The Point Remains: It’s “The Mass of Pius V”

francis elevation[Editorial Comment: I have prayed over what to do about this post.  I remain convinced that the overall point I want to make remains valid.  My mistake, for which I have apologized, was to specify a particular blogger (Father Zuhlsdorf) as being among those who make the mistake in question.  I stand by that apology.  I also stand by the fundamental thrust of my original posting; namely, that there are people who do associate the name of St. John XXIII inappropriately with the Mass of Pius V.  There is an appropriate and correct way to do that, since St. John DID promulgate an editio typica of the Mass of Pius V in 1962.  There are also inappropriate and incorrect ways of describing that reality as well, and THAT was the point I was trying to make.  So, I have edited the original posting to remove references to “Fr. Z” and still make the point I wished to make.]

I write this post with respect, although with an obvious and unapologetic sense of intellectual frustration.  Clearly the topic I want to explore is not a “Kingdom issue” or something that need be at the forefront of every person’s daily concerns!  However, for a lifelong Catholic like myself, a student of the Church and her liturgies, and someone for whom the Church as People of God, Mystical Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit carries great significance, this is something that I think must be addressed. So, what is it?

It is the tendency of some commentators to refer to the 1962 editio typica of the Missale Romanum as “The Mass of St. John XXIII”.  I’m not sure why such an error is being made, and I don’t want to ascribe any motivation to something which may be nothing more than a simple error of fact.  It does seem, however, that this description of the Mass seems to be made most often by critics of the Mass of Paul VI, so perhaps it is their way of suggesting a contrasting hermeneutic of church and liturgical worship.  I don’t know.  Assuming that this is nothing more than a simple error, then, this post is offered as fraternal correction.

Here’s the deal.  As we all know, a wide variety of ancient liturgical texts developed.  These took a variety of forms and often varied widely from place to place.  There were also attempts over the years to consolidate or to unify liturgical practice in the Latin Church, often following the patterns used by the Church in Rome.  There are many good studies of all of this so there is no need to recount those details.  However, the custom of “naming” the Roman Missal is what concerns me here.

1896 Missale Romanum Title PageIn 1570, following the decisions of the great Council of Trent, Pope Pius V promulgated a new editio typica of the Roman Missal.  This became known, then, as the “Mass of Pius V.”  In fact, I have open on my desk at the moment an 1896 printing of the Roman Missal, and the title page states: “Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacrosancti concilii tridentini restitutum, S. Pii V Pontificis Maximi”.  Ah, “but Deacon, but Deacon,” you’re probably saying, “St. John XXIII came up with his own typical edition in 1962!”  Let’s continue, and all will be made clear.

Following that first typical edition of the so-called “Tridentine Mass”, many subsequent popes made changes to the Mass of Pius V, and some of these popes issued their own typical editions: Clement VIII in 1604, Urban VIII in 1634, Leo XIII in 1884, and Benedict XV (reflecting much of the work of his immediate predecessor, St. Pius X) in 1920.  In 1951, Pope Pius XII issued a number of significant changes to the Missal, especially involving Holy Week, but none of these changes were placed into a new typical edition.  Finally, in 1962, St. John XXIII published the last of these typical editions.  Now, here’s the point: at no point in all of this history did we as a Church change the attribution of the name of the Mass.  When Clement VIII issued his typical edition, we didn’t start calling it the “Mass of Clement VIII”; when Urban VIII issued his in 1634, we didn’t call it the “Mass of Urban VIII”; when Leo XIII issued his, we didn’t. . . , well, you get my point.  It was ALWAYS, even in 1962, referred to as the “Mass of Pius V.”

Want more proof?  Pope Paul VI issued the first typical edition of a post-conciliar Roman Missal in 1969 (although earlier changes had been made), and it became known as the “Mass of Paul VI.”  Then, he issued another typical edition in 1975, and it was still the “Mass of Paul VI.”  In 2002, St. John Paul II issued the third typical edition of — you guessed it, the “Mass of Paul VI.”  We didn’t start calling it the “Mass of St. John Paul II”, did we?  Of course not: it is still, to this day, the “Mass of Paul VI.”

Readers of the original version of this post have pointed out, of course, the very legitimate use of the term “Missal” to describe the various editions of the Mass; so, for example, one might refer to the “Missal of Urban VIII,” or the the “Missal of St. John XXIII.”  This is not my point, although I must say that I have yet to hear anyone refer to the current edition of the Roman Missal as “The Missal of St. John Paul II, either.  If one wishes to speak of the “Missal of St. John XXIII” wouldn’t we also speak of the “Missal of St. John Paul II”?

Pope Pius VAs I said at the outset, this is not an issue upon which the Reign of God depends.  I guess my real plea is to remind all of us that the Mass is that of Jesus Christ.  I would hope that, whichever Missal is being used for the full, conscious and active participation of the entire church, we seek clarity and unity with charity.  For those times when I have not practiced charity, I apologize to those who have been hurt.

God bless all who visit here.