How would the TLM have "evolved" if the NO hadn't come first?

Please no TLM or NO bashing!

But a question that I’ve always pondered is with all the disruption / chaos in the world in the 1960’s that have nothing to do with the Church, how would these have affected the Mass and therefore the Church - or would they - if the NO hadn’t been instituted? What “type” of Mass would be celebrating?

As a scientist, the fact that there is not a control group in the “experiement” and therefore, we don’t get to know what would’ve happened had the Mass been kept the same drives me crazy. We have no way of knowing if changing the Mass or just the world in general has brought us to where we currently are (whether you consider the current good or bad is almost irrelevant in the point I’m trying to make).

It always bothers me when I hear all that is wrong with the Church is a direct result of the change in the Mass. My own biases make me think at least some part of it has to do with the world that existed during that time frame (and no doubt, the Mass changes are also a direct result of that time period also).

I hope my musings are making sense. When I teach the scientific method I always talk about how science is different because we get to test our hypothesis. On the other hand, in history, we just get to talk around our points - ie. I never get to “prove” the South could’ve won the civil war if they just had more industry and railroads.


There are indeed, as you say, always other factors in everything.

Firstly, if we were to follow Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican 2 document on the liturgy, and onlyimplement the changes that are mentioned, we would surely not end with the Novus Ordo Mass. In my opinion, the Novus Ordo is not faithful to the Council.

The main things that were envisaged were 2 readings, bidding prayers, and the possibility of having some parts of the mass in the vernacular. Do that, and you have the Mass that should have been after the council.

I am not saying that the NO is the source of all problems, or that the restoration of the TLM would solve them all. But there is no doubt in my mind that one of the main sources of problems in the church today is the liturgy. But this may be nearly impossible to prove to a supporter of the Novus Ordo.

But some facts which are interesting to consider:

  1. Graphs depicting baptisms, confirmations, church marriages, conversions, ordinations etc. show a pretty direct increase followed by decrease around the mid 1960s.

  2. The most Conservative Dioceses in the US have by quite a long way the greatest number of ordinations per Catholic.

  3. Similarly here in the UK, the Diocese which are the most progressive and have the most ‘liberal’ liturgies, have the least vocations.

  4. Perhaps it’s because young men like Harry Potter, but traditional seminaries (such as the FSSP and indeed the SSPX) have no problem filling spaces. Like it or not, tradition amuses the young.

Who’s to say? Maybe, just maybe, there is a connection between tradition and a flourishing faith?

It’s because human beings are creatures of sense.

Give them a barren auditorium with a butcher block table, a bare stand, microphones everywhere, no art…

…they will be depressed and unimpressed.

Give them Gothic or Romanesque splendor…and they will feel heaven on earth.

Off topic, of course, but I think you could make a case for the proposition that the Civil War was “won” for the union by Gen. Nathaniel Lyons alone. Mo was the second most industrialized Southern state, the largest food producer and had the greatest natural resources. If he had not preempted hostilities and captured Camp Jackson, it sure could have been different. Had Claiborne Jackson and Sterling Price had time to really organize Mo, the union would have been in desperate trouble. Illinois would have been caught between a powerful Southern state and Indiana’s copperheads, and the union would likely have been rolled up to Ohio, if not Pennsylvania.

Now, on topic. I don’t think anyone could say with any degree of certitude that the TLM would have “evolved” significantly in the English speaking world or Continental Europe, had it not been for VII. The Third World liturgies, to my understanding, were already different, though, to some degree. After all, the furors of the 1960s in the secular world have largely died down; many of the “dreams” of “reformers” were shown to be myths. What we have now in the secular world is a basically even division between those who totally reject the leftism of the
1960s and those who still live with the ideological remnants of the “dream”, but who live much as do those who reject it.

You cannot prove it scientifically, but I think there is a fair chance there might have been an outright schism years ago between “traditionalists” and “progressives”, which the Novus Ordo might have avoided, albeit very imperfectly. When you get right down to it, many Catholics today are in de facto schism without being in de jure schism. It has seemed to me that the abuses within the Church following VII was an outgrowth of the time of rebellion in which it occurred, and that the “liberal” model will not outlast the “Pepsi Generation”, either in western society or in the Church.

Interestingly, those who bore the “burden” for decades were the traditionally minded, yet remained faithful to the Church, by and large, though they strongly disliked the “innovations” of the Post VII era. Now, it is increasingly the “burden” of the innovators to see those innovations become old hat; having run aground for lack of ever “new” ideas. Younger priests and nuns, for example, are considerably more traditional than older ones. “The Spirit of VII” is running out of breath.

So, in a sense, you do have your “control” group, if you think of traditionalists in terms of a single, but 2-3 generation group. You have those of my age who remember the TLM. You have my children, who did not grow up with it, but who have seen it in films, have heard their parents talk about it and, here and there, have actually seen it. My children have very young children of their own, who marvel at the TLM and (like their parents and grandparents) want, very much, to have it available to them. So the memory and the retelling and occasional seeing make, not for a perfect “control” group, but it’s as near as we come in human society to such things.

Now, if you think of families like mine as a “control” group, the next question is “what would we do or want to make the TLM different from what it was”? In talking to my own children, I would say that the control group would not likely have changed very much in the TLM, but I do think it entirely possible that vernacular portions would have been enhanced. The TLM epistle was in Latin, you know, and it virtually begged to be in the vernacular even before VII. However, I think those vernacular portions would likely have been more ornate, literate and poetic linguistically than those vernacular adaptations of the Novus Ordo we have seen. More Douay, if you will, and less “New York Times”.

I don’t know if architecture tells a person anything about liturgy; in other words, how one has adapted might reflect how the other would have adapted. But if a person looks at “neotraditional” architecture, it is not the gingerbread-y, very Gothic architecture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. I am not an expert on architecture, but “neotraditional” architecture looks more Latinate to me than the earlier stuff. Also, to me, more attractive. I, for one, greatly prefer, say Adam Stroick and Henry Menzies works than some of the older decor. The “neotrad” architecture is also much warmer, less aloof, better illuminated, more colorful. That’s how I picture a difference in the TLM had the Novus Ordo never happened. Same thing, basically, very respectful of traditional forms, but warmer, less heavy, less “Teutonic”, more “Latin”.

That’s as good as I can do for you, old buddy. Having said all this, I will say that I don’t hate the Novus Ordo if it is done respectfully and with dignity. I suspect, without really knowing, that we’re not too far away from coming 'round the circle to the same point, but from a direction different from that which would have been the case had the N.O. never happened.

Well, there were already some changes with the 1965 and 1967 Missals, which eliminated the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Last Gospel, allowed “versus populum”, the audible English Canon etc. This is the Mass of my first memories and of my first Holy Communion. From my recollection, these years still had many of the trappings of the TLM of 1962 or earlier Missals. The translations were literal from the Latin.

I’ve often wondered the same thing you have. My theory is that if Pope Paul VI had not issued a novus or “new” Ordo Missae all at once in 1969/70 that there would have a series of Missals every few years making some changes, and over time we would still be close to where we are today. But this would not have had the dramatic effect as all of the changes we saw at once. I remember in Catholic grade school being taught the new responses to the “Mysterium Fidei” after it was pulled out of the consecration. Don’t remember what year, but it was a one change event.

If changes were introduced gradually, then there may not have been the “discontinuity of rupture” that seems to have occurred and our Holy Father talked about last December. Perhaps some of traditions that have gone by the wayside would still be left in the Catholic culture of the majority of parishes. Would gradual missal changes have led to altar girls, communion in the hand, EMHCs, communion standing? Very interesting questions.

Remember though, that there are two issues here, not only the Novus Ordo Missal, but the English translation of the Novus Ordo Missal. Even though I am not a Novus Ordo fan, when for example, the Pope says the Latin Novus Ordo Midnight Mass for Christmas, it really is very beautiful. Especially if he uses the Roman Canon, a lot (of course not all) parts of the Mass can be generally followed using a 1962 Missal. I could see the argument that in this case that the Novus Ordo is really a streamined, simplified version of the Traditional Latin Mass.

But, when you overlay the “non-literal” translations that were imposed on the English speaking world in 1970 by ICEL, then many of the theological underpinnings of the Catholic faith were diluted. Case in point is the recent decision by the Holy Father to return “for many” instead of “for all” in all future translations. Of course with Liturgicam Authenticam (LA) and the Vox Clara Commission during the last five years, there has been a direction to return the English translation almost back to the 1965 version.

Under pressure from Rome, the US bishops approved the new translations this past summer, but seem to be holding off recommending implementation until the whole Roman Missal is translated which could be several years away. I suppose they are hoping anything could happen by then to derail the project.

Whether the new translations will lead to a more reverent liturgy remains to be seen I guess. If one uses a higher plane of sacred liturgical language than ordinary conversation, then will the some of the silliness now rampant in the Novus Ordo finally appear inappropriate?

Let me say one more thing. I hope with everything in me that someday the “Kyrie” in Greek is restored along with at least some Latin in the prayers that are always the same. I watched, fascinated, when then Cdl Ratzinger and the various Greek Catholic bishops (And, I think, some Orthodox too) said it at JPII’s funeral Mass.

I might be one of those people who think history and heritage are more important than perhaps they really are. But even as a child, the Kyrie reminded me of the initial spread of Christianity through the Greek world, and of the kinship (however mightily that bond gets strained in some of these threads) we do have with the Eastern churches. The Latin, of course, was significant to me, even as a child, for the conversion of the Roman world; the blood of the martyrs and the triumph of Christianity over paganism, and I knew, even then, that it was a “uniter” of all Catholics, everywhere. I think heritage matters, and I do think it reverberates with the young. Thinking of that put me, even then, to mind of the “communion of saints”. I used to think about it a lot then, and I think it matters that people do so, even now.

I beg to differ. I think this is more of a Western phenomenon. In my mom’s home country, the Philippines, there are many ordinations. It’s so ordinairy for one’s son to become a priest. In fact, I have 7 cousins that are priests or seminarians . Over there, Catholocism is very charismatic, generally speaking. It’s what you might call “liberal” But I don’t think that’s the right word for it becuase in theology it’s very conservative, for the most part. Mass attendance remains among the highest in the world. I don’t think it has so much to do with the mass style, but more to do with the theology that is being taught there. Some people seem to think that a parish that has contemporary style has liberal theology.

While reading this thread, a question came to mind. Could the triditine mass be celebrated in the vernacular or english? It seems to me that if the Novus ordo can be said in latin, could not the triditine be celebrated in English. This brings to mind, is it the latin language itself or the words spoken and the intention of the priest that transforms the bread and wine? Just a thought.

It is NOT Latin or any particular language that transforms the bread and wine.

I completely agree, so why do some people who make all the fuss over the latin, and I have heard them say it, that transubstantiation doenst occur with the novus ordo. The latin tridetine mass wasnt the first Mass promulgated. If the last supper was the first mass ever celebrated, the first mass was probably aramaic. Not trying to stir the pot, I just dont get people hung up on the latin. Now getting back to the original question, could some more participation of the laity be worked in to that Mass if it was in English? Maybe thats one way it could have evolved.

I don’t know about what happens in the Philippines, but in the West, as a pretty good general rule, conservative = more vocations. liberal = less vocations.

  1. Masses said in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, as well as the vernacular, are perfectly valid consecrations.

  2. Those who say otherwise are extremists (not normal traditionalists) and have other reasons apart from language for saying the NO is in alid,

  3. Yes the TLM could be said in English.

  4. Personally, and I’m sure I speak for most traditionalists, would much much much rather have the Traditional Mass in English than the Novus Ordo in Latin.

  5. It is not that people get ‘hung up’ about the Latin so much. We get ‘hung up’ about the loss of tradition, beauty and reverence in the liturgy.

  6. Also, this whole modern idea of ‘active participation’ is complete nonsense. If you wish to participate in the TLM, you ccan quite easily. (If people in the 1940s and 50s didn’t choose to, that really isn’t relevant.) Uniting your intentions with the sacrifice and the priest in prayer is far for more profound and fulfilling than anything you can physically do. This is surely the true meaning of ‘active participation’.

  7. Having the mass in your own language is in no way necessary for this.

I agree with all the points you made. One more point and ill end this because it may be getting off the original question. I feel and I have experienced it, when the N.O. is celebrated correctly, it can be reverent, beautiful and very moving. But you made an interesting point. Why did we have to have a new mass anyway? Couldnt they just have translated the TLM into English and let that be it.

Well the problem is, you’re equating a contemporary liturgy with liberal theology. Sure it happens, but that’s not always the case. The Philippines is VERY conservative, yet a lot of the liturgy is more contemporary. The point I was trying to make is the number of vocations has less to do w/ the liturgical style and more to do with the theology that is being taught there.

Well, the TLM was modified by a few missals up until the Novus Ordo came into being. There seemed to be no problem in that. I do not know if the resistance in Econe was even anti - 1965 Missal but I am guessing they weren’t.

I would say you could get to the 1965 Missal but never past what happened after that as far as true organic modification of the Rite.

I guess the 1965 Missal with the Dialogue Mass as the norm being the end of the “evolutionary scale” of the TLM. Most likely there would never had been a resistance and a return to the 1962 Missal if the N.O. Mass was not imposed as it was back in 1970.


I am in the process of converting to Catholicism. I was, until just a few months ago, an ordained Presbyterian Elder in a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) that is one of the top 25 in terms of the size of its congregation. I have been a Protestant for 46 years! I spent at least 2 years in careful study of the Catholic faith before I even started RCIA. I am certainly no expert, but this is the perspective I come from. I enjoy the Tridentine Mass and the Church I now attend has a Tridentine Mass every Sunday evening and is a very orthordox Catholic Church.

Having said this and fully realizing I may just be dismissed as a novice and too new to know anthing, I’ll jump in anyway. I could nitpick the Novus Ordo hear and there, but I am a supporter of the Novus Ordo in general. (But, I do hope Pope Benedict issues the indult allowing more Tridentine Masses.) I understand the nostalgia and the powerful prayers and theology of the Tridentine Mass, but the ills of the Church were NOT issued in by the Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo is faithful to the historic Catholic faith.

I think the problem is not the Novus Ordo, but that a few Churches don’t even follow the GIRM or the requirements of the USCCB on doing it properly. The real problem is not in the “new” liturgy properly done in accordance with the GIRM. The problem is the bad theology of some that has crept in in spite of the “new” liturgy. To blame the Novus Ordo for all the difficulties the Church has faced since the 60’s simply ignores all that has happened in Western culture in general.

We really can’t go back to an all Latin Mass. Having the priest face the congregation is not theologically incorrect. The “participation” envisioned by Vatican II and permitted in the Novus Ordo and specified in the GIRM is simply not the problem.

I will say that I enjoy being in a Church were this is a “problem.” Compared to the PROBLEMS in Protestantism, all this seems rather tame. I don’t by any means wish to belittle these issues. After all, most big problems started out as little ones, but I just don’t think the arguments against the Novus Ordo prevail at the end of the day. By all means, let priiests offer Tridentine Masses, but keep the Novus Ordo --tweak it here and there, but keep it.

Quite the opposite, there are several problems with the Novus Ordo that you most likely cannot see yet I can, so can many others and so can the present Pope. An example here is the direction the priest faces when offering the Holy Sacrifice. This is a posture that teaches something-

He is facing the direction of Christ’s return- East - WITH US ALL. He is leading us to Jesus. In the Gospel he faces “North” toward the “pagans”

When addressing the people he turns to face them (however he never looks directly at them, his eyes are directed to the floor [as instructed in the 1962 Missal]) With the exception of at the offertory where all attention is on the altar)

The “participation” “envisioned by Vatican II” cannot be the Vernacular Novus Ordo we have today. Vatican II said the people should be taught TO RESPOND IN LATIN to the ordinary parts that pertain to them. It also stated Gregorian Chant was to remain part of the Mass. And note particularly where Vatican II stated that the language of the Mass was to remain LATIN!

    1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (Sacrosanctum Concillium - Vatican II)

There is also the issue of the Catholic Doctrines taught in the TLM of the difference between a priest and a lay person. In the TLM the priest does much seperate from the people- such as praying a seperate confiteor and other prayers prayed by the people such as the Gloria, Credo, Agnus Dei- the priest prays those parts inaudibly which the people sing them in a sung Mass. At the Reformation the “reformers” had the people and minister recite the confiteor together to show the priest was no different than the lay person. They brought back communion in the hand to show that the bread remains bread and again the Catholic Ministerial Priesthood does not exist.

They removed the offertory prayers, the Novus Ordo does the same- changing the offertory to what resembles a Jewish blessing before meals.

They allowed communion under both kinds- in the TLM Communion under one kind teaches a Catholic Doctrine- that a lay person receives the entire Jesus under what appears to be bread.

There is much more, I only wish I had the time to write it all down.

As a convert from Protestantism again you may not see many problems- but myself, raised as a Catholic and learned in how to defend the faith against Protestants- I can see aspects of the Novus Ordo that are indeed “Protestant”. This does not make the Novus Ordo Mass invalid however… just problematic-

Again there is much you do not know.


The Novus Ordo is “Valid”. I will give it that much, so with the SSPX and the FSSP and most 99 percent of “traditionalists”… However…

"The accompanying critical study of the Novus Ordo Missae, the work of a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls, shows quite clearly in spite of its brevity that if we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any; heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.

If the changes of V2 had not taken place, the TLM would still be the only Mass we have, but that is not the case since V2.
we have both Masses, the TLM and the NO. you say no TLM
but your question is in regards to the TLM. We had no other Mass that we celebrated before V2, so how can you state, no TLM? okay let me put it this way, the TLM would not have evolved at all, it hasn’t. it is the same as it always has been, and why would it evolve? Its the Mass of all time, why would it
need to evolve?

If the changes of V2 had not taken place, the TLM would still be the only Mass we have, but that is not the case since V2.
we have both Masses, the TLM and the NO. you say no TLM
but your question is in regards to the TLM. We had no other Mass that we celebrated before V2, so how can you state, no TLM?

The OP wishes that there be no bashing of the TLM or the NOM in this thread. All the OP sought was speculation on how people would think how the TLM would have evolved if the Novus Ordo Missae was not imposed.

However… as is the case today…this always leads to that sort of thing.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit