“Tridentine” document: the date and the battle in the Congregation

For what it is worth, Marco Tosati, in La Stampa, offers today this about the internal battle in the Roman Curia over the draft. Here is my translation and emphasis:

When some time ago Benedict XVI sent the draft of the "Motu Proprio" to the Congregation for Divine Worship, the "anti-liberalzing" party, with the tacit endorsement of the Prefect, Cardinal Arinze, rushed to work on attaching restrictive modifications (for example, the need to raise the number of those making the request from 30 to 100), and sought in the doing to bypass the Secretary [of the Congregation, Archbishop Malcolm] Ranjith; who, however, managed to attach to the document, which was supposed to go back to the Pope, a long series of notes and marginal comments in order to bring the text back to its original meaning. …

You will remember that His Excellency Archbishop Ranjith has the reputation, even among members of the SSPX, as a defender of the older form of Mass. I have written of Archbishop Ranjith here and here and here.

Knowing His Eminence Card. Arinze, and having heard many positive things about Archbp. Ranjith, and having heard him speak in a reasoned and measured way about this matter, I have a hard time believing that this is fight between Arinze and Ranjith. Between others in the CDWDS and Ranjith? WITHOUT QUESTION.

Furthermore, Tosati mentions in his article a possible (optimistic) date of 8 December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In any event, nearly all the coverage mentions that it could come before the end of the year.

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  1. Jordan Potter says:

    It would make a VERY nice Christmas present from the Holy Father.

    It would also be fitting to have it at the start of Advent.

  2. Paul Murnane says:

    Fr. Z,

    Regarding your comment: “Between others in the CDWDS and Ranjith? WITHOUT QUESTION” – just how big is the staff at CDWDS? I figure it’s got to be a pretty lean operation. Actually, a better question would be: how big is the staff that really matters in these discussions?


  3. Jon says:

    Personally, I pray the Holy Father publishes it before what I consider to be an ill-advised trip to Turkey.

  4. Hmm, what’s this “battle” about, if this account of Arinze’s role is accurate?

    I can think of two possibilities:

    1. Just because Arinze is an ally on many things, doesn’t make him an ally on everything. So why be surprised about something like this. Wasn’t Cardinal Law on the wrong side, vis-a-vis Fessio, on “inclusive language” in the Catechism?

    2. Here’s a more favorable interpretation (and hence, more charitable, and thus to be preferred if all else is equal): perhaps Arinze, in his considered opinion, thinks a universal indult for the Pian Rite will be counterproductive for improvements in the Pauline Rite; and that thought had occurred to me.

    Consider two possible effects:

    a) A parish priest (i.e., me) who is at work trying to improve, over time, the celebration of the Pauline Rite in his parish. It takes time and effort to lay the foundation for scholas, chant, use of Latin, etc. Meanwhile, the parish priest, over time, teaches himself Gregorian chant, Latin prayers, etc.

    Along comes this universal indult: if his parishioners want it, doesn’t he have an obligation to respond favorably? So, doesn’t he owe it to them to start learning the new rite? Well, all the energy that he put into improving the celebration of the Pauline Rite suddenly shifts…

    b) The folks who would respond favorably — and cooperate — in a better, more faithful, celebration of the Pauline Rite — if the Pian Rite is now available, how many of them become constituencies for that, instead? Net effect is fewer, who attend the Pauline Rite, who support tightening up and “re-enchanting” it.

    One possible result is that the Tridentine Rite is moderately well celebrated, but the Pauline Rite stays bad, or gets worse. Another result would be that both end up being middling, because of the diffusion of effort and energy.

    I confess this is only a first-draft of my speculations, but they give me reason for caution; if by some miracle I’ve chanced upon a good insight, then Arinze might have had the same insight, well ahead of me.

  5. Scott says:


    In practice, how do you think a universal indult would be implemented?

    I ask because I don’t know of any dioceses that are generously granting the indult under Ecclesia Dei. If a bishop has opted not to generously grant the current indult, aren’t they effectively voting “against” a universal one?

    I’d especially like your insight on this as a priest.


  6. - says:

    I hope that it isn’t restricted to 30 or 100 people. It should be free.

  7. Scott:

    That’s a good question, let me give you a first-draft answer…

    If there’s a question of whether a bishop can forbid it in his diocese, then that’s the first question: the bishop will set policy. If parishioners approach a parish priest, such as me, before I hear from the bishop, my first reaction will be, “I need to see what the archbishop says, I’m waiting to hear…” In my diocese, I would expect the archbishop to come out quickly with something to the priests, giving a general idea of what his policy will be.

    Of course, in some places, there is the possible gambit of saying, “we’ll implement it,” when what will happen is more of existing policy. That would mean a fair amount of contentiousness between interested laity and the bishop and his bureaucracy; we’ve seen that on GIRM issues, with tendentious interpretations of the text.

    OK, let’s move past that: the bishop complies with the letter and spirit, and “any priest” can do it; there will still be some sort of plan for carrying this through. So priests will be told something like, “just because a parishioner comes to you, doesn’t mean you can just do the Tridentine Rite that next Sunday. Lots of things have to be in place first.”

    So, that means having training sessions for the priests, musicians, lectors (showing my ignorance — are their lay lectors in the Pian Rite?) and servers. A bishop might say something like, a pastor can do this only after he’s completed his own training, he’s had musicians and cantors and servers trained, and he has any and all proper liturgical items (chalice veils come to mind). It will take time to set up these training sessions, and they will be uneven at first; and it may be hard for a pastor to get in his own training, let alone that of others in his parish.

    And there remains the question of whether the bishop will say, “it has to be high Mass — no low Masses” or specifying the ratio of high to low, etc. And that raises the question of choirs and more trained servers.

    The provision of booklets for parishioners, and providing basic introduction to the Mass on an evening or Saturday morning, is by comparison, easy. All that is ready to go and could happen almost instantly. The problem of using a “worship space” designed for “the way we celebrate the liturgy today” is also relatively easier to deal with. In some cases, the priest will have no option but versus populum.

    Now, we get to parish politics. Which Mass on Sunday will be the old rite? The early, “golfers Mass”? The mid-morning choir/kids/RCIA dismissal Mass? (Can you do the RCIA dismissal at the Pian Rite Mass? Would someone “adapt” it? Stay tuned for lots of new ideas…)? The late-risers’ Mass, which has the most fluid attendance, not only week to week, but at any given point during one Mass? The Saturday afternoon retirees’ Mass? (Should a Tridentine Mass even be celebrated on the Saturday evening? Is this fitting? A side issue.

    Then there are the problems of buying lots of new books, and where to get them. New/old Missals, with the new/old lectionaries, since the existing ones are for the Pauline Rite. Actually, many hymnals would still be serviceable, as even the much-despised Gather Comprehensive (who knew what GIA actually stands for!) has Latin chant settings for a good portion of the people’s parts of the ordinary of Mass.

    Then there’s the problem of the calendar. I expect that to be confusing. Two ordos. And the switching back and forth. Rearranging the sanctuary between Masses. Oops, we forgot to fix things from the other Mass!

    Don’t kid yourself — this will be complicated, and include some headaches for your priest.

    It occurs to me this may make his preaching worse, because if he has two different lectionaries, two different calendars, he may not have time or inclination to prepare two homilies every week. So he may prepare one, that is not much connected to the readings. Or he may do more winging-it. Or, just less of it — will he have to preach at the Tridentine Mass on Sunday?

    In this answer, I’ve thought of a number of questions I have; there will be many, many more. And I completely skipped over the problem of priests who know not a syllable of Latin. (A lot of priests are going to be in shock — they will be utterly flummoxed by the idea of praying in Latin.)

    I have no idea how long it will take to iron all this out, and I wasn’t trying to be negative, I simply wanted to offer a realistic corrective to the idea I suspect some have that all we need is the pope to issue the order, and then it’s done. Even the smallest changes in a parish’s routine takes amazing amount of energy to effect.

    Example: readers were placing the Gospel book on the altar, and doing it every which way. I thought it was sloppy, so I got a plexiglass book-stand for the altar. Simple fix, right? Only then all the servers need to know what it is, and what to do with it. Only way to tell them is as you have them serve, over a period of months. Sacristans need to know, too. And the readers. Do you know what happens if you don’t actually tell — and SHOW — a reader what to do? S/he will go ahead and do what s/he had been doing, as if that stand isn’t there. That small change took a couple of months to completely implement. By itself, relatively easy; but when that happens in conjunction with other changes, it makes folks nervous.

    Anyway, that’s my attempt at an answer; surely wiser priests will do better.

  8. Fr. Martin Fox: Good comments! Thoughtful. I can see the point that such a grant might seem to undermine direct improvements of the Novus Ordo. I would respond that providing a key or anchor for the newer form of Mass will faciliate that project, not hinder it.

  9. Scott: I wish I knew. Alas, there are in positions of authority many priests who, having been formed in a certain decade, have a lot of baggage about traditonal things. I suspect that this is going to be a little messy in some places. Some priests might make some imprudent decisions in their initial zeal. Still, in time it should balance out.

  10. I must say I strongly doubt it will be on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or ANY feast day. Benedict seems to avoid making important decrees public on feasts, presumably so as not to distract from the liturgies actually in progress on said days..

  11. Andrew: Great observation!

  12. Jordan Potter says:

    “Benedict seems to avoid making important decrees public on feasts, presumably so as not to distract from the liturgies actually in progress on said days.”

    All the same, over at Amy Welborn’s weblog, it was noted how interesting it was that this news made the international press on the memorial feast of Blessed John XXIII, father of the Second Vatican Council.

  13. This may betray my ignorance of things Tridentine, but…

    As I was reading through Fr. Fox’s comments, I wondered whether the old rite could be introduced within the context of the new calendar, making for more uniformity of feasts (and their respective sanctuary arrangements, readings, homilies, etc).

    As for the Big Change, whenever it does begin to happen, I expect that it will be slow and awkward at first, but I also expect that the two rites will feed off of each other, as it were. Once the distinction is not so rigid and exclusive (“us versus them” on both fronts), and once congregations begin to refamiliarize themselves with the old rite, I think we will see the liberalization of both new and old. New will be freer to use Latin ordinaries, for example, and old will perhaps be freer to include congregational vernacular hymns.

    Perhaps I am a Glass Half Full person, but it seems to me that there are many more Pauline Rite parishoners who would be game for “trying out” the Pian than one might think. Even in the hippie reservations of Northwest WA, where my parents live, one could attract a congregation of enthusiastic Catholics simply by pointing out that it’s “cool and counter-cultural” to have a Sunday liturgy in Latin, with incense and bells and medieval music. ;)

  14. Quantitative Metathesis: It strikes me that in a world in which high Church LUTHERANS retained for special occasions (I am not making this up) a LATIN LITURGY simiiar in some respects to the Tridentine Mass, we of the LATIN CHURCH can be more open to using the 1962 Missale Romanum with a measure of reverence and respect. While I am eager to see more wide-spread use of that edition, I remain of the mind that it shouldn’t be a cause for division. I wholeheartedly agree that (as I have been saying for years and years) that the two Rites will influence each other. This is precisely one of the goals Benedict has (will have) in making such a move. As for the “counter-culture” argument: I want to remind everyone that the traditions are heritage of Holy Church are our patrimony, our heritage, our culture.

    Great observations.

  15. Mila says:

    Quantitative Metathesis, the thought had occurred to me also. Perhaps a solution might be to use the Pauline Lectionary while retaining the rest of the Pian liturgy? That at least would aleviate the priest’s task when it comes to preparing the homily.

  16. Boko Fittleworth says:

    I thought people were saying November. And, it has long been said in traditionalist circles that Cdl. Arinze is “no friend” to the classical form of the Roman rite.

    This isn’t going to lead (any time soon) to a TLM every Sunday in every parish. But there are plenty of priests out there who have been waiting and praying for this, and they’ll be up and running pretty quickly. The immediate effect will be to cut down on the commuting time of some of us and giving us a home base, our own territorial parish or another nearby parish, in which to work. A seat at the table in my own parish will be nice. Currently, some homeschooling family of ten has to get to Mass at a high school chapel an hour early with all the necessities. It will be nice to finally have a home. We’ll build from there.

  17. Father: Excellent reminder about the “High” Lutheran service. I’ve
    attended one. I forgot about it until you mentioned it. There is a Lutheran
    church in Bloomington MN that offers it early Sunday morning.
    The name of the parish escapes me right now.

    This raises the question: Any chance the Lutherans that enjoy that type
    of service may be encouraged to cross the Tiber if the Indult is loosened?
    I think the Lutheran service is fairly similar to the Catholic Mass anyway but
    if there is a segment of Lutherans enjoying the Latin…..

  18. trm says:

    I agree with the speculation that the new indult will accompany the Pope’s document based on the synod last year. In tying these two documents together I think the Holy Father will try, at least in general terms, to address some of Fr. Fox’s questions about the difficulty parish priests will face in having two rites. I guess the Pope would basically say how he envisions the two rites working together, and that will give some clues as to how an individual parish priest should proceed.

    Really though, it is impossible, at this point, to know how many questions will be answered by the documents themselves, and how much will be left open. In any event, I am personally excited about this development, and I firmly believe it will bear fruit in the long term.

  19. I am very skeptical of all these rumors (although I certainly would like to see a universal indult). One of my thoughts about it’s unlikelyhood is that I don’t think Pope Benedict wants to give the appearance that “it all depends on who’s in power.” I would think he would want to make things seem as “organic” as possible, which is why I would think he would be much fomre of a “reform of the reform” guy.
    As much as I think the Novus Ordo, while licit and valid, is not what the Council intended and that ideally we should just start over again with a reform of the Tridentine rather than a new ritual, I just don’t see that being a practical thing.
    I also don’t see the parallel rites idea being very practical either. I would think that having the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine side by side would just end up further polarizing the faithful. I think just announcing a “universal indult” would be too much of a liturgical nuclear bomb. I would think that there would be a much more drawn out plan of implementation if this were to be done. Would all priests have to become bi-ritual? What would the Pope celebrate? It would seem odd to bounce back and forth between rites, and it would be difficult to not show a preference (which rite would he use on the “big” days like Christmas and Holy Week?)
    I’m just really skeptical of all these “inside sources” after all the hype back during Holy Week.

  20. Roman Sacristan: I don’t think there will be any compulsion in this regard. What the stories are saying that the older form of Mass will remain “extraordinary”. Noone will be compelled to say it (except perhaps if his bishop ORDERS him too! o{];¬) ).

  21. Cathy of Alex: I didn’t know there was a place in Bloomington that has this. I knew about it from Luther Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul. I shall have to find out more. I think it a little ironic that serious Lutherans might be attracted by the Tridentine Mass.

  22. Boko Fittleworth says:

    There’s a Lutheran church in York, PA, that uses the 1928? 22? Roman Missal on the first Saturday of every month.

  23. Fr. Z: I would be amused to see Lutherans converting for the Tridentine Mass, too.

    To clarify my statement about “counter-culture,” I didn’t mean to insinuate that the traditional rite is against our heritage and culture as Catholics! For certainly it is a beautiful part of who we are. I was thinking more of the folk who look for ways to go against the grain of American culture, but who may have noticed that, since the 60s and especially in the West, they have been joined by the vast majority of Americans to form a giant “counter-culture” culture. More and more, these people are turning to the ancient and medieval cultures. I was suggesting that one could easily pique interest in the Tridentine Mass by pointing out that it is different from most things in America, simply by virtue of its rich traditions and heritage. It seems to me that there is a growing hunger for tradition in our country, especially among younger generations.

  24. Tito says:

    If the indult happens, I would speculate it to come before Advent. I would also expect, as noted by others, that there would be guidelines as to training and preparation time before a public celebration would take place.

    As to the presumed problem between parallel Rites: In a snese the situation is analogous to the Byzantine Tradition and the Liturgies of Sts Basil and John Chrysostom versus Sts Mark and James (which are allowed on occasion and do not seem to terrify the laity.

    It would strike me as a valuable suggestion for the Pauline Lectionary to be required, although this may result in other problems, such as the propers, etc..

    As a Byzantine Christian, I would rejoice to see Roman priests facing in the correct direction while celebrating the Mass again.

  25. fr.franklyn says:

    I dont see why there is allthis fuss .Its as if the Pope is going to mandate the universal use of the 62 missal this weekend.The indult ,from my source who claims to have written the draft of the motu proprio,says it allows the use of the 62 missal to those parishes where the pastor wants it.The parochial vicar (the assistant) is to follow the directive of his pastor and not celebrate it publicly on his own.For instance in my parish with 5 masses I will designate one which will use the 62 missal (the mass currently is a NO latin mass).But I dont have to .A priest is free in regards to the mu=issal he uses.Fr.Fox must come from different liturgical climate than I do because his concerns and worries reflect a parish community which is more sensitive to making traditional changes.I symphasize with him.My advice to him is to move prudently and I am sure that he will succeed.Everybody is worying too much. My advice is for a pastor to add a mass or redo the schedul and make one mass tridentine from the start.Or start a First Friday mass (Tridentine) with gregorian chant.Once the TLM has taken its place as a member of the parish family and becomes a tradition then you will have less opposition if any. I would remind those who keep saying it is only a rumor that it is NOT a rumor.The Italian Bishop’s conference admitted it.

  26. Fr. Franklyn: Feel free to write more about what your source knows! In the meantime, even in the older form of “celebret” issued by the Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei”, the pastor was to ensure that everything was done cvm serena pace in the case of any public celebration. Makes sense.

  27. fr.franklyn says:

    The source I refer to is a consultor to the Congrgation for the Doctrine of the Faith.He made the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary but because he was not that facile with english he may have meant normative.The NO is the normative rite in the church therefore most masses in all parishes would be NO,the exception being those parishes which are by the decree of the bishop traditional parishes (run by FSSP,ICK,etc).Outside of these traditional parishes thus the norm would be NO and the pastor in these parishes can allow the 62 missal Th 62 missal could not be the dominating rite in the parish since it is not the normative rite.If you have 5 masses on sunday youcan designate one with the 62 missal.This also could be done with daily mass,funerals etc as long as the NO remains the normative rite. According to this priest it would be the pastor of the parish or rector of a shrine who has the authority to make the 62 rite NOT the associate.Associates (parochial vicars) are reminded of their need to follow the decision of the pastor.A bishop may forbid an individuapriest from celebrating the 62 missal but he must put this prohibition in a letter together with his reasons.He did mention whether the priest couls appeal the ban to Ecclesia Dei Comm.Another thing is that it is not an indult just a recognotion that the rite was not abrogated and every priest has a right to celebrate it.That right is maintained by stating that the priest has the right to celebrate the 62 mass privately but its public celebration is regulated by the pastoral needs of the church which on the parish level is the prerogative of the pastor i.e.as he does with assigning priests to certain masses,decides which mass is the high mass,decides whether female altar servers are used .I believe the number mentioned -3o -100- refers to people petitioning the pastor not the bishop,although the right of the people to petition the bishop for a TLM remains.I do not know if the document this priest wrote was the first,last or middle draft.

  28. Greg says:

    I don’t see any problem with His Holiness signing the motu proprio on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. His one and only encyclical was signed on Christmas Day 2005 (although released a month later). The later of his two motu proprios was issued on the Feast of the Visitation (current calendar, May 31, 2005). His predecessor signed the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei on the old-calendar feast of the Visitation (July 2, 1988). Because of the obligatory press conferences, no major document would be released on a holy day. But wouldn’t it be something if Pope Benedict were to kick off the “new era” as it were by celebrating the Mass for the solemnity , or rather, the first-class feast, of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM according to the 1962 Missal?

  29. Fr. Totton says:

    I share the same concern as Fr. Fox about the possibilitiy
    that the wider availability of the TLM could become a barrier
    to the reform of the reform. On the other hand, a wider application of
    the Pian rite could provide for a more authentic reform of the reform.
    I have a few daily communicants in my parish who drive an hour
    on Sundays to attend the Tridentine Mass in another city (within the diocese) and I am sure they would be happy to go to a Tridentine Mass in thier own neighborhood, but I wonder if that would also not dilute or weaken the support of the new oratory which has been designated by the bishop for the Traditional liturgy.

    A lot of questions. For many parishes books and vestments are not so much problem (the exception being a lack of maniples) as those priests who would desire to offer the Traditional Mass already possess such hardware.

    This morning I offered the N.O. Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the propers were in the vernacular but the entire ordinary (including the Roman Canon, was in Latin. The Traditional Mass would be different, but not THAT TERRIBLY different (add the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Last Gospel and push the mute button during the Canon) I may have missed something, but I think this covers the bulk of it.

    Somebody above compared it to the existence, in the (Greek-derived) Eastern rites, of a Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and a Liturgy of St. Basil – I like the comparison, it is a good way of helping our present-day U.S. Catholics to “think outside the box”.

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