A question for opponents of Traditionis Custodes

There has been vigorous public debate about Traditionis Custodes (TC), the papal decree that has restricted use of the older form of Mass.

I don’t want to pursue that debate here, but to ask a question of opponents of TC. They have described the decree as “harsh”, “cruel”, and “severe”. Many of TC’s critics say that it removes the generosity toward lovers of the older Mass that Pope Benedict XVI extended in Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae. They see Traditionis Custodes as curtailing a healthy liturgical pluralism.

Now suppose that the next pope is a strong adherent of the old rite; early in his pontificate he reverses TC, mandates universal use of the old rite, and places severe limits on or even abrogates “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II” (TC Art. 1). Not long afterward, he cancels all of the liturgical changes made since 1900.

Further suppose that a group of the clerical and lay faithful who love the liturgy of Paul VI come forward and ask the new pope to make generous provision for the use of the reformed liturgy, including in parishes. What would today’s strongest critics of Traditionis Custodes advise the new pope? Should the reformed liturgy be banned? Or would pluralism prevail here as well?

Many opponents of TC say not only that the older Mass should be preserved but that the Mass of Paul VI and its related content is impoverished, inadequate, assembled on the basis of bad scholarship, and otherwise defective. Peter Kwasniewski has written that the 20th century reforms to the liturgy were, at their worst, a sin against the Holy Spirit. [1] If this were so, why would the Church not restrict or entirely inhibit the reformed liturgy? Error, after all, has no rights.

There is a parallel to another debate around Vatican II, on religious liberty. John Courtney Murray SJ wrote this about Dignitatis Humanae, the 1956 Declaration on Religious Freedom:

A longstanding ambiguity had finally been cleared up. The Church does not deal with the secular order in terms of a double standard—freedom for the Church when Catholics are in the minority, privilege for the Church and intolerance for others when Catholics are a majority. [2]

So, the question to opponents of Traditionis Custodes: if the shoe were on the other foot, if the older liturgy were normative, how would you respond to calls for pluralism?

[1] See, among other examples, his lecture “Beyond ‘Smells and Bells’: Why We Need the Objective Content of the Usus Antiquior

[2] “Religious Freedom,” in Abbott, ed., Documents of Vatican II, p. 673.


  1. I’ve said here many times that I am live and let live mostly, so I would support an indult for the Novus Ordo applied generously in a way the Latin Mass indults NEVER were. Most people I have had this conversation with do not support banning the NO since they have seen and lived with the objectively bad fruits of doing so with the TLM. They realize the craziness and needless division that would ensue unless it were reintroduced gradually, with compromise, and with popular support. Granted, I have not discussed this hypothetical since TC, so I imagine more traditionalists have been hardened towards the Novus Ordo now, especially if their bishop now forbids it.

    I’m curious about more of a middle way hypothetical. What if the old Mass were mandated but with vernacular and some of the other things associated with Vatican IIas move back towards some form of liturgical uniformity? How many people, truly, would clamor for the Novus Ordo if they could continue to have versus populum, lay lectors, everything said out loud, and the music and art they are used to but with the EF and its calendar? The lectionary is pretty much the only thing textually different that most average people cite as making it richer. Make the new lectionary conform to the old calendar and allow it and I imagine the group wanting an indult for the Novus Ordo would probably be a tiny fraction of those wanting the TLM today. Liturgical division would then largely revolve around aesthetic and ceremonial preferences. How many people truly love the NO enough to sacrifice for it the way traditionalists do and how many truly just love stuff like vernacular and modern music?

    1. As I’ve pointed out before, it is high time the expression ‘Novus Ordo’ was retired from service. It has no official status and, when used by SSPX and others of like mind, always has a pejorative connotation. What’s more, an Order of Mass that is the only one most Catholics under 60 can now remember is no longer ‘new’ as most people understand the word.

  2. I seem to remember a certain papal bull — Quo primum — which banned many of the existing rites in use at the time. The declared reason for this measure was this: “It is most becoming that there be in the Church… only one rite for the celebration of Mass.”

    This was certainly the view of Paul VI, and is certainly the view of Pope Francis. I don’t recall reading that there was a huge and angry rebellion at Pius V’s action, which was exactly the same in nature as the corresponding actions in our own time. And yes, I know Pius made exceptions for the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites as well as other more local usages of long standing, but we are talking about the Roman Rite here.

    With respect, Jack, I don’t think it’s a question of whether a particular group loves its own liturgy enough to sacrifice for it, but rather a question of obeying a universal law of the Church in the interests of unity.

    1. I have never been to a Mass that did not obey the universal law of the Church.

      I was simply bringing up the point that to most people, the specific texts of the Mass matter significantly less than how it is celebrated. That very point has been told to me here at PrayTell in past discussions.

      As I said before, I am live and let live. People’s spiritual lives are more important than your or my preferences. I see it as cruel to take away something that harms no one but brings them closer to God. I don’t think anything goes, but what is currently permitted should not divide Catholics as much as it currently does.

  3. What Jack Wayne suggests for consideration seems to be similar to the 1965 Missal. That had, presumably, only about 4 years of use so little time to settle. It would be interesting to understand why it was felt necessary to change it so quickly.

    1. I believe it was changed so quickly because it was never seen as a full implementation of Vatican II, but as a transitional step. It was never intended to be permanent or long-lasting.

      1. Indeed Father. My 1965 Missal has a calendar for the year 1965 – 1994 and has been printed as though it was meant to last for many years. The preface indicates that “the Commission will do its work gradually, keeping clearly in mind the pastoral needs of the people. … The … 1964 …Instruction … indicated to the Bishops of each country what parts of the Sacred Liturgy could now be said in the vernacular.” So a suggestion of gradual further change rather than an indication that the big change made in 1969. I suspect that there were different views about what changes would or should be made after 1965.
        There may be a clue in Cardinal Heenan’s preface to my 1975 Missal: “The laity … have grown tired of cards and pieces of paper. It will be an immense relief for them to be able to follow the whole of the Mass in their own book.”

    2. Even the 1970/75 Missal was seen as a transition.

      But to address the question from a different perspective, many liturgical reformers have already seen conciliar reforms rolled back: no Penance form III, no inclusive language, no ICEL Psalter, no MR2, and limits on many other things. When I was in my forties and fifties, and addressed discernment for continuing in liturgical ministry in that climate, I resolved in the end to use my dissatisfaction as a tool in my spiritual life. I remained faithful. I didn’t put countdowns on bishops I disliked on my website. I didn’t suggest they were heretics. I worked with conservative bishops when I served on committees and when they came to visit the parish. I worked with pastors who were more or less willing to align with MR3. My criticisms were pragmatic: chant is disliked mainly because it is done too slowly; Penance formation is lacking because adolescent Catholics are stuck on a 1st/2nd grade understanding; the MR3 in the US is inelegant and just bad English.

      A future pope might come along when I’m close to retirement or in it. If he upends things again, who knows what I might do? I know my conservative liturgical foils wouldn’t give a hoot for me. A monastery might look really good in such times.

  4. I do not think I ever had heard traditionalists speculate about a possible ban of Novus Ordo – most traditionalist communities are grateful for the liturgy they can celebrate and care little about what is going on in other churches – or they speak of Novus Ordo of a bad experience of their own pasts they are glad to have escaped from.

    That said, since in much of Europe the number of entries into diocesan seminaries is going downhill steeply, whilst the number of entries into seminaries of traditionalist societies (both those formerly under Eccelsia Dei and the SSPX) keeps increasing, one could imagine that in the not-to-distant future it could happen that the only priests available in a town or a region are traditionalists. However, such a situation would not be caused by the fiat of an authority, but by young men voting with their feet.

    1. 1570 was nothing like 1970.
      That said, the truth is that most bishops don’t care one iota if there are serious abuses of the 1970 Missal. Chicago, for example, has a rather prominent parish that broadcasts weekly Masses that use ad-libbed Canons and nobody cares.
      The question of what would happen if some pope abrogated the supposedly irreversible 1970 Missal is a moot point when you have almost no concern whatsoever for people who do what they want with it.
      Curiously, many of the same bishops and priests who think the 1970 Missal is at best a suggestion are the same who would never tolerate the use of the 1962.

      1. I think it’s highly unlikely that ad-libbed Eucharistic Prayers are being used. Much more likely to be one of the EPs for Reconciliation or Various Needs and Occasions, which are less familiar to the uninformed viewer.

        This kind of exaggerated statement, together with those that try to maintain that all celebrations of the Missal of Paul VI are casual, irreverent, involve clowns, and heaven-knows-what-else, is really not helpful to the debate. Yes, there may be an isolated example of something that deviates from the norms, but that is also certainly true of celebrations of the Tridentine Rite. In both cases, one instance does not need to be elevated to the status of a universal phenomenon.

        And to say that bishops don’t care is simply untrue, also. Just watch what happens, for example, if Fr X, who does not like his Ordinary, omits his name from the EP. Pretty swift action will follow!

      2. What Berthold says is true. I’ll note that this improvised Eucharistic Prayer includes neither preface nor Sanctus.

        Saint Sabina is something of an outlier, in my experience. I suspect 99.9% of Masses are celebrated using an authorized Eucharistic prayer (though for 2 years in the early 2000s I attended a University Parish in Belgium that almost always used unauthorized EPs, including a memorable First Communion that used one that omitted the words of institution).

      3. So, lots of questions remain: Are improvised EP’s more numerous than other liturgical or pastoral problems? I don’t think an Aha! a single liturgical abuse moment on YouTube counts. Are we talking a deliberate act or an older cleric who may have a memorized line from MR1 stuck in his head? My question for online critics: are you just being gossips about this?

    2. I have had conversations about doing away with the Novus Ordo, but only two times tops in the last decade. That it would be a good idea was the opinion of one person both times. My experience is otherwise the same as yours, though I know a lot of Latin Mass folk who are very active in the Novus Ordo – such as lectoring, teaching catechism/RCIA (and participating in those liturgies), or attending daily Mass. I attend the Novus Ordo for Holy Days that fall on weekdays and for Holy Week. If I were feeling snarky, I could joke that I attend the Novus Ordo more than the majority of Catholics do.

  5. One of the (very few) good results of the “liturgy war” of the last few decades has been fewer celebrations like the one at St Sabina, and many more like those we get at Holy Cross Cathedral or the St Clement Eucharistic Shrine, both in Boston, normative Masses celebrated pretty much 100% by the book, in a calm and unfussy manner. I have noted before that normative Masses entirely in Latin are celebrated every Sunday in several churches in central London, but with vernacular readings, priests facing the people, female lectors, servers and extraordinary minsters, communion in the hand, etc. Again, all of these are done “by the book” without improvised canons. This is at least closer to the model that Jack Wayne outlines in his earlier comment, and some of these London parishes have been celebrating in Latin this way since the reformed liturgy was first promulgated. Why this hasn’t happened in the US, in major urban centers at least, remains a puzzle to me.

    And if we were to indulge in tu quoque arguments, I could point to Tridentine celebrations that depart from the 1962 books, reverse the dialogue Mass or Holy Week reforms of Pius XII, and the like. But let’s not scratch that itch.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric online saying that the reformed liturgy should be rolled back entirely, that it was A Bad Thing for the Church. Some of the same writers are calling for liturgical tolerance / pluralism in the wake of Traditionis Custodes. Would they extend the same generosity if they were in control? Maybe it’s a hypothetical that is too difficult to discuss in this forum.

  6. What would strongest critics say? Posing the question like that gives its own answer. By definition, the strongest critics would be those who would seek a total ban. But how many of these are there? I would guess not many. Yes, they tend to be the most vocal but that is true with any controversy, just as it is only a small but vocal minority which seeks a total ban on the ancient form of the Mass. For the vast majority of those attached to the ancient form of the Mass, we are just tired of the constant liturgy wars and would be more than happy with live and let live. Indeed, many would be happy with the new Mass celebrated in a traditional manner stripped of all innovations not actually mandated by the new missal. It is the lack of this option on a regular basis that is causing the renewed interest in the old Mass. Those committed to the reformed liturgy should not demand that traditionally minded Catholics accept the new missal until they themselves do.

    1. The question I raised in the post was different: What would today’s strongest critics of Traditionis Custodes do? Of course the strongest critics of the Novus Ordo would ban the Novus Ordo if they were put in charge. That statement adds little to the discussion here.

      Good news that there are some attached to the older form of Mass who would “live and let live”, as you say. Jack Wayne’s attitude and yours both strike me as reasonable.

      I’ll note, in passing, that your generous stance — which I share and applaud — is “not very traditional.” The “traditional” saying is that error has no rights..

      I put the scare quotes in there because saying that something is “not very traditional” strikes me as being … not very traditional. But that’s a topic for another post.

  7. I recently saw an ad that called for a return to the Mass that was celebrated for 1500 years. I think they mean the Tridentine Mass but it is not that old nor does it qualify to be called “ancient” in light of the length of Church history.
    Pius met resistance in Trent and according to Jungman it took centuries for the Mass to be accepted in some European countries.

    1. The form of the Mass celebrated before Vatican II was not a creation of the Council of Trent or of Pope Pius V. It was merely the standardization and codification of the Mass as it had developed and existed for a millennium. Were there changes over those centuries? Yes, but they were minor and do not take away from the fact this was the Mass as it had been substantially celebrated since late antiquity. So yes, the pre-Vatican II Mass does deserve the title as the “ancient form of the Mass.”

      1. Uh, no. In late antiquity the liturgy was in the language of the people, Communion was under both forms, leavened bread was used, people reverently received in the hand while standing, the Eucharistic Prayer was said (sung) out loud, no one knelt for the EP (or anything else) because the Council of Nicaea had banned that, the people sang things such as vernacular communion antiphons… this list could be extended. There is little doubt among historians that the Eucharistic celebration underwent a fundamental shift in late first millennium (sometime around the Carolingian era) to be a clerical drama more than an act of the entire congregation. This is a matter of substance, not minor adjustments or inconsequential organic developments.

        This myth that the liturgy didn’t change substantially for 1,500 years, that Pope Gregory knew the fundamental form of the Tridentine liturgy, is simply historically false. I consider it of extreme importance at the present time to establish the basic facts of history.

        It is true, however, that the liturgy as codified after Trent is mostly the liturgy in its distorted late medieval form. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar got moved into the order of Mass – that’s the biggest change I know of, and it’s not huge. What was in effect a change for many locales is that the Roman liturgy, with few sequences, supplanted local variants of the Roman rite that had hundreds of sequences, so most of them ended up being removed in places other than Rome.


      2. One man’s distortion is another man’s development. : )

        I was speaking mostly of the text in the missal. In any case, it is equally false to categorize the pre-Vatican II Mass as only dating to the Council of Trent.

      3. You have a right to your own evaluation of the facts. You don’t have a right to your own facts. 🙂
        We’re agreed on your second point.

      4. Anthony, it is interesting that most of the differences you mention between the Mass known by Gregory and the Mass known by Alcuin have to do with the way the liturgy is celebrated, not the text. So I think that when people argue for the continuity of the Mass known by Gregory and the 1962 Missal, they must mean the texts. I suppose someone could argue that it might have been possible to preserve the text while changing (recovering?) the way in which the liturgy is celebrated–e.g. allowing communion in the hand, putting it into the vernacular, encouraging congregational participation, etc. Which is, more or less, what had happened by 1968. So I guess I wonder if critics of the reformed Mass would feel better about it if things had stopped in 1968?

        Also, while it is endlessly repeated by liturgists, very few actual historians of religion in the Middle Ages still believe that late medieval liturgy was “a clerical drama more than an act of the entire congregation.” John Bossy, Eamon Duffy, Augustine Thompson and many others have offered a much more nuanced account of lay participation in the liturgy.

      5. Hi Fritz,

        But the liturgical texts aren’t stable since late antiquity! Lots of development of orations and lectionaries etc. after the 5th and 6th centuries. The text of the creed, or last Gospel, or the extensive offertory prayers, are all second-millennium additions. Even the Mass Ordinary does not date back to late antiquity – at the time of Gregory the Gloria was not part of Sunday Mass celebrated by a priest, and the Agnus Dei wasn’t yet part of anyone’s Mass.

        I’m familiar with Bossy and Duffy. Their work does not show that the people participated corporately in the central liturgical acts, not by a long shot. There is very extensive lay involvement and engagement, but a lot of it is in secondary or derivative elements, or allegorizations that are removed from the central liturgical acts. Highly emotional I’m sure, highly engaging. But not corporate doing of the liturgy itself. The people did not sing the Sanctus, or did not ever recite communally in their own language a text such as “And with your spirit.”

        The extensive engagement of laity in secondary liturgical elements in the second millennium does not show that the liturgy was in good shape, or was true to its origins or what was given to the Church by Christ. It shows something else – the amazing power in Christendom for lay people to relate well to whatever the Church served up. They could get away with all the distortions in the form of the celebration because all the cultural forces were working in their favor for people to connect powerfully to organized religion. So, for example, the Elevation of the Host engaged people in ways we can’t imagine. But did lay people ever hear the text of the eucharistic prayer? Nope, for at least a thousand years the laity caught almost nothing of it. That’s a good example of how something secondary and distorted was able to capture the imagination of peoples deeply formed by Christendom culture, but it was far removed from late antiquity, and the differences involve texts as well as performative aspects.

        Progressives were mistaken when they thought that laity were unengaged in the medieval liturgy. But apologists of the old liturgy err when they overstate the continuity from antiquity to Trent, or when they think the old liturgy, which worked in a culture very different from our own despite its distortions, was therefore acceptable in form or, worse yet, viable in our time under very different cultural circumstances.

        Barring further data, I’m going to hold to the liturgy having become a clerical drama in the Carolingian era. That leaves open the question of how lay people somehow were able to relate to it in their cultural contexts.


      6. Awr, you might find Augustine Thompson’s Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 interesting.

        Here’s a relevant quote from ch. 6:

        ” In the late eleventh century, Bishop Sicardo of Cremona took it for granted that the people would chant the Kyrie and respond at the Agnus Dei; they replied to the Pax and its prayer (which should be sung alta voce, ‘‘so that the people who wish can respond,’’ said the bishop). Layfolk sang ‘‘Amen’’ to the opening collect, responded ‘‘Et cum spiritu tuo’’ to the ‘‘Dominus vobiscum,’’ and ‘‘Deo gratias’’ to the ‘‘Ite missa est.’’ In short, they made all the easy responses. In the case of the Credo, which was long and difficult but essential to the faith, the people showed assent by singing the Kyrie after it. That chant everyone could master.The only short response that Sicardo gave to the chorus rather than the populus was the ‘‘Et cum spiritu tuo’’ at the beginning of Mass, but he wrote nothing to suggest that the people might not join in there as well.The church of Siena in about 1210 also expected the people to make the short responses, such as the reply to the greeting, the dialogue before the Gospel (where they also crossed their foreheads), the reply to the Agnus Dei, and the ‘‘Deo Gratias’’ at the dismissal.One might dismiss these rubricians’ directions as wishful thinking, but a document produced by the laity themselves, the commentary on the 1221 Rule of the Penitents, mentioned the laity’s giving these responses at the Mass and Office.”

      7. Yes, there are examples of small parts of the liturgy being sung by people in some places in the first part of the second millennium. The Sanctus was sung by people still as late as the 11th century, perhaps later. I’ve seen evidence in Germany of people singing Latin responses at Mass in some cases after Trent and before the Liturgical Movement. Liturgical history is full of counter examples and tantalizing exceptions. I once spent a lot of time accumulating all the evidence I could for continuing evidence of people singing liturgical elements and I found a long list of various exceptions to the dominant trend. But none of it is evidence that the people were still celebrating the liturgy, in any significant way, as they had in late antiquity.

        Let’s not lose the larger point: a shift happened – however gradually and however much it varied from place to place – so that the liturgy eventually was fundamentally different in content and from what it had been in late antiquity. Most authors identify the Carolingian era as a turning point, but there was much change both before and after that era.


      8. Awr,

        You mentioned a few things that I want to learn more about. I have read some of Boyer’s works on the Mass and have learned a lot. What other books do you suggest to learn more about the changes in the liturgy that you mentioned?

        “But the liturgical texts aren’t stable since late antiquity! Lots of development of orations and lectionaries etc. after the 5th and 6th centuries. The text of the creed, or last Gospel, or the extensive offertory prayers, are all second-millennium additions. Even the Mass Ordinary does not date back to late antiquity – at the time of Gregory the Gloria was not part of Sunday Mass celebrated by a priest, and the Agnus Dei wasn’t yet part of anyone’s Mass.“

      9. Ed Foley, From Age to Age (Liturgical Press) is very good.

        Joseph Jungmann, Mass of the Roman Rite, has a ton of interesting data. It’s an old work so of course various details have since been corrected, but most of it has held up. I believe if you google it you can find a free PDF version online.


      10. Alex Sheffield provides a relevant quote from Chapter 6 of Augustine Thompson’s ‘Cities of God’ –

        “In the late eleventh century, Bishop Sicardo of Cremona took it for granted….”

        Sicardo of Cremona lived in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

      11. The desire for participation by the people in the liturgy is all well and good, but how much actual participation is there when only 28% of Catholic believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Christ? One can only shudder at thinking of how many actually recognize and appreciate the Mass as a sacrifice! The capital error of many who advocate for a radical reform of the Mass is seeing participation in the external rites as an end in itself; prioritizing the work of the gathered congregation over the work of God in the presentation of the Paschal sacrifice. I would thus say, despite the use of Latin, there is more actual participation by the laity in the traditional Mass.

      12. We would need a full sense of sacrifice and of Real Presence (i.e. not abstract doctrines defined at Trent) in order to begin to talk about what Catholics do or don’t believe. The polls are useless here. We would also need an understanding of what corporate participation is, which is different from concentration, however intense, upon the action of the priest. This is why I don’t find your comment, or your worldview, helpful. And just to be clear, the “many who advocate for a radical reform of the Mass” would be the bishops of the Second Vatican Council. It’s Church teaching.

        I also want to say that we’ve had this argument a zillion times and I need to do a better job at upholding Pray Tell’s mission. It’s not to squabble with those who don’t entirely accept the reform or the Council. My editorial committee reminds me our mission is to encourage a rich, broad discussion among all those who want to advance Pope Francis’s understanding of liturgical reform, move the reform forward, and talk about how to do that. There are other sites where one can advance other missions.


      13. Fr. Ruff,
        If time permits, I would love if you could describe your thoughts on how “corporate participation” and “concentration” both differ and overlap?

      14. Great question, Devin, and I’m not sure I have a lot to say. I think you’re right that they both overlap and differ. If people at Tridentine low Mass are devoutly attached to what the priest does in the EP but can’t hear a word of it and don’t have a translation of it, there is a sort of corporate emotionality, but it’s not a corporate action. And we know that lots of people weren’t even trying to think eucharistic or sacrificial thoughts while they concentrated on what the priest did, they were just impressed with the importance of what the priest did while they were content to do something else.

        If you wish, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on what differs and what overlaps.


      15. Anthony,
        I will readily grant your point about the textual changes between Gregory the Great and 1962. I was suggesting more a thought experiment to determine at what point between 1962-1970 traditionalists saw a break occurring. But you a clearly right that there were textual changes.

        On the question of liturgical participation, however, I must say that I am becoming less convinced that the model of participation promoted by the liturgical movement–more or less everyone either doing/saying the same thing at the same time or everyone focused on the person who is doing of saying something–is the only correct one. Don’t get me wrong–I get annoyed when I am at liturgies where I can’t make responses, sing Mass parts, listen to the readings, etc. But it seems to me that anthropologically and historically there is a much wider range of things that “count” as ritual participation, and I think that if we recognize that we can have perhaps a more positive assessment both of how Christians have worshipped in the past and of how different groups of Christians worship today.

    2. Awr,

      Since you mention medieval people singing the sanctus, I just remembered that Aquinas seems to take for granted that this happens in the Summa Theologiae. Come to think of it, his description of the mass there does not see the people as passive spectators of a clerical drama, but as having an integral role in the liturgical action:

      “Then, regarding the consecration, performed by supernatural power, the people are first of all excited to devotion in the “Preface,” hence they are admonished “to lift up their hearts to the Lord,” and therefore when the “Preface” is ended the people devoutly praise Christ’s Godhead, saying with the angels: “Holy, Holy, Holy”; and His humanity, saying with the children: “Blessed is he that cometh.”

      (Question 3 part 83, article 4)

      1. Well, the people didn’t understand Latin and didn’t understand hardly a word of the Preface. I wonder if Thomas lived in a world where all the clergy at his daily conventual Mass understood Latin, and he described the liturgy from that basic experience, and was in such a stratified society that he could write all this without thinking of what it was like for people? It seems hard to imagine that he didn’t fully realize that people weren’t being excited or admonished to anything, but his cultural and societal setting was very different from ours.


      2. I’m puzzled by that too. I wonder if Aquinas is describing how liturgy should ideally be celebrated, rather than describing how it usually is.

        Augustine Thompson argues that at this time Italian and Latin were not yet so radically different so it wasn’t too difficult for many lay people (in Italy) to pick up, or to understand basic phrases, so maybe there’s that too. Thompson also does think that people were admonished to participate in some sense.

        Even in contemporary Italian it’s not a huge jump from “Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus” to “Santo Santo Santo”, “pleni sunt cealum et terra gloria tua” – “il cielo e la terra sono pieni della tua gloria” “benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini” to “benedetto colui che viene nel nome del Signore”

        Either way, it’s pretty clear from that part of the Summa that he thinks of the Mass as an action of the entire community. He also talks about the priest waiting for the people to give assent to prayers with the “amen.”

        Also, about a mass with one priest and one server he says the following: ” in private masses it suffices to have one server, who takes the place of the whole Catholic people, on whose behalf he makes answer in the plural to the priest. ” – this suggests that even if the laity are missing or silent they should still see the server’s role as in such a liturgy as in some sense their own.

      3. People in Italy, and perhaps Spain, would have caught more of the Latin, longer into later centuries, than other peoples, for sure. In what is now England, Ireland, Germany, Low countries, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc., it would have been a nearly complete washout from the get-go. The French, early on, wouldn’t have done well with liturgical Latin. I’ve seen synods already in the 7th century from there admonishing clergy to preach in vulgar, not Latin, so that people could understand it. And of course when the canon when silent, no one heard any of it anywhere. Printed translations of the canon into vernacular were prohibited by Rome well into the 18th century.

        We know from composers’ scores that when there was a choir, they sang things like the Sanctus and other key acclamations in complicated polyphonic settings that a congregation could not possibly sing, nor was it intended for them. This all would have been very well-developed by the time of Aquinas. Probably in monasteries and friaries the clerical members would sing more complicated Gregorian Mass settings in unison, and we’re pretty certain people couldn’t possibly join in. We also know that architecturally churches were built with a wall around the clerical community, and ambulatories were there so that people could walk around and visit shrines and venerate relics around the back of the apse while the clerical choir did the Latin liturgy within the walled-in “choir.” Let’s not pretend lay people were intently following the Latin liturgy, even in Italy, by the time of Aquinas.


      4. S.Th. III, q. 83, a. 4 does give a description of Mass, but it is not phenomenological so much as a kind of ordo celebrandae. It does distinguish parts for choir and people, subdeacon, deacon, and priest. It says the people are instructed by the reading of the Gospel, from which they proceed directly to the Credo (with no sermon). The passage shows how much of the Mass of Pius V of my childhood was the norm in the 13th century, and not considered an innovation at that time.
        In this article Thomas is giving a rationale for the prescribed parts of the Mass, not offering a description of celebration.

      5. Awr,

        I’m not pretending anything, though I do think that Thompson does provide a compelling argument that certain lay people in certain cities such as Siena participated in the liturgical action itself as late as the 12th and 13th centuries.

        Even if Thompson is wrong though, it’s still the case that Aquinas envisions an integral role for the people in the liturgical action such that they are not spectators passively watching a performance as is implied in the term “clerical drama” whether or not this actually happened.

      6. Fine. Let’s let the historians keep working on as accurate a description as possible of what happened.

  8. I don’t think we who love the traditional Mass would ban the Novus Ordo. We believe that over the next 50 years, the Novus Ordo Masses will dwindle. There won’t be anything to ban: it will simply die out. The same cannot be said for the traditional Latin Mass, notwithstanding any decrees from the 1960s, 1970s, or 2021.

  9. Why would I want to ban the Mass of Paul VI? That’s the Mass I usually, and happily, attend. But I value the Mass of Pius V for the same reason Benedict XVI did: it shows that there is continuity between the Catholic past and the Catholic present. And there are times, particularly when I am inspired by heroism in the Catholic past, that attending the Mass of Pius V seems most fitting.

    However, I have been quite distressed by the motu proprio, which shows a severity toward Catholics about whom Francis never has anything positive to say at all. It also shows a return to the mentality that treated Vatican II as Year Zero.

    Benedict XVI was right: freely allowing the Mass of Pius V alongside the Mass of Paul VI is an integral part of any serious effort to begin healing the many wounds in the Church.

  10. In the Carolingian era, wasn’t it Celtic clergy whose book-correct (or codex-correct, if you prefer) Latin somewhat baffled Romans?

  11. “Benedict XVI was right: freely allowing the Mass of Pius V alongside the Mass of Paul VI is an integral part of any serious effort to begin healing the many wounds in the Church.”

    I’m not so sure. I would imagine allowing both masses would only open new wounds at ground level. Who decides the when, the where, the how? Wouldn’t this also create a schism between the two groups, followed by parishioners entering into struggles for influence, bickering and all the rest? With no established directive, other than to let all go their own way, I’d expect a rise in disharmony.

    In any case, it’s worth considering this as a possible motive for not allowing both Masses. The thinking is likely for the perceived good of the Church, more than a simple power play.

    No conclusion can possibly please everyone.

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