(Acknowledgements to The Remnant)
The New Mass meets The New Rosary
CHRISTOPHER A. FERRARA
- Part I -
Not content with his central role in the disastrous "liturgical renewal" of Pope Paul VI, Annibale Bugnini also proposed a "renewal" of Marian devotional practices. In September1972 he drafted a schema in this regard and submitted it to the Congregation for Divine Worship. In this schema, Bugnini proposed to rearrange the Rosary so that the Our Father would be recited only once at the beginning, and the Hail Mary edited to include only "the biblical portion of the prayer." The "Holy Mary, Mother of God" would be said "only at the end of each tenth Hail Mary." There would also be a new "public" version of the Rosary, consisting of readings, songs, homilies, and "a series of Hail Marys, but limited to one decade."(1)
Paul VI responded to this ridiculous proposal through the Vatican Secretary of State: "[T]he faithful would conclude that ‘the Pope has changed the Rosary,’ and the psychological effect would be disastrous…. Any change in it cannot but lessen the confidence of the simple and the poor."(2) Undeterred by this rejection, Bugnini obstinately presented two more schemas calling for revisions in various practices of Marian devotion. In each schema Bugnini smuggled in more paragraphs calling for revisions to the Rosary. His third schema prompted a specific request by Pope Paul VI for "deletion of some paragraphs on the rosary and the removal also of a reference to a different order of the mysteries." The Pope admonished Bugnini that: "The rosary is to remain single in form and unchanged from what it now is. Let any new forms of Marian devotion take their place alongside the Rosary." Recognizing his defeat, Bugnini noted that "in the fourth schema all references to a revision of the rosary have disappeared…"(3) Two years later Bugnini was suddenly sacked as Secretary of the Consilium and sent off to Iran, after Pope Paul was given a dossier on Bugnini’s alleged Masonic affiliations—a dossier whose existence Bugnini himself admits in his autobiography. The traditional Rosary had been spared the fate of the traditional Mass.
It has taken nearly another forty years, but the heirs of Bugnini have finally come for the Rosary. With the publication Rosarium Virginis Mariae (RVM), the traditional form of the Rosary canonized by Pope St. Pius V in his bull Consueverunt has been overthrown. RVM makes an unprecedented innovation of the Rosary by abruptly introducing a fourth cycle of "luminous mysteries" consisting of events from the public life of Christ: "(1) [Christ’s] baptism in the Jordan; (2) "his (sic) self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana"; (3) "his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion; (4) "his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery." This change, together with RVM’s proposal for at least six other modifications of the Rosary (which the neo-Catholic press has neglected to mention), threatens to subject the foundational prayer of Catholic piety to the same process of endless tinkering that destroyed the Roman Rite. How far the process will go now that it has been unleashed is anyone’s guess; but if the state of the New Mass is any indication, we have good reason to dread what the New Rosary will look like in a few years.
Let me say at the outset that I did not wish to write this piece. About the last thing I wanted to do was register an objection to yet another Vatican document that contains many good things, but also (as always seems to be the case these days) many strange, unprecedented and disturbing things that would never have been seen in any Vatican document before Vatican II. Precisely because I am only a layman, I desperately want to be edified and inspired, rather than perplexed and agitated, by Vatican documents, especially one on the Holy Rosary. And what traditionalist would welcome the opportunity to be accused yet again of "Pope-bashing" or being "more Catholic than the Pope" by that same cadre of neo-Catholic commentators which has swallowed everything from altar girls to papal prayer meetings with witchdoctors who sacrifice live goats?
I confess that human respect led me to consider whether it would be prudent to raise any objection to an innovation the neo-Catholic establishment is already pronouncing the greatest thing since holy water. As reported by USA Today, Scott Hahn enthuses that "When I announced (the change) to students, it blew their minds. They think it’s awesome because it connects Jesus and Mary even more than before." So, after centuries of praying the Rosary the traditional way, the Church suddenly discovered, on October 15, 2002, a way to "connect" Jesus and Mary "even more than before." Yes, it’s just another mind-blowing, awesome day in the postconciliar springtime. Who knows what other age-old deficiencies in ecclesiastical tradition will finally be remedied in the heady days to come? Have we not all witnessed the marvelous blossoming of the Roman liturgy following Paul VI’s correction of all the "deficiencies" in the traditional Latin Mass?
Humanly speaking, traditionalists have nothing to gain by spoiling the celebration of this mind-blowing and awesome development. All we will get in human terms is another round of honking from the neo-Catholic horn-blowers, whose great ruckus of indignation at traditionalist objections to the latest stupefying innovation will, as always, provide excellent cover for the neo-modernist engineers as they get to work on dismantling yet another ecclesiastical tradition. No, I did not wish to write this piece; and for a while I had decided not to. But then three things happened.
First, I read Pope Leo XIII’s magnificent series of encyclicals on the Rosary. These kingly magisterial texts reminded me with great force that the perennial Catholic teachings on Mary and Her Rosary have all but disappeared since the vast miasma of Vatican II descended upon the Church. Not a single one of these teachings is to be found in RVM—quite astonishing, given that RVM calls for a return to the tradition of the Rosary devotion.
Next, I received a telephone call from a monsignor whom I have been privileged to consult as a spiritual advisor on many matters. This is a great Marian churchman, who by all rights should have been a bishop or even a cardinal, but he labours instead in a small local parish where he offers a weekly indult Latin Mass, for which he obtained permission, against all odds, by constant prayer for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The monsignor had read RVM carefully and made detailed annotations. He told me that he was outraged not only by RVM’s unheard-of tampering with the Rosary, but by its obscuration and systematic omission of the Church’s traditional teaching. The monsignor urged me to write this piece, and to include his own concerns in my discussion.
Lastly, following a lead provided by the monsignor, I read Marialis Cultus (1974) by Pope Paul VI. Incredibly enough, John Paul II’s latest innovation departs even from the teaching of Paul VI in this apostolic letter that the traditional triune form of the Rosary canonized by Pope St. Pius V—3 groups of mysteries and three groups of 50 Hail Mary’s, corresponding to the 150 psalms in the Psalter—is wisely prescribed by the Magisterium as the best expression of the Christological aspect of the devotion.
Well, that did it. The relentless postconciliar innovation of the Church has accelerated to the point where traditionalists can now cite the teaching of Paul VI against the innovators. A papal teaching only 28 years old has just been abandoned. In these circumstances, I believe traditionalists have a duty to state their objections to RVM; for if indeed we said nothing, we would be complicit in the consequences that are likely to follow from the promulgation of this document, given our bitter experience with the "renewal" of the Mass. Consider this article as one man’s objection, for what it is worth.
Who Is the Author?
RVM is, of course, an apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II. That, at least, is what the title says. After reading the document three times, however, I come away with the firm conviction that, in large measure, RVM was written by, and serves the aims of, enemies of the traditional Rosary who share the liturgical mentality of the late Archbishop Bugnini. This will be quite apparent from my discussion of RVM’s call for numerous Bugnini-like "adjustments" to the Rosary that would certainly wreck it if they were implemented. While I see no reason to doubt that the Pope endorses the idea of suddenly adding five new mysteries to the Rosary, the coldly effete phraseology in other key parts of the document—so unlike the Pope’s rather robustly ruminative style of writing—clearly indicates, at least to me, the work of one or more Vatican bureaucrats who have difficulty concealing their itching desire to "renew" in a big hurry the largest remaining vestige of traditional Catholic piety still in use throughout the universal church.
The traditionalist position as exemplified by The Remnant has never occupied itself with the person of the Pope, as opposed to a reasoned critique of the objective content of papal words and deeds that any sensible person would admit are highly controversial and quite unprecedented in the history of the Church. In this case it is especially important to emphasize the distinction between the action and the man.
Consider that even when Paul VI was in good health he allowed to be published as his personal teaching the theologically defective 1969 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), foolishly trusting Bugnini to have it examined for orthodoxy by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—a command Bugnini promptly ignored. Confronted with a firestorm of criticism, Pope Paul was forced to withdraw the original GIRM in order to have it reworked into something minimally Catholic. Now, if Paul VI could commit such a disastrous mistake in a state of good health, what is to prevent such mistakes from happening to the current Pope, who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s disease and cannot walk, feed himself properly or even talk at length without losing his breath? One must also consider that in 50% of cases, Parkinson’s also progresses to dementia.
If my own natural father were suffering from the Pope’s ailments, and if he, like the Pope, were surrounded by powerful personalities subtly (or not so subtly) importuning him to do certain things, I would never rely on any document bearing my father’s name unless he satisfied me in person that he had written and signed it entirely of his own mind and free will. At this point, our rapidly fading father in Rome is entitled to the same prudential reservation. I, for one, am no longer willing to assume that any document coming out of the Vatican in the Pope’s name these days is the product of a sound and disposing papal mind and memory, free from all undue influence. And here I urge my neo-Catholic brethren to consider, in view of the facts I am going to present, whether they really want to endorse RVM as a wonderful "development" of the Rosary, or whether they should instead pray that this document is never implemented.
Given the circumstances, my comments will be confined to the face of the document, whose drafters clearly include others besides the Pope. In like manner, the fully vindicated critics of Pope Paul’s original GIRM (ranging from Cardinal Ottaviani to Michael Davies), confined themselves to the face of that document, authored by Bugnini and his collaborators to the great embarrassment of Holy Church. To lay a proper foundation for this discussion, it will be necessary to consider first both the traditional doctrine and the traditional form of the Rosary.
The Traditional Teaching on the Rosary
Pope Leo XIII wrote no fewer than ten encyclicals on the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These encyclicals provide a magnificent compendium of the Church’s teaching on the origin and efficacy of the Rosary, which includes the following points:
—"The recourse we have to Mary in prayer follows upon the office she continuously fulfills by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace; being by worthiness and by merit most acceptable to Him, and therefore, surpassing in power all the angels and saints in heaven." (Iucunda Semper Expectatione, n 2.)
—"The power thus put into her hands is all but unlimited…. Among her many other titles, we find her hailed as "our Lady, our Mediatrix," "the Reparatrix of the whole world," "the dispenser of all heavenly gifts." [Adiutricem, 8]
—"Thus, as no man goeth to the
Father but by the Son, no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother."
(Ottobri Mense, 4)
The Traditional Form of the Rosary
As already noted, in Marialis Cultus (MV) none other than Paul VI strongly affirmed the teaching of St. Pius V on the traditional form of the Rosary. It is supremely ironic that even as Pope Paul went along with Bugnini’s plan to ruin the Roman Rite, suppressing the form of Mass canonized by St. Pius V in his Bull Quo Primum, Paul nonetheless felt obliged to reject Bugnini’s advice and follow the teaching of Pius V when it came to Rosary. Clearly writing with a view toward Bugnini’s aborted attempt to wreck the Rosary, Pope Paul declared:
Having rooted himself in the teaching of Pius V, Pope Paul introduced that teaching with the following explanation:
Pope Paul then presented as authoritative and binding the teaching of St. Pius V on the elements of the Rosary:
Thus, Paul VI, in union with all his predecessors (including Leo XIII, cf. Iucunda Semper Expectatione) and in conformity with the definitive teaching of Saint Pius V, affirmed that the elements of the Rosary, "disposed in organic fashion" over centuries of development, consist of
Hence even Paul VI made it clear that the Rosary is not some changeable arrangement of prayers that can be altered whenever it seems a good idea, but a triune pattern of prayer, "disposed in an organic fashion," that constitutes an ancient foundation stone of popular Catholic piety, long approved by the Magisterium.
RVM and the Traditional Teaching
As always with the abrupt and unprecedented changes that are constantly being added to the great façade of postconciliar novelty, this is not a question of Catholic doctrine as such. Like the rest of the postconciliar program of innovation, RVM does not actually impose a single new obligation on Catholics. The document is essentially a collection of observations, exhortations and proposed changes in the Rosary, presented as suggestions or options.
Furthermore, RVM contains some excellent statements concerning the Blessed Virgin and Her Rosary—statements traditionalists should applaud and use to their full effect in apologetics and evangelization. Consider, for example, RVM’s magnificent final paragraph, a quotation from the writings of Blessed Bartolo Longo which the Pope makes his own:
This statement alone no doubt sent shivers down the spines of the ecumenical apparatchiks of the Vatican apparatus, who have made a career out of downplaying the intrinsically Marian character of Roman Catholicism in their endless, pointless, worthless "dialogues" with assorted dissidents who refuse to return to Rome.
What is more, concerning RVM’s practical recommendations, Catholics everywhere should hail the Pope’s call for renewal of the family Rosary—putting aside for the moment what RVM proposes to do to the Rosary.
But, alas, RVM involves much more than statements such as these, as good as they are. As Catholics have come to expect since the phenomenon first emerged at Vatican II, the ultimate impact of a Roman document is no longer determined by the good statements it contains. One must consider also the "time-bombs," ambiguities and conspicuous omissions of traditional teaching that reflect the constant tug-of-war between liberal and more conservative factions in the Vatican. Such is manifestly the case with RVM, as I will show.
What RVM Does Not Say
The list of things RVM conspicuously omits in its treatment of the Rosary is simply astounding. In its 21 pages of commentary and praise for the Rosary and Mary, RVM somehow fails to mention any of the basic elements of the traditional Catholic teaching pertaining to the Rosary enumerated above:
First, there is no mention of the Rosary’s supernatural origin through the divine inspiration of St. Dominic. To discuss the history of the Rosary without mentioning St. Dominic is about as ludicrous as discussing the birth of our nation without any mention of George Washington.
Ignoring the above-noted string of papal attestations to the Rosary’s supernatural origin, RVM states that: "In effect, the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation. As a method, it serves as a means to an end and cannot become an end in itself." Discussing the attraction some "Christians" are said to feel for forms of meditation in non-Christian religions, RVM even dares to assert that the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary "is situated within this broad gamut of religious phenomena, but it is distinguished by characteristics of its own which correspond to specifically Christian requirements." So, according to RVM, the Rosary is just another religious "phenomenon," tailored to "Christian" requirements. Worse still, RVM claims that the forms of meditation in other religions "contain many elements which are positive and at times compatible with Christian experience"—just what Catholics need to hear in this era of unparalleled confusion and loss of the integral Catholic faith.
By the way, the word "Catholic" appears nowhere in the text of RVM, except one reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word "Catholics" appears once, in footnote 25. The mysterious suppression of the words "Catholic" and "Catholics" is a hallmark of postconciliar Vatican pronouncements, and it is glaringly evident here, in RVM’s discussion of the most Catholic of all popular devotions.
Second, RVM makes no mention of Mary’s status as the
Mediatrix of all graces—a staggering omission in any discussion of the
Rosary and its efficacy. In fact, RVM does not even accord Mary the
restricted title of "Mediatrix"—stripped of the phrase "of all
graces"—allowed by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium 62. The word
As Ludwig Ott has noted: "The doctrine of Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace based on her co-operation in the Incarnation is so definitely manifest in the sources of the Faith, that nothing stands in the way of a dogmatic definition." Yet the closest RVM comes to mentioning this fundamental doctrine of the Faith is to observe merely that the belief that Mary’s "maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son… is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people." RVM provides not a single reference to the infallible teaching of a long line of Popes on Mary’s Mediatorship of all graces, but here mentions only Her intercession to obtain favours from God. Even this limited reference to Mary’s unique and exalted status before the heavenly Throne is supported by nothing more than a line from Dante’s Divine Comedy: "Lady, thou art so great and so powerful, that whoever desires grace yet does not turn to thee, would have his desire fly without wings." Marvellous words, to be sure. But why does RVM fail to quote a single Pope on the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s mediation of all graces, as this relates to the Rosary - for example, the teaching of Pope Leo XIII on the relation between the efficacy of the Rosary and Mary’s mediatorship, mentioned above? Why is this fundamental tenet of Roman Catholicism presented as a sort of vague poetic sentiment, welling up from the "experience" of Christians, when it is a constant papal teaching that expresses in doctrinal terms the very reason Catholics pray the Rosary?
Third, RVM says nothing about the Rosary’s historical and repeatedly miraculous use as "a most powerful warlike weapon" against the enemies of the Church, to recall Pope Leo’s phrase. Perhaps that is because since Vatican II the Church has lost all her enemies and gained innumerable "dialogue partners." To be serious, the Church has more enemies than ever, especially internally, and yet the whole concept of a combat between the Church and her enemies has inexplicably vanished from the language of the Church - surely among the most ruinous developments of the postconciliar epoch. With almost laughable tepidity, RVM states merely that: "Today we are facing new challenges." That is RVM’s entire assessment of the parlous state of the Church today.
Fourth, while RVM calls for five new mysteries and assorted other tinkering with the Rosary, it says absolutely nothing about Our Lady of Fatima’s simple request for the addition of one brief prayer at the end of each decade: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need." That prayer, of course, is completely in keeping with the papal teaching on the supernatural origin and efficacy of the Rosary, as presented by Pope Leo XIII and his many predecessors.
As we shall see, RVM authorizes a vast project to create a whole host of new "short concluding prayers" to end each decade of the Rosary, so that the Rosary can be "adapted to different spiritual traditions and different Christian communities." So as far as RVM is concerned, then, the Fatima Prayer does not exist. On this point, it has to be admitted that, for some reason, the Pope himself has never used the Fatima Prayer in any of his public recitations of the Rosary - at least not in the ones that I have witnessed. During the satellite-televised World Rosary on October 7, 2000, for example, neither the Pope nor any other Vatican participant said the Fatima Prayer, although Sister Lucy did so in Portuguese from the convent in Coimbra, with a look of profound sorrow on her face.
Moreover, RVM says nothing of the First Saturday devotion, which Our Lady of Fatima introduced with the following promise to Her children:
Our Lady’s words do not square well with the proposed new twenty mysteries of the Rosary, of which She made no mention at Fatima, although She surely foresaw the coming innovation. This might explain why RVM says nothing about the First Saturday devotion, either. In fact, RVM says nothing about Our Lady of Fatima at all. There is only a fleeting reference to the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, to which footnote 11 is attached: "It is well-known and bears repeating that private revelations are not the same as public revelation, which is binding on the whole Church. It is the task of the Magisterium to discern and recognize the authenticity and value of private revelations for the piety of the faithful." So, according to RVM, the Message of Fatima is just another of those purely dispensable "private revelations." We needn’t pay any attention to the fact that its authenticity was confirmed by a public miracle announced three months in advance and witnessed by 70,000 people, including atheists who converted on the spot. We are also apparently supposed to forget that John Paul II has repeatedly attested to the authenticity of the Fatima apparitions, even describing them (in his sermon during the beatification ceremony for Jacinta and Francisco on March 25, 2000) as the very fulfillment of the biblical prophecies in Chapter 4 of the Book of the Apocalypse.
RVM’s silence concerning Our Lady of Fatima borders on the outrageous, considering that on May 13, 1982 (at Fatima) the Pope publicly declared his conviction that it was none other than Our Lady of Fatima who diverted the path of the assassin’s bullet exactly one year earlier, on the very anniversary of the first Fatima apparition.
In my view, that RVM offers no thanks to the "private apparition" who saved the Pope’s life cannot have been the result of any conscious decision by the Pope himself. Rather, whoever "assisted" the Pope in drafting RVM is blatantly enlisting it for double duty: "renewal" of the Rosary and deeper burial of the Message of Fatima. Here the work of neo-Modernist draftsmen with their own agenda is especially apparent. This dismissal of Fatima follows the Party Line of Pope Sodano I that the Message of Fatima "belongs to the past" and that there is no longer any basis for requesting the Consecration of Russia. Tell that to the suffering Catholics of the Church in Russia. Oddly enough, while the Sodano apparatus informs us that Fatima is finished, the Pope’s own spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, protests Russia’s "large-scale anti-Catholic campaign" and "authentic persecution" of the Church, including the systematic expulsion of clergy, the halting of church construction, the denial of parish registrations, and suspiciously well-organized acts of vandalism against the few existing parishes.(6) Thanks to Sodano and his collaborators, "that poor nation," as Sister Lucy called it, is further than ever from the conversion promised by Our Lady of Fatima once Her requests are heeded. In Russia today, sixty percent of all pregnancies end in abortion.(7)
I conclude this part by noting that while RVM slights the Virgin of Fatima, it does acknowledge supposed "objections to the Rosary." According to RVM, "there are some who fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical because of its distinctly Marian character." In other words, the Rosary is perceived as "unecumenical" because it is Marian. A most telling admission! The truth about the blatantly anti-Marian tendencies of "ecumenism" is here implicitly conceded. In this truth about ecumenism lies the explanation of why Mary’s mediation of all graces is nowhere mentioned in RVM, and why this distinctly Catholic doctrine has been suppressed since the Second Vatican Council.
In the next part, I will show
how, in the practical application of its particulars, RVM would only serve
ecumenism’s anti-Marian tendencies by de-emphasizing the Rosary’s
character as a supplication to Mary and transforming it, in stages, from a
simple, short and quiet meditation into an elaborate mini-liturgy replete
with new prayers, new clauses in the Hail Mary, singing, Bible readings
and Biblical commentaries, thus fulfilling the fondest wishes of the heirs
- Part II -
The Rosary Subtly Reoriented
Let us first recap and reinforce the major points discussed in Part I.
While RVM contains much praise for Mary and the Rosary, none of this praise includes any mention of key elements of the traditional teaching on the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These elements are set forth abundantly in the teaching of Pope Leo XIII. Although RVM praises Pope Leo as "the Pope of the Rosary," there is no presentation of his teaching beyond a passing reference to his recommendation of the Rosary as a means to combat "evils afflicting society." There is no mention whatever of the following points enunciated by Pope Leo and the many predecessors he cited in his encyclicals:
RVM only hints obscurely at Mary’s power as Mediatrix of all graces when it observes that: "Mary is ‘all-powerful by grace’, to use the bold expression, which needs to be properly understood, of Blessed Bartolo Longo in his Supplication to Our Lady. This is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people." The unanimous testimony of the saints and doctors of the Church and the Magisterium for nearly two millennia is passed over in favour of one "bold expression" by an obscure Maltese priest whom John Paul II beatified in 1980. We are told that this "bold expression" reflects a mere "conviction" rooted in "the experience of the Christian people," without the slightest reference to the Church’s constant teaching on the subject as presented so clearly by Leo XIII. RVM states that this "bold expression" needs to be "properly understood," yet the "proper" understanding is never given. In any case, Bartolo Longo’s "bold expression" is not nearly as "bold" as the teaching of the Magisterium itself that the Blessed Virgin Mary alone enjoys the unique and exalted status of Mediatrix of all graces—a teaching RVM utterly ignores.
In the first part of this critique I claimed that the doctrine of Mary’s mediation of all graces has been suppressed due to the anti-Marian tendencies of "ecumenism." As always, it seems, Vatican spokesmen helpfully provide explicit proof of the traditionalist position. In this case, the neo-Catholic press agency Zenit.org has just reported (October 21, 2002) remarks by Father Stefano de Fiores, who is described as "a renowned Mariologist" and a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, "which advises the Pope on all theological questions relating to the person of Mary." Speaking specifically of Mary’s role as co-Redemptrix, Father de Fiores stated: "From the conciliar and ecumenical point of view, it is certainly not opportune to proclaim this dogma at this time. The separated brethren, Protestants and Orthodox, reproach us for not consulting them in regard to the last dogmas on Mary. This is why I think that a dogma of this type would have to include their participation."
So, thanks to "ecumenism," the very Magisterium of the Church is constrained to consult with heretics and schismatics before defining Marian dogma! It is quite telling that Father de Fiores attributes this development to "the conciliar and ecumenical point of view," as distinct from simply the Catholic point of view. Here we have an explicit admission by a member of the Vatican apparatus that Vatican II and ecumenism stand in the way of giving Mary her due. Yet RVM describes Vatican II as "the ‘great grace’ disposed by the Spirit of God for the Church in our time." Are we supposed to believe that this "great grace" includes an aversion to defining Marian dogma without the consent of non-Catholics? How could Mary, the Mediatrix of all graces, possibly mediate to her Church a "grace" which holds hostage to the demands of heretics and schismatics the truth about her exalted status? Father de Fiores’ admission is but another piece of evidence in support of the conclusion that both the Council and ecumenism are disastrously ill-advised experiments, whose crippling effects must be remedied for the good of the Church and the world - and for the proper veneration of the Blessed Virgin.
While avoiding the doctrine of Mary’s mediatorship as it bears on the Rosary, RVM does state that: "The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation." But this vague reference to some unspecified "threat" to "Christianity" at some unknown time in the past gives no indication of the Rosary’s miraculous effects in repelling the advances of infidels and heretics who assailed the Catholic Church and the Catholic social order of former Christendom. (As already noted, the word "Catholic" does not even appear in RVM, aside from a reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) One would have no idea from reading RVM that the Rosary was instrumental, for example, in defeating the Muslims at the Battle of Lepanto during the reign of Pope St. Pius V. As a matter of fact, RVM does not even mention Pius V, even though it was this sainted pope who canonized the traditional form of the Rosary in his apostolic letter Consueverunt Romani pontifices, which RVM also neglects to mention. Yet, only 28 years ago, none other than Pope Paul VI quoted at length from Consueverunt, noting that St. Pius V had "authoritatively taught" that the elements of the Rosary are those which RVM now alters for the first time since the supernatural origin of this devotion.
Having made only a veiled reference to the Rosary’s perennial role as a supernaturally bestowed weapon against the Church’s enemies, RVM presents the Rosary according to the postconciliar "ecumenical" requirement that the Catholic Church refrain from preaching anything offensive to non-Catholics: "Today I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer – as I mentioned at the beginning – the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family." World peace and family unity are the only Rosary intentions RVM mentions, even though it calls for a Year of the Rosary in 2003. Now, world peace and family unity are certainly laudable intentions in themselves, but why are Catholics not being asked to pray the Rosary for the welfare of the Holy Catholic Church, the return of the dissidents to Catholic unity (a Rosary intention specifically commended by Leo XIII in Adiutricem) and the salvation of souls during this gravest of spiritual crises? Why is there not even the slightest suggestion that the Rosary should be prayed for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for offenses to God, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima, whose requests RVM consigns to footnote 11 on "private revelations." Is the Church no longer in need of protection? Are there no longer any dissidents who need to return to her; no longer any sinners to be converted; no longer any souls who could be saved through graces won by the Rosary? Is God no longer offended? How is it that the churchmen of the postconciliar epoch no longer speak the language or express the spiritual concerns of the Mother of God at Fatima?
Instead of calling for a revival of the Rosary as a powerful means of bringing about conversion, RVM observes cryptically that: "If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism." What could this possibly mean? Another telling admission is lurking here. According to RVM, the Rosary is "not a hindrance to ecumenism" if—I repeat, if—it is "properly revitalized." Clearly, we are meant to understand that if the Rosary is not "properly revitalized" then it would be a "hindrance" to ecumenism. The only possible inference, if words have meaning, is that that the Rosary devotion as traditionally understood and practiced would, in some unexplained way, be a hindrance to ecumenism. Otherwise, RVM would simply call for a revitalization of the Rosary, rather than this mysterious "proper" revitalization. RVM, then, is designed to inaugurate an ecumenical—and thus a "proper"— revitalization of the Rosary. We shall see shortly how this "revitalization"—which the faithful never asked for—is to be accomplished.
In still another telling statement, RVM informs us that there is a need to "counter a certain crisis of the Rosary, which in the present historical and theological context can risk being wrongly devalued." Only since Vatican II have we heard talk of a "theological context" that is somehow inhospitable to the Rosary. But what, precisely, is this "present theological context"? RVM is clearly not contending that the "present theological context" is some spreading anti-Marian heresy, like that of the ancient Nestorians. The phrase can only refer, then, to the predominant thinking of postconciliar churchmen, who are the faithful executors of Vatican II. In a word, the "present theological context" is ecumenism, whose anti-Marian tendencies are here implicitly acknowledged yet again.
In the "present theological context" the Pope himself appears almost apologetic about the Rosary. As he declares in RVM: "Twenty-four years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: ‘The Rosary is my favourite prayer.’…" Since when has the Vicar of Christ expressed his attachment to the Rosary as a frank admission rather than a basic element of Catholic spiritual life? Since Vatican II, and never before then. One constantly encounters in Vatican statements such as these the tacit recognition of an absolutely unparalleled change in the Church’s orientation. It is as if the Church, like some planetary body, has been shifted off her axis through a catastrophic impact, yet nobody in authority wishes to concede that the climate has deteriorated drastically as a result.
And so, while RVM contains nothing but praise for the Rosary, we find rather skillfully interwoven in this praise a subtle reorientation of the Rosary to bring about its "proper revitalization" in keeping with the "present theological context," so that the Rosary will not be a "hindrance to ecumenism." Only this explains RVM’s systematic omission of every one of the "unecumenical" aspects of the Church’s preconciliar teaching on the Rosary. Even as it praises the Rosary, RVM skews it toward the current Vatican program of an ecumenical and pan-religious brotherhood in place of Catholic social order. For in "the present theological context" the Church now "dialogues" with those she once regarded as heretics and infidels in need of conversion to save their souls from hell. Instead of the Social Kingship of Christ, the Vatican apparatus now pursues an illusory "civilization of love" through such means as the "World Days of Prayer for Peace" at Assisi. It is no mere happenstance that the "prayers for peace" at Assisi have never included the Rosary—even though, oddly enough, RVM declares that "the Rosary by its nature is a prayer for peace." In fact, the Assisi events have not included any mention of the Virgin Mary at all, lest the "representatives" of Protestantism be offended. The "ecumenical" avoidance of that which is too explicitly Catholic is the very reason RVM does not even suggest that the Rosary ought to be prayed for the deliverance of the Catholic Church from her enemies and the conversion of non-Catholics to the one true religion. But those intentions are the very reason the Mother of God bequeathed the Rosary to Her Church as "a most powerful warlike weapon" and "the means of putting the enemy to flight, and of confounding their audacity and mad impiety." (Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus Officio, n. 3) And as Pope Leo declared in Adiutricem:
Now this is the voice of eternal Rome, fearlessly proclaiming to the Protestants and the Orthodox that the Church will plead before Mary for their rebirth in Christ through their return to Catholic unity, and that they must not refuse her invitation if they would be saved. That Pope Leo’s words would be considered intolerable by the current Vatican apparatus tells us all we need to know about the depth of the current crisis in the Church.
It must also be noted that in keeping with its postconciliar reorientation of the Rosary, RVM contains a number of very peculiar characterizations of this devotion—characterizations as unprecedented as the rest of the postconciliar regime of novelty. Thus, for example, RVM informs us that the Rosary "marks the rhythm of human life"; that "anyone who contemplates Christ through the various stages of his (sic) life cannot fail to perceive the truth about man" (emphasis in original); that "it could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man;" and that by contemplating the life of Christ in the Rosary "believers come face to face with the image of the true man." Of what spiritual significance is this anthropocentric view of the Rosary? RVM does not explain. But whatever it means, Catholics never heard any such thing before the current pontificate.
The Scope of the Innovation
This brings me to the particulars of RVM’s innovation of the Rosary. First of all, to anticipate a banal objection, no one disputes that the Pope has the raw power to change the Rosary, as if the Pope’s ability to do so were all that mattered. Nor is there anything theologically objectionable in the proposed new mysteries. Here, however, a problem must be noted: it seems there are six new mysteries, not five, since the fifth new mystery—the mystery of "his (sic) institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery"—actually involves two distinct mysteries presented as one.
On the other hand, perhaps there are only five new mysteries, after all, since the third new mystery—"his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion"—does not appear to be a mystery, strictly speaking, inasmuch as Our Lord’s proclamation of the Faith cannot itself be a mystery of the Faith. Rather, the mysteries of the Faith are found in the content of what is proclaimed in the Gospel—in this case, the mystery of the Kingdom of God, as opposed to the act of proclaiming it. But then, as Romano Amerio has noted, there has been a general loss of classical Thomistic precision in Vatican documents since the Council. Now that lack of precision will find its way into the Rosary. At any rate, "his (sic) proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion" seems an overly broad subject for meditation in the course of a Rosary, as compared with, say, the Scourging at the Pillar or the Assumption. On what, exactly are the faithful expected to focus in contemplating this subject as they pray ten Hail Marys?
Indeed, both the third and fifth "luminous" mysteries are quite wordy, and both express more than one concept, so that they lack a single, concrete focal point for the meditation. The traditional mysteries of the Rosary, on the other hand, can be conveyed to the mind quite vividly with a single painting or drawing, as we see in traditional Rosary books that are used as aids in meditation. I cannot think of any single image, however, that would capture "his (sic) proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion" or "his (sic) institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery." Perhaps these two mysteries were framed with modern, multi-media techniques in mind. Also worthy of mention is how awkward it will be to announce these mysteries during recitation of the Rosary. Picture some nice lady in a local parish declaring: "The fifth luminous mystery is the institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery." One wonders if the architects of the New Rosary actually tried to recite it before they recommended it to the Church.
I next address the claim that RMV’s innovations are "optional" and that traditionalists therefore have no reason to be concerned. Granted, RVM suggests that the new mysteries of the Rosary are "a proposed addition to the traditional pattern" to be "left to the freedom of individuals and communities." But upon reading RVM as a whole, it becomes clear that the nature of this "freedom" is a tolerated departure from what is obviously expected to become the new de facto norm very quickly.
For one thing, RVM does not merely suggest the new mysteries as additional objects of meditation at one’s pleasure. Rather, it "proposes" that the "luminous" mysteries be "inserted" into the traditional Rosary cycle on Thursdays. This is clearly a measure that, once implemented—as it surely will be—will produce a new universal norm (at least de facto) for the practice of the Rosary devotion. Moreover, RVM contains a discussion of "the mysteries" of the Rosary that includes the "luminous mysteries" as if they are now to be considered an integral part of the Rosary.
In any event, as we know too well, in the Novus Ordo options are mandatory whereas traditions are options, if they are not forbidden outright. I am reliably informed that Opus Dei members began meditating on the "luminous mysteries" the very first Thursday after publication of RVM—that is, within 24 hours! No doubt Opus Dei members are already at least de facto forbidden to adhere to the traditional cycle of the mysteries of the Rosary on Thursdays and Saturdays. We can count on the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment to embrace the New Rosary just as it embraced the New Mass, altar girls included. It is a safe assumption that EWTN will be adding the "luminous" mysteries to its televised Rosary straightaway. The neo-Catholic publishing houses will surely not refrain from cranking out new Rosary books with twenty mysteries and new Rosary calendars. With the help of the neo-Catholic establishment, it will not be long before the "freedom" to follow the traditional form of the Rosary will fall into the dreaded category of "integrism." Neo-Catholic spokesmen will solemnly assure their public that only "integrists" insist upon praying the Rosary in the traditional form canonized by Saint Pius V, endorsed by the Mother of God at Fatima, and defended against innovation by that infamous "integrist," Paul VI.
The Devilish Details
As noted, RVM proposes that the new "luminous mysteries" be inserted into traditional Rosary cycle on Thursdays. In order to make room for this "insertion," the traditional Joyful Mysteries will be moved to Saturday—where, in turn, they will displace the traditional Glorious Mysteries, which are now contemplated on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. This shuffling of the traditional cycle is inexplicably justified on the basis that "Saturday has always had a special Marian flavour," even though the result will be that the faithful who adhere to the innovation will no longer contemplate on Saturdays (including First Saturdays) the crowing Marian mysteries of the whole Rosary: the Assumption and the Coronation.
This one change alone will shatter the symphonic progression of the Rosary from Birth to Passion to Resurrection. Consider that the traditional Rosary cycle proceeds as follows :
With this change, the Rosary
cycle would collapse into a jumble of disconnected events as the
liturgical week progresses:
Notice that under the "proposed addition to the traditional pattern" the entire Church is asked to move in prayer from the Resurrection on Wednesday to the public life of Christ on Thursday, skipping over His Birth. Worse, the Church would move in prayer from the Passion on Friday back to the Birth on Saturday, skipping over the Resurrection, and then from the Birth on Saturday to the Resurrection on Sunday, skipping over the Passion. As one very learned priest I know has observed, the effect is rather like some present-day composer inserting a new movement into a Brahms symphony, while rearranging the existing movements to accommodate the new one. Only in this case, the symphony being tampered with was written by the Holy Ghost over centuries of development, based on the staff (150 Rosaries corresponding to the Psalter) provided by the Mother of God.
It is no wonder Paul VI observed that the Rosary is "wisely distributed into three cycles" and that this arrangement "above all reflects the plan of the original proclamation of the Faith and sets forth once more the mystery of Christ in the very way in which it is seen by Saint Paul in the celebrated ‘hymn’ of the Letter to the Philippians—kenosis, death and exaltation (cf. 2:6-11)." Under the proposed new cycle, however, the Scriptural consonance between the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries and the kenosis, death and exaltation of Christ would be ended forever.
Although the neo-Catholic establishment will soon forget this, RVM itself presents this innovation as a matter of free discretion among the faithful. Taking advantage of that freedom, traditionalists are entitled present their objections to the innovation. The overall objection can be stated as a question: Given that even Paul VI would not tamper with the plan of the Rosary, what compelling reason could the present Pope have to do so now? RVM offers no compelling reason at all. Rather, RVM states merely that the Pope "believes" a change is desirable:
Here we see yet another example of the postconciliar process of discovering hitherto unnoticed "defects" in Catholic worship to be "corrected" by an immediate patch job. As with the New Mass, there has been a reversal of the normal process of organic development of ecclesiastical tradition: the gradual emergence of a pious custom among the faithful that ultimately receives approbation by the Magisterium as a universal custom of the Church. In just this way, St. Pius V approved the traditional form of the Rosary that had developed through centuries of popular devotion. Here, on the contrary, a novelty has been created on the spot and introduced from above—the same hugely disruptive procedure employed with the new Mass.
But how is it that neither St. Pius V nor a single one of his successors—including Paul VI only 28 years ago—ever perceived that the Rosary was lacking in "Christological depth" because it had only three cycles of mediations rather than four? And if it has suddenly been discovered that the only way to "bring out fully" the Rosary’s "Christological depth" is to add mediations to "the traditional pattern," then why stop at five? By what calculus has it been determined that five is the number of new mysteries needed to achieve sufficient "Christological depth"? Why not add the Sermon on the Mount, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the cursing of the fig tree, and so forth? The choices for new mysteries are almost endless. And now that the process of Rosary-improvement has been unleashed by Vatican decree, nothing stands in the way of adding any number of new cycles of mysteries to the Rosary, just as innumerable new readings have been added to the Novus Ordo lectionary, rendering impossible the intuitive inculcation of Scriptural lessons that followed from the fixed yearly cycle of readings in the traditional Roman Rite.
RVM further reinforces the notion that the Rosary, like the liturgy, is now to be viewed as an ongoing project subject to continuous "improvements" issued periodically from on high—or even worse, by local bishops—rather than being passed on from generation to generation as something given in the Church’s patrimony:
This passage is full of the same sort of double-talk that was used to justify the "liturgical renewal" of Paul VI.
First of all, how is RVM "respecting the well-established structure of the prayer" by changing it from a triune prayer into a four-part prayer—for the first time since the Rosary’s origin 800 years ago? Even in the time of Saint Dominic the 150 Hail Marys were divided into three groups of 50, accompanied by mediations on three groups of mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious. Around 1500, for the sake of a simpler recitation by the faithful, the 150 separate mediations (one for each bead) began to be supplanted by the fifteen mysteries in use at the time Saint Pius V canonized the Rosary in its traditional form—the same fifteen mysteries mentioned by the Virgin of Fatima. In fact, when Our Lady of Fatima announced the First Saturday devotion to Sister Lucy, the Virgin referred not only to "the fifteen mysteries of Rosary" and to "keeping me company for fifteen minutes," but also to reciting "um Terco"—the Portuguese term for five decades, or one-third of the Rosary. (In Portugal, when one says "Let’s pray the Rosary," one means the whole Rosary of fifteen decades. One says "um Terco"—one-third—to mean only five decades.) What is more, with this innovation the 150 salutations of the Virgin, corresponding to the 150 Psalms of praise to God in the Psalter, will now become 200 salutations, corresponding to nothing. Thus, while professing to respect "the well-established structure of the prayer," RVM actually abolishes it in principle.
According to this passage, the entire history of the Rosary and "the experience of countless saints" pose no impediment to alteration of the very prayer the Mother of God Herself imparted to St. Dominic. Notice how the quoted passage demotes the Rosary to "simply a method of contemplation" that can be "improved," rather than a gift from the heaven itself. At any rate, the Mother of God made no mention of any "improvement" to the Rosary at Fatima, when She urged the three seers to pray the traditional Rosary each day and "um Terco" on the First Saturdays.
RVM claims that this innovation will "help the faithful to understand it [the Rosary] in the richness of its symbolism and in harmony with the demands of daily life." How are faithful helped in their understanding of the Rosary’s symbolism by the addition of five more mysteries whose symbolism they will have to understand? And how could a longer Rosary in four parts be more "in harmony with the demands of daily life" when the day, like the Rosary, is naturally divided into three parts—morning, noon and night. This fact of man’s existence is also recognized by the Angelus, which is recited at dawn, mid-day and at dusk. Ironically enough, in this respect the new anthropocentric rosary takes less account of the nature of man than the traditional one, which coincides far better with "the rhythm of human life" for the many priests, religious and lay people who pray the whole Rosary each day.
In an attempt to provide a compelling rationale for what would otherwise appear to be a totally gratuitous innovation, the quoted passage also claims that unless the Pope adds five new mysteries to the Rosary right away, there is a risk that the Rosary will "fail to produce the intended spiritual effects" and that the beads themselves will reduced to "some kind of amulet or magic object." How can faithful Catholics be anything but insulted by such a flimsy excuse for tampering with an age-old devotion that has produced innumerable miracles and given strength to the greatest of saints? An amulet or magic object? Please! Does the writer of this passage think he is addressing an audience of ignorant bumpkins? Here RVM displays all the earmarks of having been written by some neo-modernist bureaucrat of the Bugnini stripe, who can barely conceal his contempt for what the postconciliar reformers like to call "the simple faithful."
Other Innovations Ignored
If only the five new mysteries were all that was involved in this innovation. But they are only the beginning. The mainstream and neo-Catholic press have ignored at least six other distinct changes in the universal practice of the Rosary that RVM proposes in addition to the five new mysteries. This is not a question of merely making historical reference to certain local customs that have never been adopted widely in the recitation of the Rosary—for example, the "Scriptural Rosary." No one denies that the faithful are free to adopt their own local customs and preferences in praying the Rosary, such as the preference many people develop for the Sorrowful mysteries. In fact, certain religious orders have developed their own variants of the Rosary, such as the Franciscan Rosary (which arose in the early 15th century) with its mediations on the Seven Joys of Mary, employing a Rosary of 70 beads divided into seven groups of ten.
What is worrisome here, however, is that RVM presents seven proposed changes to the recitation of the Rosary (including the new mysteries) as an overall plan for "revitalizing" the Rosary throughout the entire Church, when (a) no such "revitalization" was requested by the faithful, and (b) there has not been the slightest demonstration that the traditional form of the Rosary is in need of "revitalization." This approach is disturbingly reminiscent of the Vatican’s baseless claim, which it maintains to this day, that imposition of the New Mass was necessary to "renew" the liturgy.
First, RVM proposes that henceforth the announcement of each mystery of the Rosary be followed by "proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances."
Second, in certain "solemn communal celebrations" (i.e. public Rosaries in parishes) the long or short Bible reading may "be appropriately illustrated by a brief commentary."
In an eerie evocation of Paul VI’s shockingly condescending statement that his New Mass would draw the faithful out of "their usual torpor"(8)—RVM justifies the addition of Scripture readings and commentaries to the Rosary as follows: "If received in this way, the word of God can become part of the Rosary’s methodology of repetition without giving rise to the ennui derived from the simple recollection of something already well known. It is not a matter of recalling information but of allowing God to speak." In other words, the traditional Rosary gives rise to ennui and thus does not allow "God to speak." Hence, the Rosary must be transformed into a little Bible service, so that God can at long last speak to His people through the Rosary. Shades of Bugnini.
Third, "after announcement of the mystery and proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one’s attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer." That is, there will now be a Bible reading, a Bible commentary, and a moment of silence before even the first Hail Mary is said in each decade.
Fourth, RVM invites the whole Church to adopt the supposed local custom in certain places of emphasizing the name of Jesus in each Hail Mary "by the addition of a clause referring to the mystery being contemplated." What these "clauses" will be is anybody’s guess, but imagine the effect upon the Rosary of cluttering every single Hail Mary with new clauses after the name of Jesus, with a different set of clauses for each of the twenty mysteries of the New Rosary. Is this really necessary?
Fifth, RVM proposes singing all the Glorias in the Rosary whenever it is recited publicly, since "it is important that the Gloria, the high point of contemplation, be given due prominence in the Rosary." Notice how the Hail Mary, and thus the Virgin herself, is suddenly demoted to secondary status in this devotion, when the very purpose of the Rosary is to make petition to Mary for the singular favours God deigns to grant only through her intercession as Mediatrix of all graces.
Sixth, and most ominously, RVM proposes that at the end of each decade of the Rosary there should now be "a prayer for the fruits specific to that particular ministry." RVM suggests that the new "concluding short prayer" for each decade can "take on a legitimate variety of forms" and that "in this way the Rosary can be better adapted to different spiritual traditions and different Christian communities."
So the new concluding prayers will be used to "adapt" the Rosary to "different spiritual traditions" and "different Christian communities" in much the same manner as the New Mass has been "adapted." But what of the Fatima Prayer, which Catholics all over the world still recite at the end of each decade in obedience to the Mother of God? Does the Mother of God’s suggestion not suffice for a "short concluding prayer"? Evidently, Our Lady of Fatima’s wishes do not carry much weight with the current Vatican apparatus, which is careful to suggest, in footnote 11 to RVM, that everyone is free to forget that Our Lady ever came to Fatima in the first place. And as the neo-Catholics will no doubt assure everyone, if the Pope doesn’t say the Fatima Prayer it would be "disloyal" for Catholics to persist in the habit rather than availing themselves of the abundance of "authentic spiritual riches" that will no doubt become available once all the new "short concluding prayers" have been written up. (One wonders how the Church could have deprived itself of these "authentic spiritual riches" during all the centuries the Rosary was recited without newly invented "concluding prayers.")
But who will compose these new concluding prayers—one for each mystery of the new twenty-mystery Rosary? At this point in the postconciliar revolution, we should hardly be surprised that in order to accomplish this task RVM releases another swarm of liturgical locusts to plague the Church:
In other words, the creation of an abundance of "concluding short prayers" for the decades of the Rosary—a project RVM officially inaugurates—will be used to shatter the once-uniform recitation of the Rosary into a thousand "adapted" and "inculturated" local variations. The People of God will now, at long last, be able to find Rosary versions that provide "nourishment for their personal contemplation"—a phrase that is pure Bugnini—since, as the innovators would have it, the traditional form of the Rosary was inadequate for that purpose, just as the traditional form of the Mass was inadequate to local "needs." But, again, who asked for this change? Certainly not the faithful in the pews. In short, with the promulgation of RVM the New Mass meets the New Rosary.
It does not take much imagination to envision how the cumulative effect of these changes would destroy the Rosary as we know it, especially in public recitations. The New Rosary would become a virtual mini-liturgy, a new playground for liturgists and lay ministers of the Rosary. In very little time the New Rosary would be larded over with Bible readings (long or short), commentaries on the readings, moments of silence to digest the mini-sermon, new clauses inserted into every Hail Mary after the name of Jesus, sung Glorias, and innumerable short concluding prayers for different countries, regions and "communities." The sublime rhythm of the Rosary, which induces a quiet reverie on the mysteries through its uninterrupted succession of Hail Marys, would be ruined. As for the new concluding prayers, one can only shudder to think of all the theologically dubious formulations, politically correct causes and sheer banalities that will undoubtedly worm their way into the Holy Rosary by means of this one pestiferous innovation.
Further, with all of these new additions even a five-decade recitation of the Rosary would become a lengthy and laborious affair, rather than a quiet meditation of fifteen minutes or so. The New Rosary could easily produce the same result as the New Mass—a drastic decline in participation. This would only prompt calls for "renewal" of the New Rosary. In fact, with so many proposed additions to what was once a simple prayer, how long will it be before there is a proposal to reduce the number of Hail Marys, just as the Council’s liturgy constitution called for the elimination of "useless repetitions" in the Mass?(9) Then we would have exactly the sort of Rosary that Bugnini unsuccessfully proposed to Paul VI—wouldn’t we?
In reporting the latest innovation of this pontificate The New York Times observed that: "Time and again, Pope John Paul II has boldly gone where other popes had not: a synagogue, a ski slope, distant countries with tiny populations. On Wednesday, he will apparently cross another frontier, making a significant change in the Rosary, a signature method of Catholic prayer for centuries now." The article quotes a "senior Vatican official" to the effect that this change in the Rosary was in keeping with "his [the Pope’s] creativity and his courage."(10)
Creativity? Is it the function of the Pope to be creative or to pass on what has been handed down to him? If "creativity" were a laudable thing in a Pope, then why did the Holy Ghost fail to raise up innumerable other "creative" Popes over the centuries to depart abruptly from the path of their predecessors, changing traditional observances and practices whenever "creativity" suggested that it was time for something new? Why, in fact, are Paul VI and John Paul II the only "creative" Popes in Church history, and why has their "creativity" been accompanied by the worst crisis in liturgy, faith and discipline the Church has ever seen?
Courage? The dictionary defines courage as "The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery." Thus, in order for the Pope to be courageous in changing the rosary, he would have to be facing danger or fear in doing so. And if it is a dangerous or fearful thing to change the Rosary—and it surely is—then the risk involved would have to justified, for those who do dangerous and fearful things without good reason are not courageous, but rash. Thus, for example, it was courageous of Bl. Pius IX, who had narrowly escaped death at the hands of an invading Masonic army, to denounce liberalism in his Syllabus of Errors and suffer the wrath of a world full of enemies. Likewise, it was courageous of Gregory VII to depose Henry IV and decree the removal from office of virtually the whole of a corrupted hierarchy, warning Catholics to have nothing to do with the prelates he had removed. In both cases the Faith had to be protected, no matter what the danger to the person of the Pope.
It is a curious sort of "courage" that tampers with the Rosary while doing nothing to root out the pandemic corruption and heresy afflicting the Church today. The neo-Catholics will say, of course, that the Pope cannot be blamed for the current condition of the Church. In their view, when it comes to governance the Pope cannot be expected to do anything more than delegate responsibility to others—except when it comes to excommunicating traditionalists like Archbishop Lefebvre, in which case the neo-Catholic gallery applauds the Pope for acting personally, quickly and decisively to stamp out any trace of organized opposition to the postconciliar novelties. Thus, in the neo-Catholic view, the duties of papal governance would seem to be limited to (a) introducing innovations, and (b) punishing those who resist them.
With this I return to the consideration with which I began this article: Just whose innovation is this plan to "revitalize" the Rosary? Nominally, of course, it is the Pope’s, since he put his name to RVM. As I said at the outset of this piece, however, it is no longer prudent to presume that what the Pope signs in his condition is free from undue influence or mistake. Even assuming that the Pope is enamoured of the notion of adding new mysteries to the Rosary, I find it impossible to envision a man who can no longer walk, and is barely able to speak, sitting at his desk and writing up a 23-page document proposing at least seven different modifications to the way in which Catholics pray the Rosary. Just as we would not have had the New Mass and the GIRM without Bugnini, so, I suspect, we would not have the New Rosary without the innovators who were undoubtedly involved in drafting RVM. In my view, it was the liturgical heirs of Bugnini who put the text of RVM before a gravely ill John Paul II, obtaining his pro forma approval for that which a healthy Paul VI emphatically rejected, despite Pope Paul’s own liberal tendencies. The ghost of Bugnini has thus returned to haunt the Rosary.
For practical purposes, it is of little moment who engineered the details of RVM. What matters is that the document has been promulgated, and that its promulgation threatens to make a shambles of the largest remaining vestige of ecclesiastical tradition, which even The New York Times recognized as "a signature method of Catholic prayer." This innovation—like all the others which have been imposed over the past 35 years—fails to respect the reality that the sum total of the Catholic praxis which appertains to ecclesiastical tradition has been built up for 2,000 years under the influence of the Holy Ghost. It stands in its integrity like a magnificent edifice of the finest stone, its innumerable courses laid down intricately and beautifully over the centuries, one atop the other, according to the plan of God. This is why St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, observed that "it behooves us unanimously and inviolably to observe the ecclesiastical traditions, whether codified or simply retained by the customary practice of the Church." To attempt to "insert" a new cycle of mysteries into the Rosary is to attempt to insert a new course of stone into the edifice of ecclesiastical tradition. The result would not only disfigure the edifice but compromise its very structure by removing what has already been laid down and replacing it with something that does not quite fit.
Fortunately, for us, the latest innovation is only an attempt, just as the New Mass was only an attempt to abolish the traditional Roman Rite.(11) Even if the New Rosary becomes the de facto norm, as has the New Mass, behind the great façade of postconciliar innovation the original edifice will remain intact. For just as in the case of the New Mass, the New Rosary has not actually abrogated the old.
Perhaps this time, at least, our neo-Catholic brethren will be able to distinguish the façade from the reality. Perhaps this time they will not defend as if it were an article of faith another innovation that, by the grace of God, has not been imposed upon the faithful in any binding way. Perhaps this time the neo-Catholics will not assist the advance of the postconciliar revolution by insisting that everyone abandon traditional practice and adopt yet another pointless novelty, while condemning their traditionalist brethren from not doing what they were never obliged to do in the first place.
We shall see. But in the meantime, traditionalists will continue to pray the traditional triune Rosary in its traditional three parts, meditating on the vivid realities of the Sorrow, the Joy and the Passion in the life of Our Lord, just as Our Lady of Fatima requested. And they will pray the Rosary especially for our Pope, mindful of the warning Our Lord Himself imparted to Sister Lucy concerning the Message of Fatima, so shamefully spurned by the authors of RVM: "Make it known to My ministers, that given they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My request, they will follow him into misfortune."
It is terrible misfortune, not "renewal," that threatens to become the legacy of this pontificate. We must pray the Rosary for the intention that it not end this way. We must pray that a fading Pope who suffers under the burden of his own prudential judgments and those of his predecessor will, like the once-liberal Blessed Pius IX, repudiate his own liberal notions, reverse course and begin to restore Holy Church to her glory and power and majesty. Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, intercede for us!
(1) Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy (Collegeville, N: Liturgical Press, 1990), p. 876.
(3) Ibid. p. 877.
(4) Cf. "In Defense Of A Tradition," Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P., The Rosary Light & Life - Vol 49, No 5, Sep-Oct 1996.
(5) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Chap. 3, § 7 (citing the teaching of numerous Popes, including Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII).
(6) AP report, October 14, 2002.
(7) AP report, October 18, 2002.
(8) Audience address of November 26, 1969.
(9) Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 34.
(10) "Pope is Adding New Mysteries to the Rosary," Frank Bruni, The New York Times, October 14, 2002.
(11) Here, too, Bugnini was rebuffed by higher authority. When he attempted to obtain a decree that celebration of the old Mass had been prohibited de jure, he was informed by the Vatican Secretariat of State that such a decree would be seen as "casting odium on the liturgical tradition." La Riforma Liturgica, p. 298.