Augé and Ratzinger

Here is an interesting exchange of 1998-1999 on the Vatican II liturgical reforms between Fr. Matias Augé CMF, a veteran professor of liturgy in Rome, former consultant to the Congregation for Divine Worship, and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Good points on all sides. Do you see any unfounded assertations, or weak arguments?     awr

Letter from Fr. Matias Auge to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger:

Rome, 16 November, 1998

Most Reverend Eminence,

I beg you to excuse me for venturing to write this letter. I do it in humble simplicity and also with great sincerity. I am a professor of liturgy at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo and at the Theological Faculty of the Pontifical Lateran as well as Consultant of the Congregation for Divine Worship. I have read the conference that you gave some time ago on the occasion of the “Ten Years After the Motu Proprio ’Ecclesia Dei’” (“Dix ans du Motu Proprio ‘Ecclesia Dei’”). I must confess that its content left me deeply perplexed. In particular I was struck by the response you gave to the objections made by those who do not approve of “the attachment to the old liturgy.” It is on this that I would like to pause a little in this letter to you.

The accusation of disobedience to Vatican II is fended off by saying that the Council did not itself reform the liturgical books but only ordered that they may be revised. This is true enough, and the affirmation cannot be contradicted. However, I want to draw your attention to the fact that not even the Council of Trent reformed the liturgical books, as they only occupied themselves with the very general principles. To execute the reform as such, the Council asked the Pope to do it, and Pius V and his successors implemented it in a most loyal way.

Therefore, I cannot understand how the principles of the Second Vatican Council concerning the reform of the Mass, presented in Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 47-58 (thus not only in nos. 34-36 as cited by Your Eminence), may be in harmony with the re-instatement of the so-called Tridentine Mass. If on the other hand we consider the affirmation of Cardinal Newman mentioned by you, namely that the Church has never abolished or prohibited ”orthodox liturgical forms”, then I ask myself if, for instance, the admirable changes introduced by Pius X in the Roman Psalter (Breviary – CAP) and by Pius XII in the (ceremonies for) Holy Week have abolished the old Tridentine orders or not. The above mentioned principle could make some people think – for example, in Spain – that it is permitted to celebrate the old Spanish rite – the Visigothic, (which is) orthodox, and return it to its place after Vatican II. To say that the Tridentine Rite is something different from the rite of Vatican II does not seem accurate to me: I would say that it is contrary to the notion of what is meant here by rite. Therefore the Tridentine Rite and the present one are one and the same rite: the Roman Rite, in two different phases of its history.

The second objection was that the return to the old liturgy is likely to break the unity of the Church. This objection is met by you in distinguishing between the theological and the practical side of the problem. I can share many of the considerations made by you in this respect, except some that are not historically sustainable, as for instance the claim that until the Council of Trent there existed Mozarabic Rites (of Toledo and other places), which were then suppressed by the same. The Mozarabic Rite was in fact suppressed already by Gregory VII, with the exclusion of Toledo, where it still remains in force. The Ambrosian Rite, on the other hand, has never been suppressed. Thus I cannot understand why it has been forgotten what Paul VI says in the Apostolic Constitution of April 3, 1969, with which he promulgated the new Missal, namely: “We are confident that this Missal will be received by the faithful as a means of testifying to and confirming the unity of all, and that through it, in a great variety of languages, to our heavenly Father will rise one sole and identical prayer.” Paul VI desired that the new Missal should be an expression of unity for the Church. He then adds in conclusion: “What we have here established and ordained, we wish to remain valid and effective now and in the future, despite what may be contrary to it in the Constitutions and the Apostolic Decrees of our predecessors, as well as other provisions also worthy of mention and exception.”

I know the subtle distinctions made by some persons who are legal specialists or considered as such. I believe, however, that these are mere “subtleties” not meriting much attention. One could cite several documents that clearly show the intention of Paul VI in this respect. I can only remember the letter of October 11, 1975, which Cardinal J. Villot wrote to Monsignor Coffy, president of the French Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and the Sacraments (Secretariat of State, no. 287608), in which he said, inter alia: ”By the Constitution Missale Romanum, the Pope prescribes, as you know, that the new Missal should replace the old one, notwithstanding the Apostolic Constitutions and Ordinances of his predecessors, which consequently includes all the dispositions made in the Constitution Quo primum and which would have permitted the preservation of the old Missal […] In short, as mentioned in the Constitution Missale Romanum, it is to the new Roman Missal and nowhere else that the Catholics of the Roman rite should look for the signs and the instrument of the mutual unity of all … .”

Your Eminence, please let me say, that being a professor of liturgy, I find myself in the position of teaching facts that seem to me different from those expressed by you in above mentioned conference. And I believe that I have to continue on this road of obedience to the Pontifical Magisterium. I also lament the excesses with which some people after the Council have celebrated and still celebrate the reformed liturgy. But I cannot understand why some eminent Cardinals, not only yourself, think it opportune to call into question a reform approved, after all, by Pope Paul VI and to open the doors more and more to the use of the old Missal of Pius V. With humility, but also with apostolic frankness, I feel the need to state my opposition to such an outlook. I prefer to say openly that which many liturgists and non-liturgists, feeling themselves to be obedient sons of the Church, say to each other in the corridors of Roman universities.

Your most devoted [servant] in Christ,

Matias Augé, CMF

*          *          *          *          *

Response of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to Matias Auge

February 18, 1999

Reverend Father,

I have attentively read your letter of November 16, in which you express some criticism in respect to the conference I held on October 24, 1998, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei.”

I understand that you do not share my opinions on the liturgical reform, the way it has been implemented, and the crisis deriving from some of the tendencies hidden in it, such as desacralization.

However, it seems to me that your criticism does not take into consideration two points:

The first one being that the Pope John Paul II, with the indult of 1984, under certain conditions, granted the use of the liturgy preceding the Pauline reform; thereafter the same Pope in 1988 published the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, manifesting his wish to please the faithful who are attached to certain forms of the earlier Latin liturgy; and furthermore he asks the bishops ”by a wide and generous application” to allow the use of the liturgical books of 1962.

The second one is that a considerable number of the Catholic faithful, especially those of French, English, and German nationality and language remain strongly attached to the old liturgy, and the Pope does not intend to repeat what happened in 1970 when the new liturgy was imposed in an extremely abrupt way, with a transition time of only six months, whereas the prestigious Liturgical Institute in Trier had rightly proposed a transition time of ten years (if I am not mistaken) for such an undertaking, one that touches in a vital way the heart of the Faith.

Thus, these two points, namely the authority of the Supreme Pontiff and his pastoral and respectful concern for the traditionalist faithful, that must be taken into consideration.

I, therefore, take the liberty to add some answers to your criticism of my speech.

1. Regarding the Council of Trent, I have never said that it should have reformed the liturgical books; on the contrary, I have always emphasized that the post-Tridentine reform, situating itself in the continuity of liturgical history, did not wish to abolish the other Latin orthodox liturgies (which existed for more than 200 years); neither did it wish to impose liturgical uniformity.

When I said that even the faithful who use the indult of 1984 must follow the decrees of the Council, I wanted to show that the fundamental decisions of Vatican II are the meeting point of all liturgical trends and are therefore also the bridge for reconciliation in the area of liturgy. The audience present actually understood my words as an invitation to an opening to the Council, to the liturgical reform. I believe that those who defend the necessity and the value of the reform should be completely in agreement with this way of bringing Traditionalists closer to the Council.

2. The citation from Cardinal Newman means that the authority of the Church has never in its history abolished with a legal mandate an orthodox liturgy. However, it is true that a liturgy that vanishes belongs to historical times, not the present.

3. I do not wish to enter into all the details of your letter, even if I would have no difficulties meeting your various criticisms against my arguments. However, I wish to comment on that what concerns the unity of the Roman rite. This unity is not threatened by small communities using the indult, who are often treated as lepers, as people doing something indecent, even immoral. No, the unity of the Roman rite is threatened by the wild creativity, often encouraged by liturgists (in Germany, for instance, there is propaganda for the project Missale 2000, which presumes that the Missal of Paul VI has already been superseded). I repeat that which was said in my speech: the difference between the Missal of 1962 and the Mass faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI is much smaller than the difference between the various, so-called ”creative” applications of the Missal of Paul VI. In this situation, the presence of the earlier Missal may become a bulwark against the numerous alterations of the liturgy and thus act as a support of the authentic reform. To oppose the Indult of 1984 (1988) in the name of the unity of the Roman rite, is – in my experience – an attitude far removed from reality. Besides, I am sorry that you did not perceive in my speech the invitation to the ”traditionalists” to be open to the Council and to reconcile themselves to it in the hope of overcoming one day the split between the two Missals.

However, I thank you for your courage in addressing this subject, which has given me the occasion – in an open and frank way – to discuss a reality which is dear to both our hearts.

With sentiments of gratitude for the work you perform in the education of future priests, I salute you,

Yours in Christ

+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger



  1. Was the implementation of 1970 really so abrupt? As a boy, I recall a series of gradual implementations throughout the 70’s in my home parish, ending with communion under both forms around 1976 or so.

    1. Actually the missal came in a piecemeal fashion along with the three year lectionary beginning around 1967-68–the four Eucharistic prayers were well before 1970, but the standard sacramentary, basically what we have today, arrived Advent of 1969. Standing for Holy Communion was implemented unevenly and pastors still had a good amount of control on that well into the 1970’s, as well as Communion in the hand and the chalice to the laity which didn’t really start officially until the mid 1970’s. So basically, beginning around 1965 you had one English translation of the Tridentine Mass (which was closer to what we will be getting) with only the priest’s parts said quietly in Latin and then things were simplified beginning around 1966-67 with the shorter penitential rite, the current rubrics and translation of the Roman Canon, the additional Eucharistic prayers and the revised English that would be incorporated into the 1970 missal

  2. This line really caught my eye:

    “whereas the prestigious Liturgical Institute in Trier had rightly proposed a transition time of ten years (if I am not mistaken) for such an undertaking, one that touches in a vital way the heart of the Faith.”

    So, really, if the Pope would enact for our 3rd Typical Edition what he quotes about Trier, it could be five years of transition time instead of a year.

  3. Agree with Fr. McDonald’s timelines. Example – as a deacon, I implemented, trained, and started communion in the hand and under both species in the fall of 1977 in a part of the archdiocese of New Orleans.

    My parents did not get communion under both species until the late 1990’s when the pastor/monsignor was replaced immediately because of sexual abuse.

    What is very clear from this exchange of letters is B16’s concern and sensitivity for a small group of European/english speaking catholics. But, would suggest that his intent has set up precedents and has already created “unintended consequences.”

    If we apply his same reasoning to the two expressions of the same rite, what would stop groups from retaining and hanging on the the Paul VI missal?

    Sorry, but B16 does not seem to have learned much from reading Jungmann’s classical liturgical study.

  4. “[T]he difference between the Missal of 1962 and the Mass faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI is much smaller than the difference between the various, so-called ‘creative’ applications of the Missal of Paul VI.”

    I completely agree, and I prefer the mass “faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI” to the 1962 missal. Such a faithful celebration, however, is almost impossible to find. I would also point out that from what I have been able to ascertain, Vatican II had a positive effect on the way that the E.F. is celebrated near where I live, e.g. more frequent congregational participation, deliverance of homily, excellent music, weekly communion, etc. It’s pretty rare to find people fingering their rosary, which I also see from time to time at O.F. masses. In other words, I don’t see E.F. masses generally peopled by those who reject Vatican II principles.

  5. I really like Paul VI’s idea of the reformed rite as unifying the Church. But Benedict XVI has broken with Paul VI’s wishes (for pastoral reasons, if you read what he wrote above) in establishing an e.f.

    Here’s Paul VI in his own words, speaking at a consistory to new cardinals about Marcel Lefebvre:

    Usus novi Ordinis Missae minime quidem sacerdotum vel christifidelium arbitrio permittitur… Novus Ordo promulgatus est, ut in locum veteris substitueretur post maturam deliberationem, atque ad exsequendas normas quae a Concilio Vaticano II impertitae sunt. Haud dissimili ratione, Decessor Noster S. Pius V post Concilium Tridentinum Missale auctoritate sua recognitum adhiberi iusserat.

    The use of the new Ordinary of the Mass is definitely not left to the free choice of priests or Christian faithful… After mature deliberation, following the requests of the Second Vatican Council, the new Ordinary was promulgated to replace the old. In no way different, following the Council of Trent, did our holy predecessor St. Pius V make the Missal reformed under his authority obligatory.

    Paul VI, 24 May 1976

    My Latin is rusty, but what does “ut in locum veteris substitueretur” mean if not “supercede, replace”? But what does “replace” mean to Benedict? Was the Sarum Mass merely replaced by the Tridentine Mass, or was it abolished? Can we celebrate it today? Whatever the meaning it is clear that Benedict has opened a door to liturgical disunity not easily closed and not envisaged by Paul VI.

    1. I can’t tell what kind of ut-clause it is unless I ahve the context of the previous sentence in its entirety. Presumably it is purpose and parallels the subsequent gerundive phrase expressing purpose.

      What strikes me is the placement of “post maturam deliberationem.” I would have expected those words to be placed next to promulgatus est before the ut-clause. It is the case that subordinate clauses normally end with the verb, but that rule is not hard and fast. The way it’s written says, “…that it might be substituted in the place of the old after mature delibertation.” Deliberation by whom?

  6. Ioannes Andreades :
    In other words, I don’t see E.F. masses generally peopled by those who reject Vatican II principles.

    Indeed, I would argue that many EF Masses do a better job at fulfilling the principle of “active participation” espoused by Vatican II than a number of “status quo” OF Masses do.

    I will say that I do know people who, if given a choice between an EF High Mass and an English-facing-the-people OF “High Mass” with an eye towards tradition, they would happily choose the OF. Unfortunately, those sorts of Masses are harder to come by than the EF currently is, and there doesn’t seem to be as much of a desire amongst those who really believe in the OF to make such Masses more common.

  7. For the OF fans here, I really would like to hear some argument not against the EF – that has been made – but in favour of the type of OF in favour of which Ioannes and Jack speak. Do you agree it is rare to find such an OF? If so, do you agree that tightening up on the celebration of the OF would reduce demand for the EF. A lot of us who moved to the EF did so out of desperation at some of the liturgical abuses we see every week in the OF.
    Would an OF strictly by the rubrics with no “creative” options be a fair compromise?

    1. Well, it’s not so much a question of fandom, but of faithfulness to the teaching of the Church. The 1962 Missal is unreformed. It was embraced as a banner by schismatics. And we all know that defectors are treated with more social bitterness than those not among the clan who were never a part of us from the beginning.

      “Would an OF strictly by the rubrics with no “creative” options be a fair compromise?”

      It happens in my parish, for the most part. But I think we all realize that it is insufficient for most 1962 advocates. (Please, let’s dispense with “fan.” It is an inappropriate term for either “side.”)

      The “liturgical abuse” meme is often (not always) just an excuse for criticism. I think personal distaste comes first, and in the internet age, the justification through rubrics or Fr Z later.

      1. The constant citation that the EF is “unreformed” will mean nothing to me until the OF actually conforms to SC as well. For example, does your congregation know how to chant the Mass in Latin? Until then, it comes off as the pot calling the kettle black.

        I will say that most OFs are done according to the rubrics – but that doesn’t necessarily make for good liturgy that conforms to Vatican II.

      2. “for the most part”

        Can’t we do better than that?

        Every Sunday at my parish there are several places where mass follows none of the legitiamte options of the reformed missal: e.g. (in no particular order) ad-libbing prayers, EMHC’s approaching the altar too soon, occasionally altered readings, no chasuble, combining the “Blessed are you, Lord” prayers to make one prayer, no genuflecting by the priest, no bowing during the creed. The overal experience, moroever, is casual bordering on saccharine. Yet, I can say that for the most part, mass follows the sacramentary.

      3. P.S. Lot’s of people with dubious orthodoxy embrace the reformed mass. I don’t hold that against the reformed mass.

      4. Todd, why in the world do you keep saying that the 1962 Missal is “unreformed”. The 1970 Missal of Paul VI IS THE REFORM of the older Missal. Where else do you think they got it?

      5. “until the OF actually conforms to SC …”

        I rest my case.

        “Can’t we do better than that?”

        Not unless we’re prepared to celebrate liturgy entirely by degreed professionals, top to bottom, and adopt the Tridentine proposal that the best thing for the Mass is to tell the unwashed masses to stay the hell home. Over the years, everybody from my pastors to my altar servers have made errors of commission, omission, and everything in between. One person’s liturgical abuse (and excuse for “slavishism”) is another person’s simple mistake. I might just as well criticize a traditionalist for drinking red wine on Friday.

        That said, there are people out there with real problems implementing the rites well. No doubt. But widespread liturgical abuse is a boogeyman story. No more.

        “why in the world do you keep saying that the 1962 Missal is “unreformed”.”

        Because it is. I’ll keep saying it until one of two things happen. 1. The 1962 rite is permanently retired. 2. The traditionalists have a go at the “mutual enrichment” they seem to be gleefully anticipating.

        The 1970 Rite has already mined the best of the 1962. It has nothing significant to gain from looking a liturgical backwater.

      6. “The 1970 Rite has already mined the best of the 1962. It has nothing significant to gain from looking a liturgical backwater.”

        You really like to say that a lot.

        I must admit that when it comes to “mutual enrichment” between the two forms, I’m more in the camp that thinks the OF needs much more enrichment from the EF than the EF needs from the OF. Maybe expand the EF lectionary and allow for vernacular along the lines of what SC specified, and you’ll pretty much have the best of what the OF has to offer.

      7. Jack, If we were allowed to celebrate the EF Mass in the vernacular and with the three year lectionary and even the revised Roman Calendar, I would not hesitate making one of our normal Sunday Masses this option. Right now, if I were to do such a thing in my parish, replace one of our normal Sunday Masses with the EF, I would have an uprising amongst those who do not want it. Of course, the same thing would happen if I made one of our OF English Masses into Spanish. At any rate, I do think there would be very little negative reaction towards the EF Mass in English with the revised lectionary and calendar. (Our monthly EF Mass is the First Sunday of every month at 2:00 PM, not a very good hour for it, but the best I can do at this point).

      8. “I’m more in the camp that thinks the OF needs much more enrichment from the EF than the EF needs from the OF.”

        I happen to be in the camp that liturgy should be informed by careful discernment of the Holy Spirit and by the lived experiences of the faith community. The notion that two or more forms of worship would have some sort of conversation strikes me as an ivory tower academic exercise. The real focus of influence might start at two points: better preaching, better music.

        If you gave parishioners a choice between the 1962 Missal with vernacular readings and the 1970 Missal with superior preaching and music, all other things being equal, the 1962 Missal would be retired within weeks.

      9. Todd, are you presuming that the Holy Spirit isn’t somehow involved in this new phase of two forms of the one Latin Rite? We were so quick to say that every novelty that evolved from the supposed implementation of Vatican II’s documents in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was of the Holy Spirit, another wild presumption.

      10. “Todd, are you presuming that the Holy Spirit isn’t somehow involved in this new phase of two forms of the one Latin Rite?”

        Pretty much, yes.

        I don’t believe that human errors are the work of God, even when they take place in church. I do think that other people’s mistakes present believers with opportunities. The bottom line isn’t the set of words, but how the Gospel is preached and lived.

        “We were so quick to say that every novelty …”

        Speak for yourself, Fr McDonald. I didn’t say that. And I haven’t seen it seriously endorsed on this web site.

        I think the criticisms on liturgy will continue, and I don’t see these as attacks on God. But they present us with opportunities: listening, discernment, testing, and further discussion.

      11. Todd, one of the points of “then Cardinal Ratzinger” in his letter is that there is very little difference in an EF Mass and an OF Mass (both celebrated in Latin I presume) compared to the variety of ways in which the OF Mass is celebrated, that in fact there is greater variance in these celebrations of the OF Mass than in the pristine celebrations of the EF or OF.
        So we already had multiple expressions of the Latin Rite Mass for almost 40 years in effect prior to Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum allowing the more liberal celebration of the EF in the past three years. If you have visited parishes around the country for Mass on Sunday, you and I both know that sometimes the variations in the celebration of the OF Mass is truly great from parish to parish, region to region, etc and I’m not speaking of what would be called legitimate variations, such as language, music and architecture. I’m speaking of creativity and license which so many priests, parishes and liturgical committees advance on the parochial level. Since these celebrations comprise the majority of the multiplicities of Mass in the one Roman Rite, compared to the very small minority of those who actually have the EF Mass in their parish, I think the OF variations are more of a problem to liturgical unity of the Church than the EF Mass being celebrated here and there.

      12. “I happen to be in the camp that liturgy should be informed by careful discernment of the Holy Spirit and by the lived experiences of the faith community.”

        Gee, so am I. How sad that you assume those who disagree with you think otherwise. You should knock it off with the “I’m holier than thou” act and assume that the people you are talking to might have good motives too. The “conversation” between the two forms comes by observing the lived experience of the faithful at both and finding what elements of each benefit the other.

        Also, if parishioners had to choose between an EF celebrated in English with the three year lectionary and superior music and preaching or an OF celebrated in Latin exclusively, all other things being equal, the OF would be retired within weeks. The only people I ever notice talking about the superiority of the OF missal texts are academics and clergy. Most “average” people I know *who have read* the prayers for both forms tend to like the EF way better from a textual standpoint, but still prefer the OF because it’s in English. Not a scientific survey, I know, but your grand statements aren’t scientific either.

        I don’t get the obsession some folks here have with getting rid of the EF. It benefits the faithful and is allowed even if it isn’t the supposed “ideal.” The OF takes advantage of almost every option and indult besides the ideal ones when it is perceived to benefit the faithful and that seems to be okay. However, the mere existence of the EF in a small, but growing, number of places is some horror beyond measure. It boggles my mind and doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything other than idealism and irrational fear.

      13. “If you have visited parishes around the country for Mass on Sunday…”

        It’s a rare occasion for me to do this. I suspect it’s equally rare for priests (outside of retirement) too. I wonder if liturgical abuse–and I’m speaking about serious liturgical abuse–isn’t more urban legend than authenticated fact.

        And for the record, I’m hardly afraid of the 1962 Rite. It’s supporters and celebrants have a nearly ideal environment: the ability to draw on a large range of talents for a limited number of liturgies. Hey: I applaud the intentionality of such communities, and the artistry they put into their liturgy. But they couldn’t match the ideal of multiple High Masses on weekends, and put the same liturgical effort into weddings, funerals, and school Masses that good parishes do today.

      14. I would say that liturgical abuse is exaggerated sometimes (people often times describe things that are allowed as being “abuses,” like communion in the hand or altar girls). However, it isn’t so uncommon as to be the thing of “urban legends.” My parish used to have a “substitute” priest who would completely omit the penitential rite whenever he celebrated Mass, and he would instead fill in the time telling jokes about the local sports rivalries – another would completely make up Eucharistic prayers on the spot, only sticking to the books when he got to the words of institution. These strike me as rather egregious abuses, even though they aren’t as flashy or shocking as the legendary clown Mass.

        Also, I think it’s exaggerated that EF communities are so full of specialists that they would never be able to pull it off in a “normal” parish environment. Most EF Masses are, in my experience, actually rather rough around the edges and not the movie-quality affairs you might see on EWTN. Also, even though it isn’t usually recognized as such for the EF Mass, there is a significant degree of “graduated solemnity” that can be taken advantage of. I could easily see a parish pulling off a full slate of Sung Masses provided the priest were up to it. The last Mass on Sunday could be the most elaborate, as one wouldn’t need to worry about time constraints, while the others could be Missa Cantatas with simple chant and no incense, as they usually run about an hour in…

  8. The demand for the EF Mass is still quite a very small minority within the Church. Our primary focus should be on the OF Mass and celebrating it well and according to the rubrics, but with flair. While papal Masses are extravaganzas, I did not see or hear anything that could not be implemented on a smaller scale in most parishes. From reading this blog and others of a liturgical nature, there does seem to be a renewed interest in chant and choral music of a more classical style. There does seem to be some disenchantment with more modern modes of music that seem to mimic the current Broadway style of music and tune singing. In other words there is a move toward a distinctive “sacral” sounding sacred music which chant seems to epitomize. The use of other options in the liturgy, such as incense, bells, finer vesture for priests, deacons and servers seems to be returning. The role of the congregation as just as important as any specific lay ministries such as choir member, cantor, lector or EMC seems to be taking hold as well. These are all positive developments. With that said, I see no reason for hysteria concerning more frequent celebrations of the EF Mass with a Vatican II attitude for these celebrations, specifically active participation that is both interior and exterior as we understand it today. And yes, for me personally, and those who attend our EF Mass, this has improved our participation skills and spirituality in the OF Mass, there is definitely a positive influence and vice versa.

    1. …continued, I should have added too, there where there is more care in celebrating the OF Mass with attention to detail, the laity seem to improve on their vesture too, meaning they are starting to wear their “Sunday” best, however one desires to interpret that. In my own parish when I first arrived to a more casual 1970’s form of celebrating Mass, a large number of our people dressed in short-shorts, tank tops and bare midriffs not to mention flip flops, tee shirts with questionable slogans and so forth. With catechesis about the dignity of the congregation’s participation in Mass and that like those in more formal roles of the Mass, the laity should dress their part in an appropriate way, very few if any of our parishioners now dress in a way that would raise eye brows. However, our church is very near I-75, Detroit to Orlando to Naples, and many stop on Sunday and, well, their dress is quite interesting! But we are welcoming none the less.

      1. Fr. McDonald;

        I am the Director of Music at a parish much further south on the same route (Sarasota FL.) and we have much the same problem when it comes to dress at Church. Okay… it can often be 95+ degrees outside with 98% humidity by mid morning, and a suit and tie can be extraordinarily uncomfortable. But one can dress well without necessarily dressing formally. We had this discussion at our last Pastoral Staff meeting and I made the following observation. We can look to how people dress for such events as political dinners (we often have the $1000 a plate hobnobs here in town or out on the islands), Opera performances or the Celebrity meet-n-greet cocktail events frequently held here during the Film Festival or Yachting events (I know… but this is Sarasota!).

        People will dress well when they feel that the event is worthy of the effort AND it is expected of them as a condition of attending. While the latter is not necessarily applicable in a parish setting, the first point is most pertinent. Does the liturgy (as often presented) seem to be something that requires our careful attention to style of dress? I would say that it often has more of the trappings of a community picnic out at the park rather than of a solemn ritual deserving of the best we can give.

        I know it’s become a hackneyed and almost cliche statement, but I have yet to see halter tops, beachwear, flip flops or risque clothing at the EF Masses at the FSSP Parish a few blocks away.

      2. Jeffrey, what you say is true about the EF Mass, but the people who appreciate this Mass are people who are more motivated to seek what they perceive as to be more reverent and formal or they wouldn’t attend this “style” of Mass. I think they want the formality and built-in external actions that are intrinsic to the EF. As Cardinal Ratzinger writes in his letter, “…liturgical reform, the way it has been implemented, and the crisis deriving from some of the tendencies hidden in it, such as desacralization.” I’m afraid that the “noble simplicity” that the SC sought for the Mass was misinterpreted by those who redesigned the Mass and did away with so many of the rubrics that added an intrinsic “sacralization.” Restoring those rubrics wouldn’t disturb the noble simplicity that the OF otherwise does have.

  9. “I do not wish to enter into all the details of your letter, even if I would have no difficulties meeting your various criticisms against my arguments.”

    Sadly, I think we are seeing the Benedict papacy taking the “I could, but won’t, discuss it” approach repeatedly… decisions made around the sexual abuse crisis, bishops’ resignations not accepted, the whys and wherefores of the missal translation project, confusions in interfaith dialogue, and so on. The results are predictable: more confusion and deepening disaffection.

  10. This fixation on latin – “original latin” – creates a question in my mind.

    Didn’t the 1st century church face a similar liturgical transition from aramic/greek to latin? Did we have an early version of the Summorum Pontificum that permitted the Palestinian communities to continue to do liturgy in greek until they gradually fading out?

    Is this part of the issue with the eastern side of our church? for why we have many rites esepcially in the Middle East?

  11. Mr Ratzinger is fixated on his 1930s Bavarian childhood. Let’s face it, the man plays a neat game of theological poker, but he’s a fideist and sentimentalist. Love the red shoes, lacy dress and hunk secretary, too.

      1. I wouldn’t worry too much. Such comments generally reflect more on the poster than they do on the Pope.

      2. I don’t know Adam, or where he’s coming from, but I’m not sure how his “comments are incredibly inappropriate” and I don’t know how they’re “deeply offensive” . . . what am I missing here?

      3. I’m with F C Bauerschmidt. Middle-School-quality insults really say more about the poster’s own ignorance and bigotry.

  12. “I know it’s become a hackneyed and almost cliche statement, but I have yet to see halter tops, beachwear, flip flops or risque clothing at the EF Masses at the FSSP Parish a few blocks away.”

    Prada shoes, outrageously expensive copes and cappae magnae, and a deliciously homoerotic atmosphere are perhaps more to one’s taste?

    1. So the best argument you can come up with is “You are, like, totally gay if you go to the EF.”

      Perhaps the moderators here don’t mind it when “gay” (and I know he didn’t say it directly, but, c’mon?) is tossed around as an insult, but it seems horribly offensive at a site that is supposedly about reasoned discourse. EF folks deserve respect and not to be called gay for really stupid reasons, and gay people deserve some dignity and not to be treated like a nasty slur. Both groups of people, even if you hate them, are loved by God too.

  13. “So the best argument you can come up with is “You are, like, totally gay if you go to the EF.””

    Oh, I love totally gay things, but I know that others might find them as little to their taste as the displays of female flesh the poster associated with the OF.

    “Perhaps the moderators here don’t mind it when “gay” (and I know he didn’t say it directly, but, c’mon?) is tossed around as an insult, but it seems horribly offensive at a site that is supposedly about reasoned discourse. ”

    Gee, I merely pointed out the very clear gay associations of the current fashions in ecclesiastical dress — you can see an excellent discussion of these erotic codes in Mark Jordan’s book The Silence of Sodom. I seem to have touched a sensitive nerve.

    “EF folks deserve respect and not to be called gay for really stupid reasons, and gay people deserve some dignity and not to be treated like a nasty slur. ”

    A man prancing about in a cappa magna may not be “gay” but he is certainly “camp”. Again, we can all enjoy camp — for instance Swan Lake danced by an all-male cast — but it does become a little ridiculous when its perpetrators dress it up as pure Tridentine ortodoxy or some other such tosh.

    1. You know Joe that anti-Catholics in my neck of the woods say the same thing about the vesture of the Ordinary Form Mass even in its simplicity not to mention the habits of men’s orders such as the Trappists and Benedictines. I think the discourse of this blog is greatly undermined by the comments you have written and are very unfortunate and a parody of the worst of anti-Catholic sentiment.

      1. So the “anti-Catholics” in your neck of the woods have a problem with priests who don’t wear maniples?

        Why must they be called “anti-Catholic” just because they express an opinion about vesture?

      2. Chris, it’s about vestments and religious wear in general and it comes from fundamentalists whose own worship attire for their clergy involves a business suit or more casual wear now. Usually only choir members wear a robe in these denominations but that’s changing too. But the point I was making which correlates to some comments above is that those who complain about the vestments that are worn by clergy, protestant or Catholic, elaborate or simple, are actually homophobic or fear that wearing something like this implies homosexuality. That’s the real issue I think. As it concerns the Cappa Magna, I really wonder in terms of all the Catholic Masses throughout the world, how many prelates wore it prior to Mass this past year to cause such phobia about it in some people. I find that an interesting study in psychology.

    2. You can keep going about calling people you don’t like gay or whatever like a little seventh grade boy does, just don’t expect anyone to take you seriously. Like I said, if it’s the best you can do, then it means you have no real argument. If you don’t like the cappa magna or old fashioned vestments, come up with an *intelligent* reason why instead of putting your weird phobias on display.

  14. Ok, children. Put your crayons away. Mr. Auge is right (from a purely historical point of view) and Mr. Ratzinger is wrong.

    Or perhaps you NOW want to believe everything that Mr. Ratzigner says because he is NOW the Bishop of Rome, or what you lot (like infants and anti-evangencial people like to) call the Holy Father. (I wonder how many of his “fans” and followers believed him before April 2005; his meager book sales would suggest that Georg (his hunky secretary… what happened to Mr. Clemens?) and the minions at the Cdf were the only perssons that purchases his books.

    if you doubt his competence in history maybe you better read his strange and wrong comments at UK visit on Nazis. Mr. Ratzinger want all of us to believe that the the Nazis were all atheists. His father was a nazi (he denies it) and was supposed to be a Catholic. It is a fact that most peoples in Germany, heart of the Reformation and Catholicism, supported Mr. Hitler. Some way Mr. Ratzinger thinks they were all atheists.

    Mr. Ratzinger is a fraud. Good morning and please smell the coffee!

  15. I am not speaking about anyone on this site, but more generally. I notice that ‘out’ homosexuals who have made peace with themselves are sometimes the most critical of the stereotypically effeminate (some say: ‘gay’) style of traditional liturgies. The same is sometimes true of gay-friendly straights. Such folks probably are not being anti-gay and shouldn’t be accused of being juvenile or immature. There is a moral concern behind their passion and their sometimes impolitic word choice.

    What is going on here? I’m not sure, but here’s a theory. There is a long history of association of ‘high church’ and ‘gay’ – as noted in many histories of the Anglo-Catholic movement. It was also noted by David Berger, the German conservative Thomist who was recently removed from a papal academy when he came out; he wrote of the strong presence of gays in the Tridentine Mass community in which he was active.


  16. I suspect that gay-friendly folks (whatever their orientation) are morally offended not by open homosexuality, but by the closeted homosexuality they perceive in high church, traditionalist liturgical circles. They see hypocrisy, lack of honesty, and an attitude which hurts gays themselves. They see gay guys dealing with sexuality by avoiding it, seeking refuge in moral/doctrinal absolutes or in the lovely, beautiful world of traditional ritual. Sometimes the worldview suspicious of, or uncomfortable in, the modern church and modern world, and the escapist views about theology and liturgy, are rooted in deeper sexual issues and then rationalized with theology and rubrics.

    And now that word has gotten out that perhaps 20 – 50% of RC priests and bishops are homosexually oriented, it becomes plausible that the perceptions and charges aren’t just made up out of whole cloth.

    When gay-friendly people accuse some liturgical styles of being ‘gay,’ I think they’re perhaps saying this: Be honest so we can all have an honest conversation about what is really going on.


    1. There’s bringing up the points you made in an appropriate and intelligent manner and then there’s doing it in a juvenile bigoted way that basically amounts to name calling without even hinting at the issues you mentioned (like what the people you are defending did). That you can’t see the difference is shocking.

  17. Anthony Ruff is right.

    I do not agree with the Roman Catholic position of gays and homosexuality, which I think is totally ignorant and wrong.

    The big problem is gays who hate gays, as someone described many men in the roman curia (I think in an article in the Sunday Times) as “self-hating homophobic homosexuals”. Is the current pope like this? I don’t know. But he is the one who wrote the current Magisterium teaching on homoseuxuality. It is draconian and totally against current scientific/psychological positions. (Think of the pope who condemned Galileo.)

    May I add that no one, except some egghead or politician, is interested in Xtianity because it is rational. Bullocks!! It is because of the witness of Christian.

    Mother Teresa, St Francis of Assisi, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and John 23 have attracted more people to XTianity than Mr Ratzinger or Mr Balthasar or George Weigel.

  18. I was very interested in Rita’s comment on the phrase “I do not wish to enter into all the details of your letter, even if I would have no difficulties meeting your various criticisms against my arguments.” Indeed, in retrospect, this revealing phrase contains the seeds of the current unwillingness to take the time for unflinching honesty and transparency, even when it means addressing uncomfortable topics and even when it means risking to expose possible weaknesses in one’s reasoning. The writer is willing to engage in discussion on topics of his choice only.

    1. To put it even more sharply, I felt the response of Ratzinger here did not answer the hard questions posed by his interlocutor. The nature of the reform, the weight to be accorded to the actual intentions of Paul VI, the question of whether the Roman rite is one and the same or a different rite before and after its reform, the historical value of the claims Ratzinger makes vis à vis other rites in the Church, the question of fidelity to the magisterium which now has said different things on a rather significant subject–these are hard questions. I did not feel they were answered. If Ratzinger could have answered them, I wish he’d have done so. He says he can, but because he didn’t, we don’t know. Instead, he changed the subject, to speak about victimized groups and the dangers to the church of overinterpreting the reforms of Vatican II. Even if one agreed with his goals, in the absence of answers to these other questions, it remains unclear whether his favored course of action is a wise or advisable means of attaining them.

      Despite the standing of Augé and R’s formulaic acknowledgement of the same at the end of his letter, I thought Ratzinger’s response savored of a professor addressing an importunate student. It’s very unfortunate. We need R., even more as pope, “to take time for unflinching honesty and transparency, even when it means addressing uncomfortable topics and even when it means risking to expose possible weaknesses in one’s reasoning.”

      Now everyone can go back to discussing vestments.

  19. Getting back to the topic of vestments, whether elaborate or simple, I suspect the vast majority of Catholic priests no matter their sexual identity, if celibate are secure enough in their celibacy and sexual identity to wear what the Church allows, whether it is a gold encrusted cope, a mile long cappa magna or a burlap and felt chasuble. We all have our personal taste, feelings about these vestments and those who wear them. I know that many seminaries of the 70’s and 80’s where there were a majority of homosexual oriented seminarians, hopefully chaste, that the heterosexuals seminarians were the marginalized ones. So can’t we move from stereotypical attitudes about one orientation or the other to the core of our teachings from Christ, love and respect for everyone, but also the call to perfection in the moral life? “Be perfect as your heavenly Father.!” That’s even more off-putting than Humanae Vitae in my book, but something that I think we need to take seriously as Christians. Are we going to let political agendas, both religious and secular rule the day or is what the Church teaches going to rule the day for Christians? And finally, hypocrisy doesn’t rest with only traditional minded clergy in their finery, another unfortunate stereotype. I think we are all sinners in need of forgiveness and redemption.

  20. In the absence of any sociological proof, I would suspect that what Fr. Anthony states above to be true. When I was vocation director in the 1980’s and 90’s a homosexual orientation was no barrier to being a seminarian as long as one was called to celibate chastity and could uphold the Church’s teachings on sexuality, chastity in particular. If one was engaged in the ” an extreme gay agenda” this would be problematic. We may have been naive though about men of a homosexual orientation having the ability to live in seminaries chastely and thus in rectory situations. I think the converse is true too for heterosexual seminarians if they were allowed to have close quarters with women as in an all male environment seminary living situation. There would be great temptations and acting out. So let’s get real about our sexuality and the fragile gift of chastity and celibacy.

  21. You avoid the question and continue to bury your head in the sand. But that is what the Catholic hierarchy does best.

    Good night and good luck.

  22. We have moved far from the original post of the two letters. If I may follow up on Fr. Anthony’s description with two observations:
    a) grace builds on nature – what happens when significant church leadership withholds or hides part of their nature? How can grace effectively lead when part of nature is hidden under a bushel basket
    b) since the 1960s, any psychology of development studies talk about “self-actualization”… can you be self-actualized if your sexual being is hidden or suppressed? We already have clerics who confront loneliness, isolation, etc. what happens if they are gay?

    I think about the notion that christianity is “counter-cultural”….yet, today’s political/social culture or even church pronouncements on sexual orientation, re-inforce the current culture – one that is bigotted, DADT attitude. So, clerics/bishops who act in this way are really cultural – not counter-cultural. Would suggest that their words, actions, lifestyle is more about the B16″s favorite phrase – the danger of relativism – they are supporting relativism in terms of being less than the gospel mission of “fully human; fully alive!”

    Given the past week in the US highlighted by the Rutger suicide, it would seem that the church needs to lead and not follow on this issue which creates so much pain, anger, cynicism which fractures families, parishes, etc.

  23. My flippant remarks have been honored by a rather deep discourse of Anthony Ruff — I would demur just slightly: I don’t think people are offended so much as amused by the cross-dressing implications of baroque ecclesiastical garb. I don’t think the ordinary soutane or alb or surplice arouses such associations for most people. Where people feel anger, and rightly, is when the flamboyant prancing prelates use their pomp to stifle adult discussion among Christians, turning the church into a circus.

    1. It seems to me that all the “cross dressing” and “homoerotic” associations and whatnot is more a make-believe idea based on a tiny handful of EF Masses. A seed that those who dislike the EF can implant in the minds of those who may not have an opinion of the EF yet – a seed that sows divisions (that can later be blamed on the EF’s existence) and sours them to it before they can experience it themselves and form their own opinions. None of the associations made by folks here ever crossed my mind when attending even the more elaborate EF Masses (I’ve never even seen a “prancing prelate”), and it’s not a concern I’ve ever heard raised by others who have attended it regardless of whether they liked it or not. It’s like the progressive version of the legendary clown Mass I mentioned earlier – a nasty tool used to paint people you don’t like with a broad brush while making yourself feel good about doing it because you think it’s for a good cause.

  24. “It seems to me that all the “cross dressing” and “homoerotic” associations and whatnot is more a seed that those who dislike the EF wants to implant in the minds of those who may not have an opinion of the EF yet.”

    The seed is planted by those Cardinals who prance about in Fellinesque costumes (and to think I thought the famous ecclesiastical fashion show in his movie Roma was a comment on a dead past!). It’s not the EF only but the entire fear-ridden restorationism of the laudatores temporis acti that is exposed to ridicule by this campiness.

    “It’s like the progressive version of the legendary clown Mass I mentioned earlier – a nasty tool used to paint people you don’t like with a broad brush while making yourself feel good about doing it because you think it’s for a good cause.”

    To be sure, Fr Peter Williams tries to smear his critics by talking about “bizarre experimentation” of the 1960s, ignoring the fact that the real problem with the current translations is their flatness, and that the solution to the problem was found in 1998 and dismissed by the Vatican, who are now imposing a bizarre experiment on all English-speaking Catholics. The phrase “smells and bells” used of traditionalist liturgies is one I dislike, since a well celebrated High Mass in Latin can indeed be a glorious liturgical event. What I object to is the reactionary theology pawned off on the people who thirst for such liturgical beauty. I think especially of the…

  25. I think especially of the near-disappearance of Scripture in the EF — a very clear negation of Vatican II. There is no reason whatever why people who want beautiful liturgy cannot have it using the OF. There is a kinky and perverse reactionary leaning in the exhumation of the Tridentine period that the Pope should not have encouraged. Yes, it goes with his taste in shoes and hyper-expensive recreations of the copes of Leo X etc. You may say he looks beautiful in these accoutrements, but the church is not a beauty pageant. The beauty of holiness is rooted and grounded in Scripture, and a restorationist culture that puts the word of God under a bushel must be queried.

    1. As for expensive – I’m sure you could buy a billion jewel-encrusted cappa magnae with the money spent in the 70’s and 80’s replacing old “gay” vestments with plain ones and reordering church buildings that didn’t have anything wrong with them to begin with. Traditionalists are hardly the only ones with “hyper-expensive” tastes.

      I think I’ll drop out of this thread now. It’s rather pointless.

  26. No, I assure you, to recreate the vestments worn by Leo X cost a pretty penny. Of course church buildings and proper liturgical accoutrements have always been expensive, but it is a functional expense, at the service of rendering the Lord fitting worship. It is unpersuasive to say that modern liturgy is “hyper-expensive. The vestments we currently used are in general quite cheap, and rather inconspicuous. Perhaps we have come closer to a Protestant plainness, and perhaps listening to the Word of God demands this.

    The post-Vatican II changes were sometimes catastrophic for beautiful buildings (Cobh Cathedral was luckily saved, so far), but on the whole they gave the People of God a new space of worship that was certainly needed. (Probably the upkeep of the new or reformed buildings is cheaper than keeping up the old baroque splendors.) The pre-Vatican II Mass was, in my recollection, a very distant affair, and the space for the faithful was cramped, offering only possibilities of devotion, not of participation; people commonly prayer the Rosary during Mass, and the real devotional life was in paraliturgies such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Confraternities, etc.

  27. ANyone who think liturgucal abuse is exagerated or even nonexistant simply need to look at youtube for examples. The Pauline Mass is and has been plagued with abuses since its’ inception. Try to find a Tridentine Mass filled with such abuse on youtube, or any other site and I will sit back and watch. You won’t find it. That seems the biggest chasm between the 2 Missals. One is respected and followed according and the other is constantly abused. This is the inherent flaw that foes along with the Pauline Missal. It has too many options and in the mind of most celebrants they can do with it as they wish. Not so with the Tridentine Missal. It is how they are viewed that makes them so divergent from each other. That will not change. Better off allowing SOME vernacular into the 1962 Missal and maybe some updated prefaces and something with the calender, but that’s really all it needs. As far as the 1962 Missal being unreformed, Pope Benedict XVI revised the prayer for the Jewish people, so a reform has begun. Maybe that will be it for now. But it is alive, it just won’t be hacked to pieces in no time like many would wish. This would allow for true, organic growth. The prayer change allows me to believe that.

  28. Mitch,

    Do you think the persistence of liturgical abuse & ad-libbing on the part of OF celebrants may indicate a certain non-reception of the 1973 translation?

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