Wm Oddie: Extraordinary Form in seminaries

UPDATE 15 March 15:29 GMT:

Mr. Oddie in his article, below, speaks about how Card. Rigali in Philadelphia has said that seminarians should be taught to say also the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and that he is introducing seminarians to the older form at the archdiocesan seminary.

I asked for feedback about that.

What I am receiving by email doesn’t exactly match Mr. Oddie’s more sanguine view.

Of course we have to keep in mind that the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data”, but something can be gleaned from email feedback.

The email I am getting – and I welcome more about this – suggests that in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia there is what some perceive as an atmosphere of intimidation extended to priests who are interested in using the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.  St. Charles Borromeo seminary has an elective course for the Extraordinary Form, but there is no general instruction of the students.  Some suggest that they are afraid to take it.  The course seems to cover rubrics for Low Mass only. At the seminary there is only one public celebration of the Extraordinary Form per year.  The instruction for deacons on how to say Mass does not mention the Extraordinary Form.  If any of this is true, you can decide for yourselves if that is adequate exposure to the Roman Rite before ordination.

I will grant that this is better than most US seminaries in regard to the Extraordinary Form of Mass.  But it is not quite the rosy picture painted below.  At the same time I will grant that perhaps the whole of Card. Rigali’s plan for the Extraordinary Form at that seminary hasn’t yet been rolled out.

That said, I think it bears repeating that, given the fact that Summorum Pontificum states that the Roman Rite has two forms, not one.  This is a juridical fact in the Latin Church.  Therefore we have to ask a serious question.  Are seminarians who are not taught to say also the older form of Roman Rite adequately trained to be priests of the Latin Church?  They are required by the Church’s law to be adequately trained before they are ordained.  At every ordination someone stands before the ordaining bishop and attests that the ordinands are adequately trained.  I think this question deserves deeper consideration.

ORIGINAL posted 14 Mar 1922GMT:

From the UK’s best Catholic daily, the Catholic Herald (for which the undersigned now writes a weekly column – you can still get the digital edition for 10 pounds =$16) comes this engaging piece from William Oddie.

Oddie repeats in that publication, and forcefully, what I have been droning about here for a long time.  Let’s see his offering with my usual approach of my emphases and comments. I will edit.

Extraordinary Rite? And if not, why not?

The Pope’s wishes are quite clear. But are our bishops carrying them out?

By William Oddie on Monday, 14 March 2011

Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has recently declared that the Extraordinary Rite should be available “to those who prefer it”, and that seminarians ought to be taught to say it. He isn’t just talking the talk but walking the walk: he is introducing seminarians to the Extraordinary Form at the St Charles Borromeo seminary [Is this true?] (this vast establishment is one of the sights of Philadelphia) with teaching on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum “that elucidates the theology underlying the 1962 Missal so that the seminarians are afforded a clear understanding of the Motu Proprio and the Holy Father’s pastoral concern for the faithful who have a deep love for the Tridentine liturgy”. He also said that “seminary course work in theology, liturgy and Church history will cover and expound upon the Holy Father’s initiative. It will be helpful for them to see the continuity between the two expressions, but will also afford the opportunity to address the changes that took place in the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council.”  [CALLING ALL ST. CHARLES SEMINARIANS!  SEND ME SOME FEEDBACK!]

What is happening here? This isn’t the first we have heard of the idea of training seminarians in the celebration of the Extraordinary Rite: according to a CNS story in 2008, “the Vatican” was then writing to all seminaries to request that all candidates for the priesthood should be trained to celebrate the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite.

Well, it seems that now (quite soon if you think of the glacial pace at which these things happen) something seems to be stirring in Philadelphia as a result of this letter. But what about this country? [QUAERITUR:] Is Cardinal Rigali responding to the Vatican letter or is he acting on his own convictions? [Does it matter?  It would be nice if those are his convictions.  I sincerely hope they are, since they are Pope Benedict’s convictions.  But if they aren’t… at least he is doing it.] Come to think of it, was the letter, in fact, ever sent to the seminaries? [Good question.  On the other hand, I recall instances when working for the PCED when things the PCED sent to the office of the president of a certain conference of bishops, for distribution to all the bishops of that conference, were not, in fact, ever distributed.  That is the usual practice, by they way.  Dicasteries of the Holy See usually send things to the head of the conference, who in turn is to distribute to the bishops.  Saves postage, too.] The source of the CNS story was Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, who was then still president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (the outfit set up to try to re-establish full communion with the SSPX), and therefore a committed traditionalist. Was Cardinal Castrillón’s statement just a bit of Roman gossip, given conviction by his own wishful thinking?


And what, while we are on the subject, about the selection of our future priests? It certainly used to be the case that any applicant for priestly training who revealed the slightest interest in or approval of, not just the “Old Mass” but even the idea of celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin, to the diocesan bureaucrats entrusted with weeding out supposedly unsuitable candidates, would have his application immediately blocked. Has that all changed, in the new atmosphere following the papal visit? Or is it still going on?  [And important theme for England and Scotland.  Pope Benedict’s visit… was it a flash in the pan?  Did it effect a change?]

If not, that’s the first thing to which our bishops need to turn their attention if they really want the “Benedict bounce” to maintain its momentum. They should tell their underlings to stop blocking candidates for the diocesan priesthood who want to teach and be formed by the authentic tradition of the Catholic Church. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  An anecdote.  Not long ago in a major American city, after a High Mass in the older form, a bunch of seminarians came into the sacristy.  During our conversation I learned that all of the men in formation were at least open to learning to older form of Mass and most of them were eager to learn.]


The clock is ticking and the biological solution is going to make this into a very interesting race of attrition.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Tom in NY says:

    Forum probat fortem identitatem et clericos et fideles allicere.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  2. iudicame says:

    I’m wondering why the Pope doesn’t “insist” or “order” (something assertive along those lines) that the EF be taught in seminaries – same with latin? Is this a style thing? A political thing? A collegiality thing? Seems kinda basic that these basic things ought to be structured in the corporate body. Maybe there is a Japanese organizational management vibe going on in the Vatican that I’m unaware of? Maybe its a 12-step “Let go and let God” deal? Seems to be complicating the issue unnecessarily…


  3. Tom A. says:

    A good friend of mine just completed two years of study at St Charles Borromeo. He told me that they did in fact get some training in the EF. Not sure to what extent.

  4. Trevor says:

    I can say for certain that your application to seminary is not blocked anymore if you say you like the Latin Mass. I said on mine that I had attended Masses offered by the FSSP. If you say you attended the SSPX, that would probably be a problem, though (for good reason).

  5. Glen M says:

    There exists certain anti-traditional clergy in influential and/or authoratitive positions. I asked a priest who knows how to say the E.F. why he doesn’t and he replied because the bishop doesn’t like it. I countered that he doesn’t need the bishop’s permission to which he explained the bishop can transfer him to the boonies. Personally, I’m from the boonies and wouldn’t have any trouble living there again, but I take it that’s a matter of preference.

  6. Antioch_2013 says:

    I know that the majority of seminarians at a certain seminary in the Boston area are open to the EF, and many of them go regularly to EF Masses under cover of darkness (remember, it’s still Boston). Even those who don’t envision themselves celebrating the EF once ordained aren’t necessarily opposed to it. The seminary itself doesn’t offer Extraordinary Form Masses or classes, and many of the professors are “of a certain age” and therefore discourage it, but that doesn’t stop the guys from learning on their own and silently hoping they’ll start offering classes. The seminary is known for solemn and reverent celebrations of the OF, though.

  7. Last semester we did not have any EF’s offered, but I do believe training in the EF is offered.

  8. Willebrord says:

    Indeed, last semeseter we didn’t have a TLM, or any training on it at St. Charles.

    However, I’ve heard that next fall we are going to have a full-blown elective on the Traditional Latin Mass, open to seminaries in both the College and Theology divisions. I for one already am planning on attending

  9. Mitchell NY says:

    I can’t begin to imagine how many good Priests were tossed out or even denied their calling because they loved the Catholic Church and her Traditions. It will truly go down in history as a time (epoch) when the Church ripped itself to pieces. How prophetic was Pope Paul VI’s statement that the Church seems to be in a mode of “auto-demolition”. What disgrace many must carry for those decisions. If all those good men were allowed into the Church who loved Tradition the world would have been just that much better, if you believe the Church has impact on the world. Big or small it would have been that much better. With each Tridentine Mass prayed, with each Seminarian who learns the Old Mass, Latin, Chant and everything from the 1962 Missal and books one wonders with more and more clarity, What has the Church done to herself? Thank God, in his ineffable grace and Pope Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum.

  10. Tradster says:

    This is old news from 2008. Even the original news article referenced by the Catholic Herald (http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=27197) carries the byline of March 15, 2008. All Cardinal Rigali did was give his blessing to learning the TLM in StCB seminary (for which I happily give credit where due), but he has steadfastly ignored it ever since. Three years later little has changed either in the seminary or the Archdiocese.

  11. Willebrord says:

    Tradster: I understand that from that semester in 2008 they would have one EF Mass every semester, and that also there was a workshop offered for priests in the Archdiocese (I’m not sure if seminarians could come; I would imagine they would, because in addition to just how to say the Mass it included the history of it).

    However, we are definately getting an actual class next semester so we can learn so much more about it as well (presumably having at least one EF that semester).

    Also, down the street there is Our Lady of Lourdes Church. While usually we’re not allowed out when they’re having their TLM’s, on their patronal feast day we were allowed out to the Missa Solemnis they offered, which was very beautiful and we assisted in choro.

  12. Jram says:

    Agree with Tradster – there’s a better chance of finding Bigfoot in the Philly suburbs than a TLM. My pastor and a good holy young assistant both were transferred at the same time – roughly days after putting in an altar rail and planning to start a regular EF in the ‘burbs. Only 1 of 4 suburban Philly counties offers even 1 Mass of the Ages 4 years after SP – and only 4 or 5 of 268 parishes in the whole Archdiocese. No FSSP either. They were blocked from buying property here. So much for Tradition.

  13. Tradster says:

    Willebrod: I have been to the TLM at Lourdes many times over the past couple of years. I’ve listened to the pastor several times threaten to end the weekly TLM (which, as you know, is at 7:30 AM Sundays) because he cannot get servers. Yet two blocks away is the seminary which, as you say, does not make seminarians available to serve the Mass. So much for being supportive of the TLM.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Mitchell NY says:

    I can’t begin to imagine how many good Priests were tossed out or even denied their calling because they loved the Catholic Church and her Traditions. It will truly go down in history as a time (epoch) when the Church ripped itself to pieces. How prophetic was Pope Paul VI’s statement that the Church seems to be in a mode of “auto-demolition”.

    In so far as Paul VI himself was the leader of the demotion crew, the statement was more autobiographical than prophetic.

  15. Cesare says:

    The North American College has been offering training in the EF for about 2 years now. Officially the College has been celebrating about 4 EF Low Masses a year a part of the official house schedule. However, a group of seminarians and student priests gathers every Saturday to offer a “private” Solemn High Mass in the crypt chapel.

  16. Christo et Ecclesiae says:

    I have no knowledge of the extent of EF training at Saint Charles. But almost every good priest I know studied at Saint Charles. God bless Cardinal Rigali! And God bless the Diocese of Philadelphia and Allentown. I hope Saint Charles continues to produce well educated, holy, happy, and orthodox priests.

  17. donantebello says:

    In my last year of seminary, I was a deacon at an “indult” parish which celebrated the TLM every Sunday (a couple of years before SP), in an unnamed big city. On the “open” Sundays, in which seminarians were allowed to go to mass outside the seminary, around 50% – 60% of the seminarians could be found fervently assisting at the TLM.

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    The Zenit interview with Cardinal Rigali on which the Catholic Herald article is based is here:


    It is pointed out that there is not enough demand for the TLM Mass to justify greatly expanding its availability.

    Q: What about “Summorum Pontificum” has led you to support the incorporation of that document into the life of St. Charles Borromeo seminary? Are you foreseeing a greater demand for the traditional form of the Mass in the future?

    Cardinal Rigali: The Holy Father has indicated that the Mass according to the extraordinary form as well as celebration of the sacraments should be available to the faithful when there is a genuine pastoral need. . . . . . At present I do not foresee a great demand for celebrations according to the extraordinary form of the Mass. In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia the requests we have received are very few. Most Catholics today find spiritual satisfaction in the Mass as celebrated using the Missal of Paul VI, and this remains the ordinary form of the celebration.

  19. dcs says:

    Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has recently declared that the Extraordinary Rite should be available “to those who prefer it”, and that seminarians ought to be taught to say it.

    I think WDTPRS covered the situation in Philadelphia before:

    I think there has been exactly one new regular TLM in the archdiocese since 2008 – St. Paul’s in South Philadelphia. To the pastor’s great credit he did not settle for Low Mass but started with (and has continued with) a Missa Cantata. The other three regular TLMs in the archdiocese (two of which are usually Low Masses, one of which is usually a Missa Cantata) pre-existed Summorum Pontificum. I know there are priests out there who would celebrate the traditional Mass publicly if they could. I do think His Eminence is understating (or perhaps underestimating) the demand among the faithful for the traditional Mass and Sacraments.

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