What has Summorum Pontificum done? Damian Thompson opines.

At three years of Summorum Pontificum the big question is: has it made any difference?

Damian Thompson on Holy Smoke makes some mordant comments, much to our surprise, about the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, together with giving some good links (and I thank him for the link back to this blog).

My emphases and comments:

Today is the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, the Motu Proprio by which – to the dismay of control-freak liberal bishops everywhere – Pope Benedict XVI removed nearly all restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine Rite of Mass. I’d like to point you in the direction of the very smart new website CatholicHerald.co.uk, which is running an online debate entitled “Is Summorum Pontificum a failure?”

My own view is that, while demand for the older form of the Roman Rite is – and probably will remain – limited, its reintroduction into Catholic life is proceeding slowly and surely. Brick by brick, as the great Fr Z likes to say[Do I hear an "Amen!"?] It would be interesting to know how many seminarians and newly ordained priests in Europe and America plan to celebrate it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a very high proportion would like to know how to use both the 1962 and modern Roman Missals. [And we all know that data is the plural of anecdote.  Seriously, anecdotes do mean something.] There are already popular Latin Mass training sessions for priests in England and Wales; surely it’s now time, as the Catholic Herald suggested this week, for English seminaries to teach the rubrics of the Extraordinary Form. [And not just English seminaries.  ALL seminaries.] The Bishops of England and Wales will make a great show of their loyalty to the Holy Father when he visits them in September. Well, this would be a good way for them to demonstrate it.  [!]

A very good observation at the end.

This is something Pope Benedict really does want for the Church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    You are right, Father Z, the Holy Father does want this because he realizes that the Novus Ordo is flawed. He has spoken of it as a “liturgy by commission,” and in other harsh ways. Truthfully, the Novus Ordo has led to a disorientation of the faithful. From Sacrifice to common meal. Summorum Pontificum is a good start, but the problem is systemic at this point. The faithful are literally listing in the wind, believing “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” in the words of Shakespeare, when it comes to basic understanding of Catholic dogma and faith.

    Oh, well, at least we have/had some good soccer to watch tonight!!

  2. Hieronymus says:

    That last point is all the more sharp because for the past 40 years the progressivists have been demanding that the traditionalists concelebrate as a sign of their loyalty. Now, as Thompson astutely points out, the episcopal sandal seems to be on the other foot.

  3. Mitchell NY says:

    It’s not just the Pope who wants this but the people too. If I had a quater for every person that has been listed, asked, or been denied the Extraordinary Form, including myself, I could build a personal parish to have it. That is the crux of the whole “who wants it” thing. There are still far too many Priests and Bishops who continually get in the way of people trying to help themselves save their souls. And if that includes loving the Tridentine Mass with no ill will towards the other then that is what it is.

  4. Eoin Suibhne says:

    This past Sunday a newly ordained priest here in the Diocese of Arlington served as deacon at a Solemn High Mass. How very exciting to learn that young priests are learning the Extraordinary Form while in seminary!

  5. Dr. Eric says:

    I am hoping for two things for the future for myself. One, that the Lord and our Bishop will accept me into the Diaconate, and two that I will be able to play a part in a future local EF Mass that is offered weekly. I’m going to have to work on some of our newly ordained priests.

  6. momoften says:

    I think we will see a growing number of seminarians offering the Ef Form, or at least being exposed to it and not afraid of it. I know in our parish we have 4 seminarians participating in it. 2 seminarians that have visited from other diocese that participated. They have been exposed to chant, and Mass in OF ad orientum. I have seen many newly ordained priests celebrating the EF Masses, and expect to see many more. It is good to have people exposed to the EF Mass, I think they would be surprised.There is sort of a hysteria if you ask me with some priests that actually discourage and talk it down in their parish…it comes down to lack of knowledge about it as well as lack of participation in one, and finally perhaps a sense of inadequacy in not being able to offer an EF Mass.

  7. jfk03 says:

    Summorum pontificum has had ZERO impact in the rural area where I live. The bishop and 98% of the clergy show no interest in the Holy Father’s reform of the reform. It is strictly business as usual. Whether I live to see any positive change remains doubtful.

  8. basilorat says:

    This pope is NOT egocentric. He is not looking for immediate fruits. I sincerely believe he knows darn-well he is laying the ground work for something greater. It seems to me he knows the foundation is crumbling, and he’s rebuilding a Catholic identity in a post-Christian world. The effects are going to be far-reaching and I believe will be substantial.

  9. Every time I read about Latin mass on your site, I think how lucky I have been to live in South Louisiana where there seems to be Latin mass readily available. I don’t go all the time to this form, but it certainly shows the reverence due to Our Lord.

  10. becket1 says:

    And the Holy Father has yet to celebrate the Extraordinary From publicly. After Three Years!!!.

  11. becket1 says:

    But hey this was a valid Mass like the Extraordinary Form and equal to it in accordance to the Pope and Vatican Law. Thank goodness this doesn’t take place in the Eastern Orthodox Churches!.


  12. Traductora says:

    I’ve been very discouraged by how little progress has been made in our diocese: our bishop is violently opposed to the old form (heck, he’s even violently opposed to the new translation of the Novus Ordo) and has done everything to impede it. The senior clergy is also opposed. We’ve seen few changes. But still, I think Damian Thompson is right, movement towards it has begun and people are ceasing to regard it as something freakish and prohibited. And most of the bishops and clergy opposed to the old rite are reaching the end of their careers. Our situation in this diocese is bad at the moment, but overall, I feel hopeful about it.

  13. chironomo says:

    I had the opportunity about 5 or 6 months ago to have lunch at the retreat center with the seminarians currently studying for our Diocese. ALL of them who I spoke with said they would certainly want to learn the Extraordinary Form, even if they were not going to be “EF Priests”… several of them were already learning it via the training programs available in Miami last year. This is a bigger trend than I think is being made known… in the course of 5 years or so from now there will be a large number of priests capable of saying the EF throughout the country. What then?

  14. Gail F says:

    My biggest impression after attending a solemn high mass in the older form a few months ago was that the novus ordo mass made a lot more sense now that I had been to the 1962 mass — and I thought I was pretty clear on the novus ordo to begin with. What many people, even readers of this blog, need to understand is that many of us today have never been to the older mass and, when we read books or blogs or articles on it, have to try to figure out what people are talking about! It was very clear to me after only one solemn high mass that the two really ARE forms of the same thing. But the novus ordo is not as transparent as everyone who loves it thinks it is, and I think that is largely because the liturgists (at least the older ones) have a clear idea of the older mass in their heads and so they know what the novus ordo is supposed to be doing.

    It seems to me that the pope’s plan is working, slowly but surely. If the 1962 mass is regularly available and attended, it will reign in the novus ordo and make it what it is supposed to be — a different way of doing the same thing. But when people don’t know what it is supposed to be doing, they pick some part of it and go off in a different direction or get caught up in some tangent.

    I understand people’s frustration, especially the folks who say the 1962 mass was abandoned nearly overnight and universally, and who cared about them then? But don’t we all agree that was a BAD thing? The N.O. is valid, the Church says so. Let’s get it right. Fifty years is not very long in the history of the church, and it not very long at all to get major changes ironed out.

  15. Aaron says:

    If I were asked to write Summorum Pontificum II: Yes, He’s Talking to You, point #3 (after restoring all tabernacles to the sanctuary and eliminating the indult for Communion in the hand) would be to require all seminaries to have a Latin program requirement and at least a weekly TLM in place within one year. The traditional orders are wonderful, and when the SSPX is brought fully back into the fold, that will help, but until diocesan seminarians start learning the language and the rubrics, we’re always going to be short on priests to say it.

    A lot has happened in three years, but I think we’re still just laying the groundwork for the real restoration. So much of the resistance comes from bishops, pastors, and lay liturgical committee members who are 60+ years old, which means a lot of that resistance will disappear over the next decade. When that happens, there will be people in place who have attended a TLM, even if they had to drive out of their diocese to reach it, and they’ll be ready to move forward a lot faster than the people who had to figure everything out from scratch. That should allow things to improve exponentially.

    In my own diocese, we’ve gone from zero TLMs to 1.1: one full-time, TLM-only FSSP church, and a 7:00am Saturday TLM in the capital of the diocese. We’ve had visitors from all over the diocese and neighboring ones who take back hopes for their own towns. Our new bishop is said to be pro-Latin, so while he may be satisfied with the Novus Ordo himself, I suspect he’ll be friendly to the TLM. (Is there anyone who dislikes the TLM and likes Latin? That seems unlikely.)

  16. SimonDodd says:

    Folks, my parish is receiving a new pastor in about a month. I’m wondering if any of you have some suggestions on how to approach him (obviously “in due course,” after some settling-in time) about scheduling an EF Mass per SP?

  17. “(Is there anyone who dislikes the TLM and likes Latin? That seems unlikely.)”

    There are a number of priests who do. I believe the best known of those who prefer the Novus Ordo Missae, albeit in Latin with the altar “ad orientem,” are Fathers Joseph Fessio and Peter Stravinskas. In some places where the TLM encounters resistance, a pastor can make provision for a Latin “novus ordo” more easily. It is possible to celebrate the Mass in this way, to the extent that some parts of it may appear indistinguishable from a TLM.

  18. AnAmericanMother says:


    All I can tell you is what worked for me, in the somewhat different context of improving the hideous music at our new parish.

    Get active (if you aren’t already), work hard (ditto), contribute time and money to the parish in your area of concern. Make yourself visible as a person who is cheerful, hardworking, and has the best interest of the parish at heart. Don’t pick fights, be a conciliator, although you can’t be a cipher with no opinions or beliefs. Try to strike a balance.

    Then you will be in a position to be appointed to committees and have input into questions when the proper time rolls around. In our case it was about a year, almost two, before we had an opportunity to work for significant change. But patience was amply rewarded!

    All this has to be sincere, or, as one of my first mentors said, “you will be shown up for the fraud that you are.”

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    “(Is there anyone who dislikes the TLM and likes Latin? That seems unlikely.)”

    Surely there are such people. After all, what’s most important about the TLM is not precisely that it’s Latin, but that it’s Traditional. I’ve long felt that the mystery and sacrality of the TLM stem much less from its language than from its ceremonial and ritual.

    However, probably the larger number is of those who simply want a more beautiful and reverent Mass, but for whom the Latin together with the far more intricate ritual of the TLM – about 52 signs of the cross instead of 3, for instance – is a first step too far.

    For these, I believe an ad orientem Latin Novus Ordo can be an inviting half-way step (in addition to a worthy end in itself). Its flexibility makes it a much easier start for priest and choir and people (and it’ll inevitably be more sedate, since how many current priests can clown around in Latin).

    Perhaps this is one way to attract the larger numbers of Latin Mass attenders — some of whom will wind up more interested in the TLM — that are needed to match the more rapidly increasing number of TLM-ready priests. In another post I mentioned that in my area we had 2 TLM celebrants before SP and now have 6, with 5 of them ordained less than 10 years. And every seminarian I know personally is interested in the TLM and tells me that many or most of his fellow seminarians are also. So unless we can as rapidly increase the number people who are want to attend it, the priests who want to celebrate the TLM each Sunday may soon have to arm wrestle each other for the privilege.

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    “I sincerely believe he knows darn-well he is laying the ground work for something greater. It seems to me he knows the foundation is crumbling, and he’s rebuilding a Catholic identity in a post-Christian world.”

    Yes, the TLM (or its direct organic successor) is the only refuge against what will come eventually. The pope knows the TLM CANNOT be allowed to die, but rather must go on, and be the foundation for organic development–slow, slow, careful and holy, organic development over centuries (or however much time the world has yet).

    The NO does not have the ability to carry us into the future. It was a fad wrapped around the barest kernel of what was necessary to say you’ve been to mass, and that’s not enough. Fads wear themselves out and fade into oblivion. Read the Catholic statistics sometime. The death of a fad is exactly what you’re looking at when you see those deep, deep declines in every metric. The pope knows this, and more importantly, he’s honest enough to admit and act on what he sees.

  21. asperges says:

    What has happened in England and Wales is that the Bishops have just stopped objecting to and obstructing the old rite. Previously there were the bold, the indifferent and the the hostile. This present attitude is not helpful but it is not an obstacle (Scotland is entirely a different case). It was a stroke of genius to give permission to the celebrant and not to the Bishops. Their previous record had been so evidently mean and begrudging.

    Nothing has been done (with honourable exceptions) by most bishops to promote the old rite in their diocese, clergy have not been motivated in their parishes, instructed or encouraged to say the EF. In most cases, the faithful in the benches have not the slightest idea that Summorum Pontificum ever existed and only the rarest of parish Masses will be be in that form.

    Where it has been done, particularly where it has been incorporated as part of parish life – which is where is has to belong – and not a one-off or separate event – it has been a revelation, attracting many types and interest.

    Regrettably it has to be said that attendances even at regular Masses outside normal parish Mass times have proved disappointing, attracting regulars but not necessarily growing in numbers. This dismays clergy and people alike, and easily gives the impression that there is no need or call for the EF Masses.

  22. Eoin Suibhne says:

    For these, I believe an ad orientem Latin Novus Ordo can be an inviting half-way step (in addition to a worthy end in itself).

    It was this way for me. When I first walked into a Latin Mass I was awestruck. I remember saying to myself, “This is what I’ve been missing. This is what they took away from my generation.” Little did I know… This was in 1993 and I was twenty-four at the time.

    After a few years of daily attending the Latin Novus Ordo (granted, not so easy for most) I was ready for the Extraordinary Form. Now we attend it every Sunday.

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