Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
A Plea for Silent Participation in the Liturgy

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

NB: It is my understanding that the following series of articles by Dr. Bryne were later compiled into the same book (Born of Revolution: A Misconceived Liturgical Movement) Fr. Hewko has been reading excerpts of in recent sermons, here. - The Catacombs


By common consent, the post-Vatican II Hierarchy of the Church maintains that “active participation” of all the faithful in the liturgy is “the aim to be considered before all else” (1) – even, as it turned out, before respect for Tradition, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, a sense of the transcendent, or decorum and modesty in the house of God.

Just how did the Bishops arrive at this astonishing conclusion? By falsely presenting the reforms they have implemented as a continuation of the work of Pope Pius X whose motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini (TLS) first contained the word “active” in its Italian (though not, significantly, in its Latin) version to describe lay participation in the Mass.

It is pertinent to ask how such a word, dangerously imprecise in its scope, could have found its way into a juridical code of sacred music intended to apply the Pope’s instructions on the liturgy with the force of law and by his own Apostolic Authority.

“Activity” had never been a defining characteristic of lay participation at Mass throughout the Church’s history. Therefore, some explanation is needed as to why it suddenly acquired an overwhelming significance in the early part of the 20th century and how it came to have a far reaching effect in the Liturgical Movement.

History has shown that the single word “active” created a Mexican wave that rippled through the 20th century, gathering momentum as it went, until it engulfed the entire Church with the blessing of Vatican II’s Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Liturgy (1963). Ever since, “active participation” has taken on a life of its own and continues to be reinforced with a zeal surpassed only by the hostility of the reformers for the traditional Latin Mass.

We know from one of the progressivist Fathers of Vatican II, Card. Godfried Danneels of Belgium who had been involved in drafting the Constitution on the Liturgy, that the aim of “active participation” was to democratize the liturgy by blurring the distinction between priestly and lay roles:

“From its very beginnings, the aim of the liturgical movement, which originated in Belgium in 1909, was to close the gap between the official liturgy of the priest and that of the people. The term ‘active participation’ was born out of this movement and has since become part of our common usage.” (2)

Its usage has become so common that hardly anyone now stands aghast at the suggestion that lay people can be “empowered” to exercise an official role in the liturgy through their “active participation.” This was a concept promoted by Vatican II, but the traditional teaching of the Church, as explained by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei, is different. (3)

From this we learn that the priest, through the Sacrament of Ordination, acts in the name of the Church, in an official act of the liturgy. Lay people, however, by virtue of their Baptism, merely associate themselves with the official liturgy through internal participation (by faith and prayer).

The result of the new emphasis on “active participation” was that the people in the pews, who had generally participated in the ceremonies of the Roman rite in silence, were now transformed into rivals in a liturgical war with the clergy over the right to officiate in the public prayer of the Church.

St. Pius X’s Intentions

The subject matter of Tra le Sollecitudini was the restoration of sacred music, particularly Gregorian chant, in the Church’s liturgy. Its purpose was to lay down the true principles of liturgical music, both vocal and instrumental, to be disseminated throughout the world.

It is of the greatest importance to our study that this motu proprio was not about congregational singing in the liturgy but about the clergy and the choir as the only legitimate executors of liturgical chant. It laid down no obligation for the congregation to join in the chant or requirement for lay people (apart from selected choir members) to be trained in liturgical singing. Nor did it state or even imply that silence on the part of the congregation indicated an absence or deficiency in their full participation in the liturgy.

Some Points of Concern

The motu proprio was first published in Italian on November 22, 1903, in the Acta Sanctae Sedis, the official organ of the Holy See, but the Latin version bearing the same date did not see the light of day until much later, after many intervening documents. Both texts can be accessed .pdf]here. (4)

This wide separation of the texts is a departure from the protocol observed by the compilers of the Acta Sanctae Sedis, who normally published vernacular and Latin texts consecutively for the purposes of transparency and convenient reference. Furthermore, it was uncharacteristic of the Holy See’s policy to issue a legislative document of such weight and solemnity concerning the entire Catholic world in the vernacular and only much later in the universal language of the Church.

Another notable anomaly is the manner in which the Latin version is dated. Instead of the customary format found in the Acta Sanctae Sedis since 1865, it was written according to the method of calculation of the ancient Romans as X Kalendas Decembris. Thus the impression is given that the Latin text had been composed long after TLS, as if it were an afterthought and of relative unimportance. Only those who are familiar with the ancient dating system would realize that X Kalendas Decembris is, in fact, the equivalent of November 22, the same date as TLS. (5)

This has prompted some to assume that the Italian version, simply because it appeared first, is the official papal text. (6) TLS may be “official” in the sense of having been published by officials of the Vatican bureaucracy, but the fact remains that the Latin is invariably the only authoritative and official version of papal documents, even if it happens that this text only becomes available later.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Therefore, it is to be deplored that the Latin version was buried from immediate view and relegated to an inconvenient position. To add to the difficulties in locating the Latin text, the page number in the Acta Sanctae Sedis was printed as 587 instead of 387, thus misdirecting the researcher.

Why such obfuscation surrounding the only version of the motu proprio (i.e. the Latin) that conveys in indisputable terms the mind of the Pope? The answer will become clear when we come to examine the important discrepancies between the two documents.

Which Version to Follow – the Italian or Latin?

As the use of Latin in drafting documents was considered by the Church as the ultimate safeguard of objectivity, it is vitally important for the faithful transmission of the truth in a seamless way. Later generations of Catholics can recognize in the Latin words the exact meaning intended by the Popes. Thus it averted the risk of misleading the faithful through imprecise formulae or the rapid changes in meaning typical of vernacular languages.

As we shall see, misrepresentation is exactly what happened when TLS was placed into the hands of liturgical reformers. An examination of this document will show that it contains a number of key words and phrases for which there is no translational equivalence in the Latin version.

In other words, ideas had been inserted into TLS that pander to the aims and objectives of those who wanted to change the liturgy in ways not envisaged by Pope Pius X. Someone even managed to get the word attiva (“active”) written into the text of TLS to describe the participation of the laity, a term entirely missing in the Latin version.

It is noteworthy that the reformers could not have misinterpreted the Pope’s words in the Latin version because it was drafted with tamper-proof precision designed to give the crystal clear meaning of the Pope and deny any wiggle room for liturgical interventionists. But, for all its official status, the Italian version, as with all documents in the vernacular, could offer no such guarantees. In fact, the more it was translated into other vernacular languages, the greater the confusion and error that was transmitted.


1. Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Constitution on the Liturgy (1963), § 14

2. Godfried Danneels, apud Keith Pecklers SJ, Liturgy in a Postmodern World, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2006, p. 7.

3. “The visible, external priesthood of Jesus Christ is not handed down indiscriminately to all members of the Church in general, but is conferred on designated men, through what may be called the spiritual generation of Holy Orders" (§ 41), "Hence he [the priest] goes to the altar as the minister of Christ, inferior to Christ but superior to the people" (§ 84). When “speaking of the people offering with the priest,” the Church means only that the people “unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving, with the prayers and intention of the priest, even of the High Priest Himself” (§ 93).

4. Acta Sanctae Sedis, Vol. XXXVI, 1903-1904, p. 329; for the Italian version, p. 387 (misprinted as 587) for the Latin version.

5. The ancient Romans calculated their dates backwards by subtracting the stated number of days in the date from a fixed point in each month. As the Kalendae designated the first day of every month, if we count back 10 days inclusively from December 1, we come to November 22. So X Kalendas Decembris = 22 November.

6. A motu proprio means that the Pope was acting on his own initiative in creating new legislation rather than merely rubber-stamping a decree issued by a department of the Curia. The drafting of TLS was largely the work of Fr Angelo de Santi, SJ, Founder of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, who had been closely associated with the Pope’s musical reforms when the latter was Bishop of Mantua and Patriarch of Venice. (See Robert Hayburn, Papal Legislation on Sacred Music: 95 AD to 1977 AD, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1979, p. 220.)
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Pius X Did Not Call for ‘Active Participation’ in Liturgy
Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

Discrepancies between the Latin and vernacular texts of TLS

In the last article we pointed out discrepancies between the Italian and Latin versions of Pope Pius X’s motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini (TLS), mentioning that the word “active” had been added to the Italian text to describe the participation of the laity.

Here we shall deal more closely with the Italian version of TLS published in the Acta Sanctae Sedis in relation to the authentic Latin text and show how, on the crucial issue of the participation of the faithful in the liturgy, they diverge in meaning. Clearly, they cannot both represent the mind of the Pope.

Let us examine § 3 of the Latin version, which indicates Pope Pius X’s intentions. It says in a few succinct words that Gregorian Chant, transmitted by tradition, is to be fully restored to the sacred rites: Cantus gregorianus, quem transmisit traditio, in sacris solemnibus omnino est instaurandus.

It then goes on to explain why Gregorian Chant should be given back to the people, so that in particular the Christian faithful may once again, in the custom of their forebears, participate more ardently in the liturgy: Praesertim apud populum cantus gregorianus est instaurandus, quo vehementius Christicolae, more maiorum, sacrae liturgiae sint rursus participes.

Now, we shall examine the pitfalls of having a document in the vernacular (both Italian and English) and the misconceptions that can arise because of faulty translations.

“By the people”

TLS says that Gregorian Chant should be restored nell'uso del popolo (for the use of the people) in the liturgy. It does not specify which people or for what purpose – singing or listening – they are to use the Chant. Even worse, the English version states that the use of Gregorian Chant by the people is what the Pope intended. The underlying suggestion made by these vague and generalized paraphrases is that “the people” means the whole congregation and that the Pope wanted them all to join in the Chant.

But that is an assumption that is not supported by the Latin text, which states that Gregorian Chant is to be restored apud populum, i.e., among or in the presence of the faithful; in other words, in the churches. The Pope had already expressed this idea in his Introduction: ubi Christicolae congregantur (there where the Christian faithful gather).

Apud is a preposition that indicates proximity or geographical location and cannot be translated by a phrase indicating instrumentality, as in something done “by the people.” In saying that Gregorian Chant should be restored to the people, the Pope gave no indication in this passage or elsewhere in the document that he wanted it to be sung by all the faithful.

“Active participation”

The problem revolves around the interpretation of “participation” of the laity in the liturgy as understood by Pope Pius X. Whereas the noun participatio is used on its own in the Latin version, the Italian translation of TLS exceeds the bounds of equivalence by adding the word “active”: “partecipazione attiva” to it. This happens several times, even though there is no equivalent of “active” in the Latin text.

As accuracy is of primary concern in order to ensure that translations convey the full meaning of the original, it cannot be assumed that the drafter of the Latin version felt no need to include the equivalent of “active” on the grounds that this was implied in “participation.”

(Incidentally, the Italians were the first to translate pro multis in the Words of Consecration by “for all” on the assumption that “for many” implied “for all,” but this was an erroneous assumption that led to a misunderstanding of the nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.)

No part of the Latin version of the motu proprio indicates that the Pope envisaged an “active” role for the congregation. Paragraphs 12-14 show that the only authorized lay performers are choir members, women excluded. As the raison d’être of Gregorian Chant was the text, not the people, the intention of the Pope was to clothe the text with beauty (verba liturgiae exornare - to embellish the words of the liturgy), not to make the people vociferate.

Those who insist that TLS was a manifesto for congregational singing make the mistake of giving precedence to so-called “active” participation over the lex orandi (the way prayers and liturgical texts transmit the Faith in the immutable Latin language.)

“A more active part”

The Latin version uses the word vehementius to indicate the manner in which the faithful should participate in the liturgy. This is loosely and incorrectly translated in the Italian and English versions to say that all should play a “more active part” (parte più attiva) in the liturgy, and the impression is given that this is accomplished by everyone singing Gregorian Chant. But the Latin text does not support this conclusion.

Vehementius is related to the Latin adverb vehementer, which has been used throughout classical antiquity, and also in ecclesiastical texts, to indicate intensity of emotions, strength of feelings and other interior dispositions of the human mind. It can be translated by “greatly” or “exceedingly.” (1)

Pope Pius X used it thus: vehementer optemus (we ardently desire) in the Introduction to the motu proprio to show his fervent desire to restore Gregorian Chant. He also used it in his encyclical Vehementer Nos of 1906 to convey the depth of his grief over the injustices to the Church occasioned by the recent French law on State secularism.

Vehementius, the comparative form of vehementer, can be translated by “more ardently / more fervently / to a greater degree.” There are no grounds for believing that the Pope was making a comparison between singers and non-singers or suggesting that the latter were somehow deficient in relation to the former. Rather, he was comparing the suitability of Gregorian Chant and profane styles of music (2) in their ability to enhance prayerful participation in the liturgy.

In § 2, the Pope referred to the special power of suitable sacred music on the minds of the faithful who listen to it (in animis audientium illam), moving them to devotion and making them better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace coming from the celebration of the Mass. The key concept here is that an intellectual grasp of the nature of the Mass is greatly facilitated by listening to the sublime strains of Gregorian Chant sung by a well trained choir – not by the entire congregation.

Listening is, therefore, approved by the Pope as a way of participating fruitfully in the liturgy. This is reinforced in § 9, which states that the Chant must be sung by the choir for the benefit of the faithful who listen, and in such a way that it must be intelligible to them, i.e., clearly enunciated so as not to obscure the text. (3)

But, in order to produce the desired effect of appealing to the higher faculties of the soul, especially the intellect, the execution of the Chant must be undertaken by trained choirs: the voices must be pure, restrained, lacking any element of worldliness or self-expression. This was one of the reasons why the Pope did not include a role for the congregation in singing any part of the liturgy.

Sacred music in the Mass has always been regarded as “participatory” for the faithful insofar as it functions to edify, educate and lift them to devotion. So, pursuing one’s private devotions to the background of liturgical chant performed by the choir cannot be interpreted as non-participation. Yet the liturgical reformers argued that a true understanding of the Mass by the faithful required the elimination of such silent prayers in favor of direct vocal participation. Pope Pius X had given no such directive.

“In ancient times”

Liturgists have hastily jumped to the conclusion that the Pope wanted the Church to return to the practice of the early Christians who had included some congregational singing in the liturgy. Where did they get that impression? Certainly not from the Latin version of the motu proprio, which mentions nothing about “ancient times.”

The impression arose from the vernacular texts regarding the meaning of the Latin phrase more maiorum (according to the customs of the ancestors) as used by Pope Pius X in § 3 with reference to Gregorian Chant. The Italian version uses the ambiguous expression “anticamente,” which could mean either in antiquity (4) or simply formerly. The English version, ignoring the second meaning, states that Gregorian Chant used to be the custom in some unspecified “ancient times.” But neither comes near to an accurate translation of more maiorum.

We need to know the relevance of this particular phrase and why it was chosen as being most appropriate. The mos maiorum (custom of the ancestors) was the unwritten code of traditional values observed by the ancient Romans and incorporated into their laws. It represented their time-honored cultural and social practices and provided guidelines for private, political and military life in Roman times. (5)

Just as adherence to tradition gave the Romans a sense of what was fitting and proper, the same could be said for the suitability of Gregorian Chant, which had a long and venerable tradition in the Church. The mos maiorum was the medium of transmission of Gregorian Chant, as the Pope explained: it had been handed down by tradition (quem transmisit traditio).

Now, we can see clearly why Gregorian Chant should be restored to the people: so that, through its special power to move the soul, they can once again participate in the liturgy more maiorum – according to the custom of previous generations of Catholics, before the fashion for theatrical and profane music had invaded the churches.

There is, thus, no reference to or recommendation of congregational singing, which, if it took place at some times and in some places, was never an established and universal custom of the Roman rite. So, it could not have been designated as part of the mos maiorum.

We can be sure that the translation “in ancient times” is false for two reasons. First, because more maiorum refers to an ongoing, unbroken tradition, and, second, because customs that have been discarded for centuries cannot be reincorporated into the liturgy without destroying its intrinsically traditional nature. Indeed, any attempt to do so was later condemned as “antiquarianism” by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei.


1. Thus we read, for instance, in De Bello Africo Commentarius that “Quibus ex rebus Caesar vehementer commotus” (Caesar was greatly alarmed by these things), and in De Bello Civili that his famous Ninth Legion was “vehementer attenuata” (greatly diminished).

2. In § 6, the Pope particularly deplored the style of music that had recently been used in the liturgy: “Among the different kinds of modern music, that which appears less suitable for accompanying the functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century. This of its very nature is diametrically opposed to Gregorian Chant and classic polyphony, and therefore to the most important law of all good sacred music. Besides the intrinsic structure, the rhythm and what is known as the conventionalism of this style adapt themselves but badly to the requirements of true liturgical music.”

3. Clarity of enunciation was also emphasized by Canon 8 of the Council of Trent.

4. This is obviously not the intended meaning here for two reasons. First, Gregorian Chant as a distinctive corpus of music did not exist in the early Christian era. Secondly, the use of the Imperfect Tense “solevasì” in Italian indicates an action that had been going on for an extended period of time (such as the Gregorian Chant tradition), not something that had disappeared a long time ago (such as congregational singing), for which a different Past Tense would have had to be used.

5. Virgil’s Aeneid celebrates the mos maiorum of the Roman people, as depicted in the character of Aeneas. He epitomized the Roman ideal of pietas, the core concept of ancient Roman morality which included duties to religion, the family, the wider community and the patria.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The Start of the New Liturgical Reform

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

In the previous article, examples were given to show that the intended official Italian version of Pius X’s motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (TLS) is, in some respects, a new text with a spirit of novelty that does not exist in the Latin version. Anyone who pauses to reflect on the implications of this anomaly can see what is amiss.

In any translation, an exact conformity is required to carry over (which is the meaning of “translate”) the same ideas from one language to another. But in the case of TLS (and its further translation into other vernacular languages), some interested party has obviously had a powerful influence on the choice of phrases that promote the agenda of the reformers.

This independent spirit is strikingly evident at those key points where TLS (and other vernacular versions) diverge from the Latin text. These can be summed up as follows:

1. A call to adopt the liturgical practices of the early Church in the matter of congregational singing (“as was the case in ancient times”);

2. The suggestion that vocalization by the laity is the litmus test of their true participation in the liturgy;

3. A shift in emphasis towards the “common priesthood of the baptized” and away from the sacramental priesthood of the priest who alone offers the Mass in an official capacity for the living and the dead;

4. An implied criticism of silent participation by the laity who may be saying private prayers during Mass.

As to which of these points Pope Pius X subscribed to, the answer is none of the above.

Although some may argue that “active participation” by the laity could be interpreted differently, nevertheless the expression was driven by its own internal logic to focus attention on the people and give them an inflated sense of their own activities in the liturgy. The inevitable result – though few realized it at the time – was that it would be used to justify the destruction of centuries of Catholic liturgy and the creation of a radically new Mass in which the “People of God” are regarded as the celebrants on an equal footing with the priests.

The Role of Dom Lambert Beauduin

After the fateful and entirely inappropriate expression “active participation” appeared out of the blue in 1903, it got a muted reception. Few people – unless they had a goal to score – knew what to make of it or what to do with it.

The first person to pick up the ball and run with it was the Benedictine monk, Dom Lambert Beauduin (1873-1960) of the Monastery of Mont César in Belgium. His goal was both ecumenical and secular: to promote the “universal priesthood of all believers” through “participatory” liturgy and unite them in a common programme of social reform and pan-Christian “unity.”

It was not for nothing that Beauduin is regarded as the founder of the New Liturgical Movement and a prophet of the “pastoral” Vatican II. He actually anticipated by half a century the most important progressivist advances of Vatican II in the key areas of liturgy, ecumenism and ecclesiology.

The Barbarian in the citadel

From the beginning of his clerical career, Beauduin revealed a deep alienation from the values and spirituality of traditional Catholicism. He pursued a campaign of increasing hostility against Catholic devotions. Even in his seminary days, he rebelled against the regime of spirituality and the necessity to follow the strict rubrics of the Mass. (1)

[Image: 47_g.jpg]
Beauduin, today recognized as the founder of the New Liturgical Reform

It is unsurprising that he showed no interest in the Missal: it was, for him, “a closed and sealed book” (un livre fermé et scellé). He considered the liturgical books in general to be no more than “mumbo jumbo, incantations and magical formulae” (des grimoires). He also admitted that he had never recited his Breviary with the least devotion or interest. (2)

It is clear that, as a priest, Beauduin had not received – because he rejected – a proper Catholic formation. Instead, he spent his days in the seminary at Liège under the tutelage of the Professor of Moral Theology, Fr. Antoine Pottier, who, as the local leader of the Christian Democrat Movement, was a political firebrand, kindling workers’ demonstrations and strikes.

In fact, Fr. Pottier’s militant pro-worker activities, coupled with his antagonism against employers in Liège, caused Leo XIII to intervene personally in 1895 and require him to give up his social and political activism for the sake of peace and harmony. (3)

Soon after his ordination in 1897, Beauduin joined the Congregation des Aumôniers du Travail, a society of worker-priests that had been established by the Bishop of Liège, Mgr. Victor Doutreloux. He then spent 7 years living among the workers in the footsteps of Fr. Pottier after the latter’s enforced retirement from political agitation.

The experience radicalized his outlook. Just as he saw society in terms of a conflict between the rich and the poor, industrialists and workers, he saw a counterpart in the constitution of the Church. He argued that active participation in the liturgy would unite the faithful for social change and for the “emancipation” of the laity from “domination” by the clergy. At this point the Liturgical Movement was effectively turned into a platform for Marxist propaganda within the Church.

Beauduin’s decision to become a monk of the Monastery of Mont César in 1906 was critical for the development of the Liturgical Movement. Once inside, he began to pull up the drawbridge against the “unacceptable” face of traditional Catholicism.

Mont César was to become the nexus of strategic planning for various projects: promoting “active participation” among the laity, adapting the liturgy to contemporary needs, linking it to social activism, reorienting monastic life (in Beauduin’s opinion, “too closed in upon itself”) towards the world outside the cloister, and fostering ecumenism among religions without seeking conversion to Catholicism.

Beauduin’s decision to enter Mont César was not without its material advantages: he was able to exploit the Monastery’s financial resources to launch the Liturgical Movement in a way that was not possible for a simple parish priest. He had at his disposal a willing cohort of monks to help prepare his publications, which he disseminated by means of the Monastery’s printing press, and he hosted liturgical weeks and retreats in the Monastery’s accommodation.


1. These he dismissed derisively as a “series of minutely detailed and arbitrary rules imposed, it would seem, to try the patience of those who study them and put them into practice” (série de prescriptions minutieuses et arbitraries, imposées, croirait-on, pour exercer la patience de ceux qui les étudient et les accomplissent). Quoted in Jacques Mortiau, Raymond Loonbeek and Enzo Bianchi, Don Lambert Beauduin Visionnaire et Précurseur: un moine au coeur libre, Cerf, 2005, pp. 22-23.

2. Ibid., p. 20.

3. Jean-Louis Jadoulle, “Question sociale et politique pontificale. L'itinéraire d'un démocrate chrétien: Antoine Pottier (1849-1923)’,” Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, 1991, vol. 69, n. 69-2, p. 318. It is also clear that Fr. Pottier adhered to the Socialist view that workers had a right to an equal share in the profits made by their employers (ibid., pp. 310-311, and that wages should be set by the State.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The Dialogue Mass, a Tool to Democratize Liturgy

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

The year 1909 marks the decisive moment when the worm of decay entered the liturgical scene and slowly began to devour the traditional rites from the inside. This was the year in which Dom Lambert Beauduin presented his ideas for more “active” lay participation in the liturgy at the National Congress of Catholic Action in Malines on the invitation of Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier.

His address was entitled ‘The True Prayer of the Church’ (La Vraie Prière de l’Église), and was published as part of Beauduin's book The Piety of the Church (La Piété de l’Église) in 1914. (1)  In it, he proposed a “pastoral” plan for what he claimed were Pope Pius X’s directives for “active participation.”

He mentioned in his lecture, among other things, his plan to familiarize the laity with the text of the Mass and Divine Office through the widespread use of bi-lingual hand-missals.

The idea behind the proposal was, so he averred, to fulfill Pope Pius X’s aim to help lay people achieve a greater degree of participation in the liturgy as the “primary and indispensable source of the Christian spirit.”

All Shall Have Missals

But there was a great deal more behind the innocuous-sounding strategy. Already a major revolution had been gathering momentum in his mind and the 1909 Congress in Malines was only the first platform for views he had been elaborating for some time.

At the top of his agenda at the Congress was a proposal to publish and disseminate thousands of missals with vernacular translations, not in order for the faithful to read silently as an option, but so as to make the Dialogue Mass the norm for all. “Let us change the routine and monotonous assistance at acts of worship into an active and intelligent participation; let us teach the faithful to pray and confess these truths in a body,” Beauduin announced. (2)

This strategy was based on nothing other than his own highly subjective notions of lay participation. It indicated a fatuous optimism about fostering a “community spirit” by having every member of the congregation barking like trained seals, with the priest as the ringmaster.

He even admitted to wanting to deprive Catholics of their traditional method of participation by eliminating all forms of private prayers, which they recited silently during the Mass. (3) These would include the Rosary, devotional exercises or even meditations.

In other words, Beauduin wanted collective verbal responses to be the medium of lay participation. Strictly “liturgical prayer” would be de rigueur for the faithful. (4)  But his plan did not stop there. In his programme of action formulated at the Malines Congress, he expressed the wish that even outside the liturgy the faithful should give up their devotional exercises and model their prayers on the priest’s Breviary: e.g. Compline should take the place of private evening prayers.

It was basically an assault on their freedom to pray as individuals in their own way – a freedom later vindicated by Pope Pius XII in 1947 (Mediator Dei § 108). The same Pope censured those “who are deceived under the pretext of restoring the liturgy or who idly claim that only liturgical rites are of any real value and dignity” (ibid. §176), and he also rejected as “wrong and dangerous” any attempt on the part of the reformers to reduce exercises of popular piety to the methods and norms of liturgical rites (ibid. § 184).

Silent Participation Forbidden

It is important not to underestimate the seriousness of the proposal to make the Dialogue Mass the outcome of participation for all the faithful.  A centuries-old custom of silent prayer that flowed from the faith and practice of generations of Catholics was about to be abolished, sacrificed on the altar of a destructive egalitarianism in which everyone’s “active participation” – whether clerical or lay – is treated as of equal status.

It was also a totalitarian measure in which the individual is sacrificed to the collective. The faithful, exhorted to join in the collective vocal responses, would no longer be free to choose whichever method of silent participation works best for them. Experience shows that, for those wishing to join their minds and hearts to the Holy Sacrifice being re-enacted on the altar, interior recollection can be distracted by the intrusive voices of others in the pews.

Henceforth, wherever the Dialogue Mass took root, the atmosphere of Catholic worship in the Roman rite would be forever changed as spoken responses drowned silent participation. What is more, silent participation has become a sort of lightning rod for the hatred of liturgical reformers. Indeed, it is now held to be an affront to democratic values in the “age of the laity” inaugurated by Vatican II.

This explains why Novus Ordo priests have been known to react with a mixture of horror and outrage at the sight of any Catholic in the pews fingering a Rosary or reading from a prayer book in the traditional style, and why they expose them to the general derision of the congregation.

The Tip of an Iceberg

Proponents of the Dialogue Mass and congregational singing contend that these forms of “active participation” were what Pope Pius X intended in his 1903 motu proprio. But that is simply an unwarranted assumption, which sprang from the fevered brain of Dom Lambert Beauduin, who wanted to start a liturgical revolution to “democratize” the liturgy. (5)

Significantly, there was no popular demand from the laity for “active participation” or desire on their part to be invested with clerical roles. The Dialogue Mass, which aids such an inversion of roles, was just the visible tip of an iceberg of “active participation,” the enormity of which was hidden under the waves in Pope Pius X’s time.

As the following articles will show, the landmark date of 1909 when Beauduin launched the Liturgical Movement stands as a monument to the state of degeneracy into which the liturgy fell after Vatican II.


1. Beauduin, La Piété de l’Église : principes et faits, Louvain: Monastery of Mont César, 1914, published in English translation by Virgil Michel as Liturgy the Life of the Church, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1926

2. Lambert Beauduin, Liturgy the Life of the Church, translation by Virgil Michel, Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1914, p. 11

3. “Thus, all the faithful will be led to renounce their private prayers during the sacred ceremonies - Mass and Divine Office” (Ainsi tous les fidèles seront amenés à renoncer pendant les offices divins à la récitation de prières privées). Lambert Beauduin, "La Vraie Piété de l’Eglise, Rapport au Congrès de Malines 1909," in Questions Liturgiques et Paroissiales, 40, 1959, p. 221, apud Marc Chatanay, Emergeance du Mouvement Liturgique en France, Pamplona, 2009, p. 215.

4. Incidentally, the founder of Opus Dei, Mgr. Josemaría Escrivá, had the same aim. In The Way (a book of maxims addressed to Catholics, Schismatics and Protestants), Mgr. Escrivá stated: “Your prayer should be liturgical. How I would like to see you using the psalms and prayers from the missal, rather than private prayers of your own choice” (n. 86) .

5. Keith Pecklers, The Unread Vision: Liturgical Movement in the United States of America, 1926-55, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998, p. 11.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Laity-Clergy Class Struggle Based on ‘Active Participation’

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

If anyone should wonder how the priesthood came to be devalued in the Church and how priests were knocked off the exalted pedestal accorded to them by Catholic Tradition, he need look no further than the beginning of the Liturgical Movement.

Beauduin’s Perfidy

At the 1909 Malines Congress, Dom Lambert Beauduin, OSB, delivered an address that purported to be based on Pope Pius X’s recent motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini on sacred music. But it was only a ruse de guerre (a ruse of war) in his campaign to deceive the faithful and to make it appear as if his intended “liturgical renewal” emanated from that source.

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Dom Beauduin, center, between Congar, left, and a Protestant pastor at Ecumenical Days in 1952

Although he did not, at this early stage, suggest a reform of the liturgical rites, (1) he deftly prepared the groundwork for it by creating, as we shall see below, a deeply hostile climate within which the traditional rites – and even the priesthood itself – would be considered unacceptable.

Beauduin used his status as a priest with a “pastoral” vision to gain both credibility and active support from Bishops and priests throughout Europe and America. (2) The suspension of disbelief necessary for them to swallow his scheme of “renewal” is impressive.

Therein lies the evidence that the Liturgical Movement originated from an act of perfidy – a word derived from the Latin phrase per fidem decipere, meaning “to deceive through confidence or trust.” It is an apt expression in Beauduin’s case because it is his false pretence that constitutes the perfidy.

An Atmosphere of Class Struggle

What kind of propaganda did Beauduin use to ensure the success of the Liturgical Movement? Utilizing the theme of “active participation,” he contested the right of the priest to say the prayers of the Mass without the congregation joining in.

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Liturgy became the work of the 'people' 

The clergy, according to Beauduin, exercised a despotic rule over the faithful, robbing them of their “active participation” in the liturgy and reducing them to a cowed silence in the pews. This was the underlying message of his 1909 address at the Malines Congress, from which it was inferred (and still is today) that an “aristocratic elite” of clergy excluded the laity from the liturgy and had been violating their rights for centuries.

“What a shame the liturgy remains the endowment of an elite,” he accused. “We are aristocrats of the liturgy. Everyone should be able to nourish himself from it, even the simplest people. We must democratize the liturgy.” (3)

It is a matter of historical record that Beauduin, like many priests of his time, had been involved in trade unionism and class-oriented politics, (4) and that his radicalized past was heavily implicated in his vision of the liturgy. We are assured this was so by Keith Pecklers, one of Beauduin’s principal biographers, who stated: “His background as a labor chaplain had a tremendous influence upon his liturgical interest.” (5)

Beauduin naturally presented his theories in the form of a binary opposition between priests and laity, as a result of which there could be two – and only two – possible outcomes: the total domination of one side by the other. The polarized context of this message apes the standard Marxist outlook by implying that “ownership” of the liturgy was “in the hands of the few” and that the “oppressed masses” should take back what rightfully belongs to them by virtue of their Baptism.

This rhetoric is clearly in conflict with the reality of Catholic worship through which the Church has always imparted the life of Christ to her members, “even the simplest people,” without the need to “democratize the liturgy.” The very bloodstream of the Church has been poisoned by this language of protest that turned the laity into a symbol of injustices perpetrated by the clergy.

Unfortunately for the Church, we still see the effects of this pernicious propaganda that encourages a victim mentality and incites the laity to rise up against their priests in the name of “active participation”.

The Spirit of Egalitarianism

It follows from Beauduin’s call to “democratize the liturgy” that no judgment can be made to distinguish the higher role of the priests from the subsidiary one of the faithful. Or, to put it another way, power must be distributed among all the members of the Church to participate “actively” in the liturgy.

All participation must, therefore, be reduced to the lowest common denominator to avoid being accused of “elitism.” This revolutionary idea was accompanied by the wrong belief that the Church can survive in the modern age only by becoming “democratic” i.e., abolishing her patriarchal and hierarchical character.

It was also the major impetus for the exaggerated importance given to the laity in the Vatican II documents, which enlarged the scope and increased the status of their activities in the Church to the detriment of the priesthood.

Beauduin’s Lies

It was Beauduin who first propagated the myth (let’s dare to call it a lie) that the custom of silent participation made the laity become “detached” from the liturgy, causing the Mass to lose its communal character and the laity to lose their “community spirit.” Anyone with a Catholic conception of what the Mass really is – and this comes with proper catechesis – would know that these accusations could not possibly represent the truth.

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The Tridentine Mass aimed to give glory to God was called 'elitist' by Beauduin

Well instructed Catholics knew the teaching of the Church that the Mass was offered for the glory of God and the benefit of the living and the dead. They knew also that they were united with the Church Triumphant, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering in the Sacrifice of Christ on the altar. In other words, the individual Catholic praying at Mass was already united in the same Faith with the priest whose role was to lead the people towards their heavenly goal.

Beauduin, however, was not interested in the supernatural dimensions of participation, but in the naturalistic goal of forming communities geared to social action.

Beauduin was also responsible for spreading another lie: The laity, absorbed in their own private prayers, were indulging in individualistic worship, leaving the priest to celebrate without them. He interpreted absence of “active participation” as a sign of “almost complete ignorance or apathy among the faithful in regard to the liturgical worship” (6) and concluded that they understood nothing of the Mass.

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In the Novus Ordo the whole congregation participates with the priest at the final blessing

This negative and dismissive assessment inspired Archbishop Bugnini, the architect of the Novus Ordo, to justify his reforms on the basis of a “lack of understanding, ignorance and dark night” (7) in the worship of God since the 6th century.

So, Beauduin established a series of Liturgical Study Weeks (the first of which was held in 1910) and Retreats at the Monastery of Mont César, specially designed to re-educate parish priests and turn them away from traditional Catholic values. At these sessions, they were indoctrinated to believe that they were guilty of “clericalism” if they celebrated a Mass without a congregation or a Mass at which the faithful did not join in verbally, if they followed the rubrics of the Missal with exactitude or failed to make the liturgy a “living experience” for the congregation.

All these points were set out by Beauduin in the Review, Questions Liturgiques et Paroissiales (Liturgical and Parish Questions) (8) which he had founded in 1909.

Beauduin intended that it was the task of the clergy to indoctrinate their parishioners into going along with the rolling revolution of “active participation,” a process that is still unfolding in our days. His supporters immediately set about the task of persuading the hapless faithful to embrace the new liturgical thinking as their own, believing that it came from Pope Pius X.

It was a propaganda coup of incalculable proportions: its success can be measured today in the proportion of Catholics – clergy and laity – who have come to reject their own tradition on a worldwide scale. The result is that, after devastating a thousand years of received and approved liturgical tradition, nothing remains upon which a true participation could be established.


1. In his Malines Congress address, he criticized as “rubricism” and “formalism” the traditional method of celebrating the Mass, claiming that the liturgy should be turned into a “living experience” for the participants. It was only later, after the Liturgical Movement had put down roots, that it became clearer that Beauduin wanted the liturgical rites to be adapted to the age and circumstances in which they were celebrated.

2. In the first instance, he gained the confidence of Card. Mercier to grant permission for the Malines Congress, and persuaded him to use his influence in Rome to approve the Dialogue Mass and experiments in ecumenism. Then, he influenced a visiting Benedictine monk, Dom Virgil Michel, of St John’s Abbey, Minnesota, who translated and published his work and launched the Liturgical Movement in America.

3. Apud Sonya Quitslund, A Prophet Vindicated, New York, Newmann Press, 1973, p. 16. Quitslund was a vehement feminist and campaigner for women priests.

4. The end of the 19th century was a critical time for social power struggles in Belgium not only between Flemish and Walloon nationalists, but also between workers and employers. With the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1894, some Catholic priests like Beauduin’s mentor, Fr. Antoine Pottier in Liège, involved themselves in mass politics and tried to recruit the support of the newly enfranchised workers in the class struggle.

5. Keith Pecklers, The Unread Vision: Liturgical Movement in the United States of America, 1926-1955, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998, p. 9.

6. Lambert Beauduin, Liturgy the Life of the Church, trans. Virgil Michel, Collegeville, Minnesota, The Liturgical Press, 1914, p. 8.

7. A. Bugnini, La Riforma Liturgica 1948-1975, published in 1983, and in English translation by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota in 1990.

8. The Review was initially entitled Questions Liturgiques and was published by the Monastery of Mont César.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Participation, Vocalization & Vulgarization
Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

It is evident that the Liturgical Movement, as conceived by Dom Lambert Beauduin, was an attempt to both disparage and discourage methods of hearing Mass that are quintessentially Catholic. As a result of its manifest capacity to desensitize priests and faithful to traditional values, few Catholics today, even among traditionalists, seem to grasp the broader significance of lay responses.

It has never been Church teaching that the faithful have an absolute, sui generis right to vocal engagement as a means of participating in the liturgy. In fact, Pope Pius X had never mentioned a “right” on the part of the laity in general to speak or sing during the liturgy.

Yet under Beauduin’s transforming pen, the exhortation of Pius X for participation in the liturgy – which did not specify any particular activity for the laity and certainly included attentive listening – became an unequivocal call to vocalization.

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Lay vocalization in a Neocatechumenal Mass

By artfully eliding the two concepts – participation and vocalization – Beauduin elevated the “dialogue” form into an unimpeachable necessity, arguing (without any basis in Catholic Tradition) that silence from the faithful indicated their isolation from the Church’s public worship.

He said that anyone praying in silence during the Mass is not associating himself with the prayer of the Church. He went on to heap personal abuse on devout Catholics, calling them distant, isolated, solitary, alien, deficient, concerned only about themselves and lacking any concern for the common good, edification or apostolate. (1)

It was, of course, a pure invention. Verbal responses are not required from the laity during Mass for their full participation. In the Mass, God’s grace is communicated by virtue of the words and actions of the priest, independently of any lay external activity whatsoever, and it is effective for the faithful to the extent to which they, internally, are properly disposed to receive it.

Besides, there is no objective evidence that reciting aloud actually increases interior participation for the laity. As true participation in the Mass is interior, only God knows who among the “activists” in the pews is actually participating. The idea of a “dialogue” purporting to provide everyone with a heaven-sent means of true participation in the Mass is demonstrably unsustainable.

Beauduin, whose art of deception had begun with the “Dialogue Mass,” would go on to build further grand theories (ecumenism, for instance) on similarly non-existent foundations.

Beauduin's Manipulations

The basis for Beauduin’s insistence on the “dialogue” form of Mass can be traced to his misconception of the Church’s lex orandi (law of prayer): like his Novus Ordo heirs, he saw the Mass as essentially a fraternal get-together and believed that the aim of the parish liturgy was mobilization of the faithful around the priest for a social apostolate. (2) (See his work on the topic here)

In this way, he replaced the transcendent aims of the liturgy mentioned by Pope Pius X with his own subjectivity and bias. Beauduin’s idea of “active participation” would thereafter set the tone for a “politically correct” liturgical reform, which would eventually subvert the lex orandi as it had existed for centuries.

Beauduin also misrepresented the role of the priest in the Mass when he stated: “The priest talks to the people, and it is the people, rather than the altar boy, who ought to make the responses.” (3) We should not underestimate the magnitude of this error or the lethal threat it poses to a Catholic conception of the Mass and, consequently, to the lex orandi itself.

The ‘Dialogue Mass’ is a Misnomer

As even the most unlettered pre-Vatican II Catholic knew, in the Mass the priest directs himself to God, not to us. The power of the ritual to convey this impression was evident in the traditional rite without any need for further explanation.

There was its sacred atmosphere, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, strict adherence to the rubrics, its own liturgical language used by the ministers at the altar, the chanting of the choir, the silence of the congregation and the fact that the priest faces God, not the congregation.

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The people were never intended to be in a conversation with the priest who acts in persona Christi

This last point, incidentally, poses a conundrum for some modern Catholics attending the traditional Mass: they are genuinely mystified as to why the priest has his back turned to them when, in their estimation, he is supposed to direct himself to them. What they fail to realize is that the “dialogue” is not a conversation between priest and people, but a series of prayers addressed to God by the priest acting in the person of Christ, the High Priest.

The fact that some of the priest’s prayers require a response does not indicate a verbal role for the laity. Of course, members of the congregation may follow the responses in their missals. But these prayers are meant to be alternated between the priest and the ministers at the altar – or, in the case of a sung Mass, the choir, which likewise exercise a clerical role, as Pope Pius X had explained.

Thus, no role was envisaged for the congregation to sing or speak during the Mass. Even the altar boys perform their tasks only by indult and are attired in choir dress as a sign that they are substituting, out of necessity, for clerics in the sanctuary, not for the laity in the pews.

Early Feminist Influence
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A woman reads the Epistle in John Paul II's Mass

One of Beauduin’s initiatives was a series of retreats he gave in the early 1920s at the women’s Benedictine Abbey Ancilla Domini, in Wépion, Belgium. His objective was the formation of lay women in liturgical roles.

His disciple, Dom Virgil Michel, drew on the Benedictine initiative for women’s enhanced role in the Church, (4) and also supported the leadership of women in the liturgy. He appointed, for example, Justine Ward (1879-1975), who led and popularized mixed liturgical choirs throughout the U.S., as a member of the first editorial board of Orate Fratres.

Ill effects of the ‘Dialogue Mass’ Form
  • Giving roles to all and sundry in the Mass obscures the unique role of the priest and leads to the vulgarization (in both senses of the word) of the liturgy, so that the sacred atmosphere is lost.
  • It anticipates the Novus Ordo insofar as it encourages an inappropriate lay familiarity with sacred things, starting with the liturgical language and chant.
  • It gives the laity the impression that they share responsibility with the priest in the saying / singing of the Mass, thus generating confusion about clerical and lay roles.
  • It encourages feminization of the liturgy by giving women a spoken / sung role that was formerly forbidden as per impossibile.
  • It creates a two-tier system between those who can give the Latin responses and those who cannot, thus encouraging an odious atmosphere of competitiveness.
  • Those who get the Latin phrases wrong are simply talking meaningless nonsense.
  • A rag-tag set of responses uttered at different rates of speed and loudness by the congregation is unbecoming in the liturgy.
  • It is a source of distraction for those trying to follow the prayers of the Mass silently in English. It also disturbs meditation for others trying to pray in their own way.
  • It creates unnecessary tension and confrontation between pastors who favor the “dialogue” form and members of the congregation who prefer to pray silently at Mass.
In the next article, we shall be looking at ways in which Popes Pius XI and Pius XII gave an increasing degree of official impetus to the revolutionary idea of “active participation” including, specifically, the “Dialogue Mass.” Following Beauduin’s lead, they officially endorsed and validated this progressivist position by providing approval and direction for its implementation in the Church.


1. “'Ils ne s'associent pas à la prière, au sacrifice”... “on n'est qu'un catholique distant, un isolé, un solitaire, un catholique étranger... un catholique qui ne s'additionne pas, qui ne s'occupe que de soi, qui n'a aucun souci du bien général, aucune préoccupation d'édification et d'apostolat.” L. Beauduin, Questions Liturgiques et Paroissiales, Louvain: Abbey of Mont César, 1922, p. 50

2. Cf. L. Beauduin, Questions Liturgiques, pp. 51-52

3. Ibid., p. 52: “Le prêtre parle au peuple, et ce n'est pas l'enfant de chœur, c'est le peuple qui devrait répondre.”

4. These included radical activists such as Dorothy Day, Catherine de Hueck (both of whom he invited to lecture to seminarians at St. John’s Abbey), Ellen Gates Starr, who promoted socialist principles, and many others. He wrote on this topic in Orate Fratres, ‘The Liturgical Movement and the Catholic Woman’ and ‘The Liturgy and the Christian Woman” in 1928 and 1929.

"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Pius XI vs St. Pius X on Active Participation

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

In an attempt to justify their preference for congregational singing and spoken responses in the liturgy, opponents of silent prayer invariably mention the Italian version of Pope Pius X’s 1903 motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudine on Sacred Music, which contained the phrase “active participation.” As we have seen previously, this phrase presents two major obstacles to our acceptance of it at its face value.

First, no equivalent expression of this phrase is contained in the only authoritative version of the document, which is the Latin one. There is no reference whatsoever to “active” in that original. Second, there is no reference whatsoever to vocal response from the laity, whether spoken or sung.

Where Did the Expression ‘Active Participation’ Come From?

If we examine the major documents on the liturgy issued by Pius X anterior to his pontificate, one fact imposes itself: “active participation” was never part of his lexicon.

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A choir composed by young men and women performs at the altar - a consequence of active participation

We can show by means of these texts the continuity and remarkable consistency of his thought on the liturgy:
  • In 1888, when he was Bishop of Mantua, he held a Synod that issued various decrees on pastoral topics, including the liturgy. The decrees on Sacred Music concerned Gregorian Chant, the use of musical instruments, the choice of organ music, the training of seminarians and the exclusion of women from church choirs. The topic of “active participation” was entirely absent.
  • In 1893, as Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, he sent a detailed report called a Votum to the Sacred Congregation of Rites after Pope Leo XIII had organized a Conference on Gregorian Chant and issued a papal questionnaire
  • In the Votum, which can be read here, (1) he set out the Church’s official teaching on Sacred Music. This basically followed the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s earlier document, Ordinatio quoad sacram musicam, on Sacred Music issued in 1884. (2) It is significant that the Votum had been drawn up by Fr. Angelo De Santi, who would later prepare the content of Pius X’s motu proprio on Sacred Music. The records plainly show that in their respective documents neither Pope nor Cardinal alluded to “active participation.”
  • In 1895, he issued a pastoral Letter on Sacred Music. It is virtually a reprise of his earlier theme as it reiterates all the points set out in the 1888 Synod and the 1893 Votum. Again, there is no mention of “active participation.”

In 1903, he issued his motu proprio, the Latin text of which was virtually identical to the above-mentioned decrees and, like them, made no mention of “active participation”. This is hardly surprising, since Pope Pius X was following the prescriptions of the Council of Trent, (3) which did not mention it either. It is only in the Italian version that the expression made its sudden and unexpected irruption.

It is also worth remembering that no mention of “active participation” was made in the 1917 Code of Canon Law which had been drawn up under Pius X.

Pius XI’s Progressist Legislation

With the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Divini Cultus (1928), there is no doubt that the Liturgical Movement started to slide dramatically in the direction of Vatican II. In it, Pope Pius XI specifically recommended the “active participation” of the congregation in the liturgy:
Quote:“In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian Chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it.”

This marks a distinct break with his predecessor’s position. St. Pius X had never allotted a role for the congregation to sing Gregorian Chant or even suggested that “it belongs to them to take part in it.” On the contrary, St. Pius X had said the opposite. He indicated that members of the congregation are not included in this form of participation when he said that, apart from what is sung by the celebrant and his ministers at the altar, all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir. (4)

How anyone who has read the document could, with a clear conscience, interpret this as a desire on the part of the Pope for congregational singing takes some explaining.

Another glaring anomaly in Divini Cultus is the following statement:
Quote:“It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies, or when pious sodalities take part with the clergy in a procession … they should sing alternately with the clergy or the choir …whether in the language of the Liturgy or in the vernacular.”

In this passage, where the congregation is actually instructed to sing the responses, confusion reigns between liturgical and non-liturgical situations. The concept of sacred ceremonies may apply to both ceremonies outside and inside the church and, therefore, the laity is indirectly invited by Pius XI to sing inside the church during sacred ceremonies.

However, St. Pius X had made a crucial distinction between ceremonies that take place inside the church and religious events that take place outside the church, such as processions, pilgrimages etc. In the former case, singing is a strictly liturgical function reserved for the clergy and choir; in the latter, all the faithful were permitted to sing hymns in any language. (5)

Behind the Scenes Lobbying

What is not always appreciated about Divini Cultus is the fact that, prior to its publication, a robust lobbying operation had been going on in the Vatican to achieve the goal of “active participation” in the liturgy.

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Card. Mercier, an ardent support of the new liturgical movement

Pius XI admitted that he was being influenced by lobbyists: “We are thus acceding to the requests which … have been made to Us” by “not a few Bishops” and various “musical congresses.”

This shows that the progressivist foxes were already sniffing around the Vatican hen house, waiting for someone to lift the latch. No names of the Bishops are given, but officially published documents give us a glimpse of some of them, including Beauduin’s protector, Card. Mercier of Malines. (6)

As an ardent supporter of Beauduin’s Liturgical Movement, Card. Mercier had, according to his biographer, “made every possible effort to introduce the practice of congregational singing into his diocese” long before Divini Cultus was published. (7)

So, as far as “active participation” is concerned, it was not exactly the Church speaking, but a handful of agenda-driven enthusiasts clamouring for policy changes who had gained the ear of the Pope.


1. The text is reproduced in Pierre Combe, The Restoration of Gregorian Chant, Catholic University of America Press, 2008, Appendix III, p, 421

2.  Sacred Congregation of Rites, Ordinatio quoad sacram musicam, ASS, 1884, vol. 17, pp. 340-349.

3. Pius X, 1903 motu proprio, # 25: “Let the above-mentioned traditional Gregorian chant be cultivated by all with diligence and love, according to the Tridentine prescriptions.”

4. Pius X, motu proprio, 1903, # 12: Praeter melodias celebrantis ad altare et ministrorum, quae cantu gregoriano semper cani debent sine organi sequentia, quae cantus liturgici extant sunt Chori Levitarum. (Apart from the singing of the celebrant at the altar and of his ministers, which must always be sung in Gregorian chant and without accompaniment of the organ, what remains of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of Levites.)

5. Pius X, motu proprio, 1903, # 21: “In processions outside the church, the Ordinary may give permission for a band … to accompany some spiritual canticle sung in Latin or in the vernacular by the singers and the pious associations that take part in the procession.”

6. Also, lay people were permitted to sing hymns in any language inside the church at non-liturgical ceremonies such as novenas, sodalities, stations of the Cross etc.

The Sacred Congregation of Rites responded in private letters to the Bishops of Mantua (18 Feb. 1921); Pesaro, Italy, (25 Feb. 1921); Malines (27 April 1921); unnamed (4 Aug. 1922); and Genoa (30 November 1935), to say that lay responses in the liturgy are considered “not expedient,” that the custom of silent participation should be respected, and that the issue is for the local Bishops to decide. (See T. L. Bouscaren, The Canon Law Digest, Vol. II, 1933-1942, Bruce, 1943, pp. 198-200).

7. A. Laveille, A Life of Cardinal Mercier, trans. Arthur Livingstone, The Century Co., New York, 1928, p. 141
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Pope Pius XI Endorses the Liturgical Revolution

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

In the years preceding 1928 when the Apostolic Constitution Divini Cultus by Pius XI was issued, the main thrust for congregational singing came from the following sources:
  • The American Bishops who had been campaigning for it for decades before the official start of the Liturgical Movement by Dom Lambert Beauduin; (1)
  • Virgil Michel’s Orate Fratres, founded in 1927 to further Beauduin’s aims for “active participation” in the liturgy;
  • Bishops and Benedictine Abbots in France, Germany and Belgium who were already allowing various forms of “active participation” in the liturgy;
  • Musical congresses, societies and publications wishing to increase their professional profile;
  • Particularly the work of Justine Ward, a wealthy benefactress to the Church, who had organized the 1920 International Congress on Gregorian Chant at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
[Image: F080_Ward.jpg]
Dom Joseph Gajard of Solemnes promoted Justine Ward and her method of singing

“What she wants above all,” wrote Dom Augustine Gatard, O.S.B., Prior of Farnborough Abbey, England, who was at the Congress, “is to put the faithful, all the faithful, in the position to participate actively, as much as possible … in the liturgy and in the chant of the Catholic Church.” (2) She especially encouraged girls’ choirs. (3) In a private audience in 1924, Pope Pius XI gave his Apostolic blessing to her work. (4)

If we scratch the surface of Divini Cultus, we can see a quiet revolution taking place to “open up” the liturgy to popular involvement. It also shows a growing contempt for the norms imposed by Pius X on women choir members, particularly from the American (Americanist) Bishops led by Card. James Gibbons, (5) who had refused in 1904 to implement Pius X’s ban. (6) (See article here)

A Feminist Putsch

The really revolutionary element of Divini Cultus, however, is that female singers of the liturgical texts were promoted by Pope Pius XI himself. As we have seen with his blessing of Justine Ward’s work, he had already approved girl choristers, even though they had been banned by his predecessor.

[Image: F080_Gibbons.jpg]
Americanist Card. Gibbons was a friend of Roosevelt and an opposer of St. Pius X

Whereas Pius X ordered that liturgical chant should be taught to seminarians and clerics and restricted to their use, Pius XI extended this instruction to the whole Catholic population, starting in the schools. He told heads of religious communities of women as well as men to “devote particular attention to the achievement of this purpose in the various educational institutions committed to their care.” (7)

This not only means that females were also allowed to perform a liturgical function, but that choirs should be formed for their instruction in the Chant. It was a concession to the recalcitrant American Bishops. Predictably, it led to a divisive situation with Bishops everywhere taking the part of Pius XI against Pius X and leading the faithful to do likewise.

Silent Participation is Stigmatized and Becomes Taboo

Everyone in the ambit of the Novus Ordo has by now accepted as something unassailably correct that silent participation in the liturgy is to be utterly eschewed. But that idea did not originate with Pope Pius X.

It all started with Beauduin’s launching of the Liturgical Movement and was officially enshrined for the first time in a papal document by Pius XI who indicated in Divini Cultus his desire for vocal participation by all:

“It will no longer happen that the people either make no answer at all to the public prayers – whether in the language of the Liturgy or in the vernacular – or at best utter the responses in a low and subdued manner.” (8)

A disturbing feature of this remark is its emphasis on both externalism and intolerance. No one can claim with any certainty that it is only when the faithful sing that the Sacred Music promotes their participation. Nor can it be established that participation will be enhanced by raising the decibel level in the pews. Pope Pius X, for his part, had never made such claims.

‘Detached and Silent Spectators’

The origin of such claims can be traced to Beauduin’s ill-conceived theories for “active participation.” These were followed by Pius XI and called in evidence to refuse countenance to Catholics wishing to pray silently during Mass – whom he termed “detached and silent spectators.” The Pope’s choice of words was perhaps more revealing than he intended: They echo the very words used by Beauduin to launch his liturgical revolution. (9)

These words display a disregard for the crucial distinction between detachment and silence. Both are conflated in Divini Cultus and given equally negative publicity, an opprobrium that also attaches to Catholics who choose not to make their voices heard during Mass. Henceforth they will be fed to the liturgical lions to be harried, mocked, rebuked, cajoled, placed under suspicion, publicly denounced and sent on a guilt trip to make them sing/shout up during Mass.

Pius XII followed, not Pius X, but Pius XI on the same revolutionary pathway, as we will see in the next article.


1. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), they demanded that “the major part at least of the faithful will learn to chant with clergy and choir in the Vesper service and suchlike.” (Acta et Decreti Concilii Plenarii Baltimorensis, Baltimore, John Murphy and Co., 1886, no. 119).
2. Pierre Combe, Justine Ward and Solesmes, The Catholic University of America Press, 1992, p. 5.
3.Ibid., p. 95.
4. Ibid., p. 396.
5. Archbishop (later Cardinal) James Gibbons who presided over the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, was an enthusiastic promoter of congregational singing and wrote extensively on its alleged benefits in The Ambassador of Christ, Baltimore, J. Murphy and Co., 1896, pp. 354-5.
6. New York Times, 12 May 1904.
7. Pius XI, Divini Cultus of December 20, 2918.
8. Ibid.
9. L. Beauduin, Questions Liturgiques et Paroissiales, Abbey of Mont César, Louvain, 1922, pp. 50 and 52.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
How Pius XI Paved the Way to Vatican II

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

The patterns of thought regarding “active participation” that would eventually subvert the Church’s liturgy were already present in the mind of Pope Pius XI when he attempted to rid the Church of the traditional way of silent participation.

The logical outcome of his intolerance in this regard would be the tyranny of the Novus Ordo regime: Paul VI stated ominously in the General Audience on November 26, 1969, that the New Mass was “intended to interest each one of those present, to draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.” (1)

He went so far as to forbid the silent praying of private prayers, including the Rosary, during Mass:
Quote:“There are those who, without wholesome liturgical and pastoral criteria, mix practices of piety and liturgical acts in hybrid celebrations. It sometimes happens that novenas or similar practices of piety are inserted into the very celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This creates the danger that the Lord's Memorial Rite, instead of being the culmination of the meeting of the Christian community, becomes the occasion, as it were, for devotional practices.

“For those who act in this way we wish to recall the rule laid down by the Council prescribing that exercises of piety should be harmonized with the liturgy not merged into it … it is a mistake to recite the Rosary during the celebration of the liturgy, though unfortunately this practice still persists here and there.” (2) (emphasis added)

Now that things have come into the open, we can see what had been hidden from us in the years preceding Vatican II and where it has led.

The Beginning of the End of Papal Protection for Liturgical Tradition

With his support for congregational singing and responses in Divini Cultus, Pope Pius XI produced a landmark mandate for change, which corresponded neither with the lex orandi of the Roman rite nor with the requirements, interests or desires of the Catholic faithful who had been worshipping in silence for centuries.

Pius XI is reported to have publicly celebrated the Dialogue Mass himself in 1922 and 1925 and to have encouraged individuals and groups who were consciously advancing the liturgical revolution. (3)

It is not surprising, therefore, that by the late 1920s, liturgical experimentation was already well under way in Europe, especially in some Benedictine Abbeys , (4) in the German-speaking lands (5) as well as in parts of America. (6) This involved “Dialogue Mass,” Mass facing the people, vernacular responses, congregational singing, Offertory procession, handshaking etc., all of which went into the melting pot to emerge as a ready-made template for a “democratized” liturgy.

So, by the time Pius XI issued Divini Cultus in 1928, the vague expression “active participation” had a circumscribed meaning among the reformers, but was unknown among the mass of ordinary Catholics who had never asked for it. This suggests that the spirit, which hovered over Pius XI when he recommended “active participation,” was akin to the spirit of Beauduin, which eventually gave rise to a new perception of the Church and the priesthood.

Back to the Sources: Ressourcement

A sizeable section of Divini Cultus is devoted to the standard propaganda employed by the reformers about congregational singing in the early history of the Church. In proposing “active participation” Pius XI was certainly influenced by the modernists’ search for a “more authentic” form of participation predicated on the belief that the congregational singing of the early Christian era was the original and, therefore, the true way for the laity to follow.

[Image: F081_herwegen2.jpg]
Benedictine Abbot Herwegen said a dialogue Mass facing the people in 1921

He listened to the advice of the reformers who believed that the Church’s lex orandi had been defective for centuries and had deprived the laity of their true participation in it.

The underlying assumption is that after 14 centuries of idle watching and listening, it was only in the 20th century that the Catholic congregation was restored to its “rightful” role of singing and speaking in the liturgy. Implicit in this vision was an attack on what the reformers called “devotionalism” – but which was in reality the venerable practice of private, mental prayer made by the faithful during Mass – deemed to have sullied the purity of the original Christian liturgy.

Thus, “active participation,” understood as an attempt to retrieve a lost primitive ideal, has a utopian and ideological edge to it. Because it was the brainchild of liturgists, historians and politically motivated parties interested in advancing their respective careers, it could hardly be called a truly pastoral reform.

Now, we can see the background of Pius XI’s unworthy rebuke to the faithful who were praying silently at Mass as “detached and silent spectators”: unlike his sainted predecessor, he had allowed himself to be influenced by the progressivists’ preference for a return to the sources of Christian liturgy (known technically as ressourcement).

‘Active Participation’: A Rabbit from a Conjuror’s Hat

It is noteworthy that from the launching of the liturgical movement in 1909, some priests began to question whether the lay participation proposed by Beauduin represented the thinking of Pius X, and even suspected that he had simply conjured it up: as the noted liturgist, Fr. Louis Bouyer, informs us:
Quote:“Quite a few readers had to rub their eyes and ask themselves where and when Pius X had inaugurated the reform in question. Dom Lambert, from that moment [1909], had laid his hand on the famous phrase [“active participation”] in the motu proprio [Tra le Sollecitudini], which he would ceaselessly propagandize, and about which many disgruntled priests would openly say that he had drawn his liturgical movement from the motu proprio just as a conjuror produces a rabbit from a hat.” (7)

As the congregational singing and dialogue promoted in Divini Cultus came neither from Pius X, nor from the conservative clergy, nor from the faithful, only one source remains: the liturgical saboteurs of the 1920s who had been working under the protection of liberal Bishops and managed to gain the ear of Pius XI.

Presaging Vatican II

[Image: F081_romano.jpg]
[fr.]Romano Guardini - an early progressivist and promoter of the liturgical revolution

Of particular note is the work of Fr. Romano Guardini, who promoted “active participation” in the 1920s at Burg Rothenfels, where he lived in community with members of the German youth movement. (8) His link with Vatican II has been noted by Fr. Karl Rahner:
Quote:“It is a widely known fact that the Rothenfels experience was the immediate model for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.” (9)

We cannot overlook the fact that Pius XI’s promotion of “active participation” has had a significant bearing on the direction of the liturgical revolution, and has been one element in facilitating the confusion between clerical and lay roles that would later afflict the Church.

He could have suppressed the burgeoning movement, but, instead of nipping it in the bud, he allowed and encouraged the ever-expanding revolution to continue on its nefarious course.

Imprecise Language Breeds Dangerous Policies

The problem with using imprecise language in official documents is that it can be used to confer wider and more arbitrary powers on commissions and regulatory bodies that employ it – which is how Episcopal Conferences could so easily implement “active participation” after Vatican II. The unfortunate result, as the dismal history of liturgical reform has shown, was that the faithful were no longer protected from the arbitrary power of Bishops to impose on them their own agenda of “active participation”.

The phrase became a powerful tool to later demolish the Catholic bastions they hated: not just “devotionalism,” but the unique status of the priest, the “rubricism” of the Tridentine Mass and the whole system of Scholasticism. Unless these essentials were guaranteed by papal authority, nothing of the original Church would be left standing: indeed, it could not be otherwise.

Divini Cultus, with its emphasis on an “active participation,” which was far from universal or traditional, can be said to have made a vital contribution to the emergence of Progressivism in the liturgical domain.


1. Osservatore Romano, 4 December 1969.
2. Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 1974, § 31 and § 48.
3. Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, 2005, p. 127
4. Even as early as 1914, at the Benedictine Abbey of Maria Laach in Germany, Abbot Herwegen had celebrated the Dialogue Mass in German. In 1921, the first Mass facing the people was celebrated in the Abbey crypt.
5. This applies especially to the work of Fr. Pius Parsch in Vienna and Fr. Romano Guardini in Bavaria, who overtook Beauduin’s leadership in this field.
6. Dom Virgil Michel in St. John’s Abbey, Minnesota, and Justine Ward in New York were prime movers in the area of “active participation.”
7. ranslated from L. Bouyer, Dom Lambert Beauduin: un homme d’Eglise, Paris, Casterman, 1964, p. 45.
8. As director of the German youth movement, Quickborn, which operated at Burg Rothenfels, a castle near the River Main, he pursued the most radical liturgical reforms. He became one of Pope Benedict XVI’s favorite theologians.
9. Robert Tuzic, ed., How Firm a Foundation: Leaders of the Liturgical Movement, Chicago, 1990, p. 48.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Pius XII Empowered Progressivists for the Liturgical Reform

Taken from here. All emphasis in the original.

By the time Pius XII was elected Pope in 1939, neo-Modernism or Progressivism had already begun to re-establish itself in the Church with the rise of the “New Theology” and to make itself manifest in the liturgy – the place where the ordinary Catholic comes regularly in touch with the Faith.

We have seen how the slogan “active participation” has become the motto for liturgical reform and acted as a catalyst to change the face of Catholic worship. But the real revolt was not superficial: It was aimed at changing the fundamentals of the Faith itself, especially the doctrine of the Eucharist and the priesthood.

“Active participation” also raises deeper questions.
  • How have the faithful slid so quiescently into a non-traditional way of worshipping?
  • How has it been so easy for the reformers to change the way Catholics have been participating in the Mass for centuries?
  • How have they been allowed to alter the fundamentals of the Faith as expressed in the Tridentine liturgy?
The answers to these questions lie in the fact that it was the Popes themselves (from Pius XI onwards) who personally promoted “active participation” of the laity, first tentatively and then in increasingly lethal doses. In this way, they advanced the progressivist agenda of the reformers and effectively undermined the objections of the faithful.

The New Concept of the Church as that ‘Of the People’

Pope Pius X had taught that the singing of the liturgy was a function of the sacerdotal office, i.e., a prerogative of the ordained ministers of the altar and the choir of Levites. Pius XI, on the contrary, presented it as the right and duty of all the baptized, whether clerical or lay.

In these two approaches – the former strictly clerical, the latter open and “democratic” – we find an echo of the types of liturgies characteristic of two opposing religions: Catholicism and Protestantism. One cannot help drawing the inference that such a revolutionary move on the part of Pius XI echoes the doctrinal conflicts of the two religions as well.

As the 16th-century Protestant reformers rejected the Catholic priesthood, their congregational singing was among the most efficient agencies in carrying this principle to the minds of the people. It can be regarded as the liturgical expression of principles common to Protestantism and embodied in Lutheranism and Calvinism alike.

One wonders, therefore, what place such a practice might be thought to have in a Catholic liturgy codified by order of the Council of Trent, until the realization dawns that congregational singing was the sine qua non demand of the Liturgical Movement initiated by Lambert Beauduin for the purposes of promoting Ecumenism.

Pius XII: A Vacillating Pope

Pius XII tried to solve the problem by taking both sides of the dispute.
  • He condemned the abuses of the Liturgical Movement in Mediator Dei in 1947, but by 1956, having allowed the same (and worse) abuses to metastasize throughout the Church, he declared that “the liturgical movement has appeared as a sign of God’s providential dispositions for the present day, as a movement of the Holy Spirit in His Church.” (3)
  • He upheld the necessity of Latin in the liturgy in Mediator Dei, but the authorized use of the vernacular increased considerably during his pontificate in many countries.
  • He taught that interior participation in the liturgy is of primary importance, but placed emphasis on the “activity” of the laity as the best means to achieve participation.
  • He showed sensitivity to the faithful who preferred to pray silently at Mass, but indicated that their preference was not worthy of respect by promoting the “Dialogue Mass” for the whole congregation. (4)
It is evident from this brief sketch that, for Pius XII, the liturgy had two faces, the traditional (sacred) and the modern (worldly), now differentiated, now enigmatically confused in Mediator Dei. This explains how the message it contained was capable of being filtered through various prisms, with the result that the Pope is hailed by conservatives as a defender of Tradition and by progressivists as a friend of aggiornamento or adapting the liturgy to the demands of the modern world.

In keeping with this dual vision, the liturgy became the battleground where these two antagonistic forces confronted each other and fought for hegemony in the Church.

Whether this duality was a product of the Pope’s mind or whether it reflected the pressures he was under from the massive, co-ordinated actions of the Liturgical Movement, we do not know. But because of his vacillation and refusal to fly the Catholic flag in a recognizable manner, he left himself open to the suspicion that he may have been attracted by the “adaptations” which he pretended to censure. While recognizing that the Liturgical Movement could produce harmful effects, he, nevertheless, gave it his blessing and stated his desire to assist it forward. (5)

But perhaps the greatest boost he gave to the progressivist reformers was his recognition of their efforts as a “movement” within the Church (Mediator Dei § 4). Bugnini saw this as a major strategic coup:
Quote:“In his Encyclical Mediator Dei of November 11 [sic], 1947, Pius XII put the seal of his supreme authority on this movement, which by now was to be found everywhere in the Church.” (6)

In this sense, the encyclical can be said to have applied not so much the bridle as a rather sharp spur to the Liturgical Movement in the lead up to Vatican II.

But what clinches the Pope’s willing complicity in the Liturgical Movement is the fact that a year earlier than Mediator Dei, in 1946, he had already set in motion plans for a select group (7) of liturgical specialists to institute a general reform of the liturgy. (8)

The Rise of a Bureaucratic Team to ‘Manufacture’ Liturgical Renewal

Pope Pius XII, having first surrounded himself with a "Praetorian Guard" (9) of scholars and experts, established the Pontifical Commission for the General Reform of the Liturgy in 1948 and stacked it with a majority of progressivists. These included:
  • Card. Clemente Micara – an ongoing protector since 1946 of serial predator Fr. Marcial Maciel – as President;
  • Fr. (later Archbishop) Bugnini – the future destroyer of the Roman Rite – as Secretary;
  • Fr. (later Cardinal) Giuseppe Antonelli – co-responsible with Bugnini for producing the Novus Ordo – as General Director;
  • Fr. (later Cardinal) Bea, Pius XII’s confessor, who had helped draft Mediator Dei and would play a major role in Ecumenism at Vatican II;
  • Mgr. (later Cardinal) Dante, Papal Master of Ceremonies from 1947-1967;
  • Fr. Joseph Löw who would work with Fr. Antonelli to change the Easter Vigil in 1951 and Holy Week ceremonies in 1955;
  • Fr. Carlo Braga who collaborated closely with Bugnini and became Secretary of the Consilium under Paul VI.

[Image: F083_Micara.jpg]
Part of the New Team: Micara, Antonelli, Bea

With this Commission, Pius XII created a new class of liturgical specialists and entrusted key offices, carrying great power and influence, to them, and allowed them to become the dominant force in the Liturgical Movement.

The fundamental contradiction inherent in his policy is that Mediator Dei was hijacked within a few years by the type of progressivist reformers he seemed to think he was opposing.


1. Mgr. George Roche, Pie XII Devant l’Historire, Editions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1972, p. 52.
2. Then, still in the reign of Pius XII, he was appointed Consultant to the Sacred Congregation of Rites (1956) and to Professor of Sacred Liturgy in the Lateran University (1957).
3. Address of Pope Pius XII to the International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy held at Assisi, September 22, 1956. See Acta Apostolici Sedis, October 29, 1956, p. 712, and L'Osservatore Romano, September 24, 1956.
4. He urged that “the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both.” (Mediator Dei § 105).
5. Address of Pope Pius XII given to the International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy at Assisi in 1956.
6. A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy (1948-75), Collegeville, Liturgical Press, p. 6.
7. Fr Bugnini, at that time a rising star in the Liturgical Movement, correctly claimed that the liturgical reform under Pius XII was “a fruit produced by the thought and prayer of elite minds and then gradually shared with ever widening circles of the faithful.”
8. A. Bugnini, op. cit., p. 7 (footnote 5): “In an audience granted to Cardinal Carlo Salotti, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on May 10, 1946, Pope Pius XII expressed his wish that a start be made on studying the problem of a general reform of the liturgy. In another audience, granted to Archbishop Alfonso Carinci, Secretary of the same Congregation, on July 17, 1946, it was determined ‘that a special commission of experts should reflect on the general reform of the liturgy and offer concrete proposals.’”
9. The Praetorian Guard was an elite corps of soldiers chosen from among the most experienced and trustworthy troops to act as the Roman Emperor’s bodyguard.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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