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Dialogue Mass - XXVIII

Disinformation to Denigrate the Liturgy

Dr. Carol Byrne, Great Britain
Jungmann not only spread misinformation but also something far more insidious: disinformation. Whereas the former is incorrect or inaccurate information arising from ignorance of the facts, the latter is false information deliberately designed to mislead, confound or subvert the recipient.

For, in his scholarly research, Jungmann mixed some truth and historical observation with false conclusions, half-truths and lies in order to denigrate the value of the traditional liturgy. This lethal mixture was presented in such a way as to provoke the desired response particularly among the clergy – animosity against liturgical traditions, which had supposedly plagued the Church for centuries.

Boston seminarians 1970s

Boston seminarians at lunch in the 1970s, imbued with the relaxed spirit of the new liturgy

By the late 1960s the disinformation was indelibly stamped into the consciousness of priests and religious through compulsory “re-education” courses so effectively that the new thinking was regarded as axiomatic and, therefore, beyond dispute. The full extent of the damage done by the disinformation campaign only became apparent in stages:

First, as the clergy adopted the new rites devised by the innovators, their understanding of the meaning of the Mass and Sacraments changed. They ceased to understand because they no longer performed the rites that expressed their true meaning.

Second, as a result of so much anti-traditional propaganda, they came to bitterly resent the liturgy in which they themselves had been formed, regarding it as “oppressive”, “triumphalist” and “meaningless”. The persistence of this prejudice can still be seen today in the majority of priests who feel ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with it.

Third, any liturgical practice that did not enjoy the support of the Liturgical Movement was regarded as illegitimate. The inevitable result was the persecution of priests who remained faithful to the old ways.

Fourth, when, eventually, the liturgical poisoned cocktail percolated down to parish level, the faithful in the pews imbibed the same hostility against their own traditions.

Jungmann’s address to the Assisi Congress in 1956

What follows is a résumé of the key points of Jungmann's speech that are still used today as “justification” for the Vatican II reforms. This is the gist of his speech, inspired by a deep loathing for the Church’s liturgical tradition:

• From the beginning of the Middle Ages, a “wall of fog” settled between liturgy and people and separated them, with the result that the people could only dimly discern what was happening at the altar.

Here we can see the Liturgical Movement’s propaganda machine in full effect. A man awarded with the most prestigious accolades for scholarship stoops to spin tales about the past, which are now generally regarded as “fact” by practitioners of the new rites. His success illustrates the truth of Orwell’s dictum: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

mass pre vatican II

Jungmann: the ‘ossified’ Mass reduces the people to ‘silent spectators’

• The language of the liturgy, understood only by the clergy, created a “gap” between the priest and the people, who were thus reduced to “silent spectators” and excluded from participation.

This is another common fallacy of the Liturgical Movement which gained traction under Pius XII and was used as the basis for the “active participation” of the laity through “dialogue” with the priest during Mass. The “necessity” for dialogue has become so well embedded in the consciousness of modern Mass-goers that they cannot comprehend how their ancestors did not feel “excluded” by remaining silent.

The truth is that the faithful of past ages knew that the priest was offering the Holy Sacrifice at the altar and could participate prayerfully in it through faith and devotion. They neither needed nor asked for more. The “Dialogue Mass” was, therefore, a solution to a problem that did not exist.

• The liturgy became “ossified” into a medley of words and gestures subjected to fixed rules and lost the “living” quality that was once characteristic of the early Christian community.

But the traditional liturgy was always – and still is – a living reality , the authentic expression of the Catholic Faith. In open contempt for liturgical tradition, the reformers regarded its unchanging ceremonies as a useless repetition of meaningless acts, a dead weight to be cast off, encrusted barnacles to be scraped off the Barque of Peter.

• There is no longer any need for protection of the liturgy: “pastoral” concerns are the highest priority.

According to Jungmann, there is no need to go on guarding and defending the Church’s liturgical heritage. But if the liturgy is not protected, then neither is the faith, which is enshrined in it.

According to the old adage of lex orandi , lex credendi, it is not possible to alter one without altering the other. When applied to the liturgy, the word “pastoral” meant that it should be refashioned to suit the mentality of modern man. This would, of course, involve profound and unprecedented changes.

• We must go back to the early Christian forms as an example of real pastoral practice.

This suggestion was an example of the “antiquarianism” condemned by Pius XII in Mediator Dei as causing “grievous harm to souls.” By adopting this principle, the reformers destroyed the means by which the Church’s historical identity was formed throughout the centuries and is preserved.

guitar seminarians 1970s

Seminarians perform with guitars in the 1970s as the Church ‘discovers fresh forces’

As a result, the faithful were cut off from contact with the treasures of the liturgy that conveyed and dispensed sanctifying grace superabundantly. How less pastoral can you get?

• The reformed Easter Vigil was a model of pastoral liturgy because it enabled the people to participate actively and regard it as “our liturgy.”

But the whole point is that what we regarded as “our liturgy” was forcibly taken from us and replaced by the reformers with their liturgy.

• The Liturgical Movement represents the dawn of a new luminous day. The Church discovers fresh forces. It marches with confidence towards a future in which it will be once more the People of God at prayer. (1) (See here )

With this revolutionary talk of a shining future for the renewed liturgy, we are clearly in the realm of “agitprop”(2) of the kind that was being simultaneously practiced in communist countries where radiant futures were endlessly promised but never delivered. Its role in the Liturgical Movement bears an ironic similarity to the final stages of the Soviet Union just before its collapse when perestroika was held up as the harbinger of a bright future of peace and socialist enlightenment.

It should be obvious to all that Jungmann was putting a pastoral face on an otherwise brutal reality: He was promoting a liturgical perestroika – a “restructuring” of the entire liturgy that would necessarily entail momentous departures from traditional practice to incorporate “active participation” of the laity.

1970s participation at Mass

Participation becomes common in the 1970s as the liturgy & people abandon tradition

His proposals would radically change the very foundation of belief and worship. Under the guise of simplifying and purifying the liturgy, he and his colleagues created new forms to express new beliefs: the Mass as a celebration of the community or a catalyst for social reform or a means of self-expression.

There was nothing original in Jungmann’s anti-tradition propaganda. He was simply voicing what Beauduin and other liturgical leaders had been alleging since the beginning of the 20th century. The underlying message of their critique is that, for most of its history, the Church had a deficient understanding of the Mass and that it would be the work of the Liturgical Movement to minister to the true needs of the faithful.

But if, as they alleged, the Church had practiced her liturgy so badly in so many points for so many centuries, then the Holy Spirit must not have been inspiring her. Now, if the Holy Spirit was not with the Church, she was not the true Church. So, why should anyone want to take her seriously now? Thus, the creators of new rites who pretended to be representing the Church lose all claim to attention or credibility.

It seems that it was not just the liturgy that Jungmann was trying to consign to the museum of history, but Catholicism itself.


  1. J. A. Jungmann, ‘La Pastorale, Clef de L’Histoire Liturgique,’ La Maison-Dieu, No. 47-8, 1956, pp. 62-3. See here.
  2. Agitprop is a portmanteau, i.e. a combination of two words: agitation and propaganda. It was originally used in Soviet Russia, inspired by a Communist Party committee called the “Department for Agitation and Propaganda.” Its goal was to spread the ideals of Communism throughout the world. The term is now used for a publication that tries to influence opinion for its own ends by “agitating” people’s minds in a desired direction.


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Posted January 20, 2016

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