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Vol 41 No 3

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Gerard Hall SM

Dennis J. Murphy MSC
A DATED VIEW OF MISSION? Jules Chevalier (1824-1907)

Bishop Christopher Prowse
GLOBAL FRIENDSHIP: The Christian Perspective

Joseph Grayland
THE TRIDENTINE MASS AGAIN: Can the Church Celebrate in Two Rites?

Sharon Messina

Desmond O’Donnell OMI



The Tridentine Mass again:
Can the Church celebrate in two rites?


THE MOTU PROPRIO Summorum Pontificum, issued by Pope Benedict on 7th July, has elicited reactions from various sides of the debate. Both the Motu Proprio and its accompanying ‘Letter to Bishops’ stress that the reintroduction of the 1962 Roman Missal does not compromise the authority of the Second Vatican Council or its liturgical reforms, and that it is a significant pastoral move to heal the rupture brought about in the life of the Church through the incorrect application of the liturgical reforms of the Council.

Summorum Pontificum allows a priest to celebrate the sacraments of baptism, marriage, confession and extreme unction according to the 1962 usage (Article 9/1), and bishops to confirm according to this usage (article 9/2).

Private celebrations of Mass using either missal are permitted, except during the celebration of the Easter Triduum. Summorum Pontificum instructs pastors to ‘willingly accept’ any requests from a community of people who desire the use of the 1962 missal. Priests are given the freedom to decide for themselves if they wish to use the 1962 missal, without having to refer to their bishop for permission, as was formerly the case. They may also use the Divine Office in the form in use before Vatican II if they wish. In accord with Canon 518, bishops are permitted to establish paroeciam personalem or personal parishes for the celebration of the ‘ancient form of the Roman rite’ (Article 10). In a departure from the traditional practice associated with the 1962 missal, it is now permissible for the priest to read the epistle and gospel in the vernacular or common language of the congregation, rather than in Latin. Future developments of the 1962 missal are alluded to in the Letter to Bishops, where the Pope indicates that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei could study the possibility of adapting recent Mass texts, such as the Proper of the Saints, for use in the 1962 missal.

In considering what Summorum Pontificum offers the church, I believe it is important to reflect on the following two issues: the ecclesiology underpinning each missal and the validity of the position that the church is now able to have a ‘twofold use of the same Roman rite’ (Summorum Pontificum Article 1). I would like to argue that these two missals do not share the same ecclesial context and, because they do not share the same ecclesiology, the assertion that they can exist as a ‘twofold use of the same Roman rite’ cannot be sustained.

Ecclesiological Context and the Meaning of Rite

In the whole liturgical debate since the introduction of the Roman Missal or Novus Missae promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 the common perception has been whether or not Latin should be reinstated as the official language of Catholic worship. In point of fact, Latin was not abrogated by the 1970 Missal even when it allowed for the use of vernacular or common languages. Latin is still its normative language. What did change was the Church’s theological self-understand about its place in the world and its mission to the world as the mediator of salvation. This theological move changed the ecclesiological context in which rite and ritual exist as expressions of that self-understanding. In changing the ecclesiological context, the church’s ecclesiology developed and formed new rites and rituals of worship. In this process, the church regained the understanding of liturgy and moved beyond the concept of ritualism. With the reinstatement of the 1962 missal the evolution in ecclesial-liturgical thinking and practice of the 1970 missal away from the ecclesial-ritual thinking underpinning the 1962 missal is the key element that is being ignored.

Rites of worship are always the product of a specific belief community. Rites are an articulation of a religious community’s theological understanding of itself as mediator of salvation, or as an agent of blessing and damnation. Rites have ritual structures, norms and laws that evolve out of a specific belief-context based on a foundational myth or foundational story, often including a primal act of violence that begins the religious group or society. The foundational myth and the belief-context that rites rely on exist within a wider social context that also plays a major role in the evolution of the foundational myth and its belief-context. The effects of these significant contextual forces are observable in a religious community’s worship patterns, statements of belief and its structures of government and power. Such contextual forces are observable in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and have formed both our ecclesial or church structures and our theology about those who can and cannot be saved. This dynamic of salvation/non-salvation is most observable in the rites and rituals of Christian initiation and post-baptismal reconciliation-penance. All of this is what I call ecclesiology.

The Christian Tradition of belief and prayer seeks to take the believer beyond the structure of worship and rite into the experience of liturgy through the power of the Holy Spirit present in the church’s anamnesis or active memory of Christ’s saving death and resurrection and into a ritual sharing in the Liturgy of God, which is the salvation of humankind. In the Christian tradition, liturgical rites express the church’s understanding of the ‘how’ of salvation as this is mediated through the ministry, mission and worship of the church.

As ecclesial rites, the 1962 missal and the 1970 missal show the believer who can and cannot be saved and it is at this fundamental point that they part company, to such an extent that their difference becomes irreconcilable. These two missals ritualise totally diverse understandings of salvation, damnation and the Church’s role as mediator of salvation. In this decision, we appear to have reached a point where the Church’s internal confusion has led it to a compromise that makes little ecclesiological or liturgical sense.

In order to understand this ecclesiological and liturgical confusion it is necessary to review briefly the ecclesiological contexts that produced the sacramental rites and ministerial theologies contained in these two missals.

The Ecclesial World of the 1962 Missal

The 1962 missal corresponds largely to the missal promulgated by Pope Pius V and is often called the Tridentine Rite, although the adjective ‘tridentine’ is also used for anything associated with the Council of Trent (1540-1570). In the centuries between its promulgation and Vatican II this rite was modified on various occasions, the last two being the modification of the Holy Week ceremonies by Pope Pius XII and the addition of Saint Joseph to the Roman Canon by Pope John XXIII.

The ecclesial world that nurtured the ritual patterns and presumptions of the 1962 missal was the intellectual and experiential world of the Catholic Counter-reformation. The reforms set in motion by the Council of Trent, and made explicit in the missal of Pope Pius V, sought to stem the Reformation tide through a singularity of ritual and linguistic usage that would define Roman Catholic worship in contra-distinction to the worship and authority patterns of the Protestant and Reformed churches. In doing so, it accentuated the emphasis on the character of the Mass as a true and singular sacrifice, without ever giving a clearly defined understanding of that sacrificial character, and sought to strengthen the role of the ordained priest as the only minister of sacramental rites.

While it is true that there were, and remained, local rituals throughout Europe, these were never attributed a status of ‘equal’ to the promulgated rite of Pius V. The intention was that these rites would, over time, cease to be used.

The Missal of Pius V held to the use of the Latin language as a means of preserving Roman Catholic worship from error, in a time when written texts were not always available in every parish, diocese or religious house. Further, vernacular languages were considered theologically inferior, to the extent that many theologians taught that only the precise use of the ritual words in the Latin text could effect the sacramental ritual. It was little wonder that the missal prescribed every word and action of the cleric. It introduced the directional words or stage directions in red that we know today as the rubrics.

The nature of Pius V’s missal was essentially ritualistic, clerically centred and highly formalised. The priest did not pray the Mass as a member of the praying assembly of the laity. In this sense, he did not pray at all with the assembled congregation. Even the 20th century development in the Dialogue Mass, where a reader might read the lesson and the congregation respond to some prayers, the priest still recited silently all the prayers, readings and songs of the Mass. In a similar vein, the congregated laity did not pray the Mass with the priest but, as attested to by the multiplicity of prayer books, they attended the Mass, at which they prayed their own prayers.

Even when these prayers might have included, for some at least, the texts of the Mass their prayer was not an intrinsic part of the ritual of worship, as it became with the 1970 missal.

The ecclesial presumption of the 1962 missal’s ritual is that sacramental ministry is a purely clerical function and that there was only one praying voice, that of the priest. In terms of the Mass, our common parlance picks this up where we hear: ‘father said his Mass’; ‘who’s saying Mass today?’; I heard Mass being said’. ‘Saying Mass’ was not necessarily a prayerful experience for the priest, either. There are many instances of priests whose main concern was how swiftly they could get through the ritual prayers that they were required to recite correctly.

The significant change in the rites from 1965 onwards was the move to an experience of worship where the priest and assembly prayed the sacramental rituals together; where both voices are intrinsic to the nature and form of the rite, and where ministry is exercised by both clergy and laity. This paradigmatic shift in liturgical functioning is possible because the evolution in ecclesial thinking allowed for a development in theology around ministry and sacramental mediation.

The Ecclesial World of the 1970 Missal

By contrast the world of the 1970 missal was that of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Key elements throughout this period include the missionary expansion of the nineteenth century, two world wars, the world depression and greater advances in science and in the science of research. The vision of the church was becoming more ecumenical and more willing to engage in a theological debate about the means and purpose of salvation. Evidence of this debate is observable in various documents of the Second Vatican Council, where the means of salvation are broadened and one gains the sense that the questions: ‘Who can be saved?’ ‘How can they be saved?’ and ‘What is the church’s role in salvation?’ are being answered more inclusively, with a greater willingness to consider positions beyond that of a narrow understanding of the necessity of belonging to the Roman Catholic baptismal community and beyond a minimalist understanding of emergency initiation.

The ecclesiology of the ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965) is one of the most important sources of this new ecclesiological vision. In this document (as in others) the Church sought an ecumenical engagement with the Christian world as well as an engagement with the wider human world. It is the ecclesiological perspective, articulated in this seminal document that best interprets Vatican II’s agenda for the liturgical reform in ‘The Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December, 1963).

Sacrosanctum Concilium emphasised sacraments more as signs than causes of salvation (without denying the latter) and sought to increase the signifying quality of its rites, and particular attention needed to be paid to their particular form and pastoral quality. Within ecclesiology, the most influential change was in understanding liturgical rites as sacramenta ecclesiae or sacraments of the Church, ministered in the name of Christ by the baptismal community, which was local or particular, as well as universal—an aspect that was largely unimportant beforehand.

Liturgy, not ritual, was to become the new hallmark of Catholic worship but only then as pastoral liturgy, engaged with the world and responsive to the needs of the people of the times.

Gaudium et Spes’ ecclesiological direction is observable in Sacrosanctum Concilium’s communal-sacramental approach to language, culture and the exercise of baptismal ministry in worship. It is evident, too, in the Council’s wider desire for ecumenical dialogue and evangelical charity. In this way, the ecclesiology of Gaudium et Spes represented a significant challenge to the theological thinking that evolved within the Catholic Church following the European Reformation and to the ecclesiological perspective that produced the missal of Pius V, of which the 1962 missal was the final edited version.

Before, during and following Vatican II, the Church’s sacramental rites, breviary and liturgical calendar were reviewed and reformed according to the norms set down in Sacrosanctum Concilium and subsequent documents. In the process of doing this task, it became obvious that many of the accretions of the past that dominated the 1962 missal had to be removed, such as the multiple signs of the cross, while other major lacks, such as that of a clear epiclesis (calling down of the Holy Spirit) over the bread, wine and community in the Roman Canon, had to be addressed and were, in the new Eucharist Prayers.

A direct result of improved historical research led to the development of the new rites which were considered a ‘return to the original norms of the holy fathers’ (General Instruction to the Roman Missal) in a way that the reforms of the Council of Trent had been unable to do. In this way, the ‘older Roman Missal is brought to fulfilment in the new’, wrote Pope Paul VI, in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal, 6.

It is, therefore clear, that for Pope Paul VI Vatican II completed the task that Trent had set itself and in this way the liturgical reforms expressed a continuity of tradition, while actually breaking with some elements of previous ritual expression. Given this situation, and the canonical authority of a Constitution of an Ecumenical Council, it is difficult to argue that, with the promulgation of the 1970 missal, the missal of 1962 was not suppressed.

A Twofold Use of the Same Roman Rite

Article 1 of the Summorum Pontificum declares that the Roman Missal (Novus Missae) of 1970 promulgated by Pope Paul VI (with its various later editions) is the ‘ordinary form’ (Forma ordinaria) of the lex orandi of the Latin rite and that the Roman Missal of 1962 is to be understood as an ‘extra-ordinary form’ (forma extraordinaria) of that same lex orandi, and that that form was ‘never abrogated’ by the promulgation of the 1970 missal. This new position, which has no precedent in the liturgical history of the Latin Church, is much more than Pope John Paul’s permission (1984/1988) to use the 1962 rite in limited circumstances for particular needs.

Using the maxim lex orandi/lex credendi, attributed to Prosper of Aquitane (435-42 C.E.), is problematic because it is open to various interpretations and applications. In arguing from lex orandi/lex credendi as the justification that ‘these two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi’ (hae duae expressiones ‘legis orandi’ Ecclesiae, minime vero inducent in divisionem ‘legis credendi’ Ecclesiae; sunt enim duo usus ritus Romani.) Summorum Pontificum appears to deal with the complex relationship of the ‘law of supplication (prayer)’ to the ‘law of belief’ in a manner that reduces credendi to dogma and orandi to ritual (Article1. English translation: Papal Letter on 1962 Missal, Vatican City, July 7, 2007, non-official English translation issued by the Vatican Information Services).

Yves Congar wrote that ‘the lex orandi is not the liturgy but the evangelical and apostolic precept of praying without ceasing and for all necessities; this entails a belief in the necessity also of grace, which is the lex credendi’ (Yves M-J Congar, Tradition and Traditions. London: Burns & Oates, 1966, 429).

In Congar’s understanding, orandi cannot be reduced to rite nor credendi to dogmatic definition. The relationship is far more complex, because it indicates how worship rituals manifest the Church’s faith—as a praying-faith-filled community—and how worship is a theological expression of the Church’s engagement in the world, as an expression of the grace that the Church has already received. Here, we are confronted with an ecclesio-liturgical expression of the dynamic of salvation.

The relationship between the lex orandilex crendendi, suggested in Article 1 of Summorum Pontificum, is only possible when one accepts that orandi is essentially rite and ritual, and that credendi is little more than a matter of dogmatic precision. Viewed from this perspective, the distinction of ordinary and extra-ordinary rites is a possible but unnecessary distinction, because one rite should be as ‘ordinary’ as the other. What makes the distinction necessary, and at the same time theologically questionable, is the need to make it at all. It is the necessity to make this distinction in order to support the argument that there can be a dual use of a single rite that reveals the reduction of orandi to rite and ritual and crendendi to dogmatic definition. Summorum Pontificum displays both a clear lack of understanding of the nature of liturgy and a substantive move away from the theology of worship that underpins the Novus Missae in its creation of a ‘designation [that] has no precedent in the liturgical history of the Church and is based on the debatable presumption that the use of the Tridentine Rite was not abrogated by the publication of the liturgical books mandated by Vatican II’ (Mark Francis, ‘Beyond Language’, The Tablet, London 14 July 2007, pp 6-7). For these reasons, ‘a twofold use of one and the same rite’ as argued for in Summorum Pontificum is seriously flawed.

Reconciliation and Rupture

Summorum Pontificum indicates that the reinstatement of the 1962 Missal is a clear move to address the needs of those who have experienced deep pain through the liturgical changes. Those who, like the Pope himself, ‘…have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church’ (Letter to Bishops, p20). In this regard, the unity of the Church is a key concern and any fear that the reinstatement of the 1962 missal will lead to greater division within the Church is unfounded. Worldwide, the requests to use the 1962 missal have been very small given Catholicism’s near billion members. According to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei, there have been requests from around 300 Priests, 79 religious men, 300 religious women, 200 seminarians and around one hundred thousand believers in France, North America, Brazil, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia and China. The question as to how many more requests will be made, in the light of this letter, remains to be seen.

An alternative to the reinstatement of the 1962 missal would have been to demand a full acceptance of the Second Vatican Council from the schismatic-traditionalists before making this move. The wish for the reinstatement of the 1962 missal is most often an element of the rejection of the communion ecclesiology that underpins the ecclesiological vision of the Second Vatican Council.

Another reason for this move is alluded to in the ‘Letter to Bishops’—the growing numbers of younger people who find solace and joy in the pre-conciliar forms of worship. It cannot be discounted that the Motu proprio is also intended to nurture a growing number of neo-conservative young Catholics and seminarians worldwide. In responding to this development, Summorum Pontificum opens up real vistas of possibility in most seminaries, where any request by seminarians to be instructed in the sacramental rituals of the 1962 missal (as well as the 1970 missal) will have to be considered legitimate. The future direction of seminarians’ formation must include a serious debate over the use of two liturgical calendars, two forms of the liturgy of the hours and two forms of confession/ reconciliation-penance. In order to effectively minister as priests of ‘a twofold use of the same Roman rite’ seminarians will require formation in two theologies of church, priesthood, (lay) ministry and salvation.

Notwithstanding the Pope’s desire to be a bridge-builder this decision is also the recognition of a deeper, more significant breakdown within the Church’s own magisterium itself, namely, a schism of belief in the programme of the Second Vatican Council as also being the programme of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the Pope’s concern for continuity and the avoidance of rupture in making this change is a serious concern. In an address to the Roman Curia in 2005 the Pope emphasised that Vatican II, especially in its liturgical reforms, must not be interpreted using a ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’ with the past, or as a new beginning, but rather, it should be understood as part of a ‘continuity of the one subject – Church’ (Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005, quoted in Sandro Magister, ‘Liturgy and Ecumenism: How to Apply Vatican Council II’, Chiesa, Rome, July 19, 2007). Pope Benedict’s emphasis in Summorum Pontificum is clearly to show that this move promotes growth and avoids rupture in the Church’s liturgical-theological tradition.

The concern for continuity is a particular concern of theologia secunda or derived theology, of which magisterial theology is an example. It is secondary or derived theology because it does not act as a source of theology. Theologia prima or primary theology (liturgy and scripture), because they are sources of theology, must always deal with the theological continuity and discontinuity evident in ritual, rite and belief-context.

The irony of Summorum Pontificum’s position regarding rupture and continuity is its assertion that the use of these two missals constitutes ‘a twofold use of the same Roman rite’. This assertion is thoroughly new and a rupture of the liturgical tradition within the Latin rite. Historically, the existence of two distinctly different rites within the one ecclesial-ritual community, has led to an antagonist competition between the adherents of the two rites and to the division of their ritual communion.


Beyond the questions of ritual, gesture, language and the right to choose an ordinary or extra-ordinary form is the necessity to understand the ecclesial context that formed the ecclesial-liturgical expression we call Christian rites. In order to understand this context it is necessary to consider the role of liturgical prayer in the dynamic of salvation and its sacramental-liturgical mediation. With the reinstatement of the 1962 missal we have the reinstatement of an ecclesiology and an understanding of priesthood that is fundamentally different from those underpinning the 1970 missal.

To view the reinstatement of the 1962 missal as just a liturgical change, offering another equally valid option for ‘saying Mass’ indicates, at least to me, a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and role of liturgical worship in the life of the Christian Church. Those who will have no problem with this development will do so, because their understanding of worship is essentially ritualistic, not ecclesiological, and not liturgical.

What is rejected and reinstated here are not two forms of religious ritual but two entirely distinct, and in my opinion, two irreconcilable theologies of how the Church mediates salvation sacramentally and pastorally. This development cannot be reduced to a crass competition between liturgical traditions or equally valid ritual gestures, as if the significant issue lay at that level. What is at stake here is the Church’s self-understanding of her role in the work of God’s salvation and how that role is mediated theologically through the Church’s liturgical worship.

As a Church, we are left with the reality that Catholics may now view the divergent theologies of salvation and sacramental-liturgical mediation as simply additional choices available to them as ritual-consumers. As long as they suspend their understanding of liturgy as being more than just ritual then worshipping according to one rite or the other will not constitute a choice by the worshipper for one understanding of salvation and sacramental-liturgical mediation over the other. This would then be, as Mark Francis observes, to ‘have succumbed to…relativism’ and to have created the ultimate expression of ‘the ‘Catholic cafeteria’’ (Mark Francis, art. cit., p. 6).

The reinstatement of the 1962 missal must include, if it is honestly intended, an acceptance by all Catholics of a return to the values and attitudes of the Counter-reformation and all that it held dear. It is naïve to assert that one can accept the ritual without at the same time accepting the belief-context that created it and is enshrined in it.

Fr Joseph Grayland is a liturgical theologian who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He is Education Manager at the New Zealand Institute of Architects, lecturer in Religious Architecture and litur-gical theology, and is chaplain to the NZRAF.


There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. —Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops.