The Suicide of Altering the Faith
in the Liturgy
By Father Paul Kramer, B.Ph., S.T.B., M.Div., S.T.L. (Cand.)
The great tragedy about the liturgy is that what has taken place in the Church could have been avoided if Our Lady’s Message had been heeded. She warned not to make changes in the Mass. This is not a mere disciplinary matter.
All too often, we tend to think of liturgy as simply something that is legislated. The Pope issues a decree that we must all obey. But with liturgy we’re not dealing with mere discipline. And it has been forgotten that it is in the Deposit of Faith, and what has been set forth down through the ages in the Church’s Magisterium. Liturgical doctrines are not merely speculation or conceptual doctrines. But there is also the Divine Law that has been set forth and proposed by the Church’s Magisterium concerning the discipline of the liturgy. And this is why no human authority, no Prelate or Pope on earth, has absolute authority regarding the liturgy. Because the law of God already specifies what must be adhered to.
It begins with St. Paul himself, when he laid down that principle which is tradidi quod accepi. “I have handed down that which I have received.” He is not referring here to the body of dogmatic doctrine but he specifically refers here to the liturgy. He says what it was that he received that he has handed on. On the night before He was betrayed, the Lord took bread, blessed it and broke it, and said “this is My body which has been given up for you,” etc. (1 Cor. 11:23)
St. Paul was specifically referring to the handing on of the liturgy. What has been handed down through the ages, organically grew and developed. It is through the process of tradition, the handing on of the liturgy, that custom is established. And it is the solemn profession of faith that binds us to the received and approved rites used in the solemn administration of the Sacraments.
and Approved Rites"
I am referring specifically to the Tridentine profession of faith which was slightly amplified by the First Vatican Council, where the Catholic conscience is perpetually bound to the traditional rites of the liturgy; “the received and approved rites” customarily used in the solemn administration of the Sacraments.
This is why the Popes for several centuries took the Oath of Coronation and they solemnly professed that they would preserve the discipline and the liturgical rites of the Church, and they invoke a curse upon themselves if they should dare change them. Pope Leo XIII, in Orientalium dignitas explained that some minor changes are permissible in liturgy — those that are mainly of the nature of the restoration. Minor adjustments, minor changes. Pope Celestine I also explained that the Church makes adjustments in her discipline.
But these are adjustments, the Church professes its adherence to "the received and approved rites" and this is also in that Coronation Oath of the Popes, which is a document of our tradition, solemnly professed for 600 years by one Pope after another, to preserve the state of the Church, the status ecclesiae.
is Based on Doctrine
The Church’s discipline and liturgy cannot be overthrown and radically overhauled. Minor adjustments are permissible, according to the needs of the times, as has been explained by the Popes of the earliest centuries up until the 20th Century. This is one of the most fundamental reasons why people have such a difficulty in conscience accepting the changes that took place in the liturgy. Because it is not a matter of human law, it is a matter of Divine Law.
There are some who have quickly read through my new book The Suicide of Altering the Faith in the Liturgy, and have not understood the foundational principle that I have based this work on. For example, I have quoted the document of Pope St. Pius V, Quo Primum Tempore and I have given some exposition about that. So one person said that he was not interested in any arguments that are based on Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V. My answer of course, was that this book was not based on Quo Primum. In fact it was a Doctor of Canon Law who insisted that I include argumentation based on Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V.
He reminded me that this is also a very important document and should not be left out of the book. Not being the foundational principle of the book, I was first of a mind not even to include any argument from Quo Primum because I did not want people to get the false impression that in any manner I was basing my foundational argument on that document.
In fact that would be putting the cart before the horse.
I base it on the principle that Quo Primum itself is based on doctrine. That the Catholic conscience is bound by Divine Law to the received and approved rites. This is the foundational principle.
A Solemn Declaration
The foundational principle insofar as it relates to Quo Primum of Pius V is this: Pope St. Pius V with his fullness of his Apostolic authority decreed that the liturgy of the Mass in the Roman Church is to be said in this manner. And this he solemnly declared by his Apostolic authority. He said, “I statute, decree, and declare by my Apostolic authority that this present document cannot ever be reformed or modified at any time.” Why did he make such a solemn declaration that up until the 20th Century any Pope who reissued the missal and made any even minor adjustment in the liturgy made it clear that he felt himself to be bound by the authority of that document? Clearly, we are not dealing with merely ecclesiastical law, to use the expression in Canon #11 in the New Code of Canon Law. It is not merely a disciplinary matter Pope St. Pius V says that this (i.e. the rite of Mass which is in the Tridentine Missal — which this Papal Bull refers to) is the rite that has been handed down in the Roman Church. This is the phrase that he uses in Quo Primum. This is the rite that has been handed down in the Roman Church as such. Therefore, this is “the received and approved rite” which, according the profession of faith, the Catholic conscience is bound. I also quoted and commented on a dogmatic Canon, in the Council of Trent on the Sacraments in General. I refer to Canon 13, Session 7.
“If anyone says that the received and approved rite customarily used in the solemn administration of the Sacraments may be ... changed to other new rites by any Church pastor whosoever, let him be anathema.”1
Father Gruner one time told me that someone had read my book (The Suicide of Altering the Faith in the Liturgy) and made the comment, “well it seems that Father Kramer took this one Canon and built the entire book around this Canon.” But of course, Father Gruner explained to the individual, “No, the book was already written. Father Kramer had to revise the book to work this Canon in. He didn’t even know about it at the time he first wrote the book.”
I do not base this position — that we are bound by Divine Law to our traditional rites — on any one Canon or on this decree of Pope Pius V, Quo Primum. But I base it on the principle that Quo Primum itself is based on doctrine. Why did Pope St. Pius V insist on the liturgy in the missal that he promulgated, he codified? He did not revise the liturgy in such a manner as to reform the liturgy and create the new rite of Mass. He codified the Ancient Roman Liturgy. He understood the Catholic doctrine well enough: that the Catholic conscience is bound by Divine law to the received and approved rites. This is the foundational principle.
1. "Si quis dixerit, receptos et approbatos Eccleasiae catholicae ritus in sollemni sacramentorum administratione adhiberi consuetos aut con-temni, aut sine peccato a ministries pro libito ommitti, aut in novos alios per quemcumque ecclesiraum pastorem mutari posse: anathema sit." (D.S. 1613)