Double Standard

I recently heard on TV a media wonk challenge a racial double-standard in sentencing guidelines for cocaine and for crack.  Cocaine is used more by white people but the sentencing guidelines are less harsh than those for crack, used more by black people.  I don’t know enough about this issue to assess it, but a good question is raised.  

This was on in the background while I was looking at some newly released diocesan guidelines for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, by which Pope Benedict emancipated Catholics who desire Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.

For a long while we, blessedly, hadn’t seen dioceses impose additional "norms" on the Supreme Pontiff’s provisions.  This week we have seen a couple more instances. One was pretty good and the other dreadful, even insulting to the Pope.  Interesting timing, give the lifting of the excommunications of the bishops of the SSPX.

As I reviewed these very different documents I had the odd sense that there was buried in them both something not unlike the possible racial bias of those sentencing guidelines.

Since ’07, when Summorum Pontificum came out, diocesan norms imposed on the Supreme Pontiff’s provisions will at times include something like "this Mass must not be celebrated for people who deny the validity of the Novus Ordo".

Well… okay.  Bishops want to keep the knuckle-headed stuff out of the mix. 

But this is nothing other than a policing of thoughts.  Their very ideas must be assessed before a Mass may be celebrated in a legitimate Catholic Rite.

In contrast, there is far less urgency to police people’s thoughts on issues of grave importance for how we live and die as Catholics.  I should say their thoughts and their actions.

We don’t know how grave a sin it may be for a Catholic to think the Novus Ordo is invalid and then act so as to avoid going to Novus Ordo Masses.  Go ahead and argue that it’s bad to say it’s invalid.  Can you go to Hell for it?  I wonder.

It is, however, a sin for a Catholic to think persistently, even after instruction, that the Church is wrong about abortion and then act in such a way as to defy or undermine the Church’s teaching.

We wonder if you risk Hell for the former.  We know you can go to Hell for the later.

Pastors of souls must above all else protect the immortal souls of their flock.  What could possibly override that concern?

In the case of those who don’t like the Novus Ordo, or maybe have other crass ideas or behaviors, some bishops and priests would seek to bar such folks from having Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.  Perhaps they should even be barred from the Church.

But obstinate public dissenters who concretely act in defiance of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life are treated quite differently. 

Pro-abortion politicians attend Masses all the time.  They receive Communion all the time.  Their thoughts and actions are known to all.  They create scandal and confusion.  They are at risk of eternal Hell and threaten to take others with them.

But great oversight must be exercised in the matter of Summorum Pontificum.  Priests must be assessed.  The very thoughts of the faithful have to be judged before they can have a legitimate liturgy of Holy Church. The older form of Mass is such a grave matter that additional guidelines must be imposed.

The judgment and sentence given to the one group by our shepherds is often quite different from that which they impose on the other.

Double standard.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Fr. Z. This is among the best posts you have ever put up on this site.

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    Think of the screams that would go up if a bishop announced, regarding the Ordinary Form, “This Mass must not be celebrated for those who do not accept the Church’s teaching on priesthood being reserved to men.”

  3. Mitch says:

    The Holy Father should celebrate this Mass(TLM) soon and with some regularity. It is time to show by example that this is perfectly legitimate and desired by Rome, for any persons with continued obstinance and reservations…Then perhaps when restrictions are further imposed by Priests and Bishops, the lay people have some recourse. It needs to appear normal in practice and not just paper, or it (SP) has the possibility of winding up in the file with Veterum Sapientia. It is simply time now….

  4. Scott W. says:

    The bizzare world of the anti-Latin crowd. Namely, on the one hand proclaiming that no one is interested in the Latin Mass, and on the other hand threatening that allowing the Latin Mass will destroy the Church.

  5. kate says:

    I have heard it said of one Bishop I know that he questions whether traditional Catholics are part of his flock.

  6. cuaguy says:

    WONDERFUL (emphasis, not shouting) article Father!!!

  7. Creagh says:

    well said; doesn’t surprise me though, even with vatican guidelines on the celebration of the NO bishops still use their discretion on how to ‘interpret’ these, why wouldn’t they feel like they have to impose their ‘own’ interpretation on the SP. its the same mentality.

    a little less tinkering and a lot more obedience please your eminences.

  8. prof. basto says:


  9. Cathy says:

    I grew up in a southern city and was in elementary school when the forced desegregation of the schools began. I would say that there are a lot of similarities between the situation with segregation then and with our situation in the Church now between the bishops and traditional Catholics. The whites had all kinds of nasty stereotypes of blacks. They were afraid of them and did everything in their power to keep them away from whites. The blacks were angry and/or had simply given up. They sought refuge in their own communities where they didn’t have to deal with the ugliness from the whites.

    I always wondered how the black people felt about their treatment and how they endured it. I hated the injustice, but felt powerless to fix the problem. I feel the same way now as a traditional Catholic. Now I understand the feelings many blacks must have had of anger and helplessness. I wish there was some way that I could escape the bigotry and condescension directed towards me as a traditional Catholic, but where can I go? My own bishop calls me an “extremist”. I’ve been called holier than thou, pharisaical, schismatic (I attend an FSSP apostolate when I can get there, otherwise I’m stuck in my local parish), nostalgic (I’m a convert), sentimental, and just plain mental. I usually take all these insults in stride thinking that Jesus and the saints suffered much worse. But sometimes, I think maybe I really am nuts. I drive over an hour to get to the TLM and I homeschool because my local parishes seem like a good place to lose your Catholic faith. I’m fighting the Catholic Church to be Catholic and raise my kids Catholic. This contradiction is starting to cause me to doubt my faith. I wish my bishop would learn some lessons from segregation and started treating traditional Catholics with the same respect that any other Catholic receives. Many of the problems in the South could have been averted if the whites had just treated blacks with the dignity they deserved as fellow human beings.

    The Holy Father knows, as do Fr. Z and the readers of this blog, that the whole Church could benefit from reintegrating the TLM and traditional Catholics back into the Church. I hope and pray that the bishops’ hearts will soften and that they will work with the spirit of Summorum Pontificum instead of against it. For my part, I at least still have my Christian hope. I won’t let them take that away from me.

  10. memoriadei says:

    As I have been hearing (reading) both sides of Latin or not Latin I have felt that those who have chosen Latin fervently speak with superiority. This happens all the time on yahoo Catholic groups. If it isn’t Latin, it isn’t good enough…if it isn’t Tridentine, it isn’t good enough. This disturbs me greatly for two reasons. One is because of all the people who live in areas (3rd world countries) where they are fortunate to see a priest once a month. Secondly because there are so many homebound in 1st/2nd world countries who never get to attend any Mass. And then there is the young woman with no use of her legs who drug herself 2 miles on a dirt road to get to Mass (3rd world country) until nuns discovered her plight and got her to Mass. I always feel that if the Mass is valid, I don’t care if the language is Timbuktoo as long as it is valid and the Holy Eucharist is there. Sure, I can remember days when Mass was in Latin and given a choice, sure I would choose that. But, given a chance to attend Mass, which I have not been able to do in more than 18 months….I will concentrate on the reason I’m there.

  11. memoria: It is possible to argue, and win, that Latin is superior and that the TLM is superior. But it is possible to do so without being “elitist”.

  12. memoriadei says:

    Thank you, Fr., for your comment. I don’t know enough about the difference to feel qualified to debate it. I am inclined to follow the Magisterium as a 100% card carrying follower. And, I understand what you are saying. I came into the Church at 14 when Mass had not yet changed, railings still there, mantillas still worn. That was 1964. By the time 1970 came, Newman Center was completely “modern” and I felt so uncomfortable there. I didn’t feel I was in a Catholic Church. I would be interested in knowing the reasons why TLM is better, not for debate but only for my own knowledge.

  13. jeff says:

    I attend the traditional mass exclusively because I believe that the novus ordo has been pruned of it’s catholic character, watered down in the doctrine department if you will.

    But I don’t go expressing my views to people anymore unless they are interested.

    I find that the very act of only attending the ‘OLD’ is considered an insult by many people who attend both or the novus ordo only.

  14. memoriadei says:

    I don’t mind the “old”. I am old. ha! I have the 1914 Missal my grandmother used. And, I understand that it would not be the same as the 1962 but, again, I don’t know what would be different. It’s a beautiful treasure to have it, for sure. As well, I am in the rural area of the Ozarks so it’s not always easy to find “old”. However, I’m sure my bishop (Van Johnston) has at least one Mass per week probably at the Cathedral. One of these days, when I get DSL, I will be able to have the pleasure of seeing and hearing Fr. Z in the chapel! I love the meditative moments that the Holy Father makes sure to have when he has Mass. Mass seems just too fast for me. I like to ruminate before straight on to the next thing.

  15. Brian says:

    Those who perpetrate the racial double-standard are racists. What shall we call the second group? Modernists? Is it possible to be a Catholic and a modernist at the same time?

  16. Al says:

    I believe that even if the person has the view that the new Mass is invalid (assuming the worst case) they still have a right to be accommodated by their pastors under canon 214 (“The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life so long as it is consonant with the doctrine of the Church”).
    Pastorally speaking, does it really hurt to let Aunt Gertrude go to the Tridentine Mass? Is she going to hell just because she can’t figure out that the Pauline Missal is valid? I don’t think so. The BEST pastoral way to catechize Aunt Gertrude is not to vindictively deny her what she has had in the past and call her a heretic, but to let her attend the Tridentine Mass and be educated over time to recognize that the church has allowed both forms to be celebrated. Just this Sunday, in the new lectionary, we heard Saint Paul “I have become all things to all people.” If only some “pastoral” personalities would listen to that.

  17. fxr2 says:

    Father Z:
    At the beginning of your article you state. “I recently heard on TV a media wonk challenge a racial double-standard in sentencing guidelines for cocaine and for crack. Cocaine is used more by white people but the sentencing guidelines are less harsh than those for crack, used more by black people. I don’t know enough about this issue to assess it, but a good question is raised.”
    I know it is not the thrust of your article but [… and for that reason, I am closing the rabbit hole.]

  18. Timothy Capps says:

    Just to comment on the sentencing federal guidelines themselves.[Nope… don’t think so.]
    Interesting exercise, Father.

  19. Clinton says:

    I agree with toomey in the very first comment above: this is an excellent point you’ve made, Father. What bad can come from
    a generous implementation of Summorum Pontificum? Whatever the causes of the scandal, confusion, and bare ruined choirs
    of the last few decades, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the folks devoted to the older rite of the Mass. As Al pointed out
    in his post above, what is served by denying the legitimate needs of Aunt Gertrude? What on earth are some of these pastoral
    professionals so afraid will happen if the Extraordinary Form is made available?

    I am fortunate to live in a diocese where the Extraordinary Form has been available as an indult Mass even before Summorum
    Pontificum. Shortly before 7/7/07 our bishop generously gave the Latin Mass Society here a home in the cathedral after it had
    been the guest of several smaller parishes over the years. Now my parish has an EF Mass every Sunday and on feast days.
    Before this move I’d been to an EF Mass but rarely — now it’s the form I attend most often, but not exclusively. To say that
    the older form has deepened my understanding of both forms is an understatement. I know that many of my fellow parishoners
    could say the same. Maybe there are some people who attend the EF Mass here because they think the NO Mass is invalid —
    I say maybe because I’ve yet to run into one. Meanwhile, Aunt Gertrude and I have benefited so much from the generosity of
    our bishop.

    The suspicion of the faithful attached to the older form of the Mass, the odd eagerness to deny access to the Extraordinary Form
    that prevails in some circles is beyond me. And yes, yes, yes it is a rank double standard to treat one group roughly because of
    absurd suspicions while coddling another group determinedly undermining the Church with their shameless attachment to
    a serious sin.

  20. supertradmom says:

    This double standard is real-ask good, traditional priests how they have been marginalized in some dioceses to working in hospital chapels or in remote rural communities because of their faithfulness to Holy Mother Church, or love of the TLM.

    The “old boys’ clubs” of liberal priests have kept the really good men out of the seminaries and discouraged their colleagues who want to be faithful to Rome. And, those pro-abortion, anti-Rome, anti-TLM Catholics hold the positions of authority in diocesan offices and in university Newman centers.

    Double standard-YES.

  21. supertradmom says:

    —emphasis, not shouting!!!!!

  22. RE: Crack v. Cocaine. [Nope… this is a rabbit hole and I will boot further comments.]

  23. ALL: Believe it or not, the main point wasn’t about crack.

  24. Shane says:

    I think that the point regarding the double standard is a good one. There is a great deal of, so to speakk, hypocrisy about some of these things coming from many of the priests and bishops out there, and it’s very disappointing. Even if not for the double standard, the fact that it seems not to inspire action on the part of many bishops and priests that so many Catholics, public figures and otherwise, reject particular teachings is quite a problem. The double standard makes it all the worse.

    As an aside, I’m not sure how it could be doubted that denying the validity of the Ordinary Form is objectively grave matter, and therefore able to be a mortal sin. It’s a mortal sin to knowingly reject even the tiniest of Church teachings, whether those teachings are to be held with Divine and Catholic Faith or religious submission of the intellect and will. It’s also a mortal sin to reject the authority of the Church in matters of discipline. Given that, I can’t imagine how it would fail to be a mortal sin to deny that a Mass the Church puts forth as valid is in fact so. Add to this Pius VI’s condemnation of the idea that the Church could ever establish useless or harmful discipline, and Pius XII’s teaching that the Church’s Sacraments are spotless, and I just don’t see it.

  25. Richard says:

    In a way, the double standard is encouraging.

    The Bishops don’t care who turns up to a Novus Ordo Mass, so they can’t really be taking it seriously. However they subconsciously realise that the TLM is the real thing, and that it must be guarded from profanity.

  26. Bailey Walker says:

    Cathy, As a convert myself (August 1964, just a few months before the first changes in the Mass began to be implemented) from a southern state (Virginia), please accept a word of support and encouragement from me. I understand, believe me. Imagine my pain when I visited my old parish church after many years being away. It was nearly unrecognizable (a new “worship space” had been built in the 80’s and the original modest church building converted into a social hall). I eventually found the baptismal font at which I was received into the Church being used as a birdbath in the garden. I won’t distress you with a description of the Sunday Mass I attended. It’s a sad and familiar story. Sigh. God bless you. Pray for me as I will for you.

  27. RBrown says:

    The Bishops don’t care who turns up to a Novus Ordo Mass, so they can’t really be taking it seriously. However they subconsciously realise that the TLM is the real thing, and that it must be guarded from profanity.
    Comment by Richard


    Applying the pope’s word, it seems that the Ordinary practice of Catholicism includes little regard for Church Doctrine.

  28. Cathy says:

    Bailey, thanks so much for your prayers and support. It means a great deal to me. I’m in awe of the people who have endured this situation for 40+ years. It must have been especially challenging living in the South since there could be a fair amount of hostility towards Catholics.

    I will be glad to offer my prayers for you too.

  29. memoriadei: However, I’m sure my bishop (Van Johnston) has at least one Mass per week probably at the Cathedral.

    Your new Bishop J. Vann Johnston was my local pastor until just about a year ago. Actually, I\’ve heard the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated daily in his cathedral, and that starting it there was one of his earliest acts as bishop.

    As the chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, he played a crucial role in our original indult for the TLM, and was a good friend and supporter of our TLM community whom we miss keenly and will always remember fondly.

    By the way, your grandmother\’s 1914 missal will do just fine if and when you\’re able to attend a TLM celebrated according to the 1962 missal. Missal wonks (like me) might belabor a few fine points, but no really noticeable changes in the TLM missal have been made in hundreds of years — not a single word changed in the Roman Canon between St. Gregory (~600 AD) and 1962 (when John XXIII added the phrase referring to St. Joseph). Indeed, I understand that for the first solemn high Mass celebrated by the FSSP on EWTN on Summorum Pontificum day (9/14/2007) an early 17th century altar missal was used.

  30. Cathy: It must have been especially challenging living in the South since there could be a fair amount of hostility towards Catholics.

    I’m from a bit further south than Bailey, and was a convert to the Church a bit earlier than either of you.

    The church in which I attended my first Mass — and it only took that one Mass to change the course of my life — allegedly took somewhat longer to build (in the late 19th century) because each night some of the locals tossed into the river some of the bricks that had been laid that day, not being entirely enthusiastic about a Catholic church being built in their neighborhood.

    The abandonment of the old Mass — just a few years after it had brought me into the Church — was and remains the greatest disappointment of my life. However, I must say that the hostility to Catholics — I never had rocks thrown at me because I was a Catholic, but I know some who did — was a source of wonderful inspiration and surely a cause for the pride we felt as Catholics. We were different, and proud of it. Now we Catholics are not that different, and surely not that proud of it.

    But I think this background must explain why much of what I hear about bitter traditional Catholics here sounds like a foreign language. The folks in my traditional Latin Mass community are the most joyously friendly and congenial bunch of Catholics I’ve ever been around. Our sense of “community” is something any ordinary parish could well envy. And — to just go ahead and put it plainly — we’re just wonderful Catholics, many or most attending the new Mass daily in their home parishes, fully involved in the usual range of parish activities, not a “Novus Ordo denier” in sight (so far as I know).

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