ZENIT and Fr. Z: “Summorum Pontificum” One Year Later (Part 2)

Yesterday, part 1 on an interview I did with ZENIT was published.  I have it here.

This is part 2, on ZENIT today. 

My emphases.

"Summorum Pontificum" One Year Later (Part 2)

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes its Effects

By Annamarie Adkins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, JULY 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Even though Benedict XVI’s letter “Summorum Pontificum” on the traditional form of the Mass has been in effect less than a year, it has already made an impact, says an expert on liturgical translations.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, a former employee of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, is a noted authority on both liturgical translations and the 1962 missal. He also writes the “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” column in The Wanderer newspaper, and is the author of a popular blog by the same name.

In Part 2 of this interview with ZENIT, he spoke with ZENIT about the impact “Summorum Pontificum” has had on the life of the Church life one year after its release.

Part 1 appeared Sunday.

Q: Benedict XVI stated in the letter accompanying “Summorum Pontificum” that he hoped each form of the Mass — ordinary and extraordinary — would mutually enrich the other. In particular, he desired that the extraordinary form would restore a sense of the sacred to the ordinary form, or Novus Ordo. One year after “Summorum Pontificum,” have you seen the extraordinary form exercise any "gravitational pull" on the Novus Ordo?

Father Zuhlsdorf: Yes, we can see this “pull” at work in some places, but there is a long way to go. Gravity exerts a steady pull, but inertia, especially momentum in the wrong direction, must still be overcome.

It has only been one year since the letter was issued, and only since September that it has been in force. Initially there were flurries of enthusiasm and vituperation, crowing and panic.

The text had to be read and absorbed. The Holy See had to clarify the authentic wording. Problems and questions are still being identified. A document with clarifications obviously remains on the drafting desk.

But the mere awareness of the provisions of “Summorum Pontificum” has made an impact. “Personal parishes” are being established for use of the older Mass and rites of sacraments. Books and training materials had to be created. They are now starting to be published. All this takes time.

Also, the Holy Father changed the conversation about liturgy and certain post-Conciliar practices by celebrating the Novus Ordo in a more traditional way, by using historic vestments, by returning to distributing Communion on the tongue to people kneeling, and so forth.

But the real pull of the older Mass and Benedict XVI’s efforts toward continuity with the Novus Ordo will be felt in the future.

For example, time and time again younger priests tell me that after learning the traditional Latin Mass they never say Holy Mass in the Novus Ordo the same way. There are things you learn about priesthood and Holy Mass from the traditional Latin Mass that you simply don’t pick up from the Novus Ordo, especially as it is usually celebrated in so many of our parishes and chapels.

How a priest says Mass affects a parish profoundly, at the level of reverence, vocations, everything.

Even though Rome wasn’t destroyed in a day, neither will it be quickly rebuilt. We have suffered a disastrous loss of basic priestly formation in Latin and theology and the culture that goes with them. This will take time to recover.

Seminaries need time to ramp up to meet the new needs the letter calls forth. Seminarians are eager to learn. Who will do the teaching?

In parishes young people more and more desire a greater continuity with the past. They are discovering their Catholic heritage and that they have been robbed. Eventually they will hold the positions of influence in parishes and Catholic schools.

On a concrete level, some bishops, priests, liturgists and musicians are rethinking the value of some common post-conciliar practices.

For example, a few days after Benedict XVI started to distribute Communion on the tongue to people kneeling, a bishop in the United States did precisely the same thing for Corpus Christi.

They are reassessing the great advantages of Mass celebrated "ad orientem," everyone facing the same direction toward the altar and the Crucifix. Latin is being reappraised. Musicians are dusting off the treasury of sacred liturgical music that has been hidden for decades.

The "motu proprio" is pulling, but there is still resistance, and laziness. Time, patience and open minds are needed to get things moving. The law of inertia in physics is that bodies in motion or at rest stay that way until another force works on them. The "motu proprio" is such a force.

Q: What have been some noteworthy, or perhaps unexpected, developments in the Church related to “Summorum Pontificum” since its release?

Father Zuhlsdorf: A noteworthy result must be the shift in attitude of and about people who desire traditional liturgy.

For so long the ecclesiastical establishment looked down on and marginalized more traditional Catholics, shoving them to the back of the bus because of their attachment to our tradition. Some of the more benign saw them as being like our family’s nutty but harmless aunt up in the attic.

On the other hand, many traditionalists, perhaps out of the deep hurts and disillusionment they felt after all the changes in the Church, the silly season of illicit innovations, the ash-canning of our beautiful churches, music, vestments, statues, devotions, you name it, wound up with an enormous chip on their collective shoulder.

As time went by, many of them knew no other way to “negotiate” with bishops and priests but simply to get in their face, make pushy demands, and arrogantly tell them what to do. It got to a point where even clerics who were open and sympathetic started to wince and back away whenever traditionalists approached. And so the waters of good relations froze.

Now, because some of the pain and alienation is starting to melt away in the hearts of many traditionalists, now that they can simply have what they should have been able to have all along, now that a little warm sunshine is being beamed in their direction by the Holy Father and others who share his vision, pastors of souls are starting to unclench as well.

The ice is breaking up and the water is flowing again. This was not an unexpected development. I fully believed this would happen because traditionalists are mostly good people who love Holy Church and want the best for their families, priests and bishops.

Bishops and priests, even when they are not personally inclined to traditional things, are mostly good men who love their flocks and sincerely desire their good. They all share common ground in what really matters. What I am surprised by is that the breaking of the ice dam — though there is a long way to go yet — is happening so quickly.

I underestimated the warmth of the sunlight and the openness of hearts, especially on the part of some bishops who, as a body, have not shown themselves in the past to be very friendly to traditional liturgy. This has made me rethink my own attitudes.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mutually enrich?

    I think the TLM will be safe.

  2. Jayna says:

    “For so long the ecclesiastical establishment looked down on and marginalized more traditional Catholics, shoving them to the back of the bus because of their attachment to our tradition. Some of the more benign saw them as being like our family’s nutty but harmless aunt up in the attic.”

    I wish that sentiment could be past tense in these parts. I’m a liturgical leper in my parish.

  3. FloridaJohn says:

    \”The ice is breaking up and the water is flowing again. This was not an unexpected development. I fully believed this would happen because traditionalists are mostly good people who love Holy Church and want the best for their families, priests and bishops.\”

    I certainly hope so, because we are “good people” and I’m tired of being rejected with the words “We love you John, but you are too traditional for any ministry here!”

  4. KOM says:

    Nice piece, Fr.

    I also think the reason SSPX has used harsh rhetoric in the past is due to the fact that they were literally kicked around by the likes of Cardinal Villot: one of the more sinister figures in Church history. They were expected to embrace a mass spear-headed by a suspected Mason (Bugnini,) created in a liturgical think-tank with the help of six protestants. But, somehow, “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” and SSPX became the bad guy.

    So, because they were treated most harshly, while liberals in the Church were coddled, SSPX developed the bad habit of bad-mouthing those who were mistreating them. We need to keep that in mind during the rapproachment process. In their hearts, SSPX and other tongue-lashing traditionalists, just want what is holy, but are used to be persecuted, and so they react. But remember that even Jesus threw-over the money changers’ table, and called the pharisees a “brood of vipers,” so one needn’t always take persecution with docility. But now, admittedly, SSPX and others need to show great humility since our Holy Father has offered his hand towards rapproachment….

  5. TJM says:

    Excellent commentary, Father Z. Regards, Tom

  6. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Z: …I underestimated the warmth of the sunlight and the openness of hearts, especially on the part of some bishops who, as a body, have not shown themselves in the past to be very friendly to traditional liturgy….”

    Sooooooooooo ….. our prayers have been heard!

    Nice article, Father.

  7. Mitch says:

    Thank you Father for your always uplifting praise of events…What a positive in the world.

  8. Matt Q says:

    Again, “mutually enrich the other?”

    Hardly. It can’t be explained with any real substance how the Novus Ordo can possibly siphon off enough form and content for it to morph into something equaling or surpassing the Tridentine Mass. Look at Father’s breaking news about the US bishops not being able to ratify the linguistic changes to the Novus Ordo. If they can’t even do that how does one think any meaningful changes or presentations can be done with the Novus Ordo?

  9. Lacrimarum Valle says:

    Melting the frozen, warming the chill … hmm, who is at work here I wonder?

  10. Mary Conces says:

    Some traditionalists I know dread a “gravitational pull” on the EF. They resent hearing comparisions of the two forms that give any “points” to the OF, even if acknowledging abuses of the latter. They wince at what they see as any variation in the EF from whatever they are accustomed to, even if it is allowed by the Missal of 1962 (e.g., the congregati’on joining in on the Pater Noster)–perceiving a modernist mentality. They most emphatically do not want any amalgamation of the two rites. They couldn’t care less about improving the Novus Ordo.

  11. Petros says:

    The ice may be melting,but,the thaw has not begun to set in where I attend Holy Mass. When asked about the possibility of a TLM being said,I was told ” it won’t happen here.” And that was the end of the matter.

    How can one hope for anything with that kind of mentality? The church in question is a Jesuit one, in Dublin,Ireland.

  12. Michael J says:


    I suppose your description of “some traditionalists” fairly closely describes my thoughts on the matter although “couldn’t care less” is a bit more harsh than I would characterize it. “Don’t see the point” would be closer, for me at least.

    In any case, assuming that you advocate making changes, I would be interested in some more specific details. What do you think should be changed in the Extraordinary Form and (more importantly) why?

  13. Fr. Angel says:

    Matt Q:

    Mutually enrich is not unthinkable for us priests who offer Mass in both forms. As we approach the OF, there are many changes, as Fr. Z says. Priests pick up a different spiritual mindset which flows from an emphasis on sacrifice and expiation in the Mass. To borrow from Venerable Fulton Sheen, as they see Christ as Victim they are converted to be victim souls themselves, abandoning themselves to Divine Providence.

    At the same time, those of us who have worked with congregations in the OF and deal with laity who wish to know every aspect of the Mass, we take to the EF the sense that it is not enough to just say a rubrically correct Mass. If the laity at the OF go overboard in wanting the clergy to be accountable to them, and exceed the right boundaries of the Church as per their roles and “active participation” so I have noticed that laity at the EF have to grow as well to enter the liturgical mind of the Church.

    The mind of the Church does not envision the lay faithful being discouraged from following along in their missals. Some at the EF have the rigid mindset that their role is to pray devotions, while the role of the priest is to say the prayers of Mass. The Church’s mind also desires to see the laity respond in Latin to those parts which correspond to them, and not say, “silence is better. Besides, that is what the servers are for.” The mind of the Church wishes to see the laity hear the Scripture and have it explained according to Catholic doctrine and the teaching of the Fathers. Yet laity at the EF are heard to regard the Mass of the Catechumens as diconnected from the homily, “Father, the reason the maniple is removed is because the sermon is not part of Mass, and doesn’t even have to metion the Scriptures of that Sunday.” Is that so?

    People at the EF see the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, but think it is Protestant to speak of the exercise of their baptismal priesthood joining with the Victim and offering Him with the priest, according to their capability as laity. They don’t have the sense that they should consume the Victim of that sacrifice because they believe it to be a Vatican II invention that says they should if possible receive from the Hosts consecrated at that Mass they attended.

    Pius XII explained these things in Mediator Dei. Yet laity at the EF have actually told me that their Communion is unimportant so long as the priest carries out the minimum required for a complete sacrifice. That term, “the minimum needed for a complete sacrifice” enshrines a mentality which Paul VI tried to combat with the OF and its greater emphasis on lay participation in various offices, gestures and signs. Again, I was told by people at the EF that they didn’t consider important to own a missal and follow the Latin and its translation because they enjoyed “just sitting there and listening to the Latin.

    As we priests accustomed to the OF approach with respect the laity who desire the Mass in the EF, it is not accurate to say everything is fine and dandy and there is no need for liturgical catechesis. The mind of the Church for the liturgy must become the mind of the lay faithful, and there are positive aspects highlighted in the OF which those assisting at the EF should be reminded of. Put concisely, the EF is teaching us reverence and awe for the mystery, while the OF presents the corrective that liturgical “minimums” are not the Catholic standard, but rather giving at Mass all that can be given in mind and heart for God’s glory.

  14. Fr. Angel says:

    Matt Q:

    When Fr. Z speaks of the two forms mutually enriching each other, I am not sure if he speaks of a change of mentality or a change in the actual rites present in both forms. My previous post addresses the mentality which can be improved in both camps, the possibility of both OF and EF laity embracing the mind of the Church through the presence of both forms being offered next to each other. However, how both forms being offered might contribute in the future to changes in the Mass itself, the rites, is a discussion of another time which I did not address.

  15. Fr. Angel: What a pleasure it is to see your good comments!

  16. Mary Conces says:

    Michael J,

    I have no desire to alter the EF–except that I would like to have its calendar synchronized with that of the OF. Come to think of it, I guess I’d like to go back to the EF calendar, adding the many new saints’ feastdays. But, of course, it’s not up to me.
    What I was thinking of is knee-jerk angry assumption that anything that varies from what one is used to in the EF must be modernist/wI rong. I gather that readings may be done at the altar in the vernacular, for example–and may be read from the pulpit also–or not. Also, that the postures of the congregation have varied from place to place in various parts of the Mass more than I would have thought. Also, I have been going for years to a (no longer needed) indult Mass done in the dialogue style. Many people look on that style as a post-Vatican II innovation, but it wasn’t. (Looked it up in my Missal)
    I also wish people wouldn’t get livid and “beat up on” Father when he has underestimated the number of hosts needed for Communion and takes consecrated Hosts from the tabernacle from time to time. (They were consecrated at a–gasp–Novus Ordo.) I also wish that we could all–at any Mass–have music that goes by the (Roman) book. But I’ve learned not to expect that anywhere, most of the time, and am occasionally blessed to be pleasantly surprised. Actually, I guess I prefer a quiet daily Mass, come to think of it. And I wouldn’t mind having it in the vernacular, if I could trust the translations, and it it were done ad orientum. (My daily Masses are ad hoc affairs, rather than carefully meditated upon beforehand, alas–and I often have to confess to having been late. If I only went when I knew I could be early, I wouldn’t make it very often.)
    I guess I need Mass too desperately to let the glimpses of the perfect which I have seen keep me away from the imperfect; obviously, I’m too imperfect myself.
    Sorry to have run on. I was so surprised that somebody actually responed to my post that I got carried away.

  17. Hidden One says:

    “This has made me rethink my own attitudes.”

    As a long time occasional reader of this blog, I’ve noticed changes in attitude from you, Fr. Z. I must admit to being much more apt to read it now, actually.

  18. Ed the Roman says:

    I can think of one way in which the OF could enrich the EF: OT readings in addition to those at Triduum.

    But that would require yet missal. I think that three in my lifetime to date is probably enough.

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