The Perpetual Authority of the Latin Mass
What part of the word
do we no Longer Understand?
REVISITING THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION QUO PRIMUM
(Pope St. Pius V - July 14, 1570)
April 3, 1969: When
came to mean only
the third day of April 1969 the temporal
“forever” was astonishingly and arbitrarily
quantified by Pope Paul VI — much to the perplexity of
historians and physicists — as 399 years— or to be precise,
399 years, 9 months, and 11 days.
On that day Pope Paul tampered with time and eternity by
expurgating or otherwise expunging the ancient Latin rite of the
Mass known as Quo Primum — which unambiguously states that
“this present Constitution … will be valid henceforth, now, and
forever” — and replacing it, by a tour de force, with
his own Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, otherwise
known as the Novus Ordo, or
“The New Mass.”
This does not mean, of course, that Pope Paul VI explicitly
word, the concept, and the notion of
as of this third day of April 1969 — only means 399
years, 9 months, and 11 days.”
However — and this is vital to understand — it is the
inescapable logical consequence of replacing the Apostolic
Constitution Quo Primum — which unambiguously states that
the Tridentine Mass (as we have come to call it) is, and always
will be, the only valid Mass, incapable of being altered,
modified, or changed in any way by any person whomsoever —
“henceforth, now, and forever”.
Pretty clear, yes?
But this unalterable Mass had, in fact, been
superseded by the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order Mass)
following Vatican II, despite the fact that Quo Primum was to
be in force “forever” and in no way “altered”. What was decreed to
remain both unalterable and forever … was neither,
following Vatican II.
We were left asking ourselves what, in fact, the word “forever”
had suddenly come to mean, together with all the ramifications of
this re-definition of a clearly understood concept. In other words,
if “forever” does not mean “for all time and into eternity” … what,
precisely does it mean?
If what is held to be “forever” is abrogated in its intension by
the introduction of something that re-defines it in such a way that
it is nullified. Why is that? Simply put, anything “other than”
our understanding of the intensionality of “forever” eo ipso
nullifies it, for it must be less and cannot be greater
than “forever” as we had always understood the concept “forever”—
and what is less is already understood in other
temporal terms, in which case the re-definition of “forever”
becomes merely redundant of other and already existing temporal
concepts such as “now”, “past”, “present”, and “future”.
In other words, if “forever” is in any way abbreviated to
something less, then it is determinate and if it is determinate it
is quantifiable. In the present case it is reduced to 399 years, 9
months, and 11 days, or the period between Quo Primum (the
Latin Mass) in 1570 and its being superseded by Missale Romanum
(Mass in the vernacular) in 1969. What was deemed as binding
“forever” in 1570 and the following 400 years was breached by
something new (novus) and different in 1969. But how is this
possible if what was binding “now, henceforth, and forever” in 1570
was replaced in 1969? How could “forever” come to mean, “only in
force for 400 years — after which it is susceptible to being
abrogated”? Logically such a breach cannot occur without somehow
re-defining the concept of “forever”. But this is fraught with
inconsistencies and contradictions that make any effort of the sort
Consider the following verse:
“I am the living bread that came down out of Heaven; if anyone eats
of this bread, he shall live forever” (St. John 6.51) What do we understand by this? That those who
“eat of this bread” shall live for 399 years, 9 months, and 11 days?
Of course not. We understand that they shall live forever,
which is to say, for all
time into eternity. The word “forever” or “for ever” occurs 472
times in Holy Scripture and it is always spoken of or understood in
terms of limitless perpetuity, e.g. “for his mercy endureth
forever.” (Ps. 135.20) By what possible warrant can we understand God’s
mercy as enduring for a finite quantum of time, say, 160 years, 6
months and two days? In other words, how do we quantify
forever? We cannot. It is not a quantifiable sum.
When Saint Paul says of Christ:
“Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same forever”, how are we to hold “yesterday” as meaning, “the day before this
present day”, and “today” as “this present day” — but “forever” as
meaning “399 years, 9 months, and 11 days”? After that limited
duration of time does Christ become something different? Why did
Saint Paul not say “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and for 399
years, 9 months, and 11 days”?
In other words, does the word “forever” in Sacred Scripture,
and in ordinary discourse, mean something different than it
meant in Quo Primum, and if it does, why just Quo Primum?
If we re-define the concept of “forever” it must apply to
each and every iteration of it, wherever it occurs, sacred or
profane. Are we prepared to do this? Is it even logically possible?
In a word, no.
Moreover, we must then ask, what then is the periodicity
of the concept “forever” once it acquires a terminus, an end — and
what is more, and of far greater importance, what lies beyond
it? If it is merely the most extensive temporal
concept in an array of other lesser, but equally determinate
temporal concepts, then its durability is finite — notwithstanding
that the notion of time itself is indefinite (for
being discretely, and however arbitrarily enumerated, it is at least
conceptually infinite by mere addition). As Saint Augustine
pointed out in broaching the concept of eternity (in which there is
no time as we understand it) it is pointless to ask “what preceded
eternity?” for the notion of precedence is itself a temporal
notion, and to ask “what preceded eternity?” (in which there is no
time) is to ask “what preceded time before there
was no time.” We are now asking, “what succeeds forever when
“forever” as a determinate time frame expires?” What do we call it?
Can we concatenate a series of “forevers” indefinitely? And
if we do, what shall we call it? Forever? We cannot — for “forever”,
as we had said, has become a determinate time frame following
the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of Vatican II.
Perhaps you begin to see the inconsistency, the absurdity really, of
tampering with the notion of “forever”.
Even if we argue that the Pope has the authority and the
ability to re-define and abbreviate the notion of
“forever” by invoking Christ’s pronouncement to Saint Peter:
“Whatever you bind on earth is bound in Heaven” (St. Mat. 18.18), we still have not circumvented the
problem. Heaven itself is the paradigm par excellence of
“forever” (and so, too, is Hell). Time and logic are not in the
arena of “Faith and Morals” in which alone the Pope is competent and
infallible. (Nor, incidentally is economics). Even if a pope repeals
a former pope’s Apostolic Constitution, he cannot repeal logic
nor re-define the intensionality of a concept, in this case
“forever”. To say that St. Pius V did not “intend” to use “forever”
in the way we, and all our predecessors understood it, is absolutely
without warrant or justification.
1 He meant that The
Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum would be binding forever.
If not, why the severest admonition at the end of Quo Primum?
no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of
Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult,
declaration, will, decree, and prohibition.
Should anyone dare
to contravene it, know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God
and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Further consider the force, extent, clarity, and absolute
perpetuity of the following twelve excerpts from Quo Primum:
“It is most
becoming that there be in the Church only one appropriate manner
of reciting the Psalms and only one rite for the
celebration of Mass”
ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever”
“This new rite
alone is to be used”
“This Missal is to be used by all churches,
even by those which in their authorization are made exempt,
whether by Apostolic indult, custom, or privilege, or even if by
oath or official confirmation of the Holy See, or have their
rights and faculties guaranteed to them by any other manner
“This present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now,
“Nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing
omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it”
“We order them
in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass
according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by
“They must not in celebrating Mass presume to introduce any
ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in
“This Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely,
without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any
penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be
“This present document cannot be revoked or modified, but
remains always valid and retain its full force”
[must] be preserved incorrupt throughout the whole world and
kept free of flaws and errors”
one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our
permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult,
declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare
to contravene it, know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty
God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Since Vatican II, however,
appears, has a terminus after all ... and does not mean ... well ...
forever … at least in the reinterpreted and novel concept of time
enunciated by Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Constitution Missale
Romanum — which abolished, or more properly expurgated the
notion of “forever” to accommodate changes that could not be
reconciled with that concept. Quo Primum leaves absolutely no
room for ambiguity as you will see in the document itself which
accompanies this article. If the proposal on the table is in open
conflict with the concept of “forever”, then one must go:
the proposal or “forever”. Paul VI opted for the latter. It must
either be redefined or abolished. He did both.
From a purely philosophical point of view, this quantification of
the temporal category that we understand as
“forever” poses not
simply significant, but insuperable problems in any discussion
concerning the nature of any conceivable temporal discourse. Let us
look at a few instances.
“forever” does not mean "uninterrupted continuity without
end", then by that same logic it simultaneously and necessarily
abrogates every other temporal permutation:
does not mean “at no time” — either in the past, the
present or the future.
not mean “at this moment or in this present time”
longer means “preceding or anteceding the present”
And by the “Past” we no longer understand “what had
preceded the present”
Altering the connotation or intension of any of these five
categories (forever, never, now, before, past — but especially
“forever”), not simply alters, but abolishes the connotation or
meaning of each and all of them.
Consider the following diametrically polar concepts of temporal
permutations which — if "forever" no longer means "absolute
perpetuity” — no longer connote, or mean, what we had erstwhile
understood them to mean in the temporal ordering of any state of
FOREVER / never, periodicity
NOW / before or after
PRESENT / past, future, soon
EARLY / late
OLD / new
MODERN / ancient
FIRST / last, second, third, etc. (i.e. a series) — also,
minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century,
ETERNAL / temporal
As we see, quite a bit follows from
“forever” no longer being
understood as forever but rather, as 399 years at which time
We must understand that the term
“forever” subsumes all the
temporal categories and inflections under it, all of which are
determinate and finite extensions of time relative only to
(for all time and into eternity) which had erstwhile been understood
as indefinite and indeterminate — as so many parts, or segments, if
you will, of an infinitely extensive concept (forever) that is
indeterminate by definition.
In a word, if
“forever” is arbitrarily determined as a finite
quantum, all that it subsumed beneath it and understood relative to
it is also susceptible to arbitrary determination and we can no
longer coherently enter into temporal discourse of any kind that
presumes to bind any state of affairs to a determinate referent in
time. A week, or month, for example, is only what we arbitrarily
understand it to be according to our purpose at hand.
The implications of
“implicitly” redefining the
temporal concept of
“forever” are enormous. Think of it. They
pertain, according to the canons of reason, not only to the simplest
geometric concept of a line (“A line has only one dimension:
length. It continues forever in two directions.”), but to the
trajectory, and ultimately, the destiny of the human soul according
to the most fundamental notions of Christian doctrine: the eternity
of God and the immortality of the soul.
Let us look at this more closely. If, by a pure fiat, we are no
longer to understand
“the present moment", but a duration
“3 minutes and 27 seconds” — what follows? Indeed, can we even ask the
question, “what follows?” since
“following” is a temporal
“occurring after the present moment, or
What happened in the intervening
How do we understand that 3-minutes-27-seconds vacuum? We cannot
say that it did not exist, or that what occurred within it did not
occur — nor is it possible that nothing occurred within it.
Such an assertion accords with neither reason nor experience. In the
3-minutes-27-seconds that intervenes between the present now and the
next now (3-minutes-27-seconds later) what do we say of what we did or
what had happened in that time frame? Whatever it was,
it did not occur in a
“now", but in the hiatus between 2 successive
When then did it occur? We do not have the apparatus to determine
this, for we have created a false and illogical time narrative that
involves not just inconsistencies but contradictions. By
interjecting 3-minutes-27-seconds between successive “nows” we have
superseded the model of time and, of course, of the notion of a
clock which was ticking between, and enumerating those
What logically holds true for the concept “now” equally holds
true for every other category of re-interpreted time. If, for
example, we reinterpret “before” as preceding “now” by
2-minutes-17-seconds, we face the same conundrum. It devolves
through every other permuation of re-interpreted time until we can
have no coherent discourse or discussion involving temporal
characteristics. This is to say that we cannot have a discussion in
which anything is spoken, for “spoken” is the past tense of the
present tense “speak”. In a word, all discourse is inescapably
temporal. It occurs or had occurred or will occur.
We cannot say a lot in 2-minutes-17-seconds which, by this
reasoning, would qualify it as speaking “now”. Moreover, when the
2-minutes-17-seconds are up, how are they differentiated from the
“following” or “previous” 2-minutes-17-seconds? Is there a hiatus
between the “previous” 2-minutes-17-seconds and the “following”
2-minutes-17-seconds? What is its duration? And what can — for
something must — occur within it? How then, shall we speak of it?
Once specific determinacy is predicated of temporal
concepts they lose all coherence.
You may say, “Well, a clock enumerates 60 seconds for each
minute and 60 minutes for each hour, and so on — so there is a
specific and determinate time frame.” Yes … for atomic clocks and
the like (which are arbitrarily and artificially divided to begin
with — why, for example, 60 seconds for a minute and not 136, and
what is the specific duration of a second that is not already
arbitrarily based on the present caesium model (“The second is
the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding
to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground
state of the caesium 133 atom.” The International System of Units )
that is in itself a qualified model. 2 Would
the same numeric values hold true if the model were based on
barium?) In other words, this may hold true for certain atomic
clocks, but not for concepts.
Primum and the indefeasible Concept of
All this has been a rather long and roundabout way of
demonstrating the most important fact that pertains to Catholics:
that “forever” as it pertains to time is not a finite quantum, but
means, as it has always meant, and will always be understood to
mean: "uninterrupted continuity without end". This pertains to
Heaven and it pertains to Hell. Therefore it intrinsically pertains
to Christian Doctrine. If either Heaven or Hell are merely 399
years, 9 months, and 11 days, the question naturally arises: what
happens after that? As we see ,we cannot escape the notion of
“forever” without logical inconsistency — and if Quo Primum states
“forever” concerning the way we celebrate Mass, it was
a definitive, unambiguous, and unimpeachable statement that
clarified, once and for all, the manner in which the Mass was, is,
and always will be celebrated — forever.
Even popes cannot change the nature of time and the consistency
of logic. Quo Primum and the traditional Latin Mass prior to
its enervation (or evisceration: you choose, for both apply)
following Vatican II, remains binding upon all Catholics (read Quo
primum which follows) — forever. It is
inescapable. Pope Saint Pius V forever bound every
successor to the Chair of Peter to it, together with every Catholic.
The extremely frightening question that follows is ineluctable:
what does this mean concerning the validity of virtually every Mass
“celebrated” since Vatican II? If we can prescind from an
authentic Apostolic Constitution that binds us forever to
the Mass as it was celebrated prior to 1962, from what else are
we prepared to illicitly dispense with in the way of the Deposit of
the Faith and authentic historical Catholic dogma? We already
see it unfolding before us, especially under the papacy of Francis
among those who deplore a “throw away culture” but appear to embrace a “throw
Somewhere in every part of the world the authentic Latin Mass is
being celebrated; many under conditions similar to the underground
Church in China, and the only difference is that those who police
and brutally suppress these recalcitrant congregations outside of
atheistic China are the heavy-handed bishops of the Church itself —
many of whom appear to have lost the Faith — but not the comfort and
perquisites of their office.
the purely conjectural assertion by apologists
such as Likoudis and Whitehead that, "Quo Primum [was] … not
attempting to fix one particular version of the Roman Missal for all
time.” And that “the ‘Tridentine Mass’ and the ‘New Order of the
Mass’ constitute different versions of the same Missal” — they do
not even upon the most cursory reading of both.
The Pope, the Council, and the Mass: Answers to
Questions the Traditionalists Have Asked,
1981 and 2006, Emmaus Road Publishing
http://www.bipm.org/en/publications/si-brochure/second.html “The frequencies of all
primary frequency standards should therefore be corrected
for the shift due to ambient radiation, as stated at the
meeting of the Consultative Committee for Time and Frequency
Boston Catholic Journal
THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION
“QUO PRIMUM ”
“From the very first, upon Our elevation to the chief Apostleship, We gladly turned our mind and energies and directed all out thoughts to those matters which concerned the preservation of a pure liturgy, and We strove with God's help, by every means in our power, to accomplish this purpose. For, besides other decrees of the sacred Council of Trent, there were stipulations for Us to revise and re-edit the sacred books: the Catechism, the Missal and the Breviary. With the Catechism published for the instruction of the faithful, by God's help, and the Breviary thoroughly revised for the worthy praise of God, in order that the Missal and Breviary may be in perfect harmony, as fitting and proper — for it is most becoming that there be in the Church only one appropriate manner of reciting the Psalms and only one rite for the celebration of Mass — We deemed it necessary to give our immediate attention to what still remained to be done, viz, the re-editing of the Missal as soon as possible.
Hence, We decided to entrust this work to learned men of our selection. They very carefully collated all their work with the ancient codices in Our Vatican Library and with reliable, preserved or emended codices from elsewhere. Besides this, these men consulted the works of ancient and approved authors concerning the same sacred rites; and thus they have restored the Missal itself to the original form and rite of the holy Fathers. When this work has been gone over numerous times and further emended, after serious study and reflection, We commanded that the finished product be printed and published as soon as possible, so that all might enjoy the fruits of this labor; and thus, priests would know which prayers to use and which rites and ceremonies they were required to observe from now on in the celebration of Masses.
Let all everywhere adopt and observe what has been handed down by the Holy Roman Church, the Mother and Teacher of the other churches, and let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world, to all patriarchs, cathedral churches, collegiate and parish churches, be they secular or religious, both of men and of women — even of military orders — and of churches or chapels without a specific congregation in which conventual Masses are sung aloud in choir or read privately in accord with the rites and customs of the Roman Church. This Missal is to be used by all churches, even by those which in their authorization are made exempt, whether by Apostolic indult, custom, or privilege, or even if by oath or official confirmation of the Holy See, or have their rights and faculties guaranteed to them by any other manner whatsoever.
This new rite alone is to be used unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given at the very time of the institution and confirmation of the church by Apostolic See at least 200 years ago, or unless there has prevailed a custom of a similar kind which has been continuously followed for a period of not less than 200 years, in which most cases We in no wise rescind their above-mentioned prerogative or custom. However, if this Missal, which we have seen fit to publish, be more agreeable to these latter, We grant them permission to celebrate Mass according to its rite, provided they have the consent of their bishop or prelate or of their whole Chapter, everything else to the contrary notwithstanding.
All other of the churches referred to above, however, are hereby denied the use of other missals, which are to be discontinued entirely and absolutely; whereas, by this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it under the penalty of Our displeasure.
We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence, and We order them in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us and, hereafter, to discontinue and completely discard all other rubrics and rites of other missals, however ancient, which they have customarily followed; and they must not in celebrating Mass presume to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal.
Furthermore, by these presents [this law], in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remains always valid and retain its full force notwithstanding the previous constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, as well as any general or special constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long and immemorial prescription — except, however, if more than two hundred years' standing.
It is Our will, therefore, and by the same authority, We decree that, after We publish this constitution and the edition of the Missal, the priests of the Roman Curia are, after thirty days, obliged to chant or read the Mass according to it; all others south of the Alps, after three months; and those beyond the Alps either within six months or whenever the Missal is available for sale. Wherefore, in order that the Missal be preserved incorrupt throughout the whole world and kept free of flaws and errors, the penalty for nonobservance for printers, whether mediately or immediately subject to Our dominion, and that of the Holy Roman Church, will be the forfeiting of their books and a fine of one hundred gold ducats, payable ipso facto to the Apostolic Treasury. Further, as for those located in other parts of the world, the penalty is excommunication latae sententiae, and such other penalties as may in Our judgment be imposed; and We decree by this law that they must not dare or presume either to print or to publish or to sell, or in any way to accept books of this nature without Our approval and consent, or without the express consent of the Apostolic Commissaries of those places, who will be appointed by Us. Said printer must receive a standard Missal and agree faithfully with it and in no wise vary from the Roman Missal of the large type (secundum magnum impressionem).
Accordingly, since it would be difficult for this present pronouncement to be sent to all parts of the Christian world and simultaneously come to light everywhere, We direct that it be, as usual, posted and published at the doors of the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles, also at the Apostolic Chancery, and on the street at Campo Flora; furthermore, We direct that printed copies of this same edict signed by a notary public and made official by an ecclesiastical dignitary possess the same indubitable validity everywhere and in every nation, as if Our manuscript were shown there. Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Given at St. Peter’s in the year of the Lord's Incarnation, 1570, on the 14th of July of the Fifth year of Our Pontificate.
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Boston Catholic Journal