Liturgical Shipwreck

by Michael Davies

Part 1

ON THE third of April this year, the year of Our Lord 1994, there occurred an anniversary, an unhappy anniversary, perhaps the unhappiest anniversary in the history of the Catholic Church. On that date, twenty-five years ago, Pope Paul VI announced in his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum that the Missal promulgated in 1570 by his illustrious predecessor, St. Pius V, was to be replaced by one promulgated on his own authority. In obedience to the Council of Trent and as a rebuttal of the Protestant heresy, St. Pius V had codified the rite of Mass celebrated in Rome at that time, a rite of Mass that had developed gradually and naturally over almost a millennium and a half. St. Pius V stated specifically that he wished the order of Mass found in the traditional Catholic Missal to remain unchanged in perpetuity, and rightly so, for by 1570 it had come as near to absolute perfection as anything upon this earth can ever do. It was with good reason that Father Frederick Faber described the traditional Mass as "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven." 1 It was with good reason that Cardinal Newman, who possessed perhaps the greatest intellect of any Catholic in the history of the English-speaking world, said that he could attend it forever and not be tired. 2

   In issuing a new Mass, Pope Paul VI apparently believed that he could improve upon the Traditional Mass of the Roman Rite, and he indulged in an effort to make the Mass more understandable for our time. But in the process he broke with the unbroken tradition of all his predecessors and did something hitherto unknown in the history of the Church-----in the East or the West: He appointed a committee to concoct a new order of Mass, a Novus Ordo Missae, an action that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not so much as envisage, let alone mandate. The only precedent for a radical reform of the liturgy is found among the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers. I have mentioned elsewhere that a principal objective of the Missal of St. Pius V was to act as a rebuttal of Protestantism-----by showing that in the public manifestation of its Eucharistic belief the Catholic Church would not make the least concession to the Protestant heresy. On the contrary, the intention of Pope Paul VI in compiling his new missal appears to have been to conciliate Protestants. In a gesture that it is still almost impossible to believe actually took place, Pope Paul asked six Protestant theologians to advise him on the composition of a new rite for that very Sacrifice of the Mass, the repudiation of which is a fundamental axiom of the Protestant heresy. 3 The extent of the willingness of this unhappy pope to sacrifice even the most sacred traditions of our faith to placate heretics was revealed to its full extent for the first time in an interview broadcast over French radio on December 19, 1993 by Jean Guitton, one of the closest friends of Pope Paul VI. Guitton made public the fact that the Pope had confided to him that his purpose in reforming the liturgy was not simply that it would correspond as closely as possible to Protestant forms of worship, but with that of the Calvinist sect, one of the most extreme manifestations of the Protestant heresy. Guitton's revelation shows how perceptive was the comment by Monsignor Klaus Gamber that the drastic curtailment of solemnity in the liturgy means that Catholics "are now breathing the thin air of Calvinistic sterility." 4 I must make it clear at this point that I do not believe that Pope Paul VI was in any way unorthodox in his personal belief in the Eucharist; no one who reads his Credo of the People of God or his encyclical Mysterium Fidei could allege this. His motivation seems to have been the same misguided zeal for ecumenism that prompted him, while Secretary of State for the Vatican, to engage in clandestine discussions with Anglican clergy that he knew to be contrary to the policy of Pope Pius XII. 5

  Rather, I intend to prove that, as already mentioned, the very composition of a New Order of the Mass is a break with tradition, that the changes made in the Traditional Mass of the Roman Rite since Vatican Council II go far beyond what that Council authorized and, in some cases, actually contradict what it mandated. I propose to show that we have been the witnesses of a revolution, rather than a reform, and that the revolution of Pope Paul VI has produced no good fruits to compensate for its destruction of our almost 2,000-year-old liturgical inheritance.

  Before discussing this revolution, it is necessary to be clear as to what is meant by a rite of Mass. A rite of Mass consists of the words and ceremonies surrounding the essential elements that were instituted by Our Lord. These essential elements are 1) the matter: bread and wine; 2) the form: "This is My Body" and "This is the Chalice of My Blood . . ."; and 3) a validly ordained priest who 4) intends to do what the Church does in confecting this Sacrament. There are many rites of Mass [basically 9; but as high as 23, if derivatives are counted] in the East and West recognized as valid by the Catholic Church, including all those used by the schismatic Orthodox Churches. The same Sacrifice of Calvary is made present in all these rites, and the same Sacramental grace is obtained through them. Christ Himself is received in Holy Communion. He cannot be received any more or any less perfectly in any particular rite, and the grace received in Holy Communion is greater or lesser according to the devotion and dispositions of the communicant.

  Before discussing the liturgical revolution, it is necessary to say a few words about whether a loyal Catholic can, in fact, criticize any teaching or legislation emanating from the Holy See and still claim to be loyal. At the time of Humanae Vitae [the encyclical condemning birth control], Modernist theologians coined the term "loyal dissent." They claimed that it was possible to dissent from papal teaching on faith and morals and to remain a loyal Catholic. Such a claim is nonsensical. There can never be a right to dissent from the teaching of the Magisterium on a matter of faith or morals. The Modernist concept of "loyal dissent" in respect to doctrine can in no way be compared with the right of a faithful Catholic to express disagreement with a strictly "prudential" decision of the Pope. This distinction can be made clear by quoting one of the most loyal and most erudite Catholics of this century, Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand, who was described by Pope Pius XII as the twentieth-century Doctor of the Church and who was honored by Pope Paul VI for his fidelity to the Holy See. In a book whose title expresses perfectly the state of the Church in the West since Vatican II, The Devastated Vineyard, a book which every Catholic who loves the Church should own, Professor von Hildebrand reminds us that, although we must accept everything promulgated ex cathedra by the Pope as absolutely true.

     In the case of practical, as distinguished from theoretical authority, which refers, of course, to the ordinances of the Pope, the protection of the Holy Spirit is not promised in tire same way. Ordinances can be unfortunate, ill conceived, even disastrous, and there have  been many such in the history of the Church. Here Roma locuta [est], causa finita [est] does not hold. The faithful are not obliged to regard all ordinances as good and desirable. They can regret them and pray that they be taken back; indeed, they can work, with all due respect for the pope, for their elimination. 6