Friday, August 9, 2013

On the Validity and Legality of the Mass of Paul VI

JohnR, a friend of this blog, recently alluded to something in a comment on the previous post concerning Fr. Anthony Cekada's thesis in The Work of the Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI that the new Mass is invalid. His opinion is ubiquitous in sedevacantist-ville while the opinion that the new Mass is likely valid but certainly illegal was, at least once, popular in SSPX-land. The premises for both these opinions are utterly banal and without theological, historical, or legal merit, yet they exist and the Rad Trad, being in a devious mood, would like to look into them a bit more.


Fr. Anthony Cekada celebrating Mass very Romanly
Toward the end of Work of Human Hands Fr. Cekada argues on Thomistic grounds that the Order of Mass promulgated in 1969 is absolutely invalid in Latin or vernacular. Some hardline SSPXers used to argue that the common mistranslation of pro multis invalidated the consecration of the chalice; taken to its logical conclusion, there would be no Mass in that case and the consecration of the bread, since the Church does not consecrate outside of Mass, would also be invalid. But back to the more general validity issue. The reason Fr. Cekada gives is that the institution narrative in the new rite is treated as just that: a narrative, as opposed to a consecration formula. The words in the new rite, he says, do not contain the intention to consecrate and hence no consecration is possible, even if a validly ordained priest who intends to consecrate speaks the narrative words with the proper intention. Your eyes are not under the spell of glaucoma. You read it correctly. A validly ordained priest with the right intention speaking the words of consecration, which are the same in the new and old rites, cannot consecrate validly. So, is Fr. Cekada right?
His invalidity stance rests on intention within the "form" of the consecration. The old rite gradually builds up the priest's intention, from the sacrificial offertory prayers, through the thanksgiving prayers early in the Canon, transitioning into prayers for the living and dead, and concluding the Canon with an act of offering the Victim to God (Per ipsum....). The new rite certainly lacks this continuous flow, but I think Fr. Cekada would concede that it is not absolutely necessary. His position is specifically concerned with the consecration itself. At this point a little bit of history goes a long way.
When does the consecration happen? At Hoc est enim corpus meum and Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei? That has certainly been the prevailing teaching since the Scholastic era in the high Middle Ages, but it is not as clear cut as one may think. Around the 11th or 12th century priests, at the behest of the faithful often yelling from the nave, elevated the host and chalice during the Canon for their benefit and view. Some say this form of piety was a soft substitution for actual reception of the Blessed Sacrament, owing to the infrequency of reception that arose in the Dark Ages and which continued for centuries afterward. It is also at this point when scholars and theologians begin to question the specific moment of the "change." We are so accustomed to seeing those specific words of the priest as the formulation for the change that we read the rest of the Canon of Mass around it. But consider this: five centuries earlier the same Canon was sung, without pause, aloud in the tone of a preface in its entirety. A preface tone indicates that the prayer is concerned with blessing or consecrating something. The various signs of the cross and gestures made throughout the Canon differed diocese to diocese, sometimes greatly. Sarum, for example, has very few reverences (later genuflections) and a very different series of actions at the Per ipsum. For whatever reason at the end of the first millennium priests began to recite the Canon rather than sing it aloud and the gestures flourished as private signs of devotion in a private prayer. A consequence of these gestures was the partitioning of the Canon, in the priest's experience, into varying parts. The institution of the elevation of the elements had the same consequence, making the institution narratives a unique segment of the Canon.
Yet, without these gestures and motions we could read the Canon's text straight through and see that that institution narrative may well have been seen in earlier times as just that, a narrative. It is the justification, within the text of the prayer, for why the Church celebrates the Mass. It is hardly a story time, but rather is a public supplication to God on the grounds that we are obeying His Only Begotten Son's precepts. In those days one would of course agree that the change had taken place by the end of the Canon, although today we pinpoint it at the institution narrative. Months ago the Rad Trad published an appendix from an English translation of the Ordo Romanus Primus which contains a replication of what a Paschal Mass celebrated by the Pope may have looked like around the year 800 here. As readers will see the celebrant continues through the Canon unabated, without any special notice.
How does this influence our view of Fr. Cekada's thesis? The Rad Trad readily acknowledges that the change, the transubstantiation, happens at the narrative. Why? Two reasons: (1) the priest is given the power to consecrate and he intends to consecrate at this moment and (2) because the Church has agreed for a millennium to treat this particular point as the moment of transubstantiation. What the Rad Trad cannot do, and what the sedevacantist theory does do, is ignore the first ten or eleven centuries when the moment of change is at best vague or a little iffy. The Church, in her kindness and respect for tradition, cannot and does not uproot and ignore the prayers, beliefs, or intentions of previous generations of the faithful. It is for this reason that the Addai and Mari rite is valid. Liturgical historicity takes precedent over, admittedly Church sanctioned, Scholastic theology concerning forms. By ignoring this principle and by ignoring the history of the Canon itself one looks away from a legitimate reading of the narrative as a narrative. Hence the idea that somehow treating this part of the Canon as what it originally was invalidates it on defect of form is myopic.  Also, need the function of the institution words as a narrative and as consecration formula clash?
I have never met a priest or lay person who has read the narrative and thought any other intention other than consecration is latent in the words contained therein. One would think someone other than Fr. Cekada had caught on to the structural defects supposedly present in the altered Canon or new Eucharistic prayers.
Yes, it is very valid.


St. Pius V, Pope of Quo Primum
Part of the fallout within the Society of St. Pius X over Bishop Fellay's failed attempt to give his institution canonical standing was Rome's demand that the Society sign on to the "legitimacy" of the new rite. This sounds odd, but it really just means the legality. In short, was the "new Mass" promulgated in a valid, legal action by the proper authority? Some apparently say no. Others, like one Paul Kramer in his article Legal Status of the Tridentine Mass, argue that since Quo Primum is a dogma of the faith Paul VI avoided going into schism by merely publishing, rather than promulgating, the new Mass.
First, we will discuss Quo Primum. Both of these positions are really variations of each other and they rest on the principle that St. Pius V's bull Quo Primum made the 1570 Missal, or at least the Ordo Missae within it, a dogma of the faith that cannot be violated and which guaranteed that it could never be taken away. This is wrong at two levels:
  1. Quo Primum is primarily a legal document promulgating use of a certain liturgical book within the Latin Church. As a legal and administrative act it cannot bind a successor of equal status should he take the proper steps to depart from it.
  2. Neither Pius V, nor any following pope, thought it was such. Two years earlier the same Pius V published Quod a nobis promulgating a Roman Breviary for general use which contains the same rules of use and prohibitions against alterations and threats of Divine retribution as Quo Primum. Urban VIII did not go into schism or heresy by changing the hymns and no one has suggested the 1911 breviary changes were illegal or invalid (although they were unwise).
Confusion over this point may have been compounded when Benedict XVI wrote that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated, which begs the question: how is any following liturgy legal? Were priests who held out in the 1970s and onward justified in their use of 1962? The Rad Trad, no canonist, does know of one distinction in Canon Law that could serve us well here and which may not, legally at least, justify those who adhered to 1962 after the promulgation of the 1969 Ordo. In Canon Law there is a taxonomy of "derogation" and "abrogation." The former is the partial removal or replacement of the existing law while the latter is its outright suppression. To abrogate the 1962 Missal, Paul VI would have had to issue some sort of legal document explicitly prohibiting use of that Missal. This was clearly never done. The "extraordinary" rite was never abrogated. All well and good? New Mass illegal? Not so fast.
The Pauline liturgy was not introduced to the Latin Church by the abrogation of the "traditional" liturgy. For example, John XXIII compressed festal categories into Class I, Class II, and Class III, not abrogating the old calendar entirely, but derogating the ranking system within it in his Rubricarum Instructum. The same holds true for his changes to the breviary lessons, not abrogating the [not so] old Mattins, but derogating the particular way of picking lessons in place in 1955 (both changes were ultimately made by Pius XII, although John XXIII pulled the trigger on the 1960 set). Similarly the 1962 Missal was not abrogated with the publication of the 1965 Missal, but anything in it that differed from 1965 was derogated (use of Latin in readings, the Introibo prayers, the "doubling" of certain texts, ordinary of the first half of Mass in Latin, the communion formula, the Last Gospel, and some other details). 1962 was not strictly "abrogated" but it was by no means usable. The 1967 document Tres abhinc annos introduced further changes by derogating what was different in the 1965 Missal: optional use of a weekday lectionary, optional use of different orations, the Canon was not abrogated but the rubrics governing the priest's actions during it were derogated and replaced, the entire Canon is said aloud, and other alterations; interestingly, IV.17 in that document is the first official instance, to the Rad Trad's knowledge, of a rubric that assumes Mass facing the people could be ordinary and normal outside of a few Roman parishes. On the feast of the Assumption in 1968 the new Eucharistic prayers (2-4) were introduced, again not replacing the entire existing liturgy, but replacing and derogating certain rules and rubrics, this time governing the Canon, therein. A new Pontificale came about that same year.
Here comes the 1969 change. Paul VI did not introduce a new Missal or a new Mass in 1969. He introduced what was mostly a new text for the ordinary of the Mass. The Canon and Eucharistic prayers, lectionary, rubrics, calendar, and Divine Office remained unchanged from the previous year. Even some parts of the ordinary itself were unchanged, given the significant alterations in 1964-8. Perhaps the most dramatic different between 1968 and 1969 is the contrasting offertory prayers, but most everything else matches. The Missal introduced by Paul VI in 1970 again did not "abrogate" 1962 or even whatever was used in 1969, but de facto derogated whatever differed from it: the old sacramentary and [again, no so] old lectionary was replaced. Otherwise, 1970 and 1969 match up very closely.
The idea that the new liturgy is somehow canonically illegal or that the 1962 liturgy was abrogated relies on the view that the Pauline rites were introduced and imposed instantaneously rather than gradually and under transitional, derogation-based legal auspices.
Thank you for reading a such dry and disinteresting post,
The Rad Trad


  1. "The Church, in her kindness and respect for tradition, cannot and does not uproot and ignore the prayers, beliefs, or intentions of previous generations of the faithful. It is for this reason that the Addai and Mari rite is valid. Liturgical historicity takes precedent over, admittedly Church sanctioned, Scholastic theology concerning forms."

    This dovetails, IMO, with what you mentioned in previous posts about theology being divorced from liturgy, and giving greater weight to theology over liturgy.

    Since you're currently attending the Byzantine rite, maybe you can clarify something for me: do they understand consecration to take place during the epiklesis?

  2. Generally they do, although some simply say "by the end of the anaphora the change has happened." The words of the epiclesis do not really leave room for doubt in my opinion: "Send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered, and make this bread the precious body of Your Christ. Amen! And make that which is in these chalices the precious blood of Your Christ. Amen! Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen! Amen! Amen!"

  3. Piggybacking off the St. Addai and Mari point, the Vatican did declare that the liturgy of Addai and Mari is valid, not only because of antiquity but also because it does contain the words of Institution sparsed throughout the liturgy.

    This doesn't confused me as much as St. Gregory's comment that the Apostles consecrated with the Lords prayer alone. That one really doesn't make sense to me and Fortescue notes that some suggested he was just wrong. Any thoughts Rad Trad?

    Great article and very helpful making the distinction between "derogation" and "abrogation."