A bishop explicitly charges all his seminarians to learn the Extraordinary Form. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

For your Brick by Brick file.

In another entry I answered a question from a lay person who desired to pray for a priest as he learns the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass at the request of his bishop. It occurs to me that this is a good intention, since the Devil hates priests and the older form of Mass and the sacraments and will work with the assiduous malevolence of fallen angels to undermine, to block, to harm priests who are thus tasked or attached.

However, learning the older forms is necessary. Expanded the use of the Extraordinary Form is clearly something that our Holy Father desires for priests to do as part of a larger project, call it a “Marshall Plan“, to rebuild our devastated Church’s identity in continuity with our magnificent heritage through the worship which is God’s due. No other good projects we can undertake as Catholics will get true traction if our worship of God is not sound.

To this end, I hereby share a photo of His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madision, who during his recent week-long pow-wow with all the seminarians of the diocese, celebrated Holy Mass for them in the Extraordinary Form.

First of all, before some grumbler out there (whom I may eject from the blog) grips censoriously that the altar cloth does not reach to the ground (there are some trads who constantly make the perfect the enemy of the good) I want to relate what Bp. Morlino told his seminarians.

Bp. Morlino told the men – 32 in number! – that it was his expectation that all of them learn how to say Mass in the Extraordinary Form before they are ordained.

Morlino did not say that they would be required to use it all the time, but that they must know how to use it.  If seminaries are not offering the opportunity to learn the older form (which they ought to be, by the way), they could go to workshops or find priests who could help them to learn it.  Bottom line: they are to learn the Extraordinary Form.

I think this was a remarkable.

How many bishops, after all, are saying this openly to their seminarians?

It was also, frankly, a paternally charitable thing to tell the seminarians.

First, if there were any doubts about their bishop’s attitude toward his seminarians and traditional forms, these doubts were thereby removed.  They need never fear the bishop or worry about what would happen to them when he heard that they were going to TLM’s here or there, learning the rubrics, serving Masses.  They need not on this account fear the rector of the seminary they attend, since they are following the expressed desire of the bishop.  Moreover, Universae Ecclesiae (the Holy See’s commentary on Summorum Pontificum) gently asserts that seminarians are to know the Extraordinary Form.

Second, knowledge of and use of the older form of Mass teaches men  -seminarians and priests alike – something about the priest and the priesthood which the Novus Ordo doesn’t really do on its own. The older form stresses the sacrificial and priestly nature of the priest’s actions and words during Mass as well as the priest’s own deep unworthiness and complete dependence on God’s mercy and grace.

Third, no priest of the Roman Rite ought to rest easy until he knows also the older form.  Ignorance of the older form means ignorance of his own rite.  Furthermore, when it comes to their ordination, someone must stand up and attest to the ordaining bishop that the men have been properly formed.  How can he honestly say they are properly formed if they have been left ignorant by their seminaries of their rite?  The seminarians of Madison, by learning the Extraordinary Form, can always be at ease on this point.

At last, the bishop brought them into a larger vision for the “new evangelization”, as it were.  I prefer the image of the “Marshall Plan”, by which the USA rebuilt devastated post-war Europe so as to foster good trade and to build a bulwark against encroaching Communism.  In our day and in the Church, Benedict XVI is helping to rebuild our Catholic identity in continuity across borders and centuries as well as bolster a bulwark against the dictatorship of relativism.  By giving these men their task to learn the older form, Bp. Morlino also brought them as actors into our Holy Father’s project.  It seems to me that, as the men ready themselves to go back to their respective seminaries, this is a good start for their participation in the Year of Faith.

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Morlino and the seminarians of the Diocese of Madison.


You can support Bishop Morlino’s effort to help the Extraordinary Form grown and help with the formation of seminarians.  Send an online donation to support the diocese’s seminarians. The diocese has 35 seminarians right now, if I am not mistaken.  They have foundation that budget for only 2 per year, which means that they are way over their budget to pay for the formation of the seminarians.

I have met some of these men.  They are great.  Also, Bishop Morlino has told them -and I heard this with my own ears – that he expects all of them to know the Extraordinary Form before he ordains them!  I wrote about that HERE.

The diocesan website has a donation page with a drop down menu.  Choose the St. Raphael Fund.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Benedict XVI, Brick by Brick, Fr. Z KUDOS, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, The future and our choices, Universae Ecclesiae, Wherein Fr. Z Rants, Year of Faith and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Thank you, Father, for this post, and thanks to Him for the efforts of this good bishop. And you are so right that the perfect must not become the enemy of the good. More Traditionalists need to be reminded of this.

  2. Bryan Boyle says:

    Amen and amen.

    And..the follow on…as these young men learn the EF, go to their parishes, move up in the hierarchy…years from now…the devastation wrought by those who came before them will be repaired.

    It can’t happen soon enough. I probably won’t see it. But, unlike many traditionalists who are angry that some magic wand isn’t waved from the Loggia of St. Peters and anathemas hurled like lightning bolts from the throne…I’ll trust the Holy See to repair the damage with true pastoral concern and insight I’ll never have, and those who come after me enjoy the full restoration of our Faith.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    This is so fantastic and I love this bishop. He prays outside the abortion clinic and he told my son to be a priest, which was encouraging a teenager seriously thinking about it at the time. We lived in Bishop Morlino’s Diocese and he has a lot on his plate. Not all Wisconsinites are open to the TLM. The SSPX has had a strong parish just outside Madison for years, and this statement will help all who value the Tridentine Mass. Thanks, Father, for some good news, which we all need. God bless Bishop Morlino.

  4. rcg says:

    This only makes sense. The New Translation is derived from a more rigourous translation of the Latin and the NO is derived from the older form, therefore you ought to learn it, maybe first, then you can expertly deal with the NO and answer the questions the congregation will have. It will also stuff a lot of the false proclamations that the lay theologians spout about what is allowed and required.

  5. Nathan says:

    This is truly great news! To clarify Father’s point a bit more, would grumbling about the length of the altar cloths justify the liturgical use of the Beretta (particularly the M9 9mm model)? [A great idea.]

    In Christ,

  6. NancyJ says:

    I love the image of being a part of the Pope’s “Marshall Plan.” As for this family, my two older boys are eager to learn how to serve the TLM.

  7. tgarcia2 says:

    We have a minor seminary in El Paso and I wish that here, or when our seminarians move to major in Houston/San Antonio they would learn it..alas…liberation theology is heavy here :/ and you do have certain priests who do not see how a mass from 1570 is better than the NO since, as a Jesuit who is the permanent visiting priest at my parish (he is a good man as well, so no bashing please) stated that it’s not as if after the Resurrection that the disciples went and did the Extraordinary Form.

  8. Darren says:

    This is fantastic.

    Perhaps Trenton Bishop David O’Connell, already supporting the growth of the TLM in the diocese, will follow with the same. We already have Father Brian Woodrow, the diocesan liaison to the extraordinary form ( see http://www.latinmasstrenton.org/ ) to introduce the TLM through the diocese. He trained with Fr. Pasley at Mater Ecclesiae.

    I agree with the comments of Bryan Boyle above. We must be patient and let the Holy Spirit lead the Holy See in setting things right.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Darren, it is very hard for us older ones to be patient….

  10. Bryan Boyle says:

    Darren: +O’Connell is a breath of fresh air in Trenton (I’m right across the river in Morrisville, but am friends with his seminary roommate, Fr. Stan over at St. Vincent dePaul in Yardville, which had an EF Mass there, which I was privileged to serve many times, for a few years). At one time, Trenton was known as the bastion of orthodoxy in the US under Bishop Ahr, and was the last of the dioceses that, under pressure, ‘turned the altars around’ after V-II. That sadly changed under +Reiss and +Smith, but, with +O’Connell in the Chancellery, there is some daylight shining through. I believe he’s fully read into the Holy Father’s program and happily putting it into place…but, there will be pockets of…um…resistance, especially among the 70s and 80s class of clerics. But, while not as “Damn the torpedoes…” of Bp. Morlino…he’s a good man.

    Supertradmum: It IS hard to be patient. But, remember, for those whom the Lord has great things planned, He also sends great trials. Think of St. Pio…St. Faustina…when you get down or discouraged. The finest gold is not wrought simply, but in hot fire and with great effort. Or, as my grandmother would say “Offer it up!”. HE knows and has HIS timetable.

  11. Darren says:

    Supertradmum… …I am in my early 40’s, and I may never see things fully restored here on earth. I must quote Bryan Boyle above, “It can’t happen soon enough. I probably won’t see it.” I just hope see some of the bricks… brick by brick… by imperfect earthly brick…

    Be faithful, keep fighting, keep praying… …and you’ll get to see it from heaven, where all things are perfect – as they will never be here on earth. (I’ll be happy to see things restored here on earth from purgatory!!!)

  12. Cantor says:

    While I applaud Bishop Morlino’s efforts, I’m faced with two questions:

    1) Why are there Catholic seminaries that don’t teach Latin and the Extraordinary Form? When I served on the staff of a large graduate school, we had periodic visitations by the accreditation committee to ensure our education was up to standards. It is appalling that there is not an equivalent Catholic/USCCB accreditation process for our priests’ places of learning or, if there is, that it can overlook this critical component of formation.

    2) Assuming that these really are accredited Catholic seminaries who nonetheless graduate and certify men as “properly formed” in the priesthood who are not, why do the bishops continue to send candidates? This past Sunday we heard at Mass that it costs $30,000+ per year to finance a seminarian’s education. Perhaps bishops who used this power of the purse, in addition to exhorting their priestly candidates for self-formation, would see miscreant rectors more rapidly retired.

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  14. digdigby says:

    When I have to tell non-Catholics that modern priests often do not know Latin…they are incredulous. I am a ‘dumpster diving bottom-feeding book scout’ for 25 years and sell biblical Greek, ancient Hebrew and even Aramaic grammars, vocabularies etc. as fast as I can get them – to Baptists housewives and evangelicals who study at home or in groups after working all day fixing cars or what have you. English schoolchildren learned Latin as a matter of course at one time. CHILDREN. To be a priest and not know church Latin is… well, tragic.

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  16. iPadre says:

    That is the wish of the Holy Father! Wish more would follow.

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

  17. David in T.O. says:

    How wonderful while at the same time somewhere in a Canada, a bishop has barred seminarians from even attending the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite!

  18. Clinton R. says:

    Deo gratias! Kudos to Bsp. Morlino. This is what will encourage vocations to the priesthood. This is what will truly renew the Catholic Church. I have been praying fervently that the Tridentine Mass be restored as the Ordinary Form of the Mass. The TLM as the Ordinary Form of the Mass will surely cause Satan to throw a nutter. May the prayers of St. Michael silence the enemy as he surely will fight to prevent the Latin Mass from being restored. +JMJ+

  19. Random Friar says:

    Before someone would venture to complain about the cloth length, may I suggest first offering to purchase said item, if it is bothersome to see it at Mass? Father might be a little busy paying the upkeep of the physical plant and all. We had some a/c problems recently — let’s just say that took priority.

    I would love to have some more, nicer stuff, but I can’t look at the catalogs without getting a sharp, stabbing pain in my wallet.

  20. fvhale says:

    Speaking of “buying stuff” for others, has anybody purchased or given a copy to a priest or community of the February 2010 “Missale Romanum Ex Decreto SS. Concilii Tridentini Restitutum Summorum Pontificum Cura Recognitum, Editio Typica” (available from Libreria Editrice Vaticana at http://www.paxbook.com, for 210 euro)? Are there US recommended editions of this EF Missale Romanum for study or liturgical use, like the MTF edition of the OF Missale Romanum editio typica tertia for study use? I could think of nothing better to help a seminarian become more comfortable with the liturgy than actually having opportunity to meditate upon the Missale. (Having the audio version of the Nova Vulgata Novum Testamentum on the iPod also helps!)

  21. Brian2 says:

    Digdigby: I hear you! I once met a gentleman at the airport studying to be a protestant pastor. He was a part time student working full time. A major part of his training was Greek and Hebrew — the rational being that if one is going to ‘handle the word’ one must be able to read it in the original. Now, I wouldn’t endorse that argument in its strongest form, since it presumes the unreliability of tradition, but it does raise the question: if the protestant seminaries ask this of their night school students, why is it that the Catholic Church finds it hard to ask seminarians, full time students without the responsibility of wife, kids and work, to learn two languages, say Latin and Spanish.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Brian2, why Spanish? The two language they should be studying are Latin and Greek. And these are not required, which I know for a fact. As I have mentioned before, students need one language and it can be Spanish, which most take as an opt out from Latin. Duh. And, I am sorry, but a priest must also be a scholar to a certain extent and know the official language of the Church.

    The bishops have caved to “political correctness” on this one, and I am going to state something which may sound uncharitable, but the priest shortage has caused a lower of academic standards in the seminaries and America is graduating and ordaining students at very low levels of academic studies. I know this for a fact. Not all seminarians have the holiness of St. John Vianney, so I do not want to open that can of worms. Bishop Morlino is a great example of what should happen in every seminary in America, but this will not happen under the current liberal administrations.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Guys, I’m sorry. This is not rocket science, and priests should have to study Latin.
    It is one thing to have the depth of learning and analysis to take apart the collects and prefaces and examine the bits in the context of the classics and the ancient world — as our esteemed host so kindly provides for us.
    BUT – it is just not that difficult to learn sufficient Latin to say Mass – not like a parrot, but with a good understanding of what one is saying. I haven’t taken a formal Latin class since junior high school, but with a dictionary, a grammar, and (in an emergency) a side by side translation, I’m perfectly capable of understanding not only the prayers but the various motets and anthems that we sing (I would say that 80-85% of our repertoire is in Latin). And because I have tasked myself with translating everything that we sing, my Latin is improving slowly but steadily.
    I love the little book “Chants of the Church” edited by Msgr. Spence, because he gives a literal word-for-word interlinear translation – which helps you ‘get’ Latin structure. “The Arbour of Accidence Pleasauntly Open’d to Tender Wits”.

  24. fvhale says:

    In re: digdigby and brian2, et cetera.

    Disclaimer: I was trained as a Protestant minister (long story made short: this Roman Catholic child was carried away from the Church by a parent following their divorce, and after 22 years in Protestant churches, 12 years in ordained ministry, I made my way back), and that is why I can read, listen to, and somewhat speak and write Latin. That is also why I studied Greek (as well as German) in college, and learned Hebrew, etc. I confess to being a bit “bookish,” and I almost always work with Scripture texts in Latin, Greek (both testaments), Hebrew (just the first), and Italian, and Roman liturgical texts in Latin and Italian, Church fathers in whatever is needed. When I first came back to the Catholic Church, I was mocked in my parish for my use of languages other than English, and for a time set them aside thinking, “Well, I guess the Catholic Church in this country is English or Spanish only.” I have since recovered my balance. Knowledge of Greek, Latin, (Biblical Hebrew), and Italian are tools I use daily, in prayer and study, and I humbly thank God for these tools.

    I also realize that a bishop in the US who tries to train his seminarians in Latin and the use of the EF of the liturgy will always be subject of criticism, from laity and clergy, who feel that “this is a step backward” or “why waste time and resources on that when there are so many pressing pastoral needs.” My own experience, having served at various times as a foreign missionary (in a country where Chinese was the primary language), a pastor in the US, as a campus minister, and also working with the needs of immigrants (in a variety of languages) is that there is no conflict between “book learnin'” and “pastoral care.” In fact, the first often supplies the second, and the second motivates the first. After all, if you really want to minister to people, you better have yourself trained and equipped (and I do not mean with pop psychology), even if you never speak a word of Latin or Greek to that elderly patient in the hospital, or the young mother with a marriage on the rocks. How can you face the great sufferings and evils of the world while caring for people if you do not have a solid castle, a deep well, within you? That is the real benefit of learning Latin and Greek, and being in touch with the Liturgy (Mass and Office) in both OF and EF, IMHO.

    And it is not just the seminarians and priests that should know Latin. As our H0ly Father Pope Benedict XVI said in Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 62 (Feb 2007): “I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant”

    We are all in this together, laity and clergy, and we should support each other, especially in prayer. There are, unfortunately, those who would oppose any use of Latin, often out of a confused sense of the meaning of the Second Vatican Council. Oremus invicem!

  25. Amandil says:

    I think the connection between liturgy and evagelisation is important. If you want to show someone the glories of Beethoven, you take him to a concert, don’t you? You bring him to encounter the thing itself. So if you want to show someone the glories of God, wouldn’t you want to bring him to an encounter with the sacred?

    I’m not bashing the Ordinary Form at all – I think we can look at the virtues of the TLM without comparing it to the OF. The TLM does an excellent job of helping the people encounter the sacred, with the mystery of the secret prayers, the music, the orientation of the priest, etc. It shows how we should act when God really is present – recognising our unworthiness and giving God our love. It all combines in such an excellent way to enable us to perceive the workings of God’s grace at the Mass.

    So the more priests and seminarians we have learning this Mass, hopefully the more people will find it and gain more knowledge of how much God loves them and how they can grow in love for God. Thank God that this bishop is contributing to this hope.

  26. St. Rafael says:

    Bishop Morlino is an amazing bishop. At some point in the future, he is going to have to be moved to a bigger see. A prestigious archdiocese with a red hat.

  27. Ben Yanke says:

    It was quite a wonderful Mass. When I heard this, I could not believe my ears (though it didn’t surprise me). I’ll beg to differ with the poster above. I hope he never get’s moved! There’s still too much work to do here in Madison. :)

  28. Ben Yanke says:

    Just want to add that there’s lot’s of good stuff coming from Madison… Not to brag, but just in the past 5 years or so, we’ve got a bishop, young priest in the vatican diplomatic corps, and now the vp, all from our diocese…and who knows what’ll be next with all 32 amazing seminarians…

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  30. Brian2 says:

    superstardom: it may be parochialism on my part in my recommendation of Spanish. Where I live, more than half the flock speak Spanish, so it makes sense for a priest to know it. Not to the exclusion of Latin though

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  32. Elizabeth D says:

    Bishop Morlino has said his seminarians are what he is most proud of in the world. It’s maybe worth pointing out to those who might leap to the conclusion Bp Morlino wants to promote the TLM “over” the Ordinary Form, that also in our diocese we have Abbot Marcel Rooney, former Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order, who has started a liturgical institute basically relating to the ordinary form (and it is not “Collegeville” style obviously–it is fine). I think that is based at the O’Connor Center (the chancery).

    It was announced this past Sunday at the TLM at the Cathedral Parish, that Bishop Morlino is celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass at the O’Connor Center at noon tomorrow for Our Lady’s Feast, at the altar in the photograph on the article.

  33. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Once you know Latin, Spanish becomes a piece of cake…so Spanish should just be added, after Latin.

    And Latin is a piece of cake compared to Cantonese or Mandarin…

  34. This reminds me: If of interest, there’s a fantastic book on the liturgy, dedicated with permission to then-Cardinal Ratzinger. It may be read, legally for free, at Musica Sacra.

    Essential reading for the Marshall Plan.

    [Purchase HERE.]

  35. schmenz says:

    Even though the cesspool that is Madison certainly needs a fine man like Morlino, could we have him here in Milwaukee, too?

    Oh, and Mr Boyle: the Bishops in 1970 certainly had no problem waving their “magic wand” and immediately imposing the New Mass on a Church that did not want it and did not need it. So don’t be too hard on those Catholics who want to see another magic wand moment.

  36. Del says:

    My son is one of the 32 fine young men who are seminarians for the Diocese of Madison.

    When he returned home after his week with the Bishop, he was very excited to report that “Fr. Z was there!” However, he did not report that Bishop Morlino asked the guys to learn the Extraordinary Form. I suppose that he didn’t think there was anything extraordinary about the request.

    But after reading this, I can understand now why my son was studying his copy of the Altar Boy’s Manual when he returned from his retreat!

    If the Church has two approved forms, it is because the Church needs two approved forms — and so it is reasonable that a priest of the Roman Church should know both forms and celebrate them well.

  37. fvhale,

    A paperback “study edition” of the complete 1962 Missale Romanum is currently available for $45. Blurb:

    Missale Romanum 1962
    Study Edition
    1,100 pages, paperback
    7 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2
    Latin with Introductions in Italian and English

    The perfect gift for any traditionally minded priest or seminarian or anyone interested in becoming better acquainted with the 1962 Altar Missal. This book is a complete reproduction of the 1962 Altar Missal in paperback form. Designed to be a study edition of the 1962 Altar Missal. However, it can easily be adapted for use as a traveling Altar Missal or for use at private Masses. This book would also make a great review text to have in the sacristy. One should get a copy of this Study Edition to give to every priest he know that shows any interest in traditional Catholicism, as having an actual copy of the traditional Altar Missal may be just the spark needed to open him to the beauty of the traditional Mass.

    No traditional chapel or Latin Mass community (or those working to start one up) should be without this invaluable reference text.

  38. moon1234 says:

    @Henry Edwards

    Low Mass allows ordinary, except credo and gloria, to be sung by the choir along with music at the common times (communion, etc.). Propers are not sung. The priest still has to “say” the Kyrie, Sanctus and Angus Dei, but the choir can also sing them.

    We routinely did the Bryd Mass for three voices for low Masses as it is pretty easy and fits in most liturgical seasons.

  39. Ana says:

    This comment goes a tad off the topic of the original post, but I feel like I need to address the comment that our priests need to be scholars.

    While I fully support priests learning Latin and think it is an embarrassment that our Bishops have neglected the theological formation of seminarians, to say all priests must be scholars is inaccurate. [I think only one person suggested that priests be scholars, and that in reference to learning Latin. No suggestion was made that all priests should be doing post-graduate scientific research or writing articles for quarterly journals.] St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, is a prime example that shows piety over intelligence or scholars is what we need. [I don’t think St. John was dumb.] Maybe we [We?] need to pay more attention to the piety and spirituality of our priests so they can truly pastor souls and bring them to Christ. I can think of one parish in particular where, to my knowledge, they never use Latin, the music can be greatly lacking (no guitars or anything, thankfully), and the priest’s homilies are not great scholarly works, but due to the diligence of the priest to ensure his parish prays together regularly, at least 50% of his parish receives Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, the Church is packed on Holy Days of Obligation, Confessions are heard almost daily, and, although daily Mass times can be sporadic, there is a strong turn out for daily Mass. This hasn’t been forced on anyone, but encouraged in a loving, although at times hyper, manner. Holiness, love of Christ that is visible in daily life, and true pastors are what we need. If that priest can be a scholar and have these qualities, great. If he has these qualities and is not scholarly, wonderful. Please don’t send a scholar that cannot do these things and, at this time, we have already have too many of them in the Church. [Don’t worry. The Church is not about to start turning out a bunch of “scholars”.]

  40. Blaine says:

    Just donated. Wonderful to read.

Comments are closed.