Baltimore and the TLM

I got this a while back, but am just now able to get to it.  I received this via-e-mail:

Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

I thought you might be interested in what was going on in the Archdiocese of Baltimore concerning the Motu Proprio and its (non) implementation.  I know you are busy so I hope you won’t mind my contacting you.

I live in western Maryland (Hagerstown) and we have been trying to get a TLM in this area since the MP was released.  At my own church, we presented the pastor with a 40 signature petition, but without success.  I have written the Archdiocese of Baltimore twice and never received a response.  Because my pastor really had little interest, I joined a larger group in the next county.  It is well organized with almost 100 people.  They found two priests and church willing to offer the TLM to us but they refused to do so without the OK of the Archdiocese. [Ehem… they don’t NEED it!!]  (This is not surprising because the Archdiocese’s antipathy towards the TLM is well known.  I had an associate pastor who learned the TLM on his own initiative, asked permission, was denied and not long after shipped off to South Carolina against this wishes).  A letter was written to the Archbishop and follow up phone calls were made.  No one would returned the calls or respond to the letter but we did learn that that Archbishop O’Brien was setting up a committee to decide how to handle requests and we should hear something by Lent (they have received 5 of 6 other requests from other groups, I have heard.)  

Lent is here and still no response.  Some people have tried calling the chancery to ask about progress but were told they now had no timetable for responding to our requests.  Needless to say, we are all very disappointed and frustrated.  I have attached two posts from our Yahoo group which explain in

better detail what is happening.  The leaders of the group want to write a more forceful letter to Archbishop and I have personally made clear that I believe this to be a mistake.  [I think so too.] I am afraid it will prompt the wrong type of response from the Archdiocese and they will "put the word out" and we will never get a TLM out here.  I think we should just go straight to Ecclesia Dei.  [That is a good idea.] They are considering renting an old chapel from the county government and bringing in a SSPX or FFSP priest to offer the mass to us (I have concerns about the SSPX option).  

I know you are an extremely busy person and I appreciate your taking time to read this.  If  you have the time and you or any of our readers have any advice or suggestions for us, it would be greatly appreciated.  I, of course, will understand if this is not possible for you.  This is a nice group of people but they have become very frustrated at the complete lack of interest from Baltimore.

Thank you again and God Bless,

First, everyone involved should review my tips for writing to bishops and to the Holy See.  Find them here.


You will need copies of everything sent to the priests and the chancery.  You should include a record of dates and times you called and, if possible, summaries of the phone conversations.

The more concrete information you can send, the clearer your position is.

Above all, be very respectful when writing.

If the Archdiocese of Baltimore is stonewalling you, I am sure the PCED could be of help.  However, judgments have to be made on the basis of facts, not just hearsay and the presentation of "feelings", important as feelings might be.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The impression I get from talking with various people from various dioceses is that many bishops are just waiting until the clarification letter comes from PCED before taking any action at all. Whether or not that is the right thing to do, it may very well be the case, and since the PCED document should come soon, your group might want to hang out and keep praying for Abp. O’Brien for a little while longer.

    I think Abp. O’Brien is a good man, but he probably has a lot of nasty politics to deal with, not only from his own curia but also from other bishops who are very much against the TLM. It might be he just wants to have the document from PCED before he acts (I am not excusing his lack of response, but trying to understand it).

  2. Bill Mooney says:

    Interesting and sad we lived in Smithsburg in the early 70’s and belonged to St. Mary’s Hagerstown. At that time the retired pastor offered a TLM each morning on the Blessed Mothers altar. I’d attend after dropping of daughter for school and before work.

    Bill Mooney

  3. David Nelson says:

    The MP has set up the Commission to be the court of appeal in these matters and it would seem time for these people to address their concerns to Rome. The MP changes everything and there is no reason to wait years for a response–that is not what the MP is all about. It is meant to enable Catholics attached to the Old Rite access to the old rite DESPITE the stonewalling of local dioceses.

  4. A.Williams says:

    I’m just curious. Do they have the NeoCatechumenal Way in Baltimore?

    The reason I ask is because my wife belongs to the group and it appears to be the ANTITHESIS of everything concerning the ‘Liturgical Renewal’ of Pope Benedict XVI and this supporting WDTPRS BLOG site.

    Moreover, recently, my wife told me that the NCW will be receiving the approval of their Statutes on Feb 27th, 2007. I’m not sure if this is true, but this is what they are teaching her in her NCW community. And IF IT IS TRUE, there sure will be some contradicting messages coming from the Vatican regarding the Sacred Liturgy…considering how their liturgy is so contrary to what the Church teaches in her liturgical books and documents (ie. Redemptionis Sacramentum, etc.)

    Just to summarize,for those who might not be aware of it yet, the NCW permits many lay commentaries, or “echo’s”, during the Liturgy of the Mass. They also dance around the altar after the closing prayers, or during the closing hymn. The Ambo is located dead center behind the altar, where they frequently play guitars, and this location often blocks the presiding priests visibility,(sometimes I have seen one , or another, leaning on his armchair trying to peek around the lector so as to be able to view the congregation. And, of course, they distribute Holy Communion to the members SEATED in their pews. Actually, there are so many liturgical abuses that I think I need a calculator, and computer, to count and catagorize them all!

    To add to this, the NCW has about 1,000,000 devoted (which might be seen as somewhat ‘cultish’ devotion) members, about 10,000 communities in Italy, and scores of seminaries popping up all over the globe. This will ensure that the NCW will always have priests to support their movement…and also the extremely abusive liturgy that they use advocate.

    I hope all the Faithful really pay attention to this group, because from what I have witnissed with my own eyes, having attended over 150 of their liturgies, they are very liturgically ignorant and deviant, and also exult in the same deviancy and abuses, thinking that they are the ones that are truly correct, and that which the entire Church will one day come to realize, accept and follow. And This group is NOT dying out due to old age…as they gain many of their followers from third world countries, like the one in which I currently live, which are filled with youth and children.

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, I hope you keep your blog updated on the NCW, as I feel they are more dangerous to the Holy Church than almost any other group. And it would be interesting to see if Bishops such as those in Baltimore, are inviting in the deviant and abusive liturgies, such as those of the NCW…but thwarting the Extraordinary liturgy at the very same time?

    I pray that Pope Benedict and Cardinal Arinze will force the NCW to amend their liturgically abusive ways!

    (And the Arinze Letter sent, as of Dec.1, 2005, seems to have had little, or no effect, so far… at least in my wifes parish. Unfortunately, I think I’m the only one in the entire parish who is aware of the current Liturgical renewal in the Church, thanks to these Catholic blogs: Fr. Duhlsdorf’s WDTPRS, Gerald Augustinus’ Cafeteria is Closed, Jimmy Akins, etc..

    For the Love of God, and His Holy Church! Amen.

  5. A.Williams says:

    Correction in the above post:

    The date being mentioned by some NCW communities, for the publication of the date of Vaticans approval of “the statutes”, is Feb. 27, 2008….not 2007, as was mistakenly written.

  6. TJM says:

    Although I have no reason to doubt the above referenced report, this attitude seems out of sync with the celebration of a Sunday TLM at the original Cathedral in downtown Baltimore. Is there anyone else out there with similar stories to report? Tom

  7. Deo volente says:

    I am a bit stunned by this comment! Cardinal Keeler was among the first Archbishops to allow the “indult” Mass at Saint Alphonsus Church in Baltimore not 300 yards from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption! The TLM is still offered there each Sunday at 11:30 AM and on all holydays and special feasts.

    I think it is necessary to point out that Archbishop Edwin O’Brien as the former Rector of a seminary himself, was asked to lead the review of seminaries which took place some time back. As Archbishop of Baltimore, he has two seminaries in his jurisdiction: Saint Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park near the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD on the campus of Mount Saint Mary’s and near the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes. Clearly, it seems almost certain that he is awaiting the answer to the dubia submitted by the Bishops as matters such as the “allowance for seminarians to receive training in the TLM” will affect his Archdiocese in a great way.

    Archbishop O’Brien in The Catholic Review suggested at his Priest Council that a clearinghouse be set up for the TLM. Taking the bull by the horns, I have initiated a blog site called, “Traditional Latin Mass in Maryland” at which aims to do just that. The blog has no Archdiocesan approval, but is assisting those interested in the TLM.

    I would tell the original poster that there is going to be a TLM starting in Charles Town, WV near Easter. The priest who is doing this Mass is apparently from the F.S.S.P. I would say this letter or email regarding Archbishop O’Brien is quite hasty. The situation in the Western part of Maryland is tenuous as the result of a severe shortage of priests in our Archdiocese.

    Finally, I thank you, Father John, for all you have done to keep us informed. If duplication is the highest form of flattery, I have attempted to duplicate what you have done in our little corner of the world–to keep those most interested informed.

    Ad maiorem Dei gloriam+
    Deo volente

  8. RBrown says:

    I think it is necessary to point out that Archbishop Edwin O’Brien as the former Rector of a seminary himself, was asked to lead the review of seminaries which took place some time back.

    Former rector of TWO seminaries.

  9. Deo volente says:

    RBrown, thanks for your correction. I thought it was only one, but it makes my case all the stronger, I believe.

    Deo volente

  10. Wayne says:

    Dear Baltimore, why the “concern” about the SSPX ?. Chill, man.

  11. “Dear Baltimore, why the ‘concern’ about the SSPX?”

    Whatever one may say about the SSPX (and can we pul-EEEEEEZE make that another subject for another day???) it is safe to say that an SSPX priest would probably not possess a “celebret” to say Mass in Baltimore or any other diocese. If the chancery ever got wind of it (and they will), it would make things more difficult in the long run.

    Considering how quickly Rome has been discussing a clarification of the MP, it’s unlikely that a resolution would take years. But it won’t happen overnight either.

    And THAT is the reason to “chill.”

  12. JM says:

    From everything I’ve heard, HE O’Brien is a friend of tradition. I also understand that he’s still relatively new to the “job” in this Archdiocese. I think that many of these issues will be resolved to the satisfaction of the Tradition-loving faithful.

    Just as a point of reference to those who aren’t familiar with the geography of Maryland. Hagerstown (where the original poster is from) is about 1 hour, 20 minute hour away from Baltimore. It may not be possible for some people to make the trip to St. Alphonsus’ every week, but if they do make the trip it’s well worth it! St. Alphonsus is what got me started with all this TLM stuff anyway.

    They’re schola makes the vaults of heaven ring. It’s beautiful!

  13. RBrown says:

    Deo volente,

    He was rector of Dunwoodie and North American College.

  14. Renee says:

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Thank you for posting my email to you concerning our group’s efforts to have a TLM in western Maryland. I read your blog daily and greatly respect your opinion and advice. We will be sure to follow it.

    Thanks also to everyone who commented. We were truly excited and hoping to be able to get the Archdiocese’s blessing for our TLM. We don’t need anything else from them and did not request any assistance from them. Our priest, whatever his reasons are, is reluctant to go ahead without the blessing of the Archbishop and we respect that. We are afraid that, after three months of waiting, that blessing is not forthcoming. Since Baltimore has chosen to remain totally silent (even a “we are taking your request into consideration blah, blah blah” letter would have been great!) we are left to wonder if this is just an attempt at stonewalling us or if it is something else. Who knows? I can’t say that it isn’t extremely disappointing for us. All we would like is the chance to celebrate Mass in the EF without having to make a 2 or 3 hour round trip every week.

  15. Mary Liz says:

    “We are afraid that, after three months of waiting, that blessing is not forthcoming.”

    3 months? That’s all?

    Poor Bishop O’Brien – give him some time! He’s a busy man, it’s his first year in the diocese. I highly doubt that he’s “chosen to remain totally silent;” he’s probably just swamped.

    I’d start getting worried around July. In the meantime, hang in there. If you aren’t already connected with the efforts of the Gregorian Society of Baltimore, though you probably are, you should get in touch with them. They just had a meeting on this matter last night.
    Email me ( and I’ll get you in touch with them, or visit

  16. Renee says:

    Mary Liz,

    Yes, you are probably correct. I know that Archbishop O’Brien is most likely still “getting his sea legs” down in Baltimore. These three months have probably flown by for him. For us it seems an eternity :)

    I do know of the Gregorian Society but I don’t think anyone from the group has contacted them. Perhaps they can be of assistance to us so I will let everyone know of your suggestion. Thanks much!

  17. Phil Steinacker says:

    I also worship in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and can tell you via an indirect contact with Abp. O’Brien’s secretary that the issue is legitimately being studied. I also agree that the good archbishop is likely waiting for the forthcoming clarification from Rome (that would be prudent, would it not, Fr. Z, given how close we are likely to be to its release?) while it is being studied by his local committee members.

    I can also tell you that while opposition to this conservative, traditional archbishop from the nation’s only military diocese has not yet reached proportions of a huge blow-up just yet, we do have strong evidence that it could be building. Six weeks after his installation Abp. O’Brien removed from his parish duties a Baltimore city pastor (Fr. Martin) who over many months (actually several years) had flagrantly & consistently violated Canon Law and direct instructions to him from Cardinal Keeler, O’Brien’s predecessor.

    The resulting firestorm in the three affected parishes, whipped up in part by an ignorant & anti-Catholic local media, created quite a stir and may have been the opening salvo by Maryland’s reactionary VII Catholics against a prelate they fear is not going to passively make nice like Cardinal Keeler did (God bless him). Since then, things gave quieted down for the time being, except for an occasional reference by some to his traditional (read that “military”) background and their fear of the implications for the archdiocese.

    However, liberal Catholics’ concern evidently began to form rather early. Just a month prior to running a series of articles excoriating O’Brien for lacking “sensitivity” to the “true spiritual needs of the faithful” after Fr. Martin’s dismissal, the Baltimore Sun previously published an angrily defiant letter by a self-identified black, pro-abort Catholic woman who quite clearly challenged the new archbishop’s right to exercise spiritual authority over her “right” to abort her child. She virtually dared him to do something about it.

    In my view, the most intense shock waves experienced by those so concerned about the views of our new ordinary were felt when he announced he’d take residence at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, instead of residing at the Cardinal’s Residence at the Basilica of the Assumption (the nation’s first cathedral) in downtown Baltimore. This was, of course, a gracious act to allow retired Cardinal Keeler to remain living there in his continued capacity as President of the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust Board. That wouldn’t appear to be too shocking, right?

    Well, many of us local observers note that Abp. O’Brien will be living 2 minutes from St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park, and speculation is that some nervous administration and faculty members there don’t relish the new prelate’s ability to just “drop in” unannounced. That is JUST what the Holy Spirit ordered, and Abp. O’Brien is the man to fill that order.

    Naturally, I won’t elaborate here on the seminary’s past troubles since we ALL want to put those years behind us, and stirring the pot now that we have a new ordinary AND a new rector would serve no valid purpose. I’ll close by saying that all this commentary is to reiterate the view of others on this board that the good archbishop has his hands more than full right now, and that patience is the watchword.

    Besides, we locals have OUR sources too, and we’re constantly reassured that we hit a HUGE home run when Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop O’Brien to minister to our needs. He is clearly pro-life, and the word is that he’s got a GREAT sense of humor.

    He also is known to have ordained a terminally-ill seminarian (in his capacity as rector) in his bed at his parents’ home the day he passed away. After Abp. O’Brien ordained the young man the former rector is said to have removed his own stole and to have placed it around the neck of the young man just moments before he died.

    What a man! Let’s be patient and give him time.

  18. Deo volente says:

    Thanks so kindly for the comments, Mr. Steinacker. I pray for our Archbishop every single day. He is staunchly Pro-Life and is a holy Archbishop. His first official duty was to preside at the White Mass for Physicians at the Basilica, if my memory serves me correctly. I heard that his homily was incredible. He is in need of all of our prayers!

  19. Phil Steinacker says:

    BTW, Tom (TJM),

    I meant to add in my lengthy post that the Latin Mass said at “the original
    Cathedral in downtown Baltimore” is the same “Basilica of the Assumption” I
    referenced in my post above.

    However, it is NOT the TLM; instead, it is the NO said in Latin every Sunday
    at 9:00 a.m. I have attended, and as Fr. Z has suggested, it most definitely
    adds majesty and sacral mystery to the NO, which sorely lacks it. The music
    isn’t bad, either.

    I hope it will be just a prelude to the TLM’s getting fuller restoration
    under Abp. O’Brien.

    And Deo volente…I have already made your new blog, “Traditional Latin Mass
    in Maryland” a favorite site of mine for future visits. I look forward to
    prowling the virtual halls of your online cathedral…

    Thank you for instituting it; I’ve needed a way to find others who think as I

    Phil Steinacker


  20. Phil: Thanks for your comments about the Archbishop of Baltimore. It is fantastically difficult to be a bishop anywhere. Given the complexity of their mandate, they indeed deserve the benefit of the doubt as we watch how they move and act. I urge everyone in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to give him prayerful and respectful support in his labors.

  21. Renee says:

    For everyone, many thanks.

    Phil – we get very little information out here in the sticks about what is going on downtown. Now that I have a better idea what is going on, I do believe that our group would be better served being patient. I will let everyone know and I will continue to pray for our good Archbishop.

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