The NYT has its coverage of the MP now.  Shall we look at it together?  My emphases and comments.

June 28, 2007
Wider Use of Latin Mass Likely, Vatican Officials Say

Pope Benedict XVI has signed a document that would allow more churches [Well…. okay, churches] to adopt the old Latin Mass that largely faded from use during the 1960s, when the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council opened the door to worship in the local vernacular, Vatican officials say.

The revival of what is known as [a distinction, good] the Tridentine Mass has long been promoted by Roman Catholic traditionalists, who say it is more moving, contemplative and historically authentic than the modern Mass.

But Pope Benedict has been hearing resistance from cardinals and bishops, many of them in Europe, who argue that the change would divide the church by promulgating two very different official rites.  [There are already more than one Catholic rite, of course, but we get the point.]

They say that it could create rifts in smaller parishes that cannot agree which Mass to use, and that it would burden already overburdened members of the clergy, many of whom do not know Latin and were never trained to perform the older rite’s more complex choreography[Odd that we find the word "choreography" both here and in the execrable editorial in The Tablet I fisked the other day.  At least there is an admission in the word that steps are blocked out and care is needed.]

In the Tridentine Mass, the priest faces away from the congregation and prays, sometimes in a whisper, [As they do also in the newer Mass] in Latin, a language unfamiliar to most of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics. [There are prayerbookd available.] The Vatican II reformers intended the modern Mass to be more accessible by allowing [another distinction, good] the priest to face the congregation and to involve the worshipers in prayer and song, [ouch… mistake here in what "active participation" is about] mostly in their native language but including some passages in Latin [another mistake here: the Council wanted the language of Mass to remain Latin, while sometimes the vernacular could be used for some parts.  We know what happened with that.].

The issue is not a compulsory return to the Tridentine rite [another distinction, good], which is named for the 16th-century Council of Trent that codified it. While it is increasingly popular in small pockets of the church, there seems to be no widespread demand for it [Okay… it is increasingly popular, but there is not… yet?… widespread demand?]. The document being discussed, [well, "finalized" probably] church officials say, would allow priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without asking for permission from their bishops.  [sounds about right]

Under the current rules, priests must get permission. And while many bishops have granted it, some [most] have not, frustrating priests [This is about FAR MORE THAN PRIESTS.  Very often journalists covering the Church slip into a mistake of focusing on clergy.] who wish to make the Tridentine Mass more widely available.

Catholic experts agree that the debate is not merely about ritual, but about the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.  [Yes, there is wider issue.  Let’s see what they do with this.]

Some Catholic traditionalists regard the introduction of the modern liturgy as the start of what they see as the church’s slide since Vatican II and hope that the Tridentine Mass will rejuvenate the faith. Church liberals fear that if the pope undermines the modern Mass, it may lead to the reversal of other Vatican II reforms, like more open relationships with other faiths[read: ecumenism… it always comes back to that, doesn’t it.  However, I find it interesting that "traditionalists…. hope" and "liberals… fear".]

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton in England said he had freely and happily given permission for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated in his diocese but opposed a change in the rules.  [I wonder if this is so.  I will check with priest friends there.]

“It might be taken by some to infer [worthy of what I call "episcopal subjunctive"] that Benedict himself is not entirely behind the reforms of the Vatican Council,” Bishop Conry said. “For many it’s a symbol and a flag.”  [Yes, but a good bishop and his priests will be able to explain to their people how that is not the case.  RIGHT?]

Although this change has been rumored to be in the works for years, even under Pope John Paul II, who died two years ago, the church has only recently signaled impending action.

In recent weeks several top officials, including the No. 2 at the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state, were quoted in news reports as saying that the document would be issued shortly. Vatican officials say that the pope has already signed it and that it will be released and go into effect before the pope starts vacation on July 9.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos told a meeting of Latin American bishops in Brazil in May that Pope Benedict was motivated in part by his desire to bring back into the fold the members of the Society of St. Pius X, a schismatic group opposed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The society’s founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated in 1988 after consecrating four bishops without Vatican consent. He died in 1991. Cardinal Castrillón leads a Vatican commission created to try to reconcile the archbishop’s followers, who reportedly number about one million, [!] with the church.

In recent months some bishops in Germany, Belgium, Britain and France have strongly urged the pope not to issue the document, arguing that it would undermine their authority [the real issue] and cement the perception of a church out of line with modernity [the red herring]. The main bloc of opposition, church officials say, has come from France, where the Society of St. Pius X is strongest[ironic, n’est-ce pas?]

In addition, Jews and Catholics involved in interfaith relations have expressed concerns to Vatican officials that the Tridentine liturgy still includes passages offensive to Jews. The liturgy for Good Friday, for instance, contains a prayer “for the conversion of the Jews.” [Yawn…. well… this is the NYT after all.]

The Rev. Keith Pecklers, a Jesuit liturgical scholar at the Gregorian University in Rome, said: “We’ve made tremendous progress in 40 years of Jewish-Christian relations since Vatican II. What will that mean now to return to a liturgy that prays for the conversion of the Jews on Good Friday? [Yawn…. well… this is the NYT after all.]

“I don’t think they’re considering all of the potential pitfalls.” [Yawn…. well… this is the NYT after all.]

It is possible that the document will be further delayed or even derailed, but those who know the pope say they doubt it.  [Yes, this is possible.  Until the day it is issued in the proper form, it is possible.]

The Rev. Joseph Fessio, an American Jesuit priest who has published the pope’s books, said: “Because he is such a deliberate person, it is hard for me to think that he will have done all these drafts and spent all this time and not publish it. If he really believes it would help the church and doesn’t do it because some bishops complain, then all he does is strengthen the position of those bishops who want to oppose him.”  [A very good point from Fr. Fessio.  To go back now would be disaster, worse than going forward int he face of opposition.]

The Tridentine Mass has loyal fans [UGH…. what is this, a Cubs game?] who will travel great distances to churches where it is still celebrated. In Rome last Sunday, about 30 people, many of them young foreigners, attended the 10:30 a.m. Mass at San Gregorio dei Muratori church.  [They didn’t see the much larger congregation at Gesu e Maria on the V. del Corso.]

“It feels alien when you first start doing it,” said Leah Whittington, 27, [Young… this is not about nostalgia.  Also, this is non-Roman finding a place in Rome with other non-Romans and Romans too.] an American graduate student. But, she said, “I just love Latin and feeling that 2,000-year connection to the church, and I find it easier to pray, because there is not a lot of conversation between the priest and the congregation.”

Peter Kiefer contributed reporting from Rome.

All in all, this wasn’t too bad was it?  It reveals that someone did a little homework.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Brian Day says:

    All in all, this wasn’t too bad was it?

    Only in comparison to the other articles. Grade: C (maybe C+)

  2. Dan says:

    By NYT standards, an A or A-.

  3. Brian Miles says:

    “[T]he old Latin Mass that largely faded from use during the 1960s, when the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council opened the door to worship in the local vernacular, Vatican officials say.”

    Ummm…this makes it sound like the TLM faded from use simply because an alternative was offered (which we are to assume was a more popular alternative since the old rite “faded”), and not because the TLM was restricted.

    Big difference.

  4. Brian Day says:

    Good point.

  5. Dr. Brian says:

    Fr. Z,

    I also noticed the hope/fear statement. This is what has perplexed me the most about the opposition to celebrating the Tridentine Liturgy. I am not interested in doing away with the Mass of Pope Paul VI, and I personally don’t know of anyone who is, so what are those who prefer the Pauline Mass afraid of?

  6. Mike says:

    Doesn’t the current liturgy for Good Friday include a Solemn Intercession for the conversion of the Jews too??

  7. Adrienne says:

    Father Z, Thanks for the link to the NYT article. I have to agree with other folks that for the NYT it wasn’t too off base:) Please don’t think I am against the Tridentine Mass in any way — I will be the first to admit that Vatican II was a train wreck. However, just as with scripture, Vatican II and the after effects must be studied in context. At a time in history when so many cultural changes were taking place at the speed of light it was a very bad time to make such a change to our liturgy. Not to mention the poor implementation of the changes. While our society was in a free fall how nice it would have been to have the constancy of our liturgy to fortify us weary travelers.
    As an RCIA teacher and Youth Minister (at almost 62 years old) it saddens me to see what has happened to both our culture and the Catholic Church.
    My conflict with the hard-core trads I know is their lack of charity and their unwillingness to make changes from within the framework of the church. It is, after all, a hierarchy. So, I teach the true faith under the guidance of my pastor and put up with the screaming parents who demand “more fun” and less of that boring old doctrine stuff for their un-catechized little darlings. Oh my, if I could just hear some decent music at church I could someday die a happy death.

  8. Scelata says:

    May I just state that I have no problem at all acknowledging that I pray for the conversion of the Jews? …aas well as the conversion of Fr Keith Peckler? …as well as the conversion of myself?


    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  9. Hugh says:

    If we leave out the prayer for the Jews, they become the one segment of humanity for whom we don’t pray. Isn’t that Antisemitism?

  10. As a priest of Bishop Conry’s diocese, he has indeed been liberal in granting permission for the celebration of the “Extra-Ordinary Rite”, however permission is always given for a monthly rather than weekly celebration, therefore it is always at an extra-ordinary time. In the diocese there does not seem to be a great demand for the Mass, one of the reasons being that many of those who what the Mass travel to London where several churches do have a weekly celebration of the Mass.

  11. Nick says:

    I thought the article was a B+…nothing really undermining our cause. In fact, I applaud the fact the New York Times did an article on it because that is how the word gets out.

    One point I think is worth mentioning is this line in the article:
    “…Latin, a language unfamiliar to most of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics”

    This is not exactly true, any country that speaks Spanish, French, or Italian is WELL on their way to understanding/learning Latin (after all they came from Latin and are pretty close). And when you do a head count you see a majority of Catholics speak one of those languages. Even places like Germany, the students are required (I think) to learn French (and even Latin, I think).

    I took 2 years of Spanish in High School and though Im no where near fluent in Spanish I can get a good idea of what is being said in the major prayers.

    We are in the information age, people who want to learn can have easy (and even free) access to information and learn…and that is why Latin is not going to be the road-block people say it is. I still think people should learn the standard prayers in their native tongue, but dont leave Latin behind! The truth is you need to learn BOTH.

    The fact is we are on the verge (soon after the MP is published) of an explosion of Catholic web pages promoting and teaching the parts of the TLM. Im planning on calling up a major local book store and telling them there is money to be made if they order and start carrying some 1962 edition Latin Missals (supply and soon to be increasing demand).

  12. Cymro says:

    As Fr Blake says, there are occasional Old Rite masses in the diocese of Arundel & Brighton. Sadly the Novus Ordo mass in Latin at the church of the Sacred Heart was discontinued — rumour had it that Bishop Conry was not a fan.

  13. I think the Bishop Kieran Conry’s “free and happy permission” is actually a good example of exactly the kind of restrictive situation that I hope the motu proprio will liberate.

    As someone who lives in the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton myself, I am faced with the choice of traipsing all the way down to Brighton one Sunday evening a month in the hope that I might find some on-street parking near to Fr. Blake’s beautiful church – or I can go during the daytime on a weekday to a nearer church – impractical as, like an awful lot of other people, I do actually have to work for my living.

    This situation is of course a complete travesty of the idea of the Mass as being central to parish life. What is really needed is not an occasional sop thrown to those who “are fans of the Old Rite”, but to have it respected as being as much an integral part of the worship of most parishes as the New Rite.

  14. I didn’t mean to disrespect Bishop Conry by called him “the Bishop Keiran Conry” – it was a typo. I also didn’t make it clear enough that both the Old Rite masses within striking distance of my home are only once a month – and I think (without checking) that they are both the same week as well.

    I might as well take the opportunity to reiterate a point I may have made on this blog before. What *is* the vernacular in a parish like mine, where we have substantial Polish, Italian and Indian minorities in the congregation, plus smaller numbers of Africans and Chinese? As society in general becomes more and more multicultural the case for a universal language which is not tied to any particular ethnic grouping seems to increase rather than decrease.

  15. Jason says:

    I remember the word ‘choreography’ being used in the Washington Post article on old St. Mary’s in Washing ton from over a year ago.

  16. Br. Daniel Jeffries o.p. says:

    Why the “!” after the comment about a million SSPX followers, isnt it, sadly, true?

  17. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I’d grade the NYT article “C”. It has too many subtle journalistic biases to be considered well-balanced. That the NYT is how the word gets out is good, as Nick points out, because the word gets out. But I’m not so sure that it’s a good thing that this is how the word gets out (the how is often very sketchy).

    Hugh: If we leave out the prayer for the Jews, they become the one segment of humanity for whom we don’t pray. Isn’t that Antisemitism?
    Very nice… I’ll continue to keep all of God’s creation on my prayer list…

    And now I really am off to drive south to Canada…

  18. Iosephus says:

    A fellow member of the Cornell Society for a Good Time was at St. Gregory’s that morning for Mass when the NYT reporter came by. I guess he didn’t make the cut. At any rate, the reporter kinda left out two things which would have been interesting to many readers: some five of the people at the Mass that morning were also in Fr. Foster’s summer class (or back for visits to Foster) and Miss Whitington – just “an American graduate student” makes it sound like she studies in Rome – is a grad student in Classics at Princeton.

  19. ben says:

    There are 4000 bishops in the world. Who gave the NYT Bishop Conry’s number? They’d have done better to
    approach Abp Burke or Card O’Malley, who were at the meeting with the H Father.

  20. Br. Anthony says:


    You forgot to highlight that the SSPX is not in schism.

  21. Brendon says:

    “If we leave out the prayer for the Jews, they become the one segment of humanity for whom we don’t pray. Isn’t that Antisemitism?”


  22. Richard Catti says:

    Okay. It’s done. A Motu Proprio on July 7. Now the work begins. It’s time for Catholics who care to see the Tridentine Mass in their parish restored to help out. How? First, order a bunch of Tridentine latin Mass Videos from Una Voce at the folllowing website:

    Then. give one of these dvd’s to your pastor and ask him to watch it. Second, give five people in your parish a latin mass dvd who are interested in the Latin Mass and ask them to invite a dozen or so parishioners to their home to watch and discuss the dvd. Ask everyone involved to pray about it and how to act in a Christian manner with the other parishioners and pastor to have a Tridentine Mass in the parish. Be patient and pray, pray, pray.

  23. RosieC says:

    >>Tridentine Mass has loyal fans [UGH…. what is this, a Cubs game?]

  24. Motu Proprio on the Traditional Latin Mass Confirmed by Vatican:


  25. Oh my, if I could just hear some decent music at church I could someday die a happy death.

    Adrienne. Just like me you’ll have to wait for your funeral to hear it :)

  26. Pedantic Classicist says:

    Hmm, not the first time Miss Whitington has been quoted by the NYT:


    Maybe she has an “in”?



  27. Sir Fractus: What is really needed is not an occasional sop thrown to those who “are fans of the Old Rite”, but to have it respected as being as much an integral part of the worship of most parishes as the New Rite.

    Exactly. And see #5 of my infamous Rules!

  28. Yes Sir Fractus:

    at Mass on Sunday we enjoyed:

    English (well, American-English), Ebo, Vietnamese, and, to top it off…Latin! The most ironic thing the priest said (and there was a lot of unconscious irony) was that although most us wouldn’t not be able to understand the Vietnamese (choir) we “knew” what they were singing, and could thus “join in.”


    There were 200 of us, and three, 3!, real priests…but we still had eight, 8!, Extra-ordinary Minions of Unholy Confusion doing their thang.

    Order? Rules?

  29. Pedantic Classicist:

    There’s a picture of her (Leah Whittington) giving a Latin oration at Harvard University at http://tinyurl.com/24myhs (4th photo down the page), so she must be a good sort!

  30. Suzie says:

    Hi Father,

    I love your blog and read it every day. I just had to post a though. One thing that I’ve noticed in all the articles about the Mass is that no one ever mentions the fact that the movement to bring back the Traditional Mass is a lay movement. It is the laity who have pushed for it. I’ve been to the indult Mass in Los Angeles and it is very clear that the laity are very much involved. Every week Mass is held at a different location. Lay people have provided vestments and other furnishings which they have to moved from place to place. They formed a choir, they chant the responses. With all the talk about lay participation in the life of the church, no one seems to take note of just how involved the laity in indult congregations are in spite of all the difficulties.

  31. Suzie: This is a good point. I mentioned this yesterday. Often journalists slip into thinking that clergy are the interesting part of these churchy stories.

  32. Pedantic Classicist says:


    Hello! Yes, I saw that; too bad there’s no video of it (or is there?) on youtube, as there is for the most recent Harvard Latin address (about Harvard and Star Wars?!?!). It seems Miss Whittington is also responsible for starting a Latin Table both at Harvard AND at Princeton. That’s two more than I’ve started…

    Well, *one* of these years I’ll get started catching up to her.


  33. An American Mother says:

    Adrienne, NotSpartacus, there ARE outposts with good music. Our parish in Atlanta GA USA has a first class music director (doctorate from Juilliard) with a taste for Renaissance polyphony and chant. As a bonus he’s a genius at the keyboard and composes as well. His goal (with the blessing of the rector) is to make our parish a center for Good Catholic Music. So far, so good. I sang for about 45 years in top flight Episcopal choirs, and I would put our parish up against anybody for sheer overall quality of music.

    Plus, we chant the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin once a month, and more and more Latin is making its appearance . . . . hopefully the MP will be another milepost on the road . . . .

  34. Chris says:

    I am not interested in doing away with the Mass of Pope Paul VI, and I personally don’t know of anyone who is, so what are those who prefer the Pauline Mass afraid of?

    Well, for one thing, at many parishes the contrast will finally bring to obvious consciousness that that other emperor really is missing a few coverings! They just may be embarrassed into some sprucing up of that naked truth – at least for the more sensitive!

    I’m wondering if that just isn’t also a rationale of Pope Benedict’s to also bring the novo into at least some greater recognized respect (self consciousness?) for the real dignity of the mass…when it will be compared more often.

  35. Royce says:

    Curt Jester has a great post up about the mix-and-matchiness of these stories:


  36. Pristinus Sapienter says:

    My dear Father Z. –

    The Church should enjoy a fandom in any ritual respect as the Cubs enjoy – and enjoy torturing that fandom in order that they endure some share of persecution. That some day the Cubs will play in another World Series (likely, after I have died) is sort of a Spirit-guided symbol that even the worst sinners can find salvation in Him. The Cubs need that much help.

    I even more enjoy your direct and informative blogs than ever my Cubbies. And, you don’t even TRY to torture me.

  37. Pristinus: Just think of WDTPRS as “the friendly confines”.

    I get to Chicago a usually a couple times a summer for a game. It is always fun.

  38. techno_aesthete says:

    [They didn’t see the much larger congregation at Gesu e Maria on the V. del Corso.]

    However, AP photographer Alessandra Tarantino did.

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