ASK FATHER: Celebrating Conciliar Saint Popes in the Traditional Roman Rite

From a reader…


26 September is the feast of the now-canonized Paul VI. Since this is a feria on the 1962 calendar, one could mark the day with the traditional Latin Mass “Si Diliges Me”, and name him in the Collect.  [Or, it being a Thursday, you could say a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, or of … etc.]

Could all of the canonized post-Conciliar Popes be celebrated on a traditional calendar feria using the Common for several Holy Popes?

At this point, there are a lot of newly canonized saints who are not observed in the Vetus Ordo, Traditional calendar.  I, for one, would like to see saints such as St. Charles Lwanga (canonized 1964), Maximilian Kolbe (1982), José Sánchez del Río (2016), Gianna Beretta Molla (2004) in the Traditional calendar. Heck, it can be done. It wouldn’t be that hard.   Just stick them in!

Over the centuries some saints have moved onto and off of the calendar, according to the times and their needs.  In fact, that is why some saints are canonized and made much of, and some aren’t.  It depends on what the Roman Pontiff at the time determines and the sense of the faithful demands.  However, with the introduction of new saints – think of St. Juan Diego (2002), Hildegard of Bingen (2012), Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1998), Josephine Bakhita (2000) – great care must be taken to preserve ancient saints on the calendar. The very feasts of saints have shaped music, literature, culture.

But they are not available right now with their own Propers. Could you celebrate them using a Common? Well, I think you could just do it, especially privately. One should not shock the faithful by mixing up the calendars. Then again, not many would be shocked.

I imagine that, slowly but surely, a solution will be found.  Mostly slowly, given the way things are going.

Introducing new saints into the calendar with their own propers (or not) doesn’t change the Rite.   However, we can’t fool around with the seasons, as they did for the Novus Ordo. That’s far more serious.

Not a very satisfying answer, I think. However, maybe this will prod things in certain offices… where this is read.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ProfKwasniewski says:

    Why is the reader so certain that Paul VI is a saint, and that praying publicly to him would not be a sin? Some matter for reflection:

  2. Tridentina Synodus says:

    Archbishop Pozzo announced that the PCED will soon publish a decree on these issues (new saints and prefaces). Source: (in Polish, third answer at the end of the page)

  3. ServusChristi says:

    Celebrating the feast day of a *Saint* whose intention was certainly to suppress the Roman Rite of mass we certainly enjoy today? This sounds like something not too many of us are keen on seeing, almost like an oxymoron.

  4. Ages says:

    Or you could just kinda skip over that one. The lectionary doesn’t have us read every word of the Bible in church either.

  5. Amerikaner says:

    Is a declaration of canonization infallibible?

  6. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    In the Eastern Churches, they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. James on the Feast of St. James, and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil on the Feast of St. Basil and the Divine Liturgy of St. Mark on the Feast of St. Mark. The don’t celebrate, in general, these antiquated rites on other days, preferring the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. This raises the possibility that the whole Church might celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. Paul VI on the Feast of St. Paul VI. But not on other days. Here’s hoping.

  7. Elizabeth Rose says:

    Having read the article on onepeterfive, and the other article linked there, I am very confused about the infallibility of canonizations. I always thought they were infallible, but the arguments against that position are very convincing. Father Z, can you shed some light on the question?

  8. Imrahil says:

    Note: Whether or not canonizations are infallible, as the traditional, but apparently with some reasons questioned stand is, one thing is clear that if they are infallible, there is precisely one thing which they infallibly say:

    St. N. N.’s soul now enjoys the bliss of Heaven.

    Just for clarification, a couple of things that canonizations (in many cases truly, sometimes arguably or mistakenly) are supposed to also mean, but not infallibly so:

    1. The Church acted rightly in presenting St. N. N. for veneration, because he is a good example for general morality.
    2. It is generally advisable to canonize the kind of people like our canonized St. N. N.
    3. St. N. N.’s life or work was free of mistakes, or at least free of scandalous or particularly sinful ones.
    4. St. N. N. went straight to Heaven after death.
    5. If St. N. N. didn’t go straight to Heaven after death, at least his time in Purgatory was short by comparison.
    6. St. N. N.’s time in Purgatory would have been short if this punishment were given on his own merits and demerits alone, without “counting” the effect of the prayers, Mass-offerings, indulgences etc. of the Church, and without counting arbitrary pardons dispensed by God’s ununderstandable Goodness.

    Long story short: Even if infallibility is accepted, what we (in that case: infallibly) know is the fact that the Saint is right now in Heaven, and nothing else. (And knowing nothing else about the matter, I see no reason to deny this for Pope Paul VI.)

  9. Geoffrey says:

    Perhaps the questioner wishes to promote unity and reconciliation by incorporating Saint John XXIII, Saint Paul VI, or Saint John Paul II into the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. For once, this was a very refreshing question.

  10. LeeGilbert says:

    Peter Kwasniewski writes,
    “Why is the reader so certain that Paul VI is a saint, and that praying publicly to him would not be a sin?”

    Perhaps, PK, it is because the Church has canonized him. That, surely, is sufficient basis for certainty. Somewhere I did read that we should not do anything unless we are sure it is not a sin, but having read your despicable footnote 12 in your article in 1P5 I am no longer certain it is not a sin to read you. To give credence and publicity to uncorroborated allegations such as that about the vicar of Christ, St. Paul VI, surely falls under the category of sacrilege and is detraction in any case. Beyond that, have a care, for you are building up a portfolio of articles that your guardian angel may well present to the Almighty saying, “This man wants to be humbled to the dust.”

  11. Uxixu says:

    One decent feature of the 1969-1970 Pauline calendar is the idea of local feasts… unfortunately tainted by too many other innovations. After St. Pius V, way too many 16th and 17th century Italian confessors were added as doubles, reducing simple & semi double 3rd and 4th century martyrs to commemorations. Having the option to celebrate local saints generally makes more sense, at least at the diocesan level (excepting the ancient practice of celebration of parish patrons feasts obviously) .

    As it is, 1962 has the same problem continued in the novus ordo of an over emphasis on the ferial over the sanctoral calendar.

  12. SpesUnica says:

    I find myself in agreement with DiPippo (“What does the Canonization of Paul VI Mean for the Liturgy and Liturgical Reform?”) [tldr; Nothing], and in disagreement with Prof K (1P5, as above) [tldr; Paul VI isn’t really a saint so ignore this canonization, and praying to him is probably a sin].

    If the Pope cannot canonize saints, or if his papacy and curia are too compromised/corrupt/incompetent to canonize saints…then what exactly are you saying here? How is this not a practical if somehow-not-formal sede vacantism? At the very least it falls into the area of the claims of the SSPX that the church is in such a crisis that obedience to the Chair of Peter is abrogated.

    It *is* common-sensical to state, ‘If the Church canonizes a Pope, that means the Church is saying he was good at pope-ing.’ It makes sense and, generally, ought to be the case, but that is not necessarily what is being claimed. Infallibility is less about the grandiosity of what the Church can decree and much more about the modesty of the LIMITS of what she can decree.

    DiPippo makes some great points, imo, about seemingly clear mistakes that different saints made during their lives–even in the carrying out of (what we would now see as) their vocations. I have sometimes thought that Pope St. Pius X was imprudent in teaching that more Catholics should receive the Eucharist more frequently. I think an argument can be made that this has led, unintentionally of course, to a collapse of respect for and even belief in the Real Presence. What could be more important for a Pope than to protect the Eucharist? If he failed in this, how can he be a “good pope,” and if not even a “good pope,” then certainly not a saintly pope!

    But this relies on assumptions more expansive than what is actually asserted by a canonization, assertions which in reality are much more modest.

    To refuse to accept the validity of these canonizations is to set up an ultimatum which you are guaranteed to lose: unless “they” (the curia, ‘the powers that be’) un-canonize Paul VI, then I won’t recognize your authority to govern the Church. Non serviam. Will you pray for Francis in the hallowed Roman Canon? What does the Roman Canon become when you excise the Bishop of Rome from it?

  13. Imrahil says:

    As to the article posted by the dear ProfKwasniewski,

    I am rather critical about this canonization myself (though I don’t doubt St. Paul VI’s being in Heaven, now the Church says so), as I was about the waiving of the miracle in the case of his predecessor St. John XXIII (though I never doubted he was a holy man).

    But there is one very sizable benefit the canonization brings. Not addressing the infamous (though not blasphemous) technique to hold it against a person that he had to deny a slander (which LeeGilbert already wrote against),

    the 1Peter5 article says: “A Pope is a saint because he ‘poped’ well.”

    Though I earnestly like the creative use of a neologism: as far as the content of this saying goes, it is indeed like this:

    The sooner we say farewell to this modernistic* nonsense about canonizations, which actually is the cause of a lot of problems (though, I admit, not every problem), the better. Hence, to have the Church venerate a bad** Pope can be a saint, is from that point all the better. [?] It is possible to be a bad** Pope and a saint. [Is it really?] (Nor is this unprecedented, if we think of St. Celestine V.) [Who wound up not being Pope at the end of his life, by the way.]

    * I am, for a change, using the word in a rather loose sense, which is that of “particularly well-adapt to the modern success-worshipping society, which may have its bases in Protestant (Weberian) Capitalism but certainly not in Catholicism”. I grant that this has rather little to do with the official definition of “modernism” by Pope St. Pius X, but the point still stands that this focus does not breathe a Catholic atmosphere.

    ** I am using the word in “bad” simplification. While you might call St. Celestine V a bad Pope, I don’t think St. Paul VI was one, as I would use the word; if you press me to it, I’d say he was a somewhat-more-than-average Pope wanting too much in a time which would probably have devoured even an excellent one. [Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly in the case of Montini.] There is not much debate, though, that excellent in any case he was not; and I think for the guys over at 1Peter5 this would sufficiently justify calling him bad.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear SpesUnica,

    it falls into the area of the claims of the SSPX that the church is in such a crisis that obedience to the Chair of Peter is abrogated.

    You could perhaps, if you wish to be unfriendly to them, say that their position is that obedience to Rome is suspended for the time being (though they’d object even to that characterization). But to say they think it is abrogated – a rather different thing – is an unjustified accusation, unjustified not only w.r.t. the SSPX, but even, I’d say, about Bishop Williamsons’s followers and the SSPV, and only true about the Palmarian madhouse.

  15. SpesUnica says:

    “suspended for the time being,” is not, at this moment in history, really different from saying “for the foreseeable future.” That isn’t something I am happy or gloating about…I think it’s just being honest.

    And if obedience to the Chair of Peter is suspended for the foreseeable future, I think the difference in nuance between that and “abrogation” (I didn’t choose that term strategically, I would agree to an edit of “suspended”) is not very great. I don’t wish to be unfriendly to them; I wish to be honest. I also don’t know everything and don’t interact directly with them very much.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear SpesUnica,

    I would agree to an edit of “suspended”

    I didn’t really claim more than that here, so: accepted.

    Please don’t mind my observation that the “nuance” between suspension and abrogation is actually a world of a difference, when, e. g., people’s Catholicity is to be estimated.

  17. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    September 26 is a third class feast on the 1962 calendar, the feast of St. Isaac Jogues and Companions in the U.S., and Saints Cyprian and Justina universally (commemorated in the U.S.)

    That leaves zero wiggle room for anything to do with Paul VI on the liturgical calendar that day using the traditional Latin Mass. He is not on the 1962 calendar (which he himself abolished) and there is absolutely no legal justification to displace existing third class feasts on this day for that purpose. At best, the licit option would be an extra collect, secret and postcommunion. Still, it would seem silly given the fact that he was the Church’s most powerful opponent of the traditional Latin Mass.

  18. Mike says:

    The OnePeterFive footnote repeats something right out of the Wikipedia entry for Paul VI. It is a subject Paul VI addressed very publicly at the time and asked for prayers in reference to. Given that, I do not see any harm in the article placing it in a footnote. Anyway, the real point of the article is found in the main body of the text and that is the question of whether canonizations are infallible. Personally, given the recent proliferation of highly political and factually controversial canonizations, I have extreme difficulty accepting infallibility in this context. Now we have Saint Oscar Romero who seems to have been killed more for his political positions than for the Faith. For him, of course, Faith and politics were not distinct (is that not the point of Liberation Theology?). Anyway, this layman is not buying it.

  19. TonyO says:

    I usually respect P. Kwasniewski’s articles a lot, but this one fell flat. And the article by Lamont at Rorate Coeli? It has a number of problems too. Sorry, guys, you need to go back to the drawing board and re-think the approach. Hint: a thesis isn’t non-infallible merely because it fails to be “defined” with an included “under penalty of heresy” in its statement. Otherwise, there would have been no teachings of the Church that were infallible precisely by the method of long and unanimous affirmation by the bishops – the method that does NOT require a “definition”. And if the status of a pope’s canonization declaration depends on the OBSERVABLE QUALITY of his congregation’s investigation, it undermines the meaning of a divine testimony of validity: it rests on OUR OWN estimate of the soundness of an investigation.

    As a canonization meaning only that a person “is enjoying the Beatific Vision”: no, that’s not true. The declaration of sainthood is intended to hold up their life as a model for us to follow. A person whose life was full of grave sin, but who repented secretly in his heart at the end, is no model for us to emulate, even if they are in heaven. Sure, you can note that “it’s never too late to repent, if you’re still alive”, but you can’t emulate this person by saying “well I ain’t dead yet, so I still have some time to repent”. More properly, the designation of sainthood is that the person exhibited in his life sanctity, i.e. heroic virtue. A person whose public record is only of sin and not of heroic virtue should not be canonized, even if the Pope should obtain direct personal revelation that he was saved by a last-second perfect act of contrition.

    It is indeed possible for a pope to be holy and not be a very good pope. A pope could, for example, be holy and too simplistic a person to be a successful pope in the highly politicized venue of the Vatican. But we should be chary of claims that any man was holy enough to be publicly venerated for his sanctity, AND that he was a poor pope. It is theoretically possible, but highly implausible: that is, implausible even granted the already implausibility of any man achieving the sanctity proper to one ripe for canonization. For, God so loves his holy ones that he generally imbues their vocation with successes in charitably building up the Church. A pope who presides over the “autodestruction of the Church” must necessarily be suspect on those grounds alone. A pope whose energetic, notable efforts to fight against said destruction are found only at 3 short moments in his 15 year papacy…must be something of a hidden saint, one whose sanctity was hidden under a bushel. And it is not a pope’s job to set his light under a bushel. I have not read the Vatican’s documented evidence of Paul’s heroic virtue, but one would think that the evidence would have sifted out by now. Outside of the close confines of a dry Vatican report by some monsignor to some archbishop. And what we hear is … crickets.

    Personally, I think that Benedict made a grave mistake in hurrying the canonization of JPII. I admit that the wide public acclamation of his worthiness was strong and persistent, but we could have allowed the time for a full, proper, unhurried investigation. There is nothing wrong with letting a man be “Venerable” or “Blessed” for a couple of decades. Let the Church’s local cult of the man be tested over time. Let those not overawed by external appearances have a hand, much later, in assessing his record.

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear TonyO,

    As a canonization meaning only that a person “is enjoying the Beatific Vision”: no, that’s not true.

    If that was me, then: that’s not what I said. What I did say was that only insofar it says the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision, it is infallible, that is if it is infallible in even that respect. This is all that has ever been discussed insofar as the special question of infallibility is concerned.

    Of course it is intended to do all the rest of that, or most, but all I was saying is that in this respect, it is clearly not infallible (for which, I guess, you can use St. Paul VI’s canonization as proving counterexample).

    (That being said, the statement For, God so loves his holy ones that he generally imbues their vocation with successes in charitably building up the Church does evoke from the reaction: “Does He? And if so, what revelation do we get that from, or from what principle do we infer it with certainty?”)

    Dear Kenneth Wolfe,

    there is always the “feastless saints preserve”, as it were: celebrating their votive Masses on any feria not occupied by a feast or a feria of Lent, even one totally unconnected to their life (perhaps the first one occurring after their natalis). There aren’t many of them, but it is possible, though I guess most of the traditional community would indeed prefer that to be used for, say, St. Maximilian Kolbe than for St. Paul VI.

    (Which brings us to the question: For St. Maximilian Kolbe, who is celebrated in the Novus Ordo as a martyr honoris causa, as it were, in red vestments – in the Extraordinary Form, is it white, or red as well?)

  21. Johann says:

    There is another reason, often overlooked, why Pope Paul VI’s canonization should be celebrated.

    It was he, after seeing all the rampant theological liberalism and doctrinal confusion following Vatican II, who instructed Fr. John Hardon SJ to write The Catholic Catechism, the first book to contain all modern Vatican II Catholic teaching. It was a precursor to the CCC we use today written by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (on which Hardon also acted as a consultant). So without St Paul VI we would not have a modern Catechism (even with the current Vatican leadership trying to disfigure it to reflect their own modernist beliefs rather than Catholic orthodoxy).

    On a related note I hope Father Hardon himself is canonized as he was a great and faithful servant of God. His Catechism (as well as his Modern Catholic Dictionary) retain their value even to this day.

  22. PatriciusOenus says:

    Can we get a gold star for Eoin OBolguidhir ?

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