In the wake of the Council of Trent, when Pope St. Pius V standardized the Roman Missal– the Roman Rite, with minor discrepancies in various places, which had pre-dated Trent by more than a thousand years– he made his wishes very clear in the great Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum:
…whereas, by this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it under the penalty of Our displeasure.
…in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force…
I can only imagine that the great saint was very displeased with the way things turned out in the late 1960s. The Novus Ordo Missae certainly was a change. And yet some will cling to the amusing notion that there were significant changes to the Roman Missal from 1570 to 1955, when Bugnini began the demolition process through the “restored” Holy Week ceremonies.
Those events of the sad past did not work to undo the fact that the Paul VI did not effectively suppress or abrogate the Roman Missal, which had most recently been published in 1962. This position was legally correct, even being confirmed by a commission of Cardinals convened by Blessed Pope John Paul II: the Roman Missal was still in force, and any priest could say it.
We know, however, that the many modernists in the Church, both clergy and laity, practically suppressed the traditional Mass, and acted as though it were lawfully suppressed. Surely many did this in good faith as they saw it, and in ignorance. But some did not possess that good faith. And so, without any mandate from Pope or Council, without any direction to do so in the new Missal or from any authoritative Church document, the altars were smashed, altar rails ripped out, sanctuaries whitewashed, the truths of the faith that so naturally informed the Church’s liturgy, and which liturgy supported them in return, were discarded. And people went away. And souls were lost.
Even John Paul II, who in some respects made the traditional Mass more available, phrased access to it in the terms of “indult” (as though it were a permitted deviation from the law), first in 1984, and then again in 1988 as he sought to calm the waters after the stand-off with the SSPX over the episcopal consecrations of that year.
From 1984 to 2007, there was progress in the spread of the availability of the traditional Mass, but this progress was halting, and could reasonably be described as glacial in pace. And yet…
It did spread.
The liturgy of the Church compels. It is the most perfect combination of beauty and truth that we shall see in this vale of tears. The irregular situation of the SSPX put the issue in a political bind, but the truth was always the same: The Mass had never been abrogated or suppressed. The SSPX kept the Mass going. Other priestly societies with clear canonical faculties arose: the FSSP in 1988 as it split with the SSPX over the consecration dispute; the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 1990; Campos, Brazil was granted an Apostolic Administration for the traditional Mass and sacraments. There were others, too, some societies of priests, some religious orders, and the few courageous parish priests who braved the displeasure of their ordinaries, the scorn and derision of their confreres, and even the anger of their flocks, to keep the Mass alive.
The struggle of the outcasts, the faithful Catholics who kept the traditional Mass alive in hotel rooms, funeral parlors, private homes, and in Churches, too, is one to which I was very late in coming. By the time I was drawn to the timeless Mass– and knew that I had to let others know about it– the iceberg was already beginning to break apart.
To give homage to those people upon whose shoulders we now stand, I quote from today’s post on Rorate Caeli:
“For thirty seven years, a whole generation of militant Catholics, religious or lay members of the Militant Church (a generation reaching from 7 to 97 years of age) suffered, without giving in, openly defying the arbitrary interdict on the Traditional Mass. We think of our dead: Cardinal Ottaviani, Father Calmel, Father Raymond Dulac, Monsignor Renato Pozzi, Monsignor Lefebvre, Father Guérard. And, among the laymen: Cristina Campo, Luce Quenette, Louis Salleron, Eric de Saventhem. The pontifical goodwill is for them as a light breeze, which sweetly brings peace to their tombs. Wherever they are now, they do not need it anymore. But it is their memory amongst us which is appeased and elevated.”