In 1969, Walter Matt Wrote: “Save The Tridentine Mass”

Walter L. Matt
Founding Editor and Publisher of The Remnant

Reprinted from the December 31, 1969 issue of The Remnant

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by my father, Walter L. Matt, in the December 31, 1969 issue of The Remnant. In it, my father (now retired) provides us with his reaction to the “Ottaviani Intervention” when it was first released. We reproduce this present article for two reasons: First, to demonstrate how Catholic journalists reacted to the Ottaviani Intervention at the time when it came out and, secondly, to provide a brief sampling of the rhetoric against the New Mass that was taken up almost immediately by loyal Catholics like my father, even as early as 1969. MJM

Regarding the new Mass Ordo, which was discussed only briefly in our last issue, Pope Paul tells us in one of his latest addresses on the subject (See Remnant, Dec. 15, p. 5-A) that the thing for "intelligent persons and conscientious faithful" to do in order to face up to the new Ordo is, in his words, "we should find out as much as we can about this innovation," which, again quoting his words, "will not be hard to do, because of the many fine efforts being made by the Church and by publishers" who have been and will continue to treat this important subject.

In line with Pope Paul's recommendation, there- fore, that "we must (thus) prepare ourselves" for the new Mass rite–which is to be finalized, first, by the various national bishops' conferences, and then, presumably, by the Sovereign Pontiff himself some time in March, 1971—we call attention to at least one of the very "fine efforts" currently being made by a distinguished Churchman and also by a respected Catholic publisher to inform the faithful about some of the more questionable aspects of the new Ordo, even though these particular efforts are being sadly ignored in most Catholic circles today. By ignoring them, however, the result is that Pope Paul's counsel to "find out as much as we can about this innovation", is actually being thwarted and supposedly mature Catholics are being kept in the dark about it, which, we are sure, is not the Pope's intention.

The distinguished Churchman to whom we allude here is His Eminence Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect emeritus of the Sacred Congregation for the Faith. The respected Catholic publishing house to which we refer is that of Mr. Brent Bozell, publisher of the erudite TRIUMPH magazine, with headquarters in Washington, D. C.

Both Cardinal Ottaviani and TRIUMPH magazine have, in our humble opinion, rendered an all but unique public service to "intelligent persons and conscientious faithful" by making known to them—despite the usual conspiracy of silence that has been launched against them—certain carefully prepared analyses and critical observations about the new Ordo by competent theological/liturgical experts, beginning with Cardinal Ottaviani himself.

The Cardinal's critique of the new Ordo was in the form of a letter, dated Sept. 25, 1969, which he sent to Pope Paul together with a pertinent theological study of the new rite by a group of Roman theologians. Both the letter as well as the comprehensive study of the new Ordo have been, to our knowledge, virtually ignored or ineptly treated by the press and communications media, including most segments even of the self-styled conservative press both at home and elsewhere. TRIUMPH magazine, however, got out a 12-page Special Supplement earlier this month, carrying the full text of Cardinal Ottaviani's letter and also the text of the Roman theologians' study of the Ordo. The Special Supplement, entitled "The Ottaviani Intervention,” is obtainable from Triumph at 927 15th St., N. W., Washington, D.C. 20065, at .40 per single copy.

TRIUMPH magazine makes no bones of the fact that its purpose in reproducing these historic documents and disseminating them as widely as possible is to "save the Tridentine Mass." Apparently the editors feel as we do and as Cardinal Ottaviani feels about it, namely, that the new Ordo, at least until such time as an explicit ex cathedra papal judgment has been rendered concerning the matter in its entirety, is still open to question in that it seems to represent a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was so concisely formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. Cardinal Ottaviani calls attention in this connection to the fact that whenever a new law intended for the good of the people can be proved, instead, to be harmful, the people have a right, even a duty, to ask for the abrogation of such a law. More specifically, the Cardinal asks of the Holy Father that, "at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the Faith and the unity of the Church," that the faithful be not deprived of "the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V (the now discarded Mass Missal) which Pope Paul himself has so highly lauded and which is "so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic world."

For our part here at The Remnant, and considering the fact that the Holy Father only recently ordered a two-year delay or postponement before the new Ordo is to be officially and universally approved and definitively ratified by the Church, we strongly urge our readers not only to avail themselves of the above named Special Supplement put out by TRIUMPH magazine, but, by all means, get behind the move to "save the Tri- dentine Mass," i.e., the traditional Catholic Mass, before the two-year postponement mentioned above has run its course.

After all, Pope Paul himself, as we pointed out in our preceding issue of The Remnant, has stated publicly that "we have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment,” now that we are faced with, in his words, "giving up something of priceless worth," i.e., the old Tridentine Mass. In the circumstances, it seems to us not only our right but even our duty to try to save the old Mass from those who, for whatever reasons, are in fact desacralizing and despoiling it and thereby risking the integrity of the Catholic Faith as such!

As the Roman theologians state the case at the conclusion of their scholarly study of the new Ordo: "Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside of but within the Church. Her unity is not only threatened but already tragically compromised... To abandon (at such time) a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and the pledge of unity of worship (and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion) is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error."

Indeed, and if it be true, as Msgr. Francesco Spadafora, professor at the Lateran University is alleged to have written, that this new Ordo Missae has been "perpetrated we do not know exactly by whom and why, and against even the wishes of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and against an absolute majority of the Bishops,” then surely the time is at hand for questions to be asked and for specific answers to be given to these and to other charges that have been made against the new Ordo.

The fact is that there are many today—ourselves included—who are literally sick at heart, spiritually, over the new Ordo Missae, and who simply cannot understand most of the arguments that have been advanced in its behalf. Our own correspondence, especially with priests, reflects this mood of spiritual dejection and heartache. One friend of ours, a well known priest-theologian, writes of the "new Mass" as "a most painful thing," which "fills me with agony at the mere thought that I shall have to say it, worse still, that it is 'in obedience to the Council' that we may have to say it! The fact is, as I see it, that the Council is being openly disobeyed not only with regard to the Latin and Gregorian Chant, but also insofar as that self-same Council insisted, after all, that it was proceeding in complete consonance with the Council of Trent—presumably also with Trent's decrees on the Holy Sacrifice! In any case, I am learning more and more that there are quite a few other priests who are just as much in agony over the new Mass as I am, and some are even contemplating getting permission from Rome to say Mass in one of the Oriental Rites if possible. As for me, this is turning out to be one of the gravest crises in my life. 'Crisis of conscience,' as Cardinal Ottaviani used it, is the right expression indeed! Hence, if you dare, don't hesitate to speak up about the agony of soul which many of us priests are going through at present. And please, do pray for us—pray for me!"

Someone has well said that in this as in all such soul-shattering questions, we must place our trust not only in the Holy Father but in the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Unerring Truth, who will remain with the Church till the end of time. Let us reflect on the words of Holy Scripture, (Luke XI, I 1): "And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion?" If this can be said of any father, can we believe anything less about him whom we call our Holy Father, the Pope, Christ's Vicar? My suggestion, then, is that we ask our Holy Father, the Chief Pastor or Shepherd of souls in all Christendom, to treat with special pastoral solicitude and care the present wretchedness of spirit that afflicts so many of the flock and to give heed to their suppliant plea to save and preserve the old Tridentine Mass, which is Christ's Most Holy Sacrifice ordained by Him to remain with us forever!