“The liturgical reform was ‘sold,’ so to speak, on a mighty promise of the countless wonderful blessings it could not fail to bring to the Church.”

I read a story at CNA about a diocese in the Netherlands where the wonderous springtime of Vatican II has revolutionized all of Catholic life.

So successful has the Vatican II reform been, that the Diocese of Roermond has said that, due to a shortage of priests and to save on energy costs, they are was abandoning offering at least one Sunday Mass in every parish. They are shifting to Masses every other week. There are 3.7 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but only 4% regularly attend Mass. The Diocese of Roermond is one of two dioceses with a majority of Catholics.

Recently Peter Kwasniewski gave a talk in Charlotte, NC which was reproduced at Rorate also with the video.  The title of the talk, “The Primacy of Tradition and Obedience to the Truth”.

You can seek that out and read and/or view it via those links, above.  However, here is an excerpt for thought.  Keep in mind my catch-phrase: We Are Our Rites.


The liturgical reform was “sold,” so to speak, on a mighty promise of the countless wonderful blessings it could not fail to bring to the Church. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, begins with a statement of what the Council hoped to achieve, with the liturgical reform as its poster-child:

This sacred Council…desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.

As my colleague Gregory DiPippo, esteemed editor of New Liturgical Movement, has pointed out on more than one occasion: “None of this has happened. The Christian life of the faithful has not become more vigorous; its institutions have not become more suitably adapted to the needs of our times; union has not been fostered among all who believe in Christ; the call of the whole of mankind into the household of the Church has not been strengthened.”[30]

As I have said, the traditionalists objected to a massive reform as a matter of principle, on the twin basis of reason and faith, because they could not see how it would be right to sacrifice the tradition already certainly known and loved for a future possibility uncertainly known and impossible to love because it had yet no existence. As Joseph Shaw says, in 1971, at the time of the first (so-called Agatha Christie) indult, no one had the freedom to base an argument for keeping the old liturgy on the grounds that it would be “pastoral” to do so, or because of its venerable theology, since “the whole point of the reform was the [promised] pastoral effectiveness, as yet of course untried, of the Novus Ordo Missae, and [the hoped-for assimilation of] the theological insights of Vatican II.”[31] The only defense that might work with the authorities back in 1971 was an artistic and cultural defense.

Today, we are in a vastly different position. We have not only the same principles of faith and reason as our forefathers, we also have behind us a half-century of desolation, desecration, and dramatic decline in church life as a monumental witness of unarguable fact against the prophesied success of the liturgical reform. We know now that the prophets of renewal—even if they wore the mitre of a bishop or the fisherman’s ring—were false prophets who said “peace, peace, when there was no peace” (Jer 6:14, 8:11), who promised plenty but brought down famine. To defend the superiority of Catholic tradition today, we don’t need to have even half the insightfulness of the original traditionalists, because we can see that every one of their predictions has been proved true to the last degree. They predicted that sudden and massive change would have catastrophic effects, and that the particular changes pushed through would undermine Catholic faith and practice. They predicted that where tradition was treasured, the Church would weather the storm and produce good fruits. They have been abundantly vindicated in the event, for it is the very success of the traditionalist renewal against all possible odds that has roused the dragon’s ire.

For us to be traditionalists today requires no great wisdom, for the good and bad fruits have reached full maturity. We still have the same power of reason and the same sensus fidei fidelium that tells us when something is irrational or when it refuses to harmonize with what a sound catechism teaches us. The one thing we need more of, much more of, is courage, fortitude, boldness. The traditionalist movement both benefited from and suffered from the fifteen-year “pax Benedictina,” the peaceful space of coexistence put into place by Benedict XVI. We benefited because many more priests learned the old rite and many more faithful grew to love it. So our movement has grown tremendously in numbers. But we suffered, too, because in a lot of places things became easier for us, and perhaps we grew soft, as soldiers may do in peace time; suddenly we had friendly (or at least not openly hostile) bishops, we had parishes springing up here and there; it seemed like a gently rising and irresistible tide.

And then came the unexpected Traditionis Custodes—whose title can be translated “prison-guards of treachery”—which threw us suddenly back into a state of open conflict that many of us, especially, I would say, the “baby traditionalists,” were quite unprepared for. This is where we really need to step up our game. Everyone who has drifted to the TLM because they love the Eucharistic reverence, the silence, the music, the community of young families, the orthodox preaching, whatever it might be, or even just because they hated masks and hand sanitizer and the branch covidian religion—all of them need to pick up some good books and educate themselves![32] They need to find out what happened in the 60s and why traditionalism as a movement began.[33] They need, in short, to move from being tourists of tradition to apostles of it, from nomads to homesteaders, from admirers to defenders. We were sold a kind of half-truth, that we could have the tradition if we “preferred” it; and that was a false compromise, because tradition is not something we “prefer,” it is something we know and understand, believe and live—it is a treasure without which we cannot live and without which the Church cannot thrive. It is not a preference but a vital necessity, a fundamental identity.


[30] Gregory DiPippo, “The Revolution Is Over,” New Liturgical Movement, August 1, 2022.

[31] “The 1971 Petition,” Mass of the Ages 210 (Winter 2021), 8.

[32] Start with these two: my Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020) and Michael Fiedrowicz’s The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020).

[33] For this, Stuart Chessman’s book Faith of Our Fathers: A Brief History of Catholic Traditionalism in the United States, from Triumph to Traditionis Custodes (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2022) will be indispensable.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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This entry was posted in Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Pò sì jiù, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Traditionis custodes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kathleen10 says:

    So much truth in one essay.
    I looked around today and saw babies, children, everywhere, at the TLM. It is growing, young families are connecting with each other, and it is a beautiful thing to see. A few weeks ago I needed to attend an NO Mass. Only two young men, and two young boys. Most of the rest were senior citizens. Today a young mother I never met before told me she brought her two boys to the TLM, they were not former attendees. She was not at all sure they would like it, they were accustomed to the NO. They both loved it. Why wouldn’t they, children can detect reverence, and how that stands out in our corrupt world that gets worse every day. Who wouldn’t want an hour with God in the midst of what we are living through. If only every child could know it. We should invite everyone we can to the TLM. Everyone needs it.
    As in the secular world, the other side plays for keeps now. They are not hidden, they are right out in the open. We see them and they know it. We have to be as serious about keeping Catholicism as they are about destroying it. Even better, we have to be more serious and more determined. The side with the most zeal, wins.

  2. summorumpontificum777 says:

    About 20 years ago, I heard a talk by a priest in his late 80s. As I recall, the man had been ordained to the priesthood around 1940. By the mid-’60s, he had become a prominent pastor and leading monsignor in his archdiocese. In his talk, Monsignor told us that he had been an enthusiastic proponent of the liturgical reforms 1965-1970. He explained that, on an intellectual level, the reforms made perfect sense to him. He believed that, in the wake of JFK’s election to the presidency and Vatican II, a unique “Catholic moment” in history was dawning. Millions of impending conversions to Catholicism were not only possible; they might even be probable. But the Latin language and Catholicism’s smells-and-bells pageantry were barriers to mass conversion, as they were off-putting to the sensibilities of low-church protestants who still dominated society. If only the Church could pivot, strip away those unnecessary barriers and get things to the irresistible basics of the faith, Catholicism’s triumph would be inevitable. In 2000, however, Monsignor explained that, with the benefit of hindsight, he had been wrong 30-35 years earlier. The conversions that he expected had never materialized, and by every metric of the health of the archdiocese (vocations to the priesthood, sacramental weddings, infant baptisms, Sunday mass attendance, parochial school enrollment), the Church was much worse off in 2000 than it had been in 1970.

  3. mo7 says:

    @summorumpontificum777 at least he was willing to admit his mistake. The problem we have is that the leadership is ignoring a half century of failure and still waiting for the plan to work as if it still might or ever could.

  4. Chrisc says:

    At the end of the 3 person panel that followed Kwasniewski’s presentation there was a hard question. How can Quo Primum abrogate rites of the church but Francis cannot? The answer was double. One, Quo Primum didn’t really abrogate rites. It did limit which one could be used, but it preserved that which was ancient. The limiting came to those in use immediately after the Black Death and really coincided with the proto-Protestant Wycliffe. So the limiting of rites was not arbitrary, but back to those things that introduced innovation into the lex orandi of the church. Quo Primum put a stop on novelty.
    Two, a rite extant in the church for a long period becomes a proximate regula fidei. As the people live it out, it becomes more hallowed, and as such it becomes the backbone of Christian life. This is why the church may introduce newer rites, like the Novus Ordo, and may excise newer rites, (perhaps the NO) but the more ancient a rite is the less able the church is to move from it. The TLM is the faith of the Roman Church.

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  6. DeGaulle says:

    I have come to suspect that it is not a case of the ‘plan’ not working, but that it is working exceedingly well.

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    Chrisc wrote:

    “ Two, a rite extant in the church for a long period becomes a proximate regula fidei.”

    Well, hold on there. One needs to be a little more subtle with that statement. I am thinking of the story of a young lady who was teaching her daughter to bake a cake. She pulled out a baking pan and after kneeling the dough (or whatever you do when making a cake), etc., they put the cake mix onto a baking sheet and the mother told the daughter to cut off the sides. She obeyed and the cake was baked. When the daughter was grown and she was preparing to teach her own daughter how to bake a cake, she began to wonder about that final step. She asked her mother why they cut off the sides of the cake mix. The mother did not know, but said it was a tradition passed on from mother to daughter. It just so happened that the mother’s grand mother (the original daughter’s great grandmother) was still alive, so the mother paid her a visit at the nursing home.

    “Nana, why do we cut off the end of the cake mix before we put it into the oven?”

    The grandmother smiled.

    “Well, as I heard it from my grandmother, back in the day, grandma was poor and only had a small oven. The baking sheet was too big, so she cut off the sides of the cake mix to make it fit.”

    Just because something has been repeated for generations does not, in itself, make it a regular fidei. The problem is not the regula, but the fidei. In order for a repeated rite to become a true rule of faith, the original action must have, itself, confirmed to right reason, i.e., the Faith.

    Obviously, the TLM has been tested for centuries and does conform to the Faith. The TLM got it right, from the start. It is not obvious that this has to be the case. One can imagine the creation of a defective or heretical Masses for a sect that had a problem with some aspect of Church teaching. An example might be an Arian Mass setting. Just because the heresy exists for an extended time does not give the Mass it creates a legitimacy it cannot otherwise have. A modern example is the Anglican Mass. It has a venerable tradition, but is not a regula fidei, because the faith upon which it is based is defective.

    This notion applies to the NO, as well. The central question is whether or not it is a true representation of the Living Faith handed on by Christ. That it is valid is unquestionable; that it corresponds to the Faith that the Vatican II Council Fathers wished to pass on, is not.

    In other words, one does not judge a tradition based on its age, but on its conformity to truth. It is this issue that Pope Francis will probably never address, because it would force him to really understand the thinking of the Council Fathers regarding the tweaking (!) of the TLM instead of reading distorted discussions from second-hand agenda-driven sources about how there should have been a new Mass setting.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. Patrick-K says:

    I’ve found that if you press NO supporters on this (if you say it failed because it was supposed to be “for the people,” but the people rejected it) then they fall back on something like, “oh, well that’s actually how it was done in the early Church, so really we’re more traditional than you.” Of course, these two things, “we’re modernizing it” and “we’re going back to the early Church” are very different, yet the NO is supposed to be both.

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