WHH: “The Definitive Traditionalist Critique of the New Missal”

IN ITS MARCH 2011 number, the Australian Catholic periodical Oriens published a combined review of three recently-published books on the post-Vatican II era, Dr. Tracey Rowland’s Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed, Dr. Geoffrey Hull’s The Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church and Fr. Anthony Cekada’s Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI.

PERIODICAL: Oriens is the journal of the Oriens Foundation, which “promotes appreciation for, and understanding of, the traditional Latin liturgy as one of the foundations of Western civilisation. Oriens traces in history and culture, in language, art and aesthetics, in religious and moral norms, the influence of the classical Western liturgy, and examines its interactions with private life and public affairs.” 

Dr. Stephen McInerney

REVIEWERStephen McInerney (b. 1976) holds a Doctorate from the University of Sydney (2006) and a Bachelor of Arts (with First Class Honours) from the Australian National University, where he was awarded the University Medal in English in 2000.  In Your Absence (Indigo/Ginninderra), his collection of poems, was recommended by leading Australian poet Les Murray in the (London) Times Literary Supplement ‘Books of the Year’ in 2002. His writings have appeared in the Bulletin, the Australian, Adelaide Review, Quadrant, Who Weekly, Southerly, Critical Review, AD2000, OriensBest Australian Poems (2004 and 2005), the Literary Encyclopedia and the Warwick Review (UK). He is currently Lecturer in Literature at Campion College, New South Wales, Australia. A number of his articles have appeared in the U.S. publication The Remnant.

THE REVIEW: Dr. McInerney characterizes the three works under review, which bring to light “the problems of Tradition and Reform, the differences between Reform and Revolution, organic growth and corruption, and the role of the papacy in all this,” as “thoroughly researched and eminently readable works of scholarship.”

All engage with and seek to account for the recent dramatic changes in the Catholic Church. Whereas Professor Tracey Rowland does this in the context of, and as a consequence of exploring, the theology of Benedict XVI, Professor Geoffrey Hull and Rev. Anthony Cekada do so, in quite different ways, by engaging directly with the liturgical question itself.

While Dr. Hull and Dr. Rowland trace the contemporary crisis to the first millennium and the sixteenth century respectively,

Fr. Cekada adopts (perhaps ironically!) a more mainstream traditionalist position by tracking present problems to the distortion of the liturgical movement… which was, he believes, hijacked by theological Modernists and liberals of various stripes.

This is the first time ever, I think, that the words “Cekada” and “mainstream” have appeared in the same sentence. Be that as it may, Dr. McInerney correctly observes that my interest in the liturgical reform lies primarily in its theological underpinnings:

Cekada is a thorough scholar, who has done as much as anyone to highlight the theological differences between the pre-C0nciliar Missal (codified by St. Pius V) and the Missal of Paul VI, and in so doing, to prove that these differences cannot easily be reconciled. In addition to numerous articles, he contributed the illuminating introduction to The Ottaviani Intervention and has published a fine study, The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass.

Dr. McInerney then provides a brief overview of the contents of Work of Human Hands. Doctrinal motives, he notes, prompted this study:

Cekada believes that the New Missal is opposed to authentic Catholic teaching, not only in its typical celebration in the average parish (most traditionalists would agree) but in its essence, and he marshals an impressive array of evidence to support this conclusion.

Chapter 2, on the history of the pre-Vatican II Liturgical Movement, Dr. McInerney found “quite enlightening, if at times too neat.” To counteract the latter, he recommends that the chapter be read in light of Chapter 15 of Dr. Hull’s work, which also explores aspects of the pre-Conciliar Liturgical Movement.

As regards particular strong points of the book, Dr. McInerney says:

The most outstanding and convincing aspect of Fr. Cekada’s work, extending what he achieved in the Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass, is to show how alien to one another are the spirits animating the two missals. What has been removed from the New Missal is every bit as revealing as what has been added, and it is hard not to conclude — as Cekada does — that the New Missal was calculated to change the behavior, attitudes and beliefs of the Catholic population.

Dr. McInerney then concludes his review by turning to a broader topic that a consideration of all three books suggests:

For this reviewer, these three excellent works raise as many questions as they answer. How do we know a legitimate reform when we see it, or recognize a legitimate development of doctrine? How do we know a corruption? Who has authority to argue that Thomism should not have pride of place in Catholic theology? …

How do we judge which practices are essential and which are not, which rulings to follow and which to ignore, which one harm and which protect the faith once delivered to the saints? …

Is Newman’s position on Rome’s role in guiding and guarding authentic development still valid in the liturgical sphere, however, in light of what we have seen since the Second Vatican Council, with Rome’s infamously conflicting (and impossible to reconcile) positions on altar girls and administration of communion, among a host of other practices? It has certainly been seriously tested by the experiences of many Catholics, both Eastern and Western.

Or, to put the underlying question as simply as possible: How reconcile the Church’s authority and infallibility on one hand, with the evil of the official liturgical changes on the other? It is encouraging to see that a new generation of traditionalists has begun to grasp the nature of the problem.

Work of Human Hands, Dr. McInerney says, “will surely now stand as the definitive traditionalist critique of the New Missal.”

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5 Comments

  1. Ellison
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    Those who appreciate Fr. Cekada’s writings in general (with Work of Human Hands surpassing all the others in sheer depth and scope of scholarship) have at least three traits in common: a youthful outlook on life whatever their age (if not outright youthfulness); an outstanding degree of erudition and refinement in their own right; and the lively possession of vibrant Western culture. Dr. Stephen McInerney certainly embodies this new generation of highly educated young men of intellectual refinement and profound cultural sensibility. It is therefore no surprise to this reader that Dr. McInerney should have captured the essence of Fr. Cekada’s masterpiece with such precision and clarity. Indeed, this book has placed Fr. Cekada in the international limelight not only as the world’s foremost expert in Catholic liturgical history, but also the most important theologian of fundamental theology writing today, since Work of Human Hands is really a tour de force and intertwining of both disciplines.

  2. cathinst
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Even if it were true (and it is not) that Work of Human Hands raises more questions than it answers, Fr. Cekada has produced a tsunami of facts, findings, and evidence which more than adequately answer the penultimate question raised by Dr. McInerney—which, by the way, does not spring from Fr. Cekada’s text, but rather from the learned reviewer’s own mind.

    For, Fr. Cekada has allowed the authentic voice of the Church’s universal magisterium to speak quite plainly for itself, to propose to the reader in its own terms the very authority Dr. McInerney is seeking when he asks if we can know which laws are to be followed or not. Nevertheless, I agree with Dr. McInerney as to his overall assessment of Fr. Cekada’s work as the “definitive traditionalist critique,” but always with the caveat that Fr. Cekada’s important subtitle remains operative: not a “traditionalist critique,” but a “theological critique.”

    How important is the distinction? Well, Rev. Matias Augé would certainly prefer that the critique were merely the work of a reactionary movement, a “traditionalism,” to confirm his false argument that the book is a polemic—which it is not. On the contrary, it is nothing more nor less than sound, irrevocable Catholic theology whic h underlies Fr. Cekada’s text, truly a theoogical critique in the purest sense of the term, as Ellison seems to be pointing out.nn1

  3. Richard F. Atencio
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    What must be explained to this old codger before I jump onto the “let’s blame all the Popes since Pius XII for the muck and mire of the Novus Ordo and Benedict XVI for his forth-coming New Missal, is how are we to undersand Christ’s proclamation to Peter and therefore to all his successors, (“And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” Matthew 16:19) This is such a definitive transposition of power into the hands of all the Popes that, in this man’s view, it is backed by the power of heaven so that the pope, unless he is an absolute heathen, can do just about anything he desires in faith and morals providing it doesn’t deliberately destroy the faith. One may point out I suppose that the V-II council and it’s interpretations have badly damaged our worship, therefor damaged the faith and therefore damaged the world, but it is within the power of the Pontiff to make decisions that have been damaging but against which “the gates of hell will not prevail.” It’s one thing to believe – and I do – that V-II had deleterious effects on all of us, but did not Christ bestow such dominion on Peter and his successors? Please, someone smarter than I please tell me if Christ’s words are not sufficient here.

  4. Farley Clinton
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    In a general way, I agree with Fr Cekada’s whole point of view.

    But the deep and significant roots of the heresy and schism are badly understood even by very orthodox priests.

    Modernism, which Pius X condemned so wisely, was fundamentally a reaction against the important dogmatic definitions of Vatican I in 1870, which proclaimed many new articles of faith in addition to the papal infallibility. What it defines about the impossibility of giving any new meaning to any Catholic dogma is of the utmost importance. And so too is its definition that miracles occur and can sometimes be recognized with pefect certainty a miracles.

    It was the ignorance and superficiality of the non-Catholic press, especially in the English-speaking countries, that caused a wholly disproportionate amount of ink and paper to be devoted to the dispute over papal infallibility.

    Modernism resurrected the heresis condemned by Vatican I, heresies that denied the immutability of every dogma and the certitude of Catholic belief in miracles generally and some particulr miracles.

    A heretical reaction to the solemn condemnation of Modernism as a heresy was launched in the Jesuit order in the first 10 or 15 years of the 20th century, especially through the work of Maurice Blondel’s enthusiastic disciple Auguste Valensin. He entered the noviciate of the Jesuits in 1899 at Aix-le-Province, I believe, and who immeidately communicated Blondel’s heretical views to a circle of six or seven intimate friends, of whom the most energetic was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — Valensin’s closest personal friend.

    The part of the Encyclical Pascendi which reads “the Modernist philsopher” out of the Church is directed against Blondel. But this perverse view of religion was assiduously defended and propagated and thus led to the catastrophic success of the work of Karl Rahner and other jesuits like him. Rahner’s un-Christian “theology” is based on the work of Pierre Rousselot and Joseph Marechal, who were among the six or seven yung jJesuits who, along with Teilhard de Chardin, were taught by Auguste Valensin to accept Blondel, the “Modernist philosopher” as the supreme authority in religion.

    In 1916, I believe, Teilhard began the organization of a Modernist group among the Jesuits who were educated together with him nd Valensin — and as any as he could of the Jesuits they worked with. The letter Teilhard wrote, organizing this group, was
    actually published by Henri de Lubac in one or the other of the two books he wrote to spread Teilhardism.

    From this there arose a profoundly Modernist movement that spread through the religious orders in France. It is essentially atheistic. And it carried all before it.

  5. Ross
    Posted March 19, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Richard, I am also an old codger. The teaching in Mathew 16:19 applies to a Catholic pope; it does not apply to a non-Catholic “pope”. As Paul VI promulgated the documents of Vatican II which contain errors against the faith, we can be certain that he was not a Catholic “pope.” Therefore these Vatican II “popes” have no authority over Catholics. This is accordance with the teaching of St. Paul to the Galatians 1:8–9: “let him be anathema”.


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