Confusion about the term “Latin Mass”

I have been going on for YEARS – nay, rather, DECADES –  now about how trads and others should NOT use the term “Latin Mass”, just by itself, to describe Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the Usus Antiquior, the Pian Rite, etc.

“Latin Mass” can refer to the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form.

I know that this is common.  I know that there is even a fine Latin Mass Society in England, which has been doing yeoman’s work for decades.

Look at this confusing article – with a couple contributors, and I suspect language problems – and you will see why in journalism and even from a prelate, we can get confusion.

I am prompted to ask, does anyone have any idea what anything means or people are saying anymore?

This is from CNA.

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2014 / 12:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a recent interview, Archbishop Arthur Roche [Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, former head of ICEL, former Bishop of Leeds] spoke on the significance of the Traditional Latin Mass, [did he?] explaining that the Mass nourishes us, and that the special rite brings us together in a unique way.

“It’s a common language, [Latin… right? I’ll bet the question had to do with “Latin Mass”… and he heard “Mass in Latin” when the question was about the TLM… keep reading…] as it were, that brings us together, that holds us together,” the archbishop noted during a Feb. 13 interview with CNA, adding that “the Latin Mass…is a beautiful expression of the worship of God.” [Indeed.]

Archbishop Arthur Roche is the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and is helping to organize a special conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s apostolic constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium.” [Just the other day, CNS put out a snarky tweet that the conference wasn’t going to be about the Extraordinary Form.]


Speaking of the Traditional Latin Mass, [oh?] the archbishop highlighted that it “will always be a part of the Roman rite” because it maintains “the language in which the Roman rite is written – whether it be the ordinary or indeed the extraordinary form.” [I am pretty sure he was talking about Mass in the Latin language, not the TLM.]

“It is the way in which the Church expresses itself,” he explained, observing how there has been an increase in use of Gregorian chant during Mass, “especially at international events.”

Drawing attention to the special international reach of the city of Rome, Archbishop Roche went on to say that “people from throughout the world, from every continent and from the different hemispheres, come together to share Mass and are joined together in that common expression of the singing of the Latin part of the Mass.” [He is talking about the Latin, not the Form.]

Turning his attention to Pope Francis take on the rite, the archbishop explained that “the Pope hasn’t expressed anything about the extraordinary form nor in fact about the ordinary form either.” [Jesuits are not, in general, much interested in liturgy.]


Read the rest there.

People, reconsider your use of “Latin Mass” to describe the older, traditional form.  The Novus Ordo is – according to the will of the Council Fathers – to be in Latin as well.  Mass celebrated in Latin in the Novus Ordo is “Latin Mass”.  Let’s be clear.  I think this dodgy term produced a confused article.

Also, the differences between the two Forms (or “Rites, as I think) are even more manifest when both Forms are in Latin, because – when side by side – you see how the changes to the texts reveal the change in the theology.

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    I have always felt we should just use the terms that Benedict XVI seemed to be in favour of: “Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite” and “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite”. “Usus Antiquior” seems a little too “high-brow” for the average Catholic to get their mouth around. “Novus Ordo” always sounds negative, plus for many Catholics, it is not “new” at all… It is older than me!

  2. Mike says:

    The misapplication of the term “Latin Mass” should be avoided, as the confusing usages in the article indicate. Had the Council Fathers’ intent been honored and the continuity of the Mass been preserved, this would be a non-issue.

  3. Iacobus M says:

    Quite right, Mike. It’s worth noting that long before he became Pope, Benedict (who had been a Peritus at the Council) expressed the wish that the two forms more closely resemble each other. More the ordinary form resembling the extraordinary, I should think . . .
    Iacobus M

  4. Robbie says:

    I like TLM and NO. It keeps it simple and leaves no doubt about which form one is discussing.

  5. I copied this CNA article as originally posted, and it started like this:

    “During a recent interview, Archbishop Arthur Roche spoke on the significance of the Latin Rite Mass, explaining that . . . . ”

    Since then, the post has been edited to start like this:

    “During a recent interview, Archbishop Arthur Roche spoke on the significance of the Traditional Latin Mass, explaining that . . . . ”

    Curious. Why the change? Don’t know but … Hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth? If the Vatican says it approves the Traditional Latin Mass, who am I to judge differently? Enough spin the wrong way, how about some our way.

  6. disco says:

    I use Old Latin Mass. Most people who have no experience with the old mass don’t even realize that there is any difference between the TLM and NO apart from the language.

  7. BobP says:

    Judging by the amount of Latin there is in the OF, what else could a Latin Mass be?

  8. NoraLee9 says:

    One of the problems with using the term “Latin Mass” is that it implies that both Masses are the same except for the language. Everyone here knows that the two are radically different. I like the term “Extraordinary Mass.”

  9. Palladio says:

    Father is–naturaliter–right.
    In other words, in the Roman Rite, the Mass is ALWAYS in Latin.
    In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the custom is to celebrate a translation of the Mass, of which the original is ALWAYS Latin. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Right is, evidently, translated, too (see any bi-lingual Missal), but not celebrated in translation. In the Ordinary Form, however, plenty of churches do celebrate the Mass in Latin: Saint Mary’s, Petersham, MA is one example, I am told.

  10. Glen M says:

    Yes Father, the term ‘Latin Mass’ is a misnomer. The Novus Ordo/Ordinary Form was designed for use in Latin as well. We’ve been instructed by the pope to learn basic prayers in Latin.


    – the Novus Ordo/Ordinary Form rubic’s assume Ad Orientum

    – Holy Communion in the hand is supposed to be an exception (on the tongue while kneeling is the norm)

    – the Pipe Organ is to have ‘pride of place’

    – Chant is to be retained

    – Altar Girls is a novelty

    – Rubrics are to be followed: no additions or subtractions. In other words: Liturgical Abuse is a sin

    – Holy Mother Church by her very nature is traditional so the use of this adjective to describe those attached to the Usus Antiquior is redundant

    So given the current state of chaos we’re in, discontinuing the use of terms like “Latin Mass” seems a bit like nit-piking although I agree we should aim for higher accuracy in these matters.

  11. Uxixu says:

    I’ve heard about it on the Internet but never actually heard of anyone I’ve met in person to ever hear of an Novus Ordo celebrated in Latin. Is there anywhere in southern California that celebrates a Latin NO?

    The readings in vernacular makes sense, but by the “Spirit of the Council,” the Ordinary and Canon of the Novus Ordo Missae everywhere should only be in Latin.

  12. cathgrl says:

    Your spam-blocker doesn’t like the IP address at work, but home IP address is fine. OK.

    In any case, Pope Paul VI wrote very many apostolic constitutions (I had no idea he did and they’re all in Latin at the Vatican website), but Sacrosanctum Concilium was not one of them.

    Yes, it says in the next paragraph at the website that it’s a Vatican II document, but writing a document and promulgating one isn’t necessarily the same thing.

  13. MaryL says:

    So where does that leave the masses of groups like Neocatechumenal Way? Are they Latin Masses? After all, if a group comes along and invents a new form of the Mass, and the Pope sends them out to evangelize around the world, are they still Latin?

  14. Wiktor says:

    I had an opportunity to attend two masses: Ordinary and Extraordinary, on two consecutive days, both in Latin, ad orientem, at the same altar, with the same schola, same vestments – and both morning Rorate mass. They were as similar as it gets – but the differences were still striking.

  15. Legisperitus says:

    Father, I think you are “rite.”

    Timely article now on Rorate about nomenclature. [Yes, useful, but nothing new.]

  16. goodone121 says:

    I disagree with the comment in the article about the “changes in theology”. I doubt the Holy Spirit would allow that, even with the attempts of Bugnini, so I believe the changes are changes in emphasis.

  17. JacobWall says:

    If I am not mistaken, even when the NO is in English (or Spanish, German, Swahili, etc.) it is still a “Latin Mass” because it is one of the liturgies of the *Latin* Church, right?

  18. Unwilling says:

    Uxixu, in the ’70s I had a (compact, travel) Latin NO Missal and I coaxed our Rector to use it a couple of times in the Cathedral at the 7am weekday Mass I served. A few days after the second try, he told me that a delegation of the regulars had come to complain — with some alarm that he might be trying to “bring back” the dreaded Latin Mass. THE END

  19. Unwilling says:

    JacobWell, your idea is right. Theology is an academic study of doctrine (etc.) It changes and has many streams always. Doctrine does not change, in the sense “contradict”, but it does change by “development” (Newman).

  20. Unwilling says:

    goodone121 [sorry JacobWell], your idea is right. Theology is an academic study of doctrine (etc.) It changes and has many streams always. Doctrine does not change, in the sense “contradict”, but it does change by “development” (Newman).

  21. kittenchan says:

    There’s a church not 5 miles south of where I live that has a Latin OF Mass. My husband accidentally went to it last Sunday after getting back from a hunting trip. Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Phoenix. They’re real.

  22. mbabc123 says:

    Latin Mass, Classical, Gregorian etc, imply that the Mass did not start from the beginning.
    Old Mass, a convenient term put can imply that we have the new Mass now and so quit being stuck in the past etc.
    EF is tied in with EMHC and implies that it is somehow lesser than the OF and should only be dusted off occasionally.

    Usus Antiquior is the best term. Ancient Use. This is the only term capitalised in Church documents and shows that it is of ancient origin and not a modern concoction, however valid. It is the usage that organically developed from the very first century.

  23. While I agree in principle with what you are saying Fr. Z, there is much of a lack of practical evidence of Latin being in the Novus Ordo, including the other “externals” as it were, for me to agree practically to stop using the term “Latin Mass” to describe the EF exclusively. This is only for the time being. When there is more spread of Latin Novus Ordos or Novus Ordo Masses with some Latin and its externals in them on a grander scale, then I will agree with you on more than just principle.

  24. Bonomo says:

    This is a pet peeve I’ve had for many decades, and it keeps getting renewed. At a recent Saturday morning brunch, one of my friends indicated she wanted to find a week-day Latin Mass. We pointed out that the Friday afternoon Mass at St. Paul’s (the Catholic student center on the UW-Madison campus) was indeed celebrated in Latin. A little more conversation revealed that that is not what she wanted. She wanted a Tridentine Mass, but, as so many do, referred to it as a “Latin Mass,” thinking this referred exclusively to the Tridentine/Ordinary form. Then we (I and others) had to disappoint her by informing her there was no weekday Tridentine Mass in the area.
    My peeve goes back many decades, because when I would talk to people, especially clergy, about wanting to organize a Latin Mass, they would turn green and say, “Oh! That requires permissions!” Then I, layman that I am, would have to carefully explain that they are thinking of the Tridentine Mass, and that no special permission is needed to celebrate the Novus Ordo Missae in the language in which it was promulgated in 1969. (This confusion raised quite the psychological barrier in the mind of clergy toward allowing a Latin Mass according the current form — a barrier that usually could not be overcome.) At one point, discussing the matter with Fr. John Hebl in the priests’ sacristy at Holy Redeemer (circa 1982), I pointed out that the Latin ordinary is printed in the back of the Sacramentary, pulling out the book and showing it to him. He looked at it, and was quite puzzled. He said, “[This can’t be the Latin Mass. It doesn’t start with ‘Introibo ad altare Dei’!]” Then, I launch into an explanation that the chief difference between the Novus Ordo and Tridentine forms of the Mass is not Latin, as both were promulgated in Latin. Of course, there are those who will say “But Rich, but Rich!” (sorry for intruding on your copyright Fr. Z.!), of course we call the Tridentine form “The Latin Mass,” because it has always been celebrated only in Latin! Well, for one, that is just a weak reason to cause and maintain confusion. Second, it’s not quite true. I was already an altar boy when the switch to the vernacular was made. From 1966 to 1969, I was serving at Tridentine Masses — yes, simplified in many respects, but sill fundamentally Tridentine in form — in ENGLISH (and with a real translation, but that is for another rant). Granted, it was a confusing time to be an altar boy, as each week brought another directive to do something a bit different than the previous week. (The business of ringing a bell at the second “Angus Dei” did not last long, if I remember correctly.) It was, however, still fundamentally Tridentine in form. I remember doing the prayers at the foot of the altar in English many times before the total confusion that surrounded the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae in anno Domini 1969, with it’s very many choices, and abandonment of those wonderful prayers at the foot of the altar of God. (BTW, Communion in the hand was not part of this. This was not reintroduced until about 1974 or so.) As a consequence, I call the “Tridentine Mass” the “Tridentine Mass,” and the “Novus Ordo” Mass the “Novus Ordo” Mass. I use the extraordinary/ordinary form terminology often as well, out of sheer obedience, but I do not think these terms will last, because they are relative. I have the same problem with “Traditional Latin Mass.” Actually I have two problems. For one, I suspect that there are several forms of the Mass that could be termed “traditional,” besides the Tridentine form. Second, the term again conveys, incorrectly, a fixation on LATIN as being the thing at issue. Clearly it is not. All Mass forms of the Roman Rite have been promulgated in Latin as far as I know (including the Gallican and Leonine, I assume). Also, people who want the Tridentine Mass are not satisfied with a Latin Mass according to the missal of 1969 or later. They want the missal of 1962 or earlier.
    “But Rich, but Rich!” (there I go again) they will say. The Mass of the Missal of 1962 is NOT the Mass of the Council of Trent! It was changed!”
    I am sure that is true. However, the Mass in my 1950’s-ish Missals does not look radically different from the Mass present in the Missal of 1962. I suspect that if you selected a suitable victim assisting at Mass say, in the Cathedral of Chartres in the 17th century of our salvation, and suddenly project him forward to, say, 1963, I don’t think he’d notice all THAT much different about the Mass. If you project him forward seven additional years, he’d be very confused, and would probably wonder if he had not been kidnapped by one of the new Protestant sects.
    The aircraft carrier CVN-77 (USS George H.W. Bush) is not identical to CVN-68 (USS Nimitz), but they are both Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, none the less.
    The Missal of 1962 is not identical to the Missal put out by the Council of Trent, but I think that the Mass as presented in every Missale Romanum from Trent to 1962 can be classified as being in the Tridentine “class” of Masses, while the Mass presented in the Missale Romanum (of many volumes) of 1969 to the current day is in a different class to which we refer as the “Novus Ordo Missae.”
    I do not know why some people seem to so dislike the term “Tridentine Mass,” so — if you’ll pardon the expression — religiously, but, it is certainly a simple term, unambiguous, and invariant in time. The Tridentine Mass (or class of Masses) will ALWAYS be the Tridentine Mass. Words like “traditional” (or even “vetus” or “antiquior”) will have different meanings in different times. No doubt the “Novus Ordo Missae” is going to need another appellation eventually, as “new” is a relative term.
    Enough ranting on my part for now.
    Richard Bonomo, conceiver and co-founder of the Tridentine Mass Society of the Diocese of Madison
    (An effort made out of affection and respect for those who wanted and want to worship at a Tridentine Mass in the city of Madison, by someone who is almost content with a properly and reverently celebrated Novus Ordo Missae)

  25. Geoffrey says:

    What I wouldn’t give to be able to regularly attend Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Latin (readings and universal prayer in English), with Gregorian Chant, organ, incense…

  26. Uxixu says:

    The problem with “Tridentine” is that barring one of the suppressed rites or one that went extinct like the Sarum rite, you’d need a pretty observation to differentiate most “pre-Tridentine” Masses from the Tridentine. Especially for elements in vox secreta. A good many/most would have issues distinguishing Dominican or Ambrosian from an Extraordinary Form Mass, as well. Most easily noticed when following along with a Missal, etc but most of us laity would probably scratch our head at certain items done in different order, etc.

    Outside of the calendar and the Pius XII Psalter, one could argue greater changes from 1955-1962 than from 1570-1910. Speaking of which, I do sort of wish Summorum Pontificum hadn’t restricted to the 1962 materials and perhaps allowed at least the pre-1955 Holy Week, for example.

  27. Bonomo says:

    Oh, I don’t think there is any assertion that the Tridentine Mass was invented by the council of Trent. My understanding is that the “Tridentine” form pre-existed the council for a number of centuries, and that it co-existed with a number of others. The “Tridentine” moniker comes from the council making that particular form the standard and universal form for the Roman Rite. From what I recall (from reading, not from being there, just to be clear) is that the Protestant Revolt caused the Council to order a (metaphorically speaking) circling of the wagons, and insisting that everyone read out of the same book (literally from the same, reproduced, text), to try to keep liturgy in line with doctrine, and prevent liturgical experimenting by people who had anti-orthodox ideas in the maëlstrom that followed the revolt. Again, I am not arguing that this is a super-precise way of referring to this class of Masses, but I think it’s the best, and is certainly better than “Latin Mass,” (which terminology borders on the rude when used that way) the same way that “American Indian” is better than “native American” when referring to, well, American Indians, because, although it is not precise, either (as American Indians have not generally come from India), it is less confusing, as the great bulk of native Americans (such as myself) are not American Indian.

  28. Bonomo says:

    @Geoffrey: On a couple of occasions I organized a Latin Mass according the ordinary form (though that term was not used then) which, aside from the homily, were in Latin from stem to stern. I pre pared bilingual booklets for the Masses with the complete Latin text of the Mass, and an interlinear English translation. As the paraphrase that was the poor excuse for a translation from 1969 until recently is not suitable for an inter-lineal translation (as too much was missing), yours truly wound up doing a very rough translation of the whole thing. If you are in the Madison area, you might see if the 5 PM Mass on Fridays at St. Paul is what you are looking for.

  29. Geoffrey says:

    @Bonomo: I would if I could! Sadly, I am in California! I have toyed with the idea of trying to organize the occasional OF Mass in Latin, but here in California… I don’t know…!

  30. Gaz says:

    I maintain that the Roman Rite has some hallmarks which distinguish it. These hallmarks were not changed, in fact thet were strenuously restated in the Sacered Council. I wonder, therefore, why I don’t see them AT ALL when I attend the Ordinary Form Masses in my diocese. The hallmarks are, (1) the use of Latin, (2) Gregorian chant, and (3) the celebrant facing Liturgical East when celebrating the Mass.

  31. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Besides TLM vs NO, I very much like the terminology used by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith:

    Vetus Ordo vs Novus Ordo.

    Based on my experience, the confusion about Latin Mass also exists in Mandarin and Cantonese in both China & HK, where they use Latin Mass (“Lading Misa”) for TLM, although they shouldn’t…

  32. JonPatrick says:

    In the Western (Latin?) Catholic Church we have the Roman Rite with 2 forms, Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, plus several other local rites such as the Ambrosian and Mozarabic, and the rites of the religious orders (Dominican etc.). Then there is the “Anglican Use” – is that a different form of the Roman rite so that now there are 3 forms? Or just a variation on the Ordinary Form? I believe that all of these can be said in Latin (not sure if that is true of the Anglican Use).

    So “Latin Mass” is definitely at best ambiguous, although a useful shorthand. In the area where I live the OF in Latin is virtually unknown, so Latin Mass for better or worse has come to be synonymous with the Extraordinary Form.

  33. Sonshine135 says:

    I always try to use Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form when discussing the Mass with any given Catholic. I tend to shy away from Traditional Latin Mass and Novus Ordo, because these seem to be used disparagingly.

    The reactions that you get to even mentioning the use of Latin in any Mass can be very strange. This weekend, I was strongly rebuked when discussing something about the Extraordinary Form in a church that doesn’t typically have one. All the typical prejudices were there: “You can’t understand what’s being said” and “I want to actively participate” being most prominent. I calmly asked the individual if he had ever been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, and he, predictably, had not. I invited him to go with me some time. He called me up the next day and apologized for his outburst. I guess its a good thing that I didn’t spring on him that Latin can and should be used in the Ordinary Form as well. Like so many, I am sure he is under the same impression that the Mass is only to be said in the vernacular.

    Some of these “open-minded” and “experimentation” type churches are really some of the most closed-minded of them all. Praise be to God that we have multiple forms of liturgy and a great repository of sacred music.

  34. jbas says:

    In defense of the Latin Mass Society’s name, this was originally a movement in England to preserve the Latin language in the Roman Mass, and the movement began prior to the promulgation of the 1970 Roman missal.

  35. Ben Kenobi says:

    I’m not quite sure we can assign errors in reporting to indistinct nomenclature. Bad reporting is bad reporting.

  36. Pat says:

    This article published by the Osservatore Romano about the liturgy is worth reading

  37. Bonomo says:

    @Geoffrey: why not organize an OF Latin Mass? The primary ingredients are a priest willing to offer the Mass that way, and a pastor willing to allow his church to be used. Materials for Missal booklets (if needed) can be found on-line. Give it a shot!
    @Pat: thanks for posting that link. I had only known “Comme le Prévoit” by it’s “dynamic equivalence” reputation, and did not know about a number of the details, or its standing for that matter.
    @Ambrose Jnr: The problem with “Vetus Ordo vs. Novus Ordo” is that the terms are, as so many others, all relative. It’s fine for now, but the meaning will get lost eventually. As a consequence I will continue to call the “Tridentine” Mass the “Tridentine” Mass (or “extraordinary form”) and advocate others doing the same. The bigger challenge is: what will we eventually call the Novus Ordo Missae when it ceases to be “novus?”

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