Greater divisions than ever since Summorum Pontificum

Matias Augé, former consulter to the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, states that Pope Benedict’s readmission of the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy has not contributed to that “interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church” which the Pope had hoped for, but rather “the divisions have been deepened even more.” He recently blogged on the document Summorum Pontificum, issued by Pope Benedict XVI on July 7, 2007, which took effect on September 14 of that year and allowed the preconciliar liturgy to be celebrated by any priest without permission from his bishop.

In the accompanying letter to the world’s Catholic bishops, the Pope asked in 2007 that a report be submitted to the Holy See after three years, so that if serious difficulties have come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought. “We hope that the Holy See will make public the results of these reports,” Augé wryly writes – as if the Holy See would be that transparent.

Augé notes that Pope Benedict considers the liturgy as reformed since the Second Vatican Council the “ordinary form” and the unreformed rite the “extraordinary form.” The latter, according to the Pope, is not for everyone, for it presupposes “a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language”. Augé considers these words of the Pope “eloquent,” and emphasizes that SP, while directed to the entire Church, is intended to meet the just desires of particular people. Augé does not think this is a restrictive or minimalist interpretation of the document; it is simply based on the words of the document itself.

Augé does not deny that some have given a minimalist interpretation to SP and obstructed its implementation. He is presently writing, though, about the multiplication on many blogs of traditionalist voices with “maximalist” interpretations since SP was issued. “In my opinion, they go beyond the letter and the spirit of [SP]. The extraordinary form is exalted as the Mass of all times, the true and sole expression of Roman and Catholic tradition, and so forth. At the same time, traditionalist quarters have not spared critique of every sort, sometimes weighty, against the reform of Paul VI, against Paul VI himself, and against his collaborators: Paul’s reform is alleged to be Masonic, influenced by Protestantism, and not free of heresy. As Augé notes, such voices thereby ignore that Pope Benedict wrote of the “‘spiritual richness and theological depth’ of the missal of Paul VI, richness and depth which are seen when this is celebrated ‘with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives’.” Augé observes that some traditionalists predict that the reforms of Paul VI will disappear within 20 or 25 years!

The letter of Pope Benedict accompanying SP called for “an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” Augé writes, “In my opinion, at a distance of three years, not only has a reconciliation not been achieved, but the divisions have been deepened even more.” Augé refers to the Pope’s expressed wish that feast days of new saints and some of the new prefaces be inserted into the old missal. Thus far, the Holy See has not done this. How would it be done? Which texts, by what criteria, on what days? Augé thinks it would be a case of “pouring new wine into old wineskins.”

Augé also notes the positive fruits of SP to be seen among those who celebrated with the liturgical books of Paul VI. While there are still abuses and aberrations, there is also a growing recognition that the rite comes before individual innovations and must be respected and correctly interpreted. There is greater attention to silence and reflection which improve the quality of participation. Priests are more aware that they should not pull the assembly’s attention onto themselves. One appreciates Augé’s positive assessment. But one may wonder SP has contributed anything of substance to these positive developments, or whether, rather, these developments haven’t been fostered by responsible leaders of liturgical renewal sing long before SP ever appeared.

Summary and translation by AWR.


  1. I have long held this same opinion, but I am just a lowly member of the laity. Imagine my delight to find someone with the renown of Matias Auge expressing the same opinion!

  2. It’s only been three years – not really enough time to heal divisions that have existed for forty years. Had Pope John Paul II’s indult been applied fairly and liberally, we never would have had a need for SP and the deep divisions and bitterness never would have developed to begin with. It seems to me that people who wanted the old mass were treated poorly and needlessly put through a lot of rigmarole prior to SP – and that’s putting it nicely – so an increase in triumphalism or bitterness in the past three years would only be expected (it isn’t right, of course, but “as ye sow so shall ye reap”). It’s going to take a number of years for things to mellow out.

    I would agree that there shouldn’t be a maximilist interpretation of SP (deciding that it must be used for people who truly don’t want it), but at the same time, I would argue that the degree of liturgical formation required for it is actually pretty minimal – so it isn’t much of a roadblock.

    Anyway – this layman is very grateful for SP. I wouldn’t have the access to the EF that I currently have were it not for it.

  3. Fr. Anthony – as you and others have remarked many times, SP is a break with liturgical and historical tradition (talking about continuity?). For the first time we have two forms of the latin rite (not two latin rites). The reasons behind this seem to change, are interpreted, are explained differently – kind of depends upon who is saying what?

    There is also the fact that most conferences of bishops pressed B16 not to promulgate SP. Do we know who was the actual writer of SP?

  4. Father,

    Wouldn’t you agree that SP takes the power away from the bishops and places it the hands of the laity?

    With SP, if the laity insist upon the EF, then they may have it. Prior to SP the laity had no say in the matter.

    If anything, SP is a blow against clericalism.
    It forces nothing on any laity. It ties the hands of bishops who want to lord it over us.


  5. Raymond, I think you have it all mixed up. SP did not open the door to liturgy by vote. It allows the priest to celebrate the EF and only if the conditions in mentioned in the article are present.

    In every document that i know of, it is the Bishop who has the responsibility to ensure the liturgy is celebrated in his diocese according to the norms of church laws. He is held responsible so he needs to have the authority.’

    1. If the laity decide they want an EF mass celebrated, the bishop must oblige (or at least make an honest attempt at it), based on SP. This does, in fact, allow the laity to have a say in how liturgy in their parish is celebrated. Prior to SP, the bishop could deny the request and think nothing of it.

  6. My view from the bottom—at parish level—is perhaps complementary to Fr. Augé’s particular view from the top (as I take it).

    I have played a visible role in the initiation and support of a Sunday EF Missa Cantata in an adjacent parish, while I attend the morning OF Mass most days in my local parish, even though an EF low Mass is also offered daily there. I am pretty well connected in both parishes, and am not aware of any view in either that any divisiveness is associated with the presence of both forms.

    Perhaps there are those on both sides who might be suspicious anyone who feels equally devoted to both forms. And equally enthusiastic about the appeal of the EF to an intense segment of the youth, and about the OF as the Mass of the preponderant majority of Catholics for the foreseeable future. And equally excited by magnificent solemn EF liturgy and by the new translation with I anticipate will contribute to increased beauty and reverence in the OF.

  7. (continued) With that “full disclosure”, let me say I agree with Fr. Augé’s positive assessment (as I understand it) of the effect of SP on the celebration of the OF. Although any such credit must certainly be shared with other papal initiatives, including Benedict’s own exemplary ars celebranda. I have certainly seen much improvement (from my own viewpoint) in OF celebration in a number of parishes (in addition to the two which I attend regularly). In some cases this is due somewhat directly to SP and its effect on young priests who now celebrate both forms, while in other cases it more likely is due to increased sacralization “in the air” now. And probably there are still more parishes where nothing at all is happening

    Finally, for what it’s worth, let me add my own strong impression that this support of the “reform of the reform” was precisely Pope Benedict’s main intent with SP. For certainly any expectation of a universal reinstatement of the EF as the normative form is unrealistic. While the handwriting is already written on the wall—in the EF’s appeal for many young folks including particularly young priests and seminarians—for some steady increase in EF usage, I (as a mathematician) an not aware of any realistic hypotheses that imply more than 5% TLM attendance at any time in the decades immediately ahead of us.

  8. Brad, I do not think that a Bishop has to oblige any and every group that requests EF mass. He needs to make sure it is available in the diocese. I live in a very large diocese and it is available in each deanery, and those who request it go to the EF mass in their deanery.

    1. Actually, the primary responsibility is placed on pastors to accede to the requests of groups:

      Art. 5. § 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.

      I don’t think it’s a fair reading of “accept their requests” to say that this provision is satisfied by regional Masses. Establishing regional Masses may meet the need when it is impossible (for lack of knowledge, or skill, or some other reason) to have parochial Masses and preemptively establishing regional Masses may reduce the number of such requests, but if the requests are made despite the existence of regional Masses, it seems that, if possible, pastors should accept them and not refuse merely out of preference or liturgical ideology.

      This seems also a reasonable extension of the idea that Catholics have a right to receive the sacraments from their pastors (Can. 213.)

  9. ………. [Father] you have it all mixed up. SP did not open the door to liturgy by vote. It allows the priest to celebrate the EF and only if the conditions in mentioned in the article are present……


    If a stable group of laity in a parish approaches a priest or bishop to ask for the EF, then that cleric must attempt to oblige, correct? And woe to any cleric who thinks he can block them! Richtig?

    How do you see this as limiting the laity?

    You seem to be trying to confuse me into thinking the SP has or will somehow prevent willing priests from offering the EF! You say the darndedst things!! Please provide me with one instance of where this has occurred.

    …[Father] In every document that i know of, it is the Bishop who has the responsibility to ensure the liturgy is celebrated in his diocese according to the norms of church laws. He is held responsible so he needs to have the authority.’….

    Athority to do what? ban the EF against the wishes of the laity? that is the *only* authority the bishops lost. The Holy Father trimmed the right of the strong and well connected to rise up against the weak and the marginalized! Nothing else I see.


    1. I agree – I don’t get how SP has done anything other than give a rather maligned segment of the laity a voice. I know in my own neck of the woods there was desire *for years* prior to SP for a Latin Mass. Despite having all the resources and willingness to pull it off, they were told that they should drive an hour to the indult parish.

      Also, I personally haven’t seen any of this divisiveness in my actual experience in spite of the fact that I go to a church that hosts a monthly EF mass (and I volunteer at my parish and know people who volunteer much more than I – so I think I would have heard *something* by now). PrayTell is the only place where I ever hear about it.

  10. Matias Augé, former consulter to the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, states that Pope Benedict’s readmission of the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy has not contributed to that “interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church” which the Pope had hoped for, but rather “the divisions have been deepened even more.”

    Unfortunately I don’t read Italian. Can anyone make explicit how he thinks “divisions have been deepened”? I can guess, but I’d rather not.

  11. Dvisions have been deepened because traditionalists have seen SP as a permit to proselytise. Benedict himself is quite clear that this was not the intention. The Motu Proprio was to appease those who still desired the former state of things. It was aimed only at ‘existing users’.

    What it was not was a licence to allow traditionalists to attempt to bring further people to espouse the EF; further, it did not permit them to claim that the EF is the only valid form in continuity with tradition, and that if everyone went back to it all would be well with the world.

    That is where the divisions have occurred, especially in the area of proselytising, and that is what Augé means when he refers to a maximalist interpretation of the document. The bishops of England and Wales and France knew from their experience of traditionalist folk that this would happen, which is why they urged the pope not to issue the Motu Proprio. He did not listen.

    A maximalist interpretation has done an enormous amount of damage to relationships within the Church, and has contributed to a new polarization which was not there before.

    1. What exactly do you expect to happen by allowing the EF? People are going to discover it, and if it causes them to grow in faith they are going to want it for themselves and others. I’ll happily recommend the EF to any Catholic (or even non-Catholic) I know – it’s a great Mass to attend regularly or even as an occasional and beautiful compliment to the OF.

      IMO, severely limiting the EF won’t work or solve any problems we have now – either ban the EF entirely and don’t let anyone within the Church have it (that’s the only way to really keep something from growing), or let it alone and let it freely rise or fall alongside the OF. The EF isn’t a bad thing – it isn’t immoral and doesn’t lead people away from Christ. It doesn’t create bad or malformed faith. Saying the EF should be severely limited to “existing users” is condescending and doesn’t make sense – after all, if it’s okay for existing users (who I think we should assume are perfectly normal People of God), then why isn’t it okay for others?

      Personally, I think the severe limiting of the old mass and the poor treatment of those who care for it are what have caused the divisions, damaged relationships, and polarization that are coming to the fore now.

    2. Paul, your comment is riddled with generalizations about “traditionalists” to the extent that you discredit your argument. I attend and play the organ at the OF every weekend, but I also love the EF and I think what BXVI did was a fantastic thing. Our entire heritage as Catholics is tied to that mass…and a lot of that is lost with the OF. I don’t consider myself a “traditionalist” in the sense that I question the validity of the OF, but I do favor traditionalism in the OF and the EF for that matter.

      It sounds to me like the biggest complaint by folks like you is that people will actually see how beautiful the mass can be celebrated in the EF and request it, much to the dismay of progressives. It really isn’t a competition between the two forms as many like to believe. Some just get more out of one than the other.

      1. I would appreciate your elaborating on “our entire heritage as Catholics is tied to that Mass.”

        Also, is “getting something out of it” the whole purpose of Mass?

        And really, people who subscribe fully to the Second Vatican Council are progressives?

    3. Doesn’t SP mention this liturgy for those who are particularly attracted to it without mention of existing users? It goes on to mention people who find it anew or particularly suited to them. As for division I don’t believe it has created anything new. It may merely bring to the surface what has laid dormant for quite a while. And the only way to surpass these difficulties is to bring them to the surface, discuss them, and move forward. Without this it would be like a tumor deep within, deep bet there nonetheless. These would will not be healed in 3 short years and the Holy Father probably knows that. I think he is probably quite comfortable where we are right now and when he stated that ways to remedy issues will be sought, we can infer that he probably knew quite well where we would be. One thing is for sure, before SP the ways to balance the abuses in the NO have been few and far between and not been effective. Now as admitted the pull the EF has had on the OF has been recognized and that was a big part of SP’s intention. We will have to wait quite a few more years before things settle down. In the meanwhile I hope the Holy Father continues to “remedy” issues as will happen with the new instruction on the implementation of the MP, SP. Both forms of the Roman Rite existing side by side pulling on one another until they converge seems a wise idea. Patience is a virtue.

  12. Thanks, Paul. Recently posted an example of this in a brief parish bulletin. It was a justification of the maximalist approach. I was both embarrassed and outraged at the lack of pastoral sense in that example.

  13. My apologies to Father Anthony for attributing Patrick’s comment to him!!!!

    sorry, Father!!!

    [Paul]……Dvisions have been deepened because traditionalists have seen SP as a permit to proselytise. Benedict himself is quite clear that this was not the intention. The Motu Proprio was to appease those who still desired the former state of things. It was aimed only at ‘existing users’…..That is where the divisions have occurred, especially in the area of proselytising….

    Dear Paul,
    you are trying to read the pope’s mind and you seem to be assuming he has same attitude towards the EF that atheists governments have often taken against the Church. i.e. allow people ‘freedom of religion’ but don’t let them proselytize (or teach their children either). This is the 2nd best way to eradicate
    a faith [colliseums are quicker] without having to admit their final goal.

    Everyone group, KCs, Legion of Mary, Charismatics, etc. , which believes it has something to contribute, proseltyzes!! Are you proposing a ‘gag rule’ for traditionalists?


    1. I wouldn’t dare to attempt to read the pope’s mind. But I do read what he has said, for example on September 12 2008:

      QUESTION: What do you say to those in France who fear that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum marks a step backwards with regard to the great insights of the Second Vatican Council? How can you reassure them?

      BENEDICT XVI: The fear is unfounded because this Motu Proprio is simply an act of tolerance, with a pastoral aim for people who were formed in this liturgy, love it, know it, and wish to live with this liturgy. It’s a small group because this presupposes a formation in Latin, a formation in a certain culture.

      Seems pretty clear to me, taken in conjunction with the Motu Proprio itself and its accompanying letter (which is often overlooked)

  14. I assist at the TLM almost exclusively. In a sense, it has deepened the divide for me. Not between other people and me, but with the OF itself. Even when reverently celebrated, the busy-ness of the new rite discourages, in me, a fuller interior participation. The new rite seems a series of events, with quickly changing focuses and with little time for introspection on what has been prayed or proclaimed, while the old rite unfolds in a gentler manner. Plus it is a great relief to pray with the priest instead of at him. Again, this is merely my personal opinion.

    In my parish we have a weekly Noon High Mass, Holy Days, and the Sacred Triduum in the old rite. (If only we could have the pre-1955 Holy Week, with the wonderful seven collects for blessing palms, etc.) We have a weekly luncheon after Mass, where greeting one another, the shaking of hands, and warm fellowship take place. Having experienced this for eight years, I know of no instance of acrimony caused by the differing forms of Mass. It is a wonderful experience.

    I think I must disagree with the poster above who thinks that SP was only for those already attached to it. The old rite is part of the patrimony of every Catholic. When I converted, I didn’t even know of the old rite. When I experienced it for the first time, it was earthshaking for me. I couldn’t believe they got rid of it. I’m very grateful that the Holy Father has made it available for anyone who wishes to pray in this manner.

    1. How much “interior” participation is healthy for communal worship?

      Please tell me what about the EF allows to you pray “with” the priest as oppsed to praying “at” the priest in the OF.

    2. I can’t speak for Chris Douglas, but I think when he said “pray with” the priest, he was referring to how the priest and congregation at the old Mass tend to face the same direction usually – which can give more of an “us praying together” feeling. At the OF, since the priest usually faces opposite the congregation, it can have more of an “us and him” feeling.

  15. I was a some time semi-lapsed Catholic. I am too young to have known the Church prior to the OF but was an altar boy at OF Masses in the 1970’s. The drip drip effect of what seemed even then to me as a child to be the desacralisation of our church interiors and liturgies during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s led me to avoid Church for the most part. There seemed a great drive in Ireland then to make everything as banal and aesthetically unpleasing as possible.

    In the 200’s in the USA, my unchurched wife sometimes accompanied me to Mass but expressed no desire to convert. Pope John Paul’s funeral as her first real introduction – in particular the litany of saints. She then followed Pope Benedict with great interest. Thanks to SP, we attended the EF in Alhambra CA (only my second time to experience the EF). We found it unfamiliar and intimidating at first but we kept at it. We began to feel that by our prayers and through all our senses we ere truly participating. At OF’s, the participation seemed to consist of a small minority of lay people running around looking busy in comparison. There was no silence and no peace. Gradually, very gradually, we began to attend the EF over the OF wherever possible.

    After a while my wife announced that she wanted to be part of the Church that had this treasure. She was baptised and confirmed at an OF Mass at Easter this year and we had our marriage convalidated according to the usus antiquior.

    We now happily attend an OF so long as there is reverence and lack of liturgical abuse. Both may have been present in the EF prior to Vatican 2 but we have no experience of that: today attending an EF over an OF is our best assurance of a reverential Mass without liturgical abuses such as unauthorized innovations. Too often the OF is like ‘liturgical roulette’ in that regard. Even without abuses, with the number of options, you never quite know what you’ll be getting. We attended a First Friday OF recently that as a joy but we attended 2 OF’s in Tokyo over the summer that were so awful (with abuses almost too many to count) that we attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy afterwards just to cheer ourselves up.

    Contrary to what an earlier poster said, Pope Benedict has been clear how the EF speaks to some younger people: his cover letter to SP states:

    “Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

    That describes us perfectly. SP brought my wife into the Church and me back to it. People in our parish often attend either the OF or the EF; of course, many only attend one form or the other. It is not a source of division – we are all part of and active in the same parish and faith community.

    My personal opinion is that the EF will only ever be a minority interest in the Church but I am glad and thankful that the Holy Father has made room for it, and thus us, in that Church. For those who prefer not to see it gro, the best strategy I respectfully submit is an OF free of liturgical abuse and excessive adoption of even permitted options.

    Some people will only ever want the EF but plenty of us who attend the EF do so simply because of the abuse – or risk of abuse – or perception of risk of abuse – at an OF. Get rid of those, and a lot of steam would go out of the movement to spread the EF.

  16. Ciele;

    Yours is a familiar story. That is the secret of course…

    ‘spiritual richness and theological depth’ of the missal of Paul VI, richness and depth which are seen when this is celebrated ‘with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives’.

  17. Part of the divide, ISTM, is predicated on who wants to “get” what out of mass. While peace and a sense of a deep interior participation in the prayers of the rite are a very pleasant personal experience, that aspect is the very point at issue: Who does what at mass, and what is it all about, in the great scheme of things? Woven into these expressions about what is (or is not) an experience or benefit of attending worship is an entire frame of reference of what the priesthood, the Church and the faith are ultimately all about. If one takes seriously the principle that the liturgy is the corporate prayer of the entire Body, under the leadership of its Head, then ISTM that the OF makes that much more visible, with its emphasis on the OUTWARD expression (as the GIRM makes clear) of the entire assembly in voice, song, posture, and gesture, as their full and conscious participation. If worship is about the cultivation of personal devotion and piety, then I can understand personally why people find it attractive, although I find it theologically more questionable. Worship is not just about a transcendent connection w/ all the angels and saints in the heavenly liturgy; it is also about the recognition of the Risen Lord in our midst — in ALL of the modes of his “real presence” among us. (Although I also can agree that the quality of silence, movement, reading, etc in a typical parish is often not what I would like it to be.) Most of the eucharistic settings in the NT are quite ordinary occasions.

  18. The problem would seem to be the implementation of SP not the letter itself for causing divisions. The people who go to EF Masses are greatly appreciative of the Pope’s letter. And most people who don’t, who attend solely the NO, could care less about what their Tridentine friends are doing. It is not lay people creating the division and confusion. It is Bishops and Priests. If reconciliation has been out of reach thus far the majority of fault lies with Bishops and some Priests. We all hear about openly Bishops who restrict the authority of the Pope and his Moto Proprio SP. They are creating the divisons they speak of perhaps with an agenda. Even threatening Priests with transfers etc. for celebrating the 1962 Missal. This will be exposed for what it really is in this era of internet news and blogging. If all is perfect with the reform and the Pauline Mass why all this consternation after 40 years? Why the continued decline of the NO Mass communities? Why the statistics? No, something is not right and has not been able to be fixed. Any positive results about the Pauline Mass being celebrated in a more revererant style or closer to the real rubrics, comes directly from the EF Mass celebration. The Pope has done and is continuing to do something right in this regard.

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