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Is Quo Primum still binding?

Quo Primum is a solemn papal decree binding on the Church “in perpetuity” and condemning any whom would depart from it, as the pope indicated.

First, in issuing the solemn decree, the pope is carrying out the decrees of a dogmatic council. Second, the Mass contains much essential doctrine (remember: lex orandi legem credendi statuit). Third, the Traditional Roman Rite of Mass is not an exceptional rite, but the universal rite of the Church, being the rite of the See of Rome. The pope was simply restating the 16-century Sacred Tradition of the Church in this case.

At no time in the future can a priest, whether secular or order priest, ever be forced to use any other way of saying Mass. Thus it can be said that the refusal of the new liturgy and adherence to the Traditional Mass, the suspension and any canonical pain are invalid in virtue of the Bull Quo Primum of St Pius V which give to all priest the perpetual right to celebrate the Mass of “St Pius V” and declares null and void any censures against a priest who celebrates this Mass”. Further St. Puis V would not have made us of the severe condemnatory language that is used in Quo Primum if he were making some minor editions but rather it is because he was binding for all eternity the Mass of the Roman rite.

We must not wrongly think that Pope Pius V was “binding” something new. He was simply acknowledging that he was bound, as all popes are, by the Sacred Tradition of the Church. The fallacy that may be made is the “Tridentine Mass” idea. There is no essentially “Tridentine Mass.” What is being talked about is the Latin (Roman) Mass of Sacred Tradition, as it was said at the Roman See, in essence from the beginning, but basically in the form we know it since at least the 6th century, and in most parts even earlier. Pope St. Pius V, was not introducing a new Mass; he was canonizing the Roman Mass which has been handed down to us from the Apostles. To further confirm this venerable Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) himself said in response to a request that he add the name of St. Joseph to the Canon of the Mass, “I am only the pope. What power have I to touch the Canon?”

Lets us not forget that when Pius V wrote “in perpetuum,” he knew exactly what he meant by those words:

“By declaring Ex Cathedra that Quo Primum can never be revoked or modified, St. Pius V infallibly defined that Quo Primum is of itself irreformable. –Fr. Paul L. Kramer, B.Ph., S.T.B., M.Div., A Theological Vindication of Roman (Nazareth, India: Apostle Publications, 1997).

Further is the fact that this issue can be compare with the Gelasian decree in which the fourth century Pope attempted to name for all time which books constituted scripture and which did not. Was he attempting to bind all his successors to the same set of Biblical books? (Of course he was!) Could a later pope validly change that list by adding new books to scripture, or deleting any long accepted New Testament writings? (Of course not!)

The unification of scripture at that point so very clearly resembles the unification of the Liturgy under Pius V. Prior to that point there was some amount of local variation between various dioceses and even parishes and so certainly , if the pope and council (of Trent) would not permit even local variations from the Roman Rite and wished to make it uniform, they would not countenance a whole NEW rite, such as the Novus Ordo . In the case of Scripture, you had a number of congregations, which used the Epistle of Barnabas, the Revelation to Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, and even the letters of Polycarp, Ignatius, and Pope Clement I. There were even some outright forgeries, such as the Revelation to Paul, the Acts of Andrew, or the Gospel of James which were also beginning to receive some recognition. On the other hand, some Christian communities still had their doubts about the Revelation to John, the letters of Peter, John, and Jude, and the letter to the Hebrews. The Gelasian decree settled on the exact list of scripture as we have it today. Likewise, there were a number of local variations in the Liturgy, resulting from some prayer or rubric being introduced here, but not there, or being omitted or changed there, but not here, and worst of all, some priests, for fear for their lives, were beginning to Protestantize their Liturgy so as to avoid any trouble by deleting out prayers and rubrics on their own initiative. Quo Primum merely did what the Gelasian decree had done.

Thus, ‘Quo Primum’ in not merely an ecclesiatical (human) law, because the rite of Mass codified in the Tridentine Missal is the “received and approved rite of the Roman Church” that has been “handed down by the Holy Roman Church.” The status of Quo Primum, therefore, pertains to Divine Law in-as-much as it codifies what is contained in Sacred Tradition. For this reason, it has the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, indirectly, as it touches on the Church’s teachings on the Sacrifice of the Mass and Real Prescene protecting them from the innovations of heretics. Therefore, no pope can ever licitly abrogate ‘Quo Primum Tempore’ *without* betraying the Deposit of Faith. Pope Paul VI, in introducing the Novus Ordo Missae, did not even attempt to abrogate Quo Primum, Pope John Paul II has also recognized this fact (Latin Mass Magazine, May 5,1995).

The canonic principle is that laws are interpreted by the legislator (here the pope) and in accord with their proper meaning considered in their text and context (Canon 16.1, 17 [1983]). The strict censures imposed by the pope, even including excommunication upon printers who introduce defects and errors into their printings of the Roman Missal, leave no doubt that the pope considered the force of the bull perpetual and most grave.


What about those who appeal to Second Vatican ecumenical Council?

Vatican I affirms the following:

“And since, by the divine right of Apostolic primacy, one Roman pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal, but that none may re-open the judgment of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review his judgment. Wherefore they err from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman pontiff.

Thus such an appeal from the faithful Popes such as Pope Paul III, Julius III, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII, to an “ecumenical council,” Vatican II, as to an authority greater than the Popes is clearly in violation of Vatican I and places such people under its harsh condemnation.

One might argue however that there was an old Roman Rite, which was different from our Tridentine Mass. The Tridentine Mass was a development resulting from a mixing of the Roman Rite with the Gallican Rite at the time of Charlemagne (and the Mass wasn’t even said in Latin that long ago).”

This however only meant that, there were a few Gallican prayers assimilated through Milan (remembering that the great St. Ambrose of the 4th century was the Archbishop of Milan), but the rite was essentially as we know it. The Roman Mass dates back from Apostolic times; specifically from the time of Sts. Peter & Paul in Rome.

Latin was most probably used in early times as traditionally, Sts. Peter and Paul founded the Roman Rite when they were in Rome before their martyrdom. Excavations at Pompeii, which was preserved in situ when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, show evidence that the Christian liturgy was already being celebrated in Latin in Italy. Roman citizens would not be likely to take kindly to the use of the (Greek) language of a conquered people (the Romans having conquered Greece two centuries before the Christian era). Latin Mass itself as it did not did NOT change drastically up to1500 as some may say. It changed very little since Pope St. Gregory the Great (ca. 600), and relatively little for at least three centuries before that.

However, the Novus Ordo has changed the Mass completely. The changes go far beyond the use of the vernacular. The actual form of the Consecration has been changed. The Canon of the Mass, which according to the council of Trent cannot be removed, has been destroyed…

One of the Key points in the Catholic bishops vindication of Apostolicae Curae (on the Invalidity of Anglican Orders) is “that in earlier times local Churches were permitted to add new prayers and ceremonies is acknowledged . . . But that they were also permitted to subtract prayers and ceremonies in previous use, and even to remodel the existing rites in a most drastic manner, is a proposition for which we know of no historical foundation, and which appears to us as absolutely incredible” – A Vindication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae (London, 1898), pp.42-43.

Herbert E. Hall in his book (which has both an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat), Catholic and Roman, published in 1918 (Pg.83) wrote: “If there were no break with the past at the reformation, why were there the new liturgy and ordinal? And why the pulling down of altars, the desecration of shrines, the destruction of monsteries and the uprooting of religious life, and the general undoing of all those things and practices which advanced High Churchmen devote their lives so zealously to bring back?”

In addition to Quo Primum, two other documents have traditionally been printed at the front of every approved Roman Missal: Pope Clement VIII’s Cum Sanctissimum (1604) and Pope Urban VIII’s Si Quid Est (1634). Although both of these papal bulls renew the censure of excommunication imposed by Pope St. Pius V, neither of them contains this most grave imprecation.

The Mass is not simply an ecclesiastical law, a matter of discipline for the Latin (Western) Church, as even laymen are familiar with the principle enunciated by Pope St. Celestine I to the bishops of Gaul (422): “Legem credendi, lex statuit supplicandi” [the law of praying has established the law of believing], often shortened to “Lex orandi, lex credendi” [the law of praying (is) the law of believing]. In other words, it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that teaches us our theology, not the other way around. The Mass comprises the Apostolic Tradition of faith and morals in its very essence. Every doctrine essential to the faith is taught in the text of the Mass. The notion that one pope can “overrule” his predecessors in such a matter is in implicit denial of the credal dogma that the Church is Apostolic.

The traditional Roman Mass in all its essentials was passed on by St. Peter, the first pope, to the Church, was according to St. Ambrose elaborated by the Apostles themselves, and reached its complete perfection with Popes St. Damasus (fourth century) and St. Gregory the Great (sixth century). As the great liturgical scholar Fr. Adrian Fortescue wrote, this Mass is “the most venerable in all Christendom, with a history of unbroken use far longer than that of any Eastern rite, there being no doubt that the essential parts of the Mass are of Apostolic origin.”

Thus, the Mass that Pope St. Pius V was confirming in Quo Primum was not some new construct like the Novus Ordo Missae, but was essentially the Apostolic Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul at Rome. Nor is it the Mass of some particular area of the Church like the Eastern rites, but it is the universal rite of the Church, the rite of the Roman See.

We also note that accordig to the Canon Law now in force that a custom which is centuries old or exists from time immemorial may be considered abrogated only when such an abrogation is explicitly declared. This is stated in Canon 30. Now no document of the New mass has ever explicitly revoked the Latin Mass (not that it could be done anyhow in view of Quo primum without a serious departure from the Catholic faith).

For those who mistakenly believe that there is no essential change between the Mass as codified by St. Pius V and the New Mass, the famous Liturgist Fr. Joseph Gelineau S.J makes it clear that ” The Roman rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed. Some walls of the former edifice have fallen while others have changed their appearance, to the extent that it appears today either as a ruin or the partial substructure of a different building” – Pope Paul’s New Mass, p.78, Demain La Liturgie, Paris, 1977, p.10

According to the common opinion of Catholic theologians throughout the centuries, any pope who “wished to overturn the rites of the Church based on Apostolic Tradition would become a schismatic, not to be obeyed”. –Francisco Suarez (1548-1617), S.J., “Most Exalted and Pius Doctor,” De Charitate, Disputatio XII de Schismate, sectio 1

Further “the Pope could, without doubt, fall into Schism . . . Especially is this true with regard to the divine liturgy, as for example, if he did not wish personally to follow the universal customs and rites of the Church. . . . Thus it is that Innocent states (De Consuetudine) that, it is necessary to obey a Pope in all things as long as he does not himself go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, he need not be followed . . .” – Cardinal Juan de Torqumada O.P; Commentarii in Decretum Gratiani (1519) and Summa de Ecclesia (1489).

“The way we worship is the way we believe” (lex orandis, lex credendi) — Pope St Pius V

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