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…
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.
- Has the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum had an influence on the life of seminaries and other formation houses (aside from decimating then, of course)?
- 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)?
Shocking new questionnaire sent out to Bishops from the CDF… is this a ploy to shut down the Novus Ordo? pic.twitter.com/0GY5SqmquA
— Fr David Palmer (@FrDavidPalmer) April 24, 2020
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.
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.
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