The wussificiation of the priesthood and the Novus Ordo

I have in the past mentioned the comment made by Card. Heenan when he experienced the Novus Ordo for the first time.  The comment leads a longish piece posted at Rorate (which no longer links to this blog, btw) by Fr. Richard Cipolla in Norwalk, Connecticut (whom I have met).  He peels back, onion-like, layers of the Novus Ordo to expose problems with its core.  The whole thing is worth your time, but is too long to represent here, alas.  Some highlights.

He begins:

The correspondence between Cardinal Heenan of Westminster and Evelyn Waugh before the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass is well known, in which Waugh issues a crie de coeur about the post-Conciliar liturgy and finds a sympathetic, if ineffectual, ear in the Cardinal.[1]   What is not as well known is Cardinal Heenan’s comment to the Synod of Bishops in Rome after the experimental Mass, Missa Normativa, was presented for the first time in 1967 to a select number of bishops. This essay was inspired by the following words of Cardinal Heenan to the assembled bishops:

At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.[2]
What the Cardinal was referring to lies at the very heart of the Novus Ordo form of the Roman Mass and the attendant and deep problems that have afflicted the Church since the imposition of the Novus Ordo form on the Church in 1970.[3]   One might be tempted to crystallize what Cardinal Heenan experienced as the feminization of the Liturgy. But this term would be inadequate and ultimately misleading. For there is a real Marian aspect of the Liturgy that is therefore feminine. The Liturgy bears the Word of God, the Liturgy brings forth the Body of the Word to be worshipped and given as Food. A better terminology might be that in the Novus Ordo rite of Mass the Liturgy has been effeminized. There is a famous passage in Caesar’s De bello Gallico where he explains why the Belgae tribe were such good soldiers. He attributes this to their lack of contact with the centers of culture like the cities. Caesar believed that such contact contributes ad effeminandos animos, to the effeminizing of their spirits.[4] But when one talks about the effeminization of the Liturgy one risks being misunderstood as devaluing what it means to be a woman, womanhood itself. Without adopting Caesar’s rather macho view of the effects of culture on soldiers, one certainly can speak of a devirilization of the soldier that saps his strength and resolve to do what a soldier has to do. It is not a put-down of the feminine. It rather describes the weakening of what it means to be a man.

This is the term, devirilization, that I want to use to describe what Cardinal Heenan saw that day in 1967 at the first celebration of the experimental Mass.



This role of the vir of faith is radically different from the priest who believes his job is not to lead the people to the altar of Sacrifice but rather to dialogue with them and to make them “understand what is going on”. Then the Eucharistic Prayer with its altogether brief dialogue between priest and people becomes another extension of the priest’s dialogue-banter. Here there is no walking up the mountain together; [Like Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain: priest and victim.] there is no turning to the Lord together; instead there is the terrible and stultifying stasis of the condescending and overbearing mother trying to connect with her child and in the process destroying the child’s freedom to walk up to the mountain of God.[14]

Before turning to the important question of the continuity of the Novus Ordo rite with the traditional Roman rite from the viewpoint of the devirilization of the liturgy, I want to offer comments on two practical results of the devirilization of the liturgy and of the priest. The first is this: the music that the Novus Ordo has produced, both for Mass settings and songs to be sung at the liturgy, is at best functional, at worst sentimental junk that makes the old Protestant evangelical hymns sound like Bach chorales. When Mass is reduced to a self-referential assembly, then music becomes merely functional at best, at worst something to rouse the feelings of the people. This functionalism is a mark of the chilling, outdated and anti-liturgical stance of the liturgical establishment that still controls much of the liturgical life of the Church in the Roman dicasteries, in seminaries, in dioceses and therefore in parishes.



The devirilized priest confuses detachment with arrogance or superiority or coldness or clericalism. Ironically quite the opposite is true. The post-Conciliar period has seen the rise of a clericalism that masks itself by claiming that the priest merely “presides” over the assembly but who in fact presides over everything. The priest must never be a presider, for this is like being a fussy wedding planner. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] To love his people the priest must have this sense of detachment from them, lest he become another collectible Ken doll in a collar.


Heh… heh… that’ll win him some new friends!

I am glad he brought up “clericalism”.  I have in my reading lately noticed an uptick of the use of the term and I am left with a sense that it is being misused.  We priests need to build strong bonds and have our own healthy sub-culture.  Yes, there is a negative “clericalism”, but there is a positive as well.  I also will repeat what I have written so many times on this blog regarding a dreadful sort of clericalism, often seen in the context of the Novus Ordo.  A false notion of “active participation” drives many priests to devalue the dignity of lay people.  Priests – usually well-intentioned – wound the dignity of the laity when, in their largess, they grant to lay people permission to do something clerics should be doing.  The dumbing down of the priest’s role to that of a mere presider is the flip side of the same coin.

Some of Cipolla’s points are a bit over-played, but I’ll give them a pass.  In the balance, he makes a good argument.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, The Drill, The future and our choices, Vatican II and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: A Reflection on the Vanishing of Europe -

  2. JonPatrick says:

    The article makes a lot of good points. I sometimes despair though that our contemporary Catholic church infused as it is with Modernism can ever get back to the kind of understanding necessary to realize the importance of doing the liturgy correctly and how central it is to our beliefs.

  3. Dennis Martin says:

    I found the essay decidedly unhelpful. The quotation from Cardinal Heenan is short and asserts simply that men will flee the new Mass. I would have liked to have known his arguments in favor of that thesis. Did he make any or did he leave it at that? Cipolla then goes on a riff about devirilization in the shift from ad orientem. I can agree with that to a degree. But did Cardinal Heenan assert that? How could he? A universal shift from ad orientem would not have been clear yet in the 1967 prototype Mass His Eminence saw.

    Then Cipolla launches into a description of devirilization in the music that came along. I agree a million times over that the music is feminized. But that’s what accompanied the new Mass, not part of the core of the new Mass, the wussification of which we were promised an argument for.

    Wussification has occurred. No debate there, in my view. That Caesar was right about the cities being partly to blame, I tend to concur with. But as an exposition of how wussification lies at the heart of the Novus Ordo, I found these excerpts, at least, most uncompelling.

    Why did Cardinal Heenan believe that the Mass he saw would lead to a flight of men from the Mass? That’s the key question I’m eager to learn the answer to. Or did he leave it cryptic? If so, then all we have here are some speculations about what he might have had in mind. In that case, Cardinal Heenan’s cryptic comments become a convenient skin into which to pour one’s whine.

    Maybe later I’ll go over to Rorate and read the whole thing. Or maybe not.

  4. jbas says:

    Hear, hear!

  5. Dennis Martin says:

    I should expand. “Shift from ad orientem” was my shorthand for all that Fr. Cipolla writes about the change from priest leading the people to dialogue, being a presider etc. He’s right about all that happening. But how much of that was built into the NO (and therefore could have been in Cardinal Heenan’s mind) and how much was what was happening concurrently and continued to happen as the NO was promulgated several years later? The same applies to many of the other arguments in these excerpts.

    As a general screed against feminization in Catholic worship over the past 50 years, it’s a great piece. As an an explication of what Cardinal Heenan might have meant, it’s disappointing. As an indictment of the new Mass in itself, it’s marginal.

  6. mamajen says:

    I feel the same as Dennis Martin–I don’t understand why Cardinal Heenan would have thought that the NO is inherently feminine. Maybe if I had more experience woth the TLM I’d get it. What’s so bad about an ad orientem NO done by the book?

    That said, I totally agree that in many (probably even most) places, the NO has morphed into something feminine and wussy. Maybe Heenan could foresee that the NO would be abused. As a mother, I think the mother and child analogy is spot on. There is a big difference between fathers and mothers (which is why I think it’s cruel for homosexual couples to have children, but I digress).

  7. Imrahil says:

    Interesting observations about these continuous functions.

    Only with a slight error: a discontinuous function does have, and necessarily, a value at the discontinuity, otherwise there would not even be a place for a discontuity, and the proper term would be “undefined” or “hole in the domain of definition”.

    Example (in naive understanding; a formally correct definition is left to the reader as an exercise) for a function with a hole in the domain would be f(x) = 1/x.

    An example with, as the Rev’d Fr Cipolla, of a discontinuous function with the same formula might be f(x) = sgn x.

    Excuse the excourse.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Train men to be real men in the seminaries, make all sems learn the TLM, insist on seminary teachers being Catholic and orthodox (all of them), and this wussification will stop. Sadly, as long as certain types are admitted into the seminary, this will not end.

    Sadly, we have a dire crisis in men being men, period, and that the type chosen to be priests in the last 40 years have been more of the touchy feely protestant minister type rather than the Athanasius types.

    I am one woman who does not like the NO and am objective and into vertical, rather than horizontal liturgy. Our Church is based on Faith AND Reason, the second hardly mentioned in sem training, while the s0-called pastoral is still emphasized.

    But, the Church is merely reflecting the society at large. How many real men do you meet in a day, btw, in the world?

  9. Dennis Martin: Forty years of experience verifying Cardinal Heenan’s prediction may render his specific reasoning less critical.

    More important is what I take to be your main point . . . It’s not the Novus Ordo Mass itself that’s inherently effeminate, but the ethos that has been imposed on the OF by a generation of narcissistic priests, and the fact that ad orientem celebration (which is not particular to the OF) brings out that narcissism.

    In which case, the problem is not so much with the OF Mass as with its celebrants.

  10. Rev. Mr. Stephen says:

    Mass in the EF is offered in my area (not my parish unfortunately) every day but Monday. While the priest’s homily is usually on the readings, the saint whose feast day is celebrated, or some other very appropriate topic, the other day his homily was on the Mass in the EF itself, providing a very good catechesis on the Mass. It wasn’t a screed against the OF, but one of the excellent points he made was that in the EF, the priest stands on the SAME SIDE of the people in worshipping God. He doesn’t set himself apart from the faithful by standing on the OTHER SIDE of the altar, where the usual celebration of the OF would find the priest. The word clericalism immediately came to my mind. I have heard those who are very anti-EF say that it is too heavy with pomp, lace and yes, clericalism, but I think that Father’s homily the other day makes it clear that it is just the opposite.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I seriously doubt that Cardinal Heenan was saying, “Ooh, yeah, kids love the OF. That’s a women’s Mass.”

    Look, folks. The notorious complaint of 19th century Catholic priests in the US (as they worked themselves to death at early ages) was that it was hard to persuade men to come to church. Women would go out of obligation, and they could drag along the kids; but men would either not attend or spend most of Mass going outside to smoke. So priests worked hard to start manly men’s guilds and activities (like Holy Name Society or Knights of Columbus), get ’em catechized and teaching their own kids, and being happy to set knee to kneeler. They did this by being flat out earnest themselves, teaching love for the Mass, and so forth.

    A lot of this catechesis was about sacrifice and other aspects deemphasized by the OF. (And he may have understood how bad some of the implementation would be, because there were plenty of Sixties style liturgical abuses already coming in the late Fifties, in some places on the East Coast.)

    So basically, Heenan was saying, “This new format is going to reverse all of the American priests’ hard work with men over the last century and a half.”

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I know it’s a pain in the butt to do historical research, but it really does help to read the complaints and denunciations in old Victorian Catholic newspapers and magazines and books. Some of this bad stuff we deal with is human nature or local character over hundreds of years, not Vatican II.

  13. StWinefride says:

    Dennis Martin – Michael Davies, in his book ‘Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II’ (page 63), also mentions this quote by Cardinal Heenan. This is what he has to say:

    The Cardinal proved to be a true prophet. In 1976, a report on the state of Catholicism in the once flourishing archdiocese of Liverpool admitted that in many of its churches the congregations consisted mainly of primary school children, middle-aged and elderly parishioners. “A vast number of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 have decided that Sunday Mass, as it is offered up in most parishes, has nothing to offer them”.
    Cardinal Heenan’s prophecy was also confirmed in Article 69 of the working paper provided for the 1999 synod of European Bishops in Rome. Commenting on the responses received from Bishops in the pre-synodal survey, it stated:

    “Certain responses mention somewhat problematic situations. In many countries of the West, liturgical celebrations are frequented almost exclusively by children and older people, especially women. The young and middle-aged are few in number. Such a situation runs the risk of projecting and image of a Church which is only for the elderly, women and children”.

    “Comment is hardly necessary!” says Michael Davies.

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes, published by Ignatius Press (also available as a download).

  15. Priam1184 says:

    @mamajen: I agree with you that there are some problems with this article but I will answer from my own experience your question about a Novus Ordo done ‘by the book’ and ad orientem with another question: how many people have ever seen a Novus Ordo Mass said ad orientem? I have lived in six different states and probably altogether been to Mass in about thirty and three foreign countries and I have never once seen a Novus Ordo Mass said ad orientem or even heard of the possibility until I started reading this blog. And the ‘by the book’ part of your question creates another conundrum: all of the options in the Novus Ordo missal. There are so many options for the priest to chose from and it is quite bizarre. There seem to be little liturgical reason to have so many different options but they are there for some reason. So a Novus Ordo Mass said by the book on the same day in two different parishes would still be a different experience and one based largely on the priest’s personal preferences. Not a healthy situation but it is where we are.

  16. Having read this worthwhile, thought-provoking article that Father cites, it appears that the conclusion is correct but that some of the supporting arguments are specious.

    The demonic plan from the beginning, where Eve brought down the human race through Adam’s failure to lead, has been to put the feminine into the wrong role. Therefore it follows that ‘de-virilizng’ the Mass will derail Faith. So the conclusions of Cardinal Heenan and Fr. Cipolla are dead-on.

    Unfortunately not all the examples in this article are accurate illustrations of non-virility, or even of the New Mass as it is originally to be said.
    Yes, the priest facing the people enhances the ‘communal’ nurturing aspect, but that isn’t necessarily the original rubrics of the New Mass. The typically insipid music promoted today is sentimental [review the ‘Black List’ of music choices from 1947 and notice how sentimental tunes and text are forbidden, such as every Irish-based song]. However, bad music was not proscribed for the New Mass either. Silence is also a poor example, since from the beginning of the Church the ‘seed-planters’ of the Faith were effective preachers. Adam’s silence and inaction is the root of our downfall.

    What exactly is meant by functionalism? I’m still unclear. Anybody?

    This kind of article can result in the opposite effect: rather than bolster the idea of the un-viral liturgy, because the arguments can be shot down, the conclusion will be disregarded.
    After reading the article, I’m still left wondering what Cardinal Heenan saw or meant by his comments. What are the real examples in the root of the New Mass?

  17. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Supertradmum,

    How many real men do you meet in a day, btw, in the world?

    About half of the persons you meet belong to this category.

    Seriously, outright effeminacy in the sense we usually understand this word is not very frequent, and looked down upon where it does occur.* What is frequent is weakness and wrong permises sitting somewhere within people’s heads.

    Bottom line: I’m suspicious of the word “real” in this context. You can stretch its meaning so far that you are left with only one living real man (to wit, our Lord, whom you can see visit in the Tabernacle). And we already have “perfect”, “sinless” and suchlike words for that.

    Men still want to be men. The problem is that they tend to not even question the “manliness = primitivity” assumption (which Mario Barth makes the one topic of his, rather embarrassing and poor, comedy; sorry for giving no English explanation), and hence, actually get bad consciences for this wish. This, together with the fact that manliness requires effort, makes a dangerous combination.

    * Btw, in his highly interesting piece, I find it rather curious that the rev’d Fr does not mention the idea that the cassock, because it looks like a skirt, and the EF kisses which he mentions, are understood as feminine in general society. This understanding is not right, and proud fealty to cassock and liturgical kiss is able (as he does mention) to overcome it and be all the more manly; but it does exist in the first place, whether we like it or not. The statement “to wear a cassock is a manly thing, to wear a business suit an at least comparatively feminine thing” is ultimately right, but for clarity’s sake we should mention, also, that it is counterintuitive in modern man’s mind.

    Another idea I personally like is the idea of the cassock as a uniform.

  18. wmeyer says:

    As Supertradmum notes, it was not only the Mass which was devirilized, but all of Western society, as well. Look at contemporary essays, so many of which avoid active voice, and any sort of contentious declarations. Look at the use of gender, when what is actually meant is sex. The former is a characteristic of language, not people. And in obscuring the statements with passive text, they have also obscured meaning by redefining words. Gender, for example, not only is routinely misapplied to sex, but also to activities which are more properly described as perversions.

    Look at the failure of our bishops to apply Canon 915. Or formal excommunication.

  19. Imrahil says:

    I do not, however, disagree with the statement that society was feminized.

    That society was feminized while men, for all their shortcomings (which certainly are many, and did increase), were largely not, is the short explanation of the problems of men within society so frequently mentioned.

  20. drat, meant ‘un-virile’ above, not un-viral. Neither are real words anyway.

  21. Athelstan says:

    Two points:

    1) In a footnote. Fr. Cipolla notes that he declines to dig into the theological implications of changes to the prayers of the N.O. in making his case, even while noting that this would help his case. I think that’s a big mistake. If you’re going to make the case against the N.O., you can’t limit yourself to rubrics and options – those are too easy to change. But you can’t change the propers or the ordinary of the Mass. Only the chief lawmaker of the Church can do that.

    2) Fr. Z notes: “Rorate (which no longer links to this blog, btw)…” I assumed you had noticed, Father, but I was wondering when you would take note of it.

    Those feisty gents clearly don’t believe in “brick by brick” but prefer a more definitive and conclusive counter-revolution. In the process, however, they tend to exhibit the most common flaw of some traditionalists, to wit: insufficient charity, even to other traditionalists. And the result is that, quite often, they unwittingly do as much harm as good to the common cause.

    This was not a bad essay. But it could have been better.

  22. sw85 says:

    That the priesthood is wussy and feminized and the ars celebrandi surrounding the OF Mass equally so is a major “con” when it comes to considering the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, and if that’s the case for me, it’s a safe bet that that’s the case for others, as well. To enter the priesthood would require me, in effect, to forego my own flourishing as a man, and thus in a real sense to neglect a genuine spiritual need.

  23. JonPatrick says:

    Tina, as to functionalism, thew way I understand it (and please someone elaborate if necessary) the NO Mass often tends toward removing what it sees as “redundant” and stripping things down to their bare essentials. Also the attitude toward the readings as being didactic rather than viewed as part of the liturgy. It seems as though everything (as well as everyone) has to be “doing something” and to justify its existence, rather than respecting a sense of mystery and awe that can come from parts of the Mass that over the centuries have been retained. At least that’s how I see it.

    A classic example: the bare bones offertory. Also the stripped down eucharistic prayers, although they were also changed to downplay the sacrificial nature of the Mass.

  24. maryh says:


    I love it. That’s the word I’ve been looking for. And I also love the recognition that “One might be tempted to crystallize what Cardinal Heenan experienced as the feminization of the Liturgy. But this term would be inadequate and ultimately misleading. For there is a real Marian aspect of the Liturgy that is therefore feminine.”

    I agree that the liturgy has been devirilized. I think I would go even further and say that it has also been defeminized. Maybe, in fact, you can’t have the one without the other, in either direction.

    “The Liturgy bears the Word of God, the Liturgy brings forth the Body of the Word to be worshipped and given as Food.”

    It is through the feminine, and in fact through a specific female human being, that God chose to become incarnate, to take on physical form, so maybe we can say that the aspects of the Mass that emphasize the physical presence of Christ are feminine. Mary did not bring forth a symbol of God or the Spirit of God, but the physical human form of the Second Person of the Trinity.

    If the Priest simply presides over a meal, not only is his role devirilized, but since the sense of the Real Presence is downplayed, perhaps the Mass is defeminized as well.

    And part of the defeminization is the presence of women in the sanctuary. They are either there as male-surrogates, not women, if the Mass is understood as a “making present in time” of the eternal moment of the Sacrifice on Calvary, in which the height of human masculinity is revealed as total sacrifice for the Other. Or they are simply there presiding at a meal – displacing the height of femininity from giving birth to giving a meal.

    In effect, it seems to me that what has happened is that the Mass has been neutered.

    We don’t just need to bring the masculine back, we need to bring the feminine back as well.

  25. FrDulli says:

    Clearly the priest acts in a masculine way in persona Christi. But we are all “wusses” when compared with Almighty God. And isn’t this the point of ad orientem worship? He is the strong and mighty one who is worshiped and adored by men and women alike. The mass clearly evokes virtue from its participants to save us from wallowing in our “wussiness”.

    Ladies, is it not a slight against your whole sex for an author to declare that a diminishing of divine worship is indicative of “feminization”? It is! If it wasn’t for women, I would have no idea how to be a man. None whatsoever. True womanhood is not weakness in my limited experience.

    Define wussiness: the deplorable and potentially sinful condition of not knowing “who’s your daddy”. Ultimately, the worst form of wussiness invades the hearts of those who, knowing that they are of Christian faith, nonetheless worship our heavenly Father ineffectually at best. Wussiness is not found in the hearts of those who, aided by the Holy Spirit, cry out “Abba, Father”!

    There is nothing exclusive to females in my definition and there should not be in yours. The Blessed Virgin Mary was not a wuss.

  26. mamajen says:


    While the article as a whole doesn’t make much sense to me, I didn’t take it as a slight. There are real differences between the parenting styles of mothers and fathers, and I think it makes sense that we should want our priests to be more like fathers than mothers. I tend to coddle my children, while my husband is more “follow my lead”. I walk next to my four year old to make sure he doesn’t fall off his bike, my husband hops on his own bike and says “follow me!” I think we Catholics need a little of both, but our salvation is serious business and I think learning to be tough from our fathers is very important.

  27. mamajen says:


    Excellent point regarding women in the sanctuary! Pretending to be men is NOT authentic feminism.

  28. NBW says:

    Excellent article!

  29. James Joseph says:

    The ‘vir’ and ‘devirilised’ connection is a good one, effective, and immediate.

  30. dmreed says:

    Thanks ‘banshee for the helpful, historical context.

    Do you (or anyone else) know if the 19th century American Catholic male phenomenon you cite was present in other countries? Did priests in other countries at the time, have the same complaint?

  31. dmreed says:

    at Rorate (which no longer links to this blog, btw)

    Wow…what was the catalyst for that?

  32. mamajen says:


    They didn’t like it when Father defended Pope Francis and talked about spittle-flecked nutties. The link’s been gone a while. Just as well, I think–I wouldn’t want an endorsement from them.

  33. ncstevem says:

    I believe the reason Rorate dropped the link to this blog was when Fr. Zuhlsdorf wrote that the priests of the SSPX should (figuratively speaking) approach the new pope on their knees and beg forgiveness.

    Unlike Jen’s assesment, I find much on Rorate to be informative although in this instance I think they overreacted.

  34. dominic1955 says:

    I would agree with others that Father could have made his point better. Overall though, yes, the NO is rooted in a false sense of what liturgy and prayer are/should be and part of that could certainly be termed effeminate.

    Modernism is “effeminate” in a way, and the ethos of the NO certainly came about from a relativistic take on the Church, doctrine and dogma, liturgy, etc. The composers of the liturgy destroyed the Roman Rite, the NO is at best the Neo-Roman Rite. It veritably stinks of that era’s pop psychology and waaaay overconfident liberal excitement about “mankind” and all of that. This is what I think Cardinal Heenan was trying to get at-the “Missa Normativa” and subsequent Novus Ordo are faddish gimmicks. You will still have all the sentimentalist (typified by women in this case) for whom religion is plastic statues and superstitious St. Jude novenas. The modernists and litniks thought they were on the “side of history”, that they were going to take command of the glorious institution the Church was but make it better. Kind of like Paul VIs tiarra.

    We are the True Church, so the whole thing didn’t collapse but look at the “strongholds” of the modernists-bluehairs to a man/womyn, empty churches/monasteries-desolation.

    Honestly, read Fr. Cekada’s book on the “reform” or the late Laszlo Dobsay’s books to get a sense for what we lost. It wasn’t just Latin, it wasn’t just “smells and bells”, it was our whole liturgical patrimony-our “lex orandi”. It is no wonder the Barque of Peter is bobbing around aimlessly-“that generation” smashed its rudder and shredded its sails. Bad theology, hubris, bad historicism and the captains being asleep at the wheel or actively helping the miscreants created the Novus Ordo. That is what’s wrong with it. All the stuff about music or ad orientem are symptoms and logical conclusions.

    As to some of the other points, they do not really help. I love the cassock, I loved wearing them when I was in the seminary but as the posts at New Liturgical Movement pointed out, legitimate clerical dress has always varied. It was not as if ever cleric from the time of Christ to right before Vatican II was decked out in cassock and fascia and then it all went to hell with tab shirts, and cartigans and turtlenecks. I think the cassock does make for good clergy attire, but we do not help the cause by making it a fettish of sorts or making claims about it that do not hold up to simple historical scrutiny.

  35. johnnyDmunoz says:

    I didn’t read through all the posts, but I really don’t need any explanation why the Cardinal came to the conclusion he did. It is true and the proof is all around us.

    The NO mass in my life and where I live is always feminine. I would never have known the extent of it if I never went to the TLM. Now comparing it is a no brainer, the TLM fosters manhood like no other place outside of sports, even more so because it brings strength to the soul.

    This Cardinal was right on, and you can see it everywhere, no young MEN! I look at my home parish and there are no men in my age group (early thirties) and at the TLM I can see the potential for young men to gather and strengthen our Faith. I pray that the TLM will effectively take back its rightful place as THEE way Catholics worship God.

    Enough with the hand holding, chatter and LOUD music. Give me silent prayer, communion rails and please priests stop looking at us while you have your back to the Blessed Sacrament.

    Sola Ecclesia!

  36. JuliB says:

    ” It was not as if ever cleric from the time of Christ to right before Vatican II was decked out in cassock and fascia and then it all went to hell with tab shirts, and cartigans and turtlenecks. ”

    But dominic1955, I think what so many of us love is the strong witness that the clerical garb demonstrates. It’s sad when a Prot Priest(ette) looks more RC than say Fr. Modern in his unbuttoned black shirt.

    Cassocks and other religious garb shows someone set up for God. So is too big a fuss being made? I don’t think so. When I’ve been to Rome and see all the priests and religious in their different attire, I feel like I’m in Heaven. It’s similar to a lay person, wearing a crucifix, it means something to those who see it.

    And to the other poster who asked if women were offended by the ‘wussification’ description… I’m not. I am blessed with 3 priests in my two church parish who are not wussified. Our NO mass is very serious and I love it. This weekend I attended Mass at the Cathedral in St Paul (being here for business). I was thrilled to see the EMHCs waiting outside the communion rail/fence (whatever you want to call it) during the consecration. The priest, while warm and friendly, was not wussified either.

    I suppose it is something that isn’t easily described, but a devirilized man/event is an ugly thing.

  37. “This role of the vir of faith is radically different from the priest who believes his job is not to lead the people to the altar of Sacrifice but rather to dialogue with them and to make them “understand what is going on”. Then the Eucharistic Prayer with its altogether brief dialogue between priest and people becomes another extension of the priest’s dialogue-banter. Here there is no walking up the mountain together; [Like Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain: priest and victim.] there is no turning to the Lord together; instead there is the terrible and stultifying stasis of the condescending and overbearing mother trying to connect with her child and in the process destroying the child’s freedom to walk up to the mountain of God.[14]”

    Simply returning to ad orientem celebration would adequately address this objection. The hermeneutic of continuity works both ways.

  38. “Priests – usually well-intentioned – wound the dignity of the laity when, in their largess, they grant to lay people permission to do something clerics should be doing. ” agree. I’m just not sure that NO has caused men to become ‘feminized ‘ .I’m not even sure what the term ‘feminized’ means. Sorry.I’m just not getting the point. We have a wonderful parish priest. Celebrates the NO. Has adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every week.Encourages confession like Fr Z. Has Mass on a Wed night also for a very small parish.He doesn’t strike me as ‘wussy’.

  39. dominic1955 says:


    But, did you read the rest of my statement? I’m all for wearing cassocks for daily wear, I did as much as possible when I was in the seminary but it doesn’t help the cause to make inaccurate historical arguments. What happened w/ Fr. Freestyle in the 60s and 70s and to this day was a reaction against the institutionalized “clericalism” and “barriers” put up by clerical attire. In our country, that would have been the suit and collar, per the rulings of the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. This really didn’t have much to do with Vatican II or the NO, other than in the general sense of riding the 60s Counter-Culture wave that desired to turn practically everything over on its head.

    Further back, the wearing of the cassock as daily attire was not in vogue until Pope Pius IX decided that it was going to be. This is why wearing the cassock (and ferraiolo and other associated things) is called “abito piano”, named after Pius himself. Before his deciding this, clerics in Rome and much of the Catholic world wore an outfit that was basically the “clergy suit” of the time, “old fashioned” by the time of Pius IX. The outfit looked like a simplified version of what most 18th Century gentlemen would have worn sans the back cape and skullcap/tricorn hat. At the time of this change, there was considerable rumbles about how this new abito piano was “liberal”-that is how all those closet Jansenists, Jacobins, and National Church proponets in France and other areas beyond the mountains dressed!

  40. maryh says:

    Just read the whole thing, and in the main, I agree with it.

    I much prefer the term “devirilization” to effeminate and much, much better than referring to the way the OF may be celebrated as “feminized.”

    That’s because I think that the devirilization of the Mass is closely paralleled by the defeminization of the Mass. There’s nothing wrong with the term “effeminate” per se, if it is understood as a kind of “fake” or “shallow” femininity. But it is too easily conflated with the term “feminine”, and while the Mass has definitely suffered from devirilization or effeminization, it has certainly NOT become feminized.

    I worry that we run the risk of equating the devirilization of men and the ubiquitous presence of women in the sanctuary with feminization. And we then miss the fact that part of restoring the virility of the priest and the Liturgy requires restoring also the feminine elements of the Liturgy.

    In fact, I think one of the things that Fr. Cipolla refers to as devirilization is actually an example of defeminization. The stripping of the beautiful, the material depictions of saints, our Blessed Mother, and the Trinity, in statues and stained glass, seems to me part of the defeminization of the Mass and the worship space. In the worst NO worship spaces, there are virtually no images at all. And since even the worst NO Mass seems unable to completely eliminate the figure of Christ (although they seem to prefer to depict him fully dressed in front of the cross instead of on it), the effect is to remove the female altogether, leaving only the male.

    I’m not sure this is due to the OF in itself, though, except where it allows so much more leeway. I agree that the Liturgy should be a given. And I agree that the personality of the priest must be submerged in the Liturgy – the priest is not Father X, Y or Z – he becomes the alter Christi. He does not preside primarily at the table of a meal, but at the table of the bloodless sacrifice.

    On the issue of the masculinity of Latin, I must simply disagree. Latin has much to recommend itself: being essentially a dead language, it is precise because all of its words are strictly defined – they have ceased to evolve. That’s not because it’s Latin – any dead language would have the same attribute. And it is also good to have a universal language of worship. But I don’t see any more masculinity in Latin than in many other languages, and certainly don’t considering any supposed masculinity of Latin in and of itself to be important to the Mass.

    The matter of the silences in a more difficult case. Certainly, fluency in language is connected with the feminine, but Christ is the Logos, so language is also virile. (Yes, I know Logos also means Reason/Logic.) But I understand the Eastern Orthodox don’t use silence the way the Roman Rite does – instead of “hiding” the mystery in silence, they “hide” it visually, literally.

    What seems to be missing is the sense of mystery (to my mind, feminine) and the sense of apartness (to my mind, masculine). Could this be maintained in the OF Mass by going back to Ad Orientem and by giving the priest only the options of either chanting the canon in Latin or praying it silently? This watching the priest play around with the dishes on the table certainly in no way adds to any sense of either the mystery of what is happening or the apartness of the priest. Would this actually be against the rubrics of the OF?

  41. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I recall Cardinal Heenan’s 1967 comment, and its context. Cardinal H was not making reference to the feminization of the liturgy (and of the Church), an undeniable phenomenon that had started to creep in (female readers appearing on the altar) but that in the main is nevertheless of more recent date.
    Here is just one blog (there are several other internet sources) that cites the context of the Cardinal’s remarks:
    What he was criticizing, publicly, to the Council Fathers (and I was following the Council at the time, and recall it well) was the very wordy and ceremonial length of the sung Mass that was presented as a template for daily Mass at the time, with its distorted proportions, and its new emphasis on biblical readings and its curtailing of the Offertory and Canon of the Mass. John Heenan, a man who had been Bishop of Liverpool and Salford, knew well that the male working congregation of largely Irish origin would not have patience with such an elongated Mass, and certainly not one with such a lot of chant (which generally they did not know.) These faithful but busy men wanted a daily Mass to pop into just before work, or at lunchtime, or just after work, hear a (brief, said) Low Mass, and pop out again, spiritually refreshed but with time to spare for the rest of life. The Cardinal was more in tune with the world of the working man than were the liturgists who wanted to turn it into a sort of elaborate, sung monastic office.
    This ornate and prolix rite was then shortened, after other critical voices had been raised.

    Heenan’s point about the distorted proportions of the OF Mass remain valid. Even if anyone can hear and understand the readings through the incomprehension and mispronunciation of the lay readers, and remain awake through the gospel-irrelevant sermons about nephews and college friends invariably called Jim and Deirdre, sometimes the etiolated prayers of Canon are rushed through in such unseemly haste that afterwards, one can often only remember the collection!

    Heenan was closer and newer to that culture shock than we are (although for some of us with pre-1962 memories, it is still a shock). So his reaction of horror that the true meaning of the Mass was being lost, his remarks on the need to preserve the Latin language, his fear that once the Bishops had left, the committees would override their objections (which of course happened as he had predicted) – these are all strong points we should all be still banging on about.

  42. John Nolan says:

    Vecchio di Londra is right. The 1967 Sistine Chapel Mass, celebrated by Bugnini himself (mostly in Italian) lasted 55 minutes, twice the length of a Low Mass. Of the 176 bishops present who voted on the new Mass, only a minority (71) were ‘placet’ with a large number (43) ‘non placet’ and 62 expressing reservations (‘placet juxta modum’). However, by 1967 Low Masses were dialogue Masses mostly in the vernacular, and by the end of that year Tres Abhinc Annos had removed all the audible Latin (the Canon was now said aloud in English) and established the rubrical template for the Novus Ordo; yet Cardinal Heenan claimed that in his archdiocese every parish was required to celebrate one Mass every Sunday in Latin. I can’t speak for Westminster, but it wasn’t the case in my parish.

    He did insist on a daily Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral, and until his death (Nov. 1975) the 10.30 Capitular Mass was sung in Latin at the High Altar with deacon and subdeacon.

Comments are closed.