ND Church Life Journal: Traditionis Custodes Was Never Merely About the Liturgy

Shaun Blanchard, writing in the always-high-quality Notre Dame Church Life Journal, argues that “Traditionis Custodes was never merely about the liturgy.” It’s about controlling the narrative of what Vatican II means – something which all the popes have sought to do since the Council. That sounds exactly right to me.




  1. Paul VI got it right. He understood clearly, and in my view correctly, that Archbishop Lefebvre’s quarrel with the Holy See was primarily about ecclesiology, not liturgy. In his letter ‘Cum te’ to the Archbishop (Oct. 11, 1976), Pope Paul explains this at length and in formal theological language.

  2. And the difference between the unreformed and the reformed rites is ultimately there ecclesiology. On the former only the ordained priest is the real liturgical actor; in the latter all the baptized priesthood is.

  3. This hatred of the Ancient Mass and concomitant exclusion of its devotees from the Church after 30 years of Papal approval is heartless and cruel. As a person who finds comfort and joy in the Vetus Ordo the hostile iconoclastic bullying is hard to bear from my co- religionists.
    I am being forced out of my own Church , a Church that accommodates many ecclesiastical points of view and styles of worship. Apparently ,all I can do is endure it and shut my purse tight.
    My Neapolitan Grandmother would say” without money the priest does not sing the Mass “ Now , without the traditional Mass I am not giving any money. I have had enough of this abuse.

    1. I am sorry to see the pain in words. I fully understand how you feel. I am a priest of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. I recommend that you consider going to an Orthodox parish. You will not have to worry about the future of the liturgy.

    2. The meme of ‘Ancient Mass’ is rather overused.

      Two weeks ago, 25th July, the rubrics of MR1962 dictated the ninth Sunday after Pentecost be celebrated with a commemoration of St James at said and conventual Masses. Prior to 1st January 1961 when the 25th July fell on a Sunday the Mass of St James was celebrated, not that of the Sunday, with the latter being commemorated.

      Last week following MR1962 at Mass there was a single collect. Prior to 1961 there would have been four collects: of the Sunday, of St Peter in Chains, of St Paul and of the Machabees. Prior to 1956 in addition the last Gospel would not have been the Prologue of St John but the Gospel from the feast of St Peter in Chains. Before 1911 the Mass would have been of St Peter in Chains with commemorations of St Paul, the Sunday and the Machabees with the last Gospel of the Sunday.

      MR1962 is different every single day of the year, albeit some days the differences are minor, to what preceded it. Amongst Traditionalists from the 1980s onwards it has become a golden calf and its intrinsic value overrated especially as its period of use was so short in the history of the Church from 1961 until either the first Sunday of Advent 1964 or the first Sunday of Lent 1965 when its rite was derogated by Inter Oecumenici.

      1. Well, 1962 was chosen for practical/political reasons, first by the SSPX then by JP2 & B16. There’s a voluble chunk of online Trad-dom that effectively headed to the 1920 editio typica of the Missal (and Pope Francis made gestures of accommodation in that direction on Holy Week) and appears to be eyeballing the pre-Pian (X) breviary as the next stop in that reverse timeline.

  4. I agree fully that the Extraordinary Form ( for lack of a better term) can be and often is symbolic (in the modern sense) of a perverse ecclesiology, but I have trouble buying that it is inherently so. I suppose that also depends on what you define as inherent to the Extraordinary Form. Imagine an unreformed mass (say the missal of 1962) translated totally into the vernacular with responses from the pews and readings proclaimed by someone other than the priest. Would this still reflect an anti-Vatican II ecclesiology? Would this still be the missal of 1962 or would it be something different?

    On a side note, here is another article from the Church Life Journal detailing a history of the missal reform during and after Vatican II.


    1. In a sense Francis has already approved the tridentine mass in english as the anglican ordinariate missal has as options a liturgy very similar to the 1962 mass. It has same prayers at the foot of the altar, greeting before each oration, two readings, same offertory prayers, Roman canon with same genuflections, and the last Gospel. The fact that Francis approved such a missal made some think that he does not see the 1962 missal as inherently problematic.

      1. I’ve heard that traditionalist groups originally used the 1965/67 variation of the Mass, but switched to 1962 when the Church used that version for the indult put out in the early 80s.

        Regardless, it seems to me that little would need to be done to put the 1962 Missal into basic conformity with Vatican II. A more extreme revision could demand that the new lectionary be used, essentially making the 1962 ordinary into yet another option in a missal full of options. Such a missal could then be allowed for use in parish churches while the straight 1962 version could be used for personal parishes and oratories run by groups like the Institute of Christ the King for the time being.

      2. Eh, yes and no. The Ordinariate’s “Divine Worship” use is based on a skeleton of the 1969 calendar and lectionary, and its structure and constitution, though they may contain more elements from the preconciliar rite than the current Roman Missal, also share the latter’s flexibility in contrast to the strict and uniform rubricism of the former.

        They are furthermore governed by the GIRM in everything where the particular law of the Rubrical Directory for the Divine Worship Missal does not apply. Granted, this rubrical directory does permit some things that the current Roman missal does not. E.g. prayers at the foot of the altar and the Last Gospel are included — but always optional. The Roman Canon/EP1 is normative for Sundays, Solemnities and Feasts, but the “Alternative Eucharistic Prayer” (a Cranmerized EP2) is permitted ad-libitum on ferias and memorials, or “as pastoral necessity” may warrant (though admittedly, I have never heard it done). The canon itself follows the modern formula of having the mysterium fidei and the memorial acclamation response after the consecration. The “traditional” offertory is “option 1,” but the celebrant may also opt for the (Cranmerized) responsorial “option 2” from the modern missal. In re: your other specific examples, there is no greeting before each oration (only before the collect), and there are three readings not two (it follows the modern 3-year lectionary).

        I do agree, though, that the Ordinariate does show a way for precisely the kind of non-polemical adaptation of “traditional” options within a solidly postconciliar framework (after all, the whole project is a shared fruit of Lumen Gentium, Unitatis Redintegratio, and Sacrosanctum Concilium) and governed by the GIRM, where e.g. ad orientem celebration (the norm in the Ordinariate) or the inclusion of the Last Gospel are not ideologically weaponized performative acts in the “Liturgy Wars,” but just the way things are without any kind of anti-conciliar baggage.

    2. It has to be said that Chiron’s article is extremely slanted towards one viewpoint. To present it as a history of the reform is doing history itself a disservice. History requires balance, not bias.

      1. How long have you got?!
        A proper reading of Bugnini, Marini and others would redress the balance.

      2. I disagree that Chiron’s article is extremely slanted . For example, his excellent analysis of the “The Ottaviani Intervention” refutes the typical traditionalist narrative regarding that text including Ottaviani’s reversal of his initial support for the “short critical study.”. It also explains why this occurred as opposed to conspiracy theories of either Ottaviani being duped in signing the letter in the first place, or being duped to sign the communication stating his reversal. I found his full biography of Bugnini to be objective, though clearly critical of his faults. Again, as an example, he finds no persuasive evidence of Bugnini’s alleged masonic membership.

  5. This is a great article. In a sense Francis is making it clear that future popes shouldn’t feel bound by their predecessors here. Since the Ecclesia Dei communities will almost certainly outlast this pontificate, the next Pope will have to decide what to do. Francis is letting his successor know that he doesn’t have to feel bound by either JPII, BXVI or Francis on this matter.

  6. Pope Francis, ordained in 1969, is the first Pope ordained after the Second Vatican Council. I cannot understand why any priest ordained since 1970 (except SSPX priests) would want to celebrate Mass in a rite few Catholics under 60 can now remember. And any priest who was in the seminary in the 1960s knew perfectly well that changes in the liturgy were coming. If he was not prepared to accept those changes, he should not have presented himself for ordination.

  7. Tom,

    Thanks so much for your helpful comments. I’m pretty sure that the place where I’ve been to for an ordinariate liturgy a handful of times had 2 readings and a greeting before each oration. I guess they were doing it wrong, and probably shouldn’t mention their name as I wouldn’t want to get them in trouble.

  8. Pope Francis will do well to remember that the Catholic Faith grows best in a hostile environment. Personally, I have walked away from my Novus Ordo Parish, and joined an FSSP Parish in my response. I take my time and treasure with me.

    Francis, if you ask “Who radicalized me? I will reply: “You did.”

    1. ” . . . the Catholic Faith grows best in a hostile environment.”

      Please remind the soi disant Integralists of the same.

  9. Ok Paul you win! I’ll have an extra helping of the pre 1911 Missal too ! Sounds fantastic!

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