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“O, What a Tangled Web…”: Thirty-Three Falsehoods in the CDW’s Responsa ad Dubia

On December 18, 2021, the Vatican released the text of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ “Responsa Ad Dubia on certain provisions of the Apostolic Letter Traditionis Custodes [TC] issued ‘motu proprio’ by the Supreme Pontiff Francis, to the Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops.” The Responses were prefaced by a cover letter from the Prefect, Archbishop Arthur Roche.

It was not long before the internet was abuzz with articles pointing to various flaws in the text.[1] It explicitly contradicts canon law and (ironically enough) the Second Vatican Council on a number of points, including on the rights and responsibilities of bishops. It attempts to legislate when a curial document of this sort is not a legislative instrument. It contains numerous factually erroneous assertions. The purpose of this present article is to identify and list the document’s falsehoods. The excerpts on which I am commenting will appear indented. Since certain falsehoods are repeated several times, I will not tag each appearance of the same error.

Falsehood #1

Following the publication by Pope Francis of the Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” Traditionis custodes on the use of the liturgical books from prior to the reform of the Second Vatican Council…

The cover letter’s opening sentence attributes the liturgical reform or the “reformed” liturgy and its books to the Second Vatican Council as such—a move made more explicitly and repeatedly in other passages of TC.[2] Anyone who knows basic history knows that most of the Council Fathers voted for Sacrosanctum Concilium, a constitution that announced there would be a revision of the rites and articulated some principles and guidelines for it; but the Council neither undertook that reform nor issued any liturgical books of its own. Indeed, the Council Fathers celebrated only traditional rites, Eastern and Western, during the whole span of the Council, although some experiments had already crept in towards the end.

Rather, Paul VI entrusted the work to a special ad hoc super-committee, the Consilium, whose projects reached completion and were endorsed by Paul VI several years after the Council concluded. It is therefore false, and highly misleading, to speak of “the [liturgical] reform of the Second Vatican Council.” The best recent article on the momentous distinction between the Concilium and the Consilium is Dom Alcuin Reid’s “Does Traditionis Custodes pass Liturgical History 101?

Consider the words of Joseph Ratzinger, who in 1976 wrote to Prof. Wolfgang Waldstein:

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 does not correspond to the intentions of the Second Vatican Council.[3]

Falsehood #2

The first aim [of Traditionis custodes] is to continue “in the constant search for ecclesial communion” (TC, Preamble)…

This is patently false, since there are many other and better ways to achieve ecclesial communion than punishing a significant number of Catholics for the supposedly problematic “mentality or attitude” of a small minority of them, and to strip away bishops’ rights in the process of claiming to address it. It was Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council that rejected the idea of “collective guilt,” e.g., that all of the Jews are responsible for the death of Christ. An error analogous to this anti-Semitism is being committed by Francis, Roche, and their party towards traditionalists. Realistically speaking, the first aim of TC seems to be punishing Catholics who find in the traditional rite a stronger basis and more nourishment for their spiritual lives, because these same Catholics also generally hold firm to magisterial teaching on faith and morals that the current pope and his entourage have rejected.

Falsehood #3

…which is expressed by recognising in the liturgical books promulgated by the Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite (cf. TC, n. 1).

As many have pointed out, it is impossible on the face of it to claim that the liturgical rite used by the Roman Church and most of the Western local churches for well over a millennium—and when it comes to the Order of Mass, a millennium and a half—is not the lex orandi (law of prayer) of the Roman Church, faithfully giving voice to its lex credendi (law of faith). For this claim either means that the Church’s lex orandi (and implicitly, its lex credendi) is nothing other than what a pope declares it to be at any given moment—a voluntaristic nominalism that denies history’s objective and immutable testimony to the prior unanimous approval and use of the traditional rite—or it means that the old rite is believed to violate a new creed that conflicts with the creed professed by the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council. Such a dogmatic rupture would, however, utterly invalidate the new rite itself and make it obligatory to reject it.

Moreover, TC and the Responsa envision the continued celebration of at least some of the old liturgical ceremonies. It is patently absurd to say, simultaneously, that these no longer count as any kind of lex orandi (because they are not the “sole” lex orandi, i.e., the Novus Ordo) when, in the most literal sense, they are being prayed in public by priests and faithful as a lex orandi. One can see, again, the voluntaristic nominalism, which Josef Pieper memorably described as “abuse of language, abuse of power.” And my, how Roche & Co. like to abuse their power! The Responsa repeat the mantra “unique expression” (apparently no one has yet told the Vatican translators that unica should be rendered “sole” or “only” in English) not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. Might that be a case of useless repetition?

Falsehood #4

It is sad to see how the deepest bond of unity, the sharing in the one Bread broken which is His Body offered so that all may be one (cf. Jn 17:21), becomes a cause for division. It is the duty of the Bishops, cum Petro et sub Petro, to safeguard communion, which, as the Apostle Paul reminds us (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34), is a necessary condition for being able to participate at the Eucharistic table.

If Roche’s logic here were followed out, it would make the existence of multiple rites, Eastern and Western, a cause of division, since not everyone is celebrating “the deepest bond of unity,” that is, the Eucharist, in the same way. If, however, one admits that a diversity of ritual traditions does not necessarily threaten this bond of unity, and, in fact, are meant to strengthen it by showing many aspects of its unfathomable depths, then this claim falls apart.[4]

Roche’s reference to St. Paul in First Corinthians is ironic, for his citation includes Paul’s warning against unworthy communion, which is present multiple times in the old missal but is totally absent from the new liturgical books. Why does today’s Vatican and, in general, the progressive liturgical establishment swallow the camel of abortion and strain the gnat of tradition? Politicians and voters stained with the blood of infants receive the Eucharist to their damnation (as per St. Paul), but the traditionalists are to be denied the Eucharist and other sacraments in the traditional rite because they question the prudence and point out the bad fruits of human revisions made fifty years ago.

Falsehood #5

One fact is undeniable: The Council Fathers perceived the urgent need for a reform so that the truth of the faith as celebrated might appear ever more in all its beauty, and the People of God might grow in full, active, conscious participation in the liturgical celebration (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 14)…

This is a tendentious statement. Whatever loopholes may have been placed in the text by unscrupulous characters and later activated to maximum effect, the majority of the Council Fathers believed they were voting for a moderate revision of the traditional rite. The speeches in the aula (which evidently Roche has not read) show a majority of Fathers reacting against proposals for radical change and asking for continuity in such matters as Latin and sacred music, in the context of solemn liturgy, and reaffirming the value of traditional architecture and fine arts—in short, the liturgy “in all its beauty.” The bishops were assured that the Roman Canon would remain in place, and nothing was said about creating new Eucharistic prayers. The idea of saying Mass facing the people was barely mentioned, let alone approved. Concelebration and communion under both kinds were to be of highly limited use. And so forth.

This is all so well documented that it is not only a pity but a scandal that the current head of the Congregation for Divine Worship appears to be totally unacquainted with the relevant literature. Perhaps they do not read much in the circles of Sant’Anselmo.

As for “active participation,” many have pointed out that the old rite allows for a participation that is fuller, more active, and more conscious than the new rite affords (see also this lecture); that it is theologically dubious to elevate subjective participation over the liturgy’s objective content and its primary goal of glorifying God; that spiritual engagement is fostered better by giving people something worth contemplating than by giving people stuff to do; and finally, that the most basic way of participating actively is to show up for Mass. With the ever-decreasing congregations at the Novus Ordo in Western countries and the presence of young people and families with many children at traditional Masses, it becomes difficult to sustain the fiction that the ancient rite repels Modern Man while the liturgical reform successfully brings him to Christ.[5]

Falsehood #6

As pastors we must not lend ourselves to sterile polemics, capable only of creating division, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by ideological viewpoints. Rather, we are all called to rediscover the value of the liturgical reform by preserving the truth and beauty of the Rite that it has given us.

In the manner of hypocrites and opportunists, Archbishop Roche recommends against engaging in the sterile polemics of which his own cover letter and Responses are a shining example. No viewpoints are more ideological than those of the Sant’Anselmian school headed by Andrea Grillo. When someone starts talking about “the truth and beauty of the Rite” of Paul VI, one knows instantly that one is dealing with ideology, since it is precisely the truth about this Rite that its proponents are absolutely unwilling to discuss calmly, in an evaluation of merits and mistakes. For an ideologue, there can be no mistakes in the Party’s platform.

As for beauty, Anthony Esolen notes that the Novus Ordo has always struggled with achieving it consistently. In its deracinated, celebrant-dependent, anti-culturated, shifting free-form realization, it seldom attains the level of coherence found in the lowliest Low Mass and never equals the majesty of High Mass.[6] As we can see in nearly every “reform of the reform” initiative or desideratum, the Novus Ordo “succeeds” to the extent that it imitates the traditional Mass. Needless to say, such a strategy is as unwelcome to the pope and his curia as the old rite itself, in spite of crocodile tears about abuses that should be avoided, which the Vatican has not been able or willing to eradicate for five decades.

Falsehood #7

When Pope Francis (Address to the participants in the 68th National Liturgical Week, Rome, 24 August 2017) reminds us that “after this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible” he wants to point us to the only direction in which we are joyfully called to turn our commitment as pastors.

This sentence enshrines the error that the liturgical reform as sketched out by Vatican II, elaborated by the Consilium, and enacted by Paul VI is “irreversible.” It should not require an advanced degree to see that if Pius V’s reform, mandated by an ecumenical council and enacted by the highest authority, was not irreversible, then neither is Paul VI’s. Liturgists and canonists know that there is nothing irreversible in matters of prudential decisions about liturgical discipline—although there is indeed something irreversible in the “canonization” of a rite as a pure expression of the Church’s perennial faith, which is what we find in Pius V’s Quo Primum.

As Gregory DiPippo rightly points out (here and here), the history of liturgy is full of initiatives that have later been reassessed and reversed. And inasmuch as “organic development” names a characteristic of great importance, it is at the very least reasonable to maintain that recent, controversial, and troublesome novelties should be put aside in favor of a return to perennial practice that has already proved its worth and continues to do so wherever it is followed.

Let’s consider the Orwellian-sounding phrase “the only direction in which we are joyfully called to turn our commitment.” The only direction? In the past seventy years we have seen a pope radically change Holy Week, and only fourteen years later, another pope radically change it again; we have seen a pope who claimed the old rites could never be used, followed by a pope who said bishops should be generous in allowing their use, followed by a pope who said no permission was ever necessary because they had not been abrogated, followed by a pope who said not only is permission necessary, but actually the old rites no longer express the faith of the Church—and, by the way, an episcopal ignoramus from the CDW tells us that they were abrogated after all (see #17 below), yet without being able to point to a single instrument by which such a momentous act was attempted or achieved.

In the midst of a chaotic and embarrassing mess like this, Catholics who love the liturgy can no longer look to the pope or the Roman dicasteries for serious guidance or consistent principles. What is necessary, above all, is to understand the rightness of the organically developed liturgical rites of Rome as they stood prior to the experimental tinkeritis that afflicts restless modern churchmen who, having abandoned prayer and the quest for spiritual perfection, need to find busywork to justify their existence.

The way forward for Catholics is obvious. We do not ask “May we use the traditional rites?” We simply use them. They are beautiful and fitting. They are the Church’s perennial lex orandi and lex credendi—that which Catholics have always done and believed and should always do and believe. Such worship is dignum et justum in the sight of God and man. Papalism, positivism, and progressivism have shown themselves to be dead-ends. Our work is to take up the Roman liturgy as it existed in its plenitude before the ideologues and construction-workers ransacked it, and carry it forward to future generations.

Falsehood #8

Let us entrust our service “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), to Mary, Mother of the Church.

The Mother of God does not appreciate being pressed into the service of a pack of lies, and she will not let their abusive originators off the hook for taking her name in vain. The spirit of Our Lady is the spirit of traditional liturgical rites, which magnify her and inculcate her virtues. She who was present with the apostles on the day of Pentecost supports the one and only Pentecost that finds cultic expression in the providentially-governed unfolding of Catholic worship. The Church of which she is the Mother is not the wicked stepmother church that tells the faithful “not to lick their wounds when no one has been injured.”

Falsehood #9

This Congregation, exercising the authority of the Holy See in matters within its competence (cf. TC, n. 7), can grant, at the request of the diocesan Bishop, that the parish church be used to celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 only if it is established that it is impossible to use another church, oratory, or chapel. The assessment of this impossibility must be made with the utmost care.

This is the first of many statements in the Responsa that deprives bishops of their own competence according to canon law and attributes to the CDW a greater authority than it actually possesses. Where Mass is to take place is the bishop’s decision. In an extraordinary case it may be that the Vatican must intervene to resolve a problem about Mass locations, but normally such questions are handled locally, without the need for the CDW to “grant” a permission. On this and other canonical ambiguities and problems in the Responsa, the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has prepared a most helpful set of “Canonical Notes” that every priest and bishop should read. (See also Shaw 1, Shaw 2, Shaw 3, Murray, Condon.)

Falsehood #10

Moreover, such a celebration should not be included in the parish Mass schedule, since it is attended only by the faithful who are members of the said group. Finally, it should not be held at the same time as the pastoral activities of the parish community. It is to be understood that when another venue becomes available, this permission will be withdrawn.

No Vatican congregation has the authority (even if it could possibly have the practical capacity!) to dictate what appears in a parish bulletin, satires notwithstanding. If there were openly heretical or schismatic content being published in a bulletin, this would be the concern of the local Ordinary, and, in a worst-case scenario, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Again, the CDW insists on an imaginary “permission” that has no basis whatsoever. Let us not forget that in 1997 the CDW itself, in its official publication Notitiae, explained the standing of its responses: “Licet solutiones quae proponuntur potestatem legislativam non habeant, induunt tamen vestem officialem quia actuale magisterium et praxim huius Congregationis exprimunt” (Although the solutions which are proposed [by the Congregation] do not have legislative power, they nevertheless assume an official character since they express the current teaching and practice of this Congregation). So, they have some weight—just not enough to change the Church’s existing law, her legal principles, the rights and duties of bishops, and the rights of immemorial and venerable traditions.

Falsehood #11

There is no intention in these provisions to marginalise the faithful who are rooted in the previous form of celebration…

This bald-faced lie requires no further comment.

Falsehoods #12 and #13

…they are only meant to remind them that this is a concession to provide for their good (in view of the common use of the one lex orandi of the Roman Rite) and not an opportunity to promote the previous rite.

The CDW manages to pack three errors into one sentence (the second has already been noted). First, it erroneously asserts that the use of the immemorial and venerable liturgy of the Church of Rome, never abrogated because it is unabrogatable, is a concession rather than an inherent right (cf. #17 below). Second, it doubles down on the erroneous (because it is ecclesiologically impossible) assertion that the reformed liturgy of Paul VI is the only lex orandi of the Roman Rite. Third, it claims that the celebration of the old rite is “not an opportunity to promote the previous rite,” which, whatever else it means, contradicts the inherently public, communal, and participatory dimension of any licit and valid liturgy as well as the essentially missionary character of the Church on earth.[7]

Falsehoods #14 and #15

The Motu Proprio TC intends to re-establish in the whole Church of the Roman Rite a single and identical prayer expressing its unity, according to the liturgical books promulgated by the Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and in line with the tradition of the Church.

Many have pointed out that the Church of the Roman Rite always had multiple forms of liturgical prayer, such as the variant uses of religious orders and the uses of certain dioceses, and that this pattern continues to the present in the Ordinariate rite for former Anglicans, which is said to be part of the Roman Rite and yet differs notably from both the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine rites.

Moreover, the apparent desire for total uniformity contradicts the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

Again, the CDW claims that the liturgical books of Paul VI and John Paul II are “in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council,” which, as we have mentioned, is questionable on many grounds, “and in line with the tradition of the Church,” which is manifestly false, as thousands of articles and dozens of books have demonstrated. It is “in line” with tradition in the way that an entirely new structure built on the same piece of land on which an old building was first torn down is “in line” with it: that is, by chronological succession. As the Consilium member Joseph Gelineau, S.J., expressed it:

If the forms change, the rite is changed. If a single element is changed, the signification of the whole is modified. Let those who like myself have known and sung a High Mass in Latin and Gregorian chant remember it if they can. Let them compare it with the Mass that we now have after Vatican II. Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass [c’est une autre liturgie de la messe]. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists [le rite romain tel que nous l’avons connu n’existe plus]. It has been destroyed. [Il est détruit.] Some walls of the former edifice have fallen while others have changed their appearance, to the extent that it appears today either as a ruin or the partial substructure of a different building.[8]

What is most of all not in line with tradition is the false philosophy underlying the entire reform.

Falsehood #16

The diocesan Bishop, as the moderator, promoter and guardian of all liturgical life, must work to ensure that his diocese returns to a unitary form of celebration…

Pope Francis and the CDW like to repeat again and again that the diocesan bishop is in charge of the liturgical life of his diocese—while immediately adding that he has no choice but to do their bidding. The falsehood here is to claim that any of these provisions increase the bishop’s authority or role. Where Summorum Pontificum took certain matters out of the bishops’ hands and put them in the hands of priests, Traditionis Custodes ambitions to take nearly all important matters (who among new priests may say the old rite, where it may be said, which groups have access to it, how it may be advertised, how long it may remain in place, etc.) out of the hands of both bishops and priests. It is the most desperately centralizing and unsynodal move that we have seen for decades. Happily, Canon 87 covereth a multitude of curial sins.

Falsehood #17

This Congregation, exercising the authority of the Holy See in matters within its competence (cf. TC, n. 7), affirms that, in order to make progress in the direction indicated by the Motu Proprio, it should not grant permission to use the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform, these are liturgical books which, like all previous norms, instructions, concessions and customs, have been abrogated (cf. Traditionis Custodes, n. 8).

Once again, the CDW pretends that permission is required to use the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum, and that the CDW enjoys the power to allow or forbid these books. Neither is true. Nor is the CDW the source of bishops’ power to allow the free use of the Rituale Romanum, nor can the bishop’s freedom of discernment and favor be limited to personal old-rite parishes.

Astonishingly, the CDW claims, almost in passing, that the Rituale and the Pontificale “have been abrogated,” without pointing to a single scrap of evidence that such an abrogation was legally and explicitly carried out. The reference to TC is laughably inadequate for the purpose, since there would have to be some reason to imagine that these books conflict with the (other) norms of TC, when there is none. More fundamentally, Pope Benedict XVI, reflecting on the findings of a commission of cardinals under John Paul II, articulated his reason for holding that the usus antiquior, in toto, had not been abrograted: “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. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place” (Letter to Bishops, July 7, 2007). He thus enunciated a universal principle according to which it is inconceivable that the Church would or could ever banish a traditional rite.[9]

Falsehood #18

In implementing these provisions, care should be taken to accompany all those rooted in the previous form of celebration towards a full understanding of the value of the celebration in the ritual form given to us by the reform of the Second Vatican Council.

In this passage, to “accompany” the faithful seems to mean to “arrange for the termination of the form loved by” the faithful. However, in Pope Francis’s documents, “accompany” seems to mean letting people have what they currently believe is good (or good enough, or necessary) for them, without imposing additional burdens or requirements. So there is a serious equivocation at work that vitiates the text.

Falsehood #19

This should take place through an appropriate formation that makes it possible to discover how the reformed liturgy is the witness to an unchanged faith, the expression of a renewed ecclesiology, and the primary source of spirituality for Christian life.

Here we are dealing not so much with a bald falsehood as with a tangled knot of incoherence. If the faith expressed by the new rite is actually “unchanged” as compared with the faith expressed by the old rite, why is the old lex orandi no longer to be permitted or promoted, but the new one must be put in its place? If the “renewed ecclesiology” is essentially the same, differing only in points of emphasis, how could this possibly be the basis for outlawing one form and mandating another? Different liturgical rites have great differences in their points of emphasis. If the ecclesiology is different, and the new version is superior while the old is inadequate, how does this conclusion avoid calling into question the diachronic fidelity of the Church of Christ?

If, in addition, the “reformed liturgy” is the “primary source of spirituality for Christian life,” where does that place Eastern-rite Catholics? If they can manage to get some Christian spirituality from their tradition, as different (and even contradictory) to the Novus Ordo as it is, couldn’t Roman Catholics possibly get some Christian spirituality from their own once-approved and once-universal tradition?

Falsehood #20

If a Priest who has been granted the use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 does not recognise the validity and legitimacy of concelebration—refusing to concelebrate, in particular, at the Chrism Mass—can he continue to benefit from this concession? Negative.

However, before revoking the concession to use the Missale Romanum of 1962, the Bishop should take care to establish a fraternal dialogue with the Priest, to ascertain that this attitude does not exclude the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs, and to accompany him towards an understanding of the value of concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass.

The view of concelebration found in the Responsa erroneously assumes that the current practice of concelebration is the one that the Fathers of Vatican II voted for and that it is compatible with the historical practice of the Western Church—both of which assumptions are easily refuted.

Moreover, the term “validity” can only refer to sacramental validity, which is not affected by concelebration one way or the other. If “legitimate” means legally arranged and permissible, priests who accept the sacramental validity of a concelebrated Mass—even those who wish never to concelebrate—would not be able to deny that a rite of concelebration has been legally drawn up and officially issued. It is therefore impossible to see how a desire not to concelebrate, and/or to assist in choir, can or should be taken as signifying the faults mentioned in the Responsa.

The priest’s right to individual celebration is reaffirmed by Vatican II and strongly asserted in canon law; the CDW does not have the authority to cancel out this right or attach unreasonable conditions to it.

Falsehood #21

The explicit refusal not to take part in concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass, seems to express a lack of acceptance of the liturgical reform and a lack of ecclesial communion with the Bishop, both of which are necessary requirements…

There are numerous signs of ecclesial communion by which a priest’s acceptance of the reformed liturgical rites—understood in the strictly limited sense that would be theologically required—as well as his unity with the bishop is manifestly signified (see the second half of this article).

Falsehood #22

Vatican Council II, while it reaffirmed the external bonds of incorporation in the Church—the profession of faith, the sacraments, of communion—affirmed with St. Augustine that to remain in the Church not only ‘with the body’ but also ‘with the heart’ is a condition for salvation (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 14).

This quotation from TC deceptively misquotes Augustine as well as Lumen Gentium, as Cardinal Müller first pointed out on July 19, 2021—that gave the CDW plenty of time to correct the error, which, of course, they didn’t—and as Reid Turner has expounded more recently at OnePeterFive.

Falsehood #23

Art. 3 §3 of the Motu Proprio TC states that the readings are to be proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of Sacred Scripture for liturgical use, approved by the respective Episcopal Conferences.

Apparently the CDW is not aware that no modern translation of the Bible approved by an episcopal conference corresponds to the Vulgate text of the usus antiquior. It would be wrong to substitute for the ecclesiastically-approved readings in the altar missal other readings that notably depart from them; indeed, the Latin readings are an inherent part of the usus antiquior and, as such, must be read or chanted, even if a vernacular translation is subsequently read for the aid of the congregation.[10]

Falsehood #24

Since the texts of the readings are contained in the Missal itself, and therefore there is no separate Lectionary, and in order to observe the provisions of the Motu Proprio, one must necessarily resort to the translation of the Bible approved by the individual Bishops’ Conferences for liturgical use, choosing the pericopes indicated in the Missale Romanum of 1962… The publication of the Lectionary, in addition to overcoming the “plenary” form of the Missale Romanum of 1962 and returning to the ancient tradition of individual books corresponding to individual ministries, fulfils the wish of Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 51…

As Joseph Shaw was the first to point out, it seems the CDW is not even aware that there are separate books for the old rite’s readings. In fact, there are several such books: the Epistolarium; the Evangeliarium; and the Lectionarium that combines the two preceding ones. Yes, the altar missal is a missale plenarium that contains all the readings, antiphons, and prayers as well, but the separate book of readings is still necessary for the celebration of Solemn Mass, as are separate chant books for the schola. It might help the CDW officials to get out a little bit and get some experience of traditional liturgical life. Perhaps some of their egregious ignorance would find a cure.

Falsehood #25

It should be remembered that the present Lectionary is one of the most precious fruits of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

In my opinion, this is the greatest and most subtle falsehood of all of them, and the one most commonly repeated ad nauseam by proponents of the reformed liturgy—reminiscent of Shakespeare’s line: “like one who having into truth, by telling of it, made such a sinner of his memory, to credit his own lie” (Tempest, I, 2, 99–102). As with other aspects of the reform, in recent years extensive work has been done on the weaknesses of the new lectionary: its departure from longstanding content; its undigestible magnitude and memory-inhibiting diffuseness; its studied omissions; its academic and artificial assumptions; its lack of harmony with the sanctoral cycle; and so forth. The most complete study to date is “A Systematic Critique of the New Lectionary, On the Occasion of Its Fiftieth Anniversary,” but interested readers may also wish to consult “Not Just More Scripture, But Different Scripture—Comparing the Old and New Lectionaries”; “A Tale of Two Lectionaries: Qualitative versus Quantitative Measures”; “Who Was Captain of the Ship in the Liturgical Reform? The 50th Anniversary of an Embarrassing Letter.

Falsehood #26

Article 4 of the Latin text (which is the official text to be referenced) reads as follows: «Presbyteri ordinati post has Litteras Apostolicas Motu Proprio datas promulgatas, celebrare volentes iuxta Missale Romanum anno 1962 editum, petitionem formalem Episcopo dioecesano mittere debent, qui, ante concessionem, a Sede Apostolica licentiam rogabit». This is not merely a consultative opinion, but a necessary authorisation given to the diocesan Bishop by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which exercises the authority of the Holy See over matters within its competence. (cf. TC, n. 7). Only after receiving this permission will the diocesan Bishop be able to authorise Priests ordained after the publication of the Motu Proprio (16 July 2021) to celebrate with the Missale Romanum of 1962.

For months people wondered when the “authoritative” Latin text of the Motu Proprio would be created. The Responsa revealed that such a Latin text had finally been engineered from one or more of the vernacular versions that preceded it—and also that some interesting changes were made.

For example, the vernacular texts had said that priests ordained after July 16, 2021 who wished to say the old Mass should submit a request to the bishop and the bishop should consult the Apostolic See before granting authorization. In the Latin text, this has been changed: now the bishop must receive a “license,” i.e., express permission, from the Holy See. The Responsa then have the gall to say: “This rule is intended to assist the diocesan Bishop in evaluating such a request: his discernment will be duly taken into account by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.”

Let’s translate that into straight talk: Bishops who are favorable to granting the requests of newly-ordained priests to say the old Mass need to be “assisted” in reaching the opposite conclusion, and the way this assistance will be rendered is by denying the required permission. Once again, we see the high esteem in which the Vatican holds the bishops—ideal for an era of synodality!

I speak of a falsehood here because no priest requires his bishop’s permission to learn, or to offer, the old Mass—at least in private. A public Mass, scheduled as such, enters more into the sphere of the bishop’s supervision; he would have a right to know, although not necessarily a duty to find out, the scheduled Masses being offered by his clergy. Nevertheless, in normal pastoral circumstances, no bishop needs the Holy See to authorize his own clergy’s public Masses, any more than he needs the Holy See to dictate what belongs in parish bulletins or whether he may confirm children in the old rite. The stinging insult offered to every bishop around the world by TC and the Responsa deserves to be reciprocated with a policy of deliberate non-consultation and local decision-making with a view to the good of the faithful in his care.

Falsehood #27

The Motu Proprio clearly expresses the desire that what is contained in the liturgical books promulgated by Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, be recognised as the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite: it is therefore absolutely essential that Priests ordained after the publication of the Motu Proprio share this desire of the Holy Father.

“Essential” in what sense? Essential for salvation? Obviously not. Essential for following the Second Vatican Council? Obviously not, since it outlined a reform, but neither executed the reform nor taught that any traditional rite should be rejected—nor could it have done so. Essential for communion with the pope and the bishops? Obviously not, since ecclesial communion has more fundamental requirements that do not hinge on specific liturgical uses or rites. Essential for following Vatican I’s teaching on the pope’s universal jurisdiction? Obviously not, if one understands that the papacy exists for the sake of preserving and protecting the Church’s common good, which includes the reception and transmission of its liturgical patrimony, and that it is one thing to issue new ceremonies but quite another to try to abolish or forbid traditional ones.

Falsehood #28

All seminary formators, seeking to walk with solicitude in the direction indicated by Pope Francis, are encouraged to accompany future Deacons and Priests to an understanding and experience of the richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council. This reform has enhanced every element of the Roman Rite and has fostered—as hoped for by the Council Fathers—the full, conscious and active participation of the entire People of God in the liturgy (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 14), the primary source of authentic Christian spirituality.

We have already commented on one of the errors here: the liturgical reform called for by Vatican II cannot be assumed to be identical with what we now call the reformed liturgy. But the titanic error is the claim that the reform “has enhanced every element of the Roman Rite.”

It is hard to understand how a reform that omitted so much of the Church’s previous worship—not only in the euchological (prayer-text) content but in the sanctoral cycle, in the loss of the beauty of the temporal cycle (with such ancient features as Ember Days, Rogation Days, Epiphanytide, Septuagesimatide, Passiontide, the unique character of the Triduum, the unusual touches in Eastertide, the Pentecost Octave, the Time after Pentecost), in the abolition of careful rubrics, signs of reverence toward the Eucharist, symbolic gestures, items, and vestments, in the abandonment of the interplay of four minor orders and three major orders, references to asceticism, the devil, heaven and hell, the intricate interplay between Mass and Breviary, and so on and so forth, in a list that could quickly grow into a book—it is, as I say, hard to understand how anyone could claim that such a reform had “enhanced” (!) “every element” (!) of the “Roman rite” (!). Much of the reform consisted in dismantling and suppressing, inventing and mixing up all sorts of elements: pseudo-Roman, non-Roman, and anti-Roman.

If lies could win prizes, this one would receive the gold medal.

Falsehood #29

Does the faculty granted by the diocesan Bishop to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962 only apply to the territory of his own diocese? The answer is: Affirmative.

For reasons already given, it is clear that just as a priest requires no permission to say Mass privately and, in some cases, publicly, so too, he may offer Mass in the old rite anywhere he travels, in accord with the usual norms and customs that would apply to the offering of Mass in such circumstances.

Falsehood #30

If the authorised Priest is absent or unable to attend, must the person replacing him also have formal authorisation? The answer is: Affirmative.

This particular dubium and its reply indicate the low-life cruelty with which we are dealing. Let’s say a priest who is “authorised” to say the TLM gets sick, and the only substitute he can call upon is a priest who is “not authorised.” According to the CDW, the Mass should be canceled or a new-rite Mass should be put in its place. This is contrary to the good of the faithful and to the salvation of souls, which is the highest law that governs all others. Hence, this response counts for nothing.

Falsehood #31

Do Deacons and instituted ministers participating in celebrations using the Missale Romanum of 1962 have to be authorised by the diocesan Bishop? The answer is: Affirmative.

Any deacon, in virtue of being such, and provided he has done nothing to disqualify himself, has the right to minister as a deacon in any Catholic liturgy that takes place by the explicit or implicit permission of the local Ordinary. When a liturgy is approved, the involvement of the other ministers required by the rite is ipso facto approved.

Falsehoods #32 and #33

The Parish Priest or chaplain who—in the fulfilment of his office—celebrates on weekdays with the current Missale Romanum, which is the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite, cannot binate by celebrating with the Missale Romanum of 1962, either with a group or privately. It is not possible to grant bination on the grounds that there is no “just cause” or “pastoral necessity” as required by canon 905 §2: the right of the faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist is in no way denied, since they are offered the possibility of participating in the Eucharist in its current ritual form.

As the Latin Mass Society has pointed out, this response flies in the face of the bishop’s prerogative—which the CDW has no authority to override—to make decisions about bination for his clergy. The response is so preoccupied with trying to prevent the use of the 1962 missal that it ignores completely the most common reason for bination, namely, to offer different Mass times to allow the maximum number of faithful to assist. For example, in a parish with a morning Mass and an evening Mass said by the same priest, there is no reason why one Mass could not be according to the 1969 missal and the other according to the 1962. A second error is thereby disclosed: the response presupposes a priest who fulfills his pastoral office by using the 1969 missal, but as we have seen, there are no canonical grounds for denying that a priest may fulfill his pastoral office equally well or better by using the 1962 missal. In fact, I know more than a few diocesan priests who commonly say their single daily Mass with the 1962 missal, and nothing in TC or the Responsa can prevent this from happening.

*          *          *

Compromised by so many serious errors in ecclesiology, sacramental theology, and liturgical science, marked by pervasive misconceptions and canonical violations, it is impossible to escape the double conclusion that (a) the Responsa are illegitimate and void of binding force, and (b) that the Prefect of the CDW is professionally incompetent and unable to fulfill his grave obligations.

Surveying this mighty nest of falsehoods, one could exclaim with Falstaff: “Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying!” (Henry IV, Part 1, V, 4, 140). Or, one could take the words of the Psalmist prayed at Lauds in the traditional Divine Office for 2,000 years (but omitted in Paul VI’s Liturgy of the Hours because, well, “difficult for modern man”):

Those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall glory;
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.[11]

And in Psalm 5:

Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity:
Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie.
The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor.
But as for me in the multitude of thy mercy, I will come into thy house;
I will worship towards thy holy temple, in thy fear.
Conduct me, O Lord, in thy justice:
because of my enemies, direct my way in thy sight.
For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is vain.
Their throat is an open sepulchre:
they dealt deceitfully with their tongues.
Judge them, O God. Let them fall from their devices:
according to the multitude of their wickedness cast them out:
for they have provoked thee, O Lord.[12]

I shall conclude with words of Fr. John Hunwicke in a piece he published on January 22, 2014, which acquire a new relevance at the present moment:

Summorum Pontificum confirmed juridically that the Latin Church had lived for some four decades under the dominion of a lie. The Vetus Ordo had not been lawfully prohibited. Much persecution of devout priests and layfolk that took place during those decades is therefore now seen to have been vis sine lege [force without law]. For this so long to have been so true with regard to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which lies at the heart of the Church’s life, argues a profound illness deep within the Latin Church. And the Big Lie was reinforced by multitudes of Little Lies… that the Council mandated reordered Sanctuaries… that the Council mandated exclusive use of the vernacular… The de facto situation created by the Big Lie and the Little Lies combined ought not to be regarded as normative. Its questionable parentage must give it a degree of provisionality, even (perhaps especially) to those who find it comfortable to live with. The onslaught upon the Franciscans of the Immaculate suggests that there are those, high in the Church’s administration, who have still internalised neither the juridical findings of Summorum Pontificum nor its pastoral call for harmony.


Painting: Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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[1] Of the many pieces that have been published since December 18, I would most highly recommend Hazell, Campbell, Murray, Chessman, Pocquet du Haut Jussé, Basden, and Mosebach; readers may also find value in my reaction to the Responsa. The anthology From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’s War contains a wealth of articles, lectures, essays, and interviews that describe and refute more deeply the falsehoods summarized in the present article.

[2] In the motu proprio: “The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique [recte: only] expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite”; “…the reform willed by the Vatican Council II…”; “…the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II…”; “…one of the key measures of Vatican Council II…”; “…the liturgical reform willed by Vatican Council II…” Such phrases elide the conciliar desiderata with the actual results of the Consilium’s work, about which there was always some controversy.

[3] The text in German: Wolfgang Waldstein, “Zum motu proprio Summorum Pontificum,” Una Voce Korrespondenz 38/3 (2008): 201–214. This paragraph was brought to our attention by Ruben Peretó Rivas. So, only a little over ten years from the end of the Council, Ratzinger was willing to state baldly that the new missal promulgated just seven years earlier was something manifestly other than Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Council Fathers had expected. For what it’s worth, this harmonizes with what I’ve seen in my study of the conciliar speeches. Recall that the Master General of the Dominicans made a speech in which he warned that if the Council wasn’t careful, soon Latin would disappear from churches—a statement greeted with laughter, so absurd was the idea.

[4] Compare the strange formulation later in the Responsa: “in the whole Church of the Roman Rite a single and identical prayer expressing its unity.” But already Latin Catholics have multiple reformed rites, such as the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic, as well as an Ordinariate use; and yet this multiplicity seems to pose no danger to the unity of the Latin Church. Moreover, it’s clear that Francis and the CDW would not dare to say that the great diversity of Eastern Catholic rites is a problem. Why would different ways of saying Mass be a problem—unless there was something actually erroneous about the Tridentine rite? This, indeed, is what they believe, but they are careful not to say it outright, for then their modernism would be exposed to full view.

[5] As John Paul II reminded activist American bishops in 1998: “Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be countercultural” (Ad limina Address to the Bishops of the Northwestern United States, October 9, 1998).

[6] “Anti-culturated”: a play on the word “inculturated.” To inculturate, there has to be a (partly) good and beautiful culture from which the sacred liturgy can draw, as has occurred with most of the encounters between the Church and pagan cultures since ancient times. Modernity, however, is characterized by an assault on order, beauty, sacrality, life itself, and therefore tends towards the dissolution of cultures. When the liturgy is adjusted or adapted to modernity, it anti-culturates, that is, loses positive cultural qualities and becomes another dissolving force.

[7] The Code of Canon Law lists, among the purposes for which associations of the Faithful might exist in the Church: “to promote public worship” (can. 298; cf. 1917 Code can. 685). This is something which is obviously a good thing and recognized as such by the Church. Again, the CDW cannot change this into the opposite.

[8] Demain la liturgie: Essai sur l’évolution des assemblées chrétiennes (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1977), 9–10.

[9] The 200-year rule specified in Quo Primum supports this view: a rite younger than 200 years cannot claim the pedigree, guaranteed orthodoxy, and church-wide support that a rite of several centuries’ standing or even of millennial duration can claim and must receive. It is therefore the height of irony that Francis dares to compare himself to Pius V, when (as many have pointed out) Pius V’s own rule would instantly cancel out the Novus Ordo, especially on Francis’s own premises that (a) the Novus Ordo is so different from the Tridentine rite that the two cannot be considered parochially compatible, and (b) that priests who celebrate the Tridentine rite are like priests who acquire “biritual” faculties!

[10] Admittedly, the 2011 Instruction Universae Ecclesiae floated the trial balloon of stating that readings could be done exclusively in the vernacular at a Low Mass. At the time this did not attract the criticism it should have, and indeed an influential cardinal of the Church went so far as to pontificate at Chartres in a liturgy that omitted the Latin readings altogether.

[11] Ps 63:9–11 RSV [62:10–12 Vul.].

[12] Ps 5:7–11 DRA.

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