The Tablet: another piece on the Motu Proprio

The English lefty tabloid The Tablet (28 July) has a somewhat more balanced piece than the usual hysteria we can expect from the ranks of their writers.  Today we read a contribution by a man who back int he day was the chairman of the Latin Mass Association.  He is now a lay minister in prisons, which certain harks to Rule 4.

My emphases and comments. 

A Moment of Recollection

On 7 July I went to Mass in what we must now call the “Ordinary” rite, though it was not celebrated in ordinary circumstances. There were bars on the windows of the chapel, the congregation was searched before being allowed in, and the door was locked behind us. In the world outside, 7 July was a Saturday, but for the prisoners of the Young Offenders Institution in which I work it was a Sunday, the day on which our chaplain comes in to say weekly Mass.

They look forward to it, and so does he. The atmosphere is upliftingly prayerful. That Saturday, like every other Saturday, 15 young men slipped easily into the spirit of a simple, worshipful liturgy in which they participated with unaffected fervour and commitment. When the lad who read the first reading stumbled over a word, someone in the front row helped him out. At the sign of peace, they shook hands not only with each other, but also with the officer appointed to watch over them from the back. During the period of thanksgiving after Communion, there was a stillness that ran deeper than silence. Those young men were serving all kinds of sentences, but for that hour, every one of them was free.

It’s a real gift to be able to go to a Mass like that, though I never thought I’d find myself saying so. For most of my adult life, I attended the old Tridentine Mass whenever it was practically possible, going to the new rite only when I had no other choice. Three decades ago, I was chairman of the Latin Mass Society. Today, I am an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.  [of "Holy Communion", unless he is an instituted Acolyte, which he could very well be.] If anyone had predicted that, even a couple of years ago, I’d have told them they were daft. But I haven’t abandoned my devotion to the old liturgy, and I would love to be able to teach the prisoners I serve how to appreciate it. I am sure they would rise to it. On Saturday 7 July, the time that might happen came significantly nearer with the publication of the Pope’s motu proprio on the use of the 1962 Missal. When I got home I immediately logged on to the internet. I wanted to find out what Benedict XVI had written.

What I read filled me with unqualified [cf. Rule Five] delight. For years, there has been a standoff between “traditional” and “progressive” elements within Roman Catholicism, though our Christian vocation (and the documents of the Second Vatican Council) requires us to embrace both. “Summorum Pontificum” points this out clearly. With one legislative act, the Pope has shown that to reject our liturgical inheritance is as unacceptable as to deny the possibility of liturgical development.  [Development!  YES!  This guy really gets it, doesn’t he!]

This document permits freely; it imposes nothing, except tolerance.  [Nice. Heh heh,  "impose tolerance".] The only thing it takes away is the right for anyone to claim that a person or a community that declares an attachment to the former liturgy is ipso facto out of step with the Church – though “priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books”.

There will, alas, be some devotees of the older use who find that condition unacceptable;  but after “Summorum Pontificum”, there can only be fewer than before, because  the document declares that there is only one Roman Rite and that the 1962 and 1970 Missals are both expressions of it. For anyone wishing to remain loyal to the Holy See, it is now impossible to argue that the Church’s traditional eucharistic doctrines have been extinguished by the latter, if the former is acknowledged as having equal standing.  [Repetita iuvant!] Responses to the motu proprio have, of course, been mixed. Some bishops have welcomed it in the generous spirit in which it was issued; others have attempted to neutralise its impact by the cynical use of spin.  [This is what I refer to as The Party Line, which has several verses in the mantra: "It won’t make much difference… Very few are want this… We’re already doing enough."]

Only time will tell what this act will bring and what chance of reconciliation there will be. I hope and pray that the motu proprio will bless us all with better liturgy, [Yes, he truly get’s it.] which is one of its intentions, for much of what has been done in the name of liturgical renewal seems to me off-beam and deeply damaging. The Pope makes the point unambiguously in the letter to the bishops that accompanied “Summorum Pontificum”: “ … in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorising or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”

That pain and those deformations continue, but this thoroughly modern Pope sees that the way to achieve healing now and maintain unity in the future is to honour the past. [Well put!]  In that same letter he gives the “positive reason” that motivated his decision to issue it:

“It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” Reading that paragraph reminded me of one of the most beautiful prayers the prisoners and I hear at Mass every Saturday: “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.” The same prayer occurs in the Missal of 1962.

â–  Michael McMahon is a lay chaplain in a provincial prison.

 I am delighted with this letter.  Here is a fellow who maintains his dedication to the older form, but participates in very fruitful celebrations of the newer form in a serious environment.  He sees the fruits of both.  He understands that there need not be a negative competition, one being pitted against the other.  He sees that the the one with influence the celebrations of the other.


In the same issue of the lefty tabloid The Tablet is a letter which shows that sour narrows minded attitude so typical of those who are negatively spinning the provisions of the Motu Proprio.  This cleric sets out to defend and extend the comments of the execrable Fr. Mark Francis, the multi-cultural liturgist, who excoriated Summorum Pontificum in the same publication.


Reform undermined

Fr Mark Francis (“Beyond language”, 14 July) drew attention to significant differences between the pre-conciliar version of the liturgy of the Roman Rite and the renewed and reformed version of it in use since 1969. But he touched only lightly upon the one, huge difference between the two. The central axiom that underpinned the great majority of the major reforms the Council required [which regarding the liturgy were very few thigs indeed!] was the development of the participation of the faithful in all our liturgical celebrations. [Here is yet another fellow who doesn’t understand what the Church really means by "active participation".] It was the driving principle in the development of a vernacular liturgy, [Which the Council said could be permitted occasionally, but that Latin was to remain the language of the liturgy] and has shaped profoundly the way we now operate as Church [don’t you love how they turn "Church" into a buzz-word by omiting an article?] with the involvement of the lay faithful in virtually every aspect of its life.

The earlier version of the Mass was composed for a priest-celebrant and a single server. [Noooo…. it wasn’t.  Quite the opposite.  It was really a much greater, sung liturgy, closer to the Divine Liturgy.  A smaller version developed later.]  It gave no part whatever to the lay faithful; [B as in B, S as in S.] indeed, it did not even acknowledge their presence. [Other than all those prayers for and about the people, and other than those moments where the priests invites responses (whether people answered them or not) and those moments when people participated in the most perfect form of "active participation", the reception of Holy Communion, and… well… you get it.]  Most canon lawyers would read the final paragraph of Pope Paul VI’s apostolic constitution of 3 April 1969 as a categorical abrogation of everything in the previous editions of the Roman Missal that was not enshrined in the new one. [Then most canon lawyers would be wrong, wouldn’t they!  Paul VI did not abrogate the older Mass.  He immediately extended permission for older priests to use it and gave an indult to the UK.  Had he meant to abrogate it, he would have said so.] To read now in the motu proprio that it was “never abrogated” is quite puzzling, to say the least: who so advised Pope Benedict?  [ROFL!  The Holy Father is just a babe in the woods, surrounded by canonists who either don’t know their biretta from their bum or who are whispering traditionalist propaganda in his ear.  Poor Pope Benedict, as innocent as a lamb, who knew nothing about this issue before he became Pope.  Riiiiight….  In any event.  It isn’t "puzzling" any more. The Legislator has spoken.] The motu proprio compromises many of the principles of renewal and reform enshrined in the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II.  [About which Benedict knows nothing, right?] One wonders whether it is ever wise to seek to resolve by compromise rather than on principle  [Okay, I think he just suggested that the Pope lacks principles.  Am I wrong?  Also, I would say that the MP is not a compromise.  In its provisions the LAW is laid down, which this chap will have to obey, without compromise, like it or not.] an issue raised by those who resist change. Compromise is slippery ground.  Once a compromise position is adopted, that new position becomes the new battleground until a further compromise is gained, and that in turn becomes a new battleground.  Principles are further and further eroded until the original renewal and reform is completely undermined.  [This is what I call "creeping incrementalism" and it has been the tool of dissenters for decades.  They always seek to bump the paradigm on a degree or so at a time.  But after 40 years, the paradigm has shifted so far that someone who once seemed like a freaky liberal now looks like a hardened traditionalist.  The Holy Father didn’t do what is suggested.]

(Mgr) Anthony B. Boylan
Bentham, North Yorkshire

This letter, by the Reverend Monsignor, of the Diocese of Leeds, is an icon of the attitude of the left.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    F. Z.
    Have you seen the absolutely amazing response of the Pastor of St. John the Beloved in McLean Va. to the Motu Proprio? With Pastors like this, it will not matter how many silly articles the Tablet prints!

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    Isn’t there an ecclesiastical sanction for this kind of behaviour on the part of a cleric, who dares to question the Holy Apostolic See? There MUST be something on the Books. The Church of God is not a democracy; truth is not determined by a majority vote; that includes both truth in matters of Faith and Morals and in matters that come to the judgement of the Church’s supreme judge, the Vicar of Christ, who has ruled that there was never an abrogation of the now “extraordinary” form of the Roman Rite. This is a ruling on a question of fact

  3. Catholicus says:

    Michael McMahon is a splendid fellow; he has just published a beautiful book on the saints which is worth getting.

  4. I have several times said the older form of Mass in prison at the request of a prisoner. He always arranged for about a dozen other Catholics to come. They showed great devotion and reverence and I felt that it gave each man the opportunity to participate as suited him best.

  5. Romulus says:

    unless he is an instituted Acolyte,

    Am I confused? I thought there was no such thing as an “Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist”., in that all ministers of the Eucharist (as opposed to ministers of Holy Communion) must be priests, since only priests can confect the Blessed Sacrament and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass.

  6. Richard says:

    For all this nonsense about how the old mass didn’t acknowledge the presence of the people, or their participation in the mass, I would like to point out this “Commemoration of the Living” prayer which the priest prays before the consecration in the old mass, the English translation of which in the Missal is:

    “Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids N. and N. and of all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to Thee: for whom we offer, or WHO OFFER UP TO THEE, this sacrifice of praise for themselves and all their own, for the redemption of their souls, for the hope of their safety and salvation, and who now pay their vows to Thee, the eternal, living, and true God.”

    I think this prayer expresses immeasurably more the role of the univeral priesthood of the faithful at Mass than does its vernacular counterpart in Eucharistic Prayer I of the Novus Ordo:

    “Remember all of us gathered here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and all those who are dear to us. We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well being and redemption.”

    Despite how watered down and stipped of all piety the Novus Ordo prayer is, the difference that in the old mass the role of the faithful is singularly mentioned as praying for all this and that in the new mass the faithful’s role is lumped together with that of the priest with the constant use of the pronoun “we”, is crucially significant when pointing out how the role of the faithful was acknowledged and included in the older form of the mass.

  7. Bruce T. says:

    concerning Acolytes…

    Fr. Z.
    “Sometimes even Homer nods!”

    I want to second Romulus. I understand Sacramentum Redemptionis to state that only a priest (or bishop) is minister of the Eucharist. A deacon would be a ordinary minister of Holy Communion, not the Eucharist. An instituted Acolyte would be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion but preferrable to any other person deputed to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

  8. John Tidyman says:

    what does prayer really say? hmmm. i think it says you have too much time on your hands, are confused and frightened about learning and love men who wear floor length satin.

    ‘course it could also mean you’re so selfish you’re not about to act in a christian (and believe me, i use that term advisedly) manner and would much rather pretend you are one with the faeiries, goblins, soothsayers, and other idiots.

    another theory might be that prayer provides you with an easy way out of life, and a big bonus — allows you to pretend your intellect is far superior to anyone else in the room.

    just a thought.

  9. John: I think the right word is:


  10. Richard says:

    “This letter, by the Reverend Monsignor, of the Diocese of Leeds, is an icon of the attitude of the left.”

    It is, in fact, a posture of a revolutionary.

    And revolution is what has been attempted in some precincts of the Church over the last 40 years, as Pope Benedict himself pointed out in his talk with local priests this week.

  11. Richard says:

    P.S. That response by the pastor of St. John the Beloved truly is remarkable.

    Thanks for posting the link.

  12. Marysann says:

    Patrick and Richard, for your information the pastor of St. John the Beloved is Father Franklyn M. McAfee, D.D. who frequently comments on this blog. As a former parishioner of his, I can attest that all of the Masses offered in his church are celebrated properly and with the utmost reverence. The first time I walked in the door of his church for a Latin Novus Ordo Mass, and heard the splendid organ I knew that I was home. (The bishop has only approved two indult Masses for the diocese, and this parish does not have permission to offer it.) I am anxious to assist at the Mass of Blessed John XXIII at St. John’s the next time that I am in the US. I am praying that more priests follow Father McAfee’s example.

  13. Thomasso says:

    Mgr Boylan’s bishop is the Chairman of ICEL, Bishop Arthur Roche. The bishop is strongly rumoured to be in the running for Westminster. One assumes he will quietly exercise fraternal correction to the Mgr – whose left-wing views surface from time to time. He characterises the Tablet. It has relatively few readers this side of the pond. The rank-and-file certainly won’t be infleunced by it, becuase they don’t know of its existence.

    Good comments, Fr Z.

  14. ben whitworth says:

    Msgr Boylan was one of the leading lights of liturgical reform in the UK – I think
    he was chairman of the Bishops’ Conference’s Liturgy Committee in the 70s. In the diocese of Leeds he is
    particularly associated with the campaign of sanctuary reordering. He has spent decades trying to impose
    his liturgical preferences on the faithful. While it would be wrong to gloat, I find it very, very hard to
    feel any sympathy with his present woes.

  15. Sue Sims says:

    Every time something happens in the Church which scares the liberals, Mgr Boylan starts shrieking in the Tablet, not to mention the Catholic Herald: his last major outing, IIRC, was the changeover in the ICEL personnel, and he was huffing and puffing then about the way in which this destroyed the wonderful reforms of VII, etc, etc.

    They’re running scared.

  16. Tom S. says:

    I am so tired of hearing every liberal use Vatican II to justify whatever untenable position they choose to hold at the moment.

    I wish the Pope could have something like the “I KNEW Jack Kennedy, and YOU are NO Jack Kennedy” line from Lloyd Bentsen. Maybe “I was AT Vatican II, boys, so don’t try to tell me about Vatican II”

    Just dreaming.

  17. Augustinus says:

    Mgr Boylan’s influence has waned.

    Unfortunately, he and his ilk have left the permanent damage by their sanctuary wrecking, carried out with episcopal approval under the false spirit of Vatican II. They have had their day and they know it.

    His verbal meanderings in the Tablet should not be taken seriously.

    The Holy Father has declared the truth. He knows what Vatican II was really all about: we should all obey him.

  18. Andrew says:

    Fr. Z

    Bishop Rifan of Campos recently explained the clause “priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books” in an interview on Rorate Caeli, as that no one can be forced to concelebrate (Canon Law) or celebrate the new mass. What they can’t do is say that it is invalid or defective. Is this the correct understanding of that clause? It would seem so because if it weren’t then surely priests adhereing to the newer usage of Paul VI should not be allowed to exclude to celebration according to the old books, as “a matter of principle” as well?

  19. michigancatholic says:

    John Tidyman,
    I suppose you are into peace and justice instead. Oh maybe not, I just read your post.

  20. Patrick A. says:

    I share your prayer that “more priests follow Father McAfee’s example”.
    I am still shaking my head, amazing. I think that it will be a very slow process at my parish.

  21. Rob says:

    I think that John Tidyman deserves the Fr. Z sour grapes award.

  22. RBrown says:

    Msgr Boylan seems to be someone resistant to change. With such an attitude in the seminaries of the 70’s and 80’s, he would have been told that he had no vocation to the priesthood.

    Besides which, his understanding of liturgy might be more appropriate for Stonehenge than for a Catholic church.

  23. Diane says:

    That picture of the little girl whining is so appropriate.

  24. Dr. Peter H. Wright says:

    Andrew :

    Yes, that’s my interpretation too.

  25. M Kr says:

    Why does Msgr. Boylan (and so many others) only conceive of the extraordinary form in terms of the low mass?

  26. pjsandstrom says:

    It is worth noting that all the talk of actual participation by the reception of
    Holy Communion was rarely true before the reforms of the Liturgy, and insistence
    on first Communion in the seventh year, and frequent reception of Holy Communion
    by St. Pius X (all of which was more effective in theory than in practice)
    and then more practically with the changes of the fasting rules by Pope Pius XII.

  27. RBrown says:

    Why does Msgr. Boylan (and so many others) only conceive of the extraordinary form in terms of the low mass?
    Comment by M Kr

    He’s doing a worst case analysis, which is typical of those who are incapable of objectivity.

    He seems to be someone who is still locked into the 70’s and is simply not relevant.

  28. GD says:

    Would Fr Z please correct his error of terminology already pointed out by two comments: an acolyte is indeed an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, not of the Eucharist.

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