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Is the “Reform of the Reform” finished? February 13, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Interior Life, Latin Mass, Liturgical Year, Liturgy, sadness, secularism, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

For those who don’t know, the “reform of the reform” was Pope Benedict’s long approach to the liturgical revolution which occurred in the Church after Vatican II.  The “reform of the reform” intended to curb the abuses which had become omnipresent in the Novus Ordo Mass and make it more traditional, more faithful.

Included in this effort was Pope Benedict’s desire for vastly improved translations of the Mass from the Latin into the vernacular (which occurred for the English speaking nations in 2011), a re-emphasis on Gregorian Chant, better adherence to the rubrics, better training for priests, etc.  It was hoped that all these efforts would result in a Novus Ordo Mass that was reverent, faithful, and equal in its application to the august reverence so present in the Traditional Mass.

The “reform of the reform” movement really goes back to the 1980s.  It has a pretty long history.  There have been a lot of efforts to improve the Novus Ordo, but they have not born consistent fruit.  For instance, there are far fewer Novus Ordo Masses available in Latin in this country, than there are TLMs. In fact, there are less than half as many.  Why is that?  Why has the “reform of the reform” failed to take off?

Rorate reports on a post by one of the prime adherents to the “reform of the reform” movement, a Fr. Thomas Kocik.  They liken his recent post on New Liturgical Movement to John Henry Newman’s “Tract 90,” which signaled a great shift in that future-cardinal’s thinking away from trying to make the Anglican Church more Catholic, to recognizing that the Catholic Faith is the One, True Faith to which he must eventually belong (he did, he is now Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman).  Entitled “Reforming the Irreformable?“, it seems to signify that one of the prime adherents of the “reform of the reform” has realized that the Traditional Mass is the ONLY end for a true and proper restoration of the Liturgy of the Roman Rite (emphasis in original, I add comments):

There are significant ruptures in content and form that cannot be remedied simply by restoring Gregorian chant to primacy of place as the music of the Roman rite, expanding the use of Latin and improving vernacular translations of the Latin liturgical texts, using the Roman Canon more frequently (if not exclusively), reorienting the altar, and rescinding certain permissions. [like Communion in the hand!]  As important as it is to celebrate the reformed rites correctly, reverently, and in ways that make the continuity with tradition more obvious, such measures leave untouched the essential content of the rites. [Here Fr. Kocik lists many other drastic changes made to the Mass after Vatican II, which many people do not know or recognize….] Any future attempt at liturgical reconciliation, or renewal in continuity with tradition, would have to take into account the complete overhaul of the propers of the Mass; the replacement of the Offertory prayers with modern compositions; the abandonment of the very ancient annual Roman cycle of Sunday Epistles and Gospels; the radical recasting of the calendar of saints; the abolition of the ancient Octave of Pentecost, the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima and the Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost; the dissolution of the centuries-old structure of the Hours; and so much more. To draw the older and newer forms of the liturgy closer to each other would require much more movement on the part of the latter form, so much so that it seems more honest to speak of a gradual reversal of the reform (to the point where it once again connects with the liturgical tradition received by the Council) rather than a reform of it…

In the meantime, improvements can be made here and there in the ars celebrandi of the Ordinary Form. But the road to achieving a sustainable future for the traditional Roman rite—and to achieving the liturgical vision of Vatican II, which ordered the moderate adaptation of that rite, not its destruction—is the beautiful and proper celebration, in an increasing number of locations, of the Extraordinary Form, with every effort to promote the core principle (properly understood) of “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful (SC 14).

As Rorate notes:

This is indeed “Tract 90” for the “reform of the reform” and sounds the death knell of any serious attempt to hold onto the fiction of continuity between the 1970 Missal and the Traditional Roman rite. Just as Tract 90 marked the end of Newman’s attempt to find a Catholic continuity and a Via Media in Anglicanism, so does Fr. Kocik’s public articulation of the abandonment of his attempt to find a liturgical and theological continuity between the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Roman rite mark the end of the Reform of the Reform movement. What must be done now—and this will require much laborandum et orandum—is to make the Extraordinary—–ordinary.

I have assisted at very reverent NO Masses offered in Latin, and in the Traditional Latin Mass. I will always be very grateful for those reverent NO Masses and the priests that offered them, because they paved the way for me to find the Traditional Mass.  They also provided great spiritual fruit for me and my family, and I know they provide great sustenance for those who assist at them now.  Those rare, very reverently offered Novus Ordo Masses are a vast improvement over what is offered in most parishes.

But I have come to the same conclusion as Fr. Kocik.  I do not mean to harm the feelings of those who do not like the TLM, or who have an attachment to a reverent Novus Ordo Mass, but I have become convinced through a great amount of study and observation that the TLM is a superior Rite and that the Novus Ordo is compromised in so many details that to properly “reform” it would be to, in essence, destroy it.  It would have to cease to exist. That is why great liturgical experts like Msgr. Klaus Gamber and Alcuin Reid spoke of the imposition of the Novus Ordo as “the destruction of the Roman Rite.”  The changes were so vast and of such a drastic nature, the Novus Ordo simply does not correspond to the Traditional Mass.

Some readers asked me for examples of how the Novus Ordo differs from the TLM.  Fr. Kocik lists a few of the major changes above.  I tell you, a number of books have been written on this subject and yet, no single source has ever managed to capture, in some detail, all the changes imposed in the Novus Ordo.

For just one example: the Collect prayers during the Proper Seasons (Advent, Lent, etc – outside “ordinary time”); out of 29 possible collects for the Proper Seasons, the revisers obliterated all but 4 of the Collects from the TLM and replaced them with mostly newly concocted prayers.  Many of those TLM Collects dated from very early antiquity.  But even more than the novelty of the replacements, was the shift in emphasis in these prayers, away from our personal need for conversion and total dependence on God’s Grace, to a much more indifferent disposition towards our need for Grace and even some assumptions of already being saved.  And that doesn’t even begin to address the massive issue of incredibly problematic translations in most languages.

This post is already getting long.  I need to sum up.  It is very possible to offer a very reverent Novus Ordo that, within its own limitations (calendar, reformulated prayers, etc) is a vast, vast improvement over standard presentations of the Mass.  But such is so incredibly rare.  There are far more abusive Novus Ordo’s than there are good, reverent ones.  There seems to be aspects of the NO that render it prone to abuse.  I think that stems from  how many of the prayers were subtly changed to emphasize community, the turning around of the altar (making the priest a “performer”), the overt de-emphasis in focus on the Blessed Sacrament as Source and Summit, etc. All those can be overcome, but it seems to take an extraordinary priest to do so. I think the ultimate future for the Mass is a return to the TLM pretty much as it existed before the Council.  That is the “reform of the reform” that needs to occur, and I think, eventually will.

But as Rorate notes, we have much work ahead of us.


1. Woody - February 13, 2014

Over at “New Liturgical Movement” they have a two part interview with Dom Alcuin Reid on the 50th anniversary of Consilium ad Exsequendam which is most informative. It angers and saddens me when I read how the NO was put through. Shameful. I also believe that the TLM is THE MASS of the Roman Church.

2. Brian - February 13, 2014

This topic is so perplexing because in fact we have but one Roman Rite with nine different expressions, with many of these various expressions (Ambrosian, Dominican etc.) having ancient origins. Diversity rooted in tradition isn’t the problem. It’s the novelty of the new order of Mass!

The problem, as I see it, is that the Novus Ordo Mass is a fabrication and therefore complete break with the Traditional Latin Mass. It’s creation is something never seen before in Catholicism. Yet they are somehow suppose to inform one another?

Ironically, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stated that reform should “grow organically from forms already existing.” If this had been done we wouldn’t have an “ordinary” and “extraordinary” form but one Roman Missal. We didn’t need the creation a new order of Mass to somehow inform the Traditional Latin Mass – we already had the recommendations of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

The “reform of the reform” as it is commonly understood is a deception because it will not admit that the creation of the new order of Mass was against the will of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Therefore it can be rightly stated that the “reform of the reform” is delusion.

The starting point has to be the Traditional Latin Mass with the correct application of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Fortunately for us, the Roman Rite as we know it is not dead!

3. Lynne - February 13, 2014

To a certain extent, I’m glad they fabricated a whole new rite. What if they *had* tweaked the TLM and ‘improved’ it beyond repair? No, the new rite is a banal concoction and it will fade from the scene, though probably not in my life-time (I’m almost 60). And I don’t trust this current crowd with tweaking the TLM. Drop the NO, bring back the TLM and in a hundred years (or more), make modifications to it…

Brian - February 13, 2014


I agree with most of your sentiment but we must recognize with great sorrow that many people have had their faith destroyed because of the new order of Mass. Of course it’s a valid Mass, if the conditions are met – validity ordained priest, matter, form and intention. But because it broke with the tradition of the Church people became (and are) disoriented. I wouldn’t wish the creation of the Novus Ordo on anyone because it has put countless souls at risk, even if that meant we could somehow rediscover the TLM in the future as the one Roman Missal.

As for the tweaking of what is now known at the TLM, we can’t project what would have happened if the Liturgy Constitution was actually followed. We have the luxury (or burden) of seeing what a departure from it has done and this makes us a bit bias. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be biased – who can help it! But with that said it did call for Latin to be preserved, for the laity to know how to respond to our proper parts in Latin, to foster sacred music especially Gregorian chant and to make no innovations unless it was for the good of the Church and was organic.

I don’t think we will have a problem with the current crowd tweaking the TLM – they don’t want any part of it. I am worried about it being suppressed again.

Lynne - February 13, 2014

I don’t think they could suppress it again because (you’ll probably disagree with this), people would flee to the SSPX and/or protest loudly. I agree about the destroying of one’s faith because of the NO Mass (although it *is*valid). My mother fell away after the change. I’m the only in my family, my husband’s family, extended relatives, etc who is a faithful Catholic (and I fell away for 20 years).

Brian - February 14, 2014


When I said suppressed I was thinking more along the lines of the TLM being shunned and placed in a corner for “antiquated” people who have an attraction to it versus it’s promotion especially amongst the episcopate. This is already being done in various dioceses throughout the world. Some in fact haven’t promoted it at all.

A question I have is…and maybe I am reading into this too much but why do put * next to is in “although it *is* valid”?

God bless.

Lynne - February 14, 2014

My use of asterisks around a word is for emphasis. 🙂 I don’t know how to bold a word in these comments. I could have tried but I was being lazy.

Oh yes, the TLM is ‘suppressed’, i.e. not encouraged today but so long as it’s not outright banned, its flame will get stronger and stronger.

TG - February 17, 2014

Sounds like my story. My parents quit going to Mass after the changes. My father had a real problem with EE ministers. He just quit going to Mass. I feel away from the church for 30 something years. My sister kept the faith. She and I are the only faithful Catholics in our family.

4. Steve - February 14, 2014

One thing that amazes me about the horrific state of Novus Ordo liturgy is that certain priests (I won’t name their Dallas parishes) continue to use said Mass as a comedy nightclub stage.

It is shocking to encounter Father Jokester at Mass.

Dear Fathers, what are you thinking? Why destroy what little reverence remains within Novus Ordoism?

5. Hannah - February 14, 2014

The Novus Ordo was made to please the Protestants. Plain and simple.

Tell me the difference between a Lutheran liturgy and the Novus Ordo. For one thing, there shouldn’t be similarities. They’re Protestants and we’re the One, True Church. We’re superior. Stop trying to “fit in.”

Brian - February 14, 2014

Off hand I can think of one… The Real Presence.

tantamergo - February 14, 2014

I can say that there are essentially no discernible differences between the Novus Ordo vernacular as offered in almost every parish, and the service in the Episcopal Church. I know, I was one, and I was amazed that the services were identical, down to the last detail.

6. Marguerite Elena - February 14, 2014

After attending the Latin Mass on a regular basis and then periodically attending the Novus Ordo, one word sadly comes to mind–glaring mediocrity.

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