“papal power versus episcopal power, the Vatican usually wins”

With an irritated flick of my biretta at Gerald over at the Cafeteria, which is not only closed, but nearing demolition (14 Sept) ) I present the following.  o{]>:¬(    I am not irritated at Gerald, of course. 

Let’s see what the fired editor of America has to say.  Emphases and comments mine.

Thomas Reese weighs in on the Latin Mass

Thomas J. Reese, S.J. has an interesting spin on the Latin Mass. Here it is:

"Much fuss is being made over the rumor that the Tridentine Mass is allegedly going to be “restored.” If anything happens, and it probably will, the decision will have more to do with power and politics than Latin and liturgy. [For all feminists it’s always about power.]

"The issue is not Latin in the liturgy. Any priest can say the current Catholic liturgy in Latin. Nor is the issue the Tridentine or pre-Vatican II mass. Any priest, with the permission of his bishop, can say the Tridentine Latin mass.

"The real issue is the power of local bishop to decide [As I said.  Most of concern was about the power of the bishops, not whether this was the right thing to do or not.] whether the Tridentine mass will be said in his diocese. Right now, a local bishop has the power to approve or not approve the use of the Tridentine mass in his diocese. [That they were not so generous brought this present situation on.] Under current practice, a priest or a group of people petition the bishop to allow them to use the Tridentine mass. [Or… the bishop could do it on his own without a petition.] He then investigates the situation and decides on pastoral grounds whether it is a good idea or not. Often he will require that the petitioners state that they accept the new liturgy and Vatican II as legitimate.

"Some bishops, especially in France, have said no because they judge that the petitioners reject the reforms of Vatican II and are divisive in their dioceses. If the pope issues a Motu proprio allowing the use of the Tridentine mass without the local bishop’s permission, he is basically saying that he does not trust the pastoral judgment of the bishops. Those who have been fighting the bishops over the Tridentine mass will celebrate this as a victory over the bishops. [Not if the bishop takes charge of the situation from the very beginning.]

"Some in the Vatican, including Benedict, hope that allowing free use of the Tridentine mass will make possible reunion with Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic group started by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The leaders of the group, however, have indicated that their rejection of Vatican II goes way beyond the vernacular liturgy.

"Some in the Vatican hope that greater use of the Tridentine mass will undermine support for the Lefebvrite leaders and bring some of the society’s members back into union with the Catholic Church.  [That is what happens where bishops have been generous with the older form of Mass.]

"Rumors that the Tridentine Mass was giong to be made more easily available date back to the papacy of John Paul II. So far the bishops have been able to fight it off, but the record shows that when it is an issue of papal power versus episcopal power, the Vatican usually wins. [Right, because for men like Reese, this is seen through the lens of power and conflict.] Other than embarrassing the bishops and pastors who have opposed wider use of the Tridentine mass, the Motu proprio will probably have little effect since public opinion polls show overwhelming support for the new liturgy among Catholics." 



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Richard says:


  2. Jonathan Bennett says:


    I know this is the wrong place to post this but maybe you can just give me a quick answer. The MP says that Masses in the Extraordinary form cannot be celebrated during the Triduum- does this apply to parishes or oratories that already use the Extraordinary form exclusively (ie. will Indult parishes have to swtich to the Novus Ordo for the Triduum?)?.

  3. Barb says:

    All I know is that the fruits of the M.P. are already being felt in my diocese. Our newly installed Bishop had given us permission for the Tridentine Mass just last month — and it was to be at the typical “Indult Ghetto” location — ie, far away at a bad time (2PM on Sundays) and for this we were grateful — not because that’s where the new Bishop wanted it necessarily — that’s the church parish of one of the priests who was willing to offer the TLM. WELL! After the M.P. our Bishop, very excited, wants to offer the Mass “in a central location” and he wants it to be “first class” — with choir and organ. We’re thinking the Cathedral! I think many solid Bishops who are new to all this are going to jump in with both feet, like our new Bishop, and really try to do this right. Yippee!! Good men are going to be “empowered” — to borrow a word from the feminists.

  4. Barb: Then right away, before 14 September, that whole community should sign a letter of thanks to the Bishop, assuring them of their prayers and how happy they are.

  5. Jonathan: does this apply to parishes or oratories that already use the Extraordinary form exclusively (ie. will Indult parishes have to swtich to the Novus Ordo for the Triduum?)?.

    It doesn’t apply to those places. They won’t have to switch.

  6. Mark says:

    Here’s the real issue from what I can gather in terms of implementing the Older Rite in parishes – priests will not disobey their bishops without serious consequences.

    Instead of going to my regular “Indult” Mass this morning – I opted to go to my parish Mass as I wanted the opportunity to talk to my parish priest about this and see if there would be any announcements, etc. I go there for Daily Mass often and have volunteered as a “Youth Minister.” Therefore, the Priest and I know each other quite well. I am scheduled to have lunch tomorrow with him to discuss this matter more fully.

    The priest explained in his announcement as Mass ended this morning that “it is still up to the bishops not the priests regarding whether to expect to see the Tridentine Mass at this parish.” He repeated this 3 times in slightly different ways.

    When I asked him about this after Mass, he acknowledged that priests in “theory” have the right to celebrate the older form of Mass – but in practice, where the bishop does not wish for the older rite to be celebrated, that he and his fellow priests cannot and will not celebrate it. He said he must be obedient to the bishop; otherwise he will be “punished”.

    My fear is that this is true. The priest has no real rights in these matters – they cannot appeal to the “union” if you will. If they appeal to Rome, the bishop is informed and the priest is further punished. This particular priest has written to Rome and the Archbishop had a copy of his letter when he confronted him about it. He told me the bishops have too much power. He said even the laymen have more power than they do. I live in a very liberal area in the United States – If it wasn’t for the indult Mass I would have been suffering in a major way. I certainly empathize with those of you who are not blessed to have had Indult Mass in your area. Every time I attend a Novus Ordo Mass I am beside myself.

    Apparently, the bishops gained power sometime in the 80s. Father, do you know about the balance of power change that occurred then. What changed? Is there any way that this power can be swung back to Rome and to priests?

    Father, I would like to help my priest without having the unintended affect of causing any harm to him from the bishop. Any advice?

    Con Fide,


  7. Therese says:

    The FSSP is offering training sessions for priests who want to learn how to pray the Tridentine rite of the Mass properly. http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/archive-2007-0715-fr-berg.htm

  8. Petra says:

    Dear Fr Z, please clarify: is the celebration of the Triduum Sacrum (including the Good Friday prayers) according to the Old Rite allowed to every priest in the future or not? (cf. Art. 2 of the Motu proprio) What does this article mean? I read the interpretation that it means a “suppression” of the Old Rite for the Triduum, at least for those priests who don’t belong to traditionalist orders/groups/fraternities.

  9. Alex says:

    He interprets the council and the MP “in the light of the spirit of Cultural
    Marxism” clearly. Power struggle. Class struggle, hierarchy struggle.

    Jesuits of the post 1970 era are all too often cultural marxists and total
    apostates. Not all, but far too many of them especially the vocal ones!

  10. Monica says:

    Did anyone see this July 8 news article titled “Latin mass a looming headache for Catholic parishes”? I was surprised to read a comment by a priest referring to this as a “real pain in the neck for the pastor.” I do not believe that a priest should make such a rude comment especially right after the Pope has issued this motu proprio. Will this priest be a future Bishop?


  11. Patrick says:

    More carping from those that held the reins and drove liturgical abuse, novelty, execrable formation of youth (and adults) and tried to reform the church in accord with their own lifefesyles for the last forty years.

    All in all they are probably more afraid of the fact that the motu proprio allows true freedom and is not an iron clad mandate of the sort that they are comfortable inflicting on the less thatn erudite non elites.

  12. Vincenzo says:

    Reminder everyone – on EWTN tonight:


    Host Raymond Arroyo will discuss the newly- released papal document by Pope Benedict XVI widening use of the 1962 Roman Missal.

    Guest include:
    Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska
    Monsignor James Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy
    Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, Editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review
    Most Rev. Thomas G. Doran, Bishop of Rockford, Illinois

    Fr. George Gabet, FSSP, North American District Superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
    July 9, 9 PM Live
    July 13, 8 PM Encore


    And streaming video is available.

  13. danphunter1 says:

    Have no fear:Article 5 of Summorum Pontificum states:”In parishes,where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition,{no set number required for the request},the pastor will willingly accept their requests to celebrate the mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962″.
    Mark,this is the law.It has been written in stone by His Holiness and His Holiness will back this up.
    God bless Pope Benedict,and the Catholic Church.

  14. danphunter1 says:

    Have no fear:in Summorum Pontificum,Article 5 the Holy Father states:”In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition,{there is no set number of people requesting the mass,it could be two people},the pastor will willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962″
    Mark,this is law.The Holy Father has written this in stone,it will not be altered and the Supreme Pontiff backs it up,so guess Who else backs it up?
    God bless you and God bless our Holy Father.

  15. danphunter1 says:

    Sorry about the double postings.

  16. RBrown says:

    My fear is that this is true. The priest has no real rights in these matters – they cannot appeal to the “union” if you will. If they appeal to Rome, the bishop is informed and the priest is further punished. This particular priest has written to Rome and the Archbishop had a copy of his letter when he confronted him about it. He told me the bishops have too much power.

    Comment by Mark

    Don’t depend on the priest. He is in a tough situation.

    1. Make sure you have a good and dependable group (30 or so, maybe even with signed petition) by Sep 14th. Go to your pastor.

    2. If he says no, then immediately go see the archbishop or someone else at the chancery. Give them a copy of the petition, saying that you will wait ONE WEEK for a response. Make sure to tell them that you are fully prepared to forward the information to the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

    3. If you are not satisfied with the response, then send the information to the Ecclesia Dei Commission. DON’T let them stall. The address is:

    His Eminence
    Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos
    Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”
    Palazzo della Sant’Uffizio
    00120 Vatican City

    Keep in mind one thing: This is not just a political gesture by BXVI. He is serious about this matter (the EC commission is his baby), considering it vital to the well being of the Church.

    And I ask a favor. Could you please email me the name of your archbishop at drbobus@catholic.org. I know certain people who might be able to address the situation with him.

  17. RBrown says:

    “The issue is not Latin in the liturgy. Any priest can say the current Catholic liturgy in Latin. Nor is the issue the Tridentine or pre-Vatican II mass. Any priest, with the permission of his bishop, can say the Tridentine Latin mass.”

    I think Fr Reese here is playing a legalistic game–like other liberals he is now trying to find a fall back position. It is true that de iure any priest can celebrate a Latin Novus Ordo. But de facto it is not true.

    The liturgical battle is about two things: 1) Latin and the vernacular and 2) ad orientem and versus populum. If parochial masses had continued ad orientem with everything in Latin except the readings, there would have been no SSPX.

    The truth is that de facto the Novus Ordo means vernacular liturgy and versus populum.

  18. Joe says:

    You all do realize of course how this MP is going to paint the liberals into a corner.

    For 40 years they’ve been telling us about the empowerment of laity while brow beating us to accept whatever novel rubric change they cook up and then enforce on us via their self-described “experts”. Not anymore. Now there’s a “free market” and choice for laity to picj and choose. We’ll see which rite really gets more traffic and which style the people really prefer at baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. etc.

    It should be most interesting to see their attitude when people are finally “empowered” by the Pope to pick and choose!

  19. Serafino says:

    RBrown is 100% correct. During the past 40 years the bishops have become “popes” in their dioceses. Even the code of Canon law favors the rights of bishops over those of the priests and members of the laity. The bishops will not give up their power without a fight.

    However, the MP, which is now the law of the Church, gives both the priests and the laity “rights” concerning the TLM. If the bishops try to undermind the MP, you must bring the matter to Rome. Do not wait! The Holy Father stands with us in this matter.

  20. Boniface says:

    That was the stupidest article I’ve ever read so far! As if the Pope were just doing this to cling to power! Never mind what is right or wrng? I’m shocked and amazed that people still treat secular outlets as viable sources of information.

    Check out my blog at: http/unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com

  21. ALL: If you have to approach the priest, the bishop, or the chancery, do NOT…. do NOT NOT NOT get in their face! Be courteous. You hurt yourselves and others if you approach them with aggression. This not not mean anyone has to cringe and beg. It means be SMART.

  22. Barb says:

    Yesterday after Mass, the retired priest with whom we all thought we had a decent relationship went off on us. We asked him if he had heard about the Motu Proprio and he said he had mixed feelings. Then he said, “If I have to say the Mass in Latin, I’ll preach the sermon in Latin. You said you wanted a Latin Mass, didn’t you?” It was downhill from there even though we assured him we would give him all the support he wanted, etc. If this is the reaction we are getting from a so-called orthodox priest, I can just imagine what we’re going to get from those hostile to the Traditional Mass and those who want it.
    Meanwhile, our bishop plans to meet with his 11 member Presbyteral Council and his Pastoral Council, whatever that is. He has said nothing about meeting with those of us who have so respectfully asked for the Traditional Mass. It is going as I suspected it would. I wonder how many candidates have refused to take the Springfield, MO bishopric. We have the oldest sitting bishop in the country and still no indication of when his resignation will be accepted.

    I am really very happy for the good fortune of others. Please pray for those of us who must be treated in such a vile manner with no end in sight.

  23. Jim McFillin says:

    The Tridentine/ Latin Mass deserves to be said at every Catholic church, and not relegated to an out of the way rural, or center city church.

    Pope Benedict explains it very well in his letter to the Bishops: “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

    Let’s begin to learn our sacred Latin liturgy. God has given us a great gift in this pope. “Introibo ad altare dei.”

    God bless,

    Jim McFillin/ Great Mills, MD

  24. Felix says:

    I am reminded of a line from a fisk back in 2004:

    “It’s all about the Preci–er, “power.”


  25. RBrown says:


    I just sent myself an email from another service, and it went through.

    Using the link, however, it didn’t work because it put in a final period. If you use the link, take the final period out or:


  26. Aventicus says:

    Fr. Z, I am glad you got back to the Sabine Farm and settled in before the MP came out. You have been very busy and I appreciate all that you have written and I can only imagine the great amount of time that you have spent reading the articles, translating texts and I’ve got to say… I love reading your red remarks! Keep up the good work and know that what you are doing is appreciated! All the best, Jeffry

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