Fr. Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement for When and If the Motu Proprio Comes

A couple days ago I asked someone to send me the text of a piece in The Catholic Herald and, just I hoped, one of you responded!  Thanks.  I found this bit from a piece by Stuart Reid, the Deputy Editor of The Spectator, highly amusing.  I reminds me of other pieces I have seen in which wags start talking about indult Masses for use of the lame-duck ICEL translations!  Read this in light of the news that the new English Mass translation is coming and the Motu Proprio derestricting the old Mass in imminent.  My emphases.

I suspect it can’t be long now before someone starts an English Mass Society to preserve the old, inclusive translations – soon to go – and the extemporised informality that has marked Sunday worship these past 30 years.
As someone who has been through the liturgical protest mill, I can see it all now: old New Masses, for which the EMS would have to obtain an indult, would typically be celebrated on the first Tues days of the month, at 7.30 pm (or 6 am), in bingo halls and railway hotels and the front parlours of pebble-dash bungalows in the more distressing parts of Essex.  After Mass, the faithful would drink filthy coffee and indulge in paranoid gossip.  [This seems to be a shot at the hard-core among the "trads", who are often happy only when they are unhappy.]
But there is nothing more tiresome than trad triumphalism. A good friend of mine, a former chairman of the Latin Mass Society, has identified a new heresy – liturgism – in which biretta-doffing (or guitar strumming) is placed above Christ and the dispossessed.   [He has a good point.]
The Pope would no doubt agree.  Sacramentum Caritatis is not just about Latin and sanctuary lamps, kneeling and sexual continence; it is also about the environment and the poor and oppressed.
Traditionalists, if they are to be true to tradition, should not forget Catholic social doctrine.  It is part of the deposit of the faith. If they yield to "liturgism" they will be left with nothing more than a heritage liturgy, in which good taste and expensive handbags trump all.  [This is a real shot at the "trads", whom he perceives as being detached from the Church’s active life of works of mercy.]

I must make a few observations.

The incredible fabric of hospitals and schools, charitable institutes and the social doctrine of the Church was formed when the so-called "Tridentine" Mass was in use.  This was the Mass that shaped the foundresses of orders and sisters who cared the poor, brothers who served as missionaries, the laity who sacrificed to build churches and schools.  The post-Tridentine era saw an explosion of confraternities of layman dedicated to works of mercy.
If one desires to have the pre-Conciliar liturgy, one ought also be consistent and be engaged in the whole life of the Church on the model of those who have gone before us.
However, that is not always how "traditionalists" are perceived.  They are perceived by many to be dour, disgruntled sorts of people who are in a siege posture.  That is more often than not an unfair characterization.  It is not always unfair however.
The author above expresses distaste at "trad triumphalism".  Let this be a very important point of reflection for us.
It is going to be deeply satisfying (I will drink Veuve Clicquot, I think) in many instances to see some of the real enemies of the older form of Mass, who are staunchly denying any possibility of the derestriction to come.  But it will be satisfying mainly because the hermeneutic of continuity has triumphed, not because someone else has been embarrassed.
Let us take this to heart.
In the meantime, here are

Fr. Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement for When and If the Motu Proprio Comes:

1) Rejoice because our liturgical life has been enriched, not because "we win".  Everyone wins when the Church’s life is enriched.  This is not a "zero sum game".
2) Do not strut.  Let us be gracious to those who have in the past not been gracious in regard to our "legitimate aspirations".
3) Show genuine Christian joy.  If you want to attract people to what gives you so much consolation and happiness, be inviting and be joyful.  Avoid the sourness some of the more traditional stamp have sadly worn for so long.
4) Be engaged in the whole life of your parishes, especially in works of mercy organized by the same.  If you want the whole Church to benefit from the use of the older liturgy, then you who are shaped by the older form of Mass should be of benefit to the whole Church in concrete terms.
5) If the document doesn’t say everything we might hope for, don’t bitch about it like a whiner.  Speak less of our rights and what we deserve, or what it ought to have been, as if we were our own little popes, and more about our gratitude, gratitude, gratitude for what God gives us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. slewi says:

    Depending on how this motu proprio is worded, I don’t really think it will have any effect in my diocese. We have beautiful old churches, most still with their high altars and communion rails, but then we have of course the Pizza Hut barn churches with their three sectioned-wrap around pews positioned so that some of the pews actually are behind the “table” so that you can have a clearer view of the altar girls goofing off during the consecration. *sigh*

    My diocese seems to be teetering right in the middle of a conservative/liberal mindset, but definitely leaning to the left. I know from personal correspondence with our bishop that he feels the people who want the Old Mass are already being catered to. I know the attitudes of many of our minimalist priests who do not adhere to tradition, and I can’t imagine any of them putting the time and effort into learning the mass. I pray I am wrong, but fear I am right.

    On another note, I like Father Z’s new pic. He somewhat resembles Kevin Spacey in it. Hopefully his next Podcazt will contain his rendition of “Mack the Knife”!


  2. Craigmaddie says:

    A very timely post, Father. The “vinegarness” of some traditionalists can be very off-putting. I should know – I have been myself guilty of a liturgical monomania at times. I just need to remember whatever happens I should be thankful and try to love God and my neighbour more and more.

  3. barb says:

    Dear Father,

    I agree with all five of your points. One thing I have tried to accomplish in the monthly newsletter I have been publishing for Una Voce people for almost 8 years, is to give people an understanding that I/we are not “ists” of anything. We are Catholic in the fullest sense of the word and we must think with the mind of the Church always. That means we must remain strong, educate ourselves as to our sacred Tradition and practices, and do everything we can to obtain the Traditional Mass and sacraments which may mean appearing to do nothing when we have a bishop who is determined to stamp out Tradition. It is appalling to be under a shepherd who would prefer that people leave the diocese or attend the local SSPX chapel than provide a sacred liturgy for people who want to remain visibly united with him. I have always been fond of Cinderella. I first saw it at age 4 and it made a vivid impression. We are at the ball now, with all the snobs, backbiters, and some truly good people who wish us well. Someday, our Prince will come.

  4. GFluet says:

    don’t bitch about it like a whiner…whoa, I used that expression just the other day and wondered if it was not less than priestly to do so…I have my answer, and I stand by it!
    Fr Gregoire Fluet
    (NO, it was not in the pulpit, but it was to some of my trad friends who are ALREADY criticizing the Motu Proprio which has yet to be seen!!)

  5. Jon says:


    I thought the same the first time I met Father, last summer. However, in retrospect, I think he also shares another resemblance.

    Captain Sir Edward Pellew of Horatio Hornblower perhaps?

  6. Henry Edwards says:


    I know the attitudes of many of our minimalist priests who do not adhere to tradition, and I can’t imagine any of them putting the time and effort into learning the mass. I pray I am wrong, but fear I am right.

    I don’t understand why you say this. If and when celebration of the old Mass becomes an attractive CV item, I greatly fear “minimalist priests” wanting to celebrate it solely for the purpose of career advancement.

    On the whole, I think the details of the motu proprio matter little, because I think the return of the Mass of the Ages is now assured and already underway, whatever a motu proprio says or whether one even appears.

    But I do think it vital that conditions be established to prevent celebration of the old Mass by the same kind of priests who currently abuse the new Mass.

  7. Once again, Fr. Z. puts things into perspective. Bravo!
    Let’s hope implementation of any indult or motu proprio will be done much better than the last reform was implemented.

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    For additional perspective, looks like it’s time to trot out again my favorite delicious scenario …

    I Had a Dream

    … of a future Pope Gregory Leo Pius I:

    The Pope announced that a general “cleansing of the Vatican’s Augean stables” was underway. He had told priests, bishops and Cardinals of the Church that if they were not prepared to renounce the heretical beliefs which had become so much a part of their nature, they must step down and leave the Church. He had reminded them that by the grace of God and prayers to His Holy Mother and despite the long dark night of crisis which had obtained for over forty years, a quiet miracle had been taking place. A growing group of young priests steeped in tradition and loyal to the Magisterium was now spread around the world. Should it be necessary they would be made Bishops and Cardinals in record time to replace those who had fallen away.

    All of these young priests, he reminded us, were able and very eager to celebrate Holy Mass in the Tridentine tradition. Then in an announcement which stunned the congregation, the new Pope announced that the “prolonged experiment” of the “Novus Ordo” Mass would be rapidly phased out and although, as his predecessors had pointed out, it is a valid Mass, he had no doubt that the great sacramental gifts of the Tridentine Mass, the “Mass for all times” formulated by St Pius V, would soon once again be embraced universally.

    To bring this into effect he had ordered all bishops and priests everywhere to re-institute the Tridentine Mass on a daily basis in all churches and to make it available on Sundays at times when the majority of the Faithful would have easy access to the “Sacrifice of Calvary.” He noted that some ageing priests and prelates might not be able to grasp the necessary skills to say the Latin Mass and that therefore these, after due examination, would be permitted to say the Novus Ordo in private, after the prayer book apportioned to that version of the Mass had been adjusted to correct the errors and omissions imposed over the decades.

    Hey, we can enjoy the dream, can’t we. And let our good Holy Father worry about the details to make it happen. Whatever, I doubt the results now could match the chaos that attended the 1970 implementation of the new order of Mass.

  9. Brian Kopp says:

    Ok, so we have to cancel the Motu Proprio GloatFest. Done. (Bummer.)

    But…can we at least engage in a little schadenfreude at the expense of the extreme trads who still claim it will never happen?

  10. From the Letter of the Blessed Apostle Paul to the Romans (12:17:21).

    Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
    If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.
    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
    No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  11. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Z, … by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”…

    Isn’t this clause an allusion to providing fuel for illumination by which the adherents of that age could read? I seem to recall that the clause was not read as an instrument of torture, but of education.

    Although …. hot coals on the head might not be a bad thought ….

  12. Brian Kopp says:

    Thanks Fr. Z. You are truly a wise man ;-)

  13. Father: I like the 5 rules-especially #1.

    As you’ve turned comments off on many of your posts these days, allow me to
    quickly add that I enjoy your podcasts. Furthermore, I smile at the “Whe You
    At?” lists. I call it: Fr. Z’s “Romper Room” post.

    Caption for your new photo: “The motu proprio is so close, I can almost reach
    out and grab it-and the keys to my new Bugatti!”

    74 degrees F and sunny in your hometown today!

    God Bless You.

  14. slewi says:

    Henry Edwards:

    You and I are in agreement about the “minimalist priests”. I said what I said above because I believe that in my diocese, a motu proprio will have little effect. I know the priests in my diocese, no one will offer it unless told to by a higher authority, and that’s not an ideal situation. I was also bemoaning the lack of more traditional minded priests who would gladly introduce it into their parish.

    But I will wait and watch along with everyone else.

  15. Father Bartoloma says:

    Am I the only one who has a bottle of champagne on hand in the fridge?

  16. Henry Edwards says:


    When you say that none of the priests in your diocese will offer the TLM willingly, I wonder if you don’t have any younger priests, ones ordained 5 years (or so) or less. It seems to me that, among the younger priests I know or hear about, especially seminarians, they’re mostly free of the baggage carried by the Vatican II generation, and generally quite open to the traditional Mass (though not all are in a position to admit this openly).

  17. Seumas says:

    But Father! But Father! What about this?

    St. John Chrysostom:
    “And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels! For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God. It is a common crime, a public injury; and it is lawful for every one who is willing, to bring forward an accusation. Let the Jews and Greeks learn, that the Christians are the saviours of the city;”

    To which you, Father, add:
    “[HURRAY! And let this extend to the liturgy too, “SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD”]

    “Let this extend to the litugy too” you say?

    In that case, Father, rather than being gracious to the enemies of the Tridentine Mass and good liturgy in general, should we not be correcting them, and if need be, punching them in the face?

    The Saint again:
    “Let the dissolute and the perverse also learn this; that they must fear the servants of God too…”

    So, what say you NOW, Father? Can we punch ’em? Can we, can we, huh, huh? :-)

  18. swmichigancatholic says:

    Oh maaaaan. That’s no fun.

    But I agree with you 100%, Fr. This is, and always has been, about fidelity to the Church, which means that we must love the ones who hurt us. We don’t have to allow them to hurt us anymore, but we must love them nevertheless. It’s the Christian way.

  19. John says:

    Father Bartoloma,

    After reading Fr Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement (with which I
    wholeheartedly agree) I was so eager to prepare properly for
    the showing of genuine Christian joy that I rushed out and
    purchased a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (Fr Z’s recommendation) to
    put in the fridge.

    “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine /
    There’s always laughter and good red wine. /
    At least I’ve always found it so. /
    Benedicamus Domino!”
    -Hilaire Belloc

  20. Pauli says:

    “…don’t bitch about it like a whiner…”

    Fr. Z — U da man.

Comments are closed.