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Saturday, March 4, 2017

1969: Remnant Editor Reacts to New Mass Featured

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Archbishop Lefebvre and Remnant Founder, Walter Matt, 1976


The following article was written by my father, Walter L. Matt, in the December 31, 1969 issue of The Remnant. In it, my father (RIP) offers a sample of how early traditionalists reacted immediately and vehemently against the New Mass. I would direct our readers’ attention, however, to the tone of fealty which permeates my father’s supplications to the Holy Father at the time, begging him not to destroy the old Mass. And yet my father was certainly no fan of Pope Paul VI! These men were not renegades, obviously. They were loyal sons of the Church who were witnessing the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church they’d loved and served all their lives.


I’m also publishing this 48-year-old column as a reminder of how long the fight for Catholic Tradition has been raging. The early traditionalists devoted their entire lives to trying to prevent the advent of the Church beyond-crisis in which we find ourselves today. There would never have been a Pope Francis, let us recall, were it not for Pope Paul paving the way. There never would have been an Amoris Laetitia were it not for the Second Vatican Council. There would never have been widespread liturgical abuses and abominations had it not been for the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae.

Little mikeBy the way, the little chap in the photo learning from his father how to run an A.B. Dick 360 printing press is yours truly.

Decades before the word “blogosphere” had been coined—when “tweeting” was something birds did and “google” was a typo—that old press was howling away, day and night, cranking out 10,000 issues of The Remnant at a time. I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth on my father’s work. His cause became my cause before I can remember and, in many ways, the work was the stuff of classic counterrevolution. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Remnant, I thought perhaps readers might get a kick out of a few memories of how it used to be.

Here's how the technical end of it worked in the years before The Remnant was produced (as it is now) on a web press: With no computer, spell check or Internet—my father (already a seasoned newspaper man for some 30 years) typeset The Remnant on an electric typewriter. He then used a pair of scissors to cut out each column of text, before using hot wax to “paste up” the pages on large copy boards. Then he’d shoot those boards on a ten-foot Robertson Process Camera (installed in the basement of my childhood home).

He’d then develop the film in large, flat pans of developer and acid in the darkroom he built (also in the basement). After the darkroom process was finished and the red light tuned off, he’d use a small brush and red opaque to meticulously clean up any imperfections on the negatives (using a light table), before burning their image onto metal plates on a carbon plate burner. I remember my father teaching me to use the little cotton pads and lacquer to rub down those plates until, like magic, the text and graphics of the next issue of The Remnant would slowly emerge.

Next, my father and older brother, Joe, would slap those now-processed plates onto the A.B. Dick offset press (also in the basement), ink it up, fill the water reservoir, and begin the 2-day process of running 10,000 11X17 sheets per spread of 4 pages (4 sheets for each 16-page issue)—through that press.

When that was done—after untold numbers of squealing paper jams and offset problems (too much ink, not enough ink, too much humidity, etc.) they’d fold all 40,000 sheets of paper on little tabletop folders, collate the 16-page issue by hand (with the help of my seven sisters) and then staple each issue closed. 

He’d then run each issue, by hand again, through an address-a-graph multigraph machine that used little credit card-sized tin stencils with the name of each Remnant subscriber stamped into it by my mother and sister, Cathy, throughout the year. He’d then sort all of those Remnants by state and country (again by hand), run them through a binder, and finally drive 30 mailbags full of Remnants down to the St. Paul Post Office to be mailed to the “remnant” all over the English-speaking world.

This my father did every week from 1967 through 1987 (when he switched over to a web press), after having left The Wanderer over an editorial dispute with his brother on what my father saw as a massive revolution in the Church—a little event called the Second Vatican Council. Year in and year out in those years following the Council, he would spend one week writing and editing The Remnant and then the next week printing and mailing it—with the help of his 9 children. It was the most taxing labor of love I think I’ve ever seen.

Now, remember: At that time there was no Ecclesia Dei, no Summorum Pontificum, no Indult Mass. The old Mass was ‘outlawed’. The few “renegade” priests who refused to say the New Mass would come and go, offering the old Mass in secret on the altar my father had rescued from a local church and installed in our basement chapel. But the rest of the Catholic world had gone mad with aggiornamento, guitars, felt banners and the mighty spirit of Vatican II. Incredibly!, the pioneer traditionalists never lost hope. They knew exactly what the Novus Ordo was—which is why they opposed it with everything they had.

Imagine their resolve! Imagine how they were mocked by their co-religionists, their neighbors, even their families. I was just a kid at the time, and so it was all very exciting for me. But they gave up everything for Catholic counterrevolution and an unflappable hope in Catholic restoration that, humanly speaking, must have seemed almost delusional at the time.

May we never forget the noble stand for Catholic Tradition made by the giants on whose shoulders we now stand. I’m quite sure God never did. MJM

Holy Father, Do Not Destory the Tridentine Mass

By Walter L. Matt

Reprinted from the December 31, 1969 issue of The Remnant

Regarding the new Mass Ordo, which was discussed only briefly in our last issue, Pope Paul tells us in one of his latest addresses on the subject (See Remnant, Dec. 15, p. 5-A) that the thing for “intelligent persons and conscientious faithful” to do in order to face up to the new Ordo is, in his words, “we should find out as much as we can about this innovation,” which, again quoting his words, “will not be hard to do, because of the many fine efforts being made by the Church and by publishers” who have been and will continue to treat this important subject.

In line with Pope Paul’s recommendation, therefore, that “we must (thus) prepare ourselves” for the new Mass rite–which is to be finalized, first, by the various national bishops’ conferences, and then, presumably, by the Sovereign Pontiff himself sometime in March, 1971—we call attention to at least one of the very “fine efforts” currently being made by a distinguished Churchman and also by a respected Catholic publisher to inform the faithful about some of the more questionable aspects of the new Ordo, even though these particular efforts are being sadly ignored in most Catholic circles today. By ignoring them, however, the result is that Pope Paul’s counsel to “find out as much as we can about this innovation”, is actually being thwarted and supposedly mature Catholics are being kept in the dark about it, which, we are sure, is not the Pope’s intention.

The distinguished Churchman to whom we allude here is His Eminence Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect emeritus of the Sacred Congregation for the Faith. The respected Catholic publishing house to which we refer is that of Mr. Brent Bozell, publisher of the erudite TRIUMPH magazine, with headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Both Cardinal Ottaviani and TRIUMPH magazine have, in our humble opinion, rendered an all but unique public service to “intelligent persons and conscientious faithful” by making known to them—despite the usual conspiracy of silence that has been launched against them—certain carefully prepared analyses and critical observations about the new Ordo by competent theological/liturgical experts, beginning with Cardinal Ottaviani himself.

This article appears in the new E-edition of The Remnant.  Don't miss this week's FEATURED ARTICLE: "Who's Lying Now? A Fake New World" by Hilary White.  

The Cardinal’s critique of the new Ordo was in the form of a letter, dated Sept. 25, 1969, which he sent to Pope Paul together with a pertinent theological study of the new rite by a group of Roman theologians. Both the letter as well as the comprehensive study of the new Ordo have been, to our knowledge, virtually ignored or ineptly treated by the press and communications media, including most segments even of the self-styled conservative press both at home and elsewhere. TRIUMPH magazine, however, got out a 12-page Special Supplement earlier this month, carrying the full text of Cardinal Ottaviani’s letter and also the text of the Roman theologians’ study of the Ordo. The Special Supplement, entitled “The Ottaviani Intervention,” is obtainable from Triumph at 927 15th St., N. W., Washington, D.C. 20065, at .40 per single copy.

TRIUMPH magazine makes no bones of the fact that its purpose in reproducing these historic documents and disseminating them as widely as possible is to “save the Tridentine Mass.” Apparently the editors feel as we do and as Cardinal Ottaviani feels about it, namely, that the new Ordo, at least until such time as an explicit ex cathedra papal judgment has been rendered concerning the matter in its entirety, is still open to question in that it seems to represent a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was so concisely formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent.

Cardinal Ottaviani calls attention in this connection to the fact that whenever a new law intended for the good of the people can be proved, instead, to be harmful, the people have a right, even a duty, to ask for the abrogation of such a law. More specifically, the Cardinal asks of the Holy Father that, “at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the Faith and the unity of the Church,” that the faithful be not deprived of “the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V (the now discarded Mass Missal) which Pope Paul himself has so highly lauded and which is “so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic world.”

For our part here at The Remnant, and considering the fact that the Holy Father only recently ordered a two-year delay or postponement before the new Ordo is to be officially and universally approved and definitively ratified by the Church, we strongly urge our readers not only to avail themselves of the above named Special Supplement put out by TRIUMPH magazine, but, by all means, get behind the move to “save the Tridentine Mass,” i.e., the traditional Catholic Mass, before the two-year postponement mentioned above has run its course.

After all, Pope Paul himself, as we pointed out in our preceding issue of The Remnant, has stated publicly that “we have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment,” now that we are faced with, in his words, “giving up something of priceless worth,” i.e., the old Tridentine Mass. In the circumstances, it seems to us not only our right but even our duty to try to save the old Mass from those who, for whatever reasons, are in fact desacralizing and despoiling it and thereby risking the integrity of the Catholic Faith as such!

As the Roman theologians state the case at the conclusion of their scholarly study of the new Ordo: “Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside of but within the Church. Her unity is not only threatened but already tragically compromised... To abandon (at such time) a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and the pledge of unity of worship (and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion) is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error.”

Indeed, and if it be true, as professor at the Lateran University, Msgr. Francesco Spadafora, is alleged to have written, that this new Ordo Missae has been “perpetrated we do not know exactly by whom and why, and against even the wishes of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and against an absolute majority of the Bishops,” then surely the time is at hand for questions to be asked and for specific answers to be given to these and to other charges that have been made against the new Ordo.

The fact is that there are many today—ourselves included—who are literally sick at heart, spiritually, over the new Ordo Missae, and who simply cannot understand most of the arguments that have been advanced in its behalf. Our own correspondence, especially with priests, reflects this mood of spiritual dejection and heartache.

One friend of ours, a well-known priest-theologian, writes of the “new Mass” as “a most painful thing,” which

“fills me with agony at the mere thought that I shall have to say it, worse still, that it is ‘in obedience to the Council’ that we may have to say it! The fact is, as I see it, that the Council is being openly disobeyed not only with regard to the Latin and Gregorian Chant, but also insofar as that self-same Council insisted, after all, that it was proceeding in complete consonance with the Council of Trent—presumably also with Trent’s decrees on the Holy Sacrifice! In any case, I am learning more and more that there are quite a few other priests who are just as much in agony over the new Mass as I am, and some are even contemplating getting permission from Rome to say Mass in one of the Oriental Rites if possible. As for me, this is turning out to be one of the gravest crises in my life. ‘Crisis of conscience,’ as Cardinal Ottaviani used it, is the right expression indeed! Hence, if you dare, don’t hesitate to speak up about the agony of soul which many of us priests are going through at present. And please, do pray for us—pray for me!”

Someone has well said that in this as in all such soul-shattering questions, we must place our trust not only in the Holy Father but in the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Unerring Truth, who will remain with the Church till the end of time. Let us reflect on the words of Holy Scripture, (Luke XI, I 1): “And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion?” If this can be said of any father, can we believe anything less about him whom we call our Holy Father, the Pope, Christ’s Vicar?

My suggestion, then, is that we ask our Holy Father, the Chief Pastor or Shepherd of souls in all Christendom, to treat with special pastoral solicitude and care the present wretchedness of spirit that afflicts so many of the flock and to give heed to their suppliant plea to save and preserve the old Tridentine Mass, which is Christ’s Most Holy Sacrifice ordained by Him to remain with us forever! ■


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Last modified on Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Michael J. Matt | Editor

Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.