Eucharistic Incoherence

Why can I pull from every aspect of pre-Vatican II tradition and even practice it, except at Mass?


It’s a dilemma, isn’t it?

You have to wonder if anyone ever really thought this through.

Let’s look at this.

Let’s consider the concrete, material reality of Catholic life before, say 1965.

What aspects of this life are permissible for the 2021 Catholic to access and incorporate into her practice? What’s permissible to see, sing, listen to, contemplate, learn from, be formed by and pray with? Or, we can even consider – what of pre-1965 Catholic life is permissible for the world to value?

Well, we can look at the art, can’t we? That’s allowed. We can study the paintings, statues, icons and frescoes created by Catholics who worshipped in and were formed by the Catholic Mass before Vatican II.  We can consider them in situ, or, of course, we can view them in museums. That’s always nice. Better light. We can write books about them and make educational videos about their symbolism, we can put them in our homes, these products of the pre-1965 Catholic experience. That’s fine.

Those pre-Vatican II Catholics produced a lot of music for the specific forms of liturgy in which they worshipped – that Mass, those monastic prayers, all in that old dead language they used. Yes, they wrote quite a bit of music for those specific liturgies in that language. A lot. You can still listen to it. Sure! You can listen to it the concert hall. You can study it in school, you can learn to sing and play it as an exercise, you can make a Spotify playlist and let the notes course pleasantly through your home or in your car on the way to the gym. And maybe – sometimes – you can listen to it church. Don’t get the wrong idea, though! Don’t forget to actively participate!

It’s fine. It’s healing:

What about the churches? They’re pretty nice. Sure, you can see those – those structures built out of that specific sensibility for that specific way of celebrating Mass and conducting prayer. You know – that altar against the wall and all. You can study them, analyzed them. You can certainly tour them. And, yes, if it’s open and active and not been sold to a local restaurateur or evangelical group, you can actually go to a Catholic Mass in that church, built in line with those ancient sensibilities about form and function.

Even….Oprah thinks they’re cool!

You can say the prayers that emerged and evolved over the centuries. You can certainly have a devotion to those hundreds of saints who were formed in that pre-1965 Catholic culture, who spent their lives going to or celebrating that Mass and those other liturgical prayers, whose writings and insights took shape within that landscape.

And, yes, you can study the theologians and spiritual writers, learn from them, analyze them and learn from them – these men and women formed in and by that liturgical and spiritual world, reflecting, explaining, and contemplating it.

Of course you can do all that! That’s fine.

You may value these artifacts, you can kneel in those churches, you can be in communion with those saints, you can pray those prayers, you may learn from the theologians – you could do it all in one place, if you like. You could attend Mass in a medieval Cathedral on the feast day of medieval saint, listen to plainchant and a homily referring to St. Teresa of Avila by a priest who might be using vessels fabricated before 1965 and might even pray in the same direction you’re facing, as used to be the norm. Before. Maybe there will be a bit of Latin in there, too. That’s fine….

…as long as it’s not…that Mass.

Because that’s off limits.

That would be a violation of…some spirit of something.

Now, one could say that there are parties that would actually prefer that all the allowed activities should actually be relegated to the dustbin and are appalled by the resurgence, no matter how limited, of interest in expressions of pre-Vatican II Catholic sensibilities. We’ve seen that in action over the past decades. But the fact is, as I’ve pointed out before, that pendulum is obstinate, and while my ancient generation did not, indeed, know much about this thing you call the rosary and did cheerfully gather about the altar singing Ray Repp songs and sharing the creeds we’d written in small groups, confident in this New Era and Moving Forward, that’s not the way it is any more.

That was the theme of this post, of course. As the Church attempted during the John Paul II and Benedict XVI papacies to put some pieces back together against a hermeneutic of rupture, well, it happened. Folks listened and responded and old books are being reprinted, Latin’s sort of back and people wonder about Rogation Days and Octaves and nuns in full habit are the norm – when there are nuns around at all – instead of the exception, as it was back in my day, Sonny.

Which of course brings us to the present panic (and it is a panic).

And to that very simple, but apparently fraught question.

Why can I pull from every aspect of pre-Vatican II tradition and even practice it, except…this?

Remember that whole “Most educated laity in the history of the Church?”

They’ve got….questions.

(Editor’s note: This post first appeared at “Charlotte was Both” and is reposted here, in slightly different form, with the author’s kind permission.)

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About Amy Welborn 35 Articles
Amy Welborn is the author of over twenty books on Catholic spirituality and practice, and has written extensively on gender issues at her blog, Charlotte was Both.


  1. This article is very disappointing….It makes no mention of either trite banners, or smiley-button greeters at the front door, or some empty-suit liturgists intent on sidelining the tabernacle and upstaging the ordained priest (or is it the “presider,” or whatever)! Kumbaya!

    • But she did mention “gathering” around the altar, holding hands, and singing Ray Repp songs. That must count for…… something.

    • I’m confused. I am a convert of 22 yrs. Live in Louisiana which has a long Catholic history and tradition. I am married to a cradle Catholic. I have become totally absorbed into the Catholic faith. It is the single most significant gift God has blessed me with.

      I have attended a couple of Latin Masses and can certainly understand the attachment many people have to it. If we all went back to the Tridentine Mass, I would be ok with it. Maybe not my first choice but I am here to follow and obey.

      Here is my confusion: I keep hearing about all of these unorthodox practices, i.e., clown masses, disrespectful activities around the alter, and just general blasphemy. I have attended Masses around the country but I have never experienced this. I don’t doubt it exists. Too many people have witnessed it.

      But where does it occur? Are there certain cities or regions where it is a trend?

  2. It’s so simple. You can’t have the pre-conciliar Mass because Vatican II reformed the Mass. The reformed Mass contains all the essentials of the pre-conciliar Mass and is in continuity with it. You can also have Gregorian chant, the whole Mass in Latin if you wish, and the priest praying the Roman Canon ad orientem. You can have the elements of the pre-conciliar tradition as long as you don’t cling to the pre-conciliar Missal. Easy. Why is the author making up a prohibition that isn’t there?

    It’s not a panic, Ms. Welborn. It’s your imagination.

    The fact that not many parishes celebrate the Novus Ordo well or correctly isn’t the fault of Vatican II. It’s the fault of bishops, priests and lay parish staff.

    So instead of crying about the Missal that will eventually go extinct in the Roman Church, you can either split to the SSPX or help your parish and diocese celebrate the new Mass more authentically.

    But it’s easier to complain on a blog.

    • Is your stubborn ignorance on the subject, that continues to call the Novus Ordo Mass the Vatican II Mass, a product of Vatican II itself?

    • The New Mass is broken. When will all those in leadership accept it? The New Mass didn’t work. It doesn’t matter how hard they have tried or try it will never work. So they turn around and get strict on the Old Mass. Why? Are they that brainless?

    • “You can’t have the pre-conciliar Mass because Vatican II reformed the Mass. The reformed Mass contains all the essentials of the pre-conciliar Mass and is in continuity with it.”

      Nope. One more time, with feeling.

      Vatican II’s constitution on the sacred liturgy called for modest changes to the liturgy. (Go ahead and read it.)

      Pope Paul VI put together a commission which decided to take it in a radical direction not expressly called for by the constitution, as the head of that commission admitted. The whole point of the … radicality was to make it discontinuous with what went before it and make the Mass more like a Protestant worship service. That doesn’t make the new missal invalid (I generally worship at an orthodox NO parish), but it does mean you can criticize the decisions that surrounded it, and that still surround it, without in any way being “opposed to Vatican II” or some such blather. And I suppose if you embrace a hermeneutic of liturgical minimalism the revised missal/Mass contains “all the essentials,” but your breezy assertion that there is continuity with what went before it strikes most people who are familiar with that “before” as absurd. In any event, you are disingenuously conflating two things — the constitution and the missal — to grind an ideological ax. Please stop it.

    • I don’t know whether people who write like you are deliberately disingenuous or simply live in the clouds, or with you head buried in sand. Or perhaps you live in a large city, where one priest among eighty actually does celebrate a Novus Ordo in a Catholic manner that shows some degree of continuity with the past, and you never visit the 79 other locations where it is the usual Roman Protestantism on Sunday. But as Traditionis Custodes has made abundantly clear, the aim of the modernists is to abolish ALL connection to Catholic worship of the past. In any event, it does not matter. The Novus Ordo will continue to wither on the vine and disappear. As the Church shrinks dramatically, Her youngest and most vital part will be found among those who have returned to Tradition. Silly comments by people – including popes – with their head in the sand will not make make a jot of difference.

  3. A really great Mass should make your heart sing. Like listening to a live performance of Handel’s “Messiah”. It should make God feel closer to your life. I have not been to a Latin Mass since my childhood but I suspect it would be a beautiful experience. My home parish does a carefully respectful NO Mass that I love and get a great deal from. However I have equally, when traveling, been to NO Masses that are simply flat and business like, often held inside churches that have been stripped of all beauty and inspiration and look like the lobby of a modern office building. What this stripping was supposed to accomplish, I do not know. But its clear it was a failure, leading to the departure of many of our nuns and clergy and certainly many of our parishioners. Why then , should the Old Latin Mass, which inspired so many, be such kriptonite to a segment of the church hierarchy that they fear it so? One would imagine that if it is obvious that the V2 revisions were largely ( not all) a failure, why hold so tightly to the changes, which continue to damage the church? Why attack the Latin mass and those who love it? I hope at some point reasonable heads prevail. Why not take the best of both Masses and combine them? Keep the greater use of Bible passages in the NO and revert some of the prayers back to Latin.Keep the priest facing the people. Ditch the guitar masses and bring back Latin hymns.Bring back altar guilds and Rosary societies to increase a sense of respect, which has languished in the post V2 years. If what is happening now does not work to help pass the faith to the next generation, something must be tried. Repression of what actually WORKS is not the answer.

    • I’ve said from the beginning we should consider a melding or combination of the two forms in a simple respectful way. It would seem easy enough. Most agree with that idea. I was an alter boy in pre V2 and remember with respect the old. However, I really don’t miss it. Have been to a few TLM but do not go out of my way to.
      We have a tendency to swing from one side to the other with many issues. This would seem an easy compromise and certain aspects and forms of the old used respectfully with the new.

    • I grew up with the Latin Mass. I’m 80 yrs and remember the guitar Masses and think we have come a long way. My Catholic Church is growing. We have 7 Sunday Masses and 3 daily ones. We must be doing something right. I do not care for the Sunday Masses . Too much talking and not enough respect or silence. Yes, I remember the glorious feeling like being at the pearly gates in some of my past parishes after V2 but it was the music that comes only in a lifetime it seems. I don’t want Latin and I wouldn’t want too much gregorian chant. I am where I am, A daily Mass goer and happy where I am

      • Seven masses on Sunday? I don’t believe it (unless you mean an aggregated parish comprising multiple churches). St. Patrick’s Cathedral only has 3; 4 if you count the Sat evening Mass. And only 2 on Weekdays. Now when I was a kid (when we had the Latin Mass, and the vernacular equivalent after 1965) we did have 6 Masses on Sunday (6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (high) and 12:15) and 3 on weekdays (6:30, 7:30 and 8:30) in our modest suburban parish. We liked serving that last one because we were allowed to be late for school. It is nice that there are still fervently devoted people like Ms. Gallinari but they were a huge fraction of every parish back then and they are very few now.

        • During the winter, my parish has a Saturday evening vigil Mass, and then 6 Masses on Sunday. In summer, one mid-day Mass is dropped. We always have 2 weekday Masses per day, as well as an early morning Saturday Mass. Truthfully our church can hold 800 people and we are long past the point of admitting we do not need the capacity. The parish could easily offer fewer Masses.We are NOT an aggregated Parish. I guess they keep hoping the faithful will return.

  4. It seems fairly obvious by now that the reason the Holy Mass from continuity is suffocated by the Pontiff Francis and “Team Francis” is that they must not believe in the theology of the prayers in the Mass from continuity.

    Just ask “Rev.” James Martin and “Msgr.” Battista Ricca and “His Excellency Zanchetta” or “Rev.” Mauro Inzoli or “Rev.” Julio Grassi or “His former-Eminence” McCarrick or “His Eminent-Coverup” the late Cardinal Danneels or “His Eminence” Gregory or “His Eminence” Joe Tobin or “His Eminence” Blase Cupich or “His Excellency” McElroy or “His Eminence” Roger (called a “mafiosi” by investigator and Review Board Chairman Gov. Keating in 2003-04) Mahony.

  5. Novus Ordo…Novus Ordo…Novus Ordo…
    “New Order” is a compound adjective. New Order of what?
    Remember that the Novus Ordo Missae was carefully scripted by that Masonic Bishop, Bugnini, who afterward proclaimed, triumphantly, that he had “destroyed the Catholic Church”.
    The target of this combined and coordinated destructive energy and inertia, as stated by all that is masonic, is the the Catholic Church. The US one dollar note has as a clearly visible theme on the reverse, “Novus Ordo Saeclorum” – “New Order of the Ages”. A new masonic age is the goal here.
    It is this troubling undercurrent of masonic infiltration, still actively at work as the “smoke of satan”, within the Church that is the root cause of division among the faithful. All of the popes since Leo XIII have seen it and written about it in warnings to the sheep entrusted to them. All that was written and promulgated as an outcome of Vatican II is solidly faithful to Catholic Faith, Morals, Tradition and the Magisterium. What was done in deviating from the documents of Vatican II was intended from the beginning to subvert that same single body of Faith, Morals, Tradition and Magisterium, by wolves in sheep’s clothing.
    If the Latin Mass were truly doomed to inevitable extinction, no one need lift a finger to hasten its demise. Simply let it die on the vine. Well, sixty some odd years after Vatican II, it hasn’t died on the vine. To the astonishment of the descendants of Bugnini and company, the vine flourishes all the more.
    To those in the masonic way, this is no longer tolerable.
    Why this radical revisionist attack on ancient Catholic Tradition, particularly the Sacred Liturgy, here, now?
    The playing field must be cleared and made ready for the “novus ordo saeclorum”. There is no place for the old age to be found in the new. Turn the page…

  6. We are making the crisis about the Mass, but that’s only part of it. The tip of the iceberg, if you will. The real issue is the wholesale apostasy that has occurred in the past sixty years and has its roots in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The papally condemned heresy of Modernism. The usurpers in clerical, even papal clothing, have actively tried to destroy the Faith and most of the sheep have acquiesced. But be of good cheer. They will ultimately fail as did the Arians before them who once made up over 85% of the Church at one time. The majority is not in charge; Christ is. He is King and He alone will prevail and reign.

  7. Like so many of the complaints against the pope, this author shows a magnificent ignorance of one of the central facts of Catholic life throughout the 20th century: the liturgical renewal! Has she ever heard of Solesmes? Starting in abbeys and academic circles, and eventually influencing such otherwise different pontiffs as the reactionary Pius X, the diplomatic Pius XII and the learned, forward-looking Paul VI, the liturgical renewal informed the decisions made at Vatican II and subsequently. All this fretting about wanting an “ancient” liturgy fails to acknowledge what we have actually learned about ancient liturgy in the previous two centuries, still less how it informed the reforms the traditionalists abhor. Once again, Francis is proved right by his critics.

    • Annie: your words “and subsequently” are inattentive, gratuitous and miss the point…

      “The identity of the Church of the Catacombs with the Church of the Nicaean Council, of the Church of the Tridentine with the Church of the Vatican Councils is a sign that She is a divine institution. A Church of ‘tomorrow’ that would replace a Church of ‘yesterday’ would be a contradiction of the very nature of the Church. He whose heart is more thrilled by the idea of a changing Church than by the glorious identity and stability of the Church has lost the sensus supranaturalis and demonstrates that he no longer loves the Church” (von Hildebrand, “Trojan Horse in the City of God,” 1967).

      Pope Francis is not proved right by his critics, of whom he has said that he simply does not listen to his critics. A simple personality flaw like many of us, but in high places.

  8. I go back to the words of my old mentor, L. Brent Bozell, Jr.: “Today, because of yesterday, Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum Qui laetificat juventutem meam.” I think that says it all.

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