The right thing to do

The press and pundits have been putting forward reasons why Pope Benedict might issue a new document to expand the use of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass. Since I lately was honored with the title "Vatican wonk" by a friend from Fox News Channel, I better play the role and jump in even deeper.

  • You will hear some pundits say, "He is old and, like other old people, the old Mass would be a comfort to him."
  • Some commentators will say, "Benedict wants to bring the Lefebvrites and that type back into the fold."
  • Some insiders will say, "His Holiness is showing the Orthodox that the Roman Church will respect their liturgical traditions by embracing her own."
  • Some analysts will say, "The Pope’s vision of Europe and Western Civilization, ever more estranged from its Christian roots, will benefit from the reclamation of an influential force that helped through history to shape them."
  • Some observers will say, "Jospeh Ratzinger, now Bishop of Rome, has long understood that the wider use of the older form of Mass will help reroot how the Novus Ordo is being celebrated and will jump start the organic development liturgy perennially underwent."
  • Some wackos will say, "Ratzinger is an ultra-conservative. He is against Vatican II!"

With the clear exception of the last one, which would be the raving of a lunatic on the fringe who has never opened one of Joseph Ratzinger’s books, I see no reason to reject any of those reasons.

Each of those (except the last) are good enough reasons to reinstate the status of the older Mass by means of a papal act.

This is not a zero sum equation. There need be no one single reason, among those I list. One solution can address many purposes.

Pope Benedict simply wants to do the right thing. This is the right thing to do.

I won’t say this is long overdue, though I am really tempted. The time is simply ripe. When and if the document comes, those who are motivated by common sense and charity will make the proper use of it and refrain from whining that it should have been done years ago or that it is not enough or that it is too late, blah blah blah.

Establishing the older form of Mass as an "extraordinary" rite, with a solid footing alongside the Novus Ordo, is the right thing to do.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. witchunter says:

    Could you explaing a bit more concisely what you mean or what is meant in this case by the term “extraordinary”? I only ask because I think of Extraordinay Ministers of Holy Communion as something to be used in extraordinary circumstances. I would hope that the return of the Old Rite would not be relegated to that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just received an email from a friend in Germany, who publishes a Catholic newspaper and is very close to the SSPX. I asked him whether the motu proprio will satisfy the SSPX and whether it will permit any priest anywhere to use the 1962 missal for a private mass.

    He answered yes to both questions.

  3. Richard says:

    “I only ask because I think of Extraordinay Ministers of Holy Communion as something to be used in extraordinary circumstances.”

    If only that were the case!

  4. Jon says:


    As we all know, of course, “extraordinary” as in “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion” means every occasion is “extraordinary.”

    I’m sure the bishops understand that! ;^)

  5. animadversor says:

    You will hear some pundits say, “He is old and, like other old people, the old Mass would be a comfort to him.”

    Funny, he’s always struck me as rather youthful—mature, surely, but youthful.

  6. witchunter says:

    I do not deny that the extraordinary has become ordinary when it comes to the laypeople handling chalices and ciboriums. I simply want to know how the application of this liberation of the old rite would be “extraordinary”. I would like to see it become normative once again.

  7. Séamas says:

    I’m certainly not going to whine, unless the London Times is correct
    (fat chance) and bishops really will be able to forbid it simply by
    putting it in writing. It doesn’t make sense that the pope would
    grant a universal indult, only to undercut it by giving bishops the
    power to forbid it. I don’t see how that would be different than now,
    except the bishops would have a little bit more work.

    If the Times is right, I think that I have a legitimate whine. The
    Times is probably wrong, though. I hope.

    As for whether the old right would exert a positive influence on the
    new, I am not so sure. The availability of a traditional, orthodox
    rite might have the opposite effect. It might make some priests and
    liturgists feel more free to do what they like, since anyone who
    doesn’t like it can always go attend a Tridentine rite instead.

  8. fr.franklyn says:

    The prohibition of the TLM by a bishop,I understand to mean the forbidding of a specific priest to celebrate it.For instance,there may be a priest (I know of some) who are itching to celebrate the mass adn who are not skilled in the basic rubrics.If said priest wont listen to anybody (and ther are some) then the bishop should forbid him to say the TLM.If you want the mass to be normative then attend or join a personal parish if you have one run by the FSSP ar ICK or some such group.If the motu proprio (thats what it should be called rather than universal indult) is what I hope it to be I will change my NO Latin Mass to a TLM at the same time introducing more Latin to the other 4 NO mass.I will add an evening First friday TLM mass which will be chanted;midnigt mass and the main high mass on easter will be a TLM as will the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

  9. Fr. Totton says:

    You will hear some pundits say, “He is old and, like other old people, the old Mass would be a comfort to him.”

    Actually, it is not “the old people” who want the TLM, it is the young people (not all of us, to be sure, but it is overwhelming ly a “youth movement”)

  10. WRiley says:

    At my parish we have both the TLM and the NO. Those of us who attend the TLM are by mainly under the age of forty. Perhaps we are sick of our guitar playing elders or perhaps the Holy Spirit moves where He wills. Maybe, happily, both.

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