(LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Vitus Huonder, a retired bishop of the Swiss diocese of Chur, has issued a critique of the Novus Ordo Mass as it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. In his eyes, a “partial apostasy” in the Church has taken place in recent decades, and the “departure from tradition is felt most painfully in the changed rite of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”
Bishop Huonder made these statements in a May 3 message that is the second installment of a series of videos currently being released.
In the first installment, the Swiss bishop explained his own learning process with regard to the understanding of the Church, especially after being asked in 2014 by the Vatican to make a visitation to the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). The SSPX has remained loyal to the Church’s traditional faith and sacraments, especially the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). Huonder has lived in an SSPX house since his retirement in 2019.
Its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, could not go along with the changes entering the Church with and in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and thus came into conflict with Rome. Ultimately, he was excommunicated in 1988. Today, Bishop Huonder thinks that Lefebvre’s “attitude was factually justified and entirely in line with the Faith of the Church.” “He should have been listened to more,” Huonder added in his first video message. “The measure taken against him [by the Church’s hierarchy] was a grave injustice, because it is easy to prove that the Church’s government has moved away from Tradition.”
In his second video (which can be watched with English subtitles here (and below), Huonder deals with one of the changes that came into the Church after the Second Vatican Council, that is, the Novus Ordo Mass. He reminds his audience that the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, insisted that “there should be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” and that “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
“Nevertheless, a greatly changed new rite is presented,” Bishop Huonder expounds, “with an equally changed theology of the Mass.” He describes the 1969 Novus Ordo Mass as a “departure from the traditional Eucharistic Faith.”
Here the Swiss prelate refers to a commission which reviewed the new Mass in 1969 and concluded that it is “evident” that “the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent,” to which, however, “the Catholic conscience is bound forever.” This quote originates in the critique of the Novus Ordo Mass made by the late retired Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, as well as the late Cardinal Antonio Bacci. The document is now usually called the “Ottaviani Intervention.” Another prelate of the Catholic Church, the late Cardinal Alfons Stickler, endorsed this critique later, in 2004, by saying: “The analysis of the Novus Ordo made by these two cardinals has lost nothing of its value, nor, unfortunately, of its timeliness …The results of the reform are deemed by many today to have been devastating. It was the merit of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to discover very quickly that the modification of the rites resulted in a fundamental change of doctrine.”
In Huonder’s eyes, that above-mentioned departure from the Faith of the Council of Trent as manifested in the Novus Ordo Mass can be seen even more clearly in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the liturgy, Desiderio Desideravi,which presents “a predominantly Protestant conception of the Holy Mass.” While the Pope himself claims that his exhortation is based on the conciliar texts, the Swiss bishop disagrees with him.
Turning the usual understanding of the two forms of the Roman rite – ordinary (Novus Ordo) and extraordinary (TLM) upside down, Huonder makes the following statement: “The liturgy of the Church handed down until Vatican II is essentially the authentic Roman liturgy.”
“You cannot deny it, you can only ignore it,” he adds.
The prelate further points out that the rite of the Mass as it was canonized by Pope Pius V during the Council of Trent should not be called the “Tridentine” Mass since it was merely presenting “a purified text” of the liturgy, not a new form. Huonder reminds his audience that, in 1570, this pope insisted in his apostolic constitution Quo Primum that this codified Mass “cannot be revoked or modified but remains always valid.”
“A successor pope must not ignore such a provision,” the bishop insists, also because this ancient form of the Mass is part of the “deposit of Faith, we could say, a truth of Faith in the form of prayer.” Thus, he sees the TLM as an “equivalent” to a Creed. “Its substance must not be changed.”
“Thus, it cannot be banned.” Therefore, the bishop continues, what happened with the suppression of the TLM in the wake of the Second Vatican Council “is an injustice, an overstepping of authority.”
Further discussing two concepts that greatly helped to foster the changes in the Church, “obedience” and “living Magisterium,” Bishop Huonder sees that together they were formidable: “Absolute obedience is to be given to the living Magisterium,” he notes. These two terms, he continues, were “means of pressure” to implement changes in the Church.
Here, the prelates discusses also that the Church for a long time fostered a defective understanding of authority: “Too often obedience has been understood in servile and submissive terms, as blind obedience.” This defective understanding of authority goes back to the 18th century, a consequence of “attacks on the papacy and an overly narrow view of papal authority,” Huonder states. “Only absolute, unquestioning obedience was known.”
Based on this false understanding of obedience, Catholics were not well prepared for what befell the Church during and after the Second Vatican Council. “They bowed without objection to what was presented as the supposedly necessary renewal of the Church,” Huonder observes.
Yet, continues the bishop, Archbishop Lefebvre, moved by his conscience, dared to object (for example, when meeting with Pope John Paul II). This protest was unusual. “One did not dare do so in front of the ecclesiastical authorities,” Huonder adds. Catholics were not sufficiently taught about the importance of one’s conscience.
Still today, the danger of “abuse of authority” is existent, explains the Swiss prelate: “Abuse of authority and terrorizing of faithful can never be excluded.”
(As a proof for this claim can be mentioned here that, in response to Huonder’s critique of Pope Francis’ “rupture with tradition” in his first video, the website of the Swiss bishops just published an article calling for his investigation by Vatican authorities.)
Huonder then goes on to explain the problem with the concept of the “living Magisterium,” which is often used to introduce new teachings “that are not anchored in Tradition.”
However, he insists, “papal authority, like every ecclesiastical authority, is bound by the rule of Faith.”
Papal authority is to protect the Faith, not change it. It cannot demand the acceptance of a new teaching. Thus, every new teaching must be examined to see if is “in accordance with the teaching of the past,” the bishop insists.
There is “no choice” when it comes to “matters of Faith”: “the later must be in harmony with the earlier,” which includes the Gospels and previous teachings and decisions.
The Swiss bishop also decries the lack of piety and respect among the conciliar Catholics for what had come before them, and also how people who wished to remain loyal to the TLM and all of the Church’s traditions were treated. “This still weighs heavily on the Church today,” he exclaims. He also denounced the “contempt [and] sarcasm” with which the past and the sacred were treated by theologians at the time.
This pertains especially to the liturgy. States the bishop: “The holiest part of our Faith [the Holy Mass] was treated without pietas, without respect,” in contradistinction to how the Church had always treated sacred texts and liturgical instructions.