Nightmare scenario?

Imagine how complicated issuing a Motu Proprio expanding use of the "Tridentine" Mass must be?  There are many "logistical" issues to work through, canon law to harmonize, rubrics to consider, internal discipline of the Church to maintain.  The celebration of the older form must also be "protected" from abuse.  Consider this question by a commentor on another entry in this blog, "Scott":

Here’s my question: what is the risk that the Traditional Latin Mass could fall victim to some of the same “innovations” and liturgical abuses we’ve witnessed in the Pauline rite?


Briefly, use of the older Mass could be compromised by priests (and lay people) who really don’t know it very well and, in their good will and zeal, attempt things they don’t understand too well and fill in the blanks with things from the Novus Ordo.  So, real instruction/education is necessary.

Similarly, there are problem for the older form of Mass when people celebrated not the 1962 rubrics, but rather rubrics from some earlier edition.  Some older priests remember the old Mass well-enough, but they might not have had time to absorb well the changes in the 1962 edition.  So, you see far and wide even now in the places where the "Tridentine" Mass is approved for use, celebrations including things that were once part of Mass but really were not long part of the 1962 edition.o

Secondly, there it is possible that the older form of Mass could be abused by making it too rigid.  For example, the "Tridentine" Missal didn’t describe HOW people were to receive Holy Communion.  That was covered elsewhere.  Today there is legislation permitting people to receive Communion in the hand (horribile dictu).  Like it or not, that is the law.   That should apply as well to celebrations of the older Mass.  Most people who would go to the old Mass, won’t want to do that, but… there it is.

There are also a couple oddities to consider.  In light of the question from "Scott" a kind of nightmare jumped into my mind.  You might know that it was the practice in the "old days" to vest a layman or young cleric, such as a seminarian, to fill the role of a subdeacon in High Masses.  The legislation of Paul VI, Ministeria quaedam, got rid of the minor orders and said that the roles of subdeacon were assumed by the acolyte and lector.  So, if because of the interpretation of the 1983  Code of Canon Law that says women can "substitute" for acolytes, could you envision dressing a woman in tunic, maniple, biretta and all that get up so that she could substitute for an absent subdeacon?  Sorry.  I told you it was a nightmare

Canonists need to work out a lot of things, I think.  We will need some patience and common sense.


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  1. ken says:

    Can you imagine the war in local Novus Ordo parish in the suburbs when they try to tell parents that there will be no “girl altar boys” at the “Old Mass”? That their super-entitled , feminist-tinged, empowered little Super girl will be barred from anything “the Boys” do? They will not tolerate it. It will be chaos. Feminism has quietly wormed it’s way into to Sanctuary. Sometimes the only male in the Sanctuary, if not the church, is the Priest. The altar servers, “extraordinary ministers (whatever they call them )”, the lectors, and most parishioners are women.. The sense of entitlement to be there, and “do their thing” is now deeply entrenched.

  2. Jeff Miller says:

    My nightmare scenario would be Clown Tridentine Masses or ones with liturgical dancers.

  3. Imagining such a war makes my stomach squirm, both because of the anger of parents bent on “entitlement” and because, if girls are suddenly asked not to serve in the sanctuary, they will not understand why. Must we be so disgusted with them? For all that they are children of this age, altar servers (male and female) generally “do their thing” with a genuine desire to serve Christ at His most sacred liturgy. Regardless of what their parents do and say, the little girls are not about feminist entitlement.

    Yes, there are good reasons why altar boys should have stayed only altar boys. Yes, it is saddening and discomforting to have a vastly female sanctuary. By no means should we have woman subdeacons! But let us approach this issue with love, and instead of “kicking the girls out,” let us teach them how to serve in a more fitting role. Let us teach them to be women, instead of teaching them how not to be men.

  4. Classical Mass Altar Boy says:

    Speaking of 1962 rubrics, Father, you mention in this Ask Father post that kissing of the priest’s hand was abolished. I was wondering if you, by chance, know the name(s) of the document(s) that ended it.

    I try to make myself and others follow the rubrics with precision. Up to now we’ve always kissed the priest’s hand, though we’ve ommitted the second Confiteor (unless the priest explicitly said to do it).

    Thanks for any guidance.

  5. John says:

    I really don’t see any of these issues occuring. The fact that there might be a universal indult does not mean that there will be a Tridentine Mass at every parish. Rather, instead of driving 60 miles to Mass I will only have to drive 30 because there is another one offered closer. The universal indult (if it happens) is for the permission of the priest to say the Tridentine Rite, not for me as parishoner to demand that a priest be forced to say the Mass for me.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    His Holiness is very smart. I would like to think that the “Motu Proprio” would cover some of these things, and perhaps set up some sort of body to oversee the “Extraordinary Rite” — I mean, I doubt the Ecclesia Dei Commission will be abolished.

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    Ken: In a fair amount of experience with indult Masses – including the typical suburban parish with the characteristics you describe – I have heard of no such problems.

    No aspirant altar girls or extraordinary ministers at the TLM. No one wishing to receive communion other than in the venerable manner. No difference of opinion whatsoever on any such matters among people interested in the traditional Mass. Things that would cause riots if imposed on the new Mass simply have not been topics of discussion regarding the old Mass. Even in a parish situation where much of the TLM congregation floats back and forth between old and new Mass from Sunday to Sunday.

    So why pose the specter of difficulties that don’t exist? The Novus Ordo will continue to be the Mass of the masses for the foreseeable future. Surely it will continue to provide adequate harbor for all those attached to its familiar “excesses”. Indeed, who would think of inflicting this stuff on the traditional Mass unless they chanced upon this post and thereby discovered previously unsuspected possibilities for mischief.

    Unless, that is, our bishops suddenly open the flood-gates and let every ordained Tom, Dick, and Harry celebrate the TLM who suddenly covets the prestige newly inherent in it, without diligently checking the adequacy of their preparation for proper celebration of the traditional rite. But surely we can count on our appointed shepherds being vigilant guardians of the integrity of the liturgy. Can’t we?

    Of course, that last question gives away a bit of tongue in cheek. Whereas some of the hardcore types are already speculating that bishops will never provide free access to the TLM, whatever the pope does or says, the real nightmare scenario might be that they will. With far more priests celebrating it than ought too, and people attending it who really ought not, bringing in baggage that looks even uglier in the old rite than in the new rite.

  8. Classical Mass Altar Boy says:

    I could be wrong, but I thought the Classical Mass is to be celebrated according to the laws in place in 1962.

  9. Fr. Totton says:

    As I understand it the “Classical Mass” IS to be celebrated according to the laws in place in 1962, BUT that was a stipulation of the Moto Proprio Ecclesia Dei and therefore, this “new thing” could be a way of freeing up the ancient Roman Rite for legitimate organic development – I mean by that things such as the adaptation of the new calendar, which would include the celebration of feasts and/or saints which did NOT exist in 1962. On the other hand, if it is freed up for authentically organic development, it may also be freed up for the nightmares described above.

  10. Jon says:

    Yikes. But hey, I’m sure Cardinal Mahony will sleep a little better now.

  11. Marc says:

    Frankly, I would rather that there be three parishes within commuting distance where the ‘Tridentine’ Mass is celebrated, whatever imperfections there might be in the celebrating, than one only four hours away. If nothing else, these last thirty years have taught me how to tolerate liturgical nonsense without suffering fits of apoplexy.

  12. Deacon Jeffery BeBeau says:

    From what I have read Mass celebrated accoring to the Missale Romanum 1962, is to follow the rubrics of that Missal, however, as Fr. Z. pointed out many things in Church law are beyond the rubrics. The communion fast is now only one hour before receiving Holy Communion, this is a canon law requirement. Women are no longer required to cover their heads.

    Although I do wonder about communion discipline, I would suspect that in relation to the “Old Mass” the customs observed at that time should be followed. Canon law says that the norms of the liturgical books should be followed. The indult for receiving communion in the hand was issued in relation only to the rubrics of the 1975 Roman Missal. I personally see it as a grey area. If Fr. Z. is correct, than part of his nightmare could come true, there is nothing to prevent an girl from being a server at an “Old Mass.” Again I see the practices as they were in 1962 should prevail. Perhaps the force of custom could be invoked.

    I don’t think Fr. Z. nightmare will come true. Currently legislation would be in fact in his favor. Before the reforms a cleric could fulfill the role of the subdeacon, however a man became a cleric when he received tonsure. It sounds as if at times, lay men were permitted to fill that role, but that seems to have been illicit. Any commentary I have seen from the time only permitted a cleric to fill that role. In such a case they did not wear a maniple and nor were they permitted to touch the chalice except to bring it to the altar.

    Today a man become a cleric when he is ordained a deacon. However an instituted acolyte may fill the role of the subdeacon, acording to a letter from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (7 June 1993, Prot. 24/92). In which case the maniple is not worn.

    A couple of changes have been permitted in the 1962 Missal, a priest is permitted to use the prefaces from the current Missal.

  13. Joshua says:

    While it is true that the rubrics do no govern many things, the Church has in praxis determined more clearly the extent that 1962 norms apply.

    For instance, the FSSP and other approved traditional orders have subdeacons and minor orders. There is a debate with them, though, whether they become clerics at tonsure or at the diaconate. Bishop Bruskewitz has determined that everyone being tonsured at the FSSP in Nebraska must agree to the terms of being a cleric. His interpretation is that canon law on this point is implicitly not applied, in virtue of the rituals of tonsure and ordination to the minor orders treating them as clerics.

    As for communion in hand and altar girls. I think communion in hand is currently exluded, as it is an indult (deviation from the norm) and the old Mass is under the terms of being under the norms of ’62. The altar girl thing is trickier, as its practice is not an indult. As much as one can argue on principle against it, I don’t know that it could outlawed in the old rite (obviously, just as in the New, the priest doesn’t have to allow altar girls in his Masses, neither do bishops have to allow altar girls in their dioceses (cf. Lincoln Nebraska). Since altar girls are a restrictable thing, it would be hard to prevent problems there through pastoral norms set down.

  14. John says:

    As I see it, the family that has an altar girl will have no interest in attending the Tridentine Mass. I’ve been attending an Indult for nearly 15 years and have yet to see a Mass with an altar girl, communion in the hand. There are still Novus Ordo parishes where they don’t have altar girls as well.

  15. Jeff says:

    I have been to one Tridentine mass celebrated by a priest who clearly had no sense of how to do the thing. It was as close to hootenany style as he could bring it…”Dominus VoBEEScum! :-))))) “, etc., etc.

    We decided when in that city again, we would just go to the Novus Ordo.

    I think that there may be attempts to undermine or soup the thing up with nonsense. But all this will work out over time. And in most places, there will be no desire for any of these things allowed under current law. I imagine that if it is legally a “rite” then things like altar girls will not necessarily apply. After all, the whole idea is to allow traditonal Roman worship so that those who desire it can have it. The idea is that traditional practices have a validity that cannot be changed without super-explicit legislation.

    For these reasons, I cannot imagine that altar girls and receiving in the ol’ mitt will be much of a problem. Nobody at Old St. Mary’s–even visitors who are completely unfamiliar with the Old Rite and never received on their tongues–has ever to my knowledge or observation ever stuck out the mitt for the host. They just kneel and receive on the tongue. Monkey see, monkey do, dontcha know.

    Most of these nightmares are like all such creatures stuff of the imagination, not of reality. Most of the Mahony types hate the Thing so much they can’t even bring themselves to say it, let alone fiddle with it.

  16. Diane says:

    “So, if because of the interpretation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law that says women can “substitute” for acolytes, could you envision dressing a woman in tunic, maniple, biretta and all that get up so that she could substitute for an absent subdeacon?”

    Aahhhhhhhhh – you scared me!

    I’m a woman, but that would truly mess things up.

    If we are going to have a Tridentine, I would hope that we would have some place to receive Communion kneeling, and not some hybrid of Tridentine/Novus Ordo.

    That is a concern.

    Jeff says: I have been to one Tridentine mass celebrated by a priest who clearly had no sense of how to do the thing. It was as close to hootenany style as he could bring it…”Dominus VoBEEScum! :-))))) “, etc., etc.

    I can’t stand Americanized Latin either. What sounds more graceful:

    Dohmeenay Yayzoo Chwristooo (think Jerry Lewis pronouncing it)


    Dohmeeneh (short e) Yehzoo Chdddristoo (think how a natural born Italian would say it).

    We not only need to brush up pronounciation of Latin so that Americanized Latin doesn’t become mainstream, we need parishes to offer Latin classes so the people can actually learn what they are praying rather than looking at the facing pages of a missal.

    I’m hoping to see it sometime in the future at my parish because they would pack the house. There is an interest and many seminaries don’t offer it at times when lay people can take it at night.

    Oh, and Fr. Z – not that I’d be rubbin anything in, but….


  17. Papabile says:

    Evidently, the PCED did authorize the new calendar to be used with due discretion during the 1962 rite:

    Prot. # 500/90

    5. Following upon the “wide and generous application” of the principles laid down in Quattour abhinc annos and the directives of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 51 & 54), the new Lectionary in the vernacular could be used as a way of “providing a richer fare for the faithful at the table of God’s Word” in Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. However, we believe that this usage should not be imposed on congregations who decidedly wish to maintain the former liturgical tradition in its integrity according to the provision of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. Such an imposition might also be less likely to invite
    back to full communion with the Church at this time those who have lapsed into schismatic worship. …”

  18. fr.franklyn says:

    Thanks for raising these issues.It is more than signing a motu proprio.What about the offertory procession?Some parishes had them in the 50s and Meditor Dei refers to them favorably? More should be written about straw subs?I know an indult mass that from time to time employs a married man (not a cleric) as a straw sub. Also the old rite did allow for female altar servers.Women could serve mass if ther were no men,and they wuld serve outside the altar rail.

  19. Proklos Grammatikos says:

    It is for the very reasons that Father mentions that I do not believe that the 1962 mass can ever effectively be revived,at least not in the Church at large. Orders and institutes may offer it. And I suppose this is what the Pope really has in mind. So we will have high church tridentists, broad church novus ordinarians and low church evangelicals united in one church. This has worked more or less for the Church of England, I suppose. Why shouldn’t it work in the Catholic church?

    We have seen what our priests did to the novus ordo. Isn’t this proof enough that they are simply not up to the task of celebrating any liturgy in decency and in order? Furthermore their training for the past 40 years has geared them to self-expression. Yet, the spirituality that produced the traditional Catholic mass was anchored in the ultimate goal of self-extinction. The ideal was to conform to Objectivity itself, i.e. to God in accordance with the injunction: “Be ye perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Today, an ideal of subjective “spirituality” holds sway. So in my view restoration of the 1962 rite will face the hurdle of overcoming our presbyter’s lack of traditional spiritual formation.

    Many priests I have observed have no real spiritual life. Some have an intellectual life, it is true. A larger number know of what they call “mysticsim” only by hearsay and even then they view it as a largely psychic phenomenon with no basis in what St. Thomas Aquinas called “intellectus.” Within that array, however, I have been surprised to find a certain number of aesthetes who like “nice things” both in their rectories and in their liturgy. Amongst that latter number, no doubt, order and decency will prevail, if for no other reason than their respect for “good taste.” But here again subjectivity creeps in.

    To tell the truth, looking back it appears to me that the only reason there was not the chaos we see today prior to the seventies is that priests were rigidly policed. There was as the liberals have rightly complained an almost Stalin-like bureaucracy enforcing order. Infringement could be reported to the chancery and discipline came swiftly. Now the machinery for that type of enforcement has largely been dismantled for the most part. Mind you I am not complaining about the Stalin-like bureaucracy. Many people have to be beaten and driven into heaven! And it is a spiritual work of mercy to whip them into shape.

  20. It occurs to me it would be helpful if someone both sensible and knowledgeable hosted a website for lots and lots of questions to be asked about this.

    I was born in 1962, and I’ve been a priest 3 and a half years; I consider myself still learning the Latin Rite as it is currently normative. As it is the only Mass I know, I do love it, and I confess I am a little apprehensive about a rite that is new to me, and being somewhat disengaged from the rite more familiar to me.

    Any number of questions occur (I’m sorry to scandalize anyone who is shocked I know so little about the Pian Rite, but I am busy enough becoming more familiar with the current rite): does the celebrant sing the propers in the Pian Rite? Does he ever pray the Canon aloud, or must he pray it silently? If he may pray it aloud, may he chant the Canon, or is that considered a terrible thing? (I like it.) Is it permissible to chant the readings and Gospel in the Pian Rite?

    And I suppose this question will truly scandalize someone: just what options are permissible in the Pian Rite?

    I read Papabile’s comment to mean that yes, saints canonized in recent years can be commemorated in the Pian Rite, and the expanded lectionary can be used with it. Now, if only we could have a truly noble English translation of Sacred Scripture! But we must be patient…

  21. fr.franklyn says:

    Fr. Fox I believe what you really want is a reform of the reform like Benedict XVI does.But I believe that can only be achieved by the restoration of the rite that has been in existence for 1500 years.The church the last 40 years has suffered from amnesia.Benedict is going to give the church her memory back.Tradition is the church’s memory.My suggestion for you is to get the NO rite in latin down after that study the missal of Blessed JohnXXIII.The priest cannot chant the canon in the old mass but at a high mass he did more singing than is done now-in fact he sang practically everything including innthe High mass (missa cantata) the Gospel,he could evenchant the epistle.He had limited options.He could select the more solemn tone for the preface ,which was rarely done although it was beautiful. I beleive if you took the old mass and added the vernacular scripture readings,prayer of the faithful,and silent canon except for a sung consecration,plus limited concelebration,you would have a reform of the reform.I have never celebrated the Old mass in public but it was the mass II servedas an altar boy.I celebrate a latin mass NO ad orientem without a sign of peace,I wear the maniple and biretta.I see and experience a loss though of the dramatic prayers at the foot of the altar,the glorious Veni Sanctificator and the awesome silence of the Old mass.When I hopefully celebrate the Old mass I think I will sense a loss of some things from the NO.But if I had to choose I would take that mass that so captivated Mario Cuomo,Patrick Buchanan,William F. Buckley and the late Frank Zappa of the Greatful Dead.And there was Dorothy Day .I would choose the Mass of thse 1500 years.

  22. I often say that the older form of Mass has nothing to prove, while the newer form still has everything to prove. Also, I think an argument can be made that the Novus Ordo really hasn’t been implemented yet, except in a few places.

  23. As I recall, “straw” subdeacons did not wear the maniple.

  24. I would like to supply some important information, which won’t be well known. In 1992 (?) on behalf of the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society I sent a dubium to the Ecclesia Dei Commission asking them to clarify the situation about who may act as a substitute for a subdeacon at a Solemn Mass, in the absence of cleric.

    Whatever about what might have applied or was practised before the Council, this is the ruling now, as given by the Ecclesia Dei Commission:

    A layman who has been instituted with the office of Acolyte may perform the duties of a subdeacon at a Solemn Mass. He performs all the duties pertaining to this office during the Mass but does not wear the maniple.

    Obviously, this ruling excludes women and any also layman who is not an instituted acolyte.

  25. Fr. La Fontaine: Good to see you! Thanks so much for your helpful post Post early and often! I saw you heading up the sidewalk on your way to the reception near the Cathedral last Sunday. I had been there for the Mass.

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