07-07-07 Bittersweet Summorum Pontificum

15 years ago today, Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, which freed up the use the 1962 Missale Romanum.  This was one of the most significant acts of his pontificate.

His motives for issuing Summorum were to jump start an organic and legitimate liturgical renewal, especially through “mutual enrichment”, to reconcile many and to provide sacred liturgical worship according to the hearts of even more.  I will not rule out that Benedict, as a priest himself, keenly understood what priests understand about their priesthood through the use of the Traditional Latin Mass.

Summorum could be likened to the Emancipation Proclamation for countless laity and priests.   The attempt to crush the fruits of Summorum Pontificum could be likened to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 SCOTUS decision that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine.  Except that “equal” doesn’t mean equal.

Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum was surely an element of his larger program which I have described in terms of the post-WWII Marshall Plan.

After the devastation WWII these USA helped to rebuild Europe in order to foster trade and support a bulwark against Communism.  In the wake of the devastation caused by a hermeneutic of discontinuity after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Benedict tried to revitalize our Catholic identity as a bulwark against the dictatorship of relativism.

The renewal of our Catholic identity requires a realigning of the Roman Rite.  How we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe.  This realignment requires the Traditional Roman Rite.  There is no way around it.  We have to renew our liturgical worship in order to be who we are within Holy Church, so that we can have an impact, as Catholic disciples of the Lord, on the world around us.

The Traditional Roman Rite is an antidote to the secularization of the Church.

Find a bishop or priest who resists, forbids the Traditional Rite, and you find a priest or bishop for whom the Church is an NGO.

If we don’t know who we are, no one will pay attention to us or what we might have to offer in the public square.  If we are incoherent, for example giving Communion to radically pro-abortion Catholics, or stand by and watch when you could do something about it, why should anyone pay attention to anything we have to say on any other issue?  Bishops have squandered our moral capital for decades.

There is the bitter in today’s anniversary, to be sure, because of the cruelty of so many pastors of a certain leaning.

However, there is also the sweet.

In the 80’s and 90’s when people were struggling to maintain traditional worship, there were fewer resources.  Then the internet came along.

What Rush did for the conservative movement through radio, the internet did for the traditional liturgical movement.

Now, people know each other.  Information flows.  Markets opened for for traditional books and other resources.

The spectacular multiplication of locations of the TLM in just these USA from 2007 – 2017 demonstrates the viability and the hunger out there.

The hunger and viability are both there.

Many priests now know how to say the older Mass.  They will teach the new men who will be ordained, in secret if necessary.  The more bishops crack down, the more TLMs will be said in people’s homes.

It isn’t going away.

Given the demographic disaster that we face, the sinkhole opening up under the Church, we have to face the fact that changes are necessary. Great swathes of “Catholics” will soon disappear.  Those left will be of a traditional leaning together with converts from Evangelical backgrounds and well-rooted charismatics who are enthusiastic about their Faith.  There will be some frictions, but these groups will find each other out of need.  The result, I predict, will be amazing.

ACTION ITEM! Be a “Custos Traditionis”! Join an association of prayer for the reversal of “Traditionis custodes”.


I receive a note:

The cumulative numbers of youtube hits for the two pontifical Shrine Masses The Paulus Institute arranged in 2010 and 2018 now exceeds 250,000, and growing.

2010 Mass

2018 Mass

Archbishop Cordileone, recently insulted by Francis, had a Pontifical Mass at the Throne on 1 July with the premier of a new Mass setting in honor of St. Junipero Serra.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Orual says:

    Wow! Love Abp. Cordileone!

  2. Father an honest question. I haven’t read TC thoroughly in a year and the Dubia months ago, but did it say there was a ban on using the pontificale Romanum? If Yes how did +Cordileone do a Pontifical Mass (maybe he used his authority and said “I’m doing it” or some canon law code?)

  3. summorumpontificum777 says:

    7.7.7. It was a glorious day… one of those rare moments when something truly good happened in the world. Yet I remember the comm-box naysayers asking, “Well, what’s to stop some future modernist pope from scrapping the whole thing?” Very sad that they were proven right, and utterly shocking that they were proven right during Benedict XVI’s own lifetime. It’s utterly mind-boggling that the powers that be in Rome think that the most zealous, youngest, most engaged cohort within the Church in US/UK/France can simply be bullied out the door. But we soldier on. “The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.”

  4. ex seaxe says:

    If by Traditional Roman Rite you mean the Curial Low Mass rubrics as embodied in the 1570 Missal and its descendants, then I disagree. That was not even the Rite used in the Diocese of Rome. Since the clerics of the curia had no, or little, pastoral responsibility their missal ignored the congregation. Diocesan missals generally required some engagement with the congregation, such as informing the congregation of what the Mass was offered for, and of other pastoral needs (the sick and recently dead, for example). Sarum had these biddings, optionally stations during the entrance procession, the circulation of the pax, and “Orate fratres et sorores ….
    The Council of Trent demanded ‘frequent’ expounding of the texts ‘during’ the Mass (Session XXII cap viii). The missal of my childhood demanded that the celebrant not look at the congregation at any point before, during, or after Mass. The Council of Trent desired general communion of the faithful. The Ordo Missae of my childhood omitted mention of communion of the faithful, putting the required texts only in the Ritus Servandus

  5. Bthompson says:

    re: ex seaxe,

    All reasons, among others, why Sacrosanctum Concilium considered and taught what it did. The need of the Roman Rite to examine itself and realign itself with its apostolic form was apparently very much felt (given the vast approval of SC). However, rediscovering lost elements, discerning what elements had somehow gone astray–and why, and returning the Mass’ form gradually and prudently and reverently to something in more perfect continuity and accord with its own nature and history is not what we got.

    Instead, we got a synthetic construction without true continuity. If one abandons the Form of a thing, one cannot be called a reformer; one is something else then.

    (IMO it was by no means perfect or ideal, but I think the 1965 missal could have been a good basis for ongoing authentic reform, had they not just thrown it out and broken continuity to write their own Mass. Things would need to have been reconsidered over time–including some pre-conciliar oddities such as the Holy Week changes, and there were and would be more well-intentioned changes that would in time be realized to have been excessive and perhaps walked back, but in the long term I think things would and could have settled on something livable and in accord with what the council fathers directed)

  6. 67mcmahon says:

    Cardinals Pell and Sarah were in choir for Abp. Cordileone’s Pontifical High Mass.

    Protestors yelled the entire Mass, locked outside. Treating us to just a bizarre laundry list of beefs. “Send your mission bells back to hell” was one of the more memorable couplets they gifted our eardrums. You can hear them during the homily around 41:30. Even my 6 year old asked, “Don’t they know the Mass is more important than yelling?” Frisco loudmouths notwithstanding, it was one of the most beautiful and moving events I’ve had the privilege of experiencing.

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