The new Coadjutor of Cincinnati on Summorum Pontificum

With a tip of the biretta to Fr. Fox of Bonfire of the Vanities, and in the wake of the news that H.E. Most Rev. Dennis Schnurr has been translated from Duluth to be the new Coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati to replace H.E. Daniel Pilarczyk, it is good to go back to review what Archbishop Schnurr said about Summorum Pontificum when it was released.

Let’s "turn back the clock" for real for a moment and have a look, with my emphases and comments.

This originally appeared in the August 2007 newsletter of the Diocese of Duluth

Dear friends in Christ,

Last month, [that is, 7 July 07, when the text of the Motu Proprio was released] The Northern Cross [diocesan paper] reported on the Holy Father’s decision to relax restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Mass, the Latin-language liturgy that predates the Second Vatican Council. [It was also the Mass during the Council.] Pope Benedict XVI said that Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly referred to as the Tridentine Rite, should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it. The Holy Father’s decision was promulgated on July 7 under the title “Summorum Pontificum” and will take effect on Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Over the past weeks, I have received questions about the implementation of these norms in the Diocese of Duluth. Put quite simply, of course, the response is that, on Sept. 14, “Summorum Pontificum” becomes the universal law of the church. As such, the norms must be followed in every parish and diocese throughout the world[You know… that is an excellent way of putting it.  I wonder if there is a connection between the sorts of bishops who issued statements like this and where and how quickly they are being "promoted"… if we can call the heaping of additional responsibilities and burdens on them "promoted"!  I am not sure I would call it that!]

Practically speaking, I anticipate some challenges with implementation in the Diocese of Duluth. Primary among them is one that the Holy Father himself mentioned in a cover letter to “Summorum Pontificum,” which he addressed to the bishops of the world: “The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.” In order to celebrate the Tridentine Rite, or the “extraordinary form” of the Mass as it is called by “Summorum Pontificum,” a priest must be suitably qualified. This means that, [watch what happens] for a legitimate use of the extraordinary form, a priest must have the minimum[!] rubrical knowledge of the Mass as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council and the minimum [!] linguistic ability to reverently and precisely recite the prayers of the Mass in the Latin language. [You might remember that His Eminence Card. Egan was one of the first out of the gate reacting to Summorum Pontificum.  Card. Egan experience canonist as he is, rightly pointed out that the qualifications indicated in the requirement that a priest be qualified or capable, idoneus, are that he be able to pronounce the Latin properly.  That is, Card. Egan pointed out the minimum qualifications.  We always interpret law so as to favor people.  Thus,Summorum Pontificum does not require expertise, but rather a sufficient capability.  This is very important.  In some places, bishops wrongly sought to impose an undue requirement about some level of expertise beyond the minimum necessary to say Mass in a legitimate way.  They even said they would "test" priests.   Clearly, this was also a way of creating obstacles to the implementation of Summroum Pontificum at the same time as it was a way of fostering competence.  Of course we all hope that the priest will have more than the minimal tools in his toolbox, but it is improper to impose undue restrictions on priests, whom the law favors in this regard.]

It should be remembered that the Second Vatican Council did not prohibit the use of the Latin language in celebrating the Mass. [RIGHT!] The Mass that is celebrated in our parishes today can properly be celebrated by any priest in either the English or Latin language, or for that matter in any other language, provided that the texts used have been authorized by the Holy See.

What the Second Vatican Council did do was modify some of the prayers of the Mass, allow for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people, [allow for, not require] and promote greater participation on the part of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass.

“Summorum Pontificum” aims to provide more ready access to the Mass as it was celebrated prior to the modifications permitted by the Second Vatican Council. [And those modifications were really very few indeed.  The Consilium went way beyond its mandate and then hoodwinked and bullied them into acceptance.]  In addition to the Latin language and position of the priest at the altar, the difference between the celebration of the Mass as permitted by “Summorum Pontificum” (pre-Vatican II) and the celebration after the Second Vatican Council (post-Vatican II) might be summarized as displayed in the box that appears on this page. [I don’t have that part.]

In the cover letter to the bishops that accompanied “Summorum Pontificum,” Pope Benedict mentions what prompted him to make access to the pre-Vatican II Mass more available: “At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. .. . Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite. . . . [Others] desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them . . . because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. . . . And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”

These latter comments of Pope Benedict XVI echo those of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II: “It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation, there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against ‘formalism’ has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the ‘forms’ chosen by the Church’s greatest liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.

“I consider it my duty, therefore, to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated.. . . Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which confirm to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (“Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” 52).

With these words, we are reminded that, in the churches and chapels of this diocese, the observance of liturgical norms cannot be arbitrary. [RIGHT!  Old Mass or new Mass… SAY THE BLACK and DO THE RED!] If Mass is to be celebrated according to the extraordinary form, it must be celebrated by a priest who has the minimum rubrical knowledge of the Mass as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council and minimum linguistic ability to reverently and precisely recite the prayers of the Mass in the Latin language. [There it is again…"minimum".] In such instances, too, the congregation must participate in the Mass by observing all the liturgical norms and using prayer books that translate the prayers and rubrics for them.

When Mass is celebrated in our churches and chapels, whether according to the ordinary rite or the extraordinary rite, there are also important liturgical norms that help to raise the mind and heart to God through the sacred mysteries celebrated. [Well said.]  Here I mention just a few, but I encourage those who are interested to give a full reading to the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM) promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Before the celebration of the Mass, “it is commendable that silence [God bless this bishop.]  be observed in the church” (GIRM, 45). The chalice and other sacred vessels are to be made from precious metals. If they are made from less than precious metals, at least the chalice and paten are to be gilded on the inside. The use of glass or ceramic chalices, patens or ciborium is not permitted (GIRM, 328-329). For the priest, the chasuble is to be worn over the alb and stole (GIRM, 337). On entering and leaving the church, all genuflect to the Most Blessed Sacrament if the tabernacle is present in the main body of the church (GIRM, 273-274). The tabernacle is to be located either in the sanctuary or in a chapel that is connected to the church and suitable for private adoration and prayer (GIRM, 315). If churches do not have a chapel that is truly distinct and separate from the main body of the church, the tabernacle is to be located in the sanctuary. During the celebration of the Mass, people “should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason” (GIRM, 43).

In his encyclical “Sacramentum Caritatis,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the faithful adherence to the liturgical norms has for 2,000 years sustained the faith life of all believers (38). This is the purpose of liturgy, regardless of the language in which it is prayed and celebrated.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr


It seems as if Archbp. Schnurr may have a a slightly different point of view than Archbp. Pilarczyk.   However, it would be unfair to pit them against each other, who will have to work in harmony until such time as Archbp. Schnurr takes over as Ordinary.

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  1. David Osterloh says:

    Thank you Father, one year and it is His show, so maybe ?? In the meantime we can only pray.

  2. joy says:

    Fr. Z,

    You beat me to it. I was going to email you regarding Abp. Schnurr, and here it is already.
    This is great news for Cincinnatti, may there be many more appointments of those open to following the norms, and soon!

  3. Boko says:

    Into the belly of the beast. May God be with Abp. Schnurr.

  4. Papabile says:

    The ironic thing about this letter is that it doesn’t reflect where H.E. Schnurr used to be on the question of liturgy.

    In the mid-90’s, I worked at the NCCB, and I had more than one occasion to speak with then Msgr. Schnurr about liturgy. When I told him I preferred the odl rite, he told me only “crazies and wackos” attend it.

    Now one must remember he was Executive Director of the NCCB then. At the same time, self communication from the chalice, Priests attending mass not in choir, and replacing the use of male pronouns with the word ‘God” was absolutely standard and allowed.

    H.E. Schnurr may reflect the Church’s teaching on the EF now. When he receives the Sacred Purple, which he WILL, I wonder how he will act.

  5. tom martin says:

    Just a note of interest: Archbishop Pilarczyk has sponsored a 1963 Missal weekly Sunday Mass for many years in a parish (Sacred Heart) in Cincinnati, OH and (unknown parish) in Dayton, OH. His Emminence also has a parish just blocks away from his chancery and cathedral in downtown Cincinnati that celebrates a weekly Novus Ordo Latin Mass as well as German and English language Masses. Whatever his public persona has been percieved over the years, he has, within his archdiocese, been at least tolerant of his people’s desire for traditional and reverent liturgy.

  6. Amadan says:

    After an East-facing Novus Ordo Mass at Old St. Mary’s here in Cincie (offered by Fr. Fitzgerald OPraem) I sensed the crowd was pleased with the selection.

    Bishops have changed their tune on a lot of things under B16, why should the liturgy be any different? Remember Wisconsin?

  7. Amadan says:


    He isn’t a cardinal

  8. Duluthian says:

    Here in the Diocese of Duluth we’re still waiting for more of a response to SP. As far as I’m aware only one (young) priest has celebrated in the EF, and I know of only two public EF masses he has celebrated — one on a Saturday morning, the other in Warba (pop. 183). There are rumors of another, larger one-time EF mass in November, but I’m not getting my hopes up, as H.E. Schnurr’s departure may already disrupt related plans.
    But I did hear that Bishop Schnurr relatively recently banned polka masses in the diocese. I hope the ban survives the episcopal change.
    Also on the positive side, when a Sunday! Latin, ad orientem OF mass was celebrated (by the same priest), a significant portion of the diocese’s seminarians participated, so I certainly have great hope for the future. And for an orthodox new bishop.

  9. tom martin says:


    My mistake, His Excellency.

  10. ED says:

    Take the old mass and replace the Novus Ordo with the old mass being allowed in the vernacular. The rubrics and precision would already be in place and priests wouldnt have to learn 2 masses just the language.

  11. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Thanks for the biretta-tip Father, and even more for the hits on my blog!

    But it is, ahem, C-i-n-c-i-n-n-a-t-i.

    Now, for a protocol question: is my intuition correct that we immediately add Dennis in the Canon after Daniel?

  12. Maureen says:

    The parish in Dayton with the EF Masses is Our Lady of the Rosary.

    Archbishop Pilarczyk is an interesting guy. He has his liturgical quirks, to say the least, but I think he thinks of himself as a moderate. (And he is, compared to most of his agemates in the USCCB.) I have a sort of impression that Archbishop Schnurr also thinks of himself as a moderate, and that the moderate position has changed over the last ten to twenty years.

    I know that I myself used to think that a lot of ill-judged liturgical stuff was unexceptionable; after all, that was what I knew and the bishops said it was okay. But the broader and deeper my view gets, the more I realize what is truly normal and good.

  13. tom martin says:

    Father Fox,
    I was at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains for 8:30 a.m. Mass this morning. (Had to accelerate my day ahead for family events from the customary 9:15 a.m. Latin Novus Ordo at Old St. Mary’s)
    The Rector of the cathedral added “Archbishop Dennis” to the Canon after “Archbishop Daniel”.
    One might assume this to be proper protocol in the Archdiocese now.

  14. Larry says:

    It’s kind of neat when THE BOSS let’s you know that you can head out any time ’cause your replacement is at hand! One truckload of bricks for Cincinnati comminup!

  15. Matt Q says:

    Great for Cincinnati. God bless Schnurr. Glad to know solid and focused bishops are out there–somewhere, but also glad to know the Holy Father knows where to find them.

    Everyone pray for us in Los Angeles. I’m hopeful yet dreading of whom we may get for 2011. Many of us here just pray and hope our Sovereign Pontiff Benedict is around to give us a Schnurr or a Burke, Burbidge or a Bruskewitz.

  16. Whatever his public persona has been percieved over the years, he has, within his archdiocese, been at least tolerant of his people’s desire for traditional and reverent liturgy.

    If by “tolerant” you mean “willing to put up with something distasteful,” this is a true statement. Let’s be clear, Archbishop Pilarczyk’s chancery and worship office detest the TLM, and they have been calling the shots here for years.

    God bless Archbishop-designate Schnurr; we are so excited to have him.

  17. Tom Martin,

    No 149 of Institutio Missalis Generalis Romani reads: ‘Episcopus dioecesanus, aut qui eidem in iure æquiparatus est, nominari debet hac formula: una cum fámulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Epíscopo (vel: Vicário, Præláto, Præfécto, Abbáte) nostro N. Episcopos Coadiutorem et Auxiliares, non autem alios Episcopos forte præsentes, nominari licet in Prece eucharistica. Quando plures nominandi sunt,dicitur sub formula generali: et Epíscopo nostro N. eiúsque Epíscopis adiutóribus.’

    My Latin is rusty but my understanding of this is that the names of coadjutor and auxiliary bishops, but not of other bishops present, may be included. When there are more, a generally formula is to be used: ‘and our Bishop N, and his auxiliary bishops.

    I also understand that even if the ordinary is an archbishop he is prayed for in the Eucharistic Prayer as ‘our Bishop N’, not ‘our Archbishop N’, using only his Christian name. I also understand that only the Pope’s name is used, not his number, so ‘Benedict our Pope’, not ‘Benedict XVI our Pope’.

  18. Christine Freiberg says:

    My concern is if Schnurr is like Pilarczyk in regards to social justice.

  19. Byzshawn says:

    I lived in Cincy for 10 years and I was, for part of that time,organist and choirmaster at one of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese. I can tell you, Tom Martin and others, that His Excellency’s TOLERANCE for traditional liturgy and the Latin language is paper-thin. The Church in Cincinnati is not in good shape. Perhaps Bishop Schnurr will usher in a new springtime for the faithful of Southern Ohio. Let’s keep praying!

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