Is the Novus Ordo Mass Actually the Indult Mass?

by Fr. Paul Kramer’

The following is taken from Fr. Paul Kramer’s article entitled, “The Legal Status of the Tridentine Mass” in which he argues that the “Mass of the Ages” is the official liturgical rite of the western Church.

Bishop Forester, in Fr. Brian Houghton’s book, MITRE AND CROOK observes: This has been the most puzzling history of all. May I remind you, Fathers, that we already have two documents of the highest conceivable authority: the Bull QUO PRIMUM and the Constitution SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM, which are, moreover, in line with each other. What happens next?

On April 3rd, 1969, a Papal Constitution entitled Missale Romanum was promulgated purporting to be the law governing the New Order of Mass, as yet unpublished. In this original version it is not a law at all but an explanatory introduction to a permission. Even the word ‘Constitutio’ is nowhere to be found in the text, merely in the title:

1) There is no abrogation of previous legislation and no clause ordering
the use of the new rite.

2) There is no sentence to show that it is obligatory, let alone

3) There is no dating clause to show when it should come into

This of course did not prevent the powers that be from saying that it was a binding law. To do so they had recourse to a mistranslation. What is so curious is that the mistranslation was common to all languages. I have read it myself in English, French and Italian I am told that it is the same in German and Spanish. How can this possibly come about? How can all these expert translators make the identical mistranslation? Your guess is as good as mine. Here is the sentence, the fourth before the end of the original version, the fifth in the Acta: Ad extremum, ex iis quae hactenus de novo Missale Romano exposuimus quiddam nunc cogere et efficere placet… I have underlined the mistranslated words. “Cogere et efficere” is a well known Ciceronian phrase to be found in most dictionaries. Even if the translators could not be bothered to look it up, it is perfectly clear that “quiddam cogere” breaks down into “agere quiddam con” = to work something together, which is in the context “to sum up.” Equally, “quiddam efficere” breaks down into “facere quiddam ex” = to make something out, which is in the context “to draw a conclusion.”

And what did all the translators make of it? “In conclusion, We now wish to give the force of law to all We have declared…”; and in French, “Pour terminer, Nous voulons donner force de loi a tout ce que Nous avons expose…”; and in Italian etc. It is strange, my dear Fathers, but such is the truth: “to sum up and draw a conclusion” becomes “to give the force of law.” And what did I do about it? Absolutely nothing for the simple reason that I did not bother to read the Latin until two or three years later. Do not judge me too severely. Have you read it?

But that is not the end. Worse is to come. The Acta for June, 1969, were published as usual about two months later. When it appeared, a brand new clause had been inserted into the original document as the penultimate paragraph. It reads: Quae Constitutione hac Nostra praescripsimus vigere incipient a XXX proximimensis Novembris hoc anno, id est a Dominica I Adventus. That is, “What we have ordered by this Our constitution will begin to take effect as from November of this year (1969), that is the first Sunday of Advent.” You will notice: 1) that for the first and only time the word “Constitutio” appears in the text. 2) For the first time, too, a word signifying “to order” is introduced – “praescripsimus.” 3) For the first time a date is given on which the order is to become effective. This is a permission turned into a law. Actually, there are a couple of snags even about this insertion. The word “praescripsimus” = We have ordered – is not the proper term in Latin, but I shall not bother you with refinements. More important, it is in the wrong tense. Up to this point the legislator has prescribed nothing at all. It is precisely in this clause that he claims to do so. The verb, therefore should be in the present tense: “praescribimus” = “what We are ordering by this our Constitution”: not in the past perfect, “what we have prescribed.” The only explanation I can think of for this howler is recognition by its author that he is tampering with a pre-existing text. Moreover, the logical conclusion from the use of the wrong tense can scarcely be what its author intended: since nothing was prescribed, nothing is prescribed; and the legislator, to boot, is still prescribing nothing. What a mess! I wonder how long a civil government would last which thus tampered with its own laws?

There is a last remark I wish to make about this strange document. It winds up with the usual clause de style: “We wish, moreover, that these decisions and ordinances of ours should be stable and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding – in so far as may be necessary – Constitutions and apostolic regulations published by Our predecessors and all other ordinances, even those requiring special mention and derogation.” At long last – indeed it is the last word – there is a “technical” term in the constitution, so we know exactly where we stand: “derogation”. The New Ordo is therefore only a permission after all. It is merely a licit exception, a derogation, to the previous laws which are still in force. They have not been abrogated…It is nonsense to claim that the bull Quo Primum has been abrogated.