Wherein Fr. Z rants and cracks the whip

I received word a few weeks ago about a move that was to be made in the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida, by the local bishop, to reduce the celebration of Holy Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum.

Now I see that the news is out (HERE).

I am sure that many of you readers here would like to offer your choicest unfiltered and unedited spittle-flecked comments about the Bishop Lynch, of St. Petersburg, who is now 74.  We are not going to do that here.

However, I will comment on a some things.  I hope that you who have traditional leanings will read this and take these words to heart.

First, there may be some things about the St. Petersburg situation that we don’t know.   I note with interest the careful language in Lynch’s letter.  For example, he designates a parish as “a” center for use of the Extraordinary Form.  He doesn’t say “the” center.  Remember, Summorum Pontificum is still law.  Pastors of parishes can, without permission from the bishop, implement Summorum Pontificum in their parishes.

Also, I note that he says “few” people are using the Extraordinary Form.   Okay, there’s “few” and there’s “few”.  “Few” can be a lot less than who go to the Ordinary Form, but the number is growing.  “Few” can be a small number that doesn’t seem to be involved or growing.  There are other options, too.  I don’t know which it is in this case.

Next, Lynch mentions “economic viability”.  Bottom line, if you want to keep a church open, you have to pay the bills.  That means, friends, stick a crowbar in your wallet and pay for what you want!  If you want a priest, nice vestments, regular Mass and sacraments, you have to pay the bills.  No ticky no laundry.  This is a hard fact.   Unless of course you and Father are content with a rock in the field at the edge of the forest.  That might be what we are headed toward in the not too distant future, but for now we have better options if we are willing to work and pay for them.

If people want something badly enough – even a church – they’ll pay and work and sweat for it.

Not only that… SHOW UP.  Be determined to go when things are going on at the parish.  If there are “few” people attending, and, on Sunday, you yawn and stretch and say, “It’s sort of far to drive to get to St. Fidelia. I’ll go to nearby St. Ipsipidsy!”, you haven’t helped the cause.  If you haven’t been showing up, don’t gripe if they point and say “FEW!”.

Also, don’t gripe when they point and say “Few!” if you haven’t been doing your best to bring more people in.  Be inviting.  Bring people.  Try to fill those pews.  You know what?  It isn’t Father’s job to do that.  IT’S YOUR JOB.  You are the people out in the world, commissioned to bring the Gospel to all the corners and edges of your lives and the people you encounter.  Dedicated lay people, with a cooperative priest, can work wonders.  I saw this in, for example, New York at Holy Innocents.  It has taken oodles of time and sacrifice on the part of a few lay people, but that congregation, for the Extraordinary Form, has grown beautifully.   And when you talk to the people who made it happen, they will tell you what it took: show up and bring more people.

Ben Hur 2It drives me crazy when people who have to older Mass get complacent.  Let’s not relax for moment!   It’s time for ramming speed!

Back to the Lynch Letter.  Yes, there are inflammatory phrases.  The bishop clearly does not like the Extraordinary Form.  I suspect as well that he may dislike the people who like the Extraordinary Form.  He doesn’t like the people.  But this wouldn’t be new news.  So, pray for him.  Gang up on him by praying also to his Guardian Angel to help him in these last few days of his term as diocesan bishop.  You might also ask St. Joseph to guide him into making good decisions regarding the people who want the Extraordinary Form.

Moreover, do not forget that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” remains a resource for groups who want to get something going if the local parish priest and the local bishop are less than cooperative.

Which brings me to another point.

The Lynch Letter says that few priests can say the older form of Mass, especially because of their lack of Latin.  Yes, and that is the fault of the bishop and those who trained those priests.  I refer everyone to canon 249 in the 1983 CIC which requires, it doesn’t suggest, that all seminarians be very well trained in Latin.  If they aren’t, then at the time of their ordination, when someone stands up to attest that the men are properly trained, they had better cross their fingers behind their backs, but that requirement is simply being blown off and bishops are to blame.

But this is like crying over spilled milk.  It’s time to get one with business even bishops won’t.  Take a more positive approach, lay people.  Take matters into your own hands. You must get resources into the hands of priests to help them learn the older form.   Keeping in mind that priests have a lot to do, make it easy for them.  Lay it all out on a silver platter for them.  In Madison, where I hang my hat, we have an organization (established before I arrived) to support the spread of the Extraordinary Form.  HERE (please drop in and give a tax deductible donation! – 501(c)(3)).  We recently made an offer to pay for a couple priests to go to the FSSP training workshop and two priests of the diocese took us up on the offer.  You can do the same.  Offer to Father to pay for his trip and training.  It could make all the difference. More priests, more Masses.  But that means that you need to be inviting and helpful for the priest and you have to pay for it.

I guess it depends on how much you want it.

We are now living in a time when people who were hostile to traditional Catholicism (including doctrine) are, after some years of lying fallow, surging back to the fore.   They will wipe you out if they have half a chance.  Don’t give it to them… especially by being known as the “few” who don’t show up.

Remember, a large percent of the men coming into the seminary these days and who are being ordained right now are open to what you want or already onside.   Help them.  Help them help you.

Finally, I suggest that you also review what have written before along these lines (HERE).  Then, do a real examination of your circumstances and make a plan.

¡Hagan lío!


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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Si vis pacem para bellum!, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I hope that photo isn’t of you travelling to Rome, Father. Surely you can afford a plane ticket this time?

  2. DonL says:

    Excellent advice and encouragement (with even a perfect hint of good old fashioned admonishment).

    The Church Militant here in America seems too often to be in a coma–and you call for the cure–a living church. Yes!

  3. amenamen says:

    Not sure what this sentence means:

    “Please note that this favor applies only to the celebration of the Eucharist in the extraordinary form.”

    Does it mean that the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form is being granted by the bishop as a “favor” or privilege, rather than as a right? Does it mean that the priest may celebrate Mass, but may not celebrate other sacraments, such as Baptism, using the liturgical books of 1962?

  4. APX says:

    I thought the FSSP were in Florida. Are they being asked to leave the diocese?

    I used to bring my friends to the EF, but stopped after they were being driven away by mandatory payment for after Mass socials (my friends are like me, poor and barely able to pay rent and the basic necessities of life), and sermons that are over-the-top strict (ie: it is absolutely forbidden to work on Sundays. Those who do are going to Hell, which is not what the Church teaches. We are living in a time when working Sunday’s is often a condition for getting a job so you aren’t homeless). And then there’s the people who are just over the top weirdness factor with their conspiracy theories about the Church, Vatican II, Pope Francis, etc actively looking for new faces to try to “enlighten”.

  5. benedetta says:

    I made it a top priority, for the sake of a loved one and myself who needed the EF, to do everything in my power to support it, and I tirelessly invited, welcomed, encouraged, and I am proud of the running record of numbers I have brought to the EF, whether just for a dip or those who have stayed, and stayed and stayed…A larger issue can be, however, continuing to welcome, being solicitous and generous, and kind, towards those whom God has entrusted to an EF community. We all come broken especially in the times we are laboring under, even good families have a very hard time providing the basic good things children need to not just have sacraments but also in their turn evangelize and be welcoming to others, to be kind, and we all need to be reminded how to turn and be as children once in awhile. The ones who are persistent, not necessarily successful, but who understand personal need to convert and say it with their life establish a spiritual home where others may come and find rest.

    There are threats from within and threats from without. The stroke of the ecclesial pen is one that is omnipresent, and Deo Gratias for Bishops who get that if they pile on more attacks onto EF worshippers they are not doing the universal Church any great favors. But another threat somewhat more insidious because it attacks at the root is the one that animates brother against brother, using fear, bluster, misplaced bravado, alienation, and a Catholic community that is to remain open and evangelical will need to be spiritually guard against that lest it becomes a “survival of the fittest” with a cadre remaining as the proverbial “few”.

  6. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    “Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ”

    “Sisters and Brothers…”

    Nope. Not gonna comment.

    I’m just gonna express my feelings by going to the gym and picking heavy stuff and then putting them back down, over and over again, top that off with a drink filled with lot of whey powder, followed by a nice session at the shooting range, and then finish it off with a trip to the Confessional this afternoon…

    That should help.

  7. Jackie L says:

    “Moreover, do not forget that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” remains a resource for groups who want to get something going if the local parish priest and the local bishop are less than cooperative.” – This is important, the proper channels should be used, I’ve seen this story posted elsewhere with much energy in the wrong directions.

    I would also add this fairly new resource looks to be a good one: http://extraordinaryfaith.tv/resources/celebrant-training this group travels to do trainings upon request of (a) priests, around their schedule, at no cost.

  8. Phil says:

    I agree that we need to help priests who want to learn the Extraordinary Form, but sadly, all too many of us live in dioceses (like my own) where the bishop takes retributive action against priests who do so. And it isn’t like Ecclesia Dei is going to step in and tell a bishop he can’t move priests wherever he likes.

    [That doesn’t mean that the priests can’t learn the TLM.]

  9. Auggie says:

    It is astounding that so many bishops demand obedience to their modernistic whims while being disobedient to the Church of the ages.

  10. oledocfarmer says:

    The signature alone says it all.

    [No, it doesn’t.]

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    At the risk of giving you a swelled head I must applaud you on your analysis and your ability, not only to forgo rage and discouragement, but to uphold someone who could be seen as an adversary. [I didn’t “uphold” him.] I only half jokingly suggest you start to offer retreats on maintaining balance and virtue during the Age of Contrariness. [You have, apparently, not heard me give a conference.]
    God reward you.

  12. Dialogos says:

    Thank you for the wake up call, Fr. Z! In the past few months the missus and I have been assisting almost always at EF Mass. We are blessed to have access to EF on Sundays and holydays (Mass on Ascension Thursday–yay!) here in our fair city of Tacoma, and daily if we were to drive to Seattle (35 miles one way). Two things that come to mind reading this post: 1) It is entirely possible the bishop does not like the people he associates with the EF in his diocese. That may be a generational (Spirit of Vatican II) thing. It may also be that some of the EF folks are, well…unlikeable. There are cliques everywhere and EF is no exception. While I understand the reasons some feel persecuted (maybe because they are), that can breed an us vs. them situation and constant fear of the bottom falling out. That leads me to 2) EF needs to be more widespread, especially in the average parish. maybe folks will still prefer the OF, but it should be an informed choice. My wife and I just read Peter Kwasniewski’s solid and inspiring “Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis,” which helped us think through WHY we prefer the EF or a reverent and well-celebrated OF. I would challenge EF folks to read it and then be better able to defend the EF qua Tradition and not just as an aesthetic choice. Likewise I’d like to hear a good theological-liturgical defense of the OF from anybody. I think exposure to the EF partnered with some good teaching would do more to level the playing field. And finally, we should speak up about our priests coming out of seminary without Latin.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    I didn’t mean you upheld his views (God forbid) but his soul, in prayer, for his betterment. And I trust your conferences would put Romney vs Holyfield to shame!

  14. rodin says:

    You ask that we pray for Bishop Lynch as he runs out his term and I will gladly do that. However, shouldn’t we also pray very hard that his replacement will be a person who is more open to tradition?

  15. drohan says:

    I always send handwritten letters to bishops who seem to be acting contrary to the will of the Church. I am always respectful and always prayerful, but I point out hard facts. I think a lot of these bishops think we don’t care. The way to make them care is to let them know the faithful know what they are doing. Part of Vatican II was an increased role for the laity… or a more substantial role for the laity… (whatever that means).

    For too long, these “Spirit of Vatican II” types got away with a quiet laity that just took what was given them. In the post Mother Angelica world, we no longer have to be like that. While Mother Angelica had to submit to Church authorities who did not like her calling them out, we Faithful are under no such obligation. We can call them out and we should. I have found I get better responses with the hand written letters. Calling on bishops to be bishops is one role of the faithful, I think a letter is a good way to do that.

  16. benedetta says:

    On the whole, I do not think that people as a congregation are more or less good from one to the next. One could perhaps argue that EF aficionados be held to a higher standard of morality simply because one presumes that they have heard and comprehended the truth. However, this may not be the case. Especially in these times when who knows what the formation people get spiritually as children by and large. But the same could be said with respect to the “social justice” communities, which, even if not into the EF, also may be thought to have their own very particular liturgical “rules” which may not be altered or questioned rationally, replete with special music and actions conveying symbolism.

    Of course whether EF or “dissenting Catholic community of intention”, both congregations in most places in the USA are going to be top-heavy with baby boomers, that’s just how it is, and as a group or generation at least in terms of political expression, whether right or left, that group has pretty much failed as leadership and sold the generations coming after down the river. In many ways the issues we see played out in our Catholic parishes are just the tired after effects of their failure to realize in concrete terms their idealism and moralism, this from whichever side. At the end of the day it’s still the shrill we must all do this or all do that and forcing people into line, at all costs, betraying our shared humanity, while the loving the neighbor right in front of you or next to you is the part that gets summarily dropped and forgotten in the flag waving bandwagoning process.

    Perhaps at this particular moment in history for American Catholics, the spiritual needs are not that different for worshippers preferring this or that Rite: frequent confession, solid preaching and catechesis, in and out of season. Increasingly though, communities will have to be equipped to address religious liberty — and a familiarity with Latin is only going to help all of us facing this down the road whether we want to or not. When some expressions are finally prohibited, Latin will be still a language we may use to express our eternal hopes and to communicate with what is sacred. Perhaps this Bishop in St. Petersburg sounds the alarm: learn Latin, for everyone. Parishes ought to provide this much in the way that all synagogues as part of religious education provide a little Hebrew. We should all also in preparation for the coming times learn chant, and sing together for this will relieve the stressors of the times and help us to keep going on the way.

    At this particular moment, as a “social” matter, neither dissenting or liberal communities nor EF or “orthodox Catholic” are more or less perfect or good or sinful, but they are just different sort of flavors of misplaced aggression — on the dissenting and liberal side, they are usually hopped up on the secular social darwinism that impels them to get the other guy before being gotten…on the EF side, it’s a paranoid hair trigger defense mechanism that dictates total isolation, again, before being gotten…This is the conundrum for our Bishops, I think, in planning pastoral care in the coming persecution. Eventually, dissenting outposts will probably be official state “churches”, while the rest will have to get their heads in the game by offering both Rites reverently, with the NO being much closer, is my guess, to what Second Vatican called for: continued Latin, continued beauty in chant and polyphony, and maybe like a Mass on the fly or for baby Catholics or one that could be in certain guises if it comes to that…As a mother my two cents to add in preparation for youth would be lowering the age of confirmation with beefing up of catechesis in lower grades (hey they teach all manner of sex thing in younger grades, why do we think they can only do coloring in the 5th grade for ccd — if anyone shows?) and, many more Eucharistic Processions, for starters…

  17. Blaine says:

    This is my diocese. It’s hard to get all the way across the county in the middle of the day with the young one, but I’m taking on this challenge. Thanks Father Z.

    Praying for His Excellency now. Then working on a plan.

  18. Gratias says:

    Inviting people to EF mass has not given results for me. Yet when anyone attends an EF mass they make a real difference to the future of the Church. When that basket reaches you give until it hurts. It is very important to register for envelopes from the parish that gives one the opportunity to attend the TLM.

  19. Mike says:

    I thought the FSSP were in Florida. Are they being asked to leave the diocese?

    The Fraternity is in the Diocese of Venice in Florida — which, however one might choose to think of it, is some distance from St. Petersburg — and as far as I know is there to stay.

  20. jflare says:

    I saw an entry at One Peter Five a few days ago (http://www.onepeterfive.com/bishop-lynch-and-the-dismantling-of-summorum-pontificum/). Mr. Williams, the blog author, is quite displeased. Even so, based on the circumstances that Mr. Williams provides, I have little choice but to concede, however reluctantly, that this move might be for the best in that diocese right now.

    Mr. Williams comments that he understands that one of the parishes which will be losing the traditional Mass hosts over 3,000 families and holds 6 Masses each Sunday. ..but he comments that traditional Mass-goers typically number maybe 100-150 people, total.
    I contrast this with my own parish, where we have 5 Masses each Sunday: Two in English (but with Latin responses), two in Spanish, and one in Vietnamese. Occasionally, we have debated the merit of ceasing to offer the earliest English Mass, attended by maybe 50-100 people, and making the “primary” English Mass to a half-hour earlier. It would certainly make life easier for many.
    (Personally, I would love to see the early Mass changed to a Mass in the EF, but I don’t think that’s likely. Our bishop would need to make certain that the incoming pastor would learn the traditional form of Mass, which I think unlikely because of the FSSP parish roughly 1 mile south.)

    In these circumstances, I can readily understand that gathering all of those who wish to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form to one parish might make a good deal of sense.
    I could wish that bishops would be more..emphatic..that priests should learn Mass in the Extraordinary Form, but I don’t think that’ll happen without lots of lay pressure to require it.

  21. moosix1974 says:

    This is my diocese and the pastor that is being moved is our pastor. Trust me when I tell you, we are already for the move and we will have bells on our toes. If anything, this new development has energized our community (after the initial reaction of shock and disbelief). Word has it that the new parish is an aging community and they are looking forward to have their pews filled with young and faithful families again. There is also a large Vietnamese community there and the Vietnamese are known to lean traditional. I think this will be a win-win for everyone involved. Not even gonna go there about the bishop. What’s done is done. Onward and upward!

  22. Athelstan says:

    The Fraternity is in the Diocese of Venice in Florida — which, however one might choose to think of it, is some distance from St. Petersburg — and as far as I know is there to stay.

    The FSSP has had an apostolate in Sarasota (which as Mike says, is in the Diocese of Venice next door) for almost a decade now – they now have their own church building, Christ the King, erected as a chapel of a nearby parish. It’s fully staffed with three FSSP priests, which allows them to also celebrate Masses elsewhere in the diocese, too (like Naples) and neighboring dioceses. They have the strong support of Bishop Dewane, and at least some canonical status as a community, so they are not going anywhere for a while.

    I admit that, if I lived in St. Petersburg, my strong temptation would be to make the trip every Sunday to Christ the King (it’s only 45 minutes from downtown St. Pete). But that’s perhaps the easy way out. If everyone in the Diocese of St Petersburg did that, it would merely confirm the presumptions of those who think that the traditional Mass has no support in the diocese. A location is still being provided, and, difficult as it sounds, I hope that those in the communities now being combined will find a way to take Fr. Z’s advice, and make a renewed effort to make that community thrive. Somewhere out there in the Bay Area is a Catholic who just needs a chance to be introduced to his or her own tradition – and you can be the means of making it happen.

  23. APX says:

    As a mother my two cents to add in preparation for youth would be lowering the age of confirmation
    Being a sacrament of initiation, it should be conferred before First Communion. A number of dioceses are now restoring the order of the sacraments so Confirmation and First Communion are received during the same Mass, Confirmation preceding First Communion. The newer editions of the St. Joseph Catechism for First Confession and First Communion have been updated to include this reordering.

  24. Matthew says:

    This is my diocese, I’ve gone to Mass at Incarnation (they had a crazy old liberal priest in residence who preferred face to face confession and treated it as a psychotherapy session, but I think he has moved along).

    I pray for our bishop, and our next bishop daily.

  25. comedyeye says:

    Isn’t this the bishop who in 2000
    told his priests they could only hold Eucharistic adoration in their parishes one day a year?

  26. Per Signum Crucis says:

    Thanks to moosix1974 for clarifying what actually seems to be going on at Epiphany. Hopefully Bishop Lynch’s action to plant the EF in more fertile soil will be fruitful – and that the community take’s Fr. Z’s practical advice to heart.

  27. A.D. says:

    This is my diocese, too. I am disappointed that there is not more openness to the E.F. It should be made available in every single parish for at least one Mass out of the many offered on a Saturday and Sunday. I shouldn’t have to leave the parish community I am part of to attend an E.F. Mass.

    In the past several years, Bishop Lynch has built an elaborate meeting center in the diocese, completed major reconstruction to the Cathedral church, and is having another Capital Campaign. Somewhere in his plans should be efforts toward instructing the priests in enough Latin to say the E.F. Mass, bringing back the Church’s inheritance of Gregorian chant, and intensifying efforts in adult spiritual formation.

  28. Pingback: Hey Lay Catholics: Its up to you to bring the Latin Mass back | Solutio Problematis Omnes (aka "The Catholic Linker")

  29. nasman2 says:

    I naively thought that when Summorum Pontificum was issued that younger diocesan priests would be willing to openly adopt the provisions. However, that hasn’t been the case, there is a great fear of political backlash from the Diocese. Locally we gave support to a young priest willing to say the EF Low Mass at a parish with the pastor’s consent, but the conditions doomed it to fail; 3PM on Sunday once a month. Even OF Masses would be sparsely attended at that time and a quick perusal of all Masses times in this Archdiocese show zero Masses offered then. After a bit of time the young priest was assigned to the nether reaches of the diocese, 2 hours away.

    In some cases it not necessarily a money issue, sometimes its political. The pastor of the parish where the EF Masses were offered can now claim there was little interest in the EF bolstering the position of a Bishop like Bishop Lynch. Its a game. What no priest has been willing to do is to take one of the Masses they offer in the morning and offer the EF. They are afraid and they are afraid because many Bishops don’t like the EF. And there’s little I can do about that other than pray.

    There are 2 EF FSSP parishes within an hour drive and they do get my support, but my feeling is the last thing the American Bishops want is a widespread adoption of the EF and are doing everything they can to stifle it. If they do allow it, they sequester the EF to far flung reaches of the Diocese or place it in extremely unsavory neighborhoods. The Bishops are dropping the ball. The Bishops didn’t like the provisions in Summorum Pontificum and they are doing there level best to discourage eager young priests willing to say the EF. The only real relief will come from entities like FSSP or ICK, that is if the Bishops will let them in their diocese.

    An interesting thing to note. I know many priests who do not hesitate to say the EF privately, but are extremely reluctant to say one publicly. What does that tell us?

    I pray for the bishops. Granted, things are better than 15 years ago, but I see a stagnation in growth that I don’t see changing.

  30. benedetta says:

    I think Fr. Z’s ‘marshall plan’ and encouragement for those who prefer to hear the EF of Holy Mass to undertake with great zeal the works of mercy quite important, and pastors and laity involved in the EF ought to make this another priority even as they prioritize beautiful liturgy. I know it is not easy, but of course it’s not easy to aspire to holiness, and yet if we understand what the EF really is we should serve Holy Mother Church and our fellow Catholics and let light be unhidden to the world generally with a generous and humble spirit.

    Holy Innocents before it welcomed the EF was of course always a hub of pro life work in NYC. As such, works of mercy were the backbone of the life of that parish. The EF only complements and enhances such a vibrant spiritual oasis and vice versa.

    I borrowed this from a well known NYC pastor’s page, which was on his parish page at his previous post as well, for many years, and I think it is no less crucial for us today than it was over a decade ago:

    SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY (ways to help souls)

    Admonish sinners
    Instruct the ignorant
    Counsel the doubtful
    Comfort the sorrowful
    Bear wrongs patiently
    Forgive injuries
    Pray for the living and the dead

    Feed the hungry
    Give drink to the thirsty
    Clothe the naked
    Shelter the homeless
    Visit the sick
    Visit those in prison
    Bury the dead

  31. Mike says:

    Heartening news from Florida: A new regular weekday TLM is being instituted in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, reportedly “with the encouragement” of the diocesan Ordinary!

  32. disc.s.thom says:

    Excellent usage of the Ainsley Hayes quote: “He doesn’t like the people.” Sadly, I think too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ (including bishops) don’t like the EF people. Pope Benedict nailed it with II Cor 6: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!”

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