Games People Play with the Holy Spirit

Dear Dr. Kwasniewski,

Watching Mass of the Ages Episode 2 and your interview with Raymond Arroyo brought up some questions I’ve been struggling with. First, doesn’t it seem like the Novus Ordo was close to what the Council Fathers intended? I say this because (a) we know that Bugnini was secretary of the committee that drafted Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] and (b) nearly all the bishops after the Council went along with the reforms. My neo-con friends say that SC and the new missal are fine—they should have resulted in a “smells-and-bells reverent Novus Ordo,” but liberals in the Church hijacked the implementation of the Council and of the reform for their own ends and distorted what was good into its opposite. If this is true, then (so my neo-con friends say) there is no need for the TLM; all we need to do is “get the Novus Ordo right.” Second, these defenders of the Novus Ordo also assert that, since “the Holy Spirit inspired the Council,” the Council was good in all respects, including the reform of the Mass it called for. They contend that if we do not support the Novus Ordo, we are acting against the Holy Spirit. Something doesn’t sit well with me in these arguments, but could you help me to put a finger on what’s wrong?

Yours in Christ,

Trad in Training

Dear Trad in Training,

Thank you for your questions. The first question can be dealt with rather straightforwardly: no, the Novus Ordo is not “close” to what the Council Fathers intended, as can be easily demonstrated in two ways: we can simply compare what SC specifies to what actually happened and notice the major discrepancies; and we can look to what well-informed Council Fathers and periti said afterwards about those discrepancies. Fortunately, that work of comparison has been done already many times, so all you need to do is a bit of reading up on it. It won’t take long and it will be a rewarding exercise.[1] (Further below, I will quote the stunning admission of Joseph Ratzinger in 1976.) In Yves Chiron’s biography of Annibale Bugnini, we learn of the advice given by that master of deceit to the committee that drafted SC ahead of the Council: We must speak in acceptable generalities and leave a lot of things open-ended, so that we don’t risk scaring off the bishops; and then afterwards we may do as we please.[2]

As to why nearly all the bishops went along with the increasingly radical reforms afterwards, in spite of the fact that most of them were singing the praises of tradition prior to the Council and reassuring the faithful that the things they loved would remain in place, the answer may be inferred from looking at how bishops act today and, frankly, at most times in the history of the Church: either as craven hyperpapalists, cowardly bureaucrats, or ambitious careerists (indeed, these three categories are not mutually exclusive). Occasionally, some even become convicted ideologues, like the bishops who gladly hailed Henry VIII as head of their Church, or the ones who gleefully signed off on the French Revolution’s Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790, or, more recently, the ones who endorsed the Sexual Revolution by opting out of Humanae Vitae. In living memory (I hope) is the abject failure of most bishops to reject Pope Francis’s false teaching on sacramental access for the divorced and “remarried,” the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty, God’s willing of all religions as he wills the two sexes, and the ecclesial self-contradictions of the Synod on Synodality and the new Constitution for the Roman Curia (just to name a few items from a big stack). Should we be scandalized? Yes. Should we be surprised? I’m afraid the answer is no. There’s a reason why, out of innumerable thousands of bishops in Church history, only a small number are found in the Roman Martyrology.

Let me plunge into your second and, to my mind, more important question, about the last Council as “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” A well-known theologian wrote the following:

Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis, many of them have been a waste of time. Despite all the good to be found in the texts it produced, the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken.

Was that a notorious heretic like Hans Küng? No. It was Joseph Ratzinger, in Principles of Catholic Theology.[3] Another great theologian and church historian cited a Church Father who said, concerning his own time:

If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops; because I never saw a Synod brought to a happy issue, nor remedying, but rather increasing, existing evils. For ever is there rivalry and ambition, and these have the mastery of reason;—do not think me extravagant for saying so;—and a mediator is more likely to be attacked himself, than to succeed in his pacification. Accordingly, I have fallen back upon myself, and consider quiet the only security of life.

That was St. Gregory Nazianzen, quoted by St. John Henry Newman.[4] I quote these passages because I think we need, in general, a mighty dose of realism and theological accuracy when it comes to what can and should be said on behalf of any church council—even an ecumenical one.

Realism from Church history

The proponents of Vatican II make outlandish claims for it. “The Holy Spirit inspired the Council.” Wait a minute; I thought that special inspiration belonged only to the inerrant Word of God in Scripture. “The Holy Spirit guided the Council…” Well, then, presumably the same Spirit inspired and guided the other twenty ecumenical councils as well, from Nicaea to Vatican I (for otherwise you are denying them the status of ecumenical councils!). If so, what sense do you make of this:

Clerics should not practice callings or business of a secular nature, especially those that are dishonorable. They should not watch mimes, entertainers, and actors. Let them avoid taverns altogether, unless by chance they are obliged by necessity on a journey. They should not play at games of chance or of dice, nor be present at such games. They should have a suitable crown and tonsure, and let them diligently apply themselves to the divine services and other good pursuits. Their outer garments should be closed and neither too short nor too long. Let them not indulge in red or green cloths, long sleeves or shoes with embroidery or pointed toes… All bishops must use in public and in the church outer garments made of linen…

In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress…. Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all…

Those canons are from the Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council (1215).[5] Lateran IV also hilariously said that the Greeks were more and more keen on ending the schism… during the Latin occupation of Constantinople, when Greek animosity toward Latins was reaching a boiling point. This cannot fail to remind one of Vatican II’s saying that modern man was coming to a greater and greater appreciation of human dignity (Dignitatis Humanae, 1). The Holy Spirit does not protect churchmen from making fools of themselves at times; he does prevent their folly from sinking the barque of the Church.

Let’s take another example, the Second Council of Constantinople, which was expressly called to undo the scandal and harm caused by a prudential judgement of the Council of Chalcedon. Chalcedon must have been wrong to quash the condemnations of Theodoret, Ibas, and Theodore, because the judgment of Constantinople II was dogmatic while Chalcedon’s omission was merely prudential. This example has the added spice that Vigilius, the reigning pope at Constantinople II, violently opposed the move to quash—before giving in and defining the Council’s judgment. A historic victory for lay theology, in the person of a not entirely savory Justinian![6]

Fr. John Hunwicke wittily remarks:

The Council of Vienne had a Spirit of the Council. In that Spirit, the Templars were burned on probably phony charges of Sodomy and their wealth seized. The French government gathered huge sums of money on the understanding that it would lead a crusade… and then just hung on to it all. Does anybody give that Council a second thought? When did you last wake up in the night worrying about it? Vatican II is as irrelevant now as the Council of Vienne is. Vatican II was every bit as fully and totally a true, valid Ecumenical Council cum Petro et sub Petro as Vienne was… and it is just about as fully and totally irrelevant today.[7]

He explains further:

Vatican II, like so many of its predecessor councils, is obsolete or, at the very least, obsolescent. Yes, there are elements in its texts which are well put and will have continuing value and use. But it did not foresee many of the major problems of our age and, therefore, did not give us guidance for getting through them. Its silly optimisms are no more relevant to our very different, much harsher, age than is the preoccupation of so many medieval councils with “Just-One-More-Crusade.” The notion that it was some sort of super-council which displaced and replaced—or even simply relativised—the Councils which preceded it is, in my view, a heresy: because it disregards Councils which did, dogmatically, bind, in favour of a council which did not even claim to bind. Worse even than heresy, it is historical twaddle.[8]

Fr. Zuhlsdorf remarks:

Regarding General or Ecumenical Councils (all 21 of them), it is possible to be a valid Council but a failed one. Consider Lateran V. Utter failure. Its legislation on ecclesiastical pawn shops went nowhere, which is a darn shame. I’d really appreciate well-regulated ecclesial pawn shops. And—hey!—what ever happened to the “spirit of Lateran V”? Moreover, Lateran I and Lateran II weren’t even classified as General or Ecumenical Councils until after the Council of Trent (500 years later).[9]

The Council as a Super-dogma?

An objector might reply: “Your examples so far are of contingent and changeable affairs. A council is not forever binding in its decrees on such matters. But inasmuch as the councils teach doctrine, we must follow them.”

Agreed. If there is doctrinal teaching, it is to be accepted in accord with the rule of faith, in harmony with all that has preceded. But the last council contained just the same kind of temporally contingent and non-binding content as can be found in a Lateran IV or a Vienne. Consider the very title of Gaudium et Spes: “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” Or SC’s set of recommendations about how to make the liturgy more effective for modern man, based on the assumptions of mid-twentieth-century scholarship—subsequently disproved not only by better scholarship but even more by its lack of effectiveness and the continuing effectiveness of the traditional liturgy (a sore subject to the Vatican II nostalgics). Why don’t we take seriously what John XXIII says about why he called a council? Not to define dogma or condemn error—as he expressly says in his opening speech—but to achieve the pastoral purpose of “a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness, in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought.”

Like earlier Councils, Vatican II has only as much authority as its particular decrees demand by the nature of their statements according to standard theological interpretation, as the explanatory note attached to Lumen Gentium clarifies.[10] And since it defined nothing and anathematized nothing, its documents have considerably less inherent weight, all things considered, than those of earlier councils that did define dogma and anathematize heresy.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, addressing the bishops of Chile on July 13, 1988, had these strong words to say about those who falsely exalt the last council:

There are many accounts of it which give the impression that, from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and that what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II. The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of “super-dogma” which takes away the importance of all the rest.

This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy—the form in which the liturgy was handed down—suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited. It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith—for instance, the corporal virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, etc.—nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation.[11]

Today, I believe we have moved beyond even the ecclesiological error of treating Vatican II as a “super-dogma” to the more cynical and manipulative notion that the actual statements of the Council are no longer relevant because the poor benighted participants had not yet been enlightened by the “spirit” that the Council uncorked. Massimo Faggioli gave the game away when he complained about conservatives who rely on “propositional” arguments—like, you know, looking at what the documents say—rather than a “dialogical understanding”—which is controlled by the people with the megaphones. The Synodal Way is nothing other than dressing the dictatorship of relativism with episcopal vestments, an institutionalized permanent (r)evolution towards an undefined and undefinable Omega Point. Or rather, the end goal is total secularization, because, if God is “always already” in all things and efficaciously seeking their salvation, the category of the “sacred”—anything distinctive or separative (traditional, Catholic, Christian, monotheist, religious)—must be overcome, that God may be “all in all.” (Whatever “God” might mean in this discourse; He, it, seems strangely like a cosmic force.)

Liturgical Missteps

Ratzinger’s mention of the “forbidden (traditional) liturgy” prompts a further question. Have the highest authorities in the Church never made mistakes in the sphere of liturgy? A little homework would undermine that naïve view. Let’s consider three examples.

The Quignonez Breviary was a radical ex nihilo version of the Divine Office, rationalistically conceived and totally detached from tradition, begun at the instance of Pope Clement VII and issued in 1535 by Paul III—only to be banned by Pius V in 1568.

In 1631, Urban VIII promulgated revised hymn texts for the entire breviary, amounting to a thousand changes in some of the most ancient and noblest poetry of Christianity. These changes were rejected tout court by the Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, and Dominicans; they have earned well-deserved mockery ever since.

But, ironically, it wasn’t until the revision of the hymns after Vatican II that many of the original texts were restored—too little, too late, as the breviary was deconstructed into the Liturgy of the Hours and eviscerated of most of its other traditional features.

In the last century, the new Vulgate (“Bea”) psalter was commissioned and promulgated by Pius XII, printed with fanfare in thousands of shiny leather sets—but it met with such a negative reception that it was quietly scuttled by John XXIII, never to reappear.[12]

The foregoing examples are sufficient to show that we should resist runaway inflation of the status of magisterial acts and should keep open the possibility of resistance to what is egregiously contrary to the Church’s common good—a point made with considerable force in Thomas Pink’s recent article in The Lamp: “Papal Authority and the Limits of Official Theology.”

Fr. John Hunwicke has pointed out:

If Vatican I and II are anything to go by, conciliar decrees sometimes contain compromises. And, after a council, a dominant fashionable elite in the Church is left at liberty to run with its own side of the compromise and to render the other side dead in the water, a universal irrelevance.

Consider Vatican II on Vernacular in the Mass. I summarise: “(a) Latin is to be preserved. (b) But the vernacular may be extended (c) in the readings and directions and to some prayers and chants (d) and to those parts which pertain to the people, (e) but [provideatur tamen] they must still be able to say and sing the parts that pertain to them in Latin. (f) If, in some places and circumstances, an even more radical approach [profundior aptatio] is needed, local ecclesiastical authority is to submit proposals to the Holy See” (SC 36, 40, and 54).

In less than a decade after the Council, (a) and (e) had become dead letters; and (b), (c), and (d) had been turned into irrelevances because the adroit use of (f), the only de facto survivor of all this legislation, had stamped the very nearly exclusive use of the Vernacular upon the whole of the Latin Church. “Some places and circumstances” [variis locis et adiunctis] had, by the touch of Circe’s wand, been turned into the universal general norm.

In other words, we are witnesses to the same kind of error that Paul III, Urban VIII, and Pius XII made, albeit on a much greater scope, and the necessary corrective—the future Pius XIII, as it were—has not yet appeared on the scene to rein in the chaos and to restore the lost continuity.

The Holy Spirit Trick

We have grown accustomed in recent years, especially since the beginning of Synodultery, to seeing the worst policies defended by a glib appeal to “the Spirit,” as if the wolves in sheep’s clothing have the Dove in their back pocket ready for quick deployment—a supernatural smartphone downloading apps from heaven. It’s rather revealing, isn’t it, that they frequently omit “holy” and simply refer to “the Spirit.” As Martin Mosebach says, surely there is a spirit at work in all this—only, not a holy one.

Here is a good example of the mentality that attempts to put an equal sign between “Vatican II” and “the Holy Spirit”:

José Rodríguez Carballo mentioned, as an important point of religious life [today], fidelity to Vatican II: “For the consecrated, the Council is a point that cannot be negotiated.” And he affirmed that those who locate in the reforms of Vatican II all the ailments of religious life “deny the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.” He explained that in the Congregation for Consecrated Life, they are “particularly concerned” with this matter: “we are seeing true deviations.” Above all because “not a few institutes give not only a pre-conciliar, but even an anti-conciliar formation. This is inadmissible, it is to place oneself outside of history.[13]

At Fr. Zuhldorf’s blog, a reader left this comment:

Just reading [about] the history of the Church and the periods of corruption in the past, is it not clear that while the Holy Spirit is always with the Church, He permits some bad things to go on for a while? Thus, why is the questioning of some parts of the Council necessarily a denial of the presence of the Holy Spirit with the Church?

In other words, we rightly say we believe the Holy Spirit always guides the Church; and yet He allows evils in the Church, sometimes for many centuries. So too, we say we believe the same Spirit guides a Council; and yet He allows imperfections, wranglings, factions, inadequacies, ambiguities, lacunae, etc.

The key point is this. The Holy Spirit never allows the Church to defect in a definitive way from Christ and His Gospel; and similarly, He never allows a Council to define an error or to anathematize a truth. It is like papal infallibility: the conditions for its exercise are very precisely laid out by Vatican I. It is not a blanket wrapped around the pope, giving the stamp of the Spirit to everything he says and does.

The guidance of the Church by God prevents total catastrophe and shipwreck, which is what would happen if the faithful were positively bound to error or sin; it is not, however, a guidance that prevents erring in “official theology” (as Pink calls it), meandering, obfuscating, diluting, overemphasizing, underemphasizing, neglecting, or taking on strange partners. As with all evils, these evils are allowed in order that God may bring forth a greater good from them—such as the tremendous explosion of good in the Middle Ages after the saeculum obscurum, the Counter-Reformation after the Protestant revolt, or in the period right after the French Revolution.

Paul VI in a limited way, John Paul II in a much less limited way, and Benedict XVI in a pretty nearly unlimited way, supported the ongoing use of the traditional Roman Rite, which obviously included its spread (since a living Church is a Church that grows, and one would sin by seeking to suppress supernatural growth). If the TLM should no longer continue, as your friends argue, then it would be wrong even to allow it as a temporary concession. But if, on the contrary, Pope Benedict was right to say, as a matter of principle, “what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful”[14]—echoing what he had said years earlier as a cardinal: “the Church, in her entire history, never once abolished or prohibited orthodox liturgical forms, something which would be entirely foreign to the Spirit of the Church”[15]—then it is your friends who are wrong, indeed who must be wrong. Indeed, they would be guilty of a much greater slander against the Holy Spirit, namely, asserting that the form of worship used by the Church for the vast majority of its history, the divine liturgy in which most of our saints participated, was so severely problematic that it now has to be outlawed entirely.

Then there is the spiritual side of things, which is by no means negligible. The “reverent Novus Ordo” is an accomplishment of the priest of good taste and a piety—and that it is his accomplishment certainly cannot be hidden either from himself or from his grateful beneficiaries.[16] He is the one who carries the polymorphous political football of the Novus Ordo past menacing Susans or VGs into the end zone of reverence. “We love Fr. So-and-so’s Mass, it’s just so reverent!,” says the relieved layman of this pearl of great price. The priest knows that he is of the 1% or 5% of clergy (or whatever percent; it varies greatly from diocese to diocese) who “do the Novus Ordo as it was intended to be done,” although it would be impossible for him to back up that claim, if challenged, with coherent criteria.[17] Doesn’t that prompt him to wonder: “Why do so many of my brother priests not say Mass rubrically, edifyingly, devoutly?” These are not healthy subjects of meditation. The old rite, being rigidly determinate and totally focused on the sacred action, more or less avoids this spiritual narcissism completely.

If Vatican II changed Catholic theology so much that the Mass used by the Church for over 1000 years—in some respects over 1500 years—is now off limits, then I’m afraid that can only redound to the detriment of the Council, not of the Mass. But of course this view is nonsense. The old Mass is what the bishops at Vatican II celebrated week in and week out, and, as Joseph Ratzinger noted in 1976, most expected it to remain close to what it was:

The problem of the new Missal lies in its abandonment of a historical process that was always continual, before and after St. Pius V, and in the creation of a completely new book, although it was compiled of old material, the publication of which was accompanied by a prohibition of all that came before it, which, besides, is unheard of in the history of both law and liturgy. And I can say with certainty, based on my knowledge of the conciliar debates and my repeated reading of the speeches made by the Council Fathers, that this [new Missal] does not correspond to the intentions of the Second Vatican Council.[18]

Valid councils (or liturgies) may not be wise, just, or effective

Allow me to conclude with the perspicacious comments of a diocesan priest and church historian.

What is meant by “valid” when we are talking about the “validity” of Church councils? If, for example, in saying that the Council of Constance was valid, you mean that it had lawful ecclesiastical authority, you are saying something which should not be controversial. If, however, in calling the Council of Constance valid, you mean that all of its decisions, including burning Jan Hus at the stake (despite the refusal of the Inquisitor for Germany to indict him for heresy!) must be accepted as right and just, you are saying something incompatible with the intellectual and moral integrity of a Christian.

For myself, in regard to actions by ecclesiastical authority, I use the word “valid” in the narrow sense of lawful. To recognize an action by ecclesiastical authority as lawful should come easily, with the burden of proof being overwhelmingly on the negative position. To question the lawfulness of actions by ecclesiastical authority is dangerous, potentially a flirtation with the sin of schism.

On the other hand, recognizing the lawfulness of an action by ecclesiastical authority certainly does not mean recognizing it as wise, just, or effective. I regard this as an essential distinction. I am obliged, for example, to recognize the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the renewal of Religious Life as lawful. I am not obliged, however, to survey the wreckage of multiple religious orders, and the effective disappearance of religious life from many regions of the Church (such as my own), and then pretend that religious life was, in fact, renewed.

Thus, following my distinction, I accept every jot and tittle of the Second Vatican Council as valid and lawful. Those two adjectives do not compel me to add other adjectives, such as wise, just, or effective.

This priest well describes the healthy, balanced, realistic, and sober mentality we ought to cultivate today, not only because it is true to the teachings of our faith, but also because we prize the gift of reason—and we must use our reason to evaluate the causes and effects of the sea-change inaugurated in the Catholic Church by and in the name of the last council, above all with the unprecedentedly vast liturgical reform that followed in its wake.[19]


[1] On patent discrepancies between SC and the ensuing “reform,” see, inter alia, Robert W. Shaffern, “The Mass According to Vatican II”; Peter Kwasniewski, “Is Your Liturgy Like What Vatican II Intended?”; Joseph Shaw, “Vatican II on Liturgical Preservation”; Alcuin Reid, “The Liturgy, Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium”; Alcuin Reid, “Does Traditionis Custodes Pass Liturgical History 101?” Joseph Shaw raises the more uncomfortable question of the deep inner contradictions within SC that would seem to make any course of action both possible and incoherent: “What Sort of Mass Did ‘Vatican II’ Want?” (See as well Michael Charlier, “Is There a Mass of the Council?”) As for eyewitnesses of the difference between what the Council Fathers asked for and expected and what they got a few years later, see Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler, “Recollections of a Vatican II Peritus”; Peter Kwasniewski, “What They Requested, What They Expected, and What Happened: Council Fathers on the Latin Roman Canon”; idem, “The Council Fathers in Support of Latin: Correcting a Narrative Bias”; Alcuin Reid, “The Fathers of Vatican II and the Revised Mass: Results of a Survey”; idem, “Sacrosanctum concilium and the Reform of the Ordo Missae”; anon., “The Old Liturgy and the New Despisers of the Council”; the sources on this question are very numerous, but that should suffice for the nonce.

[2] For the full quotation and commentary, see my article “Sacrosanctum Concilium: The Ultimate Trojan Horse.”

[3] Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 378.

[4] Ep. 55 [Ep. 130], cited in Arians of the Fourth Century.

[5] Canons 16 and 68.

[6] It was Justinian who insisted on the condemnation of the Three Chapters. Vigilius had gone so far as to issue a constitution condemning that idea, but it was addressed only to Justinian—and he refused to receive it. Good for him! He wasn’t operating under the silly idea that you can’t ever disagree with a pope. The story is usually told as if Justinian is deeply wicked but the fact remains that it was his doctrine that was solemnly defined.

[7] See the blistering nine-minute dress-down of Vatican II by Miguel Ayuso here.

[8]In another post he gives examples of problems in the history of councils and then observes: “Those whose conciliarist enthusiasms lead them to an exaggerated regard for Vatican II seem blithely, absurdly, unaware of the preposterous historical conclusions to which their views would lead them…were they but consistent.”

[9] For more on “failed councils,” see the three important articles by Gregory DiPippo: “Lessons from a Failed Council and a Failed Reform” ; “Another Lesson from a Conciliar Failure”; “Paul VI Did Not Exist: A ‘Nostalgic’ Response to George Weigel on Vatican II.” See also Kyle Washut, “Fetishising Councils?”

[10] “On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here: ‘Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church’s supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation.’”

[11] Full text here. It is interesting to read this text again in light of current developments.

[12] It has been said by some defenders of Paul VI’s Novus Ordo that Paul III only allowed the Quignonez Breviary and Pius XII only allowed the Bea Psalter, whereas Paul VI required the celebration of the Novus Ordo. Unquestionably it was Montini’s intention to impose the new missal on all (he left no doubt about that in his various speeches and actions), but the actual promulgation of the new missal was handled strangely—let’s say, clumsily bungled—in the Latin version of the constitution Missale Romanum of April 3, 1969, in such a way that the Commission of Cardinals convened by John Paul II in 1986 to determine whether or not the previous missal had been abrogated concluded that it had not been, which means that the new missal did not actually replace the old one, but joined it as a second missal. Siscoe and Salza in chapter 16 (“The New Mass and Infallibility”) of their book True or False Pope (Winona, MN: STAS Editions, 2015) demonstrate that the new missal was never juridically mandated, and also that vernacular translations of the constitution falsified what the underlying Latin text says. It is precisely this fact that allowed Benedict XVI to claim, in Summorum Pontificum, that the old missal had never been abrogated and that its use was always in principle permitted.

[13] Translation given at Rorate; slightly modified for accuracy.

[14] Ibid.

[15] From the address given in Rome in 1998.

[16] For more on these points, see the following two articles: “Men Must Be Changed by Sacred Things, and Not Sacred Things by Men” and “Why the ‘Reform of the Reform’ Is Doomed.”

[17] In fact, both Paul VI and Francis have given us reams of evidence that what a conservative American priest fed on images of TLMs thinks of as a “correct Novus Ordo” is certainly not what the pope who first formally promulgated the Novus Ordo and the pope who now coerces us to the Novus Ordo had or have in mind. We can already see, for example, that the Ratzinger/Benedict approach to the Novus Ordo—the “hermeneutic of continuity” and the “mutual enrichment”—has been called into question by Team Bergoglio, for whom Sicilian lace is out and African/Amazonian inculturation is in.

[18] Quoted in Wolfgang Waldstein, “Zum motuproprio Summorum Pontificum,” Una Voce Korrespondenz 38/3 (2008), 201–214.

[19] A useful new resource for undertaking this evaluation is the anthology Sixty Years After: Catholic Writers Assess the Legacy of Vatican II, ed. Peter Kwasniewski (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2022).

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