Wherein a priest alumnus of the North American College responds. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

This is NOT a representation or subtle comment on the writer. Keep reading and you’ll get why there is a picture of a Horned Lizard here.

From an alumnus of the North American College (US seminary in Rome) … edited so that the style of writing can’t be traced to any one priest by those who might recognize it.

As a NAC grad, I read your article [HERE] with interest.

I disagree that a student will get in trouble for googling the Latin Mass and related material.

Things that will get a seminarian in trouble are wearing a cassock, biretta, or bad mouthing Conciliar theology or the Vatican II liturgy in public.

Men who show openly an affinity for pre-Conciliar ‘look’ make formators nervous.

I work with priests who are fans of the usus antiquior.  It’s not their interest in that liturgical form that gets them in trouble.  What gets them in trouble are firm statements on faith or morals.  They are black and white and might polarize the faithful.  What gets them in trouble is a biretta, which can really anger some of the older Vatican II clergy.

Or what get’s them in trouble is their ‘obsession’ with using a one thousand year old document, the Summa Theologiae, as a catechetical resource.

That’s what gets them in trouble.

“What gets them in trouble are firm statements on faith or morals….”

That’s it in one.

Liturgy is doctrine, of course.  And we are our rites.

The enemies of Tradition might not always be very bright or well-formed, but they sense the truth of that connection of doctrine and worship viscerally and they react in nasty ways, rather like the Horned Lizard which literally shoots blood from its eyes as a defensive instinct.

Yes, experience informs that this is a pretty good analogy.

Birettas and Latin trigger that generation.

They were conditioned in those halcyon days of change and revolution, protests and the “spirit” and liberation, all oozing together in the ambient of the Church and COUNCIL, to the point that they fused into a kind of mythic icon.

The sight of a biretta, a black chasuble, ad orientem, triggers violent flashbacks, sends them back to their roots of protest and change.

When they see younger priests embracing those things they threw away, literally into dumpsters, they feel threatened and become defensive. Many of them sense in the younger generation’s desire for tradition an implicit attack on their own persons, on their priestly identity (resting on whatever sort of foundation), a criticism of their whole life’s work. So they lash out.

In a sense, they are not wrong that the embrace of Tradition by younger priests is an implicit criticism of their life’s work. That’s because what they strove to build after Vatican II didn’t have the desired effect. In fact, looking around at the Church, on the level of statistics, it was a real failure.

We can blame them and not blame them.  They weren’t and aren’t perfect.  No priests are.  Most of them put their backs into doing what they were told.   The real blame, the blamable blame, lies with a few.

Most of our now older priests were absolutely sincere in what they did. They were good priests and they were formed in their particular time.  But a lot of their work, in the end, didn’t work, objectively.   Yes, yes… there are many factors.  Blah blah blah.  But as bishops and priests go, the Church will go, to the point where St. Jean Eudes’ dire admonishment kicks in.

It stings these older men to suggest that maybe we ought to go back a few squares, and rethink our path.

The younger guys don’t intend to stick a finger in their eye. That’s not their intention in becoming more “trad”.   They just don’t have the baggage of the previous waves of priests. They are simply not as invested in that chimeric ‘spirit’ of the Council and those oh so halcyon days.   Those aren’t their own days!   These are their days!  For them, The Council was just a Council, along with a bunch of other Council’s in a chain of continuity that doesn’t cancel out the value of the previous Councils.  These younger men just want to have their patrimony – all of it, and not just the part that started on 11 October 1962 onward – and get on with things, do their priestly, pastoral work.  They just want to be priests and do things that actually work, not just repeat the obviously failed experiments of the past.

If some few do want to rub it in the face of their older brethren, well… shame on them. Thanks, guys, you few, you unhappy few, for betraying our cause by your willful imprudence.

The vast majority of priests who want Tradition simply want to get on with things, the more the merrier: “Join us, please! We will welcome you. Give us a hand.” Or, at least, “If not, please leave us alone. Don’t mess with our joy.”

I’ve made this comparison before.

Say you are in Chicago and you want to drive to New York. You set out and drive for a long time. Suddenly, thinking you were drawing nearer to Empire State you see a sign saying “Kansas Welcomes You!” What do you do? Do you keep driving in the same direction? Not if you really desire to get to New York. No. Commonsense dictates that you do a U-turn and head the other direction until you start see welcome signs for Eastern states. That’s the smart course. It would be stupid to continue driving in the opposite direction once you know you have strayed. Let’s add to this the fact that you have put on your car a sign, “NEW YORK OR BUST!” You pull into the gas station in Kansas to fuel up and the guy there says, “Hey, didn’t you come in from the East? Buddy, you are going in the wrong direction!” You pay him and start to pull out onto the road, again toward the West. The guy runs out waving his arms, shouting, “HEY! THAT WAY! NEW YORK IS THAT WAY!” But, no. You are on your path.

For these older guys who committed to what they committed in the 60s, 70s, 80s, the sight of a growing congregation at a Traditional Latin Mass is like hot coals on their forehead.  But they’ve got those thinning white-knuckled  hands locked onto the steering wheel and, by gum, they’re not turning the car back.

For this reason, some of them, sad to say, would rather drive off a cliff than turn around.  They would rather destroy a thriving, growing community of happy, zealous young Catholics than let it grow.  Instead of joining them, or at least benignly watching from afar, they’ll run over them with the car on the way to the cliff’s edge.

Because, in the end, it’s all about them.

We can and must act, in charity, in the face of this new round of challenges.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Cri de Coeur, Francis, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, Priests and Priesthood, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, Seminarians and Seminaries, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, Traditionis custodes, Vatican II, Wherein Fr. Z Rants. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. G1j says:

    Now we know exactly where the Church is heading and the laity can only go along for the ride obediently. We have known this for some time, but would like to think that we could see a return to reverence. It is not going to happen. What’s a faithful Catholic to do? My wife and I are recent empty nesters so we will put our blinders on at the NO parish and do our best to know, love, and serve. Thanks for all you do Father.

    [Get up off the ground, man, and get to work! There’s a great deal that you can do to help, but you can’t do it lying there on the ground waiting for the next kick.]

  2. ncstevem1 says:

    Father – had an interesting conversation with a priest just ordained 1 month ago who was trained at the NAC. Normally I go to the TLM 40 miles from where I currently live but last Sunday I went to the local NO parish. I moved to this diocese in 2020 and it’s not considered particularly ‘traditional’ unlike Charlotte where I lived for 30 years (thank you Bishop Jugis).

    After Mass, I congratulated the priest on his ordination and asked where he was trained. I then asked if they trained seminarians to celebrate the TLM. He replied “No, but I’m learning it with several of my ex-classmates and several priests from the diocese.”

    If that’s happening in this diocese in light of the recently moto proprio, then I see it as a temporary bump in the road. They’re losing their grip on power in the Church.

  3. Lurker 59 says:

    In the below, I am writing generally about basic principles and not about the the various groups above.

    Beauty, truth, goodness are attractive things. They are like magnets that draw people to themselves. This is a truism. However, one can sufficiently warp the conscience enough that these three things provoke a negative, nearly pathological response. It is not the same thing as being “triggered”, to use today’s parlance, though such a word would be used.

    The poisons of envy and spite can be wrapped up in this response.

    Logic and reason cannot be used to argue against such individuals for logic and reason are tied to truth goodness and beauty. It will only provoke the pathological response. Nor can charity/compassion for these too are tied to the goodness, beauty, and truth and will also provoke the response. The only thing that one can do is the biblical response of having pity and leaving the dead to bury the dead. Gamaliel taught that that such things should be left alone — if they are of God you won’t be able to eliminate them (bring them to your side) and if they are not they will self-end. This is not just advice for how the Jews should deal with the Christians, but how the Christians should deal with the antagonism of the Jews.

    If you have a severely traumatized and wounded animal, and those who have pathological responses to truth beauty and goodness are indeed wounded and traumatized, you cannot just interact with them directly. Patience and distance are the keys to a compassionate response.

  4. summorumpontificum777 says:

    In my diocese (location withheld, as I don’t want to get anyone in trouble), approximately half of the priests ordained in the past 8 years or so have an appreciation or love for the TLM. I know, because these young men have come to my diocesan TLM parish to say their first public TLMs. The trend is our friend. In 25-30 years, these men would be on track to be running things. Unfortunately, the powers that be aren’t blind to this reality, and that’s why we have Traditionis Custodes and why we’re seeing the discontinuation of the TLM at the NAC, etc. This is the last stand of the “New Springtime of Vatican 2” diehards, and they’re not going to go quietly. They are making a concerted effort to derail the trad-friendly train that is barreling down the tracks. Don’t underestimate them. They have little chance of changing the hearts and minds of the men who are called to the priesthood right now, and I think they know that. Fr Tom Reese SJ admitted as much a few weeks ago in his column when he lamented that “[f]inding young candidates for the priesthood, meanwhile, who support Francis and want to be celibate is like looking for Catholic unicorns.” This should set off alarm bells. If the “wrong” sort of men want to be priests, what is their plan to find the “right” sort? Abolition of clerical celibacy? Out-and-proud-and-active homosexuals? Womenpriests? Don’t think that they wouldn’t love to implement some or all of these.

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  6. prayfatima says:

    I am not a canon lawyer or anyone with a position of authority in the church.
    I am just a regular person sharing my thoughts.

    Lurker 59, I agree with your thoughts. Logic, reason, truth, beauty and goodness are of God and those who are against Him do not like the reflections of Him wherever they are found. And reflections of God are everywhere, and at Mass it’s not even a reflection anymore, He is actually present in the Host. So they distract distract and turn the priest towards us and distract some more. The Mass should be clear-cut, simple, extravagant, consistent, beautiful, God-centered and inspiring. For God is all those things and the Mass should help us know Him better. We are made to know, love and serve Him and the Mass should help us do that. God is the ruler and center of all, so we face Him. Modern man wants to be faced (Face Book), to be known and seen by all. Ancient man wants to see and know God! Ancient man also wants to know thyself in relation to God. I believe people can pray better when the priest is facing the altar, because who can pray well when they are being looked at by the priest? Turn around and pray to God for us, stop looking at us, it’s distracting and uncomfortable. Don’t you want us to pray well? You are distracting, please turn around and pray well, because this is God’s house. Stop improvising and save your personality for a witty tidbit during the homily. It’s God’s personality that the faithful need to know better and it’s the Holy Spirit that should be doing any ad lib.

  7. Archicantator says:

    At one stage in my life, I was training for the Anglican ministry. I did a term of “pastoral placement” under the supervision of a parish rector who was a self-described “aging hippie.” (Apologies for forgetting a commitment sometimes ended with a shake of the head and the explanation, “You have to understand: I did a *lot* of drugs.”) Whereas *I* was a “young fogey.” I exclaimed one day, “Oh my goodness! I’m the return of everything you rebelled against!”

    But we actually got on like a house on fire. And we would pray the daily offices together, one day in a contemporary form (my supervisor’s preference and private discipline) and the next day from the old Book of Common Prayer (my preference and private discipline).

    It helped that we both had PhDs in Medieval Studies, which meant that we both loved and valued the past. We may have disagreed profoundly about how the past should inform the present, but there was no question of ignoring it or demonizing it. For my supervisor, what had once been holy was not now suddenly evil or forbidden — though from his perspective it might seem “inopportune for use in this congregation at this time.”

    That’s a very different sort of “liberal” from the kind that sees the past only as an embarrassing series of errors that cannot be forgotten soon enough, now that the present has finally got everything right.

  8. Fr. Youngtrad says:

    How recent was this NAC grad? While I didn’t go to the NAC, I have many friends who were or are there currently who are very traddy and I can’t imagine the NAC recommending them for ordination if it actually was as bad as is stated above – yet they were recommended.

  9. Catechumen says:

    “Liturgy is doctrine, of course. And we are our rites.”

    Lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer determines the law of belief. Thank you Fr. Hesse, Vatican librarian and popularizer of canon law, may God grant you requiem aeternum.

    In view of your allusion to the intrinsic connection of liturgy and faith, the recognition cannot be perpetually deferred that the lex orandi (“chanting or reading of the Mass”) promulgated by St. Pius V in Quo Primum, was, as a matter of faith, solemnly pronounced irreformable.

    It follows axiomatically that the Novus Ordo, whatever its validity, is illicit (to include even the Holy Week reforms of Pius XII). Consequently the disasters of the faith that it has engendered, rather than being thought of as merely human mistakes with human agency, or abstruse sociological questions, should instead be interpreted as active proof that the collective curse of St. Peter, St. Paul, and most ominously, Almighty God Himself, has been activated against the Novus Ordo with the binding force of the keys of St. Pius V (a Pope of Popes, gigantic in comparison with any Pope of the last century). And let the NO be accursed!

    Meanwhile, despite the ecclesiastical whack-a-mole of the hierarchy since Paul VI, Benedict XVI possibly excepted, the Roman Rite (yes, by the keys of St. Peter, there is only one) has proved to be irrepressible. This is because its sacremental form and purpose was instituted by the divine hands of Jesus Christ Himself; its liturgical form is based on the careful and reverent refinement of the apostles and their proximal successors; and as such it is Holy. Put simply, the Roman Rite is blessed beyond any power of the Devil to suppress it.

    Those that love it, love it because it is Holy. Those that despise it, despise it for the same reason. Whether they were bamboozled by the Devil or consciously went along with the apostasy, the overt modernist and humanist motives of VII and the NO are rooted in human pride, rebellion against God, and ultimately, allegiance to Satan. “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”

    If this is stark, it is because it should be, for mark this well: time is short, and the Devil knows it.

    In Christ,
    “A Rigid And Presumptive Catholic”

  10. TRW says:

    I think you are right. For the most part, those who are attracted to the priesthood are going to be increasingly more conservative( in the true sense of the word) and tradition-oriented. That is, so long as celibacy is the rule for priests in the Latin Rite, I think that will be the trend. As the boomers die off(sorry to be blunt), the N.O will be celebrated more reverently. I don’t think anyone will be nostalgic for Haas or Haugen. Those who do continue to go to Mass will likely have been well-catechized and won’t be offended by ad orientum worship, etc. Anyone overtaken by the “spirit of the age” won’t be going to Mass. Attendance appears to already have plummeted(even more)at N.O parishes. During the pandemic many seem to have decided that they “don’t need Mass”.

  11. summorumpontificum777 says:

    We see the trends, but “they” see them, too. And they ain’t happy and are growing increasingly shrill and desperate to “course correct.” In today’s La Croix, for instance, we see Bobby Mickens calling for Pope Francis to shut down all seminaries for a three-year review. They would rather have no new priests at all than what they see as rigid, Ratzingerian “little monsters.” It’s also why PF apparently loses no sleep over the radical direction of the German Synod. When you’re losing the long game and you have little chance of a reversal, your only real hope is to radically change the rules of the game. And, so, yes, if you want to remake Catholicism in the image of liberal protestantism, what better way to do that than to remake the Catholic priesthood, i.e., by opening up the clergy to the same sorts of people that liberal protestantism has? And that means not only married men, but also women and out-and-active LGBTs. Don’t assume that they won’t move on to these “nuclear” options. Pope Francis himself may not be ready to hit all of the launch buttons, but their hope is that his successor will be. Kyrie eleison.

  12. Emilio says:

    The NAC is still going through a scandal (see Church Militant) of homosexual harassment and assault of seminarians by a vice rector (the snake was former priest-sec. to Card Wuerl, go figure). The thing about the NAC is that an unhealthy careerism infects the place. Every successive rector there is salivating for a miter and will do anything to not blow that eventual promotion. If throwing the Tradition-minded under the bus is now what is required… then hey “¡no hay problema! The careerism is in the student body as well, so if snitching on peers is what it takes to earn brownie points, then for some “¡no hay problema!” The future of Tradition is in the hands of priests and laity who know that they will suffer all sorts of things to ensure that we win this WAR, for the sake of future generations. Those of us alive and well and in the trenches in the pre-Summorum days know exactly what we’re up against… except that now the Apostolic See is hostile to us too, and we don’t seem to have any friends there. What we do have in contrast to 20 years ago, is that for every Modernist in Rome or at the NAC or wherever… there are many more Tradition-loving Bishops and priests. God be with us and help us to save His holy Church… because I for one don’t plan on making this easy for them. MOLON LABE… “we will resist to your face”.

  13. Ages says:

    I always found “custodian” to be an odd euphemism.

    We need to be honest: a better name for TC would be “Janitors of tradition,” or better yet, “Garbage-men of tradition.”

  14. mweidlick says:


    All your talk of throwing birettas and such literally in the dumpsters made me think about comments I recently heard from my aunt who is a elderly nun. She was a new nun in the late sixties and has not worn a habit since her order did away with them in 1972. Now, flash forward 50 years and her order is on its death bed. The leaders of the order seem to do nothing now but have meeting after meeting about “what mother house will close next”, “who will move where after a consolidation of convents”, and what to do next. They spend time (and money) asking experts what they can do to reverse the complete lack of vocations they’ve experienced for the last 20 years. They are repeatedly told they need to return to wearing a habit, attending daily mass, and return to their charism. My aunt says she and her superiors all think that advice is rubbish.
    These people are blind to what is happening around them and too prideful to see their path has led no where but the destruction of their institutions.

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  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “The sight of a biretta, a black chasuble, ad orientem, triggers violent flashbacks, sends them back to their roots of protest and change.”

    Good point. It will always be the 1960s for them: Pachamama is Groovy; Latin is a Bummer; ad orientem? “don’t bogue my high”; the gospel according to Wavy Gravy? “I can dig it”; save the gay whales and kill the babies? “that’s my bag.”

    Emilio: “Molon Labe.” Indeed.

    ncstevem1 wrote: “After Mass, I congratulated the priest on his ordination and asked where he was trained. I then asked if they trained seminarians to celebrate the TLM. He replied “No, but I’m learning it with several of my ex-classmates and several priests from the diocese.”

    Excellent. In 2000 St. John Paul II canonized St. Cristobal Magallanes who founded a clandestine seminary in Mexico during the Cristero revolt against the socialists and Commies. [Sidenote: For one interesting element prior to the Cristero War see the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy who met with Lenin and was a founder of the Mexican Communist Party (partly financed by Kaiser Wilhelm during WW I). Also see Peter Hopkirk’s “Like Hidden Fire” which deals with Kaiser Wilhelm’s effort during WW I to foment jihad in the Middle East and revolution such as in Mexico- which brings up the Zimmerman Telegram, but I digress.]

    summorumpontificum777 wrote: “When you’re losing the long game and you have little chance of a reversal, your only real hope is to radically change the rules of the game.”

    An excellent point.

    “Don’t assume that they won’t move on to these “nuclear” options.”

    Yes, the 2020s could be a long decade. In these United States many faithful Catholics, Protestants and Jews, having noticed the iconoclasm of last summer and the nihilism of the Bloody Biden regime, are making the effort to be neighborly out of love for God and Country, while avoiding the pitfalls of Ecumenism and Syncretism.

    “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24

    [… Wavy Gravy! … That’s someone I haven’t thought about for a while!]

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  18. Semper Gumby says:

    The Cristeros War in Mexico was fought from 1926-29 but trouble began in 1917. Briefly, Mexico’s socialist revolutionary government (some of whom were open atheists) adopted a constitution that (this will sound familiar) forbade religious processions, dissolved religious orders, and prevented priests and nuns from teaching in schools. [Sidenote: In 1917 working conditions for peasants and factory workers needed improvement, this socialist “constitution” went far beyond that.]

    Interestingly, the 1917 Mexican constitution was one source of inspiration for Lenin and the 1918 Soviet constitution.

    In the U.S. in the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan (founded by the “Democrat” Party about 1865) provided funding to Mexican socialist anti-Catholics, the Knights of Columbus provided funding to the Catholic resistance.

    In 1926 abortionist Margaret Sanger gave a speech to a KKK rally in Silver Lake, New Jersey. Sanger, a racist and eugenicist, was editor of the “Birth Control Review.” In 1933 she published the article “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need” written by National Socialist Ernst Rudin, a member of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene and nicknamed by at least several other Nazis as “Reichsfuhrer for Sterilization.”

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