Bp. Zipfel of Bismarck in the press about Summorum Pontificum

A kind reader sent a link to an article in the Bismarck Tribune about how His Excellency Most Reverend Paul Zipfel, Bishop of Bismarck, approaches the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Let’s dig into the article, with a few caveats.

My emphases and comments.

Tridentine Mass raises queries
Bismarck Tribune

Responding to the July apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI that will allow a wider celebration of the so-called [This indicates a sensitivity to the issues of what it is called.] Tridentine Mass – done according to the pre-Vatican II liturgy – Bishop Paul Zipfel of the Bismarck Catholic Diocese took a brief survey when he met in conference with the diocese’s priests a few weeks back.  [hmmm… interesting approach]

Would any be interested or able to conduct this Mass in Latin?

A number expressed interest, "actually more of the young guys," Zipfel said.  [No surprise there at all.  I have been saying for weeks that it will be the young prriests who get interested in this older form of Mass and, once they learn it, it will influence how they say the newer Mass.]

Many have taken some Latin, but most not too much, he said. This would mean that those who are interested would have to do some preparation – something that can’t be done in a day or two, he said.  [You can learn the pronounce Latin in a couple days.]

Bishops across the country have discussed making some arrangements for their priests to have training workshops, Zipfel said, [Interesting.] but nothing has been finalized so far.

In this diocese, the Rev. Tom Dignan, a retired priest, always has been interested in the Latin, or what is now called the extraordinary rite, [pretty close] Zipfel said. Dignan told the bishop that it took him about two weeks to become familiar enough with the Latin to conduct it without stumbling.

Regarding the Society of St. Pius X, the group that has been urging the return of the Tridentine Mass, "the Holy Father is hoping it will draw them a little closer" in their relationship to the larger church, Zipfel said.

However, Zipfel said that the society’s differences with the Vatican are larger than the return of the Latin Mass, [and he is exactly right] and include disagreements about many of the actions of the Second Vatican Council.

"The Holy Father is smarter than I am, and he has good reason for what he’s doing," Zipfel said.  [OH MY!  This is a remarkable comment to make to the press.  I admire this very much.  He simply places himself on the same page with the Holy Father without all the posturing and pretense of many of his brother bishops.]

Within the Bismarck Diocese, Zipfel said that he did receive a letter, with no return address, signed by about a dozen people, presumably from the northern part of the diocese, requesting the Tridentine Mass.

Under the pope’s decision, any parish priest may conduct the pre-Vatican II Mass for those who want it, with the proviso that it would be no more than one Mass on a Sunday.

However, if the priest feels he can’t do this, or has questions, then he comes to his bishop, Zipfel said.

The bishop will attend a series of "Celebrating Church" events around the diocese, in which he discusses the history of the Mass and the pope’s letter in detail and answers questions from parishioners.  [Excellent idea!]

The first one was conducted Monday at St. Hildegard’s Church in Menoken. Zipfel said people there were interested in what effect the pope’s decision would have on the diocese’s relationship with St. Michael’s Church in Mandan, which has its Masses conducted by a priest from the St. Pius X Society.

The bishop’s response is that the relationship remains unchanged – Masses at St. Michael’s are considered "valid but not licit" and Catholics are not permitted to attend it.  [Well… there may be some conditions under which they can, but this is correct in substance.]

There is some curiosity about the Latin Mass from those attending, some of whom said they just wanted to see it one time, he said.

"I would hope we would have something available,"he said. "It has to be the people, a group, that wants this. They have to come forward."

Even if a priest were to conduct the Latin Mass somewhere in the diocese, the long distances would mean travel could be difficult for those from farther away, he said.  [This is a huge factor in a place like North Dakota.]

Zipfel said he hopes that people will understand that the church considers this one liturgy with two expressions: "We’re not working against each other. We’re not in competition."   [YES!   This is very good.  This is Rule #1: 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".]


I applaud Bishop Zipfel.  I like the idea of the bishops having workshops and meetings in different places.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Gregor says:

    Sounds very good.

  2. rk says:

    It is great to hear good news from this neck of the woods. :)

    We are often forgotten by many in the world, but there are great things happening in North Dakota and there are a lot of good holy people here. (along with priests/etc.)

  3. Jeremy says:

    God bless, Bishop Zipfel!

  4. Jim R says:

    “The bishop will attend a series of ‘Celebrating Church’ events around the diocese, in which he discusses the history of the Mass and the pope’s letter in detail and answers questions from parishioners. [Excellent idea!]”

    While in most dioceses like mine (Archdiocese of Washington), the faithful remain ignorant of Summorum Pontificum.

    Jim R.

  5. John Eakins says:

    “You can learn the pronounce Latin in a couple days”

    I think this is a little tough unless, for example, one were a native Italian speaker. More importantly I believe is to get to the point, or close to the point, where the priest can pronounce the Latin by rote.

    “Catholics are not permitted to attend it. [Well… there may be some conditions under which they can, but this is correct in substance.]”

    Everything I’ve read seems to suggest that the only serious prohibition is that, or those, which would lead one to separate from Rome, or words to that effect by Msgr. Perl @ PCED.

  6. JohnK says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf –

    I can teach you to pronounce “damen” and “herren” in less than a minute. But if you don’t understand the meaning, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll go into the wrong bathroom next time you’re in Germany.

    Our priests do not need to merely parrot the words in some foreign language. If that were the case they might as well offer the Mass in Klingon at the next Star Trek convention.

    There really needs to be some level of understanding of what they are saying. I agree that idoneus does not mean fluency but it does mean, according to Cassell, suitable – and suitable in this case is for something as sacred as the Mass. So we don’t need men who can carry on a discourse with Cicero, but men who can explain at least the basic meaning of the words and why sometimes the contemporary English translations fail the test.

    One good starting point might be books such as Latin Grammar for the Reading of the Missal and Breviary. Or having small groups of priests meeting with Latin teachers in their community to discuss Latin specifically as it pertains to the Mass.

    But it’s far more than just being able to pronounce the Latin in some ungarbled manner. Even the kids at Hogwart’s know better than that.

  7. Chironomo says:

    I picked up a fascinating re-print of “Latin Pronunciation in the Roman Rite” at the Orlando Liturgy Conference last month from one of the vendors. Apparently, this is a book that has been flying off the shelves. I don’t have it in front of me here, but it is a reprint of a 1932 or so booklet intended to teach priests the pronunciation and meaning of the various texts from the Mass. I am not a priest, although I am certainly familiar enough with the texts from the Mass, and with a little time studying it is not too difficult to learn both the pronunciation and meaning of the texts. The book presents the latin texts in standard phonetics for pronunciation, with the english translation below. I found it pretty easy to use.

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