1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.

3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

– Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium

I went to Mass for the Assumption last week in St Mary’ Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne. I was a little late due to unforeseen traffic problems. It appears the priest (an elderly gentleman) has some sort of difficulty with his eyes. He seems to have taken this as the green light to invent almost the entire text of the Mass. He exercised the distressing option in the Novus Ordo of giving little talks before every reading. He did not read the Gospel himself but had a layman do so. All the orations were invented on the spot as was the preface. The Eucharistic Prayer was, I think, variations based on number 2. The priest decided to say “for all” and not “for many” in the words of consecration making it impossible to go and receive communion. It seemed likely from the tone of the priest’s invented orations and semonettes that his use of “for all” represented a taste for the heresy of universalism.  He also asserted that St Luke had made up the Magnificat and that these were not really the words of our Blessed Lady. He used the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Roman Liturgical Creed (another distressing option in the Novus Ordo). When there are so many Arians around the use of the Apostles’ Creed is a wholly inadequate safeguard of orthodoxy as well as a totally random innovation. At the end he processed out singing from memory Immaculate Mary complete with the verses about the Pope and the restoration of Mary’s Dowry.

The overall impression was of a man wholly confused as to what is and is not Catholic doctrine and what is and is not acceptable behavior in a Catholic Priest. It is absurd that someone should have served out their priestly life in such a state, it is also a cause of great scandal to the faithful. In general, England is in a far better condition (especially in the South) than mainland Europe but the scourge of ‘extraordinary ministers’ (supposedly justified by the obsessive compulsion to administer the chalice to the laity) is a serious obstacle to renewal. Hexham and Newcastle has generally been very good for the extraordinary form. It is good to see that Fr Brown has been moved to St Joseph’s in Gateshead. One hopes he will resume his daily low Mass which suffered from the inaccessibility of St Mary’s Forest Hall. Sadly the longstanding Missa Cantata at St Dominic’s Newcastle had perished because the Dominican Friars now stationed there refuse to celebrate the authentic liturgy of the Roman Church.

This is a complement to my post, What were the good fruits of Vatican II? My question is how the Church of Rome, presiding over the charity, may restore a just and Catholic peace to the Church. Obviously she cannot do everything: the co-operation of all the bishops is needed, not to mention the daily conversion of life required of all the faithful. But there are some things that only she can do.

Since the last Council there has been a bifurcation of holy Church. Before the Council there was one Roman missal (the variants of the religious orders not creating any sense of disunity); now there are two. Before it, there was one Roman ritual; now there are two. Before it there was one Vulgate bible; now there are two. And so with the catechism, the sacramentals, the calendar, the martyrology, and the divine office. However much one speaks of ‘continuity’, all this tends in practice fatally to compromise the Church’s claim to be, like her divine Spouse, semper eadem. It is foolish to suppose that the later member of any of these couplets will be suppressed any time soon or ever denounced by the Holy See; in any case, the Catholic cause is not furthered by the Church of Rome’s humiliating herself. But what we can desire is that a primacy of honour may be recognised as belonging to the elder member of each pair. This recognition is already implicitly contained in the statement of Universae Ecclesiae that ‘on account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honour’. If the due degree of honour is measured by venerable antiquity, then it is clear which version of the Roman Missal merits a higher honour; and so with the other examples of bifurcation. Things are probably still too sensitive for the pope himself to speak about such a primacy of honour, but we can hope that some cardinals will begin to do so. We can, however, hope and pray that the Roman pontiff celebrates Mass publicly according to the ancient use.

Next, it seems very desirable that something be done about the Novus Ordo Missae. Even though the SSPX are doubtless at fault in strict theology to deny its bare ‘legitimacy’, is it not the part of authority to have respect for the tender consciences even of erring brothers, especially brothers who have done so much to fight the silent apostasy of the West? To this end, we can desire that additions be made to the new missal such that it becomes impossible to celebrate Mass without explicitly affirming the doctrine of the propitiatory sacrifice. Canon II and the offertory prayers must therefore be amended. In fact, it is perhaps not too much to hope that the present offertory prayers will be simply suppressed and replaced with the Tridentine.

How else can the new rite be brought under the authority of tradition rather than used as a tool against tradition? The pope could instruct the bishops to institute lay-men as acolytes and lectors (which may well be the same as the minor orders of the same name). The indult for communion in the hand, please God, will be withdrawn. The faithful can be invited to receive kneeling, and women and girls to veil their hair or cover their heads. It can be made a requirement of new churches that the tabernacle be on the main altar, thus preventing celebration versus populum.

Next, the ambiguities in Vatican II must be dealt with. First, ecumenism. Ambiguous expressions such as ‘the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church’ should, I respectfully suggest, not be used; it needs to be reasserted that non-Catholics are not members of the Church, even if they can be in a state of grace. The doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, in its proper interpretation, needs to be re-affirmed. The expression ‘partial communion’ should be abandoned, as I argued recently. The canon about giving Holy Communion in certain circumstances to non-Catholics with the Catholic faith in the sacrament should be interpreted formally, to mean people who not only believe the same thing as the Catholic Church but who believe it because it is proposed by the Catholic Church, even if for some good reason (such as the absence of a priest) they have not yet been received. The traditional prohibition of participation by Catholics in non-Catholic services should surely be re-affirmed, even if pastors may for the moment turn a blind eye to certain mild cases in order to avoid greater evils.

Next, collegiality. It needs to be affirmed that the bishops have the right only to govern their local churches. They do not have the strict right to share in the pope’s governance of the universal Church, though it is obviously fitting that they be consulted in certain cases. Strictly, there can be only one supreme power in the Church, not two; this supreme power belongs to the pope, and he can exercise it either alone or with his brother-bishops, as he judges fit.

Finally, for Vatican II, religious liberty. The social kingship of our Lord should be taught ‘from the housetops’, as well as its corollary, the active co-operation of the civil power with the apostolic hierarchy. The Church’s right to coerce erring members with the aid of the civil power should be re-affirmed, as well as the latter’s innate right to protect the common good of society from the harmful effects of heresy.

Last of all, and in conjunction with these clarifications, we need a list of propositions against the errors of the age. Perhaps as a concession to the times, it could be expressed as a list of affirmed truths rather than a list of condemned errors. For example, ‘Only men can be ordained to the priesthood’; ‘according to the usual law of God’s providence, no one who dies  without actually receiving the sacrament of baptism, and without attaining the use of reason, receives the beatific vision’; ‘only matrimonial acts of a kind that are open to the procreation of new life are pleasing to God’. But however it is done, they should not, this time, be introduced by a monsignor saying that they are not infallible.

Having spent several hundred pages excoriating the French Revolution, Edmund Burke becomes at last ironically emollient:-

I do not deny that among an infinite number of acts of violence and folly, some good may have been done. They who destroy every thing certainly will remove some grievance. They who make everything new, have a chance that they may establish something beneficial.

When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking of Vatican II. Of course, there can never be a true revolution in the Church, since her constitution is divinely guaranteed. Still, they changed almost everything they could: the Vulgate, the rite of Mass, the rites of all the sacraments, the rites of all the sacramentals, the rite of exorcism, all the hours of the divine office, the code of canon law, the constitutions of all the religious orders, the rosary, the calendar. Among all these quasi-revolutionary acts, was anything good achieved? The only thing that comes immediately to my mind is the restoration of the authentic hymns in the breviary, undoing the classicizing revision of the 17th Century. However, the authentic hymns had always been maintained in the breviaries of religious orders, anyhow.