The Motu Proprio in Perspective



H. Spigornell

          Aug. 5, 2007     

    With all the commotion over the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum issued from Rome on July 7, Catholics need to stand back and take a look at the hard facts.  Yes, the facts.  These tell us the sober truth about a document which, like some biblical snake-in-the-grass, is brazenly deceptive in its message.  Those in the know can readily discern that it ultimately aims to lure even those who pass as hard-core traditionalists back into the Vatican fold.  Never mind the shrieks of outrage from liberal bishops or ADL activists; nor the jubilant cries from the likes of Robert Moynihan, Pat Buchanan, Michael Matt, Fr. Peter Scott SSPX, or Chris Ferrara.  Many may be fooled, but not all.  And if traditional ranks end up more divided than ever, why be surprised?

    Was this not the intent all along?

    Take the notion that Benedict is allowing the “Tridentine Mass” to be said worldwide without even an indult.  This is the “news” being reported not only in such non-Catholic publications as The Observer and the Christian Science Monitor, but also by Catholics who ought to know better, like Pat Buchanan and Michael Matt.  In an article extolling the motu as a “Triumph for Traditionalists,” Buchanan implies that the Tridentine rite is back.  The Remnant’s Michael Matt says that by September the “Tridentine Mass will have become officially reinstalled into the life of the Church and the traditional Sacraments will be restored.”

    In a letter to Inside the Vatican, Bishop Bernard Fellay of the SSPX says the motu proprio “re-establishes the Tridentine Mass in its legal right”, but also acknowledges that this was never abrogated!  Oh really!  Then why do they bother doing all this?  Why “re-establish” something that was never taken away in the first place?  Elsewhere Fellay says the “Mass of Saint Pius V” is now re-established “in its legitimate right.”  Interpreting the text of both the motu and an accompanying letter to bishops and pastors, he also claims that “the practical measures taken by the pope must enable the traditional liturgy — not only the Mass, but also the sacraments — to be celebrated normally.”

    Does he mean that all the sacraments are to be restored to their traditional form?  Many optimistic traditionalists, of course, hope the answer will be yes.  But is there any evidence for this in the motu proprio itself?  If so, it’s well hidden.  Does the decree in fact even “re-establish” the Tridentine Mass, the rite codified by Pope St. Pius V in 1570 at the behest of the Council of Trent?  Nowhere in the motu proprio is the term “Tridentine” used!  No, it would appear that Benedict is only granting expanded use of what was allowed previously under John Paul II via the indult: the Latin Mass according to the “Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.”!

    Considering such restrictions, can we really conclude that the “Tridentine Mass” is being “re-established?”

    Significantly, Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican, does not use this term in introducing Fellay’s letter on his web site.  He simply says the motu promotes the “Church’s old, pre-conciliar liturgy.”  But is this accurate either?  Is “pre-conciliar” the correct way to describe the Missal of 1962 (the only older one being allowed now) considering that Vatican Council II opened officially on October 11 of that year?  Benedict himself, in his motu proprio, says that was the same missal used for masses during the Council!  According to Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, author of The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, the promoters of “liturgical reform” at that event included John XXIII himself.  Indeed, shortly after the Council opened, his “Holiness” stated that his purpose in being there was not simply to “make a study of some old museum or of some thought from the past,” but rather “to move ever further onward.”

    Thus on November 13, it was announced to the Council that Pope John had decided to insert the name of St. Joseph into the Canon of the Mass –– a change that would go into effect on December 8 of that year.  This of course meant a radical break with the past.  By the time of Gregory the Great (540-604), the Roman Canon, the sacred core of the Mass, had been set in stone.  No pope, whether saint or sinner, had dared make the slightest change — not even to add the name of St. Joseph to the list of apostles and martyrs that had graced the said Canon from antiquity.  Now in 1962, though, the so-called “reformers” used devotion for this great saint as a wedge with which to destroy the integrity of that Canon.

    Not that this was “Good Pope John’s” first attack on the Tridentine Mass, which, as stated above, is simply the liturgy codified by Pope St. Pius V in 1570.  Let us add that there was at that time nothing new about this; Pius simply defined and published the form of the ancient rite to be used henceforth by the Roman Church.  Nor, as some have argued, was the bull by which it was promulgated, called Quo Primum, merely a disciplinary ruling.  No, it came at the bidding of the Council of Trent, and concerned core doctrines of the Faith as embodied in the greatest liturgical rite of all time.  In an article posted online, Fr. Paul Kramer notes that Quo Primum actually only echoed what Trent had already decreed: that it was anathema to say “that any pastor in the Church, whosoever he may be, has the power to change the traditional rite into a new rite.”

    Thus the Tridentine Mass, as promulgated by Quo Primum came with a built-in defense against change, and all succeeding popes complied — until John XXIII.  Benedict’s motu proprio misleads when it says that “Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XII” as well as “Blessed John XXIII all played a part” in updating the liturgy prior to Paul VI.  To read this one might think they had all changed the main body of the Mass!

    But they had not!

    In Pope Paul’s New Mass, Michael Davies explains that Clement and Urban simply purged the Missal of corruptions, mainly in printing and translations, in order to comply better with Pius V’s edict.  Pius X made some revisions in Church music and in the calendar in order to enable priests to recite the Psalter more easily.  Pius XII made further adjustments to the Calendar, as well as to rubrics, but never to the Canon.  In 1951 he restored the Easter Vigil from the morning to the evening of Holy Saturday, enabling more working people to attend.  His only real innovation came late in 1955, when he authorized changes to the Holy Week ceremonies.  Significantly, it is said that Annibale Bugnini, future architect of the Novus Ordo, had a hand in this.

    In July 1960, however, John XXIII issued a decree which called for unprecedented changes.  These concerned not only rubrics but alterations to the Ordinary of the Mass, i.e. the main body of prayers said on a daily basis.  This no other pope since Pius V had dared to do.  As Michael Davies notes, with John’s edict the Psalm Judica Me and the Last Gospel were to be omitted on occasion, while the Confiteor and Absolution before the people’s communion were eliminated altogether.  (So, eventually, were certain feast days or octave celebrations).  Because it was still said in Latin (the vernacular would be phased in gradually during the coming years) these alterations might seem minor to Novus Ordo attendees.  Traditionalists know better, though, especially in retrospect.  Coupled with the changes to the Canon of 1962, and seen in the context of what was to come, they constitute a flagrant breach with tradition which the latest motu proprio makes no attempt to heal.  No, rather than restore the true, unadulterated Tridentine Mass in its integrity, it simply seeks to foist this mutilated Mass on an unsuspecting public...

    There are other points to consider, as well.  If, as the motu says, this 1962 Missal was never abrogated, how do they explain all the to-do over the indult, starting with John Paul II’s decree allowing it, with restrictions, in 1988?  By saying no indult was really necessary, Ratzinger admits to his predecessor’s duplicity — and to his own, since he seems to go along with the game.  The joke is that he makes no mention of the fact that the true Tridentine rite has never been abrogated either!  It has not, because it can’t be!  In the bull Quo Primum promulgating the Missal of 1570, Pius V decrees that no priest from now to doomsday can be lawfully kept from saying this ancient Mass!  And, because no pope is above the Law regarding such essential doctrines as those embodied in the Mass, it should still hold to this day.

    To quote from Quo Primum:

    We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons of whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church . . . to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us. . .

    Furthermore, by these presents (this law), in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used.  Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us.  We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remains always valid and retains its full force of law. . .
    In other words, whereas Benedict’s motu proprio ignores the status of the Missal used by the Church before 1962, the older form is actually still perfectly legal!  Quo Primum says so, and no “pope” from Roncalli on down has tried to revoke it because, to repeat, no one can — not legally.  Some canonical nitpickers might continue to argue this point, but they run into trouble.  Fr. Raymond Dulac, writing in Itineraires No. 162, for instance, claims a true pope might validly abrogate Quo Primum –– but not licitly!  Yikes.  How can a pope, as chief judge in Church matters, rule illicitly, especially in matters rooted in doctrine?  Is this not a contradiction in terms?  Does it not defy the notion of papal infallibility?  As Patrick Omlor says repeatedly in his writings, the Church cannot contradict Herself!  Would not such an illegal ruling nullify itself, i.e. cancel itself out, especially if the one making it were really an antipope?  Could not such an act in fact be seen as self-incriminating, as evidence that the judge in power is not authentic?

    But back to Quo Primum: certainly no one can object to it on the grounds that this document was in any way “secret” or “hidden,” because it is not.  Indeed, all of the altar Missals published before 1964 contained a copy of it along with the Mass!  Still, it seems the current powers-that-be don’t dare even mention the existence of Quo Primum, lest too many Catholics catch on and call their bluff.  No, they prefer instead to engage the public in a magic lantern show meant to con us all from here to eternity.

    This brings us to the obvious question: would any true pope violate the strictures of so solemn a decree as Quo Primum?  Would any true pope act like Roncalli, Montini, and their successors, including Ratzinger?  Those familiar with other material on this website, of course, know our answer: a resounding “NO!”  And in this fact, that of their being anti-popes, lies the reason for the conservative mask Benedict wears of late.  He wants to lure traditionalists into making a deal with his regime.  He wants us to accept his terms, wherein lie the booby traps...

    First, by agreeing to accept the 1962 Missal with its ground-breaking changes you would be acknowledging Roncalli, the guy who promulgated it, as a legitimate pope.  By accepting the terms of the current deal-in-progress, of course, you would also be accepting the full-blown Novus Ordo rite of 1969, said in Latin or the vernacular, and the legitimacy of its promulgator, Paul VI, as well as his successors, culminating with Ratzinger himself.  You would be recognizing the lot as true popes, not anti-popes who spoke, or speak, with forked tongues.  But is not that the actuality?  Does not said image ring true?  As defined in the motu proprio, the “old rite” of 1962 is but one of a two-pronged program: old mass and new mass comprise part of a whole.  To have one, you must accept the other; indeed priests who say the “old rite” should also occasionally say the new one in deference to its legitimacy.  As Benedict puts it, the new and old Mass represent the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman rite.  There are not two rites, only one, or as he puts it, “it is a matter of a twofold use of one and same rite.”

    For Catholics like us who lived through the changes of the ’60s and ’70s only to reject them, the idea of co-existing with the Novus Ordo in such a manner is anathema.  Moreover, we find it hard to comprehend the mindset of those who do want to do just that, who do actually rejoice in prospects of accommodating, while seeming to ignore, or at least downplay, the monumental issues involved.  For them all objections and incongruities must fade in the glitzy glow of reconciliation.  But...even assuming the 1962 Missal to be preferable to the Novus Ordo Mass of 1969, by accepting this package deal, do they not in fact condone the abuses conveyed by the latter?

    Had this motu proprio appeared 30 years ago, we too might have at least considered the terms, but not now.  Too much has happened since we first realized that the Novus Ordo was not simply a translation of the Old Mass, that it stood for something radically new, and that the catechism being taught by the local parish authorities reflected the new trends.  Since then we have learned about the revision of other sacraments, too, including that of Holy Orders.  If this has been compromised, can we really believe the Novus Ordo produces valid priests?  Even if newly trained in Latin and the proper rubrics, and armed with a 1962 Missal, will they be qualified to say a real Mass, any more than an Anglican minister?  Or will the wide-eyed worshippers in the pews be assisting at a carefully formulated sham?  Let us recall what the late Fr. Carl Pulvermacher predicted some time ago, that Rome would approve the traditional Mass when there were no valid priests left to offer it.

    To be sure, Ratzinger would have us believe that such is not the case at all.  No, the former periti and friend of Hans Kung at Vatican II apparently wants us to think that he, as Pat Buchanan puts it, has gone full circle –– even at the risk of antagonizing certain Jews!  In his online article Pat cites Abe Foxman as being “deeply offended” that the insulting, “anti-Jewish language” of the old “Good Friday Mass” should be allowed again now, nearly 40 years after the Vatican had “rightly” removed it!

    Nor is this loud-mouthed ADL leader the only one complaining.  No, earlier this summer, weeks before the motu proprio appeared, talk show host Michael Medved was heard complaining over the air about the old Latin Mass, which he called “anti-Semitic” because of its prayer “against the perfidious Jews!”  That this usually genial Jew, one who actually defended Mel Gibson’s Passion, should upstage Foxman in unjust Catholic-bashing is amazing (especially considering that he would later defend the rights of a Hindu to say prayers opening Congress).  Any Catholic knows that we never pray against any person or people, only for them, that they might be saved.  As for the Latin word perfidis, the English equivalent is “unfaithful,” and if the Jews don’t like it, who are they to arbitrate how Catholics may or may not pray?  Is thought control the order of the day?  And, along this line, do we so much as think of censuring the Talmud, which can be less than kind to Christians?  Furthermore, as Buchanan points out, since Catholics pray as a matter of course for the salvation of all, including Protestants, Muslims and pagans, would it not be downright anti-Semitic to exclude the Jews from such petitions?

    Here we should note that not all Jews have reacted adversely to the traditional Mass.  Back in 1971, for instance, a group of cultural leaders in Britain who signed a petition to Paul VI in defense of the old Latin rite (versus the Novus Ordo) included pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.  This move resulted in the famous “Agatha Christie Indult.”

    As for Michael Medved, another point he failed to make on his recent show, probably out of ignorance, is the fact that the prayer for the Jews in the old liturgy occurs only once a year, on Good Friday!  Even Abe Foxman knows that.  To hear Medved complaining about the Old Latin liturgy, you would have thought such a prayer was said every day as part of the Ordinary of the Mass, if not the Canon!  Ironically, Good Friday is the only day in the entire year when, in commemoration of Christ’s death, an actual Mass is not said, traditional or otherwise!

    Equally ignorant is a statement by Robert Marquand of The Christian Science Monitor that the “Tridentine” Mass, “performed by priests who turn their back to the congregation and speak in Latin” was “largely abandoned after Vatican II, partly because it was incomprehensible to lay Catholics and because it contained negative references to Jews.”  Reading this you might think our fathers were all illiterate slobs incapable of comprehending a Latin-and-English missal or of being fair to Jews.  Nor, dumbed-down as they are, I suppose, should Catholics of today ever be expected to read between the lines and remark on the great reversal going on here in regards to language.  For, in less than 40 years, Latin has been largely abandoned, even in public schools, where college-bound students used to take it as a matter of course.  While its use in the Novus Ordo has shrunk to practically nil, the Jews, in contrast, have resurrected a language so ancient that by the time of Christ it was used chiefly for religious ceremonies.  Now, while Latin sinks into oblivion, Hebrew reigns supreme as the official language of modern Israel.  It’s still used for religious rites, too, of course.

    And they dare to protest the traditional Latin Mass!

    For some last words on this subject, let us turn to the words of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, as quoted in an interview by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli on the website for Inside the Vatican.  According to Hoyos, Ratzinger has not in any way abandoned the path forged by the Council.  As for the controversial Good Friday prayer for the Jews, he notes that in the “authorized Missal”, that of 1962, promulgated by John XXIII, the expressions “perfidis iudaeis and iudaica perfidia had already been removed.”  In a statement posted on Maurice Pinay Blog, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee says his group “received reassurances” in recent months from the Vatican that the motu proprio places a “restriction on the use of the Latin Mass during the days preceding Easter, which is when the prayer for the conversion of the Jews was recited.”  Accordingly we read in the text that no “public” Mass using the 1962 Missal may be used during this time.  Considering the demands of the season, there would probably be little time in most parishes for a public one, because the Novus Ordo is still given precedence.

    In the meantime, while awaiting further clarification on this from Rome, the rabbi assures readers that the Catholic Church, having “rejected proselytism” since Vatican II, has abandoned “any institutional ‘mission to the Jews’.”  The motu proprio, in short, has changed nothing in that regard.  Ratzinger “has reiterated time and again his commitment to close, respectful relations with Judaism,” which he regards as the foundation of Catholicism.

    Thus Benedict continues with his policy of solicitude towards the Jews, forbidding attempts to turn them away from the only religion with race-based claims going back thousands of years that are still deemed sacred –– and politically correct.  He does not tell them to update; no, for them ancient is okay, even in regards to prime old real-estate, i.e. the Holy Land, defended with the help of U.S. taxpayers.  Their own literature tells of plans to rebuild the Temple in all its antique glory, and to reinstate animal sacrifice.  But I guess that’s just fine with Ratzinger.  In contrast, American Catholics are expected to immerse their traditions in a modernist agenda, while church property acquired within only the past 150 years or so by immigrant forebears and their descendants, goes under, gutted or torn down to be replaced by ugly monstrosities, or sold off altogether to pay for law suits.

    Traditionalists like us, of course, have not had access to any of those churches for many years.  Now Novus Ordo diehards, too, are feeling the effects more and more.  Funny that Ratzinger’s motu proprio should allude to the “reform of the reform.”  Those in the pews see, rather, the fruits of the fruits — of Vatican II, that is.  As Our Lord said, by their fruits ye shall know them.  No wonder the Vatican is trying to lure traditionalist families back into the parishes by appealing to what is called, in the pastoral letter accompanying the motu proprio, their “strong attachment” for the old rite.  They are ones having large families: a burgeoning future generation to pay the bills.

    But is that their only motive?  Or is there another more subtle one to which we have alluded elsewhere on this website?  As stated in the motu proprio, the terms of “reconciliation” involve implicitly the recognition of the past five popes, from Roncalli onwards.  This is consistent with stories circulating only last year that traditionalists returning to the unholy fold at the Vatican would have to accept the authenticity of all papal conclaves starting with that of 1958.  Aha!  Could this be merely coincidental?  Was that not the conclave wherein we think Giuseppe Siri was elected, before John XXIII finally emerged?

    The fact that the powers-that-be are being hard line in this regard must be significant.  Could they be worried that traditionalists who call themselves “sedevacantist” will cease to believe all those popes just fell into heresy, or were elected by well-meaning cardinals who failed somehow to see how bad they really were?  Surely the experience of modern Catholics with even local or state politics teaches them that things don’t happen that way; that candidates are instead chosen in smoke-filled rooms, behind closed doors.  The conclaves suit this scenario perfectly.  The anti-popes had to have been chosen in advance, with their selections solidified at the conclaves.  There is no other way. “They”, of course, know that.

    But they don’t want us to know, much less admit that we do.