IS EMINENCE, Alfons Cardinal Stickler—perhaps because of his role as “Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church” (from 1985 to 1988)—was appointed to a special commission of nine cardinals by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986. The Cardinals were all very famous: (1) Pietro Cardinal Palazzini; (2) Alfons Cardinal Stickler; (3) Augustin Cardinal Mayer; (4) Silvio Cardinal Oddi; (5) Agostino Cardinal Casaroli; (6) Bernardin Cardinal Gantin; (7) Antonio Cardinal Innocenti; (8) Josef Cardinal Ratzinger; (9) Jozef Cardinal Tomko. Speaking on the record, Cardinal Stickler affirmed (20 May 1995) that the pope’s commission of nine cardinals unanimously—having carefully studied the issues—issued the following statements:
(1) “Pope Paul VI did not legally forbid the widespread celebration of the Tridentine Mass in the present day. Nor did any other competent authority.”
(2) “No bishop can forbid a priest—who is in good standing—from celebrating the Tridentine Mass.”
Shades Of Summorum: Moreover, Cardinal Stickler said eight (out of nine) were in favor of drawing up a general permission declaring that everyone could choose the old form of the Mass as well as the new. Remember, this was in 1986! By the way, Alfons Cardinal Stickler had served as a peritus (“expert”) on the Liturgical Commission of the Second Vatican Council.
Setting The Record Straight: In the past, I mentioned a glaring omission from the Lectionary. I mentioned that Father Valentine Young (d. 2020) was the one who discovered that glaring omission. Indeed, he wrote to the Vatican about this issue in the 1980s, and did receive a response—although it was rather vague and inconclusive. At the time I wrote those articles, I didn’t know anyone else who was talking about this glaring omission—but look what Cardinal Stickler wrote in 1997:
Pastorally “unpopular” passages—often of fundamental theological and moral significance—were simply eliminated. A classic example is the text from I Corinthians 11:27-29. Here, in the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the serious concluding exhortation about the grave consequences of unworthy reception has been consistently left out, even on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Two Cool Lectures: Below are two 1990s lectures by Alfons Cardinal Stickler. They were sent to me via email. I apologize I have not had an opportunity to proofread them—so please beware!
1992 Lecture by Cardinal Stickler
Your Movement has Legitimacy in the Church: I have accepted, with great pleasure, the invitation of your Chairman and Secretary to come to your Meeting. Now after reaching my 80’s I am free from my ordinary work in the Curia so I can more easily accept such invitations and I do it with great pleasure when I can be helpful to so many of the faithful who today have many difficulties. I will communicate with you some ideas which I have found in many countries. I have been to Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland. I have been last February also in the United States for the opening of the Institute of Dietrich von Hildebrand, with a great High Mass in Saint Agnes Church. I was told that the church was never so full since Fulton J. Sheen preached his Lenten sermons there. From everywhere people were coming, so I could realize that in the United States also, the movement and the consideration for the old Mass are very effective.
The first idea I will communicate with you is that you can be sure that your movement has full legitimacy in the Church. Some have said that we are not legitimate. This is not true because, if you remember article 4 of the Liturgical Constitution, the Council Fathers explicitly said all the venerable rites have to be preserved. Some people say this is valid for all the other rites, with the exception of the Roman Latin rite. This is not so. Because article 4 says: all the rites legitimately recognised. This was not only established for the rites existing at that time, during the Council, but also for the rites that should be approved afterwards. Now the Old Latin rite was really recognised after the changing of the former Latin Roman rite because, as you know, exception was given immediately for old priests and, in England, you had fortunately your great Cardinal Heenan, who obtained the Indult for England and Wales in 1971. Then, we had the Motu Proprio, the Indult of the Pope, and later on Ecclesia Dei which was clearly confirmed by the Pope; for example, when he spoke to the Abbot of Le Barroux in 1990, who had asked explicitly for this rite. Consequently, a new authority was given to the old Rite on the base of the liturgical Constitution of the Council itself. This recognition is coming from the Holy See, from the Pope, under the conditions given at the moment of the new approbation, which institutes a real legitimation of the Old Rite (and is available now). So, if you fulfil the conditions for the continuation of the Old Rite, it is legitimate for you. This is the external legitimacy of your movement.
Legitimacy from Tradition: Now we have another legitimacy which is coming from the internal sensibility for this rite. You know that worship and worshipping in every region is attached closely to tradition. No worship is easily changed in any religion. All are attached closely to tradition. This is true in a special manner also for our Rite, our Roman Latin Rite. Its changing after the Council was said to be a question of natural development; but, for every Rite, thinking should be only organic, adopted slowly in order to give no impression of changing, of cutting tradition. Unfortunately many people had this impression after the so- called “reform” established by the Commission, which was instituted by Pope Paul VI after the Council. Many things were changed which really cut the hearts of many of the Faithful – I would say sometimes the best of the Faithful. This is also a reason to continue the tradition in the external forms of the Rite we professed before. This is the proof of the old saying Lex orandi, Lex credendi. Unfortunately, too many things have confused the common faithful in our Church. This is one of the reasons why they no longer have the security of an unchanging rite. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. If the Law of worshipping is changed so profoundly, our faith has lost the help we had in our worship.
No Polemics: Now the next idea I want to express is that we have to avoid, always in our life and in our discussions, in our general behaviour in our association, every kind of polemics, because there is always a danger of hurting others. If there are polemics, they will say “Ah, you are a sect with no more reasoning.” So we have to profess our attachment to the Old Rite calmly, reasoning with them but without polemics. We have to explain also to ourselves the reasons for following the Old Latin Rite and we have many reasons for it. The first I have mentioned already; it is the absolute tradition of Liturgy in every religion to have no change with the past because we have to preserve that rite as the expression of our Faith. You know that the Oriental Church saved the common truth, that is the Catholic Truth, by preserving the rite. They preserved all the Sacraments because they were attached so strongly to the rite which they would never changed. The other heretics—Protestants and so on—have changed the Faith because they have changed the Rite.
The Catholic Church a Communio: The Vatican Council says explicitly that we have “a communio” in the Catholic Church, the Pope with the Bishops and with the priests in all parts of the world. We are particular churches but we are all in one Catholic Church. If we have the same faith, even with the different rites, but not in all our fundamental teaching, then we have not the complete Communion. For example, the Oriental Church is a Church not in complete communion because there is not preserved the dogma and truth in the Primacy of the Pope. They have not the whole truth, but most of it they have preserved. All the other churches are not called “churches” in the full sense but religious communities. This means that they have not the complete substance of our Faith. So the Catholic Church in the case of the Rites, who did not absolutely preserve the truths of the Catholic and Latin Rites has not with them this unity. This is very important in order to confirm our sensibilities for the Old Rite which is really that of the “Lex Credendi” expressed by the “Lex Orandi.”
The Modernity of the Church: We have to consider still another idea. Modern Catholics say “Now we have to cut away all the old things. We must be modern.” But this modernity is not the modernity of the Church because we have to preserve the whole substance which is our heritage from past generations. So if many of the Bishops ask us “Why do you follow the Old Rite?” We can answer very easily: “The new rite was introduced after the Council as a matter of pastoral care. This means that the Faithful should be animated more and more by the new form of rites to be better in Catholic truth and life. But many good people in the world who still believe in the truths of the Catholic Church are not satisfied about the innovations introduced into the Mass. Can you say then that the pastoral purpose has been fulfilled?” I think, through my experience, that there is more and more dissatisfaction becoming stronger always in all the categories of age, social positions, even in many young people.
Further we are told that the truth about the Mass, about the centre of the liturgy has not really changed. But we can ask; have we the same sense, the same reverence we had before—and perhaps still have—when we assist at the Old Roman Rite? Or have we a loss of reverence, of awe of our biggest mystery, our faith in the Holy Mass? In the sacrifice? It was admitted officially when, two years ago, on the Silver Jubilee of the changing of the Rite, authorities in Rome admitted that there was a great loss of awe in the Mass—the most important rite of our worship.
This is the experience of all who travel around everywhere. We have lost what really is at the heart of our worshipping in the Holy Sacrifice. Many times we get the impression that it is man being worshipped but not God. We have a Communion meal, but not a Sacrifice. I think that this has proved one of the most important changes in the general attitude to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When I studied Theology I was told that the centre of the Mass is the Consecration, the Communion is quite necessary for the priest but supposes the sacrificial act already done. Today, at the centre is the meal. What we have to do when confronted with the situation as members of the Association, you represent here. Firstly we have to tell our Bishops and our parish priests that we are not satisfied with the new rite; that we have good reasons for being attached to the Old Mass. We should explain all the reasons why it should be available for those who ask for it. We must also explain that the Holy Father has granted the privilege contained in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei and that he wanted to take care of the sensibilities of those attached to the Old Latin Mass.
Loyalty Always to the Holy See: Our fidelity to the Old Rite must always conform to the decisions of the Holy See, with all the conditions satisfied which the Holy See has laid down for this purpose. We should persist in our fidelity to this heritage, which is a heritage of truth and because we can be sure that also today, the old Latin Mass is completely valid and “Lex Orandi” reflects the “Lex Credendi.” If we are faithful in “Oratione”, we can be certain to remain also attached to the truth in Credendo, in full devotion to our heritage of Faith.
1997 Lecture by Cardinal Stickler
My position at the Council: Pardon me, please, if I begin with some personal background; it is necessary in order to understand what I have to say. I was Professor of Canon Law and Church Legal History at the Salesian University and for eight years, from 1958 until 1966, I was the university’s rector. As such I worked as consultant to the Roman Congregation for Seminaries and Universities; and from the preparatory work to the implementation of Council regulations, I was a member of the Conciliar commission directed by that dicastery. In addition, I was named a peritus of the Commission for the Clergy.
Shortly before the beginning of the Council, Cardinal Laarona, whose student I had been at the Lateran, and who had been named chairman of the Conciliar Commission for the Liturgy, called to say he had suggested me as a peritus of that Commission. I objected that I was already committed to two others, above all the one for seminaries and universities, and as a Council peritus. But he insisted that a canon lawyer had to be called upon on account of the significance of canon law in the requirements of the liturgy. Through an obligation I did not seek, then, I experienced Vatican II from the very beginning.
It is generally known that the liturgy had been placed as the first topic of the discussion sequence. I was appointed to a subcommission that had to consider the modi of the first three chapters, and had also to prepare the texts that would be brought to the Council hall for discussion and voting. This subcommission consisted of three bishops-Archbishop Callewaert of Ghent as president; Bishop Enciso Viana of Majorca and, if I am not mistaken, Bishop Pichler of Yugoslavia-as well as three periti: Bishop Marimort, the Spanish Claretian Father Martinez de Antoñana and me. I understood precisely, therefore, the wishes of the Council fathers, as well as the correct sense of the texts that the Council voted on and adopted.
You can understand my astonishment when I found that the final edition of the new Roman Missal in many ways did not correspond to the Conciliar texts that I knew so well, and that it contained much that broadened, changed or even was directly contrary to the Council’s provisions. Since I knew precisely the entire proceeding of the Council, from the often very lengthy discussions and the processing of the modi up to the repeated votes leading to the final formulations, as well as the texts that included the precise regulations for the implementation of the desired reform, you can imagine my amazement, my growing displeasure, indeed my indignation, especially regarding specific contradictions and changes that would necessarily have lasting consequences. So I decided to go see Cardinal Gut, who on May 8, 1968 had been named prefect of the Congregation of Rites in place of Cardinal Laarona, who had resigned from the prefecture of the congregation on January 9 of that year. I asked him for an audience at his apartment, which he granted me on November 19, 1969. (Here I would like, incidentally, to note that the date of Cardinal Gut’s death is repeatedly given in Archbishop Bugnini’s memoirs as one year too early: December 8, 1969 instead of the correct date of 1970.)
He received me very cordially, although he was already visibly quite ill, and I could pour my heart out to him, so to speak. He let me speak without interruption for half an hour, and then said that he shared my concerns completely. He emphasized, however, that the Congregation of Rites bore no blame, for the entire work of reform had been achieved by the Consilium, which was appointed by the Pope specifically for that purpose, and for which Paul VI had chosen Cardinal Lercaro as president and Father Bugnini as secretary. This group worked under the direct supervision of the Pope. Now, Father Bugnini had been secretary of the Council’s Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy. Because his work had not been satisfactory-it had taken place under the direction of Cardinal Gaetano Cicognani-he was not promoted to secretary of the Conciliar Commission; Father Ferdinand Antonelli, OFM (later Cardinal) was named in his place. An organized group of liturgists represented this neglect to Paul VI as an injustice against Father Bugnini, and they managed to see that the new Pope, who was very sensitive to such procedures, righted that “injustice” by naming Father Bugnini as secretary of the new Consilium responsible for the implementation of the reform.
Both of these appointments-of Cardinal Lercaro and Father Bugnini-to key positions on the Consilium made it possible for voices to be heard that could not be heard during the proceedings of the Council, and likewise silenced others. The work of the Consilium was accomplished in working areas that were inaccessible to non-members. (It must, of course, be left to the future to throw light upon why, despite their great effort in the immense and sensitive work of the Consilium and especially in the heart of the reform, the new Ordo Missae, which had been put together in the shortest time, both men fell visibly out of favor: Cardinal Lercaro had to give up his position as archbishop; and Father Bugnini, named Archbishop as well as the new secretary of the Congregation of Rites in 1968, did not receive the red hat to which a position of that kind entitled him but was instead named Nuncio in Teheran, a position he held until he ended his earthly work with his death on July 3, 1982.) In order to assess the agreement or contradiction between the Council’s regulations and the reform as it was actually carried out, let’s look briefly at the most important of the Council’s instructions for the work of reform.
The general instructions, which concern above all the theological foundations, are contained principally in article 2 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Here is first stated the earthly-heavenly nature of the Church, her Mystery, as the liturgy should express it: everything human must be ordered to the divine and subordinated to it; the visible to the invisible; the active to the contemplative; the present to the future city of God which we seek. Accordingly, the renewal of the liturgy must also go hand in hand with the development and renewal of the concept of the Church.
Article 21 sets down the precondition for any liturgical reform-that there is in the liturgy an unchanging part, because decreed by God, and parts which can be changed, namely those which in the course of time have intruded in an improper way or have proven less appropriate. Texts and rites must correspond to the order articulated in article 2, and can thereby be better understood by the people and better experienced by them. In article 23 appear mainly practical guidelines that must be followed to bring about the right relationship between tradition and progress. A precise theological, historical and pastoral investigation must be undertaken; in addition one must heed the general laws of the structure and of the sense of the liturgy, and the experiences derived from recent liturgical reforms. It is then laid down as a general norm that innovation may be introduced only if a genuine benefit to the Church demands it. Finally, the new forms must always grow organically out of those already existing.
I would like to point out the practical norms which arise for the work of reform from the didactic and pastoral nature of the liturgy. According to article 33, the liturgy is principally the cult of the majesty of God, in which worshippers come into relation with Him by means of visible signs that the liturgy uses in order to express invisible realities, which have been chosen by Christ Himself or by the Church. Here there is a vibrant echo of what the Council of Trent of the Catholic Church already recommended in order to protect her patrimony from the rationalistic and spiritless emptiness of Protestant worship, a patrimony which the Holy Father in his writings on the Eastern churches has characterized as their special treasure. This “special treasure” also deserves to be a source of nourishment for the Catholic Church. It distinguishes itself by being rich in symbolism, thus providing didactic and pastoral education and enrichment, making it splendidly suited even to the simplest people. When we consider that the Orthodox churches, despite their separation from the rock of the Church, through the symbolic expression and theological progress that continuously found entrance into their liturgy, have preserved the correct beliefs and the sacraments, every Roman Catholic liturgical reform should rather increase the symbolic richness of its form of worship than (sometimes even drastically) decrease it. As far as the guidelines for the particular parts of the liturgy are concerned-above all for their center, the Sacrifice of the Mass-only a few especially significant points for the reform of the Ordo Missae, on which we are concentrating, should be recorded. Regarding the reform of the Ordo Missae, two Conciliar directives are especially to be emphasized. In article 50, first the general directive is given that in the reform the intrinsic nature of the several parts of the Mass and the connection between them should be more clearly manifested, in order that devout and active participation might be made easier for the faithful.
As a consequence, it is emphasized that the rites should be simplified, while faithfully retaining their substance, and that elements which in the course of centuries had been duplicated or added in a way that was not especially opportune, would again be eliminated; while others, which had been lost with the passage of time, would be restored in harmony with the tradition of the fathers as far as should appear appropriate or necessary. As far as the active participation of the faithful is concerned, the various elements of external involvement are indicated in article 30, with special emphasis on the necessary silence at the proper moments. The Council comes back to this in greater detail in article 48, with a special note about interior participation, through which alone the divine worship and the attainment of grace jointly with the sacrificing priest and the other participants are made fruitful.
Article 36 speaks about the liturgical language generally, and article 54 of the Mass in particular cases. After a discussion lasting several days, in which arguments for and against were discussed, the Council fathers came to the clear conclusion—wholly in agreement with the Council of Trent—that Latin must be retained as the language of cult in the Latin rite, although exceptional cases were possible and even welcome. We shall return to this point in detail.
Article 116 speaks extensively about Gregorian chant, noting that it has been the classical chant of the Roman Catholic liturgy since the time of Gregory the Great, and as such must be retained. Polyphonic music also deserves attention and cultivation. The other articles of Chapter VI, on sacred music, speak about appropriate music and singing in the Church and the liturgy, and emphasize splendidly the important, indeed the fundamental role of the pipe organ in the Catholic liturgy. Interestingly, article 107 discusses the reform of the liturgical year, with an emphasis on the affirmation or reintroduction of the traditional elements, retaining their specific character. Particularly emphasized is the importance of feasts of the Lord and in general of the Proprium de tempore in the annual sequence, to which some sacred feasts had to give way in order that the full effectiveness of the celebration of the mysteries of redemption not be impaired.
This account of the liturgical reform in light of the Liturgy Constitution cannot be complete, both as far as the individual subjects are concerned and the way they are treated. I shall select as many and as varied examples as appear necessary in order to reach a convincing conclusion. The Church and the liturgy grow and develop together, but always in such a way that the earthly is organized around the heavenly. The Mass comes from Christ; it was adopted by the apostles and their successors as well as by the Fathers of the Church; it developed organically, with the conscious retention of its substance. The liturgy developed along with the Faith that is contained within it; thus we can say, with Pope Celestine I, in his writings to the Gallican bishops in the year 422: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi: The liturgy contains, and in proper and comprehensible ways, brings the Faith to expression. In this sense the constancy of the liturgy participates in the constancy of the Faith itself; indeed it contributes to its protection. Never has there been, therefore, in any of the Christian-Catholic rites, a break, a radically new creation-with the exception of the post-Conciliar reform. But the Council again and again demanded for the reform a strict adherence to tradition. All reforms, beginning with Gregory I through the Middle Ages, during the entry into the Church of the most disparate peoples with their various customs, have observed this ground rule. This is, incidentally, a characteristic of all religions, including non-revealed ones, which proves that an attachment to tradition is standard in any religious worship, and is therefore natural.
It is not surprising, therefore, that every heretical offshoot from the Catholic Church featured a liturgical revolution, as is most clearly recognized in the case of the Protestants and the Anglicans; while the reforms effected by the popes, and particularly stimulated by the Council of Trent and carried out by Pope Pius V, through those of Pius X, Pius XII and John XXIII, were no revolutions, but merely insignificant corrections, alignments and enrichments. Nothing new should be introduced, the Council expressly says of the reform desired by the fathers, which the genuine good of the Church does not demand. There are several clear examples of what the post-Conciliar reform actually produced, above all in its core, the radically new Ordo Missae. The new introduction to the Mass grants a significant place to many variants and, through further concessions to the imagination of the celebrants with their communities, is leading to a practically unlimited multiplicity. Next comes the Lectionary, to which we will return in another connection. Thereupon follows the Offertory which, in its contents and text, represents a revolution. There is to be no preceding sacrificial act, but only a preparation of the gifts with evidently humanized content, which impresses one as contrived from beginning to end. In Italy it was called the sacrifice of the coltivatori diretti, that is, of the few people who still personally cultivate their small parcels of land, for the most part beyond and after their principal occupation. On account of the great technical means at the disposal of agriculture, which today can be maintained only via industry, very little human labor is necessary for the production of bread. From the plowing to the harvester from which the sacks of grain come, few human hands are needed. The substitution of the offering of the gifts for the coming Sacrifice is rather an unfortunate, outdated kind of symbolism that can scarcely replace the many genuine symbolic elements that were suppressed. A tabula rasa was also made of the gestures highly recommended by the Council of Trent and required by the Second Vatican Council, as well as of many Signs of the Cross, altar kisses and genuflections.
The essential center, the sacrificial action itself, suffered a perceptible shift toward Communion, in that the entire Sacrifice of the Mass was changed into a Eucharistic meal, whereby in the consciousness of believers the integrating component of Communion replaced the essential component of the transforming act of sacrifice. Cardinal Ratzinger has expressly determined also, with reference to the most modern dogmatic and exegetical investigations, that it is theologically false to compare the meal with the Eucharist—which practically always occurs in the new liturgy. With that, the groundwork is laid for another essential change: in place of the sacrifice offered by an anointed priest as alter Christus comes the communal meal of the convened faithful under the presiding priest. The intervention of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci persuaded the Pope to overturn the definition [in the original General Instruction that accompanied the new Missal-Translator’s note] that confirmed this change in the Sacrifice of the Mass; it was “pulped down” by order of Paul VI. The correction of the definition resulted, however, in no change to the Ordo Missae itself. change of the heart of the Sacrifice of the Mass received confirmation and activation in the celebration versus populum, a practice which had previously been forbidden and which was a reversal of the entire tradition of celebration towards the East, in which the priest was not the counterpart of the people but rather one who acted in persona Christi, under the symbol of the rising sun in the East.
It is germane to point out a quite serious change in the consecration formula of the wine into the Blood of Christ: the words mysterium fidei were removed, and inserted as a later joint acclamation with the people—quite a blow for “actuosa participatio.” What does historical research, which had been prescribed by the Council before every change, now say exclusively? That the words go back to the beginning of the traditions of the Roman Church that are known to us, which had been handed on by St. Peter. St. Basil, who through his studies in Athens was certainly familiar with the Western tradition, says regarding the forms of all the sacraments that they had not been written down in the well-known holy writings of the apostles and their successors and pupils because of the discipline of secrecy that then prevailed, on the ground of which the most holy mysteries of the Church should not be betrayed to pagans. He says expressly, as do all Christian witnesses, who reveal the same conviction, that in addition to the written teachings handed down to us we also have ones that in mysteria tradita sunt and that date from the tradition of the apostles; he says both have the same value and no one may contradict either. As an example he expressly cites the words through which the Eucharistic bread and the Chalice of Salvation are confected: which of the saints has handed them down to us in writing?
All subsequent periods of history expressly attest to this historical inheritance in the Eucharistic consecration formula: the GELASIAN SACRAMENTARY—the oldest Mass book of the Roman Church—has in the Vatican codex in the original text, not as a later addition, the words “mysterium fidei.” have always wondered about the origin of these words. In 1202, the emeritus Archbishop John of Lyons posed to Pope Innocent III, whose liturgical knowledge was well known, the question of whether one must believe that the words of the Canon of the Mass, which do not come from the gospels, were passed down by Christ and the apostles to their successors. The Pope answered in a long letter in December of that year that these words, which are not from the gospels, are to be believed as if the apostles received them from Christ and their successors received them in turn. The fact that this decretal, included in the collection of decretal letters of Innocent III, which were combined by Raymond von Penafort by order of Pope Gregory IX, was not excluded as were other outdated ones but rather was passed on, proves that prolonged value was given to this statement of the great Pope.
Saint Thomas speaks clearly about our subject in the Summa Theologiae III, q. 78, art. 3, which deals with the words of the consecration of the wine. Explaining the necessary arcane discipline of the ancient Church, he says that the words “mysterium fidei” come from divine tradition, which was given to the Church by the apostles, making particular reference to 1 Cor. 10:23 and 1 Tim. 3:9. A commentator refers to DD Gousset in the 1939 Marietti edition: “sarebbe un grandissimo errore sostituire un’altra forma eucharistica a quella del Missale Romano…die sopprimere ad esempio la parola aeterni e quella mysterium fidei che abbiamo dalla tradizione.” The Council of Florence also, in the bull of union with the Jacobites, expressly adds the consecration formula of Holy Mass, which the Roman Church has always used on the foundation of the teaching and authority of the apostles Peter and Paul.
One wonders about the supremely cavalier way in which the colleagues of Cardinal Lercaro and Father Bugnini disregarded the obligation of undertaking a detailed historical and theological investigation in the case of so fundamental a change. If such a thing took place in this case, how might they have discharged this fundamental obligation before making other changes?
The Eucharist is not only the unique mystery of our faith; it is also an everlasting one, of which we should always remain conscious. Our everyday Eucharistic life requires a medium that fully embraces this mystery—above all in the modern age, in which the autonomy and self-glorification of modern man resist every concept that goes beyond human knowledge, that reminds him of his limitations. Every theological concept becomes a problem for him, and the liturgy especially as a support of the Faith turns into a permanent object of demystification, that is, of humanizing to the point of making it absolutely understandable. For this reason, the banishing of mysterium fidei from the Eucharistic formula becomes a powerful symbol of demythologization, a symbol of the humanizing of the center of divine worship, of holy Mass. With that, we come to the various false interpretations—and equally false implementations—of a central demand of the reformers: a fervent, active participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass. The main purpose of their participation is what the Council expressly says: the worship of the majesty of God. The heart and soul of the participant must therefore first and foremost be raised to God. (This does not exclude the possibility that participation also becomes activated within the community.) Above all, this actuosa participatio was demanded as a result of the frequently lamented apathy of Mass-goers of the pre-Conciliar period. If it extends itself into an endless talking and doing, which allows all to become active in a kind of hustle and bustle which are intrinsic to every external human assembly, even the most holy moment of the individual’s encounter with the Eucharistic God-Man becomes the most talkative and distracted. The contemplative mysticism of the encounter with God and His worship, to say nothing of the reverence which must always accompany it, instantly dies: the human element kills the divine, and fills heart and soul with emptiness and disappointment. Here a further important point must be mentioned, a decree of the Council not only misunderstood but also completely denied: the language of worship. I am very well acquainted with the argument. As an expert on the commission for the seminaries, I was entrusted with the question of the Latin language. It proved to be brief and concise and after lengthy discussion was brought to a form which complied with the wishes of all members and was ready for presentation in the Council hall. Then, in an unexpected solemnity, Pope John XXIII signed the Apostolic Letter “Veterum Sapientia” on the altar of Saint Peter. According to the opinion of the commission, that made superfluous the Council’s declaration on Latin in the Church. (In the document not only the relationship of the Latin language to the liturgy, but also all its other functions in the life of the Church, were pronounced upon.)
As the subject of the language of worship was discussed in the Council hall over the course of several days, I followed the process with great attention, as well as later the various wordings of the Liturgy Constitution until the final vote. I still remember very well how after several radical proposals a Sicilian bishop rose and implored the fathers to allow caution and reason to reign on this point, because otherwise there would be the danger that the entire Mass might be held in the language of the people—whereupon the entire hall burst into uproarious laughter. I could therefore never understand how Archbishop Bugnini could write, regarding the radical and complete transition from the prescribed Latin to the exclusively vulgar language of worship, that the Council had practically said that the vernacular in the entire Mass was a pastoral necessity (op. cit., pp. 108-121; I am quoting from the original Italian edition).
To the contrary, I can attest to the fact that regarding the wording of the Council Constitution on this question, in the general part (art. 36) as well as in the special regulations for the Sacrifice of the Mass (art. 54) the Council fathers maintained a practically unanimous agreement—above all in the final vote: 2152 votes in favor and only four against.” I could therefore never understand how Archbishop Bugnini could write, regarding the radical and complete transition from the prescribed Latin to the exclusively vulgar language of worship, that the Council had practically said that the vernacular in the entire Mass was a pastoral necessity (op. cit., pp. 108-121; I am quoting from the original Italian edition). To the contrary, I can attest to the fact that regarding the wording of the Council Constitution on this question, in the general part (art. 36) as well as in the special regulations for the Sacrifice of the Mass (art. 54) the Council fathers maintained a practically unanimous agreement—above all in the final vote: 2152 votes in favor and only four against. In my research for the Council decree about the Latin language, I became aware of the concurring opinion of the entire tradition: up to Pope John XXIII, a clearly unfriendly attitude had been taken toward all preceding efforts to the contrary. Consider in particular the cases of the statement of the Council of Trent, sanctioned by anathema, against Luther and Protestantism; of Pius VI against Bishop Ricci and the Synod of Pistoia; and of Pius XI, who deemed the Church’s language of worship as “non vulgaris.” Yet this tradition is not at all a question only of ritual, although that is the aspect always emphasized; rather, it is important because the Latin language acts as a reverent curtain against profanation (instead of the iconostasis of the Easterners, behind which the anaphora takes place) and because of the danger that through the vulgar language the whole action of the liturgy might be profaned, which in fact often happens today. The precision of the Latin language, moreover, uniquely does justice to the didactic and dogmatically precise contents of the liturgy, protecting the truth from obfuscation and adulteration. Finally, the universality of Latin both represents and fosters the unity of the whole Church.
Because of its practical importance, I would like especially to go into both of the last-mentioned, with examples. A good friend has the Deutsche Tagespost sent to me regularly. I always read the next-to-last page, on which the editorial staff, very laudably, gives readers the opportunity in letters to the editor to express opposing views. A continuing series of such letters dealt in detail with the “pro multis” of the Latin text of the formula of consecration and with its translation as “for all.” Again and again philology was engaged, which often becomes the ruler instead of being merely the handmaid of theology. Monsignor Johannes Wagner says in his LITURGIEREFORMERINNERUNGEN (1993) that the Italians first introduced this translation, although he himself would have been for the literal translation of “many.” Unfortunately, I have never found an appeal to an argument of the first order that is at once theologically decisive and extremely important pastorally; it is contained in the Roman Tridentine Catechism. Here the theological distinction is clearly emphasized: The “pro omnibus” indicates the force that the Redemption has “for all.” If one takes into consideration, however, the actual fruit that is allocated to men from it, the Blood of Christ is effective not for all, but rather only for “many,” namely for those who draw benefits from it. It is therefore correct that here not for “all” is said, since in this passage only the fruits of the suffering of Christ are spoken of, which come only to the chosen. Here application can be found for what the Apostle said in Heb. 9:28, that Christ sacrificed Himself once to take away the sins of “many,” and for Christ’s own distinction: “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given me, because they are thine.” In all these words of consecration many secrets are contained that shepherds should recognize through study and with the help of God. It is not difficult to see here extraordinarily important pastoral truths contained in these dogmatic contents of the Latin language of worship, which unconsciously (or even consciously) are covered up in an inaccurate translation.
A second, even larger source of pastoral misfortune (again, against the explicit will of the Council) results from giving up the Latin language of worship. Latin plays the role of a universal language that unifies the Church’s public worship without offending any vernacular tongue. It holds particular importance today, at a time when the developing concept of the Church highlights the entire People of God of the one Mystical Body of Christ, underlined elsewhere in the reform. By introducing the exclusive use of the vernacular, the reform makes out of the unity of the Church a variety of little churches, separated and isolated. Where is the pastoral possibility for Catholics across the whole world to find their Mass, to overcome racial differences through a common language of worship, or even, in an increasingly small world, simply to be able to pray together, as the Council explicitly calls for? Where is the pastoral practicability now for every priest to exercise the highest priestly act—Holy Mass—everywhere, above all in a world that is short of priests? In the Conciliar Constitution the introduction of a three-year Lectionary is nowhere spoken of. Through it the reform commission made itself guilty of a crime against nature. A simple calendar year would have been sufficient for all wishes of change. The Consilium could have stuck to a yearly cycle, enriching the readings with as many and as varied a choice of collection as one would want without breaking up the natural yearly course. Instead, the old order of readings was destroyed and a new one introduced, with a great burden and expense of books, in which as many texts as possible could be accommodated, not only from the world of the Church but also (as was widely practiced) from the profane world. Apart from the pastoral difficulties for parishioners’ understanding of texts demanding special exegesis, it turned out also as an opportunity (which was seized) to manipulate the retained texts in order to introduce new truths in place of the old. Pastorally unpopular passages—often of fundamental theological and moral significance—were simply eliminated. A classic example is the text from 1 Cor. 11:27-29: here, in the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the serious concluding exhortation about the grave consequences of unworthy reception has been consistently left out, even on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The pastoral necessity of that text in the face of today’s mass reception without confession and without reverence is obvious. That blunders could be made in the new readings, above all in the choice of their introductory and concluding words, is exemplified by Klaus Gamber’s note on the end of the reading on the first Sunday in Lent of the Reading Cycle for Year A, which speaks of the consequences of Original Sin: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Whereupon the people, performing their duty of lively and active participation, must answer: “Thanks be to God.”
Furthermore, why was the alteration of the sequence of the sacred feasts necessary? If any caution were needed it was here, in pastoral concern and awareness regarding the people’s attachment to their local Church feasts, whose temporal disarrangement had to have a very negative influence on popular piety. For these considerations the implementers of the reform appear to have had no great sympathy at all, despite articles 9, 12, 13 and 37 of the Liturgy Constitution.
A brief word must still be said about the realization of the Council regulations regarding liturgical music. Our reformers certainly did not share the great praise for the Gregorian chant that was being regarded more and more highly by secular observers and enthusiasts. The radical abolition (above all through the creation of new choral parts of the Mass) of the Introit, Gradual, Tract, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion (and this especially as a prayer of the community), in favor of others of considerably greater length was a silent death sentence for the wonderful variable Gregorian melodies, with the exception only of the simple melodies for the fixed parts of the Mass, namely the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus and Agnus Dei—and that only for few Masses. The instructions of the Council for the protection and fostering of this ancient Roman liturgical singing met a practically deadly epidemic.
The widely beloved Church instrument of the pipe organ experienced a similar fate through the abundant substitution of instruments, whose enumeration and characterization I can leave to your rich personal experience, with the sole remark that they have prepared the way in not a few cases for the entry of diabolical elements into Church music. latitude allowed for innovation represents a last, important subject of this account of the practical elements of the reform. This latitude is present in the original Latin Roman Order of Mass. Among the various national orders, the German Order of Mass stands out through many further concessions of this kind. It practically eliminates the strict, absolute ban of Â§3, art. 22 of the Conciliar Constitution—namely that no one, not even a priest, may on his own authority add, leave out or alter anything. The violations in the entire course of the Mass that are escalating more and more against this ban of the Council are becoming the cause of resounding disorder, which the old Latin Ordo, with its much-lamented rigidity, so successfully prevented. The new guarantor of order thus contributes to disorder, and one may not, therefore, wonder when again and again he discovers that in every parish a different Ordo seems to be in force.
With that we have arrived at the public, if also limited, negative statements about the reform of the Mass. Archbishop Bugnini himself discusses them with commendable honesty on pages 108-121 of his memoirs of the reform, without being able to contradict them. In his memoir and in Msgr. Wagner’s, the insecurity of the Consilium is obvious over the reform they so hastily carried out. There also appears little sensibility towards the prior “theological, historical, pastoral” research ordained by the Council as necessary to any alteration. For example, the expert capacities of Msgr. Gamber, the German historian of the liturgy, were completely ignored. The incomprehensible rush with which the reform was hammered into shape and made obligatory actually caused influential bishops who were anything but attached to tradition to reconsider. A monsignor who had accompanied Julius Cardinal Döpfner as secretary to Salzburg for the passing of a resolution of the German-speaking bishops for the activation of the new Order of Mass in their countries told me that the Cardinal was very reticent on the return journey to Munich. He then briefly expressed his fear that a delicate pastoral matter had been dealt with too hastily.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to emphasize that I have never cast in doubt the dogmatic or juridical validity of the Novus Ordo Missae—although in the case of the juridical question serious doubts have come to me in view of my intensive work with the medieval canonists. They are of the unanimous opinion that the popes may change anything with the exception of what the Holy Scriptures prescribe or what concerns previously enacted doctrinal decisions of the highest level, and the status ecclesiae. There is no perfect clarity with regard to this concept. This attachment to tradition in the case of fundamental things which have conclusively influenced the Church in the course of time certainly belongs to this fixed, unchanging status, over which even the Pope has no right of disposal. The meaning of the liturgy for the entire concept of the Church and its development, which was also especially emphasized by Vatican II as unchangeable in nature, leads us to believe that it in fact should belong to the status ecclesiae. It must nevertheless be said that these regrettable misuses, which above all are consequences of the discrepancy between the Conciliar Constitution and the Novus Ordo, do not occur when the new liturgy is reverently celebrated-as is always the case, for example, when the Holy Father offers Mass. It cannot, however, escape experts of the old liturgy what a great distinction exists between the corpus traditionum, which was alive in the old Mass, and the contrived Novus Ordo—to the decided disadvantage of the latter. Shepherds, scholars, and lay faithful have noticed it, of course; and the multitude of opposing voices increased with time. Thus the reigning Holy Father himself, in his Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae of February 24, 1980, regarding the mystery and worship of the Eucharist, pointed out that questions concerning the liturgy, above all of the Eucharist, should never be the occasion for dividing Catholics and seeing the unity of the Church sundered; it is, he said, indeed the “sacrament of piety, the symbol of unity, and the bond of charity.”
In his Apostolic Letter on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the approval of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on December 4, 1963, which was published on December 4, 1988, after praising the renewal in the line of tradition, the Pope deals with the concrete application of the reform: he points to the difficulties and the positive results, but also in detail to incorrect applications. He also says expressly that it is the duty of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to protect the great principles of the Catholic liturgy, as illustrated and developed in the Liturgy Constitution, and to be mindful of the responsibilities of the bishops’ conferences and the bishops. Cardinal Ratzinger, the protector of the Faith (and of the worship connected with it) closest to the Pope, has repeatedly commented on the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, and with a singular profundity and clarity has subjected its theological and pastoral problems to constructive criticism. I remind you only of the book The Feast of Faith (1981), of the prologue to the French translation of the short, basic book by Klaus Gamber, and finally of the references in his recent books, Salt of the Earth and his autobiography, La mia vita, both published in 1997.
Among the German-speaking bishops the one responsible for the liturgy in the Austrian bishops’ conference pointed out in 1995 that the Council had intended no revolution but a reform of the liturgy faithful to tradition. Instead, he said, a worship of spontaneity and improvisation bears a share of the blame for the declining number of people at Mass. Lastly, the Primate of Belgium, Cardinal Daneels, who certainly cannot be called a stick-in-the-mud, has subjected the entire reform to devastating criticism: there has been a 180-degree turn, he says, with the transition from an obedience to rubrics to their free manipulation, through which one himself makes use of the liturgy in order to rearrange the service and worship of God into a creative people’s assembly, into a real “happening,” into a discourse in which the individual wants to play a role instead of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in whose house he is a guest. Man’s desire to understand the service, Daneels says, should lead not to a subjective human creativity, but to a penetration of the mysteries of God. One would not have to explain the liturgy, but live it as a window to the invisible.
When we climb lower rungs of the ladder of the people of God, we find even among the members of the Consilium a colleague indicated as critical by Archbishop Bugnini: Father Louis Bouyer, who has not been silent in the meantime.
In Italy the hard-hitting criticism The Torn Tunic (1967), by the high-profile lay writer Tito Casini, with a prologue by Cardinal Bacci, made a sensation. Slowly more and more growing lay groups, to which many intellectuals of high standing belonged, organized themselves into national movements, above all in Europe and North America, and were connected in Europe and beyond in the international organization Una Voce; the problems of the reform were also discussed in journals, among which the German Una Voce Korrespondenz stands out. In a characteristic summary, the Canadian Precious Blood Banner of October 1995 says that it is becoming clearer and clearer that the radicalism of the post-Conciliar reformers did not consist of renewing the Catholic liturgy from its roots, but in tearing it from its traditional soil. It did not rework the Roman rite, which it was asked to do by the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II, but uprooted it. Shortly before his death, the well-known Prior of Taizé, Max Thurian, a Catholic convert who was previously a Calvinist, expounded his view of the reform in a long article entitled “The Liturgy as Contemplation of the Mystery” in L’Osservatore Romano (May 27-28, 1996, p. 9). After an understandable expression of praise for the Council and for the Liturgy Commission, which were supposed to bring forth the most admirable fruits, he says expressly that the entire contemporary celebration often takes place as a dialogue in which there is no place for prayer, contemplation and silence. The constant opposing of the celebrants and the faithful isolates the community within itself. A healthy celebration, on the other hand, which gives the altar a privileged position, conveys the duty of the celebrant, that is, to orient all toward the Lord and the worship of His presence, which is represented in the symbols and realized in the Sacrament. This conveys to the liturgy that contemplative breath without which it becomes an awkward religious discussion, an empty communal activity and a kind of prattle.
Thurian makes a number of personal proposals for authority in the event of a revision of the “Principles and norms for the use of the Missale Romanum” (one sees that he nourishes the hope that it could be possible), which clearly demonstrate dissatisfaction with the present principles. Under the title of “The Priest in the Service of the Liturgy,” he gives a series of distinguished criticisms of the present situation, which share practically all the severe reproaches of our account, and which merit individual examination….
I would like briefly to add, as an ecumenical reference, two experiences with the Eastern Churches. During a visit at the end of the Council … representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople said in personal conversations that they did not understand why the Roman Church insisted on changing the liturgy; one should not do such a thing. The Eastern Church, they said, owed its retention of the Faith to its faithfulness to liturgical tradition and to the liturgy’s healthy development. I also heard somewhat similar things from members of the Patriarchate of Moscow, who looked after the Vatican Historical Commission during the International Historical Congress in Moscow in 1970.
Two more significant reports from the world of the ordinary and the uneducated, which best express the genuine sensus fidei of the children of God: Two young boy scouts of ten and twelve from the Siena area, who assist at the so-called Tridentine Mass every Saturday, based on the privilege granted by the Archbishop of Siena, answered my provocative question as to which Mass they liked better, that since they attended the old Mass they no longer enjoyed the new. “He arrived at the conclusion that today we stand before the ruins of a 2,000-year tradition, and that it is to be feared that as a result of the countless reforms the tradition is now in such a vandalized mess that it may be difficult to revive it.” A simple, elderly farmer, who comes from a poor area of Molise, told me spontaneously that he always goes only to the six o’clock Tridentine Mass because he considers the change to the liturgy to be a change of the Faith that he wanted to retain. Msgr. Klaus Gamber, an outstanding expert I have already mentioned, has published strictly academic accounts, above all his summary The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background,* that were more or less silenced by the official specialist literature, but are being rediscovered now for their penetrating clarity and insight. He arrived at the conclusion that today we stand before the ruins of a 2,000-year tradition, and that it is to be feared that as a result of the countless reforms the tradition is now in such a vandalized mess that it may be difficult to revive it. One hardly dares any longer to pose the question whether after this dismantling a reconstruction of the old order may come.
Still, one should not give up hope. Concerning the dismantling, we see how it is reflected in the orders given by the Council. They say: no innovation may be introduced unless the real and certain benefit of the Church demands it, and then only after a precise theological, historical and pastoral investigation. Moreover, any change must be made in such a way that the new forms always arise organically from those already existing. Whether this happened, my recollections can give you only a limited picture. They should show, however, whether the essential theological and ecclesiological requirements were fulfilled in the reform, namely whether the liturgy, above all its heart, Holy Mass, ordered the human to the divine and subordinated the former to the latter, the visible to the invisible, the active to the contemplative, the present to the eternity to come; or whether the reform has, on the contrary, frequently subordinated the divine to the human, the invisible mystery to what is visible, the contemplative to active participation, the eternity to come to the mundane human present. But precisely the ever-clearer recognition of the real situation strengthens the hope for a possible reconstruction, which Cardinal Ratzinger sees in a new liturgical movement that resurrects the true inheritance of the Vatican Council to new life (La mia vita, 1997, p. 113).
Let me close with a comforting prospect: the reigning Holy Father, John Paul II, in his distinctive pastoral sensibility, articulated his concern in a 1980 appeal regarding the problems that the change of the liturgy created in the Catholic Church, but he met with no response from the bishops. That is why he decided, certainly not with a light heart, in 1984 to issue an apostolic indult for all who felt attached to the old liturgy for reasons I have emphasized, above all because of the liturgical innovations which, far from decreasing, are still escalating. Because he had understandably given it to the bishops, but only under narrow conditions and at their good pleasure, it had only very limited pastoral success.
After the unauthorized consecration of bishops by Archbishop Lefebvre, certainly with the intention of avoiding an extensive schism, he issued on July 2, 1988, a new motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei adflicta, in which he not only assured members of the Society of Saint Pius X willing to be reconciled in the Fraternity of Saint Peter of the possibility of remaining faithful to the ancient liturgical tradition, but he also now gave the bishops a very generous privilege, which was supposed to fulfill the legitimate desires of the faithful. He recommended specially to the bishops to imitate his generosity to the faithful who feel attached to the fixed forms of the old liturgy and discipline, and stated that one must respect all those who feel attached to the ancient liturgical tradition. The text—designed very generously this time for the bishops—gives us justifiable confidence that the Pope, in his efforts to re-establish unity and peace, not only will not relent, but rather will continue to tread the path shown in numbers 5 and 6 of the 1988 motu proprio, in order to bring about the legitimate reconciliation between the indispensable tradition and time-bound development.
1st Lecture: Address by Alfons Cardinal Stickler on 20 June 20 1992 at the Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society.
2nd Lecture: An essay by Alfons Cardinal Stickler which originally appeared in 1997. The English translation is by Thomas Woods. It was part of Die heilige Liturgie (“The Holy Liturgy”), a collection of lectures edited by Franz Breid from the “Internationale Theologische Sommerakademie 1997” of the Priests’ Circle of Linz (Austria).