Is it Possible to Admit Liturgical Mistakes?

January 6 seems like as good an occasion as any to raise the issue of whether it is possible to admit that some elements of liturgical reform following Vatican II might have been mistakes. In this specific case, should the importance of Día de Los Reyes in many Latin American cultures and the growing importance of Hispanics in U.S. Catholic culture make the bishops of the U.S. rethink the transferral of Epiphany to Sunday—something that people (at least in the rarefied circles in which I travel) carp about every year? Could this be changed?

Pondering this possibility leads me to think about other changes that were made—changes in the universal Church and not just the Church in the U.S.—that might be unmade. For example, could the pre-Lenten “gesimas” be restored? The various octaves of various feasts? The prayers at the foot of the altar? The ninefold Kyrie? The Dominus vobiscum before the opening collect or before the Universal Prayer/Preparation of the Gifts? The old prayers at the offertory? The threefold Domine non sum dignus? The use of salt in baptism? These are all things that various people have suggested were losses that should be retrieved, changes that can and should be undone.

Of course, there might be good reasons not to undo these changes. For example, I for one do not particularly see the point of restoring pre-Lent and don’t really buy the idea that we need a time of preparation for Lent, since Lent itself is a time of preparation, and once we start preparing to prepare—well we might as well prepare to prepare to prepare et cetera ad infinitum. But other things, such as the reduction in the Kyrie (which as far as I know is without liturgical or musical  precedent) or the somewhat arbitrary reduction and reshuffling of the Dominus vobiscum or the use of salt in baptism, do strike me as decisions worth revisiting, things that might have been mistakes. After all, what are the odds that every decision that was made by a small group of people within a narrow time frame would prove, over time, to be correct?

But acknowledgment of liturgical mistakes seems unlikely to happen. And for several reasons.

First, liturgical change in a “restorationist” direction seems to have all the wrong advocates. That is to say, some of the people who don’t like the sixfold Kyrie also don’t like widely popular changes associated with Vatican II, like the vernacular or women lectors or religious liberty. To suggest that some changes associated with the Council, even minor ones, might have been mistaken could seem like the thin edge of the wedge of some wholesale revanchist agenda. Though the possibility of such an agenda succeeding is vanishingly small, fear of it seems to occupy a large amount of real estate in some people’s minds.

Second, for modern people it seems natural to assume that change only flows in one direction and that if the liturgy does require any change it is change in a “progressive” direction (e.g. more flexibility, more attention to modern concerns and adaptation to modern ways of thinking, etc.). Such an assumption fuels the tendency of some to see desire for liturgical restorations as fighting against the inevitable arc of history, and so quixotic at best, pernicious at worst.

Third, I tend to think that most people these days want stability in their liturgy. The negative reactions to the 2011 Missal translation revealed how conservative most of us are with regard to liturgy—we like our liturgy to remain as we have always known it. So change, whether in a restorationist or progressive direction, does not seem to have much of a constituency. Most people like what they know, and beyond that are like the Anglican Dean William Inge who, when asked if he had an interest in liturgy, replied, “No, nor do I collect stamps.”

Fourth, Church leaders never like to admit mistakes. The top-down nature of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform meant that every liturgical change was a result of a specific ecclesiastical decision, in contrast to the general way that liturgy had changed before the modern era, which was more bottom-up. A post-Tridentine conception of authority was at play in the reforms, in which authority takes the form of commands issuing from a central source and obedience takes the form of submitting your will to those commands. To suggest that the reforms might have been to some (any?) degree mistaken cannot but be seen as challenging the authority of the Church. Whatever else one thinks of Traditionis Custodes, it seems undeniable that challenges to Church authority from conservative quarters was at least one motivating cause for its promulgation.

In light of all of this, it seems unlikely that we will see any rethinking of decisions associated with the liturgical reforms. Unlikely, but not impossible. Some of the decisions made in the Holy Week reforms of the 50s (such as the extreme truncating of the Vigil’s Old Testament readings) were rethought in producing the first edition of the current Missal, and things such as the Vigil of Pentecost were restored in the third edition of the Roman Missal. Even if, for a variety of reasons, change is unlikely, I think honesty should incline us to admit that there might have been changes that were made that were not helpful and which, if the opportunity presented itself, could be undone without undermining the liturgical reform as a whole. Indeed, one of the salutary fruits of Vatican II is a movement to return to the past in order to retrieve what might have been lost.







92 responses to “Is it Possible to Admit Liturgical Mistakes?”

  1. Jack Wayne Avatar
    Jack Wayne

    If I were comically made the person in charge of liturgy I would simply make the old Ordinary of the Mass into a sort of “Rite 1” (to borrow from the Episcopalians) allowed in Latin or Vernacular, but using the same propers/lectionary/calendar as the Novus Ordo. I would allow the 1962 Mass to continue as well, but would encourage (not mandate) use of this new “Rite 1” for parish churches that would otherwise have an EF celebration so everyone at a single parish is following the same calendar and readings. I know Fr Allan McDonald, who used to comment here, has suggested something similar at his own blog. The OF has so many options already that I find it baffling that anyone would be against adding some of a traditional nature.

    I’d also move the blessing to after the Ete Missa Est for all Masses and restore “Time after Pentecost” and “Time After Epiphany.” I know some people have tried to make “Ordinary Time” sound meaningful, but honestly not even the mainline protestant in my neck of the woods use the term, preferring instead the old Epiphany/Pentecost names. I would also add back the gesima season and Passiontide and make Dies Irae an optional sequence at all Funeral Masses.

    I know a lot of traditionalists would hate this, but I wouldn’t really mess with any of the things allowed currently, like modern music, EMHCs, lay readers, or altar girls or whatever. I imagine the average person in the pew wouldn’t care if some of the words of the Mass were rearranged or season names were changed, but they would get up in arms if the music they love is forbidden or they or their daughter is suddenly forbidden from reading or serving the altar.

  2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Thank you, Deacon Fritz.

    Another avenue for inventory is to consider how fruitful specific changes (or decisions not to change) have been, and how to prioritize which over what. And, of course, before that consideration, what would be good measures of that and who should be consulted in determining that, and how cherry-picking to accord with our cognitive-spiritual biases can be checked in so doing.

    In Catholicism, group think around approved leaders (and approved dissenters/gadflies) is incentivized, and a typical response to not feeling seen or heard over time is to leave, whether fully in body or just in spirit. How well do we take notice of people who leave (other than, perhaps just occasionally, relief?)?

    It’s so much easier to circle our thurifers and lucifers.

    PS: Don’t forget the Memorial Acclamation on that list. I agree about a season of preparation for the season of preparation, all the more understanding that Pre-Lent in church was somewhat orthogonally set against a ribald Carnival season outside of church that has, outside legacy residue centers, largely withered as well into mere mass tourist entertainment.

    1. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      I feel like the pre-Lent season makes a bigger impact if one also observes the older musical rules and observes Passiontide with its veiling of images. First you lose Alleluia and the Gloria and switch to violent vestments, but can still have instrumental music and flowers and such, then with Lent the organ/instruments go away and the decorating becomes more austere, then the images go away (veiling) in Passiontide, then the bells and holy water go away and we don’t even have a Mass at all on Good Friday. It’s like a slow stripping away that makes the Easter Vigil that much more powerful and dramatic (and I do not think “dramatic” is per se a bad thing – liturgy should capture our feelings and imaginations).

      I agree about the memorial acclimations. I guess if I wanted to get change happy, I would drop those and restore the old words to all the EPs. I would also restore the old form of the Confiteor and the prayer after the Lord’s Prayer (dropping “For the Kingdom, the power…”), but those changes might cause too much pushback.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        Those who want the memorial acclamations eliminated are at the wrong end of the telescope.

        Liturgists agree that one part of the rite that has never achieved its full potential is the Eucharistic Prayer in the vernacular. For many, this lengthy monologue is frankly boring, with many presiders just droning through it. Its failure to engage the people is something to be remedied. Happy those with a presider who can bring it to life! Unhappy those whose minds wander or who even doze off!

        Joseph Gelineau was one of those who pointed out that the participation of the assembly in the Prayer currently operates according to a kind of Law of Diminishing Returns. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen progressively decrease in size as the Prayer goes on, so that the assembly’s vocal participation diminishes when it ought to be augmenting. He and others pointed to the Eastern traditions, where the entire Prayer is punctuated by frequent acclamations for the people. In the Coptic rite there are no less than 19 acclamations within the Institution Narrative alone. This is the inspiration for EP2 for Masses with Children.

        The EP is meant to crown everything that has gone before, is meant to be a dialogue between presider and assembly in the form of a crescendo that climaxes in the final Amen. In this way the entire Prayer is revealed to be truly consecratory through the ongoing engagement of the entire assembly throughout. If this sounds outlandish to some, we can even see vestiges of what were once acclamations for the people in the Roman Canon — all those “Through Christ our Lord. Amen” tags.

        I have told the story before of one liturgy at a Los Angeles Liturgy Conference where I had created a number of additional acclamations to match the Mass of Creation setting which would be interpolated into a spoken EP. The presider had been scheduled to be Cardinal Mahony, but he was unable to be present. The auxiliary bishop who stood in for him, before the final blessing at the end of the Mass, said this: “I was rather worried about all those extra acclamations. I thought they would be interrupting my [sic!] prayer. But as we went along, I suddenly realized that we were all in this together. Wasn’t it wonderful?!” And I thought to myself, “Hallelujah! A prelate who has learned by experiencing something outside his comfort zone!”

        So — far from removing the memorial acclamation, what we actually need is more acclamations! Many more of them!

      2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        As Paul Inwood has put on record, Gelineau was a strong advocate of eucharistic acclamations, and thought that the location imposed in 1969 was “idiotic”, since it interrupts a prayer (The Prayer).

      3. Joshua Vas Avatar
        Joshua Vas

        But here is another example of why ideas that are good and have merit in SOME contexts and committed congregations don’t really work for everyone. I am sure I am not the only presider who has faced a congregation where getting people to respond with even an “Amen”/”And with your spirit” is like pulling teeth. And don’t even get started on the funerals and baptisms which have a high percentage of attendees with occasional to rare faith practice. Handouts (expensive in the developing world) and even running through simple responses with the congregation beforehand can only go so far.

        I have tried the question of acclamations in different forms, and with varying success in the baptismal rites where there is a lot of provision for them, even in the blessing of water. Spoken. Sung. Familiar tunes like the Celtic alleluia. Simple litanic melodies. Success is 50-50.

        In the Eastern Churches, there is usually a choir or cantor(s) to lead and sustain all the responses; and their record of congregational participation is also mixed. Take the Coptic tradition you cite – yes, in many parts of Egypt, there is a good tradition of joining in some of the simpler responses (due in part to the fact that a number of the men were made to join as ‘deacons’ of the choir when they were young), but in the diaspora, the decrease is noticeable.

        In fact, a good number of the ancient liturgical traditions ‘solved’ the issue of a lengthy Prayer in almost the same way as the old Roman tradition, though less drastically. Various parts (especially intercessory) of the Prayer are said silently, while the deacon or choir engages the congregation in a litany or hymn or somesuch. It’s comparing apples to oranges.

        Of course, this also calls into question some of our established axioms on participation and what is ideal, etc. – which takes us back to Fritz’s main point.

        BTW, I remember once reading an article in a journal (Studia Liturgica, maybe?) which questioned the assumption that the “Amens” of the Canon were…

      4. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        Paul, I had no idea that you had such a deep love of the Coptic liturgy. I share this love as well. I didn’t know that it was a partial inspiration for the EP II for Masses with children. In general anything imported from the Coptic liturgy into the Roman rite is fine by me: copious use of incense, priest facing east, chant, altar curtain, prostrations, communion by intinction, and yes acclamations to make the eucharistic prayer less of a snooze fest, already pioneered by the EP II for Masses with children.

  3. Lee Bacchi Avatar
    Lee Bacchi

    People can still celebrate local and cultural customs on January 6, but the liturgical celebration is now on a day when more Catholics can attend and celebrate Mass. How many Catholics went to Mass when Jan 6 was on a weekday? I don’t remember too many — at the 6:30 AM Mass at my home parish there were maybe 20, no evening Mass for people working or going to school to attend.

    1. Devin Rice Avatar
      Devin Rice

      Popular piety and liturgical celebration should be harmonized. This year, the ritual participation into the events of the Epiphany occurred in the U.S. Latin Church on Jan. 6th. There is discordance if local and cultural customs are celebrated on Jan 6 and the ritual feast itself is on the nearest Sunday.

  4. Doug O'Neill Avatar
    Doug O’Neill

    GIRM 52 at least does not preclude a nine-fold Kyrie: “Each acclamation is usually pronounced twice, though it is not to be excluded that it be repeated several times, by reason of the character of the various languages, as well as of the artistry of the music or of other circumstances.”

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      Using a ten-fold this weekend to develop the theme of the theophany in the plea for mercy. I would have preferred to sing it, but this is the last weekend of a lengthy festive Christmastide Gloria.

      1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
        Doug O’Neill

        This is perhaps getting off topic, but how does a ten-fold Kyrie work, considering that 10 is not divisible by 3? Is there an extra Kyrie in there somewhere?

      2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        5 doubles with invocations rather than three triples

    2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      I had a vague recollection that there wasn’t some allowance for the ninefold form. Thanks for the correction.

      1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
        Doug O’Neill

        If one only did Gregorian Kyries strictly according to the modern books:
        6-fold: Masses I, II, IV, V, VII, VIII, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, AdlibVII, AdlibVIII, AdlibIX
        9-fold: Masses IA, IB, III, III, VI, IX, X, XV, AdlibI, AdlibII, , AdlibIV

        Those 9-fold Kyries, as well as the many polyphonic settings from the heritage, may be the reason for that clause “the artistry of the music”.

  5. Steve Hartley Avatar
    Steve Hartley

    Why couldn’t a moderate reform of the ancient use be attempted today ad experimentum? By reforming the Roman Rite in a more moderate manner, but still in keeping with Sacrosanctum Concilium, perhaps we could find a much needed middle ground of acceptance of the Council and a greater sense of continuity and stability that traditionalists crave. Use of the vernacular, some additional scripture readings and preferences, etc. Perhaps this is a way forward.

  6. Mark J Miller Avatar
    Mark J Miller

    An Episcopalian here. We had people “restoring” things lost for many years, and especially since 1843. It’s called the Oxford movement, high-church, or Anglo-catholic. Some of the things that were added back, even when the Prayer Book rubrics did not mention them, were incorporated into the major revision of 1979, which was a restoration, too.
    But that was grounded by the liturgical scholarship which was much the same as that behind the official Roman Catholic reforms from 1950- 1969. There remains a quality of legal attitude in the Roman communion which make it problematic to just add things that were lost, or modify recent reforms. (I also recognize the old “lace” party flag, so to speak, which our most ardent anglo-catholics used just to emphasize their movement.) Could the 1962 Mass be refined a little, and allowed for use, but a method of conforming to the new calendar, etc. , be devised? I hear that the underlying problem for Rome under Francis, and for most Catholic leaders is the spoken and unspoken rejection of the Council. That does need to be dealt with with firmness and clarity. So use the Order of Mass of ’62, accept the rest of Vatican II, and then decide clearly, Do you accept the Council? That underlying issue was what was wrong with Benedict’s creation of ordinary and extraordinary. And that was tending to schism, it seems to me, looking in.

  7. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    “In this specific case, should the importance of Día de Los Reyes in many Latin American cultures and the growing importance of Hispanics in U.S. Catholic culture make the bishops of the U.S. rethink the transferral of Epiphany to Sunday(?)”

    The carping I read is almost totally juridical. Nothing to do with sanctity. January 6 advocates don’t seem to care as much about the festivities as dropping a test strip to see how Catholic/traditional/saintly they are compared to Sunday advocates.

    As I recall from experiences with day-long festivities connected with Guadalupe, my last parish celebrated before dawn with singing and readings followed by sweets at breakfast and cinnamon-laced chocolate before heading to work. Mass in the evening was followed by a festive dinner. And the Mass itself was a highlight of the parish liturgical year. I miss it. Sure, people complained about the folks coming who never came on Sundays. But it seemed everyone knew how to celebrate a holy day. As for January Sixers, if you didn’t bake and eat a king cake today, you *deserve* Epiphany Sunday.

    Frankly, I don’t think US Catholics are ready for a switchback. We don’t know how to celebrate these feasts with anything more than the threat of grave sin and the self-satisfaction of being holier than Sunday-only or Christmas/Easter-only Catholics.

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
      Fritz Bauerschmidt

      Good points, Todd. From what I see, even juridical penalties don’t really bring people out to Mass on weekdays. For that matter, they seem to bring them less and less even on Sunday. Oddly enough, they seem unnecessary to bring them out on Ash Wednesday.

    2. Sam Steinmann Avatar
      Sam Steinmann

      It seems to me that the tying of feasts and juridical requirements to attend Mass is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would rather have the Epiphany celebrated Jan 6–allowing for the full “12 days of Christmas”, tying in to the traditional celebrations of the Three Kings in many countries, and so on–and just not have it be obligatory to attend Mass on Epiphany.

      1. Devin Rice Avatar
        Devin Rice

        I agree also. There is an assumption that the typical Sunday Mass attendee who does not frequent Holy Days of Obligation would gain more benefit from the biblical readings and mass propers of Epiphany than the texts in place for the Second Sunday after Christmas. I personally doubt this is the case.

  8. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Is there a way of tinkering with the Mass and bringing back Tridentine bits that is not just “my preferences over your preferences?”

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
      Fritz Bauerschmidt

      I think this is an excellent question.

  9. Pat Towell Avatar
    Pat Towell

    And all of it — every jot, tittle, and kiss of the altar — pales into laughable insignificance compared with the potential impact of doing something — anything — to improve the comptence of too many homilists.

    1. Matthew Roth Avatar
      Matthew Roth

      This gets it precisely backwards, because it is much easier to improve the quality of the liturgical gestures — though one need not take a totally dim view of the preconciliar period in saying this — than it is to improve the homily; in other words, not everyone is gifted with language or the academic skills necessary to write a good, inspiring, and accurate homily or sermon, yet being a good homilist is valued above almost everything else… I don’t think that anyone is particularly thrilled with permanent diaconate formation as a whole, so I’ll throw this out there; the best homilist that I heard in France at ordinary Sunday Masses in the local parish was the permanent deacon, who understood his limits, so he incorporated a somewhat long extract of Joseph Ratzinger/BXVI on the importance of reading Scripture and the manner in which to do so instead of trying to explain the biblical text all on his own. (This all fit into ten minutes, so it wasn’t inappropriate by any measure, IMHO.)

  10. Charles Kramer Avatar
    Charles Kramer

    Have the sequence again follow the alleluia. It makes no sense to have a “sequence” precede what it was intended to follow.

    The time of singing the sequence could then be used for an extended gospel procession.

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      We have discussed this before. There is no obvious rationale for changing the order of Alleluia and Sequence, which first happened in Ordo Lectionum Missae 1969.

      However, it does appear that this is linked to the question of why the concluding Amen of the Sequence is no longer followed by the word “Alleluia”. The answer to that appears to lie in the fact that the A-word was not considered to be actually part of the Sequence. For example, the Liber Usualis has the rubric “at Mass only” at the end of the Corpus Christi Sequence.

      Then there is SC34’s desire to avoid “useless repetitions”. Already on Easter Sunday in the old Liber Usualis there is no concluding Alleluia at the end of the Alleluia verse. Instead, the word is present at the end of the Easter Sequence, immediately before the proclamation of the Gospel.

      The best assumption therefore seems to be that there was a belief in Rome that the last word to be heard before the proclamation of the Gospel should always be the word “Alleluia”. Given that the word was to be removed from the end of the Sequence, it was logical to have the Gospel Acclamation following, not preceding, the Sequence.

      Those who drafted the 2000 revision of GIRM seem to have overlooked the 1969 change in positioning, and replaced the Sequence after the Gospel Acclamation. This was swiftly corrected. Some uncharitably assumed that this error was down to a lack of knowledge of Latin on the part of those working on the revision — i.e. that they did not recognize the difference between the two Latin words ante and post….

      1. Richard Oduor Avatar
        Richard Oduor

        From my research on the sequences throughout the ages they have been in use in the Church’s liturgy, I’m convinced that the Church has never intended to “officially” to position the sequence to be sung ante Alleluia but post Alleluia. The schemas given in the Ordo Lectionum of 1981 and the Ordo Cantus both position the sequence to be sung post alleluia not ante alleluia as it is set in the current Lectionary. When did the understanding that Alleluia does not form part of the sequence originate? The case made for the rubric for the use of Lauda Sion for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi “at Mass only” should be read from the perspective of the nature of Liber Usualis which combines the elements of both the Mass and the Office as well. I agree with the author of the article that there could be some elements of negligence on the part of those who worked on the Lectionary that did not make the change on the position of sequence in the 2003 Missal.

      2. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
        Paul R. Schwankl

        Can’t the Sequence be both ante and post Alleluia—because “alleluia” is sung twice?
        Consider this analysis of the postconciliar Gospel Acclamation: It contains two congregational Alleluias (or Praise Be to Yous) with a Verse in between them. On Easter and Pentecost, a hymn sung by everyone, the Sequence, follows (sequitur) the Verse sung by the cantor. (Historically, I believe, Sequences arose as elaborations of the Verse.) Then the Alleluia is repeated.
        It seems pretty simple. So who felt the need to separate the Sequence from the Gospel Acclamation? A Freemason trying to sabotage the Novus Ordo, maybe?

  11. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    England had changed Epiphany and Ascension to the nearest Sunday and in 2017 these were later switched back to their traditional dates. So it is possible to go home again.
    For U.S. holy days: Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, All Saints, and Guadalupe all have varying degrees of biblical & cultural significance that could support celebrations. Immaculate Conception may be our patronal feast, but it never got in to the hearts and minds. Assumption is an ancient feast, but it is in the heat of summer in a rapidly warming world.

    As for the Old Mass, it is not about bring old elements back. It is understanding why they were there in the first place and respecting the underlying integrity of the rites. In the Old Mass, the Mass itself began with the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria (when prescribed) which formed an integral unit of procession followed by a greeting and opening collect. Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his book “the Eucharist” spoke about “the Sacrament of Entrance” and its significant for the faithful.

    Today, we have an opening hymn that replaces the introit and psalm that begins the processional movement, that is then interrupted by a penitential rite (that is itself opened by an unnecessary introduction), the Kyrie then is said (except when it is not, and not all priests agree when it is to be said and when it is not to be said), followed by the Gloria.

    A modern celebration might open up with the following (all in the vernacular):
    – culturally appropriate hymn
    – sign of the cross
    – opening verse V.) I have come to the Altar of the Lord. R.) To God who renews my youth
    – Psalm Introit
    – Kyrie
    – Gloria
    – V.) The Lord be with you. R.) And with your spirit
    – collect.

    Whether it is a six fold or nine fold Kyrie, and even with the absence of the Confiteor, this seems to me to be more “traditional” and just makes more sense, then the current arrangement. It also happily includes the Antiphon and Psalm verse.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      As for your hymn, I think that is a feature of the 4-hymn sandwich at Low Masses. I think the second wave of contemporary liturgical music had it right: songs based on Scripture. While I lean to psalm settings and paraphrases where I can, I prefer responsorial songs instead of hymns, and a wider range of texts than just the psalms.

      I also think we can move beyond just the citation of Psalm 43. A more appropriate verse and response might be derived from the Songs of Ascent:
      V. I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
      R. And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem.
      I wouldn’t want to get too slavishly literal with the context of the psalms, but the setting of 122 is a pilgrimage completed, and 43 is the tail end of a lament of a person not yet at the Temple.

      Another passage, suggested by Hebrews 12:22:
      V. You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
      R. Thanks be to God.

      Perhaps also that opening verse could serve the purpose of the psalm introit: based on a psalm or canticle from Old or New Testament, and led by the presider, deacon, or cantor.

      Bottom line: one of our biggest liturgical mistakes was not delving more deeply into the Scriptures.

      1. Todd Voss Avatar
        Todd Voss

        Todd F. I love your idea of Psalm 122. So fitting liturgically, so fitting typologically, and so very poetic. I won’t weigh in on all the other conversations in this very interesting thread.

    2. Sam Steinmann Avatar
      Sam Steinmann

      This introduction is fairly close to the way an Episcopal Service began (my introduction to liturgy was in that context.)

      Processional hymn–chosen by the pastor and music director together, sung in full
      “Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”/”And Blessed by his kingdom, now and forever, Amen”
      Collect for purity (O God, to whom all hearts are open…)
      Kyrie and/or Gloria

      (The Confiteor and Sign of Peace go immediately before the offertory.)

    3. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      To entertain myself on a boring commute I had brainstormed something similar – a simplified Tridentine opening – but it went more like this:

      Processional Hymn/song
      Proper Introit for the day in Latin or vernacular, but if not possible, then only the Glory Be sung the following way since it always appears in the Introit:
      Priest (accompanied by sign or the cross): Glory be to the Father…
      All: As is was in the beginning, is now…
      Greeting (The Lord be with you…)

      My idea was to model it after the High Mass in such a way it would be easy to sing every week. I feel that if any simplification of the Mass was to be made, it should have specifically been geared towards making Sung Mass the norm even if no choir could be present. I think the strength of the old Mass over the new one is its sense of flow and wholeness. The whole is truly more than the sum of its parts in a way the reform didn’t achieve.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Why two Glorias, one short and one long? Does that inch toward needless repetition? Why not a Scripture passage that reflects the liturgical action that all have arrived in place for a moment’s pause in life’s pilgrimage?

      2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        Making Sung Mass the norm was what Bugnini wanted, and what GIRM calls fora. It also drew from Cdl Heenan the prediction that in England it would result in the rapid collapse of Mass attendance among men, a prediction which proved unfortunately correct. [Lest there be any misunderstanding, I hasten to point out that Heenan not only strenuously defended Westminster Cathedral Choir, but actually founded a choir school for the cathedral he was building in Liverpool]

      3. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        Todd: I wouldn’t have thought it was too repetitious, but if so, then I would simply make the Introit fully required with the possibility of subbing in seasonal propers so people can learn them. It was simply a fun exercise and I don’t consider myself to be able to do anything better than the 1962 Missal.

        Anthony: I have heard this as well, but would say the resulting reform discourages a fully sung Mass since so much extra material would now need to be sung. I could probably count the number of fully sung OF Masses I have attended on one hand – and only then if I consider a fully sung OF to be a Novus Ordo Mass where 90% of everything typically sung at the EF is sung. What we got was a High-Low Mass hybrid, or essentially a Low Mass where some of the Mass ordinary can now be sung. Take the EF, render it in English, and remove the requirement to do the choir propers in the event a cantor can’t do them and even the most average small congregation could probably sing the entire thing.

    4. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
      Fr. Anthony Forte

      Whatever else one might think about the reformed Mass, can we not at least agree that the opening rites are a mess?

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I think they can be streamlined. That was a thought for MR2, but retrenchment deep-sixed that.

  12. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
    Fr. Anthony Forte

    What all those reasons against admitting liturgical mistakes have in common is pride, hardly a legitimate reason. Pride has also been the reason for refusing to enter into a dialogue with those who would have wished to see a more traditional and more limited reform after the council. Those “others” are not as enlightened as we are, and they do not understand the council or even reject it outright. But the idea that we can change the liturgy as we have celebrated it for 1500 years but we cannot change what has existed for only 50 years is risible on its face.

    With the issuing of Traditionis custodes, the question of a reform of the reform becomes more urgent. Prior to this, those who wished a more traditional form of worship could always have been directed toward the old Mass. But if that option is to be taken away, their sensibilities will have to be addressed in the reformed Mass, both in how the present missal is celebrated now and in what possible modifications can be made to this missal in the future. There is a growing number of Catholics who are seeking a more traditional form of worship. Their desire will either have to be addressed in a greater allowance for the old Mass, or in reform of the new Mass. Telling them “no” to both is not the road to unity but to strife and division.

    1. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
      Anthony Hawkins

      If “synodality” proves to be more than an empty buzzword, a wide variety of voices will be audible.

    2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      Would the slow-goers be also willing to engage with those who would advocate for stronger reforms: Lectionary harmonization for presider prayers, multiple acclamations for the Eucharistic Prayer, including the RC, reworking the propers across the board, a generous helping of progressive solemnity for the entrance rites, etc.?

      Perhaps a few realizations would be helpful: Reformers were motivated by virtue, not malice. Experimentation, as with any human endeavor, was a mixed bag, and some developments were rolled back from the 60s, and some in the 80s-90s. Many people’s approaches for less reform or more were partly motivated by bad experiences with the opposite folk–this was true for people ranging from Professor Ratzinger to the average parish lay person.

      Mostly, we need to realize the liturgy is not in necessarily good shape in many places. Change and reform is still needed.

  13. Joshua Vas Avatar
    Joshua Vas

    Thanks very much for a thoughtful article. The comments have revolved around one or the other change, of which opinions will be as many as commentors. But I think that your overall observation is spot on. For all the reasons you’ve mentioned, it has become verboten to question the wisdom of a particular decision or even premises/axioms without seeming to align oneself with a “camp” given the default state of the “liturgy wars”. The unhelpful categorical rejection of all reform by some strident voices has not helped.

    It seems to me that the reform of the 60s suffered from 2 main drawbacks: overreliance on then-current research (since reevaluated), and a short-time frame for evaluation and implementation of a change of such magnitude.

    The late Robert Taft once pointed this these disadvantages in an even more extreme case – that of the Syro-Malabar Church whose liturgical heritage (a large amount of which was oral, and not written) preserved even amid successive Latinizations was almost completely wiped out when that Church embarked on a speedy reform without much preparation. Instead of the rites emerging from creative elaboration and reappropriation of their history, it became the fruit of contemporary fads and compromises. Now efforts (too little, too late) are being made to try and retrieve parts of that heritage but some is irretrievably lost.

    I think some minor revaluations had started to take place in the 90s with some of the second Latin editions. Unfortunately, as with many things, it seems to rely on the initative of staffers at the HQ. The whole muddle between the liturgy of the hours and missal at this time of the year (more than 6 decades down the road!) just goes to show how even beneficial and non-controversial changes come slower than a snail.

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar


      I think you are right on target about the two main limitations of the reform.

      Regarding the first, for example, I think people greatly over-estimated the antiquity of the so-called Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus and under-estimated the antiquity of much of the Roman Canon.

      Regarding the second, I am somewhat sympathetic with the speed with which the reforms were done, since the Consilium was trying to get out ahead of a bunch of unauthorized experimentation that was going on, some of which was pretty crazy. They wanted to get things somewhat nailed down. But that does mean that there was very little “field testing,” and we ended up committed to some things that quickly showed themselves to be suboptimal.

  14. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    This is an awesome thread. Everyone is kind and cooperating. Thanks all.

    I can think of near term changes which would begin to better harmonize the 1962 missal with the 1969 missal. Note I don’t say “restore the 1962 missal”. That won’t happen. It’s true that I now exclusively worship on in the Tridentine rite on Sunday, but I do go to the reformed Mass on some weekdays because the Tridentine rite is not available near me 7/365. I still have some insight into how the reformed Mass works, even if I don’t follow its calendar for the most part.

    Near term changes to the reformed rite that could be made:

    1. Ad experimentum restore the Epiphany and Pentecost/Whitsun octaves, with Epiphany on the 6th of January. Please? (I don’t mean that as a sarcastic “please”. I earnestly beseech all to consider this possibility). This isn’t a lot to ask. Both feasts are ancient; Epiphany is even more ancient than Christmas. I am reminded of the ancedote that even Paul VI was shocked when green vestments were laid out for him on Pentecost Monday (your Holiness, you signed away the Pentecost octave.)

    2. Ad experimentum restore pre-Lent. Those who attend the Tridentine rite share pre-Lent with our Eastern brethren. Expansion of pre-Lent to the modern Roman rite would bring this nascent unity even closer.

    3. Ad experimentum encourage the public celebration of Corpus Christi (not mandate, okay? calm down). Every year a local tridentine-ish parish (which celebrates the modern rite at least once on Sunday) has an awesome Corpus Christi. Full canopy, flower petal throwing, Rosary reciting, hymn singing, sidewalk walking, public cacophonous unabashed exaltation of our belief in the Real Presence. This is right here, right now evangelization live. Parishes can do this next year. So, so many parishes don’t. Please, let’s rejoice in our Catholic faith, in public, where everyone can see that we’re serious about our faith.

    I can think of many other changes, but these are some we could consider in the short term.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      I continue to see pleas for a Pentecost octave, but it’s important to realize why that is a non-starter for liturgy: Pentecost already concludes an important period, perhaps the second-most vital stretch of days compared to the Triduum: the Fifty Days of Easter. As for popular piety, that feast also concludes the proto-novena that began on Ascension.

      The Roman Rite already has a pre-Lent: Ash Wednesday and the three days that follow. The Forty Days of Lent begin with the First Sunday.

      This isn’t to say that Catholics of any sort can’t observe a personal period of days or a few weeks to prepare for Lent or celebrate the Holy Spirit. We don’t need bishops or pastors to tell us what to do or legislate it. I suspect the witness of TLM communities to the wider world fails to convince. It would seem mainstream Catholics do little better, but if we’re serious about evangelization, perhaps we could ask neophytes what attracted them to the Church, and move from there.

      1. Chuck Middendorf Avatar
        Chuck Middendorf

        And, I’d add, quite a few presiders and preachers are already treat the 1-2 weeks before Ash Wednesday as pre-Lent. “As we prepare for Lent…” “Over the next couple of weeks…”
        Then think of some liturgical rites. For example, the Rite of Sending always happens here on the last Sunday Sunday before Ash Wednesday, due to how our diocese schedules its various Rites of Election. Not recently, but I’ve also seen palm branches being burned at various liturgies before Ash Wednesday.
        Throw in announcements about preparing for Lent (“pick up your Rice Bowls today”, “sign up for the soup supper” etc), and pre-Lent is live and well already.

      2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Another thought on the Pentecost “octave” … As long as a required memorial, feast, etc., isn’t bumped, any priest is free to offer a whole week of liturgies with readings and prayers for the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. There are enough readings to make each day unique. I’m not sure what else can be offered.

        I think the issue is more that octave advocates can’t “make” everybody else do as they wish. And I suspect few of them actually bother delving that deeply into the Missal. There certainly weren’t such options in the 1962 Missal.

      3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        Todd: Another thought on the Pentecost “octave” … As long as a required memorial, feast, etc., isn’t bumped, any priest is free to offer a whole week of liturgies with readings and prayers for the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. There are enough readings to make each day unique. I’m not sure what else can be offered.

        As a trad looking outside-in at the reformed Mass Pentecost octave debate, I just don’t see why lower class days should take precedence over a Pentecost pseudo-octave day (a celebration of the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit). I’m not fully certain how the new calendar ranks days, but in the TLM the Pentecost octave raises every day of the octave to a first class day. We trads have a special Mass for each day of the octave. There has to be a way for the reformed Mass to subordinate lower class celebrations in a hypothetical octave.

        I’ll get off my hobbyhorse now, as this thread has thankfully avoided flamethrowers. I just think that the Holy Spirit needs his own special, elongated holiday. It’s true that there are other ways to honor the Holy Spirit, but isn’t an octave fitting? I’m sad that maybe there’s no place for a Pentecost octave in the reformed liturgy. We trads find a Pentecost octave fitting and enriching, and I think that followers of the reformed liturgy would do so as well.

  15. Ryan Hicks Avatar
    Ryan Hicks

    I used to be on the road to RadTradism, but my Jesuit godmother managed to direct me out of that and onto the pro-Vatican II, pro-Francis path.

    It was a hard transition from the beauty of the Tridentine Mass to the Missal of Paul VI but, if I may say so, I think all of the changes proposed to the liturgy in these comments pale in comparison to the *interior change* that is needed on the part of the laity. One day I saw these two older women at a OF Mass singing a cheesy song and really getting into it, I realized that I had been elitist and that spiritual humility required me to accept that what I was calling cheesy was simply what works for most modern people. That was years ago. These days I am weaned from the EF completely and can connect with God at any Mass.

  16. Clara Schilling Avatar
    Clara Schilling

    An interesting article and fair-minded discussion.

    It seems to me, however that a major point is being missed. The writer asks if mistakes can be acknowledged and then changes made in response.

    It seems to me that the upending and reform of the entire Mass, the calendar and the liturgy of the hours is an answer to that question. And the answer seems to be, resoundingly, “yes.”

  17. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
    Anthony Hawkins

    I have occasionally wondered why the reformers were so keen on a single collect/secret/…, particularly as people (church authorities) are so keen on adding back Days of Prayer for this or that. Just acknowledging that we are in, for example, the Octave of Pentecost might be spiritually beneficial.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      I do think the example you mention is an example of how “creative” urges seem to bring things in via a window or back door that may be at cross-purposes to the ostensible rationals of certain reforms in this or that place of the liturgy or ritual.

      IN large, the itchy impulse to “add value” to the liturgical/ritual form can become even more captive to resistance to allowing deeper layers of meaning and experience to percolate through worship, because it insists on staying at scratching at the surface.

    2. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      I think one reason for not having a multiplication of collects, feasts and observances is precisely that our liturgies tend to be very wordy, without adding even more verbiage. People just tend to switch off. SC’s call for noble simplicity was founded on good pastoral sense.

      I’m also reminded of the late and great Bishop Ken Untener’s penetrating analysis of just how little the people have to do during a typical Mass. Actions speak louder than words!

  18. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    It’s interesting that the mistakes being discussed are all of the “its all gone a bit too far for me” variety. Very few of the “wasted opportunity” kind.
    This occurred to me at Mass this morning. As a musician I am usually busy during the EP silently playing over the Memorial Acclamation etc, with only half an ear on the priest and then mainly to wait for the verbal cue for the next intro. For the moment we are not singing any of the acclamations so I had space to listen and concentrate. My goodness the EP is a big load of spoken text isn’t it? It got me to wondering why the introduction of the Prayers of the Faithful wasn’t balanced by removing the intercessions from the EP. Was this a wasted opportunity to avoid duplication? Or have I got the wrong end of the liturgical stick?

  19. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    Re-reading this entire thread, and picking up on Alan Johnson’s last point, I feel that one major reason why the reforms have not been the success that they might have been is that those doing the reforming work, as well as those implementing the reforms at the coal face, still largely think of liturgy as something that the clergy do, rather than something that the people do with the (essential) help of the clergy.

    That, for me, is a reason for being on the side of those who say that the reforms as we have them did not in fact go far enough.

    There’s plenty of unfinished business, apart from making the EP more engaging that we have already looked at. The opening rites of the Mass are a mess, and it’s ironic that the dumped 1998 Sacramentary would have done something about that. The rites of presentation of the gifts and preparation of the altar are also a mess. RCIA needs a good shake-up. The rite of marriage is still too full of “stuff” to engage the unchurched or the rare attenders. And don’t let’s start on the Divine Office….

    So, I think we need a recognition that we are in fact in an intermediate stage, with the initial reforms now needing to be followed by more far-reaching reforms, rather than trying to put various bits of the toothpaste back in the tube.

    That mindset would perhaps have prevented the present ongoing translation fiasco, with the language of the Church’s Missal self-evidently inadequate if not a laughing-stock. More than a decade on, that is still demonstrably the case. The ignoramuses who perpetrated it have mostly departed, and yet their work has not been undone or superseded. Now there’s a job for SCDW to get its teeth into!

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      I’m strongly in alignment with Paul’s view here. If we doubt the clergy-centered view, consider how music got short shrift in the years following the Council: the struggles to shift from the four-hymn sandwich, lack of attention to training priests and deacons in music, and even the lack of reform in the propers.

      Clearly, the most serious mistake we need to admit is that reform hardly went far enough.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        The biggest failure was the failure to get celebrants on board with a sung Mass (including sung dialogues and orations) for Sundays and solemnities/feasts.

        That failure in reform was not a failure of what was in the books. It’s a reform that can be undertaken with no further change in the legislative/ritual books. Other things are busywork with deck chairs by comparison.

      2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I would largely agree, KLS. It underscores the error that reform was far too clergy-centric. Would we decline to ordain a non-musical seminarian? Likely no first world bishop today would. I agree that singing the dialogues is important, and certainly helps to elevate the liturgy. It’s not an absolute dealbreaker for me–I just want priests who respect the liturgy and the musicians who help fuel it.

        The deck chairs that annoy me include the fussing about who ministers, and the low self-esteem that exalts the priesthood at the expense of lay expertise in liturgy and its disciplines.

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      Paul: So, I think we need a recognition that we are in fact in an intermediate stage, with the initial reforms now needing to be followed by more far-reaching reforms, rather than trying to put various bits of the toothpaste back in the tube.

      Paul, I respect that you and I are on two different planets (perhaps in two different galaxies) on the question of liturgy and the life of the Church. Just remember that every innovative step in the reformed liturgy will only further entrench trads in opposition. It’s time now for a full and amicable divorce between the reformed liturgy and the Tridentine liturgy. Spin the trads off please, give us a major archbishop, and inaguarate a new rite of the Church. Why Pope Francis, Abp. Roche, and fellow travelers won’t sanction a divorce baffles me. Pope Francis, if you loved trads, you’d set us free from the expectations of the (post)modern liturgical reformers!

      Dcn. Prof. Bauerschmidt is spot-on when he writes that Traditionis custodes and (I would add) the accompaning dubia are possibly (?) Pope Francis’s response to a challenge to the “top-down” model of the creation and evolution of the reformed liturgy. Organic change in the reformed liturgy must take place independently of traditionalism. 1570 and 1969 are not just centuries apart, they’re ideologically incompatible.

      I wish my reformed brothers and sisters the best of luck (sincerely) in the crafting and implementing of innovative liturgy. May you become satisfied by your handiwork. Benedicamus Domino, but each in his or her own expression of benediction.

    3. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
      Anthony Hawkins

      I have no idea what “going further” might mean. Certainly some things should be restructured, and if it means taking on board more of Cranmer’s work that could be. The penitential elements as seen in the Ordinariate Missal perhaps, particularly their location. How about “North end” celebration, we can see and the celebrant does not have to look at us! And the simple lectio continua approach of Matins & Evensong is better suited to a parish setting. But if “going further” means more opportunity for more people to show off, then NO thank you. I want a God-centred liturgy, tightly enough defined to keep personalities out of it as far as possible.
      And there is “ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicand”, we need words that show and foster belief in what the apostles told us.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        Going further undoubtedly means inculturation, which Rome still does not understand. It’s only by rooting celebration in the cultural context of different peoples that you can find the entry points into the sacred that we sorely need. As long as the folk in Rome continue to think of the liturgy as something to be regulated centrally, we will continue to struggle with this.

        What they ought to be doing is thinking of it in terms of planting vines in very different kinds of terroir, with a resultant wide spectrum of tastes even though using the same grapes. I think Pope Francis gets this. I think he understands the principle of subsidiarity. But I don’t think the Roman Curia is anywhere near understanding it yet.

        That inculturation in turn means a greater focus on the power of symbols and symbolic actions (such as processions), a greater focus on the use of silence, and a realization that liturgy is something that is celebrated by human beings, with all their different characters and mindsets.

        For me, one of the most pressing needs is a proper understanding of the anthropological dimension of liturgy. And to do that well means continually asking questions. What are we doing here? Why are we doing it? How are we doing it? What is what we do actually saying to people?

        It’s not enough to feel that you personally are lifted up in a celebration. You also need to feel that you are lifting up everyone else and that you are being lifted up by them.

      2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        Another layer of questions would involve how and when would we be able to measure if specific changes made for the reason of inculturation actually bear the fruit claimed for them. Claims about alignment with past historical practice depend on accuracy of factual and interpretive history, but claims about speculative future changes that are untethered to good ways to measure their fruitfulness may find persuasion harder.

      3. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        Thanks, I agree. about inculturation. And about the need for evaluation of results. Alluding to Heenan again, for most of his flock, as he said, that would mean no “embellishment” with singing, and he was well known for going out and watching the way in which his cathedral congregations reacted to liturgy.. How inculturation might be effected in England now I am unsure., but it would not resemble the US version. We see within the Ordinariates that the Office, even though it is derived from Cranmer, has different editions on either side of the Atlantic.

      4. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

        The point about Heenan is an interesting one. I think one quick inculturation for the modern U.S. would be to eliminate congregational singing, since music has for most in the US become a thing we consume not a thing we produce. I would see for 90% of the people in our congregations church is the *only* place where they have the opportunity/expectation of making music with other people (other than singing “Happy Birthday”). It is, in fact, a very counter-cultural practice.

        Which is all by way of saying that I don’t put inculturation very high on my list of liturgical desiderata.

      5. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        Indeed, if we were to inculturate music for the USA, we would jettison live musicians and just plug and play, as it were, with everyone choosing their own stream of musical soundtrack through their own streaming device.


    4. Robert Addington Avatar
      Robert Addington

      Best comment so far.

  20. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
    Fr. Anthony Forte

    Vatican II did not give us a tabula rasa on which academics could press their visions of an ideal liturgy. The council itself cautioned against an extreme reform that departed from the liturgy received by tradition when it said: “Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” The operative word here is not “would be beneficial” but “requires them.” Vatican II meant to modify the received liturgy, not replace it wholesale with a newly contrived one.

    This limited reform of the Mass as desired by Vatican II is found in Chapter II of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Some of the things that we do not find there are: elimination of Latin, verus populum celebrations, new Eucharistic Prayers, Communion on the hand and while standing, multiplication of lay and female ministries, complete reworking of the orations, etc. While an argument can be made (and has been made) that these would be beneficial, they go beyond what the council actually called for. There needs to be an end of charging those who question these innovations with denying Vatican II.

    There also needs to be a renewed acceptance of the value of tradition itself as a powerful sign of our connection with the apostolic faith and as a source of stability in both the liturgy and in belief. And by tradition I do not mean an imagined perfect form of the liturgy found in the early church, but the entirety of the liturgy as it was handed down and developed organically over the centuries. Again, even Vatican II stressed the importance that “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” In evaluating possible liturgical mistakes we should ask ourselves: were they required, and did they grow organically from forms already existing? This is the true spirit of Vatican II.

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      Fr Anthony Forte said: While an argument can be made (and has been made) that these would be beneficial, they go beyond what the council actually called for.

      We had this discussion recently. I said then, and will say again, that it all depends on how you understand “the Council”. It is certainly not limited to the major documents that were promulgated over the course of three years, but also includes the time of implementation immediately following, when further developments were extremely rapid.

      As Piero Marini documented very clearly in A Challenging Reform (which should be required reading for everyone), almost all the reforms that “the Council fathers never asked for” were in fact asked for in rapid succession by the same bishops who had attended the Council and voted on the documents. Archbishop Bugnini and the Consilium working groups could scarcely keep up with all the demands that the bishops of the world were throwing at them in the years immediately after the actual Council sessions. Those bishops had seen the pastoral benefits of the earliest of the reforms, and wanted more of them, fast.

      Trying to claim, therefore, that Vatican II never asked for them is a dead duck. The most we can say is that perhaps the reforms were introduced too rapidly for some, which is understandable in the heady excitement of those pioneering days.

      Those who objected had clearly not followed the progress of the Liturgical Movement over the preceding 50 years, and that is still true today. Looking back into the decades before Vatican II, you can find any amount of books, papers and articles which, in retrospect, predicted what developments were needed. SC did not just arrive out of thin air.

      1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
        Fritz Bauerschmidt

        What Paul says here seems right to me; to mix a metaphor, once the camel’s nose of change got under the liturgical tent, the floodgates opened and the Consilium had to work hard to keep ahead of both the requests from bishops and the unauthorized experiments.

        I would add, however, that this does not mean that everything requested by bishops and implemented by the Consilium was correct. These were prudential judgements, not dogmatic definitions, and so about as far from infallible as a Church decision can be.

        I am put in mind of a story told by Aidan Kavanagh. Before the start of the Council he was talking to a bishop of a rather conservative stripe about whether the Council would enacted any liturgical changes. Much to his surprise this conservative bishop said that he hoped they would do something to reform the Canon. When he asked him what he had in mind, the bishop said, “It’s way too long; we should just have the words of consecration, sing a hymn, and then give people communion.” Thank God the Consilium did not always listen to the requests of bishops.

      2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        Deacon Fritz,


      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        In addition, Vatican II was a different kind of council from Trent. It was the beginning. Not the end. Perhaps we might say it was the end of the beginning of renewal with an impetus (now largely lost) into stage 2.

        Another illustration of the problem with some Catholics resisting conciliar reform. In order to embrace Vatican II Catholics need to keep meeting each other where they are. Not where we’d like to be (or where we thought we were) in 1950, 1570, 313, or 33.

      4. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        “The Council” definitively is limited to the decrees that were promulgated by it. While many bishops did ask for additional changes afterwards, it was only in the council hall that they were presented to all the bishops, debated and approved. The Consilium was a different group than the bishops gathered in the council, a group with its own ideas and agendas. They did not just act as secretaries gathering and collating the collective opinions of the bishops; they were advancing their own ideas about a reformed liturgy, ideas that went beyond what was decreed by the council.

        And if we are to see a council that extends beyond the official decrees, where are we to look? Should we stop at the reformed Mass that was created by the Consilium and promulgated by Pope Paul VI? If so, then we still do not have mandated celebration versus populum, Communion in the hand while standing, female ministers, etc. Should we include all that was decreed later? Should we then include Memoriale Domini which stated: “In view of the gravity of the matter and the force of the arguments put forward, the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering Holy Communion to the faithful”? Should we include Redemptionis Sacramentum which states: “If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it”?

        Are we to include popular opinions about the reform? Then on what basis should we exclude the opinions of Archbishop Lefebve, Cardinal Sara, or even Pope Benedict? And if we were to extend the council to include all the reforms, official and unofficial, that occurred afterwards, then the answer the the title of this thread “Is it Possible to Admit Liturgical Mistakes?” would have to be no, because that would, ipso facto, be to reject Vatican II.

  21. Thomas O'Donnell Avatar
    Thomas O’Donnell

    Since much reform and development usually emerges outside of any academic liturgical musings or considerations (of any stripe), I wonder about the effect of how the men’s devotional program/app Exodus 90 has re-stored and re-arranged and re-centered the ascetic and liturgical practices for Lent (and even Advent) in many parishes. The ascetic practices of Lent begin almost as soon as the Christmas season ends for those doing the full 90 days. The first weeks of Ordinary Time aren’t even related _back_ to Epiphany but instead already look ahead to Lent and Easter. Exodus claims significant numbers of Catholic men (50,000) have participated in the program; if it’s anywhere close to that, I think it’s safe to say that a significant sliver of the male practicing Catholic population in the US has been influenced by this reconfigurement of the calendar. Anecdotally, I can tell you that most 20–40yo Catholic men in my neck of the woods now consider Lenten practices to potentially begin in January (and that Advent is a time for similar asceticism). Even if they don’t feel canonically bound to these practices, it is common for at least of portion of the men in a parish to be participating in such a program, such that the trickle-down effects of the asceticism are felt in broader social circles. … So the pruning back always leads to growth in other areas, whether or not it’s the growth that was desired. The liturgist who desires to prune seems to constantly invite the “risk” that in the new space that has been created, new practices and traditions will emerge which the liturgist would consider even more opposed to the spirit of the reform in the first place. … On the pastoral level, I think these natural developments are often lay-led are only to be welcomed. (Coming to a parish near you!)

  22. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Culture isn’t a monochrome thing within a single country. It varies according to ethnic background, social class, region, language etc. The culture of a leafy suburban parish may not be the same as an inner city one.
    On the matter of language alone, I am frequently in Wales, a Welsh speaking area at that. You would be hard pressed to find Mass celebrated in Welsh, and you would be even more hard pressed to find a Welsh Catholic parish dedicated to a Welsh saint. And I can think of no music for the Mass that reflects that country’s superb tradition of singing with it’s powerful and stirring hymn tunes. The Church feels and still identifies as what it is, a foreign import.
    Tricky stuff, culture. It has to come from within. And might be decidedly local.

  23. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    Two ideas discussed, 1) the the elimination the pre-Lenten period and 2) the proposed streamlining (and also complicating) of the introductory rights found in the 1998 abandoned missal, have both reminded me of Fr. Schmemann’s comments on the Orthodox pre-Lenten cycle in his book on Great Lent.

    In his view, the Pre-Lenten cycle was initiated “because of the deep psychological insight by the Church into human nature. Knowing our lack of concentration and the frightening ‘worldliness’ of our life, the Church knows our inability to change rapidly, to go abruptly from one spiritual or mental state into another. Thus, long before the actual effort of Lent is to begin, the Church calls our attention to its seriousness and invites us to meditate on its significance.”

    I think this insight is right. When a runner prepares for a race, he or she trains. But even before the training begins, there is preparation for the training. A game plan is developed and the runner tries to get into the appropriate mindset.

    That doesn’t mean the Roman pre-Lenten cycle didn’t need reformed in either length or format. And I suppose initially before the advent of the modern food chain, perhaps Pre-Lent was more necessary to prepare for a stringent fasting season. Then again, now that each Catholic basically comes up with their own Lenten regimen perhaps a pre-planning period is more crucial now than ever.

    Also in terms of the Introductory Rites, a too streamlined and haphazard approach makes for a rather abrupt transition to the Liturgy of the Word. I realize that the earliest evidence of the Roman Rite presents a procession accompanied by psalms, the greeting, the collect and then the lessons sans Kyrie and Gloria, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the recitation of psalms lasted longer than our modern introductory rites.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      “Pre-Lent was more necessary to prepare for a stringent fasting season. ”

      That was the Eastern approach. The Western approach after Trent was purely liturgical; meanwhile, it was a season of indulgence in the streets, as it were.

      1. John Kohanski Avatar
        John Kohanski

        Oh my dear Karl Liam–it is the much same in countries where the Churches follow primarily the Byzantine rite. While the 5 week pre-Lenten period of Churches that follow the that rite is much more cohesive and comprehensive than the three liturgical Sundays that the Roman ecclesial community used to have, at least through Meatfare Sunday/Sunday of the Last Judgement (the penultimate Sunday before the Fast and last day for meat until Pascha). one could be in the East or the West and not tell the difference. And especially the week and Sunday before Lent, (Cheesefare/Expulsion from Paradise) which is “Maslenitsa” where people party and (over) indulge in rich dairy only foods before the start of the Fast the next day, on Clean Monday.
        Of course the second Sunday of Pre-Lent, the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican announces an entirely fast-free week, even on Wednesday and Friday, so that one is not puffed up by his (soon to come) fasting. No fasting at all that week =PARTY! The Eastern Churches seem to ease the faithful and the unfaithful into the Fast slowly and motherly.

  24. Father Jack Feehily Avatar
    Father Jack Feehily

    May I suggest that what all worshipers–lay faithful and clergy–really need to change is our hearts so that we can worship God in spirit and truth. The Apostles have handed on to us a specific way to offer God a sacrifice of praise. But they provided little or no details. We are called to assemble on the Lord’s Day, to attend to the sacred writings, to provide gifts of bread and wine, to lift up our hearts and give thanks and praise to God for accepting his son’s sacrifice on Calvary to free us from sin and everlasting death, and to be given the opportunity to be consecrated and transformed into one body, one spirit in Christ. Bodily postures associated with authentic piety and reverence arise from culture. Associating song and even rhythmic movements (think Zairian Rite) with worship need also be influenced by culture. Can we actually believe that talk about “gesimas”, “pre-lent” and “Pentecost Octaves” will better help us come to the assistance of widows and orphans and to walk humbly with God?

    1. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      I largely agree, though find it odd this point is only made when talking about traditional practices. Can we actually believe suppressing the Tridentine Mass and “going beyond” the liturgical reform will better help us come to the assistance of widows and orphans and to walk humbly with God?

  25. jeff armbruster Avatar
    jeff armbruster

    I wonder if those well informed folks who are passionate about liturgy don’t in fact enjoy fantasizing about their own best possible liturgical forms. And enjoy arguing with others, sometimes in a good spirited mode, sometimes not. I wonder if, somehow, a really final form were to ever be arrived at, many wouldn’t miss the act of arguing and speculating.

    Ah, well, we’ll never have perfection and complete agreement in this life. There’s little agreement here!

    As to “admitting liturgical mistakes”…and here I enter the fray…I suggest that not allowing women into the decision making is among the worst. Seriously. We’ll never get this right as long as a council of men only is making the decisions. If you have to ask why that is, well…

  26. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    I stumbled across an article in an African Catholic periodical by Bishop Edward Risi OMI who was the liturgy chairman for the Sothern African Catholic Bishop’s Conference.

    In the article, the Bishop in responding to the debate about whether to keep the Ascension and Assumption on their traditional calendar days vs transfering them to Sunday, the bishop notes the following:
    ” In their submission to the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the bishops stated that it was their intention to encourage priests and laity to use the traditional days of the solemnities for celebrations in Catholic schools, institutions like hospitals and old age homes.

    It follows a parish may celebrate the feast on the calendar day with the status of a memoria, without making it a solemn celebration which is reserved for the Sunday.”

    I suppose this might be a way forward. For example, allow priests and laity to celebrate Epiphany as a memorial on Jan. 6 in the mass and LOTH, perhaps as a “lesser epiphany” while keeping the Sunday Epiphany celebration intact.

    An additional option might be using the propers and biblical readings from the Second Sunday after Christmas on Jan. 6. These texts have a certain Epiphany vibe to them, especially in the opening Collect and Gospel Acclamation.

    1. Raymi Acebo Avatar
      Raymi Acebo

      I think a better option would be an extensive indult for external solemnity on Sunday. Celebrate solemnly on the original date, Mass and LOTH, and again celebrate Mass solemnly on Sunday, but with Sunday Office.

  27. Matthew Roth Avatar
    Matthew Roth

    “For example, I for one do not particularly see the point of restoring pre-Lent and don’t really buy the idea that we need a time of preparation for Lent, since Lent itself is a time of preparation, ”

    This only makes sense insofar as we have completely gutted our fasting and abstinence laws. Pius XII got ahead of himself. In 1917, the practice of partial abstinence dating to Benedict XIV, who himself lamented the laxity of Lenten observance, was inaugurated into the CIC. In Austria, to name one example, the vigils were hitherto observed even though the feasts had been days of devotion (Mass pro populo, usually festive, but with no precept to fast the day before, to go to Mass, or to abstain from servile labor) since Joseph II’s reign. But, Pius XII, who had previously issued all sorts of indults or dispensations, revoked all of the previous privileges (including the Friday indult for the Spanish Empire abolished in Santa Fe in the 1950s) to standardize things, only to issue new ones (Aug 14’s observance was moved to Dec 7 in the US even after the latter vigil’s abolition.)

    The East maintains these. Milan no longer has Septuagesima, and its observance was somewhat modified as it was, but its calendar retains preparatory Sundays before Lent. Remember, Ash Wednesday and the days which follow is not the preparatory period. It is the campaign of Christian service. But they are relatively later additions.

    In France, the Epiphany was externally solemnized on Sunday due to the Capara indult. Ditto Corpus Christi, which was also particular law in the US. Elsewhere, you could celebrate the external solemnity and procession, which were after None in choirs bound to two Masses in such cases. This is a worthy solution that also usually preserves the Sundays.

  28. Edward Hamer Avatar
    Edward Hamer

    Well, what a fine thread! And all kicked off by another very perceptive article.

    As another “trad” who goes to the TLM most Sundays but accepts that the new Mass is perfectly valid etc. I would add my voice to those who have already said that the traditionalists and the progressives are simply looking for different things. What Paul Inwood suggests sounds simply ghastly to me, just as the TLM probably seems ghastly to him.

    Taking Christianity as a whole it is clear that a preference for a “hieratic” form of liturgy (one that is formalised, solemn, performed in a sacred register of language and gesture and centered upon priests) is very widespread, from the Eastern Orthodox to High Anglicans to some more liturgically minded Evangelicals and Lutherans. The Catholic Church used to provide the West’s highest expression of that mode of worship but it now makes it very difficult for the faithful to find hieratic forms of worship within the normal parish structure, with disastrous consequences for the devotional life of people who are nourished by them.

    Without getting into controversies, this seems to me to be a huge pastoral mistake. As Fr Forte has said, if the Church won’t make the TLM widely available then it urgently needs to ensure that the new Mass is widely and reliably celebrated in a hieratic manner for those who want it. People won’t just stop desiring hieratic worship because some contemporary liturgists wish they would.

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      What Paul Inwood suggests sounds simply ghastly to me, just as the TLM probably seems ghastly to him.

      I grew up with the TLM, unlike many who post here. I loved it. I was an expert in it. And I grew out of it. It took a while.

      I was one of those who initially did not understand Vatican II and the reforms that flowed from it. I was one of those rare birds, working for a progressive Catholic publisher at the cutting edge while at the same time working as a musician in a parish where all the effort was to keep everything as much like the TLM as possible. The next stage was identical but higher-grade: the St Thomas More Centre for Pastoral Liturgy at the same time as Brompton Oratory. I lived a dichotomy every day.

      But I finally came to understand that what I grew up with was a medieval aberration. When I began to study the rationale behind the Liturgical Movement, and worked with people who had been living it long before I did, I came to see that the TLM was something akin to play-acting. Going through the motions. Ex opere operato and all that.

      And the secret to the “conversion” was realizing the difference between being in love with the aesthetics of liturgy and understanding the theology of liturgy. Of course, we can see that interface played out in many different liturgical fields — Catholic, Anglican, you name it.

      And I came to understand that liturgy is about human beings, not about the solemn enactment of the rites.

      So when you say that the TLM seems ghastly to me, I say no, it seems like an essential and beloved part of my past, and it feeds my understanding. But it is not my present, nor my future. I have moved on. I have grown up.

      1. Edward Hamer Avatar
        Edward Hamer

        Thank you Paul, this is really interesting and I’m grateful for the insight. But it does sound rather as though you mean it takes a great deal of postgraduate study to get much out of the newer rites, which isn’t perhaps the most ringing endorsement.

        My feeling is that there is an instinctive human religious sense which is fed by cultic worship and religious ritual and which is in some way primary (like our need for food and affection) whereas our intellectual engagement with things is secondary. It may be that this religious instinct can be overcome or transcended by the intellect in some people, but those people will be in a small minority. The more urgent need is to satisfy most people’s instinctive need in a way which leads them towards God rather than idols.

        What I find myself is that even when I will myself to get as much out of the newer liturgy as possible I just find it a bit of a void, formless and unsatisfying. The TLM just shouts “Priest! Altar! Sacrifice!” and you can almost imagine Moses up there in the sanctuary (obvious anachronism problems aside), and it’s captivating, but the newer Mass just seems to have no real flavour or atmosphere of its own, and little symbolic power. It feels like weak medicine as against very strong medicine indeed.

        Thanks again.

      2. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Dear Paul,

        I have been working with Catholics who love the traditional Mass for many years. The last thing that they are doing is “play-acting.” They are people filled with a great love for Christ, his Church, and the way that the Mass has been celebrated by that Church for over a thousand years. With respect, who are you or anyone else to judge them and say otherwise? Nor can the manner in which the Mass was celebrated for 1500+ years be called an aberration.

        As for the your distinction between aesthetics and theology, it is not the mere aesthetics that is attracting so many Catholics to the old Mass, but the theology which is expressed through the rite. This theology, despite claims to the contrary, did not change with Vatican II.

  29. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    Here are some questions and comments that may shed light on the conversation about these two forms of the Mass: Are Catholic worshipers present to offer the Mass or to attend Mass being offered for them by the priest? Does the offering of Mass involve cognition or is it primarily acognitive? If cognitive, does not the language being employed make a significant difference? Is the Mass historically not a Sacramental act that involves both Word and Sacrament? Using the vernacular to communicate lessons from the scriptures surely enhances comprehension and understanding or doesn’t it? While I was growing up, whatever was spoken in English including the sermon, seemed to have been given short shrift. To be honest the entire 25-35 minute Sunday Mass was given short shrift. How did the responses and prayers of the Mass that belong to both priests and people in the NO get reduced to being the province of a priest and altar boys in the TLM? Is it not evident that the reforms introduced in the NO are a result of long time research, study, and reflection from apostolic and post-apostolic sources? If the NO constituted a serious break with Tradition, how is it that an overwhelming number of bishops didn’t rise up against it?
    Is it not true that today the most outspoken advocates for the TLM constitute a very small fraction of the total number of clergy and laity?

  30. Michael H Marchal Avatar
    Michael H Marchal

    The idea that there is only a spiritual offering on the part of the laity while the priest makes a sacramental one is completely unsupported by the ancient texts of the Roman Rite and seems to spring from a later theologizing rather than authentic tradition. I develop this topic at length in an article that was accepted years ago but has yet to be published. The most obvious piece of evidence is that the Roman Canon is always in the first person plural. Moreover that text says “omnium circumstantium…pro quibus tibi offerimus, vel qui tibi offerent hoc sacrificium laudis.” The phrase in brackets according to Jungmann began to be added in the 8th Century and were not accepted by the Cistercians until the 17th Century.
    And both the Council documents and every General Instruction on the Roman Missal has stated that all 4 presences are real. The Bread and Wine might also be “substantial,” but that does not make the others any less real.

  31. Michael H Marchal Avatar
    Michael H Marchal

    The brackets did not take. The phrase is pro quibus tibi offerimus.

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