Summorum Pontificum, Latin, liberals, TLMs, seminarians, Magic Circles and an Instruction

From Damian Thompson’s blog comes a piece about Latin, seminarians, the Extraordinary Form and liberal enemies of all of the above, with my emphases and comments.  Edited.

[...]

In contrast, the proposal to teach all seminarians to celebrate the Tridentine Mass is a seriously big deal. In many ways it’s as radical as Summorum Pontificum itself.

According to John Allen, bishops around the world “haven’t exactly bent over backwards” to make the Old Mass widely available since 2007. [Damian needed John Allen to tell him that? o{];¬) ] That sounds about right. In England and Wales, most dioceses don’t flagrantly disregard Summorum Pontificum – but they don’t need to. On paper, the self-implementing features of the motu proprio challenge the power of the bishop: a priest doesn’t need permission to celebrate the EF. [An interesting view of the effect.  I have always preferred to think of Summorum Pontificum as a gift to priests, something that actually built up priests for change instead of continuing the incessant stream of enhancments of the power of bishops.] In practice, it’s easy to turn the document into a dead letter, since most parish priests come from a Vatican II generation unsympathetic to traditional rubrics and most lay people have never been near a Tridentine Mass and don’t know what they’re missing[Which is why more parish priests should simply introduce the older form of Mass in parishes, especially so that young people can experience it.]

[...]

The nightmare for diehard opponents of the EF is the formation of a generation of priests who know how to use the 1962 Missal and are perfectly happy to do so in every diocese. [Exactly.]

This is only a guess, but I reckon that half our current seminarians would like to be taught how to say the Old Mass – an unthinkable proportion 30 years ago, when today’s senior clergy were training for the priesthood.  [In the USA I am pretty sure that it is more than half.] However, these students are smart enough to keep their mouths shut. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] Seminaries are run by the Magic Circle: [For American readers, the "Magic Circle" refers to the the liberal bishops in the UK who have closed ranks.  I think it was also a TV show in England once upon a time.] until recently, rectors had no difficulty picking out the matey-but-deferential liberal students who would be tomorrow’s monsignors; now the supply of liberals has all but dried up, and they face the tougher task of distinguishing moderate conservatives from secret traditionalists.

The last thing they want – absolutely the last thing – is for every seminarian to be trained to celebrate the “Mass of the Ages”. Not only would this make it more difficult to root out undesirable traddies, but it would also eventually carry the ancient liturgy into parishes untouched by Summorum Pontificum. That would be a disaster from the Magic Circle’s point of view. The promotion of the Extraordinary Form even as an occasional alternative in local churches would accelerate a cultural shift towards traditional Catholicism that the hierarchy is already struggling to control. [I would add that once a priest has learned the older form he never says the newer form the same way after.  The older form also teaches priests something about who they are as priests.]

The ramifications of an instruction to seminaries to teach students the Extraordinary Form – and enough Latin to know what they’re saying – are enormous. For that reason, I expect a very big effort to circumvent any such obligation. [The thing is... the 1983 CIC already has the nearly perfectly ignored can. 249.] We can’t be sure that Mickens’s and Allen’s sources are right about the document, of course; but we can be certain that bishops and seminary rectors have heard the same rumours and are working on a contingency plan. If the instruction tries to force the Old Missal into seminaries, then liberal canon lawyers will be crawling all over it the second it appears, looking for loopholes. And if there aren’t any, then expect lots of delaying tactics and excuses involving lack of staff, resources, time etc. [I am available to teach The Extraordinary Form, Latin, the TLM, Patristic Theology, the older form of Mass, etc.]

And all this just as the new [corrected] English [Roman] Missal is coming in. We do live in interesting times.

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38 Responses to Summorum Pontificum, Latin, liberals, TLMs, seminarians, Magic Circles and an Instruction

  1. Oleksander says:

    “I have always preferred to think of Summorum Pontificum as a gift to priests, something that actually built up priests for change instead of continuing the incessant stream of enhancments of the power of bishops.”

    Priests are nothing but the personal extension of the bishop [No.]

  2. shane says:

    A commenter at Thompson’s blog, ‘Kierondublin’ (presumably Kieron Wood), quotes the following remarks from Mgr Hugh Connolly, president of Ireland’s national seminary in Maynooth: “On the question of liturgical training for the extraordinary rite of the Mass, I discussed this question in my meetings with the Trustees during this, my first year of office. I agreed to research the issue further and accordingly aired it with other European Rectors of Seminaries at our annual meeting a few months ago. Some Rectors were of the view that the Holy See would issue more detailed instructions for seminaries in this regard in due course. In the interim, a course is being piloted in one of the English Seminaries. I would hope to be in a position to reflect on the outcome of that as well as on the approaches likely to be taken in some of the other European Seminaries in my discussions with the Trustees this year. As this is still something of a work in progress, I regret not being able to give you anything more concrete at this time. Needless to say however, as Ireland’s National Seminary, we will work closely with the Bishops to discern how best to address the formation and pastoral dimensions surrounding this issue and to faithfully implement any instructions that the Holy See may issue in this regard.[And I am sure that that seminary is simply teaming with seminarians. And the Irish Church is in great shape. Therefore, for a reeeeeeelllly long time let's study the reeeeeeelllly complicated question of whether or not seminarians should be taught ALL of the Roman Rite.]

  3. benedetta says:

    “Secret traditionalists”! Exciting times in the U.K. Now about that subscription offer you posted earlier, Father Z…

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    The promotion of the Extraordinary Form even as an occasional alternative in local churches would accelerate a cultural shift towards traditional Catholicism that the hierarchy is already struggling to control.

    In all seriousness, after years and years of trying to understand this attitude of bishops, I still just cannot.

    They don’t want more serious-minded Catholics, actually involved in the Faith? Ones who typically give more treasure (as well as time and talent). Most bishops are seriously interested in donations, and serious Catholics give more than lukewarm or marginal ones. In particular, I understand it’s common for the EF Mass donations in a parish to exceed per capita those of the OF Masses.

    So, can anyone explain this to me?

  5. Maltese says:

    “If the instruction tries to force the Old Missal into seminaries, then liberal canon lawyers will be crawling all over it the second it appears, looking for loopholes.”

    LOL! Fantastic stuff! I love the English dry-wit! “Crawling all over it” is a fantastic metaphor, which describes in precise, canonical [sic] words how some lawyers have a penchant for legalizing that which needn’t be legalized by legalize.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    we will work closely with the Bishops to discern how best to address the formation and pastoral dimensions surrounding this issue and to faithfully implement any instructions that the Holy See may issue in this regard.

    I wouldn’t think it should require the several years of extended analysis, discussion, consideration, and planning that this diffuse blather points toward. Just get a priest experienced in celebrating the TLM and appoint him to teach the seminarians. What’s the big problem? (Apparently, it’s getting to the point that I can’t understand any of this stuff.) [K.I.S.S. Right? This is not rocket science. Put it on the schedule. Teach Latin and teach the old Mass. Consider generations of not terribly bright men with not terribly bright teachers who managed to learn this stuff.]

  7. Jackie L says:

    “[I would add that once a priest has learned the older form he never says the newer form the same way after. The older form also teaches priests something about who they are as priests.]”

    So why do you suppose then that so many of the Priest’s that were taught the EF in Seminary in the 50′s/60′s celebrate the OF so poorly? [I don't know. Why don't you tell us why that is?]

  8. shane says:

    Henry I know a priest who was contacted by Maynooth seminary and asked if he’d be able to teach the seminarians the Old Rite. He replied that he was willing to but nothing ever came of it.

    From knowing some Maynooth students I can see that the polarization among seminarians is massive. Roughly about half the students there think the New Mass is a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy whereas the rest are so marinated in eco-feminist theology that they can hardly string a sentence together without the word ‘pastoral’.

  9. Henry Edwards, here is the explanation:

    Our very existence indicts them.

  10. Dirichlet says:

    That instruction would be a blessing. Every day I thank the Lord for this incredibly awesome Pope he has given us this time.

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    Actually, Jackie, it’s pretty easy to understand. The priest who learned the EF in the 50s/60s spent several years learning all the rubrics and ceremonies, and about how they define and support his role a priest mediating between man and God.

    Then after Vatican II he was told that those rubrics and ceremonies were unimportant, and that his role and priest wasn’t the sublime thing he’d been taught. So, without the support of either the rubrics or his previous role, he sees no reason to be so precise and careful any more, and so his celebration of Mass deteriorates. Many of these priests were deflated and even devastated when the rug was abruptly jerked from under them in this way. So its effect on their liturgy was virtually inevitable.

    But with the younger priest who started out with only the OF, it’s precisely the reverse. When he learns the EF, he discovers a whole new and exciting dimension to the liturgy. With all the rubrics and ceremonies comes an enhance self-view of himself as a priest, as really and truly the indispensable mediator between God and man. The new precision, in both the celebration of the Mass and in his self-concept as a priest, is exciting, and it’s entirely natural for this inspiration to affect his celebration of the OF as well as the EF.

  12. Fr. Basil says:

    \\for every seminarian to be trained to celebrate the “Mass of the Ages”.\\

    As I’ve said, this is a phrase that pushes my buttons, if just the Extraordinary Form is meant by it.

    What are the Eastern Liturgies which are much older than even the EF? Chopped liver? [C'mon. Let the Latins talk about their Latin things with terms familiar to Latins. Especially on this blog. I am happy that Easterners participate, but when we are talking about the older form of the LATIN, ROMAN RITE I think it is okay to talk about the LATIN, ROMAN RITE and not the Eastern Divine Liturgies.]

    I’m saying NOTHING against the EF. I’m speaking out against a certain triumphalist attitude towards it, as if it were the premier liturgy of the Church. It isn’t.

    **I would add that once a priest has learned the older form he never says the newer form the same way after. **

    I know an older priest who was raised on the usus antiquor, and ordained shortly after the introduction of the Pauline Missal. He is bi-ritual, and says that the Byzantine liturgy has been a greater influence on how he approaches and celebrates the OF. [The theory is the same.]

    He also says that what is being celebrated as the EF by younger priests is not at all what he remembers from his youth. [It's better now than it was before. Of course.]

  13. Stu says:

    If the rumor of this mandate is true, boy oh boy will the Church certainly look different in 20 years. I think it is great. [20? Try 5.]

  14. JamesA says:

    “[I am available to teach The Extraordinary Form, Latin, the TLM, Patristic Theology, the older form of Mass, etc.]”

    My oh my, would it be wonderful to have you here at the seminary in Houston, Father ! Not only to have the benefit of your wisdom, but also just to see the reactions of some of the faculty ! You would be beloved by the students, though (most of us, anyway).

  15. Dirichlet says:

    If Fr. Z comes to Houston, he should visit us at Annunciation Church :-)

    But, seriously, his TLM and Latin skills will be of great use for the next generation of priests!

  16. priests wife says:

    I like how you stated that seminaries who are taught the EF are learning the entire Roman rite- I agree

  17. frjim4321 says:

    How does 500 out of 2000+ years equate to a “mass of the ages?” [It is only the book called the Missale Romanum that is about 500 years old.]

    I think SP is a bigger deal in diocese where there was poor liturgical formation in the 1970′s. [That's possible.] Post merger we have around 175 parishes and three unreformed masses ["unreformed Masses"?] in the entire diocese. But we had three liturgical scholars involved from the mid-1950′s who laid the ground work and weekly columns on liturgy in the diocesan newspaper all the way through the reforms.

    So, SP does not raise much dust here. [Yet.]

  18. wmeyer says:

    I’d like to understand clearly the relationship between priests and their bishops. I thought I understood that the bishops owed obedience to the pope, and the priests owed obedience to the bishops. Despite the all too prevalent indications to the contrary…..

  19. frjim4321 says:

    wm,

    Interesting question. The relationship between priests and bishops became essentially adversarial with the Denver Charter in 2002. Everything about the relationship between bishops and priests can be demarcated as “pre-DC” and “post-DC.”) [I think you are right about this. In the USA, for sure. Probably in other places as well this will be the case.]

    Post-DC priests became for their bishops potential liabilities. [Particularly troublesome was the decision to exempt themselves from their own charter.]

    The relationship between U.S. bishops and the Holy See became adversarial right around the same time with the CDWDS’ rejection of the 1998 product and the evicseration of the original ICEL. [You've made a leap here that I can't quite follow.]

    Post-2002 the bishops lost their voice and traded their ability to lead for the opporunity to advance their careers. [? In some ways you have your finger on a sore issue, but I think it started a long time before that.]

    You may have been asking a question about canonical or ontological relationships, but the events of 2002 impacted the reality much more than legal or theological constructs.

    Fr. Jim

  20. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Jim,

    Reality is what I need to understand. The canonical and ontological relationships appear to be more a matter of historical interest. It becomes easier to understand now, how a bishop may preach on immigration and seemingly ignore CCC 2241, for example. Prayer is called for… intense prayer.

  21. StabatMater says:

    “I would add that once a priest has learned the older form he never says the newer form the same way after. The older form also teaches priests something about who they are as priests.”

    I completely agree and have witnessed such in my own pastor. Additionally, since coming into the EF within the last few months, it is certainly teaching me who I am and who I am NOT as laity! I am even noticing this incredible right order restored in my own home (my domestic church) as well. It has been nothing short of miraculous.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    I am sorry, wm, I don’t quite grasp your point. I think maybe reality is more based on the history and the canonical/ontological are theoretical. But this could be my error, I am not yet understanding you.

  23. donantebello says:

    one of the best quotes I ever heard in seminary: “What they don’t know, builds the Church”

  24. frjim4321 says:

    dab . . . I am sorry I am not getting that . . . might be the hour . . .

  25. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Jim,
    All I meant was that it’s the reality I deal with, not what the canons say. I’ve been struggling to comprehend why things operate as they do, and that operation is not always obvious. From what you say, the hierarchy is simply broken, and was broken by the Denver Charter.

  26. Gail F says:

    Fr Z: I assume by saying that you prefer not to think of S.P. challenging the power of the bishop, you understand that it does just that! [I think I understand pretty well what the Holy Father did with the provisions of his Motu Proprio. He was not "challenging bishops" with Summorum Pontificum.]

    Jackie: Having just looked over a pile of books about the liturgy and the priest and the design of churches, all written in the 197os, I can tell you that priests were told that the “old stuff” was garbage and they had a new role now. They seem to have embraced it with a vengeance.

    “I would add that once a priest has learned the older form he never says the newer form the same way after. The older form also teaches priests something about who they are as priests.” I have only been to one TLM and it had a similar affect on me, as a lay person. I didn’t understand much of what was said, despite my years of Latin, but I immediately understood a lot of what the OF of the mass is supposed to be doing — even though it doesn’t do them very well.

  27. Fr. Basil says:

    \\[C'mon. Let the Latins talk about their Latin things with terms familiar to Latins. Especially on this blog. I am happy that Easterners participate, but when we are talking about the older form of the LATIN, ROMAN RITE I think it is okay to talk about the LATIN, ROMAN RITE and not the Eastern Divine Liturgies.]\\

    Even so, the EF is NOT the “Mass of the Ages/All Time,” as there was as time when it did not exist. [Of course. It is a pious platitude and I wish people would drop it. But this is tedious.]

    It simply reflects what its devotees feel about it (namely a certain triumphalism) and nothing about the rite itself.

  28. dahveed says:

    \\It simply reflects what its devotees feel about it (namely a certain triumphalism) and nothing about the rite itself.\\

    Father Basil,
    with all due respect, when I am at a Tridentine Latin Mass, it is not triumphalism that I feel. It is reverence and love and worship for Our Lord. I feel that I am at home. And I miss it terribly, when I am not able to be there. I am sure that there are many, here and elsewhere, who feel that same way with the Divine Liturgy. Please, understand, Father.

  29. Gail F says:

    Fr Z: I didn’t mean that the purpose of S.P. is to challenge the bishops’ power, but that some bishops seem to be taking it that way, because it allows priests to do something without their agreeing to it or ordering it. This seems obvious to me. If I were a priest in the diocese of a bishop who was dead set against TLM and who was hard on his priests, I would not offer the TLM, or at least I would offer it only if there was a large and devout group of people who wanted it. A lot. Even though the pope has given priests that authority, for SOME priests in SOME areas that would be a ticket to their diocesan Siberia. There is a difference between being allowed to do something “on paper” and being free to do it without real and permanent negative consequences.

    Of course, not all bishops are like that — I hope that very few are. But for those who are, I’m sure S.P. seems a direct attack.

  30. robtbrown says:

    wmeyer says:

    I’d like to understand clearly the relationship between priests and their bishops. I thought I understood that the bishops owed obedience to the pope, and the priests owed obedience to the bishops. Despite the all too prevalent indications to the contrary…..

    Once again: The authority of the pope is supreme, universal, full, and immediate. That authority cannot be mitigated by a diocesan bishop. Although Rome wants any bishop running a diocese to have a certain independence, nevertheless, no diocesan bishop has the authority to contradict an official directive of the pope.

  31. wmeyer says:

    I hope and pray that SP will raise a great deal of dust. In particular, in my own parish, there seems to be a sense that the presider may be no more special than any other person there–in other words, presider, taken in the sense of a democracy, perhaps a committee, opens the door for others to preside.

    Words matter. No priest, no Eucharist.

    We are in church to worship, not for a mere meal, nor for a sing-a-long. Democracy, get thee gone. I see a celebrant, not a presider. A man of God, ordained, indelibly marked by that ordination, not replaceable by a member of the community, nor even by one of the almost too numerous deacons.

  32. wmeyer says:

    robtbrown:

    Some bishops merely ignore what the pope says. It seems a common approach. Despicable, but common.

  33. donantebello says:

    frjim4321: i was referring to my years in seminary when the center left to hard left faculty imposed upon the fervent and bright young men of the seminary a brand of jejune and blithe vision of “pastoral” center – left priesthood, while the seminarians had to publicly celebrate …or else. While privately we read Aiden Nichols, Alcuin Reed, Ratzinger, and dreamt of a vibrant, fully “Catholic” Church which would manifest Her true pastoral efficacy by purifying Herself from the Dictatorship of Relativism and embracing all of our sacred traditions and treasures, both east and west. So as the saying goes, “What they don’t know can’t hurt them.” In this case, a seminarian was worrying out loud that he wasn’t revealing the true deep currents of his own self-formation, lest he face reprisal for his interests, another seminarian said gravely: “What they don’t know builds the Church.” And the whole room burst out laughing because most of us were going through the same exact thing.

  34. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown:

    Some bishops merely ignore what the pope says. It seems a common approach. Despicable, but common.

    True, but it doesn’t follow that priests must also ignore it. A lot of bishops are simply status quo types who prefer no TLM because they don’t want anyone making waves. They’ll opt for a flock, 90% of whom practices contraception and 40% vote for pro abortion candidates over Latin.

    If bishops contradict the pope and deny parish priests the right to say it, priests must have the stones to tell bishop that the matter will be taken to the Vatican. In the US episcopacy that is a Tsunami.

  35. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321,

    How many priests in your diocese? And how many sacerdotal ordinations in the past 5 years?

  36. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    Post-2002 the bishops lost their voice and traded their ability to lead for the opporunity to advance their careers.

    Don’t you think that the word was out between 1970 and 1985 (esp. when Bernardin was the US bishop maker) that only liberals would be able “to advance their careers”?

  37. wmeyer says:

    robtbrown: No, it does not follow that priests must also ignore the pope, though I am afraid that mine does. However, I have found the opportunity to direct his attention a few times, as do some others in the community. ;) One brick at a time, to borrow a phrase.

  38. RichardT says:

    As a side-issue, the original ‘Magic Circle’ is a well-known professional body for magicians (in the sense of theatrical illusionists, not those misguided people who attempt witchcraft). I think I remember reading that it celebrated its centenary a few years ago.

    There is also a Pre-Raphaelite painting called the Magic Circle (which is of a witch), which may be where the illusionists copied their name from.

    Magic Circle is also used in the legal profession to describe the group of top (although not necessarily largest or richest) law firms in London (similar to the ‘white shoe firms’ in New York, although Magic Circle is more exclusive, and no decent English lawyer would wear white shoes). I suspect that’s where Damian picked up his use from.

    I’ve not heard of it being the title of a television programme in England.