“And Paul VI wept”. More fascinating notes about the Pope and the liturgical reform.

Today, Sandro Magistero offers some information about Paul VI’s true attitude about the liturgical reform sparked by “experts” such as Annibale Bugnini well before the Council, during the Liturgical Movement, and carried out through and after the Council by the same.

Bugnini undertook a furious and relentless jihad against the Sacred Congregation for Rites after the Congregation gave him the heave-ho from his professorship on account of his goofy ideas.  With great guile, Bugnini figured out a way to use the authority of the Council to bludgeon the Congregation and obtain his aims, among which was the diffusion of power away from the Congregation.  Also, those experts were dead set to reform the whole of the Church through reform of the liturgy.

In a book over the signature of Bugnini’s secretary, later papal MC and now Archbp. Piero Marini A Challenging Reformwe read of the marvelous work of the Consilium of its head Card. Lercaro and Bugnini.  Get this. Context: The Consilium has just taken a major step in moving from an informally meeting group to an officially and formally established body.  They have their first plenary session.

“They met in public to begin one of the greatest liturgical reforms in the history of the Western church.  Unlike the reform after Trent, it was all the greater because it also dealt with doctrine.”  (p. 46)

They succeeded.  The work of the Consilium, in revising the Missale Romanum, did indeed change the Church’s doctrine. Change the way you pray and you change what you believe… and vice versa.

In any event, what about the role of Pope Paul VI?  He did a lot of this, right?

Magister reports that there is a new book which explores something of Paul’s attitude about the liturgical reform which draws on the diaries of the late Archbp. Virgilio Noè, papal MC from 1970-82.

Thus Sandro… my emphases:


In reality, between Paul VI and the reform that was taking shape little by little there was not that affinity for which the critics rebuke him.

On the contrary, it was not unusual for Paul VI to suffer on account of what he saw taking place, which was the opposite of his liturgical culture, his sensibility, the spirit in which he himself celebrated.

There is a brief book published in recent days that sheds new light precisely on this personal suffering of pope Giovanni Battista Montini over of a liturgical reform that in many ways he did not condone[But permitted and signed off on.]

Paolo VI. Una storia minima,” edited by Leonardo Sapienza, Edizioni VivereIn, Monopoli, 2018.

In this book Monsignor Sapienza – who has been regent of the prefecture of the papal household since 2012 – collects various pages of the “Diaries” compiled by the master of pontifical celebrations under Paul VI, Virgilio Noè (1922-2011), who became a cardinal in 1991.

With these “Diaries,” Noè carried on a tradition that dates back to the “Liber Notarum” of the German Johannes Burckardt, master of ceremonies for Alexander VI. In his account of every celebration, Noè also recorded everything that Paul VI said to him before and after the ceremony, including his comments on some of the innovations of the liturgical reform that he had experienced for the first time on that occasion.

For example, on June 3, 1971, after the Mass for the commemoration of the death of John XXIII, Paul VI commented:

How on earth in the liturgy for the dead should there be no more mention of sin and expiation? [!] There is a complete absence of imploring the Lord’s mercy. This morning too, for the Mass celebrated in the [Vatican] tombs, although the texts were beautiful they were still lacking in the sense of sin and the sense of mercy. But we need this! And when my final hour comes, ask for mercy for me from the Lord, because I have such need of it!”

And again in 1975, after another Mass in memory of John XXIII:

“Of course, in this liturgy are absent the great themes of death, of judgment….”

The reference is not explicit, but Paul VI was here lamenting, among other things, the removal from the liturgy for the deceased of the grandiose sequence “Dies irae,” which in effect is no longer recited or sung in the Mass today, but survives only in concerts, as composed by Mozart, Verdi, and other musicians.

Another time, on April 10, 1971, at the end of the reformed Easter Vigil, Paul VI commented:

“Of course, the new liturgy has greatly streamlined the symbology. But the exaggerated simplification has removed elements that used to have quite a hold on the mindset of the faithful.”

And he asked his master of ceremonies: [NB] “Is this Easter Vigil liturgy definitive?”

To which Noè replied: “Yes, Holy Father, the liturgical books have already been printed.”

But could a few things still be changed?” the pope insisted, evidently not satisfied.  [Sigh.]

Another time, on September 24, 1972, Paul VI replied to his personal secretary, Pasquale Macchi, who was complaining about how long it took to sing the “Credo”:

“But there must be some island on which everyone can be together: for example, the ‘Credo,’ the ‘Pater noster’ in Gregorian….” [As Sacrosanctum Concilium wanted!]

On May 18, 1975, after noting more than once that during the distribution of communion, in the basilica or in Saint Peter’s Square, there were some who passed the consecrated host from hand to hand, Paul VI commented:

“The Eucharistic bread cannot be treated with such liberty! The faithful, in these cases, are behaving like.. infidels!”

Before every Mass, while he was putting on the sacred vestments, Paul VI continued to recite the prayers stipulated in the ancient missal “cum sacerdos induitur sacerdotalibus paramentis,” even after they had been abolished. And one day, September 24, 1972, he smiled and asked Noè: “Is it forbidden to recite these prayers while one puts on the vestments?”

“No, Holy Father, they may be recited, if desired,” the master of ceremonies replied.

And the pope: “But these prayers can no longer be found in any book: even in the sacristy the cards are no longer there… So they will be lost!


You will remember the story – of which I was the origin in these interwebs – of the shock and sorrow of Paul VI on Pentecost Monday, when he found green vestments laid out for Mass.

Do look at this – HERE

I recount that story and add some other information about Paul and reform, including some old PODCAzTs about his words when the Novus Ordo was implemented.  Shocking and sad.


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  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    It flabbergasts the mind that these changes “happened to” Paul VI in the way these recorded comments suggest. It reads like me asking my own small children how they’re running the house while I abdicate my leadership of things, expressing my disapproval ineffectually and apologetically while they run the house into the ground. So sad.

  2. scotus says:

    The Dies Irae was performed at the Requiem Mass for Otto Habsburg, eldest son of the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary.
    Also, his coffin was not admitted to the Capuchin Church in Vienna until the Master of Ceremonies described him as a mortal and sinful man
    German text

  3. kekeak2008 says:

    My opinion and views of Paul VI have become more charitable over the years; it seems he was more conflicted about the liturgical changes than I originally believed. But I find myself being more frustrated the more I learn about his own thoughts about the reform. If he had such misgivings about them, why approve them? He demonstrated such courage when he issued Humanae Vitae; it seems he didn’t have the same amount of courage when it came to the reform. Was Bugnini truly that influential on the pope? Was he blatantly lied to? There’s such a disconnect between his personal views and what he actually did/approved. How wily the Devil is…

  4. I have a fondness for Pope Paul VI because (a) he was Pope when I was born; and (b) Humanae Vitae.

    It makes me angry and sad that he seemingly stood by and let all this happen. We do not know his heart. I do hope he is a saint in Heaven.

  5. mibethda says:

    It is interesting that this information comes from the diaries of the late Cardinal Virgilio Noe. In his recently published history of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce (which for years led the struggle to preserve and restore the old Latin Rite), Leo Darroch (successor to Michael Davies as president) recounts the implacable opposition Una Voce encountered from then Archbishop Noe as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship – and also, briefly of the combined Congregations of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments – in the efforts to obtain a universal indult for the use of the 1962 Missal ( later granted in much more restrictive form as Quattuor abhinc Annos) and to obtain a clarification and extension of both that indult and the subsequent Papal motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta. His machinations in his efforts to eliminate the indult and to allow its intended implementation demonstrated that he had no sympathy for the old Rite and was one of the most active opponents in the Curia to its restoration.

  6. acardnal says:

    The work of the Consilium, in revising the Missale Romanum, did indeed change the Church’s doctrine. Change they way you pray and you change what you believe… and vice versa.

    True statement, Father Z. In Fr. Anthony Cekada’s booklet “The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass” he provides supporting evidence for your statement:

    – In the Latin version of the new Missal (1970), for instance, the word “grace” appeared 11 times in the orations for the 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time. In the official English translation of these texts, approved by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican in 1973, the word “grace” appears not once.
    – In the nine orations used in the New Mass on All Souls’ Day, for instance, “soul” (anima) does not appear even once; whereas, the traditional Missal uses it in all nine orations. (Perhaps November 2 should have been renamed “No Souls Day.”)

    The Consilium wanted to eliminate “negative” language in the orations such as damnation, hell, punishment, adversity, trials, tribulations, evil, depravity of sin, grave offenses, perdition, everlasting death. They diminished the terms expressing the merits of the saints and how they can help us. Instead, they want to promote the “church of nice.”

    Interesting factoid according to Cekada’s booklet:
    “The traditional Missal contains 1182 orations. About 760 of those were dropped entirely. Of the approximately 36% which remained, the revisers altered over half of them before introducing them into the new Missal. Thus, only some 17% of the orations from the old Missal made it untouched into the new Missal.”

    Cekada provides line by line comparisons of a select number in his booklet.

    It’s unfortunate. Some of these traditional orations go back about 1500 years! As noted by Cekada, if one opens both the traditional Missal and the Gregorian Sacramentary to Quinquagesima Sunday, you see the same orations prescribed for the Collect, the Secret and the Postcommunion of the Mass. Wow!

    Fr. Z, please continue your study of the Collects. They are much appreciated.

  7. mburn16 says:

    “[But permitted and signed off on.]”

    And here, I think, is the underlying point about every papacy from Paul VI to Benedict XVI…they either allowed a course of action that was harmful, or failed to take an available course of action that would have been extremely beneficial. Paul VI was bothered by the nature of many of the changes to the liturgy? Stand up and yell stop. And we have to admit that the abandonment of the Tiara and much of the Papal ceremonial traces to his own Papacy, so its not as if he didn’t have something to do with setting the tone.

  8. TonyO says:

    so its not as if he didn’t have something to do with setting the tone.

    In addition, Paul VI must be held responsible for giving the power to Consilium to propose the changes that it proposed – even after he knew darn well the character and deformed thinking of the men involved. I cannot imagine an innocent cause for this, or for his horrid inaction in accepting the proposals, and his (worse) positive approval by actually mandating the changes himself. I’m sorry, I cannot. I hope dearly that he is a saint in heaven, but for now it will be on the back of a hope that he is forgiven for these horrible things. If someone does have a theory that acquits him of cowardice and such like wrongs, I am willing to hear it, for I cannot come up with one. It is not like the people in their overwhelming masses were begging for these changes – they initially detested them, other than the use of vernacular in things like the collects etc. It was only the innovators, the experimenters, the far-out progressives, those who loved the new ideas merely for the sake of newness, who were clamoring for such ill-conceived notions, and these only had such standing to speak as he gave them. Throwing Bugnini out before the Council should have been final, not a temporary set-back. Whoever re-introduced him to the halls of power should have been heavily punished himself.

    Paul’s tears were self-inflicted, and (like Peter’s before him) mayhap they were well deserved punishment for abandoning what he knew to be right?

  9. Gaetano says:

    I am sympathetic to Paul VI, who was so heroic regarding Humanae Vitae. Yet with regards to the Liturgy, I am reminded of an Italian proverb:

    Chi è causa del suo mal, pianga sè stesso.
    Who causes his own pain, let him blame himself.

  10. Malta says:

    My view of Vatican II is pretty well documented: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0107-conlee.

    Maybe it’s arrogant for one man to take on over 2,000 Bishops; but as an FBI Agent I took on all of China and Russia working a Major Case.

  11. Rob83 says:

    Paul VI sounds like a man who either blindly put his faith in the Consilium and its work or someone who was trusting the reviews of others as to the soundness of its work, which trust was misplaced.

  12. vetusta ecclesia says:

    Bugnini’s own tome on the Reform of the Liturgy is as self serving as P Marini’s. Every opposition he encounters is seen as due to diabolical intervention, every success as divine.

  13. Thomas S says:

    People keep saying Pope Paul was heroic in issuing Humanae Vitae. Maybe so. He certainly wasn’t heroic in defending it and disciplining dissidents in the hierarchy.

  14. tominrichmond says:

    Paul VI was a weak man, apparently. While he gave us such zingers in describing the new liturgy as “multi-sided inconvenience,” and “a nuisance,” in his address of November 26, 1969 (https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p6691126.htm), and clearly bemoans some of the effects of the changes, yet he concludes it’s all worthwhile because “participation.”

    And yet, he was not so weak, either, as he attempted heartily to squelch the work of Abp, Lefebvre, which, if he had succeeded, probably would have put the lights out for the traditional liturgy for a very long time.

    I, too, hope he’s in heaven, as I do for every soul. Yet proposing him for sainthood given the public scandal of his disastrous pontificate is just revolutionary lunacy.

  15. Ave Maria says:

    I have a great love for saints but no devotion at all for this pope who, at the very least, was a weak pope. God prevented him from taking the majority line in favor of birth control and that was about the end of the good. The current saint machine to me leaves much to be desired and the so called miracles for this pope are suspect. Also Randy Engel and Fr. Luigi Villa had much to say about this man which I will not repeat here.

  16. HvonBlumenthal says:

    What I don’t understand is this: we know (from reputable testimonies such as Fr Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber) that Vatican II was manipulated. We know that Paul VI did not approve of what he nevertheless signed up to. We know what the liturgical, theological and moral consequences have been.

    How is it then possible that thinking conservative Catholics still convince themselves that there was nothing wrong with Vatican II, only with its misinterpretation? I realise that almost everyone reading this (including the formidable owner of this site, whise energy and brilliance I admire) accepts the “hermeneutic of continuity” but isn’t it time to accept the unpalatable truth, namely that the mis-named Ordinary Form came into being as part of a package of theological innovations which must now be rejected, along with the Vatican II documents that spawned them?

    [Wiltgern’s book is essential reading.]

  17. JGavin says:

    The appalling thing is this cowardice. He had the authority. He had the sense that this reform a
    was misguided yet he signed off on it. This is cowardice! This is akin to Peter’s denial. Bugnini’s work akin to Judas’ kiss.

  18. TonyO says:

    What I don’t understand is this: we know (from reputable testimonies such as Fr Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber) that Vatican II was manipulated. … namely that the mis-named Ordinary Form came into being as part of a package of theological innovations which must now be rejected, along with the Vatican II documents that spawned them?

    Hvon, how do you repudiate the documents of Vatican II without repudiating the protection guaranteed for Ecumenical Councils that they be free of error? That is the critical question.

    Those of the sede vacantist position answer it by saying that the guarantee of protection is still valid, but Vatican II was not a valid Ecumenical Council. They arrive at this only by the tortured and circular logic that a council’s documents are not those of a valid Ecumenical Council if the council is not called by a valid pope and ratified by a valid pope, and so (because they deem the documents wrong), therefore John XXIII and Paul VI must not have been valid popes, and therefore they must have been heretics because that’s how you get seemingly valid popes who are not actually valid. Sure the circularity is evident.

    The modernists answer the question by denying the irreformability of irreformable doctrine: doctrines stated 1500 or 1000 years ago were true “for those times”, and other doctrines are “true for our times”. This is of course to jettison that the guarantee of protection has any bearing on the world and truth.

    The progressives who are not modernists answer the question by denying the guarantee in the first place: it is irrelevant whether any FORMER council was protected from error, what’s important is that VII, our most recent Council, is right. All former “truth” can go hang, for all they care.

    The orthodox faithful Catholic shies away from the prospect that in a Church protected from error by the Holy Spirit, not only ONE pope was invalid and heretic, but a series of 6 popes through 60 years were all invalid and heretic. And that a council of 2000 bishops was not a valid Ecumenical Council because a minority of bishops pushed through an agenda that was ambiguously arranged. And that God would let this condition persist so long that ALL of the bishops and cardinals were appointed by invalid popes. It is a safer and less revolutionary solution to allow that the Holy Spirit allowed the valid Ecumenical Council to approve documents which were unwise and imprudently ambiguous, but which could be read in continuity with Catholic orthodoxy, thus not failing in any absolute sense the guarantee of protection from error.

  19. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Pilate saith to him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in him.
    But you have a custom that I should release one unto you at the pasch: will you, therefore, that I release unto you the king of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying: Not this man, but Barabbas

  20. iamlucky13 says:

    This post affected one of the more startling realizations I’ve had that despite being raised in a very dedicated Catholic family and well catechized, being born over a decade after the new missal was promulgated, I never even realized how much about the earlier liturgy I was completely ignorant of.

  21. David Collins says:

    I converted to the Church in the 90s at a parish that had an indult Sunday latin mass and vernacular weekday and Sunday masses. The richness of the prayers in the St. Joseph Daily Missal led me to stick with the old mass on Sundays.

  22. HighMass says:

    If Paul VI wept then why did he not reverse the Mass?

  23. Antonin says:

    The Pope is the pope, final authority, final arbiter. Period. Full stop. Even if what is being reported is true, the Pope failed in leadership. The mass we have not is the mass of Paul VI

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    TonyO: “how do you repudiate the documents of Vatican II without repudiating the protection guaranteed for Ecumenical Councils that they be free of error?”

    Not a problem. No need to argue that Vatican II strayed into doctrinal error that the Church is protected against.

    Only that in the zeitgeist of a chaotic period of rapid and unstable societal change it made prudential pastoral recommendations that history shows are not prudent now, a half-century later. Case closed, and obvious.

  25. Imrahil says:

    “Ecumenical Councils are free from error” means “in their dogmas”, usually for simplicity expressed in their canons and anathemas. Theologians never dreamed of ascribing infallibility to, say, the reasonings e. g. Trent gives for its dogmas (though yes, they enjoy a very high rank just below that). That a Council chose not to use the highest level of expression it can use, even if it does not do so at all, does not raise its other statements in rank.

    That being said,
    1. there are but few statements in the Council which are not in concord with previous Church teaching, and with some of them it is not quite easy to make out what they mean*
    2. of course it may well be that what the Church teaches now is right, and the previous position needed correction,
    3. the Council is something else than its overinterpretation; in some cases, the previous position still holds under an “for all practical matters” caveat**,
    4. prudential assessments of the then-present obviously cannot command a Catholic of today’s assessment of the now-present, as Henry Edwards has said,
    5. disciplinary law is subject to further revision in any case***.

    * Case in point is the “religious liberty hotspot”, where the Council literally has said “the Holy Synod declares there is freedom of religion; the Catholic teaching of the relationship between Church and State remaining unaltered”.

    ** Msgr Knox in his very important book The Belief of Catholics wrote that “what the Church says about the non-Catholic ‘Churches’ is not that nobody is saved in them, but that in so far as anybody is a member of them, he might just as well be a member of no such body at all; the Anglican, just as the unaffiliated, is judged whether he is bona fide and thus a Catholic without knowing it; the e. g. Anglican body is entirely irrelevant in the matter”. I take that as a candid expression of the preconciliar stand on ecumenism; it is obvious that with the Conciliar teaching, a touch of nuance has been added, and it can no longer be said (without contradicting the Council) that these bodies (insofar as consisting of bona fide members) have no degree of “Churchiness” at all (the phrase “ecclesial communities” comes to mind).

    But the important thing is that for all practical matters, Msgr Knox is still right; the final test is whether the person in question is a Catholic (without knowing it), and thus at the end of the day, that is what counts – even though people in their enthousiasm about the slight change there was, which may have been quite right in itself, may have overlooked this fundamental fact.

    *** Such as the Council’s statement that there shall be a major liturgical revision which, notwithstanding the fact that on almost all details the Council speaks about it follows the traditional path, should certainly be a major revision, and which is to include cutting the Prime from the Office. This is a disciplinary law, and Pope Benedict at the latest, who was the highest lawgiver no less than the Council, gave some people permission to ignore it in Summorum pontificum, so they can ignore it.

  26. Tom Kaye says:

    If anyone would like to have a clearer picture of what Pope Paul VI thought about the Novus Ordo Mass read: “Paul VI, Epistle Cum te to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, 11 October 1976: Not 12 (1976) 417-427.

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