The Ottaviani Intervention- Its Content, Significance, Origins, etc.


I am interested in others thoughts concerning The Ottaviani Intervention. After discovering this study, I was quite astonished by its value as a historical document. Since it was not widely available in the U.S. for years, it may be new for some and this should be a good forum for them to gain an understanding about this document. Discuss and comment the content, significance, origins, influence, Vatican reaction, and anything else that would seem pertinent regarding The Ottaviani Intervention.
Thank you.


Nice try with the focus on “historical value” to avoid the NOM v. TLM debate–we’ll see if it keeps people focused :wink:

Anyway, it is best to remember that it came before the final draft of the missal and certian changes were made as a result of it :thumbsup: . After the final form was promulgated, Cardinal Ottaviani had this to say:

“I have rejoiced profoundly to read the Discourse by the Holy Father on the question of the new Ordo Missae, and especially the doctrinal precisions contained in his discourses at the public Audiences of November 19 and 26, after which I believe, no can any longer be genuinely scandalized. As for the rest, a prudent and intelligent catechesis must be undertaken to solve some legitimate perplexities which the text is capable of arousing. In this sense I wish your ‘Doctrinal Note’ [on the Pauline Rite Mass] and the activity of the Militia Sanctae Mariae wide diffusion and success.” (Whitehead, 129, Letter from his eminence Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani to Dom Gerard Lafond, O.S.B., in Documentation Catholique, #67, 1970, pages 215-216 and 343)

“The Beauty of the Church is equally resplendent in the variety of the liturgical rites which enrich her divine cult-when they are legitimate and conform to the faith. Precisely the legitimacy of their origin protects and guards them against infiltration of errors. . . .The purity and unity of faith is in this manner also upheld by the supreme magisterium of the Pope through the liturgical laws.”(In Cruzado Espanol, May 25, 1970)


Wouldn’t mind, but I think it might stray into the banned topic area?


So let’s focus on the past. The first footnote to OI:

  1. “The prayers of Our Canon are found in the treatise “De Sacramentis” (4th, 5th centuries)…Our Mass goes back without essential changes to the epoch in which it developed for the first time from the most ancient common liturgy. It still preserves the fragrance of that primitive liturgy, in times when Caesar governed the world and hoped to extinguish the Christian faith’ times when our forefathers would gather together before dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as their God…There is not in all Christendom a rite so venerable as that of the Roman Missal.” (Rev. Adrian Fortescue). “The Roman Canon, such as it is today, goes back to St. Gregory the Great. Neither in East nor West is there any Eucharistic prayer remaining in use today that can boast such antiquity. For the Roman Church to throw it overboard would be tantamount, in the eyes not only of the Orthodox, but also of the Anglicans and even Protestants having still to some extent a sense of tradition, to a denial of all claim any more to be the true Catholic Church.” (Rev. Louis Bouyer)

The “proof” of this claim lies in the fact many of these Protestants actually pleaded with the Pope to preserve the Missale Romanum and, in fact, it was Agatha Christie’s name appearing on one of the petitions that finally persuaded Pope Paul VI to grant the indult to keep the Old Rite.


It is better to remember this was an alleged retraction only.

A purported letter of February 17, 1970, supposedly with the Cardinal’s signature, was adduced to prove the story. However, by that date it is known that the Cardinal, then 80, was totally blind and would not have known what he was signing when presented with the purposed letter by his secretary, Msgr. Gilberto Agustoni.


With respect to your reference, their has been considerable questions concerning its authenticity.
Consider this:

In February 1970 a French clergyman, Dom Gerard Lafond, published a defense of the New Order of Mass entitled Note Doctrinale sur le nouvel Ordo Missae. Among other things, the Note claimed that Cardinal Ottaviani had been the author of certain passages in the New Order of Mass, that these passages were the same ones attacked in the Critical Study, that the cardinal had not approved the Critical Study, and that it is probable that its contents were withheld from him. No proof was given to substantiate these allegations. (Davies, 487–8.)

The following month Dom Lafond published the facsimile of a letter Cardinal Ottaviani was alleged to have written to him on 17 February 1970. In this letter the Cardinal is said to have stated that: (1) he examined the Note Doctrinale, (2) he not only approved of it but congratulates Dom Lafond on the dignity of its expression, (3) he did not authorize the publication of his letter to Paul VI, and (4) his hesitations over the Novus Ordo have been put to rest by the discourses Paul VI gave on 19 and 26 November.(For the full text, see Davies, 495–6)

We have spoken of the 17 February letter as something Cardinal Ottaviani is “alleged” to have written. Is there any reason to suspect the letter’s authenticity?

** First**, ***it seems somewhat strange that the Cardinal would have approved of the Note Doctrinale. The work, after all, contained statements which in effect were calumnies against him.***:shrug: (Davies, 489)

Second, the 17 February letter leaves the impression that the Intervention had been published without the Cardinal’s authorization. This too seems somewhat strange—for on two separate occasions (in October 1969 and again after the 17 February letter was published) the Cardinal did in fact personally authorize two different individuals to publish the Intervention.(See Jean Madiran’s comments, Davies, 491.)

Third, in his book on Ottaviani’s diaries, Emilio Cavaterra says nothing about the 17 February letter. Had the letter been authentic, it would have provided Cavaterra, who sought to explain away the cardinal’s hesitations about the New Mass, with an ideal opportunity to show that Ottaviani’s worries had been put to rest.

Cavaterra, moreover, quotes from his interview with Msgr. Gilberto Agustoni, the cardinal’s secretary, who likewise tried to distance Ottaviani from the Intervention. ***Msgr. Agustoni, too, is silent about the letter, which, had it been authentic, would have supported the monsignor’s contention that the cardinal always maintained “a positive attitude.***” towards the liturgical reform.(Agustoni’s comments are quoted in Cavaterra, 118.)

Fourth, there is the matter of Msgr. Agustoni himself. He himself had signed the Note Doctrinale. It would have been in his interest to secure the Cardinal’s approval as well. A number of traditionalist writers pointed this out in 1970, and noted that, since Cardinal Ottaviani was blind by this time, it would have been child’s play for Msgr. Agustoni to have tricked the Cardinal into signing the 17 February letter.

(Preface to Fr. Cekada’s new translation of the Intervention, Tan Books, 1992.)


Intrigue, trickery, factions, and forged documents in the Vatican? So what else is new?


You forgot JPI. :wink:


Consider this. Everytime someone comes across a stumbling block, miraculously there is some conspiracy theory that comes up. Cardinal Ottaviani is old, blind and duped and Sr. Lucia was being coerced. Please. Cardinal Ottaviani would have been warned by someone that this letter came to light if it was false and no doubt he would have taken steps to correct the situation. How stupid would someone be to try and pass this off while he was still living and hope to get away with it.:hypno:


Please try and address the four points and discuss.We would like to stay on topic instead of purposely being led astray by some, in order to have the thread closed. I would greatly like to hear your comments, as I am sure you are Christian, and in that way you can be productive to this thread and allow others to see your views. Thank you for your response and consideration.:slight_smile:


Just some thoughts:

Ultimate Purpose: What did the Roman liturgy do until the 13th century when these prayers were introduced (and even then the Preface of the Trinity not said on ordinary Sundays- something retained in the missal of 1570 until the 19th century) Can it not be that, though lamentably these prayer shaving been suppressed, the Ultimate Purpose is also admirably seen in other prayers e.g. Per ipsum et cum ipso that convey the ultimate purpose?

Ordinary: Where are people bound to receive sacramentally today?

Immanent: Of course, you won’t find the sacrifice mentioned at the Offertory because it is no longer an Offertory. They didn’t want to use proleptic expressions. The oblations for them occur solely in the Eucharistic Prayers themselves. That is just the thing: it is no longer “the offering of the host to be immolated” since according to certain reasoning that should only occur during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is more like a solemn deposition of gifts.

And what of the causes “not a single word is said”? Number 55 (f) says that the Church offers the spotless Victim to the Father and (g) says that the Offering is made for the church and all its members living and dead called to share in the salvation purchased by Christ’s Body and Blood.

Role of the Real Presence:
Real and permanent presence never alluded to? The writer must be joking. It is clearly there in article 55d, both the 1969 and in 1970. Then 55 © and no. 48 (also pre and post revision) which very clearly says that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Sol the word transubstantiation is not used. What does “under the appearances of bread and wine, he gave to his Apostles his Body and Blood” (IGMR, 1969) mean?

As regard Veni Sanctificator, do not the Epiclesis of the new Eucharistic Prayers also invoke the Holy Spirit in order “to accomplish the miracle of the Divine Presence again”?

As regards reverential gestures, a very good point is made in terms of number of genuflection and about the sacredness of the altar. As to the fingers joined, lamentable, but the GIRM does note that the fingers are cleansed over the paten. The purification of sacred vessels is only done immediately according to the tradition of the Roman Rite. In certain other liturgies and Uses, the vessels were covered and purified after Mass by the priest and subdeacon. Gliding is required.

Where is it instructed in the rubrics of the Traditional missal that the priest must kneel when making a thanksgiving ? And it is not even mandated in the GIRM that the people must sit.

The dogma of the real Presence is quite adequately seen:
(a) In the numerous references of the GIRM
(b) In the Eucharistic Prayers
© In the private prayers before communion
(d) In the genuflections (even if reduced)
(e) In the private prayers before communion
(f) In the verse before communion and the response “Ecce Agnus Dei”…”Domine non sum dignus”

The altar:
Nearly always called table? 5 times in the entire IGMR in which in the first chapter alone “altar” is used 13 times hardly amounts to “almost always”. Plus included in those 5 times, one is in reference to receiving communion from “the table fo the Lord”, and the other two also include altar like this “At the altar the sacrifice of the cross is made present under sacramental signs. It is also the table of the Lord and the people of God are called together to share in it. “

As for the instructions recommending that the faithful receive communion (I highlight the word recommend) surely the author is familiar with the passage in Mediator Dei where Pope Pius XII speaks of this custom with favour, while still upholding as perfectly licit and valid and grace filled preconsecrated hosts, and also quotes Benedict XIV on it? See number 118 and number 121.


The formula for consecration

If one does use the Scriptural (and still the Words in the NO do not correspond exactly for the Consecration of the Chalice: the word aeterni is not in Scripture) that is grounds that they are not intending those words to be a sacramental one?

There are a number of other liturgies that also use “Hoc facite……”. The Coptic liturgies, some of the Syriac ones, and some liturgies not in use today. To cite a Western liturgy, the Mozarabic. Does the author mean to say that in all these “‘commemoration’ takes the place of the idea of sacramental action”? Fine if the author wants to argue a “don’t fix what’s not broken” and it is not the tradition of the Roman rite. But the indictment of the words?

Regarding narration [To note: In the 1970 IGMR: it reads: “narratio institutionis et consecratio”] Who bows when narrating something, and then elevates and genuflects in the middle of his “narration”?

And the anamesis does call to mind: IIRC, the relevant part in the Roman Canon begins “Unde et memores”

As regards the much vaunted Memorial Acclmations they are borrowed from other liturgies. They may not be in the tradition of Rome there is ZERO problem with the orthodoxy. In the Coptic, Syriac, Syro-Malankara, the Mozarabic etc, liturgies these words occur in the same place.

Chapter 5:
Regarding the special role of the priest, and the supposedly indispensable role of the congregation according to the author, IGMR (1969), I, 4:The presence and active participation of the people bring out more plainly the ecclesial nature of the celebration. But even when their participation is not possible, the Eucharistic celebration still retains its effectiveness and worth because it is the action of Christ and the Church, in which the priest always acts on behalf of the people’s salvation.

The priest as a mediator. How is that shown in the Traditional Confiteor? If it’s by saying Misereatur vestri doesn’t that make the server/minister responding to the priest’s confession a mediator also? If it’s by saying Indulgentiam alone, the new Confiteor has him saying Misereatur alone.

As for the priest uniting the people vs. the people uniting to Christ a little reading of Mediator Dei solves that.

The chasuble may only be omitted in extraordinary cases.

The phrase “through Christ our Lord” is only omitted (and that too, may be omitted, at the option of the priest) in the Canon. It occurs elsewhere. And moreover, all the petitions of the Canon are included in the final “Through Christ our Lord” which is not optional as in the Doxology.

The omission of the angels: in the first place, I fail to see how not mentioning the angels and saints by name demotes them- firstly because many Confiteors used the West don’t have them named except for the BVM. If anything, a weak argument could even be made that the new Confiteor distinguishes between the Blessed Virgin and the saints.

No preface in the Traditional Missal mentions all 9 in the hierarchy of angels. The number ranges from 2 to 5. Moreover the preface of EP II is often subsitiuted by a Proper Preface, and in any case it mentions “with all the choirs of angels”.

I cannot also see, despite its lamentable omission, how the absence of the names of Ss. Peter and Paul compromises the unity of the Church. Especially since in all the Eucharistic Prayers there is a petition for the Pope and for the local bishop which is emblematic of the unity.In addition, outside the Canon Ss. Peter and Paul are not invoked in the other Western liturgies (e.g. Confiteor Deo, Suscipe Sancta Trinitatis) and surely that did not show their lack of unity with the Pope?

And in the Order for Mass without a server and only the priest, I think the priest still says “The Lord be with you……lift up your hearts……let us give thanks……” at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer.

Unleavened bread is required in the IGMR.

As for the “concelebration mania” not in the least. In the first place because concelebration was present in the Church long before that, in the second because it is present at the Traditional ordination. Insofar as all the priests stand in persona Christi they are one. Or is it that each priest must have an individual altar for it not to overshadow Christ as sole Priest and Victim? The author quoted Pius XII in the Assisi address so why does he seem to be unaware of the Pope’s words on concelebration there?

However Chapter 7 does give a really good point. While it can be desirable to return to various principles and practices including those of the East, the Roman liturgy has it’s own beautiful expressions which ought to be preserved.

As to Cardinal Ottaviani writing IMHO, some aspects of the Intervention and that footnote about red vestments are incompatible given his familairty with Papal and Ambrosian liturgies and his participation in conferences of the ltirugical Movement (like Lugano)


Interesting. Why is it that you only quoted me then? It seems that you might as well have quoted yourself since you, the OP, veered. If you don’t want to get an “off topic” response than don’t post anything off topic.

That said, it is quite pertinent that after Cardinal Ottaviani wrote the letter that he later wrote another letter which pretty much answered your original question of content, significance, etc. Now what doesn’t seem pertinent to the conversation is the conspiracy theories. They’re hardly seem Christian. And btw, it would be your assumption that my aim is to have the thread closed. Mind reading is not your talent.


Discuss and comment the content, significance, origins, influence, Vatican reaction, and anything else that would seem pertinent regarding The Ottaviani Intervention.
Thank you.

I hope you can add some more of your details with references, it would be much appreciated.:slight_smile:

You are correct, Mind reading is not my talent. But, you seem confused about the thread, please see post#1. Thank you again for your response.:slight_smile:


I might be confused because of posts 2,5, 7 and 8. One of which you made but you only chose to address mine. If you’re going to make a post like #6, I have to respond and will. If I’m off topic, then your post would have to be too.


A good friend of mine just finished her thesis on anti-Catholicism in New York in the 1770s-80s which I had the pleasure to read. One thing the anti-Catholics were notorious for were spreading salacious gossip and falsities about the Popes and curia. What jumped out at me immediately was how similar their falsified tabloids were to what certain traditionalists like to spread around nowadays (in content and tone)…I guess it comes from the fact that when the Holy Spirit is drawing someone in a direction they do not want to go, they have to throw up obstacles they can use to justify their resistence.


You should inquire about her longevity.:wink:

You should not consider yourself as such, even though others may.:frowning:

I am not sure anybody could argue about anything jumping out at you. Since you, by your own admission read tabloids.:hypno:

What do you have some kind of Gieger counter of sorts to directly measure the draw of the Holy Ghost and its direction?:hypno:
You must be an expert in this field:whacky:

We would like to stay on topic instead of purposely being led astray by some (since they must have some Fear), in order to have the thread closed. I would greatly like to hear your comments, as I am sure you are Christian, and in that way you can be productive to this thread and allow others to see your views. Thank you for your consideration.


I agree with your admission.:hypno: :whacky:

It is a shame you are still confused. It is still possible to read POST#1.:thumbsup: That should assist you to understand this thread. You may choose to seek another thread that is less intricate, that way your ability to comment will not be hindered by your total confusion.:whacky: :hypno:


I found this:

Letter from Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to His Holiness Pope Paul VI
September 25th, 1969

Most Holy Father, Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:

  1. 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.

  2. The pastoral reasons adduced to support such a grave break with tradition, even if such reasons could be regarded as holding good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem to us sufficient. The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place, if it subsists at all, could well turn into a certainty the suspicions already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound for ever. Recent reforms have amply demonstrated that fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful who are already showing signs of restiveness and of an indubitable lessening of faith.

(A. Card. Ottaviani, A. Card. Bacci)

Hope this helps.


When did Cardinal Ottaviani die?

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