ZENIT and Fr. Z: “Summorum Pontificum” One Year Later (Part 1)

We are on ZENIT today.  This is part one of an interview.  Part II will be posted tomorrow.

My emphases and …. well… these are my comments.

"Summorum Pontificum" One Year Later (Part 1)

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes Its Effects

By Annamarie Adkins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, JULY 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s letter "Summorum Pontificum" on the traditional form of the Mass has sparked an increased interest in the Latin-language liturgy, especially among priests, 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 1 of this interview with ZENIT, he spoke about new interest in the traditional Latin Mass and various concerns raised regarding "Summorum Pontificum."

Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.

Q: Has there been much of a demand for the traditional Latin Mass since the release of "Summorum Pontificum"?

Father Zuhlsdorf: No and yes. We have not seen hordes of the faithful hammering on rectory doors to demand the older Mass. But there has been a steady increase of parishes where the traditional Latin Mass is now celebrated regularly.

The trickle is becoming a stream.

Initially, there were unrealistic expectations. Many who favor the older Mass were overly optimistic that the floodgates would crash open. The naysayers, often in positions of power, tried to stem the tide by speaking very negatively, not only about the older Mass, but also about the people who desire it.

Many diocesan bishops, incredibly, threw up unreasonable obstacles to the good provisions the Holy Father generously promulgated. That resistance is now crumbling under the scrutiny of the blogosphere and pressure from the Holy See.

The other factor is that very many young priests want to learn the traditional Latin Mass. For example, I hear that over 1,000 priests have requested the new training DVD that the Fraternity of St. Peter made together with EWTN.

Scores of priests are attending training workshops in Chicago and Nebraska, in Oxford, England, and elsewhere, whenever they are offered. As priests learn this form of the Mass, they will begin implementing it in parishes.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Benedict XVI’s point man in these matters, stated that the Holy Father hopes this Mass will be offered widely, even if it has not been requested by the faithful.

University chaplaincies are being pushed by students to make the traditional Latin Mass available. This trend will only increase on an upward curve.

Q: The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is reportedly preparing a document to clarify some ambiguities related to implementing "Summorum Pontificum." What have been the main difficulties thus far that such a document should address?

Father Zuhlsdorf: The document will probably clarify some terms in the "motu proprio" that have been used by some diocesan bishops and priests to block what the Holy Father is trying to accomplish.

For example, "Summorum Pontificum" says priests must be idoneus, "capable, competent" to say Mass with the older book. Idoneus, a technical term, refers to the minimum requirements for competence, not to expertise.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, a distinguished canonist in his day, correctly stated that idoneus, as far as the Latin language is concerned, means that the priest must be able to pronounce the words properly. That is the minimum.

Of course we hope for far more than that. But some bishops are subjecting priests to exams in Latin before they determine whether he can exercise his right to say Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum, or even in Latin with the Novus Ordo, that is to say, Mass in his own rite, as a priest of the Latin Church.

Another issue is how large a group, a coetus, making a request for the older Mass must be before the parish priest is required to act in their favor. Those and other questions pertain to the interpretation of the "motu proprio."

Practical questions have arisen as well. For example, the Holy See should give direction about the relationship of the two liturgical calendars. I think the Holy See should issue an "ordo" for the traditional Mass, a yearly booklet indicating which Mass must be said each day.

Clarifications about the style of vestments that may be used, or the sort of music, could be useful. There are questions about Communion in the hand or altar girls, how those fit with the spirit and the rubrics of the pre-conciliar Mass.

Smaller details, for example about the so-called second Confiteor before Communion, or some traditions people desire from before the 1962 Missal should be made clear.

This upcoming document, and its particular authoritative responses, will help make the implementation of "Summorum Pontificum" orderly and serene.

Q: You have argued that "Summorum Pontificum" is the centerpiece of Benedict XVI’s "Marshall Plan" for the Church. But the term "Marshall Plan" implies rebuilding from the ground up. Can you describe this plan and the role you believe the traditional Latin Mass fits within it?

Father Zuhlsdorf: Useful as they are, analogies limp. After World War II the United States rebuilt war-ravaged Europe both for humanitarian reasons, and also to help create trading partners and a prosperous bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II, many spheres of the Church were devastated, ravaged by internal dissent, a loss of continuity with our tradition, and from erosion by the secularism and relativism of the prevailing modern world.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been concerned for years about the loss of Christian identity, which is at the heart of Western Civilization. Now Papa Ratzinger, I believe, is working to reinvigorate our Catholic identity, within the Church herself among her members and spheres of life, so that we can resist the negative influences of secularism and relativism.

Only with a solid identity can we, as Catholics, have something positive and healthy to offer to the world at large, a clear voice offering important contributions in the public square.

Our identity as Catholics is inextricably bound together with the way we pray as a Church.

To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that reintegrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with the deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia.

Contrary to the notions of most progressivists, "the Catholic thing" did not begin in the 1960s.

Benedict XVI is guiding us to a healthier vision of the Church’s doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics. There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past. Liturgy is the tip of the spear.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Part II tomorrow?!?!?

    I guess we can use this as an opportunity to develop holy patience. (sigh….)

  2. LCB says:

    Does this make you a Vaticanista now?!

    By the way, a small correction: “…the way we pray as a Church.” Get with the program, articles before “Church” are so unfashionable. As a Vaticanista, you should know the lingo. ;-)

  3. Brian Day says:


    …articles before “Church” are so unfashionable.

    Articles before \”Church\” are OK, if it is \”The\” before \”Church\”. :)

  4. LCB: Does this make you a Vaticanista now?!

    Have been for a long time now.

  5. Margaret Bartley says:

    Some of us placed a sign-up sheet in our parish vestibule to see how many people were interested in having a Latin Mass. We had about 30 sign-ups (with positive comments added by some) but the list was confiscated by our pastor. There is much resistance by him and the vicar whenever the subject comes up.

  6. Chironomo says:


    Depending on how much of a martyr you care to be… collect evidence that this actually happened as you said and present it to the Bishop. If you submit any papers to the Bishop’s office make sure to copy them first. Any response from the Bishop’s office needs to be copied as well. If there is no satisfactory response, on to the PCED (following Fr. Z’s excellent advice on writing tips). Pastors and Bishops are counting on intimidation to keep you from pursuing this.

  7. R.E.F. says:

    Some months ago, Fr. Z had a posting about ’10 Objections people give against having Mass in the EF (or Mass in Latin?)’ and the appropriate rebuttals to each in favor.

    Does anyone remember the date of that posting? The time has come to give rebuttals!


  8. SMJ says:

    “…the Catholic thing did not begin in the 1960s.”

    I loved that!

  9. John Enright says:

    All in all, a great interview. Thanks.

  10. prof. basto says:

    “…the Catholic thing did not begin in the 1960s.”

    “I loved that!”

    Me too!

  11. Good start. Can’t wait to read part 2.

    Scores of priests are attending training workshops in Chicago and Nebraska, in Oxford, England, and elsewhere, whenever they are offered. As priests learn this form of the Mass, they will begin implementing it in parishes

    Take it another step: They are being turned away because there is not enough room. The “TLM” factories are at capacity and cannot keep up with demand.

    Another interesting point, and I don’t know if I’m alone in my observation, but the emergence of new books on the extraordinary form, and the re-printing of many old books is on the upswing, along with resale of old books. I know…. I have a boatload of old books, and am so happy to have found some being reprinted. This is another good sign.

  12. Valentino says:

    The reason there are not more people interested in the Latin Mass ,is because the liberal clergy and Bishops don’t tell their flocks about it! They don’t want them to know. They don’t publicize The Holy Fathers wishes about it in their Diocesan papers.It will wreck havoc on their plans to continually water down the faith. They know,and God knows who they are. They follow the way of Judas. They don’t want any trace of the ancient Catholic faith, or liturgy. It is the straight and narrow way;because with it comes holiness,which takes discipline and self denial. Most of the clergy is soft and has grown lukewarm. As a result,so has the flock. God bless those Bishops and clergy who do promote it!

  13. Indra says:

    “But some bishops are subjecting priests to exams in Latin before they determine whether he can exercise his right to say Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum, or even in Latin with the Novus Ordo, that is to say, Mass in his own rite, as a priest of the Latin Church.”

    Doesn’t Canon 249 of the Code of Canon Law state that candidates for the Latin Church priesthood need to understand Latin well as part of their priestly formation? So on the flip side, these bishops imposing these exams should also be made to remedy this violation of the Canon Law. Well, wishful thinking maybe…

  14. Rudy B says:

    Wow! What a great audience you’re able to reach, Father! I hope people’s ears are open!

  15. Rudy B says:

    …now if we could get you on ‘Catholic Answers’ on EWTN radio…

  16. Getting him on Catholic Answers and EWTN will take some time. First they have to get around to accepting that John Paul didn’t fix everything and that problems exist. Give them time.

  17. RichR says:

    My vote for Catholic Answers Live, too.

    Fr. Z, despite the slow acceptance of Summorrum Pontificum, isn’t it amazing what all has happened in the last 12 months? The Sistine Chapel ad orientem, Hoyos comments RE: the TLM, kneeling for Holy Communion at Papal Masses, vestments from centuries past, a wonderful Papal MC (Marini II) that has fully flowered, Anglicans approaching the Vatican, Orthodox approaching the Vatican, and the list goes on and on.

    A year ago, many would not have dreamed all of this would actually happen. The HF has proved us wrong.

    Viva il Papa!

  18. RichR says:

    in fact, here’s the page where you can suggest to Catholic Answers Live to have Fr. Z on as a guest.


    Fr. Z., I hope that you don’t see this post, because, in your humility, you may delete this. However, consider the fact that you are one of the few who are trumpetting the Pope’s Marshall Plan. Much good could come of your appearance on that radio show.

    Much good may come if you choose to ignore this post and not delete it.


  19. Limbo says:

    “First they have to get around to accepting that John Paul didn’t fix everything and that problems exist. Give them time.”

    Tom ! …you crack me up !!

  20. Crux Australis says:


    Today Monday 7 July, the first anniversary of the publication of ‘Summorum Pontificum’, His Eminence Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina-Estévez, former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will pontificate in the ‘usus antiquior’ at 7:30 pm in the parish church of San Isidro Labrador in Santiago de Chile.

    For further information, please visit:
    http://creerenmexico.org/ (post of 2 July)

    Please help the Chilean to divulgate this new and also to support the public celebration of EF Mass in our country.

  21. Kradcliffe says:

    That was a really good, simple summary of how things have gone.
    Fr. Z, do you think your blog (along with some others) affects real change in the Church? I think so, but I’d be interested in hearing some specific instances in which you think your blog has influenced the Church on a larger scale.

  22. Kradcliffe: Just as an example, because of the blog I was asked to help write language for some diocesan “policies” on Summorum Pontificum.

  23. Luke says:

    “That resistance is now crumbling under the scrutiny of the blogosphere…”


  24. Supertradmom says:

    Thank you for your online ministry and for being available to us, Father Z. Happy Motu Day!

  25. ASD says:

    Margaret Bartley, please don’t let them do that to you, or to us! See, e.g., http://www.unavoce.org/articles/2007/SP_Advice.html

Comments are closed.