On December 4, 2023, 1 Peter 5 published a lengthy article (some 8,000 words) by Dom Alcuin Reid – a not-so-full-communion traditional Benedictine monk and liturgical expert – commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium).
In short, Reid maintains that the post-conciliar liturgical reform went awry due to the fact that “Sacrosanctum Concilium had been systematically and thoroughly abused,” had fallen victim to “systematic neglect,” and “had been ignored and surpassed.”
In attempting to make his case, Reid proudly wears his undying devotion to Josef Ratzinger and the Second Vatican Council on his sleeve. He’s one of the few self-described “traditional” clerics still publicly calling for the “hermeneutic of continuity” and a “reform of the reform” carried out in fidelity to Sacrosanctum Concilium of which he said:
But its sources that are sound and true remain so. They can guide future generations towards what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as “a movement toward the Liturgy and toward the right way of celebrating the Liturgy, inwardly and outwardly,” if only they dare to consult them and come to know these sources from within, as it were, as friends, and only if they have the courage and determination to implement all that such an encounter will demand.
OK, one may ask, but what about the numerous “sources” to be found in Sacrosanctum Concilium that are neither sound nor true?
Evidently, Reid either does not know about them (hard to believe), or cares not to acknowledge their existence. According to him, the Novus Ordo is “a banal on the spot production” just as Cardinal Ratzinger famously said simply because “the reformed rites were not entirely in accordance with the Council’s demands.”
No doubt many readers would agree with this assessment, but it is flawed in two ways.
For one, as I’ve argued elsewhere is some detail, even if Bugnini & Co. had slavishly adhered to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – including every one of its much ballyhooed, tradition-affirming proposals (the use of the Latin language, pride of place for Gregorian chant, etc.) – still, the revised rite would have emerged as a quasi-Protestant “product of the moment.” (See HERE.)
Secondly, despite Reid’s suggestion to the contrary, the Council – in the text of the Constitution – did not make any demands.
What was offered therein were “principles and norms that should be called to mind concerning the promotion and reform of the liturgy.” (cf SC 3)
Should be called to mind by whom, one might ask?
The Council was very clear: “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See” (SC 22. 1). In other words, the bishops at Vatican II plainly understood that the pope would decide how the process of liturgical reform would unfold moving forward.
“It is perfectly clear that the Fathers did not envisage or authorize a revolution in the Order of Mass, but an evolution,” Reid writes.
To be more precise, some Fathers most certainly did dream of a liturgical revolution. That said, all of them understood that no ecumenical council of the Church has the authority to make demands on the Roman Pontiff with respect to his regulation of the sacred liturgy or anything else.
NOTE: It must be said that insofar as a general council may define matters of faith and morals, assent is demanded of every member of the Church, including the popes.
In the present case, however, I am not suggesting that the liturgy is the pope’s plaything, much less am I arguing that Paul the Pathetic behaved like a true Roman Pontiff. I am simply pointing out that Reid appears to have an overblown sense of the Council’s ability to make demands on the pope, in this case, vis-à-vis his regulation of the liturgy.
The closest the Council comes to making a “demand” can be found in the following (also quoted by Reid):
There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. (SC 23)
Note that these are subjective matters. Clearly, Paul VI determined that the innovations and forms that he approved for use in the Novus Ordo Missae were in keeping with the principles stated above. Reid (and many others) may disagree, but if indeed Montini was a true Roman Pontiff, his is the only opinion that matters.
The Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys 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. (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei – 58)
Does this mean that the pope enjoys the right to impose a lex orandi (law of prayer) on the Church that reflects, and is drawn from, a false lex credendi (law of belief), i.e., a faith that is not Catholic?
No, of course not, and for several reasons. For one, a liturgy that has anything other than the true faith for its content, however small in relation to the whole, is not Catholic.
The entire liturgy has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church. (ibid., Pius XII)
It’s not clear whether or not Alcuin Reid believes that the Novus Ordo bears public witness to the faith of the Church.
If he does, then his criticism of the rite boils down to pointless arguments concerning good vs better, which ultimately are little more than subjective matters of personal preference. This particular mindset, incidentally, is very much in keeping with the Council’s approach to the one thing that matters most, salvation:
The Church is necessary for salvation (cf LG 14), however, the Holy Ghost uses the heretic communities as means of salvation as well (cf UR 3).
In other words: I prefer Cadillac. You favor Lincoln. See you there, brother!
My suspicion is that Alcuin Reid (and many others like him) does NOT truly believe that the entirety of the Novus Ordo Missae has the Catholic faith for its content. This seems obvious enough given the amount of time and energy he expends criticizing it.
So, why not just say so plainly? For example: The Novus Ordo contains elements that fail to bear public witness to the Catholic faith; in various ways, therefore, it bears witness to a false faith. For this reason, it is dangerously flawed.
It is highly unlikely that men like Alcuin Reid will ever speak so plainly. Whether consciously or not, they are aware of the unavoidable implications.
You see, he who would attempt to impose a lex orandi (law of prayer) on the Church that reflects, and is drawn from, a false lex credendi (law of belief), cannot be a true Roman Pontiff. Why not? Because such a one – failing in his duty to “externally manifest and profess the true faith” – is not a member of the Church of any rank (cf Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis 22, 69).
Again, this is just my suspicion, but surely Reid knows this as well as anyone. Rather than saying or writing anything that might invite such an obvious conclusion, however, he humiliates himself by making excuses for the post-conciliar putative popes.
For example, though he acknowledges that Paul VI personally approved “details of the reform and authoritatively promulgated them,” he lays blame squarely at the feet of Annibale Bugnini for the fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium was, according to his thesis, ignored and abused.
Ultimately, Reid described the post-conciliar liturgical crisis that manifested during Montini’s reign as “a witness to his naiveté,” despite being a direct result of his actions!
He applauded Montini’s successor, John Paul II, and his 1984 indult for opening “a fissure in the edifice that was the post-conciliar reform,” doing away with “the uncritical acceptance of the new rites demanded by Paul VI.”
He went on to make known his unbridled admiration for Josef Ratzinger, saying, “The liturgical acts of Benedict XVI’s pontificate flowed from his desire to be true to the Council.” (As if that’s a good thing.)
Reid even saw fit to make excuses for Francis, whose motu proprio, Taditionis Cojones, reportedly broke Benedict’s heart, pinning the blame on his underlings:
Cardinals and others around [Francis] seem eventually to have been able to convince him to execute quietly orchestrated maneuvers that have sent the aging Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium out into the cold once again …
Roche’s further measures have underlined the determination of him and his cronies to extinguish as much as they can of Benedict XVI’s good work.
Reid went on to speculate, “One wonders if the Holy Father [Francis] truly appreciates the extent of the damage that is being done thereby.”
Now, who in their right Catholic mind, given the degree to which Bergoglio has made plain his hatred for the true faith, would wonder such a thing? The truth is no one does. No one.
As I said, humiliating.
This, however, is the sort of cognitive dissonance common among those who adamantly refuse to give serious consideration as to whether or not the actual cause of the post-conciliar ecclesial crisis – be it doctrinal, moral, or liturgical – lies in the possibility that neither the Second Vatican Council, the church that it birthed, nor the men who sat atop of it, are truly Catholic.