Did Archbishop Vigano Overreach Regarding the Mass of Paul VI?

Fr. Brian Harrison, a well-known theologian who has long been conversant with traditionalist polemics thinks so, and he stated his reasons publicly in the pages of The Wanderer back in January.

Archbishop Viganò Vs. The Novus Ordo

By Fr. Brian W. Harrison, OS
The Wanderer
Jan. 27, 2022

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal Nuncio to the United States, has been for the last three-and-a-half years a courageous voice speaking out against moral, financial, and doctrinal corruption at very high levels on the Catholic Church. However, in recent times he has unfortunately made some increasingly exaggerated and unfair attacks on the reformed post-Vatican II liturgy (the Novus Ordo), and against Vatican Council II itself.

Unfortunately, this is having the effect of seriously diminishing his stature and credibility at the very time when the Church most needs judicious and well-balanced criticisms of the current crisis coming from highly placed prelates such as His Excellency.

A recent example is Archbishop Viganò’s response to the new and more severe Vatican restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) that were issued on December 8 last year, following up Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes of July 16, 2021.

The Archbishop’s indignant reaction has been published in various traditionalist outlets, notably in the January 14, 2022 online version of The Remnant, under title, “The Latin Mass: Viganò Remembers What Francis Want Us to Forget.”

Many of us agree with Viganò that a critical reaction to these efforts to gradually eliminate the TLM is very much in order; and dozens of Catholic commentators ranging from cardinals and archbishops to competent lay observers have recently expressed such criticisms.

Cardinal Schonborn

But a careful regard for truth and accuracy is essential here. Unfortunately, this caution is not always evident in His Excellency’s article.

While he makes many valid points, certain extreme and unfounded allegations in the text will only serve to obscure and undermine his positive testimony to the importance of maintaining the TLM.

Right near the beginning of his article, for instance, Viganò asserts that in promulgating the reformed rite of the Roman Mass, St. Paul VI “deprive[d] the Church of her most precious treasure, imposing a counterfeit ritual in its place.”

This kind of language in effect depicts Pope Paul as sly huckster, since it implies that the Novus Ordo is not a real Mass at all, but as phony as a three-dollar bill. After all, that’s what “counterfeit” means!

The Archbishop goes on to repeat that false accusation even more strongly when he talks of “the abyss that exists between the Catholic Mass and its conciliar counterfeit.”

If what he says were true, it would mean that Christ, who has promised to remain with His Church till the end of the world, has been so derelict in keeping His promise that He’s failed to stop five successive Successors of Peter (to whom He has promised special assistance in guiding us!) from imposing on nearly the whole worldwide Church a ritual which is simply not “the Catholic Mass” at all, but a fraudulent — and therefore invalid, or at least totally illegitimate — imitation of the Mass, and indeed, one that is separated by no less than “an abyss” from the Real Thing.

But since Our Lord and the Holy Spirit could never permit such a catastrophe to befall the Church, the new Mass simply can’t be nearly as bad as Viganò says it is.

He also makes this wildly exaggerated claim: “Everything is profane in the Novus Ordo. Everything is momentary, everything accidental, everything contingent, variable, and changeable. There is nothing of the eternal, because eternity is immutable, just as the Faith is immutable.”

“Everything,” Your Excellency? Clearly, a ritual in which everything was “profane” could not be a valid Mass at all! And what the Archbishop says is simply not true. I too prefer the TLM and have celebrated it almost since my Ordination, together with the Novus Ordo. But I can testify from 36 years of priesthood to the falsity of what Viganò says. I find nothing at all “profane” in the new Missal! Everything is sacred from start to finish: prayers to God, Sacred Scripture readings, consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ, and feeding His flock in Holy Communion. And while there are indeed a lot more options in the new Missal — more than there should be, in my opinion — it is ridiculous to claim that “everything” in the Novus Ordo is “contingent, variable and changeable.”

Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrates Novus Ordo Mass, 2021, reverently

That would perhaps apply to the Presbyterian services I grew up with, since the choice of prayers and Bible readings for each Sunday service is left entirely up to the personal preference of each pastor. But in the Novus Ordo missal, all the proper prayers and readings for each Sunday, weekday and Saint’s feast day are just as fixed and immutable as the ones in the Tridentine missal.

And of course, we priests are strictly forbidden to change, add, or omit any words or actions prescribed in the missal, especially the Roman Canon and other Eucharistic Prayers. (Yes, I know quite a few priests disobey this rule with impunity, but that’s their fault and the fault of their negligent bishops, not the fault of the postconciliar Popes or the Novus Ordo itself.) And the actual words of consecration are identical in all Novus Ordo Masses, regardless of which Eucharistic Prayer is used. Hardly any priests innovate at that most sacred point of the Mass.

Archbishop Viganò also says, “If I glance through the reformed calendar, I find that the same saints who cancelled the heretics of the Pseudo-reform have been removed.”

That makes it sound like they’ve all been removed. But the major 16th Century Counter-Reformation saints who combated heresy and schism are all there as large as life in the Novus Ordo calendar: St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis de Sales, St. Francis Xavier, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, St. Josaphat, etc.

Many other inaccurate and unjust complaints against the postconciliar liturgy and Vatican II could be cited from Viganò’s recent writings; but the above examples are sufficient to draw attention to the unfortunate, radical turn he has recently taken.

My greatest concern is that when a high-ranking Archbishop, seen by tens of thousands of traditionalist Catholics round the world as a champion and representative spokesman for the TLM, makes these grievously false and exaggerated accusations against the Novus Ordo, which are then circulated widely in the traditionalist media, this only plays right into the hands of the present Pontiff!

Pope Francis can then say, “There! I told you so! These rigid adherents of the old Mass are fomenting division and endangering unity in the Church by slandering and rejecting the reformed liturgy and the Council! That’s why we’ve got to phase out the old Mass completely!”

I certainly don’t agree with that conclusion drawn by the Holy Father — and expressed clearly in his letter to the bishops accompanying Traditionis Custodes. I’m just saying that excessively harsh diatribes against the Novus Ordo by highly placed traditionalists like Archbishop Viganò are only helping Francis to make out a more plausible case for pursuing his goal of suppressing the venerable and ancient Roman Rite altogether.

Subscribe to The Wanderer

Cardinal Raymond Burke speaks on scandal and apostasy

Francis Cardinal Arinze on Liturgical Dance and Secular Music


The late Michael Davies debates SSPX on the “status of the New Order Mass”. Available from The Remnant Press, 2539 Morrison Avenue, St. Paul Minnesota, 55117.


[What follows here is not from the above-noted Davies / SSPX debate]

Is the Novus Ordo Mass valid? Does the Church have the authority to make such changes as we see in the Novus Ordo Mass?

Yes, de fide, to each question, per the Council of Trent Session XXI Ch.2, 16 July 1562.

— Does this mean that the changes made in the Novus Ordo were always wise?

Clearly not. Moreover, Progressivist forces have invaded the sanctuary. The Council of Trent only guarantees the validity of the Sacrament, the substance being explicitly preserved (see Session XXI, ch.2 which follows below).

Progressivists do not all accept everything that the Second Vatican Council or subsequent papal Eucharistic documents teach regarding Eucharist, liturgy, or traditional Church teaching in general. The Novus Ordo should at last be made to universally conform to what the Council actually teaches if it is to bear better fruit.*

“There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them.” — The Consitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council

Cardinal Ratzinger on the Reasons for Vatican II

George Weigel on legacy of Vatican II

Paul VI’s reaffirmation of the Traditional Faith which we all must believe by divine faith: The Credo of the People of God

—- John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis


Towards a Critique of E. Michael Jones


* Note: My wife and I regularly attend the traditional Latin Mass. We attend the Novus Ordo liturgy when we must. SH.