“Do you really think you should be doing that?” Regarding the St. Peter’s Suppression. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Robert Royal has written eloquently about the cruel and blinkered Saint Peter’s Suppression (SPS) at The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt:

[I]t reflects yet another instance of the Church – or at least some high-placed officials in the Vatican – reducing the breadth and depth that Catholicism should offer to God’s holy people.

There’s a lot going on in that summation.  “Reducing the breadth and depth”.   I have in past often railed against powerful churchmen, whether at the top of the big heap or at the top of a little heap, like a parish, who seek ever to make the Church smaller, who are stingy with worship and the magnalia Dei.   They are so stingy.   In narrowing the breadth and depth, they narrow also the opportunity for the apophatic experience of the Mystery that is so transformative.  Remember Paul describing the breadth, length, height and the depth of the Cross.  There is that part of the Cross which is always out of sight, the part that was underground and holding it up.  That unseen dimension must be met with in still, quiet moments… such as were the individual Masses at altars in the close crypt or the cavernous expanse of the Basilica.

Royal quotes John Henry Newman’s perception of a great church where many Masses are going on, including:

“all of this without any show or effort – but what everyone is used to – everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his.”

Isn’t that also part of what this Suppression is about?


The following presupposes that you agree that men and women really are different, however unquestionable it is that they are equal in human dignity.   If you don’t agree with that, read on anyway and be really annoyed.

At times I teasingly refer to the FFLF, the “Female Fun Limitation Factor” which I picked up from a radio host of my native place. The FFLF is defined as that effect produced on one or more males having fun together – maybe being noisy or doing something a little risky – when a female, of any age, asks in that special tone of voice, “Do you really think you should be doing that?”, and in all its variations including The Look and other non-verbal signals.  The FFLF suppresses.

Clearly there is more to saying Mass than having “fun”.  However, the Angelic Doctor explains that there is a close connection between prayer/worship and play, because both of them are undertaken as goods in themselves.   Hence, the FFLF is helpful to discern what is behind the Suppression of Masses at San Pietro.

Libs.  Don’t give me B as in B, S as in S (another thing appropriated from the radio host) about my mischaracterizing the new situation in the Basilica because, after all, Masses are still being celebrated and because, blah blah blah.  No.  Masses by individual priests have been suppressed.  Libs always – ALWAYS – demand that you deny the obvious.

Stick with me.

Today, during my own individual Mass – which allows for thought in a way that Masses with congregations don’t – I had A Thought.

This SPS… this Saint Peter’s Suppression… is like the FFLF.  It’s what women do when men are enjoying themselves as men.   I don’t mean by this to demean women.  I could put it this way.  In the context of the Vatican, St. Peter’s, etc., it’s what effeminate men, men who behave like women, would do.

Men and women fight differently.  Men tend to have it out.  They get into a scrap and then, with some frequency, they are better off for it.   The air is cleared.  Women go at each other in subtler ways.   Exceptions?  Of course.  But you know what I mean.  The air is never really cleared.   Tell me I’m wrong.

There is something effeminate about the way these Masses… no… wait… there is something effeminate about the way the people who want these Masses are being treated through this FFLF-like Suppression.

Someone with power High Atop The Thing doesn’t like the Traditional Mass and he, they, really don’t like the people who like the TLM.

I’m convinced, by the way, that the SPS was more about getting rid of the growing TLM in Basilica than it was about the other lame excuses they made about “recollection” and about, perhaps, not having individual Masses in the same place, blah blah blah.

They came at the TLM and the people, sideways and in a slithery way.   The poor guys who simply want to celebrated the Novus Ordo quietly at an altar in the Basilica, or who, passing through as a pilgrim, want the experience, are simply collateral damage, an acceptable count of casualties for the sake of The Great Plan.  After all, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.

“Do you really think you should be doing that?”

Another important target of the SPS Decree was Mass ad orientem.

This decree came swiftly after Card. Sarah – a strong defender of Holy Mass ad orientem – was dismissed for reasons of age and lapse of quinquennium from the CDW.  Connected?  I don’t know.  But I do know that a) Sarah is a defender of ad orientem worship and that b) he was Prefect at CDW, which does have competence in matters of the celebration of the Novus Ordo everywhere, including the Basilica.  Now he is a) not Prefect and now there are b) no longer ad orientem Masses at the ad orientem altars in the Basilica, except for one underground (literally) TLM at a time.

“Do you really think you should be doing that?”

The phrase, so redolent of the FFLF, keeps coming back to me.

The very thought that there were priests and people doing their own thing, quietly, at many altars… different languages, Novus Ordo, TLM, some with lay faithful, others not… drove someone with power High Atop The Thing to distraction.  They – he – whatever – simply had to place limitations, force everybody into a mold. Snuff out that masculine joy of celebrating at altars side by side, doing your thing, live and let live.

Picking up again on the differences between men and women, see if this doesn’t sound right to you.  Men often most comfortably communicate with each other side by side, often with a common activity.  Women often most comfortably communicate facing someone, face to face.  Men, with their hard-wired “apartness” (which manifests in them as God’s images something of God’s distance and transcendence), will not have to be looking at you to communicate.  Women, with their hard-wired “connectedness” (which manifests in them as God’s images something of God’s intimacy and immanence), have a greater need to see people’s faces to communicate.   Pushing this another step and into the topic at hand, I think that there is something about ad orientem worship that appeals to most men, viscerally, and viscerally, bothers most women.  Similarly, versus populum worship appeals to women who want to hear everything, see the priest’s face, etc., which most of the men aren’t so invested in.   Yes yes… I’m painting with a broad brush, but to make a point.

I wonder what is going on with men who prefer versus populum worship.  No. That’s not quiet right.  I wonder what is going on with men who demand that Mass be versus populum, who suppress or otherwise place limitations on ad orientem worship.

And when that comes from priests, it’s worse.

Circling back to that quote of John Henry Newman, above… the sainted convert reflected on not really grasping what worship was until he had his experience of watching what was going on around him in the great Cathedral of Milan.  As cited by Robert Royal, here is a longer quote with my emphases:

[I] have said for months past that I never knew what worship was, as an objective fact, till I entered the Catholic Church, and was partaker in its offices of devotion, so now I say the same on the view of its cathedral assemblages. I have expressed myself so badly that I doubt if you will understand me, but a Catholic Cathedral [let’s say San Pietro instead of Milan] is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones – kneeling, standing – some at shrines, some at altars – hearing Mass and communicating, currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other – altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament – or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see, and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar, and all this in one of the most wonderful buildings in the world and every day – lastly, all of this without any show or effort – but what everyone is used to – everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his. (Letter, September 24, 1846)

All this… every day…. altar after altar… like stars.

Without any show or effort.

Mornings in the Basilica.  Priests drift in and out of the door leading to the sacristy.  “Lingua?”  “Español… English, Inglese… Latino… Italiano… Deutsch…”. People follow priests to altars.  Priests say Mass, asking anyone who showed up if they want to receive Communion and then counting out the hosts needed.  Masses said, quietly, even if the priest turns around to read the Scriptures in whatever language.  Another priest over there is doing the same, a different part of the Mass, still only at the Gloria, but far enough away that most of the time you barely hear the other guy.  Priests finish up and leave the altar with a bow as other priests wait patient to take the available altar.  They nod as they pass each other.  People who were just at Mass drift off, to go to work, go to kneel somewhere else in the Basilica to pray. Newly arrived lay people, religious, wait for another Mass to start.

Everyone at his own work and leaving everyone else to his.

That’s what the Basilica of St. Peter’s is – was – like early in the mornings before the tourists came.  Not perfect, but pretty good, all in all. I said my morning Mass in the Basilica for so long that they gave me my own locked cabinet for my things.

But, you can hear someone say,

“Do you really think you should be doing that?”

FFLF, friends.  I think that explains something of what is going on with the Suppression.  It is aimed at the activities (TLM and ad orientem, hence Tradition and the Roman ‘genius‘, Romanitas).  But even more it is aimed at the people who want and enjoy those aspects of our common Catholic identity, our inheritance, our patrimony, our rites.  And…We Are Our Rites.

Bottom line.

Whatever happens, whether this debacle is reversed by a counter edict from SecState or Santa Marta, or whether it stays in place, it could prove to be what Tolkien might identify as an eucatastrophe, disaster that produces some good effect that could only have come about through some disaster.  This is going to produce more interest, not less, among priests in the TLM and in seeking out places to say Mass elsewhere.  Those places that are priest friendly have a huge opportunity.

Time will tell.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, B as in B. S as in S., Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, The Drill, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. excalibur says:

    The devil approves of fewer Masses being said. If he can’t have a clown Mass or some such abomination he is happy today with this.

  2. PennCatholic says:

    This is a serious question: will anyone stop us if we just bring our own mass kits and vestments and celebrate mass on a side altar?

    [Serious answer. Oh, yes. I believe they will be watching for this and they will stop anyone from trying. If a priests were to start Mass, would they then stop him? 50-50 on that. After the consecration, no. But I suspect he would be firmly escorted out at the end.]

  3. hilltop says:

    Serious Follow up To the serious question above:
    What if, say, 40 Priests did so at once? Would it overwhelm them?

    Also: what can the laity of Rome do? I recall those silent protests of traditional Catholics standing in organized grids and filling piazzas just 2 years ago…..

  4. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    You mean “there are old women of BOTH sexes” perpetrating the FFLF suppression squad, padre?

  5. Ann Barnhardt, with whom I completely disagree on the subject of Pope Francis’ legitimacy as Pope, has an interesting take on why, in God’s providence, this might be happening. I don’t have any doubt that there are many devils assigned to the Vatican, or that many who are there have opened themselves and the whole place up to demonic influence and oppression. Barnhardt raises one possible thing that might be getting ready to happen at St. Peter’s. Another thing that occurs to me is that all those private Masses constituted a vital brake on the activity of demons, who now are likely to be unleashed. I would really like for both of us to be wrong.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Hey, don’t be blaming women for this kind of attitude, Father! Lots of women work side by side, or talk without looking at each other. (Sigh. Conversing with my coworkers while we typed up forms, at the tail end of the typewriter era. Everybody paying attention to their work, everybody keeping up the conversation while doing their own things.) And having your own place in your own little chapel seat where you can spend time with Jesus in a cozy space — I’m sure that’s just as attractive to female pilgrims at St. Peter’s as male ones.

    Side chapels were a thing in Old St. Peter’s, too.

    And of course, if you really were all about “social distancing,” you’d be against concelebration and a limited number of big Masses.

  7. The Egyptian says:

    brings to mind a comment by Dr Laura Schlesinger years ago
    “boys (men) can get into a knock down drag out fight and when it’s done 5 minutes later be sitting side by side talking, they get over it , girls (women) on the other hand are monsters, a minor incident in grade school will be a grudge they will carry till their 40th school reunion and probably to their grave. They just cannot let it GO”
    After growing up with 4 sisters and raising 2 of my own I can tell you it’s true

  8. JustaSinner says:

    Who would escort out the non-obeying priest? The Swiss Guard, KGB, FBI, CIA, FSB, MI5-6, Roma Poleizia, Keystone Kops, Axel Foley, Detective Bosch, Special Agents Mulder and Sculley, the Man from UNCLE, and or the Vatican PD?

  9. Gab says:

    Meanwhile, elsewhere … a bishop closes down a seminary (we have too many priests already, apparently) because they refuse to administer Communion in the hand.
    Bit-by-bit they are suppressing the Traditional Liturgy.


  10. Gab says:

    Apologies, the above article is dated 2020. I thought it was 2021.

  11. robtbrown says:

    In an act of pontifical generosity Pope Francis is doing for the Church what the Jesuits have been doing to themselves for 50+ years.

  12. TonyO says:

    Comments addressed to the excellent questions raised by PennCatholic (as additions to Fr. Z’s answer): The first time it happens, they may let it go, as if not actually prepared to enforce the rule. But the second day, watch out: someone will have gone tattling to Msgr X who really wants this new rule to BE the rule. And he will have enforcers. That priest will be firmly blocked and escorted to the sacristy for (at least) a major tongue lashing, if not penalties.

    However: there are three ways to fight this: (1) have lots of pilgrims / lay people who simply refuse to let the enforcers do their job. Who just stand in the way. Who just refuse to “understand” the orders to move. Who keep asking “what’s wrong?” Who get into side-arguments with them. Who engage in malicious compliance – “obediently” doing what they are told – but too literally to actually do what is desired. Etc.

    (2) As hilltop says, have 40 priests doing this all at once. Let them find enough enforcers. (Better, having the 40 priests ready to jump in serially: as the enforcers are dealing with one priest, quietly start a mass 1/3 of the distance across St. Peter’s at a far-removed altar.

    (3) Have a bishop (better, a cardinal) do it. Let’s find a sacristan or a Swiss Guard who will face a bishop who (clearly) has a strong backbone already, to try to browbeat him into “obedience” with the lawless order. Best yet, have Cardinal Mueller do it, (or Cardinal Sarah), and have them point out “this order has no signature,”, followed by “it came from an office that has not the authority”, followed by “it is directed to the wrong officials”. And who simply STAND THEIR GROUND. Whatever else is the case, it is extremely unlikely that the people who decided to try this think Pope Francis wants to be dragged into a pissy little disagreement over it with his cardinals – or that he wants to be SEEN having to referee schoolyard shouting matches. Francis likely will refuse to consider it. (He might PUNISH) a bishop or cardinal, later, under the table, for doing so, but Cardinals Mueller and Sarah are retired: what can Francis actually do to them?

    Then there are the things people can do in other forms of malicious compliance: for example, have every single priest in Rome with a few lay people sign up as a “pilgrimage” needing a spot on the roster. Make it be dozens or even hundreds every day. Make it so that they HATE having to work the list of priests being granted an altar to use. Similarly, try to have a TLM priest sign up for EVERY SINGLE 1/2 of the day for the Clementine chapel, so that it is booked solid, with MORE priests asking. (By the way, each such priest should make it clear (without saying it in so many words) that he is assuming he is an “authorized” priest, because – get this – he is a priest. That’s what Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum authorizes. There just ISN’T any other authorizing legislation, and none needed.

  13. paxbenedict says:

    “Everyone at his own work and leaving everyone else to his.” And here we have the crux of the issue. For seventeen years I have worked as a carer of the elderly and during this time 95% of my co-workers have been female. The idea that we could leave “everyone at his own work and leave everyone else to his” is alien to most of my colleagues, not all of them, but most of them.

    Also, the leftist nanny state here in Scotland has made my job less and less possible to do properly. More and more control, more and more newspeak, less and less care from the heart and less and less individual accountability.

    Lacking control of certain aspects of their own lives they have to control others.

  14. Zephyrinus says:

    The maxim that comes to mind, when hearing about the latest Vatican evil ploy to destroy The Traditional Latin Mass, is “Divide And Conquer”.

  15. Archlaic says:

    I thought two things while reading this post: first, your analysis is spot-on from top to bottom, second; get your chainmail cassock on, the feminazis* and lavender mafia will be coming at you with both shivs and long knives!

    *this evocative term is herein used strictly in the sense as defined by its originator ;-)

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  17. mo7 says:

    Why not set up your mass kit outside in the square and have your mass there? Maybe a few of you one right after the other. Draw a crowd.

  18. The Astronomer says:

    I made a comment on this issue over on America Magazine’s Youtube channel where ‘ol Max Beans makes some whoppers in terms of Holy Mass. I pointed out that Dr. Faggioli’s understanding of theology and its relationship to worship is so biased in favor of the changes made in the name of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council that he makes a grave error. It is unfortunately a very common mistake; that a Mass said by a solo, individual priest somehow makes it a ‘private’ Mass (with the implication that the laity are cut-off and not ‘good enough’ to be present). According to the canons of the Council of Trent, ANY holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whether by a priest alone in his rectory, in a side altar of St. Peter’s or by a Cardinal in front of 5,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica, is by its very nature a ‘public’ Mass. Pope St. Paul VI made a similar statement in his encyclical ‘Mysterium Fidei.’

    Additionally, those who make the Second Vatican Council a foundational touchstone of magisterial inerrancy tend to forget that St. Pope Paul VI specifically stated it was a non-binding pastoral council, whereas the dogmatic Council of Trent declared in Session XXII that all celebrations of Mass by nature are PUBLIC. *Dr. Faggioli’s statement that “we cannot now have the theology of the 16th Century that was the basis of the Latin Mass” is a direct statement he is publicly rejecting on YouTube a dogmatic council of the Church. The irony is rich.*

    Max Beans is a walking, talking example of the FFLF.

  19. Hopeful says:

    Inspired by Fr. Z’s posts on the traditional Benedictines, I’ve been studying Benedict’s Rule. It contains both encouragement and hard words for this situation, I think. Here are two passages for reference; please forgive the length.

    “The fourth degree of humility is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind when in this obedience he meets with difficulties and contradictions and even any kind of injustice, enduring all without growing weary or running away. For the Scripture says, ‘He who perseveres to the end, he it is who shall be saved’ (Mt 10;22); and again, ‘Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord!’ (Psalm 26:14).

    “And to show how those who are faithful ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord, the Scripture says in the person of the suffering, ‘For Your sake we are put to death all the day long; we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter’ (Psalm 43:22; Romans 8:36). Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense, they go on with joy to declare, ‘But in all these trials we conquer, through Him who has granted us His love’ (Romans 8:37)… And to show that we ought to be under a Superior, it goes on to say, ‘You have set men over our heads’ (Psalm 65:12)…”

    (If a Brother is Commanded to Do Impossible Things)
    “If it happens that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a brother, let him nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience. But if he sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of his strength, let him submit the reasons for his inability to the one who is over him in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction. And if after these representations the Superior still persists in his decision and command, let the subject know that this is for his good, and let him obey out of love, trusting in the help of God.”

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    “In the context of the Vatican, St. Peter’s, etc., it’s what effeminate men, men who behave like women, would do. There is something effeminate about the way the people who want these Masses are being treated.”

    Good point Fr. Z. The Vatican hierarchy was also too cowardly to attach a signature and protocol number to that arbitrary command. The U.S. military and most Western militaries experience a similar problem with bureaucratic cowardice and effeminacy:

    The Globular Girlboss G.I.
    Feminization of the military points to a deeper spiritual problem

    “Maternity flight suits are symptoms of the spiritually suicidal state. We are a nation of womanly men, mannish women, and disposable children. Those three have everything to do with one another. The culture of death marches on.”


  21. anthonybrankin says:

    When will Cardinals Burke and Mueller celebrate Mass at a side altar in St Peter’s?
    They have both said that the Secretary of State is incompetent in this matter. They should simply call their bluff and say Mass where they please– each with their own little crowd and choose their own form. Who will escort them out? they are cardinals.

  22. anthonybrankin says: Cardinals Burke and Mueller

    That would be something! Maybe they could get a few more Cardinals and bishops.

    Seriously, though. I suspect that the sanpietrini have been alerted to watch out for just such a thing, not from Cardinals, but from priests. They’d be on that priest like jackals on a zebra, like white on rice, like flies on sherbet, etc.

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  24. Rod Halvorsen says:

    “Men and women fight differently. Men tend to have it out. ”

    To be frank, since my conversion in 2013, I have been overwhelmingly stunned by the total lack of “fight” in Catholic leadership. What I have seen is a culture of capitulation, a culture whereby the faith, that is the Church itself, is simply not worth fighting for and this it simply is not defended by anything but a statement here and there, as if such “statements” comprise “fight”. Nothing bears this out more clearly than Cardinal Burke’s statement some years ago about another Bergoglian indiscretion that he called “intolerable” whilst then he proceeded to tolerate just the same. Ditto the Mueller and Burke team recently echoing each other in dual “statements” declaring the recent altar rule illegal and in need of no obedience, yet does anyone conceive of either of these guys showing up to disobey it? Now, for a laugh…pushing their way past the sanpietrini in order to “disobey” the instructions of an illegitimate bureaucratic functionary?

    One of the great and truly life transforming revelations for me as a convert from the Protestants was the scope and breadth of “Faith plus Works” as understood by the Church.

    What I have found among the Catholic hierarchy is another option.

    “Faith plus Statements”.

    In the war for the soul of the Catholic religion these last 8 years I’ve seen precious little of the “Faith plus Works” stuff but plenty of the “Faith plus Statements”. And as for fighting, not one little bit at all.

  25. Spinmamma says:

    Father Christensen’s column is beautiful, and I shared it, and his plight and request for healing though the intersession of Bishop Sheen, with a large Roman Catholic forum to which I belong.

    Yes, you painted with a very broad brush, but I get your point. However, the women I know and call friends are not at all like the busybodies who think it is their job to control everybody else and who cling to past wrongs in defiance of our Lord’s commandments. But I have encountered persons like that and loved a close relative caught in the net of unforgiveness. So, as I said, I get your point

    I view this new edict as passive aggressive behavior of the worst sort, in line with Pope Francis’ philosophy of waiting out objections rather than dealing with them directly . I think Taylor Marshall again may be on to something in describing this as the first move to begin to marginalize TLM supporters by herding them in to more and more restricted areas of the Church (literal and figurative) with an eye to eventually making them a fringe oddity without driving them out, which goes along with your comments, Father Z. I also heard an analysis (perhaps also Taylor Marshall) speculating that this move may also driven by an attempt to get more money for St. Peter’s as the new aggregate Mass will allow any monies collected to stay with St. Peter’s. In any event, it is a devastating and humiliating edict to the Faithful. In keeping with all of the other horrible modernist creep we have seen in the last years.


  26. BrionyB says:

    “…everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his.”

    I think this is absolutely spot on as a description of what the “reformers” (for want of a better word) are trying to quash. There is an analogous thing in the Novus Ordo itself with its insistence that everyone stand up, sit down etc. at the same time, now listen to this reading, now recite this text in unison, now let’s all shake hands nicely, everyone ushered up to Communion row by row… yes, there is something a bit feminine about it, like being back at school and being bossed around by (mostly female) teachers.

    The “old” way, where you can participate or not in the way you choose or are able, and it’s no one’s business because this is God’s house not theirs (I don’t have the eloquence of a St John Henry Newman to describe what I mean, but you know it when you experience it) – to my mind that is neither masculine or feminine but just deeply, uniquely, beautifully Catholic.

    As were all those quietly murmured Masses at all those altars, which seems to be exactly why someone decided they had to be stopped.

  27. monstrance says:

    Modernists and liberal politicians have much in common.
    The tendency to be control freaks is one commonality.
    The handling of the Wuhan Virus.
    The constant suppression of traditional Catholics.
    In an exchange of correspondence with my local Bishop, he expressed his need to veto ad orientem worship for fear that it might place certain parishioners in an uncomfortable position.
    It seems that the comfort of traditional Catholics is never considered.

  28. Orual says:

    Father Z., I would be very interested in your thoughts on Ann Barhardt’s experience at St. Peter’s and how the suppression of mass could be Divine Providence. I was disturbed to hear that her experience with the priest in the confessional was a common and wondered if you’ve heard of this happening before.

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  30. Orual says: Ann Barhardt’s experience at St. Peter’s

    I just looked at what my good friend Ann wrote about that confessor at St. Peter’s.

    Over the many years I was there in Rome I learned that confession at St. Peter’s was hit and miss. There was one particularly good Franciscan (they staff that Basilica), an American. There was one particularly evil bastard of a Dutchman on the left side as you faced the altar of Sts. Simon and Jude in the transept. He was so dreadful that he left me shaken for a while. I related my experience with that guy with coworkers and was assured that that confessional was infamous and not to worry about it. That’s exactly the WRONG approach, of course: that SOB should have been dragged from the confessional by his little white cord and then hung with it from a tree in the Vatican Garden. I am pretty thick skinned, but I can imagine how traumatized his harshness would have been to someone less battle-scarred than I. I can guess that he hurt a lot of unsuspecting pilgrims who were moved to go to confession. May God have mercy on that black-hearted villain if he is still sucking air and help him to do penance.

    For the rest of Ann’s account, I can’t say I am surprised. The Enemy is very good at being an enemy. I would be shocked were the Enemy NOT targeting San Pietro for temptation to sinful behavior. Think about it. Just as destroying a highly placed prelate is a great victory for the Enemy, so too would be the besmirching of one of the most holy places in world, to which so many turn their eyes and aspirations.

    It is not by chance that the obelisk in the Square is surmounted with a relic of the Cross and that the pedestal is inscribed with exorcism texts. It is not a surprise that Sixtus V himself exorcised the obelisk as a ward against evil. HERE

    Perhaps some future Roman Pontiff will renew that exorcism, along with going through the whole place, with a phalanx of bishops, chanting Chapter 3, with hordes of priests going into every nook and cranny with Holy Water and incense.

    Honestly, I think we would hear the sort of shrieks and demonic howls that were heard when Boniface IV exorcised the Pantheon when consecrating it in 609. HERE

    BTW… the confessors at St. Mary Major are Dominicans and, in my experience, pretty good confessors. Keep that in mind. Also, I had good experience at, of all places, the Jesuit church, the Gesu, old timers, old formation.

  31. kurtmasur says:

    Regarding going to confession at St. Peter’s, I am also not surprised to read Ann Barhardt’s account. I also learned by direct experience that the confessors there were a bit….”different”, and not in a good way. Not that I was there many times, but what broke the straw for me was when the confessor hearing my confession went on to give me a speech as to why my mortal sin in question was not actually a sin, and “how the Church’s teaching was actually wrong about it.” That was it for me. I knew by instinct that the Enemy was at play as I heard the priest say what he was telling me, and I have avoided going to confession at St. Peter’s at all costs whenever I have visited Rome after that. Benedict was Pope at the time, for what it’s worth.

    @Father Z, wasn’t Pope Francis famously pictured making a confession at that confessional to the left you describe in your post? He was kneeling directly in front of the confessor. That photo has been featured here on the blog from time to time indicating that the “light is on.”

  32. Emilio says:

    After reading Ms. Barhardt’s testimony and your reaction just now, Father, I am moved to add my own experience in a Confessional there as concisely as possible. I was one such young pilgrim Fall 2005 moved to go to Confession in the Basilica, and was pointed to an English-speaking priest. After making a short Confession that seemed normal for me… the priest did not limit himself to give me advice or even some sort of admonition… no. For perhaps the first time in my life, he really proceeded to be MEAN to me. What took place was this awkward, petty, even DARK interrogation of me and my reasons for being in Rome (volunteering with a religious community, after a month of volunteering at World Youth Day Cologne… in the context of a six month sabbatical period in my then-young life to “backpack Europe”). I held my own as best I could sensing that something was just OFF about the whole thing. He seemed to want to embarrass and humiliate me, not admonish me for anything relevant. I finally stopped answering his questions and said firmly “Father, I came here to make my confession, and I have MADE my confession.” It stopped him cold, and quickly gave me a pretty normal set of prayers for penance and then absolution. Like Ms. Barnhardt, I wobbled away shaken, humiliated, and just shocked that this happened to me during Confession, at St. Peter’s. It just felt dark and out of place. I have never spoken of this to anyone in these fifteen or so years since, and I almost forgot about the episode, until it all came back to me reading Ms. Barnhardt’s testimony.

  33. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    >>Similarly, versus populum worship appeals to women who want to hear >everything, see the priest’s face, etc., which most of the men aren’t so invested in. Yes yes… I’m painting with a broad brush, but to make a point. <<

    I think that's spot on, Fr. Z. Interesting parallel: Due to Covid, I modified my confessional to allow behind-the-screen confessions only at a slightly greater distance. (Well, OK, I was looking for an excuse, since I don't care for face-to-face confession, but inherited the confessional design from my predecessor).

    Several women complained about that. No men did. I am convinced that many women go to confession to see a "look" of affirmation on the face of their priest confessor. In my many years of confessions, I have noticed women frequently look at the priest's face the whole time while men rarely do.

  34. Cincinnati Priest says: Several women complained about that. No men did.

    Though anecdotal, this is a verification of what I was talking about, above. This is NOT to say that women wanting to see faces when communicating is a bad thing. It seems to me that this is something that reveals a particular way in which we human being are made in God’s image and likeness, male and female. We are wired differently, made physically different, to manifest both God’s infinite distance and infinite intimacy.

  35. torch621 says:


    As despicable as the priests actions were, all that post did was remind me why Ann is fringe and should not be taken seriously. Saint Peter’s Basilica a “hell mouth”? Really?

    Im sure I’ll get it told I’m a fool or not a real Catholic for saying this but I’m saying it anyway.

  36. Fr. Kelly says:

    Cincinnati Priest says: Several women complained about that. No men did.

    Fr. Z says: Though anecdotal, this is a verification of what I was talking about, above.

    The plural of “anecdote” is “data”.

  37. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: the bad confessor at St. Peter’s — Look, if you’ve never had a hinky priest giving hinky advice in the confessional, or a weirdly angry or interested priest leaning over into the hinky side of things… well, you’re lucky and blessed.

    But in my experience, any priest who does and says weird things in the confessional — not awkward stuff that is trying to be helpful, not “I’m having a bad day” things, but actual weird stuff that you can’t understand at all — that priest is going to turn out to have been up to no good, in some way. They take it out on people going to Confession, because their own guilt makes them weird. And if you’re really unlucky, you run into a priest consciously manipulating the faithful or grooming the faithful for bad purposes. (I haven’t, thankfully.)

    And of course that kind of thing is bound to hurt the soul of anyone who goes to such a hinky priest looking for help. It’s someone abusing a Sacrament. It’s sacrilege. Just being close to such a thing, let alone being its target, is horrid.

    Now, God willing, that hurt will just be a glancing blow. But if it plants seeds of distrust; and if nobody in a parish does anything about it, of course those seeds will grow. Why wouldn’t they, if the Church here and now doesn’t protect penitents the way she should? Of course some heroic souls will just shake it off, but a lot of souls won’t. And letting a wolf run around inside St. Peter’s fold, playing with penitents from around the world? That’s crazy irresponsibility. It’s anti-evangelism.

    Ann Barnhardt is a remarkably sane and calm person, given this sort of thing having been allowed to happen to her, and without temporal consequences to the bad priest.

  38. Orual says:

    Cincinnati Priest: I’m a woman. I greatly dislike face-to-face confessions and avoid them at all costs. If there’s no other option but to confess face-to-face, I keep my eyes closed and my head down or I look at the floor. I feel a sense of shame and don’t want to be looked at when confessing my sins – even venial sins.

    I may not be the norm, but wanted you to know not all women would complain about what you did. Some, like me, would be grateful!

  39. Pingback: St Peter’s Basilica, Like a Museum Without Holy Masses in Side Altars | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  40. oldCatholigirl says:

    I always suspected that I wasn’t normal, and now I’m sure of it. I’m a woman, and I was put off by versus populum worship when it first came in. (I was in my twenties.) I felt sorry for the distraction it must be for the priest, and personally had not the slightest desire to make eye contact with him at Mass, and certainly not in Confession either. At Mass, my instinct was that we should all face God, with Father as our leader. At Confession, anonymity all round was, and is, my preference, although now I don’t worry about it as much.

    I’m also weird enough to actually enjoy hearing men have a good time together. The many good men I’ve known didn’t have the chance often enough.

    You’re right about men being able to have a good, clean fight and get over it better than women can, usually, although I sometimes wonder if that isn’t being bred out of them in recent years.

  41. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    Orual: Yes, to be clear, percentage-wise very few women complain. Was just noting that, out of the subset of those who have a preference at all (many are indifferent to the style and just want to confess their sins one way or the other), those who prefer face-to-face are predominantly women.

    As Fr. Z noted, this is not a “slam” on women. They tend to be much more spiritually sensitive and self-aware than men as well.

    to latch on to face-to-face

  42. Semper Gumby says:

    Robert Royal wrote:

    “[I]t reflects yet another instance of the Church – or at least some high-placed officials in the Vatican – reducing the breadth and depth that Catholicism should offer to God’s holy people.”

    Well, there is abundant evidence that this so-called “pontificate” is assisting the pagan Left in re-paganizing the world. Perhaps the Faithful should suppress this so-called “pontificate.”

    Romans 8:

    “37 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  43. Semper Gumby says:

    If I could add to my previous comment.

    I am hearing this news secondhand.

    1. It appears that a Catholic homeschooling mother and her children were praying alone in an empty Catholic church in Missouri last Halloween and a priest passing by told her to put a mask on. She refused and the priest had her arrested.

    2. Recently, a pregnant mother in Texas was reported by the priest to the police and arrested for not wearing a mask.

    So, in addition to the paganism and thuggery of the last few years the Vatican hierarchy is suppressing Holy Mass at St. Peter’s, and two priests had mothers in church arrested in these United States.

    It’s time to make a point.

    It’s time for the men of those parishes to pull those two craven priests aside for a little talk.

    Men: do not allow “pastors” who are simultaneously bullies and cowards to torment women. Do not allow that type of behavior to continue or go unchecked.

    Suppress the supressors.

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