The way forward is backward…

“The present condition of Catholic worship has come about because it has been shaped by principles and attitudes of secular modernity. The result is that the Liturgy, instead of providing an alternative vision of life to that provided by secular modernity, now cooperates with and disseminates principles that are destructive of Catholicism. … Modern liturgical practices are defective, and they are in place, and they reinforce people’s understanding both of their faith and of how the faith should relate to the modern world.”

— Fr. Jonathan Robinson, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward (2005), pp. 18, 343

Holy Mass Altar Crucifixion“Obviously, the reformers wanted a completely new liturgy, a liturgy that differed from the traditional one in spirit as well as in form; and in no way a liturgy that represented what the Council fathers had envisioned; i.e., a liturgy that would meet the pastoral needs of the faithful…. That is why a new rite was created, a rite that in many ways reflects the bias of the new (modernist) theology. The traditional liturgy simply could not be allowed to exist in its established form because it was permeated with the truths of the traditional faith and ancient forms of piety.”

— Monsignor Klaus Gamber, Reform of the Roman Liturgy, p. 100

Angel Offer Mass“[A]fter the Council … in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product (produit banal de l’instant).”

– Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to La Reforme Liturgique en question (Le-Barroux: Editions Sainte-Madeleine), 1992, pp. 7-8.

Join the Revolution liturgy

I do not object to the Novus Ordo (NO) as if it were illicit, much less invalid. I simply choose to support the Usus Antiquior (UA) as an act of creative protest. To use a military analogy, precisely because the new, main citadel has been compromised, we should make a tactical retreat to the overlooked security of the old citadel. As even a comedian like Jimmy Fallon realizes, the abuses of the NO are by this point phenomenologically indistinguishable from the NO itself. Just as the medium is the message, so the liturgy is the religion, even when said liturgy tends more to dyscatechesis than devotion. Since, however, I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I distinguish the NO from the NO-as-typically-experienced (NOTE), and the UA from the UA-as-typically-assisted (UATA).

It may be admirably stoical to “put up with” the NOTE, but it is just as noble, if not more so, to hew closely to a form of worship which consistently and unambiguously emphasizes the paschal depths of the Mass. My attachment to the UA, which, by the way, is still in its infant stages, is what I call a liturgical discipleship. I choose to submit to the semiotic rhythms and structures of the Mass which formed over a millennium of saints in the Latin rite, and which is surely much more akin to the Eastern liturgies than “the El Camino of liturgies”. Without in any way denying the sanctifying presence of God in the NOTE, I am simply choosing to vote with my feet, in order to immerse myself in the Church’s most sustained form of prayer, and thus further conform my mind to Her Tradition. The NOTE will continue its pastoral gyrations while I continue my traditional discipleship in the UATA. When extraordinary ministers are a dozen times more common than the UA, something’s either wrong with the word ‘extraordinary’ or with the Church.

Immaculate Conception Jax balcony

The problem is that the canonical supremacy of the NO not only gives an uncritical air of authority to the abuses widely endemic to the NOTE (“If it’s good enough for Rome…”), but also further inures us to the abysmal state of liturgical and catechetical formation in the Church today. While I do not believe that the NO is gravely theologically defective, I believe that the NOTE is clearly anemic and an easy source of scandal to pious celebrants. Its genesis also seems remarkably connected to the Church’s decline in the past half-century. The NOTE, by its very nature, is more flippant and more distracting than the UATA, and I think such a hegemony of mediocrity should be resisted with the soldierly grace of Confirmation. If the majority of NO Masses were like the following, I suspect that the “traditionalist” movement would visibly contract.

As I continue to emphasize, attachment to the UA is not mere snobbery, and certainly not an adolescent addiction. It is a free act of resistance to the reign of triviality and humanistic immanentism (cf. EG §89) which has tattooed itself to the NO in most places. If the consensus is dreck, then the smart choice, to quote Dostoevsky, is beauty: for “the world shall be saved by beauty.” To acquiesce to the norm as it stands is to defect from the ideal as it is given. As Aidan Nichols argues–in close connection with the opening quotations of this post–the Enlightenment bequeathed to the Church modern liturgists whose work is “[a]nthropocentric, moralizing, voluntaristic, didactic, [and] subjectivist” in contrast to the authentic theocentric nature of the traditional liturgy (Looking at the Liturgy, pp. 28-29). Why, in the name of a protracted loyalty, should we play along with such a benighted scheme?

So, while the NO can be said reverently, as Sacrosanctum Concilium stipulated, such reverence is, by this point, best fostered and “signed” by hewing to the form of the liturgy which the NO is supposed to have manifested. To cite Fr. Kocik once again:

What is needed is not a ‘reform of the reform’ but rather a cautious adaptation of the Tridentine liturgy in accordance with the principles laid down by Sacrosanctum Concilium (as happened in the immediate aftermath of that document’s promulgation in 1963), using what we have learned from the experience of the past fifty years. In the meantime, improvements can be made here and there in the ars celebrandi of the Ordinary Form. But the road to achieving a sustainable future for the traditional Roman rite—and to achieving the liturgical vision of Vatican II, which ordered the moderate adaptation of that rite, not its destruction—is the beautiful and proper celebration, in an increasing number of locations, of the Extraordinary Form, with every effort to promote the core principle (properly understood) of “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful (SC 14).

In other words, if you really care about the Church, then you care about the Liturgy (cf. CCC §1136 ff., §1324 ff.), and if you care about the Liturgy, then you are–at minimum–well within your rights to cease tacitly endorsing the dilapidated state of the Church’s normative worship by hewing closely to that liturgical form which the NO itself strives to make more manifest. By assisting at the UA, I am fulfilling the conciliar hope that the faithful would be more active participants in the Gregorian rite. This is the great instinct which has drawn so many into the Church via the Anglican Ordinariate, and it is an instinct ably explicated by Fr. Hunwicke:

I know many readers will disagree; but I believe that an important way ahead in the direction of resacralising the Novus Ordo is through the sanctioning of alternatives derived from the Vetus Ordo. Happily, the Ordinariate Ordo Missae has led the way to a very significant and exemplary extent. Its authorisation deserves to be bracketed with Summorum Pontificum and the New English translation of the Missal, as one of the three major achievements of the last Pontificate in terms of Liturgy; and as a major contribution, from our beloved Anglican Catholic tradition, to the whole Western Church. …

(2) Moving in exactly the opposite direction: alternative Eucharistic Prayers should be ruthlessly cut back. Their introduction was a flagrant violation of Sacrosanctum Concilium 23….

Here again, the Ordinariate Ordo Missae leads the way. It prints, in its main text, (an Anglo-Catholic translation of) the Canon Romanus, the First Eucharistic Prayer, used daily and universally in the Roman Rite until the disorders of the 1960s. (In an appendix, it does provide the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer “not to be used on Sundays or Solemnities”.)

However much the Roman Rite varied in its various dialects and in different centuries, the Canon was the profoundly sacred moment of Consecration and of Uniformity, both synchronic and diachronic, binding together all who had ever celebrated, all who were at that moment celebrating, that Rite. I regard the introduction of alternative Eucharistic Prayers as by far the worst of the post-Conciliar corruptions. In an act of amazingly arbitrary Clericalism, the revisers placed the central Act of the Rite totally at the mercy of the daily whimsy of each celebrant.

In other words, the NOTE, according to the guidelines called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, is not an authentic note of the Church of all ages, so why play along with the Glib Tinkerers, especially when richer fare is available? You can either endorse the banality you see at the NOTE, or lead by example by assisting at the UA while the many waters rage outside. To persist in trying to untangle–with revolutionary fervor–the many knots woven into the NOTE, is simply to tighten the knot of the NO which the Church, arguably, has never seen unfurled. By contrast, just as the way to unravel a knot is to massage it back to its original shape, so the way forward into the depths of liturgical catechesis is backward into the depths of the time-tested liturgical catechesis known as the Usus antiquior, among many other names.

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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27 Responses to The way forward is backward…

  1. What you wrote resonated strongly with the feelings I expressed a couple of days back. Than you for your articulate and sensible reflections.


  2. Branch says:

    Yet strangely, the NO is not soft on Hell: Perhaps the issue is the NOTE more than anything else.

  3. Branch says:

    I do not think a new Rite was created. Pope Benedict spoke of this. The various versions of the Roman Missal belong to the same Rite. It is appropriate, I think, to speak of them as various richnesses rather than various Rites.

  4. Proph says:

    It’s not exactly soft on Hell, but it’s not exactly hard on Hell either. The problem with the revised lectionary is that the breadth of its scope means a loss of focus, both within and between liturgical years. The ancient lectionary’s one-year cycle meant we returned to the same readings year after year, so that they acquired a degree of familiarity, and it necessitated a specific sort of focus both in the character of the readings and, by extension, the truths impressed upon most forcefully in the Mass. The new lectionary’s three-year Sunday cycle and two-year ferial cycle has the effect of both separating the readings from the propers of the Mass (with the effect that the Mass becomes modular and the proclamation of Scripture merely didactic, rather than theophanic) and necessarily unfocusing the Scriptural lens through which the Mass was celebrated.

    In that regard the OF lectionary is I believe especially deficient: a lot of the readings from the EF not present in the OF (and, contrary to popular belief, there are many) have to do with theologically unpopular topics — faithlessness, judgment, the perfidy of the Pharisees, many miracles, etc. The result is a lectionary that is very much in thrall to the theological fashions of the 1970s, far from the timelessness of the ancient lectionary, the loss of which was, in my opinion, the absolute worst thing about the Pauline reforms. Ben Travato did some excellent work on this; see,

  5. Steve Fowler says:

    Wonderfully put. Beautifully put.

  6. Branch says:

    But, as the article I linked to, pointed out, there was relatively little mention of Hell in those readings.

  7. Tony Jokin says:

    Well, I don’t see how we can blame the loss of belief in the four last things, the miracles for an example as having anything to do with the change in the readings. I think the real reason is the lack of emphasis or mention of such matters by majority of the priests and Bishops during the homilies or outside of it.

    I would say the major issue created by changing the form of the mass was a perception that the Church HAD discarded all her traditional practices and with it the teachings that gave rise to the practices as well. So it made the lay Catholic in the pew less confident regarding opposing the priest and Bishops that were contradicting teaching. It also made many faithful less suspicious about accepting any novel teaching or practices that contradicted the tradition of the Church.

  8. ErnstThalmann says:

    “[A]fter the Council … in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product (produit banal de l’instant).”

    – Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to La Reforme Liturgique en question (Le-Barroux: Editions Sainte-Madeleine), 1992, pp. 7-8.

    To imagine the above statement of Joseph Ratzinger as supportive in some way of the idea that “the way forward is backward” into a kind of progressive modification of the Tridentine Mass is both to misunderstand Ratzinger and the statement itself. There was and is absolutely no requirement to define an “organic, living process of growth and development” from within the structures of the Tridentine any more than one would require the evolution of comedy to find its context in Ozzie and Harriet. Had Ratzinger envisioned the way forward as taking place within isolated, earlier forms of the Mass, he’d not have defined two forms of the Roman Rite at the time of his pontificate. Rather, here Ratzinger speaks of the context established by the whole of the history of the liturgy in the same way that he understands the place of St. Thomas within the history of theology. True, he laments the impoverishment of the liturgy that has occurred since the opportunity for “organic growth” came and went after the Council, but to pick it up again one best eschews nostalgic fixations on such as the Tridentine Mass, neo-schlolastic theology and women’s headwear.

  9. vermontcrank1 says:

    Dear B.C. In proportion to its limited accessibility the care with which the older form of Mass is celebrated has greatly improved – but that is no guarantee of future stability.

    All one has to do is read some of the old canons from the Ecumenical Council held in the Thirteenth Century – the Greatest of all centuries, William Thomas Walsh tells us; the canons dealt with drunken and queer clerics and even clerics who were putting out contracts on those they despised.

    I am the same age as Israel and back in isolated Springfield, Vermont, at Saint Mary’s, we had large families arriving for the four Sunday Masses (each family had 4-6 kids) and the Mass was in Latin and the girls wore veils/hats and the men wore suits; that is, it looked back then like an FSSP Apostolate Chapel/Church looks like today.

    And then everything suddenly went haywire and it all happened prior to the Second Vatican Council; don’t forget that France was a mission country in the early twenty century.

    I too love the old form of Mass, especially when it is sung (like all masses ought be) but it is no panacea and it will not save the world and when each of us stands before the judgment seat of Christ, He will not ask us what form of Mass we preferred or assisted at; that is, one can have the Mass and lose Heaven whereas one can attain to Heaven without even having access to a Mass.

    It is the Faith that Matters; not a particular form of Mass.

    And, there has always only been one Mass.

  10. vermontcrank1 says:

    … However much the Roman Rite varied in its various dialects and in different centuries, the Canon was the profoundly sacred moment of Consecration and of Uniformity, both synchronic and diachronic, binding together all who had ever celebrated, all who were at that moment celebrating, that Rite.

    Dear B.C. The good Father is simply inaccurate here and he has become increasingly inaccurate since that post and he makes assertions here and in later posts that are simply ahistorical (at best).

    Even his own countryman, Adrian Fortescue, confesses the Canon underwent major changes prior to the 4th century (Catholic Encyclopedia) and once I have finished posting the series of Bishop Gasser’s Relation, I will address the good Father’s inaccurate assertions which are now being taken as Gospel by his Priest audience and I will address other matters at my crummy Blog because he no longer will post my polite responses to what I consider his errors.

    The other day I wrote a polite and pacific response and he went all Rumpelstiltskin on me – stamping his feet and screaming repeatedly -and for good reason as I will show.

    And, I will post evidence of how it is Pope Paul Vi can be considered a restorationist and not a revolutionary; come on, that will be fun, right?

  11. Yourn alway up t’somethin’. 😉

  12. Branch says:

    Exactly my point.

  13. Branch says:


  14. Branch says:

    Can you point me to your blog? I’d like to read it

  15. He’s at .

  16. I do not think it is a panacea, nor did I imply, at all, that one’s salvation depends on assisting at the UA. Again with the tongue-in-cheek red herrings? The Faith matters above all, yes, but so does how we lives our lives and worship according to it. It is not a matter of taste; it is a matter of redeeming the times and being salt in a flavorless world. I am astounded at the surge of Protestant minimalism in the Church under the pied piping of Pope Perplexing. To hear you tell it, we could just transplant the words of consecration into a Kenneth Copeland revival and be done with all that Fancy Theology. One long sigh.

  17. I read it quickly and skimmed over the particular data, but I’m curious if Fr. Harrison means that there is 46% more “hard talk” in the NO per annum or over the total three-year, ABC cycle. If there’s 46% more per annum compared to the old Missal, that’s quite astonishing, and, for me, makes the evaporation of homiletical gravitas that much more depressing. If, however, it’s 46% more over three years, that seems like comparing apples to oranges. I’ll take a look again, but am I missing something?

    [Having perused it again, I found the answer: “That makes an average of 24.2 Gospel verses about Hell and Judgment per year – a 46% increase over the average quantity read annually in the old rite.” I agree that we can’t “blame it all on the NO readings”, but I find myself even more heartbroken to realize that the chaos, which V2 exacerbated in the very act of trying to channel it, is so endemic to the modern Church that even a refurbished Missal comes off, half a century later, as a Band-Aid for a broken leg. I also think that it’s important to keep in mind Fr. Harrison’s point about how the full range of eschatological teaching is embedded in the UA, unlike its optional and rather cloaked presence in the NO. Why can’t we just stick to Eucharistic Prayer I!? 😦 ]

  18. Branch says:

    Given that Our Lord communicated His message of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina not long ago, I think that message, if anything, will be what saves the world today. It is consistent, too, with Our Lady of Fatima imploring us to pray the Rosary. These times are urgent, I think, and we’re asked to pray and trust in Our Lord.

  19. “These times are urgent, I think, and we’re asked to pray and trust in Our Lord.”

    That’s the entire point of my post. The UA is, I believe, a special sign of continuity and liturgical witness in these times of humanist immanentism. The Church in no way pits Her public worship against private prayer. It is the Faith that matters; not a particular form of prayer; there has always only been one Spirit of prayer.

  20. Branch says:

    So anything goes with the form of prayer, but not with the form of the Mass? Disputes over the form of the Mass have led some to schism.

  21. Nope, which is exactly my (ironic) point. If you think disputes over prayer haven’t led to schism, you should look up hesychasm and Barlaam vs. Palamas. Indifferentism in prayer is a form of ecumenical indifferentism, which is a sin, and my point is that the Mass is the Church’s preeminent form of prayer. Ergo, liturgical indifferentism is all of a piece with the other species of indifferentism. I do not impugn anyone’s devotion to the Faith, but might I strongly suggest that a reading of Mortalium Animos is in order? Call it a Septuagesimal practice. 😉

  22. Branch says:

    In your opinion, how did even holy Popes of recent times get mired in the false ecumenism clearly forbidden in Mortalium Animos? How can such a thing possibly happen?

  23. I’m talking about the Sitz im Leben. If anything, the popes have been too naive and permissive with the seeds of indifferentism which have blossomed in the Church, not active purveyors of it. In any case, to hear most people tell it these days, since Mortalium Annos (or Quas Primas, or Mirari Vos, or etc. etc. before Vatican II) wasn’t “infallible dogma”, it can safely be ignored as merely papal suggestions. Sigh.

  24. Praise God, let’s hope it’s more than just a waving of the flag! 🙂

  25. ErnstThalmann says:

    Don’t get too excited. Frank hasn’t indicated quite yet what he means by “a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”. Maybe it’ll mean that unjudged gay priests will offer communion to divorced and remarried abortion obsessives.

  26. I was trying to be optimistic, but, yes, you read my mind–the statement in the article is swimming with the typical clericalese.

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