The Man Behind The Novus Ordo Liturgical Curtain: What Every Catholic Should Know About Annibale Bugnini

The Man Behind The Novus Ordo Liturgical Curtain: What Every Catholic Should Know About Annibale Bugnini
John Grasmeier

Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Ecclesiastic Revolution

Up until the socially turbulent 1960s, the Mass Catholics celebrated had barely changed over the preceding 500 years. Before then, the development of the order of the Mass was the result of divine inspiration and painstaking refinement undertaken with great care over many centuries.  The very liturgical celebration that altered human existence was an organic development that began with the very first Mass given by Our Lord at the last supper, then was slowly and wisely refined through the centuries by our church fathers, popes, councils and saints.

“The most beautiful thing this side of heaven” was cataclysmically revolutionized in just a few short years by a handful of new thinkers. One stalwart architect of this liturgical revolution was a man by the name of Annibale Bugnini, who was the guiding light and “main man” responsible for this enormous sea change in Catholic liturgy.

Life of Liturgy

As a career liturgist, very little of Mr. Bugnini’s vocation was spent “flock tending”. Born in Italy in 1912 he became an ordained priest in 1936 at the age of 24. After only 10 years of parish duties, he began liturgical studies and shortly thereafter, in 1948, was appointed by Pope Pius XII to be the secretary of his Commission for Liturgical Reform. He became Consulter to the Sacred Congregation of Rites and Professor of Sacred Liturgy in the Lateran University in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

He gained an influential toehold in 1960 when he was appointed Secretary to the Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy. In 1962, he able to use this position to bring to fruition what became known as “The Bugnini Schema”. The Bugnini Schema was the liturgical draft document that wound up being nearly identical to what was later adopted by the Liturgy Constitution. The rapid development of the Novus Ordo Mass was now well under way.


Only a few short months after this apparent victory, Bugnini was mysteriously and promptly removed from both his position as secretary of the commission and his chair at the Lateran University. This unprecedented move would not have happened without the full consent of Pope John XXIII, or without the (to this day unknown) offense being extraordinarily egregious. No explanation was ever disclosed as to reason for Bugnini’s sudden removal.

Say What?

In 1964, a commission called “The Consilium” was established to implement the Second Vatican Council document on the Sacred Liturgy (passed in 1963 by the Council Fathers). Inexplicably, Pope Paul VI appointed Bugnini to the position of secretary of the Consilium, disregarding his predecessor John XXIII, who had removed him from the same position on the preparatory commission. Incredibly, Bugnini would now be in charge of interpreting the very same liturgy constitution of which he was instrumental in creating.

In 1969 Paul VI ended the separate nature of the Consilium by dissolving it and making it part of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship (which ironically only 6 years later he would suppress) and appointed Bugnini as its secretary. Bugnini was now in the most powerful position possible to ensure implementation of his brainchild. Three years later, in 1972, he was consecrated as an Archbishop.

Canned Again

In what Bugnini describes in his autobiography as an “earth shaking” event, he was once again summarily dismissed from his duties, this time by Pope Paul VI. The Congregation of Divine Worship was suppressed and Bugnini was “exiled” to Iran in a sensational move that immediately and permanently ended his career. Once again under mysterious and unexplained circumstances, the main architect of the Novus Ordo Mass was harshly rebuked and essentially fired from all duties of any significance.

Further Facts Regarding Mr. Bugnini

In March of 1965, in the periodical L’Osservatore Romano, Bugnini was quoted as saying: “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” In 1974 preceding his second downfall, Bugnini proudly proclaimed Vatican II to be a “major conquest of the Catholic Church”.

This article has not gone into any depth regarding some of the existing subjective evidence implicating Bugnini as a Freemason. Although disturbing data does exist to support the contention, it can’t be said that it has been proven beyond all doubt. Suffice to say that whatever the reason behind Bugnini’s two abrupt dismissals by two separate pontiffs, the offense or offenses must have been extraordinarily grave for a prelate in his position to receive such a harsh rebuke. To whit, neither Bugnini nor the Vatican have shed any light on the specific reasons behind either of his demotions.

There is much we don’t know concerning the late archbishop. What is certain however is that the most central element of worldwide Catholicism – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – was revolutionized nearly single-handedly by disgraced and dubious man.

One Annibale Bugnini.

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