Mark Shea wryly points out the obvious

The National Catholic Register published a very good piece by a blogger’s friend Mark Shea.


Catholic Church Says Same Thing as Ever: Millions Shocked

BY Mark Shea

Oh my stars and garters! It turns out that, not only did the Church say a perfectly valid Mass from the time of the Reformation till now, but on top of that, the Pope is still Catholic.

That was the astonished discovery of the delightfully ignorant mainstream media when, in a shocking move, Pope Benedict XVI let the cleansing daylight of truth throw light on the minds of people who have somehow gotten it into their heads that there are two Churches, pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II.

Pope Benedict issued a motu proprio on July 7 that reaffirmed that the Mass that was said for centuries before the 1970 reform of the Mass was still a good thing, and that people should be able to celebrate it if they like.

It would appear that this was horrifying enough to professionally aggrieved people, such as this poor man in profiled in the Washington Post:

“I can’t fight back the tears. This is the saddest moment in my life as a man, priest and bishop,” Luca Brandolini, a member of the liturgy commission of the Italian bishops’ conference, told Rome daily La Repubblica in an interview July 8.

“It’s a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been cancelled.”

I missed the memo announcing the cancellation of Vatican II.

Indeed, I could have sworn that the Pope was making a generous gesture to folks who just want to celebrate the Mass that was celebrated every day the council was being held.

I got the impression somehow that these people are, like, part of the Church too.

Yet, somehow, some panicky folks have the notion that if you worship God in Latin rather than the vernacular, you are destroying the Church.

How fragile we are. It’s not enough that the Paul VI Mass is celebrated in about 99.9% of the world. This small gesture of kindness to people who like the John XXIII rite spells the doom of the council and quite possibly of the Church.

There’s a jittery totalitarianism behind such sentiments, the restless, sleepless fear that not everybody everywhere is “just like me.”

And there was more trauma to come. For on July 10, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document informing us that, as a matter of fact, St. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

What did the document say? Basically, it said, again, what the Church has always said: that the fullness of the revelation Christ handed down subsists in the Catholic Church. In short, the Church believes about itself what it has always believed: that it is the Church Christ founded and that other Christian bodies are right insofar as they participate in that fact and wrong when they don’t.

Of course, what the mainstream media reported was junk like “Vatican: Protestants Not True Christians” (CNN). In fact, what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said was that Protestant congregations are not true churches but ecclesial bodies.

What Rome means is, “Where there’s no valid Eucharist, there’s no Church,” because the Eucharist is what makes the Church the Church.

What Rome does not mean is “Protestants aren’t Christian. God hates Protestants. Protestants are all going to hell. Only the Catholic Church is a true Church.”

The reality is that Protestants are in real, but imperfect, communion with the Church. That’s because “we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” If you are validly baptized, you are Christian even if you aren’t Catholic. And, by the way, the Church does recognize non-Catholic bodies as true Churches. (Think Orthodox, for instance.)

It’s all about the Eucharist, baby. If you’ve got a valid one, you’re a Church. If you don’t, but you still adhere to the basics of the Creed, you’re an ecclesial body.

None of this stuff is news to anybody familiar with actual Catholic teaching. It’s neither a “cancellation” of Vatican II nor a “retreat from ecumenism.” It’s a precise restatement of Vatican II and of Dominus Iesus.

But it’s shockingly new to the majority of Catholics and to most of the rest of the world.

Which is why the Church had to point it out — again.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Good one! As Mark himself is fond of saying, “In other news: water found to be wet.”

  2. danphunter1 says:

    The Motu Proprio does spell the beginning of the end of the Ordinary Rite of mass.
    Also while it is 100% true that there has been ,since Pentecost,one Church, it does look like there are two different sensible ways of offering mass and two different ecclesiologies.
    This could make it seem like there are two differing Catholic Churches existing at the same time.
    I have heard a sermon from a validly ordained priest who stated that masturbation is not grave matter. A few weeks later at a Classical Rite mass I heard from another validly ordained priest that masturbation is grave matter.
    To many this would seem like two different Churches.
    But we know better.
    I have also assisted at mass where the validly ordained priest invalidated the Consecration by saying:”For this means My Body, For this means My Blood”.
    One week later I heard a validly ordained priest speak these words at the Consecration:”For this is My Body,For this is My Blood”.
    It seems like two different Churches, but we know better.
    God bless you.

  3. Ron says:

    OK, this is my problem. Many of the people Shea is satirizing are bishops, priests, theologians and nuns. For more than forty years they have been teaching the hermeneutic of discontinuity as orthodoxy and driving as many orthodox Catholics out of the the church as they could. And as the reaction to the Motu Proprio makes clear, they will continue to do so. It seems to me, as weird as it sounds, that what Benedict is doing is laying the groundwork for a Catholic subculture inside the mainstream Catholic church. The mainstream church is going to remain blissfully ignorant of everything that happened before 1962, but there will now be a militantly orthodox subculture, nipping at the heels of the Mahoneys and their cohorts. As tragic as the situation is, it represents a gigantic improvement over the state of the church when I first entered it in 1983. But what I will never understand is why the Holy Father doesn’t simply call a spade a spade and demand that those in positions of authority who cannot recite the Creed with a straight face step down and stop endangering the salvation of millions. We are after all talking about the salvation of souls. Given the gravity of the situation, it seems to me that the pope is being just a trifle over subtle in his strategies for reviving the church.

  4. Brian Day says:

    Mark Shea is an interesting character. He has admitted that he has no interest in liturgy other than he is happy with the ordinary rite Masses he attends.
    Mark Shea
    Good for him that he writes that the Church should be generous to those who do prefer the extraordinary rite Mass.

  5. Timmay! says:

    To Brian Day: I think Mark’s opinion on the extraordinary form of the Mass is in line with more people than you think. In my experience, your average Sunday church-goer is quite content with their Parish and the ordinary form Mass they attend. They’re at least somewhat aware of the indult (for now) Masses, they have no problem with those Masses or the people who go to them. But they’re happy and spiritually fulfilled where they’re at. I’m the same way. Those who are strongly against it are the very vocal minority. At least in my experience…

  6. danphunter1 says:

    In my limited experience I have found that protestants are turned off by the majority of Ordinary Rite mass’s.
    In fact I am friends with 4 protestants who are being moved by the Holy Ghost to convert to the Church, but they claim that they will only assist at the Classical Rite.
    They have been to both Rites and in the Novus Ordo mass they assisted at they found it to be nearly identical to the Methodist services they had grown up with.
    They realize that transubstantiation takes place in both Rites, but they where drawn in so completely by the Classical Rite that they are going to convert for this reason alone.
    I admittedly live in a protestant dominated state and do not know more than 2 Catholics other than my wife.
    The Classical Rite is the best tool of ecumenism I have ever seen,at least in protestant North Carolina.
    God bless you.

  7. Brian Day says:

    OT to danphunter1:

    Where about in NC? Twenty years ago or so, my wife and I lived in Kernersville for a couple of years. When we looked for a Catholic Church, we looked in the Forsyth county (Winston-Salem) phone book. We lost count of Baptist churches at somewhere over 100. There were only two Catholic churches in the whole county (approximately 300,000 population).

    I can’t address your point about protestants being attracted to either rite, but I completely agree about being a lonely Catholic in the middle of the Bible belt.

  8. crusader88 says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say Protestants aren’t going to Hell… they are heretics and schismatics after all.

  9. Tina says:


    The orginial Protestant revolters were heretics and schismatics. We must remember that when one is born into a family that does not know history and/or realize the importance of the transubstantiated Eucharist, we cannot place them in the same group as Luther, Henry VIII, etc. If we do and we tell them that lie, we turn them off to ANY hope of conversion and the fault is then ours.

    It’s true that non-Catholics can be captured by the Latin Mass. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton converted from Protestantism to Catholicism because of the Latin Mass and because our Churches LOOK and FEEL like Churches and not like townhall meetings.

  10. danphunter1 says:

    We live about 15 miles west of Durham, 12 miles northwest of Chapel Hill.
    As of September 12 2007 the only aproved Classical Rite Mass is 90 miles from us at Sacred Heart Church in Dunn. We know protestants who find this drive difficult,but they are willing to do it because it looks like something sacred.
    God bless you.

  11. Alexander says:

    “I think Mark’s opinion on the extraordinary form of the Mass is in line with more people than you think. In my experience, your average Sunday church-goer is quite content with their Parish and the ordinary form Mass they attend. They’re at least somewhat aware of the indult (for now) Masses, they have no problem with those Masses or the people who go to them. But they’re happy and spiritually fulfilled where they’re at.”

    Some of those people may never have attended a TLM and plus since catechetics are so poor even if they did attend a TLM and still prefer the NO their perception of Catholic doctrine and the Mass as a real Sacrifice may be to skewed for a proper judgment. These notions I present above obviously do not apply to all but I am willing to bet there is a good chunk of Catholics that this would apply to.

    It reminds me of a time when I asked a priest if he would say TLMs if the Pope freed the Classical rite, he responded “no one around here wants that.” Well most people around there have never been to a TLM so how can he properly assume this?

    And Tina, they are material heretics.

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