Breaking: Pope Accepts Catholic Teaching

Pope Francis has again stirred up controversy by stating in an interview that he accepts the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. His surprising remarks will likely leave commentators wondering for some time just how strongly he accepts the decisions of the most recent ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.

In an interview published Thursday, Pope Francis said that it is a “mistake to speak of a reform of the reform [of the liturgy].” He said that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made a correct and generous gesture in readmitting the pre-Vatican II Mass without restrictions. This was “to reach out to the certain mentality of various groups and individual persons who are nostalgic and had distanced themselves.”

But this liturgy remains the exception. “Thus we indeed speak of the extraordinary form of the rite. It is not the ordinary form,” he said.



  1. Of course he accepts the liturgical reforms of VII – that’s why there’s so much Latin and chant in the Masses he celebrates. Indeed, but for the fact that he doesn’t chant himself, they are quite respectable Reform of the Reform Masses. I wouldn’t be advocating the Reform of the Reform if Mass were celebrated like that throughout the Church.

    1. @James Dunne:
      I know “RotR” has a range of meanings, but my impression is that it’s not merely about selecting specific options (such as Latin) in the reformed liturgy, but in reforming the structure of the reformed liturgy. This could include, for example, things such as the unreformed Offertory Prayers, or the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, or no women permitted in the sanctuary or in liturgical ministries.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        The elimination of the old Offertory Prayers and of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, and the opening up of the sanctuary to women, as much else in the Novus Ordo, were introduced after Vatican II had come to a close. It is thus incorrect to identify these as reforms of Vatican II; post Vatican II reforms, yes, but not of the council itself.

        But if we are to identify the introduction of the Novus Ordo as the reform of Vatican II then let us all accept the entire Missal, and not just those parts that deviate from traditional praxis. The truth is that it is those who have suppressed the options for a traditional liturgy within the Novus Ordo who are the ones who have reject the reform promulgated by the Church. It is quite possible to seek a traditional form of worship and still accept Vatican II, and indeed to accept the Novus Ordo itself. It would be a big step in the Reform of the Reform just to acknowledge this.

      2. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        Not quite. It’s important to understand that the conciliar documents were blueprints for reform, not the law itself. Trent worked the same way, if I understand correctly why there was a new missal in 1570 or 1614, not 1563. Bishops endorsed liturgical reform after the Council, as is their role.

      3. @Todd Flowerday:
        What you speak of is the post conciliar implementation of the reforms called for by the council. It is quite possible to call into question this implementation and not be opposed to the council itself. Indeed, the de facto suppression of those options within the Novus Ordo Missal is itself a rejection of the first stage of the reform. I fear that those who advocate a more progressive form of liturgy are attempting to imbue their agenda with an authority of the council that it does not posses and thus attempt to delegitimize any opposing ideas and close out any debate.

      4. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        Sure. Not every implementation was perfect. Some were timid. Some were misses. I think it is possible to question particular implementations. Less possible to be a good Catholic and question most or all of them.

        Not sure what you mean by “de facto suppression.” Could you give an example?

        Rolling back to particular implementations, I think it is possible to examine them, certainly. As long as we are prepared to do so with scholarly diligence, an eye to spirituality, and with due discernment. And also be open to a further reform, even if it means moving further away from the 1570/1962 Missal. Ready for that?

      5. @Todd Flowerday:
        Give you an example of de facto suppression? Easily: ad orientem, Gregorian chant, Latin, use of properly installed ministers. All these are in the present Missal but have been all but forbidden. There has been a limited return of Gregorian chant and Latin but this is recent and is still far from normative. This despite that fact that both of these were actually called for by the council. So how can their suppression be called a part of the reform of the council? Are you ready for a return to a general respect for tradition that the council called for?

        Am I ready for moving further away from the 1570/1962 Missal? First, it is a little dishonest to imply that the traditional liturgy only goes back to 1570. The Mass that existed up to the introduction of the Novus Ordo was the culmination of a traditional liturgy that was already a thousand years old by the time of the Council of Trent. As for additional changes, being faithful to what the council actually said, we need to keep in mind its words: “The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times,” and “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” Respect for tradition is a part of the actual reforms of the council; it did not authorize a general abandonment in favor of a new liturgy made wholly from new cloth.

      6. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        You’ll have to speak to your brother priests about the first. I’d say a clearer showing of the Eucharistic elements has been nearly universally welcomed by people and clergy. Choosing a better form isn’t a suppression. It’s just moving on.

        As for the second, I suspect it’s been more of a rejection of chant done badly, the predominant pre-conciliar assessment. Composers and publishers have been incorporating chant for decades: the SLJ’s, Marty Haugen, even Ray Repp. I still hear quite a lot of Parce Domine, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Agnus Dei XVIII, Attende Domine, and if we’re talking Latin, quite a lot of Taize too. That’s a minority, but again: there may well be better choices. People singing the vernacular is nearly always better than choirs usurping the assembly to sing in Latin.

        The liturgy’s second purpose is the sanctification of the faithful. Not the thoughtless preservation of museum pieces. The Church will move on from 1570, 1962, 1970/75, and yes, even 2010. Traditions that help us move with the mission of the Gospel will remain. Obscurations like SP and Liturgiam Authenticam will be discerned away, eventually.

      7. @Todd Flowerday:
        So long as we don’t collapse that thought into a habitual assumption that every time a choir sings Latin is a usurpation of the assembly….One part of the problem has been a tendency towards such a collapse.

      8. @Karl Liam Saur:
        I think you know my position on this. A very occasional choral Mass in a community that would receive it well, sure. Sanctus/Agnus Dei just for the heck of it, well, then I’d wonder if the music was for God at all, and not just because the choir couldn’t generate a concert audience of more than family members.

      9. @Todd Flowerday:
        Sure. But as you know I would add that the appearance of Gregorian proper chants by the choir in some form of a periodic rotation among the menu of choices offered to us should not be automatically counted as a usurpation but as enlargement of scope and practice, and more importantly as empowering our congregations to become less estranged from their birthright heritage, as it were – a kind of aggiornomento. As you know, I most definitely do not ride the Propers-Only Hobbyhorse, but I am less and less persuaded by the effective exile of them, either. (For that matter, not every Gregorian chant is equally glorious. There, I said it. Someone, somewhere, will have a fit. No one ever seems to address *that*. Probably because most of us who are not in a conventual choir using those chants never get enough exposure to be able to have a good conversation about it. But I am sure there are monks and nuns who could dilate at length on that….) I’ve lived through a lot of heavily rationalized (or, in more recent years, more disguised) We Don’t Do That Here, and over time, it just seems so spiritually stingy.

      10. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        While I would say that many of those who support the ROTR have an eventual reform of the texts and rubrics of the Mass as a far-off ideal, I would define it far more as an openness towards celebrating the OF as-is, but utilizing traditional options. This is certainly the hallmark of the ROTR in practice since things like the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are not a possibility and ROTR people tend to make a big fuss about celebrating the Mass according to the official texts and rubrics. Vatican II isn’t seen as a total rejection of virtually all prior practices, and the liturgical reform isn’t seen as being a brick wall erected to cut us off entirely from the way in which our ancestors worshiped.

        I would broadly say that the ROTR is about celebrating the post Vatican II Mass according to the ideals of the early 20th Century liturgical movement, as well as the more neglected ideals of Vatican II – i.e. a fully sung Mass in which a well-instructed congregation participates, and in which the treasury of sacred music and art is not seen as wrong.

        I think if the ROTR, in its present form where they are working entirely within the texts and rubrics of the OF, is squashed or actively discouraged, then the EF will simply become more and more prominent. Perhaps there will eventually be a push to reform the 1962 Missal. At that point the Reform of the Reform will be dead and we will instead have an alternate reform.

  2. Does this mean Praytell now accepts, as Pope Francis does, that “readmitting the pre-Vatican II Mass without restrictions” is consistent with the “decisions of the most recent ecumenical council of the Catholic Church”?

    Because only last month I was told that this was “in obvious and direct contradiction of Vatican II, which clearly taught and legislated that the unreformed old rite should not continue in use” (

    1. @Mariko Ralph:
      Dear Mariko Ralph,

      You raise a very good question and I might as well be honest.

      There is the liturgical reform carried out with hundreds of liturgical experts worldwide under the direction of Bugnini, approved by Paul VI and accepted/implemented by all the episcopal conferences of the world. Then there is Summorum Pontificum which feels like the agenda of a minority, made possible by the fact that a certain Bavarian cardinal who shared that agenda happened to be named prefect of the CDF by JP2 and then elected Pope.

      Yeah, I think the first is consonant with Vatican II and the second is not. OK, I said it.

      I could be wrong and maybe history will prove me wrong. Maybe SP is consonant with V2 but the liturgical reform of Paul VI is not. Or maybe both are consonant in some way I’m missing.

      I sort of hope it’s the latter. I sort of hope some new synthesis awaits us, maybe developed by a succeeding generation that moves beyond the categories and limitations of my generation and my elders.

      But I honestly don’t see it. Maybe some individual insights from SP will flow into a new synthesis, but I honestly don’t see how an unreformed liturgy can be consonant with a Council that decreed that the liturgy be reformed.

      So that’s where I’m at, in all honestly. Maybe I’m mistaken.


      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB :… but I honestly don’t see how an unreformed liturgy can be consonant with a Council that decreed that the liturgy be reformed.

        A few possibilities for resolving that tension, Father:
        1) without structural reform, EF celebration is nonetheless influenced by the liturgical movement such that, from anecdotal evidence, it is a different beast from previous practice: missa cantata has overtaken missa lecta (“singing the Mass” sometimes better than an OF “low Mass with hymns”); Communion is far more frequent; congregations follow the action and text of the Mass much more closely ; liturgical formation for greater participation is widespread

        2) the Council supported both inculturation and preservation of the Eastern rites – inculturation supports diversity that will speak more effectively to certain cultures, and it would appear that there exists a diffused minority culture that feels the signs and structure of the OF speak less powerfully to them than the EF; these folks might only number 1 or 2 million, but if the Rome of VII considered it worth preserving the traditions of churches sui iuris whose global membership is surpassed by many a single urban parish, certainly it would support preserving some of its own traditions for the sake of a far larger population

        3) Conciliar reform invites reevaluation – it was meant to speak to “circumstances and needs of modern times,” meaning that 50 years later it is not unfaithful to the Council to ask if what was thought to work for 1963-70 still works today; if this might suggest further change, others are free to argue that it calls for less

        4) if we take it on faith that reforms were consistent with the Council or “genuinely and certainly required” based on one pope’s (and his experts’) say-so, we could extend the same faith to several popes’ acceptance of the EF’s continuance

      2. @Aaron Sanders:
        ad 1. Nope, none of this is a fruit of V2 or an example of implementation of V2. It’s all good stuff… but every bit of it was done before V2 in some places because of the liturgical movement. The Council fathers all knew (or should have known) about active-participation-with-frequent-communion with the 1962 missal. They didn’t affirm it. They said it had to be reformed. It isn’t a different beast at all – it’s exactly what Germans and others were doing since at least the 1930s. The option of a great SP liturgy (to use our terms, also known as “Extraordinary Form”) was available to the fathers of Vatican II and they rejected it.

        ad 2. Inculturation and liturgical diversity are great, but not when they’re at odds with Vatican II, or with any Catholic teaching for that matter. If the bishops of Vatican II rejected the 1962 missal, then it follows that use of the 1962 missal cannot possibly be inculturation and liturgical diversity in the mind of the Council.

        ad 3. Re-evaluation sounds great, but not when that really means “rejection.” The evidence suggests that most SP and 1962 stuff is mostly rejection and let’s all just be honest and admit it. The various ongoing documents and decrees regarding the Mass of Paul VI – there have been dozens if not hundreds of such documents at universal and national level since 1963 and they’re still coming out – are the kind of re-evaluation that makes sense.

        ad 4. This is the contradiction. We’re just stuck with it. I’m trying to name the nature of the contradiction and suggest why and how it needs to be resolved.

        Sorry, but that’s what I think.

      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        Firstly, I thank you for your honesty. Moving on from that, I would suggest you need to let Pope Francis, a man who embodies VII more than most, challenge your preconceptions. The challenge to rethink he offers is not just for Traditionalists!

        Because I think the Pope shows a way that the use of both missals is consistent with VII, and indeed the Gospel of Mercy preached by both VII and Pope Francis.

        The first key to this can be found in SC itself. SC1 provides the reform is to “adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ”. It is therefore not consistent with VII to speak of it rejecting the 1962 missal, particularly if the needs of our time include (per Pope Francis) seeking to reconcile those who find greater fruitfulness in the old rite.

        Indeed, to exclude such outreach would seem to be the very rigidity Pope Francis rejects, as inconsistent with VII. Which I think is the second key – Lets not do VII in a counterreformation way! The counterreformation made an exclusively Latin liturgy its leitmotif, despite Trent itself not requiring it. Lets not make the same mistake with the reformed missal!

  3. Part of the problem here is precisely that the “Reform of the Reform” isn’t a defined phenomenon, and it is a reaction to the intolerance of “elite” liturgists for traditional sensibilitys in the Rite of Paul VI. The refusal to acknowledge this is only exacerbating the problem and not resolving it. Furthermore, if the Pope doesn’t define what he’s talking about when he says “Reform of the Reform,” we will all have different and opposing application of his words, and remain in confusion. And if he is opposed to the valid options in the Roman Missal then he can omit them. Until then, they will continue to be applied to the Reformed Liturgy.

  4. Fr. Anthony Forte : @Todd Flowerday: Give you an example of de facto suppression? Easily: ad orientem, Gregorian chant, Latin, use of properly installed ministers. All these are in the present Missal but have been all but forbidden. .

    The things you list have been neither forbidden nor suppressed. As you say, they are there in the books. They are still available for those who want them.

    1. @Alan Lohnson:
      Yes, they are still in the books but they have, in practice, been forbidden. That is why I spoke of their de facto suppression. As a priest for 25 years I know of what happens when someone tries to celebrate Mass with these official options. No formal decree forbidding it but the life of that priest is made a living hell.

      1. @Alan Lohnson:
        I noticed that comment, too. I don’t think mortals can consign other human beings to hell. But they can make things unpleasant. Sometimes people voluntarily step into “hell,” a sort of self-inflicted torture. Sometimes the feeling and actions are mutual.

        I think of great saints who experienced substantial persecution from other Catholics. Brother Andre of Montreal, Mother Mary McKillop of Australia come to mind. It seems they and others like them chose to endure with a degree of faithfulness, some resitance too. But all found some degree of peace in their ministry to the Gospel.

        I don’t mean to minimize any person’s suffering, even someone I disagree with. But sometimes experiencing resistance is an opportunity for discernment. I know I had to approach the B16 years with a big dollop of that.

        If Fr Forte were assigned to a progressive, suburban, Vatican II parish by his bishop, I could see that would be a trial. A priest friend of mine in a distant diocese once mentioned his ordinary’s approach was to assign liberals to conservative parishes and traditional-leaning priests to progressive ones. I can only imagine the impact on morale.

      2. @Todd Flowerday:
        It is not primarily a question of a personal trial but the abuse of administrative actions in order to prevent the exercise of what are legitimate options in the liturgy. This is how a traditional form of the Novus Ordo is suppressed while it is still officially on the books.

      3. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        It’s hard to assess such anecdotal reports from afar – and I’m not asking you to give us a fuller picture.

        I just want to note that in such situations there can be a rich mix of zeal, self-confidence, arrogance, divisiveness, mistreatment of people, drawing in new members, pushing out old members, and so forth. Sometimes the bishop is privy to important information unknown to detractors or supporters alike.

        And – this too cuts both ways – people in different camps have very different views about whether a priest with an agenda was rightly disciplined, or wrongly persecuted.

        So I take it with a grain of salt when I hear a priest was persecuted by a bishop. I just don’t have enough information to know to what extent that’s the case.


      4. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        I read you. Do I also read a close personal identification with certain options? We are not, after all, the liturgy we celebrate. We are talking about the liturgy of Christ’s worship of the Father, not Anthony Forte’s worship of God.

        Unlike you, I might be free to move to a parish that aligns with, at best, my spirituality or at worst, my personal comfort zone.

        I don’t know you at all, but I’d ask the question seriously: At what point does a priest with aspirations for the “suppressed” have to move on from his diocese? Please don’t misunderstand that question; I’ve asked it of myself in parishes whenever I’ve been nudged into an important discernment.

      5. @Todd Flowerday:
        And why should a traditionally minded priest have to move on from his diocese? And what about the spiritual needs of traditionally minded laity who are deprived of priests that could properly care for them? Does all this not imply that traditionally minded Catholics, priests and laity, are not welcomed in such diocese? Is not such intolerance what has created such rancor that exists today? For my entire priesthood I have heard great speeches about inclusion and diversity but very little of it actually put into practice.

        The Novus Ordo promised a greater liberality in styles of worship. Unfortunately, this has not been accepted by those who have been pushing for a more progressive form of worship and insist that only their way is acceptable. So much conflict could have been avoided, and can still be avoided, if all sides would just accept the entire Novus Ordo Missal as written. I know that accommodating these different groups would be difficult but is that not what true leaders would do? I am really appalled by the lack of simple charity towards those who only wish the peace to worship as the Church has for nearly two millennia and is still authorized in the reform liturgy.

      6. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        Why? Maybe if your bishop is the problem. Maybe if all the traditional-leaning parishes are already served and you don’t want to be an associate there. Maybe if you and your aspirations don’t fit. Maybe they do, but have you considered that your resentment may be toxic to you and those around you? It’s not a defeat to move on. It’s an opportunity.

        Part of my story: my home diocese where I grew up, went to college and grad school, had a total of 2 parishes with full-time liturgy/music people. I had to leave. I didn’t want to, really. Met a nice woman with thoughts of settling down. Had friends and musical colleagues. There was no place for me and I was itching to serve. If I were bitter, I would say I was forced out. But even at age 29, I had a clear sense of being called elsewhere.

        I can’t speak to the blunders of the people you have experienced. Your story may well be leading you to your own dark night. Mother Teresa’s was lifelong, so why should yours or anyone else’s be different?

        On the other hand, you are ordained a priest to serve people, not your own needs. All of us in ministry are commissioned by the Spirit to serve others in the model of Jesus Christ. Kenosis, self-emptying, the imitation of Christ, a sense of sacrifice–whatever you want to call it.

        I think the suspicion of traditional worship goes back to the early post-conciliar years when the traditional Latin Mass was waved as a banner protesting the conciliar reforms. For good or ill, people in high places and elsewhere still harbor such thoughts. Unfair, perhaps. But if you are not called to leave, perhaps the Lord is nudging you to listen more carefully to what you consider suppression. Maybe it is something different entirely.

      7. @Todd Flowerday:
        The problems of which I speak are not just about me or my relationship with my bishop but about a culture of intolerance towards traditionally minded Catholics that has existed since the council. It is unfortunate that the reforms were implemented with a mentality of winner take all, take no prisoners. It need not have been this way. Nor does it need to continue to be this way.

        Even now we can see this here at Pray Tell with the refusal to accept those provisions in the reformed Missal that allow for a substantially traditional liturgy as being legitimate. We are somehow to believe that wanting to celebrate the reformed Mass in such a manner is a refusal to accept Vatican II. In other words, the reformed Missal as written is itself somehow contrary to the reforms of Vatican II. This is the contradiction that I am trying to address. It is precisely because I have been ordained a priest to serve people that I have not forgotten those Catholics that have been made exiles in their own Church.

      8. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        When you speak of “take no prisoners,” you imply 1965-70s was a war. That wasn’t the experience of many Catholics. My perspective as an incoming Catholic was far different. I’d say that everybody here has experienced church leadership, even priests alas, who make changes in ham-fisted ways, brushing aside feelings, piety, and spirituality. You are speaking of the human condition, sir.

        You offered the example of Latin and chant as “suppressed” items. I think you’ve come to the wrong site for these. You do realize that our blog host serves worship in a monastic and university community with chant resources that far out-strip just about every traditionalist parish in the world, right?

        “Ad Orientem” gets a lot of pushback, sure. But as one item, that’s hardly evidence of suppression. Maybe those who oppose it have their reasons. And if you are in one of the dioceses where the bishop has made a point of addressing Cardinal Sarah’s suggestion, it’s a point of obedience perhaps. A like obedience, say, as were the 1998 Sacramentary, the MR3, washing feet, Agnus Dei tropes, inclusive language, unapproved or music-accompanied Eucharistic prayers, or Eucharistic chapels were for people under a previous papacy or two. Why not commiserate with people who seem to have just as significant a laundry list?

        You speak of a contradiction. I see a shared experience. The unwillingness to explore the shared experience of people who value good liturgy is perhaps part of why some Catholics feel like “exiles.” It may well be an exile of your own making.

        Another experience: in my new parish, a small group of parishioners advocates for the Liturgy of the Hours. They proposed to make “mandatory” the praying of Evening Prayer at every parish committee meeting. They got a lot of pushback. When they brought this to the Liturgy Commission, I spoke in favor of the LH, sharing my experiences and practice, discussing its history and aspirations. I got the sense my presentation was better-received, and some of my friends wondered why the new guy was getting their ears. Why do you think that was?

      9. @Todd Flowerday:
        When I speak of “take no prisoners” I am referring to the fact that no space was allowed for a traditional form of the new Mass. In a parish with multiple Masses, did every one have to be with music from the St. Louis Jesuits? Could not the pastor have been gracious enough to keep one with Gregorian chant? This was the pattern across the country. Additionally, how many good men were denied ordination because they were viewed as too traditional, too “rigid?”

        As for question of ad orientem, it was not merely “pushback.” Let us not be naive. Although it has always been an option in the Missal, for most of the last 50 years, and in most diocese today, if any priest would have tried to do so he would face immediate removal from his assignment and have been welcomed to his new career as, at best, a hospital chaplain. This looks a lot like suppression to me.

        Nor is it an unwillingness to explore the shared experience of people who value good liturgy. Those who are attached to a more traditional form of worship also value good liturgy. This is why they insist on what they do, and have been willing to suffer for it. Welcoming them back into a diocese and providing them a free space to worship according to the new Mass in a traditional manner does not prevent others from exploring a more modern form. So why so much opposition?

      10. @Todd Flowerday:
        “A priest friend of mine in a distant diocese once mentioned his ordinary’s approach was to assign liberals to conservative parishes and traditional-leaning priests to progressive ones. I can only imagine the impact on morale.”

        Reminds me of a situation where my current bishop indulged in a rare bit of dark assignment humor when a parish that was getting divided by a determined, hmm, group, of people in the Neo-Catechumenate, had their vexed pastor removed and replaced by an ex-Jesuit turned traditionalist. Not sure it was terribly good humor, let alone effective, but such things do happen….

  5. As a young Catholic priest of ten years I completely identify with everything Fr. Forte has said. His experience is not an isolated one. It is more common than people want to admit. Simply for ones traditional liturgical sensibilities; one can be ostracized by one’s fellow clergymen — sad indeed. Now we’re getting it from the Pope. It’s as if all the talk of being pastoral is just that, talk. No one seems to care about the needs of many people in my generation. Well, I care and I want to meet those needs within the freedom allowed in the simplicity and beauty of the modern Roman Rite.

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