Bp. Slattery: great comments on TLM, Latin, “ad orientem” worship

Several people wrote about this via email and I also saw it posted by the ever-alert folks at Rorate.  You will recall the outstanding Bp. Edward Slattery of Tulsa, about whom we have written before.  Bp. Slattery stepped in at the last minute at the National Shrine in Washington DC, as celebrant for the Pontifical Mass in Honor of the anniversary of Pope Benedict’s inauguration.  Apparently such Masses in honor of Pope Benedict’s inauguration are now forbidden, but I digress.

Bp. Slattery made some comments you are sure to find interesting about prayer, Holy Mass and vocations. HERE.

From Bishop Edward Slattery’s interview with the National Catholic Register, published on October 28, 2011: Bishop Slattery on Prayer, the Mass and New Vocations.

Q: You’ve made public statements about problems with the liturgy. What changes would you like to see?

I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That’s not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We’ve always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem [“to the east,” with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

Q: You yourself have begun celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Yes, in our cathedral and a few parishes where the priests ask me to. Most of the time, I say Mass facing the people when I travel around the diocese or when I have a large number of priests concelebrating, because it works better that way.

A few priests have followed my example and celebrate ad orientem as well. I have not requested they change. I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it’s feasible to do.

Q: And it’s positive when people are thinking about and talking about the liturgy.

When people make the liturgy part of their conversation, it is a good thing. As priests and laypeople discuss the liturgy, they’ll see how important it is and how it is a work of God and not our own.

But we must approach the liturgy on bended knee with tremendous humility, recognizing that it doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to God. It is a gift. We worship God not by creating our own liturgies, but by receiving the liturgy as it comes to us from the Church. The liturgy should be formed and shaped by the Church itself to help people pray better. And we all pray better when we are disposed to receive what God has offered, rather than creating something of our own.

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18 Responses to Bp. Slattery: great comments on TLM, Latin, “ad orientem” worship

  1. “I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it’s feasible to do.”

    Bishop Slattery is not only offering a wonderful examples to his priests, but also saying what needs to be said (and providing a salutary example for other bishops).

    Let us pray that–with such examples by pope and bishops, and more of them speaking about about what needs to be done to restore continuity with the tradition of the Church, the reverence and sanctity of worship that once permeated the Church will return within this century, or hopefully even within two or three generations.

  2. jbas says:

    Is he the only Western (Latin) ad orientem bishop? I believe that when individual bishops routinely adopt orientation for their own celebrations of the OF Mass it will then be possible for their priests to begin doing the same. The fact that the pope has researched and favors it is good, but the next practical step has to involve the bishops.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    A huge shaft of light in the darkness. When I read such moving words from a Bishop, I think of Michael Davies, who would have loved to see this day, but I think he is in heaven praying for all of us. I love the comment on the conversation on liturgy by the laity. Thank you for posting this, as I am living in the supposedly most Catholic country in the world which does not have a regular TLM anywhere on the entire island. Thank you, God, for this bishop.

  4. Father G says:

    @jbas

    Bishop Cordileone of Oakland, CA has also celebrated the OF Mass ad orientem, although I am not sure how regularly he does it.

  5. Mitchell NY says:

    I truly wish more Bishops took this approach. However I hope that it is explained in such a way that the lay Faithful fully line up behind the Bishop and support the restoration. Leading by example is fine, the only flaw I see in that is if the Bishop were to leave, for whatever reason, without formal regulation in writing, anyone new could undo these restoration efforts causing whiplash to a people who are now following the correct posture of the Priest with their full support of also using Latin which Vat II’s SC stated would reamain. Perhaps a good way would be to update the 1962 Missal with the organic change that the Council indicated. Put it out there. Allow the full 1962 Missal in Latin reamain as is, allow the new Vat II Edition of the 1962 Missal (with parts in the vernacular, Consecration in Latin, softly) be available for parish use and also the NO Missal. In time many will realize the continuity between the original 62 and updated and begin to use the two. At a time in the future, to be determined by the Pope the NO could be pulled. I think it would be alot easier to update the 62 Missal rather than try to “redo” the NO Missal yet again. Just my 2 cents.

  6. jbas says:

    Mitchell NY,
    Yes, it is hard to see how we get from point A to point B with the OF missal without enormous controversy and active resistance. But perhaps a third way is for every sympathetic priest to celebrate the Traditional Roman Mass frequently, and as familiarity with this Form grows, the faithful might become more open to the “traditionalization” of the OF. I just wanted to add my 2 cents to yours so we can eventually buy a cup of Mystic Monk Coffee.

  7. Hidden One says:

    @jbas

    Certainly he is not. Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson (deovolenteexanimo.blogspot.com) prefers to celebrate Mass ad orientem, and normatively does so when able.

  8. Lucas says:

    A pity he is 71, he would make a great Bishop for Baltimore.

  9. mrose says:

    Deo gratias for Bp. Slattery! What wonderful words to hear from an American bishop, and would that His Excellency’s example be emulated not just by all his clergy, but by many other Bishops too. That we have a Bishop saying that “there was nothing wrong with the TLM,” Latin should not have been discarded, ad orientem is the norm – is wonderful. There may be a long way to go, but these remarks I think offer hope.

  10. Sixupman says:

    Ome priest in Lancashire UK has produced a missalette for the ‘mew translation’ with the vernacular and latin side by side – just like the TLM Missals. Very sensible.

    Until someone explains to me why the “Prayers after Low Mass” were excluded from the NOM and the deletion of the Libera Me for replacement with a Protestant hybrid and one or two other items, I will refuse to acknowledge it as on a par with the TLM. A rhetorical statement.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Sixupman,

    The Catholic Truth Society published a missal like that in August, in leather and in ordinary heavy, fake leather cardboard. It is for Sunday only. And a buy at, then, as I looked at these in a store, 6 pounds for the leather, four for the other. Very nicely done.

  12. Maltese says:

    The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church.”

    That’s never going to happen. The praxis between the two liturgies is just too divergent. The new is focussed on the meal, the older form on the Sacrifice, as Msgr. Gherardini has pointed out.

  13. JMody says:

    Wow, several interesting things:

    “Nothing was broken” — but then he goes on to talk of “the new liturgy”. Well, your Excellency, if it ain’t broke, why do we need a new one?
    @Maltese: you’re right, the 1969/1970 Missal is, as the Bishop says, “too radical”. I think he takes Sacrosanctum Concilium at its word (holy Church seeks to foster and protect the rites/the rites must be revised immediately/by experts/eliminate repititions/sign up to the ‘archaeologism’ condemned by Pius XII at once — THAT word), and assumes there must be “A” new liturgy, but just not this one.
    I am reminded of C. Ferrarra’s comments regarding an eighth centory council which tried to clarify a heresy but muddied the waters instead — Constantinople II? — and so Pope St. Gregory the Great was writing letter telling people to JUST IGNORE it. And then Pope Leo’s vision of 100 years of torment — Is it going to take that much time before a Pope says something similar abour Sacrosanctum Concilium, or about the 1969/1970 Missal?

    And as for bishops, ours celebrates the EF Mass about once a month, can’t handle the OF Mass ad orientam without getting confused (practice? practice, Excellency?), and praised his once-removed predecessor for turning around the altar immediately on his return from Vatican II. And this at a rededication of our cathedral, where the Spanish rococco structure now has Byzantine art all through it and the Blessed Sacrament firmly ensconced in a fortified corner at about the level of the celebrant’s ankles or shins …

  14. Gail F says:

    Maltese: I disagree. The only time I have ever been at a TLM (it was a solemn pontifical mass in honor of Pope Benedict’s 5th anniversary — why in the world would that be forbidden?) it really illuminated the N.O. mass for me. It showed me what the N.O. mass was supposed to be. I think it is quite possible, and would be relatively easy, to make that far more plain. People are the ones who made the N.O. horizontal and all about the “meal.” People can stop doing that. IMHO, the mass is still there, it has just accrued a lot of silly theology and practices around it. I have faith in a Church that has survived 2000 years to fix this. But it might take a long time — as most other things have.

  15. RichR says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the good Bishop has been emboldened by much of the underground supporters of such a liturgical posture. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those comments came from WDTPRSers, either.

  16. Giambattista says:

    Thank you Bishop Slattery! I sure wish you were the bishop of the diocese where I live! I’m happy for those who live in the diocese of Tulsa.

  17. Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin.

    How it happened in the United States, at least in part, was that the use of vernacular, which was declared a permission in Sacrosanctum Concilium 36.2, was made mandatory (to the exclusion of the preservation of Latin) by local diocesan edict.

    More details here (with actual quotations from diocesan directives) for those interested: Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 — a retrospective glimpse

  18. David Homoney says:

    This is why I am so blessed that His Excellency is my ordinary. Not only that, but he spoke at the retreat I put on about the Immaculate Conception. He had dinner with the other speaker and I and was a wonderful man to talk with. Sadly, only 4 more years before he is forced to retire. I hope the Holy Father loses his letter for a few years after that. May Almighty God Bless His Excellency and keep him in good health.