Wherein Fr. Z muses about the “survey” sent to bishops about Summorum Pontificum. Rant and suggestions. UPDATED

UPDATED BELOW

A few days ago news came out [at Rorate first, publicly] that the CDF has sent or will send to the bishops of the world questionnaires about the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

The questionnaire is sort of a surprise, but not too much.  I sensed something was up, a disturbance in the “force”, a while ago, when Bp. Peter Christensen of Boise tried ultra vires to crack down on traditional practices.  In the 27 March-9 April issue of the Idaho Catholic Register, Bp. Christensen said he wanted priests to report to him on the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum.  Why?  Because, “this information must be made available to the Holy See in a formal report during each ad limina visit. So, for accurate record-keeping, I request that you report this practice to me along with frequency and attendance.”

In February 2020 the bishops of the Northwest of these USA had their ad limina visit in Rome, predating his note in the paper.

At this point it seemed to me that something was up.

It seems a strange time to be doing this, however.  We might have expected something like this perhaps at the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.   In these USA, at the 10 year mark, there had been an explosion of Masses, from about 50 on Sundays to some 500 by 2017.   I note that there was recently an open letter circulated in Italy by a fanatical hater of Tradition, signed by all sorts of people, most of whom no one has ever heard.

Much as the perpetual whiners about deaconettes got another pointless commission, it could be that the Tradition bashing squeaky wheel got some grease in the form of this survey.  Just as the deaconette commission isn’t going to produce what the promoters of women’s ordination want, neither will this survey about Summorum Pontificum produce what the left wants.  Just watch.

One thing that we have to take into consideration is that, recently, the Holy See approved additions to the 1962 Missale Romanum.   While it is possible that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing in the Vatican – high possibility – it is unlikely that there is a strong desire among those who matter to “shut down” Summorum Pontificum.

So, I have a few things to say.

First, do not panic.  Do not make panicky bad scenes in Twitter or on Fakebook or blogs about this.   That will only confirm the prejudices of those who hate you.   Remember: it is not just that the bashers of Tradition hate Tradition, they hate the people who like Tradition.  They hate the people.   So don’t run around like an idiot and give them easy targets.

Second, both priests and people out there, NOW is the time to double down on Traditional practices, not pull back.   There are some bishops who send out letters to priest that are worded in such a way that the less than careful reader will take away that what are actually the bishop’s personal preferences are really laws that can override the universal laws of the Church or rubrics in the Missal.  While we have to admit that bishops can crucify priests in a thousand ways for sticking up for themselves, neither should we be willing to roll over.   This is the time to embrace traditional worship.

Fathers, learn the TLM.  It will change you as priests and create a knock on effect in all you do.  Lay people, go to your priests and work with them in any way you can.  Be kind, diplomatic, available, generous and persistent.

Third, we are, right now, in a strange liminal period.  It is a kind of threshold which we can cross in either direction, back to where we were, status quo ante, or into a new state.

Right now, because of the coronavirus, the Body of Christ does not have to absorb the millions of body blows inflicted through sacrilegious Communions.   This coronavirus experience is going to weed out a lot of our pews for the near future.  Therefore, we have to make plans NOW for “new evangelization” once things let up.  I don’t think this will be a kind of tabula rasa for us to write on anew, but the effects will be ours to work with in a positive way if we choose to do so.   Remember Tolkien’s eucatastrophe!  There are disasters that, like the felix culpa of the Exsultet, produce unexpected blessings.  One blessing of the demographic sink hole that it is about to open up under the Church, is that lovers of Tradition, and more charismatic element for Church, along with converts from the evangelical side of things, are going to find each other and integrate.  This will happen from desire to survive, for sure.  But there will more to it.  I think Papa Ratzinger foresaw this.  That’s the stuff of another post.  There will be some friction, but the sparks will light beautiful fires.

The survey does not have to be a negative.

Lib writers will now try to bait you into reacting.  Don’t take the bait.

At the same time, I note that traditional Catholics are still treated with unheard of pastoral neglect in the Church.   If there is a single hyper-marginalized demographic right now, it is those who desire traditional worship and doctrine.  Chanceries and parishes run in circles with their hair on fire to affirm and accommodate this sliver and that minority.  But when it comes to tradition, they give, at best, hardly even a yawn or glance or else the back of their hand and intentional repression.  It’s the back of the bus for us.  Heck, it’s often no ticket at all, not even a separate water fountain to drink from.  The lack of charity is frightening from bishops. Priests too.   For years and years, I’ve prayed to the angel guardians of bishops and priests I hear about, that God will give them graces and they will open their hearts.

Bishops and priests can be hard to deal with, friends.  I’m sure that comes as a shock.  However, trads can be hard to deal with.  They can be their own worst enemies.  On the other hand, when shown a little respect they’ll go to the wall for their bishops and priests.  At least, that’s my experience.

I do take note of a double-standard at work.  A priest sent me a copy of a faux, satirical “response” survey mocking to the Summorum Pontificum survey.  Its questions reveal the double-standard.  For example…

  1. What is the situation of your diocese with respect to the millions lost faithful during the fifty-year time frame since the implementation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite?
  2. If the Ordinary Form is practiced there, does it respond to a true pastoral need or is it promoted by a small number of people stuck in the 1960’s?
  3. Please list the (likely rapidly declining) numbers of Mass attendance in your diocese since the implementation of the Ordinary Form of the Romanum Rite (No opinions, please, just facts.)
  4. For the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, how often is it celebrated irreverently?  For space considerations, it might be necessary instead to just list how often it is celebrated reverently.
  5. Has the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum had an influence on the life of seminaries and other formation houses (aside from decimating then, of course)?
  6. Why, after a fifty-year experimentation that has failed miserably by all possible measurements, should the Ordinary Form of the Mass be continued?  (Note: any non-blank answers to this question will be considered grounds for removal from ecclesial office due to clear mental incapacity)?

So, as this business about the “survey” goes around, don’t be your own worst enemy, and make an ugly scene, or panic and fuel panic in others about it.   Calm.  Cool.

Also, double down on Tradition.  When you come to a curve, at the right moment you have to accelerate into it.  This is NOT the time to apply the brakes.

Meanwhile, if you think about it positively, perhaps someone in the Holy See is wondering why traditional Mass congregations are growing and why traditional religious groups are expanding.   For some that will be a portent of disaster.  They’d rather see a smoking bleach-filled crater and salt sown fields than see a thriving traditional parish or institute.  Others, however, can think outside the box.  Rather, think inside the box they ought to be in!  If your numbers are bleeding, and the virus is aggravating the blood loss, then you might be really interested in the groups who are going to still be there…with children and check books.   It could be that the survey is looking for help for he Church.

Stay frosty.

UPDATE:

Some have asked about writing to their bishops.  They raise a good point.

Here’s an idea.

There’s no reason why laypeople shouldn’t know what is going on with the TLM in their own dioceses.  They might know better the history and the locations and numbers better than most officials asked to look into the matter for the sake of the questionnaire.

There’s no reason why laypeople can’t help the process by sending helpful and accurate and verified information to the local bishop, with a cordially respectful cover letter.   A copy should simultaneously be sent to the Congregation in Rome, which will tally (I suppose) the information.

Priests can do this too.  Right?

Think about it.

A TALE OF TWO DIOCESES.

Over in the Diocese of Black Duck, Bp. Jude Noble – close to retirement – receives a missive from the CDF with the survey.  He knows that at least three dozen of the priests there regular celebrate the TLM and that many young families participate.  He has himself baptized and confirmed them and said Mass for them.   He asks help for the data from Msgr. Zuhlsdorf, recently moved from St. Ipsidipsy to merge Our Lady Mournful Mother Weeping and the Minor Basilica of the Sacred Heart Loaded Down With Opprobrium into one vibrant traditional “Through My Fault My Fault My Most Grievous Fault Catholic Community”.  (Msgr. Zuhlsdorf maintains his old property with the house and shooting ranges in the countryside.)  The data is gathered, the true picture of the situation is collated, the survey is filled out, it is sent to Rome.  No drama. Easy peasy.

Over in the Diocese of Libville, Bp. Fatty McButterpants – past retirement but inexplicably kept on though he has driven his place into bankruptcy, twice, and has had two ordinations in the last 6 years – receives a missive from the CDF with the survey.  He knows that there are dozens of priests and many hundred of pesky laity chaffing him with their incessant longing for Catholic Tradition instead of the “reformed theology” the spirit of Vatican II would approve of.  He knows that a “sacrament” – such outdated concepts – really take place when people look into each other’s eyes after they get the white thing and sing the song.  Kicking away his somewhat deformed dog Chester, worrying at his old masonic apron, he calls Fr. Bruce Hugalot over at St. Idealia.  He is the faith presider coordinator for the “Engendering Togetherness Community of Welcome”.  “He’ll get the information we need”, muses Fatty as his sausage-like finger slowly punches at the phone.  “I should call ‘Dozer’, too.”, meaning his old friend Bp. Antuininu Ruspa over in Pie Town.  He looks fondly at Chester, who once bit Dozer in a very strange place, requiring a rather humiliating trip to the ER.  “We can coordinate.”  No drama.  Easy peasy.

What Fatty doesn’t anticipate is that dozens of people and priests in Libville also write to the CDF with their impressions, which present quite a different picture than what McButterpants sends in.  Questions are raised about similar language in the offerings of Libville and Pie Town and how the differ from the many other letters that arrived.  Grist for the next ad limina and note of interest to the Congregation for Bishops.

I believe it is within the rights of priests and laypeople alike to do their own honest research, verify it carefully, and share it with the local bishop while copying everything to the CDF.

His Eminence
Luis Card. Ladaria Ferrer
Prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith
ATTENTION: OLIM Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei”
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
00120 VATICAN CITY

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26 Responses to Wherein Fr. Z muses about the “survey” sent to bishops about Summorum Pontificum. Rant and suggestions. UPDATED

  1. Amerikaner says:

    I agree. When this “broke” it created an avalanche of panic and suspicion. And then that feeds all sorts of conspiracies.

    [So much harm, potential and real. All for the sake of clicks.]

  2. Hidden One says:

    And pray for the bishops and their designated assistants who are actually filling these forms out.

    [You should feel free to write to the bishop with answers to those questions, and send a copy to the CDF.]

  3. Diana says:

    THANK YOU for this. I saw the headline about this thing and thought, “oh no…” I am grateful for your perspective.

  4. The TLMs are packed with young couples with lots of little kids. These young couples want to bring their kids up in tradition. It’s not hard to see where the future lies.

    [It is hard if you are a tradition hating ideologue. They would rather see an empty church rather than see it filled with young people… and Latin, chant, etc.]

  5. TDPelletier says:

    Father,
    some people are saying we should write our bishops and present them our perspective on things before they send their answers to Rome (in particular, showing how the TLM responds to a true pastoral need).

    What do you think? Would it be profitable or detrimental to do so? (Of course, the answer might vary from diocese to diocese, according to the attitude of one’s bishop regarding the 1962 books and his openess on the issue).

    [I think that if someone were to do that, he should – without question – send a copy of it to the CDF’s office that was the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”. ]

    His Eminence
    Luis Card. Ladaria Ferrer
    Prefect of the Congregation for the
         Doctrine of the Faith
    ATTENTION: OLIM Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei”
    Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
    00120 VATICAN CITY

  6. Antonin says:

    in SP, Pope Benedict writes: “Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.”

    I don’t think that ever happened so I see this request as a belated follow up to SP.

  7. DBuote says:

    Thank you for this!

  8. tho says:

    Information like this is very depressing. We have seen the harm that the NO, and “the spirit of VII lovers have done to our church. With Summorum Pontificum we are clawing our way back to the beauty of Holy Mother Church. Who, with a dimes worth of common sense, would want to turn their backs on the faithful who love tradition.

    [Please go back and read my post. Then get your chin up off your chest, and set your face like flint, man! What we need now is resolve and invincible, utterly attractive, and infectious JOY in our traditions. C’mon!]

  9. jhogan says:

    Bureaucracies love information. It is just possible that, after the PCED was folded into the CDF, someone finally looked at the files and said, “We do not have up-to-date information. We need something for the files.” As to the questions in the survey, having worked for 40-plus years, I have seen my share of poorly-worded/chosen survey questions from my employers. I doubt the Curia is any more immune than they from that particular problem. I am not worried about my particular bishop, as he seems favorably disposed to those desiring traditional rites.

  10. teomatteo says:

    and…pray for Chester that he recovers from the poison.

  11. iPadre says:

    We’ve been tracking our numbers at the EF for four years. You can see the slow but steady growth. The other amazing thing is the age of those attending. It is the only Mass with a lot of young families an a lot of children in the parish. We will have 4 First Communions at that Mass this year. To see them all playing in the church hall after Mass is awesome. This is the only hope for the future of the parish.

  12. Irenaeus says:

    Thank you, Father, for your sober approach to this, and all things. I am encouraged.

  13. misternaser says:

    When (if?) we’re allowed to go to Mass again, I intend to go to EF Masses primarily and only attend an OF Mass as a last resort to fulfill my obligation. I will be a sacrifice, but it will be infinitely worth it.

  14. kurtmasur says:

    Hmmmm…. and will this survey truly go out worldwide to every single diocese’s bishop? If yes, this needn’t necessarily be a bad thing. There are many dioceses out there where the TLM doesn’t even exist. I would be willing to suspect that the TLM doesn’t even cross the mind of those bishops. By receiving this survey, it will at least be a passive reminder to those bishops that Summorum Pontificum and the TLM exist.

    On a different note, I firmly believe that it is necessary for laypeople and priests who belong to a TLM-hostile diocese (you know who you are) to follow up on the survey with the verified facts to the CDF to keep their bishop in check. Sending a copy to the bishop is not a bad idea.

  15. Sprouting Thomas says:

    Your advice is unfailingly wise, seasonable and temperate, Father. Now, if only we spent more actually doing what people like you and Fr. Hunwicke recommend, instead of plumping for yet another fun family outing on the outrage choo-choo train, we would all be a lot further along.

    We’re meant to be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves: to be just one of those would be a fault. But to be neither, and instead to be as noisy and headless as bulls in a china shop, is really not on.

    For those of us who’ve never had direct dealings with the Holy See before, could you, Father, tell us whether our evidence will be more likely to be considered by the proper officials if translated into Italian/Latin, or whether we should leave it in our native tongues?

  16. Ave Maria says:

    Msgr. Zuhlsdorf? LOL!

  17. Cavaliere says:

    I agree this can be a great opportunity for Dioceses where the Bishops are opposed to or make it difficult to have the TLM for laity to make their voices heard. Respectfully of course. Turn this to our advantage.

  18. Antonin says:

    @kurtmaster

    “Sending a copy to the bishop is not a bad idea.”

    I would think this is more than just not a bad idea or even a courtesy. It should go first to the Bishop with a CC to the CDF. This supports appropriate ecclesiology, signals openness and transparency (as Jesus said all I have done and said, I have done and said openly), and is aligned with principles of procedural fairness.

    [Keeping in mind that the faithful, especially in matters liturgical, always have the freedom immediately and directly to covey their concerns to the Holy See.]

  19. mjgrayny says:

    “Also, double down on Tradition. When you come to a curve, at the right moment you have to accelerate into it. This is NOT the time to apply the brakes.”

    Thank you father for the encouragement! Your remarks come at the perfect time to lift our spirits.

    Our Music Director has been talking about what we can do to expand the Mass in our parish. Father had already had added Traditional Funerals (and two Anniversario Defunctorum Masses for our beloved daughter, who passed away tragically young), First Holy Communion and Confirmation and Holy Week. We had daily Mass in Advent, and were planning Daily Mass for Lent when father became ill and had to take a respite. It seems he’ll return before the re-opening of the Diocese.

    We are anxiously awaiting father’s return, and the restart of Masses. To your point, we plan to request a permanent Daily Mass; offering whatever help we can to make it happen smoothly.

    Your comments encourage and inspire us. Thank you and Thanks be to God.

  20. matt from az says:

    Thank you for this post.
    Since I discovered the TLM in 1995, have survived several moments when the Pope was allegedly going to kill off the TLM once and for all. It was the end! It was time to pack our bags and head for the nearest SSPX or independent chapel. The end of the world was nigh!

    …and then it wasn’t.

    Each alleged end of the world ended not with a bang but a whimper. Remember Protocol 1411 or whatever it was? I remember it was the end of the world but not well enough to remember what it was called.

    I suggested on Facebook, the enemy of clear thought, that we ought not to panic. The questionnaire is not the end of the world and we should all just calm down.

    Naturally, I was denounced as naive and flat out stupid. I only have a limited emotional range and capacity and I’ve decided not to spin in circles hyperventilating about a fear that will likely come to nothing beyond a file cabinet in Rome.

    [Good man.]

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  22. veritas vincit says:

    “One blessing of the demographic sink hole that it is about to open up under the Church, is that lovers of Tradition, and more charismatic element for Church, along with converts from the evangelical side of things, are going to find each other and integrate.”

    As a more charismatic member of the Church, I would certainly hope so. But I see a great depth of suspicion expressed here, centered around the NO liturgy still familiar to many. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I wonder to what degree that suspicion (even if earned, and in many cases it certainly is) would be a barrier to that integration.

    Suspicions in the Church are already at an all-time high due to the fallout from the abuse scandals, shown by the example of McCarrick, to have reached the highest levels of the Church. We don’t need suspicions that separate faithful Catholics, in particular based on which liturgy we favor. Remember, there are many Catholics who love the Church and are shocked by the current state of the Church, who don’t necessarily see that the NO is part of the problem or that the TLM is part of the answer. We don’t need barriers between faithful Catholics based on which liturgy we favor. And it is my sincere hope that doesn’t develop.

  23. Charivari Rob says:

    …by the way, I tried the artichoke recipe last week. Went okay for a first attempt. Decided to follow the rest of the progression (with some modifications) – mixed it into meatloaf the next night, took a slight detour by using some meatloaf as topping for homemade pizza the next night, and some of the mixed meatloaf is preserved in freezer waiting for a pasta sauce opportunity. Will let you know how that comes out.

  24. Vince K says:

    Father – I’m considering writing to my archbishop with a nice cover letter and proposed responses to the questionnaire, along with a copy to the CDF. We have an FSSP parish here and the archbishop celebrates the Sacrament of Confirmation according to the 1962 Missal for our parish every other year. Should I mention that our archbishop does this or do you think that would be considered “ratting him out”? I’m very grateful for his patronage to our parish and don’t want to do anything that would reflect poorly on our parish, but I also want to make known to the CDF the extent to which Summorum Pontificum has become a vital part of the Church’s life both now and hopefully for the future.

    [I think that TRUE information that can be VERIFIED and presented in an objective way is going to be helpful. It is hardly “ratting out” a bishop who confirms people in a public ceremony.]

  25. ProfKwasniewski says:

    On the one hand, sending in a letter could be helpful for a bishop who’s busy and doesn’t have accurate sources of information within their chancery. (That would be 99% of the them.)

    On the other hand, it has the potential to backfire. If bishops’ offices are bombarded with letters saying how great the TLM is, etc., it may only serve to reinforce their negative views: “What pests! How self-righteous! Who do they think they are, telling me my job!” etc. Of course, if the local bishop is already known to be friendly, then a friendly letter could be a nice way of putting happy thoughts in his head before he sits down to write out his responses.

    Bombarding the CDF with letters could lead to the same problem: “Do they distrust their bishops so much? Do they think we asked to hear from the laity? This letter wasn’t supposed to be leaked anyhow — just shows the kind of manipulative and ethically compromised people they are,” etc.

    It is possible that a simple and kind letter to a bishop from a representative of a TLM parish or apostolate, or a local chapter of Una Voce, could do some good, but ONLY if it didn’t attempt to answer the questionnaire on his behalf.

    Better that the letter be more general: “Your Excellency: It has become widely known that the Vatican has requested feedback about the implementation of Summorum Pontificum from bishops around the world. We are grateful for your own support of S.P. in this diocese, and we welcome the opportunity this survey provides for sharing with the Holy Father and the CDF the many blessings the Extraordinary Form has brought to the Catholic faithful in our communities. At St. ***** parish, the weekly EF Mass is attended by hundreds of faithful, including many young singles, families, and children, who are all eager to live the Catholic Faith in a way continuous with the heritage of our forefathers and countless saints, for the benefit of the new evangelization called for by John Paul II” (etc.) Say anything positive you can about the bishop — sometimes they actually have been supportive, or at least not overtly hostile. And yes, it pays to use slogany language like this… It’s the kind of language the letter recipients can relate to.

    Any missionary or apostolic outreach in the community should be mentioned: scouts, helping the poor or elderly, service of any sort. And no criticisms of the Novus Ordo or other priests or parishes!

    Maybe all of the above is obvious, but I could see a lot of trads really messing this up and making it worse for everyone. Each letter that is written should have its own character and not sound something cut and pasted from online.

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