Category Archives: Traditions Remembered

The Tridentine Fallacy

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What most people call the “Latin Mass” seems to have a bewildering number of names and many of them are imprecise for one reason or another. Perhaps surprisingly ”Latin Mass” is the least precise of all. But another label, Tridentine, can be used by some naysayers in a way that is downright troublesome.

Among the many names for it, calling the liturgy conducted in Latin and pursuant to the 1962 Missal the “Extraordinary Form” is certainly accurate since Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum formalized the term, along with the term Ordinary Form for the form of the Mass commonly seen today. Pope Francis seems to prefer calling the Extraordinary Form the Vetus Ordo, or Old Form, which lines up nicely given that the Ordinary Form is also called the Novus Ordo, or New Form. So, regardless of any possible connotations, the benefit of the labels Extraordinary Form or Vetus Ordo for the so-called Latin Mass is that they are precise, accurate and used by popes. Many, though, prefer to call the Traditional Latin Mass/Old Form/Extraordinary Form the “Tridentine Mass,” which, historically speaking, can be both right and wrong, and which is often a springboard to an increasingly common and often deliberate fallacy.

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Latin, the Language of the Church

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St. Jerome, compiler of the Vulgate and patron saint of Latinists.

Latin was perhaps the first sacrifice to modernity.  Vatican II called for its preservation and the ridiculous “Spirit of Vatican II” systematically dispensed with it.  The Church actually abandoning Latin, though, is unthinkable, and to return to it, even if only to hear it spoken in the Mass, is to come home.  Ten years after Summorum Pontificum, let’s take a look at its history, step-by-step:


Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Latina Lingua establishing the Pontifical Academy for Latin (2012).


Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum expanding access to the Traditional Latin Mass (2007).


Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the bishops accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007).


Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Scripturarium Thesaurus promolgating the Nova Vulgata (1979).


The Nova Vulgata, or new Vulgate, the official modern version of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible (1979).


Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, is promolgated by Pope Paul VI, allowing for Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin when a territorial decree permits the exception, see p. 36. (1963). (Permission for the change was obtained by U.S. bishops in May of 1964.)


Bl. Pope John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia on the Promotion of the Study of Latin (1962).


Pope St. Pius X‘s Motu Propio Tra le Sollecitudini stresses the majesty and importance of Gregorian Chant as a part of the liturgy (1903).


Following the Council of Trent, Pope Clement VIII issues the Papal Bull Cum Sacrorum accompanying the issuance of the Clementine Vulgate (searchable text), the revision of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible, which stands until the 1979 revision (1592).


Pope St. Pius V‘s Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum is issued, implementing the decision of the Council of Trent to require the use of the historic Latin liturgy, and forgoing any other which did not have 200 years of consistent use by that date (1570).


Pope St. Gregory The Great formalizes the Mass in Latin and, tradition states, begins Gregorian Chant during his pontificate (c. 600).


St. Jerome writes a letter to Pope Damasus prefacing his translation of the Gospels into Latin (c. 377).


St. Irenaeus describes the “Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” at
Book 3 Chap. 3 Para. 2 of his work Against Heresies (c. 180).


St. Paul arrives in Rome, Acts 28:11, later martyred there (c. 64).