Saturday, May 13, 2006

Old Rite, New Rite...

Well, I am back from confessions, and having "second breakfast" (first was rather early, and rather light), so let me continue my thoughts from earlier (i.e., prior post).

So, what do I think about a wider, including perhaps a universal, indult for celebrating the traditional, Pius V mode of the Mass?

I have mixed feelings, but on balance I'd say do it. I consider it a problem that too many people think it is radioactive or something -- that there is something bad or defective about the way Mass was celebrated by the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church for an extremely long time.

It goes with the "two churches" ecclesiology that is expressed so frequently by so many Catholics who need to know better, many of whom ought to know better: I mean catechists, lay pastoral ministers, coordinators and directors of religious education, deacons, priests and sundry other "churchy" people who speak loosely of "two churches," one before Vatican II, and one after.

I don't say they mean ill; but they can be rather sloppy in their descriptions, often giving emphasis to discontinuity. Frequently, what they're really doing is reflecting their own biases, preferences or gripes, often riding favorite hobby horses along the way. Trouble is, witting or not, they have been part of a very effective portrayal of the Church that is a false, heretical, and finally, fatal. If there are "two" Churches in time, then there is no Church, only a church.

As I say, such folks mostly mean no harm; but we have a lot of work to do repairing the damage wrought by emphasis on discontinuity; one result is that the long-familiar rite of Mass (to which I hold no special attachment, or any animus) seems some alien thing!

So perhaps wider permission would help, if for no other reason than the permission itself would communicate something good -- and regardless of the direct impact on celebration of the Pius V rite of Mass, it would stimulate more openness to our full tradition; is there anything wrong with that?

And, if this move would help reconcile factions within the Church, that's good.

But now, I come to my other feelings.

It is not hard to imagine the mischief some folks might create. Such a permission should not be wielded as a weapon. There are some (especially busy on the Internet) who speak as shamefully of the "Novus Ordo" Mass as the "churchy folks" I mentioned above speak scornfully of venerable Catholic traditions. Many of these folks are equally as guilty of a "two church" ecclesiology, and if it's error for the "mods" its error for the "trads." And the better informed you think you are, and claim to be (are you listening, champions of tradition?), you are all the more culpable for this as a heresy. So, knock it off!

I have no desire for two, parallel, Roman Rites, which may not happen anyway, and if it does, may prove to be a good thing. But pushing that is awfully untraditional!

G.K. Chesterton has a famous saying: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been wanted and not tried." I might say something similar about the "reformed Roman Rite" -- i.e., the Rite of Paul VI is a work-in-progress. Comparing the Pauline Rite with the Tridentine Rite is like comparing a garden that's been tended for centuries to a landscaping just installed last weekend. There has been a lot of nonsense -- no defense for that -- and a lot of shallow, ephemeral (let us hope and pray!) stuff, but not everything that has arisen in the wake of the Council is awful, and we need to keep our sense of balance.

What many are talking about is something like a greater integration between the current, Pauline Rite and the classic, Pian Rite. This is an intriguing idea, but far easier to bandy about over coffee or beer or keyboards, than to carry out in a pastoral setting. For myself, I have only known the current rite; I believe if celebrated properly -- and I must agree it often is celebrated in a minimal, rushed, too-prosaic, too-horizontal, too-immanent fashion, overburdened with too many intrusions and overlays* -- it is beautiful and powerful, for it is THE MASS. I have no problem with the older rite, but I think the Council should be listened to: it called for some revision, some change, and I have no brief for the conspiracy view of things that paints a brooding picture of the process of implementing the Council's mandate. Say the implementers of the Council mandates goofed, that's one thing; but say that it was some nefarious conspiracy? I don't have time for that, sorry.

In all this, someone needs to be an advocate for the great number of Catholic faithful who aren't attuned to all these issues, and don't see why they should be.

They simply want to participate in Sunday Mass as part of their journey with and to Christ! They are tired of things changing again, and again, and again -- with no end in sight! (Hint: their priests are tired of it too, as are the business managers, when bills for expensive new lectionaries and sacramentaries, hymnals and other ritual books come in, while older editions, still usable, collect dust.) Bishops who have urged caution on the revisions in the English translation of the sacramentary are immediately branded "enemies" when in fact they do express reasonable concerns. (Yes, would that such concerns had been expressed 30-40 years ago. When you find the time machine, come back and tell me how it works, and we'll go fix that. Tell then, let's deal with now.) My saying this isn't that I oppose fixing the sacramentary; in fact, I support fixing it, and the lectionary, and a few other things.

But can someone please save us from this interminable, constant, tinkering? Get done what has to get done, please give us a truly worthy sacramentary and lectionary, based on a truly worthy translation of Scripture, and then...leave it in place for a couple of generations! PLEASE!

I don't know if a wider use of the Pian Rite will help. That's above my pay grade.

(A note on the term Novus Ordo. I dislike the term for two reasons.

The first reason I don't use the term is that as far as I know, it's not a term the Church uses, at least more than maybe some rare occasion.

I've had people very aggressively contradict me on that. But I have yet to determine, to my satisfaction, that it has an authentic pedigree. "But that's what it's officially called!" I've had someone insist forcefully -- to which I reply, really? Where, exactly?

I recall one such conversation, online, in which my interlocutor was very aggressive and sure of himself, not giving an inch. Tired of his obnoxious insistence, when he said it appeared on the first page of the sacramentary, I said, fine, I have a sacramentary here, let's look... Hmm, I don't find it on the first page, can you tell me where? Hmm, not on second page, third page...well, he eventually changed the subject as he got tired of me reporting my lack of success in finding it.

Now, more temperate folks have told me, "oh, it appeared in such-and-such a document." Fine, maybe it did--and if anyone can point me directly at it, so I can see that for myself, I'd be grateful.

But I've been beaten over the head, rhetorically, by folks on this who make such a point of this, that I'm calling them out: tell me when and where the Church (I mean, someone with sufficient authority, such as the pope, or the relevant congregation, or someone like that) used the term. Or, just drop it, and stop insisting this is the "official" name for the current Rite -- because if that's true, how come it doesn't show up anywhere, except in overheated rhetoric and perhaps some document collecting dust somewhere?

That leads to the second reason: by and large, this has been a polemical term, favored by both sides of the "two church" nonsense, and I don't care to use other people's polemics; I prefer my own, thank you! In the case of some "trad" polemic, it has been used by some to foster a dark view of things: Novus Ordo being tied in, somehow, with the "new world order" and the whole conspiratorial miasma that follow when you step into that particular looking-glass, no-thank-you-very-much!

If you don't know what else to call the current, Roman rite, you can, well call it "the current, Roman rite"; you can call it the Rite of Paul VI, or Pauline Rite (a very accurate, respectful, non-evaluative and may I say, traditional terminology), or, if you want to be fancy, the Missa Normativa. One could call it the Vatican II Rite, although I haven't seen that usage, and there may be a good, subtle reason not to. The older rite we are talking about is variously called the "traditional" Roman Rite (that's carries some bias), the Tridentine Rite, the "classic" Roman Rite (less bias there), the Rite of Pius V, or Pian Rite.)

* And let me point the finger at myself: I am guilty of inadequately celebrating the Mass in many ways, in bringing in too much of my personality and agenda, of rushing and getting impatient, etc. Especially when Masses are scheduled 1-1/2 hours apart, and there's so much going on in the parish, it can be hard.


Anonymous said...

wow!! that's a mouthful! when do you sleep?

mrsdarwin said...

As always, Father, you're a clarion voice of reason. I enjoy reading your blog because you present a balanced set of opinions and a refreshing realism. Thanks for this post. I wish we had more priests like you!

Fr Martin Fox said...


LOL. I type really fast! (A great advantage!)

Fr Martin Fox said...

Mrs Darwin:

Thanks for the compliment.

It's funny, because I am considered, by some, to be something of a "winger" (I'll let you guess which "wing"); in fairness, I am not always so deliberate and cautious in what I say...and my blog only gives some of my political opinions . . .

Fr Martin Fox said... those helpful strips of paper, found in the finest hotels, helpfully say:

"sanitized for your protection!"

Anonymous said...

Hi Father,

Rather nice and balanced look at the problem. I find that at times I do miss the old High Mass with its pomp and ceremony. Sometimes I think the new Mass needs a lot of work.

Guess I am getting to be one of the few who really do remember the Latin Mass, my children don't. Which means that they don't remember the ten or fifteen minute Masses that some priests raced through, they think that only the new mass can be abused. Personally, I think there was far more abuse of the old Latin Mass that of our English Mass.

As for the two churches idea, it seems more to me to be "I am in the right church, you others are heretics or worse." I find it a shame and frightning that people would define the Church, not by God's prescence, but the words that we use to address him.

Culture has become so polorizing, and it seems to me to get worse and worse every day. Christ said, "if they are not against us they are with us," but today we seem to be more inclined to say "if they are not totally with us, they must be totally against us."

Or maybe I am just getting old and grouchy.

Hugs and prayers,

Mike L

Anonymous said...


I've never run into the reaction of what you call each rite but I've certainly run into both sides of 'Only my rite is right and, importantly, your rite is wrong.'

I also hadn't thought of the two sides as talking in terms of two churches but I absolutely see your point. I'll have to think about this awhile. The way I've 'heard' the argument is more that there really isn't ONE Church (which is exactly what you noted the consequence of having two churches would be.) This arguement -regardless of which side it is made from (here I'm not talking about the 'I prefer one rite over the other') also dimishes and calls into question exactly what that One Church is and what authority that Church REALLY has.

If the Church isn't really the Mystical Body of Christ established on Peter and the Apostles and the gates of hell can't prevail against it with the authority to make decisions about the Mass - then what is it and what good is it? If she isn't what she claims - then I don't have an obligation to listen to her as the authoritative voice of Christ. Perhaps, this has subtlety been part of the cause of the rejection of the authority of the Church and her teachings.

As always, Father, thanks for your thoughts - they always cause me to think and thanks for being a good and holy priest of Jesus Christ.

Deacon David Oatney said...

I don't think either rite is more right or wrong than the other-I do think the "Pauline Rite" could be celebrated with more respect than it is by some.

I will say that the English Translation of the Pian Rite (to be found in the Missal alongside the Latin) has always seemed to me to be far more beautiful and possessive of greater scriptural and theological depth than our current vernacular Mass-the scriptures, psalms, and words bless me greatly. I have never understood why this could not have been used as a structer basis for translating the Mass into English and other languages.

Gregaria said...

I agree with Mrs. Darwin, Father. Thank you for your posts!

Deacon Jim said...

I am old enough to remember both rites, and I must confess that the new rite does more for me simply because it has opened my heart and mind to scripture. I do miss singing Gregorian chant in the choir. That said, the Eucharist is the Eucharist is the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ, yesterday today and tomorrow. In that most essential regard, nothing has changed.

David L Alexander said...

The term "Novus Ordo" has become a pejorative; not only for the liturgy, but for the Church inasmuch as it acknowledges Vatican II as a legitimate ecumenical council. The term "Tridentine" is somewhat of a misnomer, as the Missal codified by Pius V had a lineage dating back nearly a millenia before.

Any future expansion of the "Old Mass" will require a peaceful co-existence between the two forms, as historically, there has only been one Roman Rite (and I refer only to the Rite associated with Rome here, as opposed to other western rites such as Ambrosian, Mozarabic, et cetera).

I've taken to referring to them in my writings as "the classical Roman Rite" and "the reformed Roman rite." So has Shawn Tribe of "The New Liturgical Movement" weblog.

Both are a fair description (as whatever one thinks of the reform, it is still a reform, such as it is), both do justice to the other, and neither is a pejorative.

Anonymous said...

field marshall dodge:

As a liberal Catholic, I have many disagreements with the highest levels of current church leadership (including our current Pope's role in the suppression of Liberation Theology). But I have hope for the future because the church is constantly demonstrating its ability to react.

With all due respect, why even bother?

I'm genuinely perplexed by "liberal Catholics" who continue to hold on to hope (and even celebrate schism as you do) that the Church will at long last change it's fundamental doctrine to accommodate those who disagree with her.

I regret to inform you (actually, on second thought, no I don't) that you're in for a world of disappointment.

That being said, I still have a hard time understanding what drives liberal Catholics' incessant whining and complaining about how the Church must "change with the times."

If the Church is wrong in its fundamental doctrines, then it is not what it claims to be -- Christ's infallible Church on earth. If the Church is not infallible, why fight to change it? If infallibility does not matter, leave and join one of the many Christian sects that have splintered from the True Church over the centuries.

The Church is not worth belonging to if it is not Christ's one true Church. If it "changes with the times" and goes along with every whim and fad, I ask "What good is it, then?"

It is not the Church's job to follow the latest trends in n effort to "keep the young people coming to Mass." Rather, it is the Church's job to lead us to heaven, to be Christ's infallible voice on Earth. It is OUR job to seek Him out in the Church and conform OURSELVES to her teachings.

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I find great solace in the fact that I belong to the only Church on Earth that even lays claim to infallibility and the only Church that even pretends to descend directly from Peter, out first Pope.

As a liberal Catholic, let's assume you win. Let's assume you get the Pope to change each and every one of those "pesky" doctrines against, say: abortion, contraception, women priests, homosexuality ... what have you really won?

As for me, I am comforted by the fact that my Church will always -- with divine authority -- condemn evil and call it by its name.

And I consider it a bonus that we now have a Pontiff who would prefer to see a leaner, smaller, purer Church that truly believes over a larger one with a faction that constantly works to undermine the work of Holy Mother Church.

And to those of you who would pick and choose from the Church's doctrines to fit your needs, I wish you happy church shopping.

You'll find that Christianity comes in many flavors - I'm sure you'll find one that conforms to your needs.

Anonymous said...


It is not "two churches" ecclesiology but two churches heresy.

Radical traditionalists, integralists, and members of the SSPX don't dominate parishes and diocesean offices in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati but the catechists, LPM's, DRE's, priests etc who don't speak "loosely" but falsley do.

This is not only the case in Cinci but throughout much of the U.S.

Regarding the words, " Novus Ordo", Sacramental theologian, canonist and most importantly, Archbishop, Raymond Burke uses that term in a recent interview. It may not be "official" but neither is "Pauline".

Regarding your asterik paragraph at the end of your post. I have been fortunate to participate in many of the Holy Sacrifice of the Masses you have offered. If more priests subordinated themselves to Christ's greatest gift in the manner that you do this discussion about the '62 Missal vs the '70 Missal and 02 Missal would be mute.

Anonymous said...

can someone please save us from this interminable, constant, tinkering? Get done what has to get done, please give us a truly worthy sacramentary and lectionary, based on a truly worthy translation of Scripture, and then...leave it in place for a couple of generations! PLEASE!

My dear Father, your naivete is showing. Of course they won't leave it alone. Of course they are not leaving it alone now. In this area (and in far too many areas in the Church, in government, and in society in general), there is an entrenched bureaucracy, which, like all bureaucracies, feels the need to justify its existence. For such bureaucrats, the mission is never completed, the job is never done. Once one problem is seemingly solved, they refuse to go away, and insist on remaining around to tinker and alter and change some more. They are incapable of simply leaving it alone. They have never heard, and certainly do not believe in, the idea that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Fr Martin Fox said...


I wonder if you realize how condescending your comment came across, at least to me?

Anonymous said...

field marshall dodge:

If it's infallible, why does it issue apologies? Infallibility is a logical fallacy.

For someone who is determined to change the teachings of the Church, you display little understanding of what the Church teaches & why. May I suggest that, before you start making demands that the Church change its teachings of 2,000+ years, you actually take some time to research exactly what your Church teaches and why before lobbying for changes within it.

The Church’s infallibility lies in its doctrines on faith and morals. When the Pope invokes his papal authority and proclaims Church doctrine, as Catholics we believe that that doctrine is infallible. Has the Church issued apologies for past actions unrelated to doctrines regarding faith and morals? Yes, it has. Has it ever changed fundamental Church doctrine? No, it can’t. And it won’t. And if it ever did, it would be church that wasn’t worth belonging to.

The basis for papal infallibility on issues of faith & morals comes from Matthew 16:
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

You’re right, Churches are closing. They are closing because the message coming out of some of them have been watered down so much as to be completely meaningless. I ask, what good is it if the Church were to win over the entire world if it abandoned its teachings in order to do it? How many 20 minute sermons saying nothing more than “Sisters and brothers, love one another” can one be expected to endure?

People use the same rationale to explain the crisis in priestly vocations. But the fact is, seminarians are flocking to“hardline” orthodox orders like the Legion of Christ at an incredible rate, while the increasingly liberal seminaries elsewhere are seeing a dire shortage. Ever stop to think that the “liberal Catholic” ideology you profess is the reason for the “lack of interest” you describe. Bold leadership inspires conversion. Lukewarm liberal mediocrity inspires, well . . . empty pews.

Anonymous said...

Continuity is everything. At least in the Catholic Church, where the link to Our Lord, the Apostles and the Church historical is everything. I my self would never have converted to anything like the Novus Ordo, where obedience - not continuity - is everything. I belong to those who want to know to what they obey and why.

The Novus Ordo came about in certain historical conditions. These must be considered or else one´s judgement is of little interest simply because it has little to do with reality.

"I have no time for that" is not an argument.