Faithful Refortification? Fearful Fleeing?

Many of the old things are back now: pre-Vatican II Mass, fiddle-back vestments, cappa magnas, birettas, Communion on the tongue, and so forth. Seminarians and young priests – in Roman collar, of course – go for traditional liturgical ceremonial. The Vatican takeover of English translations from national bishops’ conferences is nearly complete. Meanwhile, it looks like the Pope and the Holy See are planning to sit out the sex abuse crisis without admitting any fault or instituting any real reforms.

I bet your friends too are talking about this. What are they saying? In some circles, all this demonstrates a faith-filled, self-confident refortification of the Roman Church. The Church is finding its Catholic identity again, even in the face of strong secular headwinds. There is a new seriousness about liturgy after what Fr. Neuhaus liked to call “the silly season.” Slowly but surely the Church is becoming the Church again, after several decades of confusion and mistaken implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Let the media say what they will: we don’t expect to be understood or affirmed by the world as we calmly go about our divine mission. While the goal is not to drive anyone away, at least those who leave will be leaving The Real Thing. People are ready for a “smaller, purer” Church.

I know a few people who take a rather different view. A prominent liturgist recently said this about Vatican officials: “They’re a bunch of thugs, Anthony, they’re nothing but thugs, and in a world of rapid internet communication, they can’t get away with it much longer. It can’t last.” Another prominent liturgist recently said over coffee, “It’s the last gasp of Europe’s last functioning absolute monarchy, and its days are numbered.” According to these folks, the conservative element in the Church, including at central headquarters, is basically overcome by fear: fear of the modern world, fear of diversity, fear of theological inquiry, fear of dialogue with the laity, fear of sexuality, fear of what Vatican II wrought. Vatican officials and conservative liturgists and young clergy are fleeing what is threatening to them. The liturgy is becoming a lovely place to pretend, an escape into a more comfortable past. For these folks, the liturgical silly season is just beginning, and all the lace and frills from auntie’s attic is rather embarrassing. Such as this may last for some time – we may have many years yet to endure – but eventually it will collapse.

If you want to read more about the Faithful Refortification view, check out the comments which will surely appear below in short order. If you want more on the Fearful Fleeing view, there are two intriguing articles by Eugene Cullen Kennedy in the NCRep. A few weeks ago Kennedy compared the reappearing fiddle-back vestments to the antiquated Victorian frock coats which King George required of parliamentarians in the early twentieth century. King George, like Emperor Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas, “struggled to restore monarchical structures that were being swept away by the incoming tide of modern times.” This week Kennedy compares the Vatican bureaucracy in 2010 to the French bureaucracy under Petain after Paris fell to the Germans. “Everyone would carry on as usual in this case study of a collapsing government living on the fumes of long gone glory. Still, its marshals and generals donned their uniforms and pinned on their sashes and medals to hold military reviews and to welcome the war correspondents with bands and receptions, a final costume party for men who reassured themselves by exercising the last fine grains of power in their finely gloved hands.”

This is fascinating. People look at the same phenomena, all of them deeply concerned about the Church’s faithfulness and evangelical witness, and take such different views of what is going on. Is it faithful refortification or fearful fleeing? Pray Tell takes no position on such things. We haven’t really thought about it, as you’ll surely believe. No, we’re enjoying our late summer reading various books about various other topics.



    1. Kathy: I was only half serious. You’re missed my meaning several times now. You must be the most literalist reader we have on this blog.

      1. Oh don’t worry, there are a lot of other names you could be called later on. I’m sure you can get the blue ribbon in something…
        🙂 (joking)

  1. Epistemic closure, anyone?

    The victory of the Kingdom of God is inevitable, as it is underway.

    The inevitability of any given flavor of liturgical praxis is, however, not assured. And anyone who thinks it is has a big blindspot to consider.

  2. When you’re asking about the future, one way to predict is by looking at where the growth is.

    A new priest friend tells me that his seminary liturgy professor believes that Summorum Pontificum is the will of the Holy Spirit, because every seminarian he’s taught in the last 10 years has asked to learn how to say Mass according to the 1962.

    1. Haha, fair point.

      Still, it is an interesting time just now. Although studies (Hoge, Pogorelc et al) show that as a demographic group, young adult Catholics are not “into” fiddlebacks or NFP or any of the other markers of cultural Catholicism, the same cannot be said for young Catholic leaders. The greatest growth in religious life, for example, is in the conservative communities (Bendyna, Gauthier,

      1. All looking over their shoulders into the future. Let’s see where they all are in 10 years . . .

      2. The problem with that theory, Chris, is they’ve never seen the past you think they yearn for. These are the current trends. Be dismissive if you want, or be humble before the facts and try to, what is the phrase? “Read the signs of the times?”

  3. One aspect that this write-up neglects is that this conservatism is as much grass-roots as it is bottom down. My hunch is that the grass roots segment is even more conservative as a whole than the majority of the Curia. If I were a bishop and I could be assured of SRO attendance at a TLM pontifical high mass, what are the odds that I wouldn’t do it?

    I also have to admit that when I read commentators at or hear homilies at TLM’s, the last adjective that I would think describes them is fearful. It’s all engagement, all the time. On the contrary, I think that some conservative Catholics suspect that non-conservative Catholics are afraid to exhibit their Catholic identity fully in the public forum. I also have to point out that many of us conservaties are no less furious about the child rape crisis; we simply have a different perspective on the reasons and the solutions, not all of which are deferential to the bishops and Vatican.

  4. “If I were a bishop and I could be assured of SRO attendance at a TLM pontifical high mass, what are the odds that I wouldn’t do it?”

    Any group can put on a show once every five years for a papal anniversary. What if they had to roll out that magna cappa three times (or more) a weekend?

    Anyone could pack ’em in liturgically if they didn’t need to be bothered with a real parish day in, day out: funerals, weddings, baptisms, school kids, RCIA, the demands of preaching, and everything else. Reform2 gets off easy in my view. It wouldn’t have the staying power in a parish of any size.

    1. I agree with you completely. I know of no parish in the U.S. that has more than one TLM on a weekend, though there is a nearby parish that is thriving and has a weekly solemn TLM.

      I wonder to what extent the grass-roots traditionalists exert an influence on the bishops. The bishops wouldn’t be saying pontificial high masses if they weren’t invited by organizers.

    2. “Any group can put on a show once every five years for a papal anniversary. What if they had to roll out that magna cappa three times (or more) a weekend?”

      They wouldn’t. You don’t get the totality of the traditional liturgy. The Bishop doesn’t celebrate this way if he’s celebrating his daily Mass. If a parish has three Masses on a Sunday, they don’t have three Solemn Masses.

      My reform of the reform parish seems to do just fine with funerals, weddings, RCIA, preaching, etc. It’s easy to say that “real parishes” couldn’t do it when you don’t in fact have to deal with “real parishes”, because yours is a completely hypothetical comment. You cite no actual experience and just claim that it’s impossible.

  5. “child rape crisis” is loaded language, which helps no one. Sexual molestation of adolescents is a crime, but to call it “child rape” is to jack up the gravity of the crime very considerably.

    1. Individuals sin and sin horribly. That the occasional priest sexually abuses either a child or a teen, a boy or a girl, is horrific, but not a universal scandal.

      The real crisis is one of episcopal authority: that a large percentage of bishops have covered up for sex offenders and enabled further crimes to be committed. For this “protection” of the Church, bishops have allowed their credibility to erode and have crippled many efforts in evangelization and catechesis.

    2. But many children were raped. I also believe that adolescents are children. Not all of the abuse was so severe.

  6. What sort of calm discussion or reasoned dialogue is a post like this meant to arouse? Once again caricatures and stereotypes are laid on thick (on both camps, to be sure).

    I see the usual line-up… “old things” (especially Communion on the tongue), the “smaller, purer” sound bite, “lace and frills from auntie’s attic” remarks, etc.

    The crux of the issue, as the middle paragraph frames it, is “fear”. I’d like to be candid about this; “fear” is what I would like to discuss.

    What am I afraid of (besides spiders)? I’m afraid of my Catholic faith, and that of my family and loved ones, being trampled underfoot by the latest article in a diocesan paper or the latest enlightened homily preached by a priest who doesn’t believe in the priesthood (and a host of other things). I’m afraid for people who will listen uncritically to such ideas and subscribe to them because they sound new and fitting and easier than what “old Rome” forces us to believe.

    I fear for the soul of my younger brother who hasn’t believed in God for at least a decade. It absolutely breaks my heart, and I pray often for him, but I do not know how to break through to him.

    I fear for Catholics who have had their faith in God shaken or shattered because of the sins of men. And I fear for those men who are responsible; I wonder if they will ever repent and restore, however they can, what they have broken.

    I fear for my soul, that this topic (the liturgy), which I love so greatly and enjoy talking about, seems to be a regular occasion for sin for me. I wish I could read this blog (and write my comments) in a spirit of charity, but at times I cannot figure out how to do so.

    I know that perfect love casts out all fear, and it’s clear to me that I don’t have that perfect love yet.

    1. Jeffrey – thanks for your good question, and for your charitable honest comments.

      Why does Pray Tell print such stuff? Because it’s real. People are really saying such things. Pray Tell isn’t creating the news, we’re reporting it. I fear that the various factions in our Church are becoming enclaves unto themselves, only talking with the like-minded. This is not good at all for the Church. It breeds extremism in all directions.

      I hope it is a service to the Church for Pray Tell to give expression to the opinions which are out there. I hope it is a modest service to Church officials when we publicize the negative sentiments (sometimes about them) held by so many clergy and lay leaders. Maybe our reporting will contribute to their discernment and discovery of truth and aid their ability to lead their diverse flock.

      Get the truth out, encourage all sides to listen to others, hope for cross-fertilization of ideas. That is our goal. Thanks for contributing to the discussion with your comments.


      1. Fr. Anthony;

        I heard it said once (the topic was Iran / Israel) that real dialogue isn’t possible when one side has as it’s goal the destruction of the other. Many traditionalists feel that the goal of “dialogue” in the past has been the destruction of the pre-Vatican II tradition.

        Perhaps now the some feel that the goal of the dialogue is the destruction of the post-Vatican II developments. Either way, dialogue is still not possible. Perhaps the point of SP was to establish the validity of both and set the table for dialogue to be possible…that mutual enrichment we keep hearing about. Now, the traditionalists want the EF to stay the same and the OF be changed to be more like the EF… and progressives want the OF to stay the same and the EF to be changed to be more like the OF. Not really much in the way of dialogue…

  7. Charles Davis from his 1967 – A Question of Conscience: “The Roman Catholic Church contradicts my Christian faith because I experience it as a zone of untruth, pervaded by a disregard for truth…..Words were used not to communicate truth, but as a means of preserving authority without reard for truth. Words were manipulated as a means of power……For me Christian commitment is inseparable from concern for truth and concern for people. I do not find either of these represented by the official church. There is a concern for authority at the expense of truth, and I am constantly saddened by instances of the damage done to persons by workings of an impersonal and unfree system.”

    These words were written 43 years ago – prior to the final announcement of HV and long before the abuse scandals; the papacies of JPII and B16. He does connect Paul VI and the HV process to the beginning of curial/papal impediment of Vatican II masked by papal words that do not convey truth much less the spirit of charity, hope, and love. (think LA;

    He said further: “The sad fact is that the pattern of doctrine, law, ritual and government imposed upon the Roman Catholic Church no longer corresponds to the genuine and ordinary experience of people today. Hence a constant sense of frustration, aggravated by each further instance of backpedalling by authority and by the frequent jeremiads utterd by Rome against modern aberrations.”

    Let’s just call it “Fearful Refortification” that…

  8. Thank you, Father Anthony, for saying this. Thank goodness for this blog. I share your concern, and I believe that our commentators do as well. It is not change that bothers anyone; we offer constructive improvements over what we have and continue to do so, as we strive for a greater openness to God’s wonderful work. It is the way that the most recent change is being dictated and micromanaged.
    You call the tone at the top fear, and you are polite. I don’t know our leadership personally, so I would call it something worse. In the meantime, to report some local news, any lay volunteer who refuses to submit to fingerprinting is being (should I say “latae sententiae”?) retired from church ministry. Since this is policy in a lot of dioceses, I guess we could call that a sign of fear in this country. Anyway, I am almost counting the days until we meet in Maryland in October, when we can leave the world of sound bites behind and turn up the prayer button.

    1. “Since this is policy in a lot of dioceses, I guess we could call that a sign of fear in this country.”

      Odd, isn’t it, that a pro-active step to help ensure a safe environment for children is portrayed as “fear” on the part of diocesan and parish leaders? Looks more like “shouldering responsibility” to me. It would appear that those unwilling to be fingerprinted must have something to “fear”, no?

    2. Since this is a blog about liturgy, I will restrict my comments to the liturgy connection. Catechesis has to take place every time we gather in worship, whether or not we are introducing change. So we need the help and good will of everyone, and we need serious commitment. Is a given reform of our liturgy the priority, or is something else? The real concerns of our bishops are very clear from their “child protection policies” when these are used to trump everything that goes on in a diocese. Education in the liturgy, awareness of the divine in our midst, excellence in voice and song, attention to our heritage, really don’t matter as long as our people will not get us in trouble before the law. We have too often seen and heard mediocrity in performance of liturgical ministries, which is tolerated at high levels because other more important aims are at play. But what is more important than the way we celebrate God’s work together? We are here because we refuse to accept excuses. From the comments I read on this blog, it is clear that we have all taken firm moral stands and will be ready to sacrifice for them if necessary. I ask you to take my comments in that vein.

      1. “Education in the liturgy [etc.] really don’t matter as long as our people will not get us in trouble before the law.”

        How would that sound reversed?

        “Our people getting us in trouble with the law really doesn’t matter, so long as people get liturgical education, become aware of the divine in our midst, have excellence in voice and song, and pay attention to our heritage.”

        If your diocese is simply assuming that anyone who is fingerprinted is a decent catechist, musician, etc., then that’s their silly mistake. But if your diocese is trying to ensure that its catechists, musicians, etc., are good at what they do and will not pose a threat to children or adolescents, that’s another thing altogether.

  9. Hmm… This phenomenon is something I’ve been researching in some work I’ve been undertaking examining the phenomenon of what John Allen calls “Evangelical Catholicism”. In particular, I’ve been looking at how conference movements spread the faith. However, how they promote their faith has scary ramifications for the future of the Catholic faith.
    First, the model of Catholicism presented is Fr. Anthony’s “Faithful Fortification” or that’s how they see it. The focus on faith is heavily on promoting sexual ethics and there is an elevated view of the priesthood. Also, the view of faith is very ahistorical (which probably comes from the former Evangelical roots of a lot of the leader of these movements).
    Second, in being a “faithful fortification” a new language of Gnosticism comes up both in words and in how the ritual person of the priest is portrayed. (e.g. “the Spirit of God vs. the Spirit of the World”).
    Here’s the problem, all of this is characteristic of people who are afraid of the world around them. By turning into themselves, and appealing to leadership (select leadership mind you), they seek to try to legitimize their position. However, without a broader look at tradition (other than Greeeks, high ritual and neo-scholasticism) their position loses a lot of legitimacy.
    Lots of danger, but this is how many vocations are being garnered now. Narrow the view of being, and empower people who “accept the call”. Sad, but thus is life.

  10. Could it be possible that we are dealing with both faithful refortification and fearful fleeing? I think of Judaism just after the fall of the second Temple, when it was seen that there was a need to “build a fence” around the Torah in order to preserve the community.

    Many people today think the faith is threatened, including many of those reasons which Jeffrey cited. Many others simply just want greater access to their heritage. Both categories seem to fit the grass roots Ioannes mentioned. I’m sure that many in the hierarchy share much the same views.

    I can certainly see the embracing of our patrimony as an effort at fortifying the faith. The danger would be becoming so fearful of the destruction of the faith that we cut ourselves off from the rest of the world and turn ourselves into a ghetto. Fortunately, at least for now, as “Evangelical Catholics” we will still be trying to make other people crazy just like us!

  11. “Many of the old things are back now: pre-Vatican II Mass, fiddle-back vestments, cappa magnas, birettas, Communion on the tongue, and so forth. Seminarians and young priests – in Roman collar, of course –go for traditional liturgical ceremonial. The Vatican takeover of English translations from national bishops’ conferences is nearly complete. ”

    – Is the above just a post-modern reaction to having to do something more difficult – like preach the Gospel door-to-door, help the poor, and write good music and translations that people will relate to?

  12. Due respect, Father, but perhaps they are not fearful, but rather as the most educated Catholics in history we have measured the reform and have simply decided: Epic fail.

    1. When is a reform not a reform? When it’s a scared little retreat backwards. Yes, epic fail. Sad to see that even the hierarchy doesn’t trust in God, follow the teachings of Jesus, nor believe in the Holy Spirit.

      1. Um, so am I correct in interpreting your post to mean that yout think that no one trusted in God, followed the teachings of Jesus, or believed in the Holy Spirit until the muscle-car era?

  13. So the riches of the Latin rite liturgical tradition are of no value and should be tossed out because it is “fear” of the modern world? When will these same tradition-hating liturgists start criticizing the Eastern rites for not tossing out their traditions? Liturgy is not about being “hip”, “cool” or “with it” (already outdated terms used purposely) in accordance with how some self-selected elite of liturgists who want to change Catholicism into a new religion think is appropriate. Nothing could be further from Pope John XXIII’s concept of Aggiornamento, which is about bringing the timeless truths of Christianity to the modern world, not about adopting wholesale the entire “modern” outlook and ideology. If we value our religion, we allow it to form us and to criticize constructively modern society where it falls short, not allow it to be changed and shaped by modern views current in society that are at variance with it.

    And the calumny repeated in the first paragraph that the Vatican has “taken over” translations cannot pass without comment. The bishops (and their agent ICEL) have been the primary actors involved in the translation, and the product that will emerge (and which we haven’t even seen yet, notwithstanding the dismissive comments on this blog that the translation is horrible!) will be the joint product of the bishops and the Holy See, which latter has a legitimate role in translations as has always been the case, even under Vat II…

    1. Charles – Fortunately no living liturgist on this planet believes any of the things you attribute to them in your first paragraph. I think the discussion can best continuing by ignoring your unfounded accusations.

      Point of fact: Vatican II provided for bishops, and only them, to approve vernacular translations. Six weeks after the constitution was approved, the Vatican issued a document giving itself a new right to confirm what bishops approved. Bishops objected, but it was clarified that the Holy See would merely confirm THAT due process was followed, they would not intrude into the actual translations themselves.


      1. Dear Fr (Dom? – sorry, I don’t know the correct protocol) Ruff:

        I cannot agree that Vatican II granted exclusive authority to the bishops alone over translation without any role for the Holy See. Sacrosanctum Concilium certainly gives the primary role of translation of the liturgy to the bishops:

        Article 36(4): “Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above.”

        However, a role for the Holy See in translations is also explicitly acknowledged:

        Article 54: “And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.”

        Article 40(1). “…Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should [t]hen be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.”

        Article 36(3) provides that the Holy See must confirm if and what parts of the liturgy can be translated into the vernacular. Finally, the Holy See is stated to have general regulatory authority over the liturgy:

        Article 22(1). “Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.”

        (to be continued below)

      2. (cont.) The first instruction on implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Inter Oecumenici) also contained this:

        “21. The Holy See has the authority to reform and approve the general liturgical books; to regulate the liturgy in matters affecting the universal Church; to approve or confirm the acta and decisions of territorial authorities; and to accede to their proposals and requests.”

        Even the now superseded translation instruction “Comme le prevoit” acknowledged the need for recognitio of translations from the Holy See.

        In addition, Lumen Gentium affirms prior Church teaching on the authority of the Pope to govern the universal Church, either collegially with the bishops or directly. This power extends to the liturgy, and indeed the imposition of the Novus Ordo was an exercise of papal governance of the liturgy, one which the current Pope has indirectly criticized by the way as not being fully respectful of the givennness of the liturgy as handed down to us (I can get a specific quote on this if you like).

        The right of recognitio implies the right to require changes. Although the analogy is not perfect, no one questions the President’s right to tell Congress that he will veto legislation unless x, y, and z changes are made. If such changes are made, they are not deemed illegitimate. (to be cont.)

      3. (cont.) If the Holy See were to throw up its hands as it did with the Catechism and simply impose a liturgical translation that has nothing remotely connected with the product of the bishops’ conferences, I think you might have a stronger point. Such an imposed translation might be valid, but would seem to go against what the Vatican II Council intended. But that is not the case here, where the bishops did approve a translation, and the Holy See has used that translation as a basis but has made changes, including perhaps substantial ones, as an exercise of its general regulatory power over the liturgy. Also, such general regulatory power over the liturgy gives the Holy See the right to enact guiding principles of translation, as it did with Comme le prevoit and Liturgiam Authenticam.

      4. Charles – thanks for your response.

        First: I go by Fr. Anthony. I’ve never in my life been called “Dom” before this blog went online in January. American Benedictines don’t use that title, at least not in my federation.

        I think the interpretation of Vatican II on who is responsible for translations remains a disputed point. I follow Reiner Kaczynski’s conslusion in Stimmen der Zeit, but now I’d like to explore this topic more – or commission someone else who is more qualified.


      5. Thanks for your response, Father. I am not familiar with Mr. Kaczynski, but will look into him, although it sounds like he is “auf deutsch”.

        And thanks for youir Gregorian Chant awareness promotion efforts!

      6. I went back and reread Article 54 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and need to correct something I wrote above. The following are the relevant sections of the article:

        “54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to tho norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

        And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.”

        Since Article 40 specifically mentions consent of the Holy See and Article 36 does not (at least as regards specific translation texts), it would thus appear that consent by the Holy See is specifically required in SC for translation of all parts of the mass except the Lectionary, the prayers of the faithful and the people’s parts. For the latter, recognitio would only be implicitly required by general regulatory authority of the Holy See over the liturgy. Sorry for the error –I read article 54 too quickly before.

      7. Charles – as I think I said earlier, I’m working on getting a qualified canonist to help us clarify the question of what Vatican II said.

        For now I just add this: I find it striking – if the goal is an originalist reading of what the framers meant – that the discussion of Article 22 at the Council shows an understanding that only bishops approve translations.

        Furthermore,, when the Vatican issued the document 6 weeks later giving themselves the right of confirmation (not recognition, certainly not altering the text massively), bishops immediately protested that they were there for the discussion and they remembered that no such right for the Holy See was intended when the liturgy constitution was framed. I find that pretty weighty.

        But let’s see what a qualified canonist can do to clarify all this.


      8. Thanks for the post. I look forward to the canonist’s analysis. The legislative history is interesting, but going on the basis of the plain language of the constitution, I think it safe to say that Sacrosanctum Concilium provides that bishops approve liturgical translations into the vernacular, with confirmation of the Holy See at least for the priest’s parts, with it being ambiguous in the case of the people’s parts and the Lectionary. I would argue based on the general authority of the Holy See to regulate the liturgy also provided in SC, that the Holy See’s confirmation of the latter is also implied, and that has consistently been the practice since the Council under Inter Oecumenici, Comme le prevoit and now of course, Liturgiam Authenticam.

  14. I also find it less than useful to have the desire for authentic reform of the liturgy constantly described as a “yearning for the past”. I know that I, for one, don’t yearn for the past. The same individuals who throw this phrase around then immediately say that it’s a “past they never experienced”. So in essence, I’m nostalgic for something that I have never experienced? How is this different from simply desiring a better future? Not looking backwards… looking forward.

    And the argument really only works if you buy first into the premise that “progress” is only achieved by discarding the past (radicalism), and second that “progress” as so defined is always a desirable objective (that too is a radical point of view).

    It’s odd that nobody describes, let’s say, the Amish as being “nostalgic”, although they certainly adhere to past traditions as well. I sense that the difference is that critics of the more conservative side of liturgical reform would say that the Amish are sincere in their beliefs while those who are passionate about Catholic tradition don’t really mean it, that rather they are just interested in “power” or “pompous ritual” or whatever. Is it really that hard to believe that someone would be sincere about traditional worship?

    I sense fearful fleeing alright, but don’t really understand what such people fear.

    1. Is it really that hard to believe that someone would be sincere about traditional worship?

      No, not at all. But the problem arises because there is a lot of play-acting going on out there, and it certainly is hard to believe that those people are sincere about it. One of the sins that liturgists can commit is that of ritualism. I quote from the late Jean Lebon’s magisterial little book How to Understand the Liturgy:

      “The best of things can be perverted. So the rite can degenerate into ritualism. What do I mean by that?

      “I mean performing the rite for the rite’s sake, forgetting why it is done and above all those for whom it is done. ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath,’ said Jesus. Instead of being the source of freedom, the rite becomes slavery. It can go hand in hand with legalism and a good conscience: ‘I’ve done everything that had to be done as it ought to have been done’, or even worse with Pharisaism: ‘Woe to you, Pharisees, who purify the outside of the cup and the plate (rite) while inside it is full of extortion and rapacity (the significance of the rites)’ (Matt 23.25) Ritualism can even go as far as being idolatry, if to perform the rite is a way of laying hands on God.”

      In other words, going through the rite just because it’s in the book is the essence of this sin, and it’s much easier to fall into that when celebrating the EF, or celebrating the OF in the manner of the EF. Play-acting, in my view.

      1. “But the problem arises because there is a lot of play-acting going on out there, and it certainly is hard to believe that those people are sincere about it.”

        Comments like yours slander large groups of people with a taint of grave sin (for to play act the liturgy is sacrilege.) To do so without any evidence is outrageous. You should correct specific people (publicly if necessary) , but if it’s not possible to correct specific people, then there is no problem to complain about.

    2. I also find it less than useful to have the desire for authentic reform of the liturgy constantly described as a “yearning for the past”.
      This is just a tad question-begging, since I think it is what counts as “authentic reform” that is in dispute. Certainly those who set out to reform the liturgy in the 60s and 70s thought that what they were doing was “authentic,” and many of those same people would see a return to baroque vestments, Latin, etc. as quite “inauthentic,” precisely because it is so at odds with the fabric of modern life. Of course, some today would counter that it is precisely its being at odds with modern life (or at least some aspects of it) that witnesses to the liturgy’s “authenticity.”

      Perhaps what is needed is a discussion of how one judges “authenticity.”

      1. Excellent point.
        However, I think one of Mr. Herbert’s points, if I am understanding him, is also one to heed, and in line with yours below. To describe all of this as a “yearning for the past” fails to account for the attitudes of many younger Catholics who have very self-consciously chosen to practice devotions and are drawn to a particular liturgical style often labeled as “traditionalist”.
        I think for many Millennial Catholics in particular (though of course I can only speak from my own experiences and perceptions), there is a fundamental sense that they have had to choose to be Catholic, in the face of lukewarm Catholic up-bringing, friends and family who are “fallen away” or were simply never Catholic or even Christian.
        This self-conscious choice encourages a sense of separation and distinctiveness from the culture at large. This sense of distinctiveness in turn creates an interest in those devotions/liturgical styles which appear “traditionalist” because they give the sense (or illusion, if that’s your slant) of fostering that distinctive identity.
        I think for these young Catholics, “fearful fleeing” from the culture at large is the last thing on their mind. They want to engage if only because they have loved ones in their own lives who reject or do not understand their basic life choice. The dangerous tendency among them is not to be afraid, but to have an undue sense of heroism which can lead to presumption and arrogance.

      2. Brendan, this is really well put. Your generation has many things to teach us. Here’s something I’m learning: People in your age group probably are not longing for a liturgical past, since they never knew it. That charge might only be leveled against Catholics about 50 and older – and this could include Church officials obviously. The liturgical conservativism of Vatican officials and that of young people are two very different things.

  15. Fear as a tactic works so well for the far right wing politicians, why not for the Catholic hierarchy??

  16. I suspect the alternatives posed are too stark (and I suspect their starkness was Anthony’s way of provoking discussion). Some of my best students hunger for a connection to traditions and practices that were largely abandoned in the last 40 years (e.g. Eucharistic adoration, chant, the rosary) and in general a stronger sense of Catholic identity. At the same time, they don’t seem to want either to refortify the Church or to flee modernity. They just want to be Catholic and have it mean something for their lives. They don’t want a smaller Church and for the most part have little interests in the culture wars. They are interested in the past, but quite immersed in the culture of the present — even as aspects of that culture makes them uneasy. They feel free to criticize the Church, but are tired (and uncomprehending) of those (especially fellow Catholics of an older generation) who seem to have made criticism of the church a full-time profession. Isn’t it possible that they are not simply a reemergence of the past, but something genuinely new, something that will only be understood in retrospect?

  17. A bit off the subject, perhaps, but could someone enlighten us peasants on why there are “white books” (Vox Clara is issuing them) and “gray books” (USCCB is considering 4 of them for approval)??

  18. Just found out that the USCCB Committe on Divine Worship is also looking at “green” books…

    Are there other colored books we should know about? Pink, perhaps??

  19. Fr. Anthony,

    Why are you reading such books about Revolution, and also seem to advocate such a thing for the Church? It seems to me that you are living a bit too comfortably next to the Canadian border. Come down to the Southwest sometime and we’ll tell you exactly what Revolutionaries do to priests. The Hispanic community is still reeling from the effects of the Mexican Revolution, as well it is a bit insulting to those whose families have lived through one to suggest that there should be another Revolution for the Church.


    1. Oh come on, I didn’t mention the Mexican Revolution. Why did you jump to that? I had rather imagined that the Church would reform herself and move beyond monarchical structures (which don’t go back to Our Lord) without any laity or bishops killing anyone in the Roman curia! I think Vatican II was pretty peaceful, so I imagine that another reformist council might also be nonviolent. You’re really reaching.

  20. Whenever I see felt vestments and banners, strummy guitar ballads, and laity distributing communion on a regular basis, I see nostalgia and old people. I am in my 20’s and I do not have any peers that appreciate the stuff that came from the 1970’s liturgical reforms. Everyone I know, regardless of political persuasion, is pretty high church, even those friends that are liturgical protestant. Maybe you boomers were just wrong?

    1. I’m in my 20’s and I do appreciate the reforms of Vatican II. Everyone I know (both young and old) finds Mass in the Ordinary Form to be very fulfilling and would not want anything different. Maybe we just hang out with different types of people?

  21. At the risk of getting into trouble, I want to say that people need to think with their brains, not just with the emotion of their hearts. We need a balance between the cerebral and the sentimental.

    A lot of our discussions, it seems to me, are happening because those with hearts are not thinking, and those with brains are not feeling. Somewhere in the middle of all this is a common pathway.

    Regarding those who hanker after a past that they never knew: I can agree that perhaps they do not realize that they are doing this. On the other hand, it can be down to sheer ignorance.

    I remember very well presenting a liturgy evening for university students, some of whom came up to me afterwards and said “Well, of course, we have a full Latin mass with plainchant whenever we can.” I said to them “Why Latin and chant?” and they told me “Oh, we have to. That’s what Jesus did at the Last Supper.”

    And I thought to myself “Where are these people getting all this stuff?” There’s obviously a lot of misinformation out there on the ways the church has worshipped and the way liturgy has developed over the centuries. And I fear that some of our young people are being inveigled into positions that they might not otherwise adopt if only they have been fed the truth.

    I have to say that the posturing of some of the more right-wing bloggers are doing nothing to redress the lack of balance in basic education, perhaps because they themselves are not educated either.

    1. Paul,
      No doubt many have adopted view points based on misinformation. But that is not peculiar to liturgically traditionalist young Catholics, though I do agree many young Catholics have adopted attitudes because they have been led to believe that if you celebrate in Latin and chant then you are a “real” Catholic. But that is not simply due to posturing of older (possibly uneducated) right-wingers, but also the posturing of older (possibly educated) left-wingers.
      I return to a point I made earlier that the frame of discussion between progress/regress simply does not work to explain the conservatism of millennial Catholics. This conservatism very often blends with the conservatism of earlier generations because of a sense of mutual sympathy. But to describe it only in terms that may function for older Catholics produces only more ignorance (though considering the liturgical conflict seems to be getting worse, I doubt it entirely functions in that case either).
      From my own experience, I have found little ignorance among conservatives. In fact, if one wanted to speculate as to negative motives for celebrating in Latin rather than the vernacular, a sense of elitism would be a far more fitting cause than ignorance. (Disclaimer: my experience has largely been in grad school…for theology)
      Their interpretation of the history of the liturgy may differ from yours (and perhaps mine) but I don’t find major faults in their facts (except in your example…which is frightening).

    2. I myself only received a second-grade education and only read books with illustrations—old pre-Vatican II woodcuts if possible. I am afraid, especially of women, and I listen to books on tape in my pickup, my favorite being the Syllabus of Errors. It never gets old!

      Though a traditionalist (born in 1973), I suggest that there is something sociological going on in the traditionalist movement as well that helps to explain their apparent Nachahmung, and it’s analogous to what often happens with immigrants. Immigrants often are very eager to adjust to their new surroundings. Their children, often because their parents are a continuing source of embarassment, are even more eager to fit in with the new surroundings, rejecting customs and often language. The next generation, however, brought up by those with no interest in the abandoned ways, gets to feel that it’s missing out on something and wants to reconnect with its heritage. It might be taking Irish set dancing, collecting Polish recipes, exploring geneology, usw. It’s not longing for the past simply because it’s the past; it’s trying to reconnect with something that seems to be a part of who you are but was lost along the way, especially when the surrounding culture seems comparatively impoverished. There’s often an idealization of that heritage, but that idealization does not necessarily render that longing invalid.

      Jesus wouldn’t have used Latin; he spoke American. Duh!

    3. Paul,

      With the greatest respect, you may wish to reconsider this comment, whch comes accross – doubtless unintentionally – as an argument based on an anecdotal Aunt-Sally designed to characterise those you disagree with as stupid.

  22. Dom Anthony – if I may be allowed a comparison that is a stretch but not by much: Here is a link ( to the ethical conference going on currently in Trent, Italy. The description of the participants brings to mind a whole set of other impact issues in terms of liturgy – wonder what another church council would say about liturgy; what if a church liturgical gathering of experts, teachers, etc. were held?

    Example from Trento, Italy: “The 585 participants represent 73 countries on four continents. Most notably among us are ethicists from the global south, particularly Africa whose delegation has roughly 65 members. That more than half of the participants are lay people points to the dramatic democratization of the discipline (the intermittent verbal contributions of infants and toddlers in the sessions is an added benefit not experienced at the Council). The “feminization of moral theology” would also come as a surprise. Eighty-eight of those here are women professors, as are close to half of the 147 new scholars in attendance. ”

    Would suggest that the focus would not be only on slavish translation from the latin; whether OF or EF; etc.
    In fact, would suggest that the focus would be on issues such as: eucharistic availability; healthy inculturation; building/teaching good liturgy; increasing participation; respect for diversity, genders, races, youth; ecumenical outreach esp. muslim; etc.

  23. “Why does Pray Tell print such stuff? Because it’s real. People are really saying such things. Pray Tell isn’t creating the news, we’re reporting it.”

    With all due respect, Father, is it really that simple? I don’t doubt that people are thinking and saying such things, but why do I so rarely find an intelligent presentation of the what is characterized as the “fearful” side on this blog? I don’t think it’s because they aren’t out there – Dr. Edward Schaefer’s essay on the old mass a few months back was like a breath of fresh air, but didn’t get much attention. (I saw him as the opposite of “fearful,” by the way.)

    “I fear that the various factions in our Church are becoming enclaves unto themselves, only talking with the like-minded. This is not good at all for the Church. It breeds extremism in all directions.”

    Reminds me of the story of the lady on the upper west side who was shocked when Reagan won the election – “I didn’t know a single person who voted for him!” Some of the commenters here seem never to have spoken to a real live person who preferred the 1962 mass. The priests are not “play acting” – nor are they mentally unstable as the liturgist Fr. Adrien Nocent has suggested. They have “real” parishes. Far from being ruled by “fear,” they are quite brave given the position they put themselves in by advocating a more traditional Catholicism.

    And is difficult to dialogue when one is confronted by the same old cliches . . . .

    1. Dom Ruff sometimes uses anonymous, unsourced quotations from ‘prominent liturgists’ or personal friends to speak for him. This is frustrating and it makes me wonder what I’m reading. Is it an observation? A personal viewpoint? Something like an argument? Sometimes I simply don’t know.

      It’s also distressing when Dom Ruff adopts a truly sphinx-like posture when replying to those who find his posts provocative. The usual approach seems to be to accuse the more traditional-minded of misreading or literalism, while the so-called progressive crowd gets plaudits. None of this does anything to improve the tone or credibility of the blog. I have a Masters degree from the University of Chicago, but that means little if I make sloppy arguments and glibly snipe at those with who take issue with the same. This isn’t straightforward or honest engagement.

      What would really have been useful here was a column devoted, not to polemics, but to understanding. Vatican II is the hinge on which Dom Ruff’s column turns. It therefore behooves us to examine that hinge, and to test it through the principles of tradition and theology. Through these hermeneutics we can more clearly discern what this council was saying: the claims it made, the arguments it deployed, and the consequent conclusions it found.

      Progressives have roots and traditionalists have to grow, this much is true. With nearly half a century since Vatican II, it’s time to do some hard, methodical, and honest thinking about that.

      1. Timothy,
        Blogs are sometimes conversational, so I don’t apologize at all for the conversational tone at Pray Tell, or for the reporting on casual conversations. I don’t make up fictional people to speak for me, I only recount what real people say to me.
        I try to point out misreading of my posts only when someone misreads me – it’s not my fault if lately they have happened to be ‘conservatives’ who have taken humor literally and missed the point.
        I admit openly that this blog is committed to Vatican II, as am I. It’s an ecumenical council of the Church and it’s binding. For those who want to dispute Vatican II or somehow get some of it repealed it, I think they will find Pray Tell a non-starter. I can’t tell whether or not that’s what you mean by “examining” the hinge which is Vatican II.
        I guess this blog is what it is, and it’s up to you whether it’s to your tastes. I hope it is, and I hope you can make good contributions to enrich the conversation.


  24. Fr. Ruff,

    Thank you for your kind words; I really do appreciate the chance to talk. And I apologize for coming across a bit frosty. The gravity of some subjects truly can be leavened by the ability to speak informally and, of course, in charity.

    I am in full agreement with you in terms of a commitment to Vatican II, as I am with the 20 Ecumenical Councils that preceded it. It’s essential that it receives a full and fair implementation, and part of that process means examining it critically. Vatican II was an event that challenged the Church in ways unseen before, but it was nevertheless a council rooted in the twin sources of revelation that are sacred scripture and sacred tradition (including doctrine and dogma). Examining Vatican II through those hermeneutics seems as though it could be particularly useful in discerning its true spirit.

    I’ve been reading a book by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, canon of St Peter’s, a Thomist, and professor emeritus at the Lateran University. This work,”Vatican II: A Much Needed Discussion,” presents a hard and fair look at the last council. He is particularly concerned with the theological and dogmatic implications of a self-avowed ‘pastoral’ council.

    This is very good, because it shows a loyalty to the Church and all her councils. It also allows for insight vis-à-vis what preceded Vatican II, what happened there, and what has occurred since. In short, he is trying to situate the council and its documents. Have you heard of this book?

    1. I was interested in this book, but I was warned off because the translation was poor. Is it still worth buying?

      1. It is absolutely worthwhile! The translation is a little labored, but not prohibitively so. A cup of coffee and a 150-watt lightbulb will get you through.

        Monsignor Gherardini attempts to open a new conversation and necessary examination of Vatican II and its documents through the hermeneutics of sacred tradition and theology. Here is a sample quotation where he describes the implications of this project:
        “Thinking this over anew, for some time the idea has come to me… of a grand and possibly definitive ordering of the last Council in all of its dimensions and content. It seems logical and just that its every aspect and content be studied in itself and in contextual reference with the other Councils; that this be done with an eye fixed upon all of the sources; and that this be done from the specific perspective coming from the previous ecclesiastical Magisterium, both solemn and ordinary. This would be a vast and irrefutable scientific work accomplished through comparing the Council with the perennial Magisterium of the Church and would produce secure results through such a critical, attentive study so as to make it possible to draw forth from them the arguments for a secure and objective evaluation of Vatican II…”

        This book can be ordered through the Academy of the Immaculate, an apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Copies of the book are $25 plus shipping. Mike Coffey, FTI can be contacted for orders directly at or 1-888-906-2742.

    2. Tim, I don’t mean to quibble, but the Bonaventurian concept of revelation (endorsed quite zealously by Card. Ratzinger, and present in Dei Verbum) is not that revelation has two sources, Scripture and Tradition, but that Scripture and Tradition “[flow] from the same divine wellspring” (DV 9) of God’s Revelation. “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God.” (DV 10)

      Card. Ratzinger wrote a thesis on the concept of “revelation” in St. Bonaventure’s Collationes in Hexaemeron. He wrote about that thesis in Milestones:

      “These insights gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura, because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”

      This is a longer issue than 1500 characters allows, and not really on-topic, but I felt it necessary to address the “twin sources of revelation” remark.

      1. Jeffrey, Quibble away! The good business of philosophy and theology is to make distinctions. These help to clarify difficult subjects… such as God’s Revelation and our religion!

  25. “I admit openly that this blog is committed to Vatican II, as am I.”

    Forgive me, Father, but what exactly do you mean by “Vatican II”?

    I think it’s fair to say that there is more than one school of interpretation out there, and I also think it’s fair to say that for the the dominant school those who do not accept their version do not (fully) accept Vatican II itself. (A bit tendentious perhaps?)

    At any rate, I am not accusing you tendentiousness – just wondering how “loaded” your use of “Vatican II” might be?

    1. Vatican II is a council of the Church. Part of the environment that nurtured it was the 1570 Missal.

      There are those who have rejected the council, and some of those have placed themselves beyond the Communion of the Church. I’d say the onus is on those who publicly criticize the council as a whole. Certainly, specific teachings can and should be discussed. It goes without saying that flawed human beings implemented, so I think the details of how Vatican II has been applied are certainly up for discussion.

      However, every church council has been confronted with a hermeneutic of obstruction. Pope Benedict might ignore it or dismiss it, but it’s there both in history and today. Many faithful Catholics embrace Vatican II as part of a valid expression of orthodoxy. The question for conspiracy theorists wrapped in the mantle of their own brand of orthodoxy is why don’t they?

  26. I agree with Charles. There are indeed many liturgists, both academic and practical that would love to forget that we have a history before 1972.
    Both sides of this discussion are talking past each other as has been observed by others. It would seem to me that those advocating a radical reform have had their say for the last forty years. I think it is healthy for other voices (including “traditionalist” ones) to be heard now.

    I expect that clergy who are altering the current text of the Mass at will shall continue to do so. If anyone doubts this let me share with you that I have had occasion to attend Mass in three states last week. In each case at least half of each Mass was made up on the spot by the celebrant.

    1. This comment seems to me to be repeating the accusations that are often flung around wildly in order to make a point, and which are devoid of any basis in fact.

      Any self-respecting liturgist is well aware of the history of liturgy prior to 1972 (why that date, I wonder? The ICEL Missal was not complete until 1973). The problem is that there are some liturgists out there, and they are mainly on the traditionalist wing, whose knowledge of liturgical history only seems to date back to the Middle Ages, or only to Trent. They apparently have no overarching comprehension of the totality of more than two millennia of liturgical history, and their opinions are skewed by this lack of breadth.

      And as for changing at least half the Mass — this appears a gross exaggeration. I can believe that a number of individual phrases were modified, and that the freedom given in the rubrics to use alternative forms of wording was exploited to the full.

      But half the Mass is the same as an entire Eucharistic Prayer…. Could a priest have made up an entire EP? Highly unlikely. Are you sure you didn’t hear priests using some of the less familiar Eucharistic Prayers that are available, and you simply didn’t recognize them? That seems far more probable.

  27. “People look at the same phenomena, all of them deeply concerned about the Church’s faithfulness and evangelical witness, and take such different views of what is going on.”

    Wayne Baker makes a similar observation in America’s Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception. All the evidence is that Americans are very similar in their values, and these values have been getting more similar not less similar over recent decades. Why is there this perception that Americans are divided into liberals and conservatives, Red states and Blue states, as if we belonged to two different nations?

    A major part of Baker’s answer is that liberals and conservatives (Democrats and Republicans) need each. We need to fight about what America’s values are because there is nothing like ethnicity that defines us as Americans. We are defined about a set of values and institutions and we constantly have to fight about those in order to maintain our identity and engagement as a nation.

    The same could be said for Catholics in America. Unlike Poland and Ireland, ethnicity has come less and less to define Catholicism. Indeed with the great number of mixed marriages what religion you were brought up in is beginning not to define one’s current religion.

    Young people and converts search for greater Catholic identity by adopting more traditional practices. So maybe liberal and conservative Catholic fights are here to stay in America. They may contribute to our continued identity.

  28. Fr. Anthony,
    I mentioned the Mexican Revolution because it was simply that, a revolution. You very slyly mentioned the revival of traditionalism in the Church and then suggest, through anonymous sources, that the people who like such things are a “bunch of thugs” and that it is “the last gasp of Europe’s last functioning absolute monarchy”. You then go on to mention your summer reading which is all about revolution. It doesn’t take much of a leap of to realize what you are advocating. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “revolution” (when not used in a scientific way) as such:

    “2 a : a sudden, radical, or complete change; b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed; c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation; d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm ; e : a changeover in use or preference especially in technology ”

    Definitions 2c & 2e are not applicable. This leaves the other three and it is not too far of a stretch to say that you are referring to 2b. If this is the case, I wonder how you can call yourself a Catholic. In any case all of the definitions involve a radical shift of thought–something that is inimical to Catholicism

    1. Miguel, if I may speak for myself:

      My beliefs don’t come from your dictionary, they come from me. All of what you quoted is irrelevant.

      I believe that the current monarchical structure of the Catholic Church will not last. I feel perfectly free to advocate a spiritual revolution to transform monarchy, because obviously monarchy doesn’t come from Our Lord and isn’t essential to Catholicism. Only the Papacy and the College of Bishops and the Sacrament of Holy Orders are (note: the College of Cardinals is not on this list!). I advocate a revolution which is entirely nonviolent. I don’t care how many other secular revolutions were violent, that has nothing to do with my beliefs. I have no idea when the collapse of current structures and the transformation into something else will happen, nor do I have any idea what new structures will form. It may take a couple centuries; it may happen in stages; I may not see any of it in my lifetime.

      I hope this clarification helps you, since my beliefs aren’t bound to your categories or your ideas (though I respect them of course). I hope you now see what I really believe.


      1. Father The data (Georgetown CARA) are quite clear that the orders are collapsing right before our eyes, while the neo traditionalist orders of women and diocesan church (globally) has begun to rebound.

        Growth is the only sign of life. The collapse of the traditional orders (men and women) is a real concern.

      2. Tim –
        The original post summarizes the beliefs of some progressives like this: “Such as this may last for some time – we may have many years yet to endure – but eventually it will collapse.” The point is, not all numeric growth is necessarily a sign of long-term trends, or a sign of truly mature discipleship. There might be a lot of holiness and mature evangelical zeal in the growing tradionalist communities. Or there might be more of Fr. Maciel and his numerically flourishing disaster. I hope it’s the former more than the latter. In any case, numbers don’t prove everything.

  29. Fear? I think there is a great deal of fear out there. Catholics are going through another “Watergate” moment. Many have lost faith in the clergy and bishops over the abuse revelations, which seems to have underlined the American mistrust of government in general. I really despise the political labels we use here, but I see a great deal of fear among those who thought the Catholic past had been consigned to history. The sight of a fiddleback chausible makes them wonder how any survived. For others it is a hopeful sign of the beginning of reclamation of Catholic identity. Personally I sympathize with this view but I also understand that reform was overdue. I see the return, however, as a step in the process of calming the fears of the faithful. I especially applaud the work of the FSSP, who do the hard work of administering a parish with the TLM as its centerpiece. These are not hothouse flowers, but superb, if I may say “pastoral” priests in the best sense of the word

  30. Miguel,

    Calling Fr. Ruff’s faith into question is absurd. He has spoken no heresy of which I am aware, nor has he advocated a violent revolution as you seem to infer.
    Furthermore, a radical shift of thought, or a fundamental change in structure is not necessarily inimical to Catholicism. In some cases, radical shifts of thought and changes in structure have been deemed necessary for the Church. Think, for instance, of the required shifts of thought and structure with the establishment of the seminary system after Trent. Or the shift of thought and structure introduced at Nicaea.
    Simply because you disagree with what you perceive as Fr. Ruff’s position (which I don’t think is accurate at all) does not warrant an attack on his faith or his character.

  31. Paul Inwood because there is a lot of play-acting going on out there, and it certainly is hard to believe that those people are sincere about it.
    You mean play acting compared with clown Masses, polka masses, “liturgical” dancers. Priests doffing their chasubles (never understood that “innovation”).

    However, I do think your “those young/conservatives are plain uneducated” is a silly affectation. Meet people where they actually are coming from.

    1. How about some statistics on the number of “clown” and “polka” Masses? They’re quite the exception…there may be one or two a year, so they’re not the usual Sunday Mass.

      You can’t use an exception to prove a rule, only to disprove it.

      1. If only ‘innovations’ like that were teh ‘exception. I have attended Masses where the ‘presider’ doffs parts of his vestments; with liturgical dancers; with unauthorized Lectionaries; changes to the readings; where the homily downplays the Real Presence. I have been to polka mass, though never a clown or puppet mass (though I have seen them on video!)

        So I am not sure why reaching to our traditions is ‘play acting’, while these ‘innovations’ are seen as a ‘good’ and ‘normal’ part of VII liturgy. I would take the fiddle back over no chasuble anyday.

      2. Tim, fortunately these aren’t the only choices – i.e. either silliness or fleeing to the past.

        Personally I don’t really like any of these post-conciliar things you’re railing against. But in terms of sincerity of heart, I grant that at least it is an attempt (however misguided) to make the liturgy living for today’s people. It is an engagement with contemporary culture – however undiscerning. This somehow seems more authentic and well-intentioned than pretending to live in a past era. Aesthetically I very much prefer the gorgeous loveliness of antiquated liturgy – the splendor borne of a different (European, aristocratic, etc.) culture. But as a Christian, I can’t go by aesthetic tastes.


    2. Priests doffing their chasubles (never understood that “innovation”). Neither did I, and I have never actually seen it done. But I did hear of one priest who said something along the lines of “Jesus took off his outer garment before he washed his disciple’s feet, and if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me.” Unfortunately the person he said that to happened to be his bishop, and he was instructed not to do it again!

  32. Very wide-ranging ideological discussion here, but the issue is a very practical one: are the new translations good English and are they prayable? The best that the defenders can say of the new translations is that they are not as bad as people think. Is there anyone out there who can give a whole-hearted, enthusiastic, illustrated encomium of the new translations? Bishop Serratelli tried, and Monsignor Bruce Harbert, but without convincing anyone. The dumped 1998 translations, on the other hand, have enthusiastic defenders. I suspect that the bishops who have given listless approval to the problematic new translations are just so exhausted by curial activities that they have said to themselves, “oh, let those bureaucrats of nullity get on with their busy-busy work, and let us spare our energy, which they wasted and abused the last time round.” It is a very decadent situation, and may be matched by the decadence of a listless lay acceptance of the new translations for similar motives of feeling abused and powerless; and that will translate into further hemorrhage in church attendance and vitality.

  33. Mark Duch :
    Um, so am I correct in interpreting your post to mean that yout think that no one trusted in God, followed the teachings of Jesus, or believed in the Holy Spirit until the muscle-car era?

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    I’m speaking of the hierarchy NOT trusting, NOT following, NOT believing…certainly there are examples of such occurring in the past…I’m talking about today’s (2010) bishops in the U.S. It has nothing to do with muscle cars…our bishop has a big black Cadillac Escalade, you know, one of those humongous gas guzzlers?

  34. @Edna: instand by what I wrote. I am very familiar will all of the authorized Eucharistic prayers and I assure you two of the Masses I attended created there own version. Perhaps you are not a acquainted with such a liturgical abuse but I assure you it does exist.

    If we could combine the best features of the Post VII experience ( lectionary, renewed focus on preaching, some use of the vernacular) with the best of the classical rite we might enjoy some chance of peace in the church, and clergy would not feel obligated to reinvent the wheel every week.

  35. “I believe that the current monarchical structure of the Catholic Church will not last.”

    I bet it will still be in place when the democratic structures in place among many of our separated brethren collapse again. The deposit of faith & Christian mores don’t seem to fair well when subject to plebiscite. I guess that is the trouble with a revealed religion.

  36. What’s with the distaste for monarchy? Christ certainly did not have an issue with monarchy since he established it, and gave it to King David and Solomon and even King Herod. He constantly referred to “the Kingdom of Heaven.’ The Our Father says, “Thy Kingdom Come” The kingdom of Heaven is likened to a King throughout the Scriptures. When Jesus is asked by Pilate if he’s a King, he states he is a king and has a kingdom. It’s not of this world prior to the crucifixion but after the resurrection He says, “all power in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.”

    Monarchy is a beautiful thing.

  37. I was born on the eve of the Council and have no childhood memories of the Old Mass. So I knew only of the Novus Ordo. And I’ve never experienced any of the crazy things I’ve heard of. Most recently I fulfilled my obligation at a cathedral with a reverent mass, good preaching. But for the last 3 years I’ve assisted at the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively, enough to be fully ‘inculturated’ by and in it, in the sense that it is habitual, physically and mentally. So, I’ve the experience of having been habitual to both forms. It is an interesting perspective, not unique, but a minority experience, I would think.

    But this past Sunday, on vacation, I had no choice but assist at a Novus Ordo, which was reverently celebrated.

    My, what a jarring experience it was. (I intend no polemics here, merely revealing my experience.) I found participcio actuoso much more difficult in the new rite. It was simply harder to pray, because I felt as if I were being dragged through the ceremonies with far less time for full interior prayer and particpation. I had far less freedom (I know that word is ‘charged’, but I don’t know what else to say) to direct or discipline myself to prayer, with my attention continually, it seemed, redirected and interrupted. The old mass is far gentler. I don’t know why it is, because I had a missalette, like I have a missal for the old rite. The old rite seems to flow, while the new rite has so many sharp corners. I’ll have to think on it.

  38. Since I made that post, I’ve been sitting here thinking.

    My every Sunday experience is a Missa Cantata, not a Low Mass. You should hear us sing the Creed!

    Here’s an example of how it is less jarring: Often while the priest and servers are saying the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, I pray the English translation of the Introit and have time to continue thinking on it or praying in its spirit during the incensation of the Altar and then join with the choir in the Kyrie, if it is Gregorian. Hmm. That makes me wonder what happens to the Introit in the new rite. I’ve never experienced it in the new rite, although I know it officially exists. Does the priest pray it to himself?

    As to the old fancy vestments, I would think it would take some humilty to come in from the parish school baseball field and conform himself to something entirely different with the same people.

  39. @Christopher D,

    The old rite definitely has much more freedom to it and is much more interiorly malleable to suit what the faithful need. I experienced some real abuses in the Novus Ordo but also attended a lot of well intended ones. The problem is not essentially liturgical abuse. It’s which liturgy best expresses the truths of the faith. If you have the means and the interest, I would recommmend a lecture series by Charles Coulombe and Professor William Biersach called “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” in which they compare the Novus Ordo in both Latin and English with the Traditional Latin Mass. Line by line and for the consecration, they also bring in some of the Eastern rites to compare. It’s a fascinating and entertaining 17 hours of lectures. You learn about the symbolism behind much of the TLM and you get a clear indication of the poverty of the Novus Ordo in comparison. Biersach also wrote a personal memoir of his loss and return to the faith and it’s relation to the conciliar period that is profoundly moving. It’s called, “While the Eyes of the Great Are Elsewhere.”

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