Christ Acts through the Liturgy: Why the Fight for the Mass Still Matters

It has been almost six years since Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Despite deficiencies in the text (two forms of one rite, for example), the point of this motu proprio – that the Traditional Latin Mass had never been abrogated – sent shockwaves through the entire Catholic world.

Traditional Catholics had argued for decades that the traditional Mass had never been abrogated; in return they were met with scorn, ridicule, and accusations of disobedience from the corners of the “conservative” Catholic world, ever eager to be in the right. Thus, despite the noted deficiencies in the text, Summorum Pontificum was, and remains to this day, an incredibly controversial text. This is not because of the juridical questions directly, but because of the clear statement that the ancient liturgical rite of Rome, which had formed countless saints, and which the reformers sought to kill, had never been abrogated.

Fast forward over five years to March 13, 2013. Benedict XVI, having announced his abdication in early February, had renounced the burden of that office, leading to the election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, who would take the name Francis. In the uncertainty that followed, the question of the liturgy returned increasingly to the fore of Catholic discourse.

Liberals hoped the newly-elected pontiff would break down any restorative elements initiated by Benedict. Traditionalists and conservative Catholics who regularly attend the traditional liturgy were generally afraid that we would see a loss of papal decorum during the Pope’s own liturgies, and any movement towards liturgical sanity would be undone by the reigning Holy Father, or by the bishops acting with a new found freedom.

This concern, it seems is shared by at least some of the world’s bishops. Though sources differ on the exact nature of events, it appears that during a meeting with Pope Francis this past week, the bishops of Apulia (Italy) voiced concerns that the Traditional Mass, and those attending that Mass are causing divisions. They asked the Holy Father to do something to stop the spread of the traditional Mass.

Why all the fury and rancor? Isn’t the battle for the Mass over? Didn’t we traditionalists already win?

Allow me my personal thoughts on this matter. First, the war for the Mass is finished. Regardless of the strangeness of the wording, and the deficiencies noted in the text, the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum makes clear that the ancient liturgy of Rome is still in force, and that no prelate may hinder the celebration of this rite (even if that doesn’t happen on the ground.) The genie has, so to speak, been taken out of the bottle, and it is this writer’s contention that it will not be possible to put it back in. No, the Old Mass as something belonging to the Church, as well as the large number of additional Masses offered, show the essential goodness of that document. So, yes, the war for the Mass is won. But what of the battles? Obviously, there is a long way to go. Bishops still attempt to stop priests from learning and offering the traditional Mass, and many so-called conservative Catholics – committed to Bugnini’s reform – wish to downplay the importance of this return, pushing always for the novel Mass of Paul VI as the normative rite of the Roman Church. These battles will continue until the Church Herself is restored, which will happen at a time set by Almighty God Himself.

But what of traditionalists themselves and their reactions? From the earliest days of a “traditional movement” it has been clear on the part of the Society of St. Pius X that the battle for the liturgy is not the sum total of the fight. Above all, this is a battle for doctrine. That is why, having received the answer to the two-preconditions he had requested of Rome, Bishop Fellay began doctrinal discussions with the Holy See.

The objections of the Society of Saint Pius X, based on the perennial teachings of the Church’s Magisterium are perhaps most contentious when touching the Second Vatican Council’s (and the post-conciliar) teaching on religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality. This makes up the strongest fight of Archbishop Lefebvre in defense of Tradition, and so it remains today. Sadly, so many who have left the Society in order to have normal canonical structures have done so at the cost of this opposition. Certainly a great many priests and religious of these orders agree with the substance of the Society’s position, but they dare not say so. As a group they are silent on these questions. Since it is precisely diocesan priests and orders of these Ecclesia Dei groups who take advantage of the motu proprio – namely, those who will not rock the doctrinal boat – why are bishops so afraid of them? Why do they accuse them of causing a split in the Church?

It is precisely because of the power of the Old Mass. In it is contained a beautiful and accurate expression of the Church’s doctrine concerning redemption, propitiation, the Sacrifice of Our Lord, the hierarchical priesthood, and more! The liberals know this, perhaps more than us. They know that the restoration of this liturgy will lead not only to the end of the Novus Ordo, but also to the end of ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality.

When Archbishop Lefebvre met with Pope John Paul II in 1978, the Pope seemed prepared to allow the freedom of the Old Mass. Seeing this move, Cardinal Seper exclaimed, “Holy Father, they are making of the Old Mass a banner.” How well he spoke. While never giving up the direct doctrinal fight against the novelties of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium, and while recognizing the primacy of doctrine in our struggle, let us not hesitate to make “of the Old Mass a banner.” Let it be the standard under which our armies march, knowing that wherever it spreads, wherever love for it is engendered in the heart of the young, whenever the elderly return to the Mass of their childhood, or priests discover this Mass for the first time – let us remember in those cases that the revolution in the Church is checked just a bit more. Let us remember in those cases that the honor and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ is increased, and that the power of religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality, and all the errors so opposed to true religion, are smashed by the power, beauty, and goodness of the ancient rite of Rome.

Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam.

29 thoughts on “Christ Acts through the Liturgy: Why the Fight for the Mass Still Matters

  1. How true, how true. This article expresses why the fight for the Old Mass must continue. In every town where they offer this, the churches are filled with people longing for the authentic and powerful Mass before Vatican ll watered it down. Please keep up the good fight and thank you.

  2. My wife and I love the Traditional Mass of the ages. I am a convert from 31 years now, and I knew right away that something was wrong with the Nervous Order mass. I knew all the songs, and the readings were NOT any part of my Bible. We ended up leaving that mass; I told the priest that we were leaving his parish because the Truth was NOT in him. I further told him that I thought Judas Iscariot was a better man, because he at least admitted he betrayed innocent Blood. He was not amused. He told everyone we were leaving the Church. Joke’s on him. I still pray for him every day. Anyway, we have been travelling 100+ miles each week for the Traditional Mass, and we don’t regret it one bit. At least we’re worshipping God and not the congregation. Viva Christo Rey!

      • Dear ACS67: What part of the article is pompous or pharisaical? And even if our arguments were so (which obviously I reject) on what grounds would that lead you to stay away from the Traditional Mass?

        • Mr. Riddle,
          I was replying to Jon Miles, hence the reason I hit “reply” under his post. Had I been referring to your article, I would have not done so.

          • Dear ACS67,

            Ah. Sorry about the misunderstanding. But, to press the issue, even with Mr. Miles comment, why would that keep you from the Traditional Mass.

          • Mr. Miles states the following:
            “I told the priest that we were leaving his parish because the Truth was NOT in him.”
            Mr. MIles capitalizes Truth which I infer means he is transposing Truth with God. How could Mr. Miles possibly know that God (Truth) was not in this priest or anyone else for that matter? Secondly he states: “I further told him that I thought Judas Iscariot was a better man, because he at least admitted he betrayed innocent Blood.” Unless you are a sedevacantist, and the SSPX states explicitly that it is not, than the thought of comparing an ordained priest to Judas Iscariot should be unconscionable to any Catholic.

            This pure “grandstanding.” It is more pronounced on the internet but I have seen it up close and personal. It damages the beauty of Catholicism and that hurts all of us.

          • Judas Iscariot was a Catholic priest. That said, that, I agree that the manner of some Catholics (“trad”) may not be the best. This needs to be corrected. In defense, however, let me say the following. You have witnessed the harsh manner of some “trads.” The “trads” for decades have had to put up with the same harshness and worse from most (mainstream) Catholics, not excluding their families. If everyone treated you as an “excommunicated,” “disobedient,” “stubborn,” etc. “schismatic” wouldn’t that make you a little edgy? So put yourself in the other’s shoes and see if at least the reaction does not make some sense. In any case, don’t let people get between you and what the Church have always taught. God bless!

      • I say this to you respectfully.

        Why would you permit the comments of one person or even one hundred persons to sway you on a matter of faith and the integrity of the Latin mass?

        We are all sinners; we all get it wrong sometimes, and we all need God’s grace. The person to whom you responded made a statement that one might interpret as ungracious, but that person does not define all Catholics or the Faith, or the integrity of the Holy Mass.

        Please reconsider your position. I can attest to you that the Latin mass is prayerful, transcendent, and imbued with the mystery of He who is Truth. Please come back and experience Beauty.

        Your fellow Catholics, including me, welcome you should you choose to return.

        Pax.

  3. How do we get the Mass of all time in our area? I have wrote the Bishop of Raliegh North Carolina. He says once a month. I can not attend the new Mass. We had Mass in Goldsboro NC every week.Now only twice a month no Mass on Easter or Christmas. Are they closing Saint Marys in Goldsboro? I drive over 100 miles to get there Wake Forest is three hours from house.

    God Bless what you do
    You are my prayers
    Kenneth Gasperson

  4. I’m from the Philippines and lives now in the UK. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Latin here because its a little bit far from were I live. I hope someday some of the big town here in South West England will have a Latin Mass.

  5. I wish the SSPX had a chapel in Tucson, AZ. All we have is the Institute of Christ the King and there are some difficulties there. I have driven an hour and a half to attend the chapel in Tempe.

  6. Mark, thank you for the great article. Yes it is the Holy Mass that will conquer. When I was young, it is all we knew. When they changed things, no one knew what was happening but we definitely knew something was very wrong. It wasn’t long after that the seminaries started emptying, including the one I attended in Cincinnati. The archbishop there had built a beautiful new addition to the old seminary with a new huge chapel and ten years later it was basically empty. As Bishop Fellay states—-if they go back to the old ways, the Church will be full of vocations again.

  7. I am a cradle Catholic born in the thirties, educated by wonderful Benedictine Nuns, and pastorally mentored by beloved Marist
    Priests. By the time we moved to Nevada, some 13 years ago, I had become extremely frustrated with the Novus Ordo, so much
    so, that it was affecting my well being. Approx. 5 years ago, I discovered the SSPX Church in nearby Las Vegas, and it has
    truly been a Godsend, literally. I now rejoice in the prospect, the gift, of attending Mass. Thanks be to GOD, and the SSPX!
    Joanne M Campbell
    Our Lady of Victory Church
    1575 E. Windmill Lane
    Las Vegas, NV. 702-361-5605

  8. When my family and I went to novus ordo, we always came away from
    Mass upset, we found a tradition Latin mass and drive for 1.5 hrs to get
    There, I have never been upset. My first mass I felt as though I was in
    Heaven. I had an overwhelming desire in my soul. It was the best.

  9. I am so grateful for the Mass of All Times. I wished to thanks all sspx priests especially father Rostand, Father Cyprian and father Emily for their continued support and generosity of sending father Gabriel OSB to los gatos to help the Vietnamese communities. Let us all continued to pray for restoration of the church and the continued zeal of all sspx priests.

  10. Thank you for the excellent article.

    The Wonder of All Wonders………the Traditional Latin Mass! The Holy Mass , that saints loved and prayed in every century, the martyrs died for, the faithful long for, and are persecuted for. Can one dare to worship God as the ‘heathens’ do?
    The Tridentine Rite of the Mass is sealed with ‘the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’……….can one dare to doubt, or deny?

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!
    Viva la VĂ­rgen de Guadalupe!
    Viva Cristo Rey!

  11. What a nice simphony of Tradition! I beleive angels and saints in Heaven are rejoicing because of it with our dear Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre!

    • A beautiful sentiment.

      May I suggest (no offence intended) that our comments on this site would be more forceful if we paid more attention to grammar and spelling (eg. “symphony,” “believe”)?

  12. Always, through out Church History, there have been enemies within the Church.
    These enemies are Cardinals, Bishops, Priests along with a host of others like the Freemasons. They, have always been there covertly, until Vatican II

    Scandalous as it may seem, some in the Curia, Cardinals and Bishops are Freemasons and engineered much of Vatican II.
    The Hierarchy per se, on the whole, is not trustworthy and duplicitous.
    Much of the German Clergy, has a Lutheran taint, and they were major factors in Vatican II

    The corruption in the Church is enormous and systemic. It, will only be by the grace of God, that it is rectified.

    The Tridentine Latin Mass is an anathema to the heretics of Vatican II, because it is truth and beauty, unlike the fabricated deplorable Protestant Novus Ordo Mass

  13. Thank God for Archbishop Lefebvre and his courageous fight for the Mass of all time and the Priesthood. I shudder to think where each of us would be without his unyielding stand for Tradition. I am convinced that in God’s good time, the Archbishop will not only be canonized a saint for his unquestionable holiness, but will be declared a Doctor of the Church for his profound wisdom and insight in battling against Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies.

  14. Regardless of the rite of Mass you may personally prefer, in Christian charity, basic fairness, fraternal respect and fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI, please support everyone’s right to the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass loved and revered by so many great popes, kings, queens, doctors, statesmen, saints and martyrs of the Universal Church. The bi-millenary rite His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI praises in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, as a “treasure” of the Church, that “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage.”

    It’s not a matter of taste, of whim, or of nostalgia. It’s an issue of basic fairness; of pastoral solicitude; of spiritual reconciliation, of unity with and respect for our Catholic heritage. It is also, and eminently so, a question of conscience. Every member of the Church throughout the world has the right to worship God in the Traditional Latin Mass. Regardless of your personal preference, please support this basic right!

    – Una Voce Miami (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Una-Voce-Miami/217193672183), January 6th 2010, Feast of the Epiphany Statement.

    <<>>

    Want a clear idea of the serious problems with the highly controversial New Mass? Read “The Ottaviani Intervention: THE CRITICAL STUDY OF THE NEW ORDER OF MASS” here:

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=456269596794

  15. I was born in 1938. Until the First Sunday of Advent in 1969 when I first had to adapt to Mass of Pope Paul VI in English I was completely happy as a Catholic. The arrival of the OF Mass coincided with a number of other changes that damaged both faith and practice. We no longer had to fast from food and drink from midnight before Holy Communion. We were allowed to eat meat and whatever else we wanted on Fridays. The Lenten fast was reduced to just two days – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Vernacular devotions (Rosary, Sermon, Benediction) were abolished. Mass attendance began to fall steeply to about a third of what it had been before Vatican 2. We became sheep without shepherds. It was only after I joined the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales in 1996 that I found out that one ‘indult’ Tridentine Mass was allowed every month in Cardiff. Despite the ‘motu proprio’ of Pope Benedict that is still the bleak and ungenerous situation except that now two such Masses are permitted – each at the same on the same day every month. Divide and conquer seems to be the policy here. O Tempora, O Mores…

  16. I think that if the Pope would, just once and for all, consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, specifically as she has asked for at Fatima, then all of this would be resolved. He has nothing to loose, other than his own mortal life, and everything to gain. The Consecration has not been done as She asked, as they would like us to beleive. Satan has been, and is at work here, as he has alway s been. He uses anyone available, wether he be atheist, etc., beleiver, lay person, priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, or pope, and by any means, he can, to stop the true Consecration which would renew the Church, and the World. It will happen eventually, as promised by Our Lady. But it will be late, as She said. And in the meantime, the Church, many people will suffer because of it, as She said. We have been suffering because of it, and so has the rest of the World. We are still awaiting it. Pray for the Grace for the pope, and the bishops united with him, to do this. Ainsi soit-il ! Amen !

  17. I miss the Mass of my childhood..I served Holy Mass as an Altar Boy…that’s right boy..it was really something to serve at Mass..then one day, the Tabernacle was moved..go figure…now there are young girls and a few young men on the altar, hardly doing anything…without displaying the least bit of reverence are appreciation for what is taking place…and oh how I miss the Latin…the Universal language of the Church…I felt, as I do now, empty…I, unfortunately do not live within about 5 hrs of a Traditional Parish…I have found a Parish that seems the most conversative however, I pray my Rosary to myself during Mass (In Latin)…sit up front so I don’t have to look at people . . however I still cringe when I hear the talking in Church before Mass, and immediately after, the list goes on…women serving Holy Communion dressed inappropriately to put it kindly…I have gone to confession (that’s right I call it confession) and have had a priest tell me that what I was telling him wasn’t a sin…and when he was about to absolve me…I asked if he wanted me pray the Act of Contrition…he smiled and said , if i wanted to that would be o.k…I am ill over what has happened…and I am not alone….interestingly,,it is the younger generation that yearns for the Traditional …young seminarians want to wear the cassock….I was travelling, and visited a beautiful Church , St. Mary’s Kansas…very early Sunday morning Mass,,,snow on the ground…walked in…people were dressed really well…even the infants….I was taken back in time….the reverence…how can ANYONE not appreciate this..Nuns wearing Habits…I have to wonder what is happening in and being taught in Seminaries…the communal aspects of Holy Communion , and he Mass,,,nothing is mentioned about the sacrificial nature of the Mass…..I yearn to be near one of your parishes….PAX

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