Tridentine Mass

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Named for the Council of trent (Concilium Tridentinum ), the Roman-Rite form of celebrating the eucharist had been in obligatory use from 1570 until the 1969 publication of the Order of Mass reformed by decree of vatican council ii. In its 25th and final session in 1562 Trent left it to the Roman Pontiff to reform the Missal. Beginning in 1564, a commission under Pius IV and St. Pius V worked on the Missale Romanum ex decreto SS. Concilii Tridentini restitutum, Pii V Pont. Max. iussu editum, published in 1570 (last editio typica, 1962). A more accurate designation of the form of celebration proper to this Missal would be "the Mass of Pius V."

In current usage the designation "Tridentine Mass" may simply connote an Order distinct from that of the 1969 Order of Mass. Once the latter was promulgated, its use obligatorily replaced, first in Latin and then in the vernacular, the former Order of Mass. This was made clear by the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (April 3, 1969) of Pope Paul VI, and implemented by the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Instruction Constitutione Apostolica (Oct. 20, 1969). The same document (no. 19) authorized Ordinaries to allow elderly priests to retain the 1962 Missal and its Order of Mass when celebrating without a congregation. These dispositions were repeated in the Notifications of the same Congregation Instructione de Constitutione of 1971 and Conferentiarum Episcoporum of 1974.

Controversy. The opponents of Vatican Council II intend by the name "Tridentine Mass" an orthodox continuity with the Eucharistic teaching of Trent alleged to be missing from the 1969 Order of Mass, which they impugn as invalid, even heretical. In a letter to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, leader of the most publicized recalcitrance, Pope Paul VI expressed the reason for the obligatory adoption of the new Order of Mass: the unity of the whole ecclesial community, of which the Order of Mass is a singular sign. Paul VI also stated and rejected the key point of the Lefebvre opposition that only the Tridentine Mass preserved the authentic sacrifice of the Mass and ministerial priesthood.

The issue of the Tridentine Mass took a new turn in 1984. A survey of all the bishops of the Church, reported in Notitiae in 1981, indicated little dissatisfaction with the reformed Missal and a minuscule interest in a return to the Latin liturgy. Apparently, however, there were some loyalists who wished to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. In their favor the Congregation for Divine Worship announced in 1984 an indult allowing petitioners to celebrate a Tridentine Mass in the letter "Quattor Abhinc Annos" (Acta Apostolicae Sedis no. 76 [1984]: 10881089). The concession can be made by the diocesan bishop to those known to have no ties with the opponents of the 1970 Roman Missal. The celebration must be in Latin, follow the Missale Romanum of 1962, without intermingling elements of the 1970 Missale Romanum. The bishop determines the day and place of celebration and limits participation to the petitioning priest and faithful.

In 1988 John Paul II issued the apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei, which called for a wider and more generous application of the directives for the Tridentine Mass. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei issued guidelines implementing the apostolic letter in 1991. The guidelines indicate that the celebration of the Tridentine Mass may be celebrated in parish churches, the regularity and frequency of which depends on the needs of the faithful. The guidelines grant faculties to the local ordinary to give permission for the use of the 1962 Missal. It calls for the celebrants of these Masses to emphasize their adherence to legislation of the universal Church and the juridical value of the liturgy of Vatican II in their preaching and contacts. It does grant, however, that the new lectionary in the vernacular could be used at these Masses, but cautions that pastors should take care not to impose it and thus impede the return of those who maintain the integrity of the former tradition.

Bibliography: International Commission on English in the Liturgy, Documents on the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn. 1982) documents 59, 61 (on the Lefebvre case); 202, 313 (promulgation of the new Order of Mass); 209, 216 (on the use of the new Roman Missal). j. j. jungmann, translated by f. a. brunner, The Mass of the Roman Rite, reprint (Westminster, Md. 1986). "La Messe du toujours," Notitiae 6 (1970) 231232. Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, "Guidelines on the Tridentine Mass," Origins 21 (July 18, 1991) 144145. For the inquiry on the use of Latin and of the so-called Tridentine Mass, see Notitiae 7 (1981) 589609. For the 1984 indult, see Notitiae 11 (1985) 910.

[t. o'brien/eds.]