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From The Recusant, Issue 60. Some people won’t believe it until the day arrives where they go to their SSPX chapel and find the hybrid Mass being celebrated there. For those of us who are paying attention, however, the warning signs are already starting to manifest…

The SSPX Moves Closer to
Accepting the New Mass

Exaggeration? Sensational, click-baity headline? Sadly not. Take a look for yourself. And if you having read what follows and given it due consideration, you still have any doubt at all, then write to your local SSPX priest and ask him to justify even part of what follows.

PART 1 - Denying Quo Primum’s authority and defending

          Paul VI’s right to make a New Mass

Here is what Fr Paul Robinson, acting as an official mouthpiece for the SSPX, has to say about the authority of Quo Primum. It is so shocking that we will quote him at some length. 

Fr. Paul Robinson: “Pius V [sic] wanted to canonise the Mass, to set it in stone and say: this is what it is. And he uses very strong language in Quo Primum, saying that, you know, this shall be in force for perpetuity, the wrath of Saints Peter and Paul will fall on those who dare change this missal, and so on. And what happens with the Traditionalist movement is sometimes Traditionalists interpret that document as meaning that the Mass can never be changed, that somehow St. Pius V was wanting to bind all of his successors in the papacy. And so they use Quo Primum to say that the Traditional Mass effectively is the only Mass that ever could be or will be till the end, and that any other legislative acts of the Popes to try to introduce a new Mass or try to modify the old Mass are illegitimate for that reason.

 

Andrew: Let me jump in real quick Father, and ask if you could clarify two points for me. One is: when you say that this is a “disciplinary” bull, it’s not that he’s trying to discipline someone, it’s that it’s more about legislation, it’s not about dogma. Is that correct?

 

Fr. Paul Robinson: That’s correct, it more concerns the practices of the Church rather than the doctrine of the Church.

 

Andrew: OK, and so then when you said: “It’s not [that] no one can ever change it” - successors of Pius V [sic], of Pope Pius V [sic], could, when he was saying that no one could change it, when he was using that very strong language, who was he talking about, if not the next Popes coming down the line?

 

Fr. Paul Robinson: Well he was referring to those who were not in a position to do such things. For one thing, he was referring to the printers. He specifically mentions the printers, you know, they were to print exactly what he put, they weren’t to, you know, do their own editing on the missal. But he was also referring to people lower in the hierarchy: he wasn’t wanting people like a bishop of a diocese, or a certain cardinal, or priests in their parish taking the missal and modifying the missal. Certainly the Pope, St. Pius V, was not anticipating legislating to all his successors, as though he had a power that all the other Popes had, like he could take power away from the other Popes, he certainly wasn’t wanting to set limits on the power of future Popes to either change that missal or bring in a different Mass. And that’s precisely what the questioner is sort of highlighting, because people are going to the questioner and saying, well, if you believe that Quo Primum binds the future Popes, how can it be that other Popes have changed the missal? Such as St. Pius X, or, um, other Popes who have added Saints to the missal, or the missal that we use, the 1962 missal was changed by John XXIII, he added the name of St. Joseph to the canon, for instance. So how is it that these Popes have changed what St Pius V established, if your argument is correct, that no Popes can lawfully change the missal after St. Pius V? And what I’m saying is that this is just a wrong interpretation of Quo Primum, St. Pius V was not wanting to bind all his successors that you can’t change the missal.

 

Andrew: I see. So, in a sense, Quo Primum was effective and perfect for its time, and what it does is it says: this is the Mass, there’s nothing wrong with this Mass, use this one, Popes down the line can change it. So I guess we’re left with two conclusions. One, that is, to use an argument of: Quo Primum is there so that’s why we have to use this Mass, - it’s kind of an ineffective argument because that’s not really what Quo Primum does, like you said, it doesn’t lock the Mass down.

 

Fr. Paul Robinson: It’s not an ineffective argument, it’s the wrong argument to make with Quo Primum.

 

Andrew: Oh, I see.”

 

  (See: https://youtu.be/y1bdLPsWEI0?t=953 [15:53 - 20:25] )

Oh my, oh my, oh my… where does one even begin?

 

The first point to note is that this “SSPX podcast” is not recent, and has been out there for a good four years or so (April 2019, since you ask). We just never noticed it; neither did any of you, it seems, or if you did you kept awfully quiet about it. I know, I know, listening to him speak is almost a form of Chinese torture, you are forgiven on that score at least. Still, be glad that somebody did, or the hideous implications of what was said might have passed us all by.

 

The second point is simply to point out that Fr. Robinson is absolutely wrong on this question;  as wrong as he is about the earth being billions of years old; as wrong as he was about covid lockdowns being a good thing for which we should all be thankful and concerning which we mustn’t spread “conspiracy theories” (yes, remember that one?!)

 

To show how wrong he is, all that we really should have to do is to take a look at the text of Quo Primum itself:

 

“Furthermore, by these presents and by virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We give and grant in perpetuity that for the singing or reading of Mass in any church whatsoever this Missal may be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment or censure, and may be freely and lawfully used. … We likewise order and declare that no one whosoever shall be forced or coerced into altering this Missal; and this present Constitution can never be revoked or modified, but shall forever remain valid and have the force of law. […] Therefore, no one who-soever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission …Should anyone, however, presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

 

Those words surely speak for themselves. They are the first and most important piece of evidence in defence of Quo Primum. The second is common sense. As regular readers may recall, the question of whether or not Quo Primum is still in force was dealt with in these very pages as recently as late 2021 (Recusant 56, p.45). A number of points were made, which can be summarised as follows:

 

  • St Pius V clearly thought that he could bind his successors, his own words at the end of Quo Primum itself leave no doubt and no room for interpretation. Why would he say something so misleading in such clear language, and why did no one even attempt to correct him?

 

  • When it came time to beatify and canonise him, why did nobody point out that this Saintly Pope had got things so wrong and misled everyone about so serious a matter?

  • Every one of his successors, up to and including John XXIII, clearly considered themselves bound by Quo Primum and behaved accordingly. Quo Primum, including those very words just quoted, appeared in the front of every altar missal up to including the 1962 edition.

  • It is misleading and untrue to say that Quo Primum is purely “disciplinary,” since its object, the thing with which it is concerned, is not a mere matter of discipline. The object of Quo Primum, is in fact the Mass, something which is intimately connected with the Faith itself as the Council of Trent and every Protestant reformer understood very well. Likewise, the past fifty-plus years since 1970 have amply demonstrated that whether a priest says the Novus Ordo Mass or the Traditional Mass is not a mere matter of discipline: the Faith itself is at stake. Finally, we must remember that the Traditional Roman Rite is the work of the Holy Ghost and goes right back to the very earliest times of the Church: is it really to be treated as being of no greater importance than the question of, say, whether or not a priest can grow a beard?

 

  • Quo Primum is the work of the Council of Trent, as the text of the document itself makes clear. It is therefore not merely of one particular Pope, even if we are talking about the only Pope to have been canonised for about six-hundred years. Every altar missal up to and including the 1962 edition carried the title “Missale Romanum: Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini” [by decree of the Sacred Council of Trent] followed by the name of St. Pius V, making it clear that whilst it was a work carried out by that Pope, it was done at the command of the Council of Trent. Again, the very text of Quo Primum itself also makes this clear.

  • Further evidence that what is at issue is the authority of the Council of Trent, not the mere authority of any one given Pope, is the very fact that for the past several hundred years, the Traditional Roman Rite of Mass has been widely known as the “Tridentine” Mass, i.e. the Mass “of the Council of Trent.”

 

The right question to ask, therefore, would be not just whether a Pope can bind his successors, but rather whether a Council can bind future Popes. Can a Council bind future Popes concerning a matter of Tradition which goes right back to the very earliest days of the Church? And it is not even merely a Council, the right question to ask is: are future Popes bound by the Tradition of the Church? The question almost answers itself.

A Pope Writing to the Printers!

 

To whom did St. Pius V address his words in Quo Primum? Fr Robinson informs us that,

 

“Well he was referring to those who were not in a position to do such things.”

 

So he was telling people who didn’t have the authority to change things that they didn’t have the authority to change things? Apart from being circular reasoning, this would make St Pius V’s words fatuous, trivial and a waste of effort: utterly pointless, in other words. According to Fr Paul Robinson, Pope St Pius V told people “who weren’t in a position” to do such things not to do those things that they weren’t in a position to do anyway. Got it? St Pius V wants you to know that people who obviously don’t get to change the Mass, don’t get to change the Mass. Why would the Saintly Pope make himself and the Church look so ridiculous? And why did nobody else ever comment on it in the four centuries following?

 

“For one thing, he was referring to the printers. He specifically mentions the printers, you know, they were to print exactly what he put, they weren’t to, you know, do their own editing on the missal.”

 

Anything - anything! - which is sent to the printers, has to be printed accurately. That goes without saying. If this very newsletter were sent to the printers and came back with a lot of rainbow flag logos over it and the text of the editorial substituted for a plea for tolerance, diversity and “human rights,” the editor might very well ask for his money back. Are we  really to believe that St. Pius V went to the effort of promulgating a papal bull in order to make sure that the printers did their job properly, the job that they’re being paid for and which they already know they have to do properly? Is that what we’re being asked to believe? Does that sound at all plausible? 

 

“But he was also referring to people lower in the hierarchy: he wasn’t wanting people like a bishop of a diocese, or a certain cardinal, or priests in their parish taking the missal and modifying the missal. Certainly the Pope, St. Pius V, was not anticipating legislating to all his successors …”

 

Likewise, are we being asked seriously to believe that St Pius V considered the threat of a lowly parish priest changing the Roman Rite of Mass as being so serious that he addressed it in a papal bull? A papal bull which itself claims the authority of the Council of Trent?

 

Rather unsurprisingly, Fr Robinson offers no evidence whatever for these ridiculous claims. Nor does he quote from the text of Quo Primum. Whilst parish priests and printers are mentioned earlier on in the text, it is clear that St. Pius V is no longer talking about them later on in the text when talks ab out permission to use his missal and says that it can be used without scruple of conscience and without “fear of incurring any penalty, judgement or censure.” Were 16th Century printers in the habit of excommunicating priests for using the wrong missal? Is it likely that a parish priest might attempt to excommunicate one of his juniors for using the Roman missal? What rubbish. Here is what Quo Primum actually says about using the Traditional Roman (“Tridentine”) Missal:

 

“Furthermore, by these presents and by virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We give and grant in perpetuity that for the singing or reading of Mass in any church whatsoever this Missal may be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment or censure, and may be freely and lawfully used. … We likewise order and declare that no one whosoever shall be forced or coerced into altering this Missal; …”

 

Clearly these words are aimed at someone in authority. Who is likely to be the one doing the excommunicating? Who would be the one doing the coercing? To a lesser extent this might conceivably mean the bishop of a diocese, but surely the primary person to whom this would apply above all others would be a Pope? Quo Primum also says:

 

“[…] And this present Constitution can never be revoked or modified, but shall forever remain valid and have the force of law.”

 

Again, who would do the “revoking” - or who would most likely try to revoke it? Is that not the sort of thing a future Pope would most likely be the one to do?

 

The Mass has always been changing!

 

Worse still is Fr Robinson’s argument, essentially a reheated version of an old and fallacious argument long used by Novus Ordo liberals (“The Mass has always been changing!”), that:

 

“…[people are] saying, well, if you believe that Quo Primum binds the future Popes, how can it be that other Popes have changed the missal? Such as St. Pius X, or, um, other Popes who have added Saints to the missal, or the missal that we use, the 1962 missal was changed by John XXIII, he added the name of St. Joseph to the canon, for instance. So how is it that these Popes have changed what St Pius V established, if your argument is correct, that no Popes can lawfully change the missal after St. Pius V?”

 

What is the problem with this argument? Well, first of all, his attempt to use St Pius X to prove his point is unfortunate. St Pius X changed the ranking of certain feasts in order to restore the status of Sundays to what they had been in the time of St Pius V. This was not a change to the actual rite itself, more of a smaller change to the calendar and even then, it was more in the way of putting things back to how they had been when there weren’t as many Saints in the calendar. The fact that St Pius X himself was careful to show that he wasn’t really altering the Roman Rite of Mass and falling foul of Quo Primum surely shows, if anything, that he felt that Quo Primum was binding on him.

 

Secondly - it sounds obvious but let’s point it out anyway - there are changes and there are changes. The changes made to the Mass after Vatican II, replacing the “Tridentine” Mass with the New Mass, are radical and essential: this is a change from one thing to something totally different. By comparison, the so-called “changes” cited by Fr Robinson are almost of no account. Yes, adding St Joseph’s name into the canon is in its own way controversial. Equally controversial was St Gregory the Great adding six words (“diesque nostras in tua pace disponas”) into the canon of the Mass. But, once accomplished, even those changes did not leave the Traditional Roman Rite looking unrecognisable as though it had been replaced by something else. You might add a bumper sticker to your car or hang a rosary from the rear-view mirror, but if I steal your car from your driveway and leave a roller-skate in its place, I can’t then tell you: “Why are you so upset? There’s always been changes happening to your car!”; likewise, if I were to burn your house to the ground and present you with a cardboard box to live in instead, I cannot justify my actions by pointing out that you recently repainted your garden fence and one time even replaced the tiles on the roof, so you’ve no right to object to one further change! Is that such an absurd comparison? Remember, Fr Robinson talks about “other Popes who have added Saints to the missal” as an example of “changing the missal.” Is adding a Saint to the missal the same as replacing the Traditional Mass with Paul VI’s New Mass? Are we to make no distinction between essential changes and non-essential changes? Surely neither Fr Robinson nor Andrew can really be quite so obtuse?

 

And if the listener had any doubt at all that what Fr Robinson is offering is nothing more than a well-worn conciliar argument, one employed for decades by Novus Ordo Catholics to try to defend the legitimacy of the New Mass, the fact that Andrew picks up on and amplifies his sentiment should leave no one in any doubt at all. How does this sound in the mouth of a supposed Traditionalist:

 

“I see. So, in a sense, Quo Primum was effective and perfect for its time, and what it does is it says: this is the Mass, there’s nothing wrong with this Mass, use this one, Popes down the line can change it.”

 

Notice how Quo Primum was good in its time. Rather like Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors was supposedly good for the 1800s but Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae with its teaching on  Religious Liberty was good for our own era, as the late Cardinal Ratzinger (in)famously taught. Is this not classic modernism, using a spurious method of historical context to empty the truth of any objective meaning?

 

Andrew even claims that Quo Primum, “says: this is the Mass, there’s nothing wrong with this Mass, use this one, Popes down the line can change it” - no, no, NO Andrew, you great ninny, it pointedly doesn’t say that! And I challenge anyone to find any words which even hint at such a thing. Ah! I want to put my head in my hands and weep! This fellow Andrew presumably knows how to read, so he really has no excuse: just read what it says, it isn’t hard! How does anyone manage to take crystal clear statements such as:

 

  • “This present Constitution can never be revoked or modified, but shall forever remain valid and have the force of law,” and,

 

  • “Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this,” and,

 

  • “Should anyone, however, presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

 

 - and read them as saying: “Popes down the line can change it”..?! It defies common sense. The only possible answer, incredible though it may sound, is that he didn’t bother to read the text of Quo Primum prior to the podcast. And yet if you or I were about to do a podcast discussing Quo Primum, surely that is the first thing you would do in order to prepare? It isn’t a particularly wordy or difficult to read text, and it is quite short too. There really is no excuse. Fr Robinson does not correct him either, meaning he shares Andrew’s, er, creative interpretation of what Quo Primum says; being a priest he has even less of an excuse.

Fr Hesse on Quo Primum

 

We have quoted the late, great Fr Hesse here before. Out of gratitude, do please say a quick prayer for the repose of his soul. Here, once again, is what he had to say on the question.

 

“The Fathers of Trent therefore said that the Pope could not change the rites. Is that my interpretation or is it papal teaching? It is implicit papal teaching because - have you ever held a Roman [altar] Missal in your hands? Well if you get a chance, look up the first decrees at the beginning of the book. At the beginning of the Roman Missal, you will find the decree Quo Primum by Pius V. And as the only exception in Church history, you will not only find Pius V’s decree, but you will find three other decrees. All through Church history, no Pope published a book without cancelling his predecessor’s document if there was one. The typical way, for example, of publishing the Code of Canon law, or the Corpus Iuris Canonici which was its predecessor before 1917, would be to authorise a new edition and put in one’s own document. Like Pope Urban IX, who put in his name and threw out his predecessor’s decree.

 

The Roman Missal since 1570 is the only exception in Church history. Why? Because Pius V did nothing else but respect the Council of Trent when he codified what was there. When Pius V, Saint Pius V, in 1570 published the Roman Missal, he did not change anything. He changed a few little rubrics that were not clear, they were kind of confusing, so he changed them. But the book as such was the missal that had been used for centuries by the Roman Curia. And he canonised it with the decree Quo Primum, in which he says: not only the book must not ever be changed in the future, this Mass must be said by all priests in the future, but the decree as such is irreformable.

 

Some people now argue that a Pope cannot bind a Pope. They argue in what you call legalistic nonsense. They quote Roman law, and they misquote Roman law, because they quote Roman law well but they quote Roman law on a wrong level, by quoting the old line: par in parem potestatem non habet - “An equal has no power over an equal.”

 

The Pope, at first sight, may seem another Pope’s equal. But then, how about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception? Can a future Pope take that back? No, you know very well he can’t. So that means that the Pope’s have to respect their predecessors.

[…]

So Tradition binds the Pope. Especially in liturgy. Why? The oldest liturgical principle, written down the first time in the year 250, exactly 750 years ago, is: Lex orandi statuat legem credendi. The law of what has to be prayed will determine the law of what has to be believed. Do not confused the law of what has to be believed with the Deposit of Faith. The Deposit of Faith is at the very beginning of everything. But the law of what has to be prayed will determine what has to be believed. What is the law of what has to be believed? The Creed, for example. Every time you recite the creed at Sunday Mass, you recite what you have to believe in order to remain a Catholic. Now in the liturgy, you always found the feast of the Immaculate Conception. You talk about lex ordandi, the law of what has to be prayed: in an ancient missal of the 14th century or in a handwritten missal of the eighth century, you will find the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. That’s the law of what has to be prayed, because the priests had to celebrate that feast. However it only became the law of what has to be believed in 1854 when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. So you can easily see in history that the law of what has to be prayed will determine the law of what has to be believed. Lex orandi statuat legem credendi. […]

 

You can see from this principle that the Roman Missal cannot be considered a mere disciplinary law. It is much more than that, it is way above any discipline. The Roman Missal is the number one law of what has to be prayed because Holy Mass is the number one prayer! Therefore, when Pius V said: this missal cannot be changed, and this decree confirming that is irreformable - he did in fact bind his successors. I ask you, is this my interpretation or is it that of the Popes? Well I showed you, that is the papal interpretation. Because even John XXIII did not dare to take out Quo Primum or the decree following it by Clement VIII, or the decree by Urban VIII. He did not dare to replace these documents. That means even John XXIII visibly thought that he was bound by his predecessors decrees. That makes four hundred years of Popes being who ‘felt’ that they were bound. Of course, the Popes didn’t just have a ‘feeling’ about it. Leave the feelings in California!”

 

(See: https://youtu.be/FABY6aIJw6A)

 

Well said, Fr Hesse. It chills one to the bone to reflect that this man was a priest-friend of the SSPX and that when he spoke these words, some twenty years ago or less, virtually every single one of his SSPX priestly friends would have agreed with him. And yet look at the SSPX today, with the likes of Fr Paul Robinson as its mouthpiece: a 180 degree change. “Quo Primum is still in force, it binds all of St Pius V’s successors.” “Quo Primum isn’t in force and it had no power to bind any of St Pius V’s successors.” Which is correct, the SSPX of yesterday, or the SSPX of today?

 

So dramatic is the change that some SSPX priests appear not to have got the proverbial  memo and are still repeating the old understanding of Quo Primum. Even our own district superior, Fr Robert Brucciani (no hide-bound conservative reactionary he!) wrote as recently as 2021 in the British District Newsletter ‘Ite Missa Est’ that:

“Pope St. Pius V, following a decree of the Council of Trent, promulgated the bull Quo Primum to fix the Rite of Mass for all time for the Latin Church. Henceforth the Rite was known as the Tridentine Rite of Mass.”

 

Well said, Fr Brucciani. Quo Primum fixed the Traditional Roman Rite for all time, not just during the lifetime of St. Pius V or until one of his successors felt like changing it! 

Was the New Mass ‘Legitimately Promulgated’..?

 

Let us return briefly to this question. Remember that in its April 2012 Doctrinal Declaration, the SSPX famously described the New Mass as, “legitimately promulgated by Pope Paul VI…” Remember too that Fr Daniel Themann and others tried to spin this phrase as signifying not that the New Mass was legitimately promulgated (why on earth would anyone think that?!), but that the Pope had the legitimate authority to promulgate it. This interpretation was repeated by our unfortunate correspondent in the last issue (‘Is the Resistance Justified?’ - Recusant 59, p.42 ff), who claimed that words such as “legitimately promulgated” when used to describe the New Mass,

 

“...merely mean that the Society recognizes that Paul VI and John Paul II had the right to promulgate liturgical rites. Hence, it is not a judgment on the Novus Ordo itself.”

 

This is as laughable, but we have pointed out plenty of times already that the words mean what they say. In previous Recusant issues we have reproduced an article by Fr Paul Kramer showing that the New Mass was never in fact promulgated, and one by Fr Gregory Hesse proving that no Pope had the right to promulgate such a rite in any case. 

 

Fr Robinson goes on later in this interview to say that, whilst Paul VI was able to change the Mass and promulgate a New Rite had he so wished, in fact he didn’t because the Novus Ordo was never actually promulgated. He is quite right on that last point. The question of whether Paul VI could have promulgated the New Mass legitimately is where he falls down.

 

In short: whereas we deny the legitimacy of the New Mass and uphold the legitimacy of Quo Primum, Fr Robinson & co. deny the legitimacy of Quo Primum – what is the corollary? Sliding towards defending the legitimacy of the New Mass, isn’t that where this leads?

New Mass Matrix.jpg

The title page of a Traditional altar Missal. Note that the title ("Missale Romanum" - "Roman Missal") is followed immediately by the words:    "Ex Decreto Sacrosancto Concilii Tridentini"      (By Decree of the Sacred Council of Trent), not merely "By Decree of  Pope Pius V". Can a future Pope overturn the Council of Trent? 

Pope St. Pius V who reigned 1566 - 1572. The man who defeated the Ottomans at Lepanto,  who excommunicated ​Elizabeth I of England and who... wrote a Papal Bull to ensure printers did a good job?!

PART 2 - Rehabilitating Arch-Modernist Fr. Pius Parsch

 

In a more recent (January 2023) episode of the SSPX podcast, the very same Fr. Robinson can be found tacitly approving and even recommending a book by the late Fr. Pius Parsch, and thereby arguably giving a nod and a wink to the liturgical arch-modernist himself. This is despite the fact that the SSPX once published a book in which Parsch was roundly criticised as being one of the modernist “Rhine group” responsible for Vatican II and the New Mass in particular. The late Fr. Didier Bonneterre’s 2002 book The Liturgical Movement might still be available in some SSPX repositories, but in case it isn’t, an extract is available here: https://fsspx.news/en/news-events/news/50-years-new-mass-pius-parsch-15-56577).

 

“On Ascension Day 1922, he [Fr. Parsch] decided to organize the first community Mass in the church of Saint Gertrude. Parsch relates:

 

‘During this time I heard talk of a Missa Recitata being celebrated among student groups. I resolved to celebrate…the first community Mass…This sung Mass was still quite primitive: the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Angelus Dei were sung in German…the responses, the Gloria, and the Credo were recited in choir by all present. The readings and prayers were said by the president. We made an offering, and even the kiss of peace was indicated by shaking hands. It was no doubt the first celebration of Mass in the spirit of popular liturgy in the German-speaking countries.’

 

These community Masses are considered to be the birthing of the liturgical movement in Austria.

 

Pius Parsch was more of a pastor than a theologian, more a practitioner than an intellectual. His great preoccupation had always been bringing the treasures of the Mass to the people. This is why he also spoke of a “popular liturgical renewal” and his books all have a catechetical dimension. This perhaps explains why his thinking lacks coherence: on the one hand, Parsch drew inspiration from Catholic tradition (Dom Guéranger), and on the other hand he was strongly influenced by the new ideas of the liturgical scholars famous during his time. Thus, at one time he would defend the  traditional doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and presented it in a luminous way, but at another time he would take up without discussion the doctrine of the   mysteries of Odon Casel or the theory of the Mass-as-a-meal of Guardini.

 

‘So what is Mass? Above all, it is a meal, and a truly significant meal, since it is linked to eternal life, union with Christ and the resurrection. It is then a memorial, just like its foreshadowing, the Passover, was a memorial: ‘Do this in memory of Me!’ Mass is finally a sacrifice, because one eats the flesh and the blood of the Lord, and it is truly this flesh which must be immolated in death, this blood which must be shed. Mass is therefore a meal, a memorial, a sacrifice. This is what Christ himself says about the Mass.’

 

In accordance with this misconception, Pius Parsch calls the altar a “table,” and on the occasion of the renovation of the Church of Saint Gertrude in 1936, he built the altar in the shape of a table. This practice was condemned by Pius XII in 1947 in the encyclical Mediator Dei: ‘one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form.’ ”

 

There is absolutely no doubt that Pius Parsch was one of the founding father of the so-called “liturgical movement” whose fruit was the New Mass. This author remembers having seen modernist Novus Ordo publications putting him on a pedestal as one of the men they look up to, a great hero of the Vatican II renewal, a pioneer in breaking free of the shackles of the bad old days when the congregation weren’t “involved” in Mass, and so forth. The Novus Ordo modernists will tell anyone who will listen that without Pius Parsch, we wouldn’t be fortunate enough to enjoy the New Mass today!

 

Given that Fr. Bonneterre’s book is fairly well known and was, for many years, fairly widely circulated in several languages, there is surely very little chance of a priest of the SSPX such as Fr. Robinson being unaware of this, one would have thought. Hence we must ask: if he is aware of it, what does he think he’s doing? It is only a throwaway remark, but where the laity are concerned, many of them will not have read Fr. Bonneterre’s book. Many, not least the many post-covid newcomers, will in all likelihood be totally unaware and unsuspecting. And if such a layman hears an apparent recommendation, might he not take it as a green light?

 

Not only is there a danger to the faithful, there is the far more interesting and speculative question regarding exactly how Fr. Robinson and his superiors regard men like Parsch. Does the SSPX now secretly view the “liturgical movement” as basically good guys whose work went perhaps a little too far, or got hijacked later, or whatever, but who were otherwise sound? And if they do now think this way, are they prepared to admit it publicly?

 

The website of Fr. Pius Parsch’s own Abbey is very proud of his legacy, and revealing boasts that the New Mass could never have been possible without its illustrious founder:

 

“The starting point of reform was the little chapel of St. Gertrud, originally built as the abbey hospital chapel. Here Pius Parsch developed new, practical forms of liturgy in the German language. His numerous booklets were widely distributed, and his books were translated into various major languages: “The Church’s Year of Grace”, “Know and Live the Mass”, “The Liturgy of the Mass” and “Sermons on the Liturgy for Sundays and Feast Days” are the English titles of his most well-known works.

 […]

Liturgical reform in the Catholic church following the Second Vatican Council is  inconceivable without the lay liturgical community of St. Gertrud, as it was Pius Parsch who not only changed the position of the altar so as to face the people, but also started to use German as the local language instead of Latin for the liturgy.”

 

  (www.stift-klosterneuburg.at/en/monastery-and-order/vocations/science/pius-parsch-institute/)

 

Pay particular attention to that last bit: how did the road towards the New Mass begin? He changed the altar to face the people, and started using the vernacular language (in this case German) instead of Latin. In their opinion that was the root and starting point of so-called ‘liturgical reform. Bear that in mind for later on, when we will meet it again.

PART 3 - The SSPX and Freestanding Altars

 

From the internet (see: thecatacombs.org) comes news of the ongoing construction of the Immaculata, the new parish church which the SSPX is building in St. Mary’s Kansas. At the start of November 2022, the following video (https://youtu.be/GvdG8Nebj70?t=173  - c.3min onwards) appeared on the SSPX youtube channel, containing an explanation of the altar which they are installing in the new church at great expense.

 

“The Immaculata’s main altar is a freestanding altar, which means that it’s detached from the back wall of the sanctuary. Since the Immaculata was a design taking a lot of inspiration from Roman basilicas where freestanding altars are the tradition and fit the architecture, our sanctuary too was designed with such an altar. We love this Roman feature of the Immaculata because it links us with architectural tradition and it allows for the performance of the liturgy in its perfection in even less essential details. The freestanding altar was the norm for Catholic churches until about the eighth century when other elements of altar design came in and we saw at that time some more vertical elements being attached to the back of the altar, which we call nowadays gradines and reredos.”

 

In the same video, we are proudly informed that the altar will have lapis lazuli set into it, a stone which is both rare and expensive, so this is certainly a question of taste, not of cost.

 

A freestanding altar? Hm. Not only does that mean that there are no gradines or reredos, it also appears that the altar steps go right the way around, meaning that the altar can be approached from all sides. Including from behind. Is this a sign of latent modernism? Not necessarily. As Fr. Patrick Rutledge says in the video, freestanding altars were normal until the eighth century, and the freestanding altar fits the style of this new church’s architecture. Must Romanesque architecture, including the freestanding altar, be condemned per se by every right thinking Traditional Catholic? Of course not.

Immaculata Freestanding altar.jpg

Does that mean, then, that there are no grounds for suspicion? I don’t think one can go that far, either. Why this craze for bringing back early church architecture into the SSPX, and at such great expense, too? Does this not smack of the “archaeologism” condemned by Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei and by the very sensus fidei and common sense itself?

The new Immaculata church currently under construction in St. Mary’s Kansas is not the only such example, nor even the first. In Écône, a new chapel was built the best part of a decade ago. There were those who, at the time, regarded it as a sign of latent modernism. We said nothing about it at the time because at that point, it was just one isolated example. And besides, it is the French speaking part of Switzerland, the place where all the French seminarians go to become priests: and everyone knows that the French have a gigantic blind spot when it comes to the liturgy and church architecture (bare stone walls, bare stone - everything, few statues and the ones you will see are often colourless and ugly… but we digress.) The (then) new Écône altar was at least a little bit odd in its taste. There was no actual crucifix to be found anywhere on the altar itself, a large crucifix being instead suspended in mid-air above the altar. The SSPX were particularly proud of the fact that each of the columns was different, though to the unbiased observer this gives the altar an annoyingly asymmetrical look, besides the fact that one can see right through it from front to back. And then there is the fact that the steps go all the way around, which  means that it could (in theory) one day be used from behind.

econe altar.jpg

Very well, but that’s only two examples, isn’t it? Is that enough to condemn the SSPX? Here, then, are a few more examples.

 

In Richfield, Ohio (USA) the SSPX has recently built a new church (see here) to replace its old chapel. The altar can clearly be seen as freestanding, and once again the steps go all the way around, allowing it to be approached from all sides.

Ohio altar 5.jpg

Hanging by ugly chains...

The eyes are open!

What’s more, the baldacchino, the steps… all of it looks frightfully brutal and modern-artsy. Either they haven’t got around to adding a bit of colour and installing images of the saints yet, or the church was designed by a French priest. One unpainted, carved wooden statue at the extremity of the sanctuary is all the statuary to be seen in the whole church. There is no crucifix on the altar, but hanging at a lopsided angle by some very ugly looking chains above the altar is a cross on which the corpus is fully clothed and with the eyes wide open. Given which fact, is it even strictly-speaking a crucifix? Doesn’t the corpus have to be represented as dead? Either way, it is ugly and disedifying and one is left wondering: “Why?”

Tragically, the old chapel which the new St. Peregrine’s church has now replaced, seems to have had a sanctuary which, though fairly basic, was  noticeably more traditional. A comparison of the two tells its own tale: the old SSPX and the new. The new church doesn’t even appear to have any kind of statue or image of Our Lady. Again,  perhaps it wasn’t yet installed when the pictures were taken. Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.

What are those columns made of..? Brown metal?!

The point here is not just that the architecture is ugly (although in the above case of Richfield, Ohio, it unquestionably is!) but something far more important. As every Traditionalist used to understand, there is an important link between the liturgy (how we pray) and the Faith (what we believe). Tamper with one and the other will suffer too. That is why liturgical experimentation is inherently anti-Traditional and un-Catholic. That is perhaps also why as recently as 1947, Pope Pius XII, said the following in his encyclical  Mediator Dei:

 

“But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a colour for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.”

Pius XII has a lot to answer for when it comes to the ruination of the liturgy, but that is another topic for another day; what he says here is totally sound, Catholic common sense. An altar returned to its primitive table form? A crucifix which shows no trace of Our Lord’s sufferings? Hmm. That all sounds oddly familiar. With the 20th century progressives of the so-called Liturgical Movement, the justification for such changes was invariably the same: “that’s how it used to be in the early Church,” a line of reasoning which sounds not a million miles from the SSPX telling us all that freestanding altars were “the norm for Catholic churches until about the eighth century…” as though we are still living in the year 650.

Ohio altar - old church is much nicer.jpg

The old SSPX chapel: cozy, but still fairly Traditional...

Ohio altar  - our lady is missing.jpg

...and the new one: spacious but sterile.

Once again, let us add that it is not a simple question of condemning one style of architecture or condemning the very idea of a freestanding altar per se. But we have just seen three examples of large, prominent churches which the SSPX has custom built from the ground up. They paid a very large amount of money to have each of those churches built, but with the advantage that they could have the sanctuary just the way they wanted it. They didn’t inherit a primitive form of altar or sanctuary, they chose it that way.

Ohio altar 3.jpg

Note the space at the top of the steps behind the altar.

St MArys Altar.jpg

The proposed new altar for the St Marys Ks Immaculata - the freestanding altar also has steps which go all the way around...

STAS seminary altar.jpg

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Virginia - no gradines, just a rather bare “table” (mensa). Still, at least it’s against the wall.

And at the same time, the record still shows a willingness to consider the so-called hybrid Mass. Even if no SSPX priest ever offers Mass facing the people (and really, is it such a stretch?), there is always the possibility of that one diplomatically embarrassing occasion where the local Novus Ordo bishop pays a visit and insists on offering Mass facing the people - could that never  happen one day, too? Remember that Bishop Fellay was once asked in a DICI interview about the future possibility Novus Ordo bishops offering Mass at SSPX chapels and even ordaining and confirming, and he um-ed and ah-ed but refused to say “no,” in much the same way as Fr. Arnaud Rostand um-ed and ah-ed and refused to say “no” when he was asked whether the SSPX would consider the so-called “hybrid” Mass. So that too remains a future possibility. We will return to that shortly.

It is not necessarily the lack of gradines or reredos which does it. That already looks a little unusual, and why would you want to go without when you could have them? But on its own, that’s not so bad. The SSPX’s newly-built seminary in Virginia, USA has a temporary chapel (the only part of the seminary which hasn’t been built yet is the church!) where the altar is just such an example. No gradines or reredos, but at least the altar is against the wall. It can only be approached from one side, and therefore, to the eyes of the average layman, it looks all the more reassuringly traditional for it. It will, however, be interesting to see what happens when the new seminary’s church is finally built, and they move out of that temporary chapel. Going by the outside appearances, it is meant to look similar to the new church in Kansas. My money is on another freestanding altar in the architectural style of a basilica of the early Church. But perhaps that guess will be proven wrong.

 

PART 4 - The SSPX and the “Hybrid Mass”

 

Ugly architecture aside, let us return to the question “Why?” Why does it have to be a freestanding altar which could be approached from the other side and one day used to say Mass facing the people? Doubtless the SSPX is not about to start offering the New Mass or even the    Traditional Mass facing the people any time soon. But could they do so one day? Might there not be those within the hierarchy of the SSPX who have one eye on preparing for that day? Is that really so paranoid and far-fetched? Do we perhaps need a little more than some “coincidences” of architecture as evidence for such a suspicion?

 

Exhibit A is an excerpt from an interview given ten years ago by the then- District Superior of the USA, Fr. Arnaud Rostand:

 

“Angelus Press: Father, you also mentioned the maintenance of the 1962 Missal as one of the essential conditions of the Society's future. There are some reports that in the near future Rome may come out with an updated or hybrid version of the 1962 Missal. Would the Society ever consider adopting this?

 

Fr. Rostand: First of all, the reports of the hybrid Mass are uncertain and conflicting. It is difficult to base any position on theoretical or hypothetical things that may happen. Now, the General Chapter has made a clear statement of having the right to use the 1962 Missal and has always been in the mind of the Archbishop a prudential way of dealing with the disaster we find ourselves in today.”

 

(http://archives.sspx.org/District_Superiors_Ltrs/2013_ds_ltrs/fr_rostand_12-19-2012_ap_interview/fr_rostand_12-19-2012_ap_interview-part_2.htm)

 

Supposedly “conflicting” reports aside, Benedict XVI had long been a big supporter and   promoter of the idea of mixing and mashing the New Mass together with the Traditional Mass to create a “hybrid” missal (the French call it the “PiPaul Mass” - Pius V, Paul VI - as though there could ever be any comparison between those two Popes!) The question was clear and simple: “Would the SSPX ever consider adopting” the hybrid Novus-Traditional Missal?  Notice what Fr. Rostand pointedly didn’t say: he didn’t say “No!” He said that it’s still at the hypothetical stage and what’s important is that we have the right to use the 1962 missal. That means, in effect, yes. We would consider the hybrid Mass.

 

Might such a Mass conceivably be celebrated facing the people on a freestanding altar, the way the New Mass usual is usually celebrated? Take a look at the horrors which took place in the years 1965-70, after the Council but before the New Mass came out, and one will see that such a thing is far from impossible. The traditional Mass, but translated into the vernacular, facing the people, in “dialogue Mass” form and shorn of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel. And yet, if such a thing were one day to make a come-back, there would be no shortage of people out there willing and ready to defend it as being perfectly “Traditional,” the SSPX amongst them, one suspects.

 

Is this too great a stretch, are we exaggerating when we say that the SSPX would be more willing to accept a hybrid Novus/Traditional Mass? We have just quoted the response of one SSPX grandee to that very question. Here is another piece of evidence.

Exhibit B is the book Benoit XVI et les Traditionalistes (‘Benedict XVI and the Traditionalists’) by SSPX priest Fr Gregoire Celier, which appeared some sixteen or more years ago and  has since been promoted by the SSPX within the French district and further afield.

 

A fair and thorough critique can be found in French here:

http://benj.barrer.free.fr/Biblioth%E9que/Crise/CritiquedePaulChauss%E9e-BENOITXVIetlesTRADIS.pdf

Suffice it to say that Fr. Celier favours the idea of  a hybrid Novus-Traditional Mass, to the point of promoting it as the answer to all the Church’s woes. He names this concept the “PiPaul Mass” (“Pius-Paul”, after Pius V and Paul VI):

 

“He [i.e. Fr Celier] imagines that a hybrid rite could be born, which he calls the ‘PiPaul Mass,’ a mixture of the rite of ‘Pius’ and the rite of ‘Paul,’ of the Mass of St. Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI, which could be used by young priests to ‘take the new liturgy which they are celebrating in public and re-root it in Tradition’ (p.196), but also that it could be used ‘to improve through interbreeding’ the rite which they prefer, according to what Benedict XVI disturbingly calls ‘mutual enrichment.’

 

[Il imagine que pourrait naître un rite hybride qu’il appelle « messe pipaule », mélange du rite « Pie » et du rite « Paul », de la messe saint Pie V et de la messe Paul VI, qui pourrait être utilisé par les jeunes prêtres pour « réenraciner dans la tradition la liturgie nouvelle qu’ils célèbrent en public » (p. 196). Mais aussi pour “améliorer par métissage” le rite qu’ils préfèrent selon l’inquiétante option que Benoît XVI appelle « enrichissement réciproque ».]

 

We could quote more - there is more where that came from. The point is that the idea of a mish-mash hybrid Novus-Traditional Mass is not quite so anathema to the SSPX as some might think. Bear in mind also that this was back in 2007 or so, before the SSPX had ever put into writing its belief that the New Mass had been “legitimately promulgated by Pope Paul VI…” - in the infamous Doctrinal Declaration of April 2012.

Exhibit C - in 2014 a conciliar bishop claimed that Bishop Fellay had expressed to him his support for the idea of mixing together the New Mass and the Traditional Mass. In his article for the website newliturgicalmovement.org, after talking about the need for a “liturgical reform” to make the Traditional Mass more like the New Mass (so that modern people don’t feel too alienated at it), Bishop Peter J Elliot, who was at that point auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, wrote:

 

“We know what that reform would look like. We already have it at our fingertips. It would be a Latin dialogue Mass, said or sung ad orientem, with the readings in the vernacular. Then questions arise about some other changes set out in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In the context of the wider Church another issue inevitably emerges: could the Extraordinary Form be said or sung in the vernacular?

 

Several years ago I was surprised to hear this proposed during dialogue over lunch with Bishop Fellay and Australian priests of the Society of St Pius X.”

 

(https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2014/02/reform-of-reform-not-impossible.html)

 

Bishop Fellay and/or “his priests” proposed the Tridentine Mass but all in English (the vernacular), is that so? I can already hear the SSPX apologist trying to spin his way out of this one: Elliott never said that it was Bishop Fellay himself who proposed it! Very well, but if this wasn’t Bishop Fellay himself, merely one of “his priests”, then at the very least Bishop Fellay must not have intervened, meaning that he tacitly approved, or at any rate, allowed Bishop Elliott to think that he approved. Or perhaps Bishop Elliott is one of those diabolically inspired calumniators and rumour-mongers about whom the SSPX back in 2014 was continually warning us? Perhaps Bishop Elliott made the whole thing up and there isn’t an ounce of truth to any of it? That doesn’t seem at all probable, why would he tell straight up lies like that, and why would the ‘New Liturgical Movement’ open themselves up to a lawsuit by  publishing something which was totally untrue? And in any case, that is not the only example of this sort of thing leaking out into the conciliar media. Here is another example.

 

Exhibit D - In January 2013, Cardinal Canizares told Catholic News Agency how Bishop Fellay had made remarks to him of a similar tenor:

 

“According to a Spanish cardinal, the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X once said that if the group's leader had seen the [New] Mass celebrated properly, he may not have broken off from the Church.

 

Cardinal Antonio Canizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made this statement on Jan. 15 in response to questions from reporters after he delivered an address on Vatican II at the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.

 

‘On one occasion,’ Cardinal Canizares recalled, ‘Bishop Bernard Fellay, who is the leader of the Society of St. Pius X, came to see me and said, “We just came from an abbey that is near Florence. If Archbishop (Marcel) Lefebvre had seen how they celebrated there, he would not have taken the step that he did.” The missal used at that celebration was the Paul VI Missal in its strictest form,’ the cardinal added.”

 

(https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/26398/cardinal-if-lefebvre-had-seen-proper-mass-he-may-not-have-split)

 

Ah. Well, maybe Cardinal Canizares is also lying, calumniating and inventing things which never really happened, just like Bishop Elliot? Maybe they’re both lying or twisting things? Does that sound the least bit probable? To be sure, Bishop Fellay tried to backpedal from this one, and issued a “clarification” (here) which leaves things looking as clear as mud. But taken together as a whole, isn’t the evidence pointing in one direction?

 

How about an interview with Bishop Fellay, published by the SSPX itself, where one can read Bishop Fellay’s own words touching on the question of “liturgical reform” and the so-called “hybrid Mass”?

 

Exhibit E is an interview with Bishop Fellay which appeared in late June 2015. Right at the end of the interview, the question of mixing together the Traditional and Novus Ordo liturgies comes up. See for yourself:

 

“Interviewer: What do you think of Cardinal Sarah’s suggestion of introducing the traditional offertory into the New Mass?

 

“Bishop Fellay: It is not a new idea; it has been around in Rome for ten years. I am glad it has been taken up again. Some criticize the idea, saying it is a way of mixing the profane with the sacred. On the contrary, in the perspective of bringing health back to the Church, I think it would be a great step forward. …”

Curiously enough, the link to this interview has since been removed, although it was there and its full text can still be found reproduced on various other websites. Who knows what’s going on there. Anyway, Cardinal Sarah must be one of those good guys in Rome about whom Bishop Fellay was always talking so enthusiastically, so optimistically. And notice, he’s “glad” at the idea of mixing the Traditional and Novus Ordo rites. It’s “a great step forward” and a means of “bringing health back to the Church.” Doubtless there will be some who will defend these words by claiming that Bishop Fellay was talking about what they do, not what we do. And doubtless that is the case. But it is also true that from approving something in principle is only a short step from doing it oneself.

Summary

 

Let us review the evidence so far. Fr. Paul Robinson is not only a priest of the SSPX, he has just been appointed in charge of the SSPX’s biggest printing house, Angelus Press, by his superiors. His words can therefore be taken to be representative of the SSPX as a whole. Quo Primum, we are told, does not bind any of the Popes who came after St. Pius V and was written for the benefit of the printers, parish priests and the like. Despite the text itself, Quo Primum does not “forever have the force of law,” and Paul VI was thus free to do whatever he wanted to the Mass. Traditionalist of an earlier generation, men such as the late Fr. Gregory Hesse, are to be buried and forgotten, whilst men such as Pius Parsch are to be gently rehabilitated with a wink and a nudge. The SSPX has shown a worrying tendency in recent years towards favouring the so-called hybrid Mass where Mass would be celebrated with a mixture of Traditional and Novus Ordo liturgy, and at the same time the same SSPX seems now to be exhibiting a predilection for freestanding altars with steps going all the way around on both sides whenever they have the opportunity to build a sanctuary from scratch.

 

Put all the evidence together and what do we have? We may not witness a priest of the SSPX celebrate the so-called “hybrid” Mass, vernacular Mass or Mass facing the people for another decade or more. Or it might happen sooner than many think. Either way, in the opinion of this author it is a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’ Watch out!

 

“Yn lle allol; trestyl trist” [In place of an altar, there is a miserable table!]

 - St. Richard Gwynn

 

“We will have the Mass in Latin as it was before, and celebrated by the priest without any man or woman communicating with him. We will not receive this New Service which is like a Christmas game, but we will have our old service of Matins, Mass, Evensong and Procession in Latin as it was before. … We utterly refuse this new English.”

- From a letter containing a list of demands sent to the English government by the Catholic ‘rebels’ of the Western Rising of 1549, aka the “Prayer Book Rebellion”.

 

“The language proper to the Roman Church is Latin. Hence it is forbidden to sing anything whatever in the vernacular in solemn liturgical functions -  much more to sing in the vernacular the variable or common parts of the Mass and Office.”

-Pope Saint Pius X, ‘Tra le Sollecitudini,’ 22nd November, 1903

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