Wherein Fr. Z rants… about and to diocesan priests

12_12_06_priesthoodA while back, I posted a comment on the post of a young man who had, quite properly, praised the work of those orders, fraternities and institutes set up under the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“.  He left out diocesan priests.

A few days ago, I posted about the conference held in Rome for the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.  There was, quite properly, fulsome praise for the same orders, fraternities and institutes.  They left out diocesan priests.

They also left out all of South and North America, but that’s another issue.

The orders, fraternities and institutes do great work.  However, the real gains will be made when the older, traditional form explodes out of those small settings into mainstream parish life.  That will happen when more diocesan priests take up their banners and run forward.

Priests of the orders, fraternities and institutes may experience a little local opposition from neighboring parishes and they may be watched carefully by the bishop.  However, they are where they are because the bishop said they could be.  Also, they have the full support from their own superiors.

Priests of dioceses, on the other hand, can face fierce opposition from their diocesan brethren as well as something akin to persecution from their bishops even for using a little Latin, preaching about Communion on the tongue, fostering only altar boys, making moves toward ad orientem worship even in the context of the Novus Ordo.  Let them implement Summorum Pontificum and… well….

The challenges of priests of orders, fraternities and institutes can be great, but, I submit, they are AA-Ball compared to the Major League obstacles faced by the garden variety, unsung diocesan priests who simply desire to be Roman Catholic in an increasingly hostile and volatile terrain.

Today I read a piece posted by Fr. Hunwicke at his fine and thoughtful page, Mutual Enrichment, which touches on the very points I’ve been making.

The aetiology and mechanics of Fear [Aetiology is the study of the origins and causes of things.]

I [Fr. H] have taken out a very moving Comment from the last thread; and I reproduce it here, with one or two personal details omitted, so that I can comment on it. My words express only my own views.

There is another territory to be heard; the diocesan clergy, and I can testify to the fear out there. I feel it myself; … I entered the diocesan priesthood from Lutheranism [As did I!] … my decision to sign may come with danger … Unfortunately, we live in times of great venality and danger for those who just express simple orthodoxy. Going this next step is necessary but fraught with peril. Cosmas and Damian, Cyprian and Justina, pray for our courage.”

Fear, my dear Father? You’ve certainly put your finger on it there. Perhaps you, like many of us, have spoken with brother priests who work in Rome, and who talk a great deal about the atmosphere of fear which pervades the clergy who serve the Holy See. [To which I can attest.] And, at the risk of breaking secrets, let me tell you about the most striking experience I personally had while we were preparing for the publication of the Correctio: clergy who agreed with it wholeheartedly but feared to take the risk. (But, thanks be to God, the signatories have now risen to 147.)  [One of the things that struck me about the sneering dismissals from the critics of the Correctio was that they, too, knew that thousands would have signed were it not for fear of the brutal lashback that would have come from their overlords.]

“Nobody spoke about him with boldness (parrhesia) because of fear …”(John 7:13). However, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”(I John 4:18).

Fear is quite beautiful, isn’t it, as a Satanic operational strategy? The Enemy disseminates Fear. He fills good honest men with guilt because they feel too fearful to do what they know they should do. And then, when the Correctio is published, his ministers sneer as they answer the journalists’ questions, and glibly point out how few signatories there are. As Marco Tossati has put it, “Belittle, label, marginalise”.

God, our most sweet Creator and Redeemer, works by Love, by the Blood of Christ which streams in the firmament. It is the Enemy who does his work by Fear. Since early in this pontificate, it is Fear, on wings of vituperation, that has cast its shadow.

As the Enemy realises that the Love of Christ is proving too powerful for him, his fury may very well urge him to even greater acts of violence. There may be more to endure before we are finished with it all. But it will be no match for the splendour which will radiate from the right hand of Mary (Fatima, Third Secret).

This is no time to lose our nerve.

Dear diocesan priests… dear brothers….

Do. Not. Lose. Your. Nerve.

We must be ready to take some hits now.

Learn the Traditional Form and begin catechizing your flocks about our patrimony and about the virtue of religion, about Mystery, about the Four Last Things.

The queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. fr.ctl says:

    While I agree that we have to be courageous, we also have to be smart. I think of the Lord’s words, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Many a secular priest is working in the midst of wolves: clerics and their ill formed laity who report to them, make accusations, and make life very hard sometimes. I’ve been reported to and threatened by the VG of my diocese for encouraging people to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and for offering Mass ad orientem. There is a terrible injustice committed by the very people who talk about justice ad nauseam. They tout inclusiveness, but they are the most exclusive bunch when it comes to someone of differing opinions or practices. It is critical to practice what we preach, dispose ourselves to grace, morally remain above reproach, be as charitable and joyful as possible, and do everything by the books. They are watching, and they have set snares for us.

  2. Poor Yorek says:

    From the Litany of Humility

    From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

  3. Here in New Jersey we have one FSSP chapel and one ICKSP oratory, but outside of that, we have 9 Diocesan TLMs and 2 more that will hopefully be regular occurrences!

    Because of the geographic distribution, anyone in NJ can access a Sunday TLM within 40 minutes. It’s really a blessing and an honor to be part of the group that is slowly but surely helping to make this happen.

    [Because of diocesan priests.]

  4. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY CATHOLICA EXTRA | Big Pulpit

  5. rdb says:

    Diocesan priests need both the aquired and infused virtues of prudence as well as courage. I am in constant contact with many other priests and diocesan seminarians. I have yet to find one (under the age of 50) who is, at the least, confused by Pope Francis. Most are sick if this ideological, power centered, unintellectual, narcissistic reign and just want it to be over. Many are rightly afraid of the consequences of speaking out and doing things that bring back reverence and transcendence to the Sacred Liturgy.

  6. MotherTeresa says:

    I would love to see more Diocesan TLM masses, but as a beleaguered parishioner within a Diocese that has suffered 50 years of extreme “Spirit of Vatican II” leadership, it is very difficult to trust in Diocesan leadership. Bad Bishops can (and have) destroyed any and all traditional parishes in our region just by transferring good young orthodox priests to East Jabip. The FSSP parish (in an adjacent Diocese), which we are blessed to live within driving distance of, is not as subject to the whims of the Bishop. I know there are several young priests our Diocese that would love to do TLM masses, but the logistics are extremely challenging, and even if they started build a successful community, with the current bishop’s blessing, there is no assurance that the next bishop would permit them to continue. I am afraid the growth of TLM over the next few generations may depend more on the fortunes of the Traditional Fraternities and Orders than one would hope.

    [They will play a role, to be sure. But the real progress will come when diocesan priests come aboard.]

  7. CPT TOM says:

    I have had the great good fortune to head our small Latin Mass society in our rural city parish in a North Eastern Diocese that was once almost in the Enemy’s grasp. We have been fortunate these last few years to be blessed with a new orthodox, and tradition friendly bishop, as well as a half dozen new priests.

    The Bishop has moved the Diocese Latin Mass Community to a new home in one of the formerly shuttered churches in a excellent neighborhood (previously the in the Cities combat zone) in the diocese main city, and given them a Chaplain who is one of the few older priests who love the old Mass left. He suffered greatly under the old bishop by the way and is a good and humble priest, it is good to see this mercy for him.

    All of the young priests have come through our humble parish to say the Mass monthly for us, a few for an extended period of time, it has been a joy to have them come. They are all exceptionally good both liturgically and “pastorally,” Solid men. We are so pleased we have had them here, and had a small part in their formation.

    However now, most of them are headed to be Parochial Administrators, so they are going to be unavailable. The new priest we had signed up was “reminded” by his pastor that his duties and attention belongs to his parish. So we have no priest right now to say the old Mass and none that want to learn how. *sigh* So yes, I keenly aware of the importance of having diocesan priests on board.
    [And it must not be isolated in one place, like a ghetto.]

  8. CPT TOM says:

    Yes absolutely Father Z. My sincere hope with these young men taking over parishes, and those who follow, the old Mass will spread as they take it to their parishes. It is also good, as our diocese needs the infusion of orthodox shepherds, and they are the point of the spear. May the Saints Bless and strengthen all good priests in their duties, and encourage other men to follow them into the fields. God bless you Father, and his peace be with you!

  9. Mike says:

    This post speaks to so many quiet success stories that can never be told while faithful Catholics labor under the sword of Damocles.

    Suffice it to say that every Traditional Latin Mass offered by a courageous diocesan priest brings him (and his flock) untold and unimaginable graces. Every interior correspondence with those graces enhances his ability to save souls. And visible correspondence with those graces also increases the number of Catholics who can tell the difference between worship of God and worship of the Zeitgeist and fortifies their resolve.

    Let us pray for an ongoing increase of wisdom and fortitude. As Father says, now is no time to grow slack.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The other thing to notice is that a lot of younger priests out there, even those who think of themselves as liberals, are starting to do some fairly conservative liturgical practices, without it seeming strange to them or their parishioners. And they don’t seem to be getting reported or pushed around.

    For example, I recently ran into a daily Mass said by a pretty liberal guy whose Sunday Masses are pretty standard. But at the daily Mass, he chanted some bits (in Latin as well as English), he recited the propers instead of just being silent (or using hymns, because it was a quick Mass), and did a bunch more stuff that was traditional. And it wasn’t like he thought he was being daring; it was clearly something he’d been doing for a while. And I gather there have been some other gradual changes at his Sunday Masses, so he’s probably heading that way for Sundays, too.

    I think a lot of priests are studying up, trying to learn and grow in their vocation. I also think that a lot of people who weren’t all that fond of Pope Benedict are starting to appreciate his teaching, now that they aren’t absorbed in fighting him off.

    Brick by brick. It is a thing.

  11. You’ll be pleased to know that the pontifical Mass at the Throne at the Cathedral Basilica in Philadelphia for the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, which was broadcast on EWTN, was pretty much entirely a diocesan effort. The archpriest, deacon, subdeacon, and two deacons-of-honor were all diocesan priests, mostly pastors of parishes who celebrate the TLM on top of their other ministries. One or two FSSP priests attended in-choir (amidst many diocesan clergy and seminarians), but not one priest from a religious order or Ecclesia Dei society was involved in putting the Mass together. That’s a lot of work when you don’t do this sort of thing every day!

    [It’s a lot of work when you DO do it often! We have 4-6 a year here. And it is entirely DIOCESAN. Thank you, Extraordinary Ordinary!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  12. NBW says:

    I feel for the diocesan priests under liberal bishops

  13. hwriggles4 says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. Over the past several years (I am a lay person, a Catholic man, and a revert), I have really noticed that diocesan priests today are the ones “in the trenches.” From the “Creasters” to the daily Mass attendees, the diocesan priest is a witness. This is one reason reverent Masses are important, as well as discussion on the Real Presence and the importance of confession. Ever notice the parishes with longer lines on Saturdays have parish priests who discuss confession? Please take the time to support and encourage a parish priest particularly on preaching, since on the average two out of every three parishioners will forget what was preached by 0700 hours Monday morning.

    I once heard a story where a recently ordained priest received this advice from his first pastor: “10 percent of the parish will like you, 10 percent will dislike you, and 80 percent won’t even know who you are.” It’s sad, but that’s not far from the truth for most parish priests (and some protestant pastors will say something similar about their congregations).

  14. Antiquorum says:

    The societies are wonderful and necessary , but yes, diocesan priests are key to bringing tradition into your friendly neighborhood parish.

    The priests in my diocese are stretched very thin. There’s unfortunately not much in the way of vocations in spite of the large amount of Catholics that live here. The liturgy is in a very sad state here. If there are any priests that are willing to learn the TLM, I think having time will be very difficult for them. How does someone like me, a time strapped parent, help a time strapped priest who may be willing to learn?

    We thankfully have a latin mass society here, and a wonderful, retired priest who says the mass for the society. Its current “home” is in a parish not in the best of areas. I think the priestly societies and diocesan priests, especially diocesan, are necessary in order to help people to put down roots and raise the next generation of faithful Catholics. If a TLM society is having to move around constantly, or is only begrudgingly allowed at a parish, it’s really hard to put down roots in one place and support a parish who’s pastor is hostile towards the group’s presence at his parish.

  15. tho says:

    A diocesan priest who is in his, say 50s, decides to implement his rights according to Summorum Pontificum and the powers that be are not sympathetic to his desires. Where is his safety net? He could be hung out to dry, no place to live, no income and no health insurance. Bishops who believe that our future is in our past should make it known, that they would provide for any priest that is treated in a vindictive way.
    Of course, I write this not knowing the intricacies of diocesan life or even parish life. I can only use my imagination to surmise these events.

  16. Dirk1973 says:

    In Belgium it’s almost suicide for a diocesan priest to even speak the words tradition or old mass (as we call it here). Almost every parish is run by parish committees, liturgical groups and singing choirs, the priest has nothing to say in most cases. These people see these things as their hobby, their own thing and it will happen the way they want, to hell with catholic teachings and the catholic Church. And then we have the bishops wich are ALL modernists who raised pope Francis to sainthood already. 95% of Belgian diocesan priests are older than 70 and almost all of them are children of the devastating sixties. Even ten years after SP, the extraordinary form is treated with great hostility. In Bruges there’s a mass once a month and it was only approved by the local bishop (current cardinal De Kesel) if the doors of the church were closed during that mass so nobody would notice it.
    Dear Father Z, it’s a wasteland here and thank God we have the SSPX and FSSP in Brussels and Antwerp (Thx to Mgr Léonard). It’s really hard to see a former 100% catholic country like Belgium turning into a catholic wasteland in only 30 years. Now the bishops and diocesan committees are asking Belgian people to open up to Islam…
    Pray to Our Lady of Flanders…

  17. Hans says:

    My parish priest and I have discussed the possibility of having OF daily Mass ad orientem, especially after I experienced it that way assisting as a deacon on my retreat this past May with the good Benedictines at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Bridgeport on the south side of Chicago.

    However, I have a practical question about the altar. The original altar (and the side altars, also) was (were) modified about twenty years ago so that it is (they are) too small — quite intentionally — to say Mass there.

    So, this is my question: Is there any reason why we couldn’t turn around on the ‘table’ altar to face (liturgical) east? That was my suggestion, but I don’t know if there would be any reason (rubrical or otherwise) against it, though I haven’t found anything.

    Of course, the next issue would be how to avoid my confrère from going into cardiac arrest when he finds out about it; he was apoplectic when I suggested that the Agnus Dei be in Latin occasionally.

  18. Fr. Kelly says:

    There is no rubrical reason not to use the table altar _ad orientem_. As far as other reasons like, Is the step big enough to approach the altar from the front without falling off? Is there a big flower pot blocking access to the front of the altar?, etc, you can only answer by looking at your sanctuary.

    I have been saying Mass _ad orientem_ on a table altar for going on three years now. At first I built a series of blocks to fill in the top of the steps since I had the short step problem. Eventually, (Careful not to lift it off the ground entirely, lest it lose its consecration) we moved the altar forward to give more space in front of it. Since then all Masses in my parish have been _ad orientem_, including confirmation by the Bishop.

    [As for “lifting” the altar from the floor and desecration… close. It is highly improbable that a movable altar would be consecrated. Blessed, perhaps. Nisi fallor, An altar loses its consecration if the table/mensa is broken in a significant way, or by removing the mensa from the supports, or by removing the cover of the sepulcher. A portable altar most likely has an altar stone in it. It loses consecrated by removal of the cover of the sepulcher or by a break where it was anointed, much as in the case of the mensa of a fixed altar.]

  19. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Fr. Z.
    It is for this reason that we were careful. Ours is a fixed altar which was consecrated about 9 years ago. I did not want to take any chances of desecrating it and so I checked with or Vicar General about the move we made. His opinion was consonant with yours.
    It is not a portable altar. Moving it was not a trivial matter, but we managed to do it and then fastened it down again.

    Apart from truly portable altars (like the ones you have showed us from St. Joseph’s Apprentice), it ought not to be an easy thing to move an altar.

  20. Hans says:

    This altar is movable — and has an altar stone of recent addition — though these days it usually is moved only once a year; when I was early in formation we had an administrator and a resident who had a contest of pushing it forward and back according to their preferred location. That stopped when the administrator was named pastor and put the brakes on; now the one is retired and the other is teaching in Trastevere.

    I would also appreciate someone’s (or even severalones’) overview of the highlights of a catechesis of why ad orientem is better. I have my own ideas, as I’ve said, but there likely are good and effective reasons I haven’t thought of, and these sorts of things often end in my lap …

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