5 May 2015


There is a myth which is endlessly repeated ... I groan every time I read it ... about the liturgical reforms of S Pius V. It goes like this:

(1) He wished to standardise and centralise. So he ordered everybody to use his new edition of the Roman Missal (but he did permit those with rites more than 200 years old to keep them).

This is pretty well the opposite of what his legislation ordered. He:

(2) Ordered those with such old rites to keep them. But, if they positively wanted to adopt his new edition instead, he permitted them to adopt it AS LONG AS THE BISHOP AND THE UNANIMOUS CHAPTER WERE IN AGREEMENT.

If you don't want to believe me, I suggest you read the actual TEXT of Quo primum yourself and find out. DO NOT READ SOMEBODY'S SUMMARY OF THE BULL, BECAUSE THAT WILL (almost certainly) JUST TELL YOU THE MYTH.

If you want more detail, with a fuller account of the liturgical context in the middle years of the sixteenth century, you will find a much longer explanation on my blog, 6 December 2014.

I sha'n't enable comments which show no signs of the writer having read the bull or of reading my piece from last December and simply splutter at me; or disdainful comments which tell me that I'm just splitting hairs. If you can't see the immensely profound difference between (1) and (2), it's not worth having a discussion.


Matthew Roth said...

This difference is the difference between his reform and those of the last century. Arguing (1) is used to justify the post-conciliar reform, because “Pius V had reformed the Mass too.” Clearly not in the same way by any measure...

x said...

Thank you for this Father! This myth is perpetuated still today with a clear agenda: to give a historical "reason" for the uniformity of liturgy that the NO sought to implement. The riches of liturgical rites of religious orders has been lost... It would be good to see religious orders give primatial place to their rite! In that they would rediscover much of their identity that has been lost...

PS: I am sorry I could not make it Saturday.

Andreas Meszaros said...

I noticed, reading Quo Primum of Pope Pius V and Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI the difference of intention in their own words:

S. Pius V intended to restore the Roman Missal and rite to its former norm: “Missale ac ritum ad pristinam normam restituere”.
Paul VI intended to adjust the Roman Missal for the present-day mentality: “Missale Romanum novis hujus temporis animi sensibus accommodare“.

I also noticed that Quo Primum covers the legislative aspects in much greater detail. I didn’t see, unless I missed it, anything similar in the Apostolic Constitution “Missale Romanum”: it is silent about what is to happen to the previously existing form. Or did I miss it?

John F H H said...

Here is the link to Father's earlier post

jasoncpetty said...

Here's a link to Father's earlier article.

Here's a side-by-side Latin-English version of Quo Primum.

jasoncpetty said...


At least based on the text of Quo Primum, I cannot agree with your conclusion (though I am entirely sympathetic to it): I find no support for the printing-press theory. If that is the 'problem' being 'solved' in this Bull, it is not evident from the face or even implicit therein. And, further, there is an explicit 'problem' set out to be solved--or, to be more reserved, we can call it a goal to be achieved, i.e., "unum Missae celebrandae ritum") in Quo primum: the variety of Missals.

S. Pius speaks of the Council's requirement to revise the Catechism, Missal, and Breviary. Next, I believe he gives the clue to the interpretation of Quo Primum: "edito jam, Deo ipso annuente, ad populi eruditionem Catechismo, et ad debitas Deo persolvendas laudes Breviario castigato, omnino, ut Breviario Missale responderet, ut congruum est et conveniens (cum unum in Ecclesia Dei psallendi modum, unum Missae celebrandae ritum esse maxime deceat), necesse jam videbatur, ut, quod reliquum in hac parte esset, de ipso nempe Missali edendo, quam primum cogitaremus." So he's saying we did the Catechism, we did the Breviary, and so that there is congruity between the Divine Office and Mass, now we're doing the Missal.

So perhaps we can go back to Quod a nobis (1568) (link to text--Latin only, here's one in Spanish) to see why and to what ends the Breviary was revised. If the Mass was revised to conform to the Breviary, then maybe we can get some support for the printing-press theory there. Quod a nobis is the bull condemning, among other things, the Quignones breviary. This Bull seems the same as Quo Primum: there are a lot of breviaries out there--he calls out Quignones' work by name and abolishes it--and the desire of the committee of scholars is (as in Quo primum) to restore the "antiqua institutione" or "veteris Breviarii". The scholars did their work, says Pius, and we have a new--the new--Breviary. All others are then abolished other than those approved by the Apostolic See or those claiming 200 years' vintage.

The only possible support I see for your printing-press theory--i.e., the theory that the proliferation of printing allowed novelties and oddities to creep in--is in the different endings to the Quo primum (the Bull addressing the Missal) and Quod a nobis (the Bull addressing the Breviary).

Quo primum (this is the paragraph beginning "Quod ut ubique terrarum incorruptum...") actually charges printers with a forfeiture and monetary penalty for erroneous copies of the Roman Missal provided to them. But then this could be seen more as an injunction against careless lackeys at the screw-press--not against experimenting ecclesiastics who'd mess with the text of the Missal (or Breviary?).

In short, I'm right there with you, Father, hoping to agree with you, but I don't see anything textual to support the theory you've set forth. With the Missal, as with the Breviary, it seems that the 'problem' being solved is just that there are too many forms or uses out there, and the experimentation must stop.

Is there any other contemporary interpretation such as yours?

jasoncpetty said...

Actually, I just realized my Spanish translation of Quod a nobis wasn't complete--a similar injunction on printers (though not as detailed) is in that Bull as in the later Quo primum.

In short, I give up.

TLMWx said...

What a difference! Thank you Father, I did not know that.

Fr John Hunwicke said...


I agree with you. The only point I would add is this: before the invention of printing, it would not have been possible for Quignon to disseminate his Breviary and for people to gobble it up. I can't remember how many editions it went through ... And, before the invention of printing, it would not have been possible for Cranmer to impoise his new rite on England overnight: in between the Vigil of of Pentecost and Whitsunday, nor to abolish it and replace it with a radically altered form two years afterwards. Just imagine the problems of doing that if every liturgical book had to be copied by hand! Contrariwise, in the fourteenth century, a meticulous control-freak, Bishop John Grandisson, became bishop of Exeter. He even corrected the ms versions of liturgical books in his own hand! But he never tried to impose new editions on his diocese ... merely upon his Cathedral.

Patrick Sheridan said...

I think Quod a nobis was the first magisterial document that stated the breviary services be recited (dixerint, ad dicendum, &c) rather than sung, or at least envisioned that that was the norm. It, of course, makes no apology about its policy of uniformity. I read in Battifol that Gueranger made a bit of a fuss about the canons of Notre Dame refusing to yield to the reformed breviary, for over a hundred years, clinging with a vice-like grip to their venerable (truly venerable) liturgical use; when in fact the monastic gentleman was mistaken because the canons had, in fact, adopted the Tridentine breviary by 1584. I know that they were celebrating Our Lady of Victory in the 1570's. This was expressly ordered by Charles IX, despite his unpopular alliance with the Ottomans. Why, even in Protestant England they lit bonfires to celebrate the victory at Lepanto...

Donna Bethell said...

Perhaps the myth has its origins in the characterization of St. Pius V's act given by Pope Paul VI, in his speech to the Consistory of May 24, 1976: "The adoption of the new Ordo Missae is certainly not left to the free choice of priests or faithful. The instruction of June 14, 1971 has provided for, with the authorization of the ordinary, the celebration of the Mass in the old form only by aged and infirm priests, who offer the divine sacrifice sine popolo. The new Ordo was promulgated to take the place of the old, after mature deliberation, following upon the requests of the Second Vatican Council. In no different way did our holy predecessor Pius V make obligatory the missal reformed under his authority, following the Council of Trent. [Emphasis added.][Haud dissimili ratione, Decessor Noster S. Pius V post Concilium Tridentinum Missale auctoritate sua recognitum adhiberi iusserat.]

With the same supreme authority that comes from Christ Jesus, we call for the same obedience to all the other liturgical, disciplinary and pastoral reforms which have matured in these years in the implementation of the Council decrees. Any initiative which tries to obstruct them cannot claim the prerogative of rendering a service to the church: in fact it causes the church serious damage."

So Paul VI himself claimed to be doing exactly what Pius V had done.

Jacobi said...

I have read the Bull from end to end.

I agree with you.

The Older specified Orders must use their rites except under the conditions spelt out.

And the Mass of Saint Pius V is the declared norm of the Western Catholic Church to this day, although the possibilities of new additional rites was not dealt with. Therefore, the New Mass and the Anglican Rite are in no way forbidden by Quo Primum.

Jacobi said...

I have read the Bull from end to end.

I agree with you.

The Older specified Orders must use their rites except under the conditions spelt out.

And the Mass of Saint Pius V is the declared norm of the Western Catholic Church to this day, although the possibilities of new additional rites was not dealt with. Therefore, the New Mass and the Anglican Rite are in no way forbidden by Quo Primum.

Cherub said...

Yes. That is clearly what the text says. It would not seem unreasonable to assume that St Pius V meant what he said.

Matthew Roth said...

The OF might not be prohibited under QP, but I think banning the older missal somehow is precluded. At any rate, Paul VI intended to replace it but never actually abrogated it.