the Traditional Latin Mass suppressed in 1969 when the New Mass
was promulgated? Was it rendered illegal until the ‘Indult’
of October 3, 1984? Absolutely not. The following
study proves it without difficulty. It consists of two parts:
first, one needs to define the canonical notions of law, of custom
and of privilege, three capital notions which will be used in
our demonstration. Secondly, these notions will be applied
to our case in a scholastic fashion: the thesis is stated and
all its parts subsequently explained and proven. All the
canons quoted come from the 1917 Code of Canon Law which
was in vigour in 1969. Moreover, this is strictly a legal
study of the legitimacy of the Traditional Mass; we are not considering
the numerous other aspects of the act promulgating the New Mass
on April 3, 1969.
- IMPORTANT NOTIONS
A law is an "ordinance of reason for the
common good made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated."
St Thomas, 1-2, q.90, a.4.
Promulgation is the official publication of a law
which makes it possible for the subject of the law to learn of
it. "The promulgation is necessary for the law to obtain
its force." St Thomas, 1-2, q.90, a.4.
General and particular laws
Canon 13 §1: "All those for whom general laws
are made are bound by them everywhere."
A general law is one which is not limited to a particular
territory, it is a universal law of the Church. While these
general or universal laws bind everywhere, they do not always
bind every individual Catholics but only those for whom they are
made (e.g. clerics).
A particular law is one which is made for a particular
territory or for certain persons. (For example, St Patrick’s
Day, March 17, is a holyday of obligation in Ireland and Australia).
Cessation of the law
There are three ways in which legislation can cease
a. abrogation i.e. abolished completely.
If a law is abrogated the new legislation must say so specifically
b. derogation i.e. the previous legislation
still remains in force but is modified in some ways. It
is a partial abrogation.
c. obrogation This is the substitution of
new legislation which automatically replaces previous legislation
without any specific words of abrogation.
d. Principles - Canon 22.
1. If the later law
is equally general or equally particular with the former one,
then the later law repeals the former one in only three cases:
i. if it contains an explicit statement to that effect,
a repealing clause;
ii. if it is directly contrary to the former law so that
it is evidently impossible for the two to stand together;
iii. if it deals with the entire subject matter of the
In all other cases, or if the matter is doubtful (c. 23), the
two laws stand together and are to be reconciled as far as possible.
2. If the later law is particular and the former general,
the later law prevails for the particular place or persons to
whom it applies. This is a general principle not stated
in the canon but understood.
3. If the later law is general and the former one particular,
no repeal is effected unless the later general law expressly repeals
the former particular one.
e. Doubtful revocation of a law - Canon 23.
In doubt the revocation of the former law
is not presumed but later laws are to be considered in connection
with earlier ones and as far as possible to be reconciled with
them. The reason for this rule is that law is for the common
good and hence the repeal of a law is considered an odious thing,
not to be presumed, nor admitted without proof.
Custom may be considered in two ways: as a fact
and as a legal norm.
As a fact, custom means a practice or
way of acting which is common in a certain community,
As a legal norm, it means a norm or
law introduced by such practice. It is an unwritten law,
founded upon the common practice in the community and approved
by the superior.
Custom is the best interpretation of law (can. 29), especially
if laws are doubtful or uncertain.
A custom can be relatively recent or very ancient. Some
are called "centenary and immemorial customs."
Cessation of custom Canon 30
a) It can cease intrinsically
if the matter of the custom changes in relation to honesty or
the common good.
b) It can cease extrinsically
i. By a legitimately
approved contrary custom;
ii. By a law
which removes the custom;
iii. By direct
revocation by the competent superior;
iv. By neglect.
c) Precisions on the cessation of customs
i. A general
law removes a general custom, a particular law a particular custom,
when they are contrary to each other even if there is no mention
ii. For a general
law to remove a particular custom, it is necessary that it expresses
this custom by name or that it has a clause such as "notwithstanding
any custom whatsoever".
iii. To remove
a centenary custom, a particular clause is required - "notwithstanding
any custom whatsoetever even centenary and immemorial".
This clause is required even for the revocation of a general custom
by a general law.
iv. A new custom
removes an earlier one if it is totally opposed to it, if not
totally opposed, they must be reconciled.
Notions (Canon 63)
A privilege is a special disposition lawfully made
by competent authority granting to some person or persons a right
which is contrary to or beyond the common law.
A privilege can be granted by law, by a particular indult, or
Cessation of privileges
There are five modes of cessation:
by revocation of the competent superior
by renunciation of the privileged person
by prescription or by tacit renunciation
Note: A privilege is to be regarded as perpetual unless the contrary
appears (canon 60).
- THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE TRADITIONAL MASS
Major: The Traditional Mass in the Tridentine rite
1) is a general law - with the Bull Quo
2) is a perpetual privilege - with the clauses included
in Quo Primum
3) is a centenary and immemorial custom.
minor 1: Now, to be abolished, all these
three legal grounds must be abolished together.
a) Now, Paul VI with the Constitution Missale
Romanum of April 3, 1969, did not abolish any of the three
b) He merely derogated to the prohibition to offer the Holy Mass
in any other way than imposed by St Pius V.
a) the Traditional Mass in its Latin Tridentine rite is perfectly
legal. Pope Paul VI did not abolish it.
b) The Constitution Missale Romanum merely derogated
to Quo Primum by promulgating a new rite of Mass.
of the Major
The Bull Quo Primum makes of the
Tridentine Mass a General Law:
"We specifically command each and every Patriarch, Administrator
and all other persons of whatsoever ecclesiastical dignity, be
they even Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of
any other rank of pre-eminence, and We order them by virtue of
holy obedience to sing or to read the Mass according to the rite
and manner and norm herein laid down by Us, and henceforward to
discontinue and utterly discard all other rubrics and rites of
other missals, however ancient, which they have been accustomed
to follow, and not to presume in celebrating Mass to introduce
any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained
in this Missal.
"Consequently, it is Our will, and by the same authority We
decree, that one month after publication of this Our Constitution
and Missal, priests of the Roman Curia shall be obliged to sing
or to read the Mass in accordance therewith; others South of the
Alps, after three months; those who live beyond the Alps, after
six months or as soon as the Missal becomes available for purchase."
Bull grants a perpetual privilege:
"Furthermore, by these presents and by virtue of Our Apostolic
authority We give and grant in perpetuity that for the singing
or reading of Mass in any church whatsoever this Missal may be
followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear
of incurring any penalty, judgment or censure, and may be freely
and lawfully used. Nor shall Bishops, Administrators, Canons,
Chaplains and other secular priests or religious of whatsoever
Order or by whatsoever title designated, be obliged to celebrate
Mass otherwise than enjoined by Us. We likewise order and
declare that no one whoever shall be forced or coerced into altering
this Missal; and this present Constitution can never be revoked
or modified, but shall forever remain valid and have the force
of law, notwithstanding previous constitutions or edicts of provincial
or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the uses of the churches
aforesaid, established by very long and even immemorial
prescription, saving only usage of more than 200 years."
the Traditional Mass is a centenary and immemorial custom:
"We resolved accordingly to delegate this task to a select
committee of scholars; and they, having at every stage of their
work and with the utmost care collated the ancient codices in
Our Vatican library and reliable (original or amended) codices
from elsewhere, and having also consulted the writing of ancient
and approved authors who have bequeathed to Us records relating
to the said sacred rites, thus restored the Missal itself to the
pristine form and rite of the holy Fathers. When this production
had been subjected to close scrutiny and further amended, We,
after mature consideration, ordered that the final result be forthwith
printed and published in Rome" Quo Primum.
of the first minor
This is the result of the notions set above in
the first part. One legal ground is sufficient for the legality
of the Traditional Mass.
of the second minor
a) Now, Paul VI with the Constitution Missale
Romanum of April 3, 1969, did not abolish any of the three
This is the conclusion of Missale Romanum: "It
is Our will that these decisions and ordinances should be firm
and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding any Constitutions
and Apostolic Ordinances made by Our predecessors, and all other
decrees including those deserving of special mention no matter
of what kind"
1. It did not abrogate the general law
promulgated by Quo Primum:
"It is Our will that these decisions and
ordinances..." Nowhere in Missale Romanum
is it decided and ordered that the Bull Quo Primum
itself or the general law promulgated by the Bull have been abrogated,
let alone the Mass which St Pius V codified with this Bull.
It did not suppress the perpetual privilege.
The word 'privilege' is not present in Missale
Romanum. Therefore it is not revoked according to
canon 70: "A privilege is regarded as perpetual unless the
It did not suppress the centenary and immemorial customs.
The clause necessary to suppress centenary
and immemorial custom "notwithstanding any custom whatsoever
even centenary and immemorial" is no where to be found in
the Constitution Missale Romanum.
He merely derogated to the prohibition to offer the Holy
Mass in any other way than imposed by St Pius V.
As seen above (see Proof of the Major), St Pius
V forbade the use of any other Missal for the reading or singing
of Mass. Pope Paul VI derogated to this prohibition by his
new Mass. Let it be noted that he has the power to do so.
It does not mean however that it was morally right or wise to
do so nor that the new Missal is doctrinally sound.
If any one disputes this conclusion, let him prove
it by quoting the name of the Pope who did abrogate the Bull Quo
Primum and the centenary and immemorial custom, together with
the title of the document, the date, and the specific words of
abrogation used. If there were a doubt about the abrogation,
then canon 23 should be used: In doubt the revocation of the
former law is not presumed but later laws are to be considered
in connection with earlier ones and as far as possible to be reconciled
Tridentine Latin Mass is available in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Bohol,
Mindanao as well as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. For any information, please
contact: The Society of St Pius X, 2 Cannon Rd, New Manila, Quezon
City 1112, Philippines.