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Chapter Three Part Eight


G. The Roman Rite and Antiquarianism

    The great "renewal" of the Mass was executed under the guise of a "return to the liturgy of the Early Church." This was sheerest trickery, made more incongruous by the incessant fulminations about bring the Church "up-to-date." To accomplish this "renewal," a thousand years of tradition, of doctrinal development, of Catholic culture and spirituality had to be denied. This denial amounted to saying that the liturgy of the diocese of Rome from the most elementary beginnings to the time of say, Gregory the Great (590-604) was the era of true Christianity-in short, it was Catholicism (though this word seems to send these "modernists" into near frenzy). From the latter time up to and including the Council of Trent, everything was error, aberration, and accretion. The "reform" must, therefore, consist in the expurgation from the liturgy-and, necessarily, from the entire Catholic religion-of every trace and contribution of what might be loosely referred to as the Middle Ages (the "Age of Faith," as this era has been rightly called). The first and obvious effect of this "simplification" maneuver has been to deprive the Mass of precisely those rites which so undeniably enhance its beauty and which have inspired the devotion of the faithful from the time of their incorporation until this very day. To describe these ceremonies as "medieval" is in no way to derogate them, but merely to tell the time of their appearance. No one who has a genuine appreciation of the Roman Liturgy is disdainful of the Middle Ages, as many nowadays think it learned to be. The comment of Edmond Bishop which follows may be of some help in getting these considerations in their proper perspective:

       The history of the liturgy during the later middle ages is simply and merely a history of an attempt (and a successful attempt) to accommodate the native Roman books and rites to the more devout, or effusive, or imaginative, genius of the nations which had one and all adopted them; and of the admission of these changes to a greater or less extent by Rome or Roman Curia, giving them thereby for the benefit of posterity the authority of the Roman name. It was in the course of these ages that the rite was enriched with a dramatic element which it had hitherto so greatly lacked. It was then that, subjected to this influence, actions were so largely added, expressive of the words used in the service; or prayers were introduced (as, for instance, during the whole of the offertory in our present order of mass) which should correspond to each detail of the actions performed. Practically at that time there was, strictly speaking no Roman rite left to follow. The Pope was very commonly, from the beginning of the twelfth century, absent from Rome; the Papal Chapel might be anywhere; and the observance of the churches in Rome itself sank, whilst the offices performed in the majestic Gothic Cathedrals, nor rising on every side were ever increasing in dignity and splendor. This was the epoch of the formation of a rite that may not inaptly be called Romano-French, almost the last relics of which have disappeared in our own day, unless, indeed, the compound called 'Lyons-Roman' can be regarded as a survival. This Romano-French rite was possessed of just those qualities of picturesque and interesting elaboration in which the native Roman rite was no notably deficient; it is this rite which has excited to so large an extent that admiration and the interest of those who have occupied themselves with the historical study of liturgy in the past two generations. 30 30. Liturgical Historica, Edmund Bishop, University Press, Oxford, 1918 & 1962. p. 16.
    By the time of the Council of Trent and Pope St. Pius V, there was need for a reform, not of the liturgical book so much as of the practices of the churches:
       Taking a survey of western Europe as a whole, it was in much the same condition of liturgical anarchy as that in which Charles the Great (Charlemagne) had found his own realm some eight centuries before. The Roman rite was the only one in use, except in the province of Milan; but each church or diocese had modified it at discretion. There was, in fact of recent movements, need once more of setting up a norm or type, and one somewhat more simple, to which the various local churches should conform. Then, as eight centuries before in practice only one rite presented itself as possible for the general adoption-viz. that of the local Church of Rome. 31 31. Ibid. p. 17.
    The reform of St. Pius V, then, was not the issuance of a new rite of the Mass, as intimated by Pope Paul VI in an earlier passage, but a reform of discipline, and that, as Mr. Bishop says, for the sake of order and orthodoxy. Nor was it an attempt to reinstitute the Liturgy of the Roman Church of a thousand years previous; it was rather the establishment of a single definitive form and the binding of churches in the Roman Rite to adhere to it. Mr. Bishop considers this a fortunate thing.
       Fortunately, in accordance with a trait of the Roman character, the new settlement of the Roman books, made in accordance with the desire of the Council of Trent, was based on existing practice without any elaborate antiquarian investigation whether that practice was due to foreign influence, or how far it was of genuine Roman origin. As a fact, some ancient manuscripts then in the Vatican Library were examined preparatory to settling the text of the missal put forth by St. Pius V; but, fortunately, I repeat, these were not of an earlier date than the eleventh or twelfth century, and were books which issued from the union of the Gregorian, or true Roman, missal with the compilation made in France by the direction of Charles the Great towards the close of the eighty century. 32 32. Ibid.
    Warning of the pretext for change on the basis of antiquarianism, Pope Pius XII in His Encyclical letter Mediator Dei wrote:
    The same reasoning holds in the case of some persons who are bent on the restoration of all the ancient rites and ceremonies indiscriminately. The Liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They too owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, Who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:20). They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of men.

       Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing t return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred Liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion But it is neither wise nor laudable t reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table-form; were he to want black excluded as a colour for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues In Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the Divine Redeemer's Body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings…

       Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas…Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical, would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of Divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation. 33 33. Mediator Dei. Pars. 61, 62, 63.

    You will observe that, as of the year 1958, Pope Paul VI, then Archbishop of Milan, was in full agreement with this teaching of his predecessor. Witness the following:
       Rebirth means newness, and this concept obliges us to specify what kind of newness we mean, avoiding two dangerous and opposed innovating tendencies.

       The first would be that of attempting a purely archaic restoration.

       This tendency involves a belief that only the ancient forms of worship are the good and authentic forms; a denial of legitimate historical transformations, vital enrichments and prudent adaptations to the development of worship. 34 34. "Liturgical Formations." Pope Paul VI. Worship. 1958, Vol. 33, No.3.

    Pope Pius XII was undoubtedly aware of the fact that there were some among the liturgical "antiquarians" whose devotion for the Sacred Liturgy and the Early Church was mere pretense. We are the benighted witnesses and victims of this fact, now that those true intentions have been made all but inescapable in the "New Mass." For, the "New Mass" is no more than restoration of the Mass of the ancient church of Rome than it is an "up-to-date" versions of the "Mass of St. Pius V." It is rather a mocking take-off on both, a fabrication so completely different and distinct from either, that one has reason to be amazed the Catholic world has stood still for this outrage. For they were both the True Mass, the one an earlier and recognizable form of the other, the other, the later a true, logical, and worthy derivation of the former. The True Mass is an organic whole that grew from the seed of its beginning into what we know today, without any change in its nature and with a very clear relationship of the various parts to the whole, as the limbs of a plant to the trunk; the "New Mass" is an imitation organism, quite dead, made up of artificial parts manufactured from synthetic materials, and put together with an evil genius, for the purpose of deceiving its viewers. But the "New Mass" will not sustain close scrutiny without revealing its inorganic, non-viable, and purely fabricated nature.

Next Issue: Chapter Four - part one The "New Mass"

For installments to date, see Archives of The Great Sacrilege

See INTRODUCTION for an explanation of this work.

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by Fr. James F. Wathen, O.S.J.
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