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The “Canonized” Mass and Abp. Lefebvre

QUESTION: In your Quidlibet article “Quo Primum: Could a Pope Change It?” I read your comment that a future pope after St. Pius V could, as a supreme legislator, abrogate this Bull.

However, I still wonder why the Bull then states that “and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified,” which could only possibly be done by a future pope? This specification in the Bull would just make no sense then.

RESPONSE: In times past, various persons and institutions — kings, lower ecclesiastics, the faculty of the University of Paris, etc. — claimed the right to review, modify or revoke papal legislation.

The phrase quoted is simply standard legal language directed against attempts to do this.

QUESTION: Has the Bull, apart from juridical value, no dogmatic value?

RESPONSE: It is an ecclesiastical law regulating how priests are to say Mass, and is not a dogmatic pronouncement.

If it had indeed been a dogmatic pronouncement, the pre-Vatican II manuals of dogmatic theology would have treated it as such, but I know of no manual that does so.

QUESTION: Some authors state that the Bull contains a “canonization,” which in itself can never be revoked?

RESPONSE: Archbishop Lefebvre invented this idea, and I was present when he came up with it. Here is my recollection of how it happened:

When I was a seminarian at Ecône, Switzerland in the mid-1970s, Archbishop Lefebvre was giving us a conference in which he was discussing his battle with Paul VI, why the New Mass was wrong, and why Catholic priests had the right to say the old Mass.

On one such occasion, the Archbishop was speaking half-extemporaneously. As part of a digression, he was searching for some sort of analogy to describe the status that Pope St. Pius V gave to the old Mass.

The Archbishop finally said that St. Pius V “canonized” the Tridentine Mass. He then smiled at the cleverness of his offhand analogy, and said that, of course, when a pope “canonizes” a saint, another pope cannot undo the canonization. So, Paul VI cannot abolish our right to celebrate the “Mass of All Time.” It has been “canonized.”

Although I saw heads all around me nod in agreement, even then, the argument struck me as a really strange. The only thing I had ever heard the verb “canonize” applied to was the process of making a saint. This, I would later discover, was exactly the case. The analogy was completely false.

However, since Archbishop Lefebvre himself had offhandedly said that the Tridentine Mass was “canonized,” it became part of the SSPX party line/creation myth — itself “canonized” — and passed on from generation to generation. I wonder how many SSPX clergy were taught this and still believe it.

Traditional Catholics in general and SSPX in particular should really abandon phony arguments like these — especially when so many convincing arguments based on real principles can be made against the New Mass and the New Religion.