Wm. Oddie on the “tertium quid”

In the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, William Oddie has a piece today following up on the reports surrounding the Instruction on Summ0rum Pontificum, Universae Ecclesiae.

Let’s see some of it with my emphases and comments.

The Pope’s ambition, a powerful blend of the Novus Ordo and the Old Rite, could sweep the Church

There are too many difficulties attending both the Novus Ordo and the Old Rite

By William Oddie on Friday, 20 May 2011

An extremely interesting story by John Thavis – which appears currently on the Herald’s homepage under the headline “Pope’s ‘reform of the reform’ in liturgy to continue” – reports what seems to me a potentially wondrous proposed advance. But will it happen? There is a danger that what amounts to an entirely new proposal of a fresh liturgical development, going beyond both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary forms of the Mass to something possibly better than either, will sink without trace: so here’s my two penn’orth towards getting it noticed and talked about, and I hope acted on. Here’s what Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (of all things) said on Sunday:

“The Pope’s long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to co-exist, but to move toward a ‘common rite’ that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms.”

The fact is that both existing forms, as at present celebrated, lack something. Much has been alleged and lengthily spelled out about the defects of the Novus Ordo, so I say nothing about them here. But the Old Rite (I intend to call it that in future: “Extraordinary Form” sounds like a physical defect of some sort) also presents its difficulties, if for no other reason than that it has become so unfamiliar to many if not most people. I have always thought it nonsensical and wrong that the Old Rite should be banned in the aftermath of Vatican II; the liberalisation of its use following Summorum Pontificum was long overdue. But the great and undoubted riches of the Old Rite, it has seemed to me since I recently began to attend it on Sundays, are impeded from re-entering the mainstream of the Church’s liturgical life by an almost insuperable barrier. It’s very difficult indeed for anyone not actually brought up with it (and that’s a large and growing proportion of congregations these days) to find out what is actually going on, except at certain key points when bells, the elevations and so on, indicate it unmistakeably.  [I don’t know about that.  I think quite a few young people get it pretty well after having been a few times.  It isn’t rocket science.]

Though I have been moved by the powerful atmosphere of devotion surrounding the celebrations of the 1962 Mass I have attended, especially during the silent prayer of consecration itself, I have struggled during most of the celebration to pinpoint what point in the Mass we have actually reached: just where I am and what is happening. [Certainly easier during Sung and Solemn Masses.] I have the text there in front of me, in both English and Latin: but when the Mass is being “said”, either virtually inaudibly or in total silence, it’s easy to get lost. [Really?  It is easy?] Look, this isn’t in any way a negative reaction. But it is a difficulty. I will just have to persevere. But it’s discouraging. I had already studied (and been greatly moved by the beauty of) the text. There were some landmarks in it I was watching out for, for instance that wonderful opening declaration “Introibo ad altare Dei”: but I never even heard it the first time, and still haven’t. We were miles past it when I caught up. Now, as I say, I will need to persevere: but most people who don’t have a long acquaintanceship with the old Mass and how to attend it will be put off. And that is a very great pity.  [I direct the reader’s attention at this point to my own discussions of ars celebrandi and the mutual enrichment theme.]

So the idea of a “common rite” that is “shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms” is very attractive to me. The Novus Ordo, celebrated in Latin as a High Mass (as it is in what I am fortunate to be able to say is the church I attend on Sundays, the Oxford Oratory), is very moving as it is. To add, for instance, the whole introductory rite of the old Mass, asperges and all, would immensely enrich it even further. [The Novus Ordo foresees that.] In a new translation (which would have to be done to the same standard as that of the awaited translation of the Novus Ordo) it would help at churches which are, at the moment, liturgically struggling to get to the point of devotional take-off (I’m assuming, of course that there’ll be no guitars around by then: if there are, better for them to stick to the Novus Ordo we have rather than compromise the “enriched” form I look forward to having).

Meanwhile, the struggle to establish, often against the obstruction of local bishops, the absolute right of those who wish for it to have the old Mass, continues. As a story on this home page reports:


I have two motives in harrying the bishops in this matter: first, it’s a matter of justice: those who want the old Mass now have an actual right to it, and it’s the bishops’ pastoral duty actually to facilitate the implementation of that right. Second, the more the Old Rite is celebrated, the more likely, perhaps, will become what I would really like to see: a new rite, in which the best of the Novus Ordo (including two of the three new Canons) would be retained, with the whole liturgy enhanced by the riches of the Old Rite, now clearly and audibly celebrated for the first time: that could be a liturgical wonder which would sweep the Church.

I prattle, of course. There are too many enemies of any real “reform of the reform”, and they are too powerful, for any such thing to get off the ground anytime soon. Aren’t there? All the same, according to the Herald, Cardinal Koch says that this and nothing less is “the Pope’s long-term aim”. But how long is “long-term”? There’s the question. Ah, well.

I cut some, as you can see.  Read the whole thing there.

He is clearly an advocate of what I call the tertium quid.  But he seems to be suggesting that the tertirum quid should be created, rather than allowed to develop.

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  1. Incensum says:

    I feel the need to pipe up here, as someone who never grew up with the Tridentine Mass.

    It did take me a few Masses to figure things out, but in the process I learned a great deal of things that were never taught to me in any of the “Catholic” schools I attended. The impression “You reap what you sow,” is very apt here. It is easy enough to learn what is going on, and even others that I have introduced to the rite have managed to find their way through it.

    As a person that understands Latin well, and knows the rubrics of the Mass, and taking into account that I later served many Solemn High Masses and for special events (before moving, alas) I have two comments.

    1. It is possible to have a very good idea of what is going on, if you study the rubrics. Will you know the exact second that each word is uttered? Maybe not. So what?

    2. See # 1 – I do believe that the use of silence fosters a great deal of introspection, reverence, and mystery. A teritium quid Eliminating it in favor of the Novus Ordo use of speaking everything would be a great loss, and I believe the Holy Father’s intention would be to reintroduce this silence, not eliminate it, given what I have read of his writings.

    My second comment is that the tertium quid would HAVE to organically develop, lest it be reduced to another moot point like the eventual destiny of the Novus Ordo, at least as currently celebrated in most places (in the USA, anyway). The last thing that Catholics need is more heartache over another banal, on-the-spot product that has no roots in Tradition and growth.

    This leads me to a final point – The Holy Father is incredibly wise, and knows the exact cause of the problems. By restoring the use of the Tridentine Mass along side the Novus Ordo, the two rites will have to coexist and the discussion and comparisons will bring many questions with them. Since the Mass is a cornerstone of the faith, this will prompt the exact questions about doctrine raised by those who know both Masses on a wider scale. This will foster a better understanding of what it means to be a Catholic, and will organically redirect the course of worship accordingly (possibly in divergent directions, no less). I also believe, as the Holy Father stated, that some or many will leave (the Church will become smaller, but more pure), once they realize what being Catholic actually means, and that yes, Vatican II really did NOT change many of the things they think it did.

  2. Andrew says:

    I just hope that this new interest in the ‘tertium quid’ is not a veiled attempt by the Novus Ordo fans to tamper with the TLM in the name of “mutual enrichment”. The showmanship that prevails among the Novus Ordo devotees has no place in the TLM. The “blending” scares me. I’ve got a nice glass of wine and you’ve got some flat lemonade: stay out of my glass: I’m not blending my drink with you.

  3. It’s very difficult indeed for anyone not actually brought up with it (and that’s a large and growing proportion of congregations these days) to find out what is actually going on, except at certain key points when bells, the elevations and so on, indicate it unmistakeably.

    I don’t know about that. I was 39 years old when I attended my first TLM. Certainly, it was outside of my comfort zone (as are many of the best things in life) but yet, somehow, I managed.

    The difficulty of becoming familiar with the Mass of tradition is not insurmountable, nor should it ever justify not having it at all. There is too much emphasis these days on instant gratification, and this complaint strikes me as a symptom of this malady. The reality is that becoming familiar with the Mass you didn’t grow up in takes advance preparation and perseverance. You don’t progress by lowering expectations to the point where they’re already met.

  4. ppb says:

    If a TLM is inaudible all the way through, that’s not the fault of the missal itself. The rubrics call for a clear voice in most parts of the Mass.
    In the silent parts – mainly the offertory prayers and the Canon – the priest’s gestures and the bells make it pretty clear when everything is happening.

  5. MichaelJ says:

    Here I go again. I have seen no evidence to date supporting Cardinal Kurt Koch’s opinion about the Holy Father’s intent.

    Yes, I have read the speculation of the Holy father before he became elected Pope, about there eventually being one Roman Rite, but is is unclear whether he was expressing a desire or predicting an inevitable conclusion. Additionally, speculating that the Holy Father intends to “merge” the two rites is contrary to what Dr. Reid states in a different post.

    The Holy Father speaks with a clear, yet gentle voice, and does not seem to shy away from advertising his motivations. Why can’t we listen to what he says and watch what he does instead of speculating about what we think he thinks?

  6. Geoffrey says:

    As someone who grew up with only with Mass in the Ordinary Form, the EF Mass can be a challenge to understand… a challenge, but not impossible.

    Personally, I foresee the promulgation of a ‘Missale Romanum’ that will contain: (I.) The Order of Mass for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and (II.) The Order of Mass for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Perhaps the Mass propers and lectionary would be restored and edited to such an extent as to try and please all parties, and allow various “options” (Responsorial Psalm vs. Gradual, etc.). I don’t think this would happen for at least another generation or two… perhaps the ‘JPII generation’ will be the ones to do it…

  7. James Joseph says:

    I have noticed that one caaaannn get lost with not much effort. They caaaaann get lost because of mumbling, or every noisy central air system; particularly the latter.

    Quite frankly that is tempered in the Low Mass where one get’s to kneel a lot… and zone in. I don’t have to worry about moving around, or fumble with an awkward and awful responsorial psalm, or be confused by a didactic sense. With the older form I get the whole be still and know that HE IS in everything. I see in the vessels and the relics of His Saints my thirst to see His Face is slaked some. In the steps immediately before the altar my desire to follow the priest and in climbing the Mountain of the Lord with clean hands and clean heart is brought out of me alla’ Psalm 24. It get the whole deep calling on deep thing that is very much more muted in the Ordinary Form (it is still there just very much muted). I don’t have to stand in a line. He approaches me and let’s me know it is. He get that is calling the shots.

    I have read that the Temple priest three times per year would hold the Bread of the Face of God upon a golden platter, turn to face the Israelites and say, “Behold, the God who loves you.” I mean isn’t this supposed to be the template for the way God wants to be worshipped…. the whole you are a priest forever thing.

    I just don’t git that in the versus populi thing. I’m sorry but there is no way to have that happen if the priest isn’t facing away. I might moreover say, if I dare, that the rood-screens are still proper to the architecture. Isn’t there supposed to be ripped curtain between the divine and the world. Right now, unless you live in England, how am we reminded of that in the architecture?

    Stupid, stupid Tridentine progressivists, who took certain phrases and ran with them! Ripping out the rood-screens all-over Europe. Bunch of donkies!

    pax vobis omnibus.

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    First, I don’t believe TLM devotees need to get hives over any of this. The TLM will not be changed in any inorganic way. In its millennial history, it never has been. Even the 1570 Missal of Pius V, which various propagandists claim was assembled then by a committee–just as the Novus Ordo was fabricated by a committee–was actually (I have read) virtually identical to the 1436 missal in Rome. So I (for one) am confident it will remain pristine if not literally preserved in amber.

    Second, it seems obvious that at least 90% of Catholics will never accept the Mass (or anything else) in Latin or in anything other than their native language. So they surely will not be migrating to the traditional Latin Mass.

    Third, how can there be any blending or merging of two different rites, when Pope Benedict has decreed that we have only one rite to start with (albeit with two forms or usages)?

    Fourth, if the TLM must necessarily remain unchanged as a fixed model and a spiritually powerful point of attraction, won’t the inherently flexible ordinary form inevitably evolve toward it, remaining largely vernacular but coming to resemble the ancient form as it comes to be more and more traditional in practice?

    The result in time may indeed be recognizable as a single Mass–but which can be celebrated either in Latin (thus being essentially the present TLM) or in a flexible combination of Latin and the vernacular. Perhaps then it will just be called “The Mass”, as it was when I first encountered it.

    From a purely logical point of view, is there another possibility for the result of the “two forms” process that Pope Benedict has set in motion?

  9. MichaelJ says:

    Henry, I largely agree with you. I have no particular worries about the Catholic community as a whole imposing any inorganic changes on the Mass. I think the vast majority of Catholics are largely indifferent to the TLM and will be content to simply leave it alone.
    Instead, my chief concern comes from those who consider themselves (and, in truth they really are) traditionalists and yet still clamor for changes. It is somewhat bewildering to me that someone who loves the tradional mass would also want to:
    1. Use the Novus ordo Calendar
    2. Use the Novus Ordo “expanded” lectionary
    3. Allow Lay readers, EMHCs Communion on the Hand and Altar Girls
    4. Eliminate, or at least discourage, tradional practices of piety
    5. Celebrate in the vernacular
    6. Have Communion under both Species for the faithful

    All of these things, and more, have been suggested right here while citing the Holy Fathers vaporeous “intent”

  10. pookiesmom says:

    I would love to see the NO totally dropped at some point and the TLM prevail–I would not like to see a blending of the two rites. We asked our Pastor to speak more audibly and he was happy to oblige. When the EF was finally allowed here in 2001 I expected to see people my age (62) and older who so missed the TLM–I was so surprised to see mostly young families and young single adults who certainly never grew up with this rite or had 3 years of Latin in high school! Our autistic son loves this Mass and reads his Mass booklet with rapt attention, never missing a beat! At the NO he spaces out frequently!!

  11. Andrew says:

    There is a trend of increasing innovations in the Novus Ordo which leads not towards anything resembling the TLM but away from it. Some key elements of that trend can be easily identified: hand holding, female altar servers, self-communion, EMHC’s, guitars and tambourines, clowns, balloons, dance, applause, projectors, on the spot improvised prayers, etc. On what basis should one conclude that the trend will reverse itself? The vast majority of Catholics have no taste for the TLM (as you and others have observed) so why would the TLM make any difference to the NO devotees?

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    MichaelJ, I do not personally know anyone whom I consider devoted to the TLM, who would advocate any of the six changes you list.

    Except perhaps through sheer ignorance. Possibly there might be someone who likes the TLM, but is not sufficiently familiar with its warp and woof to know that the ancient Mass is much deeper in scripture than the Novus Ordo, whose “expanded lectionary” is effectively a mile wide and an inch deep in comparison.

  13. Red Cardigan says:

    Respectfully, Father Z., it is easy for those exposed to the E.F. for the first few times to get lost. The first time I attended one (and I’ve only had the opportunity to do so twice) I went with a decent background of high school Latin (long since grown rusty, alas), a borrowed Missal, and family members who are regular attendees.

    And I was so lost by the time we were ten minutes or so into Mass that I could no longer even guess where we were in the Missal. I stood and watched–but wondered, afterward, if I’d really fulfilled my obligation to assist at Mass, since I’d been so unaware of what was going on, and so distracted trying to hunt down in the Missal just where we might be.

    I’m not saying that with steady months of attendance a person of average intelligence couldn’t at least latch on to those elements which never change, and which might therefore become familiar enough in Latin to serve as “anchors” for the rest. I’m just saying that when someone totally unfamiliar with the form attends for the first time–or the first five times–or the first ten or twenty times–he or she may indeed find it easy to get lost. I realize that to those for whom this Mass is as familiar as a Mass in the vernacular it may seem ridiculous that the rest of us don’t immediately catch up, but at least from my own experience I can confirm that being lost is fairly common for those unfamiliar with the E.F. Mass.

  14. Henry Edwards says:


    The pace of reform obviously varies, and in some places may not have started yet. Many of the abuses you describe seemed ubiquitous at one time, but many of them I myself no longer see. For instance, at the OF Masses in the parish where I largely attend the TLM, there is little or no hand-holding, and ordinarily communion in only one kind, so far fewer EMHC’s are needed. Even in the more liberal parish where I normally attend daily OF Mass, I see no hand-holding, mainly adult male servers, etc. So, from my perspective, the trend I saw for so long has already been reversed, though of course there’s still a good way to to and I am aware of places that are lagging far behind.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Red, our community has posted the page


    that is intended help a newcomer follow the old Mass based on familiarity with the new Mass.

  16. Dr. Eric says:

    The second time I went to a Low Mass (I previously went about 6 years prior to that time) I knew that I would have to pay attention and discipline my mind so I could follow along- which I’m proud to say I did. There are times at High Mass that I have gotten lost, but I blame that on my kids. ;-)

    I wonder if all the video games, TV, and internet have blown out our attention spans so much that we find it hard to pay attention.

    I don’t think a tertium quid should come about from a committee, but from generations of organic development. I’m not sure how that should look.

    Maybe the TLM with an expanded lectionary (very few clerics complain that there is too much Scripture in the New Mass) and the Prayers of the Faithful read “call and response” by the Deacon. Those changes would only be the only ones that I could see that would “enrich” the Old Mass.

  17. If it ain’t Missa Cantata, it’s Missa mosta Mass. Trying to decipher what the priest and servers are doing from the momentary positions they adopt, while pretty much nothing is said audibly except the most important bits — sheesh, it’s impossible.

    And of course, given that the normal way to pray at Mass is staring into your hands or with your eyes closed, I’m fairly sure that even the experienced EF massgoers aren’t sussing out their position during Mass by any visible or audible signs. They’ve just attended enough times to know.

    That said, I can’t tell what color a person’s eyes are or read body language unless I’m openly threatened, so it may just be that I’m insufficiently visual to catch tiny cues that other people easily see.

  18. UncleBlobb says:

    I agree that when I first went to an E.F. Low Mass several years ago for the first time, it was hard to follow, I didn’t completely appreciate it, and didn’t really like not being able to hear the Canon, and was indeed lost much of the time. But I agree wholeheartedly with those of you above who’ve said that it does get easier with time and practice, as well as taking time to look at the rubrics and the words prayed by the priest. As well to go to many Low Masses and High Masses and watch! The red crosses in the text, and certain spoken prayers are keys on just where the priest is, e.g. “…nobis quoque peccatoribus…”. But these are things you pick up with practice, as well as getting used to the idea that the priest is the alter christus and primary actor of the Mass offering on your behalf. If you get lost you are still at Mass. I like to think of when for almost all of the Church’s history that the lay people couldn’t even read. But now we have Latin/vernacular missals and handouts, and teachers and other books.

    And also one thing I did notice when first going to the E.F.: much of the general form of the O.F. IS already similar to the E.F. and this greatly surprised me for some reason. And so my 35+ years (then) of going to the O.F. exclusively and being very familiar with that text in English was a great preparation for helping me understand and follow the O.F. My training as it were in the vernacular helps me understand the Latin much better than I could have without the vernacular probably, since I am not yet fluent in Latin. And I would say that all of us who are devotees of the E.F. have already been mutually enriched or at least effected by both forms.

    I think that Holy Spirit is the one with the plan for the combining of the two Forms, or at least, which one predominantly wins the “contest” of time. But I think that Mr. Oddie, Fr. Z., and all of the rest of us won’t be around to see it. It will need to be that long of a timeline in my opinion for real organic development to occur.

  19. EWTN Rocks says:

    I attended my first EF Mass tonight, and loved it. I can’t think of one thing that I didn’t like about it. Instead of blending the OF with the EF, I recommend phasing out the OF Mass.

    I have one question: why is the rail covered during Communion? Following along with others attending Mass, it was clear that you place folded hands under the communion rail cover while kneeling to receive Communion. Is this to ensure the host doesn’t touch layperson hands should it be dropped?

  20. EWTN Rocks says:

    I’m still mulling over the differences between the EF Mass and OF Mass, but it’s clear that I prefer the EF Mass and probably should have stated why in my earlier post. From my perspective, there is so much going on during OF Mass that it is easy to become distracted and lose focus as to the purpose for attending Mass. With the EF Mass, there are very few distractions making the purpose abundantly clear.

  21. RichardT says:

    “I have struggled during most of the celebration to pinpoint what point in the Mass we have actually reached”

    I had the same problem – until I realised that it didn’t matter whether I knew where we are.

    The important bits are obvious. The rest of it? Well, it’s not about me, is it?

    The difficult thing is not the Latin, but that change of attitude.

  22. abasham says:

    I’ve attended a handful of Extraordinary Form masses, and now that I’m back home after college I can attend more regularly. I’ve attended them in different countries, seen them celebrated by different groups, and have therefore seen some things done differently in each parish.

    The EF Mass I most recently attended (Diocese of Arlington, Virginia) did something for their Missa Cantata that I liked: Many of the server’s responses were said by the server but also by the leader of the choir. It helped me to follow along (still getting the hang of that!) and made it clearer that the server/choir are answering on behalf of the people. I wish more people in the pews piped up and said the responses as well, though.

    People can debate the use of silence in the Mass and the proper form of “active engagement,” but I like the dialogue element of Mass, and if more prayers were said audibly and if the Choir didn’t sing over many of the prayers, I would be more edified by the EF Mass. The texts are so beautiful, they should be clearly heard and read by everyone present.

    If the EF Mass adopted the dialogue format of the OF Mass, and permission were given for some vernacular in the EF, then we could completely scrap the NO mess and I think most people would be happy. It would also resemble very closely the way Divine Liturgy is celebrated in many Orthodox parishes, which could help ecumenically.

  23. Mitchell NY says:

    I think the article brings up a valid point. Yes you can follow the gestures of the Priest as long as it is a small Church and no one is in your line of sight. But the further you are, for people just starting to get to know the Form, it is not easy to be in the same place as the Priest in the Missal. Low Mass was my first experience and unfortunately right now, the situation in many communities who are not prepared for various reasons to have High Mass or a Missa Cantata. I too have this problem. Sometimes It ry diligently to follow and other times just sit back and see how much just comes to me. But it in no way takes away from me the desire to attend this Form, in fact it only pushes me to seek more knowledge about the Mass and all its’ parts. But such determination or dedication is not in everyone. I think that is what the article is all about.

  24. Former Altar Boy says:

    I would agree with your assessment that “I think quite a few young people get it pretty well.” St. Anne in San Diego was elevated to parish status for the EF in 2008 and we have grown from 200 families to over 500 and have gone from two Masses to four and may soon add another! (God bess out two hard-working FSSP priests.) The bulk of this growth is young (often large!!) families and single young people all born since Vatican II.

  25. jmgarciajr says:

    I have to admit to being among the (initially, at least) lost sheep, and this with a not-TOO-rusty Latin. I did NOT expect to be lost, either. So it was very frustrating. Like trying to examine a beautiful work of art without one’s eyeglasses. It only takes a bit of perseverance to get up to speed, but I fear most AmCatholics simply do not have that perseverance, especially if attending Mass in the EF requires some measure of inconvenience. Some will turn out for the first EF Mass at St. _______ out of curiosity, will feel befuddled, shrug, and return to the bongos-and-kumbaya the following Sunday.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Some interesting comments above:

    1. I don’t think Card Koch is speculating on BXVI’s liturgical project.

    2. I doubt that any tertium quid would employ the Novus Ordo Calendar but rather would insert new feasts into the old Calendar.

    3. I also think any use of the Lectionary in a TQ would be optional readings. Although the Novus Ordo has a greater variety of Scriptural readings, those of the TLM were selected to fit the theme of the feast.

    4. Silence is fine, but the drive to the Church isn’t really preparation for it. People need to be prepared. Just entering Chartres Cathedral, with its silent beauty, is instant preparation, but most parish churches obviously can’t do that. And so there must be liturgical preparation. A public low mass in which the people hear no Latin is liturgically deficient. Not only do I favor dialogue masses, but I also think it might be a good idea for the people to hear the priest praying the canon, (exc for a silent consecration).

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