Portland, ME: Staggeringly inept comments on the Pope’s Summorum Pontificum

We are coming up on the 2nd anniversary of the implementation of the Holy Father’s "emancipation proclamation" Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. 

You would that that, by now, enough time had passed for Holy Church’s shepherds to have at least sifted out the misinformation about the Holy Father’s provisions so that when speaking to their flocks, they could provide an accurate commentary.

This comes to us from the parish bulletin for 6 Sept from St. Pius and St. Patrick (I think they must be combined) in Portland, Maine.

The parish is staffed by Jesuits.


Many bishops feel their role has been undermined by Pope Benedict [From the onset, the writer wants to pit the Pope against the bishops.] who appears to allow priests to opt for the Latin Mass regardless of the attitude of local bishops. ["appears"?  The writer should perhaps read the Pope’s provisions in Summorum Pontificum.  The decision is now in the hands of pastors… who, btw, cannot simply ignore people who want the older form of Mass.] The view that the ordinary form of the Mass (in English) is in some way deficient, finds no place with these bishops. [Bad writing.  Who are "these bishops"… the "many" referred to earlier?  The "local bishops" referred to later?  What does "local" mean, here.  The bishops around Portland, ME?  Diocesan ordinaries and auxiliaries?]  A priest’s taste or preference is irrelevant. [HUH?  Okay… if this is true, then perhaps more priests would be using the normative book, the Missale Romanum, in Latin, and would have Gregorian chant – which has pride of place in all the Church’s sacred music.  Need I go on?]  The single most pressing reason why the bishops [once again with "the bishops"] defend the ordinary form of the Mass, is the absence of any role for the laity. [This writer doesn’t really have a clue about what he is saying, does he.  Watch for the tired clichés.. which you can feel are right around the corner…] They were little more than spectators  [winner winner chicken dinner!] of what the celebrant was doing at the altar; in practice this meant many of them concentrated [wait for it…] on their own private devotions. It is an established principle of good liturgy to encourage the active participation of all those taking part in the Mass. [It helps if you know what "active participation" actually means.  Now watch this incredible blunder of reasoning…] Implicit [!] in this directive is the rejection of any discrimination against girls and women among those who assist at Mass, such as altar servers, readers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist[Just.Plain.Dumb.  The writer clearly thinks that "active participation" essentially means carrying stuff around or doing what the priest does.]

The Latin Mass can take its proper but necessarily marginal place in the life of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Bob

I am guessing that the "Fr. Bob" here is the Fr. Robert F. Regan, S.J. listed in the parish bulletin.  He is not the pastor, but rather is on the staff.   But clearly, something like this would have the imprimatur of the pastor.

Again, after a couple of years, you would think something this staggeringly sloppy would have gone the way of the Dodo. 

We still have a lot of work to do… and the biological solution still requires a little more time.

In the meantime, I remember writing about Portland, ME and Summorum Pontificum.  The bishop in Portland, Most. Rev. Richard J. Malone, implemented the older form of Mass at the Cathedral there.   The "local bishop" can’t be feeling too undermined by Pope Benedict.

BTW… doesn’t this sound an awful lot like that editorial in The Tablet?  aka RU-486?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What is constantly amazing to me is that, in the consciousness of so many, the abiding marks of the reformed liturgy are the use of local translations and Mass offered versus populum, neither of which is presumed or normative in the Ordinary Form! Thus, the artificial and distracting non-distinctions of local language vs. so-called “Latin Mass” and “spectating” vs. “active participation.”

  2. Aaron says:

    If Fr. Bob thinks the Latin Mass is as discriminatory and harmful as he says here, why does he think it has a “proper place” in the life of the Church at all? Is that one contradictory sentence at the end supposed to make the article sound even-handed?

  3. Elizabeth says:

    A quick little Google search finds that this priest was ordained in 1948.
    So he would have been both ordained under and celebrated the “old” rite of the Mass.

    Myself being 40 years old, I did not grow up with the Tridentine Mass – but I’ve often wondered what makes certain laity and priests have such bitter memories of this beautiful form of the Mass…I truly do not understand.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Speaking of ‘the absence of any role for the laity’-I attended a TLM Requiem Mass for a woman I had known for almost 40 years. It was held in the funeral home instead of in a church, because the church she had been a ‘charter member’ of was too small to hold her family and friends.

    After the Mass and burial, I went to her home for the post-funeral lunch. I didn’t know most of the people, so I struck up a conversation with two ladies who came from out of town. I think they were my age or a little older. One of them made a remark about the Mass, to the effect that they ‘weren’t able to PARTICIPATE [the ‘buzz word’] in it’. She said it with a smile-but I knew she was kind of upset about not having a ‘part to play’ in the Mass.

    I didn’t say anything in response….

  5. FrCharles says:

    The Kenedy directory indicates an ordination year of ’59. That suggests that Fr. Robert celebrates his golden jubilee of priesthood this year. Ad multos annos, Father!

    The hostility stuff is also hard for me to understand, especially as a religious in multi-generational community. Sometimes it makes me feel very frustrated and misunderstood, but I also know that to seek to grasp the sources of the hostility is an important work of charity and fulfillment of honoring father and mother.

  6. Jordanes says:

    Elizabeth said: Myself being 40 years old, I did not grow up with the Tridentine Mass – but I’ve often wondered what makes certain laity and priests have such bitter memories of this beautiful form of the Mass…I truly do not understand.

    I’m 41 and an adult convert, so I didn’t grow up with the traditional Latin Mass either. I would offer something from my own experience, however, as a possible explanation for some of the resistance or animus towards the old Mass. My parents joined a fundamentalistic sect when they were in their 20s, and they raised their children in that sect. It’s teachings and practices were quite different from those of historical Christianity, and a large part of the self-identity of the sect members was invested in a sustained polemic against the teachings and customs of orthodox Christianity and against “the world.” After the sect’s founder died, his successors began a systematic reexamination of the founder’s teachings, resulting in a rejection of his teachings one by one, until the sect had morphed into a generic (and quite uninteresting) average American evangelical Protestant sect. That transformation offended a large number of the sect’s membership, most of whom wanted to hold on to various parts of the sect’s previous teachings and customs. My parents were among those who were so offended. One thing my mother used to say was, “You just can’t tell me that everything we believed was all wrong, that everything we did and the sacrifices we made were all in vain, all for nothing.” Of course that’s not was she was being told, but it sure felt like it to her — the greater part of her life, of her very identity, all being torn away from her.

    I think there may be some of that reaction with the older generation who lived through and came to accept the liturgical revolution of the 1960s and after. It required that they change their minds and their practices about a LOT of really important things, things that are central to Catholic life. To some of them, it may appear as if they’re being told, “All of that was for nothing.” That’s a really hard thing to come to grips with.

  7. TNCath says:

    And the Jesuits are supposed to be the “scholars,” and “great thinkers” of the Church?

    Wow, this was so poorly written. These asinine comments only reinforce the veracity of Summorum Pontificum! Thanks a lot, Fr. Bob!

  8. Childermass says:

    Hmm, “necessarily marginal.” Sounds like Fr. Bob reads the Tablet.

  9. JosephMary says:

    So sad, another Jesuit dissenting and leading in dissent.

    When one first attends the EF, it is a bit of a shock. When one is used to doing and speaking and greeting and all that, then the quiet–especially of the low Mass- is almost jarring. But if one prays the beautiful prayers from the missal, it can be found that the ‘active participation’ is internal; it is a uniting of mind and heart to the Sacrifice of Christ.

  10. Trisagion says:

    In 2007 and 2008 we holidayed in Maine, just South of Portland. We went to the 12noon Mass in the Cathedral on five occasions. On two of those occasions, the Bishop was there greeting people as they came out after Mass. When he heard our British voices, he came over and introduced himself. I remarked that I was surprised that he was there. He replied that some of the most committed families in the Cathedral parish came to this Mass and he wanted to support them and the Mass. I got the distinct impression that he thought it anything but marginal.

  11. TomB says:

    I’ve met more than one “boomer” who said he left the Catholic Church because the Jesuits “taught him to think” (to which I always added “like a Protestant”).

    Now I get it.

  12. s_schmude says:

    Just to add my two cents, we had a very traditional Jesuit priest as our hall minister in our dorm at Marquette – he’s the reason I’m still Catholic, and that I love the Church. Now I work for a Jesuit apostolate.

    They’re not all bad, folks…

  13. Rob in Maine says:

    As I sent Fr Z the bulletin, I shodl add a comment. I can say that Fr Bob is the only priest I have heard, in recent memory, preach against abortion at Mass.

  14. medievalist says:

    “It is an established principle of good liturgy…”

    …to Say the Black and Do the Red?

  15. james says:

    These are the types of “opinions” that need a response from the Holy See.
    These are the types of responses that are damaging and dangerous. Not all
    Jesuits are bad. True. But these comments are simply off base and paint a
    truly false portrait of something Beautiful. And perhaps, Threatening to
    many who want more say, more control, more change.

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Father is upset that the Pope has taken an option out of the hands of bishops and given the option to priests. This is a control issue and it is very unhealthy for this priest to think other priests cannot decide liturgical issues without the bishop holding their hand. I don’t need my bishop to have that kind of control and power.

    Father is also hurt/traumatized that some find the Ordinary Form to be deficient. So, some Catholics may not wish to come to “my Mass” but will go to “his Mass” because his form of the rite is judged to be better. This is also a very unhealthy self-esteem issue or inferiority complex.

    The fact is that Catholics make these judgments every day, in every place. Some may skip my Mass because of the language issue (another parish has the language they want), or because Mass is recited (the other parish has nice music), or because my homilies don’t reach them (the other parish has more gifted preachers). That may hurt the feelings of the priest, but we have to deal with that and not be resentful and whining. It is sour grapes to begrudge those Catholics who opt out of the OF in favor of the EF because the OF does not nourish them spiritually.

    Then, there is the issue of participation, but it is framed as a social justice issue. The laity are being “denied” or “discriminated” because what is really good for them is to participate loudly in a liturgy where they can have freedom of gestures. Does it occur to this priest that it is the laity who asked for these provisions in favor of the EF? Does it occur to him that the laity who favor the EF do not believe they are mere “spectators?”

    Again, I find it very unhealthy, and worrisome, when clergy take on such paternalistic overtones in the name of social justice. It is saying, “it doesn’t matter what you want. We know what kind of liturgy is good for you. So, we will decide as to the outer form because you do not know how to properly request what is good for you.”

    In the name of Vatican II, and the new rights of the laity, it is too easy for some priests to revert to a very pre-Vatican II and clerical condescension towards those who seek out the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In addition to having more contact with EF aficionado Catholics to dispel their ignorant prejudices, perhaps a very good therapist would also be in order.

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