Card. Brandmüller on the liturgical reform of Vatican II

Our friends at Rorate noticed a piece at Vatican Insider in which His Eminence Walter Card. Brandmüller expressed himself about the Novus Ordo, aka “the Mass of Paul VI” and “the Ordinary Form”.   He says what we know is true but few people are willing to say openly: the Novus Ordo is NOT the Mass of the Council.   That is to say, the Council Fathers mandated a reform, but what we got was NOT the reform they mandated.

Sacrosanctum Concilium was never properly implemented.

Let’s have a look at what Card. Brandmüller had to say with some of my usually emphases and comments:

Q: The Second Vatican Council was a Pastoral Council that also provided dogmatic explanations. Had there ever been anything like it previously in the history of the Church?

[Brandmüller:] It does in fact seem as though Vatican II marked the beginning of a new type of Council. The language that was used during it and the completeness of the texts show that the Council fathers was not as much motivated by the need to pass judgement on controversial new ecclesiastical and theological issues, but rather by the wish to turn their attention to public opinion within the Church and the entire world, in the spirit of the annunciation.

Q: Shouldn’t a Council be declared a failure if fifty years on it has not been warmly received by the faithful? Benedict XVI warned against a misleading interpretation of the Council, particularly in terms of the hermeneutics of [rupture]…

[B:] This is one of those cliché questions that stem from a new existential sentiment; that feeling of confusion that is typical of our times. But what is fifty years after all?! Cast your mind back to the Council of Nicaea in 325. [Card. B is an historian.  He gets it.  Furthermore, a sound historical perspective informs us that Vatican II was not nearly as important as many other Councils of the past.] The disputes surrounding the dogma of this Council – about the nature of the Son, that is, whether he was made of the same substance as the Father or not – continued for more than a hundred years. St. Ambrose was ordained Bishop of Milan on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Council of Nicaea and had to fight hard against the Arians who refused to accept the Nicene provisions. Briefly afterwards came a new Council: the First Council of Constantinople of 381 […]

Q: Let us talk now about the fruits which the Vatican II produced. Can you comment on this?

[B:] First of all of course the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” in comparison with the Tridentine Catechism: after the Council of Trent, the Catechismus Romanus was launched in order to provide parish priests, preachers etcetera with guidelines on how to preach and announce the Gospel or evangelize.

Even the 1983 Code of Canon Law can be considered a consequence of the Council. [Here we go! …] I must emphasise that the form of the post-conciliar liturgy with all its distortions, is not attributable to the Council or to the Liturgy Constitution established during Vatican II which by the way has not really been implemented even to this day. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] The indiscriminate removal of Latin and Gregorian Chants from liturgical celebrations and the erection of numerous altars were absolutely not acts prescribed by the Council. [And the distortion of the reform goes beyond those points.]

With the benefit of hindsight, let us cast our minds back in particular to the lack of sensitivity shown in terms of care for the faithful and in the pastoral carelessness shown in the liturgical form. One need only think of the Church’s excesses, reminiscent of the Beeldenstorm (the statue/image storm) which occurred in the 18th century. Excesses which catapulted numerous faithful into total chaos, leaving many fumbling around in the dark.

Just about anything and everything has been said on this subject. Meanwhile, the liturgy has come to be seen as a mirror image of Church life, subject to an organic historical evolution which cannot – as did indeed happen – suddenly be changed by decreepar ordre de mufti. [Or even by the order of Paul VI for that matter!] And we are still paying the price today.


We sure are.

But, brick by brick, we are rebuilding.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. EXCHIEF says:

    Vatican II was hijacked by those within the Church who had their own agendas and saw V II as an opportunity to implement change under the radar. Most of those folks are of the same era as the nuns on the bus. While we can take some solice in the fact that breed is dying out unfortunately they did substantial damage over the past 50 years to the point where the “average” Catholic has no appreciation for what a structured and disciplined liturgy is all about.

    The consequence of the protestantized NO is that Catholics under the age of 55 have no example of what separates the Mass from Protestant “services” and many have reached the conclusion that the only difference between Catholicism and, let’s say, the Assembly of God is the name. I know many “catholics” who think it is perfectly OK and non sinful to go to Mass one Sunday and a Protestant service the next.

    On a positive note there are many Catholics who once exposed to the TLM immediately grasp the difference between it and the NO (as it is most generally celebrated) and develop a strong desire for the TLM with the increased solemnity and reverence it brings. And that, I believe, is why so many V II era Priests and even some Bishops go out of their way to discourage (or even prohibiot though they have no authority to do so) the TLM. They are afraid that once the Lord’s Mass is expereinced their Mass will no longer be “popular”….for to them it is all about popularity.

  2. HighMass says:

    FINALLY! After 4o yrs Plus, Isn’t it time to correct all this error???

  3. Mercier says:

    So are we really to believe that Paul VI who presided over the Council and Archbishop Bugnini who drafted SC misinterpreted the document. This does not seem to hold water historically. See Michael Davies’s extended treatment of this issue here:

    an excerpt: “Article 21, together with such Articles as 1,23,50,62, and 88, provides a mandate for the supreme goal of the liturgical revolutionaries—that of a permanently evolving liturgy. In September 1968 the bulletin of the Archbishopric of Paris, Présence et Dialogue, called for a permanent revolution in these words: “It is no longer possible, in a period when the world is developing so rapidly, to consider rites as definitively fixed once and for all. They need to be regularly revised.” Once the logic of Article 21 is accepted there can be no alternative to a permanently evolving liturgy.

    Writing in Concilium in 1969, Fr. H. Rennings, Dean of Studies of the Liturgical Institute of Trier, stated:

    When the Constitution states that one of the aims is “to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change” (Art. 1; see also Arts. 21, 23, 62, 88) it clearly expresses the dynamic elements in the Council’s idea of the liturgy. The “needs of our time” can always be better understood and therefore demand other solutions; the needs of the next generation can again lead to other consequences for the way worship should operate and be fitted into the overall activity of the Church. The basic principle of the Constitution may be summarized as applying the principle of a Church which is constantly in a state of reform (ecclesia semper reformanda.) to the liturgy which is always in the state of reform (Liturgia semper reformanda). 17

    This could hardly be more explicit. Father Joseph Gelineau was described by Archbishop Bugnini as one of the “great masters of the international liturgical world”.18 In his book Demain la liturgie, he informs us that:

    It would be false to identify this liturgical renewal with the reform of rites decided on by Vatican II. This reform goes back much further and goes forward far beyond the conciliar prescriptions (elle va bien au-del). The liturgy is a permanent workshop (la liturgie est un chantier permanent).19″

  4. St. Rafael says:

    I would argue Card. Brandmüller is mistaken on Sacrosanctum Concilium. He fails to take into account the actual “time bombs” in the document itself. Michael Davies wrote about these time bombs and they have most recently been documented by Fr. Cekada’s book Work of Human Hands. Chris Ferrara also wrote a document on Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, exposing the loopholes that would later be used.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium has been implemented. It started with the transitional Missal of ’65 and creeping novelties before the time bombs went off and they got a completely new Mass in, with the Novus Ordo of ’69.

    Most importantly, the Church cannot be stuck on Sacrosanctum Concilium forever. As if Sacrosanctum Concilium has to be binding 15 years from now or hold sway 30 to 50 years from now. There is going to have to be a time when the Church will have to simply move beyond Sacrosanctum Concilium and just forget it and leave it behind. The Church goes on and grows organically. It doesn’t have to be bound to a pastoral document. The Pope can bring out his own motu proprio on the liturgy for a genuine organic development. This motu proprio can replace Sacrosanctum Concilium and kick start a genuine liturgical renewal without reference and attachment to the Missal of ’69.

  5. jasoncpetty says:

    I must emphasise that the form of the post-conciliar liturgy with all its distortions, is not attributable to the Council or to the Liturgy Constitution established during Vatican II which by the way has not really been implemented even to this day.

    Is he saying SC has not been implemented because the Novus Ordo is not the Mass called for by SC, or is he saying SC has not been implemented because, while it satisfies the criteria for the new Mass called for by SC, the Novus Ordo has been distorted in its celebration?

    In other words, is the failure to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium the fault of the Novus Ordo itself (because it as a rite has intrinsic “distortions”) or the distorted manner in which it has been offered? I asked this over at RC and didn’t get a response, so I’m asking here because I truly don’t know what His Eminence is saying or trying to say.

  6. Mitchell NY says:

    Any every person who disagrees with the Cardinal is going to pull his words apart and distort them telling us what he really means, that somehow he is not referring to the Pauline Mass. That somehow, someway he didn’t mean to say what he said. The same way that SC does not say what it really said. Hence the distortions continue. This would be be best to come from the Pope as well. And then concrete changes to the NO not excluding its’ abolition. It appears to me from the Cardinal’s words that the Pauline Missal should probably be suppressed and the Mass of the Council, whatever that means, should be promulgated. Maybe a return to the 1965 Missal in place of the Pauline Missal would be the best thing for the time being. At least it appears much more in continuity with the 62 Missal and would not be an ultimate shock. It could be “interim” once again until a final Missal can be formulated. Probably not in our lifetime. It is not as if the experts have not discussed this at length already and hindsight has given the Church some wisdom as far as what does not work and formulated the Cardinal’s opinion. My 2 cents.

  7. Pingback: Finally a Catholic Cardinal admits it ! « Bright Dawn

  8. Captain Peabody says:

    The kind of reading of a document of a Holy and Ecumenical Synod proposed above–dissecting it, pulling it apart for “loopholes,” and then trying to read the hearts and souls of those who drafted and voted for it and use this as the main guideline for interpreting it– is as far as I can tell simply unprecedented in Church history.

    All Ecumenical Councils, even those proposed in a spirit of schism, have always been read according to the literal meaning of the text and the 2000 year tradition of the Church, not according to the private thoughts or conspiracies of the Bishops taking part in it or their later actions–or else we could hardly accept the Council of Florence, which was almost immediately disavowed by practically all the Eastern Bishops shortly after being promulgated, the Second Council of Constantinople, which was held at the order of the Byzantine Emperor in direct defiance to the kidnapped Pope and the entire Western Church and with the intention of weakening the preceding Council of Chalcedon and offering a bone to heretics, or even the Council of Nicea, which was likewise later disavowed by a great number of the Bishops involved. If the Church was to be held to this kind of attitude, trying to read the hearts of all Bishops involved in an Ecumenical Council and scanning every canon for hidden conspiracies and loopholes before accepting it or attempting to apply the plain meaning of the texts, then we would be caught in a scholarly battle that would never end.

    Read literally and in accord with the Tradition of the Church, Sacrosanctum Concilium simply does not provide the mandate for such a sweeping liturgical change as actually took place–and like it or not, there is simply no basis in Tradition for reading it in any other way.

  9. Johnno says:

    The issues with Vatican II go much beyond just complaining about the Novus Ordo Mass. There’s also the issues with regards to what it taught about ecumenism, religious freedoms etc. that are unprecedented, perhaps even contradictory with Tradition which is why the situation with the SSPX etc. exists. This seriously needs to be sorted out. 50 years of confusion is a serious problem, one could even say the hallmark of the devil himself being in the details. Whatever the merits of Vatican II, in the end it has been a failure, whether by fault of the documents or the Church as an institution to do what it intended. And when you’re failing, continuing on the path that led to failure is a lost cause. You gave it your best, but now it’s time to try something different, or just return to what worked.

  10. Clinton R. says:

    Vatican II was indeed hijacked by modernists and apostates who desired to make a church in their image. And the first order of business was to toss out the Tridentine Mass and create a liturgy that removed the catholicity of the Mass. The Church Militant has suffered so much in these last 50 or so years. I pray that we may see a return to the traditions and a call to holiness that have led many over the last 2000 years to Christ.

  11. jaykay says:

    EXCHIEF: “The consequence of the protestantized NO is that Catholics under the age of 55 have no example of what separates the Mass from Protestant “services”

    With respect, EXCHIEF, I honestly think that’s going a bit too far with the generalisation. Many of us who grew up in that era (I’m almost 52) did not experience the wackiness until much later, if at all, when the older generations had passed or were passing and less well-formed ones took over. It was not at all uncommon for the older forms of devotion such as Benediction, processions, Holy Hours etc) to survive well into the 80s, if not later. So while TLMS did of course disappear – even High Mass as such – that does not mean that instant confusion of identity and ignorance of basics descended in December 1965. I was still being taught the traditional Catechism up until I left school in the late 70s, and those coming after me were as well, by priests. So it can be said that a lot of people under the age of 55 continued to be well-educated in the basics.

  12. Jack Orlando says:

    When saw this post yesterday, I re-read last night Sacrosanctum Concilium. This seems the least that one can do before opining on its content. Two observations:

    1. Cardinal Brandmüller is correct. What we got isn’t what the Council wanted.

    2. Ultra-traditionalists do with documents what Liberals do: (i.) twist the text to make it mean what they want it to mean and not what it really means – and thus Liberals set up an idol and Ultra-Traditionalist a strawman, (ii.) import meanings that are not there whatsoever, (iii.) simply say something is in the document which isn’t and vice versa, or (iv.) say that silence in the document is meaningful (it isn’t). Then there is the use of the language of terrorist violence: e.g., “hijack” and “time bomb”. No one pointed a gun at the pilot and commandeered the Church; time bombs aren’t in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Some phrases need clarification; clarification is the job of the Magisterium.

    I’m grateful that commentators on this website, with respect to Cardinal Brandmüller’s remarks, are civil in their discussion.

  13. Glen M says:

    The Liturgical Movement did not begin in 1962. The liturgy has developed over time and prior to the Second Vatican Council there were discussions on reforming the Usus Antiquior. However, any proposed changes would have been small, implemented slowly, organically, and only done for the greater good. It’s very hard to argue the Novus Ordo complied with those guidelines.

    His Eminence is advising us to be patient and keep things in perspective. These certainly are trying times but let’s keep our eyes focused on the end goal – getting as many souls (including our own) to Heaven. As Fr. Z says, keep calm and wdtprs on.

    In turbulent times extra graces are available. Many saints are formed during a crisis. Perhaps years from now when some new liturgical movement suggests massive changes, the faithful will point to our experience as a reason to be delicate with the Mass.

  14. St. Rafael says:

    2. Ultra-traditionalists do with documents what Liberals do: (i.) twist the text to make it mean what they want it to mean and not what it really means – and thus Liberals set up an idol and Ultra-Traditionalist a strawman

    The Vatican II documents themselves are ambiguous. They contain ambiguous language.They were purposely written that way. Every scholar and book on Vatican II has documented this. Whether it’s Michael Davies, Atila Sinke Guimares’s volumes on Vatican II, or such famous books as The Rhine Flows into the Tiber or Iota Unum, or Archbishop Lefebvre’s books.

    This what happens when Modernists write their own pastoral documents in essay format with ambiguous language to be exploited later instead of the traditional canons of past dogmatic councils. That a meaning or sentence of a document can be read in either way as to be ambiguous is the hallmark of the Modernist. They use the same language but have a different meaning in mind. St. Pius X warned of their tactics.

    That Vatican II was hijacked is part of the historical record. Preparatory schemas were thrown out and replaced by those prepared by the periti, which became the ambiguous documents. This is all beyond dispute. Liberals, Conservatives, and Traditionalists all admit the ambiguity of the documents and to the hijacking. Conservatives and Traditionalists are divided over what to do about all this.

    The Modernists were honest and rejoiced over the hijacking of the Council and went to work to implement their documents after the Council. “The spirit of Vatican II” and the Vatican II documents are one.

  15. Jack Orlando says:

    To say that everybody knows that x is beyond dispute, that x is part of the historical record, that all sides agree with x, and that every scholar has demonstrated x all are fine examples of the bandwagon fallacy and of begging the question. Rafael’s claim of ambiguity remains unproven.

    He might be correct. Let him provide for me examples of ambiguity from Sacrosanctum Concilium and I might then, and only then, accept his claim.

    And Ultra-Trads still continue to use the language of terrorist violence: “hijacking”. Well, that’s a game that two can play:

    A parting shot: The most beautiful idea in Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Paschal Mystery.

  16. St. Rafael says:

    Despite the numerous books already mentioned and even more that are out there, I’ll just provide a brief article on Sacrosanctum Concilium written by Chris Ferrara. Beyond that there are more than enough articles and books on the ambiguities of Vatican II to do your own research.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium A Lawyer Examines the Loopholes:

    Also the Paschal Mystery theology was taken apart by the SSPX in their book The Problem of the Liturgical Reform.

  17. Jack Orlando says:

    With respect to Rafael’s link: Ferrara, ESQ is wrong from the start. SC is not a legal document; it is not forensic but sermonic. And so a lawyer is not qualified to interpret it, but a theologian preceeding from general revelation (here, the Paschal Mystery and its application to people). SC is not a contract as the author claims, but a general guide. I stick by observation above. Ferrara ESQ reads the way Liberals do; he finds what he wants, imports meanings not there, twists the document to prove his case, and thus makes a strawman where Liberals make an idol. Both Liberals and Ultra-Traditionalists engage in a piece of pettifogery, the hairsplitting of a legalistic Pharisees.

    And note the unproven assumption: that the document was written to be read as Liberals do. And quoting claims (supposedly by two popes and Bugnini) that aren’t what the document says. And much of what he says is simply wrong. Ferrara ESQ has his own preordained agenda: ditch V2. Ain’t gonna happen.

    The OF simply isn’t what SC calls for. Period. Full stop. All that’s needed is clarification of SC. Period. Full stop. And SC can be clarified “conservatively”. Period. Full stop.

    This post is already stale and on the 2nd page of Fr. Z’s blog. So no more from me.

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