If a law isn’t accepted, it is essentially no law at all. Traditionis? Time will tell. Novus Ordo? Time has told.

In another post I mention reception theory regarding law, specifically Traditionis custodes.

If a law isn’t accepted by the group for whom it is intended, it is essentially no law at all.

One could, by this, contend that laws that were properly written and properly promulgated and were taken to be laws are, de facto if not de iure, zero.  How would one tell if they were zero?   People don’t obey them.

Remember, this applies to the Church’s disciplinary laws, not the Church’s moral teachings.

Let’s see if this applies to Traditionis custodes.  Time will tell.  And I remind the readership about 3.5% and the difference they can make.

I think we can argue that the Novus Ordo is, now, “no law at all” de facto and that there is evidence to support that view.  That doesn’t mean it wasn’t duly promulgated, etc.  It just hasn’t been accepted.

Consider the following.  The Novus Ordo was not universally accepted.  Why can we say that?

Almost 5 years after the imposition of the Novus Ordo Missae by Paul VI, on 28 October 1974, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued the Notification Conferentiarium Episcopalium which insisted that bishops “should …endeavor to secure the acceptance of the Order of the Mass of the New Roman Missal by priests and laity.”

“…endeavor to secure the acceptance…”?!?

It was not being received.

In 1980, another document was issued, Inaestimabile donum, which outlined the many abuses which had arisen over the decade.   Where there are abuses there is non-reception, ironically by those who say they accept it – and only it.  They say they accept it and the they twist it into something that it is not.  When you receive, you “Say The Black – Do The Red”.

In 1984, John Paul II issued Quattuor abhinc annos which gave an (as we now know unnecessary) “indult” for the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum.   Apparently the Novus Ordo Missae wasn’t universally received, if enough people wanted the old ways that even John Paul II, who was wholly uninterested in this matter, acquiesced.

In 1988, John Paul II issued the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta opening up greater use of the traditional Missal and even commanding “generosity” on the part of bishops.  How you command generosity from bishops is a good question.   But the SSPX forced the question and that question could not have been asked if there had been universal reception.

In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, which, as various document before, had to deal with manifestations of non-reception of the Novus Ordo, that is, abuses.  Remember: liturgical abuses are manifestations of non-reception.

In 2007, Benedict XVI issued the Traditional Roman Rite’s “Emancipation Proclamation” with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

That’s some background and data about “reception theory” applied to the liturgical disciplinary issues we see today.

In 2021, Francis issued his landmark decision about the growing desire for the Traditional Roman Rite in his “Plessy V. Ferguson” called Traditionis custodes.   The fact that he is trying to suppress the TLM is more proof that, far from being universally received, the Novus Ordo Missae is being rejected.

Some reject it because of what they see as doctrinal deficiencies.  The majority of those who want Tradition reject it, not out of disdain but simply because they prefer the older form.   Others flee to the Vetus Ordo because the Novus Ordo is so appallingly abused at their parishes that they can’t stand it any more.

Now consider the risible claim – nay rather, demand – that we all lobotomize ourselves and openly admit that the Novus Ordo is the only expression of the Roman Rite.   Firstly, that is incoherent, since TC allows the use of the Vetus Ordo.  Sort of contradictory.  Second, it is apparent to any one with half a brain that the Novus Ordo isn’t the only expression. It can’t be.

The use of the Novus Ordo is often so unlike and inconsistent from place to place that you can’t possibly claim that the Novus Ordo has been accepted as such.  The Novus Ordo can be celebrated very much in keeping with Tradition (chant, ad orientem, Latin, vestments, etc.).  Or else, whatever the hell this is ….

Or this…


Or… in Chicago… where the Institute priests are being blackmailed into signing something that denies their very apostolate for the right to say Mass openly and hear confessions…

And this, in Chicago, last Sunday, 31 July 2022. The only expression of the Roman Rite, but the Institute is being choked by Cupich. BTW… just click pretty much anywhere on the video’s time line. Really.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    One would like to quote Dom Gerard of le Barroux – “Ils sont très gentils, mais c’est une autre réligion.” Except they’re not “très gentils”.

  2. OldProfK says:

    Saw that the last video was St. Sabina, and didn’t even need to watch.

  3. Gab says:

    I was expecting Marilyn Hickey or Joyce Meyer to pop up in that last video.

  4. Chaswjd says:

    Pope Francis has written a preface for a book praising the Zairian Rite, a 1970’s adaption of the Latin Rite for Africa. The Zairian Rite differs from the current Latin Rite in a number of respects. Yet, by the logic of there being a “unique” expression of the Latin Rite, the Zairian Rite should be suppressed. Pope Francis has also suggested that there should be some sort of adoption of the Latin Rite for the Amazon along the lines of the Zairian Rite. Again, that seems in some tension with his desire that there be a unique expression of the Latin Rite.

    Perhaps if Rome could be persuaded that the Latin Mass was some sort of inculturation . . .

    [It was. There had been, once, cross-pollination with Gallic rites.]

  5. eamonob says:

    I just met a new lady at our neighborhood parish this morning after Mass (we also attend the Latin Mass at the parish we were married at about half the time). She told me she had left our neighboring parish in the next town because of how bad the priest was and how he was changing everything. Her list of complaints make me want to go to Mass there. Basically the priest is too traditional, stopped doing the sign of peace, encourages veils, does Eucharistic processions, and doesn’t play the saxophone at the altar like their old priest did. I’m not sure how much more she’ll like our parish. Other than the bad OCP music, it’s not some lib church. Our pastor is super orthodox and by the book on everything. We’re remodeling the church right now under his direction to make it look like an actual Catholic church (was built in the early 80s).

    I just don’t know what the problem is with tradition. Why would you prefer a priest playing the saxophone at the altar???

  6. Kathleen10 says:

    I am not sure who said this before or if it was me, but does that priest who asks God to “rock and roll” realize that is that phrase is American slang for having sex. Someone needs to tell him.
    There are obviously many Catholics interested in these entertainment rites. There are obviously many Catholics who have come over from perhaps Evangelical churches and just can’t let go of the singing and dancing. There are obviously many Catholics who need a good performance or comedy routine or they grow bored and lose interest. We had two rites, one to serve the people who needed these things and the other to serve Catholics who wanted more. We attended reverent NO Masses but the TLM was what we were always looking for and didn’t know it.
    Francis has made us exponentially more Catholic than we were. We didn’t make a point of all this, we never had animosity toward VII or the Novus Ordo. But now that the point has been made, we feel compelled to “rescue” Catholics out of the NO, because you can’t leave people in this. I had to attend a NO Mass yesterday to fulfill First Five Saturdays. It was 90% female, at least, and 90% over 60. There were exactly two young men and two little boys. A total of about 40 people in total. This church is one I’m familiar with, they had a more vibrant group ten years ago. The NO is in ICU and getting sicker. I invited a young man to our TLM, because he needs to see other young men and realize he’s not alone. He seemed interested and I hope to see him at the TLM.
    The Catholic Church is just like the American political scene and our secular leaders. Nobody is this bad by accident. You only do what they are doing when total destruction is your goal. Otherwise it makes no sense at all. They know the NO is on life support and is doomed. They proceed nonetheless. They will only grow the TLM.

  7. thomistking says:

    How can the Novus Ordo be the only expression of the Roman Rite when it contains 4 different Eucharistic prayers from radically different traditions of the Church? This would seem to make it (at least) 4 different rites with the only unity between them being that they are all found between the covers of a single book.

  8. Senor Quixana says:

    Attorneys are sometimes required to make arguments that they know are losers but they have to put something in their filings and argue as best they can to provide the zealousness required by the canons of ethics. With respect, this argument regarding the NO smells an awful lot like that.

    Reception theory is valid, and it is argued by lots of heterodox folks regarding ordination of women and contraception. The argument runs that because these are generally popular things among the laity that the teachings have not been “received.” What makes the argument poppycock in those cases is that reception happened back when nobody realized there were 2 continents in the way of sailing from Europe to Asia. All sorts of people can dissent, but that lends no credence to a non-reception argument. Once reception occurs, there is a no returns policy that prevents unreception.

    What you do not address here is that reception theory requires general acceptance, not universal submission. Were universal acceptance the standard there could be no effective civil law because the mere fact that someone gets convicted of breaking the law would be adequate to invalidate the law because somebody broke it, thereby demonstrating the law is not universally received. That is nonsense, of course.

    I would dare say there has never been an edict of any council, be it Trent or V2, that was universally accepted. A single no vote does not sustain a non reception argument, and that says nothing of dissent beyond the council membership. The fact that a minuscule part of the Church dislikes something does not mean it has not been received. The NO is the Mass, the only Mass, of virtually every Mass-going Roman Catholic on the planet, most of whom have never been to a VO Mass. Thus far I average going to a VO once every 3 decades and I suspect that makes me an outlier on the high side. (Given a choice between the NO, the VO, and a rite based on the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom I would be with the golden-tongued followers, but that is for another day.)

    The NO is wildly popular and most assuredly has been received by all but a handful of Catholics, so much so that were the situation reversed and the NO was being suppressed in favor of the VO the entire Mass going population of the Church could be serviced by an episcopal conference the size of Tunisia’s. We may gripe about the happy clappies getting away with some of their silliness and the rewriting of hymns with gender specific pronouns, and many of us wish for something that more closely resembles what V2 envisioned, but we have certainly received it.

    I pray that traditionalists thrive and that they preserve a liturgical tradition that so well served so many saints. (They need to stop being whiney, claiming they are being cruelly persecuted because when they are privileged to receive the body. blood, soul, and divinity of Christ it was not coinfected in the dead language of their choice. Perhaps if they had to attend Mass in Nigeria where it could get them killed they would begin to grasp how pathetic they sound right now, and how insulting they are to Christians who suffer actual persecution, not their inconveniences.) The VO sets a standard for reverence that the NO needs to be reminded of. It does remind us of our connection to so many glorious figures in our history. The NO needs the otherworldly sense of the VO without the burden of gestures the meaning of which was buried in the dust of a few centuries, For all our sakes it would be wise to nurture the VO community, but ridiculous assertions that the NO is somehow defective on the grounds of non reception does not lend credence to the idea that traditionalists should be taken seriously.

    I am rooting for you to find welcome, not roadblocks, but this kind of argument does nothing but raise suspicions that the traditionalists who remained faithful to the Church are no different than the Lefebvrists who felt justified in raising a finger to the Church and created their own hierarchy.

  9. ex seaxe says:

    In 1965 a new rubrics were promulgated for Mass, and duly published in an editio typica. Do we have evidence that they were not accepted? I have read that Abp. Lefebvre welcomed those changes, I remember that I did.
    I now know that the 1570>>1920 missals enjoined celebrations which did not accord with the demand of the Council of Trent that pastors feed their sheep on the liturgical texts (Session XXII cap viii). And that there is no change in the Ordo Missae of 1962 to repair the deficiency, although no.272 of the rubricae generales does mention participatio actuosa.
    The 1965 rubrics satisfy the requirement of Sacrosanctum concilium for instruction of the congregation, and for elimination of unnecessary duplication, and provide the attention to the congregation which draws forth the attention of the congregation. Had they reverted to those, I think it likely the present wars would not have broken out.

  10. JonPatrick says:

    I would have to disagree with @Senor Quixanas’ analysis above. For one thing, can we really say the NO is accepted because it is “wildly popular”? When it was introduced in 1969 people went along because they were obedient, even though many found the transition jarring. Subsequently mass attendance began the precipitous drop along with all other measures of Catholic life such as baptisms, ordinations, religious life, etc. While there are other factors responsible, the decline of the Church especially Mass attendance can hardly be considered acceptance. Also when there is only “one game in town” and you still believe you have an obligation to attend mass, you will trudge off to the NO whether you like it or not. Sort of like elections in those dictatorships where there is only one party on the ballot and they declare the dictator won with 99% of the vote so he must be “wildly popular”.

  11. WVC says:

    @Senor Quixana

    Regarding “Reception Theory” I think you make valid points. Would’ve been nice if you had stopped there. Why am I not surprised to find you in the “kick-’em’-when’they’re-down” club?

    The ” they are privileged to receive the body. blood, soul, and divinity of Christ it was not coinfected in the dead language of their choice” makes me think you actually have absolutely no idea what the differences really are between the NO and the TLM. Perhaps you might want to pick up one of the books explaining how radical are the changes made by the NO – it’s actually significantly more than just not using a dead language (although that in and of itself is a pretty big deal, actually).

    And the “they’re no different than the Lefebvrists ” makes me think you have no appreciation for the decades of patience traditionalists have shown attending diocesan Masses, usually in inconvenient locations, always at inconvenient hours, donating money to beautify churches and facilities, giving lots of time and talent establishing choirs and Bible studies and homeschooling co-ops, and working hard to be a part of the parish community only to be kicked to the curb with maximum snark by the pope and bishops we’ve tried so hard to be faithful to. Do you always make this kind of suspicion a part of your “welcome”?

    As far as whiners go, yeah, we have whiners on the TLM side. We have sinners, too. Turns out we’re human. However, in my diocese, the minute the churches were open again after COVID restrictions were lifted, the TLM masses filled back up to allowed capacity and then some. The NO folks trickled back in tiny numbers, and even then that was only with masks and gloves and buckets of hand sanitizer used during Communion and pool noodles keeping people “safe distances” and strict lines taped on the floors to maintain distance . . . .etc. I heard plenty of accounts of the Eucharist being handed out in envelopes at NO Masses in order to “be safe” or communion in the hand being mandated for everyone. Didn’t hear much of that going on at the TLM, though. So, no, I don’t really feel like taking lessons in courage from the NO crowd today.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I was a kid in the 1970’s, who had never gone to an EF Mass in her life. Our parish was a good parish with good faithful priests, who kept the crazy stuff to a minimum.

    And yet, even I knew, from every Catholic around me except some teachers, that Latin was better, that things in general in the Church used to be better, and that everyone wished we’d go back.

    Very little of this was said out loud, on purpose. But it was always coming up. I also grew up with an entire genre of “humorous books” and “Catholic novels” that pretty much boiled down to “hahaha, nuns… oh, crud, I miss the old Mass.” And every biographical comment by an ex-Catholic included “And then the Mass changed… and somehow magically I left the Church after that, for Reasons.”

    Today among OF-goers we have “People putting up with it,” “People who grew up with it and don’t know any different,” and “A few people who fanatically hate the old Mass.”

  13. Lurker 59 says:

    @Kathleen10 — “Francis has made us exponentially more Catholic than we were. We didn’t make a point of all this”

    Just to underline this — COVID lockdowns and Pope Francis drastically altered the way I see TLM. Previously, I saw it as something that needed to be permitted out of a sense of justice. Nowadays I see it as something that I personally need to help foster with the validity of the NO being dependent upon TLM. Going after TLM is like those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where one saws through the branch of the tree while sitting on the end of the limb.


    A fundamental that everyone needs to be on the same page about is a wholesale rejection of “the NO is the only expression of the Roman Rite”. That is a risable lie and should be treated as such. It is also a sound bite that people hang their hats on.


    “wildly popular”. The NO is not popular, it is just commonplace. Declining Mass attendance indicates that it is actually unpopular. Popularity isn’t a good metric though, rather we should be looking at how the NO glorifies God and helps people to live lives of holiness. To what degree are NO attendants stopping sinful practices, such as voting for pro-abortion politicians? To what degree are NO attendants living out principles of solidarity and subsidiarity? To what degree are NO attendants looking to their heavenly home rather than earthly political solutions?

    VII lays out some basic fundamentals of what it sees the modern Catholic life to look like. To me, the biggest “non-reception” of both VII and the NO is not that the institutional Church failed to do those things, but rather went and did something else (Spirit of VII garbage). Nostra aetate, despite its problems, doesn’t lead to Pachamama.

    The people who are venomous against TLM don’t like the NO either — it is just an easy vehicle for their personality and political agendas because it is so plastic.

  14. Fr. Reader says:

    This Faith Community of Saint Sabina, is it Catholic?
    “The Faith Community of St. Sabina is a Word-based, Bible teaching church that believes in the power of praise and worship. We are a spiritual hospital where all are welcome and invited to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” From their Youtube channel introduction.

  15. Senor Quixana says:

    Thank you to @JonPatrick and @WVC for intelligent engagement, and my apology for perhaps inartful expression.

    My point is that the NO is here to stay and is going to continue being the dominant version of the Roman rite. After more than a decade of tradition minded priests and laity celebrating the VO as they saw fit, the VO segment of the Catholic community has grown (which I am grateful for,) but it is still minuscule. Whatever complaints you have about the NO, and I have mine, it cannot be argued that the people in the pews have not embraced the NO and “received” it by sticking with it. They had a choice of products and they overwhelmingly stayed with the NO. If it were a poll, the margin of error would be bigger than the VO showing. Reception theory does not work that way, but when given a choice the faithful sat down in the NO churches, not the VO churches. There is no question that the VO was received centuries ago, but it cannot credibly be argued that a continued 97% acceptance rate for the NO even when a choice is freely available does not indicate “reception” for the NO.

    I apologize if I seem harsh, and ask forgiveness, but I suggest that there is something decidedly anti-Catholic in some of the complaining. Between receiving the Eucharist validly, if not tastefully, consecrated and being shot in your pew by terrorists one of those things is cruel persecution and one of them is a cause for joy, if not aesthetic appreciation. To in any way confuse or conflate the 2 is to demean our brethren in Africa and insult good and faithful Catholics who rejoice and find comfort in the Blessed Sacrament whether the manner of its confection is pleasing or bland. I am glad there are men like Hying who support and encourage tradition and find it scandalous that men like Cupich are behaving in ways that are the antithesis of pastoral, but a little perspective, please. There is a world of difference between a mean-spirited archbishop and a terrorist with a machine gun.

  16. eamonob says:

    @ex seaxe

    To your point on the 1965 missal, Msgr. Klaus Gamber in his book ‘The Reform of the Roman Liturgy’ makes the quite convincing argument that, based on the printing and distribution instructions that came with the 1965 missal, he believes it was meant to be the Mass of Vatican II and originally there was never planned to be a Novus Ordo at all. He says those printing and distribution instructions made no sense if it was meant to be just a temporary missal.

  17. WVC says:

    @Senor Quixana – I don’t make it a habit to determine the goodness or badness of a thing based on relative measures. It’s equivalent to saying “People who are robbed blind shouldn’t complain so much – look at how many other folks are being raped. And people who are raped shouldn’t complain – look at how many other folks are being murdered.”

    Perhaps a better way to achieve what I think you intend is to encourage folks to have a stiff upper lip, to unite their sufferings with the Cross, and to remain firm in their convictions, although even this often comes across as hollow both when it’s over the internet and when one is dealing with serious strife. That certainly would be preferable, though, than a “People in Africa are getting shot, so what’s the big deal?”

    The individual capacity to feel great suffering can vary greatly. It also depends on how much one has invested himself in the TLM. Those who took seriously the admonition that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of life itself, that it is the nexus of our reality, that the traditional worship of God is not simply a personal preference but a vital necessity – folks like that did perhaps foolish things like selling their home for a loss of $100k in order to move closer to their parish because they had found their “Pearl of Great Price.” Before that they were foolishly driving 3 hours every Sunday to go to Mass, back before Summorum Pontificum. Some of these fools have integrated the liturgy and the liturgical year into every aspect of their home from what and how they celebrate to their homeschool curriculum to daily discussions and habits. They let the liturgy change how they dress, what music they listen to, what they watch on TV, the language they use.

    Some of these fools stayed up late at night working on newsletters for children’s groups that they helped start to foster devotion to the Eucharist at their parish. They paid for pizza party’s and ice cream socials for this group with their own money, knowing they could’ve been reimbursed if they asked, but happy to offer what little they could to the work and life of the parish. They foolishly paid thousands of dollars of their own money to have a professional recording of the Latin Mass choir made because they were so touched by the dedication and beauty and love that the choir members poured into their song. They foolishly donated thousands upon thousands of dollars to build new parish facilities, beautify churches, and dedicate a golden star on the wall beside the tabernacle in memory of their deceased wife. Some of these fools hoped their sons might have vocations to the priesthood, and that they could offer the same, beautiful liturgy that gave them so much joy over the years and helped them survive so much personal strife. They may even have foolishly hoped to perhaps see a grandchild baptized with the same august, somber, and joyful form that their children had been baptized with. They might have memories of a woman, barely recovered from a c-section, dealing with the news of the cancer that had returned, pale and weak but strong in heart watching as her twin girls were baptized. They might even be so foolish as to tear up a little bit just thinking about it.

    Some of these fools have been restless, day and night, since being told that the thing they have built their entire life around will be thrown out like trash in about 2 years, and that the bishop whom they have prayed for day and night, every day, offering thousands of Rosaries over the years, not only will not help them, not only will not even give a proper response to letters written to him with love and hope, but goes so far as to be outright insulting of them in his public decree, treating them like idiots too dumb to recognize brazen lies when they are thrown in their face. Told that they will need to learn about the Novus Ordo, as if they hadn’t grown up steeped in the Novus Ordo and willingly chose to seek out that which was more fulfilling. Some of these fools may feel like they’re dealing with yet another terminal prognosis, and they find themselves, yet again, in an apparently unwinnable fight facing an apparently inevitable doom, only this time, the liturgy they relied on so heavily to help them carry their load before is the exact support that will be taken away.

    And then helpful people on the internet come to these fools and say, “What the heck is your problem? What’s the big deal? Go get the valid Eucharist at the NO and be thankful you’re not getting shot like in Africa. You don’t sound very Catholic with all your whining. You might as well be in the SSPX.”

    Yes. Fools. And I’m perhaps one of the more foolish. But there’s apparently not all that many of us, so what does it matter? But I hope you understand that we fools do not see this as changing the wallpaper in our living room or having to buy a different brand of coffee because the store stopped carrying the one we like. It’s much more like losing a loved one, and I speak as a fool with some experience.

    No, I’m not being shot at. Yes, I’m thankful for that. That doesn’t really change what I and many others are dealing with.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Just a point about the 3.5% meme. A friend of mine was a professor of military history at SAW (Marine Corp University) for 25 or more years, specializing in strategy and operational arts, and he tells me that the American Revolution was not won by 3.5%. He said about 30% were British loyalists, and about 47% were either neutral or pro-independence. He said that almost every able-bodied man fought in or contributed to the war effort, if only for a short time. While 3.5% can have a significant effect, things are much more complicated in most historical situations to support the sociological finding of this claim. I don’t have time to get into the complicated issues, unfortunately, right now.

    The Chicken

  19. Patrick-K says:

    Senor Quixana, I think you’re missing the points. “They had a choice of products” – no, they didn’t, at least not until 2007. Many people do not live within a reasonable distance from a TLM today. The only real way to show that would be to have both Masses available at every parish, or at least most parishes. (And I’d put a lot of money on the TLM winning by a landslide in that scenario.) “97% acceptance rate” – you’re assuming that the only choices are the TLM or NO. What about not going to Mass at all? Was it just a coincidence that after the new Mass, every Catholic engagement metric dropped precipitously?

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