A Beacon of Christ’s Providential Light in the Post-conciliar Church

A Beacon of Christ’s Providential Light in the Post-conciliar Church June 12, 2023

In the post-conciliar Catholic world, amidst a plethora of interpretations of the Second Vatican Council,  wildly divergent understandings of papal authority, and ceaseless polemics around the Sacred Liturgy, The Pope, the Council and the Mass (Christopher Publishing House, 1981; Rev Ed., Emmaus Road, 2006) an apologetics text clarifying the Church’s magisterial teaching, co-written by my grandfather, James Likoudis, and Dr. Kenneth D. Whitehead, shines as a powerful testament of Christ’s providential light to dispel the darkness of confusion.

Amidst my own struggles to comprehend persistent occurrences that I was taught by misled peers were liturgical abuses (as distinct from real liturgical abuse which also occurred), this book became a lifeline. Through meticulous research, my grandfather and Dr. Whitehead eloquently defend Vatican II, affirm the Pope’s authority, and illuminate the true nature of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms. Their words, firmly rooted in history, magisterial texts, and orthodox Catholic theology, greatly preserved my faith from experiencing the kinds of unnecessary doubt and confusion experienced by so many today.

“The Pope, the Council and the Mass” also shielded me from radical traditionalist polemics that sought to undermine the Church’s authority and the Christocentric vision of Vatican II. By presenting a comprehensive and well-reasoned defense, this book enabled me to discern between genuine liturgical abuses and valid developments, giving me the insight to see through many misguided criticisms.

Driven by the transformative power I experienced through the wisdom I found, I continue my efforts to advocate for, edit, and republish my grandfather’s theological legacy, including this influential book.

The heartfelt gratitude expressed by those who also found clarity and renewed hope through it fuels my commitment to ensure that “The Pope, the Council and the Mass” reaches a wide audience. This book has the potential to continue to illuminate many minds and hearts, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Church’s liturgy, the untapped potential of Vatican II and its reforms, and the unifying ministry of the Pope.

The endorsements below, including those from esteemed sources like L’Osservatore Romano and Servant of God Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, underscore the profound contribution of “The Pope, the Council and the Mass” to the Church in the post-conciliar period. Some of the more recent praise it has received further highlight its continued service as a much-needed catechesis for the faithful, deepening their understanding of the most fiercely debated ecclesial issues of our time.


Acclaim for The Pope, the Council, and the Mass

For the 1981 Edition

“This book has been sorely needed for well over a decade.”

“[The authors have successfully treated] three interrelated issues: the authority of the Pope in liturgical matters, the purpose of Vatican II, and the authenticity of the ‘Novus Ordo’.”

—           L’Osservatore Romano (The Official Vatican Newspaper)

“[This book] is excellent and should be of the greatest utility. It is clear, moderate, and well documented. . . .”

—     Servant of God, Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Author, The Glory of the Lord


“I have read the entire manuscript of The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, and I find the approach of the authors to be doctrinally, historically, and theologically sound and exact. In this book, the entire argument over ‘traditionalism’ has finally been placed on an intellectual and factual plane, and the good that the book will do for the Church and the authority of the Holy See is no doubt very great.”

—     Servant of God, Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J., Author, The Catholic Catechism

“Clears up all doubts about the changes in the Mass.”

“Shows that Vatican II was not contrary to Catholic Tradition.”

“I enjoyed reading the text of this new book by Messrs. Likoudis and Whitehead, and I believe that anyone who will read the development of their chapters will find a new consistency in the Church’s liturgical reforms since Vatican II as well as ‘answers’ to the typical criticisms that have been made of the reformed liturgy. The authors are to be commended for their idea and a job well done.”

—     Most Reverend Thomas J. Welsh, Bishop of Arlington, Virginia

Acclaim for the Revised Edition/Calls for a New Edition



“Admittedly, there are not that many, but some fine people are included in their number. They typically describe themselves as “traditionalists” and are often affiliated with the Society of Saint Pius X and other schismatic groups. Driven to distraction by the bizarre and sometimes heretical acts perpetrated by the more extreme proponents of “the spirit of Vatican II,” some of them have ended up rejecting the Second Vatican Council altogether and, at least implicitly, the teaching authority of the Church. Thus do they appear to be more Protestant than those whom they accuse of “Protestantizing” Catholicism. Very welcome, therefore, is a new edition of The Pope, the Council, and the Mass: Answers to Questions “Traditionalists” Have Asked by James Likoudis and Kenneth Whitehead. It is a big and thorough book of 370 pages published by Emmaus Road Publishing of Steubenville, Ohio. If you have a friend who has been distracted to the point of alienation from the Church, it may be just the thing.”

—     Richard John Neuhaus, Founder, First Things



“During my time as an official of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” Jim presented me with a very valuable book which he had written along with Kenneth D. Whitehead entitled The Pope, The Council, and the Mass . . . a notable and substantial apologetic work dealing with questions about the Missal of Paul VI, long before the crisis brought about by the Episcopal Ordinations performed by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. . . . I found this work of great assistance in dealing with the correspondence constantly coming across my desk.”

—     Monsignor Arthur Calkins, Former Member, Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei  



“[Likoudis] really does occupy a singular place in the literature of his time. Faithful, yet not crazy. I think a good many people appreciate him for his careful judgments about the situation as it was developing. Very few people got it so right.”

—     Mike Aquilina, General Editor, Reclaiming Catholic History Series

“This book was timely when it appeared and is even more timely today.  Indeed, the responses to Question 23 and 24 alone are worth the price of the book. Not political weapons and pressure-movements, not internet denunciations and bitter fury, but prayer and true holiness are the path of Christian witness and renewal in the fullness of the Gospel. As Pope Pius XI taught—and as Likoudis and Whitehead underline—‘Every true and lasting reform stems from holiness,’ which manifests itself in the cruciform love taught by Our Lord in his Sermon on the Mount and on the Cross.”

—     Matthew Levering, Ph.D., James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

The Pope, the Council, and the Mass is as important to the life of the Church today as it was when published in 1981. Many of the arguments against the reformed rites of the Second Vatican Council are treated as recently discovered novelties. But in this work, one discovers that there is nothing new under the sun. While acknowledging the possibilities for a reform of the current Roman Missal (especially as scholarship challenges certain assumptions made in previous reforms), The Pope, the Council, and the Mass consistently establishes the historical, canonical, and ecclesial basis of what is called the Novus Ordo. For anyone who does not understand the current battle in the liturgical war of the post-conciliar period, especially those initiated primarily through Twitter, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass is necessary reading for keeping one’s sanity in the midst of it all. Further, all those attracted to the traditional liturgy should read this work as inoculation against some of the worst arguments of traditionalist bloggers and tweeters. This work is a classic, one accessible to the average Catholic reader.”

—     Timothy O’Malley, Ph.D. Professor of the Practice; Director of Education; Academic Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy; Editor, Church Life Journal

The Pope, the Council, and the Mass has been so helpful and illuminating to me over the years, especially when conversing with my traditionalist Catholic friends. I’ve recommended and passed out more copies than I count. It’s simply the best book on the subject. Fair, faithful, charitable—it strikes all the right notes.

A new edition including the latest developments from the pontificates of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis would help the Church tremendously in this difficult period, when a number of traditionalists are thinking of resisting the Pope or joining the SSPX over his decision to curtail the TLM.”

—     Brandon Vogt, Senior Publishing Director, Word on Fire Catholic Ministries

“I have read The Pope, the Council, and the Mass multiple times over the years, and I find today it is needed just as much as it was back in 1981 when the first edition was published. Many of the arguments Mr. Likoudis and Mr. Whitehead put to rest back then have been re-invigorated by a, sort of, neo-traditionalist movement among young people who have not really heard the position of the Church in a systematic way like Mr. Likoudis and Whitehead presented it. I highly recommend this book no matter which side of the aisle one finds himself traversing. You will not find a better book when it comes to the statement of facts to be sure. But I also find it a refreshing read—especially given its absolute absence of the invective that we find so often today. And not just in political discourse, unfortunately.”

—     Tim Staples, Senior Apologist, Catholic Answers

“The wisdom and knowledge expressed by Likoudis and Whitehead in this book provides a model for Catholics who seek to think with the Church.”

—     Dawn Eden Goldstein, S.Th.D., J.C.L., theologian and author of Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor

The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, which was reviewed favorably in L ‘Osservatore Romano, is one of the best responses to the arguments of Catholic traditionalists who maintain that the Missal of St. Paul VI is invalid, illicit, or gravely injurious to the life of faith. This book provides a great service to the faithful, and it continues to have great value.”

—     Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D., Bishop Kevin M. Britt Chair of Systematic Theology and Christology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

“I have a special devotion to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It is for this very reason that I am dismayed by the dangerous errors and false accusations against the Novus Ordo and the Second Vatican Council that frequently stem from ‘radical traditionalists.’ I am saddened by how many of my fellow-TLM lovers are led astray through such propaganda into fostering quasi—or even fully—schismatic views. Weaponizing the Extraordinary Form against the Church’s Magisterium and juridical authority is an appalling misuse of the very nature of the Divine Liturgy itself. This book, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, addresses many of the concerns of traditionally-minded Catholics in a way that takes them seriously, while also providing sound information to dispel erroneous perceptions. Given the increased dissemination of radical traditionalist propaganda in recent years, a new edition of The Pope, The Council, and the Mass would serve as a valuable tool for resisting pseudo-traditional temptations precisely through appeals to the authentic Tradition.”

—     Richard DeClue, S.Th.D., Professor of Theology, Word on Fire Institute

“A systematic and charitable refutation of the main traditionalist arguments against the Vatican II liturgical reform. In this most praiseworthy book, James Likoudis and Kenneth Whitehead methodically dismantle the most important objections to the Novus Ordo of the Mass, through deep theological explanations supplemented with authoritative magisterial references. Written in an accessible Q&A format, the book takes the traditionalists’ concerns seriously, also deploring the doctrinal dissent and liturgical abuses from the Church’s liberal wing. The authors also have a supernatural outlook on Church affairs, never allowing them to despair or become ideologized. A classic that remains relevant and essential even today.

—     Pedro Gabriel, M.D., author of Heresy Disguised as Tradition; co-founder of Where Peter Is

“St. John Henry Newman once remarked that ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.’ This insight from the famous Anglican convert sheds a piercing light on a widespread and precarious ignorance, not only among those who have protested against the Church since the sixteenth century, but also among those who have resisted her authority in the twentieth and twenty-first. I was raised and educated in a modern Traditionalist movement that included the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and Sedevacantist groups and in this context I was fed countless historical and doctrinal falsehoods about the popes since John XXIII, about the Second Vatican Council, and the Novus Ordo Missae. After the SSPX split apart in 2012 and I began looking for answers, I soon discovered there were very few resources available to me. Finally, I stumbled across The Pope, the Council, and the Mass by James Likoudis and Kenneth Whitehead. These two educated men were deep in history, and by reading their book I also became immersed; I ceased to protest and resist. They helped to restore my vision of a Catholic Church that is wise and true, and I will be forever grateful to them. This book is and will remain a classic.”

—     Andrew Bartel, Lay Dominican and Apologist

“James Likoudis’s excellent, relevant, and helpful book covers every major base regarding the controversies over—and criticisms of—the Pauline Mass. Notably, it avoids the two opposite extremes of being “against” the Tridentine Mass (“the Church was wise to allow greater opportunities to celebrate the Tridentine Mass”: p. 251) and of denying that many serious problems have existed in the implementation of the “New” Mass (“its full potential has not even been properly appropriated, in part because of the post-conciliar turmoil. . . . But it is yet another mistake to ascribe these errors to the New Order of the Mass itself”: p. 252). This sort of balanced, fair, completely orthodox approach is precisely what is needed to encourage ecclesiological and liturgical unity in the Catholic Church. I give it my highest recommendation!”

—     Dave Armstrong, Catholic apologist and author of 51 books, including The Word Set in Stone (Catholic Answers Press, 2023) and A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003; Foreword by Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.)

“James Likoudis was one of several mentors from whom I was privileged to learn when I was struggling to become more effective in defending and advancing the Catholic faith, in my twenties. Likoudis was already established as a proponent of authentic Catholic renewal, a leading opponent of sex education in school, and a champion of the Magisterium. Among other things, in 1980 he co-authored with K.D. Whitehead an outstanding and influential book on the liturgy, The Pope, the Council and the Mass, (Revised Edition, 2006) which explains and defends a proper understanding of the conciliar plan for reform in that area.”

—     Jeffrey Mirus, Ph.D., Founder, CatholicCulture.org

“From the simplistic quip that the council was merely pastoral to the embarrassing argument appealing to Quo Primum, and from the seemingly dishonest polemic based on the so-called Ottaviani Intervention (debunked by Dom Lafond in 1970) to the constant “correlation equals causation” fallacies, the definitive refutations found in The Pope, the Council, and the Mass make it an invaluable reference for the faithful Catholic who seeks to defend the Church.

It ought to be a surprise to faithful Catholics that the task of defending our Mother is a matter of controversy in Catholic circles in our contemporary climate. The inability to differentiate between the authoritative legislations—protected by the Holy Spirit—of the Church established by Christ and the all too familiar track record of sinful abuses from the Church’s members on the ground, including hierarchs, has perennially been laid at the feet of the Protestant Reformers. No one is calling for a naïve fideism in the human dimension of the Church as if she was constituted of untouchable oracles. What we are claiming—what all Catholics have always claimed—is Christ’s assurance of the Holy Spirit’s protection. It has historically been the Protestant apologetic which seeks to justify dissent and separation from the communion Christ established by appealing to abuses (which are often misrepresented in news outlets by self-appointed reactionary experts).

Not only is it time we remember that abusus non tollit usum, but it is also time we exercise the virtue of faith received in our baptism which believes that God’s providence is always at play in the historical development of his bride’s journey on earth. This book is a reference that will aid Catholics who seek to approach ecclesial matters with more sophistication. It will help Catholics sift through the reactionary armchair theology often presented in YouTube comments and online tweets. The Pope, the Council, and the Mass is an indispensable tool to have in one’s toolbox.”

—     Dom Dalmasso, Host, The Logos Project; Editor-in-Chief, The Ecclesia Blog; M.A. Candidate in Systematic Theology, Holy Apostles College and Seminary

The Pope, the Council, and the Mass by James Likoudis and K. D. Whitehead is an important resource for Catholics seeking to deepen their understanding of the history and theological implications of the changes made to the Roman Rite in response to the Second Vatican Council. It helped me to appreciate the significance of each individual reform, and to understand why they were made. The authors explore the various arguments for and against these changes, and they present a nuanced and well-reasoned analysis of the controversial and debated issues.

Since the book’s initial release, there have been significant developments within the Catholic Church that make an updated edition particularly relevant, most notably Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (SP), allowing wider use of the Tridentine Mass and Pope Francis’s 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, abrogating SP. The ensuing controversy has led to a renewed debate about the Council, the liturgy, and the Pope’s role in safeguarding and interpreting the tradition, as well as his authority over the liturgy itself, thus making The Pope, the Council, and the Mass as timely as ever.”

—     Mike Lewis, Editor, Where Peter Is

The Pope, the Council, and the Mass is an incredible resource to help curtail criticisms that fallen away Catholics make about papal authority in the post-conciliar period. I find myself referring back to this work time and time again in my discussions with Eastern Orthodox, since many contemporary Orthodox exploit the arguments of fallen away Catholics to lure disenchanted Catholics.

Thus, Dr. Likoudis has not only proven himself to be an incredibly helpful resource in responding to Eastern Orthodox objections against the Catholic Church, he has also provided very helpful content to stabilize Catholics who are looking beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church in the hope of finding greener pastures.”

—     Michael Lofton, Host, Reason & Theology

Outstanding. A must-read for anyone looking for solid answers on traditionalism

“I can’t speak highly enough about this book. Growing up in various traditionalist circles, some licit and some not, I’ve heard all the talking points and all the buzz words (‘only a pastoral council’, ‘Protestant mass’, Quo Primum, the Ottaviani Intervention, etc etc). This book addresses them all with impeccable scholarship and hard evidence, the vast majority of which comes from encyclicals and writings of saints (John Bosco, John Henry Newman, etc). Footnotes and citations are abundant here, most of them (ironically) from popes whom the traditionalists often cite to defend their positions. Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius XII, and others deliver quote after quote showing how untenable the independent traditionalist position is with the tradition of the Church. Bring a highlighter or a pencil when you crack this book open; you’ll be marking up every page. It will also give you a newfound respect for the magisterium of the Church and the popes who presided over the Second Vatican Council.

The only negative (and it’s not even really a negative) is that, due to the fluctuating circumstances around this topic, much has happened since the Revised Edition was released in 2006, and so some content doesn’t accurately reflect our present situation in 2023. Summorum Pontificum was issued after this edition was released, then the excommunication of the SSPX bishops was lifted, then the vernacular translation of the mass was updated, and most recently, Traditiones Custodes and Desiderio Desideravi were issued. You’ll just need to make a mental asterisk when, for example, reading English passages from the missal or when the book talks about “indult masses.” I do hope a new edition gets released to account for this information, because, for example, Chapter 9 (“for all” vs “for many”) is not really applicable anymore, or some of the gripes with the English translation of the mass have been resolved since 2011. Nevertheless, I found the content to be very interesting and well worth the read, just for the context.

After reading through this, I’m frankly shocked that so much of the traditionalist position is built on foundations that are so obviously erroneous (I can’t believe people still think Quo Primum is a legitimate defense, or that the new missal was not legitimately promulgated because Paul VI used the Latin verb “we wish” to establish it [I actually wrote in the margins, “People actually think this??]).

Buy this book. Read it and send a copy to all your traditionalist friends. The research and answers are incredibly thorough, and after reading, hopefully you, like the authors and now me, will be “never seriously tempted to accept the traditionalist responses to the questions that bothered so many Catholics.”

—     Andrew Mioni, (From an Amazon Review)


About Andrew Likoudis
Andrew Likoudis is a Catholic, entrepreneur, and student of business at Towson University. He's a 2022 recipient of fellowships with Johns Hopkins University and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and is the Young Adult Representative for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is also a member of the International Marian Association, and an associate member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. He enjoys study of the intersection of faith and culture, and has edited three apologetic works on Catholic ecclesiology and the Papacy. In his free time he enjoys playing chess and experimenting with new styles and flavors in the kitchen. You can read more about the author here.

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