Pope Paul VI on Liturgical Reform

Pope-Paul-VI 1Pope Paul VI will be beatified this coming Sunday. In coming days, Pray Tell is running statements from Paul VI on the liturgical reform carried out at his mandate after the Second Vatican Council.

When his friend Jean Guitton asked why Paul VI would not concede the 1962 missal to breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers, Paul responded:

“Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.”



  1. Too bad that Paul VI has been proved wrong by his successor Benedict XVI, who said that the Church of all ages venerates the treasures of all ages. Time moves on, and thankfully we’re no longer in the 1960s or 1970s (although some would like to remain there forever).

  2. Has he been proved wrong?

    He said “Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.”

    And there are those that doubt the apostolic authority of the council, and those who express this doubt also seem to be those opposed to the current Mass.

  3. It’s amazing how many people turn ultramontanist when the pope says things that suit their cause/ideology.

    1. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #5:
      Quoting a pope is ultramontanist?
      You have a problem with what was the cause/ideology of a (soon-to-be-beatified) pope?
      Sorry, I reserve the right to quote Paul VI, and to agree with him!

  4. I wish the Council was shaken to the core by Summorum Pontificum, but I don’t think it has….I think Paul VI was wrong on this one….

  5. I also honestly think that if anything were to shake the authority of the Council it would be this statement by Paul VI:

    “There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church’s infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmata carrying the mark of infallibility.”
    – Pope Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966

    1. @Todd Orbitz – comment #8:
      Yes, the Council issued no dogmatic definitions. Some seem to imply that therefore its disciplinary commands (in “Sacrosanctum Concilium”) may be disobeyed at will.

  6. I think history and the fruits borne of SP have strongly proven Pope Paul’s assertion wrong. So yes, fruits are telling. There is now a growing and healthy traditional movement within the church.

  7. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.

    The most I would be willing to concede about this statement of Paul VI is that, at the time, he honestly felt this way. And looking back at the 1970s, I can perhaps understand why. It still doesn’t make his statement right or true, though.

  8. The book “beyond Pius V” by Andrea Grillo is worth a read particularly Chapter 5 in which he makes clear that the Council in requesting the reform of the liturgy was doing exactly what Pius V did when he also reformed the Mass – superseding all previously current versions of the Roman liturgy. When one looks at the weekly notices for the extraordinary rite it is clear that the desire of the Council to open up the scriptures is not a part of that rite so Paul VI was quite correct. What perhaps was done wrongly after the Council was the rushed changeover of the Liturgy to a vernacular version without much of the requested instruction and the total loss of Latin even in the liturgy in some cathedrals. Had this been done with greater sensitivity there may have been less demand for turning the clock back to 1962.
    As an aside on a visit to Rome recently at one of the Pope’s General Audiences when the assembly was invited to join in the singing of the Pater Noster it was quite noticeable that few people round me knew the Latin version and that included most of the priests!

  9. and thankfully we’re no longer in the 1960s or 1970s (although some would like to remain there forever).

    As some would like us to remain forever in the 16th century, as if the Council of Trent should forever be the last word for the church.

  10. I think the fruits are indeed telling. It was promoters of the TLM that went into schism, not MR3 detractors. It was the schismatics who had holocaust deniers in their midst who embarrassed a pope within, what? a day of lifting their excommunications. Schismatics flew under the banner of the TLM in the 70’s and into the 80’s back East, and did so proudly. Of course many traditionalists chafe at Vatican II.

    Conservatives along these lines have done more to tear at church unity than anyone else. Just look at their blogs and print media. Or just consider how Antiphon has gone into the toilet the past several years with thin gruel masquerading as liturgical theology.

    We can retain the chant, and even the Latin repertoire. We can celebrate our liturgies with every effort of art, cooperating with God’s grace. We don’t need the 1962 Missal. We have something better: the Word of God and the sacraments of the Church. How many traditionalists might claim we conciliar Catholics don’t even have that? A heck of a lot more than liberals who even notice the TLM enclaves.

  11. Regarding: “This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol.”

    – View from a pew: This has a ring of truth in my memory. As a symbol, the Paul V missal, or John xxiii’s update, very clearly was used as a protest against the council and the Archbishop of Rome’s right to call such a council. It was also used as a counterpoint to the Archbishop’s right to change or update the missal of his own diocese and thus of the local churches, of the same rite, in union with him.

    – One could have expected then that were a request for continued use of the Paul V missal on grounds, for an example, that it was well loved, then such a request would have pointed to the leniency of Trent for rites such as the Ambrose right in Milan. Such a request could not have been made with a subtext of negative judgement of the Paul vi missal.

  12. It never ceases to amaze me – the contortions and cherry-picking TLM people do to justify their agenda. They want their cake and they’ll eat it too. It’s far more than feeling more at home with the old Missal. It’s a different ecclesiology, and one that is not compatible with Vatican II. Utterly sinful that people cause such strife and disunity within the Church, fueled by a revisionist pope. Be sure of one thing, we will never be celebrating the canonization of Benedict XVI.

  13. Pope Paul VI remains an enigma to me. His authorized reform of the collects and prefaces corrected many of the deficiencies of the Tridentine tradition. I never understood why a priest celebrating the EF recites the Holy Trinity preface (the post-Pentecost preface) during Advent. Why should Lent have a preface, but not Advent? Fortunately, the liturgical reforms has provided solutions for these inconsistencies, while adding beautiful new preface options.

    Yet, some reforms make little sense. Why was the Pentecost octave deleted? Is the veni sancte spiritus, one of the most beautiful and lyrically complex sequences of the church year, unbearable to recite or hear for eight days?

    And yes, my bete noire, Mass versus populum. The Consilium should not have forced this practice on the clergy and sanctuaries of the Roman rite. Why did Paul VI not intervene and prevent this unfortunate event by making versus populum entirely optional, as with the Church of Greece today? Perhaps he thought that eye contact and the social gestures of our day were more important than abstract semiotics of the eschaton contained within ad orientem. I disagree with Pope Paul, and contend that this major change to our rite has done little or nothing to convert or retain the faithful.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #18:

      Is there any evidence to support your use of the term “forced?” You are clearly using it in a negative light – so perhaps you can shed light on how the Council came to the decision? And also support your claim that every change in the liturgy must convert or retain the faithful.

      Personally, I’m glad we’ve maintained the posture of all – assembly and priest celebrant – facing the altar. It’s just that now the altar is freestanding, as it should be, not stuck up against a wall.

      1. @Sean Whelan – comment #19:

        Is there any evidence to support your use of the term “forced?” You are clearly using it in a negative light – so perhaps you can shed light on how the Council came to the decision?

        Let’s go to the Latin instruction which first permits versus populum celebration, inter oecumenini §91a (AAS 56:1964, 898).

        Praestat ut altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit […]

        “Make known that the high altar is constructed separate from a wall, easily walked around, and able to be utilized in a celebration facing the people.” […] [my trans.]

        I’m going to probably get not a little criticism for translating praestat as an imperative when the verb is actually indicative in mood. praestat is difficult so far as its semantics. I chose “make known”, as the basal meaning of praestare is akin to “present” or “make known”. I suspect that the intention of the authors is that their instructions are accommodated.

        Sentence diagram:

        A. Praestat ut altare maius exstruatur […] (the core indicative sentence)
        |—> 1. ut facile circumiri […] (subordinate clause)
        |—> 2. in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit (subordinate clause)

        The phrase of contention peragi possit (“able to be utilized”) is a subordinate, tangential phrase which even in itself does not make versus populum explicitly compulsory. [1] How, then, did an action which is syntactically and semantically non-obligatory result in bishops’ demands that their priests face the people and, in extreme cases, even destroy priceless and historical architecture? These demands appear in retrospect to be unfounded.

        [1] Cullen, Christopher M. and Joseph W. Koterski, “The New IMGR and Mass Versus Populum”, Homiletics and Pastoral Review, vol. 101, no. 9 (June 2001), 51 — 54.
        (pdf version courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed)

    2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #18:
      “Why was the Pentecost octave deleted? Is the veni sancte spiritus, one of the most beautiful and lyrically complex sequences of the church year, unbearable to recite or hear for eight days?”

      That’s an easy one. Because the Fifty Days of Easter take precedence. I’m not sure why one couldn’t chant the Pentecost Sequence on weekdays after Pentecost, or even on Trinity Sunday–though perhaps not before the Gospel. Pentecost is contained within something bigger than its own octave: it is the crown of Eastertide, the commencement of the Mission of Christ in response to the Paschal Mystery.

  14. By more or less banning the old rite, Pope Paul gave it over to the schismatics on a silver platter and cemented it as a symbol of dissent for those Catholics – the opposite of what he wanted. Make something rare and precious and force people to choose between the Church and Her liturgical tradition, and you will cause problems. He should have allowed it to remain easily accessible to all Catholics, but perhaps with limitations that would have cemented the new rite as the “preferred” one.

    Benedict had the right idea with SP – he may have wanted to reconcile the SSPX, but now official Masses outnumber SSPX ones, and lots of the people filling those Masses either do not associate it with dissent against Vatican II or have freed themselves from the breakaway groups’ extreme ideas. Make the old Mass easily accessible and it ceases to be a negative symbol. It’s just a shame that things were allowed to spiral out of control for forty years. That mess will take generations to clear up.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #20:

      Abrogating it was part and parcel of the Council – like every other rite before it! Please stop rewriting history to fit your agenda.

    2. @Jack Wayne – comment #20:
      I wonder how well received Pius V’s Mass was. Did he leave the earlier form of the liturgy “easily accessible to all Catholics” or did he ban it? From reading Jungman it seems that the Tridentine Mass took centuries to be accepted in some places (like France) but I don’t think that was their intent. I can’t imagine a Sunday with both Masses and separate calendars and readings in the same parish. Imagine what things would be like if the MR3 were optional and we could still use the Paul VI Mass. We’d have “and with your spirit,” alongside “and also with you.”

      1. @Bruce Janiga – comment #30:
        And how different was the Tridentine liturgy from what preceded it, compared to how the 1969 Missal differs from the 1962 (or 63, or even 65) Missal?

        And back at Trent, other Rites that had been in use for a couple of centuries were permitted to co-exist alongside the Tridentine liturgy.

  15. Sean, do not accuse me of rewriting history unless you can explain in detail how I did so and can provide concrete examples. Otherwise you come off as dishonest.

    BTW, I have no agenda beyond promoting unity in diversity. Perhaps that is what you have a problem with?

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #23:

      As has been stated here before ad nauseum, by decree of the Novus Ordo, the old Mass was abrogated. Just as every rite before it. That’s just fact. The burden of proof is on you, not me.

      And besides, why would you need permission from the pope to celebrate TLM if it was never abrogated?

      There can be unity in one liturgy of the Roman Rite. Having two forms of one rite, each with very different ecclesiologies from each other, only promotes dis-unity.

      But please, feel free to enlighten us as to how the council envisioned two different rites for the Roman Church co-existing.

  16. @Todd Flowerday (#21): That’s an easy one. Because the Fifty Days of Easter take precedence.

    A rather dismissive, all-or-nothing approach to the issue, IMO.

    Why not have both – 50 days and an octave? Previous generations obviously had no issues with having both, as Pentecost Octave was a fixture in the calendar for over 1500 years before the Consilium threw it down the memory hole (with a little help from the previous deliberations of Pius XII’s reform commission).

    The irony is that the reformers got rid of Pentecost Octave just as the Pentecostal and charismatic movements inside and outside the Catholic Church were really starting to come to the fore. Talk about discerning the signs of the times!

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #24:
      Maybe. Maybe not. Some would say that being included in a 50-Day observance is better than a mere 8. Some might call that a promotion. Some might also say that the traditional (and original novena) observance of anticipating the descent of the Holy Spirit is also enough. Is 50 + 9 +8 overkill? Seems like they thought it to be so. Does and has 8 obscured the 50?

      Maybe the Pentecost octave did its job and it was time for something different, new, or better.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #26:

        I always pictured Pentecost as being the final, big bang of a fireworks show. It’s there, then it’s over. Time to move from being “overcome by Paschal joy(?!)” and into mission.

        The traditional novena is quite beautiful and fits the direction of the scriptures beautifully. I’d rather see more emphasis on that over a Pentecost octave.

  17. At every session of the Council, Mass was celebrated at the high altar of St. Peter’s with the celebrant facing the east towards the assembled hierarchs. You think this may have had an impact on the liturgical sensibilities of the good bishops? If there is one aspect of the reform that has been embraced beyond all others it has been the priest directing his attention to Christ present in his priestly people. Why those who call themselves traditionalists regard fourth century basilica worship as the beginning of liturgical tradition completely baffles me. Can anyone even imagine for a moment that Jesus was “facing God” when he said, “Take and eat…..take and drink…..do this in memory of me”?

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #25:
      Can anyone even imagine for a moment that Jesus was “facing God” when he said, “Take and eat…..take and drink…..do this in memory of me”?

      Jesus wasn’t speaking to God when he said those words, he was speaking to his disciples. But the priest is not speaking to the congregation when he says those words. The Mass is not a enactment of the Last Supper in such a strict sense.

  18. Sean, none of my posts spoke about abrogation. Though, a Papal commitee in the 1980s did determine that the old rite had not been abrogated. That is also fact.

    Also, you seem to be the one with the divisive attitude. There is no reason multiple rites cannot coexist. There is no hope that all Christians may be one if the Church can’t even have two forms of the Roman Rite coexist.

    Also, to address Bruce. Trent allowed rites older than 200 years to continue. Also, it wasn’t as dramatic a revision as the Novus Ordo was.

  19. Opening chant
    Penitential act
    Scriptures including psalm or canticle
    Universal prayer restored
    Presentation of gifts with priest’s prayers over them
    Prayer over gifts
    Preface dialog and preface
    Eucharistic prayer
    Acclamation of faith (new to Latin rite)
    Pater Noster with liturgical ending (new)
    Peace prayer with greeting restored
    Agnus Dei
    Lord I am not worthy
    Post communion
    Blessing and dismissal

    So where’ s the big difference between ’62 and ’69? Latin v. English
    Ad populam? I don’t get it.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #35:
      If the difference between ’62 and ’69 isn’t that big in your opinion, then what’s the big deal about having both?

      If I were to say the difference – beyond the textual differences – I would say that the ’62 has a noble simplicity and organic flow to it lacking in the ’69 (the intent of the reformers may have been to make the rite more nobly simple, but they really just made it more complex and option-heavy. It is only simpler in that I imagine it’s easier for the priest to celebrate). Also, I’m not talking about “organic development” when I talk about organic flow – I mean that the rite flows organically in a way I have never experienced in the new rite, which seems more like a bunch of parts that don’t really work together as a whole even though it is largely made up of parts that worked really well together in the ’62 Missal. The EF’s opening rites leading up to the first collect has an economy to it that is totally lost in the OF revision, and there is a meditative quality to its supposedly useless repetitions (in the Domine non sum dignus, for example) that are absent from the OF.

      The Last Gospel always struck me as kind of clunky, though.

  20. Jordan, I would construe the passage from Inter Oecumenini rather differently.

    Surely praestat is an impersonal with the sense of “it is better that” — cf praestanter, “admirably”. And therefore the ut clause with subjunctive exstruatur is a sort of optative:

    “It is better that the principal altar be constructed apart from the wall, so that it can easily be walked around … ”

    Perhaps not a requirement, which would be something more like necesse est, but certainly a very strong encouragement, from praestat, first, and then from that subjunctive.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #39:

      Yes Jonathan, I agree that praestet is impersonal, literally “it stands before”. My more difficult reading failed, but was worth trying.

      exstruatur is grammatically and syntactically subjunctive, but is practically indicative in meaning. There is no doubt in the main sentence that the altar must be separated from “a wall” (an apse?), I cannot see the utility in translating exstruatur as a literal subjunctive, even with ut..

      peragi possit is semantically weaker than exstruatur. As you note praestat is not as strong as necesse est (stronger than licet, though). praestat admits ambiguity when a clause’s force is not absolutely certain.. As noted in §91, a celebrant should be able to use a freestanding altar for versus populum. Even if this use of a freestanding altar is better, §91 never states that versus populum is obligatory or absolutely suitable under all circumstances. §91 merely states that versus populum is an ability, a prerogative, of the celebrant. A freestanding altar is obligatory. Versus populum is a highly suggested, but not an absolute, orientation for a free-standing altar.

      The authors of inter oecumenini did not strengthen the compositional frame of §91 sufficiently. There is no ambiguity in exstruatur, but some ambiguity in peragi possit, I do not interpret this passage as a justification for the widespread and compulsive adoption of versus populum.

  21. Sorry, Jordan, but why would anyone even mention the possibility of having a freestanding altar detached from the wall so that people can walk around it if they did not want anyone to do it or expect that they would? This new facultative permission did not, you are right, say that celebration versus populum was mandatory, but by its presence and phraseology it sure as heck made it clear that it was desirable.

  22. I’m with Paul on this one. Not mandatory, but strongly recommended.

    If facile modifies possit, then a very literal translation would be:

    It is better for the principal altar [?] to be constructed away from the wall, so that it can easily be walked around and so that, on it, the celebration can easily be completed facing the people.

    I queried “principal altar” because altare is neuter, while maius, a variant of magnus, is masculine. Magnum can be used adverbially, “It is much better”: but not magnus. Does anyone have any clues? The section heading is De altari maiore , “About the greater altar”.

    By the way, the text goes on:

    In sacra autem aede eum occupet locum, ut revera centrum sit quo totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur

    “In the sacred temple, moreover, the altar should occupy a truly central place where the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful can voluntarily turn (or be turned) toward it.”

    The Latin of the whole passage is odd.

  23. Pope Paul was not saying (I hope) that his missal of 1970 was the best possible expression of the Council’s command “Ordo Missae recognoscatur” (SC 50). He was saying rather that continued use of the 1962 missal went flat against that command.
    Disobeying a church council was evidently a big deal for Pope Paul, as it is for me. Apparently it isn’t such a big deal for several commenters to this post, for the papal committee referred to in #34, or for the present pope emeritus.

  24. What’s funny is Pope Paul granted the first indult for the old Missal, albeit just to England and in its 1968 incarnation. This set the precedent for future indults, though.

    Are there any documents with real authority that declare the use of the 1962 Missal to be a form of disobedience? Even in the quote referenced in the original blog post, Pope Paul said it was the use of the old Missal as a symbol of disobedience that was the problem. Were the Missal itself the problem he likely would have said so.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #44:
      Pope Paul said that use of the 1962 missal was “a symbol of the condemnation of the council,” not a symbol of disobedience. It WAS disobedience.
      When a council orders “Ordo Missae recognoscatur” and details certain changes that are to be made, continued use of the ordo not recognitus, with none of the changes made, is going against its orders. Ordinary reading ability and reasoning ability should suffice to establish that point, without need for authoritative documents other than “Sacrosanctum Concilium” itself.

      1. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #45:
        Then you should let all the popes since Vatican II know that, including Pope Paul (who, as I pointed out, set the precedent for allowing the older Mass).

        So we have numerous directives saying the old liturgy should remain available (the English Indult, the 1984 and 88 indults, and finally SP), and zero saying it is disobedient to celebrate it.

  25. Oh, I think deep down they’ve known it—maybe even Benedict, who said he couldn’t believe that the Council had forbidden the use of the 1962 missal. It seems to me that Francis is a pragmatist who thinks enforcing the command of SC 50 would be more trouble than it’s worth; likewise, I suspect, John Paul II. Paul VI might have been applying good old-fashioned epikeia with the “Agatha Christie indult”; I think it may well be consistent with the strong position he takes in the quotation we’re discussing. John Paul I’s positions on liturgy are unknown to me.
    Popes make all sorts of accommodations for the supposed good of the Church. I would just appreciate a bit of honesty concerning whether the latest church council forbids them—not, for example, describing that council’s commands as “desires” (SP, paragraph 7).
    Mind you, these are simply impressions from observing pontificates as they have happened. I’m willing to abandon them if deeper study shows them faulty.

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