The Traditional Latin Mass versus The General Instruction to the Roman Missal

The Traditional Latin Mass versus The General
Instruction to the Roman Missal of 1997 "

Publisher: Chartres Communications, New York


This is an extremely painful book to read as reflecting the suffering of many Catholics who have witnessed the sorry consequences of a Liturgical Reform desired by an Ecumenical Council but which in various aspects has gone astray. It is also a painful read in that it is calculated to lead more Catholics away from fidelity to the Magisterium. Mr. Droleskey is a talented writer, a political scientist, who has written beautifully concerning the nature of Catholic liturgy as "heaven on earth". His pages then proceed to contrast the spirit and ethos of authentic Catholic liturgy with chronicling an undeniable litany of legitimate complaints concerning real liturgical abuses which have made attendance at Mass a real penance for faithful Catholics and justified the disobedience of others, some of whom have gone into actual schism from the Catholic Church.

Mr. Droleskey's book is, unfortunately, a call for yet more disobedience to the directives of the Magisterium contained in the paragraphs of the "General Instruction on the Roman Missal". It gives aid and comfort to all the "extreme traditionalists" (regardless of the differences between them) who are exasperated at the failure of Church authorities to end abuses, find themselves at odds with the Second Vatican Council, and believe that the doctrinal orientations of the Council and the post-Conciliar liturgical enactments represent a radical departure from Catholic Tradition.

For our author, the Church's implementation of the "Novus Ordo" (actually the "Ordo of Paul VI") has resulted in "the Protestantization of the Mass". Though he admits the Pauline Mass is valid, he charges that it is:

  • "Protestantized worship offered under Catholic auspices." (p. 332)
  • "The New Mass does not communicate the same doctrine as given us by the Council of Trent." (p. 46)
  • "Pope Paul VI demonstrated the spirit of Protestantism, not the spirit of Catholicism." (p. 44)
  • "It is imperative for the average Catholic to protect his soul from the pernicious influence of the Novus Ordo at all times, especially on Sunday... The Novus Ordo has shown itself to be harmful to the right ordering of souls." (p. 35)

Our author follows the lead of the coryphaeus of "traditionalist" writers, Michael Davies, in the latter's many criticisms of liturgical changes that were made in the post-conciliar period, criticisms that have had the result of especially poisoning attitudes against the Popes who sanctioned such legitimate liturgical changes as the use of the vernacular. He also follows the authors of "The Great Façade" (Messrs. Ferrara and Woods) in questioning or rejecting the authority of the Pope to regulate the liturgy of the Latin rite. His own anti-Communist political views prevent him from any objective theological assessment of the teachings of Vatican II. Thus, he can actually write:

  • "...people of God, a phrase that comes to us from Vatican II and has replaced the traditional language of the Mystical Body of Christ, smacks of Marxist-Leninism." (p. 48)
  • "Ecumenism is a pastoral novelty that was specifically condemned by every Pope prior to 1958." (p. 341)

He is no sure guide in either doctrinal or liturgical matters.

Our author presents a powerful emotional case to justify the disobedience of priests functioning in what he frankly calls "an Underground Church" but it is one essentially vitiated by hackneyed arguments which have been refuted many times. It cannot be denied that there have been poor and misleading translations of the Mass and prayers in the Roman Missal, and lack of attention by Bishops to the heterodox theology concerning the Eucharist underlying the scandalous activities of those who would come to be identified as "liturgical terrorists". He himself notes the many Vatican and Papal documents which frankly stigmatized the destruction or diminishing of reverence, dignity, solemnity, and decorum in liturgical celebration in all too many parishes where virtual anarchy has prevailed and been tolerated by priests and bishops who themselves betrayed a poor understanding of the "spirit of the liturgy". In such parishes the faithful have witnessed the spectacle of the "presider" as entertainer, joker, and frenetic actor and where "the Mass varies widely from priest to priest even in the same parish."

Endless innovations and gratuitous experimentation in the celebration of Mass during forty years of liturgical banality resulted, in the author's judgment (echoed by the best and most perceptive liturgists today), in turning the Sacred Mysteries into an "anthropocentric, and communitarian exercise of mutual self-congratulation". The elimination of traditional Sacred Music in the liturgy only added to the loss of "the permanence and beauty and solemnity of the Sacred Mysteries" which raise the heart to God.

The author declares that he himself only awakened in the past few years to the severity of the "liturgical revolution" where "the Mass is no longer a refuge from the profane. Indeed it is a glorification of the profane". Saturated with the spirit of the world, it represents "an unrelenting change, experimentation and instability [that] drove millions out of the Church altogether and into the waiting arms of the world or evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant sects". All believing Catholics can only weep with Mr. Droleskey as he describes the degradation of the liturgy in all too many Catholic parishes.

What is Mr. Droleskey's solution to the host of problems he raises in what at times amount to virtual diatribes against Popes and Bishops? It is to encourage his "traditionalist" readers to appeal to the Pope to restore universally the Tridentine Mass. Ironically, he looks for the restoration of liturgically stability in the Church to the same Tridentine Mass which has been the source of schisms and fragmentation among his fellow "traditionalists". For him the present reformed Liturgy is hopelessly flawed, the result of a revolution founded on "lies and misrepresentations" (p. 333). He does not hesitate to engage in repeating the many gratuitous and sweeping allegations made by other "extreme traditionalists" that lack proof (such as those about the influence of Masons and Protestants in shaping a "Protestantized Mass".

As for his own falsehoods and misrepresentations, one has only to read carefully his comments gravely underestimating the nature and import of the rejection of Vatican II decrees by his hero Archbishop Lefebvre. Towards the end of his book he presumptuously attributes to Our Lady his own serious misconceptions concerning matters he treats with questionable self-assurance.

"Our Lady was pulling me by her graces into the fullness of Tradition, helping me to recognize that no priest needs permission to offer the Traditional Latin Mass - and that no lay man or lay woman needs to assist at the Immemorial Mass of Tradition... The only (perpetually binding) indult a baptized Catholic of the Latin Rite needs to assist at the Traditional Latin Mass [is] 'Quo Primum' [of St. Pius V]... No Pope and no diocesan bishop has any authority to restrict the offering of the traditional Latin Mass."
(pages 325-327)

Over and above the reference to Our Lady (Droleskey like other "traditionalists" also denies that Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in fulfillment of Our Lady of Fatima's request), the above statements are simply false. The Church's legislation has made clear that though the Tridentine Mass was not abrogated, various Indults were necessary for its continued celebration in dioceses. It was the reformed Roman Missal of 1970 containing the text of the Pauline Mass which was now to be in general use throughout the Roman rite. [A third typical edition of the Roman Missal appeared in 2001 to be declared normative throughout the Latin Church].

Directives of the Holy See provided that after 1969 the Tridentine Mass (embodied in the Roman Missal of 1962) was able to be celebrated only in accordance with the various Indults that came to be granted by the Holy See (as for example the Indult granted Cardinal Heenan, the Indult granted older priests without a congregation to celebrate, and the Indult contained in Pope John Paul II's 1988 Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei Afflicta". In that document, interestingly, the Pope not only declared Archbishop Lefebvre excommunicated for a "schismatic act" in ordaining bishops without the consent of the Holy See, but also appealed to those:

"linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfill the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offense against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law."

In that same document, the Pope encouraged local Bishops to be generous to "those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition" and allow the celebration of the Tridentine Mass where there was spiritual need expressed by their faithful.

Along with other errors that it would be too tedious to list in this brief Review, Droleskey is mistaken in thinking that the present reformed Liturgy prohibits the celebration of Mass "ad orientem". In fact, the present text of the Pauline Mass presumes that the priest is facing "ad orientem". The present widespread custom of "facing the people" is due to other factors. Droleskey denies that "Quo Primum" of St. Pius V was lawfully superseded by Pope Paul VI who had the same authority as Supreme Pontiff that St.Pius V had to issue a Roman Missal for the liturgical worship of the Church. Would that he had taken to heart John Paul II's plea not to encourage in any way the schismatic tendencies of the St. Pius X Society.

It is to be further regretted that he failed to mention the two November 1969 addresses of Pope Paul VI where he vigorously defended the orthodoxy of the new reformed rite of Mass: "The Mass of the new rite is and remains the same Mass we have always had." In the thought of the Popes since Vatican II it is intolerable to think of the Tridentine Mass (whatever its admitted virtues ) to be the "Immemorial Latin Mass" and "Mass of Tradition" to the detriment of the present reformed Liturgy which has in fact restored some precious aspects of the Roman liturgy as practiced in the early centuries. As a writer in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia observed, "the old Roman rite is not exactly that now used. [i.e., the Tridentine]."

In summary, there is little to be found in Droleskey's assessment of our present liturgical situation that had not already been said by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in the searing comments concerning the "destruction of the liturgy" and "the surrender of the beautiful" that can be found in his various articles and books, and especially in Chapter 9 of his famous 1985 "The Ratzinger Report". May every Catholic who believes with Cardinal Ratzinger that "The question of liturgy is not peripheral; Vatican II itself reminded us that we are dealing with the very core of Christian faith", pray that as Pope Benedict XVI he will take the measures needed for a true liturgical "Reform of the Reform", win back extreme integralists to full communion with the Successor of Peter, and assure a new era of splendor, solemnity and beauty in the liturgical life of the Roman Rite. For, as he had occasion to remark many times in his brilliant articles and books (see also his more recent "The Spirit of the Liturgy"), is in the solemnity of its worship that the Church expresses the glory of God, the joy of faith, and the victory of truth and light over error and darkness.

Editorial note: The publication soon by Emmaus Road Publishing of an updated revised edition of James Likoudis and Kenneth D. Whitehead's classic "The Pope, the Council and the Mass" will, we believe, prove very helpful to those Catholics who have been troubled by the writings of "traditionalists" who call into question the legitimacy of the liturgical reforms officially approved by the Magisterium of the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter "Summorum Pontificum" (in force since September 2007), provided for greater freedom to all priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass as the "Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy". He also explained his hopes for such a measure helping to reconcile the supporters of Archbishop Lefebvre to the Catholic Church.

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage