'The Reform of the Reform' Is Going Nowhere -- At Least Not Yet

September 2007

We are convinced that the Tridentine Latin Mass is superior to the new vernacular Mass. Martin Mosebach, in his new book, The Heresy of Formlessness, writes that the New Mass is generally formless: no sanctus bells, no incense, no Gregorian chant, no chapel veils, etc. His book is personal. His liturgical stories go back and forth through the centuries. It's meant for the liturgist. (A more practical book is The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Msgr. Klaus Gamber (Roman Catholic Books).

Mosebach's book is published by Ignatius Press -- let's give credit where it's due. It has a Foreword by the Editor-in-Chief of Ignatius Press, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., who says: "There has been a lively debate...between those who, like Mosebach, advocate a return to the preconciliar liturgy [the Tridentine Latin Mass] and those who, like myself, the Adoremus Society [which advocates the "reform of the reform" for the New Mass], and -- I think I can assert this with confidence -- Pope Benedict XVI, advocate a rereading and restructuring of the liturgical renewal intended by the Second Vatican Council...." But there is no indication that Pope Benedict, as yet, is "advocating a rereading and restructuring of the liturgical renewal." Take it from Russell Shaw (Our Sunday Visitor, June 24): "Correcting the mistakes and abuses [in the new vernacular Mass].... Pope Benedict often has expressed concern relating to the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass, but has left it alone so far."

In Andrew Rabel's interview with Fr. Fessio (Inside the Vatican, Aug.-Sept. 2006), Rabel poses this question: "In the past year, particularly with the Synod on the Eucharist, and the imminent publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, a lot of attention and discussion has been given to the area of liturgy.... Is this a fruition of the ideals you set forth when you started Adoremus, and what are we in fact likely to see happen in this very vexed area?" Fr. Fessio answers: "I cannot believe that he [the Pope] will not take steps to move in the direction of a real renewal of the liturgy.... I believe this post-synodal exhortation will be a significant document."

Pope Benedict's post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis ("The Sacrament of Charity"), issued on March 13, 2007, is a non-binding resolution for the new vernacular Mass. According to The Catholic World Report (May), whose Publisher is Fr. Fessio, Sacramentum Caritatis is "not a liturgical directive" and "did not propose any concrete liturgical reforms." It will have no real effect. So much for Fr. Fessio's belief that it would be "a real renewal of the liturgy."


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New Oxford Notes: September 2007

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Martin Mosebach writes in his book that the Novus Ordo Mass is formless: it has no sanctus bells, no incense, no Gregorian chant, no chapel veils. Although this may be the reality of the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass in a vast majority of Christendom, the absence of these trappings is not a product of the rite but of the expression of the rite. In fact, I've attended Novus Ordo masses in many places that have sanctus bells (and the Sanctus), incense, generous use of Latin, and Gregorian chant, e.g., Brompton Oratory in London, St. John Cantius in Chicago, St. Agnes in New York City, St. John's Co-Cathedral in Malta, Old St. Mary's in Cincinnati, St, Agnes in Saint Paul, Assumption Grotto in Detroit... the list goes on.

The motu proprio for the Traditional Latin Mass is great, but it doesn't preclude the Novus Ordo Mass from being celebrated in a beautiful way -- as it is regularly at the churches I mentioned above.

Here is a question: are the priests who do NOT celebrate the Novus Ordo in a dignified, beautiful way -- and are not interested in doing so -- going to be emboldened by the motu proprio to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass?
Posted by: charing cross
September 06, 2007 04:36 PM EDT
There have been countless priests in recent years, who have said that celebrating the Old Mass has helped them to celebrate the New Mass more reverently. To read much of what Pope Benedict has written about the liturgical reform, without being selective about certain passages, is to discover that His Holiness may have had this in mind. Posted by: manwithblackhat
September 10, 2007 08:53 AM EDT
I suppose either rite can be celebrated well or badly but in my opinion, whether intentional or not, the prayers and structure of the new mass make it seem far too protestant in nature, less focused on the sacred and generally uninspiring to the faithful.

I believe if one could poll the attendees both masses, the percentage that truly believe in the "real presence" would be much higher among the traditional.
Posted by: waltinvt
September 11, 2007 08:17 AM EDT
Charing Cross,

Mosebach answers your question himself:

"I have described my conviction that it is impossible to retain reverence and worship without their traditional forms. Of course there will always be people who are so filled with grace that they can pray even when the means of prayer have been ripped from their hands. Many people, too, concerned about these issues, will ask, “Isn’t it still possible to celebrate the new liturgy of Pope Paul VI worthily and reverently?” Naturally it is possible, but the very fact that it is possible is the weightiest argument against the new liturgy. It has been said that monarchy’s death knell sounds once it becomes necessary for a monarch to be competent: this is because the monarch, in the old sense, is legitimated by his birth, not his talent. This observation is even truer in the case of the liturgy: liturgy’s death knell is sounded once it requires a holy and good priest to perform it. The faithful must never regard the liturgy as something the priest does by his own efforts. It is not something that happens by good fortune or as the result of a personal charism or merit. While the liturgy is going on, time is suspended: liturgical time is different from the time that elapses outside the church’s walls. It is Golgotha time, the time of the hapax, the unique and sole Sacrifice; it is a time that contains all times and none. How can a man be made to see that he is leaving the present time behind if the space he enters is totally dominated by the presence of one particular individual? How wise the old liturgy was when it prescribed that the congration should not see the priest’s face - his distractedness or coldness or (even more importantly) his devotion and emotion."
Posted by: jskojec
September 11, 2007 10:37 AM EDT
Thanks for posting that excellent quote jskojec.

One other thing about the New Mass that I like to point out is that looking at the intentions of those that formed it and promulgated it, it was never intended to look just like a Tridentine Latin Mass. Rather, its intention was to help bring reconciliation with Protestants by removing almost anything they might find an obstacle.

Further, while I am glad Fr. Fessio celebrates the New Mass the way he does, there's also the prayers themselves. When one not only considers the Latin and vestments and Gregorian chant (which are good and important) but also delves into the prayers, one likes knowing they can be confident they are looking at prayers that have been formed over the centuries and not shaped or altered or dropped by a liturgical committee from the 1960's.
Posted by: bd555
September 11, 2007 02:39 PM EDT
There is an unclarity in the expression 'reform of the reform', both in the then Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks and in general use, that needs to be addressed. What exactly is the reform that needs to be put right? Is it the proposed reform of the liturgy in the conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium, or is it the new liturgy of Paul VI? On the former interpretation, the proposed reform of the council went wrong with the Pauline liturgy, which was not in fact an implementation of it at all; and what needs to be done is to in fact implement that reform - which means introducing some changes to the traditional Roman liturgy as codified in the 1962 missal, which
would not amount to change of a more significant sort than has been undergone by the Roman liturgy since the time of St. Gregory the Great.
On the latter interpretation, the reform that is to be reformed is the liturgy of Paul VI. On this view, this liturgy was in fact a reform, and did implement the reforming intentions of the council, but went too far, or was deficient, in some respects. What needs to be done is to fix up the Pauline liturgy and go with that, leaving the traditional mass in place for an old-fashoned minority as a sort of spur for emulation of the 'ordinary rite'.
Commenters may be right in saying that the latter interpretation is the current official policy of the Holy See, to the extent that it has a coherent policy. Whether it is what Cardinal Ratzinger had in mind is not clear; his views can be interpreted in the former sense, especially given his remarks elsewhere that explicitly acknowledge the fact that the Pauline liturgy is fundamentally defective and was not at all an implementation of the conciliar directives for reform (this last point is made very clearly in his memoirs). No doubt most ecclesiastical personages aside from the Holy Father are only willing to accept the 'reform of the reform' in the latter sense, and that places political limitations on how clear he can prudently be in discussing this subject at present.
Posted by: jlamont
September 11, 2007 08:25 PM EDT
I met Martin Mosebach -- nice gentleman -- read his book, and it makes you think. The most important thing missing from the New Mass is there is no Good Friday in it. There is Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday with singing dancing and clapping, but no crucifixtion that is not allowed it is the risen Christ for the Protestants so the Church took out the crucifixtion in the new mass to please the Protestants. Posted by: michael
September 25, 2007 10:55 AM EDT
Michael, if you look at the New Mass's liturgical rite for Good Friday, you certainly find crucifixion . I don't really understand how anyone can make a claim to the contrary. Perhaps it is not as rich and beautiful as the old Mass's Good Friday liturgy, but it is false to say the crucifixion has been removed. That, as I stated in an earlier post, may be a function of the mis-celebration of the rite -- but a liturgy cannot be condemned on the demerits of mis-celebration. Posted by: charing cross
September 25, 2007 11:27 AM EDT
Charing Cross,I don't condemned the new mass it holds no mystery for me. I was raised in the 50's by two beautiful people who instilled a faith that is a rock but that is all gone now. If you read and pray the Roman Canon Charing Cross you'll see the crucifiction every time. In the new mass they never use the Roman Canon it is always the other prayers and there is no crucifiction in them. Posted by: michael
September 25, 2007 01:20 PM EDT
Michael, despite myself I find myself increasingly sympathetic to the traditionalist perspective. I agree that the new liturgy is a mess in this country.

However, I am not sure that this recent statement you made is true at all. Eucharistic Prayer 1 is not the Roman Canon? Could you clarify? I hear Eucharistic Prayer 1 all the time at Church (Novus Ordo) and it is essentially identical to the old "Roman Canon." In fact, I am pretty sure it is still called the Roman Canon.

I am confused by your post.
Posted by: eakter
September 26, 2007 08:09 PM EDT
eakter: Of course, you are correct. "michael" doesn't have his facts straight -- and quite simply doesn't know what he's talking about. All he has is emotions. It's too bad that so many traditionalists can only argue through an appeal to emotions (his own). "michael" is just another depressingly poor advocate of the Old Mass. Too bad. Posted by: charing cross
September 27, 2007 11:30 AM EDT
charing cross: Thank you for your post. However, I too am starting to find myself an advocate of the "Old Mass." I saw one for the first time recently. I was awed.

I can tell you from recent experience that Catholics these days can be downright cruel to people they view as "traditionalists." I am not a traditionalist in that I do not reject Vatican II nor do I reject the Magesterium. (I am sympathetic towards the SSPX or the Sedvacantists) I am a traditionalist in that I LOVE the Extraordinary Rite. Recently friends of mine have been cruel to me as result. Why? I am not bothered by the way. People who are wrong tend to blow hard. Its not like they have arguments to employ!

Why do I love the "Old Mass?" Consider the following thought experiment: If a "space alien" were to come to earth and observe the old mass and the new, I posit that it would know immediately that people were worshipping the Eucharist by observing the Tridentine Mass. I posit that the new mass would be simply incomprehensible to him. "Are they worshipping that man?" he may ask. "Is this some sort of meal and meeting?" Could this be why so few Catholics these days even believe in the Eucharist? The mass itself is catechesis afterall.

Of course, if the New Mass was celebrated ad orientum, with Latin and Chant as the Vatican II documents themselves actually call for, this problem would disappear. How often do you see the Mass of Vatican II celebrated in this fashion? Not very often. And if the only way to celebrate the New Mass correctly is to make it look as much like the Old Mass as possible, why even bother with the New Mass?

Many priests and bishops are hostile to Tradition. Oh well. I think it is their loss. Many priests and Bishops have persecuted faithful Catholics who are 100% Catholic because of their love for tradition. This is a serious problem. The Holy Father has addressed it. Too many are ignoring him.
Posted by: eakter
October 07, 2007 07:15 PM EDT
In my previous post it should read I am NOT sympathetic in the second paragraph. The typo should be discernable from the context. Posted by: eakter
October 07, 2007 07:16 PM EDT
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