Chapter Three Part Two|
THE GREAT SACRILEGE
B. The Council of Trent and the True Mass
If you and I have any inkling of the holiness and the necessity of the Mass, it is due in no small degree to the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which is described in the Enchiridion as "the greatest and most fruitful of all the Councils" ("excellentissimum atque fertilissimum omnium conciliorum"),13
13. (Enchiridon Symbolorum. Denziger-Schonmetzer. Herder. Barcelona. 1965. Conc, (Oecum XIX) Tridentium, Introduction. P. 363), as well as to the Popes who reigned during the years of its convention and Pius IV (1559-1565). But we owe our greatest debt of gratitude to Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572), whose reign followed its closing, but whose pontificate and personal sanctity so perfectly typified the spirit and magnified the influence of the Council. Until our present era, Catholics, especially the Hierarchy, took pride in and guidance from the tradition and the doctrine enunciated by both the Council of Trent and by St. Pius V.
For our present purposes, it is very important to know these facts:
1. The Council of Trent was the least innovative of all the Councils and was most unapologetically Counter-Reformationist. Regarding the Blessed Eucharist, it wished to reassert the doctrines "taught by Christ Jesus Our Lord and His Apostles;" its predominant concern was the "uprooting of the execrable cockle of error and schism which human enemy has sown during our tragic time amidst the doctrine, the practice, and the Church as a symbol of His unity and charity."14 14. (Ibid. pp. 284-85, No. 1635).
2. The decrees of the Council on the Holy Mass have always been understood to be ex cathedra definitions:
…all the dogmatic and moral truths definitely contained in the Liturgy which has been approved by the Holy See for the Universal Church, particularly those truths which pertain to the theology of the Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass and to the Holy Eucharist, bear the stamp of infallibility, having been solemnly defined long ago.15
15. "Infallibilite." Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique. Vol. 7, p. 1706.
3. The relationship between the doctrinal and moral truths and the various rites and prayers and symbols was understood to be so intimate, so integral, that the latter were both the expression and the protection of the former. The "reformers" dared to ridicule the sacred ritual of the Mass, and, in their own fabrications, eliminated all but a few ceremonies on the excuse, mind you, that they were "purifying" Christian worship of its superstitious accretions; they were returning to the practice of the Early Church, for which reason the Fathers of the Council of Trent decreed:
Human nature being what it is, it is not easy for men to be lifted to the contemplation of divine things without external aids. For this reason, Holy Mother Church has instituted certain rites, such as, for example, the subdued voice on the one hand, and the upraised voice on the other, for the saying of Mass; it has introduced ceremonies also, such as, sacred blessings, candles, incense, vestments, and many other things of this nature, according to Apostolic discipline and tradition, in such a way that the majesty of this so great Sacrifice is enhanced, and that through these visible signs of worship and piety the minds of the faithful may be elevated to the contemplation of the noblest of all things, which are hidden in the Sacred Sacrifice.
If anyone say that the ceremonies, the vestments, and the external signs,
Which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of the Mass are more conducive
To impiety than to piety, let him be anathema. 17 17. (Ibid. p. 411, No. 1757. Canon 7.)
C. Pope St. Pius V, Quo Primum, and the True Mass
In their zeal to justify the confusion they have helped to bring upon the Church, some present-day "reformers" have felt compelled to take a few swipes at the person of Pope St. Pius V-who, for obvious reasons, has become the patron of those who are not the "un-people" of the "New Religion." This giant, even among giants, this "Super-Pope" as our children would call him, if they were allowed to hear his true story), does not need the likes of me to defend him or anything about his pontificate. How sad is their condition! They feel uncomfortable at being reminded of this pillar of orthodoxy, whose wisdom and goodness the Church Herself has declared glorious; whose love of Our Lord, of His Holy Mother, and of the Church was exemplary; whose purity and austerity and indifference to men's opinion were legend in his own day; whose sense of the loftiness and holy purpose of his papal authority was extraordinary; and whose intolerance of sin in general and heresy in particular was terrible! He knew what this generations seems determined to deny, how heresy causes sin, and consequently every kind of social disorder, injustice, and spiritual tragedy - and that for generations unending. He was fearfully severe toward selfishness and slovenliness among the clergy; falsity or disloyalty he would not have around him; the clergy; falsity or disloyalty he would not have around him; and he ruled the Papal States as fairly and sternly as he did the weeks after his election, the faithful, particularly the poor, realized that at last they had in the Pope, a protector, a father, a hero, and happiest of all, a saint, who required much more of himself than of anyone else. (It does not hurt to notice that this man, who ruled with strictest justice, who made no effort to be popular, was well-loved and willingly obeyed by his Flock. Should this not say something to the clergy of our generation?)
Perhaps the most characteristic quality of St. Pius' reign was its authoritativeness. When one reads the Saint's decree, Quo Primum, one cannot deny that it was his intention to give it all the force with which is Office empowered him, both legislative and magisterial. He obviously had not the slightest doubt that he had the right to speak as he was doing; it did not occur to him that he could not legislate for all time to come; he could not imagine that any Catholic would ever consider his language unorthodox, and no Pope nor Doctor of the Church has ever suggested that he was doing other than following in the true tradition of the Papacy, which has charge of the Keys of the Kingdom. From the point of view of its phrasing, one could hardly imagine a more authoritative statement or a more stringently binding law, or an edict which might conceivably be interpreted in any way other than as irrevocable. When one reads this decree, he cannot help wondering whether St. Pius had been given some premonition of our present age and our present situation, although the hatred of the Mass, which the Protestants on the Continent and in England were spreading with utter malice among the defenseless people in those days, is sufficient explanation for both the tone and the finality of it.
Quo Primum is Pope St. Pius' Bull introducing and imposing the Missale Romanum. Contrary to what is being said my many, the "Tridentine Mass" was not a "Novus Ordo" of it own day, nor was it ever thought to be by anyone.
Essentially the Missal of Pius V. is the Gregorian Sacramentary; that again
is formed from the Galasian book, which depends on the Leonine collection.
We find prayers of our Canon in the treatise de Sacramentis and allusions
to it in the IVth Century. So our Mass goes back, without essential change,
to the age when it first developed out of the oldest Liturgy of all. It is still
redolent of that Liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and
thought he could stamp out the Faith of Christ, when our fathers met
together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The final
result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of
later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours.18
18. (The Mass-A Study of the Roman Liturgy. Adrian Fortescue. Longmans,
Green & Co. London, 1950. p. 213)
There is, therefore, no such thing as a "Tridentine Mass," or a "Mass of St. Pius V," strictly speaking, for which reason I reluctantly use the terms here and do so in quotation marks. It is almost a concession to present-day "reformers" to employ such terms. Better to refer to it as "The Mass of the Roman Rite," or "The Traditional Catholic Mass," or the like. Before I am finished here, you will understand why I feel obligated to speak of it as the "True Mass," if you do not already. According to Fortescue, the work of the Tridentine Commission, which produced the Missale Romanum, consisted mainly of purging from the Liturgy disparate "medieval accretions" and establishing a single ceremonial for practically all churches of the Roman Rite.19 19. (Ibid. pp. 207-208).
The Appendix I of my book, I quote the translation of Quo Primum in full; [Also available at Quo Primum] below I give what has become, over the last few years, a well-known excerpt. Read it carefully, as there follows a number of important deductions to be made from it. While reading it, keep in mind that every Successor of Pope St. Pius V has ratified this act of his, thirty-six in all. Though several of the Popes have authorized revisions and re-editions of the "Missale", all such revisions contain this letter as their first preface; all of them consciously abide by its legislation. And these revisions include the last edition, made by Pope John XXIII, dated July 25, 1960, which means that the age of Quo Primum is no argument whatsoever against its binding force; even he who summoned the Second Vatican Council seemed to feel bound by it, (at least, as of then). From Quo Primum:
We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other
persons of whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of
The Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence, and We order them in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite
and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us and, hereafter, to discontinue and
and completely discard all other rubrics and rites of other missals, however ancient,
which they have customarily followed; and they must not in celebrating Mass presume
to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this
Furthermore, by these presents (this law), in virtue of Our Apostolic
Authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the
Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and
canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever order or by
whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than
as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever
is to be forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot
be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force-
notwithstanding the previous constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, as well as any
general or special constitutions or edicts of provincial or sinodal councils, and
notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long
and immemorial prescription-except, however, if of more than two hundred years'
Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this letter or heedlessly to venture
to go contrary to this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept,
grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone, however,
presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of
Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.20
20. (Missale Romanum.
Desclee & Socii. Turin. 1962. pp. iv-vi. (Cf. Appendix I of the present work,
where the entire Apostolic Constitution is printed.)
These words gall modern-day enemies of the Holy Mass, as well they ought. They make a large swath. How the "reformers" wish they had never been written! It will be noticed that, in all their zeal for the vernacular, they studiously avoided putting a translation of these words into any of their "missals." A clear understanding of the meaning of St. Pius V's law is absolutely necessary to follow the argument of this writing.
Fr. James F. Wathen, O.S.J.
Next Issue: Chapter Three - part three
C. Pope St. Pius V, Quo Primum, and the True Mass
For installments to date, see Archives of The Great Sacrilege
THE GREAT SACRILEGE
by Fr. James F. Wathen, O.S.J.