Sunday, October 11, 2015


Cardinal Ratzinger (1998):  "This is why it is very important to observe the essential criteria of  (Vatican II's) Constitution on the Liturgy... including when one celebrates according to the old Missal! The moment when this liturgy truly touches the faithful with its beauty and its richness, then it will be loved, then it will no longer be irreconcilably opposed to the new Liturgy, providing that these criteria are indeed applied as the Council wished...When, some years ago, somebody proposed "a new liturgical movement" in order to avoid the two forms of the liturgy becoming too distanced from each other, and in order to bring about their close convergence, at that time some of the friends of the old liturgy expressed their fear that this would only be a stratagem or a ruse, intended to eliminate the old liturgy finally and completely. "Such anxieties and fears really must end!"

I found this letter on Rorate Caeli where Cardinal Ratzinger is responding to an academic liturgist concerning Cardinal Ratzingers speech in 1998 on the 10th Anniversary of Ecclesia Dei. You can read the original letter and the Cardinal's HERE.

But here is Cardinal Ratzinger's response:

Reverend Father,

I have attentively read your letter of November 16, in which you express some criticism in respect to the conference I held on October 24, 1998, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei.”

I understand that you do not share my opinions on the liturgical reform, the way it has been implemented, and the crisis deriving from some of the tendencies hidden in it, such as desacralization.

However, it seems to me that your criticism does not take into consideration two points:

The first one being that the Pope John Paul II, with the indult of 1984, under certain conditions, granted the use of the liturgy preceding the Pauline reform; thereafter the same Pope in 1988 published the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, manifesting his wish to please the faithful who are attached to certain forms of the earlier Latin liturgy; and furthermore he asks the bishops ”by a wide and generous application” to allow the use of the liturgical books of 1962.

The second one is that a considerable number of the Catholic faithful, especially those of French, English, and German nationality and language remain strongly attached to the old liturgy, and the Pope does not intend to repeat what happened in 1970 when the new liturgy was imposed in an extremely abrupt way, with a transition time of only six months, whereas the prestigious Liturgical Institute in Trier had rightly proposed a transition time of ten years (if I am not mistaken) for such an undertaking, one that touches in a vital way the heart of the Faith.

Thus, these two points, namely the authority of the Supreme Pontiff and his pastoral and respectful concern for the traditionalist faithful, that must be taken into consideration.

I, therefore, take the liberty to add some answers to your criticism of my speech.

1. Regarding the Council of Trent, I have never said that it should have reformed the liturgical books; on the contrary, I have always emphasized that the post-Tridentine reform, situating itself in the continuity of liturgical history, did not wish to abolish the other Latin orthodox liturgies (which existed for more than 200 years); neither did it wish to impose liturgical uniformity.

When I said that even the faithful who use the indult of 1984 must follow the decrees of the Council, I wanted to show that the fundamental decisions of Vatican II are the meeting point of all liturgical trends and are therefore also the bridge for reconciliation in the area of liturgy. The audience present actually understood my words as an invitation to an opening to the Council, to the liturgical reform. I believe that those who defend the necessity and the value of the reform should be completely in agreement with this way of bringing Traditionalists closer to the Council.

2. The citation from Cardinal Newman means that the authority of the Church has never in its history abolished with a legal mandate an orthodox liturgy. However, it is true that a liturgy that vanishes belongs to historical times, not the present.

3. I do not wish to enter into all the details of your letter, even if I would have no difficulties meeting your various criticisms against my arguments. However, I wish to comment on that what concerns the unity of the Roman rite. This unity is not threatened by small communities using the indult, who are often treated as lepers, as people doing something indecent, even immoral. No, the unity of the Roman rite is threatened by the wild creativity, often encouraged by liturgists (in Germany, for instance, there is propaganda for the project Missale 2000, which presumes that the Missal of Paul VI has already been superseded). I repeat that which was said in my speech: the difference between the Missal of 1962 and the Mass faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI is much smaller than the difference between the various, so-called ”creative” applications of the Missal of Paul VI. In this situation, the presence of the earlier Missal may become a bulwark against the numerous alterations of the liturgy and thus act as a support of the authentic reform. To oppose the Indult of 1984 (1988) in the name of the unity of the Roman rite, is – in my experience – an attitude far removed from reality. Besides, I am sorry that you did not perceive in my speech the invitation to the ”traditionalists” to be open to the Council and to reconcile themselves to it in the hope of overcoming one day the split between the two Missals.

However, I thank you for your courage in addressing this subject, which has given me the occasion – in an open and frank way – to discuss a reality which is dear to both our hearts.

With sentiments of gratitude for the work you perform in the education of future priests, I salute you,

Yours in Christ

+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger

Finally this is what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1998 in a speech he gave on the 10th anniversary of Ecclesia Dei:

I have great respect for our forefathers who at Low Mass said the "Prayers during Mass" contained in their prayer books, but certainly one cannot consider that as the ideal of liturgical celebration! Perhaps these reductionist forms of celebration are the real reason that the disappearance of the old liturgical books was of no importance in many countries and caused no sorrow. One was never in contact with the liturgy itself. On the other hand, in those places where the Liturgical Movement had created a certain love for the liturgy, where the Movement had anticipated the essential ideas of the Council, such as for example, the prayerful participation of all in the liturgical action, it was those places where there was all the more distress when confronted with a liturgical reform undertaken too hastily and often limited to externals. Where the Liturgical Movement had never existed, the reform initially raised no problems. The problems only appeared in a sporadic fashion, when unchecked creativity caused the sense of the sacred mystery to disappear.



Anonymous said...

Well, Cardinal Ratzinger obviously moved on from there because he said later in 2000:

“For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?” (Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000)

No doubt Cardinal Ratzinger foresaw what a lot of people today believe, and that is that the New Mass will eventually die out because there will be no one to attend it. Because it is not a matter of dressing the New Mass up by adding a bit of Latin here or there, it is the whole problem with the stripped down prayers throughout the Mass. Neo-cons look solely at the outward appearance of the Mass. If it looks pretty then it must be okay. Don't worry that all the prayers have been stripped our illiterates won't notice.

That is why you will never reconcile the two missals because there are people who do notice. When we read the missal of the reform of the reform we can see that the deeper meaning of the Mass is missing. When we see the laity parading in and out of the sanctuary doing the readings, offertory processions, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion and what not, then it may look pretty on the outside but it is just missing what the Traditional Mass has to offer. It may be self-satisying to the "participants" but it is not feeding the people and so they get bored find another parade to join in with and move on.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

"The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. (Ratzinger in Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104)"

None of the things you suggest, Father, bidding prayers, removal of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, etc, lay readers, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are anything to do with the liturgy that developed over thousands of years. You in fact are looking to return more to the banal on-the-spot creation and thus undermining the very work that Pope Benedict did to reconcile the SSPX.

The Latin Mass will grow organically as it did over the centuries. We have several different approved forms of the Mass in the Church and so that is just how people should think of the Extraordinary Form as an approved Mass. It is not being imposed on anyone and nor is any priest required to offer it.


Anonymous said...

"...a considerable number of the Catholic faithful..." should read, "... an insignificant yet vocal number of the Catholic faithful..."

Anonymous said...

One Peter Five lists 10 reasons for attending the Traditional Mass. He raises a couple of interesting points not often discussed. One point he raises is: "The architects of the Novus Ordo simultaneously took out most of the biblical allusions that formed the warp and woof of the Ordinary of the Mass, and then parachuted in a plethora of readings with little regard to their congruency with each other." I have also noticed how readings in the Ordinary Form seem to stop mid-air and often say nothing:

"6. A superior calendar for the saints. In liturgical discussions, most ammunition is spent on defending or attacking changes to the Ordinary of the Mass—and understandably so. But one of the most significant differences between the 1962 and 1970 Missals is the calendar. Let’s start with the Sanctoral Cycle, the feast days of the saints. The 1962 calendar is an amazing primer in Church history, especially the history of the early Church, which often gets overlooked today. It is providentially arranged in such a way that certain saints form different “clusters” that accent a particular facet of holiness. The creators of the 1969/1970 general calendar, on the other hand, eliminated or demoted 200 saints ...

7. A superior calendar for the seasons. Similarly, the “Temporal Cycle”—Christmastide, Epiphanytide, Septuagesimatide, Eastertide, Time after Pentecost, etc.—is far richer in the 1962 calendar. Thanks to its annual cycle of propers, each Sunday has a distinct flavor to it, and this annual recurrence creates a marker or yardstick that allows the faithful to measure their spiritual progress or decline over the course of their lives. The traditional calendar has ancient observances like Ember Days and Rogation Days that heighten not only our gratitude to God but our appreciation of the goodness of the natural seasons and of the agricultural cycles of the land. The traditional calendar has no such thing as “Ordinary Time” (a most unfortunate phrase, seeing that there cannot be such a thing as “ordinary time” after the Incarnation[11]) but instead has a Time after Epiphany and a Time after Pentecost, thereby extending the meaning of these great feasts like a long afterglow or echo. ...

8. A Better Way to the Bible. Many think that the Novus Ordo has a natural advantage over the old Mass because it has a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of weekday readings, and longer and more numerous readings at Mass, instead of the ancient one-year cycle, usually consisting of two readings per Mass (Epistle and Gospel). What they overlook is the fact that the architects of the Novus Ordo simultaneously took out most of the biblical allusions that formed the warp and woof of the Ordinary of the Mass, and then parachuted in a plethora of readings with little regard to their congruency with each other. When it comes to biblical readings, the old rite operates on two admirable principles: first, that passages are chosen not for their own sake (to “get through” as much of Scripture as possible) but to illuminate the meaning of the occasion of worship; second, that the emphasis is not on a mere increase of biblical literacy or didactic instruction but on “mystagogy.” In other words, the readings at Mass are not meant to be a glorified Sunday school but an ongoing initiation into the mysteries of the Faith. Their more limited number, brevity, liturgical suitability, and repetition over the course of every year makes them a powerful agent of spiritual formation and preparation for the Eucharistic sacrifice.


In sum, the classical Roman Rite is an ambassador of tradition, a midwife for the interior man, a lifelong tutor in the faith, a school of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication, an absolutely reliable rock of stability on which we can confidently build our spiritual lives.


Jusadbellum said...

Has anyone ever simply translated the latin into English and celebrated the tridentine rite in the vernacular?

Wouldn't that have been far simpler to pull off?

I mean, there is so much that makes sense theologically from the preparatory rites at the foot of the altar...and then the reciting of John's gospel prior to dismissing people to the mission field at the end of Mass.

Why jettison those elements in toto? Or jettison from the language of prayers all the explicit recitations of God's triune glory, the reality and threat of sin, the presence of the principalities and powers and our innate unworthiness...?

rcg said...

Jusad-B, the right page of the missal usually has it. It is usually very close, too. I wondered the same thing.

DJR said...

Anonymous said...
"...a considerable number of the Catholic faithful..." should read, "... an insignificant yet vocal number of the Catholic faithful..."

That "insignificant number" is large enough that it could be its own sui juris church and exceed some of the Eastern Catholic Churches in their total population.

If the number were truly "insignificant," one would expect that the cause would not be so successful.

You will find an "insignificant" number of Catholic faithful in the following passage: Acts 1:15.

God's opinion on who and what is "insignificant" doesn't always comport with what Internet warriors consider to be "insignificant."

John Nolan said...


The English Missal, sometimes called the Knott Missal (after its publisher) was the Roman Rite translated into 'Prayer Book' English and was, and sometimes still is, used by the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England. First published in 1912, it ran into five editions; the last of these (1958) incorporated the 1955 Ordo for Holy Week. The lectionary is based on Sarum and so differs slightly from the Roman one.

Anonymous said...

The "cause" is not successful. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Catholics attend the Mass in the older rite.

Anonymous said...

That's because it isn't available.

DJR said...

Anonymous said...
The "cause" is not successful. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Catholics attend the Mass in the older rite.

The "one-tenth of one percent of Catholics" who attend the Mass in the older rite is larger than some Eastern Catholic jurisdictions in toto, and Eastern Catholics are quite "successful," thanks.

To say that the "'cause' is not successful" is myopic in the extreme.

There's something called "the future," and we'll see at some point later whether "the cause" is actually "successful."

It took the Spanish seven centuries to rid themselves of Muslims. It took the Irish a similar amount of time to win independence from the English.