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Miracle on Eighth Avenue

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 3, 2009

The New York Times has done something extraordinary — indeed, almost miraculous, given the genetically leftist constitution of the “paper of record.”

On November 29, 2009 the Times published an Op-Ed piece entitled “Latin Mass Appeal” by Kenneth J. Wolfe in which Wolfe described the New Mass of Paul VI as “a radical break from the traditional Latin Mass” and notes that the New Mass was the work of Annibale Bugnini, who “aimed at appeasing non-Catholics, and… emulating Protestant services… including placing altars to face the people instead of a sacrifice toward the liturgical east.”

Wolfe’s piece quotes Bugnini’s infamous declaration: “We must strip from our ... Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.” This damning admission by the “architect of the liturgical reform” was published in the Times — the Times, mind you. Wolfe is even identified as a writer for “traditionalist publications”! When was the last time a Roman Catholic traditionalist had a traditionalist Op-Ed piece in the New York Times? Answer: never.

Wolfe continues this truly breakthrough article by observing: “Bugnini changed so many things that John’s successor, Paul VI, sometimes did not know the latest directives. The Pope once questioned the vestments set out for him by his staff, saying they were the wrong color, only to be told he had eliminated the week-long celebration of Pentecost and could not wear the corresponding red garments for Mass. The Pope’s master of ceremonies then witnessed Paul VI break down in tears.”

What a telling bit of history this is. It has the ring of truth — the truth that since Vatican II the Pope has too often become a rubber stamp for the output of the Vatican bureaucracy, whose functionaries all purport to act in his name and with his “full authority.” The result of this factory-like process is that a Pope confronted with a fait accompli enacted in his name may lack the hardihood to overturn it. Thus Pope Paul’s reaction to Bugnini’s usurpation with respect to the Pentecost liturgy was simply to weep, as if he were powerless to resist his own subordinate. Another usurpation that prompted Pauline weeping was Bugnini’s outrageous Protestant definition of the Mass as “the Lord’s supper” in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM), which Pope Paul had to yank from publication and revise after a storm of protest over its heterodoxy. Bugnini had ignored the Pope’s order to have the GIRM vetted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a truly stunning development for the mainstream press, Wolfe points out that “Bugnini fell from grace in the 1970s” after “[r]umors spread in the Italian press that he was a Freemason, which if true would have merited excommunication. The Vatican never denied the claims, and in 1975 Bugnini, by then an archbishop, was exiled to a ceremonial post in Iran.”

That’s the Times airing an accusation of Freemasonry at work in the Vatican! Almost as amazing, given the venue, is Wolfe’s declaration that with the pontificate of John Paul II, Bugnini’s “legacy lived on” because the late Pope “continued the liberalizations of Mass, allowing females to serve in place of altar boys…” Now imagine that, dear reader: criticism of John Paul II for being too liberal on the pages of the flagship liberal newspaper in the United States.

Wolfe concludes with kind words for Pope Benedict XVI’s recent moves in favor of liturgical tradition, ending with this indictment of the past forty years of “liturgical reform” in the name of Vatican II: “But Bugnini may have finally met his match in Benedict XVI… 40 years of the new Mass have brought chaos and banality into the most visible and outward sign of the Church. Benedict XVI wants a return to order and meaning. So, it seems, does the next generation of Catholics.”

As the upcoming and updated second edition of The Devil’s Final Battle argues, and as the Italian Catholic commentator Antonio Socci has suggested, Pope Benedict seems to be attempting to enact a papal program that addresses what is foretold in the Third Secret of Fatima, which the Pope has read. I mean the whole Third Secret, including the yet-to-be published words of Our Lady which explain the vision of the “Bishop dressed in white” published in June of 2000. I mean, that is, the words foretelling precisely what Wolfe remarks: a loss of order and meaning in the Church since Vatican II — or what is the same thing, the worst crisis of faith and discipline in Church history.

The appearance of Wolfe’s provocative piece in The New York Times, of all places, is perhaps a harbinger of better days to come — better days that will follow upon the Church’s correspondence to the Message of Fatima in its integrity. May it happen soon.