Card. Sarah: The priesthood is in mortal danger. Wherein Fr. Z rants to priests.

Ed Pentin, still the best, working English Vaticanista hands down, posted at the NCReg an interview with Robert Card. Sarah.  The Cardinal talks about the book, to be released in English in March.

I’ve read it already (advance English copy and French).  Fathers, especially, it is WORTH your time!

US Pre-Order Soon HERE for 12 March 2020 release! – FRENCH HERE

The take away…

Your Eminence, why did you want to write this book?

Because the Christian priesthood is in mortal danger! It’s going through a major crisis.

Some important points.

[…] there is a deep flaw in their formation.  The priest is a man set apart for the service of God and the Church. He is a consecrated person. His whole life is set apart for God. And yet they wanted to desacralize priestly life. They wanted to trivialize it, to render it profane, to secularize it. They wanted to make the priest a man like any other. Some priests were formed without putting God, prayer, the celebration of Mass, the ardent search for holiness at the center of their lives.


[T]hey wanted to muzzle Benedict XVI. I must confess my revolt at the slander, violence and rudeness to which he has been subjected. Benedict XVI wanted to speak to the world, but they tried to discredit his words.


All these polemics are a diversionary tactic to avoid talking about the essential, the content of the book.


[T]he real problem in the Amazon is not the ordination of married deacons. The real issue is that of evangelization. We have renounced proclaiming the faith, salvation in Jesus Christ. Too often we have become humanitarian assistants or social workers.


The West is out of breath. The West is old, with all its renunciations and resignations. It waits, without perhaps being aware of it, for youth, for the rawness of the Gospel’s demand for holiness. So it waits for priests who are radically saints.

A few points of my own.

First, on the final clipping above, I have had recently a few conversations in which the topic of saints for our time has come up.  Where are the saints for our time?  Has not God always raised up saints in each time when the Church was in need of great reform?

Couple that with the old chestnut that “we get the priests we deserve”, and we have a rather grim prospect.

But we must never be downhearted about even grim prospects.

Of all the universes God could have created, He created this one, into which He called us into existence at exactly the right point in time and with exactly the right set of tools to carry out our little piece of His overarching, divine Plan.

If we dedicate ourselves to our state in life, as it is hic et nunc, here and now, God will give us all the actual graces we need to fulfill our part in His economy of salvation.

It is an honor to have been called by God to live in these difficult times.  Fidelity and the pursuit of His will bring greater graces than if our paths were smooth.

As for priests, just as a war-fighter in dire harm’s way is in the safest place spiritually he can be if he acts out of duty and love of God, family and country, so too the priest. Even if the priest is trodden on by his more powerful clerical brethren and unfairly attacked by world-mired laity, he is in the safest spiritual place he can be if he acts out of love of God, Church and patria. Perhaps this is why old soldiers and old priests tend to be great friends.

Next, while the world swirls and ebbs and crashes about us priests, I take note of the old Carthusian motto: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis… While the world spins, the Cross stands still.  The Cross, therefore the Sacrifice of Christ, is the fixed point of the fullness of time.  The priest and the Cross are inseparable, for the whole reason of the priest’s priesthood is to offer sacrifice, to renew the Sacrifice of Calvary as alter Christus, in persona Christi capitis.

If the myriad options for the priest in this heaving world are confusing, and if there have been deep flaws in the formation of priests – as Sarah and Benedict hold – there is one thing that the priest can always do, without dependence on the permission or approval of any other, to shore up the dikes and battlements, to fill in the gaps and the breaches.

He can learn the Traditional Latin Mass.

A compelling reason to learn it, Fathers, is because, clerical and lay alike, we are our rites.   Who is the Roman Catholic priest if he doesn’t know his own Rite?  Who is he?  If you don’t know your Traditional Roman Rite, then you don’t know the Roman Rite.

Next, an nonagenarian priest friend of mine,  has recounted to me what it was like at an all male Catholic academy and on the campus of a Catholic college when the changes to the Mass started to hit in the 60s.  He described how the attitude of the cadets and students changed almost overnight.  They began to lose discipline during Mass.  They started showing disrespect to the priests beyond mere young male testing.

That’s an anecdote.  But a telling anecdote.   I couple it with the remark of the late Card. Heenan.  When he saw the demonstration of the future Novus Ordo Missae, he quipped that men would not want to go to it.

My nonagenarian priest friend described the TLM as being like a suit of armor.  It both stands on its own and it protects the one who wears it.

As an aside which isn’t an aside at all, if there is a crisis in the Church and the priesthood, it is also due to a crisis of masculinity in the Church and across society.

Fathers, you don’t need permission to learn the TLM.  You don’t need permission or approval to learn it and to say it.

Time and again, priests have told me that learning the TLM changed them profoundly.  They began to grasp aspects of their priesthood which they hadn’t gleaned before.  In turn, that produces a knock on effect in other aspects of their work, in particular how they celebrate the Novus Ordo.  Congregations note the differences.  The knock on effect continues to knock.

For some of you priests out there, learning the TLM will be difficult.   Things that are worth pursuing usually are.

One thing that will be hard to overcome is the lack of Latin.

Ohhhh how the Enemy our souls brilliantly maneuvered his agents when Latin was eradicated from schools and seminaries!

The Enemy doesn’t want you to learn the TLM.  At all cost, the treasury door – nay rather, armory! – must remain slammed and barred.  You must be denied your priestly patrimony!  A thousand distractions will assail you.  Doubts will pop up.  The demonically oppressed, even your pastors or bishops and other clergy, will undermine you or persecute you or bully you into giving up.  This will happen to many of you.   When it does, invoke your angels and Mary, Queen of the Clergy, to protect you.

You can do this.  Latin isn’t a mystical Eldorado that only a few can attain.  As my old mentor Fr. Foster, famous Latinist, used to quip facetiously but factually, “In ancient Rome even the dogs and prostitutes knew Latin.”  Over the centuries, countless priests of room temperature IQ learned Latin for the Mass.   They didn’t have to dissertate with the eloquence of Leo the Great.  If St. John Vianney could do it, so can you.  And most of you may wind up being good at it.

Remember: Latin is a language, not multivariable calculus.  The subjunctive is just another mode of speaking about things, not the Collatz Conjecture or the Large Cardinal Property.

Well… it might be that last one.

I am firmly convinced that no project which we undertake in the Church will succeed unless it flows from, is connected to, and returns to our sacred liturgical worship.

By the virtue of Religion, we have to order our acts rightly.  This means pleasing worship of God.  Benedict XVI’s gift to the Church in Summorum Pontificum, was precisely intended to bring about a healing and renewal of the whole Church through a renewal and healing of her worship, such that we can create a bulwark in the face of future tumult.

Fathers.  You can do this.   It will be hard.  It has to be done.

One way to respond to what Card. Sarah and Benedict XVI wrote, and to respond to The Present Crisis in the Church, and to give something beautiful to God and his people is to…

… learn the Traditional Latin Mass.

Give it to yourselves.

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, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Latin, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries, Semper Paratus, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Skeinster says:

    Not a brick, but a tiny mosaic tile:
    Volunteered to lead part of the Rosary before weekday Mass and asked the other ladies to please be patient, as I usually say it in Latin and might have to hesitate and re-calibrate. Afterwards, one of our younger members asked me if I would say the Ave for her, as she had never heard it before. I did so, and she said ‘Oh, that’s lovely.’

  2. scoot says:

    Inspired by your side-bar quote that “it’s not so much a distinction to know latin as it is disgraceful to not know it”, I started teaching myself latin and publishing mini-lessons on my blog. I’m going through prayers and trying to suss out the rules I can get from a very thorough online dictionary and researching the grammar on wikipedia. It’s no replacement for formal education by any stretch, but it’s a start.

    Thank you, as always, for the reminder that it is our honor to live in these times. God has a role in mind for each of us, it is for us to rise to the occasion. Cdl Sarah is an inspiration.

  3. JabbaPapa says:

    If this book had fallen into my hands shortly after my initial conversion, it is very likely that I would have been baptised years earlier, and that I would have considered the priesthood far more seriously than I did.

    Beyond the topical content concerning the priestly celibacy, this wonderful little book is a brilliant meditation on the whole of Sacramentality as such.

  4. Herman Joseph says:

    Fr Z, you are absolutely right about the Mass: the Saints were able to do what they did because they loved the Mass and received the Eucharist with all their hearts and gave all their hearts to He Who is the Eucharist. I’m wondering though if you could add a phrase to use alternately with your spot on “Go to Confession!” admonition: “Love Mary!” Mary leads to Jesus, Mary leads to the Eucharist, Mary leads to sacred liturgical worship. Without her, it’s not going to happen, and yet there is overall so little said about her, even at solid parishes. No Mary, no Jesus; in fact, the devil’s motto is “Anything bu Mary!” Once she comes into the picture, he loses. For things to change, we need giant amount of people who love her like crazy.

  5. Gaby Carmel says:

    Father, recently, whenever I want to ‘share’ one of your posts, what comes up is often quite different, even three or four items behind the post I want to share. Why is this? I now make sure I sign in first, but this does not necessarily improve things.

    [Be sure to click the share buttons under the correct post.]

  6. Discipula says:

    @scoot If you’d like a good Latin textbook there is one on archive org that my college Latin professor sometimes used, Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin by Rev. H.P.V. Nunn that was printed about a hundred years ago.

  7. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Perhaps those of us who have been lucky enough to learn Latin at school can all make an effort to help those less fortunate.

    I offer a free class in Beginners Latin before Mass every Sunday. If it sounds like Im doing a favour let me say at once it’s the other way round, a source of constant joy to me. My pupils so far have ranged from age 10 to 60, and included a Japanese, a Dutch, a Luxembourger and a Hungarian.

    My current group started 10 weeks ago. Tomorrow Im going to get them to analyse the grammar of the Ave Maria. A simple exercise but really satisfying for people who thought Latin Prayers were beyond reach.

    There are many good textbooks available but personally I use the Cambridge Classics Project.

  8. Adelle Cecilia says:

    For those interested:
    Memoria Press has some very nice Latin curricula. In addition to the general Latin lessons, they also include the Our Father, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, table blessing, and more. Our Catholic co-op uses the various age-appropriate selections, and we’ve been happy with them.

  9. padredana says:

    Amen! Father, AMEN! I would not be the priest I am, or be able to deal with what I am dealing with, were it not for the TLM. Every priest should learn it. It WILL change your priestly life for the better. Besides, the devil hates it.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  10. mysticalrose says:

    I’m only a mom, but my husband and I are raising our sons with the full knowledge of what the priesthood really is, in case they have a vocation. We just told them this morning before altar boy practice that when Father vests in the sacristy, he’s preparing for war, and that they as altar boys are part of the battalion so they can’t fool around. Their jaws dropped, and one of them likened it to being the young boys in the Spartan army (we had just covered this in history). Ha!

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I have mentioned it before, but Latin 101 on The Great Courses is great, and is not afraid to use Vulgate as well as Classical Latin readings. If you have Amazon Prime, you can add on the Grencluding s channel including Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

  12. monstrance says:

    Yes the evil one hates it-
    This hate has infected the Church.
    Once I was discussing the SSPX with a diocesan priest. He referred to them as “idiots”, and stated that the traditional Mass contained an entirely different theology that was anti-Semitic and no longer acceptable.
    Fr Z might might want to comment on the theological perception.

    [Who was the idiot in this tale?]

  13. JamesA says:

    “Only”, madam ? You are in the trenches working to save Western Civilization, as much as the good priests represented here.
    God bless you.

  14. fr.ignatius says:

    So I agree tlm is important…. but it isn’t the single answer.

    There are plenty of homosexual double life living priests who offer the old mass on a very regular basis. There are plenty of porn addict priests offering the ef on a regular basis…..

    It ain’t a magic bullet fr. In fact in itself it is neither here nor there. All the abusers in the 60s offered the ef on a daily basis.

    I know the ef is superior to the of. I buy that, but a priest won’t be changed solely by offering it.

    We are may more complex and the only answer is total conformity of our minds, morals and affect, indeed our entire person, to the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose character we share in.

    The program

  15. RosaryRose says:

    Fr.Ignatius writes “I know the ef is superior to the of. I buy that, but a priest won’t be changed solely by offering it.”

    Father, I am not a priest. I am a layperson. I have never offered Mass. I have been in the congregation. I have read and I have studied and I have observed.

    I believe a priest will be changed by the Extraordinary Form of the Mass when he offers it correctly in a state of Grace and offers it with ALL his heart, soul, mind and body.

    How could he not be changed? The prayers of the EF take the priest to a deeper more intimate place of worship.

    One of the beautiful gifts of BXVI’s SP is the priests who are learning and offering the EF do so out of interest or desire, not because they are commanded to. They come seeking a deeper way to worship Christ.

    As the number of EF Masses grows, more Catholics will realize that THE mystery of our (Catholic) faith is that Christ is truly present on the altar, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity.

    Will every single priest be changed? Will every single person in the congregation be moved? No, most likely not. We won’t let that stop us. Judas could not be changed either, and Christ Himself taught him.

    Spread the EF, pray for our priests! Keep marching on soldiers!!

  16. TonyO says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for these direct words – but they are inspiring words too. I hope more priests take you up on this.

    To Fr. Ignatius:

    There are “plenty” of EF priest who are actively engaged in homosexual behavior? Well, let’s admit that even one is too many, but “plenty”? Proof, please.

    Neither Fr. Z nor anyone else said that learning Latin and saying the EF is a “magic bullet”, so it seems to be a straw man argument to declare that. Of course any priest (as well as any lay person) needs many more things in their arsenal than just one. But as far as “magic bullets” go, the Mass is the source and summit of Christian life, and the single most important thing we do day in and day out. It is, also, the source of sanctifying grace and actual graces, and is therefore an antidote to nonsense thinking about “magic”: there is no magic in this world, but there are demons and there are angels and there is the supernatural power of God which we call upon because He told us to.

    (Also, the EF Mass may not, (in itself), have greater access to sanctifying grace than the OF does, but receiving actual graces depends very much on the disposition of the recipient, and by declaring that the EF is, of itself, the better form of Mass, we are saying that it lends itself to better preparation and disposition for receiving actual graces. This is made clear from – among many other things – paying attention to the incredibly poverty that the old (former ICEL versions) of the OF propers have compared to the EF, which Fr. Z has made manifest over the course of years of careful work.)

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Even the most humble forms of popular devotion will change people. The spiritualities that people adopt as devotional frameworks will change people. Heck, the way people think about trivial hobbies will change people.

    So why wouldn’t a form of Mass have the power to form people this way or that? Surely people who go to Byzantine or Maronite Masses are formed in different Catholic ways from each other, or from other valid Catholic forms of Mass. And the documents about establishing the OF changes were convinced that the OF would help change people, and that was one of the reasons given for making changes.

    (Of course Pope Paul VI hoped the change would be for the better, in various ways; he wanted to establish a modern Catholic form of spirituality for people who were shy of the old ways, in the hope that they would become closer to Christ. Whether he succeeded or not, or whether or not his collaborators were as sincere in their love for Christ, there’s no doubt about what he was trying.)

    The OF isn’t going to stop anyone from being a saint, whether or not it makes it easier or harder. But the EF is bound to have an effect on people, and so is the OF, and so is every other form of Mass. We don’t expect to spend time with God or mess about with our souls, and go unchanged.

  18. snegopad says:

    I am pretty good at Latin, but I would like to learn to translate the PSALMS, which is a very difficult task…
    Which Dictionary is there , especially for this SPECIAL Latin??
    thank you.

  19. Fr. Kelly says:

    snegopad Have you tried this one by Fr. Matthew Britt? It’s pretty good.

  20. JabbaPapa says:

    snegopad :

    I am pretty good at Latin, but I would like to learn to translate the PSALMS, which is a very difficult task…
    Which Dictionary is there , especially for this SPECIAL Latin??

    hmmm, the difficulty is that they were translated for the benefit of the Late Latin Laity, but at the same time given Classical grammatical and poetic correctness.

    So …

    Oxford Latin Dictionary (full version) is a good basic choice, though if you have the French, the long-form Gaffiot provides better definitions than the OLD.

    But these mostly describe the Classical Latin, even though the Gaffiot has a somewhat broader perspective.

    hmmmmm …

    You generally have to study the Late Latin formally to get a hold on it, as most dictionaries cover either the Classical or the Mediaeval, but not what’s between.

    However :

    Blaise A., Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs chrétiens, 2e éd. revue et augmentée, Turnhout, s.d. (1962), 899 p. : couvre la littérature chrétienne depuis ses débuts (époque de Tertullien, de la Passio Perpetuae) jusqu’à la fin de la période mérovingienne ; ne faisant pas état des termes classiques employés par les auteurs chrétiens sans différence de sens, ni des sens purement classiques des mots retenus, il est à consulter essentiellement pour les termes nouveaux ou les sens nouveaux pris par les mots classiques.

    Souter A., A Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D., Oxford, 1949, 454 p. : réimpr., 1964 ; dictionnaire du latin tardif, qui embrasse la période allant de la fin du IIe au début du VIIe siècle.

    No idea at all how difficult these would be to obtain or consult.

  21. JabbaPapa says:

    The Souter A., A Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D. does seem to be purchasable up at Amazon

  22. snegopad says:

    Thank you very much–Fr. Kelly and JabbaPapa—I shall try!!

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