The New Roman Missal: The Rest of the Story

Here is the podcast of the talk I recently gave in Cleveland, sponsored by FutureChurch: “The New Roman Missal: The Rest of the Story.”

Here is the handout to help you follow along.


  1. An interesting tidbit on the implementation from an article on the Knights of Columbus over at NCR

    Additionally, in 2009 and 2010, Knights officials contributed $200,000 as noted in annual reports to Vox Clara, the bishops’ committee responsible for turning back the clock on the liturgy and implementing the recent controversial language changes in the Mass. They have been a significant funder of the committee since 2006.

    Always interesting to follow the money trail.

    1. I’m just angry that the Knights of Columbus promised that the “excess” money from funding our life insurance would go to charities…as in the poor, the elderly, etc. Funding anti-gay marriage bills and awful translations are NOT charity…I think there must be some way we can get the K of C back to being a fraternal, not a political organization. Otherwise, they’ve lied to all of us K of C members!

  2. I would be interested in what people think could be done under this option. Remember it does say “constructive”

    4. Constructive resistance? “We shall overcome.”

  3. Yes, that would be interesting.

    The one thing that can be done and where many people can perhaps easily be persuaded to join in, regarding the people’s parts, is to ignore the new missal. What could be simpler?

    1. Honest question, Claire: how far can I take this? If I disagree with something in the GIRM, may I do as I please?

      1. No, absolutely not. This is after a lot of time was spent thinking and learning about it, after trying it out in December, then going away for a trip and coming back to the shock of how bad the new missal was. It’s been a long process, but at this point I must resist.

        I have never before done anything like that in liturgy. The result is “simple”, but the way there is not.

        You know how sometimes you agonize over some decision, then after a long time, suddenly reach some clarity, it becomes simple, and at that point you know what you must do? It is not “doing as I please” but more a matter of “doing as I must”.

      2. Claire, I appreciate your heart-felt reply. Looking back at growing up in what I term the ugly aftermath of the implementation of Vatican II (kneelers removed, tabernacle removed from the altar, bubble-gum music at odds with the liturgy, and junk-food catechesis) I can use your words to give voice to what I felt. Only in my case, I just dismissed the faith.

      3. Yes, I have not known those days but am told, and am aware, that there are people who were deeply hurt by the reforms back in the 1960s. The anguished question: “What comes next?” is not new…

    2. And what about people in the pew who don’t agree with that approach? Are they, too, to be “overcome”?

      Resorting to the community angle is only credible when there is a credible risk that the community will decide not to embrace what we prefer. Otherwise, it’s a pose, not something of the Spirit.

      1. Karl, I am eager to hear suggestions. At this point it seems that I have nothing more to contribute to this blog. I’m out of ideas and can only repeat myself. If you have ideas of better ways to do constructive resistance, please voice them. Thank you!

      2. My suggestion is that focusing on a desirable result in this particular matter is to put the cart before the horse. The more important thing is beginning the process of fellow Catholics listening to each other in group (not just one on one) in genuinely curious conversation without a particular goal in mind: the habit of peer-to-peer conversation is what has to be cultivated first. We are so used to being able to go up the authority tree (even if only to use it as a scratching post for anger and resentment) that this more basic habit has atrophied. Even, I have to say, among progressives (in which group I would count myself). It’s the work of generations, and will not yield instant gratification over this or that issue. And the pain from that realization is the opportunity for solidarity with all others in the world who have no choice but to bear oppressions of divers sorts (by which I mean not just Churchy matters); that solidarity yields the richer harvest, but not in a way we personally get to savor. I could invoke Abp Romero on this last point, but I would hope it’s obvious once stressed. The workings of grace are often hard and painful.

      3. My idea of “constructive resistance” is very similar to Karl’s.

        When VOTF began organizing in Cleveland in 2003, we went around the room saying what we wanted. My response was an organization without chaperons that 1) could discuss anything that we wanted 2) That people who had common interests could form networks to meet about those interests. 3)That there would be no resolutions or actions taken by the organization as a whole. 4) If any group with common interests decided to do something about it, they would form their own organization for that purpose.

        I see Canon 212 #3 They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful and Can. 215 Christ’s faithful may freely establish and direct associations as fundamental to baptismal initiative, namely having a voice and taking action whether in the church or in the world.

        I was disappointed but not surprised when the whatifwejustsaywait petition failed to create an organization. I would have liked to have gotten to know a couple of hundred people in our diocese who are interested in liturgy, especially if we could have formed a liturgy network along the lines I have suggested above, meeting on common interests and taking action only as individuals or independent groups.

        Unfortunately “chaperones” are ubiquitous in liberal organizations. You soon get the idea that, like parish organizations, you are there to support the chaperones and not do any independent thinking or acting.

        Although VOTF never did much, I did meet a lot of very interesting people from all walks of life who have enriched my retirement. I also confirmed that it only takes a small number of them to accomplish a narrow goal.

        If liberal liturgists want a grassroots liturgical movement they will have to step down from their roles as chaperones (experts) and begin to relate to the many talented Catholics from all walks of life who are willing to independently think and act.

  4. Thank you Fr. Ruff for the presentation.

    In the beginning you stated: “the line about wanting to belong to a community that did social justice outreach and prayed in Latin — that was a joke, I want to ally fears about that”. I also suspect that your following comment was self-deprecatory. I was not at the conference, so I can’t comment at all about your statement or its context.

    This Tridentine does not have a clue about the meaning and importance of social justice beyond almsgiving. There are many points in your lecture that cracked my hardened heart and skepticism towards social justice. Many of your points are very well taken. Brevity limits me to one.

    During your presentation you mentioned the possibility that the threefold gesture of contrition in the confiteor could be considered “imperial” in nature. I could not believe that someone would balk at being subservient to God! If many (including myself) do not understand sin, then who would dare question contrition? I have often thought that those who spurn the deprecatory language of the Mass place themselves above God and above judgment. I now realize that the vastly different social structures of postmodern societies view ethics and interpersonal justice to be just as sinful as the sins in a penitentiary. The great advances in gender, occupational, and educational justice, combined with the great desire of many to combat racial, ethnic, and cultural prejudices, is quite asynchronous with explicit interpersonal inequalities of the Tridentine throne room. The feudal liturgy cannot easily account for a comprehensive view of ethical and moral injustice today.

    If I choose to live as a medieval Christian in today’s society, I cannot ever turn away from its injustice. I cannot truly say that I believe that the progress towards individual justice is imperative, while “hearing Father’s Mass” in a (perhaps feigned) passivity.

    1. I believe the historical perspective on the development of modern vs medieval monarchy is important. The best ecclesiastical model of the monarch before the rise of the state apparatus was the abbot of a single (unpowerful – not talking Cluny here) abbey. The abbot in this context has paternal, familial and collegial accountability, and his authority is nourished by that accountability. This accords with the teachings of our Lord about how the kingdom of his Father works: the unceasing solicitude by the greatest for most least and lost. When the great are seen to fail in this fundamental dimension, they lose effective authority.

      The centuries-long feedback loop between Church and state over how monarchy is to exemplify authority so greatly obscures this that we still expect in our “realism” that older model to be more notional than real (a sad commentary), and we are still unraveling it, and will for generations to come.

    2. re: Karl Liam Saur on February 3, 2012 – 8:24 am

      Your framing of the medieval liturgy is quite true Karl. At one time the medieval predecessor liturgies of the EF moved in synchrony with both religious and lay life. That time is long gone. Indeed, that time passed by with the Reformation. Still, there are Catholics like me who do not want to leave a liturgical world that hobbled along even though the early modern period and the Enlightenment.

      PTB has helped me grow in humility. Fr. Ruff’s balance of different points of view in his presentation on the new translation was charitable. I’ve often reserved nothing but disgust, anger, frustration, and dismay while reading posts on PTB. In my world, antiquity, philology, and theology trump social relevance or subjectivity. Little do I understand that a reformed liturgy which is in synchrony with the world of today enables more Catholics to engage the world in a Christian manner. Who, then, is better equipped for charity? A man who sits in a silent church splitting syntactic hairs in his mind, or the person who is inspired to act as a Christian when leaving Mass? The answer is quite obvious. Indeed the burden is on the EF adherent. He or she not only must learn from anachronism, but translate it into Christian practice.

      If this is what I have learned on PTB, then I have learned quite a bit.

      1. The EF will thrive better when it does not have to bear the burden of the juridically-dominant mindset that shackled it in the second millennium of the Christian era. It’s precisely only now, when it is freely chosen and only for those who freely choose it and are devoted to a much more fruitful level of ars celebranda, that it might begin to undo the damage of those shackles. As you have argued, Vatican II is perhaps the best thing that happened to the EF in centuries.

        Right now, however, I find locally that EF adherents are too vexing a demographic to be interested in exploring it much myself. Sadly, I believe the shibboleth value of traditionalism is still in a waxing phase, and I am not interested in helping that dynamic. I lived for several years over in the vexing progressive liturgical hothouses, and see how similar the two sets are. Enough that there are times I imagine I’d prefer an a-liturgical form of worship (the meeting of Friends – mind you, I am quite aware of what a hothouse of Friends can feel like…), knowing that it is a very interesting offshoot of contemplative medieval monastic life…. My own form of contemplation, however, is not of the focusing variety but of the being open to distraction variety (it is a form of contemplation that is not highly prized in the mainstream tradition, but it took a spiritual director to show me that is it indeed an authentic form of contemplation).

        All in all, though, I believe God put my soul in this mortal plane just before Vatican II for a reason, and I work in the blind with that, rather than trying to resist it. My own sense of providentialism is more existential and less of the obvious signs flavor, as you can tell.

  5. With regards to humility before God – maybe we need to expand our concepts beyond an Imperial court for examples. Clearly I am superior to my cats and dogs (well, at least the dogs!) I do not expect them to kneel in my presence, nor do I expect them to be anything but exactly what they are. I’ve taken away baby rabbits and birds from the cats when the cats were “playing” with them. The cats acquiesced. The dogs allow me to put a leash on them when we are outside. I feed and shelter them, and they give me back their services – controlling the rodent population or barking at the deer in the garden or the UPS man. They are humble before me, but they do not humiliate themselves. There is a difference!

  6. Father Anthony,

    I’ve just listened to your talk, and wanted to give a few words of appreciation for sharing your thoughts and insight on the New Missal, and how to ‘make it work’ in spite of some grave and legitimate concerns. You have been of no little encouragement.

    God Bless.

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