Looking Through the Wrong End of the Telescope: Desiderio Desideravi and Pope Francis’ Ecclesial Vision

by Fr. Edward Foley, Capuchin


Advances in astrophysics over the past decades have resulted in previously unimaginable developments in the design of telescopes.  Land-based telescopes not only have spaced-based partners but are increasingly rendered to be of secondary import by developments such as the Hubble telescope and its big brother the James Webb array.  Leading up to these advances, traditional optical telescopes had been enhanced with lasers, coupled with spectroscopes, and redesigned with complex mirror segmentations.  Then there are the radio telescopes and even cosmic ray telescopes that look nothing like what most amateurs point toward the stars; they are surprisingly devoid of any image-forming optical system that have traditionally defined the very nature of a telescope!

Despite all of these advances, it yet seems appropriate to employ the most common and original form of the telescope as a metaphor for the process of interpreting a document such as Pope Francis’ Desiderio desideravi: On the Liturgical Formation of the People of God.  In particular, it is important to discern which lenses provide the richest harvest from this quite modest Apostolic Letter.  The lens you employ will determine, to a great extent, what conclusions one might draw from such a document.  Just as looking through the wrong end of a telescope can provide serious distortions and even polar opposite images, so too can a poorly refracted interpretation of Desiderio desideravi do the same.

In this venture, I am inspired by the paradigm-shifting work of Massimo Faggioli and his rereading of Sacrosanctum Concilium in True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium (2012).  What Faggioli makes clear is that if we only read the liturgy constitution as a “liturgical document” in the strict sense, then we miss much of its import.  As Faggioli has demonstrated, this first document of Vatican II actually served as a kind of roadmap for the ensuing documents, highlighting key spiritual and ecclesial themes such as holiness and participation.  Furthermore, as John O’Malley has acutely understood, this document introduced an entirely new conciliar lexicon, no longer deploying juridical and condemnatory church-speak, but instead embracing a pastoral vernacular of care and beauty, contextualized in rich biblical imagery (see his What Happened at Vatican II, 2008).

Similarly, it strikes me as fruitful not only to read Desiderio desideravi as an instruction on the Church’s liturgy but to consider it more broadly as a liturgical refraction of Francis’ larger ecclesial agenda.  When considered, for example, through the lenses of some of the Pope’s more expansive teachings and emphases a richer theological vision emerges.  Thus, we will consider three themes of Francis as lenses for revisiting Desiderio desideravi: the theological anthropology that premiered in Evangelii gaudium, the integral ecology of Laudato si’, and the vision of synodality emerging in preparation for the 2023 Synod on that theme.

Theological anthropology and Evangelii Gaudium:

The theological anthropology embedded in Desiderio desideravi has much resonance with that which Pope Francis first sounded in Evangelii gaudium.  In his inaugural 2013 apostolic exhortation, Francis consistently emphasized the nature, significance and even primacy of humanity (no 55) for evangelization.  Evangelizers must be in dialogue with human experience (no. 133), and interreligious dialogue itself is first and foremost “a conversation about human existence” (no. 250).  Few places in Evangelii gaudium display this respectful approach to dialogue as much as no. 257 in which he considers those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition “precious allies” in upholding human dignity and the pursuit of justice.  This is a theological anthropology that is both positive and ethical.

One of the drumbeats that underscore Desiderio desideravi is the centrality of encounter.  The liturgy itself is a preeminent place of encounter with Christ and each other (nos. 10ff).  This encounter is an event that enables believers to become fully human and, in turn, “conceive of the human being as a person, open to a full relationship with God, with creation, and with one’s brothers and sisters” (no. 35).  The concreteness of this encounter-vision is affirmed in the parallel way this document underscores the incarnational nature of our faith and worship (e.g., no. 48).  The liturgy has an irrefutable concreteness about it, grounded in the incarnation, in which Christ “satisfies his own thirst for us” (no. 11) and, in turn, calls us to live in continuity with the Incarnation (no. 12) and live completely the liturgical action (no. 29).

This more positive theological anthropology, sounding throughout the documents of Vatican II – especially  Dignitatis humanae and Gaudium et spes – echoes through the Liturgy of Paul VI.  In contrast to a Tridentine Rite that consistently defined both the assembly and presider as sinners – ”Nobis quoque peccatoribus” – the reformed liturgy deems the faithful worthy to stand in God’s presence and serve: “nos dignos habuisti astare coram te et tibi ministrare.”  This stance in the liturgy of the church is, not surprisingly, also meant to be our missionary stance in the liturgy of the world: one of mercy and welcome rather than judgment and exclusion, where all are made in the image of God and worthy to stand on holy ground.

Laudato si’ and Integral ecology:

A second useful lens for considering Desiderio desideravi is that of Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato si’.  This magisterial encyclical enlightens many strands of Desiderio desideravi.  The incarnational and concrete emphases in this liturgical instruction find a much broader theological framework in the previous magisterial encyclical.  Consider, for example, how the language of beauty permeates both documents.  Most often, Desiderio desideravi employs the language of beauty in reference to the liturgical celebration itself (e.g., nos. 1, 10, 16, 22, 23).  Yet, it also echoes the broader themes of beauty on display throughout Laudato si’ in reference to creation, which reflects the infinite beauty of God (e.g., no. 243).

Francis’ emphasis that the beauty of the liturgy is not some search for a ritual aesthetic concerned with exteriors (no. 23) is well interpreted by Laudato si’ noting that care for creation is an “ethical and spiritual” journey.  Recognizing beauty in all of its cultural-contextual diversity and safeguarding such beauty requires the kind of generous theological anthropology previously highlighted in Pope Francis’ other teachings.  Only such will allow us not only to be observers but emissaries of beauty, deeply concerned with how authentic beauty concretely and incarnationally plays out in “people’s quality of life” (Laudato si’, no. 150).

Maybe most instructive from the lens of Laudato si’ is Pope Francis’ insight that ecology is not simply about halting global warming and insuring that all people have access to fresh drinking water.  Rather it requires an integrity based upon the notion of the common good.  An “integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics” (no. 156).  Considering the beauty of the liturgy and the need for a style of celebration that is truly “art” (i.e., ars celebrandi, Desiderio desideravi, nos. 50ff.) similarly requires a kind of liturgical ecology that is inseparable from the common good of the church and the world.  If the liturgy is the source and summit of the Church’s life (Sacrosanctum concilium, no. 10), then it is the preeminent articulation of our shared life and mission.  Thus, liturgical formation, at its core, is not simply about enacting a more robust or satisfying worship event, but rather nourishing the baptized to live their liturgical spirituality as missionary disciples (Evangelii gaudium, no. 24) in a world that yet thirsts for life-giving water in untold ways.


A third possible lens for reading Desiderio desideravi – the one I personally find the most compelling – is Francis’ emerging agenda regarding synodality.  While he has spoken about this in a variety of speeches, homilies, and writings, his vision of synodality finds its fullest official expression to date in the International Theological Commission’s “Synodality in the life and Mission of the Church” and the Preparatory document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”

These documents, which draw heavily upon Pope Francis’ teachings, emphasize that this expanding vision of synodality is not about governance but about a way of being together.  Synodality in the broadest sense is a spirituality, intent upon supplying every “institutional reality with a soul,” intent upon reshaping hearts for acquiring the affectus synodalis (“Synodality,” no. 109).  The constant theme of this spirituality is “journeying together.”  This journey is marked by three key characteristics – ones that are fundamentally linked in language, theology, and practice to the reformed liturgy: communion, participation, and mission.

The liturgical spirituality that Desiderio desideravi cultivates is reinforced, properly interpreted, and enhanced by Francis’ vision of this fresh way of being Church.  While synods of bishops were reestablished by Pope Paul VI in 1965, they were fundamentally hierarchical gatherings serving as consultative to the Pope.  For Francis, however, synodality embraces the entire people of God in spirit and in truth.  It is a way of being with each other in mutual respect in service of the Church and its mission to the world that the liturgy must reflect and rehearse.  This optic explodes collegiality beyond episcopal and clerical boundaries and respects the baptized and their unique sensus fidelium.

More explicitly than Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’, Francis unequivocally considers this newly invigorated vision of synodality as deeply rooted in Vatican II.  This “walking together,” as it is often characterized in the relevant documents, is a fresh blossoming of the communion ecclesiology that emerged from that Council.  It is a radical embrace of the call to dialogue so brilliantly articulated in Paul VI’s too often forgotten encyclical Ecclesiam suam, released in the midst of that Council

When one reads Desiderio desideravi through a synodal lens, it emerges as an ecclesial document in liturgical mode.  Its emphasis on embodiment, dialogue, relationality, encounter, incarnation, and beauty is a broader commentary on the nature of the church itself.  The refutation of clericalism – a common theme from Pope Francis – is undeniable here.  In that vein, the implicit and explicit rejection of Summorum Pontificum (2007) of Pope Benedict XVI and the parallel reaffirmations of Traditionis custodes (2021) found in this document are at their heart an enhanced vision of communion ecclesiology and a reaffirmation of the teachings of Vatican II.  Thus, Francis writes:

“It would be trivial to read the tensions, unfortunately present around the celebration, as a simple divergence between different tastes concerning a particular ritual form.  The problem is primarily ecclesiological.  I do not see how it is possible to say that one recognizes the validity of the Council – though it amazes me that a Catholic might presume not to do so – and at the same time not accept the liturgical reform born out of Sacrosanctum Concilium” (Desiderio desideravi, no. 33)


The reformed liturgy does not simply supply official texts and rubrics, but an ecclesial pathway for becoming the people of God faithfully and authentically.  The liturgy, in this sense, at its heart is a spiritual technology: rehearsing and nourishing the path to and through God’s reign marked by communion, participation, and mission.  In studying and implementing this document, therefore, it is essential that we do not corral it in some liturgical silo or refract it only through a worship lens, thus muting its reforming and ecclesial message.  While Desiderio desideravi can be useful in liturgical formation, its positive theological anthropology and strong creational/incarnational voice need to be joined with the synodal journey to enhance and encourage the yet unrealized vision of Vatican II in service of the missio Dei.  And to those who rightly critique the document for its paucity of pastoral directives about how to proceed with this intended formation, I would suggest that the plethora of such directives in Evangelii gaudium, Laudato si’ and the documents on synodality provide a cornucopia of ideas and pedagogies for enacting an authentic and integrative liturgical formation.

This post is based on a talk given to the Catholic Academy of Liturgy on January 5, 2023.







37 responses to “Looking Through the Wrong End of the Telescope: Desiderio Desideravi and Pope Francis’ Ecclesial Vision”

  1. Alex Sheffield Avatar
    Alex Sheffield

    I find this talk very puzzling. I fail to understand how a document which suddenly contradicts, wipes away and misconstrues more than thirty years of papal statements and causes lay people to be kicked out of their parishes, can be construed as overcoming clericalism. (One poignant example of such contradiction is John Paul II stating that allowing the 1962 missal does not go against Sacrosanctum Concilium in his address to the monks of Le Barroux)

    Also, the author’s use of textual examples to juxtapose the 1962 and 1970 missals is strange. Is he unaware that the 1970 missal also has the phrase “Domine non sum dignus” and “nobis quoquae peccatoribus”?
    While the 1962 missal has the following prayer: “Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech thee, O Lord; that with pure minds we may be made worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord.” which seems a corollary to the eucharistic prayer II phrase ““nos dignos habuisti astare coram te et tibi ministrare.”

    1. Charles Day Avatar
      Charles Day

      The premise that looking through the wrong end of the telescope distorts things is his point. If thirty years of papal statements are based upon views from the wrong end that might explain his arguments. It isn’t insignificant that those ‘thirty years’ can be taken as contradicting the statements of a global church council.

    2. Alex Sheffield Avatar
      Alex Sheffield

      Those popes (one of which was a council father and the other was a peritus) weren’t seeing themselves as contradicting the council but rather interpreting it authoritatively in light of new circumstances which the council fathers could not have foreseen. Their line of interpretation continued even into the present pontificate (see for example Pope Francis’ message to the FSSP on their 25th anniversary).

      That’s beside the point though, even if you think that JPII, BXVI and Francis (first 8 years), were wrong, misled people, and rejected Vatican II, this still needs to be acknowledged, and the interpretation of Vatican II given in Desidero Desideravi needs to be shown to be authoritative in a way the previous interpretation was not.

      Instead, we’re left with such absurdities as Arthur Roche going from calling the 1962 missal a “legitimate form of the roman rite,” and praising its profound sense of worship in 2015 to ruling in 2021 that its existence is so scandalous and dangerous that it can’t even be advertised in a parish bulletin.

      It’s one thing to try to correct the past, it’s another to act as though it never happened and try to force others to forget it.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        You can call it interpretation rather than contradiction, but a historical reading shows otherwise. The well-documented pact between Josef Ratzinger and Jorge Medina Estévez to unroll the reforms of Vatican II, which began as early as 1972 and began to be implemented in 1981, continuing for the next thirty years, certainly doesn’t look much like interpretation.

        As far as the Extraordinary Form is concerned, it’s quite possible to view Archbishop Roche’s remarks in the middle of the last decade as a continuing effort to bring about dialogue in the face of the non-stop proselytising and vitriol which was threatening to divide the Church. When it became clear that no dialogue was in fact possible with the tiny percentage who feel that they have the fullness of the truth and who deride everyone else, it became a question of damage limitation. Cauterization then took place.

        The problem was, and is, that those who prefer the preconciliar rite misinterpreted an exceptional and generous pastoral provision on the part of BXVI and attempted to turn it into a universal law. They were not, and are not, interested in liturgical formation, so it is hardly surprising that a document such as Desiderio Desideravi has no meaning for them.

        When you talk about forgetting the past, you might remember someone like Klaus Gamber, who allowed his schoiarship to drain away completely in favor of nothing more than an extended rant. He was not the only one, of course, but a distorted view of liturgical history brought about by his and similar work is in large part responsible for the different “interpretations” that still muddy the waters today. What Foley is doing is demonstrating that these people, too, have been using the wrong end of their particular telescope.

      2. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Mr. Inwood,

        One must distinguish between the reforms of Vatican II itself and the post-conciliar reforms that were implemented in its name. If not, then the reformed missal itself — in allowing Latin, chant, ad orientem, Communion on the tongue while kneeling, etc. — can be charged with being opposed to the Council and its reform. Indeed, many a priest has been accused of denying the Council by merely trying to take advantage of these legitimate options. This conflation of two distinct actions is dishonest and has lead to the divisions we see in the Church today.

      3. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield


        Now you’ve piqued my interest, where is this documentation of a pact to unroll the reforms of Vatican II which involved Ratzinger and Medina? (also Ratzinger’s interpretation of Vatican II is essentially that of de Lubac and von Balthasar, were they part of that pact as well?)

      4. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood


        I have in front of me a Word document of an article, dated 07/12/2002, by no less than John L. Allen, Jnr. Its title is The counter revolution, and is #9 in a “How Vatican II changed the Church” series. I do not have the original journal. It must be either America or NCR.

        In it, John charts the history of the Ratzinger-Medina backlash in considerable detail, including Ratzinger’s manifest change of heart as he and Medina had second thoughts after the Council. So, for example, in the late 80s and early 90s Ratzinger could make theological statements in total contradiction of those he had made in the mid-60s. Allen terms this “revisionism”. In 1993 Ratzinger vigorously denied any such change, but the evidence is there for all to see, and Allen tests it rigorously..

        Allen dates the pact to 11 October 1972, when eight members of the ITC (including Ratzinger and Medina) wrote to Paul VI. “The eight theologians,” says Allen, “represented a new phenomenon in post-conciliar Catholic theology, a group of penitents increasingly suspicious of the ecclesiastical revolution they themselves had helped to unleash.” The burden of their complaint was concerned with the first interim vernacular translations of the Roman Missal. It seems clear that they did not understand the principles of dynamic equivalence as outlined in Comme le prévoit in 1969.

      5. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield


        I have found a copy of the article, it’s from the Tablet. Allen says that the letter from the 8 theologians “expresse[d] urgent concern that the “unity and purity of the Catholic faith” was being compromised by inaccurate and theologically suspect translations of liturgical texts from Latin into the vernacular languages””

        – Criticizing the translation process of liturgical texts openly to the pope, does not amount to announcing a pact to “unroll the reforms of Vatican II.” Pope Paul VI even kept Medina and Ratzinger on the international theological commission and made Ratzinger an archbishop and then a cardinal in 1977.
        -Allen fails to mention in the article is that Ratzinger and Medina were part of a group of theologians, that included Henri de Lubac, who argued that certain former periti were abusing their positions after the council by claiming that the council had a spirit that went beyond and even contradicted its texts. De Lubac was already critical of Concilium in 1965 (he eventually came to refer to it as part of a “para-council” that usurped the authority of the real council). (Paul VI also wanted to make de Lubac a cardinal but de Lubac refused because he was not granted a dispensation from being made a bishop)
        -There was no coup or pact to undo the council, what there was a breakup between different theologians who were influential during the council. These came to be known as the Concilium and the Communio camps.

  2. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Surely Church leaders and liturgical theologians should be praising the 5% to maybe 30% of Catholics, depending on your geography, who attend any type of Mass, be it the TLM, the normal revised Mass, charismatic Masses, catechumenal way Masses or those like that at St. Sabinas in Chicago and focus more on trying to figure out how to invite inactive, disaffected and those who have renounced any form of Catholicism back to any from of the Catholic Mass. Esoteric academic discussions on the liturgy, the synodal way or pre and post Vatican II liturgical leaders that are so in-house and churchy doesn’t cut it. Just my humble opinion.

    1. Michael H Marchal Avatar
      Michael H Marchal

      Anthony, once again you try to distinguish between the bishops who made up Vatican II and those who oversaw the subsequent process of reform when they were in fact the same people. I remember well the gradual English ing of the Mass in the second half of the Sixties which was bit by bit in response to the desire not only of the laity but of the clergy to actually find spiritual profit in understanding what they were praying.

      1. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Not at all. Driven by momentum, the bishops were driven to go further after the Council than they had planned during the Council. History if full of such examples. Also remember there were also many, such as Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict, who expressed concern over excesses after the Council. Unfortunately, they are then accused of trying to “unroll the reforms of Vatican II.”

        The distinction is not between the bishops at the Council and those after, but between what was called for by the Council and what was implemented afterwards. Indeed, the reforms that were implemented on the ground even go beyond what the new missal itself has mandated. Mass celebrated in Latin, ad orientem, with Gregorian chant, male only ministers, Communion on the tongue while kneeling, etc. is authorized by the reformed missal. Would such a Mass be faithful to Vatican II or not?

      2. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        Quite untrue to say the bishops were driven to go further. They drove themselves. All very well documented. Having seen the pastoral benefits of the changes, they wanted more of them, and rapidly. It was in fact the speed with which change took place in response to their requests that took some people aback. Some, most of whom were not even around at the time, have never accepted the changes and remain resistent. They are too young to have experienced the liturgical reform movement that preceded Vatican II. The vast majority, however, like the bishops who led them, could see the pastoral advantages.

        A historical footnote:

        Cardinal John Carmel Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, is on record as saying, as he boarded the train to set off for the Vatican Council, “Don’t worry! They won’t touch our liturgy!” He was completely unprepared for what actually took place. Nevertheless, within less than a decade he was writing prefaces to hymnals, extolling the virtues of vernacular hymn singing.

      3. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        “Having seen the pastoral benefits of the changes, they wanted more of them, and rapidly.” You are just proving my point. After the reforms began to be implemented they wanted more than had previously been contemplated. To say that the bishops were driven is not to say that they were reluctant. A movement for a reform greater than that outlined in the Council had arisen and many of the bishops became enthusiastic supporters.

        Case in point is the very Cardinal Heenan that you referenced. Entering into the Council he was not seeking, nor did he believe that there was a consensus for, reform. At the Council a consensus was made for a limited reform. After the Council a desire for a greater reform arose. We can see this in the treatment of Latin. The Council itself clearly called for the retention of Latin with a limited use of the vernacular being a concession and an exception to the norm. After the Council the move was made for a fully vernacular liturgy. This was a post-conciliar consensus, not an act of the Council. Indeed, it can be argued that this subsequent abandonment of Latin was itself a rejection of the Council.

        Vatican II is strictly the decrees of the Council itself. To broaden its meaning to include post-conciliar actions is to empty the term of its meaning, and its authority. The extra-conciliar consensus of the Vatican II generation of bishops has no more authority than that of bishops from any other era. This is why you will always be frustrated when appeals to Vatican II fall on deaf ears, when you are in reality appealing to a post-conciliar “Spirit of Vatican II.” One can fully accept the former and reject the latter.

      4. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        We have had this discussion before. The same bishops who had voted at Vatican II just a short time before requested the reforms that you don’t happen to like. The same bishops; the same authority. It is very clear that the Council includes not only the 15 major documents but the period of implementation that followed, with its own documents. To limit the Council just to the 16 documents and nothing else is an over-narrow viewpoint.

      5. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        I know that you would like it to be that way, but it will not fly. You have made a big deal about the Ratzinger’s change of heart, calling it a backlash. But you discount the possibility that the bishops who voted at Vatican II could also have had a change of heart. Again, that they did is shown by their reversal on the question of Latin as well as Gregorian chant.

        We cannot extend the Council beyond its actual proceedings to the actions of the bishops afterwards. If a council cannot be distinguished from the ordinary actions of the bishops outside of the council, then a council loses any special meaning or authority. In such a case the bishops today, even acting outside of the council, would have the same authority of the bishops of Vatican II, and indeed of Vatican II itself.

        I would also again ask the question if a Mass celebrated according to the present missal, but using all the options in that missal for a traditional form of the liturgy, would be faithful to Vatican II or not? If yes, then one cannot say that Vatican II requires a revolution in the form of worship. If no, then you would have to say that the very missal that is a presented as the product of the reform of Vatican II is opposed to Vatican II. But such a position would be an absurdity.

        I will also point out that selectivity of who you would allow to be considered the post-conciliar voices of Vatican II: only those who agree with a particular interpretation of the council, dismissing even the two immediate following popes as going back on the council. No, trying to extend the authority of Vatican II beyond the acts of the council itself is only an attempt to cloak an extra-conciliar ideological movement with an authority that it does not have, thus placing it beyond criticism.

      6. Matthew Hazell Avatar

        Paul Inwood: “Quite untrue to say the bishops were driven to go further. They drove themselves.”

        If my investigations in several diocesan archives around England are anything to go by, the bishops most certainly did not “drive themselves”. They were passengers in a car going much too fast, but did not feel able to slow down or slam the brakes on because of various decisions other nations had taken (especially with regard to the vernacular), the increasingly-liberal permissions given by Rome (“we have to follow the Pope” is a continual refrain, especially from ++Westminster), and pressure from a very vocal minority of Catholics at home.

  3. Alex Sheffield Avatar
    Alex Sheffield

    The problem with that view, Paul, is that Vatican II had something called a “closing session” on December 7 1965. In it Pope Paul VI said:

    “Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council. We bring it to a close at the fullness of its efficiency: the presence of so many of you here clearly demonstrates it; the well-ordered pattern of this assembly bears testimony to it; the normal conclusion of the work done by the council confirms it; the harmony of sentiments and decisions proclaims it. ”

    Anything done, even by bishops who were council fathers, after the end of the council is by definition not part of the council.

  4. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    As one who entered seminary in 1965 and was ordained in 1973, I regard myself as one of many eye witnesses of how the liturgical reforms actually unfolded. The documents of Vatican II were approved and promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the overwhelming majority of the council fathers. Having been acknowledged at Vatican I as one having full, supreme, immediate, and universal jurisdictional authority to govern the Church, Paul VI exercised that governance in providing the Church with a reformed Order of Mass. This means that no bishop, synod, or council of bishops can override his authority. But this Pope exercised that governance in accord with the insight from Vatican II by which he governs with his brother bishops throughout the world.
    Like all editions of the Roman Missal, the Novus Ordo Missae when promulgated replaced all the Missals that went before. Full stop. Period. Exceptions were granted but without prejudice to the Novus Ordo. Traditionalists, led by LeFebvre, went into schism by setting up an “altar” not subject to the authority of local bishops and the pope. Where the Pope is, there is Peter. I stand with Francis and all the bishops in full communion with him.

    1. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      Fr. Jack, as one who entered major theology in 1976 and in a very liberal seminary, I can tell you that I experienced just about every abuse of Paul VI’s promulgated Roman Missal including whether or not the substance of the so-called “bread” we used was even valid. I saw bishops abusing Paul VI’s Roman Missal. As a recovering “ultra-montanist” I am coming to the conclusion that anyone, to in include any pope, who has “supreme” power to do as he pleases and forces others to accept it (with no recourse to being corrected or critiqued) is at the root of the crisis we are experiencing in the Church be it liturgical, legal, moral and/or doctrinal. Anyone fiddling with people’s orthodox and/or traditional faith, spirituality, way of celebrating the Mass by denigrating what was once sacred to put forward what is new oversteps God given authority. It’s time to nip authoritarianism in the bud and flower which is at the root of clericalism no matter who it is and what Ecumenical Council it is.

    2. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
      Fr. Anthony Forte

      No one here is questioning the authority of Pope Paul VI to issue a new missal. Although this may have been inspired by the Second Vatican Council, it is, nevertheless, the work of Pope Paul and not of the council. Furthermore, the expansive view of what constitutes “Vatican II” includes not only the new missal, but also a radically different view of the liturgy in general. This would include all of the changes to the liturgy that go beyond not just the instructions in Sacrosanctum Concilium but also beyond the dictates of Pope Paul’s missal itself. I will ask again, would a Mass celebrated according to the new missal that would take advantage of all of the options within it for a tradition form of the liturgy be faithful to Vatican II?

      1. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        Fr. Anthony, to your question, it depends on who you ask. Pope Francis often celebrates a mostly Latin Mass at St. Peter’s. I would say that is faithful to the post Vatican II Roman Missal and I think His Holiness would too. He has also celebrated ad orientem. Is that faithful? Pope Francis by his gesture of offering Mass in this manner seems to indicate that it is Vatican II also. We know that many progressive and not so progressive bishops and priests manipulate the rubrics of the Modern Roman Missal. How much manipulation (and by whom) is allowed to make it even more traditional? Can the Penitential Act be offered at the Foot of the Altar? Can the Last Gospel be added as a postlude? Can the faithful receive Holy Communion kneeling at a restored altar railing? It seems, though, that no one likes the Vatican II Mass as given since everyone, no matter their perspective, manipulates the Modern Roman Missal according to their tastes, desires and what they think Vatican II wanted. That’s a problem unique to the Modern Roman Missal and its adherents. As a disclaimer, I love a well celebrated Modern Roman Missal Mass as well as the TLM. I offer both, but the modern Mass mostly with its pluralism.

  5. jeff armbruster Avatar
    jeff armbruster

    sorry, no message!

  6. Edward Hamer Avatar
    Edward Hamer

    I must applaud Fr Forte’s statement that “trying to extend the authority of Vatican II beyond the acts of the council itself is only an attempt to cloak an extra-conciliar ideological movement with an authority that it does not have, thus placing it beyond criticism.” I think that hits the nail right on the head, and with a very hefty hammer. This is an area in which honesty requires the making of careful distinctions, and I think those distinctions will be easier to make with time, as the “extra-conciliar ideological movement” loses steam.

    The introduction of the new missal coincided with a dreadful outbreak of iconoclasm in the Church, and I think the task for this century is to implement the former properly by firmly rejecting the latter. Yes, the mind of the Church as recorded at Vatican II was that a reform of the Roman Rite should take place, involving a simplification of ritual and a greater emphasis on textual understanding and participation by the laity, but calling the whole Catholic approach to worship into question was not the way to do it.

    References to the Brompton Oratory have their own Godwin’s Law when this subject comes up, but if a moderately progressive Catholic from 1950 or 1960 time-travelled forwards to attend a contemporary Sunday Mass there, I think they would conclude that a major reform had taken place in the late twentieth century but they would not be shocked or scandalised by anything and they would conclude that the reform had been well judged. Yes, there are vernacular readings at the ambo, a huge new lectionary, simplified ritual and no Last Gospel, but there is still lots of Latin and Gregorian chant, the sanctuary is still reserved as a sacred space, Communion is received kneeling at a rail, from a priest, and the eucharistic liturgy is celebrated ad orientem. The scale of our problem is revealed by the fact that the Oratory is considered a throwback instead of a hotbed of modernisation.

    1. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      Because things changed so quickly between 1965 to the eventual new 1970 Missal in Advent of 1969, few recall that experiments with music and a more casual atmosphere for Mass, more folksy, took place with the 1965 Missal, which for all practical purposes was still the Tridentine Mass. Folk music, with the four hymn sandwich was added to it, with a folk choir leading up front near the altar, still attached to the wall and Mass ad orientem. A classic example of this is Elvis Presley’s “A Change of Habit” filmed during the transitional time after Vatican II but before 1970. It appears an actual 1965 Missal Mass is being celebrated and filmed while Elvis and his cohorts are singing a kind of folk song near the altar during the Traditional Mass’s offertory. Thus, the silliness of this season could have been and was imposed upon the Tridentine Mass even if there had been no 1970 Roman Missal.

      1. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        I disagree about the 1965 beinga continuation of the Tridentine Mass.
        The Mass of the Faithful (Liturgy of the Word) was totally transformed. The Readings had to be proclaimed to the congregation, facing them, from the edge of the sanctuary (or a pulpit). The celebrant no longer read them (silently at Solemn Mass) with his back to the congregation using the altar as a bookstand. If there was an appreciable congregation there had to be a liturgical homily, which was stated to be a part of the Mass. The parts allocated to the choir and/or congregation were defined to be operative, not decorative, and the celebrant was not to duplicate them but was encouraged to take an active part in them.
        In short the deformation of the Roman Rite which had occurred in 1570, contrary to the demands of the Council of Trent, was struck down.

      2. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        The order of the 1965 Missal, which I have, is the Tridentine Order. There are some reforms of the Missal to include a lavish use of the vernacular, the removal of Psalm 42 at the Prayers at the Foot of the altar, slight revision to the per ipsum’s rubrics and some other minor ones and the ones you mention. The lectionary is the Tridentine lectionary. A better option for adding more readings to this Missal would have been to keep the Tridentine lectionary as Year A and then model Years B and C after it but include readings not previously heard at this form of the Mass. BTW, in my pre-Vatican II experience, the priest went to the ambo and read in English both the Epistle and Gospel. Of course he said or sung these in Latin at the altar too prior to that. The 1965 Missal revisions with a new lectionary built on its original lectionary would have fulfilled all that Sacrosanctum Concilium asked. But alas.

      3. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        What is important is that 1965 was a revision of the existing missal as was envisioned by Vatican II (it could be celebrated with the old missal with the changes penciled in), not a complete replacement as happened in 1970.

      4. John Kohanski Avatar
        John Kohanski

        If you go to YouTube and search for: Elvis “Let us pray” the scene in question should come up in the search results. Elvis stands just outside the communion rail playing his guitar and singing, while some girls on the other side of the opening in the rail act as his back-up singers.

      5. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        First -an apology for writing Mass of the Faithful when I meant Mass of the Catechumens.
        I agree that we should have consolidated the 1965/7 revisions with an extended lectionary before moving further. But the times were revolutionary and the opportunity was probably not present. That is what happens when a prolonged rigidity is broken. Would we had we persisted with the 1965, plus importantly the musical directives conserving chant (indeed extending chant with the Graduale Simplex) but once bishops like Cdl Shehan of Baltimore started banning Latin we were lost.

  7. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    And what, might I ask, is the place where the lay faithful are gathered called? Is it not sacred space. And other than listening to the beautiful latin chants, does the entire assembly join in songs of thanks and praise, perhaps even some that were composed in the late 20th century? And do the people sing the ordinary parts of the Mass as encouraged by the Novus Ordo?

    I think providing a Novus Ordo Mass with all or some latin and the use of ad orientam should be celebrated in parish churches where groups of people express an interest in this form of Mass. I have in mind groups of people who are not ideologically critical of how they perceive Vatican II and its teachings.
    Live and let live!

    1. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
      Fr. Anthony Forte

      Live and let live, what a beautiful sentiment! How much division could have been prevented if this had occurred after the Council. But no, the more radical reformers could not, and still cannot, allow other to live in peace. They insisted that their liturgical theories and practices had to be imposed on all. But how peace could be restored if, even accepting the new Mass as is, a generous provision were made for those who would wish to celebrate it in a traditional manner.

    2. Edward Hamer Avatar
      Edward Hamer

      Sorry for the late reply! I think it would be healthy, as you say, if we could divide liturgical styles from people’s opinions about Council documents. In the Anglican church you can attend beautiful Solemn High Masses, ad orientem, with lots of chant and communion at the rail, but the celebrant might be a woman and the parishioners would by no means all be ultra-conservative. We Catholics seem to be stuck in the idea that one particular manner of celebrating must be imposed uniformly, so the arguments become bitter because someone always stands to lose something.

      My point about the sanctuary was that in the TLM and at a Brompton Oratory Novus Ordo nobody enters the sanctuary during the liturgy except priests and acolytes, and the sanctuary is marked out by a substantial rail. That gives a strong sense of the sanctuary being the “holy of holies”, a sacred enclosure in which the liturgy takes place, distinct from the “profane” nave. To my mind the current fad for having lay people in normal clothes walking in and out of the sanctuary has greatly weakened that sense, and that this loss is a bad thing. I wouldn’t enter the Brompton Oratory sanctuary if you paid me – I would be expect to be struck by lightning or something!

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        “I think it would be healthy, as you say, if we could divide liturgical styles from people’s opinions about Council documents.”

        Yes. I know plenty of people who are firmly pro-conciliar (rather than pre-conciliar) but for whom a steady diet of what I call Missalette Beige style parish liturgy is a penance to be endured and offered up because inertia is the most powerful force in parish liturgical life.

      2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        Our problem in the Latin church is that unlike the East we have moved the whole liturgy into the sanctuary. The Byzantine rites have a very clear barrier, but significant parts of the action, censing, readings, teaching, and the liturgical choir are among the congregation.
        To what extent that was true in parish churches before 1570, I do not know.

  8. Scott Knitter Avatar
    Scott Knitter

    As an aside, I’d love to see a YouTube video made of a Mass according to the 1965 rite. I’ve assisted at such Masses, but at the age of five. Anyway, it would be enlightening to have it documented in video.

    1. Alan Johnson Avatar
      Alan Johnson

      There are Youtube videos.

    2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
      Anthony Hawkins

      I have seen suggestions that Farnborough Abbey uses (with permission) the 1965 rite. I do not know whether they stream their Masses.

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