Sober thoughts about a rumored restricting of Summorum Pontificum. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Dom Alcuin Reid, has a good opinion piece at Catholic World Report about the rumored restrictions or retooling of Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI’s “emancipation proclamation” for priests and lay people regarding traditional sacred liturgical worship.

My emphases and comments.

Opinion: On liturgical wars and rumors of wars

It is to be hoped that the anxieties and fears that have been aroused about a restriction of the older rites can be calmed and that no authority issues peremptory precepts which may simply undermine their own authority.

Disquiet abounds at present in the milieu which celebrates the usus antiquior – the more ancient use – of the Roman rite of the Sacred Liturgy. Seemingly the Holy See is considering issuing new norms limiting its celebration, at least in parishes. Some bishops appear to be acting in this vein already, taking measures against good clergy and healthy apostolates which do not present any reason for concern – except that (1) they exist; (2) they are growing; and (3) they are fruitful in leading to good Catholic marriages and new families as well as significant numbers of vocations to the priesthood, monastic and religious life – all indications that this phenomenon is not going away any time soon.  [Exactly.  Why target a rapidly growing, healthy demographic in the Church?   Why target the priests?   It is possible that, in large part, the bishops fear these groups because they don’t grasp or understand the liturgical worship that drives them.  They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that Tradition is out of continuity with their tradition, which began in the 1960’s.   Think of the profound influence of Rahner in their formation, etc.]

We are in a peculiar age when these are seen as concerns. But for some, who are ideologically committed to “the changes,” the rites and ecclesiastical reforms put in place following the most recent ecumenical Council of the Church as means to bring about a new Springtime in the life of the Church have become ends in themselves. For such persons, these means must be adhered to even if it has long since become clear that their ends – the profound renewal they were meant to usher in some decades ago – have simply not been achieved. They can become idols, occluding anything but their own worship.  [True liturgical worship, the essence of fulfillment of the virtue of Religion, is hard.  What is easy about bringing us into contact with Mystery, transcendence tremendum et fascinans?  In Spirit of the Liturgy Ratzinger talks about how people today are imbued with immanentism.  He describes how the Jews made the Golden Calf, not because they really thought it was a god, but because it was easier.  Liturgy which seeks to make everything easier is no authentic liturgy at all.   It’s self-contradictory.  Many bishops and priests, therefore the laity they serve, have made a golden calf out of their use of the Novus Ordo.   The TLM is an antidote to this ironic idolatry.  But who likes taking strong medicine?]

Charity, prayer and patience are the weapons with which to confront such myopia. Please, God, people thus afflicted can become open to the signs of the times in which we actually live, which include the richness, beauty and fruitfulness of the usus antiquior in the life of the Church. And indeed to the fact that their celebration today often evinces far more of that full, conscious, actual (active) and fruitful participation in the liturgical rites for which the Second Vatican Council called than one can readily find elsewhere (to be sure, there are notable exceptions in both directions). Many bishops who have celebrated the older rites for communities in their dioceses have come to appreciate this reality. Acrimony in the face of its incomprehension will simply reinforce prejudices. [You will hear some claim that the traditional forms of worship are antithetical to “full, conscious and active participation”.  They don’t know or forget that those ideals developed long before Vatican II.  I’m with Reid on this: the older, traditional form provides more occasion, not less, for “active participation”.]

So, too, we usus antiquior communities need to examine our consciences. To sustain a sectarian attitude or create a ghetto, whilst perhaps understandable in the heady years following the Council, is untenable today. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  How many times on this blog have I written that those who desire traditional sacred worship have to be the first group to step up in the parish when there are events and projects?  How many times have I written about the need to be inviting to people, which is, when you think about it, a critical aspect of evangelization?] The liturgical and pastoral riches our communities treasure are for the good of all the Church, not the privilege of few gnostic ‘elect’. The Christian lives of those who draw from them must be all the more credible, particularly in respect of the social teaching of the Church. The light of our communities must – each according to its proper charism – “so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)

Clericalism has no place anywhere, and the seminaries of institutes which celebrate the usus antiquior must ensure that they form men whose apostolic zeal is concomitant with the love they have for the Sacred Liturgy. They must be men who live and work for the conversion of the world to Christ in the twenty-first century, not ones content to live in a gilt cage decorated according to the tastes of their preferred century in history. Ecclesiastical authorities are right to be concerned when they detect a self-serving narcissism in clergy – a reality that is by no means exclusively found in devotees of the older liturgical rites, or solely in junior clergy.  [BTW… if there is a clerical activity that is most likely to breed clericalism in the negative sense, it is celebration of Holy Mass versus populum.  Add to that incessant options and the practice of turning over priestly roles to lay people – how condescending – and you have an effective petri dish for the narcissism that undergirds negative clericalism.]

One of the first tests of a young man seeking to enter the monastic life is to see whether he is capable of hard manual work without complaint. Most aspirants have little difficulty in attending the liturgical Hours (with the possible exception of matins) but almost all of us need to learn that whilst faithfully observing the norms of the liturgical books is integral to giving due glory to Almighty God, so too bathrooms and chicken sheds need cleaning. The candidate who is able to do both, or who at least becomes conscious that he must grow in his ability so to do, each at their appropriate time, will become a good monk. [Could we apply this to my remarks, above, about how those who desire traditional liturgical worship also have to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the parish?  They can’t just pop in and pop out on Sunday.  Some will respond that they have to drive an hour each way to get to a TLM on a Sunday or Holy Day, with kids, and that would be a huge burden to have to do it more often, for parish events and such.   I get that.  That underscores the need to have even more places where the TLM is offered, so that people can realize their legitimate aspirations without an excessive burden.  It is clericalistic stinginess on the part of priests and bishops not to provide for these people, who clearly represent a fast growing demographic of faithful and zealous believers in a time when large numbers of Catholic don’t believe what the Church teaches and are falling away.]

Our usus antiquior communities and houses of formation need this same balance and moderation. Young people need space and time and patience, and they need love and understanding, in which to grow and mature. [PLEASE!  For the love of GOD, you bishops and priests out there, give these people some TLC!   This is the single most marginalized group in the Church today and YOU are responsible for that.] Older people, above all those in authority or with responsibility for formation, need to give them all of this and more, even if they themselves bear the scars of having been denied the same. [I really like Scott Hahn’s designation of “sad trads”, “mad trads” and “glad trads”.   There are “trads” who have been pretty badly beaten up, mistreated for decades by those who ought to have shown them pastoral care.  They are hurt and angry and it is understandable that, over time, they should develop something of a siege mentality, and “us against them” stance.  I believe that during the pontificate of Benedict XVI and with Summorum, they began to unclench. But in recent years those old wounds have been poked and bruised again.  And to what end?] So too, usus antiquior communities need to form candidates to be men of the Church rather than indulgent self-defined ‘rad-trads’ or à la carte laptop-liturgists who, in their fear, isolation or pride, inhabit a virtual world – or Church – of their own construction.

It is to be hoped that the anxieties and fears that have been aroused about a restriction of the older rites can be calmed and that no authority issues peremptory precepts which will, in all likelihood, simply undermine their own authority – blind obedience is no longer the daily bread of Catholic clergy or laity and cannot be relied upon as it was a half-century ago. The positive proscription of something true, good and beautiful is likely to intensify, not heal, enmity, clericalism and alienation within the Church.  [You see what he is saying here, I think.  I believe he is right.   A harsh, top-down retooling of Summorum‘ provisions, essentially a raw exercise of power, opens the way to defiance and resistance and also  for future raw exercises of power to undo the previous deed.   In a short period of time – after only 14 years – a pope stomps out one of the most important acts of the previous pontificate… and perhaps expects his own actions to be respected by the next guy? How can the powers that be, who themselves back in the day, over time, deliberately and systematically violated the law so as to attain approval of abuses such as Communion in the hand and altar girls, etc., realistically expect that, if some sort of “slave act of 2021” is issued against Benedict’s “emancipation proclamation” that people – including priests – won’t rise up?  And, as Reid pointed to above, is there a foreshadowing to be found in the rise of “cancelation” of priests – usually traditional – by bishops?]

In addition, to ban the usus antiquior because of its increasing popularity [“BECAUSE of its increasing popularity”] some fifty years after it was supposedly replaced by a liturgical reform that, according to St Paul VI, involved the necessary sacrifice of the venerable liturgy for the pastoral good of the Church would, ironically, risk being nothing less than an ‘own goal’; [I detect in that phrase some soccer (football) terminology.  An “own goal” is when a defensive player winds up scoring for the other team by knocking the ball into his own net.] an historic, eloquent and ultimately embarrassing admission of the colossal failure of that reform by those committed to its ideological perpetuation no matter what the cost.

Reid retained until the end a strong reason why I don’t think we are going to see a retooling or restricting of Summorum Pontificum.   There is no upside to doing it, no genuine gain to be made.  Such a move would provoke large numbers of people to deep resentment and confusion and possibly even open defiance.  After all, the horse is now out of the barn. It would undermine the authority of those who would implement such a restriction.

Apart from those serious reasons why there should be no retooling, no “slave act of 2021”, as Reid points out it would be admission that the idealistically hoped for magnificent fruits of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform were, in the end, mere pipedreams.  If the powers that be have to stomp out the resurgence of traditional liturgy by sheer power, that will merely underscore that the post-Conciliar reform was a “colossal failure”.

Instead, why not try something else?

Why not foster and expand the use of the traditional forms so that they are far more available, side by side with the Novus Ordo, and then see what happens?

If there is a mutual enrichment in the line of the resparking of the organic development of liturgical worship which was a goal of Benedict’s Motu Proprio, isn’t that alright? If people who discover the TLM decide that that’s what they prefer… isn’t that a good thing?   If people who discover the TLM decide that they prefer the Novus Ordo… isn’t that okay?

What are they so afraid of?

If the powers that be are so convinced in the superiority of the post-Conciliar forms, that they truly provide for and respond to the needs of Catholics in the 21st century, then … let’s find out!

Foster the TLM in many more places and then see what happens.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. JTH says:

    I, for one, do not like the term “traditional Catholic”. To be a traditional Catholic is to be faithful to the Churches’ teaching, to believe in the Real Presence, to attend Mass and confession regularly, to seek Communion on the tongue, to seek reverence in the Church, in other words, to be Catholic.

    To call ourselves traditional is to separate us from the rest of the Church as if we are something new, a novelty, and not in fact who and what the Church is.

    Semantics perhaps, but as for me and mine, we are simply Catholic.

    P.S.- Faithful Catholics- whether EF or NO- has a better sound to it.

  2. Rod Halvorsen says:

    “In addition, to ban the usus antiquior because of its increasing popularity”…..

    Says it all.

    You will NOT wear cotton, linen or wool.

    You WILL wear the polyester leisure suit and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    In a way it reminds me of the building of the Iron Curtain by the Soviet Union after WWII. Basically an admission of failure. If Communism was so wonderful people should be flocking to move to those countries; instead they are fleeing in droves so we have to put up a fence to keep them in. This document to restrict the Traditional Mass if it happens would be like an Iron Curtain for the Novus Ordo.

  4. That was a good article. With regard to whether anything actually will happen– I’ll compare this to the threats of packing the Supreme Court. While it could happen, it’s mostly a scare tactic aimed at the Supreme Court itself designed to intimidate it into submission. Similarly, I am starting to suspect that all the smoke about Summorum Pontificum is designed to intimidate traditionalists into self-censorship and self-restraint for fear that it will all be taken away with the stroke of a pen. In this scenario, no one actually has to do anything, there is no paper trail, and everyone has plausible deniability. The mere threat of restricting the extraordinary form is supposed to cow traditionalists into pulling their punches.

    The other point I’ll make is that even if the worst were to happen and the extraordinary form were completely suppressed everywhere (a real longshot), the most effective strategy would not be a retreat to the ghetto of SSPX chapels, but a full-scale invasion of the Novus Ordo. Chip away at its worst excesses. Start with the hymns– easy peasy. Replace with the prescribed antiphons or chant. Change the tone, style, and focus of homilies. Swap out some of the vernacular for Latin, one item at a time. Use the first Eucharistic Prayer a lot more often, especially on Sundays. If you are really brave or the bishop is behind you, go for ad orientem. Continue with church architecture as funds for renovations permit. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Novus Ordo were to evolve into something much closer to the extraordinary form? That’s how one plays the long game. Evolution lasts and puts down roots; revolution is only good until the next revolution. The long game isn’t always rewarding, because one can’t always enjoy the fruit of his own labor; he’s making things better for his children and grandchildren and maybe his great-grandchildren. This can be done right now, even in places where one dare not offer the extraordinary form, even without any new documents, without any permission. For those whose pastors aren’t on board, vote with your feet. Find the most reverent parish in your diocese and start working on that one. Do the best you can with what you have.

  5. Kathleen10 says:

    Ah. There are times to be frank, even if what you say is unpopular. This feels like one of those. Speaking candidly, my opinion of bishops could now hardly be lower. There are notable exceptions I can’t name because that would be placing a target. I’ll leave it at that. How sad.
    As pretty much life-long Catholics who attend Holy Mass weekly and love the Catholic faith, we are probably going to be out the door if they tinker with SP and those tinkers show up at the TLM. I do not believe we are the only ones. Catholics have had enough. Life is hard and to have your church abuse you too is too much in these horrible times. I realize what I’m saying and do not say it frivolously, I just want it understood so I do my part to inform of consequences if they do it. One minor point. The days of being involved in church activities may be past with that approaching demographic winter. In a day when young people under 40 grab their cell phone to gaze at it so they do not have to greet people passing by them, it is possible young people are not going to be involved in church support and activities as were their parents and grandparents. The young people, lovely young couples with children, at our TLM, socialize with each other but not really outside that. The younger generation doesn’t think much of socializing outside their group. In fact we see that reflected in the mockery of the “Boomers” who are a much more congenial bunch. They seem more “closed” in general and it seems doubtful they are going to be involved in parish support and outreach that way. Of course I’m speaking generally and realize there are exceptions.

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    “They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that Tradition is out of continuity with their tradition, which began in the 1960’s. Think of the profound influence of Rahner in their formation, etc.”

    – Karl Rahner SJ, 1904-1984.

    Interview, America magazine, 10 March 1979:

    “Naturally, there are interesting people outside my order and the church whom I’ve met and who have indeed made a certain impression on me. Martin Heidegger [philosopher and National Socialist] should, of course, be mentioned first of all.”

    “From 1939-44, during the war, I was a member of the Pastoral Institute in Vienna, where Msgr. Karl Rudolf, who has long since died, had developed and built up a type of diocesan pastoral institute that was scarcely heard of before, I think, at least in central Europe.”

    Crisis magazine, by Howard Kainz, 8 May 2013:

    “In 1962, at the outset of Vatican II, Luise Rinser (1911-2002), at that time a 51-year-old widow and two-time divorcee, a novelist and prolific writer, wrote to Rahner that she wondered if she could consult with him about a writing project concerning the “specific type of spirituality for women.” They met in Innsbruck, and continued getting together at a bar, “The Grey Bear.” At one meeting she confided to him that she was in an “exclusive” love relationship with a Benedictine Abbot, “M.A.,” who was also involved in the Council. Rahner asked if there was room in her love for “both,” and she agreed, but said “M.A.” would always have her primary commitment.”

    In their letters Rahner was “Fish” (Christianity and Rahner’s Zodiac sign Pisces), Rinser was “Wuhschel” (her earlier nickname by her two sons). Rahner’s Three Epochs of the Church bears similarities to the writings of Joachim de Fiore.

    – Luise Rinser, 1911-2002, German novelist. Member of National Socialist Frauenschaft. Her first book, the 1941 semi-autiobiographical novel “Die glasernen Ringe” was banned by the Nazis. Her first husband, a pianist and conductor, was killed on the Eastern Front in 1943. Her second husband was a Communist writer. Her third husband was a composer. Rinser owned property in Rome during Vatican II, later travelled on numerous occasions to Iran and North Korea, and was active in the Stasi-infiltrated Green Party.

    – Hugo Rahner SJ, 1900-1968. Brother of Karl Rahner SJ. Exiled in Switzerland during WW II. Interacted on more than one occasion with the Eranos Foundation.

  7. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    “So, too, we usus antiquior communities need to examine our consciences. To sustain a sectarian attitude or create a ghetto, whilst perhaps understandable in the heady years following the Council, is untenable today. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]”


    “What are they so afraid of?

    “If the powers that be are so convinced in the superiority of the post-Conciliar forms, that they truly provide for and respond to the needs of Catholics in the 21st century, then … let’s find out!

    “Foster the TLM in many more places and then see what happens.”


    JTH makes a good point, so does Andrew Saucci about intimidation and JonPatrick about an Iron Curtain and admission of failure.

Comments are closed.