Holy Smoke: Are traditional Catholics losing hope? – Fr. Z responds

Over at Holy Smoke of Damian Thompson there is a thread sure to provoke some conversation.

It seethes frustration.

And I have no doubt that in some respects he is right about the topic he tackles.  But at the same time I think he might be missing some important points.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

Is Pope Benedict losing the confidence of the Latin Mass faithful?

Just over a year ago, Pope Benedict’s decree liberating the traditional Latin Mass came into effect. But it contained so many loopholes that liberal bishops have been able to sabotage it – and a much-needed clarification from Rome has still not appeared[And it must be said that that is entirely the decision, or non-decision, of the Holy Father.  The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei completed its part of the work a long time ago.]

Pope Benedict XVI has an intense vision of liturgical reform

The mood among traditionalist commentators is gloomymuch gloomier than they are prepared to admit on their blogs. [I am not sure by which psychic powers he knows this… but let’s read on…] Meanwhile, Latin Mass enthusiasts in England and Wales are bewildered that the number of weekly Sunday Masses in the Old Rite has barely increased since before Summorum Pontificum.  [That is a matter of stats, not psychic powers, and we must accept this.]

The bishops of England and Wales, three quarters of whom regard the Motu Proprio as a mistake, are playing a clever game. Yes, they are more willing to give permission for weekday Tridentine Masses, or Sunday Masses once a month. But (a) they are still firmly in control of Latin Mass provision, which was not the Pope’s intention; and (b) outside London, the number of weekly Sunday Masses in the Old Rite is tiny.  [A couple problems here.  If this is the case, the problem does not lie with Pope Benedict.  The problem lies not even so much with hostile bishops, though they are not to be discounted.  The problem lies with parish priests who don’t have the backbone to implement Summorum Pontificum in their parishes.  The Motu Proprio might be vague on some points, but it is not vague about who implements the document in parishes.  PP’s don’t need permission from the bishop.  So, there is a lack of will on the part of Parish Priests.  There also may be a lack of will and, it must be said, savvy among those who desire the TLM.  We cannot live in a dream world where, like good cartesians, we think things into being.  Peope have to act, and act intelligently, carefully, diplomatically, … but they have to act.]

Take a look at the website of the Latin Mass Society. Its list of regular traditional Masses tells a sad story. Arundel & Brighton, East Anglia, Lancaster, Menevia, Middlesbrough, Wrexham – there is not one weekly traditional Sunday Mass in these dioceses, according to the LMS.

Other dioceses offer perhaps one or two, some predating Summorum Pontificum. Funnily enough, one bishop who has instituted a Sunday Tridentine Mass is dear old Arthur Roche – the key word being "instituted", meaning that it is very much his decision, under his control. [And that is the problem everywhere.  If the field is ceeded to bishops alone to implement the Motu Proprio, then people and their priests have no one to blame but themselves.]

No cathedral in England and Wales offers a weekly Sunday Mass in the Old Rite, so far as I can tell, which is a disgrace. And no Latin Mass communities have been set up in England and Wales, in sharp contrast to the situation in the United States. "There’s no demand for them," say the bishops. But the point is that the admittedly limited demand for the traditional services is NOT being met – and the Pope’s wish that a new generation of Catholics be introduced to the treasures of the old liturgy is just a pipe dream.  [This raises a question which cannot be avoided.  If there is limited demand, or no demand for TLMs, what can one expect if bishops and priests don’t offer them?  I think my positions are pretty clear: priests should educate their flocks so that they want the TLM.  But… that’s me.  We must recognize that many priests a) don’t share that goal and b) already have plenty to do and c) know that the bishop can make their lives very difficult.]

But if the bishops of England and Wales (and of many other countries) are playing fast and loose with Summorum Pontificum, that’s because Pope Benedict XVI is allowing them to[When I see this sort of thing, I am torn.  On the one hand, Popes, bishops, priests, should look upon those in their charge with a measure of paternal respect and, giving them the benefit of the doubt, treat them like adults and let them do what they are to do.  On the other hand, and perhaps my years spent with St. Augustine now show forth, we sadly see all too often that people don’t do what they ought and that intervention becomes necessary. So… the question winds up being: how much intervention is the right amount of intervention?  Should the Pope micromanage?  Shout?  Suspend?  Punish?  Many people quickly jump to the statement that the Pope should PUNISH to the right of him and to the left.   From what I know of this Pope, and I knew him before he was elected, this man is not the punishing or micromanaging sort.  He doesn’t like or want conflict.  He believes in the good in people and that they will come to see reason and act accordingly.  He sets his example in that direction…. and there we have another problem.  But I suspect we’ll get to that down the line.]

The original document was not tightly drafted: it left plenty of room for confusion about what constituted a "stable group" of the faithful who were entitled to demand access to the older form of Mass. [The flip side is that tightly drafted documents cannot be interpreted with as much flexibility.]  Did the group have to be rooted in one parish, or predate the papal decree? Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has indicated that the answer is "no" and that the Pope wishes people in every parish to have access (of some sort) to the 1962 Missal.

But these were off-the cuff remarks made in response to a question I asked him at a press conference before the big Westminster Mass boycotted by the local bishops: they have not been clarified or amplified by Ecclesia Dei. Why not?

Meanwhile, although the Pope is slowly changing the style of his own liturgical celebrations to bring them more into line with the historic practices of the Church – to de-Bugninify them, if you like – there is still not the slightest indication that His Holiness will celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form publicly. Why? No one knows the answer.

Let us be blunt about this. If the Pope were to die tomorrow, he would be remembered for many fine achievements, most of all his encyclicals, but his liturgical reforms would peter out. [We are back to the psychic powers again.]  Summorum Pontificum would remain on the statute book, but the Magic Circle in England and its powerful allies in the Vatican and Europe would quietly suffocate the work of Ecclesia Dei.

My guess is that the next Pope will be as theologically conservative as Benedict, but is unlikely to possess his blindingly intense vision of a liturgical reform in which the pre- and post-Vatican II liturgies revive each other. That reform is not yet properly under way, and the Pope is in his 80s. No wonder traditionalists are alarmed.

In so many ways I share many of the thoughts and sentiments in the above.   I understand there are many people who have wanted a lot more and a lot faster. 

But at the same time, I must underscore that Summorum Pontificum is now in force… something a few years ago was hardly to be dreamed.

It is entirely natural to strain against the snaffle when the goal has suddenly come into view.  But let’s be realistic about more than one dimension of this.

The Pope, if he is dithering, is not the only one dithering. 

I don’t know about this for sure… but perhaps we are seeing greater success in the USA with the implementation of Summorum Pontificum because Americans tend to do something rather than reflect about what ought to be done and then wring hands that it isn’t yet so.  I will grant immediately that there are far stronger ideologically convinced enemies of the TLM and Summorum Pontificum in the UK and the continent, making their implementation very difficult indeed.  I have spent a long time in Italy and found far more savage… and more stupid… opposition to anything traditional there than in my native USA.  So, I admit that the good people in England, Wales, Scotland have a very hard time ahead of them.

But they have, nevertheless, also the power to do something about it and not merely to sit being gloomy.

First, have a reality check.  If there are only a couple people in a parish who are interested in having the older Mass, and the priest isn’t interested, your choices are fairly clear.  Either get the priest interested or take it on the road.  Face it: Father "I’m-not-interested" isn’t going to add a Mass for three people.  

So, you have to band together into large groups and begin working on priests who are more amenable.  Charm them.  Provide them with materials.  Pray and fast for them.  Press diplomatically and gently.  BE THERE to do the work.  Get involved.  Figure it out.

Is the priest afraid of the bishop?   Help the priest.  Keep working on the bishop.  Carefully.  Pray for him, perhaps using the Bux Protocol for praying for bishops: ask St. Joseph to intercede with God that He will either open the bishop’s eyes or close them permanently.  Remember: the biological solution is going to be important for the future of the TLM.  Therefore, work on the younger priests and on seminarians.  Do you best to promote vocations to the priesthood among bright young men and boys who are interested in these things.

Do your best to open hearts.

Some people, the gloomy sort, will say that I am too optimistic or delusional or that I don’t understand what resistance they are facing.

I think I do understand, that I have my eyes pretty wide open, and that from my perspective I have seen what is possible whereas they, perhaps have not.

Let me underscore this with a quick story.

When I was working for the PCED we were having a terrible exchange with an American bishop.  People wanted the old Mass, and he refused absolutely.  They petitioned, he rejected.  They sent us the copies of the petitions, he would deny there was any interest.  Volley of letters after volleys of letters back and forth across the Atlantic.  He would say he never got petitions, we would mail back copies of his acknowledgement of the petitions to the lay people who had sent them.  He would write a stern letter reminding us to mind our own business, we would write back saying that this was our business.  It became uglier and uglier. 

One day a letter came from him that was so nasty it simply couldn’t be borne.  I wrote a draft of a response entirely proportioned to the tone and content of that bishops letter.  I wrote a draft designed to end the issue.

When the Cardinal came in, this was the great Augustine Card. Mayer, first President of Ecclesia Dei – now very old and ailing – please I beg you to pray for him in his infirmity and suffering – he eventually called me in to go over the various drafts that had to go out.  At last we came to The Letter.

Card. Mayer, who was nearly 80 at the time, and who had been a monk, expert at the Council, abbot, professor, curia Secretary, Prefect, is perhaps the holiest man I know, had a practically perfect grasp of English.  He would make subtle changes in the language of all the letters he would sign.  So there was no surprise at all when he said,

"Here you write X.  Do you suppose we could say Y?"

There was no question but that we could, but that was his style.  He was ready to hear a reason for or against, but he was usually right with each "suggestion".

We went on to the next word in that manner… and the next… and the next, until – both of us chuckling a bit – there was nothing at all left of what I had written and the page was filled with corrections and cobwebs of lines and marks.

At last, I said "Clearly Your Eminence wants something else.  It’s my job to make your job easier.  Give me some direction."

He paused and looked at the large Murillo painting of the Blessed Mother on the wall of the office for a while and then said:

"At a certain point we must stop arguing and try to open their hearts."

With that I went back to my desk, pondered this for a while, and then rapidly wrote a short letter of response to that American bishop.

I took it in to the Cardinal, who make a minor change here and there, and off it went.

A few weeks later we received news from people in that bishop’s diocese that, not only had the bishop permitted the older form of Mass, he came to celebrate it himself for them.

What did I write?

After the usual clink of incense at the beginning, common to all curia letters, I merely wrote that we regretted greatly the way our correspondence had gone and its tone.  We hoped that it might improve.  But given the earnest desire of the people in his diocese, …

"Would Your Excellency please not open your heart to these people and help them?"

That seems to have been the real problem, after all. 

At a certain point, arguing isn’t going to achieve the result you desire.  Sometimes you must strive to open hearts.

That experience still lies at the heart of what I think is possible in the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. 

Yes, there are great and obvious obstacles.  But we have to do our very best that we ourselves do not become obstacles.

Could the situation be better?  Of course. 

But it isn’t.  

I don’t blame anyone for being sad or frustrated, which is very normal.  But I hope people will consider some new approaches, rather than blame others.

Therefore, given the way the winds are blowing and the gloomy skies, perhaps a change of tack is in order, a shifting of the sails.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Gee ! How about going back to Ecclesia Dei and writing that letter to our Bishop ! Please.

  2. Dominic says:

    Thank you Father for your beautiful reflections. I realised recently that I don’t pray enough for my own bishop, and that I didn’t have an open heart towards him. Thank you for the reminder for us not to harden our hearts, and for us to pray and work generously so that others may open theirs. Thank you.

  3. Ken says:

    We can probably all agree that prayers for the pope to start offering traditional Latin Masses are in order. When he finally starts to say public traditional Masses, the motu proprio will be more than a piece of paper. It will be illustrated.

    When the pope wears nice vestments, others started dusting off nice vestments. When the pope put candlesticks and a crucifix on his altars, others started doing the same. When the pope used a little more Latin, we’ve heard more Latin used in parishes. He leads by example. To that end, until he is ready to lead by example on the traditional Latin Mass, we will be stuck in this hole. So back to praying, while doing as much as we can locally to promote the traditional Mass in our neighborhood.

  4. magdalen says:

    Which saint was it that said we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? (St. Francis de Sales perhaps?)

  5. Memphis Aggie says:

    Yes, very Salesian – great story Father.

  6. Jon says:


    I’m no sycophant, and please don’t curse me for telling you so, but I mean this in all seriousness.

    You, my friend, should be the next Ordinary to the next vacancy in the next diocese, Anywhere, USA.

    Anything less is a mistake. [What is a mistake is even thinking such a thing. Quod Deus avertat. Let’s not have any of that.]

  7. This might be one of the most important posts that I’ve read on your site, Father.

    I plead guilty to grabbing my sword and trying to cut the rhetorical ear off of the Romans.

    Thanks for sharing your exchange.

  8. chironomo says:

    A thought occurred to me about this very matter not too long back… would it not be easier for Ecclesia Dei to act if there was something to act on rather than just a “lack” of something? Here’s what I mean…

    Suppose a Priest in the UK were to go ahead and offer the TLM as indicated in Summorum, in violation of the Bishop’s guidelines, and the Bishop were to somehow move to restrict him or punish him for this, then THAT would be something that Ecclesia Dei or the Holy See could act upon. Then, the Bishops guidelines and the restrictions they are placing could be judged by ED and, if necessary, Achbp. Burke as to their legality. It’s kind of like challenging a law with the Supreme Court… somebody has to violate the law first and have a case to contest. Now if only there were a priest willing to put it all on the line for this cause… any takers??

  9. miss book says:

    Dear Fr. Thank you for this wonderful post- it has really helped me to see that I must change my own heart before I would hope for others to change theirs.
    I must disagree with Jon’s comment as I think we really need your gifts in the U.K., should the Holy Father name you as a bishop, or Archbishop.Its all in God’s Hands -I know- but we can hope! (and pray)

  10. Richard says:

    Fr. Z,

    Thank you fro that very moving and thoughtful post.

    I empathize with Damian’s (and his allies’) frustration. Clearly – with a few isolated exceptions – the Church in England and Wales is in a bad way, and has been for a while, and in a way which makes America look positively Church Militant. Captive to its Magic Circle of Bishops and increasingly futile ecumenical enthusiasms, woven into a deeply secularized society, it lacks sufficient powers of rejuvenation. Very few of the laity or the priests value or even know what good liturgy or teaching look like any more, and they exist in isolated pockets. They are close to having to start from scratch now to rebuild.

    Of course, there is only so much a Pope can do, even were he St. Pius V. Ultimately, a local church has to put its own house in order.

    I think it has to work from both ends: England absolutely needs good bishops. They do not *all* have to be good, but there must be a critical mass of them. [Let no one miss this point. In the USA change is coming more swiftly because, with many more bishops, the changes in the numbers creating the “critical mass” can happen more swiftly.] But likewise, as you say, the laity and priests on the ground who desire good teaching and liturgy must work from the bottom up as well, and in the manner you suggested. They must support these priests and bishops, because they will be under heavy fire. They must be patient, and they must be charitable, and often it will be easy to give into temptations to be something less.

    It’s hard to second guess Damian’s situation. It’s clearly bad. But despair won’t win the day either.

  11. Kradcliffe says:

    Father, one of the strengths of the Catholic Church in America is its evangelical zeal. The Fundies have rubbed off on us in some positive ways. LOL. Openly professing your faith, talking about it, demonstrating it… this is a big part of American religious culture.

    In the UK, the opposite is the case. The majority of people here will say that religion is something that should be kept strictly private, left at home, like your stamp collection or some hobby. Not talked about. Religion is NOT to be demonstrated or shared. It may quietly inform your day-to-day behaviour, but only so long as it doesn’t conflict with the mainstream culture, and the religion behind your actions should never be identifiable. Showing emotion of any sort is, of course, weird to Brits, but religious fervour goes over about as well as, well, public nudity or something.

    Then, you have another contrast, which you touched on: Americans are optimistic do-ers. Brits are pessimistic whingers. They love a good moan. They’ll spend many happy hours grousing about their bishops, but they’ll rarely let themselves be seen as interested in things like Latin in public.

    I’ve asked my priests (we live halfway between two parishes) about the Latin Mass and got brushed off by both of them. They’re not hostile jerks who hate Tradition. They just know that people aren’t very interested, they know the Archbishop of Glasgow isn’t overly keen on it, they’re already plenty busy enough, and, by now, they probably associate the entire Latin language with the grumpy crackpots who write the Catholic Truth Scotland bulletin and blog. They’re not going to touch it with a barge pole.

  12. William Young says:

    I am waiting for the promised guidelines. In a run-of-the-mill parish like mine putting on the old Mass just sends out the wrong vibes. There has to be compromise, and the LMS of England and Wales do a great job of appearing to be Immobilists. It is important to be aware of what is pastorally appropriate. The two uses need to mutually enrich each other. Bishops and Immobilists seem to have a vested interest in keeping the old and the new in quarantine, sealed off from each other, lest their purity be compromised. Tosh! So many people abhor the “abuses” of the new use, but so many also seem to have a vested interest in their being continued. Does support for the old really depend on the new being done so badly? One could easily be forgiven for thinking so. When the guidelines are out, I shall study them and use any permission they grant to mix the uses in ways appropriate to my people. Indeed, if there had been permission in 1969 simply to use the old in English translation, surely all the faithful would have been entirely satisfied. So, yes, there will be occasions when celebrations entirely sung in Latin, hopefully with sacred ministers, will be appropriate pastorally. On the other hand, in my pastoral situation, there will be far more occasions when it will be more appropriate for compromises and judicious adaptation. Who decides? I will, as parish priest. Summorum pontificum has, it seems to me, already made this clear: I decide, not the Bishop, nor the LMS. But in a sensitive situation such as we are in, I would prefer to wait for the guidelines to make it easier for me to avoid unnecessary conflict with those who do not want to listen to what Pope Benedict has said.

  13. Ron says:

    Father Z, an archbishop of San Francisco, appointed by Pope Benedict, distributed the body and blood of Our Lord to two men dressed in pseudo-ecclesiastical drag. The same archbishop continues to place restrictions on the celebration of the traditional Mass, in defiance of the motu proprio. In other word’s Benedict’s own archbishop is more affraid of the traditional Mass than he is of sacrilege committed against the Blessed Sacrament. And unless I have missed something, Rome has never responded to his outrage. I do think traditionalists have cause for concern.

  14. Commentator says:

    I LOVE “the Bux protocol” and “the biological solution”. Perhaps, in view of the Synod, we might introduce a biblical note and speak of “the wilderness generation factor”? Great post, Father.

  15. TJM says:

    I am not at all discouraged. Unlike so many others, I lived through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and never dreamed I would live to see the day
    when the TLM would be celebrated again in parishes and oratories. Nor would I have ever thought that seminaries, such as the Glennon-Kenrick seminary in St. Louis would celebrate the TLM and teach the EF to its students. Moroever, younger bishops, at least in the US, are either publicly offering the TLM
    themselves or allowing it to be celebrated in their cathedrals. So I’m not in the camp that there has been no progress. I’m with Father Z
    on this one, brick by brick. Deo Gratias, Tom

  16. Maureen says:

    Ron, you’re taking that the wrong way. Welcome to Sales, where there’s never a bad position to start from!

    Obviously the bishop is anxious that the sacraments be available to his flock, and in a moment of stress and sudden decision, he’s more willing to see people in drag as devout members of the Body of Christ who are probably just inept at dressing for church (not unheard of in California).

    So obviously, if the bishop is that anxious to serve such misguided members of his flock, he _really_ has a deep desire to provide the EF to you. (Whether or not he knows it yet.)

    Therefore, your job is to find ways to root out his real objections (not the tired ones he comes out with), and then to answer them. You should be friendly and pleasant in doing this, and if you remember always that you are seeking to get the customer an advantageous deal, and that this sale will do him good. (Something difficult to remember with some sales goods, but not with the Mass!)

    It would also be nice to pool such “sales knowledge” and successful answers to objections.

  17. Joe Magarac says:

    Great post, father.

    The hermeneutic of continuity needs to go both ways. If the “reforms” of the 1960s were problematic because they were inorganic and rushed into practice too soon, the cure (a reform of the reform) needs to be gradual and slow. If the pope were to impose the Gregorian rite or were to rush the observance of old practices, he’d be making the same mistake that the 196-s liturgists made. Frustrating as it is, the slow and steady approach is the right one. The pope appears to see that; I hope we laypeople will too.

  18. Flambeaux says:


    You are a gem. I was just about to say something similar. :D

    I’m not in sales, but all the organizations that have helped me to pay the bills since I entered the workforce have been sales-driven.


  19. Dan says:

    “No cathedral in England and Wales offers a weekly Sunday Mass in the Old Rite, so far as I can tell, which is a disgrace.”

    This brings up a question I have.
    In a diocesan Cathedral can any diocesan priest in good standing offer the Gregorian Rite in that Cathedral, without the permission of the bishop?
    Since Summorum Pontificum is addressed to priests and not to bishops. [This doesn’t really apply to this entry. But bishops must be careful of each other’s turf.]

    Thank you.

  20. Fr Ray Blake says:

    I have just written about this myself, I think the Pope has done everything possible to ensure the right of ordinary priests to celebrate the TLM outlives him. He has created a grassroots movement, which will grow slowly.
    You are right, we have a mentallity in England that wants everything on a plate.

  21. Father,

    As usual, a masterful, wise, and charitable analysis. You always amaze and never disappoint ! Hope you’re enjoying your autumn leaves at The Farm !

  22. tertullian says:

    Punish? No. But shepherd’s carry a staff for a reason.

  23. Neal says:

    So the recalcitrant bishop problem is to be settled by the biological solution. The problem is that these same bishops are hoping for the same biological solution to settle the ultraconservative pope problem. Would you, knowing their respective ages, care to take odds on which problem gets solved first?

    Incidentally, remember back when the biological solution was supposed to take care of the traditionalist splinter movement? [It didn’t work.]

  24. EricG says:

    Oh, c’mon Father Z!

    Please don’t take this the wrong way . . .

    I know that you HAVE TO defend your bishops and/or your Pope, or risk losing your cushy job and your retirement benefits, but for the ordinary joe-schmoe faithful aren’t as privileges as you are to celebrate and assit at good liturgy on a daily basis. [WOW… are you out of line.]

    We’re hurting, and the Holy See is doing NOTHING substantive for us, and virtually nothing otherwise.

    Damien Thompason, you should know better! NEVER criticize the Pope! Ever! The Pope can do NO WRONG! He is PERFECT! He must not be held to ANY standard, whatsoever! If he does it, it MUST be good!

    John Paul 2, we love you!!!

    Puhhleeeze . . .

  25. Let us be blunt about this. If the Pope were to die tomorrow, he would be remembered for many fine achievements, most of all his encyclicals, but his liturgical reforms would peter out.

    Though often on target, I think Mr. Thompson is dead wrong here. Whatever Pope Benedict does or doesn’t do henceforth, whether or not a new document is issued, when or whether he celebrates a papal TLM, whoever the next pope is, I believe the die has been cast.

    Summorum Pontificum changed everything, setting in motion historical forces whose effects are inevitable. Though not necessarily in the form of TLM’s springing up everywhere within a year or two.

    It would hardly be realistic to expect an immediate about face in a parish or diocese whose pastor or bishop is dead set against it, and doesn’t much care what the Pope thinks.

    But every bishop or pastor who’s a roadblock now will in due course be replaced by one of the current young seminarians and priests of the restoration. Call it the “biological solution” if you wish. But I’d call it the Benedictine solution.

    And for many of us, wonderful things will be happening sooner than later. I’m been laboring in this vineyard longer than most WDTPRS readers have known it existed, and in the last couple of years have seen more progress than during the darkest years I expected within my lifetime.

  26. Tim says:

    The end of this post has me reconsidering the way that I communicate with most of the people that I interact with. Definitely a gut-check.

  27. TJM says:

    Eric G, I can’t figure where you’re coming from on this?

    Henry Edwards, you and I are on the same page.


  28. Ron Webber says:

    Damian Thompson in his recent posts on Holy Smoke is quite clearly trying to influence the Nuncio and the Pope in their choice of the next Cardinal. It is becoming quite blatant and unsubtle. Half of the time he is heaping praise on the Pope and taking a line which says “You’re a great man. You can fix this and we’ll love you for it,” and the rest of the time he is saying “You wouldn’t dare. You don’t have the guts!”

    Really, why doesn’t Damian just stand up in Front of the Pope and make chicken noises. Each time Pope Benedict tries to speak, Mr. Thompson could just start saying “chick-chick-chick-chicken!”

    You never know. It might work.

  29. Volpius says:

    The main problem in the UK as I see it is that the TLM is simply unknown to the majority of Catholics, now you cannot want something if you don’t know it exists, and you cannot get to know the TLM in most of the parishes of England & Wales.

    The laity cannot desire it because they have never seen it to know that it is something desirable.
    Also most of the younger generations have simply stopped bothering with religion and i think its fair to say in the US it is largely the under 65’s who are pushing for TLM, in England and Wales your lucky if people under 65 make up even 20% of a parish the level of lapsation has been so high for such a long time now and then all tey know about the Church tends to come from that hour on a Sunday for a lot of them.

    The most common response when i bring up TLM to someone is “What difference does it make if the mass in in Latin or English?” and when you try and explain there is more to it than that they just don’t get it, I don;t blame them, TLM needs to be witnessed to really understand the difference. Words cannot convey it adequately, or at least my words don’t seem to be able to.

    Your only going to generate demand for it if you give Catholics a chance to experience it. And that is not going to happen when the Bishops have everything locked down nice and tight as they do now, what happens if a priest goes against a Bishop over here is that they tend to be shunted of to a little village parish in the middle of nowhere with about 10 parishioners never to be heard from again. I know this because the priest who I owe my faith to was treat this way when he started to say TLM’s in his parish. He now runs a church in a village that has less than 5000 people in it and is in the middle of nowhere.

  30. TJM says:

    Volpius, that is a sad story that you related about your priest mentor. I just cannot comprehend a priest or bishop so hostile to the
    Church’s mother tongue. It is really stunning. Tom

  31. Richard says:

    I agree with Mr. Edwards: I think the Benedictine Reform has made too many inroads, especially among young priests, laity and religious, to be stamped out now.

    Of course one hopes for many more years of this pontificate to solidify and expand that base (and reshape the College which will select his successor). And one recognizes that the base doesn’t exist as yet in places like England (beyond a few hermetically sealed off pockets), but then there isn’t much to be lost in such places, alas. It seems so far gone there, as Volpius observes, that Catholics don’t even know what they’re being deprived of.

    Beyond the changing of the ground rules and the precedents he sets, the best the Pope can do with these remaining years (may they be many) is to give us good, holy bishops open to his vision. The quality level of appointments the last several years, while far from perfect, is unquestionably in the aggregate a big step up from what obtained under most of John Paul II’s pontificate. We need more of the same. Starting with a solid new archbishop of Westminster – if Damian can confine himself to tactful ways to lobby for one.

  32. Paul, south Midlands says:

    I think one reason that we have not seen an upsurge in weekly Sunday Tridentine Masses in England is because, compared with many other countries, there were already quite a lot.

    We now have a weekly Sunday Mass in London (several), Chesham, Bedford, Brentwood, Birmingham, Hereford, Bristol, Gateshead, Durham, Newcastle, Castleford, Liverpool, Lutterworth (near Leicester), Sc*nthorpe, Newquay, Reading, Manchester, Shrewsbury & Ramsgate.

    There are many other areas where the Masses rotate between local churches over a four Sunday cycle.

    If you read the Latin Mass Society Magazine the numbers are steadily improving. I’m not saying that there are not problems in some areas but things are definitely improving and, I would say the majority of the population of England is within one hours drive of a tridentine Mass on Sunday. In many parts of the world people would love to be within one hours drive of any Mass.

    In my own parish we have started a monthly Tridentine Mass on a Thursday evening . After a packed church on the first Mass (curiousity) numbers dwindled but have now gradually returned to about 30 parishoners (far more than at normal weekday masses). It probably is better to start this on a weekday and build it up than suddenly inflict it on an unsuspecting parish at Sunday Mass. Many priests already say 3 Masses so its not a case of an extra Mass – it would be converting an existing Mass which is much harder.

    So I’m with Fr Z on this. Patience (& Prayers) needed.

  33. Simon Platt says:

    In a town near my own in England there is a traditional mass once a month which is at risk because the congregation is low. The celebrant has pointed out that there are up to six masses each weekend at this church (which is blessed with two priests), and that it is difficult to justify the sixth given a small turn-out. But the problem is that this occasional mass takes place at 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon one week in four (or five). My family and I have not assisted at this mass for several months not least because, thanks to a visiting priest from a traditional society and a friendly local parish, we now have a regular weekly Sunday morning mass nearby, albeit in another diocese.

    We used to drive all over the place for a traditional mass, but being expected to assist at low mass in the next town but one on a Sunday afternoon after fulfilling one’s obligation elsewhere strikes me as religion as a hobby (a particular bugbear of mine) and just isn’t going to happen at least in this family.

    Why can’t priests replace new rite parish masses with traditional ones, at least once in a while? Surely this is what Summorum Pontificum envisages? I know of nowhere in England where this happens. (I suppose there is at least one such, but I am sure that they, or it, are in a tiny minority.) I think that’s the only way in which typical catholics will become exposed to the tradition that has been kept from them for decades.

    I haven’t been to a weekday mass in years, but my goodness I’d be there if a priest in Preston would celebrate a traditional mass on a weekday morning!

  34. dymphna says:

    I’m not discouraged but it does occur to me that
    when the Holy Father dies, most, if not all of the
    masses we have now will be dropped. And then TLM lovers
    will have to start allover again.

  35. Peter M says:

    It is probably very true that we Europeans are less “pro-active” than Americans and more complaining, as it seems to be true that Italian bishops have been working against the motu proprio. Let me then try to be positive: if there were 35 places where the Gregorian Mass was offered in Italy you can now probably count around 100 weekly Masses around the country; Benedictines from le Barroux have set up shop in Liguria, and a group of Franciscans have gone Gregorian; people I have spoken with in a “parish context” are definitively positive to the traditional Mass and would like to see it (but: how do you implement a motu proprio that you don’t know, especially when you are a faithful who isn’t the lawyer-like person who knows what “implement” and “motu proprio” means?); in my diocese, where mp SP isn’t applicable de jure (not only de facto), a (second) traditional Mass according to our own rite has been granted, and my city is in the pipe-line for a third one (please pray for this intention!!); I have heard priests asking for tools for learning to celebrate the traditional Mass – aren’t these enough reasons to be positive and hopeful about the future? Finally, I have had the impression that the effect of SP depends on our having friends: if a traditionally minded person has friends in his parish, application of SP would seem to be relatively easy – with friends, you gather a group of faithful parishioners that may win the parish priest’s ear and heart; isolated in turris eburnea, no friend of tradition will ever get a Gregorian Mass in his parish.

  36. E. Osodemo says:

    I live in Italy and the opposition of italians Bishops is incredible!(What ever Monsignore Betori says)After the Motu Propio for a whole year in Rome only in three churches, Tridentine Mass was celebrated, in two of them only one Mass every Sunday, only in the third one, Mass was celebrated every day,in the three cases, only by foreing priests.In the rest of the country the situation is not better. Anyhow you can see the italian situation by visiting Inter Multiplices Una Vox. In Spain the situation is much worse, see the situation in Una Voce Malaga. In Germany even worse.In the rest, is more o less the same.I really agree in one point with Damian Thopsom, “the enemy” is waiting making resistance that Holy Father dies to cancel all, but this is only,a machiavelic human plan, we should not forget that above us, there is always the will of Good.And what it is imposible, o very dificult for men is nathing for Good (sorry for my dreadful english)

  37. Jon K says:

    William Young has little respect for the Latin Mass Society. For WY wants a rite of his own making and calls those who long for Tradition immobilists. How very modest and noble of him…

  38. Woody Jones says:

    To me the most important thing about this matter is that the reluctance of so many bishops and priests to implement SP even somewhat eagerly may be taken as a sign of a deeper opposition to the hermeneutic of continuity. This is what one hears with regard to the French bishops, for sure, and I presume the same is true elsewhere. Any gesture of sympathy with Pope Benedict’s liturgical leadings, such as adoption of the papal style altar arrangements at OF Masses, would be greatly reassuring.

    On a positive note, I am told that Msgr. William Stetson, priest of Opus Dei and secretary to the Pastoral Provision office, will be celebrating Mass in the EF at St Basil’s Chapel (I think) on the campus of the University of St Thomas here in Houston this Friday at 8:30 a.m.

    I therefore happily retract my snide and not so subtle remarks about priests of Opus Dei not doing the EF. Hopefully the Legion is also taking note.

  39. Woody Jones says:

    And a final thought: pray much for Cardinal Schoenborn, who I recently saw described as the “crown prince” of this papacy. May it be so!

  40. Bob says:

    Quote by Jordanes “Well, except for the tradition of not consecrating bishops without papal mandate.”

    Quote by Ron “An Archbishop of San Francisco, appointed by Pope Benedict, distributed the body and blood of Our Lord to two men dressed in pseudo-ecclesiastical drag. The same archbishop continues to place restrictions on the celebration of the traditional Mass, in defiance of the motu proprio.”

    You were saying!!

  41. I’m sorry things are so bad in the UK; it does seem to me that things are changing more quickly in the U.S., although there are no doubt many places where, because it seems so remote, frustration mirrors that of the article Fr. Z discussed.

    I tend to agree that you want to bring about some changes in a more gradual–dare I say progressive?–fashion, so they have staying power, and that is how I see the pope acting.

    It has been awhile since I offered this observation, so I will restate it: being constructively involved in the life of the parish, and “pushing” in the right way, does good. I say this as a pastor who would love to be “pushed” by traditionalists more than I am. It would help my cause. Every time a parishioner tells me s/he likes the return of Latin and chant, it is pure gold with dealing with those who complain so loudly.

  42. It confounds me utterly that some traditionalists have grown so impatient. Did they forget the years of begging for an “indult” Mass?

    (Funny thing that, to even talk of an “indult Mass” sounds odd a year later!)

    Were they expecting Rome to be rebuilt overnight? Have they forgotten how hard it was to find a TLM 3 years ago in some places? Have they forgotten about the meteoric growth of the FSSP which was started less than 20 years ago had 11 members and today has 347? What of the Institute of Christ the King?

    Anyone else out there BUILDING SEMINARIES that are packed the day tehey are built?

    Pray and support the fledgling efforts of today for a bright tomorrow.

  43. joy says:

    Can we stop acting as if the Holy Father is about to expire? Can we pray for him to have many more years instead? (I’m praying for 120 for him specifically)
    Anyway, isn’t the issue going to be revisited after three years? That means less than two years from now. I am as impatient as anyone, but in the timeframe of the Church, this is not very long at all. Every day I see Fr. Z posting new Gregorian Rite locations, in fact, this keeps my spirits up while waiting!
    BTW, I love the Bux protocol… ;)

  44. Bob says:

    My case is different. Where I live I will probably never get to experience a TLM, or the fullness of Catholic tradition. So I will probably be converting over to the Antiochian or Greek Orthodox Church, since the Eastern Church and it’s traditions are alive today and also growing. I simply cannot wait any longer. I’m middle aged and have serious doubts about this Pope’s “Marshall Plan”. To much resistance!. This could take decades and to me the damage has been done. I am getting sick of staying home on Sundays and feast days, because I can’t find a local church that celebrates the TLM, and follows the liturgical calender of the ExtraOrdinary form. So my only other alternative is to move East and discover the richness of the Byzantine tradition to learn from the early church fathers of the east and follow the Byzantine calendar. My story!. Pray for me!!.

  45. pelerin says:

    Yes Damian Thompson’s post was depressing for many of us and I was particularly interested in the comments. One of these mentioned an EF Mass with just thirty people which may or may not have been in my ‘adopted’ parish where a monthly Sunday evening EF Mass is scheduled. For various reasons I was unable to attend since learning about it until one Sunday some months ago. The day had come – there were some thirty people present – the altar was set up – and we waited. After half and hour it was announced that the priest was unable to reach us due to heavy traffic I understand. I felt bereft. It was too late for any other Mass. The parish priest was away that weekend so was unable to step in and offer a NO. On chatting to a lady outside I was told that this had happened before.
    Although I would dearly wish to attend a regular EF Mass I have not tried again here in case the same thing happened again. I am lucky in that I have found a parish where the NO is celebrated very reverently by an exceptional priest and where I can once again experience the beauty and reverence of the Missa de Angelis after so many years. However I still yearn for what was once so familar when I first started attending Mass.

  46. Woody Jones says:


    If I may make a suggestion, first try the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – the “Ukrainian Catholics”- where, depending on the parish, you would have all the benefits of Eastern liturgy and thought (quite possibly mostly or all in English, as in St Nicholas in Charlotte [?], NC or the famous St Elias outside of Toronto), but still be in communion with Peter. But if you have to do it, then go to the Antiochians rather than the Greeks. Liturgically both use the Greek, rather than the Slavic, usage, but the Antiochians seem to be less ethnically-centered and so in Orthodox terms are closer to the cutting edge in such things as shedding Latinate practices such as pews, having a fuller range of services on the weekend (e.g., Saturday Vespers, Sunday Orthros (Matins) and Liturgy), more pan-Orthodox thinking, etc. You could even sample the Western Rite, depending on the area where you are. Since the Antiochians are originally an Arab based church, in the coffee hour discussions you may also get a new view on who the good guys and the bad guys are in the Middle East.

    Speaking of the Antiochians reminds me, though, that the Melkites are the Antiochians’ very close relations, so if you can find a Melkite church, you will again have all of the benefits and still be in communion with the Pope.

  47. Bob says:


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