longer the case. That’s what is driving the left-wing loon media and liturgical progressives mad, positively mad

  9. Emilio III says:

    Bob, not many Holy Hours on their side are there? :-)

    I remember asking about the change to 100% vernacular when the 1970 Missal was implemented (in Advent of 1969) despite what the Council documents actually said. The elderly priest I asked was very sympathetic and said he regretted that most of all (the altar had not been turned around yet) but that it was inevitable since the seminaries had already stopped teaching Latin.

    The 1983 Code of Canon Law requires that Latin be taught, but it was obviously not in effect then. Did the 1917 Code simply take it for granted? Anyhow I assumed that if they had indeed stopped teaching priests Latin there was no point in arguing.

  10. Joseph says:

    I am not comfortable with dividing the Catholic church into conservatives and liberals, them and us. It smacks of political wrangling and party politics. It is either Catholic or not. Our faith does contain a large portion tradition, it actually precedes the bible. Anything which does not organically grow out of it (tradition) is simply not part of it and ought to be dumped. For a suggestion or two please start with inculturation nonsense and the bishop conferences.

  11. Geremia says:

    Amen! From S.C.:

    § 30: “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.” [Huh? It doesn’t mean “eucharistic ministers,” “liturgical dancers,” “lectors,” etc.? Wow, who would’ve known!]

    § 34: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.” [This would seem to go against a 3 year, complex liturgical cycle where almost the whole bible is read. A pedagogy of yearly repetition of Sunday gospels and readings pertaining to saints’ feasts days is a good thing. (The relegation of the saints in daily Novus Ordo masses is a big pet peeve of mine. Does Novus Ordo seriously not have, e.g., a “Mass of a Confessor,” “Mass of a Martyr,” “Mass of a Virgin Martyr,” etc.?) I love yearly revisiting the same gospels at Sunday EF masses. Also, “noble simplicity” must have meant “strip the mass down so it is doesn’t take as long”… And, “Ordinary Time”? I seriously never knew what Pentecost was before going to an EF mass ~3 years ago, where they call it “xth Sunday after Pentecost!” That did indeed “require much explanation” for me!]

    § 54: “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” [So basically we should all be singing the Credo, Gloria, Agnus Dei, etc., in Latin! Who would have known? After weekly repetition for years, even those who never knew Latin would know at least these by heart!]

    § 101: “In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine of?ce.” [Wow! Who knew!]

    § 116-117: “Gregorian chant […] should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” “The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.” [What happened to this? OCP buried them?]

    § 120: “In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.” [Where are the organs in most Novus Ordo parishes? Card. Newman said the organ is the instrument that represents best the voice of God.]

    I’m sure there are many more quotes like these.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    Fr. Sotelo,

    I agree that there exists a set-in-amber type of “trad” as you describe. Actually, the typical “rad trad” of this type may feel that Bugnini’s filthy fingerprints are all over the 1962 missal itself – for instance, with the Holy Week changes, elimination of most octaves and the alleged deletion of the 2nd/3rd Confiteor (which now seems “back in” in current EF practice) – and that it is an earlier pre-1962 missal that should be frozen for all time.

    However, in my experience with traditional communities, these rad trads seem a decided minority. The majority of the people I attend EF Mass with are a quite different type – perhaps better called “traditionally minded Catholics”, or just “traditional Catholics”. (I sometimes think that it’s the abbreviation from “traditional” to “trad” that betokens people whose beliefs are often betrayed by a slightly odd visual appearance.)

    These traditional Catholics are certainly open to the actual participation that Vatican II called for – simply repeating Popes Pius X, XI, and XII – sung or recited dialogue responses, congregational singing of the Ordinary (and even the Pater Noster, which real trads will oppose). They would not object to 1962 updates of the type Card. Ratzinger has mentioned – new saints on the calendar and inclusion of some of the new OF prefaces (many of which have in Latin a beauty and depth that their lame duck ICEL translations hide completely).

    Most of the traditional Catholics I know have no difficulty in going back and forth between the EF and the OF if well-celebrated. (Most of them attend the OF daily or frequently, and I myself sometimes prefer a “fully celebrated” daily OF Mass – Confiteor, Gr. Kyrie chanted, Roman canon, Ordinary sung in Latin, etc. – to a “minimal” silent low EF Mass).

    Whereas the term “trad” describes (to me, at least) someone never seen at an OF Mass, and the term “conservative” an orthodox Catholic never seen at an EF Mass. So “traditional Catholic” I propose for the happy medium.

    Finally, though, I’d agree that most traditional Catholics think the EF does not need wholesale revision, both because we’ve all seen where that particular slippery slope leads, and because we think it’s mainly the OF that requires “reform of the reform” to satisfy SC, and that many a typical U.S. bishop would need to visit his local EF community to see the best realized “Mass of Vatican II” in his diocese.

  13. FrCharles says:

    I remember being quite shocked when I first read it, discovering as I did that it did not in fact say what I had always been told it did.

  14. Paul Francis says:

    I wonder if you might be able to clarify a number of issues concerning the English Translation of the Roman Missal? It has to be said with gratitude that the US Bishops’ were very quick off the mark, way back in August 2008 just a couple of months after the initial recognitio from the Holy See. A very well documented Web site was set-up giving a great deal of information on the new translations, along with Documentation and Council documents in particular Sacrosanctum Concilium, (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, December 1963). As time went by, more information and catechetical material was added, including (‘Study Text Only’) of all four Canons of the Mass – and much, much more. Thanks be to God that interested Catholics in the UK were able to take advantage of the American website. Unfortunately, it appears that much of the original information has now been withdrawn from the Site, including the Translations of the Mass. This has been replaced to a large extent by a Q & A Section which, in many ways is irrelevant. The latest announcement is from Cardinal George informing us that the Holy See has given final approval and allowed for certain adaptations for the American faithful to follow.
    Meanwhile, the Bishops of England and Wales appear quite ‘laid-back’ and content to ‘wait and see’. They have done little, if anything, by way of preparing the faithful for the new translations, perhaps hoping the faithful will accept them in a docile manner as, ‘just another change’. If this be the case the UK bishops are in for a rude awakening! The longer this delay continues the more likely will be the ignorance, confusion and bewilderment experienced by the laity in 1969-70 when, on Advent Sunday 1970, the English ‘translation’ was thrust upon us.
    One minor thing I have been waiting to find out, is the question of the Acclamation for ‘The Mystery of Faith’, in particular, has Rome allowed for the use of the ‘adaptation’ acclamation – ‘Christ has died, Christ is Risen…’ ?This did not appear in the original 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal or the earlier edition but has now become universal (an abuse?).

    I wonder Father, if perhaps you may be able to enlighten us on the questions I have raised.
    Although I am most grateful for the revised English translation, one cannot help wondering why the Latin was so universally ‘banned’. The old Saint Andrew Daily Missal was great in that the Latin text ran alongside a very beautiful English translation. So we had the best of both worlds! I still find myself uttering some of those translations in an attempt to block-out the present awful so-called translations.

    Paul Francis

  15. Legisperitus says:

    I’m not sure the aforementioned “trads” want any certain Missal to be frozen in amber “for all time” so much as “for the time being”; i.e., until the Mass of Paul VI dies out and things get “back to normal” in the Church.

  16. aladextra says:


    I’m not sure if your comment was intended to pejorative, but it came across that way. As a pretty typical trad who is very active in such circles, I can say that “most trads” (whoever they are, and they are a diverse lot) believe in the organic development of the liturgy. The problem is, that the changes since (’62–I would say since before the Holy Week changes of ’55) have not been organic. They have been written by Bugnini or some committee or other for the deliberate purpose of obfuscating Catholic theology. There is nothing magical about 1962, or 1950 or 1650. 1962 is simply the last year before the train went off the rails, so to speak. This Mass should be made available to all who desire it in every hamlet and burg, if they wish it as much as they wish it.

    But in terms of true, organic development, we need wait a while (in Church time) until the crisis has past in order for organic development to begin again. I’m not sure it’s possible in the current environment. You don’t stop your ship in the middle of a deadly storm to give it a fresh coat of paint. Let us wait for calmer waters as far as that rite goes. Let us restrict our amendments to the Novus Ordo until our liturgical house is in order and our decedents are reading about versus populum in the history books.

    I don’t think “most trads” believe it likely that the Novus Ordo will be swept aside any time soon, and care about its brick-by-brick improvement. I do think that if the old Mass were made available to all who desire it–in nearly every parish, the Novus Ordo would dwindle over time. Nonetheless, I hope the new Mass can be improved as much as possible because that is “where the souls are” as a seminarian friend explained as to why he didn’t pursue a vocation in a traditional order. And if Sacrosanctum Concilium can be enlisted in that effort, then by all means let us all agree that improvement to the Novus Ordo are good for all, and should be embraced by all, while (for trads) the TLM remains as our home, and for more and more our own rite.

    I don’t think this is being “stuck in amber”. It’s leaving the working bit of the car alone while we fix the broken parts. When everything is humming along we can think about upgrades.

  17. MikeM says:

    Fr. Sotelo and Legisperitus,

    I’d like to propose that the truth is in between your suggestions. There really are people who have dug into the idea that some prior Missal was written by God’s Own Hand and that neither a syllable or a finger movement should ever change. I think, however, that that’s really their way of entrenching against the liberal forces. If the mutilators of liturgy were kept at bay, I suspect those “trads” would warm up to the idea of making small updates and improvements to the liturgy.

    The same sort of thing happens in all sorts of dialogue. People will stick together along a strict party line when their position is under assault, but when the firefight subsides and they’re talking with the more like-minded, those absolute positions often soften up a little.

  18. aladextra says:

    Henry Edwards-

    I would implore you not to use loaded terms such as “rad trad”. Disagreement on liturgical matters is no cause for name calling. I personally find this disparaging descriptor very offensive, and it was invented specifically for this purpose by a particular blogger in response to his own offense at being called a disparaging name for those who favor a reform-of-the-reform Novus Ordo. I know that when this theme began to proliferate I (at least) crossed several blogs off my list. It is certainly counterproductive when we are trying to heal a particularly painful “internal division” in the Church.

  19. yatzer says:

    Yes, please no name calling.

  20. asophist says:

    I don’t understand why Sacrosanctum Concilium was necessary at all, to begin with. The Mass and all the traditional liturgical practices of 1962 were – and are – wholly adequate (to say the least!) for the Latin Rite. The document seems to arise from a misunderstanding of what the Mass is – and it is not a plaything for would-be liturgical “experts”.

  21. Rellis says:

    Ditto on aladextra.

    It would be highly-imprudent to make even the smallest changes to the 1962 missal right now. Just look at the firestorm that the Good Friday intercession for the Jews and the vernacular readings indult of Summorum Pontificum caused. Clearly, it’s just not ripe to do so.

    Meanwhile, a whole wealth of work remains to be done in the Ordinary Form. Despite our best efforts, a Catholic blindfolded and shoved into a random American parish on a random Sunday morning will see liturgies not much better than those of the 80s. That’s where the focus should be, coupled with the expansion of 1962 Masses as examples and gravitational pulling.

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    aladextra % yatzer,

    I would not use any “name” in any disparaging way. When I have something disparaging to say — and occasionally I do — I say it plainly, not by resort to name-calling, which is simply the refuge of those who are too linguistically challenged to say what they really mean. I believe I said exactly what I meant by the term “rad trad” — without disparaging anyone to whom it might reply (indeed, I rather respect their position).

    My purpose was precision in language. I used “rad trad” as a purely descriptive term for the purpose of distinguishing one category of “traditional” Catholics from another. I would not object to the use of a more fully descriptive term, such as “rigidly pre-1955 Catholic”, but this doesn’t have a lot of currency in everyday conversation.

    My whole post — which perhaps you might re-read for better understanding — was an explanation of the careful use of labels to avoid painting people with such a broad brush as to attribute to whole categories of people beliefs that they do not hold, that is, to avoid the real danger of name-calling. This is charity rather than name-calling. It’s probably good to learn the difference.

  23. Haec Dies says:

    In Advent of 1978 at Mother of Sorrows Chuch in Ashtabula, Ohio I had asked the choir director if we could sing a polyphonic Latin Mass for Christmas. One of the choir members replied that “you can’t sing latin in church anymore” to which I responded that’s not what Vatican II says. We sung the Mass. There was a lot of confusion in the 1970’s. Our Una Voce group met with the now pastor of this church to rally his support for a monthly Tridentine Mass and his response a year ago was “why would anybody want ot go to a Latin Mass. There is indeed many hurdles to overcome.

  24. Peggy R says:

    I agree. I tend to think that the N.O. should be scrapped and if we’re really to follow the council about opening the window etc regarding the liturgy of the Church, we should start at the 1962 missal and prayerfully apply SC to it, as SC truly recommends. It would mean:

    1. Largely retain Latin, but vernacular for readings perhaps.
    2. Ad orientum may be retained.
    3. Gregorian chant is primary form of music.

    Those to me were the key points of S.C. that modernists insist on over-looking.

  25. moon1234 says:

    Henry Edwards-

    I would implore you not to use loaded terms such as “rad trad”. Disagreement on liturgical matters is no cause for name calling. I personally find this disparaging descriptor very offensive, and it was invented specifically for this purpose by a particular blogger in response to his own offense at being called a disparaging name for those who favor a reform-of-the-reform Novus Ordo. I know that when this theme began to proliferate I (at least) crossed several blogs off my list. It is certainly counterproductive when we are trying to heal a particularly painful “internal division” in the Church.

    I agree 100%! I am so sick of people trying to brand others. “Rad Trads” come on! How about “Waffling drifters” for those who prefer any old version of Mass and don’t really care? I am so sick of labels.

    As far as which revision of the Missal I would prefer? Most definitly 1954-55 (Before the changes to Holy Week). Once you go to Candlemass services and participate in the procession and other ceremonies, you will be very disappointed when you learn this also used to be in Holy Week. Apart from the great ceremony, I find it “fun” to be in procession and singing on these Holy Days. It really does deepen ones faith! Once you learn WHY these were done and that they were just chucked during the reforms to “simplify” the Mass, it is very disheartening.

    I find it VERY hard to attend a NO Mass any more. Even those that have no abuses. I find myself missing those aspects of the Tridentine Mass that are not in the Ordinary Form. I myself very distracted when the Roman Canon is not said along with Lay People “Presenting the Gifts”. I never saw this in grade school during the 80’s and early 90s. Father always brought the hosts with during the Processional. Water and wine went on the credence table before Mass started. This was NO not EF too.

    At the recent catechists meeting the buzz topic was which kids should present the gifts, stand-in for the lector, etc. Since I rarely if even attend the OF I was sort of taken aback by the whole notion. I did not say anything, but it still bothered me.

    The rift between Traditional and NO adherents I believe is still very wide. Many Traditional Catholics will see their NO brethern as lost sheep who just don’t know/understand their faith as well.

    As for updating the EF. I don’t think you will find ANY traditional Catholic who would oppose new saints being added to the Calendar or for particular types of new Masses (Mass for those suffering under oppressive government, etc.) Where I think there are more problems is where the liturgy itself is changed, saints are dropped from the calendar, complete days are charged, etc.

    One noteable exception is the feast of Christ the King immediatly following East Sunday. Low Sunday has a lot of theology behind it and provides for a reflection on the Solemnity of the previous week and the closing of the Easter Octave. This was supposedly asked for by our Lord, so I will defer to Rome, but it just seemed like another Easter one week after Easter.

    As for the

  26. moon1234 says:

    Peggy R:

    Your suggestion is exactly why the Latin Mass was preserved from corruption. Mass should REMAIN in LATIN ONLY. If the celebrant wants, as part of his sermon, he can re-read the Epistle and Gospel in the local language. Otherwise, the Mass should remain in Latin. People should be bound to learn Latin as part of being Catholic. This would allow someone to go anywhere in the world and understand what he is hearing at Mass (Though this is not necessary for Mass to be efficacious.)

  27. Andrew says:

    I don’t know what “rad-trad” means, but anyone who is offended by it is admitting to being identified by it. But if someone does identify himself as a rad-trad, why does it offend him? I am lost.

  28. Seraphic Spouse says:

    OT, I swear:


    By the way, what’s “brick by brick” in Latin?

  29. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Er, OT meaning ON-topic in this case.

  30. Jim of Bowie says:

    Amen aladextra, I crossed that blogger off my list also, but I’m sure Henry Edwards did not mean that in the way you took it.

  31. SimonDodd says:

    Haec Dies, that seems quite unimaginative of him. There are many people who travel significant distances to attend a Latin Mass, and not only people who fondly remember it from before the council. Those that I have attended have had a significant number of people under forty.

    Of course, there is an easy way for him to gauge interest if what is really holding him back is a good faith belief that no one wants one: post a poll on the parish website and announce it at Mass.

  32. aladextra says:


    Since you don’t know, “rad trad” is a disparaging term used by conservative Catholics to refer to traditionalists who favor a restoration of the Mass of 1962 as the normative form of the Roman Rite. It is used on a number of blogs by orthodox Catholics either who are liturgically liberal, favor a more conservative Novus Ordo, or think that “the liturgy wars” are a silly distraction. It was invented by one in particular specifically in order to have a disparaging term that could be applied in response to those who refer to people like these particular bloggers by another disparaging word which I don’t want to introduce into the conversation as it hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    I believe those who use the term specifically mean those who hold the same opinions as me, and I think it is very counterproductive to use them to describe anyone.

    In addition to “Radical Traditionalist” being a pretty lousy way of referring to people, terms of derision are often created by shortening words (at least in English). I can’t think of an example that would be appropriate to post here, but offensive names for various nationalities are created this way, etc., and by usage they take on a negative connotation. These exist for several Asian nationalities, for example. The term “rad trad” is used in such a way by a portion of bloggers in the Catholic blogosphere, that it has taken on this connotation.

  33. aladextra says:

    Henry Edwards-

    Sorry I didn’t comment on the rest of your post because I agree with most of it. I just wanted to point out that the term is offensive to some people, and ask that you not use it for that reason. Hopefully you will oblige.


  34. I’m with Fr. Z.
    SC was hijacked. Big time.
    And my understanding is that at THAT particular moment in history (this was the first document of the Second Vatican Council), the bishops had little idea that there was going to be staged a “coup”; some may have…but the “climate” right then and there was not indicative of the absolute “overhaul” and misrepresentation of this document. It’s easy to look backwards with 20/20 vision…the Missal of ’64 (or ’65) did not have the complete “break”, if you will, or but the changes that SC speaks of.
    The Consilium did the job.
    I have no idea of what is in store; I pray every day that “liturgical sanity” will be restored one day…the promulgation of SP has made a difference already (maybe not to everyone’s liking) but the almost global return in many places throughout the world to “sacrality”, “reverence”, even “ad orientem” in the OF, as well as more and more celebrations of the EF, attests to the fruit of it.
    It’s gonna take a while. But it’s happening.
    And the sooner we return to the authentic “hermeneutic” of SC, the better.

  35. Thomas S says:

    Can anyone recommend the best available translation of the Second Vatican Council’s documents? Preferably in a single volume.

  36. Henry Edwards says:

    aladextra: Since you don’t know, “rad trad” is a disparaging term used by conservative Catholics to refer to traditionalists who favor a restoration of the Mass of 1962 as the normative form of the Roman Rite.

    Well, if being a “rad trad” means you think it would be better now if we’d stayed with the 1962 rite, or could return now to the fork in the road where we went wrong, then please count me in! And I’ll take it as a compliment rather than a criticism. Seriously, my all-time favorite post on any topic is

    I Had A Dream

    and I suspect you’ll like it too. Read it, and tell me if you think it could happen. And, if so, does that make you a “rad trad” in a very positive sense?

  37. xgenerationcatholic says:

    Now that I’m getting much more interested in chant/polyphony I really wish I had taken Latin when I was in school. I thought it was a waste of time back then. I’m trying to learn it by the whole language method now. That would be cool if all Catholics were kind of expected to learn Latin. It would really mean we could communicate. Kind of our own version of Esperanto.

    On the subject of SC, I can’t tell you how surprised I was when I first read it for my Vat II class. I was like, “Wow, so this is what Vat II really wanted? Why’s it not being done? Chant is to have pride of place? Preserve Latin? You don’t say!”

  38. muckemdanno says:


    You can’t be serious! Asking why someone would be offended by the term “rad-trad” is like asking why a black person is offended by being called a “n”-word!

  39. There is a book. I believe it is titled “The Rhine flows into the Tiber” by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen.
    This gives a very detailed account of what exactly went on during VII.
    The questions re: SC are answered there, at least, in part.

  40. BobP says:

    Veterum Sapientia.

  41. Andrew says:


    Absolutely! Veterum Sapientia and Familia Sancti Hieronymi!

  42. annieoakley says:

    Pope Benedict XVI’s annual summer seminar which has just concluded (Aug. 27-30) was focused on the Second Vatican Council. Apparently the Holy Father chose this topic himself from the several options presented to him. Apropos your comment, Fr. Z, the article notes that Archbishop Koch gave an address titled, “Sacrosanctum Concilium and the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy”. It would be interesting to know what he said and the thoughts of the other participants who were there. Here is a link to the article:


  43. St Chad says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I haven’t attended a Novus Ordo Mass in 35 years, except for christenings, marriages, and funerals, where my absence would be an unkindness to others. Nor would I walk across the street to attend Sunday Mass in a Novus Ordo parish (except perhaps at Father Rutler’s church in Manhattan, or at the Church of St John Cantius in Chicago). But I am blessed to be able to attend the EF Sung Mass every Sunday, and High Mass on major holy days, as are many American Catholics [thousands, I suspect, but not tens of thousands] in cities across the country. I consider myself a traditional churchman; but not inflexible.
    For example, if Pope Benedict asked my opinion, I would make the following suggestions for changes in the ‘1962 Mass’: (1) Allow, or require, that the Epistle and Gospel be said or sung in the vernacular; and (2) allow, or require, that the Last Gospel be said ALOUD and in the vernacular.
    The reasons for these changes should be self-evident. (1)The need to re-read the Epistle & Gospel in English before the sermon would be dispensed with [redundant, if not actually silly]; and (2) the people should HEAR the announcement of the sublime mystery of the Incarnation of Christ every Sunday. Moreover, I think the traditional Latin Mass would be less ‘forbidding’ to Catholics who never knew the Latin Mass, if these reasonable concessions to the vernacular were allowed.
    As for reforming the ‘reform’: Good luck getting the Church and New Mass enthusiasts to acknowledge the high-jacking of the ‘real intent’ of the Council Fathers, let alone to look to any Roman document for guidance in matters liturgical. You’re talking about converting 90% of bishops; 75% of priests; and a huge and vocal group of ‘informed’ laity that have the bit between their teeth for the new religion. Their agenda is forward to ordaining women, not backward to a return to Latin, chant, and church organs.

  44. Boanerges says:

    The whole Vatican II Council was hijacked by those cooperating with evil. Not only the priesthood and the Mass but, devotions to Our Lady!. You’d have thought she was relegated to the past by those “informed progressives”. Rahter, Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, solely devoted to Our Lady, gives NO such idea! As a convert, I’m offended by those CINOs whose hubris was their only “authority” to reject her and those powerful devotions given to us out of the Treasury of Grace. AMEN, Fr. Z!

  45. Athelstan says:

    Most here seem to subscribe to the idea that Sacrosanctum Concilium was “hijacked” by progressives in the years after the Council. Broadly speaking, I agree.

    However, I also bear in mind the riposte I have had from at least one progressive when this subject has come up: Most of the changes that were made, including the novus ordo itself happened in the 5-10 years after the Council. These changes were made with the acquiescence, sometimes enthusiastic, of most of the world’s bishops. And most of those bishops were still…the very same bishops who had helped draft and approved Sacrosanctum Concilium. If we want to push this hijacking metaphor further, it is as of the pilots filed a flight plan, and when the hijackers entered the cockpit, the pilots (save perhaps for that French flight engineer who had to be knocked on the head and stowed in the cargo bin for the remainder of the flight) very happily went along with the new course, and even announced this is what they had in mind all along.

    And it is also true – and we should not overlook – that the language of SC mandates some significant liturgical reform: “The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.” (SC 1) “In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself.” (SC 21). For the reformers, those words were a greenlight for a vast overhaul of the liturgy. It did not seem to matter that the actual principles of the reform were far more restrained than those which drove the “reforms.” It did not seem to matter to most bishops, or even Pope Paul VI, who all in the end went along with the revolution – and revolution is what it really was.

    Why? I have heard all kinds of theories. Some really were more radical than they dared reveal at the Council. But many, I think, just weren’t closely engaged with the liturgy, and as crazy days set in in the years afterward, most bishops found it easier to go along and get along with the zeitgeist, especially if it would buy them some peace while they were fighting (or trying to find ways to finesse) tremendous battles over Humanae Vitae and sexual ethics in general. The tide went out, and most found it far easier to float along with it than to fight it. It’s a very human failing, unfortunately.

    A wise theologian told me not many years ago that the problem with too many of the more radical nouvelle theologians (and their more radical successors) was that so little of it was theology not done on their knees. I wonder if the same can’t be said of true of a great many bishops in the final years before the Council – and after.

  46. teevor says:

    Rorate Caeli has posted this rather timely analysis by Christopher Ferrara, who takes a more critical view of Sacrosanctum Concilium through the lens of legal analysis. While this may strike some as odd, we must not forget that SC was itself a form of legislation.


    Now, my latin isn’t great and he makes some of the errors in reading the translation which have already been highlighted above, however, there are some parts of SC which should be of concern to us and indeed, seem to imply an interpretation that generally contradicts the continuity of tradition. Consider, for example, Article 81.

    It is obvious that in accepting SC, the Council Fathers did not stray into error, but as Ferrara points out, there was an orchestrated ambiguity in the document that I think taints it from the outset. What the Council Fathers really meant to happen through the implementation of SC is another question altogether from what SC permits, and as asophist points out, if SC was intended to basically preserve the status quo, there is a real question as to whether it was necessary in the first place. Therefore, fact that SC is not really perspicuous in telling us how the liturgy ought to look and what changes should be made and which should be avoided, seems to indicate that SC is unhelpful to us (traditionalists).

    Wouldn’t it be best to simply acknowledge that with SC, anything goes, and then ignore it in making our arguments?

  47. paulbailes says:

    I’m one of those who thinks that if we rad-trads are ever to trust any future proposals for organic evolution of the TLM, then we will need to to revert to the point before the derailment started. IMHO that would indeed mean going back to before any shred of Bugnini-style influence had an impact. Thus, an example of organic liturgical evolution that I think people like me would not mistrust would be a Bugnini-less rerun of the 1950s reform of Holy Week.

    (BTW I’m OK with “rad-trad”, because I think we need terminology that is suggestive of the need for a vigorous and triumphant counter revolution against the revolutionary fruits of Vatican II.)

    God bless

  48. teevor says:

    In my post above I should have said the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales posted Ferrera’s article, not Rorate Caeli.

    Athelstan, you’re spot on – many times those responsible for acquiescing to the destruction of the liturgy were the same bishops who approved SC in the first place. The 60s and 70s were a dark, dark time in our culture, and a lot of people made very bad choices without really realizing the consequences. I believe in most cases it was as you say just a matter of bishops and people in general being simply unengaged with the liturgy, it wasn’t that they were all secret heretics. It was an era when novelty and youth were idealized, and people blinded by the age of aquarius took for granted their cultural patrimony even when they didn’t really buy into the ideology – they were just naive I guess.

    For an interesting parallel, look how companies and municipalities spent most of the 60s and early 70s tearing down historic buildings without giving it any thought at all, but within ten years people began to realize that their built environment had become drab, ugly and inhhuman once the novelty wore off, and a vociferous historical preservation movement rose up to halt the destruction.

  49. paulbailes says:

    Thanks teevor for your link to Ferrara.

    It’s quite clear that SC was a constitution for the revolution :-(

  50. TNCath says:

    You ought to see what’s over on the “Pray Tell Blog.” They have an entirely different interpretation, and what’s so sad is that they have folks like Fr. Andrew Ruff running around the country giving workshops to dioceses on the new translation, chant, and his own interpretation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

  51. Prof. Basto says:

    Rorate Caeli devoted a post to the same subject today, but they link to an article that points to a different conclusion:

    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/ (“Holy Emmentaler!” article)

    They link to the following analysis of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy: http://www.latin-mass-society.org/ferrara.htm

  52. I would take C. Ferrara with a grain of salt; sorry.
    He’s a lawyer I would want to defend me any day in a court of law.
    But he’s no theologian; he does some very good analysis on various subjects…
    I’ll leave it at that.
    We need top-notch theologians, canon lawyers, and others to “interpret” and defend or call to account whatever has happened these past years.
    But we have to be careful who we listen to.
    As for “Pray Tell” and that lot. Forgettaboutit!! They’re just dishin’ the same old b.s. that has gone on for years and years. They’re about as credible as…well..I can’t think of an analogy right now. Their “interpretation” is just off-the-wall; but there’s money and prestige involved.
    Just sayin’.

  53. C. says:

    Sacrosanctum Concilium is a conservative document which was hijacked.

    It is ours and part of our history, the great reform envisioned which never happened as planned. A prudential disciplinary decision by the extraordinary magisterium at a moment in time, its hijacking led unexpectedly to the current state of the Church’s liturgy, with two universal Forms, one confirmed as “always holy” to which not one iota of Sacrosanctum Concilium applies, the other “partially renewed” and suffering from many arbitrary deformations in practice that have led many souls into heresy.

    There are calls today to build what Sacrosanctum Concilium envisioned. But the commands of Sacrosanctum Concilium to revise rites, etc., have been fully implemented, if not faithfully to the Council Fathers’ intent. The shot has been fired, the bullet is spent. To appeal back to the Council above any subsequent prudential, disciplinary decision made by the authority of the Holy Father is borderline schismatic. In this case, it also violates the will of the Council, who only willed one reform.

    How many times may we claim as our mantle their command to “revise”? Even if the 1965 Missal were adopted today as the only licit Form and the whole Church forced to comply (as some uncharitable authoritarian maniacs actually call for), in 30 years, people will still be able to look back at Sacrosanctum Concilium and say, “we must obey the Council by revising the 1962 Missal yet again” according to some new interpretation of what the Council really intended.

    If we instead focus our attention on Missale Romanum (1970), we will see that it, too, is a conservative document, that it too (and even more so) is protected by the Church’s charism of indefectibility, and that it too has been unfaithfully implemented. The latter infidelity, by bishops and priests against the Holy Father, is subject to defect–and thus it is this last rebellion that alone may be condemned, and which must be reversed.

    Instead of repeating the last Reform over and over again like Groundhog Day, let’s ask for a new Reform of the Novus Ordo to address the problems that exist in the Church today. Because unlike the world of Groundhog Day, in the real world time is actually passing.

  54. JonM says:

    The overall push of the Council was dubious.

    Throwing open the windows to the world (which last I checked was fallen, corrupted, and in need of salvic grace offered by Jesus Christ in His sacrifice.). Declaring a ‘new evangelism’ while loosening our disciplines and flattering non Catholics appear to be apart from the mission work of the Apostles.

    I agree, that it is best to return to the pre-Holy Week revision. The readings should be in Latin. Mass is Mass, not ‘Bible Study’ as it were.

    Up until the 1960s, many American schools required Latin. With iPods, Flash, websites, etc., we should have no excuse for learning languages, Latin included.

  55. I’m just going to repeat: we CANNOT understand what happened with SC unless we re-visit what was currently going on; it’s too easy to be “arm-chair” quarterbacks, if you will;
    what happened AFTER this is another story…sad, horrid, downright despicable in many quarters;
    but you must understand that all that was going on here was the understanding that a few minor changes would take place; vernacular was not an issue for the appropriate parts of the Mass.
    The complete overhaul happened LATER…you can criticize the “loopholes” in SC all you want; but it was a “given”, and I really believe this, that the Traditional Mass was not going to be changed into what we have now as the OF.
    This happened in Consilium, with Byzantine (forgive me!) machinations, by Arch. Bugnini, et. al., and we have to somehow separate the document SC from this further development.
    They are not the same!

  56. Athelstan says:

    Hello Teevor,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    It was an era when novelty and youth were idealized, and people blinded by the age of aquarius took for granted their cultural patrimony even when they didn’t really buy into the ideology – they were just naive I guess.

    I can’t really disagree with that.

  57. paulbailes says:

    While Mr Ferrara is not a theologian, it’s a sorry day when we need theological expertise to explain away the evidently revolutionary content of SC.

    I don’t quite understand why anyone would be concerned about preserving the reputation of SC (as a conservative as opposed to a liberal text). We know (e.g. from Fr Wiltgen) that there were all sorts of behind-scenes manoeuvring at Vatican II aimed at implementing the revolution; and as a result SC was one of the revolutionaries’ successes.

    I guess some folks are concerned that if Vatican II is conceded as a mistake, that undermines the authority of the Church. But which of these options looks less believable:
    A: insist that despite all the evident bad fruit, that Vatican II was OK
    B: relax and take John XXIII at his word when he said that Vatican II wasn’t defining any new dogmas, so wasn’t protected by infallibility


  58. Paul: I don’t mean this as attack upon Mr. Ferrara. He is a fine man, an outstanding Catholic and an excellent lawyer.
    But you cannot understand what happened in the years between the promulgation of SC and the “outcome”…the OF as we have it, without knowing something about what was going on; just dissecting the wording, putting it through the lens of this “present moment” is not going to be helpful.
    The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is NOT a sham, a victory for dissenters or liberals, nor is it a revolution. It is completely misunderstood and misinterpreted; those who do not have the background to make this clear and to make what is authentic need to listen to Pope Benedict who WAS there; he knows what he is talking about.
    That is my only contention; a lawyer can read “into” what he wants to read “into”…that’s why we have prosecutors and defenders. I’m no legal pundit; I’ll tell you though, after seeing some very high profile cases, you begin to understand how “legalise” works…and what one person “says” and really “means” and what another actually “hears” and “understands” are two different things.
    Human nature. That’s why we have a teaching magisterium and not a group of lawyers running the show. That may sound harsh; I’m no liberal or dissenter, please believe that.
    But everything ain’t what it seems, sometimes.

  59. paulbailes says:

    Dear Nazareth Priest,

    FWIW may I reassure you that it’s clear (at least to me) that neither do you attack Mr Ferrera, nor are you a liberal.

    But regrettably that doesn’t mean that we agree on Vatican II … in my simplicity, an Ecumenical Council that results in confusion if not revolution sure seems like one that we could do without.

    But let’s think more positively … do people perceive any beneficial fruits of Vatican II?

    God bless

  60. Vox clamantis in deserto says:


    > But which of these options looks less believable:
    > A: insist that despite all the evident bad fruit, that Vatican II was OK
    > B: relax and take John XXIII at his word when he said that Vatican II wasn’t defining any
    > new dogmas, so wasn’t protected by infallibility

    I don’t think it’s so dichotomously simple. And we can’t rely on these words of bl. John XXIII. He died before the end of the council, and the council did many things which were not planned…

    BTW, Dei Verbum and Lumen Gentium are dogmatic constitutions…but…what in the constitutions is dogmatic? What do the constitutions really say? Do they represent a sum of previous dogmatic Church teachings on respective topics? Or do they say something new? If yes, what? And why do they say ‘old teachings’ using new words (e.g., ‘subsistit in’)?

    Just compare clear ‘old dogmas’ with the Vatican II style. Compare ‘we pronounce, declare, and define’ with dogmatic, but too long and too unclear Lumen gentium (what exactly from Lumen gentium must a Catholic believe?). And compare ‘anathema sit’ with…nothing similar in II Vatican dogmatic documments.

    IMHO this shows one of the main problems with Vatican II – it doesn’t speak clearly enough. Ambiguities do not occur on two or three places, that would be perhaps understandable. But I dare say that, on the contrary, clear language occur on two or three places… Were it not so, how would it be possible to discuss interpretations of council documents for 50 years?

    I can imagine that both conservatives (it’s not ideal, but there is a correct interpretation, and this correct interpretation will ‘win the battle’) and liberals (it’s not ideal, but it’s a step in ‘our’ direction) were relatively satisfied. Conservatives were right, but the battle has lasted 50 years, and will last for some more years…

    As far as orthodoxy is concerned, an orthodox interpretability is enough. BTW, Byzantine Catholics can, but don’t have to say ‘Filioque’ in the Creed. The Creed without ‘Filioque’ can be orthodoxly interpreted – ‘qui ex Patre procedit’ doesn’t deny ‘qui ex Patre Filioque procedit’.

    II Vatican council was ok on the ‘theoretical level’. Its documents are orthodox. What is not ok is something I would call ‘post-IIVC-heteropraxis’, which results (inter alia) from incorrect interpretations of IIVC documents. The incorrect interpretations are possible (or even helped, or even suggested) because of unclear language of many IIVC documents.

    But orthodoxy and orthopraxis, although closely related, are different things. It’s orthodoxy what is crucial, and on the ‘orthodoxy level’ (not on ‘orthopraxis level’) any teaching (also that of Vatican II) must be judged.

  61. Midwest St. Michael says:


    I invite you to look at this piece by Msgr. Francis Mannion in last week’s OSV on SC. I did not know what to think of this – and was looking for opinions on it. MSM

    Defending the liturgical reforms of Vatican II

    Although not perfect, the post-Vatican II renewal brought positive changes that cannot be overlooked

    Question: I have been reading in various places that the Second Vatican Council never intended that Latin be replaced with the vernacular to the extent that has occurred. Can you comment? Also, what about the theory that Pope Paul VI erred in approving so many changes and that liturgical renewal should start over?

    —Deacon John, Washington, D.C.

    Answer: Let me quote from Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy about the vernacular. It states: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (No. 36). It goes on to state: “But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants.”

    Clearly the council envisaged some use of the vernacular. To what extent? “It is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority … to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See” (No. 36).

    *This leaves wide open the question of how much of the liturgy may be in the vernacular.* After the bishops who attended Vatican II returned to their dioceses, they began to experience the positive effects of the use of the vernacular in the liturgy. This led Pope Paul VI to approve a very wide use of it. *[can somebody show me where Paul VI did this? MSM]*

    Some have held that the reforms of Pope Paul in the matter of the vernacular went beyond what the council intended. I do not think this to be true, given what I just quoted. There is also the very important consideration that Pope Paul had the authority to be the principal interpreter of the conciliar decrees. Those who criticize him often find themselves in the troublesome position of according their personal opinions as much, if not more, authority as the pope in the matter of interpreting Vatican II.

    The theory that he made a mistake in approving so many changes is rash and problematic in that it accords excessive importance to personal interpretations. Much criticism of post-Vatican II liturgical reform is historically ill-informed, out of touch with the pastoral benefits and often ends up subtlety questioning the very legitimacy of the council itself.

    History cannot be undone. The liturgical reforms that came after Vatican II were not perfect, but they are what we have. Starting liturgical reform all over again is as unrealistic as trying to put toothpaste back into the container. Liturgical reform properly grows slowly and organically.

    Some hope that Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a whole new direction in liturgical reform and that we should expect to see new liturgical books and rites. I believe this hope is unfounded. Nothing that Pope Benedict has written (and here what he wrote before he became pope is very instructive) suggests that he thinks Vatican II was a mistake and that liturgical reform should start all over again. Certainly, he has called for a new liturgical movement. But when one reads the fine print of what he proposes, it is evident that he wants to see a recovery of the rich spirituality of the 20th-century liturgical movement. I say amen to that.

  62. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    A curious mixture of ideas…

    > History cannot be undone. The liturgical reforms that came after Vatican II were not perfect,
    > but they are what we have. Starting liturgical reform all over again is as unrealistic as
    > trying to put toothpaste back into the container. Liturgical reform properly grows slowly
    > and organically.

    Yes. We must be realistic. And this is exactly what the Holy Father thinks and how he acts. He slowly and organically introduces ‘new old’ elements (a crucifix on the altar, Latin, really sacred music) whenever possible. It will probably take years…brick by brick.

    And ‘starting liturgical reform all over again’? Which reform? The one of Vatican II? Impossible, of course. Another one? It’s in process. Father Mannion should open his eyes… Given that the Holy Father, HE Cardinal Canizares, etc understand what liturgy is, the ‘reform of the reform’ will not be so dramatic, so sudden…so bad. Maybe some people will not even notice the reform. But the reform is here already.

    > Nothing that Pope Benedict has written (and here what he wrote before he became pope is
    > very instructive) suggests that he thinks Vatican II was a mistake and that liturgical
    > reform should start all over again.

    Really? And what about versus Deum position of the priest? And what about ‘modern church music’, which is not a ‘Church music’ anymore (and not a music anymore)? (This is just from ‘The spirit of the liturgy’. The Holy Father wrote and said much more.)

    > and here what he wrote before he became pope is very instructive

    ‘The spirit of the liturgy’ is really very instructive. Many articles and speeches of the Holy Father on liturgy are really very instructive. And how Fr. Mannion reads is also…really very instructive.

  63. Gail F says:

    paulbailis: The short answer is that you are wrong. “…in my simplicity, an Ecumenical Council that results in confusion if not revolution sure seems like one that we could do without.” That judgment would rule out Nicaea. And Chalcedon. And a bunch of other vastly important Councils that resulted in BOTH confusion and revolution.

  64. Nathan says:

    Fr. Z: “Sacrosanctum Concilium is a conservative document which was hijacked.”

    I would agree, Father, with one important qualification: Interpreted in the light of the Church’s Tradition, SC is a conservative document which was hijacked.

    After reading SC a number a times, I am continually struck by its quality of seeming to be a “committee document,” more of a series of individuals’ pet liturgical causes strung together rather than a coherent whole. Hence, a whole series of seemingly contradictory legislation:

    “22.3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

    “14. ….In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else…

    “36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”

    “36.3 These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used…”

    “38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved…

    “40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties.”

    “44. It is desirable that the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, set up a liturgical commission, to be assisted by experts in liturgical science, sacred music, art and pastoral practice. So far as possible the commission should be aided by some kind of Institute for Pastoral Liturgy, consisting of persons who are eminent in these matters, and including laymen as circumstances suggest. Under the direction of the above-mentioned territorial ecclesiastical authority the commission is to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory, and to promote studies and necessary experiments whenever there is question of adaptations to be proposed to the Apostolic See.”

    If one interprets SC as a rupture with Tradition, and especially if one “cherry picks” what they like from it, it is easy to see how the most radical of liturgical changes were justified, especially the provisions that give bishops’ conferences (the “competent territorial ecclesiastical authority”) almost complete control over the liturgical changes, requiring only a “head-nod” from the Holy See.

    This is not an issue about the authority of a valid Ecumenical Council or a rejection of Vatican II. As far as I understand, the infallability of a Council means that it does not contain error, not that the documents are clearly written or are not significantly ambiguous. And, IMO, as interpreted in the wake of the Council, SC was sufficiently ambiguous to give a green light to those who sought the radical liturgical changes.

    In Christ,

  65. C. says:

    I think, Nathan, the infallibility of the Council in union with the Pope means that definitions to be held by the whole Church in matters of faith and morals are free from error in faith and morals.

    In addition, any liturgical changes they approved are covered by liturgical indefectability — approved Catholic liturgy is never an incentive to impiety.

    Finally, in matters of discipline they are authoritative, but subject to error – they may be imprudent, but they’re the boss.

    Fr., please correct me if I misstated anything.

  66. chironomo says:

    I wholly agree with your proposition, and it is exactly the reason (IMHO) that Benedict has been directing the conversation towards such concepts as “continuity”, “authentic reforms of the council”, and a re-examination of what SC actually says, such as was the topic of his discussion with his students this past weekend. I guess one could say it began earlier, but Summorum, in a rather grand gesture, brought into question the fundamental (liberal) assumptions about the conciliar reforms and took from the liberal dialogue one of it’s most persistent arguments, that the conciliar reforms were for the purpose of overturning the hierarchical, clergy dominated liturgy rooted in the flawed history of the Church and replacing it with a laity-led form that was supposed to be a sharp break with the past. That argument has lost its foundation now, and the fundamental (liberal) assumption is being brought into question.

  67. Sedgwick says:

    Sacrosanctum Concilium is a conservative document which was hijacked.

    Sorry Father, the big buzzer has to go off on that one. Have you forgotten Edward Schillebeeckx’s admission, as noted in The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber, that the liberal alliance deliberately crafted this and other VII documents with vague language that would pass muster, with the intent of interpreting them later according to their destructive agenda? Remember that, and then read again the passage quoted above by Father Sotelo, with his rather naive assessment of it.

    Moreover, here is an article by Christ Ferrara on the subject worth reading:


  68. Henry Edwards says:

    C.: I thought your post of 30 August 2010 @ 8:50 pm was incisive, in that the Church must start where it is now, not where it was several decades ago. But …

    “In addition, any liturgical changes they approved are covered by liturgical indefectability—approved Catholic liturgy is never an incentive to impiety.

    Could you provide a reference to this concept of “liturgical indefectability”? It seems new to me, not recalling it in any of the standard statements of the indefectability of the Church. For instance, I wonder where it it might be implicit in the following paragraph on Indefectibility of the Church in the article “The Church” in the Catholic Encyclopedia at http://www.newadvent.org:

    “Among the prerogatives conferred on His Church by Christ is the gift of indefectibility. By this term is signified, not merely that the Church will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will preserve unimpaired its essential characteristics. The Church can never undergo any constitutional change which will make it, as a social organism, something different from what it was originally. It can never become corrupt in faith or in morals; nor can it ever lose the Apostolic hierarchy, or the sacraments through which Christ communicates grace to men. The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is manifest that, could the storms which the Church encounters so shake it as to alter its essential characteristics and make it other than Christ intended it to be, the gates of hell, i.e. the powers of evil, would have prevailed. It is clear, too, that could the Church suffer substantial change, it would no longer be an instrument capable of accomplishing the work for which God called it in to being. He established it that it might be to all men the school of holiness. This it would cease to be if ever it could set up a false and corrupt moral standard. He established it to proclaim His revelation to the world, and charged it to warn all men that unless they accepted that message they must perish everlastingly. Could the Church, in defining the truths of revelation err in the smallest point, such a charge would be impossible. No body could enforce under such a penalty the acceptance of what might be erroneous. By the hierarchy and the sacraments, Christ, further, made the Church the depositary of the graces of the Passion. Were it to lose either of these, it could no longer dispense to men the treasures of grace.”

  69. Nathan says:

    C, thank you–that was very clear and useful. I hope that it is consistent with my assertion that one can look at SC from its lack of clarity and its ambiguity while acknowledging its freedom from doctrinal error.

    In Christ,

  70. Henry Edwards says:

    C, let me clarify that my question–as to the origin of the new (to me) concept of “liturgical indefectibility”–does not mean that I have any question about doctrinal error in SC.

    Instead my question is whether or how one might sustain a statement that “approved Catholic liturgy is never an incentive to impiety.”

  71. wmeyer says:

    Having been counseled by our local Dir. of Religious Ed. during RCIA that we should all read the documents of Vatican II, I first studied SC, and found myself wondering whether our DRE had actually ever read it! If she has, I suspect it was read selectively, as liberals tend to do, retaining the things they like, while ignoring the rest. It was also apparent to me, on first reading, that paragraphs 37-40 present the loopholes through which the American bishops drove to establish the NO.

  72. asperges says:

    1. moon1234 – some way above now: “One noteable exception is the feast of Christ the King immediatly following East Sunday. Low Sunday has a lot of theology behind it and provides for a reflection on the Solemnity of the previous week and the closing of the Easter Octave. This was supposedly asked for by our Lord, so I will defer to Rome, but it just seemed like another Easter one week after Easter.”

    You mean, “Divine Mercy,” I presume, not “Christ the King,” which was (is EF) the last Sunday of October. DM Sunday is wholly misplaced on Low Sunday: should be Passion Sunday IMHO (old Passion Sunday). It is not a devotion I warm to, but I am sure I am at fault here.

    2. Having re-read Sacrosanctum Concilium it strikes me as a document full of enthsiasm and hope of the times of Post Vat II which went terribly wrong. But its use of language left it wide open. Like the rite it spawned, it is full of paradoxes and ambiguities – and therefore misinterpretations – which is what we were stuck with for 40 years as well as nearly destroying the venerable Roman rite.

    3. I wish, with respect, US writers in this blog would bear in mind that their use of certain tags which have seemingly caused offence to some (eg RadTrad) have no meaning whatever outside the US and generalisations about what a Traditional Catholic is, can be easily misplaced. Rites do and can change, but the radical reform of the NO is enough to make any “trad” Catholic wary of being open to change in the sense we have had it thrust upon us since the 70s.

  73. Cosmos says:

    The term “hermanuetic of continuity” is unfortunately soft. We should be saying the “law” or “absolute necessity” of continuity with the Tradition.

    The reason this document was hijacked, as Fr. Z states, is because those who used the document to justify novelty had no right to do so in light of the Tradition of the Church. They would have had no right to do so had the document specifically stated that they do so (which of course it could not) and they certianly had no right to do so based on the text’s silence. The Tradition of the Church is always an omnipresent fact in the background of all Church teaching. It does not need to be expressly restated each time a new document comes out, as if we simply passing positive laws which supersede one another. The innovators were disingenuous, devious, or decieved in that they pretended that the document existed in a vacuum when it clearly COULD not (not just did not). They acted like Protestants.

  74. Luke says:

    Henry Edwards: What’s wrong with settling for orthodoxy as a common aim and goal? In my opinion it seems that so-called “traditionals” should be pleased to be considered “orthodox” regarding Mother Church and that words like “conservative” [and therefore “liberal” as as well] are better left for the political arena.

    I confess to having a limited if small knowledge of Liturgical history and variations but my patron saint directs me to be content with a valid Mass while leaving changes and rubrics to those in the hierarchy whose job it is to direct the course of Tradition and the form of “Liturgy”–for lack of a more apt word–that is most in line with authentic Catholic Tradition. It would seem that a great deal of patient long-suffering is required on all sides with the hope that we will all come together as brothers one day.

    My point above, though poorly expressed most likely, was that what is in the way of total surrender to the mind of the Church is pride–especially on the part of her Priests. They are, after all, our Shepherds after the Bishop. Therefore, Saint Paul’s words from the beginning of chapter twelve of the epistle to the Romans seems fitting insofar as a conversion of heart and deeds is needed so that God’s will may be grasped and the Holy Spirit allowed to move those we look to for reasoned worship in the direction that Mother Church steers them.

    If we strive to put on Christ and–for those of you who dissent from Church doctrine–strive also to keep Christ as the focus of the Holy Sacrifice instead of seeing only self, then God himself will be allowed more freedom in his sons and daughters rather than working only through the holy remnant. That is my personal hope and The Revelation of Saint John seems to offer me support in it.

  75. Luke says:

    asophist: SC was necessary to remind us to be “eager to act and yet intent on contemplation”, And that our actions should be directed by our contemplation and ordered to it so that our prayer and worship is allowed to shape our lives. Among many, many, other things, of course.

  76. Mitchell NY says:

    Veterum Sapientia indeed !! I often wonder how this Apostolic Constitution can continue to be ignored. I wish the Pope would mention it once in a while.

  77. Re: loopholes, the Bible has them. Are you going to throw that away, because it can be misused, or are you going to use ortho-catechesis to teach people how it should be read?

    Re: bad fruit of Councils, you obviously haven’t read much church history. The fruit of the Council of Nicaea’s anti-Arian legislation didn’t have much in the way of loopholes, but they were used anyway. The fruit of that council appeared, at the time, to be Arianism totally taking over the world.

    Vatican II? Still not as badly abused as that.

  78. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Asophist said:

    “I don’t understand why Sacrosanctum Concilium was necessary at all, to begin with. The Mass and all the traditional liturgical practices of 1962 were – and are – wholly adequate (to say the least!) for the Latin Rite. The document seems to arise from a misunderstanding of what the Mass is – and it is not a plaything for would-be liturgical ‘experts.'”

    Well, others with standing to disagree, did and do disagree. By “standing,” I mean its not merely a matter of “preference” or “opinion,” but careful consideration of what the liturgy is and ought to be.

    I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that the liturgy cannot be examined and revised–at all?

    Assuming a “no,” then it certainly pertains to the Holy Father, collaborating with the world’s bishops in an ecumenical council, to raise this question. It needn’t be dismissed as either “playing.” But–to be fair–the subsequent course of events certainly gives rise to that concern. But the question is not, what was done in the name of the Council; but what did the Council itself do?

    As far as the appropriateness of some revision, I would point to the Holy Father’s the Spirit of the Liturgy, authored prior to his election as pope. In the preface or forward, he illustrates the issues nicely with the metaphor of a fresco whose beauty, while still visible, had become obscured over time. The fresco needed attention so its full beauty shone forth. In case it’s not clear, the “fresco” is the liturgy, and reform of the liturgy is what brings out its full beauty.

    The situation, however, since the Council is different; the fresco was not only unveiled; but it is now also unprotected; and continuing attention to it risks damaging or destroying it. So the task, then-Cardinal Ratzinger argued, was to secure and sustain the fresco without returning to when it was more obscured. Anyway, you can read it for yourself, he says it better.

    Now, what might count as making the fresco less obscure?

    Well, how about having the readings from Scripture read in the vernacular? Having more readings from Scripture? Using the vernacular to some degree (as the Council envisioned, rather than what happened)? How about the restoration of prayers of the faithful, and the offertory procession?

    What about having at least some–if not all–the prayers the priest offers be audible (as opposed to sotto voce or overlaid with music)?

    How about the restoration of Gregorian Chant–which is what the Council called for, to undo the creeping use of hymnody as an overlay on top of the chants being prayed sotto voce? I.e., it is not well understood that use of hymnody, instead of chant, is a pre-Vatican II accretion; and Vatican II was calling for *restoration* of chant to its rightful place!

    Again, I am well aware that Vatican II’s proposals regarding the liturgy were taken as permission for any manner of “tinkering”–but this discussion isn’t about that; it’s about the merits of the Council even examining the liturgy and making revisions.

  79. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Andrew: Even in the original Latin, SC gives us legislation that is open to the hermeneutic of change. The bishops thought they were voting for very minimal change, but the architects of more radical change were able to effectively use Sacrosanctum Concilium as their magna carta for rupture with the usus antiquior, because while it did not mandate radical changes, it certainly did not forbid radical changes either (ergo Paul Bailes’ contention that it effectively did produce revolution).

    Henry E. and Aladextra: I don’t mean to put down people for their views. I thought when I made the remark about amber that I was merely describing what people realistically thought.

    Perhaps I read people wrong, but I think that many traditionalists I know really have no desire at all to salvage the Novus Ordo. They often say, respectfully, “nice try, but we should just get rid of it.” When I ask about what could then be done to reform the 1962 Missal, if this completely replaces the OF Mass, they say, “honestly, don’t mess with it. Been there, done that. Doesn’t work, sorry. Just add a few saints and prefaces and leave it alone.” Some speak of a future day when calmer times might allow an organic reform, but deep down they don’t know if such a future organic reform is possible or practical.

    Sedgwick: When I quoted SC, I was not trying to present an exhaustive nor sophisticated abstract of its meaning. I agree with you that it is naive to think that SC ever gave carte blanche to the liturgists to hammer away at the liturgy, for Ratzinger himself as an eyewitness at the council wrote that the bishops never wanted major changes for the Missal or the other rites. However, it is also naive to think that in the 1960’s context of European culture, that such words could be penned and not be followed with anything less than major changes to the liturgy.

    Athelstan: I agree with your words, especially your take on the hijacker metaphor, when you write: *If we want to push this hijacking metaphor further, it is as of the pilots filed a flight plan, and when the hijackers entered the cockpit, the pilots (save perhaps for that French flight engineer who had to be knocked on the head and stowed in the cargo bin for the remainder of the flight) very happily went along with the new course, and even announced this is what they had in mind all along.*

    Even taking all that into account, I am still of the school that the 1962 Missal serves as an important tool in the salvaging of the Novus Ordo, which I do not want to see discarded, so that it can nourish our liturgical piety and at the same time retain certain meaningful aspects of reform.

  80. dmreed says:

    Father Z et al,

    juxtapose Father Z’s post against the following article from Christopher Ferrara, which can be found in its entirety at:

    Ferrara’s bottomline: Sacrosanctum Concilium was not a conservative document, but rather a document chockfull of liberal loopholes.

    “For nearly [40] years, traditionalists have listened to “conservatives” argue that the postconciliar devastation of the Roman Rite has nothing whatsoever to do with language of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the sacred liturgy. (I shall refer to this document throughout as SC)
    As we know, most “conservatives” are constitutionally incapable of recognizing that Vatican II opened the way to the greatest debacle in the history of the Catholic Church, producing a state of affairs which makes the Arian heresy look like a Catholic revival by comparison. To this day, the “conservatives” steadfastly maintain that Vatican II – with its peculiar “pastoral” purpose and its strangely fuzzy documents, the likes of which no other Council had ever produced – did not in any way cause the unprecedented ecclesial crisis which followed. Sure.

    This denial of reality is why “conservatives” continue to insist that if only SC were implemented “as the Council intended,” why then we would have an “authentic reform of the liturgy” in the “true spirit of Vatican II.” But “conservatives” have little to say about Paul VI’s declarations in November 1969, echoed by John Paul II on the 25th anniversary of SC, that the New Mass is precisely what SC authorized and therefore precisely what the Council intended. This fact is very difficult for “conservatives” to acknowledge.”

  81. jlmorrell says:

    I haven’t read all the comments here, so perhaps this point has already been made. Also, I will refrain from using the word “conservative” because I’m not sure what meaning it is given here.

    But, in any case, it seems to me that SC is not a document in line with the traditions of the Church. I don’t mean to say that it has nothing of value in it. For example, I agree, as most here do, that Gregorian Chant should be given pride of place, that Latin must be retained in the liturgy, and so on. On the whole, however, the document is rife with ambiguity and equivocation. Latin is to be retained, but the vernacular allowed, and countless other examples that allow just about anyone to justify what they’d like to accomplish.

    I believe that this was intended by the drafters of the document, namely, Annibale Bugnini. He had in mind what was to be accomplished after the fact, with SC used to support the changes. It was this way with so many of the ambiguous documents of VII. Furthermore, both Paul VI and John Paul II explicitly stated that the Novus Ordo was the good fruit of VII.

  82. theloveofwisdome says:

    @ Henry Edwards:
    I believe this is what you are looking for.

    Council of Trent
    Session 22 Canon 7″

    “If anyone says that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety rather than stimulants to piety,[26] let him be anathema.”

    Session 7 Canon 13:
    “If anyone says that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, accustomed to be used in the administration of the sacraments, may be despised or omitted by the ministers without sin and at their pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones, let him be anathema.”

    Further, it is a known fact that the indefectability of the church extends to the universal disciplines of the Catholic Church. This also includes liturgy because it is intimately connected to faith and morals. See page 134 of the following link:

    and page 66 of the following link:

    How this concept translates to the Novus Ordo Missae is a mystery to me. Some say for example, “therefore we must accept it no questions asked or complaints made”- and some say “the Novus ordo was not promulgated properly or that a Pope abuses his authority by concocting a ‘new rite’ of mass”- and there is a plethora of opinions in between those two extremes. Personally, I don’t know.

  83. theloveofwisdome says:

    My comment above us regarding Henry Edwards’ question:

    “Instead my question is whether or how one might sustain a statement that “approved Catholic liturgy is never an incentive to impiety.”

    I hope that helps- even though it probably creates more question than it answered. :/

  84. pjthom81 says:

    Two points:

    First: Regarding “Rad-Trad” it seems to me that the language is full of names…Whig and Tory being examples, that were once terms of abuse but then became worn as a badge of honor. Forbes magazine’s “Capitalist Tool” is another example. This seems to me to be a healthier approach than outrage. (Fair disclosure, I’m not a pre-1955 guy myself, so this may impact my views.)

    Second: It has occured to me perhaps there’s been a general misunderstanding as to the point of SC itself. Is it possible that Bl. John XXIII may have been trying to remove any obstacles between the Catholics and the Eastern churches? I note John XXIII’s earlier assignments to Turkey and Greece and as Patriarch of Venice. If this were the case, wouldn’t we expect a document both calling for more vernacular and more chant? Wouldn’t this also explain John XXIII’s liturgical conservatism compared to Paul VI? It seems to me Paul VI tried to move the ecumenical dialogue…and the liturgics…in a more Protestant direction.

  85. HighMass says:

    pjthm81 makes an exellent point…we have used the Chants in Latin for the N.O. Ad Orientem liturgy, and they are beautiful. It is my understanding they were composed just after the council.

    Yes One Pope wanting to remain true to the TLM liturgy just make a few changes, and another wanting us to go in a Protestant Direction and then some.

    The liberals used every doc. in Vatican II to promote “the spirit of V.II” an expression we have all grown tired of hearing……

    Its time for the reform of the reform to begin

  86. pjthom81: When I had the class on the Documents of VII in a very sound and orthodox master’s program, your point about “ecumenism” between Rome and the Orthodox (as a basis for VII) was taught and emphasized. How this other “development”happened is another story, altogether. Great post!

  87. Henry Edwards says:

    Fr. Fox,

    An irony is that some of the needed restorations recommended by Vatican II are more likely to be observed now at an EF Mass than at an OF Mass.

    For instance, I believe one will hear a 4-hymn sandwich at every OF Sunday Mass within a couple of hundred miles of me. Whereas I haven’t heard a 4-hymn sandwich at an EF Sunday Mass since before Vatican II.

    At every EF Sunday Mass I’ve attended recently, the whole Ordinary–Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei–has been Gregorian chanted, whereas I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing this at an OF Mass.

    At every EF Sunday Mass I’ve attended recently, all the propers have been chanted–the Introit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion antiphons by the choir, and the Collect and Postcommunion by the celebrant. Although recommended at least as far back as Pope Pius X in 1903, I don’t personally recall this being done before Vatican II, so it would seem that the Vatican II reinforcement of earlier papal recommendations was entirely appropriate.

    Again, at EF high Mass on Sundays the congregation typically (in my experience) joins audibly in all the recommended dialogue responses (more of them by numerical count than in an OF Mass), following the 1958 recommendations of Pope Pius XII. Indeed, in this way there arguably is more participatio actuosa than at the typical OF Mass. At the EF Sunday Mass I attend, the entire congregation joins in singing the Pater Noster, and at weekday low Masses I’ve frequently heard the Epistle and Gospel read at the altar in English (in lieu of Latin).

    So, whereas there is encouragement in the isolated but beginning creep of Gregorian chant into the OF, and the anticipation of increased sacralization with the new translation is exciting–especially for those of us who have followed Father Z on this front for the past decade–it seems to me that much of the liturgical renewal that is faithful to SC has been in the EF. Which may be why one hears the quip that, so far, Vatican II has done for the EF more than for the OF.

  88. Andrew_81 says:

    Certainly it can be said, that Sacrosanctum Concilium never mandated most of the abuses which occur throughout the Church. With one read such is manifestly clear.

    However the document is not wholly on the side of the traditional or conservative folks.

    Various passages clearly give wide berth to “territorial ecclesiastical authorities” to manipulate the Ordo Missæ nearly without bound, effectively creating a vast bureaucratic monster only sometimes needing the approval of the Holy See to do what they wished.

    Latin is to be retained, but vernacular both encouraged and never limited, again with wide berth given to the “territorial authority” to implement.

    Other passages clearly indicate that rubrics are to be revised on the placement, construction and use of the altar, baptistery, tabernacle, vestments, images and music — and revised in such a way as to either fit the new Liturgy or be abolished.

    With such passages it seems clear that while one can’t find a mandate to construct a versus populum altar or to remove the tabernacle to a hidden corner of the Church, or to change text ad libitum, there is leeway to do this, provided that one can justify it as “fitting for the revised Liturgy”.

    Not only this, but there are no norms provided for what it means to be “fitting for the revised Liturgy” and if there is any authority listed it is “territorial authorities” who are also encouraged to consult “experts” and establish Liturgical commissions.

    Since many of the changes and abuses occurred, not by direct mandate of Vatican II, but by the authority such documents conferred on the Bishops’ Conferences and those they commissioned to fashion this “revised Liturgy”, it is hard not to see Sacrosanctum Concilium as a Janus-like creature, which at the very least, gave a wide loophole for the liberal influences.

  89. Prof. Basto says:

    Fr. Fox: “I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that the liturgy cannot be examined and revised—at all”.

    I wasn’t the author of the original post that prompted Father’s reply, but I will present my own reply to that question.

    Of course I agree with Father Fox that the liturgy can be examined and revised. That is, the Apostolic See has the authority to do so.

    However, in my opinion, the Sacred Liturgy shouldn’t have been revised.

    Why not? Because the Latin Liturgy as it stood in the Books in force at the time of the opening of the Council (i.e. the 1962 Missal and other books) was and is totally appropriate for the Latin Church, without the need of the slightest alteration.

    So, the Holy See can revise the Liturgy, but it shouldn’t have done so.

    The fact that the Holy See and the Council had the authority to reform the Liturgy does not mean that there should have been a reform, it does not mean that the decision to conduct a reform was the right one, and it does not mean that the reform adopted was an appropriate one. And the proof that it was a bad disciplinary decision (the decision to tinker with the liturgy in such a scale) lies in the chaos that ensued. Pandora’s box was opened.

    In fact, the liturgical nightmare we live in is the product of the disastrous revision conducted by the Holy See. The reform of the liturgy, simply put, was a bad, a wrong, a mistaken disciplinary decision, and it was also poorly executed, albeit by those invested with legitimate authority to execute it.

  90. Henry Edwards says:

    loveofwisdom, the canons of Trent that you quote were replies to specific Protestant criticisms of the day. Although they were phrased in the absolutist language that was typical of the time–and perhaps is sometimes needed but lacking today–it would not seem sensible to apply them blindly to the very different dangers faced today.

    For instance, it might be argued by some that certain Church-approved practices such as communion in the hand lead visibly to instances of impiety (if not sacrilege), so perhaps a more nuanced explanation of indefectibility is suggested.

    Indeed, I find nothing in the traditional “macro” understanding of indefectibility that would imply “micro” indefectiblity in regard to specific liturgical practices, which can well be the results of particular prudential judgments that turned out to be inopportune.

  91. Andrew_81 says:

    An addendum, after looking again at Fr. Fox’s commentary:

    It was certainly within the Council and Pope’s purview to approach a revision or restoration of the Liturgy. St. Pius X, himself looked to do this and did so to the calendar and Breviary and Sacred Music with great success. Clearly he envisioned more gradual changes which would eventually address the Mass.

    The biggest problem with Sacrosanctum Concilium as I was trying to point out above is similar to what Fr. Fox wrote. The problem is not that the Council mandated certain things or had no authority to examine the question. It is that, just as with so many other overly-optimistic visions of the Church, they sold the farm on the liturgical restoration and revisions — as if blindly trusting in the good will of everyone — by giving authority to the local authorities who then passed this authority to various commissions and so-called experts who were not acting in good faith, but in a spirit of Revolution.

    It is akin to a man restoring a mansion giving the checkbook to his designer, who passed a blank check it to the lowest bidder. What you get may be wonderful or awful, but it’s hard to complain when you casually passed authority along without oversight.

    My mind conjures thoughts of a Liturgical parody of “The Music Man” …

  92. Maybe some answers and clarity are going to be forthcoming from our Holy Father, esp. regarding SC:

  93. Henry Edwards: You ‘hit the nail on the head’…the celebration of the EF, the sung Mass being ‘normative’, the sung responses of the congregation as well as those ‘in sanctuary’; and I might add, as we do here, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar recited by those in the congregation along with the servers (those who choose to) as well as the other spoken responses appropriate to the Low Mass ARE the fruit of SC!

  94. Nathan says:

    Here’s a question, based on the combox discussion. What do you think is the percentage of WDPRS readers who have read Sacrosanctum Concilium in detail, versus the percentage of American Catholics or the percentage of priests, for that matter?

    Who knows Vatican II better, the proponents of rupture or the proponents of continuity?

    [Good question.]

    In Christ,

  95. Andrew says:

    Perhaps SC can best be understood by taking into account the unprecedented changes in civil society to which the Church needed to respond. The liturgical form inherited from generations past was no longer sustainable. Just take Latin for an example: what used to be a fairly common language has become widely unknown. Or take music as an example: people these days (the masses) have absolutely no appreciation for classical music, much less any liturgical music. And I am talking about people with lots of money and good education. Was the Church supposed to just march on to its own tune and remain utterly irrelevant in modern society? Just look around: what percentage of the total Catholic population is not delighted with the Novus Ordo and all of the changes associated with it? That’s why the Popes have praised the “fruits” of Vat. II and SC. On some level it has indeed been very useful and beneficial.

  96. Henry Edwards says:

    Interesting question, Nathan. Not sure I can make sensible numerical estimates, but for the percentages familiar with Sacrosanctum Concilium my own experience would suggest that

    WDTPRS readers >> U.S. lay Catholics > U.S. priests

    (where >> means “much greater”). Of course, continuity > rupture is almost too obvious to bother to state it.

  97. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    BTW, the reform brought one good point which I really appreciate: ‘ommisione’ in Confiteor. I’d like to see it in the EF form too.

  98. theloveofwisdome says:

    @ Henry Edwards:

    “For instance, it might be argued by some that certain Church-approved practices such as communion in the hand lead visibly to instances of impiety (if not sacrilege), so perhaps a more nuanced explanation of indefectibility is suggested.”

    The practice of communion in the Hand is NOT a universal practice- therefore it would not be protected by the infallibility of the church. This infallibility of liturgical practices only applies to UNIVERSAL (or GENERAL) DISCIPLINES of the Church not local bishop’s conferences approval of particular practices.

    Furthermore I do believe that these canons of Trent still apply today with respect to the new liturgy as well as the old liturgy. Cardinal Stickler has stated in his speech entitled “On the Attractiveness of the tridentine Mass” (published by Latin Mass Magazine) that:

    “… the Council [Trent] never states an ANATHEMA for purely disciplinary matters — the Conciliar sanctions are only for doctrinal statements.”


    Therefore, the canons stated above are doctrinal in nature and still apply. The received and approved rites of the church CANNOT be “incentives to impiety (Session 22 Canon 7)” – and cannot “be despised (Session 7 Canon 13)”.

    Furthermore, you did not address, (or perhaps even look at) the google books resources I provided above. One of them is a Dogmatic Theology manual with an imprimatur which states on page 134:

    “From the extent of the infallible teaching authority to all questions of faith and moral it follows that the church, and consequently, the pope, is infallible also in decrees binding on the WHOLE CHURCH IN MATTERS OF DIVINE WORSHIP AND DISCIPLINE, since these are in the closest connection with the faith and morals; such decrees, therefore, can never contain anything contrary to faith or morals… ” (emphasis mine)


    The second book I sent you a link to is entitled: “When does the Church speak infallibly? Or, the scope and nature of Infallibility”. It was published during the time of Vatican I, surrounding the controversy of papal infallibility. After its original publication- the infallibility of the pope was proclaimed as Dogma, and an addendum on it was published in this book as well. This book therefore represents a faithful catholic’s understanding of the scope and nature of infallibility. On page 66 it states, under section entitled “(d) Ordinances relating to the general Ecclesiastical Discipline and Worship” it states:

    “But this connection [from the fulmination if excommunication against those who assail various points of discipline], according to the principles already laid down, brings the whole range of GENERAL ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE within the Church’s infallibility. Hence she (the Church) cannot enact disciplinary laws binding on ALL the faithful, which are virtually incompatible with the purity of of faith and morals. Otherwise, through these laws, she would be indirectly sapping the foundations of the faith in the souls of her children and thus fall in to palpable contradiction with herself as the infallible teacher of the faith.” (emphasis mine)


    I hope this helps.

  99. Henry Edwards says:

    Thanks, theloveofwisdome, for some excellent references. In particular, let me presume to recommend to everyone here a reading (or re-reading) of the absolutely classic article

    The Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass

    by the great Alfons Cardinal Stickler (RIP). I know of no more indispensable single article as a foundation for understanding the topics under discussion here.

  100. Henry Edwards and Nathan:
    I’m not a betting man; can’t…no cash flow…nevertheless…Henry, I concur; I would put a large wager on your estimates.
    It’s only been within maybe the last ten years that the documents of VII have actually been read and digested by seminarians and serious graduate study students; sad.
    The majority of our priests (and bishops, yes) are living in a “time warp” when things changed so quickly liturgically it made your head spin. And then there are the famous “workshops”…deadly. Opinions and “fetishes”, pardon me, of the liturgical terrorists (some with no credentials, sense, nor Catholicity, but I digress).
    Priests, for the most part, are clueless, unless they study, read, meditate and have the “mind of the Church”. Let’s hope and pray that this study program of the new translation will bring them “up to speed”. They probably won’t read SC; but hopefully a lot of the crap will get worked out (I can only hope) from their misunderstanding and misinterpretation of SC and the ensuing documents re: the Sacred Liturgy.
    I’m always an optimist. That’s why I get slammed a lot and am depressed a lot!!

  101. paulbailes says:

    Looking just at theloveofwisdome’s most recent posting above, it looks like the NOM is not covered: “the pope, is infallible also in decrees binding on the WHOLE CHURCH IN MATTERS OF DIVINE WORSHIP AND DISCIPLINE” … the NOM is *not* applicable to the whole Church, only the Latin rite part of it. (A large part, but still only part?)

  102. theloveofwisdome says:

    @ paulbailes:

    I’ve considered this possibility also- Like I said, the particular application of this fact (universal disciplines are infallible) to the NOM is a mystery to me.

    There is a spectrum of opinions between the two extremes of “therefore we must accept the NOM no questions asked or complaints made”- and “the Novus ordo was not promulgated properly or that a Pope abuses his authority by concocting a ‘new rite’ of mass”. I would say the opinion that the “NOM is not infallible” because it is not ‘universal’ falls in between these two extremes. It is also interesting to note that fact that “universal disciplines (liturgy) are infallible” also plays very well with the idea of “lex orandi lex lex credendi”.

    However, stating that a liturgical rite, intended for used of the entire Latin rite all through our the world is in error is to state that the church is “indirectly sapping the foundations of the faith in the souls of her children and thus fall in to palpable contradiction with herself as the infallible teacher of the faith.”

    On the other hand, the fact that something is “not infallible does” not mean it is already in error. In my humble opinion I do not know how to deal with this issue- All I do know is that universal disciplines are infallible- I’m not sure exactly how to characterize a universal discipline… I’m not sure if the NOM is considered a universal discipline in this sense- such that it would be considered infallible.

  103. I think it’s authoritative; not infallible.
    No Rite can be infallible.
    Otherwise, the plurality of Rites in the Catholic Church (Eastern and Western) would counter-indicate that one was infallible; the others not.
    It’s the Sacrifice of Cross “re-presented” that is the Mass; the Eucharistic mystery…and the OF makes this present, as well as the countless other Rites of Mass accepted by Holy Tradition and the Magisterium.

  104. theloveofwisdome says:

    @ nazareth priest:

    “Otherwise, the plurality of Rites in the Catholic Church (Eastern and Western) would counter-indicate that one was infallible; the others not.”

    Not if they all express the same faith and morals- which they do. (this is considered debatable to some with respect to the NOM)

    But again, how does the fact that “universal disciples of the church are infallible” play into this- the section in the above linked book where the quotation is taken is called “Ordinances relating to the general Ecclesiastical Discipline and Worship”.

    Or perhaps another notion of the infallibility of rites of the church can be considered- perhaps “infallibility of rites of the church” guarantees that they will be valid… just another possibility.

  105. theloveofwisdome: Not sure I completely understand your question/point/comment. Sorry.
    Maybe I said it wrong.
    Yes, the Rites of all the Catholic “usages”, if you will, by the very fact of the tradition and their “ancient” roots makes them “infallible”, if you will, by the apostolic authority. They all must express the same faith and morals; definitely. I know that many question the NOM; there are problems, no doubt about it. There are debatable additions/subtractions from the NOM (for instance, a return to the Offertory Prayers of the EF; ‘ad orientem’ posture as “normative”; Latin as normative, esp. in the Liturgy of the Eucharist; subtractions: the Introductory Rite, which needs an “overhaul”, if you ask me; the loopholes in the rubrics which you can drive a semi through, etc.)…
    I’m no raving advocate of the OF as it presently is…believe you me…I celebrate it in both English and Latin, as well as the EF: I understand the criticism and problems with the OF as it is now.
    The authority of the Pope and the indefectability of the Church, no matter what, (re: Michael Davies) means that the Mass in either ‘forma’ in the Latin Church is to be respected as the Sacrifice of the Cross.

  106. JMody says:

    Wow – two things here.

    First, Fr. Z, I detect delicious irony on your part. You have said such simple words in a way that gives rise to so many interpretations that it is difficult to tell sometimes exactly how the points being made relate to your assertion — which makes it a perfect PERFECT reflection of SC. It says very simple things, but leaves only confusion in its wake.

    Second, because of that, I must respectfully disagree with you and throw my lot in with the fans of C. Ferrara, Esq., in attesting that the document was written in such a manner ON PURPOSE. People like nazareth priest are saying that he’s a smart guy but no theologian — but we aren’t talking about theology, we’re talking about the plain language of SC.

    Mr. F’s questions are direct and to the point, and I have never seen attempts to answer them honestly, so suggestions are welcome:
    + what DOES it mean to “revise in the light of sound tradition” when the tradition forbade wholescale revision?
    + when was the last time that the Church directed a bunch of experts to revise EVERYTHING – liturgy, calendar, sacraments, music, art, architecture, and relevant canon law – all at once and with no apparent guidelines other than “good, useful” etc.? It’s one thing to make small changes and updates, and quite another to revise everything all at once.
    + how has it been “hijacked” if full authority over the liturgy in almost every field has been granted to the “local ecclesial authority”? He can turn to SC and say “I have preserved the sacrament and incorporated the relevant cultural adaptations peculiar to my people and their culture” and nobody can tell him he’s wrong.
    + When did the Church say that the Mass and sacraments need to conform to society? Hadn’t it always been society conforming to the Mass and drawing to God?
    + how has it been hijacked if it authorized a proverbial blank check in every area – language, rubrics, music, art, architecture, etc.? All of these are described with caveats or generalizations that leave in place the authority of the local bishop to authorize something else – so has he hijacked or has he exercised the authority this document grants him in a way you don’t happen to like?
    + regarding chant, what does it mean to have “pride of place” subjected to the caveat of “all things being equal”? I mean look at this way — what do you say to someone who talks and acts like this: ‘My wife is great mother to my children and a wonderful cook and she enjoys pride of place in my heart, but ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL there are a lot of younger, more attractive women out there, so I’m going to –‘ ???

    And on and on. If you wish to maintain it was hijacked, then you must include the authors in on the plot. And as Mr. Ferrara points out more than once, Paul VI said the 1969/1970 Missal embodied the true intent of the Council (in his famous remarks in Nov 1969), and so did John Paull II (in Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 25th anniversary of SC) — so that seems to be at least two more that you need to convince.

    And this doesn’t mean the new Mass is not the efficacious renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. It does mean that this document is potentially part of the problem — Mr. Ferrara has suggested that we let this whole Council fade into memory like the Second Council of Constantinople, the one which St. Gregory the Great evidently directed people to just ignore because it caused more problems than it solved … sound like something you’ve heard of?

  107. paulbailes says:

    Thanks JMody!

    Sorry for this dumb question – pls can you give a more precise citation for Paul VI’s saying that “the 1969/1970 Missal embodied the true intent of the Council (in his famous remarks in Nov 1969)”?

    Cheers and thanks

  108. C. says:

    @theloveofwisdome: How this concept translates to the Novus Ordo Missae is a mystery to me.

    I think the Novus Ordo is still subject to harsh critique, and I jotted down a few:

    * Ceremonies much less good than alternative
    * Imprudent to institute at the time, or at any time
    * Imprudent manner of institution – lack of catechesis, omission in combatting heterodox interpretation
    * Unjustly & cruelly imposed
    * Sin to impose (evil intent of Bugnini et al)
    * Inclines priest & people to less fervor than alternatives, therefore generally resulting in less merit for participants or for the intention of the Mass
    * Often (always?) abused. One common abuse is to celebrate/participate irreverently or sacrilegiously, even if the authors of GIRM forgot to say “without sacrilege or irreverence” after every sentence. Another is where it is not abused in infraction of strict prohibitions but by selecting less worthy options for impious reasons. “Eye (or ear) of the beholder” issues where priests and ministers are not well formed (Philistine simpletons) or ignore their consciences (“I could drive a truck through that”).

  109. C. says:

    @Henry Edwards: it might be argued by some that certain Church-approved practices such as communion in the hand lead visibly to instances of impiety

    I think the question of leading into instances is a matter of prudence in governance, and so subject to defect. For example, forcefully implementing the Tridentine Rite this afternoon everywhere in the world, including in the Eastern Church, would be grossly imprudent and would lead many to sin. (November 15, however, might be a good date, at least in the West…)

    You are right to say that we must interpret Trent in line with its original intent to respond to Protestant objections to the Mass. The Protestants were telling their people that Mass was a sin. So the question, I think, is is it objectively evil to participate? This is not a situational test, like “is it immoral for my daughter to choose to receive in the hand over receiving on the tongue at the local parish this Sunday?”, but “is it always and forever impious to receive Communion on the hand?”

    I think the answer is, of course, no, because this was done in Apostolic times without condemnation. It’s not like mouths were invented in the tenth Century. The pastoral prudence of the Church authorities in forbidding and restricting receiving on the hand over the years is part of the Church’s disciplinary function, as is the pastoral imprudence of allowing it in recent times. Each act of liturgical discipline (by the supreme governing authority) is not indefectible: people in the disciplinary authority may be personally impious and act for evil aims and achieve those aims, but the resultant approved liturgy is intrinsically indefectible – it never crosses the line from “less good” into “objective evil”. Nonetheless for many the change may be a scandal.

    Likewise with the Sign of Peace. The traditional Sign of Peace is a stylized embrace, which I would find more distracting (giving and receiving from the person next to me) than the sober, chaste handshake prescribed today. I don’t see this as intrinsically impious. Being hugged by the entire congregation and asked for name and phone number is not part of the rite, and my peace-stealing PTSD at the Sign of Peace therefore doesn’t come from the rite itself, but from the abusive instances.

  110. Luke says:

    @ C: You make some good points minus the bit about Philistine simpletons. I converted into the No Mass and love it only because I am ignorant of the OF. I am, however, in agreement with many of the things that you say. What I see as most harmful [because I believe it to be the most necessary element on the part of the faithful] is the lack of silence or often even the lack of opportunity for silence. From what I do understand the Liturgy is both personal and communal.

    While many of the clergy have been poorly formed we should give them the benefit of the doubt and avoid applying ill intent of their part. Not everyone is gifted enough–or receptive enough for that matter–to go from learning how to conduct a clown Mass to understanding the import of reading the text from the Roman Missal. But then, when put in that light it should be just as simple as actually reading the text. True enough.

  111. robtbrown says:

    Re infallibility of rites: It has two components. The first is that there is no heresy within the rite. The second is that the rite will be valid. The same principle applies for discipline.

    The Magisterium does not promulgate a rite. The Magisterium is the Teaching Office of the Church. Rites are promulgated by the Sanctifying Office. In the promulgation of rites, the Magisterium exercises the principle of negative governance. Ditto discipline.

    What we have seen with permission of communion in the hand is the relaxation of discipline, not a discipline imposed on the Church

  112. I am amazed that so few people get what this is about.

    Liberals claim Sacrosanctum Concilium as their own.  That must be debunked.

    It isn’t their property.

    They use the Constituion to justify many aberrations. 

    For decades they have been in nearly complete control of the narrative of the Council and what the Council mandated.

    I say, take it away from them.

    It isn’t going to be their property.

    What difference does it make if you like everything or dislike everything about Sacrosanctum Concilium?  So what?

    Take it out of their control anyway.

  113. Henry Edwards says:

    Well, Father Z, at least we can like Sacrosanctum Concilium enough to insist that now–at long last, after having been hijacked in the desert for the biblical forty years–it finally be implemented.

    But I wonder to what extent SC has really been under the liberals control. I don’t recall the last time I heard a liberal refer to SC. I doubt that any of he liberals I know have ever even looked at it.

    Haven’t they proceed more by ignoring SC than by controlling it?

  114. Henry: You raise good questions. There is certainly silence on their part when it comes to the details.

    I think we have to take the narrative away from them especially by repeating that they do not follow the Council when they do A, B, C and neglect to do X, Y, and Z.

    People on the traditional side of things should quote the Council in favor of the right sort of liturgical worship.

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