Is training in the Extraordinary Form forbidden at St. Mary’s College in Oscott, England?

I have been sitting on this for months, but…

As a preamble, let me repeat something.

The Supreme Pontiff’s 2007 Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum established juridically that the Roman Rite has two forms, not one.   Thus, if a man has not been trained in seminary to handle the Extraordinary Form, the Usus Antiquior, then he has not be properly formed before ordination.  A priest or deacon must know his Rite.

With that in mind, when a man is elevated to the diaconate or priesthood, someone must stand up and testify, publicly, during the rite, that the men are properly formed for the order to which they are to be ordained.

Damian Thompson at the Telegraph has now “gone loud” about something I heard about months ago.  I didn’t want to write about this, because I was concerned that some seminarians would be punished.  Now that it is out, let’s get out the whip of cords.

My emphases and comments:

Seminary visited by the Pope bans traditional Latin Mass

I really don’t want to have to go back to writing about how the Catholic Church in England and Wales is ignoring the Pope’s provision for the traditional Latin Mass, but… well, here we go again. [You would have thought this nonsense over by now.]

Seminarians at St Mary’s College, Oscott, in Birmingham recently asked the rector if they could have the Extraordinary Form celebrated there – note, they did not ask to be trained how to say it. [They should have asked to be trained.]
The answer? Essentially, get stuffed, but couched in genial and friendly language. Oscott, which trains priests [see above] from the Midlands and North of England, has decided that Summorum Pontificum – which requires that a group of the faithful have the old Mass celebrated for them if they make an appropriate request – does not apply within its walls. But seminarians are generously told that they can attend the EF elsewhere (like every other Catholic in the world).  [Keep in mind that seminarians, like most priests, have the right to a Christian burial, and that is about it.]
Some of the students are pretty disgusted by this ruling: not only does it go against the letter and spirit of Benedict XVI’s legislation, but the “House Notes” in which the news was broken also seem to play the trick of turning the request for the celebration of the Mass (which should be automatically granted) into one for special training in it (which is easier to turn down). Here’s the relevant section:

One final thing, I know it was raised at Dean’s Coffee about the availability of celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This was actually discussed in the Bishops/Staff Meeting last February. This is the advisory group of Bishops [Get that?] who meet with Archbishop Bernard and the Formation Staff once each year. The Bishops [Get that?] made it quite clear in February that the priority for Oscott, considering how much there is to fit into the curriculum should be to educate and train seminarians in the Ordinary Form so that they can celebrate it well and be able to draw out its full potential, including the use of the riches of our Latin liturgical tradition in music. They made it clear that the Extraordinary Form was not to be celebrated here but that seminarians were free, within the constraints of our timetable, to experience the Extraordinary Form where it is provided locally, both at home and here in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Sorry, but no “advisory group” has the authority to strike a red pen through bits of the Motu Proprio it doesn’t like. Does Mgr Mark Crisp, the rector, support this decision or has he been leant on by the bishops? How poignant that the Pope held his last event at Oscott at the end of his visit to Britain. That seminary has now become a no-go area for the Mass that he restored to the Church. Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham should be ashamed of himself.

PS: I’ve just noticed, re-reading the document, that it says students are free “to experience” the EF – ie, it’s downgraded to “an experience”, like going to the zoo or the Planetarium.

There it is.

Universae Ecclesiae, the Instruction about Summorum Pontificum, says:

21. Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that all seminarians must be very well trained in Latin. I am not making this up. The CIC can. 249 requires… it doesn’t suggest… it requires that all seminarians be very well-versed in Latin and also any other language useful for their ministry: “lingua latina bene calleant“. Not just calleant, but bene calleant. Calleo is “to be practised, to be wise by experience, to be skilful, versed in” or “to know by experience or practice, to know, have the knowledge of, understand”. We get the word “callused” from this verb. We develop calluses when we do something repeatedly. So, bene calleant is “let them be very well versed”. Let is also review Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and Optatam totius 13!

How often does some fellow stand up in front of a bishop and say that the men to be ordained are properly trained even though they cannot say the Extraordinary Form and they don’t know any Latin?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, The future and our choices, Universae Ecclesiae, Year of Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Oh boy, now what’s going to happen over this? It would be nice to see this blatant disobedience reigned in. Very depressing to read this article before my flight.

  2. persyn says:

    Why does the Holy See allow this kind of thing to continue? Is the Holy Father a hostage in his home?

  3. acardnal says:

    I can add nothing other than to say “you are right, Fr. Z.”

    I also learned that I need to read Damian Thompson at the “Telegraph.”

  4. John Nolan says:

    An Oscott seminarian informed me last year that they were required to be sufficiently proficient in Latin, Greek and Hebrew as to be able to read the Scriptures in those languages. That they are prioritizing the correct celebration of the OF, including the use of Latin liturgical music, is a positive development. I know of priests trained in the 1960s and 70s who are now fairly senior who can’t even pronounce Latin, let alone understand it, and who can’t sing a note of chant.

  5. Joe in Canada says:

    It should take about 30 minutes [30? More like 5.]
    to train a seminarian in the proper celebration of the OF. Then another half hour to learn how to parse “documents” from the Liturgy Office.

  6. pmullane says:

    Hmmm, very dissappointing news, there is still a lot of work to be done.

    I wouldnt be too disheartened, however. The Episcopasy in the UK may still have some throwbacks to the giddy days of Aquarius, but the appointments made in the last few years have been generally far more solid (and in some cases spectacularly so – look at Shrewsbury and Portsmouth) than what came before. Mabye now the request has been denied, what of 5, 10 years down the line?

    Looking at the story with positive eyes, seminarians….at Oscott…asking for the Extraordianry form?! Within my (relatively short) lifetime even expressing a desire to participate in the ‘Old Mass’ would have been enough for expulsion from seminary. Too rigid, backward looking, not ‘pastoral’ dont you know. And in the end what victory have the regressive progressives won? If there young men are ordained, they can go and learn the EF themselves, and in a few short years the obstructive ‘bishops’ will get to blow out 75 candles and, what ho, be replaced. England is a small place, a promotion of an +Egan, a mitre for a couple of Ruscillos and Barretts and the landscape will turn quite shaply.

    But there is still much to be done, so I suppose we best get on and do it.

  7. onosurf says:

    Modernists have disdain for the TLM, to the point of giving the pope the middle finger. No surprise here, but it is sad.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    This is merely one aspect of Archbishop Bernard’s suppression of the TLM. A priest in his diocese told me he forbade him to say it, and I have friends in that diocese who have gone over to the SSPX after giving up the fight.

    I hope the whistle-blower does not get the sack. Same problem here in Malta, where the Archbishop has suppressed the TLM. Laity and priests must ask permission per Mass and the Archbishop can say no and does. Good people have given up the fight here, after writing to Rome last year, and being told the problem was being looked into…

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Same at Mundelein…..where students who want to learn the TLM have to go to the St. John Cantius weekends under their own steam. See my longer comment.

  10. Genna says:

    I would be very interested to know whether the “advisory” group of bishops for Oscott is the same “advisory” group who shut down Ushaw seminary, in spite of widespread protests.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Genna, the laity and the hierarchy could not afford to fix all the serious building problems at Ushaw. If the laity does not want to come forward with money, they should not criticize. The English do not even tithe, which is horrible.

  12. The Masked Chicken says:


    Most people in the U. S. do not tithe. I think the problem is that the percentage of Catholics is far smaller in England than the U. S. English Catholics probably do not have the money available for repairs that the U. S. Bishops have.

    The Chicken

  13. JKnott says:

    Saint Teresa of Avila described disobedient bishops as “the headless bishops”.

    I cannot remember the specific source (“Way of Perfection”, “Life “or “Foundations”) where St. Teresa makes the reference.
    However today, the description “headless bishops” may be as difficult to understand as the word “ineffable”.

  14. Hidden One says:

    Have the appropriate parties been formally informed? (I’m thinking PCED, Congregation for Clergy, and Archbishop Menini.)

    Informally, I suspect that all of those parties already know, or will within 24 hours… but a formal appeal/complaint/question might make their work of rectifying this situation easier.

  15. carl b says:

    The same thing happened at St. John Vianney in Denver, as well. A token class on the EF is sometimes offered, but its “public” celebration is disallowed.

  16. There is an essential point that I think is missed not only by these bishops, but by most who have commented. And this is that–even if one agrees (as I might) that their first priority “should be to educate and train seminarians in the Ordinary Form so that they can celebrate it well and be able to draw out its full potential”–an essential component of proper OF training might be familiarity with the EF. After all, one might well conclude from both Pope Benedict’s words and his actions that a principal motivation for SP was to provide the EF as a model for improving celebration of the OF, and countless priests who have learned the EF have demonstrated and attested to its positive effect on their OF ars celebranda. Could it be that the bishops are just as clueless about proper celebration of the OF as they are about the EF?

  17. robtbrown says:

    pmullane says:

    Mabye now the request has been denied, what of 5, 10 years down the line?

    Summorum Pontificum was promulgated in 2007–it is already 5 years down the line.

    The reaction of the rector, and I assume certain bishops, is predictably neo-con. Insist on the Novus Ordo (vernacular, versus populum), then combine it with hand-wringing because it has little influence on the moral degradation of the culture.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Henry Edwards, it is hatred of the TLM pure and simple. A comment of mine in moderation for hours would help put this all in perspective. Certain bishops and archbishops hate the Tridentine Mass with a passion. They willfully suppress it and the SP.

  19. fvhale says:

    Beautiful chapel there. Seems to call out for an occasional EF liturgy.
    Lovely photo at Fr. Robert Barron’s website from his visit last year:!!!!!-oscott-2-4.aspx

    One recent experience I had at a seminary not long ago was that of a most lovely visit to a seminary chapel, hosted by a seminarian, but I was so sad that the young man could not read any of the Latin or Greek in the lovely stained glass windows of the seminary chapel. And yet the seminary librarian showed me the “jewel” of the seminary library: a complete set of the Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca by Migne. I wonder how many of the seminarians have the language tools to access the “jewels” around them. Who is responsible if these young men are left ignorant of Latin and Greek, and thus “blind” to so much of the patrimony surrounding them?

    And, leaving aside for a moment the EF liturgy, how many of them are trained in the OF liturgy (Mass, Office, Sacraments) in Latin? Of course, if they were really trained sufficiently in latin for the OF liturgy, it is not that much further to the EF liturgy.

    I have the greatest respect and love for those seminarians who make great efforts to learn Latin (and Greek) on their own, in spite of lack of support from their seminaries. But why should these young men have to take on this extra burden during their studies? The responsibility for this serious lack in their training lies elsewhere.

  20. pmullane says:

    Hello RobtBrown

    “Summorum Pontificum was promulgated in 2007–it is already 5 years down the line.”

    Robert, What do you think would have happened to a seminarian who asked, 5 years ago, for a traditional Mass? Now they are asking and being refused. Soon, they will ask and accommodation will be found. Later, they will be fully trained.

    The men in Oscott are in their 20-40’s in the main. The bishops are in their 60-70’s. should the men be trained properly now? Absolutely. But with patience the battle will be won.

  21. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Bending over backwards to be charitable, I can just about see how it *might* have happened. I note the wording of the reply:- “I know it was raised at Dean’s Coffee about the availability of celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form…”
    Now this suggests to me that 1) the seminarists’ request was oral and 2) possibly tentatively or ambiguously framed? Certainly that is an ambiguous answer: ‘availability of celebration’ could mean simply: the right to attend an EF Mass at the seminary. Or (in a seminary context) it might well be understood to mean the seminarists wished to learn the EF. Of course, neither request should be unreasonably refused, but it depends very much on how clear and specific and resolved the request was. Possibly the directors of Oscott thought ‘We don’t have anyone here who can say the EF, let alone teach one; who could we get in to do it; more work to rejig the timetable, provision of lots of Liber U, altar rearrangements etc. etc. And it was an informal oral request over coffee, hm, easier to just bat this one off for now.’ I’m not defending that – but it is – worldwide – the archetypical management reaction to any request for ‘change’ and ‘more resources’. And this provision would not be without cost and administrative effort; although that too should not be a barrier.

    I’d suggest they make their request again courteously: this time in crystal-clear written (typed or emailed) form, explaining that they feel fully confident of both completing training in the NO and learning the EF as well, jointly sign the letter (as many as possible) and, ahem, keep several of the signed copies.

  22. Sadly, this situation is not uncommon. The (very few) priests in my diocese that have been ordained since Summorum Pontificum were not trained up in the Extraordinary Form. The total number of priests in the diocese who know how to celebrate the EF could probably be counted on one hand. This diocese is saturated with an irrational prejudice against anything that even hints of the Church before Vatican II, and that prejudice goes all the way up to the top.

    Supertradmum says: Genna, the laity and the hierarchy could not afford to fix all the serious building problems at Ushaw. If the laity does not want to come forward with money, they should not criticize. The English do not even tithe, which is horrible.

    Yet, somehow, there always seems to be money available for wreckovations.

  23. benedetta says:

    Seminaries offering training in the EF will be well positioned to meet the pastoral needs of Catholics in the future. Young people love the EF. The next generation will need it more and more, just in terms of sheer numbers of active Catholics, but also in order to spiritually combat the trials that likely will beset Catholics of the next generation.

  24. Dr Guinness says:

    Similar story all around the world, unfortunately…

  25. Miss Anita Moore OP, as a fellow resident in your diocese, I think I know all of the priests who can offer the EF in the diocese. I can count them on one hand ;)….I agree in your assessment of the diocese. I’ve gotten “the stares” for genuflecting before receiving Our Lord….and for kneeling after the Agnus Dei…Prayers, prayers prayers.

  26. Long-Skirts says:

    Hidden One says:
    “Have the appropriate parties been formally informed? (I’m thinking PCED, Congregation for Clergy, and Archbishop Menini.) … but a formal appeal/complaint/question might make their work of rectifying this situation easier.”


    They cock their pens
    And write their pappy
    Spill their ink
    On trees once sappy

    They do not fight
    With soul and might
    They’d rather sit
    And letter write

    Oh, these our lords
    Approved patricians
    Who give their lives
    For bloody petitions.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Vecchio, even hinting at blame for the sems is like blaming victims for abuse.

  28. jhnewman says:

    I love my archdiocese and I pray for its every success, but obviously the spirit that disfigured the interior of our beautiful Pugin cathedral still pervades.

  29. Andkaras says:

    You know the saying “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” ? Maybe every time a Bishop shrinks from the promulgation of the EF, Some Idiot like me ,in a banal parish out in nowheresville is suddenly overcome with the unmistakable, unrelenting all-consuming need to learn Latin. I have never been to the EF, none close ,but now my children and I, we’re all ready. yep. Just waiting..waiting..waiting…

  30. Denis says:

    We have the same episcopant to thank for the Soho Masses.

  31. aragonjohn7 says:

    Go EF!!!!!!!!¡!!!!!¡!!!!!!!!

    God bless Y’all

  32. Pingback: Relics of St. John Bosco at Liverpool Cathedral | Big Pulpit

  33. Gratias says:

    It is so in many Dioceses. The bishops are determined to disobey the two simple laws that regulate the Forma Extraordinaria: Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae. It is not only the bishops that disobey, parish priests understand the national bishop conferences have their backs and expel groups of Faithful attached to the EF Mass. Bishops and and religious orders (I personally know of ostracisms of a Dominican and an Augustinian priest who offered the Latin Mass in the West Coast of the USA) are ruthless in suppressing the EF Mass. Their most effective way of throttling us is not to teach Latin in the Seminaries, in contradiction to the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI. This is a battle for the survival of the Roman Apostolic Church. We should fight the disobedient prelates at every turn. Benedict has given us the needed supporting legislation.

    Viva Cristo Rey y la Santísima Virgen de Guadalupe.

  34. uptoncp says:

    [Keep in mind that seminarians, like most priests, have the right to a Christian burial, and that is about it.]

    You have the right to remain silent. So shut up.

  35. vivaldi says:

    “where pastoral needs suggest it” – That is the get out of jail free card and the excuse used in my former Seminary not to implement Summorum Pontificum. It was deemed by the Rector there was no Pastoral need for more Priests capable of saying the Old Mass. Didn’t teach Latin there either. Oh, and we weren’t allowed to kneel for Holy Communion. Oh and if we were serving Mass we were told to receive on the Hand. Archbishop didn’t care. Is there a way to get crappy seminaries shut down?

  36. Dr Guinness says:

    uptoncp says: You have the right to remain silent. So shut up.


  37. VexillaRegis says:


    Shut up???? Who?

  38. Hidden One says:

    On a brighter note, I know a diocesan Vocations Director – not in England – who thinks that seminarians need to learn how to celebrate the EF so that they can celebrate the OF properly. Father is quite convinced of this. [And he is correct.]

  39. Sixupman says:

    Some seminarians from Oscott managed to slip through the net and emerge orthodox/Traditional in thought, word and deed!

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