August 13-15, 2001
volume 12, no. 142

The Ottaviani Interventions

A Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae

Part Two: Chapter One

    In October 1967, the Synod of Bishops which met in Rome was asked to pass judgment on an experimental celebration of what was then called a "standard" or "normative" Mass. This Mass, composed by the Committee for Implementing the Constitutions on the Sacred Liturgy (Consilium), aroused very serious misgivings among the bishops present. With 187 members voting, the results revealed considerable opposition (43 Negative), many substantial reservations (62 Affirmative with reservations) and four abstentions. The international press spoke of the Synod's "rejection" of the proposed Mass, while the progressive wing of the religious press passed over the event in silence. A well-known periodical, aimed at bishops and expressing their teaching, summed up the new rite in these terms:

    "They wanted to make a clean slate of the whole theology of the Mass. It ended up in substance quite close to the Protestant theology which destroyed the sacrifice of the Mass."

    Unfortunately, we now find that the same "standard Mass, "identical in substance, has reappeared as the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) recently promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (3 April 1969). In the two years that have passed since the Synod, moreover, it appears that the national bishops' conferences (at least as such) have not been consulted on the matter. The Apostolic Constitution states that the old Missal which St. Pius V promulgated on 19 July 1570 - its greater part, in fact, goes back to St. Gregory the Great and even remoter antiquity [1]

    1. "The prayers of Our Canon are found in the treatise De Sacramentis (4th, 5th centuries)...Our Mass goes back without essential changes to the epoch in which it developed for the first time from the most ancient common liturgy. It still preserves the fragrance of that primitive liturgy, in times when Caesar governed the world and hoped to extinguish the Christian faith' times when our forefathers would gather together before dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as their God...There is not in all Christendom a rite so venerable as that of the Roman Missal" (Rev. Adrian Fortescue). "The Roman Canon, such as it is today, goes back to St. Gregory the Great. Neither in East nor West is there any Eucharistic prayer remaining in use today that can boast such antiquity. For the Roman Church to throw it overboard would be tantamount, in the eyes not only of the Orthodox, but also of the Anglicans and even Protestants having still to some extent a sense of tradition, to a denial of all claim any more to be the true Catholic Church" (Rev. Louis Bouyer).
- was the standard for four centuries whenever priests of the Latin Rite celebrated the Holy Sacrifice. The Constitution adds that this Missal, taken to every corner of the earth, "has been an abundant source of spiritual nourishment to so many people in their devotion to God." Yet this same Constitution, which would definitively end the use of the old Missal, claims that the present reform is necessary because "a deep interest in fostering the liturgy has become widespread and strong among the Christian people."

    It seems that the last claim contains a serious equivocation. If the Christian people expressed anything at all, it was the desire - thanks to the great St. Pius X - to discover the true and immortal treasures of the liturgy. They never, absolutely never, asked that the liturgy be changed or mutilated to make it easier to understand. What the faithful did want was a better understanding of a unique and unchangeable liturgy - a liturgy they had no desire to see changed. Catholics everywhere, priests and laymen alike, loved and venerated the Roman Missal of St. Pius V.

    It is impossible to understand how using this Missal, along with proper religious instruction, could prevent the faithful from participating in the liturgy more fully or understanding it more profoundly. It is likewise impossible to understand why the old Missal, when its many outstanding merits are recognized, should now be deemed unworthy to continue to nourish the liturgical piety of the faithful. Since the "standard Mass" now reintroduced and reimposed as the New Order of Mass was already rejected in substance at the Synod, since it was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the national bishop's conferences, and since the faithful (least of all in mission lands) never asked for any reform of the Mass whatsoever, it is impossible to understand the reasons for the new legislation - legislation which overthrows a tradition unchanged in the Church since the 4th and 5th centuries. Since there are no reasons, therefore, for undertaking this reform, it appears devoid of any rational grounds to justify it and make it acceptable to the Catholic people.

    The Second Vatican Council did indeed ask that the Order of Mass "be revised in a way that will bring out more clearly the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them." [2]

    2. Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Consilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 12-4-63), 50
    We shall now see to what extent the recently promulgated Ordo responds to the Council's wishes - wishes now no more than a faint memory. A point-by-point examination of the Novus Ordo reveals changes so great that they confirm the judgment already made on the "standard Mass" - for on many points it has much to gladden the heart of even the most modernist Protestant.

Note: Bold added by editor for emphasis

Next issue: Chapter Two

For the introduction and Cardinal Ottaviani's letter to Pope Paul VI on September 29, 1969, see Part One Introduction

August 13-15, 2001
volume 12, no. 142
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