Background of the study

Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci: These two cardinals presented Pope Paul VI with the Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass.

A Brief Critical Study of the New Order of Mass

Also known as “The Ottaviani Intervention” this study is one of the most important critiques made of the New Mass.

Background to the study

On September 25, 1969, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, prefect-emeritus of the Sacred Congregation for the Faith, sent a letter to Pope Paul VI. Accompanying the letter was a theological “Study of the New Order of the Mass” (Novus Ordo Missae), written by a group of Roman theologians.

Cardinal Ottaviani’s letter was a plea to His Holiness “not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V so highly praised by Your Holiness and so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic world.” It was apparently in response to the Ottaviani Intervention that Pope Paul subsequently ordered a delay of two years in the deadline for mandatory implementation of the new Ordo.

A little known fact about the creation of this study was that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre chaired the working committee that drafted it. Historical details about this important event can be found in The Biography: Marcel Lefebvre by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais.

As briefly related by Fr. Ramon Angles in his transcribed conference, “A Short History of the Society of St. Pius X”:


On April 3, 1969, the apostolic constitution Missale Romanum presented a new order of the Mass. Archbishop Lefebvre gathered together a group of twelve theologians who wrote under his direction, "A Short Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae" often called the "Ottaviani Intervention". Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci wrote indeed an introduction and presented the study to Paul VI. Since no response came from the Vatican, the archbishop announces to his small group of seminarians, June 10, 1971, that he refuses to accept this new protestantized liturgy:


How can I agree to abandon the Mass of All Time or to admit to place it at the same level as the Novus Ordo, created by Annibal Bugnini, with the participation of Protestants to make of it an equivocal supper that eliminates totally the Offertory, and touches the very words of the Consecration."

Translation notes

The document and accompanying letter which Cardinal Ottaviani submitted to the Holy Father, which has also been submitted to the bishops of Italy, is printed in the following pages. It is the work of a group of theologians and liturgists in Rome, of different nationalities and differing tendencies.

Because the document was submitted as evidence in support of points made in the cardinal’s letter, the Italian original has been faithfully translated, which explains why it is not entirely suited to the English language. It does however, raise so many questions of such profound importance, some of considerable complexity, that it would be wrong to depart from the Italian text.

The evidence is cumulative and does not stand or fall on any single part. A brief summary is however provided to direct the attention of the reader to what may be of particular interest to him.

The translation of the study and letter was first made available by the Lumen Gentium Foundation in 1969 and reprinted several times, including by Angelus Press. This version has been slightly edited and corrected from the original by the Society of St. Pius X’s United States of America District Headquarters.

Archbishop Lefebvre founded and guided the SSPX for over twenty years