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The Ottaviani Intervention Suffers Cardinal Amnesia – Again

Louis J. Tofari POSTED: 1/19/13

( The Catholic media[1] has reported that Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, stated on January 15th during an address given at the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See:

On one occasion,” Cardinal Cañizares recalled, “Bishop (Bernard) Fellay, who is the leader of the Society of St. Pius X, came to see me and said, ‘We just came from an abbey that is near Florence.  If Archbishop (Marcel) Lefebvre had seen how they celebrated there, he would not have taken the step that he did.’


The missal used at that celebration was the Paul VI Missal in its strictest form,” the cardinal added.

While Cardinal Cañizares’ statement might have given “Reform of the Reform” disciples a moment of optimism, ultimately their hopes are to be dashed. In the first place, Bishop Fellay has clarified the conversation of about five years ago through the SSPX’s USA website ( – and he affirmed that what His Eminence relates is not what he actually said.[2]

This of course should come as no surprise to those who have closely followed the work of Archbishop Lefebvre, his priestly society and its current Superior General, Bishop Fellay. For not only did Archbishop Lefebvre clearly and firmly reject the New Mass as incompatible with the Catholic Faith – even in its “best form”,[3] but Bishop Fellay has also publicly stated that Paul VI’s Mass is “intrinsically evil” because it lacks a good – the purity of doctrine.

As with others attached to the erroneous “Reform of the Reform” notion, Cardinal Cañizares appears not to have grasped this fundamental problem of the Novus Ordo Missae, which raises the question: has His Eminence ever read these extracts from the Ottaviani Intervention, a critique of the official and “strictest form”?

…the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent… [my emphasis, et ad infra]


It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever.

Or what the Lion of Campos – Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer – wrote to Pope Paul VI on September 12, 1969 about the New Mass:

The Novus Ordo Missae shows, by its omissions, and by the changes that it has brought to the Ordinary of the Mass, as well as by a good number of the general rules that describe the understanding and nature of the new missal in its essential points, that it does not express, as it ought to do the theology of the Holy Sacrifice as established by the Holy Council of Trent in its XXII session. The teaching of the simple catechism cannot overcome this fact.


Moreover, as I indicate in the attached reasons, the Novus Ordo not only fails to inspire fervor, but to the contrary, diminishes the Faith in central truths of the Catholic life, such as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, the reality of the propitiatory Sacrifice, the hierarchical priesthood.


The Novus Ordo Missae consists in general norms for the text of the Ordinary of the Mass. Both the text and the norms propose a new Mass that does not consider sufficiently the definitions of the Council of Trent concerning this matter, and constitutes, for this reason, a grave danger for the integrity and purity of the Catholic Faith.

And if a study and letter from 1969 are considered an outmoded reference for Cardinal Cañizares, what then about the November 27, 2004 comment of Cardinal Alfons Stickler:

The analysis of the Novus Ordo made by these two cardinals has lost none of its value nor, unfortunately, of its relevance…. The results of the reform are considered by many today to be devastating. It was to the credit of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci that they discovered very quickly that the change of the rites led to a fundamental change of doctrine.

We must of course take note that the Brief Critical Study of the New Order of Mass was in fact composed under the supervision of Archbishop Lefebvre himself – and then turned over to Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to present to Pope Paul VI with their preface. Over the next two decades, Archbishop Lefebvre offered many insights into the problems of the New Mass,[4] but perhaps this is his most succinct quote which goes to the root of it all:

The Novus Ordo Missae, even when said with piety and respect for the liturgical rules... is impregnated with the spirit of Protestantism. It bears within it a poison harmful to the faith.[5]

So a priest can offer the New Mass completely true to the typical edition (and thus shorn of the abuses that many consider integral to the new rite[6]), using the exact words in Latin and using Eucharistic Prayer I (the so-called “old Roman Canon”), wearing traditional vestments, facing ad orientem at a traditional altar, just singing Gregorian chant… And thus in all appearances it would remarkably resemble the traditional Roman Mass. Nonetheless, the same ecumenical and theologically-deficient words are still being used, an elemental defect which no amount of Latin or spruced-up vernacular translation can fix, and one that contradicts the immutable axiom: lex orandi, lex credendi. In a word, the New Mass at its very core cannot be fixed - thus, ask only for the real thing (the True Mass) and accept no imitations.

Perhaps the Ottaviani Intervention’s concluding words also serve best as our own:

We have limited ourselves to a summary evaluation of the New Order where it deviates most seriously from the theology of the Catholic Mass and our observations touch only those deviations that are typical. A complete evaluation of all the pitfalls, the dangers, the spiritually and psychologically destructive elements contained in the document—whether in text, rubrics or instructions—would be a vast undertaking.[7]


1 Such as Rome Reports (January 16, 2013) and Catholic News Agency (January 18, 2013).

2 What Bishop Fellay really said to Cardinal Canizares about the New Mass.

3 Archbishop Lefebvre could have insisted on using the “strictest form”. But when he was assured that saying the New Mass just once – an offer renewed on more than one occasion – would “fix everything” between the SSPX and Rome, he refused. So if mere accidents were his issue, he would not have resisted the continued and manifold pressures put on him concerning the New Mass.

4 Cf. The Mass of All Time (Angelus Press).

5 An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (Angelus Press), p. 29.

6 Such as Communion in the hand, altar girls, Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, etc.

7 To enable this, see The Theology and Spirituality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a side-by-side doctrinal comparison, and these books from Angelus Press: The Davies Liturgical Revolution Set (Michael Davies) – there are other titles as well.

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