About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
"Amid all these old liturgical books, I find that I am happy and at ease; I feel at home."
— Dom André Mocquereau (1884)

Five Questions No Liturgist Can Answer
published 5 August 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

983 Pope Paul VI Fanon ERE IN TEXAS, there’s been much discussion about undocumented minors entering the USA. A few weeks ago, in a doctor’s waiting room, I saw an argument on television about this very issue. One of the talking heads said we should accept all these minors and allow them to be USA citizens. The other said the USA cannot accept all the minors in the world who’d like to come here. Again and again, he asked this question: “How many minors can we accept? A hundred thousand? A million? Six million? Give me a number, and we’ll proceed.”

It would be totally inappropriate for me to comment on which course of action we should take. However, I must admit the 2nd man’s tactic was very effective. He insisted upon a number, and the other guy refused to answer.

WATCHING THAT MAN REFUSE to answer the question “struck a nerve” with me. For a long time, serious liturgists have been asking questions which simply will not be answered. This is perplexing. 1


It has been asserted that music for Mass ought to be chosen according to the individual tastes of members of the congregation. But what happens when Person A likes rock’n'roll, Person B prefers jazz, and Person C likes Gregorian chant?

The Traditional Mass contained 1,182 orations. The reformers eliminated 760, and altered about half of the remaining ones. Why were these prayers deleted? Where did the Second Vatican Council ask for anything like this?

Were the liturgical reforms an effort to adapt the ancient rites for “Modern Man,” or restore a “Pristine” liturgical era? How does that square with what the Consilium’s Secretary said? “The entire revision must be carried out in accordance with the tradition of the Church.”

Some liturgists have called Gregorian chant a “weapon” and said there’s no such thing as “sacred” music. But surely not every musical style is suitable for Mass, right?

Why were clear directives of the Second Vatican Council ignored, distorted, and contradicted? For example, why was Latin eliminated in some dioceses, 2 when the Council had expressly ordered that it be preserved?

UNDOUBTEDLY, YOU NOW DESIRE to hear my brilliant solution, right? All we have to do is imitate Dom Pothier, who worked for the restoration of authentic Gregorian chant decades before it actually happened, at a time when no sane person believed his research would ever sway the current situation.

I feel it’s our duty to form some sort of coalition in support of true liturgical reform. Then, when the time comes for Rome to correct “reforms” not in accordance with the Council, the rationale will already be available. Indeed, much has already been accomplished, 3 so perhaps we could start by assembling all those statements in one place: carefully, professionally, and with discernment.


Here’s a “riddle” that liturgists will understand:

The Roman Rite has gotten off track before. Homo Modernus of Paul VI is akin to the “Classicism” of Urban VIII.


1   Please recall, while reading this list, that the reformers began their work in earnest only after the Council ended.

2   A list of dioceses which illicitly “corrected” the Council on this point is given toward the end of this document by Msgr. Johannes Overath.

3   Dr. James Hitchcock is the husband of Helen Hitchcock, whose organization (Adoremus) is intended to suggest improvements to the Ordinary Form. Consider what he wrote in 1974:

The process of liturgical change was handled badly from a number of points of view: the people were never consulted as to their wants and needs; there was insufficient education in the new ways prior to their introduction; change was often presented as a hierarchical command to be obeyed; there were conflicting signals about the rationale for the changes (for example, was it to restore the ancient liturgy or to come to terms with modern culture?); change was piecemeal and hence doubly confusing. Although many liturgists oppose it, a permanent missal for the laity would be an important symbol at this time, implying that a new age of stability has been reached. The present welter of discardable booklets, mimeographed sheets, divergent paperback hymnals, etc. is not only confusing but appears to signify a haphazard, impermanent, jerry-built liturgy and has unfortunate psychological effects. Habits of irreverence and in attention are built up, for example, by the feeling that rites currently being used may be revised or discarded and hence are of little significance.
Dr. Hitchcock would probably be pleased with this book, published four decades after his statement.