Archbishop Vlazny of Portland on the Motu Proprio

Last week I presented the Archbishop of Portland, His Excellency, Most Reverend John Vlanzy’s comments from a 2006 article about the older form of Mass.  Click here for that entry.

Now His Excellency has presented his view of the Motu Proprio in the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Sentinel.

My emphases and comments.

 Liturgical growth and progress in the Roman Missal
07/27/2007 Archbishop John Vlazny

Earlier this month Pope Benedict XVI published an Apostolic Letter under the title Summorum Pontificum. In so doing he was both allowing for and promoting a wider use of the liturgical books that were in force back in 1962. Some folks are fearful that the document takes away from the authority of the Second Vatican Council since one of its essential decisions, namely, the liturgical reform, seems to be called into question.  [He begins with fear.]

The Holy Father says such a fear is unfounded. He reminds us that the missal published after the Council by Pope Paul VI and also republished in two subsequent editions by Pope John Paul II remains the normal form of the Eucharistic liturgy. The last version of the Roman Missal before the Council, published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962, may also be used as an extraordinary form of the liturgy. The Holy Father states that it’s not correct to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two rites.” He describes the situation as “a matter of a two-fold use of one and the same rite.”

Many people today are completely unfamiliar with the extraordinary form. Others for some time now have been insisting on their preference of the extraordinary form and bemoaning its relative unavailability in Catholic churches the world over. Frankly in our own country this has not been a major problem. But it has been a concern in some of the European nations like France, Germany and Switzerland.  [This seems to be The Party Line.  It’s only a few people.  They are complainers.  It really isn’t a problem in these here parts.]

Many of you recall that after the Council a movement away from Rome was led by a French prelate, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. One of his churches is located here in our own archdiocese in Veneta. Fidelity to the old missal became for this group an external mark of identity. But, as one of the Lefebvrite bishops pointed out shortly after the publication of Pope Benedict’s letter, the reasons for the break were at a deeper level, theological and even political. [Yes.  This is a good reminder.]  But the Lefebvrites were not the only ones  [Yes, this is a very important point.] who remained attached to the earlier Roman missal of Pope John XXIII. The Pope’s intervention at this time is a genuine plea for the restoration of unity and a greater spirit of generosity on the part of all involved in making accommodations for those who see things differently.  [The sort of spirit which John Paul II had called for in 1988 with his Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei adflicta".]

The new directives of the Holy Father take effect on September 14 of this year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Prior to that date priests were [still are!] required to seek the permission of the local bishop to use the extraordinary form, that is, the missal of Pope John XXIII. But from that day forward any priest of the Latin Church may celebrate the extraordinary form in a Mass without the people at any time except during the sacred Triduum. Pastors will decide when the extraordinary form will be used publicly in parishes where a stable group of the faithful gives evidence of their attachment to the preconciliar form.  [YES!   Excellent!  He got this perfectly, without hedging.  Pastors are the point men.]

Unfortunately, very few of our priests are suitably qualified for the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal. That liturgical expression requires the use of Latin. Many of our younger clergy were not schooled in this beautiful language [YAY!] during their priestly formation as were those of us ordained in preconciliar times. Interestingly, one of my first assignments was to pursue a graduate degree in Latin  [!!] so that I could teach the language to young seminarians. By the time I earned my degree, Latin was on the decline in the seminary curriculum.  [Contrary, I believe to the norms for formation.]

Some days ago I received an inquiry from a parishioner about special directives for the use of the extraordinary form here in the Archdiocese of Portland. I see no need for further clarification since the papal document is quite explicit. [EXCELLENT!   I think this may be the only N. American bishop who has stated this so clearly.  Well done!]  But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy is holding a special meeting next month in order to offer bishops around the country some guidance in their responsibility of supervising the sacred liturgy now that there is to be a more generous availability of both forms.  [Oh boy… do I smell trouble.]

Every bishop is the moderator of the liturgy in his own diocese. In that capacity he is required both to implement the universal norms of the church and to intervene to prevent abuses from arising with regard to liturgical celebrations in his diocese. That can be a ticklish situation at times because nowadays hierarchical directives are often suspect.  [I like this fellow’s candor.] Fortunately here in our local church we have a wonderful liturgical commission and good pastors who collaborate faithfully with me in overseeing the full, conscious and active participation of our people in the sacred rites, as they are to be celebrated according to the liturgical norms.  [So, there are probably no liturgical abuses in the Archdiocese of Portland.]

Two of my serious concerns about the pre-conciliar form were the more limited use of texts from Sacred Scripture, particularly the exclusion of Old Testament readings on Sundays, and the perception that the active participation of the people should remain internal and not external.  [This is very interesting.  The internal participation, or as I usually put it, "interior" participation, is the key to everything else.  Ideally, interior participation come to fruition in outward, externalized participation.  The ultimate expression of outward, external participation is the reception of Holy Communion.  So, receptivity remains the fundamental dimension of both the interior and ourwardly expressed active participation of the faithful.  The Archbishop is more than likely addressing the problem of nearly total silence on the part of many congregations at celebrations of the older form of Mass.  Sometimes the hard core of the "silence school" will stare, or rather, glare down people who do make the responses.  Making responses is good and proper and also one’s RIGHT,   This is going to be a big issue after 14 September when the provisions of Summorum Pontificum kick in.] The Pope’s letter opens the door to the amelioration of these and other matters of concern.

Some will be worried about possible divisions and tensions that will occur in our parishes as a result of the call for a more generous response to the use of both forms. [Maybe I am missing something, but this probably means "more generous response to use the older form".]  For all practical purposes, given the limited number of priests who could even respond to such requests, this is quite unlikely. The Roman missal of Paul VI remains the ordinary form of the Roman rite, not only because that is the directive of the church, but also because it has been widely received and greatly appreciated in Catholic parishes across the world.

The Pope was hopeful that eventually new saints and some of the new prayers from the post-conciliar missal could be integrated into the 1962 missal by his commission in Rome.  [Yes, I am looking forward to directives on this point.] He acknowledges what many pastors have heard, namely, that the pre-conciliar form is attractive to many people because of its sacred nature. He offers this challenge with respect to the ordinary form: “the most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence and in harmony with the liturgical directives.”

We pastors shall do our best to heed the Holy Father’s plea for generosity and unity in our liturgical celebrations. But a challenge far greater than providing Eucharistic celebrations in the extraordinary form is simply providing any Sunday Eucharistic celebration in every parish and mission each and every weekend, given the growth and diversity of our Catholic population.  [I am sure the priest shortage is a major fact here.  However, I notice he brings up "diversity".  I am wondering if these means celebrating Masses in many different languages, give that Portland is such a mixed city.  If that is the case, would not the Novus Ordo in LATIN be a great help to reduce the sheer number Masses in so many languages?  People could have their own translations, but pray in common.] Please join the Holy Father and all his brother bishops in praying for “charity and pastoral prudence” in the implementation of his Apostolic Letter. 

At the beginning of this article, I was afraid we were going to get just a warmed over version of His Excellency’s previous views (from 2006) and The Party Line, as I call it.

I was very pleasantly put at ease, and pleased as I read.  

Frankly, I like the candor.  He very clearly is accepting the Motu Proprio with the proper spirit and is communicating his wishes about it, without diminishing the practical problems.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. athanasius says:


    I thank you for your coverage of this. I could scarcely have so many episcopal statements to gauge and react to if it were not for your coverage, simply because I don’t have the time to find them.

    However, you speak so well of interior participation not only here, but throughout your comments. Yet, you continue to insist we should have the dialogue Mass alone without the former silent practice, unless I am gravely mistaken. Do you not see that your principles of interior participation apply also to the need to say all the responses at low Mass in the 62 Missal? Isn’t interior participation better met at Low Mass by meditating on the sacrifice of our Blessed Lord on the cross, the mysteries recounted in the missal, or the grace of God as the priest offers Him up in an unbloody manner through his sacramental gifts as an alter Christus? (on the other hand, this should not be construed as saying the faithful should not sing at High Masses, where outward participation in the Church’s chant meets inward participation).

  2. athanasius:  Do you not see that your principles of interior participation apply also to the need to say all the responses at low Mass in the 62 Missal?

    You make mistakes here. 

    First, there is no no conflict between interiorly active participation and outwardly expressed active participation.  Outward expression is the fruit of interior action.  Active receptivity, which is the primary dimension, is not the sole characteristic of participation.  Were that so, people very rarely receive Communion (which was actually the way it was for a very long time).  Interior and outward participation are not exclusive of each other. 

    Next, Sung Masses are not the only Mass where participation can be outward.  If the principle applies to singing, it applies to speaking.

    Moreover, there really are not that many responses in the older form of Mass.  There is plenty of time for silence and reflection (which can also be before and after Mass).

  3. woodyjones says:

    NOT “a movement away from Rome”. This is a malicious reading of the SS{PX situation.

    Ainsi soit il.

  4. woody: The facts tell a different story.

  5. Nick says:

    As a member of the Portland Archdiocese I am proud that my Bishop finally spoke about this. I was under the impression he was going along with “the party line” (as Fr Z calls it) this whole time.

    Currently there is only one indult in Portland and it is located on the outskirts of town, in an industrial area (no public transportation) in a small church at 8am on Sunday. Because of this I have often questioned whether our Bishop was really open to the TLM.

    Some comments regarding specific points of the article:

    -Regarding the USCCB meeting next month, I agree I have a bad feeling about that.

    -The claim that there are few or no liturgical abuses in Portland is, sadly, very untrue. I see AND hear them all the time, they are no where near the infamous “clown mass” or “liturgical dancer” level, but I suspect they are the same level/type of most other dioceses.

    -The comments regarding “diversity” most likely are in regards to the fact we have a significant Mexican population and as a result there are many NO in Spanish. I agree with your comments that masses in Latin would help to unite us so that we dont have to have “bilingual” masses.

    Overall I am comforted by what my Bishop has said, he appears very open to the MP and I truly believe that being open to the MP is a sure path to end the “priest shortage” and improve catechesis overall.

  6. Xavier says:

    I’m glad to understand this tension between the “silent” and the “dialogue” Traditional Catholics. I have traveled to both FSSP and ICKHP celebrations of the Mass and noticed differences. The strangest was when only a few people were saying the responses (as opposed to all or none). It made it appear as though nobody knew what they were supposed to do. It made me uncomfortable.

    The first time I heard the priest say the Our Father alone was quite a shock, having been raised with the horizontal theory of this prayer all my life. But I loved it. It put me right in my place theologically: the priest is both Christ and people; the Mass is His work; He doesn’t need me; my job is to say, “Amen.”

    I felt like I learned enough for an honorary degree that morning.

    Now that I am confirmed in this understanding of the Mass, I guess the dialogue won’t distract me. That is, until that first priest berates us from the Sanctuary for not taking part. (Although I should be used to this by now.)

  7. “The first time I heard the priest say the Our Father alone was quite a shock, having been raised with the horizontal theory of this prayer all my life. But I loved it. It put me right in my place theologically: the priest is both Christ and people; the Mass is His work; He doesn’t need me…”

    To paraphrase Cardinal Newman, he would simply look foolish without me.

  8. Xavier says:

    “To paraphrase Cardinal Newman, he would simply look foolish without me.”

    Only because He has deigned to want us.

  9. Ole Doc Farmer says:

    Father…do you think that the pre-Sept. 14 USCCB meeting might not be a good thing? With all the playuhs in one setting, it will be a perfect time for the Ecclesia Dei Commission to shoot down (and shut down) the party line…and re-emphasize the symbiotic relationship the Holy Father envisions for the two forms.

  10. luke says:

    I hope that the bishops aren’t going to demand some paper qualification, proving competence in Latin, that could really stimey things.

  11. Harry says:

    When I wrote to the Archdiocese of Portland about 2 weeks ago, the response was “we don’t know” how the Motu Proprio would affect parishes, that “the Trinitine Mass is already offered” (30 miles west of Portland in a little Church with no music). I’m also glad to see the Archbishop’s response, as I’ve been looking everyday on their website, but nothing. And to say I saw it here first, I was thrilled. Maybe all it takes is a writing campaign by the laity to their diocese, it’s a start. “It’s all a journey” I believe…….

  12. “Only because He has deigned to want us.”

    Thanks for listening. Tell it to Cardinal Newman.

  13. Baronius says:

    For the sake of personal authenticity and integrity, one’s words ought to correspond to one’s actions. Archbishop Vlazny speaks well of Latin. He writes:

    Many of our younger clergy were not schooled in this beautiful language during their priestly formation as were those of us ordained in preconciliar times.

    This begs the question: why were these younger clergy not schooled in this beautiful language during their priestly formation? Because those whose responsibility it was to enforce the Church’s legislation on the minimum competency in Latin for all seminarians before beginnning their theology studies simply failed to do so. And continue to fail to do so.

    Archbishop Vlazny hosts the second largest seminary in the United States within his own archdiocese: Mount Angel Seminary. They offer Latin, but neither the seminary administration nor the Archbishop require that the seminarians take a single course in it, let alone demonstrate proficiency. And I’m not aware of any effort on his part to change that, despite his glowing words.

    We seem to have a disconnect here. He himself is partly responsible for the very problem he identifies.

  14. Nick says:


    Thanks for pointing that out. I had no idea he didnt require them to take Latin then or now, that is pretty bad if that is true. Should we tell some Catholic newspapers about this?

  15. PMcGrath says:

    [So, there are probably no liturgical abuses in the Archdiocese of Portland.]

    Let’s not forget the liturgical abuses from the Archdiocese of Portland! I refer of course to the execrable music and other rubbish published by the Archdiocese’s own Oregon Catholic Press.

    The next step in the reform of the reform, apart from the MP and the upcoming revised English-language Roman Missal, would be An Act for the Suppression of Certain Music Unworthy of Liturgical Use, which would describe why these pieces belong in the dustbin, accompanied by a Schedule reprinting the OCP catalog.

    Any takers?

  16. Anne says:

    Archbishop Vlazny has just finished several years dealing with lawyers and bankruptcy judges, and he and his “Chancellor” Mary Jo Tully have had lots of time to learn how to phrase things innocuously and not offend. This letter seems nice, but Vlazny, usually through and his right-hand lady, has been quite vehement about obfuscating not only the use of the old Mass, but even Latin N.O. masses, singing hymns or Latin Mass parts, use of ad orientem, etc. I credit Fr. Zuhlsdorf for giving the benefit of the doubt to Vlazny’s letter, if we take it at face value, but I must admit after living in this Archdiocese and watching closely the glorification and encouragement of heretical and liberal trends and the repression of orthodoxy in parishes and the seminary, I doubt very much if this letter expresses Vlazny’s true feelings OR intentions.

  17. Fr Arsenius says:

    Fortunately here in our local church we have…good pastors who collaborate faithfully with me in overseeing the full, conscious and active participation of our people in the sacred rites, as they are to be celebrated according to the liturgical norms.


    Last year I concelebrated at a Mass in Beaverton with Abp Vlazny at the Rite of Consecration of a Virgin. Before the Mass, the pastor invited me to distribute the Precious Blood during Holy Communion. When the time came, I approached the altar, only to be handed a chalice and — get this — a paper dinner napkin in place of a cloth purificator . . . no doubt because it was easily disposable. (!)

    A few months ago I happened to be staying overnight in Albany, another city in that archdiocese. The next morning I went to the local urban parish to offer my daily Mass. Not having brought a chalice with me, I asked to use one of theirs. The “pastoral associate” graciously showed me to the chapel and sacristry, and started pulling out of the cupboards what they normally use for Mass: ceramic pottery. When I objected, she found a wooden cup. No dice, said I. “Well, there are the glass ones we use for Sunday Mass”, she said, looking rather perturbed. Nope. So she clambered around the closets and shelves until she found one old, beat-up and tarnished chalice of precious metal…covered with dirt and cobwebs. I decided to offer Mass instead in some other church. (Later I learned that the Abp permits the use of glass vessels in his archdiocese…so long as they were purchased before the promulgation of Redemptionis Sacramentum…a sort of adaptation of the secular regulatory principle of “pre-existing, non-conforming” exemption.)

    And the pastor in Dallas who had (“has”?) the annoying habit during Mass of rushing down from the sanctuary to hold hands with members of the congregation during the Lord’s Prayer….

    Then there was the pastor in Salem who insisted on using no altar cloth during Mass apart from a single corporal on the bare mensa. He has since been rewarded for his fidelity to the liturgical norms by being promoted to the position of rector of the archbishop’s cathedral.

  18. Paul Haley says:

    Fr. Z.,
    As I read the MP, the decision on celebrating the Traditional Mass has been decentralized to the priest/pastor level. One wonders, therefore, why the bishops are so intent on letting their views be made known when, as I see it, they are not involved unless there is a dispute at the local level.

  19. Tom S. says:

    Bishop Jugis of Charlotte has made no public statement as yet, but in reply to my email his spokesman stated that “The Bishop feels that the Holy Father’s statement speaks for itself”.

    And as yet, no public statement has been made. Nor have the priests been informed privately. That creates a problem because some priests are happy to celibrate the extraordiary form, but would still like to hear the from the Bishop, I suppose for his “blessing”, as such.

  20. Until the Vatican requires that all seminarians become proficient in Latin liberal faculty and bishops will continue to suppress the legitimate use of Latin in both forms of the Mass by attempting to keep those who must be proficient in its use ignorant of it. This will require hardball on the part of the Holy See. These facilities have already proven they will ignore published requirements.
    Someone asked why the bishops are so anxious to let their views be known if the decision is up to the local priest? In the real world a priest who ignores the “advice” of their bishop can look forward to a very uncomfortable existence. A priest who insists on celebrating TLM in the face of a bishop who feels that it should be relegated to a single parish on the far edge of the diocese might suddenly find himself sent to that church or one even more remote, suddenly made a cluster priest with no real authority in each parish, or taken out of parish work entirely.
    Make no mistake most priest will listen to what the bishops say. If it’s “the party line” then no matter what the Holy Father wants little will change in most diocese.

  21. michigancatholic says:

    Then, Terry, we must make it our business to follow the faithful priests no matter where they are sent.

  22. Louis E. says:

    Has the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientiae” (which requires not only that seminarians be taught Latin,but that they be taught other subjects IN Latin) ever been abrogated?
    (I doubt that its language gave the USCCB an opt-out).

  23. John says:

    Archbishop Vlanzy’s forthright honesty and candor are most refreshing. I especially appreciate his statement that Pope Benedict was very clear and and doesn’t need any interpretation.

    His honesty and condor reminds me of one of his predecessors, Archbishop Robert Dwyer.

    Archbishop Dwyer was my hero in the late 60s and early 70s. He was remarkably critical of the new liturgy. In his diocesean newspaper he wrote movingly about the pain the new liturgy was causing him (and me, and many others.) He wrote so beautifully about what the old liturgy had meant to him.

    He did his best to make play well with the cards he was dealt. He celebrated the new liturgy with such grace and dignity. I would travel 700 miles to attend his Masses.

    He retired at about age 65. I was really dissapointed when he did that. Archbishop Jadot was the Apostolic Delegate in that era and I wonder Archbishop Dwyer wasn’t forced out.

    Archbishop Dwyer died about two years later. Evidently he has spend this portion of his eternity praying for the restoration of the sacred liturgy.

  24. dad29 says:

    Sometimes the hard core of the “silence school” will stare, or rather, glare down people who do make the responses. Making responses is good and proper and also one’s RIGHT, This is going to be a big issue after 14 September when the provisions of Summorum Pontificum kick in

    You said a mouthful. It’s like the 1958 Instruction was signed by Abps Bugnini & Weakland, or something, eh?

  25. E. Mae says:

    “But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy is holding a special meeting next month in order to offer bishops around the country some guidance…”

    What this Bishops’ meeting is really about:

    Main topic: How to save face and look like you’re in charge!
    Other topics: 1) Creative ways in prohibiting the TLM.
    2) How to spin the Motu Propio as if it were your
    3) 12-step program for bishops who now regret being
    uncharitable in allowing Indult Masses. (“It
    would have never come to this if only…”)

  26. Theocoid says:

    I hope this sentiment trickles down from the archdiocese to our diocese in Idaho.

Comments are closed.