Friday, February 5, 2016


This is an article in Rorate Caeli written by by Fr. Richard G. Cipolla, my comments at the end of it:

What is so sorely needed in the Church today is genuine theological debate about important issues both within the Church and also within the world. And this debate is sorely needed within the Traditional movement within the Church. What is at stake is the very concept and understanding of the Tradition of the Church that encompasses both Scripture and the teaching of the Church to the present time. For the Catholic, Scripture cannot be divorced from the Tradition, which must include the teaching of the Church and its binding nature.

You notice I did not invoke the term “Magisterium” with respect to the teaching office of the Church. The Magisterium, as understood today, did not, at least in an explicitly defined sense, exist before Vatican I. I would submit that the concept of the Magisterium as consisting of the Pope united with the bishops and the levels of Extraordinary and Ordinary teaching is a rather modern concept. This is not to say that this concept is in error or that it is not useful. But this understanding of the teaching role and office of the Church defined in this narrow and legalistic way impoverishes the meaning of the Ecclesia Docens by overlooking the role of the Liturgy and of the piety of the people in the teaching of the Church as embodied in the Tradition. The omission of the role of the Liturgy and the piety of the people in the concept of the Magisterium is one of the chief reasons why we find ourselves in the parlous situation of the Church today.

I am not aware of a groundswell of the faithful who asked for a new liturgy in the 1960s. What happened after Vatican II had little to do with the People of God. What happened was from the top down. It was the imposition of a rite on the people by liturgical brahmins of a certain time and place, with a certain flawed scholarship (as is all scholarship), with a certain breathless desire to be with the times: and this imposition was made possible by the belief that the Magisterium, and specifically the Pope, has the power and the authority to this.

And this is what must be debated among those who love the Church and her Tradition: what is the basis of this power and authority to essentially change the Tradition of the Church in the form of the Liturgy? In the case of the Pope, is it the definition of Papal Infallibility at Vatican I? Is it from the Catechism that speaks of the Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium with regard to the Pope and the bishops? When Pius X signed off on the radical revision of the Roman Breviary and promulgated the revision as the Roman Breviary (at least Paul VI called his revision by a new name), where did this authority come from? When Pius XII, despite his own warnings about archaism in liturgical scholarship, initiated the post-1955 Holy Week rites, what was the basis of the authority to change the Tradition embodied in the Liturgy? When Paul VI at the stroke of a pen brought a New Liturgy into Being and assumed that the Mass of the Tradition was now a thing of the past to be discarded and never to be part of the Church again, is this when this power and authority came into being? Was it when the Pope assumed the authority to change the words of Consecration on the basis of making them more biblical and eliminating “Mysterium Fidei” because no one understood why those words were there in the Consecration of the wine to the Precious Blood? Or was it when St. John XXIII decided to add St. Joseph to the Canon of the Mass? Who could object to this? But what was the basis of his authority to do such a thing? As the Chief Shepherd whose jurisdiction of the Church is absolute? And the further questions about the relationship of Canon Law to Liturgical Law and what the source and meaning of Liturgical Law is and its relationship to Tradition: all this needs to be talked about and debated in a faithful and intelligent manner.

Men and women who love the Tradition are now upset over Pope Francis’ edict that changes the rubrics of the Roman Missal of Paul VI to allow for the feet of women and girls to be washed as well as men and boys. My esteemed colleague, Augustinus, writing for Rorate Caeli, understands the latest development in the ongoing liturgical development that has marked the post-Vatican years as “inevitable” . And he is right. Just as Pope Francis is inevitable. But underlying this sense of inevitability is the profound legalism that undergirds the very understanding of the Liturgy itself.

There is no question of the need for liturgical law. But the fact is that liturgical law was powerless in the face of the innovation of saying Mass facing the people. It was powerless in the face of the un-Traditional practice of receiving Communion in the hand, a practice born in disobedience. It was powerless in the face of countless abuses in the Mass, abuses that still are part of the “normal” celebration of Mass today. And this is where I disagree with my colleague when he says: “As long as the ‘Reform of the Reform’ is not embodied in clear legislation that is vigorously enforced by the very top, it will never take off the ground and will never be more than the hobby of a tiny minority”.

I would say that surely those of us who love the Tradition and bemoan the present state of the liturgical life of the Church have learned that legislation of any type is not the answer. A bishop I know and respect said to me recently: “We are priests. We are not policemen.”. The breakdown of the liturgical life of the Church cannot be fixed by legislation. How it will be fixed is in the deepest sense by the sheer grace of God. How we can co-operate with this grace is a subject for conversation. But the most important thing right now is to initiate the debate about papal authority, its basis, its nature and its limits. And like all debate within the Church of Christ, it must be done by listening to each other in charity.


1. Fr. Cipolla comes very close to his progressive counterparts by calling into question the authority of the Magisterium either ordinary or extraordinary as only a recent development that cracks the door for traditionalists who might have schismatic tendencies to dismiss the Magisterium altogether as progressives have done since the 1970's and rudely so. Liberal theologians of that period saw themselves as a parallel magisterium, the loyal opposition to this, that and the other. In a sense Fr. Cipolla attributes a similar magisterium to the Ecclesia Docens. This can get very divisive especially in parishes where there is a liturgical elitism among those who say they love Tradition and are the only correct worshipers. 

2. It is interesting that those who love Tradition would desire that a pope would one day simply eliminate the Ordinary Form of the Mass and impose the EF Mass on the entire Latin Rite in a top down fashion as the Ordinary Form was imposed on the Latin Rite Church.  Top down authority is desired only when convenient and in line with one's ideologies. Pope Francis while wanting a more synodal Church is a top down authoritarian. If he was traditionalist in the narrow sense, Fr. Cipolla would champion His Holiness. 

3. Things born of disobedience often come from the bottom up--altar girls, communion in the hand, the exploitation of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday. It was a mix of negligence but also a desire of the clergy and the laity to have these things. But make no mistake, these came from parishes not from Rome. Rome simply endorsed what the clergy and laity were practicing. Is this not too the Ecclesia Docens but applied now to the development of the Ordinary Form? In two thousand years, what will be said about this in history and the present of 2000 years from now????

4. There is a new Liturgical movement post Vatican II. Progressives who idolize the Liturgical Movement of the first part of the 20th century that led to liturgical changes by Pope Pius XII and then accelerated by Vatican II and Pope Paul VI with Archbishop the liturgical anarchist as its engine, decry the New Liturgical Movement of Pope St. John Paul II accelerated by its engine, Cardinal Ratzinger who is Pope Benedict. Having two forms of the Latin Rite, and now the Ordinariate's Missal which is Pope Benedict's desired new third missal combing the best of the EF and OF and on many levels is the New Liturgical Movement that will influence the future and more quickly than the old Liturgical Movement influenced the Church top down or bottom up! 



Victor W said...

I don't consider myself a schismatic or heading that way, but nevertheless I think there is a good point being made here: To what extent is the Church's liturgy part of her Magisterium? That question does not seem to have been addressed properly in any official capacity despite the Lex credendi nature of the liturgy. The recent popes have done more than simply legislate liturgical changes, for in doing so they have also legislated changes in beliefs whether traditional or novel, deliberately or inadvertently. This needs attention.
Indeed, it is capital to understand, as Fr Cipolla points out, that there was no groundswell of the faithful for a new liturgy, especially one based on the world views of the World War II generation. The changes were deep along with the Lex credendi that was entailed. To what extent was it a new Church with new beliefs imposed by means of the new liturgy? To what extent were the people lead like sheep by unsuspecting pastors down a cliff, as could be argued?

TJM said...

Groundswell, no. Just like the Bolsheviks the revolution in Liturgy was fomented by a determined (and nutty) minority

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Victor W, the Magisterium of the Liturgy (Law of prayer is the law of belief) is essential to the point that is being made and the deleterious effect that liturgical change brought to both must be explored.

Apart from the issue of Latin, many complained and early on that the revised Mass was not as reverent as the Mass that was revised. This is a legitimate and serious complaint that must be revisited. Casualness, the proliferation of Eucharistic Ministers, casually dressed, lectors casually dressed, untrained altar servers be they male of female and the worst novelty of all, standing for Holy Communion and receiving in the hand while on the run.

The poor English translation of the Mass prior to our current missal is another area that I think has been rectified in English but affected the liturgy in a "magisterial way."

Priest's becoming the star of the show and acting as actors or comedians is another problem easily attributed to facing the congregation for prayer and not being suspended for improvising on the texts of the Mass.

The 1970 Missal with restored EF elements of formality, kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving on the tongue along with ad orientem as the EF Mass was celebrated with EF rubrics restored would show the continuity of Doctrine, Dogma and Spirituality of these two Masses.

Marc said...

This is an interesting issue since it is true that historically the pope did not have the authority to promulgate and impose a liturgy in every diocese throughout the world. That is a rather late development as far as things go. It is not questioning the magisterium to wonder from whence that authority came -- it is a legitimate question that deserves an answer.

It is also a false equivalency to suggest that the desire that the pope eliminate the Novus Ordo Missae and reinstate the Missal of St. Pius V is the same sort of top-down idea as the original imposition of the Novus Ordo. Such an equivalency fails to take into account the fact that the Novus Ordo was created out of nothing and does not represent the Church's liturgical development throughout history. A return to the properly developed liturgy is a corrective action, not an interruption in the Church's liturgical development as was the Novus Ordo.

The reform of the reform is meaningless since it would culminate in the reintroduction of the Missal of St. Pius V. One can return traditional elements to the Novus Ordo for aesthetic reasons, which is all Fr. McDonald is interested in, but ultimately the liturgy itself would have to morph into the Tridentine rite. The only other option is to retain the Novus Ordo in an unreformed fashion, but with the allowance of a certain high-church aesthetic as well as whatever other aesthetic an individual priest sees fit to impose. Such a reform is no reform at all since it will ultimately prove meaningless in the vast majority of parishes.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, I only partially agree with your assessment of things. I see no chance of the EF Mass becoming once again the Ordinary Form of the Mass, although I hope and pray that EF communities develop in every city that has enough Catholics to attend. That could bring about an organic return.

I agree also that any reform of the reform must be mandated from above. Pope Benedict in his true humility proposed certain changes to the Ordinary Form by way of modeling them. It wanted the bishops of the Church to endorse or reject them. Seems for the time being many aspects are being rejected and unfortunately. But I don't think all is lost in this regard only on a hiatus.

But a bottom-up sort of reform is occurring and slowly.

I think you are too judgmental of good Catholics who love the Ordinary form Mass and are formed by it in a truly Catholic way. This sort of elitism needs to be repented and the good Lord will purify you of it one day.

Marc said...

Father, I agree that the push for the reinstatement of the traditional Mass needs to start with a groundswell among the faithful. Presumably, that groundswell would culminate in a top-down mandate eliminating the Novus Ordo Missae.

I am not judgmental of those Catholics who love the Novus Ordo. In most instances, they do not know any better since their bishops and priests have failed them for so long and have denied them their Roman Catholic patrimony. I am judgmental of the bishops and priests who have and continue to deny people their Catholic birthright.

It is not elitism to want every Catholic to worship in the ways of our Catholic saints and forefathers. That is the opposite of elitism.

I disagree that the Novus Ordo can form people in a truly Catholic way. Both statistically and anecdotally, that does not seem to be the case at all. The Novus Ordo, by its nature, forms people in an erroneous way. That is the whole point of advocating for a return to the traditional Mass. If the Novus Ordo could accomplish the goal of being proper Catholic worship, then advocating for the traditional Mass would be based on nothing more than personal aesthetic preferences, which is what I am saying is wrong with your approach.

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't agree with a lot of what happened at Vatican II, nor with the changes in the Mass or a lot of what is going on now, but I agree with Fr McDonald that what is said here is very similar to the liberal take on things. It is simply not the answer. The problem has been a liberal takeover of much of the Church, which will eventually be defeated in God's good time. A lot of it is down to the laity - me included - who have not prayed enough against these things, and prayer is the answer, and to speak out of course. Cardinal Burke has started a rosary crusade against the devil's attacks on the Church and he says to remain faithful, as does Bishop Athanasius Schneider. This is the way ahead for us. I live the Faith of my youth. Nothing has changed for me. Certainly I would like the opportunity to attend the EF Latin Mass more often and I don't want to see the washing of women's feet etc but there are now many good and holy priests who simply won't take part in that, so passive resistance is the way to go. Where you find abuses in the liturgy, simply don't attend. Natural attrition will happen and the strong vine will survive and flower again.

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Marc, you claim: "I disagree that the Novus Ordo can form people in a truly Catholic way."

Well then Marc, what about St Chiara Lubrich who died at 18 years of age and only had the Novus Ordo, being born post Vatican II? I would like to see if you can both hold your quotation as well as attest to her sainthood.

If you can successfully meet my proposed challenged, then you and all "hardcore" Latin Mass Traditonalists are correct and the good Fr AJM is wrong.

Marc said...

Julian, people are not only formed by the liturgy , and it is possible for other things to always impact a person's sanctity. Even Protestants can be saved despite their being Protestants.

Tony V said...

Traditionalists are realising that it's not just the 'spirit of Vatican II' that's damaged the church, it's the 'spirit of Vatican I' as well. The inevitable result of that unnecessary and questionable dogma, which is such an impediment to oecumenical reunion, is the notion that the pope can do whatever he wants. As Benedict, unique among modern popes has said, he can't. There would have been no Pauline missal if it hadn't been for Pius IX.

We lost a lot of good people because of Vatican I. We lost a lot because of Vatican II. Most of them didn't go to the SSPX. They just left.

Mark Thomas said...

Father Cipolla said that "I would say that surely those of us who love the Tradition and bemoan the present state of the liturgical life of the Church have learned that legislation of any type is not the answer. A bishop I know and respect said to me recently: “We are priests. We are not policemen.”.

I would add to that the following: When Pope Francis' foot-washing controversy raged a couple of weeks ago, Joseph Shaw, Latin Mass Society Chairman, stated the following:

"Let's not get on a high horse about Pope Francis at this juncture. This is just another step, and not a particularly large one, in the development of the Ordinary Form away from Tradition, and it is not happening because of the personality of the Pope. It is happening because the Novus Ordo Missae of 1970 was unstable. It included a series of compromises which were never going to last. Given the direction of pressure, these compromises were always going to unravel the same way.

"This is the real lesson to be learned. Attempting to shore up the tottering edifice of the Novus Ordo with ferocious-sounding rules has failed. JPII and Pope Benedict didn't manage it, and obviously - obviously - Pope Francis, though not a liturgical 'meddler', is not going to succeed in a project in which he has no interest. If it is collapsing, it is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions."


Mark Thomas