A reader has a worry about the Pope and the Mass

He writes:

I am trying to understand Pope Benedict’s position about the Liturgy of the Church. I know that he cannot contradict Vatican II, but this seems to be behind some peoples’ perception: That Pope Benedict is going to do away with the Novus Ordo Mass in order to restore the Mass in Latin. When I read these things it feels as if they really believe that Vatican II’s changes on the Liturgy represent an infiltration of Satan on the Church, when the only thing that I perceive is the consequences of the misinterpretation of Vatican II. Would you please share with you how do you understand these things? God bless you, bro.

If Benedict plans to do away with the Ordinary Form, why does he call it the *Ordinary Form*? That is the first and last question you need to ask conspiracy mongers on the Left and the delusional Traditionalists on the Right. The Ordinary Form isn’t going anywhere. That’s the simple truth.

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  • Escalonn

    Though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pope began reminding us that the ordinary language of the ordinary form is still Latin. The “Mass in Latin” has never been superceded.

    • Ted Seeber

      And the Latin Ordinary Form still remains so useful in multicultural settings that it is the version used at World Youth Day festivals.

  • Kirt Higdon

    The Catholic Church has always had many Eucharistic liturgies (Masses) and there have been many changes over the centuries. I’m always amazed at how people imagine that whatever liturgy they are used to is the way it always was and always should be. People could broaden their horizons by assisting at one of the several Eastern rite liturgies every now and then.

  • quasimodo

    “I know that he cannot contradict Vatican II …” and
    “… Pope Benedict is going to do away with the Novus Ordo Mass in order to restore the Mass in Latin … ”
    Whatever you think VII did to the Mass, it was not infallible or immutable nor was it meant for everyone for all times. Therefore if BXVI wanted to he (on his own authority) could specify that we all have Mass in Swahili. I exaggerate but the point is he can do what he wants without danger of running afoul of VII. Your understanding of the relationship between the pope, the bishops, councils, infallibility, etc. seems to be in need of a little tweaking. That is, if I understood your intention and meaning.

    As to the use of Latin, I think BXVI wants to make it more available to those who want it. More power to him and them, I prefer the vernacular but will salute what ever flag the church flies.

    • teevor

      The provisions of the documents originating from the Council which pertain to liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” , aside from lacking infallibility, are especially limited in scope and vague in effect. They did not institute the present Ordinary form of the mass, but only suggested guidelines for revision of the liturgy.
      The changes as they were actually instituted in the 1970 missal (the Ordinary Form) came about through the work of a committee and were promulgated by Pope Paul VI personally.

  • Steve

    …and, if Vatican II was “satan’s infiltration” why then is the pope commanding that groups like the SSPX accept the Council as a continuation of Tradition?

    • Chad

      Steve, the Pope is not “commanding” the SSPX accept the Council as a continuation of Tradition. While he certainly would like to persuade them to interpret VCII within a “hermeneutic of continuity”, it isn’t going to be a necessary condition of their canonical regularization. If they are ultimately regularized, they will most assuredly still maintain that VCII categorically does contradict Tradition. It appears that Pope Benedict is okay with this.

      • Steve

        Perhaps the word “command” is a bit strong, but only a bit. I am aware of the fact that radical traditionalists are claiming that what you say is true, but I have heard nothing from the pope to confirm it. (Perhaps you can provide something for me?) In fact, as recent as May 24 of this year, the pope called the “hermeneutic of rupture” in regards to Vatican II “unacceptable” when addressing the Italian Episcopal Conference, and this only seems to reinforce his continuous public thoughts on the matter. It remains to be seen if the pope will accept the SSPX’s latest version of the Holy See’s final proposal, but I am unconvinced that they will be welcomed back as readily as traditionalists hope.

        • Chad


          If you think Bp Fellay is capable of an honest and accurate portrayal of the talks/process (I think he is), the following interview just released may provide you with some insight.


          I think our respective understandings of who the Pope primarily aims the phrase “hermeneutic of rupture” at maybe different. My gut tells me, based on all that I’ve read, is that he is levelling this mostly at liberals. There is little that you could point to in regards to the Society that isn’t something the Church has always held and believed. Again, while I think the Pope would love for the SSPX to come to his way of interpretation of the Council, I doesn’t look like it’s a deal breaker for him from all that I’ve read. But, maybe you’d consider me a “radical traditionalist” so dismiss as you please. I pray for the Society’s eventual regularization.

          • Steve

            I can’t speak to Bishop Fellay’s honesty. (I’ve previously read the interview.) All I can say is that, based on the pope’s constant teaching from his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia to the present, it seems that the pope does not agree with Fellay.

            It’s fairly ironic (to me, at least) that some try to point to liberals as holding the hermeneutic of rupture when defending traditionalism, when it’s obvious that both liberals and radical traditionalists hold to rupture. (A friend of mine describes it like this: Liberals and traditionalists start off what seems to be light years apart, but in the end arrive in the same gay bar.)

            I don’t consider you to be anything, Chad – other than a brother. I also hope and pray that the Society is regularized, as much as I pray that they will one day accept the pastoral authority of the pope and the Council.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

              I think that what the Pope is attempting to do is to redirect the SSPX’ fire away from the Council as Council and to the fruits of the Council that came from this mistaken “hermeneutics of rupture”. There is a space for the SSPX to step back onside in support of the “hermeneutics of continuity”, ie in favor of continuing tradition if the Council can be properly shoehorned into that structure. The Pope obviously thinks it can and that a properly understood Vatican II would be thus acceptable to a sane SSPX on that basis.

          • Ted Seeber

            I think Bishop Fellay would be *dishonest* to say anything else. That doesn’t mean that his opinion reflects reality, that just means his opinion is in keeping with his position as the head of the SSPX.

            Honesty isn’t about truth- honesty is about integrity internal to the individual and telling the *subjective* truth as the individual knows it. That’s what SSPX members often miss- that just because somebody is honest, does not necessarily mean they are truthful.

  • Kirt Higdon

    For the sake of souls (in this case the SSPX and other trads) a little pastoral ambiguity in the interpretation of Councils may be needed. But the Pope cannot in principle concede the invalidity of one council without implicitly calling all into question. Many councils have had large groups of dissenters, many more than the SSPX and other sede-traddy groups following the Second Vatican Council. You had the Arian (Nicea), the monophysites (Chalcedon), the Protestants (Trent) and the old Catholics (First Vatican Council). As far as pastoral rulings of councils or popes, these may and do change over the long life of the Church. This does not mean they can be simply disregarded when they are in force.

  • Chad

    I am in no way pretending that Fellay and Benedict are on the same page. They are not. Personally, you and I likely understand the Council similarly. If interpreted correctly it can be reconciled with Tradition. The sort of nuanced/modernist style of writing contained in much of the documents CAN be interpreted correctly even if the language itself indicates an attempt at undermining orthodox teaching. That’s the nature of ambiguous language – it can be interpreted how you need it to be interpreted. Pope Benedict is saying “Let me give you the key to interpretation – look at what the Church has always taught.” The SSPX is still suspicious if not outright convinced that some aspects of the Council documents are heretical.

    While I agree with your “gay bar” story – that both liberals and many SSPX rad trads interpret the Council in the same wrong way, I do think there is a major difference between the two groups, and that difference is why Pope Benedict seems okay with regularizing the Society without doctrinal agreement: The Society does not hold to anything contrary to the faith of the Church’s Tradition handed down through the ages (the rub seems to be what is considered authentic doctrinal development). Can we say the same for liberal Catholics – in fact, most Catholics? If we were to take a poll between the members of a run-of-the-mill parish and an SSPX chapel on adherence to the teachings of VCII which do you think would score the highest on adherence to those teachings? My bet is on those at the Society chapel

    • Steve


      Just a couple of things. First, as I stated previously, I am not convinced that the pope is ready to regularize the Society without a doctrinal agreement. I could be wrong. We’ll see.

      Second, a poll misses the point. We don’t need to keep score among those who question the authority of a church council and the authority of the pope – whether they come in the liberal or traditionalist uniform.

      • Chad

        Fair enough, Steve.

  • http://www.hancaquam.blogspot.com PNP, OP

    Please remember, folks, that BXVI is the pope who gave us the fantastic phrase “the hermeneutic of continuity” as a shorthand way of describing his approach to interpreting the councils. By his own method, he couldn’t repudiate VC2. Our Holy Father is a shrewd pastor and brilliant scholar. . .he knows what he’s doing.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  • Joannie

    This Pope has been since his election in favor of restoring Latin as the official language of the Church. Also I had always had the impression and view that the Vatican II document of the Sacred Liturgy did NOT call for a BRAND NEW MASS which was done in 1967 and implemented in 1969 and 1970. It called for small organic changes in the Tridentine (Latin Mass ) This is a fact that cannot be excluded. Also the document said Latin was to have a place of primacy in the Liturgy and some of it could be in the vernacular Like the Homily. The greatest growth in the Church just happens to be where the Latin Mass is offered. There is no room for any experimentation in this Mass. Also there tends to be more reverence for the Sacred and the real Presence in this liturgy, because unlike the New Mass its basic theology is Catholic (God Centered) not Protestant (Man centered) in 50 years the NO will no longer be around according to a Curia who is anonymous.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “The greatest growth in the Church just happens to be where the Latin Mass is offered. There is no room for any experimentation in this Mass.”

      BWAHAHAHA! Perhaps you should do some research into the liturgical abuses that preceded Vatican II.

  • Mark R

    Most liturgical changes were actually post-Conciliar.
    I wish we could take some que from even the most rabidly traditional of our Eastern Orthodox separated bretheren. They adhere strictly to rubrics, but the language into which liturgy is translated is moot so long as it preserves the dignity and the integrity of the original.
    We Westerners have this hanging on to the Latin, when compared to Greek and Aramaic is is a Johannes-come-lately. Mind you, Latin was my first amor.

    • Ted Seeber

      “Most liturgical changes were actually post-Conciliar.”

      Not in the People’s Republic of Oregon, where we’ve had ad popularum priests, with Vatican Approval, since the mid 1950s under Pius XII. Other changes came in more gradually, to be true, but experimentation with liturgy was pre-councilar.

  • Ted Seeber

    The real thing that the SSPX *and* Spirit of Vatican II people all seem to ignore is that the liturgy isn’t doctrine, it’s discipline.

    And discipline has almost always been freely mutable to whatever needs to happen to teach the Gospel.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t doctrine in it (and I for one celebrate the proper translation of “pro multis” returning to the English Language Mass). But that doctrine is still chosen for that temporal space and time; it isn’t eternal.

  • joe

    The SSPX people don’t “ignore” much. I challenge you to read their literature. It has some substance amidst its over-reach.

    • ivan_the_mad

      They don’t ignore much, except, you know, a Pope’s explicit instructions against some episcopal consecrations in Écône …

  • Mark R

    That is not what I meant. I meant legislated approval in the form of official Church documents. Versus populum was in Europe at about that time too. The precedent given was the fact that in some churches in Rome ad orientem was versus populum. If this adjusted rule were actually followed in more modern churches in the U.S., many Masses would be offered ad orientem! :-)