Points of difference, debate, argument. What are we really about? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

At NLM Peter Kwasniewski has a great post in which he lays out the typical debates that engage those who frequent the Traditional Latin Mass and those who attend the Novus Ordo.

Let’s have a taste:

In the world of the usus antiquior, we find certain disagreements. Here are some examples:

  • whether orchestral Masses (e.g., Mozart’s) should be performed, or whether they run contrary to the spirit of the liturgy;
  • whether to follow exactly the Solesmes rhythmic markings or to incorporate the findings of chant paleography;
  • whether the people should sing the Mass Ordinary together with the choir;
  • whether a Gothic chasuble is better, worse, or equal to, a Roman fiddleback;
  • whether to remove the chasuble before preaching, or only the maniple;
  • whether buckled shoes are worth reviving or may be considered an affectation;
  • whether this much lace is too much lace.


In the world of the Novus Ordo, we also find disagreements—indeed, quite a number of them. Here are examples:

  • whether the Mass is primarily to be understood and enacted as a sacrifice or as a meal;
  • whether the language used should be the age-old Latin, a “sacral” vernacular, or a contemporary vernacular;
  • whether traditional sacred music should be employed a lot, a little, or never, with modern popular styles in its place;
  • whether the priest in accord with bimillenial tradition should offer the Mass facing eastwards, or rather facing the people;
  • whether the priest should pray the only traditional Roman anaphora, the Roman Canon, or choose another one from the menu;
  • whether Mass should be recognizably the same throughout the world or radically inculturated;
  • whether women should serve in as many liturgical ministries as possible, or the tradition of men only in the sanctuary should be retained;
  • whether lay people should handle the true Body and Blood of Christ, or whether, in keeping with the entire Catholic tradition, only bishops, priests, and deacons should do so;
  • whether this sacrosanct, august Mystery of the Flesh and Blood of God should be placed on the tongues of kneeling faithful, or into the hands of people standing in line.

It is not difficult to see that the number, nature, and magnitude of disagreements in this realm vastly exceed those found in the traditional realm. These disagreements, let us be honest about it, are more like warfare between countries. The sides are embedded in their trenches; they fire away with belligerence and take no hostages. Indeed, if someone in 1950 had been given a list of the disputed points above, he would have reasonably assumed that it was an accurate statement of disagreements separating Catholics from Protestants, or believers from modernists.

This monumental contrast between the two worlds should give us pause and prompt serious reflection. How does this welter of deep disagreements across the board about the lex orandi of Paul VI (and, therefore, inevitably, about the lex credendi of the People of God) square with the consistent teaching and practice of Paul VI’s namesake?


Read the whole thing there.

Good points.

I’m am especially interested in how changing demographics in the Church will affect this bifurcation.

From what I read, many dioceses will experience a sharp drop in the number of working priests pretty soon.  Also, it looks as if fewer and fewer young people will self-identify as Catholic.   Hence, the numbers of Masses (and graces) will drop off like an anvil shoved out of an airplane.

That said, traditional groups are growing, their ordinations and locations are rising.  Younger priests may not be well-versed in tradition, but – from what I can glean – a majority want to know more and want to have their heritage.

It is NOT time to rest on your achievements, if you have obtained what you wanted.

Now it is time to GET TO WORK.

Get out there and evangelize among young people and fallen-away Catholics, especially.  Be inviting!  And when they say, “Yes”, after the fifth invitation, make sure they have a good experience.

Every one in every traditional parish or chapel anywhere and everywhere: be on your vest best, joyful, behavior every time you are in any situation where there could be newcomers, which means principally Sunday Mass.

Put aside your small quibbles and JOIN TOGETHER.

We can no longer afford stupid bickering and tenaciously selfish protectionism when it comes to pet points or pride.


To do this, your first step must involve some examination not just of conscience but also about GOALS.  Some might say “values clarification”.  What is it that you truly value?   What do you want to accomplish?

IF you love what you have, then how can you stand not sharing the joy with others?

IF you long for something enough, then how can you stand not trying to make it happen?

Fr. Z asks: What’s your “WHY?” 

Do you have a big enough WHY? to change the way things are or to attain new goals?

WHY are you in this?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Intermediate, many of the problems in the Ordinary Form would go away with simply making the suggestions of the GIRM Law:

    Ex: Require Eucharistic Prayer I to be used on Sundays and Solemnities (365.a) as well as restrict Eucharistic Prayer II to Ferias (365.b), leaving EP3 as optional for weekday feasts.

    and would best to go beyond:

    Require ad orientem for at least the Canon and require future construction to be traditional aka Benedictine altar arrangement with a baldachin moreso than many post 16th century high altars.

    Require at least some Latin in the Latin Rite for at the parts that are the same every Mass: Dominus Vobiscum, Gloria, Creed…

    Require the Office to be in Latin so priests and seminarians are forced to learn it. Dispense the older priests who can’t be expected to learn it quickly.

  2. What bones of contention in both forms of the Roman Mass have in common, is a lack of reliability upon (which is not always to be confused with a respect for) the authority of the Church. With the ordinary form, the GIRM is disregarded in the choice of Eucharistic Prayer, as are the proper roles of clergy vs laity. With the extraordinary form, a 1903 decree that the Ordinary of the Mass belongs to the people, and the Pian reforms of Holy Week are not trusted in the use of the 1962 Missal. At least a generation of confusion in the Church, has made disregard of authority a bad habit for some, and the result of a defensive posture in defending tradition for others.

  3. ServusChristi says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that the latter disagreements represent more the rift between Protestants and Catholics. Mind you, it reminds me of what the English Protestants did to the liturgy after 1530.
    From the way I see things in my archdiocese, the Novus Ordo parishes are shrinking especially in the youth- I know a priest who pastors 6 parishes. There is also only one FSSP chapel in the entire parish where the TLM is offered and visitors normally tell us that there’s massive differences between the mass and the novus ordo mass.
    Whilst I really want to share the joy for the TLM and the doctrine of the mass as taught in Trent with others, I find myself confronted with much resistance from ‘modern liturgists’, nuns, priests and laypeople who are liturgical progressives and would advocate all of the later points in the NO disagreements and so much more.

  4. LeeGilbert says:

    In a footnote to a related article a week ago on NLM Dr. Kwasniewski wrote, “This rupture best illustrates the untenability of asserting that the usus antiquior and the usus recentior are merely two versions of the same thing, namely, the Roman Rite.”

    But if we have two rites, do we not have two churches? It seems to me that insisting that they are two different rites argues either for 1) The suppression of one of them in the interest of intramural unity or 2) an ecclesiological re-configuration, where the Latin rite is distinguished from the Roman rite and given its own patriarch.

    I imagine this second option is super-problematic, if not impossible, yet were it possible such a church (within the Catholic Church, like the Maronites) could readily accommodate efforts such as Mariawald, The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, etc.

    From a “political,” human point of view, this might be entirely out of the question, but is it entirely out of the question theologically, canonically?

  5. tamranthor says:

    My *why* is twofold.

    My husband became a good and faithful Catholic after years of many rosaries I offered to Our Lady. He knows the difference between a true and lively faith and the watered down, don’t-offend-anybody faith offered by his previous ELCA faith.

    Also, my 11 year old son, who sits still for nothing, including haircuts and math tests, but is a little rock of attention and posture when he serves the Mass.

    Both demand the respect and adoration of Our Lord that is simply not evident at the NO and is more than evident at the TLM.

  6. LeeGilbert says:

    In this morning’s article “What the Difference in Disagreements Can Teach Us” Prof. Peter Kwasniewski juxtaposes the Usus Antiquor with the Novus Ordo, with preference for the received form. While this choice seems ineluctable, it sidesteps a third possibility whose dynamic is certain to appear even if the Usus Antiqor were adopted universally, and that is the organic development of the Usus Antiqor.

    Clearly the Novus Ordo is not such a development, and is in fact a rupture of that development.
    Nevertheless, pre-Vatican II quite a lot of liturgical scholarship was pointing to and effecting a reform of the Usus Antiquor. Is it all to be dismissed out of hand, together with the Novus Ordo? Although liturgical scholars in both camps may be dismissive of this scholarship now, the scholarship of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, nevertheless the issues addressed then will inevitably come to the forefront and need to be addressed even if, especially if, the Usus Antiquor were to become the preferred liturgy of the entire Church.

    This is not merely academic. I can think of a monastery of Carmelite nuns most of whom had been attending Usus Antiquor for more than ten years, and also singing the seven offices in Latin. Now having been sent on a new foundation they have decided after five years to revert to the Novus Ordo for most of their Masses. For one thing, they want to be on the same calendar as the rest of the Church. For another, at least one ( multilingual) nun said that for her the singing of the psalms in English now renders them “in 3-D and technicolor.” For them, Latin has become passé. Devout, holy, conversative, they relived the experience of the Church in the mid 20th c. and have set the Usus Antiquor aside, although not wholly. All this I mention because it seems predictive.

    While “one can never be mistaken in principle for adhering to tradition,” as he writes, one can be mistaken in adhering to tradition in a way that is not traditional. Here one wonders if the same principles that apply to the development of doctrine apply mutatis mutandi to the development of the liturgy. Does there not have to be room to accommodate the freedom of the sons of God, and various usages compatible with the tradition?

    If our “adhering to tradition” comes off as mere antiquarianism, if no development is possible, then ironically it is very unlikely that the rest of the Church will receive the tradition we want to hand on to them. In other words, it seems that the most politic answer and even the most traditional answer to which of the listed controverted practices is permitted in celebrating the Usus Antiquor is “all of them . . .and more.” Would that not be handing on the tradition in a traditional manner?

  7. KateD says:

    “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? … It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice … Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.”

    It’s an old and oft ridiculed meme, but there’s a lot of wisdom there…..

    For the reasons of anvil drop offs as mentioned in the post, I think we MUST HAVE THE TRIDENTINE MASS OFFERED at EVERY PARISH. Priests and bishops have got to learn it.

  8. tamranthor says:

    Perhaps, as a possible way of mending the rift, we were to begin to require that the NO be celebrated ad orientem, with Latin responses from time to time, until people begin to see the beauty that is NOT the Father Show. Maybe allow at least a millisecond of time post-communion for private prayer instead of blasting the parishioners with treacly off-key music. Perhaps training altar servers to dress appropriately, behave appropriately, and show decorum. Maybe NOT let the pantsuited ladies parade up to the altar to grab Holy Communion and then hand it out like so many stale crackers.

    I truly believe that, given the chance to experience the transcendent, rather than the ever-so-earthy hippie garbage (which is about 40 years out of date, anyway), most folks would rather be worshipping God rather than themselves.

    But the never see it, because it threatens so many power-mongering lay “ministers” and lonely, attention-seeking priests.

    So, we pray, and seek out the TLM where it may be found.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    I think David Alexander is onto something. It is difficult at this time to trust the exercise of authority of those in power when you have Church leaders calling for blessing of same sex unions, giving communion to divorced and remarried couples, and so on. Could we trust this group to for example update the 1962 Missal as part of an organic evolution such as adding new saints or moving the calendars more in sync with the OF? Especially when you hear talk of trying to roll back the revised English translations or revise the Our Father.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Great NLM article and post. I second what iPadre said.

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