Theology & History I: the relationship between liturgical tradition and antiquarianism

Theology and History

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology and History I – How do we understand the relationship between the liturgy and theology?
Theology and History II – Why is it crucial to understand this relationship?

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses the historical narrative in de Mattei’s Love for the Papacy.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters. (Down for editing)
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith (Down for editing)
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church (Down for editing)

Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser I
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser II
Part IVa and IVb will consider the implications of a so-called “heretical pope.”
Part V will assess this “historical theology” in light of Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

When this piece was first published, there were rumours about impending restrictions to the the traditional Mass, fuelled by a questionnaire sent to bishops and the expulsion of a Latin Mass group (FSSP) from the diocese of Dijon. Since then, of course, we have seen the publishing of the motu proprio Traditiones Custodes.

This piece, which is the first part of a wider study of relationship between theology and history, can be taken as a pre-emptive comment on Traditiones Custodes, in so far as it represents a full explanation of the duties of each Catholic towards the received rites of the Church.

Photo: Pope Pius XII (Source)

Some writers are calling for the Catholic world to unite“on the basis of the Tradition of the Church. To this end, we present these articles on the relationship between theology and history, and between tradition and antiquarianism.

This first piece considers the nature of liturgical tradition, which will explain the principles shared by liturgical traditionalists; and this in turn will provide a framework for discussing different traditionalist perspectives on theology and doctrine. In all respects, we hope to build consensus and to form this desired“new more compact front of orthodoxy.”

Liturgical traditionalism versus antiquarianism

Is traditionalism a simple adherence to that which is old? No, quite the contrary.

In Mediator Dei (1947), his encyclical on the liturgy, Pope Pius XII wrote that “it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity.”[1]

This encyclical was prompted by certain excesses of the “liturgical movement”, which he taught were “straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence.”[2] A key theme in the encyclical is the opposition between “tradition” and “antiquarianism” – or “what we have received” versus “what is old”.

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Liturgical scholar Laszlo Dobszay gives an easily-understandable definition of “the Roman liturgy”, calling it a family of rites manifesting “the liturgical practice of Rome, continuously living and organically developing, from the fourth century, [and] fixed in the eighth—ninth centuries.” [3]

Various rites or uses preserved this Roman identity, amidst minor developments and variations, and under the guardianship of the hierarchy. Fr Adrian Fortescue, the great English scholar of history and liturgy and author of The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (1914) wrote that from at least the late sixth century:

All later modifications were fitted into the old arrangement, and the most important parts were not touched. From, roughly, the time of St. Gregory we have the text of the Mass, its order and arrangement, as a sacred tradition that no one ventured to touch except in unimportant details.[4]

In this context, the “traditional” or “received rites” of the Roman liturgy could refer, at least in the most part, to those in use when Pius XII was writing. These received rites were the fruit of this generally slow and so-called organic development: in this sense, far from being old, they represented the “current” manifestations of the Roman liturgy. They broadly continue to exist as what is today called the traditional Latin Mass – and most traditional Catholics attend Mass offered according to the Missal of 1962.[5]

By contrast, “Antiquarianism” is the drive to change the received rites on the basis of historical scholarship. This can be by cutting away “historical accretions”, or by introducing supposedly ancient practices. In his encyclical, Pius XII gives examples of what such scholars were advocating, including:

  • Using tables instead of altars;
  • Abandoning the Latin language; and
  • Using crucifixes depicting the risen (rather than suffering) Christ.[6]

Pius XII called these ideas “straying from the straight path”. While early practices were “worthy of all veneration”, he said, Catholics must not esteem them as better just because they carry “the savor and aroma of antiquity.”[7] On the contrary, he taught that:

The temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof.[8]

[All emphases throughout are our own, unless otherwise indicated.]

But if such things were indeed done in the past, why would Pius XII be against restoring them? Much could be said about this from different perspectives, including the “extrinsic” intentions associated with ecumenical or rationalist agendas. This essay will focus on the “intrinsic” theological problems with antiquarianism, in three broad areas.

1. The contingent nature of historical studies.

Pius XII praises the study of the liturgy and its history.[9] But our understanding of history – like other disciplines – depends on what evidence is available at a given time. It is not based on a divinely-revealed deposit, like theology: instead, it builds arguments based on records, archaeology, and so on. Its conclusions are subject to change as new evidence emerges, and it is possible for the scholarly consensus to be proved quite wrong at times.

Consider the question of Mass facing the people, which was imposed in part due to it being, according to historians, a practice of antiquity. But such historical ideas are less certain today,[10] and who knows how else scholarly ideas might change in the future? Should we be constantly updating the liturgy in light of what scholars currently believe used to happen?

Certain practices – such as Holy Communion on the tongue – may have developed out of reverence for the holy mysteries; changing them back to something more primitive, even if it was good in its own time, can destroy this reverence.

It is also possible, given human nature, for scholars with political agendas to actually even invent “historical practices” – even with good intentions.

So aside from the potential of an ever-changing scholarly consensus to be inaccurate, its proposals can even explicitly or implicitly contradict the faith. To this end, Pius XII teaches that the principles of “certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty” frequently lead to “compromise […] in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith.”[11]

This is because the Church and not the history department is infallible in matters of faith.

She is not at the whim of the history department. She can consult such disciplines, but has no obligation to conform her rites to changing academic opinions, and great harm can come from it. The liturgy – and the doctrine that it presents – glorifies God and sanctifies us: we don’t sanctify it, least of all with the latest ingenious discoveries.

2. The subjective status of antiquarianism

Even assuming we reach historical certainty, and the changes proposed would not undermine a developed sense of reverence, which period of history would impose itself on us? The Last Supper? People disagree as to whether the Last Supper was a ritualised act, or simple meal, or something in between. How can we change rites based on such uncertainty?

And which practices of history impose themselves on us? The selection would be highly subjective. There are practices which almost no one claims that we should restore – such as men and women sitting separately in Church, or the expulsion of catechumens and non-Catholics before the Offertory. But why shouldn’t we restore them? What are our criteria for this elusive authenticity?

Antiquarianism, therefore, puts the received rites (and their guardian, the pope) at the mercy of academic lobbyists, who will advocate for their favoured liturgical customs dug up from favoured periods of history, or for the removal of what they claim to be accretions.

This will not always be in the interests of orthodoxy.

Why all changes cause a certain harm to the common good

“Pastoral needs” are sometimes suggested as a criterion for change: but what pastoral needs were served by holy communion in the hand? Is it pastoral to destabilise liturgical custom?

St Thomas Aquinas (Source)

In fact, St Thomas Aquinas teaches that any change to law (including liturgical law) causes a certain harm: this is because change is contrary to custom, which has a powerful, normative effect on the observation of all laws. Any change to any law necessarily diminishes the power of custom to support the common good.[12] As such, the good gained by a change in law must also compensate for this harm done.[13]

But in this context, whatever good might be gained is unlikely to compensate for the harm. Such change undermines a stable, “organic” liturgy so necessary for the sanctification of Catholics, and particularly for families and children. It creates instability, to little benefit: and if things are changed in light of “scholarly consensus”, this inevitably suggests to the common man that doctrine can also change. Religion needs the stability of unchanging customs like Friday abstinence, the Sunday obligation – and the received rites.

Partly for these reasons, Pius XII calls such academic changes “perverse” and says that they also “tend to paralyze and weaken” the sanctifying power of the liturgy.[14]

We are not claiming that there can never be any changes to the liturgy, nor denying the Roman Pontiff’s rights over it – rather that changes must be of a certain sort, and there must be a sufficient good attained in order to justify them. Pope Leo XII taught that there should be no liturgical innovations “unless for very grave reasons and by the authorization of the Holy See.”[15] This admits of degrees, and there are precedents in history. For example, calendars have been pruned in history, as the number of saints is always growing and can obscure things like the seasons of the year. Similarly, the Church and the pope have reined-in local variations to protect unity of worship throughout the world.

But Pius XII not only teaches that antiquarian proposals were beyond such changes: he also actually rejects the supposed good of “purity” sought by such scholars, as it reveals a faulty concept of tradition and providence, as we shall see below.

3. Tradition and Providence

The practical problems discussed resolve themselves into this faulty concept of tradition and providence. Making an ever-evolving “understanding of historical sources” into the standard for our liturgy is subjective and riddled with problems. By contrast, “holding fast to what we have received” is the only stable, objective course (2 Thess 2.14).


The liturgy is a monument of the Church’s faith. To consider this, we will turn to the writings of a few significant figures, and consider how the liturgy exists in the life of the Church.

Dom Prosper Guéranger (Source)

Dom Prosper Guéranger was the great Abbot of Solesmes, who restored French monasticism after the Revolution, and wrote voluminously on liturgical matters. He called the liturgy “Tradition at its strongest and best” and said that it stood as a bulwark against “every sectarian who wishes to introduce a new doctrine”. He rejected the idea of “returning to the primitive” as doing violence to the received rites:

They prune, they efface, they cut away; everything falls under their blows, and while one is waiting to see the original purity of the divine cult reappear, one finds himself encumbered with new formulas dating only from the night before, and which are incontestably human.[16]

In England, in 1898, the embattled English bishops wrote an eloquent defence of Leo XIII’s bull on Anglican orders and liturgical changes. They considered the idea of liturgical change from a different angle:

[The idea that local churches were] permitted to subtract prayers and ceremonies in previous use, and even to remodel the existing rites in the most drastic manner, is a proposition for which we know of no historical foundation, and which appears to us absolutely incredible.[17]

And why was this important?

[…] Immemorial usage, whether or not it has in the course of ages incorporated superfluous accretions, must, in the estimation of those who believe in a divinely guarded, visible Church, at least have retained whatever is necessary; so that in adhering rigidly to the rite handed down to us we can always feel secure; whereas, if we omit or change anything, we may perhaps be abandoning just that element which is essential.

The bishops make two points here: that God has guided the Church’s liturgy; and that we must humbly receive it. This passage beautifully expresses the docility and piety which we must have towards our received tradition.

Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388-1468) wrote extensively about the Church and the papacy. In one of his texts, he discusses the hypothesis of a pope deciding not to observe things “universally ordained” by the Church, “above all in relation to Divine Worship.” He considers the idea of a pope rejecting sacred gestures and “other similar things which have been decreed in a general way for perpetual utility”. He concludes that such a person “departing in such a way, and with pertinacity, from the universal observance of the Church […] would fall into schism.”[18]

If even popes are so bound, how much more are the rest of us?

Our duties

In a sense, we are not even at liberty to accept radical changes. St Paul commands us to “stand fast: and hold the traditions, which [we] have learned, whether by word or by [his] epistle.” (2 Thess 2.14).

For centuries, each time someone took certain offices, he made a public profession of faith. This included diocesan bishops, parish priests and even some lay professors.[19] From the Council of Trent until 1967, this was the Creed of Pius IV, which included the following words:

The apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all other observances and constitutions of that same Church I most firmly admit and embrace. […]

I also receive and admit the accepted [receptos – “received”] and ap­proved rites of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the aforesaid sacraments.[20]

Note that both apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions are to be firmly embraced, which undermines the popular idea that so-called “small-t” traditions are a matter of indifference. Until the late 1960s, those converting to the faith professed basically the same words, with hands on the book of the Gospels.[21]

But it is not as if only converts and clerics are bound by this profession. As is clear, the whole Church is bound to the ecclesiastical traditions and received rites: bound to them with duties of love, reverence and piety. The diffusion of this solemn profession of faith throughout the Church indicates her desire for us all to be loyal to what we have received from her.

Essay continues below.

The theological basis of liturgical tradition

To confirm our interpretations, we can see a remarkable harmony amongst theologians and authors of theology manuals writing closely before and – naturally – after Mediator Dei. We have explained the value of these texts in their own right elsewhere. Consider the following selections of such authors from around the same period:

Mgr Joseph Clifford Fenton teaches that universal “liturgical formulae and directions” are the fruit of the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church. The prayers of the liturgy are therefore “infallible indications of the meaning conveyed by Jesus Christ in the message which he gave to mankind as divinely received truth”.[22]

Fr Adolphe Tanquerey teaches that the Roman Liturgy, as it is “approved in a special manner by the Supreme Pontiffs, cannot contain errors in dogma”.[23] This is because, as Fr Michaele Nicolau SJ teaches:

The liturgies teach us […] about the faith of a church, that is, of all the Fathers and faithful who used that liturgy. If the liturgies are universal, then they imply a universal tradition and magisterium (ordinary), and they are documents of great value.[24] [Italics are from the original.]

Pius XII confirms that the liturgy is a “source of theology”, and that the Church looks “to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment.”[25] They witness to the faith; proceeding from it “as the fruit comes from the tree”, and expressing truths that are “already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful.”[26] This is how both he and Pius IX treated the liturgy regarding their Marian definitions (1950 and 1854).

Fr E. Sylvester Berry wrote that the received rites “not only demand, but in fact are, outward professions of faith, and [specifically,] the one faith taught throughout the world”.[27] Pius XII confirms that the liturgy “is a continuous profession of Catholic faith” and that the gradual developments of the liturgy “are the sacred language [the Church] uses, as the ages run their course, to profess to her divine Spouse her own faith.” [28]

Is it possible to profoundly modify the law of prayer, without indirectly also modifying the law of belief? These examples, taken from respected pre-Vatican II authors, clarify the meaning of this famous maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer determines the law of believing). The universal and ordinary magisterium is infallible, and the liturgy is a witness, teacher and confessor of the faith: as such, we cannot accept anything that contradicts what it implies, and nor should we wish to “improve” it according to our own dim lights.

Further – is it possible for the Church to profoundly modify the law of prayer with the deliberate goal of modifying the law of belief? As the First Vatican Council taught – repeated by St Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi – however learning and studies may progress, we must always hold to the doctrine of the Church “according to the same dogma, the same sense, the same acceptation.”[29] While the Church has the authority to introduce or change the law of prayer, evidently she does not have the right to change the faith.

Oza struck dead for touching the Ark of the Lord. Source

These rites are not simply the subject of aesthetic preference, but rather the holy expression of tradition and the Church’s magisterium. Just as God struck Oza dead for reaching out his hands to steady the Ark of the Covenant, and just as an angel cut off the hands of him who touched our Lady’s bier, just so should we fear to lay our hands upon the received rites of Holy Church.[30]


But as we said, the problem is not only a faulty concept of tradition, but also of providence.

Tradition itself is guided by God. Pius XII taught that the liturgy had grown through “gradual addition, through successive development.”[31] The Church, he teaches, is “a living organism” and her liturgy, like a tree, “grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded.”[32] Its generally slow growth is contrasted to the “temerity and daring” of those seeking to introduce supposedly antique practices.

The received rites, he taught, are the fruit of “the progress and development of the sacred liturgy during the long and glorious life of the Church.”[33] He teaches that these developments were guided by, among other things, the“guidance of the Holy Spirit.”[34]

The idea that “the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church” could have even partly come from “forgetfulness” of true principles, and needed “recalling to greater simplicity” was actually condemned by Pius VI in 1795 as “rash, offensive to pious ears, insulting to the Church [and] favorable to the charges of heretics against it.”[35]

This is because, as Pius XII taught, the development of tradition attests to “the abiding life of the immaculate Spouse of Jesus Christ through these many centuries.”[36] This life is shown through the wholesomeness of the rites in the providential way that they develop, rather than through artificial antiquarianism:

Obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who, in matters liturgical, would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.[37]

Pius XII teaches, by contrast, that the “more recent liturgical rites” – again, the received rites of the Church, not artificial constructions – “deserve reverence and respect.”[38] He explicitly teaches of the received rites:

They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. […] They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man. [39]

This is the attitude of Catholics towards tradition: docilely accepting what we have received. The idea that the fruit of this development could need radical updating, based on passing academic zeitgeists, is foreign to the Catholic attitude and lacks due piety towards tradition.

Antiquarianism implicitly rejects God’s providential guidance of the Church, and explicitly rejects the Catholic attitude towards tradition.

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Are traditionalists antiquarians?

The answer should be clear. What happened following Vatican II was not mere liturgical development: it was the suppression of the received rites, and their replacement with new constructions. This is an observation of fact, and those responsible were open and proud about it. Fr Gélineau, a consultor for the Consilium, said: “The Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone.”[40]

Not only was this a suppression and replacement of rites, but effectively also of the faith expressed by those rites. Never before had respected churchmen like Cardinal Ottaviani (retired prefect of the Holy Office) and Cardinal Bacci made such dramatic claims about liturgical reform:

[The new rite] represents, overall and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was elaborated [at] the Council of Trent which, by permanently fixing the “canons” of the rite, erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which could undermine the integrity of the Mystery.[41]

Virtually the same claim was made by Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, the then-Ordinary of Campos Diocese, Brazil. In 1969, he wrote of his “anguish of conscience” to Paul VI, warning that the omissions, changes, rules and official explanations meant that:

[The new missal] does not express, as it ought to do, the theology of the Holy Sacrifice as established by the Holy Council of Trent in its XXII session. The teaching of the simple catechism cannot overcome this fact.[42]

He received no response.

Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer (Source)

Never before – except perhaps during the Protestant reformation – had priests and laity who simply wanted to use the received rites been so punished, by being driven out of their parishes and into private homes, hotel rooms and rented halls. As is well known, this was all achieved through a sort of tyrannical appeal to obedience – a species of what we have called, “weaponized orthodoxy.” In previous times, such persecution was conducted by hostile governments and heresiarchs; not by “churchmen”.

To crown it all, various people held that the received rites were never legally suppressed, making loyalty to these rites all the more justified. This idea was also expressed by Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum, but this hardly solves the problem of their practical suppression for decades.[43] This is aside from the question of whether such a suppression – if it had actually occurred – would have conformed to the requirements of a true law anyway.

Aside from the matters of faith raised, imagine being a bishop or priest who, as discussed above, had publicly professed your loyalty to the “ecclesiastical traditions” and the “accepted and approved rites”. Some had made this profession multiple times, for each new office.[44]

Imagine being a convert who had professed this same loyalty, with your hand on the Gospels – perhaps with the great social or familial costs that can accompany conversion to the Catholic faith.

Can such persons, or indeed any Catholic, be blamed for holding themselves obliged by these professions and this loyalty?

Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci framed the matter in similar terms, referring to the faith itself:

[The new rite] renounces actually being an expression of the doctrine that the Council of Trent defined as being of divine and Catholic faith. Yet the Catholic conscience remains forever bound to this doctrine. As a result, the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass puts every Catholic in the tragic need to choose.[45]

In short, this dramatic break is different. It is not only not an “organic development” of the liturgy as described by Pius XII, but it is also the proposal (or imposition) of a new faith, at the very least implicitly. This writer’s late grandmother said on two occasions: “It’s a different religion. They changed the religion.” Whether she was right or not, she was not the only one to say such things.

Now, questions must be asked about how all this happened, and what it means. But those who cleave to rites used within living memory, to which many are still committed by their public solemn professions, which never actually disappeared, and were not legally suppressed – these people are not antiquarians, and are not doing anything like constructing a liturgy from historical studies. It is risible to use Mediator Dei to call them antiquarians: all they have done is hold to the received rites against new antiquarian constructions. This just isn’t what Pius XII is condemning.


We must accept what we have received from the Church.

Her received rites are the fruit of providential guidance, sanctified by the use of saints and martyrs; standing as monuments, safeguarding the Faith and demanding our piety. Accepting “tradition” is accepting the mature, beautiful tree, and being like “the birds of the air [that] dwell in the branches”; accepting antiquarianism is rejecting the tree in favour of the mustard seed, “the least indeed of all seeds” (Mt 13.31-2).

Here, then, is the true Catholic disposition, as commanded by Pius XII. It does not reject all liturgical change and development: but it would be foreign to this disposition to claim that the fruits of centuries of growth must be “improved” by replacing them with new rites, even if they are based on “good” historical scholarship.

But in his rejection of liturgical antiquarianism, Pius XII draws a comparison to theological antiquarianism.[46] Consider the structure of his argument below:

Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. […]

Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.[47]

Regrettably, theology itself falls prey to this same antiquarianism: and today, even some liturgical traditionalists spurn the received doctrine on the basis of historical studies, or arbitrarily-chosen authorities from history.[48] But in his defence of the traditional liturgy, Pius XII takes it as a manifest fact that the Church’s doctrine enjoys this same providential guidance, systematised and explained by the magisterium and by authorised theologians.

It does us no good to cleave to the received rites if we then do not cleave to the received doctrine. Just as we cannot turn to ancient or arbitrary authorities to reject the received liturgy, in the same way we cannot make received theology subject to the findings of historians, or reject its theses as untenable in light of their historical narratives. We must hold fast to what the Church gives us, and reject every supposedly antique novelty.

In subsequent parts, we shall explain the true relationship between theology and history, and later consider how the antiquarian methods condemned by Pope St Pius X have unfortunately been adopted by some modern traditionalist writers.

Theology and History

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology and History I – How do we understand the relationship between the liturgy and theology?
Theology and History II – Why is it crucial to understand this relationship?

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses the historical narrative in de Mattei’s Love for the Papacy.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters. (Down for editing)
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith (Down for editing)
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church (Down for editing)

Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser I
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser II
Part IVa and IVb will consider the implications of a so-called “heretical pope.”
Part V will assess this “historical theology” in light of Pascendi Dominici Gregis.


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[1] Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei (“MD” Hereafter), 1947, 62.

[2] MD 8.

[3] Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform. Catholic Church Music Associates, Church Music Association of America, Front Royal, VA, 2003. P 151

[4] Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, Longmans, Green and Co, London 1914. 173.

[5] This is a more complex question than it appears. For various expressions of theories of “organic development”, see MD 50-59, Dobszay 9 and throughout, and also the five principles in Dom Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005 26. See also Dobszay Chapter 9 for a discussion of the relationship between the 1962 missal and the Roman Liturgy as a concept.

[6] MD 60, 62.

[7] MD 8, 61.

[8] MD 59.

[9] MD 62.

[10] For example, see Uwe Michael Lang, Turning Towards the Lord – Orientation in Liturgical Prayer, Ignatius Press, San Franciso CA, 2009.

[11] MD 8

[12] St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II 97.2.

[13] Ibid.

[14] MD 64

[15] Leo XII, Inter gravissimas, 1832. From Solesmes, Papal Teachings: The Liturgy, St Paul Editions 1962. N.130.

[16] Dom Prosper Gueranger, Institutions Liturgique, 1840-1, quoted in Reid 58-9. These translations taken from Whispers of Restoration,

[17] Cardinal Archbishop and Bishops of the Province of Westminster, A Vindication of the Bull “Apostolicæ Curæ”, Longmans Geen, and Co, London, 1898, Ch 24 pp 22-3.

[18] Cardinal Tourquemada, Summa de Ecclesia, I. IV. 11, 369. Quoted in Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, Can a Pope be… a heretic? The Theological Hypothesis of a Heretical Pope, Caminhos Romanos, Portugal, 2018, 135-6.

[19] Canon 1406. See also Walter Joseph Canavan, Profession of Faith: A Dissertation. Catholic University of America Press. Washington DC 1942, 40.

[20] Denzinger (DZ) 995-6. Cf. also Roberto de Mattei, The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam NH 2012. 507. Cf. the substitution for this Profession of Faith for Canon 1406 (1917) here:

[21] Variation in The Roman Ritual, Vol I, ed. Philip T. Weller, Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1948. 577. “I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the sacraments mentioned above.”

[22] Joseph Clifford Fenton, What is Sacred Theology? Cluny Media, Providence RI, 2018. 117. Originally published as The Concept of Sacred Theology, 1941. See also Hunter 130 and Tanquerey 177.

[23] Adolphe Tanquerey, Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Desclee, New York 1959, Vol I 178. Joachim Salaverri SJ makes a similar point, writing that it is theologically certain that liturgical laws fall the “secondary object of infallibility”, because such laws must be infallible when they are “certainly and necessarily connected with revealed truths.” (714) If this were not so, he says, then the Church would be unable direct “the life of the faithful in the Church without error.” (722). He cites as his authority the teaching and practice of the Church, particularly Pope Pius VI and the Councils of Constance and Trent (723).

[24] Michaele Nicolau SJ, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IA (Introduction to Theology), Trans. By Kenneth Baker SJ, Keep the Faith, USA 2015. 19.

[25] MD 48

[26] Pius XII, Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus 20, 1950.

[27] Fr E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, B. Herder Book Co. London 1927. 98.

[28] MD 47, 50

[29] St Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi 1907, 21. Available at

[30] 2 Kings (or 2 Samuel) 6.38; and the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Roberts, Donaldson, and Coxe; translated by A Walker; (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by K Knight. <;

[31] MD 50.

[32] MD 59.

[33] MD 51

[34] MD 50

[35] Dz 1533

[36] Ibid.

[37] MD 63

[38] MD 61

[39] Ibid.

[40] The full quote: “We must say it plainly: the Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone. Some walls of the structure have fallen, others have been altered; we can look at it as a ruin or as the partial foundation of a new building.” Fr Joseph Gélineau, The Mass Today and Tomorrow, translated by Dinah Livingstone, Darton Longman & Todd, London 1976.P 11.

[41] Alfredo Ottaviani, Antonio Bacci, et al: The Ottaviani Intervention: A Brief Critical Study of the New Order of Mass. Trans. Rev Christopher Danel. Angelus Press, Kansas City MO, 2015. pp17-18.

[42] Bishop de Castro Mayer’s letter to Pope Paul VI with respect to the publication of the Novus Ordo Missae

Given at Campos, Brazil on September 12, 1969. Available with his full critique at:

[43] “It is therefore permitted to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal, which was promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Church’s Liturgy.” Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, 2007, Art 1.

[44] Canon 1406 (1917). Cf. also Cardinal Ruffini: “How can you claim that the Church, Mater et Magistra […], to whom it pertains to judge the true sense of sacred scripture—as we have sworn many times before the altar (cf. the Profession of the Catholic Faith) […]”. Quoted in de Mattei 142.

[45] Ottaviani, Bacci et al 48

[46] MD 63

[47] Mediator Dei 63

[48] As we will develop in subsequent parts, we are defining the “received doctrine” as, in the words of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, “all that has been believed and practiced in the faith, morals, liturgy, teaching of the catechism, formation of the priest and institution of the Church, by the Church of all time; to all these things as codified in those books which saw day before the Modernist influence of the Council.” Turning to the manuals and the period before the Council is not in itself a rejection of anything, but rather a “fact-finding exercise” to help us know what the Church taught before the confusion of our time.

One thought on “Theology & History I: the relationship between liturgical tradition and antiquarianism

  1. Stefano

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your articles look forward to more.

    Some traditionalist priests make the point that the reforms of 1) 1955 (known as the “reduced rubrics” reform), 2) the 1956 Holy Week Reform, 3) the 1962 reform, and 4) the 1965 “Ad experimentum” Missal were objectively willed, designed, and carried out with the specific intention of being “transitory” reforms to get to the final product which is the Novus Ordo. And because of this the ecclesiastical laws of – 1) Perpetuity (lack of stability) and 2) Cessation of Law go into effect and those reforms cease to be because the Novus Ordo is a reality. Also, aside from the introduction of novel concepts these reforms also practiced antiquarianism/historicism particularly the 1956 Holy Week Reform. This is freely admitted by the reformers themselves in their journals and Fr. Kelly alludes to John XXIII saying as much in Rubricarum Instructum which states – “that the more important principles governing a general liturgical reform should be laid before the members of the hierarchy at the forthcoming ecumenical council.”

    It seems these reforms are not like the reforms of Clement VIII, Urban VIII, and St. Pius X along with the additions that Benedict XV and Pius XI made. It would also seem that these reforms of 1955, 1956, 1962, and 1965 would abuse and/or contradict Mediator Dei. Also, the Holy Office under Pius XI published a decree, in regards to requests made by Amici Israel (who were condemned as a group later by Pius XI) in which the condemnation cites that the prayer for the Jews on Good Friday is so ancient and venerable that it cannot be changed. The doctrinal decisions of the Roman Congregations have the Theological Note “Safe” attached to them. The censure attached to this Note is “temerarious” with the effect being “Mortal sin of disobedience and perhaps imprudence.” This is because “Exterior assent is absolutely required and interior assent is normally required, since, though not infallible, the Congregations possess true doctrinal authority and the protective guidance of the Holy Ghost” – Cartechini. So, we see this in 1928 when Pius XI through the Holy Office (at that time the Prefect was Cardinal Merry del Val and Master of the Sacred Palace Fr. Sales, O.P.) stated (through a specific example, the Good Friday prayer for the Jews) that there are things so ancient and venerable in the Liturgy that they cannot be changed. That was an official decision and put into practice the principle that there can be monuments of tradition within the liturgy that are so ancient that they cannot be changed.

    With this in mind, the 1956 Holy Week reform axed folded chasubles which at that time had been in the liturgy for nearly 1500 years and the 1962 reform axed the “doubling of the readings” which was introduced at the Lateran Basilica in the year 1000 A.D. If one thinks of the liturgy as a tree, these mid-twentieth century reforms seem to be hacks at the branches instead of blossoms being added by the Popes. So, how do you see the mid-twentieth century reforms in regards to whether they are part of the development of the Novus Ordo or genuine liturgical reform? Especially considering that they happened post-Mediator Dei. Thank you.

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