Pope Francis to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Paul VI’s Use of the Vernacular

It was announced in the most recent edition of L’Osservatore Romano that Pope Francis will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first celebration of the liturgy in the vernacular by Paul VI. On March 7 at 6:00 PM, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the church of All Saints on the via Appia Nuova. This was the same parish where Paul VI celebrated in the vernacular for the first time.

No doubt this announcement will have some up in arms, but for many in the Church this is yet another chance to celebrate the successful reforms of Vatican II.

It will be interesting to see what he says during his homily. Pope Francis has been careful not to tread into the stormy seas of the liturgical wars of yesteryear. Rather than tell us his thoughts on how liturgy should be celebrated, he has shown us. This Mass, however, will provide him with a chance to talk directly about the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. We will see if he takes the bait.

In other news, Pope Francis announced yesterday that he will travel in June to Sarajevo, the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the modern capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It appears that Pope Francis has no desire to slow down anytime soon.





  1. If I recall correctly, there’s a plaque in this church commemorating Paul’s first vernacular mass…it’s been vandalised often enough that they had to move it up above a statue where no one could reach it.

    Agree that the homily will be interesting. Personally, I have no issues with the vernacular in principle, though ignoring the very real and deep-seated hunger for a hieratic language is foolish. Where Paul exceeded his authority was when he dared to change the liturgy itself; we haven’t got to that anniversary yet. It would be nice if Francis pointed out that, as mere bishop of Rome, no pope has the right to do that.

    There may indeed have been some ‘successful reforms of Vatican II’, but Paul’s liturgy certainly is not among them. Again, the challenge facing the hierarchical portion of the church is to learn to admit they’ve made mistakes.

    1. @Tony Phillips – comment #1:
      Yes, your recollection is correct: read about it here.


      If a liturgy that has failed to attract or retain huge numbers of Catholics over the decades can be called a “successful reform,” then it’s time to dust off our copies of George Orwell’s 1984. The faithful were not asking for a new Mass, but one was given to them anyway, and the fruits of that rupture are everywhere apparent.

  2. For me, it has been interesting to see how Pope Francis has dealt with language in various liturgies. He seems to differentiate between when he is celebrating at a local event and when he celebrates in his capacity as Supreme Pontiff (larger feasts, canonizations, etc). When he is focused on the local, he uses some Latin for the ordinary but mostly the vernacular for parts of the ordinary and all of the propers. When he is focused on the universal, he uses Latin for all but the First and Second readings, the Psalm, and the POTF. There are obviously some exceptions with this, but it seems that is the way Mnsr. Marini has been instructed to think of things: Local gets more vernacular (but with some Latin for least some of the ordinary). Universal gets more Latin (but with some vernacular for readings). It seems that when he celebrates with a local Church, he uses this distinction as well. In the Philippines, this was all complicated by his inability to speak Tagalog.

    It seems to me that he has taken Sac. Con. at face value: Universal and international celebrations of the Church should use Latin a lot. Local celebrations should still use Latin to some degree especially for the Ordinary of the mass. But the Vernacular is not seen as inferior.

  3. For me, the “extraordinary form” is the English translation approved by Paul VI (not the mish-mash we have at present), and I’m ready to go back to it.

  4. I am glad to see this anniversary greeted with joy and attention by the Holy Father. It is truly something to celebrate; we are all the richer for it. Despite the fact that most people today take the vernacular for granted, it was a signal achievement at the time and we should remember the pioneers of this, such as Fred McManus and others active at that time.

    Use of the vernacular in liturgy remains a source of much pastoral and spiritual good. I am especially reminded of the catechists who use the very words of the liturgy now to catechize, and unpack the meaning of the celebration with catechumens and the faithful. Homilists likewise can refer to what people have heard, and make fruitful connections. The texts of readings and prayers are sources of enlightenment to the faithful in a way that was impossible before. Inculturation took an important step forward in the use of vernacular languages. It is unfortunate that so much effort was expended in reaction against this wholesome development, especially in the recent re-translation and some of its awful manifestations that try to square the circle by making English more like Latin.

  5. I personally don’t see the change in the Liturgy as the reason there has not been a retention of Catholics. If that is what is going on here, then all the other churches with dropping participation would have to point to the lack of Latin in their prayer.

    Until we realize that the reason people are not attending Mass these days has more to do with boredom, a church that can’t deliver a message that means something and an over extended population that has no idea why a Sunday exists in the calendar except for shopping and sleep. To blame the reform with the inability to retain Catholics ignores the monumental changes in the world since 1960. If the Catholic Church paid attention to the pastoral needs of it’s people the same way it pays attention to dotted i’s and crossed t’s, the numbers would start to bounce in the other direction. I hope Pope Francis talks about the vernacular as a gift to millions who had no idea what was being said…pax vobiscum.

    1. @Ed Nash – comment #6:
      Very good point – let’s have the Good News really shown to be Good News (that will leave little time for liturgical minutiae, will it?)!

  6. Ed Nash : If the Catholic Church paid attention to the pastoral needs of it’s people the same way it pays attention to dotted i’s and crossed t’s, the numbers would start to bounce in the other direction. I hope Pope Francis talks about the vernacular as a gift to millions who had no idea what was being said…pax vobiscum.


    1. @Gregory Hamilton – comment #8:
      He has said Mass facing the wall a total of two times both in theSistine, both on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord when there were many babies being baptized and there was little room in the space to set up a free-standing altar. The only other time he said Mass in the Sistine was the day after his election with all the cardinals. He delayed the start of the liturgy until a free-standing altar was set up. His actions during the baptism had nothing to do with allowing groups who show a preference with the celebrant facing the wall.

      1. @Reyanna Rice – comment #45:
        Actually Pope Francis said Mass ad orientem three times since becoming pope, twice in the Sistine Chapel, and once on the altar above the tomb of St. John Paul II.
        If you compare the following photos, you’ll see that there would have been no problem installing a freestanding altar in the Sistine chapel had Pope Francis wanted to do so:


      2. @Reyanna Rice – comment #45:
        He also celebrated a mass in the Crypt of St. Peters for a group of Polish pilgrims ad orientem. Again, I maintain he is doing just enough to not repudiate what Benedict did, but to not continue the wars. If you will allow me to put words in the Holy Father’s mouth, it is as if Francis is saying, “Yes Benedict, you were right. We don’t need to forget the past. Latin is good from time to time. The traditional elements are fine. Right, we need to serious in our celebration of the liturgy But, let’s not get crazy. The way we celebrate now in the vernacular, facing the people is also fine. Rubrics serve a greater purpose and can be broken form time to time. So, can we please talk about something else now?” That is what I think Francis is saying.

  7. Peter Kwasniewski : If a liturgy that has failed to attract or retain huge numbers of Catholics over the decades can be called a “successful reform,”

    Come to the Philippines. It’s standing room only at every Sunday Mass. Most churches offer a Mass on Sunday EVERY HOUR on the hour between 6 a.m. and noon. Then again, for the late crowd, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Every hour.

    The big churches in the big cities offer 10 – 12 Masses every weekend. In the provincial capitals, each principal church offers no fewer than 6 masses each weekend. The big shopping malls have chapels where Mass is offered on Sundays.

    Except for a handful of places that offer the Extraordinary Form, ALL the rest of the thousands of Masses each Sunday are of the Ordinary Form.

    The people are simple. They are poor. They have faith in God. They are Pope Francis’s kind of people. They are Jesus’ kind of people.

  8. An translation into vernacular English would be a lovely idea.
    Some folks seem to be confusing post hoc with propter hoc. It happens a lot when this topic is discussed.

  9. Gregory Hamilton : I saw somewhere that Pope Francis has celebrated the liturgy in some places ad orientum.

    At times folks should say what they mean in their native tongue — in this case, “has celebrated the liturgy in some places with his back to the people” — instead of trying to impress the reader with a bit of Latin that is grammatically incorrect.

    1. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #10:
      It was an honest question, I don’t need to impress anyone. I am surprised by your reply. Let me re phrase this:

      I have heard that in some churches, Pope Frances has celebrated the liturgy facing the East, with both he and the people facing the Lord. Does anyone know if this has happened?

      1. @Gregory Hamilton – comment #12:
        Does the Lord live in the East? If you are referring to the consecrated elements the priest and people both face them when he celebrates facing the people.
        Yes, he has celebrated sometimes with his back to the people, but I don’t know if those buildings were correctly oriented, so I don’t know if he was facing east.

    2. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #11:
      “with his back to the people” is also incorrect.

      In regards to the success of the liturgical reform – people were specifically talking about the Missal of Pope Paul, not vernacular. The now-EF was the first vernacular Mass. It’s hard to tell what the fruits of the OF are apart from everything else that can be factored in. In most places, dropping Mass attendance suggests a dismal failure – yet this drop can be explained with reasons other than liturgical change. The success of the Catholic Liturgical renewal can’t be compared to other churches, because virtually every other denomination in the Western world reformed their liturgical books in a similar way. The only group you could maybe compare to is the Eastern Orthodox.

      In the Philippines, did Mass attendance shoot up after the reform, or did it stay the same due to the strong religious culture already present under the old Missal?

  10. Gregory, I think Pope Francis is pragmatic about these things: if the appropriate altar is built against the wall, he celebrates facing the wall. There’s a picture of such a celebration here. Other readers may know — I do not — whether that particular wall of the chapel is the eastern one.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #15:
      That’s not really the case. He has made it a point to have portable altars brought in to celebrate ad populum in historic chapels.

      Think about his first Mass with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel.

  11. While the homily that Pope Francis gives at the anniversary Mass will be of interest, I will be interested to see how the faithful receive Holy Communion.

    1. @Chip Stalter – comment #17:
      They will probably receive communion way they do at other Masses he celebrate say for example in St Peter’s Basilica. If they indicate they receive in the hand the priests usually honor that. I saw one very egregious example of two priests smacking down, literally smacking, the hands of a young boy, about twelve who indicated he wanted to receive in his hand, they almost forcefully making him him take it in his mouth by the priest administering it. The other one was the one who kept smacking the child,’s hands down. I wrote Papa Francesco about this incident. I have no way he received the letter but I have not seen this type of behavior on the part of a priest towards a communicant repeated and in fact very seldom see a priest refuse to place the host into a person’s hands.

      1. @Reyanna Rice – comment #46:
        I have a priest friend who recently concelebrated in Rome. He was still told to administer communion only on the tongue. Remember, that is the Roman Rite norm. We in the US and in many other countries have an indulgence to allow otherwise. Of course, as I said earlier, rubrics serve a greater good. So while it is technically illicit to receive on the hand in the Vatican, I don’t think priest should hit anyone’s hand especially while holding the Blessed Sacrament.

  12. As I implied in my earlier post, Pope Francis has taken a road somewhere midway between the way of Benedict and the way mass is celebrated here in the US on most Sundays (in my experience). By that I meaning, he uses more Latin, incorporates a more traditional approach to music, uses a more traditional altar arrangement, etc. But of course he has rejected Benedict’s project of proposing newer traditional elements. In a way, I see him as having accepted much Benedict’s project- but not wanting to continue it. He always gives a heavy nod to tradition, and he suppresses (tones down? puts backstage?) his own personality in the liturgy. On the other hand, he hasn’t made Benedict’s project his own “ideology.” He is flexible with rubrics, uses many modern elements, does not avoid the vernacular. This all makes me think that Pope Francis wants to move past all liturgy wars. Nothing on either extreme side. If you look at him from a traditionalist perspective, he seems like a little “modernist.” However, if most liturgically-minded American attended a Mass that he celebrates, they would feel like he is a little closer to the “traditionalist” side than they are. I think that is what Pope Francis wants. He doesn’t want his liturgies to detract from the focus ad extra… on the people who still need Christ. So he keeps it midway between Benedict and and more creative, freer styles.

  13. I was so long-winded above that I forgot my main point. I don’t expect he will then say TOO MUCH that would make the focus on the liturgy wars. He will make a statement, and move on.

  14. The real reform for me came not just with the vernacular but the decision to pray the Eucharistic prayer audibly. There were two big discussions…the vernacular and audibility. A lot of people I know who attend the Ordinary Form in Latin have said to me, “It is beautiful. Why did they change it?” I said “Well, it was silent before. And there was no Communion rite for the people. Different places people went to Communon willy nilly sometimes even at the beginning of the Mass…priests coming in from the sacristy.” One response was, “Silent??? How did they know when to make the responses?” Answer of course is, “They didn’t!” It really did need reform.
    I also remember that I was a real liberal in those days, I used a Missal…the one with the drawings at the top so you could tell what part of the Mass you had come to.Most did not bother. I think what happened was that when people who had not bothered to use a missal and who then understood what was going on, couldn’t care less and stopped going.

  15. Peter Kwasniewski: “If a liturgy that has failed to attract or retain huge numbers of Catholics over the decades can be called a ‘successful reform,’ then it’s time to dust off our copies of George Orwell’s 1984.”

    Scientific proof, please, that Catholics who have stopped practicing have stopped practicing because of the liturgy of Vatican II? Please cite studies with significant samples etc.

    1. @David Philippart – comment #23:
      Is such a study even possible? The liturgy was imposed on everyone, so there wasn’t a “control” group, and so many other factors contributed to people falling away that liturgy may or may not have been a factor. Add in the fact that many people might not even be able to articulate or “put their finger on” just why the Church was no longer relevant to them anymore.

      Personally, I think all the “positive” reforms of Vatican II could have been applied to the now-EF. It can be celebrated in Vernacular and “silent” Low Mass could have been outlawed. The lectionary could have been expanded. The other reforms seem to have been a colossal waste of energy and materials without a real payoff to justify them.

      1. @Jack Wayne – comment #26:

        Jack writes: “Personally, I think all the ‘positive’ reforms of Vatican II could have been applied to the now-EF.”

        They were – it’s called the Missal of Paul VI. And note that every missal of the Mass of Paul VI says in the front that it was reformed in accord with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. It really comes down to whether we accept this or not, whether we accept the liturgy of the church or not, whether we accept what the Council did, what the Pope did, and what every Pope since him has accepted. Is that cover page of the missal accepted or not by Catholics?

        30 years ago it was clearer that the issue is whether we accept Vatican II or not. Those who didn’t accept Vatican II were more clearly on the fringe. The great tragedy of the lifetime work of Ratzinger/Pope Benedict is that he put wind in the sails of those who don’t accept Vatican II. He made it almost respectable to reject it, and constantly to carp at and pick at the liturgy of the church. It is difficult for me to see how much good can come out of the resulting creation of a parallel church at war with the mainstream church of Vatican II.


      2. @Anthony Ruff – comment #30:
        Acceptance of Vatican II should not hinge on whether one approves of how it was carried out – that makes it seem as if the two are the same thing and basically puts every non-doctrinal decision the Church has made since the council above criticism. That does not make for a healthy Church.

        The parallel Church at war with the mainstream Church of Vatican II only exists in the land of hyperbole.

      3. @Jack Wayne – comment #32:
        The problem with creating this sharp distinction between the Council and how it was carried out is that it’s not realistic historically or theologically. Only by reducing the Council to its documents on paper, and documents only, can you draw such a fine line.

        And even then, it can’t be sustained except in the abstract. The documents do not exist in a vacuum. If one is critical of the immediate and long term results of the Council, to also assert that one is not critical of the Council? No, it doesn’t work. This represents an intellectual sleight of hand. It is like the Christians who say “I believe in the Bible” but the Church is a product of “man made laws” which I don’t believe or have an obligation to uphold. The dichotomy is false. Texts, even scriptural texts, don’t exist in isolation from their contexts.

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #33:

        I don’t think anyone is denying that the council documents can be understood outside of their historical context. Rather, what is being questioned is whether or not the council documents actually justify certain practices and attitudes that they have been taken to justify. This is not the same as questioning the legitimacy of the council itself.

      5. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #35:
        The question you raise here is, however, far different from the actual critique that the reform has faced from traditionalists. It’s not merely that certain practices and attitudes are being critiqued, the fact of the matter is that the whole form and content of the liturgical reform has been called into question.

        This sort of rejection of the council’s implications is vastly different from post-Conciliar critique of the liturgy, of which there was plenty.

      6. @Rita Ferrone – comment #33:
        I created no sharp distinction, though. The documents are not divorced from context at all, in my mind. However, we have had nearly half a century so far of history since they were written and implemented – surely that adds something to how the documents are to be perceived and implemented in our own day and age? I feel that you and Fr Anthony advocate for the council existing in a vacuum – as if everything that was seen as a good idea fifty years ago is still a good idea today, no matter how much hindsight and experience we may now have.

      7. @Jack Wayne – comment #41:
        “I feel that you and Fr Anthony advocate for the council existing in a vacuum – as if everything that was seen as a good idea fifty years ago is still a good idea today, no matter how much hindsight and experience we may now have.”

        This is completely untrue. We both have acknowledged a great deal of experience that bears on the celebration of the liturgy since the Council. The development of the rites after the Council is part of the project even if the results were not known in advance to the fathers. The existence today of a fully vernacular liturgy is one such development. Each of the reformed rites of the sacraments is another. Totally accepted. Nothing that has happened convinces that a return to the pre-conciliar rites would be beneficial, however.

      8. @Rita Ferrone – comment #42:
        Perhaps it is untrue – but that is not the impression given. Do you feel that your experience is universal and cannot be disagreed with? Perhaps SP is a part of the development, even though it was not known in advance to the fathers of the council.

        Liturgy isn’t a doctrinal matter settled for all time in the late 60s. It is something educated people can disagree about without being accused of being malicious. If some people want to unreasonably frame that as “war,” then that is their issue – and I’m free to ignore them or dismiss them.

      9. @Anthony Ruff – comment #30:
        Isn’t there a contradiction with your approach, Father? People who grew up after Vatican II have been used to seeing traditions/teachings of the church questioned and seeing things that past generations took for granted being rejected . But if Vatican II is now part of the tradition, then why shouldn’t it be open to critical examination? You yourself have said that we can’t be sure of what the magisterium of the church will teach 100 years from now. If Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and Humanae Vitae can be rejected even though they state things that past generations took for granted, then why should Vatican II be seen as an exception?

  16. Let’s remember that the use of a hieratic, sacred language is not unique to Roman Catholicism. We know that Jesus and the apostles used Hebrew, a dead language, in their synagogue and temple worship. (Perhaps they used the vernacular at times too, but that’s speculation.) Other Christian churches still use archaic languages (Old Church Slavonic, Ge’ez), other Abrahamic religions do likewise, as do non-Christian religions (cf. Vedic/Sanskrit, Avestan). When Joseph Smith invented his Mormon rituals he even made up some ‘Adamic’ to throw in. Clearly there’s something here that deeply touches the human psyche.

    On the other hand, there does nevertheless appear to be a need to speak to God in our own tongue. We know of course that Vatican II didn’t invent the notion of a vernacular Catholic liturgy—it was discussed at Trent and indeed back in the days of Cyril and Methodius. There were vernacularist societies among the laity, as well, back in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Now I’m not one to idolise Vatican II, and I think any Catholic in good standing should feel free to criticise or disagree with its documents. But I do think the compromise of Sacrosanctum Concilium struck the right balance: allowing the limited use of the vernacular while retaining Latin for the core of the Mass. Use of the vernacular was one the one thing for which there really was a general appetite in a considerable proportion of the faithful.

    And therein lies the problem. Because use of the vernacular, for which there really was enthusiasm among a considerable proportion (though not all) of the laity, was the Trojan horse by which a host of other unwanted and unwarranted changes were brought into the Mass.

    Which brings us to another failure of Vatican II—its utter failure to reform the monarchical model of the church. The trials of Lefebvre (an Athanasian-like character in my book) were in essence little different to the trials of Döllinger and Tyrrell before him.

  17. I thought that Pope Francis has already celebrated the Mass in Italian. Has he always said it in Latin since he’s been Pope?

    1. @Meggan Conway – comment #25:
      Hi Meggan,

      You are correct, the Pope has celebrated the Liturgy in Italian (and other vernacular languages) since he has been Pope, and he does so daily.

      The comment above saying he uses “more Latin” is comparing him to the standard practice in the US, in which Latin is only very rarely used. It still doesn’t amount to a lot of Latin. In his recent trip to the Philippines, he used Latin in the liturgy, but this was strange for him. Probably it was because he is not as comfortable with English as he is with other modern languages, Nevertheless, the liturgical responses of the people were in English.

      The Pope’s celebration on March 7 is an anniversary Mass, commemorating Pope Paul VI’s first Italian-language Mass, not Pope Francis’s first Italian-language Mass. I hope this clears up the confusion.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #31:
        I did not at all intend to imply that the Pope rarely uses the vernacular. On the other hand, I do stand by my comment that he uses more Latin and more traditional elements than one finds in most US (and Latin American) masses. Look at all of his liturgies in Rome… even in those where Italian is widely used, there is Latin for many parts of the ordinary. For me this has to be his choice to walk a middle ground between continuing Benedict’s “more tradition, more Latin” campaign and the typical way mass is celebrated in Parishes in the US, Latin American, and Italy. I don’t think this is Pope Francis making a point. I think it is him trying NOT to make a point. That is, he is trying to move past this argument by nod to Benedict but no strong critique of current practice.

    2. @Meggan Conway – comment #25:
      No…he uses Italian most frequently but will use Latin if the congregation attending has a more universal make up and on the Feast of Our Lady of Gudalupe, he celebrated in Spanish. Interesting little observation: when he says Mass in Italian, the word of consecration over the cup is that Jesus died “per tutti” and the only possible way that is translated in Italian from every source I have checked is “for all”. But then the more traditionalist among us will say that it rely means ” for many ” just as they now insist the revised English translation devastation we have that has ” for many” really means “for all”.

      1. @Reyanna Rice – comment #48:
        Look at these liturgies carefully. Even when the majority of the propers are in Italian, Latin is still used heavily in the ordinary in many (but not all Masses). It is an over simplification to say “he uses mostly Italian.” My point in saying this again is that he is walking a middle way between Benedict and what commonly happens with respect to Latin–it is totally abandoned.

  18. If we take the post hoc ergo propter hoc approach, Humanae Vitae is in many ways a more credible candidate than the reformed Roman rite for the exodus of Catholics from the church. But neither HV nor the NO accounts for the roughly simultaneous exodus from mainline Protestantism.

    We should also remember that the introduction of the “dialog mass” in Latin led many priests to pray the canon aloud well before VII. And there were some churches and quite a few school and college chapels that allowed versus populum celebration well before the reforms were officially introduced.

    We should similarly remember that the various rites in dead or archaic languages were originally vernacular and contemporary, but that the rituals remained unchanged, linguistically frozen over time.

    Reliable determination of the true cause of the exodus can be done without a control group by using accepted social-scientific research methods. But if that research is to be done, it needs to be begun now. The generation coming into adulthood when the NO was introduced is in their 60s and 70s, and their parents’ generation is in their 80s and 90s. Time’s a-wastin’.

  19. While it is true that Pope Francis hasn’t waded into the “liturgy wars” he has made some critical comments about contemporary liturgies tending to be devoid of a spirit of adoration, being more like social gatherings. He has pointed to eastern churches as possible sources of inspiration for recovering a focus on adoration.
    He’s also strongly advocated practices that some would label as “traditional” or “pre-Vatican ii.” He is, for example, a strong proponent of Eucharistic Adoration, stating that his favorite time in prayer is his daily hour in front of the tabernacle. He even argues that popular devotions constitute a kind of magisterium. As such he has placed himself at odds with certain trends since the council that downplay or even disparage popular piety.

  20. I think that while it is difficult to place blame on the liturgical reform for decline in Mass attendance and religiosity since the council, the fact remains that a key motivation for the reform was a reversal of religious decline already underway in Europe. As such, it is possible to claim that the reforms were a failure in that sense at least.
    Case in point, the Orthodox Church, despite its “unreformed” liturgy where the priest has his “back to the people” has not experienced a greater decline in church attendance than the Catholic Church has even though such rates are also very low in countries with an Orthodox majority.

  21. Stanislaus, from the very founding of the Church people have been used to seeing traditions questioned and seeing (some) things that past generations took for granted being questioned and in some cases rejected – see Acts 15, for instance. This is true for liturgy, for doctrine and for pastoral practice. Cardinal Newman was eloquent about this “noisy” process of development.

    But Newman was also clear that there are points when the infallible authority speaks, and an ecumenical council is undoubtedly one of those points. It was precisely the existence of that authority that allowed the noisy process to go on as it did, because it created a limit, a backstop for that “noise”. Newman didn’t much like some of the conclusions that he (correctly) feared that Vatican I would reach, but once the Council was finished, I don’t think he wrote or preached against it. Experts on Newman may have different views on this.

    Building on Anthony and Rita’s points: it seems to me that Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict made three serious errors.

    The first was the attempt, per Rita’s comment, to draw sharp lines between the final conciliar texts, the context of the Council, and the work that went on in implementing the Council fathers’ decisions.

    The second was, as Anthony says, to encourage criticism not just of the liturgy as it was reformed, but also of the Council’s taking on a thoroughgoing reformation of the liturgy.

    And the third was to support, at least implicitly, the intellectually and historically shaky idea of a “Mass of ages” or “Mass of all time”, as though nothing changed from the Last Supper until 1963. Of course that’s not what Pope Benedict believed, but some of his comments have given weight to this goofy idea.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #36:


      I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I would like to point out that Vatican I actually made use of the charism of infallibility, while Vatican II did not as Bl. Paul VI made clear.

    2. @Jonathan Day – comment #36:

      Talk about creeping infallibility.

      Here is the thing. You don’t get to cloak the attempts the implement a Council with a Council’s own authority.

      The Holy Spirit is guaranteed to protect from error the Council itself, in certain circumstances. No such guarantee exists for the subsequent implementation. Indeed, given the implementation is all about praxis and actions, the only guarantee we get is that it will contain errors.

      Thus there IS a sharp line between the Council and not the Council. Attempts to pretend otherwise are not persuasive. The human actors might be the same (i.e. the same Bishops and advisors), but the actions of God are not.

  22. I am amused by those who point to the Orthodox liturgies with all their grandeur as examples of how the Latin Rite ought to be celebrated. In the US these churches are, for the most part, still locked into their old world ethnic and linguistic identities. Their congregations are small in number and the faithful are free to come and go rather than required to participate in the entire liturgy. Nor do the orthodox, any more than Catholics, think of themselves as required to be present every Sunday. Their churches are remarkably unevangelical. Our liturgy was reformed for the purpose of transforming the lives of Catholics seeking to be ardent followers o’f Jesus Christ. Large numbers of Catholics were not interested in the call to unite their everyday living with their Sunday worship and walked away. But the larger exodus occurred in the aftermath of HV when many lost their faith in the church’s teaching authority. One final point. Over the many centuries in which the TLM was so often celebrated in a non edifying manner, vast hordes of Catholics were in attendance (for the briefest time) because they feared going to hell. Not because they believed the Eucharist was the summit and source of Christian life.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #39:
      The “Orthodox liturgies” are also ours, thanks to the Eastern Catholics. And the Eastern Orthodox have gained a number of Protestant converts who hungered for a sacred, ancient liturgy.
      As for Mass attendance, sure, being there for the Eucharist is better than being there so you don’t commit a mortal sin, but being there because you don’t want to commit a mortal sin is better than not going at all. And who knows, maybe those who go to fulfill their Sunday duty will have their hearts touched and grow in love of the Eucharist!

  23. As one schooled in the theology of dissent in the 1970’s and it was a cogent theology put forth by academic theologians and was basically embraced by academia of that period, especially in many seminaries and religious houses of formation. It was also referred to in political terms, such as the “loyal opposition.” It was directed toward Pope Paul VI as he tried to clarify the confusion of the period which went against many of the more liberal ideologies of that time. Even then these dissenters thought Pope Paul VI was betraying the council he approved and especially it “spirit.”

    I find it interesting that a Council as authoritative as it is and subsequent papal teachings as authoritative as they are, take on the air of infallibility when in fact these are not infallible as has been made clear by Pope Benedict and even Pope Paul VI. They are normative though.

    I don’t particularly like the negativity of the ultra-traditionalists and even the neo-conservatives who have a disdain even for a well celebrated vernacular Mass. It is unfortunate. But give them a break. They are simply following in the footsteps of those who promoted the theology of dissent and of loyal opposition (also disloyal opposition) from a generation ago, but this time from the ideological right point of view.

  24. @Gregory Hamilton: Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the tomb of Saint John Paul II. When he did so, he celebrated ad orientum.

  25. I am very puzzled by this thought that Pope em. Benedict tried to “draw a sharp distinction between what VII said and the way it was practiced”. I feel that I have read a lot of Benedict’s writing, and I don’t recall this ‘sharp distinction’ .

    After all, VII has to be lived out, in practice. And as I understand it, some of the ways in which it has been lived out – and there is some experimentation in this – is open to question and improvement. Perhaps that is most evident in some areas such as music. I think this is most aptly summed up by his term “reform of the reform”.

    “It is difficult for me to see how much good can come out of the resulting creation of a parallel church at war with the mainstream church of Vatican II.”
    – well we already have many parallel churches, Marionite, Easter Catholic, and not ever to mention Ordinariate. They all have their own liturgies. I don’t see why allowing the EF is any worse than this.

    I always think it amusing that some people feel free to criticize the church on many doctrinal and moral areas. But DON”T criticize Vatican II!

    I think you all are right that Pope Francis wishes to move beyond the liturgy wars. He’s got other fish to fry.

  26. Vernacularization is an excellent idea, or so it appears. Why not translate the Mass so that its didactic meaning (and not just its semiotic or pietistic meaning) is accessible to the faithful? Here I agree with Rita Ferrone at #4 that Mass in the vernacular has the potential to provide a greater level of catechesis and inculturation.

    However, vernaculars are restless. The advent of the OED online reminds us that the world Englishes mutate daily with new colloquialisms, new tech and scientific terms, “verbed” nouns and “nouned” verbs. The notion that there is a “today’s vernacular” which can satisfy most listeners is absurd. Today’s vernacular will always be yesterday’s vernacular.

    What is “accessibility”? Is accessibility the ability to hear something and simultaneously make sense of it? Is accessibility the ability to better catechize the faithful? Is accessibility a seamless synchrony between semiotics and didactics during the “worship experience”?

    Accessibility is none of these, because accessibility does not exist. Vernacularization, as the Roman Church has conceived in the latter day, does not grant access to anything else than an agenda-laden translation-interpretation. Certainly, Cranmer’s Prayer Book as a whole carried a hefty agenda. His translations of the Sarum collects are treasured because he amplified the Latin without imposing an agenda through the syntactic level of the collects. Cranmer instead created a de novo anaphora which reflected his understanding of the eucharist. What came before was merely repeated, not (re)analyzed. What was created anew bore the most force of reformation.

    Both The Sacramentary and the new Roman Missal amplify agenda first over the possibility of lucid semantics which may then be used in the service of agenda.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *