The Archbishop of Glasgow on the Holy Father’s provisions in Summorum Pontificum

All day long people have been filling my email with requests for me to react to the opinions of His Excellency, nay rather, His Grace, Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, who has spoken about the Holy Father’s provisions in  Summorum Pontificum.

In 2007 His Grace showed that he didn’t care much for Summorum Pontificum (SP).  It is hard to know why we should expect him to have changed his mind over the last four years.  Why would His Grace like the Holy Father’s law for the Latin Church any better now that Universae Ecclesiae (UE) has been issued?

How do I say this politely…. at 77, and after so many years of service, I guess he is entitled to his opinion.

Archbp. Conti wrote in his Ad Clerum (“To the Clergy”) letter to to the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Glasgow:

However, even with the most recent instruction from Ecclesia Dei, there is no requirement or indeed encouragement for any of us to promote the so called Extraordinary Form. I venture to suggest that there is no call for it, or pastoral reason to change what has become the settled practice of the Archdiocese,….

While he may be right that there is “no requirement” in SP or UE to “promote” the Extraordinary Form, there actually is a requirement in SP and UE to make it available when there is a request for it from the People of God.

But Archbp. Conti says that there is no interest in the older Mass in Glasgow.

I guess we have to take his word on that.  There are no requests from any of the people of God for the older Mass there.  Not a single priest is interested in it either.  And there better not be any interest, either.  This is “settled practice”.

It may be that what we have here is an example of “special pleading”.

As my friend Fr. Finigan mentioned on his fine blog,  “I wonder why it should be necessary to warn priests so sternly against the usus antiquior if there is in fact “no call for it.”

If there is no requirement to “promote” the older form, UE 8.A makes it clearer than it was before that SP does “encourage” interest in and the use of the older form.  Reflect on this for a moment:

The Motu Proprio manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and has the aim of:
a.    offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure  to be preserved;

I can understand that some priests and bishops of a certain age, 77 for example, don’t like the older form of liturgy.  But do they have to run it down?  Publicly run it down?

The Holy Father doesn’t run it down.

His Grace, 77, who has the right to his opinion, seems to explain why he doesn’t like the older form of Mass. He offered this, still in his Ad Clerum letter to the priests of Glasgow:

I now speak frankly, a difference between mysterious and mystery. The mystery of the Mass is, to the wonderment of the priest and people, the presence of God in the sacrificial offering of the Body and Blood of His Son’s humanity, effective through the ministry of those called to be priests, ministering at the altar where the gifts of the faithful of bread and wine are laid. The awesomeness of the holy exchange can be manifested in the way in which we celebrate the Mass, avoiding all that could trivialise the sacred, without any extravagant gestures, but on the contrary taking advantage of the rich potential within the rites themselves to enhance the significance of what we do by way of the dignity of our actions, the singing of those parts of the Mass which are marked for song and wearing vestments of noble simplicity.

Since this is in a letter to priests, I cannot help but wonder how His Grace would view priests who see the Extraordinary Form of Mass as a precious treasure, something sacred, something for all the Catholic faithful.

Then there is this point of “mystery” in His Grace’s letter.

When it comes to experiencing mystery and awesomeness in the liturgical action, I – and I am speaking for myself – I have to experience them through outward  signs, symbols, gestures, etc.  I am just a man, and not terribly gifted when it comes to the category of mystery.  I need all the help I can get.  After all, when it comes to the transcendent, MYSTERY, I’m just a crackit gaberlunzie and a puir slow-witted gowk.

Again, speaking only for myself, I believe that an opportunity to encounter mystery deserves the most extravagant gestures and symbols we can provide.  That doesn’t mean circus clown stuff.  The rubrics themselves, of both rites, provide parameters for what is extravagant.  Go outside the rubrics, and you run the risk of extravagance in the wrong sense.  The severity of the traditional form of the Roman Rite provides the paradigm for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  The older form militates against the sort of extravagance that runs counter to the Roman Rite.  Could using both forms of the Roman Rite, according to their respective rubrics, be inappropriate?

Moreover, it seems to me that the Holy Father himself is pointing us towards many of those elements whereby we can encounter mystery, “awesomeness”, as His Grace puts it.  The Holy Father doesn’t seem to think that the Extraordinary Form is an inadequate means of worship for the people of God.  I suspect the Holy Father thinks that one can encounter mystery in the Extraordinary Form.

However, some people are so enlightened that they experience the awesomeness without the trivializing extravagance and gestures.  Like angels, they grasp the essence of things in themselves without sensible signs, or pesky composing and dividing in their intellects.   Other people, well… they don’t know what mystery is.  They’re stuck on the “mysterious”, extravagance gestures… well….

In any event, if he wants to show himself self to be out of step with the Vicar of Christ, His Grace, now 77 years of age, is entitled to speak his mind after all these years of service to the Church.  We are entitled to disagree and, nevertheless, make full use of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum whether he likes them or not.

The Holy Father has also spoken his mind in the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Crackit Gaberlunzie, O'Brian Tags, Puir Slow-Witted Gowk, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, The future and our choices, Universae Ecclesiae and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Shellynna says:

    While I agree that the Archbishop overstated his case by claiming that the recent instruction not only does not require but also does not encourage the EF (there certainly was “encouragement”), I get very tired of Traditionalists jumping down the throats of bishops who are not inclined to promote the EF within their dioceses. As Fr. Z. pointed out, this was a letter to priests (not to all of the faithful), and so the Archbishop had the right to express his view that there was no need to change “settled practice” within the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

    If Traditionalists in Glasgow have a desire either to celebrate the EF (be they priests) or seek access to it (be they laity), the Holy Father has given them the tools in SP and UE to press for change to the “settled practice.” If there is no such interest in Glasgow, it only proves the Archbishop right about the state of his archdiocese. If so, then perhaps other Traditionalists outside Glasgow really should, with all due respect, steer clear of inserting themselves into the business of others.

  2. bened1ct2s says:

    Do not be deceived here; there is a call for the E.F. in the Archdiocese. Mass is offered regularly by three diocesan priests, one exclusively and two in both forms like Fr Finigan. It is widely known that more would offer in this manner but His Grace’s pronouncements, his “Ad Clerum” being the latest, ensures they toe his party line.

    We have now commenced the change-over from the old guard to the next generation of Bishops in Scotland (the announcement of the new Bishop of Aberdeen last week was the first). His Grace is also on the list along with three further appointments due this year. Within two years only two of the current hierarchy will remain.

    Man is transient, the Church is Eternal.

  3. Mundabor says:

    He contradicts himself.

    You can’t declare that there should be no promotion, and then say that there is no demand. If you don’t say to your people that there is this possibility, or give them the alternative and the choice, well of course there won’t be any demand!


  4. Peter in Canberra says:

    If bishops like this were secular politicians they would be called some very unpleasant names, and deservedly so. The one in my mind floats on ponds. Sorry to be so blunt but that’s how I see it with these people.

  5. Schiavona says:

    I doubt that the bishop writes to his priests after the publication of every Vatican document. This couldn’t have come out of the blue – there must have been new requests/questions/interest for the EF.

  6. This is why it is so important for the lay faithful to request the traditional Mass — with serenity, charity and fortitude. Many of us fail to make our desires known, thus contributing to the perception that there is no interest in the traditional Mass. The Holy Father has indeed decided that the provision of the traditional Mass will be demand-driven. I see wisdom in this. It ensures that the traditional Mass will be offered with love and great care, which in turn will argue even more strongly for it.

    Those of us who have received the grace of perceiving the supernatural wealth offered to us through the traditional Mass cannot be passive. Do not wait for the bishop or the pastor to decide to provide this Mass. You cannot do this in good faith, knowing that Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae require action on your part. You must either (1) request, or support a request, for the traditional Mass at some church or oratory, or (2) attend and support a traditional Mass already offered within a reasonable distance. When requesting a traditional Mass, it would be best to exercise the virtue of prudence and choose a pastor of good will to whom to address the request, including those in other parishes or dioceses (as Universae Ecclesiae foresees).

    We need not, and must not, become monomaniacal upstarts. Simply pray, sacrifice and act prudently, with fortitude and perseverance. Our Lord will do the rest.

  7. magister63 says:

    It seems that the interest in Glasgow was sufficient enough to warrant the establishment of a priory and church by this organization:
    His Grace must have missed this!

  8. albizzi says:

    Mgr Conti’s opinion is that the bishop of Rome has no further legitimacy than his own legitimacy.
    Like himself he is a bishop among the bishops.
    Therefore he reckons that he is allowed to cherry pick in the Pope’s words what he deems to be the most appropriate for his flock.

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    What puzzles me is – why such active, even malicious, hostility?
    What harm could it do to allow priests and people who are desirous of, attracted to, or even just curious about the EF to celebrate/worship?
    How does it harm anyone? Is His Grace afraid? and of what? Are Ranger supporters threatening to riot at the use of Latin?
    I’ve known some priests who are not hostile, but who treat any discussion of the EF with a sort of weary dismissal. I can understand that when they are older, on the verge of retirement, and in their younger days went through all the dislocation and whiplash of the introduction of the OF. As a friend of mine said of one of them – he just doesn’t have another change in him.
    But they are not hostile. They don’t object to younger priests learning the EF.
    I really and truly don’t understand.

  10. Bryan Boyle says:

    I think AnAmericanMother hit the nail on the head…they just don’t have another change in them. If you think the displacement, wrenching changes, and wholesale deconstruction of the Faith in the late 60s and 70s was disconcerting for the laity…imagine what our clerics went through…every week some new innovation, questioning, rewriting of what they believed to be rock-hard teachings…yikes. Everything they thought was real suddenly was being called into question. And add into that folks polarized on both sides, yapping at their heels to either not change or change everything. In their dotage, let’s prayerfully, as they fade off into their senescence, ask God to help them come around, but start to look to the future.

    While I’m not known as one who tolerates open dissent, I’m thinking, as time goes on, that maybe in our attempt to reclaim our heritage and practice from the few barbarians at the gate who are still active (and we should never let our guard down…), we should, perhaps, cut these soon-to-be-retired gentlemen just a little slack, let them have their say, pension them off, and encourage the new crop of priests, brothers, and nuns who are fully wedded to the Church and its rich patrimony to seize the reins. Like cleaning up after children that have left toys strewn about the rumpus room, it’s a task, but, as they depart, the vacuums come out, the dustrag gets deployed, and the lampshades are straightened. Things will get cleaned up, just not as fast as we may want them to. And that’s the devil talking…sowing dissent, bad feelings, impatience, hardness of heart.

    Benedict, for all his gentleness, understands this. We’re expecting and demanding thunderbolts from atop Vatican Hill to smite those who, perhaps misled or deceived, into instant subjugation back to what it was. Our perceptive Holy Father, it seems, is the gardener, planting the seeds in the good soil of true renewal in recapturing the rich patrimony of the faith. We’re constantly thinking in terms of the next weekend Mass or next fiscal quarter…Benedict, with his deeper and wider insight into the Church, is thinking in terms of the next century and beyond. You can gain a lot more traction with a steady, encouraging, and true pastoral hand than by oppressive browbeating and ad hominem arguments and hurling universal interdicts. And, in my own invincible ignorance, observing what is going on, Benedict is persevering, in many subtle ways, of correcting the path. May God grant him the strength, wisdom, and many more years to do so.

  11. Patti Day says:

    Bryan Boyle: Benedict, with his deeper and wider insight into the Church, is thinking in terms of the next century and beyond.

    I pray it does not take so long. I consider this the long, slow climb, but I don’t have that long.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    Regarding those “bishops who are not inclined to promote the EF within their dioceses.”

    Is there really a diocese anywhere in the world, where all the people are so fully Christian in faith and worship that they have no need of the ancient liturgy that down through the centuries has carried the gospel to all ends of the earth, in accord with Our Lord’s command?

    “If there is no such interest [in the EF] in Glasgow, it only proves the Archbishop right about the state of his archdiocese.”

    Right about what? That the people within the borders of the archdiocese are so spiritually advanced that they have no need of the Church’s most successful form of evangelization and worship? Or might lack of interest in the ancient usage prove all the more need for it?

    Of course, one can well imagine that one ordained a bishop in the soaring seventies, and now a couple of years past retirement age, might well have much pride in the spiritual progress made during his 33 years of episcopal leadership.

  13. Legisperitus says:

    In 1998 (now seemingly eons ago), at a gathering of traditionalists to observe the 10th anniversary of Ecclesia Dei, Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned that an important factor in encouraging the spread of the older form of Mass would be “a new generation of prelates.” (This comment appeared in the video “Pilgrimage” produced by the FSSP.) Deus laudetur, he is now in a position to help that occur.

  14. jesusthroughmary says:

    “Are Ranger supporters threatening to riot at the use of Latin?”

    I wonder if His Grace himself supports Rangers. You know, as an ecumenical outreach.

    Celtic – YNWA – Liverpool

  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    LOL – I can see him at Ibrox in a True Blue chasuble . . . well, maybe not!

  16. Stephen D says:

    When training in the EF was recently offered at a London venue, only one Scottish priest attended. The Archbishop of Westminster took part and asked this priest where he came from, when he heard, he commented, “My word, you are a brave boy!”. That seems to sum it up, two other priests from Scotland who intended to take part withdrew. Archbishop Conti seems to be running his own show up there, I hope that his retirement is long, happy and commences very, very soon.

  17. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Of course, the “settled practice” of the Archdiocese is most people not darkening the parish door on Sundays.

    I would ask His Grace: What is so harmful to you about the Church’s ancient Mass? I’m not 77, I’m only 31, but just curious. What’s with this strange hostility for your Church’s own tradition? It’s mindboggling and perplexing.

  18. The reason for the the opposition is that they see the traditional Mass, and our preference for it, as an indictment of them.

    They are correct.

  19. So when Leonardo was out of fashion, we should have dumped the Mona Lisa in a trash pile because there was “no demand”? Boy, there’s an attitude.

    Meanwhile, Jesus says the wise householder can bring out of his storeroom both the new and the old. And who better than a bishop, his see’s head and teacher, to support and teach both?

  20. Sid says:

    One of your best, Father, and one for the files. You’ve said in a nutshell what a new liturgical movement ought be all about. Thanks.

  21. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Bishops can change. Sean Cardinal O’Malley, my archbishop in Boston, was ordained in 1970. He is not a fan of the extraordinary form and was won of those who pooh-poohed Summorum Pontificum when it came out, claiming that there was “no demand” for it in his archdiocese. Well, there are now a number of parishes which celebrate it weekly, and just last weekend His Eminence performed the traditional rite of Confirmation on faithful from these parishes at his cathedral. One of the weekly TLMs is celebrated at the cathedral.

    I can imagine Cardinal Sean’s thinking: “Sure, the Tridentine stuff is definitely not my cup of tea, but what harm does it do?”

    It doesn’t seem like Blessed John Paul II personally cared a great deal for the extraordinary form, but he thought it a Good Thing for people who desired it. That’s called being “pastoral” (in the true sense).

    Like Fr. Z said, Archbishop Conti can have his own opinion. But the hostility? I don’t get it.

  22. James Joseph says:

    The awesomeness of the holy exchange can be manifested in the way in which we celebrate the Mass, avoiding all that could trivialise the sacred, without any extravagant gestures

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that a smacking of Jansenism? Or is it Febronism?

  23. RobertK says:

    Could someone please clarify for me that this isn’t a woman priestess on the right side of his grace (+Conti). If it is. Than that will open a whole other bag of beans.

  24. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Robert, No, that has to be a man with a glorious mane. I bet his name is Leon. Or something.

  25. Ezra says:

    It looks to be a man with an unusual hairstyle. That said, this is the United Kingdom, where the official line on women priests is, “who knows what’s down the road?

  26. wolfeken says:

    When I visited Glasgow in 2006, the only option for a TLM was at a beautiful SSPX church. Not only did I attend, but I found the people there extremely friendly and welcoming.

    Thank God for the SSPX — these are the kinds of situations where they are valued more than ever.

  27. kradcliffe says:

    I ‘m an American living in was just feeling homesick for Cincinnati, where there are, like, a bazillion EF options available.

    Reading the comments here hasn’t helped because some numpties just had to bring up the Old Firm. It’s like what little Catholicism exists over here is completely tainted by football sectarianism.

  28. Brad says:

    Baeda: 77 is often in my observation the hostile age, not 31. Witness the demographics of the NCR. That generation are the radicals who are now ambered with a respectable patina and are ubiquitous in several areas of society. I’m sure you also feel my own acute uncomfortableness in realizing that the older generation often doesn’t provoke my, what…respect…imitation…? It’s deeply troubling.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    As one who lived in Great Britain in the eighties snd nineties, and having been back for two months, I can say that the Church is both more conservative and more liberal, making the atmosphere more divisive. Some people as well as some bishops are still anti-Latin Mass for the simple reason that it the Liturgy is “out of their control”. It is the old power struggle between Rome and the local church. The nrw seminarians are by far more trad and pro TLM. Several of the bishops are not and are trying to stem the inevitable tide. The coming in of The Ordinariate can also be seen as threatening. In a small country, feelings run high.

  30. Centristian says:

    I happen to agree with this particular archbishop that “Summorum Pontificum” doesn’t actually call for bishops or priests to promote the celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form: to create a demand for it where no demand exists. I argue this point not because of any hostility against the motu proprio or the extraordinary form of Mass, but because I can see that “Summorum Pontificum”, interpreted too generously by Tridentine Mass promoters, will inevitably prove a bit of a let down when it cannot be seen that Tridentine Masses are subsequently popping up left and right, the bishops leading the charge in the restoration of the “TLM” at the pope’s command.

    Indeed they have not been, and I hear, as a result, laments about the bishops “defying” the pope because they “refuse to implement ‘Summorum Pontificum’.” Suggestions abound that the pope is for tradition but all our bishops are against it and against the pope. It’s an odd contention, of course, considering that the bishop of Rome, who has never once “promoted” the extraordinary form of Mass (since becoming pope) by way of actually celebrating it, should actually be seen as one of so many episcopal “violators” of “Summorum Pontificum”, if, indeed, we are asked to regard “SP” as a call for bishops to actively “promote” the Tridentine Mass.

    If one decides that “Summorum Pontificum” somehow compells all bishops worldwide to have Mass in the extraordinary form celebrated everywhere in their dioceses just because, even if there is no discernable demand for it amongst the faithful, then it is easy enough to conclude that the bishops, who are not doing this, are, in fact, the pope’s antagonists in a power struggle for the future of the Roman liturgy.

    But if “Summorum Pontificum” does not actually go that far, if it is interpreted merely as a document that simply allows for unfettered access to the pre-Conciliar forms of the Mass and Sacraments to those who are specifically requesting them (a concession), then suddenly the bishops are not the big bad antagonists of tradition that some paint them out to be (as though they constituted a monolith of opinion on the subject, in any case), and they are not “refusing to implement ‘Summorum Pontificum’.” Some bishops, due to lack of interest among their flocks, simply may not be faced with any opportunities to “implement” it. This archbishop, for example. I would not exactly be shocked to learn, after all, that there aren’t significant numbers of traditionalist Roman Catholics thirsting for the Tridentine Mass in Glasgow, Scotland.

    The point made that a lack of demand for the extraordinary form of Mass probably has more to do with disappointing the hopes of Tridentine Mass proponents than antagonistic bishops, I have to also acknowledge that, in light of the dismal state of the liturgy in the Church, today, the Holy See and our bishops ought to be less concerned than ever about discerning a demand for good liturgy from a people who don’t even know what that means anymore and who, by and large, have ceased to care. Who cares if we laity in the pews aren’t asking for it? If the liturgy is in need of reform, and the promotion of the extraordinary form is a key element of that reform, then just do it, regardless of whether or not we’re asking for it. Since when is it our job to let you do yours?

  31. SonofMonica says:

    Centristian: Quite astute.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sorry about that chief. But when you’re standing where the Arc is not even a small hump on the horizon, the Old Firm is what you think of first. Just word-association, you know.
    Abp. Conti has it within his power to change that, but he seems to be unwilling.

  33. MichaelJ says:

    A Cardinal in Germany recently labeled those desiring confirmation in the Older Rite as “mentally ill”. Nobody likes to be put down this way, and very few enjoy this type of confrontation and I cannot imagine that the people of Glasgow are much different in this respect.

    So, if there is little or no demand for the Traditional Mass, I am sure a large part of this is directly attributable to His Grace’s actions. This is kind of like Saddam Hussain proudly claiming a mandate from the preople because 90% of the Iraqis voted for him.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    While not agreeing with all that you have written, I can say that in three areas of Britain where I have spent sometime–parts of rural Wales, the coasts of Cornwall and Kent, there are priests who want to say the EF, but their parish members vehemently do not want it. Three priests told me this. These laity do not want to give up what they perceive as control of the Liturgy. This attitude strikes me as post-Reformation politics still in the mindset. Excuse errors as I do not have computer Internet access and find texting difficult.

  35. Henry Edwards says:


    May I ask whether your detailed discussion of the phrase “refuse to implement Summorum Pontificum” may be based primarily on an interpretation at variance from the typical usage of this phrase?

    And from the typical situation in which it is usually employed . . . which is the case of a bishop who overtly discourages priests from celebrating the TLM who are ready and willing to do so in response to interest in their parishes.

    Of course, this complaint is often heard, and often justified. But I have seldom if ever heard the specific complaint you devote space to discussing–that of a bishop who does not of his own volition seek to promote the TLM in a proactive way. Of course, SP explicitly does not require this–even if it does seem to call for episcopal openness to the EF–so why would anyone make it a front-burner complaint?

    Not to deny that the question of whether–now that SP and UE have set the EF and OF “alongside each other” in the liturgical life of the Church–a bishop might have some affirmative obligation as a shepherd of souls to encourage the EF for the spiritual benefit of priests and faithful who are ill-served by current liturgy in his diocese–may be pertinent. But this is a separate question.

  36. BLB Oregon says:

    This reminds me a little of a reported quote from the rector of a historic church in Boston. Asked about his church’s lack handicapped accessibility and possible requirements that the church building be altered in order to provide it, he said, “We have 34 steps up to the main church, and we don’t have any handicapped people complaining that it isn’t accessible.”

    Hmmm. I guess maybe you wouldn’t.

  37. Dr. Eric says:

    We wouldn’t be having this problem if Paul VI had just allowed the Mass of Bl. John XXIII in the vernacular instead of creating a new ritual.

  38. A 77-year-old archbishop should be more careful about what he says. I can just see Pope Benedict saying to an aide, “I had a resignation letter on my desk here from an archbishop– do you know what happened to it?

  39. Seraphic Spouse says:

    I am horrified that Glasgow’s soccer-sectarianism raised its ugly spotty head in this conversation. When they are worshipped in Christ’s stead, both Celtic and Rangers become Moloch. Football idolatry and hatred feasts on Scotland’s young. It is shameful, shameful, shameful to parade Glasgow’s open wound in a serious conversation about Roman Catholic liturgy.

  40. sprachmeister says:

    As Bened1ct2s said, most of the Scottish bishops are approaching retirement, which may mean a change of tune soon. The new Bishop of Aberdeen will be the Abbot of Pluscarden, a Benedictine Abbey which still says Mass and the Office in Latin. Hopefully Abbot Gilbert will therefore be amenable to what SP and UE say.

  41. John Nolan says:

    Abp Conti is no trendy. He is a patron of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge and has done much to encourage Latin liturgy and Chant in Glasgow. I think he sees the resacralization of the OF as being more important than the promotion of the EF and this is understandable given the low demand for the Usus Antiquior in his bailiwick. Pluscarden is as far as I know one of only three Benedictine foundations in the UK to use Latin exclusively, the others being St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, and St. Cecilia’s on the Isle of Wight. All three use the revised books.

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