Was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy?

The liturgy has a logical priority over the pope, for without the liturgy, the Church has no reason to exist, nor any ability to participate in the divine life of the Holy Trinity.

Eucharistic adoration following the pope's Corpus Christi Mass June 14, 2020. (Image: Vatican Media/CNA)

The publication of Pope Francis’ motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, has once more lit the embers underneath ecclesiological and liturgical debates. Among the various reactions to this document include disbelief, shock, and hurt by those who love the traditional Latin Mass; while those favorable to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council express vindication, triumph, and glee.

As bishops scramble to their flocks and discern how best to implement the motu proprio, there seems to be more emphases given to questions of canonical and pastoral nature, such as the future of long-existing Latin Mass communities, the existence of religious congregations attached to the rite, and the rights of priests to offer Mass according to the 1962 missal. With traditionalists holding high Pius V’s Quo Primum (1570) and progressives Paul VI’s Missale Romanum (1969), the arguments rage on regarding the legal status of the traditional Roman Rite.

Amidst the clanging clamor and ubiquitous uproar, I suggest there be a collective pause, so to allow space for a reflection of a more theological nature. Given the papal-centric nature of this discourse, it is important to ask the following: was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy?

Knee-jerk reactions to this question might include a quotation from the First Vatican Council (1869-70) on the pope’s unquestionable role on faith, morals, discipline, and government of the Church (Pastor aeternus, III.2). Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Mediator Dei (1947), also comes to mind, in which he states that only the pope has “the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.” (58) Other reactions might quote the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which makes clear the pope’s “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (Can. 331). As the administration of the sacraments falls within Church discipline, it is not surprising that canon law designates the ordering of the liturgy to the pope (Can. 838 §2) and even grants him the power to “approve or define the requirements for their validity.” (Can. 841).

Immediately, then, we are faced with disturbing questions. If the pope has the power over the liturgy, then what is stopping him from suppressing all of the Eastern rites and forcing the Eastern Catholic Churches to use the Novus Ordo Missae, if not a brand new liturgy crafted for postmodern man? If the pope can determine what is required for sacramental validity, what is preventing the Holy Father from replacing the bread and wine used for the consecration at Mass with rice and tea?

Some might argue that the pope would never do such a thing, and they rightfully point out the damage such an action could cause to the Church. Others might dismiss such hypotheticals as absurdities, claiming that the people of God would resist. But such protesting does not change the fact that, according to the aforementioned quotations, the pope indeed does have such power—whether or not he chooses to use it is an entirely different issue. To deny the pope this power would seemingly call the papal office itself into question.

Historically, Scholastic theologians were not afraid to tackle such hypotheticals. Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388–1468), while not dealing with this particular issue, nevertheless knew that there were limits to papal authority. The pope was constrained by divine and natural law, the order of the sacraments, and moral teachings (Summa de ecclesia, 3.57) For Torquemada, the pope’s authority was tied to its purpose—there was no papal authority in the abstract, but only in relation to his relationship to the Church, which was one of confirming the Christian faith and preserving the proper order of the Church (status ecclesiae), whose mission is the salvation of souls. Elsewhere in his treatise on the Church, Torquemada also notes how, among all the things necessary for promoting the well-being of the Church, none is higher than those pertaining to divine worship (maxime ad cultum divinum).

Following in Torquemada’s footsteps, the well-known Jesuit philosopher-theologian, Francisco Suarez (1548–1617), was quick to show how papal power is not absolute in an unqualified sense. For example, if the pope decided to excommunicate the entire Church, he would be in error. The pope would also err—as well as commit the sin of schism from the Church—if he were to overthrow or destroy (evertere) liturgical rites of apostolic origin (De charitate, 12.1)

Let us return to the original question: was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy? If we affirm the former, then we acknowledge the fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) belonging to the Supreme Pontiff, albeit at the expense of granting that the liturgy—in theory—could be his plaything. In this mindset, the pope is the ultimate arbiter of divine worship, and if he requires that priests offer the Mass while riding on a unicycle, there is nothing preventing him (save divine intervention) from doing so. Even the assurances of those who suggest that this is not probable does not quell the fear that it is possible. However, if we affirm the latter—that the pope was made for the Sacred Liturgy, we might have a firmer and more theological basis for his liturgical role, one that grants the pope’s primacy without sacrificing the beauty and truth of ancient worship.

With all respect to all that Catholic faith teaches regarding his office, the pope, above all, is a bishop, and a bishop is necessarily a priest. A priest is one who offers sacrifice to the LORD, and the only true and absolute priest is Christ Himself (Heb 7:25-28) All priestly acts flow from His priesthood, all holy sacrifices from His sacrifice. In his sacramental actions, the priest acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), not in the person of the pope. In many ways, the priest does indeed represent the bishop, who, as the Catechism notes, possesses the “fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders” (#1557). In the early Church, the bishop was the primary celebrant of the Eucharist. The unity of the Church was expressed through the offering of Christ in the Eucharist, and the bishop represented Christ, offering the Divine Victim to the Father, the Head offering the Body made manifest through the gathering assembly (synaxis). Each local Church expressed their visible communion through gathering for liturgy celebrated by the bishop, and each bishop manifests his communion with the wider Church through his union with the Church of Rome, which held a true primacy in relation to the other Churches.

Why is the focus on the pope-as-priest important to our question? Let us imagine an undivided Church, in which all the bishops are gathered for the Eucharistic liturgy. By the very nature of the Mass, there can only be one main celebrant. Given its historical and theological importance, the Bishop of Rome would hold such primacy, just as St. Peter was known as the leader of the Apostles. But what does such primacy consist of? The pope would express his primacy in “presiding in love”, as St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote. Such presiding would have its fullest sense in liturgical presidency. In the liturgy, we witness the offering Christ to the Father, the same offering made on Calvary for the remission of sins. If primacy is regarded as “power over”, then the pope’s primacy—which, I suggest, is best seen in him serving the altar as bishop and priest—has no place in the liturgy.

The liturgy is not our pushing aside Christ and putting ourselves on the Cross, but instead our mystical participation in Calvary, which is a sacrifice we first must receive before participating. To speak of papal primacy as “power over” fails the litmus test by which we should measure our identity—in the Sacred Liturgy, the “source and summit of the Christian life.”

If we think of the liturgy as a ‘thing’, then it makes sense that it was made for the pope, whose supremacy was dogmatized at Vatican I. But if we understand the liturgy to be the divine drama of salvation made present, the saving acts of the LORD given to the Church as a mountain of treasure, then we cannot help but reject the notion that the guardian of such treasure has the right to dispose of it, for it did not originate with him, nor does it belong solely to him, but rather the treasure is given to the Church as its ransom and redemption.

The liturgy is not a ‘thing’ which we can grasp; it is a mystery we enter into. The liturgy is not a fabrication of the Church’s musings upon God, but a gift given to the Church for the glory of God, the good of the Church, and love of God’s people. As a member of the Church—despite there being no earthly equal to him or his authority—the pope is the recipient of liturgy, not its creator nor its master.

Thus, the liturgy has a logical priority over the pope, for without the liturgy, the Church has no reason to exist, nor any ability to participate in the divine life of the Holy Trinity. Tradition is the vehicle through which liturgy is transmitted—just as we cannot create a new Calvary, Resurrection, or Pentecost, so too is it impossible to “create” a new liturgy. Its substance, as St. Paul writes, was first “received from the Lord” before being “handed over” (1 Cor 11:23). After all, when Christ commanded His Apostles to “Do this in memory of Me,” St. Peter did not dare to suggest “doing that”, instead.

It is the pope who serves the Sacred Liturgy as its celebrant, protector, and transmitter—to claim otherwise would not only reveal a severe misunderstanding of liturgy, but also the papacy, as well.

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About John A. Monaco 4 Articles
John A. Monaco is a doctoral student in theology at Duquesne University, and is a Visiting Scholar with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville.


  1. This is a tremendous article. Well done Mr. Monaco. If this could be read by all catholics from the pope down to the laity, what a change in the faith would take place.

  2. Very good theological exploration here! It’s good to see how theologians take this latest development regarding the Tridentine mass. Many are presenting the preposterous idea that the Vatican II mass was not the one intended by the council and thus the Tridentine remains a valid way to celebrate the liturgy. I would say Pope Benedict XVI’s launching of the idea of the extraordinary and ordinary forms is the most creative exercise of theological gymnastics for it was never in the mind of the Vatican II council to have two forms of the mass when it called for the reform of the liturgy.

    • Helen. Unfortunately your disappointing comment is both inaccurate and indicative of that mentality which holds that the Second Vatican Council changed everything, yet required that nothing of it could be called into question.

    • I would bet money you have never read Sacrosanctum Concilium, and it is clear you do not understand the author’s point in this article.

    • Well, get the donkey behind the cart and then to fall down and worship your inferno premise….the Holy Spirit was speaking what He Spoke from the beginning within Pope Benedict XVI…the gymnastics are pinned on the wrong tail…who desires that – the Holy Spirt or the diabolical spirits?

    • Helen, you must not Judge the Holy Spirit and what He continues in His Pope Benedict XVI about the Holy Mass or Divine Liturgy…you try to beat the donkey balaam, pinning the wrong tail to the Holy Spirit in Benedict and not pinning your fabricated tail to the adversary…blessings.

    • I am a bit confused by all of this. But I suppose this is what happens when people begin with the wrong questions. “is the liturgy made for the pope or the pope for the liturgy?” is a nonsense question. Neither was made for the other. I guess this guy is saying that the pope has no power over the liturgy. And I guess that his conclusion is that the latest motu from the pope is in error. I don’t know, he does not come out and say this. But the simple answer is yes, the Pope has power to alter the liturgy in any way he wants. If the does something stupid, a subsequent pope will correct it. You don’t get to be the pope if you tell priests to ride around on unicycles. So this essay sort of avoids all the real issues in question these days. “The liturgy” is not something that is clearly defined anyway. Liturgy includes all of the ceremonial practices of the church, not just the mass. So I am left confused by this essay.

      • But recall Benedict XVI observation that the liturgy was “not the personal property of the Pope.” Rather, he observed, it belonged to the whole Church across the ages.
        It seems that you and he are in disagreement on this point

        • Ludwig Ott in “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” says that the pope is bound “…by divine law alone. This demands that the Papal power, in consonance with its purpose, should be employed for the building-up of the Mystical Body of Christ, not for its destruction (2 Corinthians 10:8).”

          It is also traditional Church teaching that the Pope MAY ERR in teaching if that teaching is not EX CATHEDRA. With Cardinal Burke, I contend that the teaching of CT is in error and therefore unjust.

    • Bugnini’s goal was to destroy the Mass, regardless of the form, plain and simple.

      “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” Annibale Bugnini March 1965

  3. I just cannot resist to quote:

    “The liturgy is not a ‘thing’ which we can grasp; it is a mystery we enter into. The liturgy is not a fabrication of the Church’s musings upon God, but a gift given to the Church for the glory of God, the good of the Church, and love of God’s people. As a member of the Church—despite there being no earthly equal to him or his authority—the pope is the recipient of liturgy, not its creator nor its master.”

    • That’s the quote that also summed up the article for me. Vatican Ii had been wildly misinterpreted which has created a disharmony in the Church. This latest statement by the Pope has only exasperated the situation. Unfortunately, until we are given clear directives that follow our God given destiny, we will continue to flounder.

    • If the liturgy was a “gift given to the church for the glory of God”, when and where was it given, and what are the details? The only thing I can think of is the last supper. Then are we bound to have only 12 people attending a mass? Must it be done in an upper room in Jerusalem? Must it be done the night before the presider is crucified? You see the problem. Of course the church created the liturgy, and the church has outlined the proper and improper ways to do this celebration. If it was a gift given by God, then both the TLM and tne Novus Ordo are bastardizations of the last supper and are abominations. I know that occasionally writers get a little florid and want to enlarge and exaggerate a thought, but here, he does himself no good. The church never received a “liturgy” from God directly, nor has God written out the details that every liturgy should follow. So the liturgy is something the church created, to further the goals of the Gospels. More than that we cannot say.

  4. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” Mark 2:27–28 makes Traditionis custodes difficult to argue against. As illegal. However, John Monaco has done his research well on the limits of papal authority, correctly defined by Cardinal Juan de Torquemada [uncle of Grand Inquisitor Friar Tomas de Torquemada] that the pope is constrained by divine and natural law, the order of the sacraments, and moral teachings in his Summa de ecclesia. Now the issue is still the Liturgy and Christ’s admonition to the Pharisees. Does the Roman Pontiff have the authority to make a change to the liturgy for a just cause? The reasonable response is yes. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei declares that authority. We may argue the cause is unjust though it doesn’t change the stated purpose. Does Traditionis portend a similar change to all the diverse liturgical practices of Catholicism? We can’t use that as a rationale to oppose Traditionis custodes. But if such were to occur, or presumed to occur then John Monaco’s argument regarding pontifical restraint might be suitably argued. Although Cardinal de Torquemada doesn’t list liturgy among those subjects which require that special protection. Perhaps not argued then on the grounds of limited pontifical authority, but rather, conceivably on the natural law principle of the common good of the entire Church. Otherwise, at present we may rightly deplore the manner and question the rationale for which it was handed down, and consider it unjust. And as already happening, make appeal to the Pontiff.

    • There’s no comparison between the Jewish Sabbath and the Mass, except as they can be classed as forms of worship. The Son of Man founded a Church that, from Apostolic times, was guided by the Holy Ghost in developing an appropriate worship service for Almighty God. Every Pope respected that as Sacred Tradition for around 1400 years. There’s no defense of the Novus Ordo that squares with Tradition. The Pope can add St. Joseph to the Canon and he can add the Our Father, but turn it into an imitation of Cranmer’s service he cannot. Paul VI exceeded his authority with a staggering level of arrogance, only exceeded by Bergoglio’s. Arrogance is not a quality that any Catholic should display, never mind the Vicar of Christ. It’s no coincidence that the earthly Church began to collapse during Paul’s sad pontificate. Appealing to Rome for redress is a waste of time because, from Francisco on down, they’ve abandoned the Faith. We all truly have to accept that and stop deluding ourselves.

    • If the value of one Mass is infinite, there can be no “just cause” for a Vicar of Christ to restrict or curtail or not allow any Mass whose first and final purpose is the greater honor and glory of God.

  5. Thank you for this good article, which raises some important points. Some of the fears people have of popes undermining the sacred liturgy are laid to rest by the teachings of ecumenical councils. The Council of Trent in 1562, for example, taught that the Church must always preserve the substance of the sacraments when making modifications to their administration (Denz.-H, 1728). Vatican II solemnly declared that the Churches of the East have the right and duty to rule themselves according to their own disciplines (OE, 5), which would include their liturgical traditions. Suárez and his Jesuit contemporary, St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), raised the possibility of a schismatic or heretical pope as a mere hypothetical. In the end, they both believed that divine providence would protect the Church from there ever being a heretical pope (and neither one believed that Honorius I or John XXII were heretics).
    In Book 4, chapter 3 of De Summo Pontifice, Bellarmine states that “without doubt” (sine dubio) the privilege has been handed down to Peter’s successors, which insures that “in his chair there would never be found someone who would teach contrary to the true faith” (in sede ejus numquam inveniretur qui doceret contra verum Fidem).
    In Book 4, chapter 6, Bellarmine offers two proofs for there never being a heretical pope. The first is that “the gracious disposition of divine providence” seems to require it: “for the Pontiff not only should not but cannot preach heresy, but also should always teach the truth, and without doubt he will do that, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brothers” (Nam Pontifex non solum non debet nec potest haeresim praedicare, sed etiam debet semper veritatem docere et sine dubio id faciet, cum Dominum illi juserit confirmare fratres suos). The second proof is from the events of the past (ab eventu): “Because there has never been a heretical pope up till now, or certainly it cannot be proved that any Pontiff was a heretic. Therefore, this is a sign that it cannot happen.” (ergo signum est, non posse est). Suárez likewise argues that “it is more agreeable to the way of divine providence that—since God has promised that the Pope would never err in his definitions—He would insure that there would never be such a heretical Pope. And since up till now there has never been one in the Church, it should consequently be thought that, by the ordination and providence of God, there cannot be one.” De Fide, disp. 10, sect. 6, no. 10: Opera Omina, Vivès ed. Vol. XII, 319 (… quia Deus promisit Papam definientem numquam erraturum, consequentur provideat ne umquam ille haereticus sit. Adde, quod hactenus in Ecclesia numquam accidit, censendum ex Dei ordinatione et providentia accidere non posse). Ultimately, we must trust that divine providence will protect the Church from ever having a schismatic or heretical pope.

    • Dr Fastiggi I’m familiar with the opinion that Honorius wasn’t a heretic; the Council’s [Third Council of Constantinople 680] declaration was based on alleged personal exchange of letters between Honorius and the Patriarch Sergius Constantinople. Although the letter was determined by the Council an official reply by a Pontiff to a consult over the issue of two wills, the Patriarch followed the Nestorian opinion of one will, the Church two wills, one divine one human belonging to one Person. The letter isn’t at all a declarative repudiation of Monothelitism rather in agreement with the Patriarch that “two operations” [two wills] might lead the faithful into the conflixion of two opposing wills. Although Honorius elsewhere and in public pronouncements upheld Christ’s possession of two wills the letter effectively encouraged the heresy of Monothelitism to continue in the East. Letters issued as official correspondence seeking papal consult may be designated as doctrinal statements. Such was the case with the Argentine bishops consult with Pope Francis on communion for those living manifest adultery [clearly worded in the Argentine documents] and obliquely referenced in the Pope’s response as “There is no other interpretation” that were entered into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and declared by Vat SecState Parolin as Magisterial teaching. Although Bellarmine is a saint, saints are not infallible, popes are and Councils are when promulgated by a pope. As was Chalcedon the center of the controversy and Constantinople III. And, likewise I’m in agreement that by divine providence a pope would not be permitted to formally pronounce heresy. On the other hand a pope may be considered heretical materially rather than formally when statements, appointments, structural changes reach a preponderance of circumstantial evidence [offered here respectfully for consideration].

  6. Was not papal authority first defined by Jesus? In the church/family is not Jesus the only Supreme Authority? Did not Jesus appoint or designate Peter to exercise that same authority, that is to see to it that Jesus’ will is fulfilled by all members of the family He founded? Did not Jesus say three times to Peter– “feed my sheep”? Why then does Pope Francis prescribe mandates that deprive, and eventually eliminate, food that enables members of the flock to nourish their spiritual life?

  7. Thank you – for the good points in some of the good comments as well .


    Interesting that today is Feast of the 3 siblings – Martha , Mary and Lazarus , the Holy Father in his wisdom and good will , intent to see more oneness in families that are often fragmented , his heart ache also expressed in the past that even many Sacramental marriages can be invalid due to ignorance of intent – echoing similar words of Jacintha , thus being faithful to his prophetic role , to help correct the errors .

    Interesting too that he avoids unneeded controversy by avoiding mention that the Mary honored in this Feast is likely the ‘quiet , silent ‘ Mary ( who died as a young adult, IIRR ) and not the Mary of Magdala who had not yet converted , who is honored now with a Feast Day as well , instead of the older Memorial – Bl.Emmerich visions .

    The good hearted desire to make a ‘ mess ‘ , in loud joyful proclamations in all the above good steps , to help bring more hearts to love the glory of the faith in its depth –
    to move the hearts in the far away lands as well , in fidelity to the unfinished mission of the Jesuit and Franciscan fathers … .

    One good fall out from this whole situation and ? as intended by The Spirit , seems to be the reminder from some quarters of the need to also ensure fidelity to good Catholic values in Catholic academia .

    All can say ‘Fiat ‘ to same !

    Instead of seeing any envy and the attendant move to destroy being seen as the reasons for the move , it is likely the same good will that led to the Feast Day today , desire to see more of Oneness in Families ..
    Same thus would be more in line with what The Father conveyed to Cain –
    ? hinting that he could ask Abel to let him have one of his lambs to offer a worthy sacrifice in gratitude , for the Sacrifice of The Lamb that clothed his parents ( and Cain , in turn letting Abel graze his sheep in some parts of his fields .. )
    ? Better to trust and bless that similar good willed intent at work on this occasion as well , to see the the zeal of those who desire reverence in Liturgy to be the good leaven all around ..

    May the richness of the blessings of the Family of Heaven be there ever , to bring His Peace as His Holy Will all around .

  8. Francis sure has caused a mess in the Church but he’s only putting into effect Vatican ll to the letter. Francis signed the Abhu Dabhi declaration that states Catholics and Muslims worship the same God. By Dogmatic Decrees, this is outright heresy. The Vatican ll Documents also say that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God. This is heresy among others in the Vatican ll Documents. And Francis commands that we accept Vatican ll in its entirety???. Why are we forbidden to ask questions? If we question we are continued to be called divisive. That makes no sense.

    • Andrew, a caution on calling a dogmatic constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium heresy. That of itself refutes Christ’s promises to Peter and the institution of the Church. “Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind” (Lumen Gentium 16). Lumen Gentium doesn’t say there is a natural link of Christians with Muslims as Abrhamic believers, rather that Muslims “profess” that link with Abraham. Insofar as a Muslim de facto follows, that is, professes all that faith in Abraham entails, as promised to him by God they may be considered as adoring the same God. The doctrine in Lumen Gentium regarding Muslims is conditioned on that premise.

      • Father Peter Morello, The Church has long taught by Infallible Dogmatic Decree that we and other religions do not worship the same God. Still, today it is forbidden for a Catholic to pray with a non-Catholic. It’s not because we hate non-Catholics but because the Church teaches the truth in that we worship a different God. If we do not worship God as taught by Jesus, the Apostles, and Tradition, through the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church then the God we worship is not the true God. (Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation in a word all seven Sacraments, the Papacy, the Hierarchy of priests, Our Most Holy Mother Mary Most Holy, etc… these come straight to us from God himself. Whoever rejects these teachings REJECTS GOD!)

        • Here is one direct (problematic) quote from Paragraph 16 of Lumen Gentium:

          “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Flannery [Ed.] Documents of Vatican II, NRE, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1984).

          From this, an infamous Modernist Bishop took, stretched, and taught from the pulpit at a Catholic (NO) Mass that Moslems, Jews, and Christians are “IN COMMUNION” with each other. (R. DeRoo–who preferred that lay people NOT address him by the honorary “Your excellency”, preaching at a Seattle Archdiocesan Parish, mid 2000s).

      • Fr. Peter Morello, I am cautious, very cautious when it comes to Vatican ll. There is now so much information of heretical statements in Vatican ll. The Modernists according to Pope Benedict XVl’s biography tells us how there was a plot to vote out the Council of St. Pope John XXlll, and they succeeded and went on to create their own Council, which is why God has never blessed it. It is said that Pope Paul Vl stood at the Council only as a moderator. It was neither the Council of St. John XXlll nor that of St. Pope Paul Vl. It was the Council of the Modernists. The time is ripe for pointing out the seriousness of St. Pius X’s condemnation of the Modernist heresy which is destroying the faith and the Church today.

        • Andrew I agree that Modernism has adversely affected the Church and its practice. And as you presumably have read my comments you’re well aware that I’m opposed to Modernism. Although the Church has never taught heresy in its dogmatic constitutions, and has not condemned Islam in its dogmatic constitutions, unless you’re aware of what I’m not. Realize what you assert above, that if Lumen Gentium a dogmatic constitution is heretical, that the Church itself is heretical. I’m not sure you want to say that. My concern as a priest is for your spiritual welfare. Insofar as Catholics forbidden to pray with non Catholics there are many instances in the military and combat when Protestants attend Catholic Mass or were attended to when wounded by Catholic chaplains. Fr Vince Capodanno was loved by many non Catholic Marines and he never hesitated to pray for them and bless them when they were wounded and dying. Fr Capodanno is an exemplary model of what it really means to be a Catholic.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Thank you for your Fatherly concern for my soul. I can sure use the prayers from a priest. Vatican ll said they would not define any new Dogmas. So I question the standing of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. I’m sure it says great things, but what the Modernists planned, and did, is my main concern. I love Christ’s Church, and I have suffered immensely for over 40 years because of what Modernists have done. I have always prayed for Protestants, the perfidious Jews, and the infidels (Muslims). My prayers for them are heart-wrenching because they reject the fullness of truth that only the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church possesses. I question Vatican ll because of facts I’ve known and read about. The breaking point was when reading Pope Benedict’s Biography, the part about the Council. I think Pope Benedict knew he would start a revolution in the Church, and it has somewhat. St. Pope John Paul the Great stated that we have the right and sometimes the obligation to speak out. Is Francis going to write a Motu Proprio reversing St. John Paul’s words?. Il Papa Ditatore wouldn’t hesitate to do it.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, let’s look at reality, the Council Fathers themselves bragged about writing the Council Documents in an ambiguous language. An ambitious language so they could make it mean whatever they wanted. The Council was a huge battle, sometimes almost breaking out in fistfights. 450 Traditionalists were defending the Church and won many victories but lost major ones. Archbishop Marcel Lefebre, one of the Council fathers, is said to have walked out of one session yelling to the Bishops, “You will destroy the Church.”. After the Council, the very Council Fathers went into the world and wreaked their destruction. Many books describe what happened at the Council. I don’t think the Holy Ghost guided it as the Council had voted out the real Council of St. John XXlll. With the implementation of Vatican ll, 10’s of thousands of priests left the Priesthood, 100,00’s Nuns abandoned their convents, and Mass attendance is down, there is a mass exodus of Catholics leaving the Church for other religions or no religion at all, Catholic Schools, Hospitals, Seminaries, Convents, no longer exist.

        Now can we legitimately question the Council? There are alot more examples! Where does Francis and the Modernists claim that we must accept the whole Council with blind obedience stand?

        • Thank you for this explanation. Every Catholic must accept this Council as legitimate, just like the preceding Councils. We are free respectfully to question the wisdom of some of its (disciplinary) reforms, or to hold that the Council did not succeed in all its objectives. Since the Council did not define any dogmas as such, theologians might even seek clarification on some of the formulations (cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei: “the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council’s continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church” … it is somewhat open to question how a “point of doctrine” can be “new” however). But one is left wondering: does Pope Francis himself even “accept Vatican II”? His China policy, for one thing, seems to contradict the Council: “this holy council desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation for the office of bishop be granted to civil authorities” (Christus Dominus, 20). He should be careful about trying to exact blanket affirmations as some sort of Vatican II loyalty test.

        • Also, Andrew, I fully agree with you that the true God is revealed exclusively through the Person of Jesus Christ. And those who are aware of what Christ taught and knowledgeable of his passion and resurrection and refuse to believe, whatever religious belief they hold are subject to condemnation. Islam accepts the God of Abraham, who is true God, although not the full revelation of God as revealed in Jesus. That is what the Church recognizes in Lumen Gentium.

      • Andrew, on what grounds are you declaring that there is heresy in the Vatican 2 documents? I never heard this from the Cardinals and Bishops. Fr. Morello is right in advising caution. Jesus did make a solemn promise when he addressed Peter: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Yes, it is bound in heaven even if, in your opinion, it is wrong.
        Even though you, Fr. Morello and I are Catholics, I have no doubt that our image, our appreciation, or our imagination of God is not absolutely identical. The Muslims in the Middle East believe that they are the descendants of Abraham and that they worship the same God he did. But what was Abraham’s understanding of God? I do not know. Do you? What was Noah’s understanding? What were his values? Well, whatever their beliefs and values, God deemed them to be righteous. And, I believe, that when Jesus went down into Sheol after his victory on the cross, these two would have been so glad to see their redeemer. Wow, they were in paradise!
        The Samaritan woman at the well – a pagan, according to many of us – believed that their father Jacob gave them that well. However, though they, like the Jews, had Jacob as their father, Jesus told her that they did not know the God they worshipped. Now this brings us to something that intrigues me. Jesus said that the Jews worshipped the God that they knew. Well, Andrew, did the Jews worship the Triune God that we do? So, as I see it, they worshipped the true God even though their appreciation of God was different from ours. Let us, with our limited wisdom, let God be the judge. He looks into the soul which we cannot do.

        • Mal, You point to too many questions. Surely you don’t expect me to answer them all, do you? The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Our Lord Jesus Christ, didn’t reveal Himself at the creation of Adam and Eve. So some of your questions can’t be answered by me. This we know, Jesus said to the Jews, “Abraham longed to see this day, and he saw it, the Jews grew angry and said you are not yet fifty…” At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in Glory. So I take it those in the hell of the saved knew the Savior had come.

          We now have the Second Person of the Holy Trinity revealed to us. He established one Church and One only. The one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, with 7 Sacraments, the Priesthood, His Holy Mother as Our Mother who is the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Church, Jesus has embellished with many treasures for us through His Bride His Church, and we need only to seek and ask. I feel bad for those of other religions that they don’t have access to these treasures simply because they do not seek or have hatred for Christ’s one true Church. The Modernists also reject these treasures even before the Council but especially after the Council, and they stole those very treasures from God’s people. One of the most precious treasures stolen from us is the TLM.

        • I’m not trying to be overly personal, but, like all of us, what you “haven’t heard” could fill libraries that could circumnavigate the world. You have a history of commenting in many forums that it is impossible for the Church to ever be wrong about anything, and you constantly fault those who have a basis for their criticisms. It matters not at all that prelates are reluctant to use a word like heresy, even though dozens have essentially thought as much regarding Vatican II. And some have actually said so from the safety of retirement. Hundreds, including the majority of prelates at the Synod of 1985, providing a retrospective, had rendered the view that the manner and specific content of several of the documents were ill-considered and should have never been promulgated as they were. This is one of the reasons they resolved to create the CCC to correct the false impressions VII created among the faithful.
          Few critics fail to recognize that most of VII was orthodox. But a 200 pound man with a two pound malignant tumor has a 99 percent healthy body but is also in dire medical condition. Take out a contemporary word processor, which now allows very large file sizes. You can cut and paste the entirety of Gaudium Et Spes, as lengthy as it is, into one Word file. Then do a search on the word evolve or derivative with a partial spelling and see how many times that silly word is invoked to suggest a secular utopian world view antithetical, AND BORDERING ON THE HERTICAL, to Catholic values that are rooted in understanding original sin and which recognize the permanent imperfectability of the human condition. Pope Benedict made this very criticism many times.

  9. “The liturgy is not a ‘thing’ which we can grasp; it is a mystery we enter into. The liturgy is not a fabrication of the Church’s musings upon God, but a gift given to the Church for the glory of God, the good of the Church, and love of God’s people.” AMEN.

    The words of Pope Benedict XVI, in his General Audience of 1/7/09, add fuel to the fire of the above quote. Pope Benedict addresses Paul’s letter to the Romans and discusses worship as sacrifice. He notes that the Roman Eucharistic Prayer derives from Paul in Romans and that Christian and brotherly unity arises from communion in Christ.

    Pope Benedict quoted Paul at Galations 3:28: we have become “one in Christ Jesus”.
    The essential basis of Catholic unity arises from the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist (not from one specific form or another of liturgy).

  10. If the Tridentine Rite pleases God, I would imagine that it will remain after Pope Francis is gone. I do not mean to suggest that the Pope won’t get to Heaven (and be Sainted), but the 1st/2nd and 3rd Comandments are about God and what He wants. If He wants the Tridentine Rite, He’s going to get it, and no Pope is going to be able to end it.

    • DJH, why the presumption of automatic sainthood for a pope, as if a pope is some sort of ecclesiastical Claudius? Before the canonization of Pius X (1903-1914) the last pope to be canonized was Pius V (16th century). The serial canonization of recent popes is highly unusual. But so are the reforms of the process of canonization made in 1983.

  11. “After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. … The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity…. The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition”.
    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000)

    • Well, get the donkey behind the cart and then to fall down and worship your inferno premise….the Holy Spirit was speaking what He Spoke from the beginning within Pope Benedict XVI…the gymnastics are pinned on the wrong tail…who desires that – the Holy Spirt or the diabolical spirits?

  12. An interesting article raising some interesting points but it does not get to the core of the issue: it is not nor can it ever be an ‘either/or’ proposition: Liturgy or Pope (here I am addressing the issue as it deserves: the Pope is the Bishop of Rome and thus governs the Roman Rite) It cannot be ‘either/or’because at the very moment Christ Our Lord instituted the Most Holy EUcharist, He simultaneously instituted Holy Orders (Apostolic Office/succession) to offer it.This continues in the fact that the bishop is the High Priest of his diocese and governs the celebration ofeach EUcharist in that diocese. WIthin a few centuries this Apostolic/Eucharistic principle was expanded as regional ways and traditions of offering the Sacred Liturgy became the families of Rites in the Church with the Patriarchs having the responsibility to govern how those sacred Rites were to be celebrated. The BIshop of Rome governed the Roman Rite (which became the ‘model’ of other various local rites such as the Ambrosian etc-this larger grouping became known as the “Latin Rite” and encompassed all of Western Europe.
    To say that the Liturgy is primary to the pope is by no means accurate. How then did Saint Pope Victor ‘dare’ to take on the whole Quartodeciman tradition in the 180’s if he had no right (yes, St Irenaeus calmed him down but both Victor and Irenaeus recognized his right!) The change from Greek into Latin caused hesitatingly by Zephyrinus but then seriously by Callistus raised a real furor in Rome etc. but despite protests no one proved the popes had no right to do so. St Pope Gregory the Great caused more change in the Roman Liturgy than Vatican II and Paul VI even came close to, so much so that both the OF and the EF are based on the Gregorian reform. St Pope Gregory VII in the late 1000’s suppressed the Mozarabic rite in Hispania. Pope Innocent III in the 1200’s shortened the VERY lengthy set of silent Offertory Prayers (far more than what we find in the EF today)—-St Pope Pius V suppressed of course all the reformation liturgies but also the legitimate various forms of the Roman rite which were less than 200 years old. Th pope has no right? Want to tell them that?

    • Just as Jesus taught us to pray, He also accomplished our salvation prior to our knowing it. His words and actions arose also prior to His giving the apostles a full knowledge of same.

      The liturgy is God’s gift to us because it conveys God’s salvation; our salvation is accomplished through it. Still, the liturgy would not exist if God had not given His apostles the teaching, the commandments, and the directions to convey said salvation.

      Only subsequent to God’s saving action was His Commission to the apostles (at Matthew 28) to go to all nations, baptizing, and teaching all that He commanded them. God’s saving action was completed on Calvary; MAN NEEDS the liturgy IN ORDER TO RE-ENACT, to re-present, to commemorate, make available and to RECEIVE the grace of God’s saving action which was once and for all. We NEED the liturgy. In that sense it was made by God for man and is God’s gift to us.

      We should at least have the courtesy to look to God in the liturgy to thank Him instead of kissing and hugging each other. We offer Jesus, our only perfect sacrifice, to God the Father in the liturgy in order to re-enact what He once Himself did for us. God comes first in the Commandments. Only God has eternal life. Only God gives Himself and is thereby our salvation.

      The liturgy is God’s gift to us, and it is neither right nor just that Francis sees fit to restrict God’s gifts in the name of Church “unity.” Church unity arises from and is given by God.

      The Pope is to be God’s Vicar but Francis refused that honor. [I wonder why.]

  13. I was being somewhat tongue-in-check. I honestly have no idea where Pope Francis will end up, but my first sentence “If the Tridentine Rite pleases God, I would imagine that it will remain after Pope Francis is gone,” seems a bit harsh.
    A saint, as I understand it, is simply a person the Church knows for a fact is in Heaven.

  14. “If the pope can determine what is required for sacramental validity, what is preventing the Holy Father from replacing the bread and wine used for the consecration at Mass with rice and tea?”

    It didn’t say “determine,” it said “approve or define”. By your logic you could say that if the pope has the power to approve or define anything about dogma he also has the power to change it. But this doesn’t follow.

  15. From Mass and Memory, by Martin Mossback.
    July 30, 2021

    The vehemence of the motu proprio’s language suggests that this directive has come too late. The circles that adhere to liturgical tradition have indeed drastically changed in the last decades. The Tridentine Mass is no longer attended only by those who miss the liturgy of their childhood, but also by people who have discovered the liturgy anew and are fascinated by it—including many converts, many who have long been estranged from the Church. The liturgy is their passion and they know its every detail. There are many priestly vocations among them. These young men do not only attend the seminaries maintained by the priestly fraternities of tradition. Many of them undergo the usual training for the priesthood, and are nevertheless convinced that their vocation is strengthened precisely by knowledge of the traditional rite. Curiosity about the suppressed Catholic tradition has grown, even though many had depicted this tradition as obsolete and unsound. Aldous Huxley illustrated this kind of amazement in Brave New World, in which a young man of the modern elite, without a sense of history, discovers the overflowing riches of premodern culture and is enchanted by them.

  16. This is a well-written article by John A. Monaco, but I do not see the logic in it? Why do we have to compare the value and greatness of two realities that exist independent of each other, and are uniquely important. The Pope is a human being and, at the time of man’s creation God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” And then we have the Psalmist in awe asking’ What is man that you are mindful of him … and crowned him with glory and honor”? Besides being a man, the Pope is the rock, the symbol of permanence, firmness and stability.
    Liturgy, on the other hand, is a spiritual exercise or experience of great importance to us and our relationship to God. Some translate liturgy to mean the Duty of the people of God but I prefer to see it as our response. the Response of the people of God to God’s infinite love for us.
    That love was worded in a promise made through Jeremiah in which God welcomes us into his heavenly home as His people with sin being forgiven and remembered no more. So, at the very beginning of mass, we – the people – acknowledge our sinfulness and express our belief in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now here I shall add something that I believe personally. These prayers should be said aloud by the priest at the foot of the altar, facing “east”, while standing. (I have seen videos of priests sitting). This applies to the NO as it does to the EF. When it comes to the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist, I believe that, regardless of the language, the priest should go around to the other side of the altar. The readings and homily are teachings meant to spiritually nourish us. For The liturgy of the Eucharist, which is all about Jesus, the unique human being who perfectly and obediently implemented His Father’s plan for our redemption, and who said that he is on our midst when we gather together in his name. the priest should face the people. Jesus is in our midst.

    • “The Pope is a human being and, at the time of man’s creation God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” And then we have the Psalmist in awe asking’ What is man that you are mindful of him … and crowned him with glory and honor”? Besides being a man, the Pope is the rock, the symbol of permanence, firmness and stability.”

      Mmmmyesss. But then that also applies to John XII and Alexander VI. So what’s your point?

      • My point is that man is important and valuable and so too is liturgy. Cannot say that one is superior to the other. Without man, there could be no liturgy.

        • You are oblivious to the the point to which you respond. “Man,” as you use the term, is not an individual, least of all a single autocrat, least of all one who represents a “stability” of unstable personal arrogance.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “I Shall Keep Inviolate the Discipline and Ritual of the Church”: The Early Mediæval Papal Oath – Canticum Salomonis
  2. Are There Limits to Papal Power? – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman
  3. The Rights of Immemorial Tradition and the Limits of Papal Positivism - Catholic Family News

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