Rome – Day 3: Synod Free Zone, Abbatial Mass and – Fr. Z rants

I have been – mostly on purpose – in a Synod Free Zone in the last few days, even though I am at Ground Zero.   Yes, I am hearing a lot.  No, I am trying not to let it get to me.

Mass was celebrated for Christ The King and the closing of the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage events at Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini.

The sanctuary all laid out for a Mass at the Faldstool.  Abbots celebrate like bishops.

I have a couple observations about the pilgrimage.

First, it was a great event and I enjoyed and spiritually benefited from it.  I prayed a lot and for many people and intentions.   That was a success.

Second, it might have been international in a technical sense, but I think there were perhaps only two native English speakers involved as more than altar boys in the whole thing.  It was too highly centered on the French and Italians.   They may not have any idea of what the world is like beyond their little nearby horizons.  They certainly didn’t bother to reach out much before the pilgrimage.  Perhaps next year.   (I’m am not the only person who noticed this, by the way.)

Third, they had photographers snapping endless photos of the liturgical eye candy in the sanctuary.  That’s fine, I suppose.   But… what they should have been also shooting are photos of huge crowds of people jamming the churches.   They should have been focused also on the congregation, on lay people devoutly praying, their expressions of awe and happiness. Instead, if you find any photos (I haven’t yet), you may see quite a few dour looking French seminarians with plenty of lace. You might not see the side aisles packed with people standing, intently focused and joyful to have something so beautiful… the fruit of their sacrifices over the years. Their sacrifices… I remind the clergy.

Yes, the clergy play an important part in cultivating the fruits of Summorum Pontificum.  To my mind, the real credit is do to lay people.

So, because I am a little annoyed, I won’t show lots of photos of the sanctuary with the sacred ministers doing things you have seen.

Instead, here is a shot from before Mass as the church is starting to fill up.

There was no place to stand or sit by the time Mass started.  Even quite a few seminarians had to stand. I had no qualms about shooing a couple out of choir for priests.  I commend one young man who cheerfully volunteered!  Good for him.  I’ll remember him in my prayers tonight.

And then a seriously clerical lunch… but with some prestigious lay people nearby at the same place, all by coincidence.  Matthew Schellhorn, John Rao, Michael Matt, Jamie Bogle… and distinguished clerics at my table, whom I shan’t for the moment name.

Starters.   Roman artichokes.

The all important puntarelle.

Then I had some sort of spaghetti like stuff and there was also a meat of some kind.

More later… maybe.

Oh… the Synod.

No… it was not a complete rout for the enemy.  It was not a victory for us either.  There are flaws in the final report and the voting on three paragraphs disappointed me.   It could have been a lot worse… at the onset.  My greatest fear now is that the enemy side will spin this as a victory and go forward with what they want anyway, no mater what the Pope eventually says.   Keep in mind that the libs did not get what they wanted… entirely.  That means that they will be angry and they will look for people to attack.  I predict attacks in the press on people who are on the side of the angels.  They will be isolated and targeted for discrediting.

And the Pope’s final speech…. meh.  HERE

But… Humanae vitae wasn’t overturned.   The homosexualists did not get their way this time.  There are weak links, but it is not an immediate, total disaster for our ability still to speak of goodness, truth and morals.

As one of my interlocutors put it to me in a text:

“Summarizing one prelate’s view of the Synod’s outcome: ‘They didn’t beat us to a pulp as we thought they would and even though they’ll use ‘conscience’ to shred sacraments we managed to prevent them from saying it apertis verbis‘. Wow, that’s not the prelude to the enemy signing a surrender on USS Missouri is it….”

No, it isn’t.

qwerty_cropRemember, everyone, that every Pontificate – whether you like it or now – is really a Parenthesis in the life and history of the Church.   Pontificates come and they go.  As the Romans say, “A Pope dies [shrug]… make another.”  Yes, we know that even in writing, some parentheses are more important than others.  Some add substantive material.  Some add merely parenthetical comments not so central to the substance of the piece.

So, just as the Church had the Pontificate, rather, Parenthesis of … say, St. Pius V, and the Parenthesis of St. John Paul II (kind of a long one), and the Parenthesis of Benedict XVI, we now have the Parenthesis of Francis.

One of these days, in His own good time and way, God will hit the SHIFT+0 key and close the Parenthesis of Francis.

Then another Parenthesis will begin.

That’s how things work – for all of us. We must keep our historical perspective when it comes to synods and pontificates. These last two synods are minor parentheses within a, probably, short parenthesis.  Remember that the Holy Father himself has hinted at a retirement after he hits 80.   I suspect it will be after he attends the Aparecida Centenary in 2017, but I digress.  May I should put that whole last part in, you know, parentheses.

OUR JOB, in the meantime, is to remain faithful to the teaching of the Church.   We must now, more urgently than ever, review and study and understand well what the Holy Catholic Church says about matters such as “conscience”.

“Conscience” will now be the battle ground.

Those who would overturn the Church’s teaching will claim a victory through the discussions of the Synod on the grounds of a (false) sense of primacy of conscience.  Others, understanding that conscience must be properly and responsibly well-formed will insist that mere appeal to conscience cannot justify objective sins.   The first group will appeal to mercy and compassion (false mercy and compassion) and they will accuse the later group of being rigid legalists who have no care for people who are in tough situations, etc.   You know the drill.  For libs, anyone who is against sin (especially against the sin of over-use air-conditioning, and is against people of the same sex engaging in improper physical behavior, and anyone against public adulterers receiving the sacraments without any sort of amendment of life) is going to be accused of being against mercy.

You may need to steal yourselves, like the maquis, to take abuse from others because you are faithful to the Church’s teachings.   Be ready and “Take Heart!”  Be ready also to “Make a Mess” with your Rosary in one hand and Catechism of Catholic Church (and of Trent) in the other.   Turn to the heavy tools of prayer and almsgiving and fasting.  Use even the Bux Protocol.   (He sat in front of me during Mass today.)  No, the Bux Protocol is not the title of a Robert Ludlum novel.  It is a tool of spiritual warfare to be drawn forth from its sheath by those who are well-confessed and who humbly place their prayers before God with sober joy.  It is not for the frivolous or the pusillanimous.

I have a lot more to say about this and what I think is coming at us like an asteroid, but I’ll save that.

So, si vis pacem para bellum.  Review your Faith.  Be ready to give reasons, with charity and joy, for your Faith and the Hope that is in you.   Do all that you can to support good vocations to the priesthood.  Work to spread the use of the Extraordinary Form which, after the last few days, I am even more convinced is of critical importance for the defense of the Faith, the healing of the Faith, and the spread of the of the Faith.

Begin your preparation and…


And may God help us all.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Be The Maquis, Cri de Coeur, GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Olympian Middle, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. benedetta says:

    Beautiful photos, Father, especially of the worshippers…

    I think it a bit of a chicken/egg thing, this conscience versus well formed — in natural law, one possesses the faculties inherent to reason, and we according to the natural law have the gift of, a conscience (“Where is your brother?”) and yet, presenting ourselves whether formally or in pilgrimage as seekers or believers to the Church for participation in that communion, we are in effect, with our actions if not our words, assenting to all the Church teaches and holds dear, getting into the barque and letting not ourselves and our ways or thoughts or preferences determine our direction and future steps but shifting to the guidance of a very significant, powerful, compassionate, and infinite head. Formation must necessarily be continual via our experiences and discernment, but there is of course a minimum, or minimums, the Church asks of us to be included in the communion for all time, which seems right and just and really not much at all given, salvation, that considerable grace with which we cannot live. It is of course deceptive to imply that we may correctly form our consciences apart from the communion entirely, and then continue to navigate fine that way ad infinitum.

  2. Amerikaner says:

    What? Aren’t all EF seminarians trained to be dour? It sure seems like it. That and a propensity to move like in molasses.

  3. Adaquano says:

    Thank you Father for your beautiful photos, updates, insights and prayers. It has been easy to be discouraged at times during these last three weeks, but being faithful and daily rosaries have been a good means of remaining faithful. I was somewhat encouraged by initial reports regarding the document, and then Pope Francis spoke again seeming to chastise those who live faithfully as being rigid and then discouragement creeps in again. We can pray that the Holy Spirit is guiding the younger bishops and current priests that they proclaim the truth of Christ in the same manner that you do.

  4. Charles E Flynn says:

    From EXCLUSIVE Cardinal Pell: “The final document is much better than what we feared”:

    According to Pell a minority of bishops objected because they thought that the true teaching was not taught explicitly enough. He excused the Synod fathers with the argument that they – although they happen to be bishops – “have never done any or much Thomistic philosophy”.

    [Which gets down on its knees with folded imploring hands, begging the question: Is that why they were chosen?”]

  5. LeeF says:

    The really insidious effect of the liberal charade of primacy of conscience, is that is it allows objective sin to be self-determined as not being such, thus not requiring the repentance that is necessary to receive the mercy of God.

  6. Vincent says:

    Thank you Father. We all love the beauty of the Mass an’ all. But you’re absolutely right – there are always photos of the beautiful Mass and the ‘hundreds’ of clergy, but what about the laity? We always get forgotten about. More photos of us please…! :)

    As for the Synod. All will be forgotten in a week. Nobody knows what happened. Meh.

    [To ALL you bloggers out there who post photos of beautiful Masses. For the love of God show the people who attend them! Show the numerous children, strong families. Show people praying. Show how they almost without fail hang out afterwards and talk with each other and create strong community bonds. The eye-candy is fine, but if you want to attract more people, SHOW MORE PEOPLE.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. LeeF says:

    Commenters in other posts have made mention that so many of these bishops were appointed by JPII and Benedict. But regarding Germany, the source of so much error, it should be remembered that many of the concordati between the Vatican and the individual German states (Länder) require limitations on the selection of bishops, if I understand it correctly, in that the Pope must choose from a ternus submitted by other German bishops and/or the Cathedral Chapter, rather than at the end of a fruitless swapping of terni, just imposing his own selection in the end.

    Those concordati seem to be mainly concerned with 3 issues: the mandatory tithe that makes the German Church so rich comparatively, parochial schools, and the selection of bishops. Given the state of the Church in Germany, the instruction in the faith there can hardly be worse than the alternative of Sunday School given in more orthodox parishes.

    So perhaps those like-minded German brethren of ours should take the fight to the enemy and agitate politically for the abolition of those agreements, or their non-renewal. I would even conjecture that perhaps the more liberal political parties could be persuaded to that goal if they get the elimination of the Church tax/tithe, and maybe even so much as to allow the Church to keep provisions re the schools. The key to fixing the German problem is to free the hands of a future pontiff to appoint orthodox shepherds.

  8. pj_houston says:

    We are now in a Job moment of the Church: The trial of St. Joan of Arc and the Synod.

  9. Woody79 says:

    Your comments with regard to the synod were very helpful to me at this time. Thank you very much.

  10. Fr. Bryan says:

    Thank you for this blog post Fr. Z. Let us keep our heads up, and our heads, and pursue vigorously our own personal holiness, as well as invoke the Mother of God with our Rosaries. Pray for the Church, and for the bishops, and for the Pope. Remain obedient to what the Church has always taught, and be ready, asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us with His gifts, especially fortitude and courage.

  11. Parochus says:

    Pardon me for playing the editor, Father, but the Latin tag should read: “Si vis pacem para bellum.”

    [You are not my editor.]

  12. Gratias says:

    INTERNAL FORUM might turn into the next “active participation” hammer.

  13. Inigo says:

    I was very happy to meet you again this year in Rome Father Z.!

    In defense of the internationality of the pilgrimage: last year there were National Delegates appointed by the Coetus Internatonalis Summorum Pontificum to help organise the EF communities of different countries (I was one of them: for Hungary). We had one year to spread the word, we got every information ASAP. So there were a lot of people behind the scenes involved in planning and executing who were not French nor Italian.

    But to be fair:

    I personally think that the main problem is with the pilgrimage happening annually. This pilgrimage should be at least biannual. One year is not nearly enough time to prepare a big group to go to Rome. Travelling to Rome with a big group isn’t cheap nor easy, not even for us Europeans, not to mention Americans. Our group this year was 30 people, us being the second largest national group after the English. Moving the pilgrimage to a biannual model would help in attandence numbers and international diversity I think.

    There is certainly room for improvement, and thank you very much for your observations! Hope to meet you next time in Rome!

    [I was also delighted to see you again! It was great to see that your group has grown. But… NO! … I do not agree. The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum was only in 2007. That’s not very long. We MUST… MUST… MUST…. battere il ferro finché è caldo… sztrájk, míg a vasat, amíg meleg… strike while the iron is hot! Let’s make hay while the sun is still shining because I see clouds… lots of clouds on the horizon. You must work harder! Do more! Build and build and build. You must not relent, ease up, back off, slow down. You must work to defend, heal and expand. NO! Every year. Bigger every year.]

  14. Warren says:

    Pope Francis, himself, has said his pontificate might be a brief one.

    Given the blurring of the line between the Faith and fantasy (heresy) which is occurring during his watch, I am inclined to pray for that possibility about which the Holy Father himself has speculated.

    I am confident that God will bring goodness and order out of the chaos and that truth will prevail. However, I am very concerned that in the meantime a frightful number of souls will be lost because clergy who have swallowed the swill of the Synod will spread falsehood to our parish families.

    Kyrie eleison.

  15. Amateur Scholastic says:

    A typically excellent and clear description of the conscience argument from the LMS Chairman here:

    Read, learn and memorise.

  16. MWindsor says:

    I’d like to humbly ask that you, Fr. Z, and the assembly here pray for me and my bishop and my diocese. I’m pressing on the EF availability here. I’ve been told that we have one parish in the diocese that offers the EF, and that’s sufficient to fulfill Summorum Pontificum. 1.2 million Catholics, and we have 3 EF Masses per Sunday. Si vis pacem para vellum, indeed.

    I’ve requested of my pastor…a few weeks ago…to no avail. I’ve today asked that my request be passed to the bishop. If that doesn’t get an answer, I’ll send it to Rome. We’ll see.

    Sante Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio.

    But in this diocese, we won’t get anywhere without people praying for it…a lot.

    [Okay… WARRIORS! Stop and pray for this man’s bishop RIGHT NOW. I’m tired of fooling around. Let’s get these guys through prayer and fasting.]

  17. Sonshine135 says:

    Maybe it was my encounter with the relics of St. Maria Goretti this weekend, or maybe just giving the reason for my hope, but after a cursory reading the “controversial” paragraphs of the Synod final report, I didn’t find them all that controversial. I think Cardinal Pell’s assessment is dead on.

    It could also be that my expectations were not all that high to begin with. Needless to say, other documents have been written in the Pontificates of less controversial Popes that have done more damage to the faithful than this final document. If it was an attempt to water down doctrine, it wasn’t a very good one. After all, “special attention” and “pastoral” are always going to mean something different to people do to the fact they are ambiguous from the get go.

    In conclusion:
    Doctrine Survives (Praise be to Our Lord….A big victory!)
    People are going to continue to minister in the same way they do today
    Life goes on.

    Stay Holy my friends!

  18. Tantum Ergo says:

    The idea of remaining a faithful Catholic in this time of onslaught reminds me of the line from the Chronicles of Narnia:
    “I would be a Narnian whether there be a Narnia or not!”

  19. MikeM says:

    From the translations that I’ve seen, the controversial paragraphs are true in their claims and sensible in their advice… But, almost the minute the document was released, some of the usual suspects in the Catholic commentariat started telling people that it said things that it actually rejects. Unfortunately, probably by design, the document doesn’t give those who want to tell the truth any quotable lines to easily clarify its contents.

  20. mburn16 says:

    Having looked at the sections in question…its not that bad. On paper. Its not, perhaps, as strong on the indissolubility components as would be ideal, and is perhaps a little too friendly to the language of the Kasper proposal (if not its substance)…but its probably about the best we can expect under Francis.

    But yes, there is still too much room for Bishops to look the other way and say that, in their view, the divorced and remarried are free to approach for Communion.

  21. bourgja says:

    Here is a link to the Pope’s summary of the Synod, which I find somewhat more worrisome than the Synod itself:

  22. Toan says:

    I wonder if Pope Francis would really step down after a couple years. What would he do afterwards? With his super-social personality, I doubt he would join Pope Emeritus Benedict, and it would be hard for him to stay out of the limelight if he is not in seclusion.

  23. LeeF says:

    Although I don’t attend the EF, I would if it were offered at my parish. The problem in my area and many others I imagine, is that in larger urban areas they are typically only offered in run-down city centers in what are virtually personal parishes. To me, the main challenge for those of you trying to expand the EF is to get it offered in large suburban parishes with schools. Then it would really have a chance of catching fire. Naturally this is the very thing your opponents will fight tooth and nail.

    The secondary challenge is to have a warm and positive atmosphere, instead of an clic-ish one focused on doom and gloom over the state of the Church and the world.

  24. benedetta says:

    I think there are positive aspects, from what I have seen, to be observed in the conclusion of the synod. One may be the in the choosing of the image of walking together, or today, of Bishops walking alongside the lay faithful, for whom they have been entrusted, in the overall concept of “synodality”, which is promising for the future and not I think a negative. Because right away the notion of walking together on the journey also implies that one can be walking in the opposite direction, or causing disruption, or chaos, or numerous other things besides. There is a right way, a correct direction, it seems Pope Francis is articulating, and there are “wrong” ways, and it is important that we continue onward as a Church together in the right direction. Engagement with the discussions around in the world is important but it doesn’t dictate the point of the journey, and it cannot replace the necessity of an orderly (meaning in the light of Truth) discernment of the critiques, accusations, and feedback we get as we walk from those who are not of the communion (but potentially may be, with the right attitudes of evangelism and zeal), looking around with compassion but not a false one which would forget where we are all going, or one that discounts or minimizes the goal of the journey itself as the very best that we could hope for for ourselves and any curious or interested who are interested in influencing our actions in particular ways without an assent to the beauty of our communion in the first place.

  25. Mike says:

    Fellow warriors, let’s also pray for MWindsor‘s intention during the Memento for the living at Mass tomorrow.

  26. Frank says:

    Will pray for MWindsor, and add a request for similar prayers for my own diocese, if it’s not the same one. (From MWindsor’s description, it might be!) Word around here is that the bishop is openly hostile to the EF, which was instituted at the one parish (FSSP) before he was installed. The parish facilities are not that large and the number of people who attend there regularly is growing fairly rapidly, even though for many it is difficult to reach due to local traffic patterns and its location. My NO parish has a young P.V. who is willing to do what it takes to prepare to celebrate the EF, given pastoral and episcopal consent, which would at least be a start toward regular availability of the EF over here on “the other side of town” from the current EF parish. Thanks and God bless all here.

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  28. WYMiriam says:

    A question: Has the official translation of the 2015 Synod’s relatio been released yet? If so, where can it be found?

    Another question: I seem to remember having heard (back in the days of St. Pope JPII) that the really official document from a synod was the one written by the pope himself AFTER the synod was all over — and that that document didn’t have to say anything at all about what the synod had said. Maybe I was right — in #16 of Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis wrote:

    I was happy to take up the request of the Fathers of the Synod to write this Exhortation.[19] In so doing, I am reaping the rich fruits of the Synod’s labours. In addition, I have sought advice from a number of people and *I intend to express my own concerns* about this particular chapter of the Church’s work of evangelization. Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study.

    It almost sounds as if the Pope can say whatever he wants in response to a synod. I’m not sure we should rely on what this Synod has put out; I don’t think that a synod can say anything “official”. I’d be glad to see something that would set me right if I’m wrong!

    And I dare to chance to make a pun or two . . . “You may need to steal yourselves, like the maquis, to take abuse from others because you are faithful to the Church’s teachings” — I can steel myself to steal away, or even to steal a way, but I foresee difficulties should I attempt to steal myself!! Could I be arrested for that? :-)

  29. RafqasRoad says:


    We are in an almost identical situation to yours in my diocese (though with a smaller population) it is a geographically large semi-rural diocese that takes in excess of two hours to drive from end to end, and well over one hour to drive one way if cross sectioned’. We have one TLM (as far as I know now infrequently offered, several Sunday afternoons per month; I raised the possibility of something a little closer and more frequent (I believe the AO would fulfil the purpose admirably as we have a large English community here; such would also cut through a lot of the baggage towards the TLM held by our mostly over 60s demographic, a good deal of whom are well over 70). So, blesings to Fr. Z. and all others who took part in this latest pilgrimage, but prayers would also be well appreciated. Others have tried the chain of command to address this issue to no avail. It does not help that one of the most notorious cults (little pebble) functions less than 15 minutes’ drive from my home, the members and leaders of said group having hijacked the TLM and many good Catholic practices for their own nepharious means, that has only served to complicate issues surrounding liturgy, the more colourful and visible side of Catholic faith in practice and even the beautiful Chaplet of Divine Mercy! Prayers are sorely needed for here; thank God our priests are sound and offer confession twice weekly without interruption, weekly public rosary at church in my parish on Tue and Fri mornings, with adoration every Fri morning and first Saturday and good preaching, kind accommodation of those who wish to receive our Lord in the Eucharist on the tongue etc (the numbers for this are healthy as far as I know and the priests are all very good with this, including intincture for those with disabilities that make handling the challis difficult) so we fare much better than many others, but a TLM or (in my thinking a much better fit) an AO would be so good! We have one procession per year organised by the Phillipino community for St. Antoninia’s day; they provide the statue, process with it, provide the prayers and ceremonies once it has reached its destination plus the festivities that follow; they ride the bike, to use Fr. Z.’s analogy. I wish to organise a St. Lucy’s procession and a Corpus Christe procession next year; please pray that folk are willing to get on board and don’t leave it in the priest’s lap at the last minute with excuses, pulling out and non-attendance.

  30. Papabile says:

    What people should really be afraid off re the Synod, and the EF is something that is entirely out of our hands.

    A few months ago, Cardinal Llovera (little Ratzinger) was publicly supporting going to 140 voting Cardinals, an increase off 20. The Pope was subsequently wiped as being supportive of this idea.

    If he devolves responsibility for things to National Bishops Conferences, I predict a significant increase inn the College of Cardinals.

    BTW, please portray for H.E. Llovera, as he was in a car accident a few weeks ago.

  31. taffymycat says:

    to Toan: i dont knowif PF will step down but he only has one lung poor fellow.

  32. taffymycat says:

    re. TLM—we have a shortage of priests here in a rural area with 4 churches only 2 full time priests, and we only get 1 latin mass once a month on a monday and though participants and lay are very devout, its not well attended. to get a latin mass on a sunday we have to drive an hour. the novus ordo is so noxious i can barely make myself go to mass so i pray all the old responses to myself in latin from my st joseph missal i got at confirmation and kneel with eyes closed during the frivolous secular little handshake of peace. i wish they would offer latin mass every sunday as sometimes the drive is quite out of the question.

  33. MWindsor says:

    Frank – yes, your comment sounds hauntingly familiar. If the FSSP group you mention was at St. Thomas Aquinas until a few years ago when they got new digs on the extreme western edge of the diocese, then we share the same geography.

  34. Grabski says:

    Tantrum Ergo. Poland’s national anthem was written when the state had been wiped from the map: poland has not perished as long as we are are alive

  35. nzcatholic says:

    Have enjoyed the company of French and Italian seminarians “dour” not at all. Fine young men that will be the leaders of orthodoxy in the years to come

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