A reflection on rupture

Let me propose something to think about.

The Holy Father has made his pontificate in part a reflection on continuity. 

This commitment to restore a proper interpretive principle is the fruit of decades of observation and reflection from a unique, privileged vantage point.

Will you stipulate now that "rupture", lack of "continuity" is a bad thing? 

The obvious type of rupture and discontinuity is in the form of a break with the past.  Progressivists see the Council, for example, as a break with the past, a new theological, ecclesiological starting point.  They do great harm by working from this view.  If you take insufficient positive consideration of the past, you work great harm.

Another type of rupture, less obvious, comes from those who defend the past while not taking sufficient account of present progress or the possibility of authentic development without substantive change in doctrine.  Those who freeze the Church and deny the possibility of broadening our theological reflection do great harm.  The world does in fact present new exigencies even if human nature doesn’t "mature" out of its perennial needs – as many progressivists falsely assume.

Rupture from the past.  Rupture from the future.

Rupture from the future is easier to correct.  Rupture from the past is the more dangerous.

After all, it is part of the warp and weft of the Church’s nature to tend toward the unchanging, to resist the effects of that which shifts and is never fixed, and to guide the  wider world toward her Lord, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. schoolman says:

    “Rupture from the past. Rupture from the future.”

    Fr. A, that’s a really interesting way to put it. The two sides of rupture.

  2. schoolman says:

    Sorry, I meant to say Fr. Z…

  3. Ephem says:

    It is worth recalling that in the Holy Father’s speech to the curia in Advent 2005, he contrasted the hermeneutic of rupture with the hermeneutic of REFORM. He did not say that the proper interpretation of the Council is simply continuity.

    The Church is always holy, and always in need of reform.

  4. John Enright says:

    Well said, Father.

  5. Chris says:

    Talk about rupture: my family just got back from NYC for the funeral “Mass” of a grandfather.

    I don’t go to the novus ordo, but I cannot imagine that the display that took place today is anywhere near the rubrics of a NO reqiuem Mass.

    It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen and a complete and utter rupture from the old rite. In fact, my wife cried during the Mass, but not for her grandfather [How very sad. I am sorry to hear that.] — she later told me she cried when she realized how much we have lost in terms of tradition and Faith.

    We must support the Holy Father and the SSPX on this endever. Souls and the future of the Church depend on it.

  6. Confused says:

    “Rupture from the past. Rupture from the future.”

    Forgive my poor understanding, but which refers to the progressivists?

  7. Sean says:

    I would respectfully disagree that the rupture from the future is harder to correct and more dangerous than the rupture from the past. When you rupture from the past you have no moorings, no direction, nothing to give guidance. When you rupture from the future sure you are like a fly in amber, but at least you are stuck in a form of Catholicism that was at one time orthodox.

    I certainly agree that both forms of rupture are dangerous, but disregard for the past has to be the most dangerous.

  8. M. G. Hysell says:

    Once again, you’re incorrect, Father.

    If you read the Holy Father’s address to the Roman Curia in December of 2005, he does NOT speak of an “hermeneutic of continuity.” Rather, his understanding of Vatican II is that of an “hermeneutic of reform.”

    Consider quitting putting words–your words–in the mouth of the Successor of Peter.

  9. TJB says:

    M.G. Hysell and his camp are wrong because they believe that Vat.II was the first time that the Church ever attempted to bring reform. Actually every council brought reform to the Church, and the SSPX is willing to accept the reform of every council except for the last one.

  10. xathar says:


    Consider re-reading the address, in which the Successor of Peter defined the hermeneutic of reform as a “renewal in the continuity of the one subject — the Church which the Lord has given to us.” Elsewhere, he describes the process of reform as “innovation in continuity.” He contrasts this with the hermeneutic of rupture which he defines as a hermeneutic of “discontinuity.”

  11. LCB says:

    “On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”

    Papa Ratzinger then spends significant space detailing the problems of the hermeneutic of discontinuity, and why its opposite is needed. It is certainly fair to use the phrase “hermeneutic of continuity” to describe his thought. To say otherwise is simply to be ignorant of the larger corpus of his lifetime of scholarship.

  12. M. G. Hysell says:

    I don’t disagree with my responders.

    But we cannot ignore that the Holy Father specifically said “hermenutic of reform.”

  13. LCB says:

    Fr. Z,

    This is a very interesting line of thought, and I’d like to hear you develop it more fully.

    My initial reactions are twofold. Firstly, this is a difficult concept to work with in light of Rahner’s influential writings on being loyal to the “future Church.” It is very easy for individuals to divorce loyalty and fidelity to the Church as it exist now from their loyalty and fidelity to [i]what they want the Church to be[/i]. Not only must continuity with the Church of the future be anchored in an authentic continuity with the past, but one can not rupture from the present reality. I have heard folks remark, “I am loyal to Pope Joan” and proceed to disregard all timeless and unchangable Church teaching.

    Secondly, it goes without saying that the Church is timeless. When we speak of continuity with the past I feel that we must always keep in mind that we are speaking about continuity with a timeless Church, a Church that IS for all ages. Though circumstances and expressions may change, there must always be a timeless and eternal thread the runs through every age. It is for this reason that I (and others) express a particular level of attachment v.v. liturgy. But this timeless liturgy, which ought to develop organically, does not preclude theological development. Rather, I would propose that authentic liturgy is the proper source of authentic theological and doctrinal development.

    I don’t want to hijack your blog with a deeper discussion on that 2nd point, but feel it is safe to conclude by sharing my opinions that A) Most the supposed doctrinal development that has come from non-magisterial circles since 1965 has been empty and false and B) It is my experience that the notion that new liturgy and rupture are [b]required[/b] for doctrinal and theological development and reflection is an untruth perpetuated by those who have a vested interest in rupture for ideological reasons. It is simply not the case, and does not seem to have any logical grounding that I can discern.

  14. M. G. Hysell says:


    My point is that we cannot dichotomize “continluity” and “reform.” Nor can we misunderstand “reform” to mean “reestablishment.” Usually such talk about “hermeneutic of continuity” neglects precisely this–the reform of the Church in her liturgy and praxis.

    As I argue in my blog post, “The Extraordinary Form of Mass and Immunity from the Church’s Supreme Authority,” we have yet to see–among the TLM communities–precisely what Sacrosanctum concilium mandated. What, exactly has been reformed in the observance of the 1962 Missal? If nothing, then we have only “continuity” without “reform.”

    And this, I would suggest, means disobedience to the Church’s supreme authority.

    Pax et bonum!

  15. Pierre Ronsard says:

    In the Pope’s speech before the curia in Dec. 2005 he spoke of the Church’s need to accept what he seemed to view as positive aspects of the Revolution in France of 1789, which had been foreshadowed in the earlier American Revolution. This acceptance, he said motivated Vatican II. The difficulty for some of us is that the revolutions of the 18th century just as the communist revolutions of the 20th century are godless and can in no way be accepted by a Christian under any body’s hermeneutic. Their fundamental ideologies are anti-Chrisitan. What I wonder would be the Pope’s response to President Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that the “barbarities” of the native American Indians “justified extermination” or Theodore Roosevelt’s who agreed, saying of the Indians, “extermination was as ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable.” We need not mention the wholesale rape in Democratic America of African women by European males who held them in bondage , whose results we see written on the faces of the African-American population of the US even today. Change the names of the people and places and this same justification of genocide by democratically elected leaders could have occurred almost anywhere in the democratic world. Hitler was democratically elected, let us not forget. Yet in his speech of 2005 Pope Benedict XVI seems to limit this dark side of democracy to the period of the Terror during the 1789 French Revolution. Democracy— the Pope nevertheless seems to recognize in his most recent speech concerning the lifting of excommunication of the four bishops of SSPX— carries with it the permanent possibility that the majority might tyrannize the minority. Democracy nor capitalism for that matter have no built-in safe guards to ensure Catholic morality and never has and never will. Look at what’s going on in Washington even as I speak with respect to the unborn! But according to some, if it had such safe-guards it would no longer be democracy. So then what’s to stop people from saying that abortion and buggery are god-given rights? Certainly, denominations like the Protestant Episcopal Church are coming close to this conclusion. Now governments help us with health care and to prepare for retirement, why cannot government help us prepare for heaven? Are we just bodies, do we not have immortal souls? And what’s wrong with Catholicism being the state religion of countries like Belgium, Italy Spain or federal states like Bavaria?
    Now it is true that the spirit of the Vatican Council II condemns genocide but does it not according to the Pope’s 2005 speech accepts genocide’s root cause. But prior to the Council, also according to him, the Church accepted nothing much at all touching on the matter of modern republicanism. It had been for the most part silent. And this to me would have been the safer course. Perhaps he will clarify all why he said what he did in December 2005 in a future encyclical.
    Still,this is only one matter which causes one to believe that the Vatican Council II represents a rupture with Catholic tradition. What about the communion to protestants in certain circumstances contingent upon them accepting the real presence? Does this not reflect a change in ecclesiology? This particular policy of inter-communion, as I recall, is announced in the collection of post-conciliar documents. Is this in continuity with the Church’s teaching? Or is Denziger’s simply a restaurant menu? When I inquired about this in my local archdiocesan chancery, the response was that the policy on communion to non-Catholics was clearly incorrect and we must await clarification. Still, at certain weddings and funerals in other dioceses one sees episcopalians and lutherans receiving holy communion from the hands of Catholic priests.
    As things develop, it will be interesting to see what the Pope has to present to the SSPXers as well as what they have to say. Meanwhile, I shall continue to maintain that Vatican II represents a rupture with previous political sacramental and eccesiological teaching or at the very least represents the inception of a rupture which has been in steady development during the almost half century since the Coucil occurred.

  16. Larry says:

    You have acurately noted the problem. However I would disagree as to who is the harder to reform. My reading on the subject in fact points in the opposite direction. It is those who a clinging to the minutest detail of past practice are the ones who will die rather than change. Young people, however, who no nothing of the past treasures seem much more willing to look back and learn even though they have been raised on “baby food” as regards Theology and Liturgy. Traditionalists on the other hand have the gumption to dispute not only with Popes but with Councils as well. The Holy Spirit is fronzen on a stained glass window for them and can’t possibly be guiding things as far as they are concerned. So they dig in their heels and demand the Church take careful notice of their belief system. By putting the ED group under CDF the real discussion can commence with rea authority behind it. The good Card. C has done a great deal to foster a return; but even reading SSPX writings on the matter it is clear they don’t trust him either. The Doctrine of the Faith as the Church speaks it is what is important not the teaching of 3 or 4 bishops who have no right to the title much less the gurantee of infallability. As any good priest can tell you when you disagree with the Church’s teaching it is you who need to change; not the Church.

  17. Bruce says:

    You have also said :

    “Can it be honestly said that the Extraordinary Form exhibits a “noble simplicity”–with cluttered altars, servers kissing the cruets and censers, meticulus attention to the ductus of the incensation, and gestures that have lost their practicality?”

    I am suprised that someone who works with deaf Catholics would say that gestures in the Extraordinary Form “have lost their praticality”

    Despite your denials to the contrary you seem to have a bias against the EF.

  18. Tony says:

    “Noble simplicity” has no meaning because it has not been defined. Another ambiguity in SC (Vat. II).

  19. Kellen says:

    I agree entirely.

    I think the point could be made that most of the schisms from the Church have involved one of these two: the eastern schisms have generally been ruptures from the future on their part (note how their development generally halts after the schism), and the western schisms have generally been ruptures from the past.

  20. Tomas says:

    I agree with LCB’s post of 7:25, esp. the last paragraph. What “authentic development” has taken place since Vatican II? What “present progress’? And why, Father, do you specify no “substantive” change in doctrine resulting from “progress”? What other kind of change in doctrine is there? Cosmetic?

    I say there has been no “progress” originating from Vatican II, only a revolution imposed by enemies of the Church, and the resultant decay and disorientation. Therefore, I think this “rupture from the future” category is a complete misnomer, and poorly thought out.

  21. schoolman says:

    “Rupture from the past. Rupture from the future.”

    In my view, the former case involves building a future (progressivism!) that intends to leave the past behind — while the later case
    involves an attempt to conserve for the future an ill understood past (traditionalism!).

  22. Mark says:

    It is very hard to argue that 40 years of history compared to 1900…would produce so much change so fast and that all we need to do is get people to “view it” as continuity. That’s just a semantical game. You cant interpret continuity into existence with any sort of “hermeneutic” when there clearly was a major rupture of practice. A crisis as big as the Arian or Great Western Schism. Enough with the trying to Save Face. If what we saw were to have developed organically, it would have taken 400 years, not 40. The “present magisterium” (ie, post VII) should be weighed proportionately, and 40/2000 is only like 5%. So it should only get like 5% of our consideration. To act like “we know better now” or like our knowledge in some of these matters is cumulative or progressive…well, that’s the definition of progressivism. I hear some Catholics say something like, “Yes, let’s reform the Novus Ordo…by adding the prayers at the foot of the altar, the last gospel, etc” the implication being that it would basically be turned into the Old Rite again. But why this obsession with the pretense that the New is here to stay (even if essentially turned into the old again) as opposed to old. THAT is the narrative and language of Revolution and discontinuity that has to be ended before there is any hope of anything. The Pope says he is for a continuity and then just today speaks of “turning back the clock” as if that idea is anathema. There will be no continuity or reconcilliation of the Church with her past until the idea of that Past becomes something we are comfortable with, proud of, and willing to hold up as an ideal. Maybe in reality, strictly speaking, it wasnt. But every good society has been one that holds up some other time as a golden age and (yes, usually artificially) tries to recreate it. It is only decadent societies which assume that they are on the cutting edge of something or that there is “no going back”. We may not ultimately need to “turn back the clock”…but until that idea is at least accepted as possible or as one of the options on the table, I will not be convinced that the Church is reconciled to her past. Until then, the Revolution is still there, however moderate or tamed.

  23. schoolman says:

    “Rupture from the past. Rupture from the future.”

    In my view, the former case involves building a future (progressivism!) that intends to leave the past behind—while the later case
    involves an attempt to conserve for the future an ill understood past (traditionalism!).

    Let me add this to put it in another way. The “progressives” desire to rip out the oak tree in order to pave a parking lot of the future — while the “traditionalists” desire to rip out the oak tree in search of the acorn of the past.

  24. LCB says:

    To build on what MG has said, and to move on from it and back towards Fr. Z’s thoughts:

    I often suspect that we in this era are, in a sense, holding an inaccurate vision of the Church and the Papacy. Consider Pius IX, Leo XIII, and John Paul II. Since 1846 we have had, in 160ish years, 3 of the 4 longest reigning Pontiffs (only St. Peter reigning longer). This creates the perspective that the Church is a monolithic, rigid, and unchanging body. Though the Church is surely eternal, the reality of the Church experienced from year-to-year has, historically, been quite dynamic. This is easily seen with the normal frequency of Popes.

    One of the proper activities of the Church-in-time is to change, adapt, grow, and ever-renew. But this means that the Church must move forward as a unity. Making the Church-of-the-past an enemy is a fallacy, just as making the Church-of-the-future an enemy is a fallacy. To pit the Church, the Body of Christ, against herself really just doesn’t make sense. It is in that matter, making the Church an enemy of herself, that we find some of what Benedict references about the French Revolution. Europe has done this across the continent, making the Europe of the Past an enemy. Any institution that does this is bound to collapse, because the institution loses the ability to move forward in a lively way.

    I believe it is fair to say that the only authentic way for any institution to move forward is to rightly be in full continuity with the past. And unlike the social philosophies, theories, and debates of the French Revolutionary Era (esp. consult Burke and Paine, though the atheism of Voltaire would also be important), a true adherent of the Church has the source of the Church, the leadership of the Church, and the authority of that leadership already clearly established. The challenge for the People of God is how to live authentically as full citizens of the established Kingdom and not as rulers. To attempt to change the substance of that kingdom (that is to say to act in a fashion other than citizens) is to cease continuity with the Kingdom and with the person of the King.

    It is in this that we find one of our greatest challenges, precisely because it is a challenge that requires humility in two forms. Firstly it requires the humility of accepting that which we are not worthy of and are not deserving of, but receive as a gift freely given and unmerited Secondly it requires the humility of knowing and accepting our proper place in the Kingdom. The first is the shame of the fall and the second is the pride that precedes it. Surely all can agree that, if the upheavals of the last 4 decades have been marked by anything, they have been marked by a tremendous lack of humility.

    Continuity with the past requires the first form of humility. Continuity with the future requires both the first and the second. As such, I must conclude that Fr. Z is correct. Lacking continuity with the future is far more dangerous. If one has continuity with the past, and the associated humility, then there is a self-corrective in place that will (eventually) lead to the second form of humility.

  25. David Kastel says:

    “Another type of rupture, less obvious, comes from those who defend the past while not taking sufficient account of present progress or the possibility of authentic development without substantive change in doctrine. ”

    It is good that Father Z has pointed out that there can be no “substantive change in doctrine.” I only hope that he uses the qualifier “substantive” in the sense of “no change in substance” rather than in the sense of “no large change” or “no major rupture” as if the doctrine taught by the Church evolves slowly over the course of time. This idea is condemned by the Church as a part of the heresy called “modernism.”

    Divine Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Whoever believes the doctrine of the Church can change is wrong. The faith can be explained in different ways to different peoples, but the substance CANNOT change. So anyone who teaches anything contrary to what the Church taught before the Council is wrong.

    On the other hand, the various practices of Christian people can change from time to time or place to place – new devotions, various ways of offering mass, etc. I think that even Archbishop Lefebvre voted in favor of the reform of the Liturgy at the Council. (Of course that doesn’t mean he supported the Novus Ordo invention of Annibale Bugnini.)

  26. Mark says:

    I think what you say about those who make the “Church of the Past” an enemy being dangerous is true, but I propose that any truly healthy institution sees its past as not only tolerable, but an ideal lost in the present day. This may not be “really” true in the most literal sense, but you look at non-decadent societies…and they are always humble in the sense of thinking that the present is a low point and that the past is an ideal to strive for. It doesnt matter if it is factually “accurate” or not…the ideal of a Golden Age is needed for any healthy sense of identity. Looking for “new” improvement in our time, can only lead to a sort of secular messianism. There should only be talk of “restoration” never of innovation. We are not “closer” to the fulfillment of the ideal than those “awful 1950’s” or “nasty Middle Ages”…and honestly we should look back to them in a romanticized way. Yes, it is a romanticization. So what? What is our religion, especially, without Romance? As GK Chesterton said, “For the very word ‘romance’ has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome.” People speak of “reforming the reform” and though that makes me roll my eyes, perhaps that ultimately would be a fine model. But until they are willing to at least consider “reversing the reform” as a very real possibility, and give it very real consideration (even if ultimately not choosing that option)…the Church hasnt reconciled with its past. Until that idea is not held as entirely crazy or laughable or undesirable, then we’ve still got the Revolution on our hands. In our faith, at least, the Origin is also the Goal. If we dont see “getting back” to some past ideal as also our future goal…then we will be, in essence, by definition progressivist.

  27. David Kastel says:

    Here is how the Catholic encyclopedia describes the spirit of modernism:
    * A spirit of movement and change, with an inclination to a sweeping form of evolution such as abhors anything fixed and stationary;
    * A spirit of complete emancipation, tending to weaken ecclesiastical authority; the emancipation of science, which must traverse every field of investigation without fear of conflict with the Church; the emancipation of the State, which should never be hampered by religious authority; the emancipation of the private conscience whose inspirations must not be overridden by papal definitions or anathemas; the emancipation of the universal conscience, with which the Church should be ever in agreement;
    * A spirit of reconciliation among all men through the feelings of the heart. Many and varied also are the modernist dreams of an understanding between the different Christian religions, nay, even between religion and a species of atheism, and all on a basis of agreement that must be superior to mere doctrinal differences.

    The first bullet point describes the idea of the evolution of doctrine. Those who believe that the Church can change its doctrine (even though slowly and gradually, with no rupture) should note this one.

    The second bullet point describes “religious liberty” Those who insist that Dignitates Humanae be “accepted in full” need to note this one.

    The third bullet point appears to be exactly the ecumenism that is practiced today in the Church.

    Now, remember that the Council was a “pastoral” Council, even according to Cardinal Ratzinger.

    The bullet points above have been condemned with solemn anathemas ex-cathedra by several popes, including the last Pope who has been canonized a saint by the Church.
    The condemnations issued by St Pius X are infallible dogmas of the Faith. If the Council stated things in the documents contrary to solemn anathemas issued ex-cathedra by the Pope, then you have to accept the anathemas.

  28. Peggy says:

    M.G.\’s 7:29 post articulates what occurs to me as I think about \”continuity\” and the liturgy. It seems to me that the mass that we are supposed to be experiencing today is logically to be the mass of the 1962 Missal subjected to Sancrosanctum Concilium. The Pauline Mass is not quite that Mass, and the abuses that have been visited upon the Pauline Mass only worsen the rupture.

    It seems to me that the long-run resolution of the existence of the 2 very different forms must be that they \”merge\” into a single form that is the 1962 Mass subjected to Sancrosanctum Concilium, as it really intended. The unity, of which Benedict XVI spoke in his letter, would seem to require a single form of the liturgy for all in the Latin Rite. I don\’t know precisely what it would look like, but I do see (and hear) it more closely resembling the solemn 1962 Mass rather than the vernacular, pop-hymn-filled Pauline Mass.

    My $0.02 as a non-expert.

  29. Breier says:

    I’m not sure there is very much “rupture with the future,” doctrinally speaking. Maybe devotionally; but then ifv Eastern Catholic churches can remove the development of “Filioque” from their creed, on account of being rigid in the devotional form of their past, I don’t see how we can complain about traditionalists.

    The only think I can think of is in bioethics: some sedevacantists rejected John Paul II’s teaching that artificially provided food and water are not extraordinary means of treatment.

    But I’m not aware of any widespead rejection of anything current that’s binding; because we haven’t really had any dogmatic declarations or anathemas in our time, have we? Nothing much seems to have been clarified, only diluted. Certainly traditionalists respect Humanae Vitae and the rejection of woman priests. They may have qualms about the section of Evangelium Vitae on the death penalty, but a lot of respected Catholics, like Fr. Rutler, see difficulties in that.

    Have a concrete example would be really helpful!

  30. supertradmom says:

    Rupture=heresy or heresies. In the name of false “purification”, those who have ruptured continuity continue to do so because of pride. I dread hearing the word “reform” or “reformers” as modernist tendencies frequently underline people’s desires to change things. One old monk told me that after Vatican II, his confreres came to think that all that they had been doing was wrong and needed to be changed. This irrational “spirit of change” disrupted the Order, which thankfully has rediscovered its solid roots. I tend to think that this “spirit of change” has another name with which we are all too familiar.

    Continuity is at the heart of the Church. Christ Himself said that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Christ is the Continuation of the Covenant, which we thankfully celebrate everyday at Holy Mass in His Presence in the Eucharist.

  31. teresa says:

    Bishop Fellay says: SSPX ready for doctrinal discussion, and don’t try to freeze magisterial authority in 1962. They are ready to do like the decree of last Jan. demands.

    See his letter in oringinal:

    or in German translation:

  32. Corleone says:

    Chris – I am so sorry to hear about your experience. I had a very similar one as well when my Grandmother died (buon’anima). My aunt (her daughter) because she is nominally a nun was in essence the de-facto spiritual head of the family. Her beliefs however are anything but orthodox (think “birkenstocks” if you get my meaning). Upon my Grandmother’s death she planned everything from the headstone to the “funeral mass”, which was neither a mass nor a funeral but much more like a memorial service (without the service) and the presider was a female campus ministry leader (of course she wore a stole to show she was taking her role very seriously here). The point is, the whle thing was a farce as far as a funeral mass was concerned. Laughible. Totally NOT what my Grandmother would have wanted, nor what anyone was expecting. But in the end, I just focused on what I needed to do to get through it, then made alternative arrangements of my own in private.

    I would say this was one of the worst, and most humbling/humiliating experiences of my life. But God does give us tests and I’m hoping I passed this one.

  33. ssoldie says:

    Thank you Fr. Z you are very wise. I Knew a priest who once told me ‘there is nothing new under the sun,’ as I get older I reflect on it and realize how very true that is. Oh! yes Chris and Corleone, I know exatly what you are talking about. That is why I have requested to have;a Requiam Mass for the dead,(1962) simple wooden casket, no viewing, (closed casket) black vestments, no eulogy, nothing but a single rose for flowers(life)and lots of silent and continual (Gregorian Mass’s,)and rosaries, prayers for the repose of my soul, for my soul needs much purging, before I would be able to behold the face of my God.

  34. Fr Tim says:

    Thanks Fr Z. I do feel that sometimes we take what the Holy Father said in any particular address in isolation. With this Pope there is such a continuity of thought that we have to try and hold it all together. Some days ago, when he met with the priests of his diocese he said this (on the question of Indulgences):

    I would say that it’s simply a matter of an exchange of gifts. That is, when there’s something good in the Church, it’s meant for all. With the key of indulgences, we can enter into this communion of goods in the Church. Protestants oppose it, affirming that the only treasure is Christ. But for me, the marvelous thing is that Christ – who is more than sufficient in his infinite love, in his divinity and humanity – wanted to add, to what he did, also our poverty. He doesn’t consider us solely as objects of his mercy, but he makes us subjects of mercy and of love together with him, almost as if – even if not quantitatively, but at least in a mysterious sense – he wanted to add us to the great treasure of the Body of Christ. He wanted to be the head with the body. He wanted the mystery of redemption to be completed with the body. Jesus wanted to have the Church as his body, in which all the richness of what he did is realized. On the basis of this mystery, there is a tesaurus ecclesiae, which the body, like the head, gives away, which we may have and which we may give one to the other.

    It is perhaps a question of gifts – what have we been given and what do we pass on.

  35. Deacon Augustine says:

    “Another type of rupture, less obvious, comes from those who defend the past while not taking sufficient account of present progress or the possibility of authentic development without substantive change in doctrine.”

    But surely, Fr. Z, the operative word here is “substantive”. I have never met a traditionalist who disputes the possibility of “authentic development”. After all, the 1962 Missal is itself the product of authentic development under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. It was the modernists who rejected authentic development of the liturgical rites by their imposition of a false antiquarianism, condemned by Pius XII, in their vain quest to restore some hypothetical ancient form of the liturgy. It was the modernists who rejected the idea that the Church had been guided by the Holy Ghost over previous millennia – mainly because they rejected the idea that the Holy Ghost had anything to do with the Church at all until they got what they wanted at the last Council.

    It is the de facto belief and assumption by 95% of Catholics that there was a substantive change of doctrine at the last Council that traditionalists resist. If the Pope is prepared to declare that there has never been a substantive change of doctrine and that all the heresy, error and corruption of Catholic belief and practise around us has been based on false premises arising from a false interpretation of the Council, then I imagine that the discussions with the SSPX will go very smoothly.

    However, the very reaction of so many of the world’s bishops to the lifting of the excommunications belies the fact that they do believe that Vatican II was a rupture with the past in terms of both doctrine and devotion. At the synod of bishops on the Eucharist it was truly pathetic that so many believed we had rejected the doctrine that the Mass is sacrificial that the Pope himself had to intervene to correct them. We must seriouly face the question that if Vatican II was not a rupture, why do so many of the bishops of the world believe and act as though it was?

  36. Nancy says:

    A couple of things. First, MG, in your blog you note that the 1962 Mass does not reflect the liturgical reform VII suggested, namely:
    – a simplification of the Roman Liturgy to reflect the principle of “noble simplicity” (no. 34);
    – “a more ample, more varied, and more suitable selection of readings from sacred scripture should be restored” (no. 35, 1);
    – recognition of the sermon which “is part of the liturgical action” (no. 35, 2);
    – proclamation of the Scriptures in the vernacular (no. 36, 2);

    As one who attends a 1962 version TLM, I can tell you that the liturgy is simple, noble, and beautiful; I cannot speak to the “ample, varied, suitable” selection of readings – I only know that I recognize them and each year, find their lessons more meaningful; the sermon in our parish is a half hour’s well thought out lesson in the faith, and I promise you, nobody is nodding off during it; and finally, the Epistle and the Gospel are both read in the vernacular before the sermon.

    This may not be what *you* have in mind as being faithful to the reforms suggested by VII, but I think that’s exactly the point. What to you is “cluttered altars” is to me “noble simplicity.”

    But to Father Z’s point: I think it is quite clear that the Church needed in the 1960s, and needs to now, react to the changing times. But does it make sense that a suggestion to “simplify” the Roman Liturgy necessarily meant ripping out altar rails, tearing down altars, removing statues, putting 15 people on the altar during Mass (this is a “simplification??”), and dispensing with Gregorian Chant in favor of saccharine love songs? I don’t think so.

    And I think that’s exactly the point. If the Mass had become overly ornate or hard to follow – well, we started having the congregation sing the principal parts of the Mass (the Gloria, Credo, Kyrie, etc.). How much *more* involving that is for the congregation than having someone up on the altar reading at us. If the sermons were glossed over or hurried – then priests needed to be encouraged to spend some time thinking about them each week, rather than bringing lay people up on the altar to “testify.” And I really do think there is a benefit to the congregation to the fixed and repeated readings, as I pointed out before.

    In other words, a violent rupture with the past *ensures* a violent rupture from the future *in terms of that tradition.* Once a building is torn down, building a new one on the same land is not continuity. There is now no past or future for that torn down building, there is just a new building. The only way to ensure continuity is to put new plumbing in the old building, update the windows perhaps – but not, not tear it down.

  37. Bob K. says:

    FrZ. Where on the USCCB’s website is the Papal letter even shown. I can’t seem to find it. I guess in the US the letter is not important.
    It can’t be to hard for them to post the letter. Unless there trying to edit it somehow first. Like they initially did at the UK Catholic Bishops site.

  38. Sid Cundiff says:

    Another type of rupture, less obvious, comes from those who defend the past while not taking sufficient account of present progress or the possibility of authentic development without substantive change in doctrine. Those who freeze the Church and deny the possibility of broadening our theological reflection do great harm. The world does in fact present new exigencies even if human nature doesn’t “mature” out of its perennial needs – as many progressivists falsely assume.

    Absolutely correct and can’t be said enough.

    The word “conservative” (as “liberal”) is hopelessly confused, meaning very different and even opposed things to different people. The Burkean tradition says that people are the product of history, habit, custom, tradition, ceremony, and religion. Yet what is to be done about bad history, habit, custom, tradition, ceremony, and religion, especially if “bad” means lack of “authentic development” and the unwillingness to respond to “new exigencies”.

    For myself, the reform of the Divine Office was necessary for new exigencies in which most people find themselves; the reform of the Mass wasn’t. Nota bene, I’m not trying to open a rabbit hole on the Office.

  39. Bob says:

    Since VII produced such a hash of theological thinking, the dissent of the SSPX was necessary just hasten returning to the true refomr. Is this how God works in a mysterious ways?

  40. Chris says:

    Corleone, thanks for the words. This has been the fourth funeral in about as many years and each one saddens me more. I’m glad you get my wife’s grief at what we have lost even if others mock it.

    And yes, she did grieve her grandfather’s death, if there is any doubt. And she also grieved the trainwreck of a Mass because he deserved so much more.

  41. Paul Haley says:

    “Rupture from the past vs rupture from the future”. How can there be rupture from the future which is unknown to us? The past provides us with a mooring to established truth and we dare not depart from it lest we perish in a sea of relativism. Those of us who are old enough to remember the church before Vatican II can see a rupture quite clearly and it is not pretty, folks, not pretty indeed.

    We also traveled back east to attend the funeral of a deceased mother-in-law who died at the age of 94. Our daughter and her family also went back for the funeral and her son, our grandson, and great-grandson to the deceased was excited to hear that he would be able to serve at the funeral Mass which we had been promised would be in the old rite. When I entered the sacristy before Mass, the pastor looked at me with my Traditional missal in-hand and summarily informed me that this would not be the old Mass and that, furthermore, two altar girls would be serving the Mass and our grandson would be “in choir”. I handed him the envelope containing our stipend for the Mass and he asked: “What’s this?” When I said it was a stipend, he the rolled his eyes back in his head as if to say: “Good Grief!” The Mass proceeded with the two altar girls serving at one side of the altar, laughing and giggling the whole time while our grandson kneeling directly across from them had no functions whatsoever to perform except to ignore the furtive glances being thrown his way by the two female servers. By the way, I now for a fact that this priest had been ordained before the liturgical changes and knew the old Mass as his Mass of ordination.

    Now, this folks is what I call a rupture from the past which had a considerable impact on our grandson and on our psyches. It also served to further separate us mentally from the novus ordo adherents, many who were friends and relatives, who were “in charge of the ceremonies” and it made us feel like lepers in our own church. My wife and I both said we would never set foot in that particular novus ordo church again for we were denied that which we hold and cherish most dearly, the opportunity to see her mother receive the benefit of the prayers and invocations for Mercy in the Traditional Requiem Mass. I have also to point out that this church is an old church and was built in part by her great-grandfather and, until the changes in 1970, solemnly proclaimed the Mysteries of our Faith in the traditional rite and served as a bulwark against the rupture from the past. What it has become today, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

  42. Paul Haley says:

    Correction to previous post 2nd to last line, middle paragraph, should read …I know for a fact. Thanks.

  43. Luigi says:

    Peggy: M.G.’s 7:29 post articulates what occurs to me as I think about “continuity” and the liturgy.It seems to me that the mass that we are supposed to be experiencing today is logically to be the mass of the 1962 Missal subjected to Sancrosanctum Concilium. The Pauline Mass is not quite that Mass, and the abuses that have been visited upon the Pauline Mass only worsen the rupture.

    To those who love God all things work together unto good, an how true it is here. The Council Father’s never envisioned two forms emerging from SC; that is true. But thank God the engineers of the Novus Ordo didn’t actually work their craft on the 1962 Missal and it remains intact rather than “reformed” according to progressive definition.

    The renegades have exercised a great deal of influence over the last 40 years, but their days aren’t many it seems to me. They are in the throws of death. When Hans Kung grants an interview to a media hungry for arrows to launch at the pope, it’s infuriating of course, but on another level it’s gratifying to witness what is plainly a pathetic struggle to remain relevant.

    Whatever reforms are truly due the 1962 Missal, let them happen when the prgressive beast is of no influence whatsoever, and then according to the Council’s direction; reform that is really “restoration… with great care” such that it is more akin to “orgainc growth.”

  44. Henry Edwards says:

    Nancy: As one who attends a 1962 version TLM, I can tell you that the liturgy is simple, noble, and beautiful

    I believe this is the experience of most who attend a TLM nowadays, whatever may have the typical experience way back when. In fact, I’d argue there much truth to the common quip that “the TLM has benefited more from Vatican II than has the Novus Ordo”.

    At the Sunday TLM I attend, essentially the entire congregation joins in singing the Ordinary (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, etc). They sing all the usual dialog responses, and say the Suscipiat and the triple Non sum dignus. They also sing the Pater noster with the priest, a post-Vatican II development now approved by the PECD, as are the readings in the vernacular by the priest at the midweek evening low Mass I attend. In short, the level of meaningful participation by the people is much greater at the TLM than at the newer form Masses I attend regularly.

    Because I attend both forms of Mass regularly and say the Office in the new form, I compare the readings regularly. I cannot believe anyone with an equal knowledge of both — this being a criterion that makes all the difference — would argue that the TLM Sunday readings are not liturgically superior. Some scriptural experts say that only a minority of the scriptures is well suited for liturgical proclamation. It seems to me that the Novus Ordo expanded its selection well beyond this portion.

    I think the Council in calling for expanded readings must have meant the daily Mass readings rather than the Sunday Mass readings, which in the TLM could not readily and have not been improved upon. Whereas an expansion of the 1962 missal, to include more suitable readings for ferial days that merely repeat the previous Sunday’s readings, could be an example of a healthy post-conciliar development in the tradition liturgy (in addition to new saints, etc).

  45. Chris says:

    Henry Edwards: In fact, I’d argue there much truth to the common quip that “the TLM has benefited more from Vatican II than has the Novus Ordo”.

    Have you ever seen a ’68 Mass? I really don’t think Vatican II has “helped” any liturgy.

  46. C.L. says:

    Probably the first doctrine that needs developing is the doctrine on the development of doctrine. Somehow, for example, the Church went from teaching that outside the Church there is no salvation to apparently teaching that every religion is just as good as the other. Oh I know it doesn’t actually teach that but what it does actually teach on the subject is now almost impossible for any layman or woman to understand. Subsists in? What on earth does that mean? Nobody seems to know. It is almost gnostic gobbledegook. Using a Catholic chapel to mark the birthday of Mohammed? No problem, apparently.

  47. C.L. says:

    Related: This story will be of great interest to WDTPRSers.

  48. C.L. says:

    And finally, before I retire, here is a very good example of de-rupturisation: the old rejuvenated for a modern need – according to the signa temporum.

  49. Alan F. says:

    In these days of crisis in the Church with priests, bishops and cardinals oftern preaching a version of catholicism that actually is in rupture with the past, I think it often seems safer just to freeze the Faith in 1962.

  50. Jason Keener says:

    Pierre Ronsard,

    There is nothing wrong with the Catholic Church using the positive and truthful elements of the French Revolution in the thought of the Church. If the Early Church was able to successfully incorporate the true elements of pagan philosophy into the Catholic intellectual tradition, we should certainly not fear the positive and true elements of the French Revolution. No one in the Church is advocating that Catholics accept any of the godless, false, or criminal elements of either the American or French Revolutions.

    I find that some Traditional Catholics let their preference for monarchy cloud their theological ideas. Pope Leo XIII taught that the Church has no preference for any particular form of government. In any event, not everything was perfect in Catholic France in the 1700\’s. The court of King Louis XVI spent tons and tons of money on luxuries while the common people were being crushed with poverty. The common man also had little or no say in matters of government. This does not sound like a Catholic utopia to me.

    You also implied that Catholic teaching no longer requires governments to acknowledge the true religion. That is false. \”Dignitiats Humane\” #1 states that it leaves INTACT the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ. Governments still must acknowledge the true religion. The Pope does not always insist that this doctrine be carried out because it would be impossible today with so many pluralistic societies that do not even recognize the natural moral law.

    Catholic countries can certainly still proclaim Catholicism as the state religion.

    Here is article 1 of the 1975 Concordat with Colombia:

    \”The State out of regard for the tradtional Catholic sentiment of the Colombian nation, considers the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion as a fundamental element of the common good, and of the integral development of the national community.\”

    Here is the Concordat signed with the Dominican Republic:

    \”The Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion continues to be the religion of the Dominican Nation and will enjoy the rights and prerogatives which pertain to it in conformity with Divine Law and Canon Law.\”

  51. Collegeville reject says:

    “The church is always holy, and always need of reform”. Ephem

    I once had a coversation with a dear priest friend and shared something that was bother me. “Father, I love the Church so much that sometimes I feel that I am slighting Jesus. How can I correct this?” He replied that the Church is Jesus and that I can’t have one without the other. So when you say that the Church is always in need of reform, I think of this. It’s hard for me to think that the Church is need of reform.

  52. Jason Keener says:


    It might take a little work to understand why the Church uses the phrase “subsists in,” but it can certainly be reconciled with past teaching. There are tons of theological articles out there explaining the phrase and its continuity with Tradition.

    In any event, look at how many difficulties the Early Church had in hammering out the dogma of the Trinity and the dogmas pertaining to the Person of Jesus Christ. Understanding doctrine and dogma takes work sometimes. I also think those in the SSPX should spend more time giving an objective and unbiased reading to the theological statements and arguments pertaining to things like ecumenism and religious liberty. The SSPX also cannot let the deplorable crisis in the Church cloud all of their thinking about the Council and recent theological scholarship. Most of the ruptures in the Church are absolutely contrary to the documents of the Council, as we all know.

  53. M. G. Hysell says:

    To David Kastel: Most certainly your understanding of the magisterium is erroneous. The late Cardinal Dulles, as well as Francis Sullivan, Richard Gaillardetz, and Gerald O’Collins have stated very clearly that there have only been two instances of an ex cathedra definition.

    As someone once quipped: “Was Nestorius a Nestorian?”, I think we may have a similar situation when it comes to Modernism.

    The fact remains: Christ shows solicitude for His Church, and it cannot err. Ergo, the Second Vatican Council is likewise under the protection of Divine Providence. Whether it was a “pastoral” council is irrelevant–it proposed definitive doctrines (though not dogma). That the Holy Father is demanding submission to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on the part of the SSPX speaks to his own position.

    To understand the meaning of the Council, it would be ideal to read H.H. +John XXIII’s Gaudet Mater Ecclesia (11 October 1962) and H.H. +Paul VI’s Hodie Concilium (7 December 1965) and why it has been called a “pastoral council.”

    Finally, the history of the Concilium makes for interesting reading. In several such volumes, the story is re-told of a group of people–indeed the first “traditionalist” group–getting into a scuffle with the Swiss Guards and the Roman police, intending to confront Paul VI and his approval of the work of the Concilium. Ever since, I would suggest, the traditionalist movement has been set in the wrong direction: of intransigence and reactionary spirit.

    True, there have been abuses with the Missal of Paul VI. Is that to say there weren’t abuses with the 1570 or 1962 Missal? Hardly. And, of course, abusus non tollit legem applies to the Missal of Paul VI. The fact that it was issued by the supreme authority outweighs the abuse it has received.

    Consider this also: Who committed liturgical abuses? Statistically it was those who had already received formation prior to the Council–so the idealism of the pre-Conciliar days is pure myth. Gregorian chant was already in delcline (hence the work of Dom Gueranger). Those who were formed after the Council, who also committed liturgical abuse, did so not because of the Council and its subsequent laws, but because of their ignorance of it.

    And please, do not accuse those who are partial to the Missal of Paul VI of being guilty of liturgical abuse as well. I’m from the East Coast, and my formation took place in the Archdiocese of New York, where abuses are rare. And where abuse does take place, again, it follows from an ignorance of the Council and the subsequent laws, not because of it.

  54. M. G. Hysell says:

    My error! It’s abusus non tollit usum. Mea maxima culpa!!

  55. Athelstane says:

    Hello M.G.,

    The abuses in rubrics in the novus ordo are symptomatic, not causal. It’s not even just about the (dismal) translations, so well documented here by Fr. Z.

    Look at the propers and collects. Vast changes. Ancient prayers thrown out willy nilly. Or altered heavily. New ones created ex nihilo, or clapped together from unrelated sacramentaries – all in a process absolutely unprecedented in Church liturgical history.

    The new prayers betray, as Lauren Pristas’s work has shown, a heavily anthropocentric, even immanentist focus very different from what obtained in older sacramentaries. Why? Why was this done? Why was it necessary? Where does Sacrosanctum Concilium call for these radical changes? How did changing them promote actual participation? How is this radical change not a hermeneutic of rupture?

    None of these criticisms should be read to suggest that the new order of the mass is invalid or not a channel for graces. It’s just theologically impoverished. And that would be true even in a highly reverent, ad orientem, novus ordo mass celebrated purely in Latin.

  56. C.L. says:

    There are tons of theological articles out there explaining the phrase and its continuity with Tradition.

    I realise that, Jason. And that tells me it’s gobbledegook.

  57. peggy Halpin says:

    THe de facto rupture caused faithful practicing catholic parents to believe that they were not qualified to pass the faith on to their children because “you know, everything is all changed now”. A quote I heard from a prominent 7th generation catholic woman. The perennial way of passing the knowlege of the faith on to children was crippled by such “humble” assessments of what was, and is often now, the doctrinal confusion permeating the church here in CA. The deficet in basic catechetics is the shocking and dismal result. Only last week my grandaugter was told by the leader of her discussio group “The church teaches that the Blessed Mother was not without sin. It says so in the catechism.” THe only objection was my young grandaughter who, embarassed said, ” I think you are mistaken”

  58. David Kastel says:

    “is” implies that two words or phrases describe the same entity:

    “That man is Joe Smith”

    “subsists in” implies that two words or phrases describe different entities which have some connection:

    “The United Kingdom subsists in Great Britain”

  59. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, C.L.

    We sometimes use difficult words and concepts to describe the truths of the Catholic Faith. Often, it takes awhile to flesh it all out. “Transubstantiation” is the changing of the substances of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. “Circumincession” is the term we use for explaining how each person of the Trinity is in the other. Are the difficult words and concepts of “Transubstantiation” and “Circumincession” also gobbledygook or less true because they may take some work to understand?

    I’m not sure why people think that if they do not immediately grasp a phrase or passage used in the Council’s texts like “subsists in,” something is wrong with the text. The Faith sometimes involves difficult concepts, and not everything is going to be understandable without study and prayer.

    Pax Christi.

  60. Mark says:

    Not to derail things, but “subsists in” is actually more precise than “est” and comes from very precise Thomistic terminology.

    It is incorrect to say that the United Kingdom subsists in Great Britain, as Northern Ireland is essential to “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. And technically, I believe the United Kingdom actually would be said to subsist in the Crown itself.

    Latin has no definite (or indefinite) article, remember. The phrases translated “The Catholic Church is the Church of Christ” really would just say, “Catholic Church is Church of Christ” without being able to specify “a” or “the”…

    To subsist in means to be the essential depository of something’s complete identity, other expressions or manifestations of it being accidental. The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. It may BE, to varying degrees, in other churches or ecclesial communities (valid baptism, even other sacraments when it comes to the Orthodox etc)…but it only SUBSISTS in the Catholic Church, because those other manifestations/elements of it…are accidental. Whereas the Catholic Church is essential, and also complete in itself, having “Church” without reference to them, whereas they only have it (inasmuch as they do) in reference to Her.

  61. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, David Kastel.

    The term “subsists in” does not contradict the term “est.”

    “Subsists in” even goes beyond “est” and means to exist in something in a deep, complete, and abiding way. “Subsists in” was chosen in “Lumen Gentium” to bring out the idea that while the true Church exists in a completely full and abiding way in the Catholic Church, there are also elements of truth in other ecclesial communities.

    The use of “subsists in” is a way the Church has deveopled a deeper and more nuanced way of understanding Herself that does not contradict the past.

    Also, the Council did use the more traditional term “est” in the “Decree on the Eastern Churches”, “The Holy Catholic Church, which is (est) the Mystical Body of Christ.” (#2) This too remains a perfectly valid way to understand the Church.


  62. C.L. says:

    Thanks, Jason. Good and interesting points. But what of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? That was infallibly pronounced dogma for 1500 years. If the Church outside of which there is no salvation is in fact the Church of Mystici Corporis – that is, the Catholic Church – why then did the 2007 clarification on subsistit in speak of other churches and ecclesial communities as “instruments of salvation”?

    None of this worries me on a personal level – as in: ‘dude, I want my feeling of Catholic exclusivity!’ It confuses me on a logical level.

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