Reflections on Summorum Pontificum with hard words and truths

17_07_07_sacred_and_great_mousepad_01_JPGAt NRO there is a good piece, a reflection on the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.  Let’s see it with my usual treatment.   He starts out talking about how the late William Buckley had invited him to attend a TLM in the time just before the Motu Proprio was promulgated.

Pope Benedict’s Great Restoration



It is so difficult to explain to young Catholics the fugitive feeling of attending a Traditional Latin Mass before the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year in this millennium. I had been doing so for just five years. Latin Mass communities were detested by bishops and cardinals, most of whom believed it was their life’s mission to modernize a defective Church. It also marked one out for scorn from most who considered themselves conservative Catholics. They called us disobedient schismatics. We often deplored them in return for the personality cult they built around the papacy of John Paul II. (In truth, our side of this dispute did and still does have cranks in its ranks.) [There is stark honesty herein.]

These years shaped in me a deep distrust of ecclesiastical persons in the Church. I made a study of periods of apostasy in the Church and kept reminding myself of the words of St. John Chrysostom that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” [He didn’t write that, but it is now a rather striking commonplace.] The child-abuse scandal didn’t surprise traditionalists. In some ways, we thought it proved our point about the depth of corruption in the Church. [Hang on… here comes something hard…] It was obvious to Traditionalists that, in many dioceses, it was better for a priest to rape children or carry on an active sex life with other adults than to say the Latin Mass for people like us, “the crazies.” [Ouch.  But there is a lot of truth to this.  For years I’ve seen this attitude towards those who desire our tradition.] I learned, in my heart, a notion Thomas Aquinas expressed in Scholastic doctrine: that the blessed in heaven must enjoy the torment of the wicked in hell.

Loyalty to the liturgical books of 1962 was slightly more common among political conservatives than among others. It was a trait shared by Buckley and Patrick Buchanan, and also by libertarian Thomas Woods and Gladden Pappin, who writes for American Affairs. Nor was it just political scribblers who found themselves attracted to “the TLM.” The new rite of the Mass was almost instinctively detested by real literary giants, who saw it as a banal substitute for a ritual whose words and forms had been shaped by the great ages of faith.


[… a couple examples cut out, and there’s a great line…]

The opponents of the old Mass are still well-represented in the Church, especially in the universities that retain the name “Catholic” yet never reflect on how their schools turn out so many disillusioned men and women. They still rage at the old Mass, and at Pope Benedict for what he did to re-legitimize it.

These so-called theologians remind one of the French intellectual Alain Badiou, in that they insist that all legitimate intellectual exercise must be carried out in fidelity to some great “Event.” For Badiou, the event was Communist revolution, and Mao the only true intellectual. For these so-called theologians, the “Event” was the Second Vatican Council — the Council itself, not the texts it produced, which are of secondary importance. This Event created a new church, in need of a new intellectual party of adepts. But their methods are sloppier and shallower than Badiou’s. These theologians greet every novel utterance of a pope or a Church document as a new revelation that “develops” previous Church teaching. In their parlance, development means the opposite of what it did to John Henry Newman. He meant further articulation; they mean “obviate or overturn.” Their words, like the liturgy they prefer, are a self-referential clamor. [Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.]

I am not a particularly devout man. I am inconstant and have numerous vices, which are easy to name. I attend the old Mass, in part, because it respects me as a sinner. [Good point.  Anyone who truly believes that the Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for the wounded will see how the older form respects them.] And ten years on, I can only thank Pope Benedict for giving legal sanction to this august rite that unites me again with my coreligionists, [Across borders and centuries.] from scribblers like Buckley and inconstant men like Waugh to all the saints and angels; this Mass where before the awful moment at which the bell is rung and the the sacrifice of Calvary breaks through into the present, all clamor disappears into silence.

Pope Benedict gave the Church a great gift.

Summorum Pontificum is the centerpiece of Benedict XVI’s “Marshall Plan” (my image) for the Church.  It is one of our greatest tools for a true revitalization of the Church and Catholic identity.

Some of you younger readers might not know what the “Marshall Plan” was. After World War II these United States rebuilt war-ravaged Europe for humanitarian reasons, but also to help create trading partners and a prosperous bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II, many spheres of the Church were devastated, ravaged by internal dissent, a loss of continuity with our tradition, and from erosion by the secularism and relativism of the prevailing modern world.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Church in the modern world.  Certainly what we have been doing up to this point isn’t producing fantastic results across the board.  That’s because we don’t seem to know who we are anymore.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger had been concerned for years about the loss of Christian identity, which is at the heart of Western Civilization. Later, as Benedict XVI, he gave us a great tool by which we could reinvigorate our Catholic identity and, so, resist the negative influences of secularism and relativism.

I think that Benedict intended Summorum Pontificum to play a key part in a long-term strategy to rebuilt our Catholic identity, to correct our way of reading … well… just about everything over the last half century or so, and to establish a strong defense against the dictatorship of relativism.

Only with a solid identity can we, as Catholics, have something positive and healthy to offer to the world at large, a clear voice offering important contributions in the public square.  Look, for example, at the clarity and courage of the Little Sisters of the Poor against the evil machinations of the Obama Administration.  They have a clear identity and they are steadfast.  As a result they provide an inspiring example and they keep certain values before the public eye.

Our identity as Catholics is inextricably bound together with the way we pray as a Church.

To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that reintegrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with the deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia.

Contrary to the notions of most progressivists, “the Catholic thing” did not begin in the 1960s.

There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past.

Liturgy is the tip of the spear.

Benedict XVI pointed us toward a healthier vision of the Church’s doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics.

Consider a parallel.  Reading the Fathers of the Church can help us, collectively, correct the way we have been reading Scripture, so much and too long under the domination of an over-played historical-critical method.  So too, the Extraordinary Form helps us learn how to worship God as a Church, which is not fragmented into tiny shards, and to reorient ourselves away from ourselves.

No positive initiative that we undertake in the Church will succeed unless it is rooted in and oriented by a revitalized sacred liturgical worship of God.  Everything comes from worship and everything goes back to worship in a dynamic, ongoing commercium.

Start your local movement for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum NOW.

More hard words and truth:

I don’t think we have a lot of time to waste.

¡Hagan lío!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Si vis pacem para bellum!, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Curley says:

    Fr Z-
    Any chance you could get an audience with Pope Benedict when you’re in Rome sometime? An interview on Summorum to be made public at his desire would be so fascinating.

  2. “… it was better for a priest to rape children or carry on an active sex life with other adults than to say the Latin Mass for people like us, “the crazies.”

    Yep! like Rome being terribly silent about the most recent orgy/drug raid at that Cardinal’s apartment. Sickening!

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, it doesn’t seem _likely_ that Father Z would be able to get a Benedict interview, given that the Emeritus is hardly giving them out at all. But heck, I’d be in favor of hearing his thoughts about cookies and milk, much less stuff of substance.

    PS – Yup, Vatican Miracle Examiner is out on Amazon’s Anime Strike, and yup, it is very dark and X-File-ish. Lots of Vatican scenes, except apparently Vatican offices come with retina scans and Mysterious Prefects Whom You Never See. Episode 1 is the first part of an investigation of a freakishly large Mexican or Texas parish complex, with lots of people Up to No Good. Contains spiritual warfare. Actually a pretty good depiction of Catholicism, for a Japanese anime.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    PPS – Of course, this being anime, all priests wear cassocks and collars, and the good guys all have perfect hair. However, this being an anime sleuthing show, they are sure that we ladies want to see a detective priest’s muscle-y torso in the first episode. So yeah, it’s full of crackiness. (Also, I now think the bad parish is supposed to be in Arizona. But your guess is as good as mine.)

  5. JamesA says:

    Wow, what an awesome idea about interviewing the Pontifex Emeritus !
    Father, we know you are personally aquainted with and used to work for (or in close proximity to) him. We also know he is aquainted with your blog and knows the good, hard work you have been doing for years. I’d bet if you really wanted to do it you could get an opportunity.
    Please think about it ! It may be an opportunity to get Benedict’s “last word” on the subject.

  6. tho says:

    There is no question of my love and admiration for Pope Benedict, but why did he retire and leave us at the mercy of these wolves? As I look around and observe the direction this Pope and his appointees are trying to take us, it reminds me of the end times in scripture. We Traditionalist need to form a dues paying society similar to the Holy Name or The Knights of Columbus, and no one is better organized to start it than Father Z. We need to get organized and to make our voices heard, right now we are being slapped around by a third rate theologian from Buenos Aires.

  7. L. Th. S. Martin says:

    The comparison to Badiou and The Event is shrewd. For a broader analysis of how this is playing out, I recommend Pr. Giovanni Turco’s ‘Axes de lecture philosophique de textes du pontificat actuel’ (Courrier de Rome LI, 593, Nov. 2016).

  8. Imrahil says:

    I am not a particularly devout man. I am inconstant and have numerous vices, which are easy to name. I attend the old Mass, in part, because it respects me as a sinner.

    Good point.

    In fact the New Mass seems somewhat to display the attitude: “Now that sins are no longer a Problem, get out and bring healing to the world; we’ll instruct you and refresh you to do so”, with the emphasis on the refreshing including the Nourishment perhaps even smaller than it should be.

  9. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “… it was better for a priest to rape children or carry on an active sex life with other adults than to say the Latin Mass for people like us, “the crazies.”

    That one who loves Our Lord’s Mass would write such hyperbole is very disappointing. Such things should not be said.

  10. Worm-120 says:

    An ex military friend told me that what Pope Emeritus Benedict did was a brilliant and very strategic military manoeuvre. He couldn’t fight them while they mouthed orthodoxy and hid in the shadows, the only way to effectively deal with them was to step back and allow them to show there true colours. Having played their hand so openly they cannot retreat back into the shadows. You can’t see the extent of the rot without opening up the wound.

  11. WYMiriam says:

    I see I’m late to the weapon-take, again, but this quote has got to be the quote of the month:

    >>And ten years on, I can only thank Pope Benedict for giving legal sanction to this august rite […]; this Mass where before the awful moment at which the bell is rung and the the sacrifice of Calvary breaks through into the present, *all clamor disappears into silence*.<< — Michael Brendan Dougherty

    That's, what?, reason #5,978 for Summorum Pontificum? This post is a real keeper. Thank you, Fr. Z!

  12. Pingback: 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum | Big Pulpit

  13. JamesA says:

    Benedict is no psychic. I have to believe that if he could have forseen the dumpster fire that ensued, he would have preferred to leave office feet first.

  14. JamesA says:

    Interesting idea, Worm, but I still tend to believe he had no more idea this would happen than the rest of us. Ultimately we have to have the faith that the Holy Spirit will set things right eventually.

Comments are closed.