The Traditional Latin Mass in the New York Times

“Catholics attached to the Latin Mass have suffered a great deal since the introduction of the vernacular liturgy after Vatican II,” Matthew Schmitz complains in an odd piece that appeared today in the New York Times,The Latin Mass, Thriving in Southeastern Nigeria.”

For Schmitz, senior editor of First Things, the 2007 document of Pope Benedict XVI Summorum Pontificum, which gave universal permission for the celebration of the unreformed pre-Vatican II liturgy, is “a sublime vindication.” Schmitz quotes approving the statement of Benedict XVI, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.”

Actually, no. It’s the kind of statement that has the ring of truth and sounds right at first, but does not withstand critical scrutiny.

Sorry, Pope Benedict. I do not contest the Pope’s authority to readmit the preconciliar Mass or the canonical authority of Summorum Pontificum. But as a theologian I claim my right to examine the arguments offered in support of that papal decree. I don’t believe they entirely hold up.

Every new sacramentary and missal produced in the last thousand years or so has replaced its predecessor, which immediately fell out of use in the place where the new version was implemented. Yes, the older version remains sacred and great, but it’s superseded. I am not free to go to the library of my university and pull an order of Mass off the shelves from the 11th or 14th or 18th century and use it to celebrate Mass. It doesn’t work that way.

And as an aside, just why is it the 1962 missal that is permitted, but not the 1911 or 1957? Are the earlier editions not sacred and great? Then why are they now prohibited? Why does Summorum Pontificum bind priests to that edition of the missal immediately before the Second Vatican Council which has simplified rubrics, a simplified calendar and ranking of feasts, and a massively reformed Holy Week? The differences between 1962 and previous editions are not that great for the most part. But they are just great enough to instruct us that the “Mass of All Times” has been evolving for some 2000 years, and that the 1962 missal was seen by its producers as a temporary measure of reform in view of coming greater reforms.

To be sure, there is a much greater contrast between the last missal before issued Vatican II in 1962 and the reformed missal of Paul VI in 1970 than there is between any historic missal and its immediate successor. The changes throughout history were generally more gradual and hardly perceptible to most worshipers. (But not always! The melodies in the reformist 1908 Graduale Romanum are a clear rupture with the inferior melodies they replaced. The same pope, Pius X, who issues that chant book also turned completely upside down the order of psalms prayed in the Roman office in 1911.)

The ruptures after Vatican II (alongside lots of continuity too, of course) came about because that’s what the Council called for. At least Pope Paul VI was convinced of this point. Paul VI labored mightily to unite the Church behind the reformed liturgy, based on his firm conviction that the liturgical reform was faithful to the Second Vatican Council. Here is what Pope Paul VI said about readmitting the preconciliar liturgy:

“Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol.”

Back in the days of my association with founding First Things editor Fr. Richard John Neuhaus – this was back when he was giving generous financial support to make possible the founding of the National Catholic Youth Choir in Collegeville – I recall a discussion of liturgy in his apartment in Manhattan. Some of the young people on his editorial staff had come over for drinks with the visiting Benedictine from the Midwest. A young woman began expressing outrage that her bishop was not allowing the traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated. (This was before Summorum, back when you needed to get the bishop’s permission.)

Fr. Neuhaus, always a supporter of Pope John Paul II, shook his head in disapproval of that bishop’s narrowness, and this after John Paul II had asked bishops in 1988 to be generous in granting permission for the old, unreformed rite. Some few people were still attached to the old rite and had not yet come to accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and the pope had wisely and generously reached out to them in pastoral solicitude. Why couldn’t bishops see that?

“But it’s not the future,” Fr. Neuhaus intoned. The young woman was stopped dead in her tracks. I sensed she was ready to roll out her defense of the old rite, but she bit her lip. Neuhaus was adamant that the liturgical reform was a good thing and was the future of the Catholic Church. To be sure, Neuhaus rallied behind Benedict and strongly supported Summorum when it came out. But the old Mass was never really a cause for him, and his heart was with the reformed liturgy.

Between the founding editor of First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and the current senior editor of First Things, Matthew Schmitz, a great gap is fixed when it comes to liturgy. The changes around liturgy at First Things are a sign of a deeper problem in the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict, a problem Pope Francis (and probably several of his successors) will have to contend with.

Schmitz, and his piece today in the New York Times, are a sign of the tragic legacy of Pope Benedict in the area of liturgy. Benedict had so much wisdom to offer the Church on liturgy, such a profound vision of the beauty of God’s love made near to us in the sacred liturgy. If only he hadn’t taken such a dire view of the state of postconciliar liturgy that he felt the need to question the Council and the Council’s liturgy by resorting to an extreme measure like Summorum Pontificum. If only he had found a better way to appeal to the idealism of devout Catholics, many of them young, so as to channel their passions into a more worthy celebration of the reformed liturgy.

It may well be that Schmitz, and many like him who have made the old Mass their cause since 2007, will never come around to what I think was the position of Fr. Neuhaus.

But here’s my prediction. The Catholic Church will have to live with the incongruity of a small but fervent minority at odds with its own liturgical vision, probably for decades. But long term, it can’t last. The arguments don’t hold up. The principles of the Second Vatican Council will not go away and will ultimately prevail.

If I’m right, the real contribution of Pope Benedict, ironically, is that he called the question in a dramatic and pointed way which can only help the Church clarify its commitment to the Second Vatican Council. That clarification will take time, and a lost generation or two of zealots may be a casualty of the pope emeritus’s miscalculation. But one must hope that it will ultimately be clarified that the Second Vatican Council and its liturgy are, as Fr. Neuhaus believed, the future.



    1. Bill – it happened because it was time to get in line for Sunday conventional Mass and I hit “Publish” without the last proofread! I caught two errors – let me know, everyone if there are more.

      1. “conventional Mass”? Is that the new name for the Ordinary Form, perhaps? Or was your spell checker just having a bad hair day?

        (Sorry, Father, just couldn’t resist that!)

  1. Anthony, what you write about the new order is almost absurdly self-evident; but perhaps not to everyone. Even Pope Paul VI had to expressly state that the new, reformed order had replaced the old, unreformed order. No doubt you are familiar with his forcefully stated comments to new cardinals in the Vatican on 24 May 1976, but pope’s comments are worth repeating for those of us who may not know them:

    “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 adoption of the new order of Mass is certainly not left to the free choice of priests or faithful… The new order was promulgated to take the place of the old, after mature deliberation, following upon the requests of the Second Vatican Council. In no different way did our holy predecessor Pius V make obligatory the Missal reformed under his authority after the Council of Trent.”

    It’s quite clear what this Pope Of The Council thought he had done and what he expected the result to be.

    I think your conclusions are spot on.

  2. “If only he hadn’t taken such a dire view of the state of postconciliar liturgy that he felt the need to question the Council and the Council’s liturgy by resorting to an extreme measure like Summorum Pontificum. If only he had found a better way to appeal to the idealism of devout Catholics, many of them young, so as to channel their passions into a more worthy celebration of the reformed liturgy.” — But Anthony, this is precisely the problem. Many of us young, or not so young anymore, devout Catholics have to fight tooth and nail for the use of options already permitted in the reformed rite, but considered taboo by the liturgical elite. Among them — ad orientem, and the use of propers (Latin or English), and a vernacular translation that presents the Roman Missal in beautiful English prose that is not denuded of its Roman-ness, or with theologically dubious, if not outright heretical, foreign elements imposed upon upon a “translation” in the name of “inculturation” — see 1998’s transgenderd divinity rendition of “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of God’s name for our good and the good of all God’s holy church.” If the liturgical elite were not so impossible to work with, we wouldn’t have this problem. Catholic’s have a right to adore Our Lord according to the Roman Rite as reformed by the Second Vatican Council — not a tweaked, manipulated, “improved,” vernacular version that claims to be what the council ordered.

    1. Fine. Still sounds like reason to defend Vatican II rather than undermine it with Summorum Pontificum.

      And I must say, to “fight tooth and nail” for liturgical things which are rather secondary to the faith doesn’t sound quite right to me.


  3. The real question is why a community of Christian “believers” could ever have allowed the return of their liturgical celebration to the universally comprehensible vernacular to be so profanely characterized as “suffering”.

    1. Though goodwill and charity might allow us to consider a question somewhat like that without the loaded givens. Delegitimization as a rhetorical parry is overdone (and I preferred the Dan Aykroyd-Jane Curtin sendup of James Kilpatrick-Shana Alexander in the first generation of SNL). Worse, it’s less than ineffective; it boomerangs. And worse still, we become what we think we oppose.

      1. Karl Liam, you raise very good points.

        I share your concern about delegitimization. So how does one make the argument, then, if he believes that Summorum and the old rite are not legitimate after Vatican II? I’m open to suggestions.

        I agree that the delegitimization tactic is ineffective for those attached to the old rite. I’m not hopeful about persuading them, and I think they’ll be with us for a good long time. The best we can hope for, it seems to me, is that the church authorities offer compelling and heroic ideals to young clergy and lay people to draw them to the reformed liturgy, and that liturgists and musicians work to bring out the inherent prayerfulness and dignity of the reformed rite. The power of attraction will do more than argumentation (although scholars do have to do the work of argumentation, of course).

        It is tragic that so many church leaders and loud voices have offered bad models to appeal to the idealism of young people. They have been led astray, and I feel bad for them.

      2. Fr Ruff

        Thank you. Yes. I agree. I think that many progressives do need not to take the conciliar reforms for granted and many need to learn and practice critical argumentation about them, including avoiding cherry-picking in doing so.

        And to realize that, whatever the default liturgy of parishes is, it more vulnerable to poor or mediocre praxis and resourcing because of inertia. In the US, there are communities devoted to the EF facing the problem of tension between those who see revival of preconciliar Low Mass praxis as a goal versus a low bar to be transcended.

        As for me, I’ve learned that being underwhelmed by liturgy is much much more common than being overwhelmed, as it were. It’s hard to change a community that doesn’t see a problem, and even if it does, is willing to settle for what’s most familiar.

  4. Not sure why the progressive liturgical establishment feels the need to keep harping on how this whole “Tridentine” (a misnomer historically of course) thing will just die out; or how it’s such a minority that craves it; or how Benedict was wrong about this or that, etc., etc.

    That said, this quote sticks out as unlikely to withstand critical analysis:

    “The ruptures after Vatican II (alongside lots of continuity too, of course) came about because that’s what the Council called for”

    Where exactly does Vatican II call for “ruptures” in the liturgy?

    1. Lee, we’re talking about foundational principles that inform the whole document, not a proof text with the magic word ‘rupture.’

      Just take some of the main principles emphasized in SC – active participation of the faithful, simplification of the rites, cultural adaptation, ease of comprehension, liturgy as expression of the nature of the true church – and see how present they are in the documents of Trent or the missal of 1580. (They’re not.) Those principles are reformist of the status quo in a massive way, so that their implementation cannot but cause a certain amount of rupture within a context of continuity. That the massively reformist principles of SC were gradually foreshadowed with greater strength in the decades leading up to SC does nothing to lessen the gap between Trent and V2 in the understanding of what liturgy is.

      All the main commentaries on liturgies, many of them written by the people who drafted Vatican II, have explained all this in abundance.


      1. ” … liturgy as expression of the nature of the true church.”

        This assertion reminds me of something that Bugnini mentions in his mammoth tome on the liturgical reform, where he bluntly states that thanks to the (not to say “his”) reforms, the Church was now “worshipping in spirit and in truth.” The clear and unmistakeable import of that assertion is that before Bugnini, there was no worship in spirit and truth.

        If there is truly an interest out there among the progressive liturgical establishment in promoting certain aspects of the post-Vatican II changes as the “way to go,” this frankly breathtakingly arrogant notion that the Church only figured out liturgy after 1963 (with some hints of future liturgical utopia before then in some enlightened places) is probably not the best strategy.

        The sad reality is, before Vatican II most Catholics didn’t pay much attention to the liturgy (including clergy), and 50 years after Vatican II, I would venture to say the same is true. Can the average person in the pew summarize the three Sunday readings on the Church steps after Mass, despite the vernacular; amplification; and all the other benefits of attempts to encourage “active participation”? I think not.

        If the so-called Tridentine Mass appeals to people, part of the appeal may be the recognition built up over the centuries that not everything needs to be immediately comprehensible; that the liturgy is primarily latreutic and not didactic; that not every act of participation need involve a common posture and vocalized common response.

      2. Lee, for those who accept Vatican II inwardly, your comment is unpersuasive. For those who don’t, I suppose it is. Enough said – we’ve heard all these arguments already.

  5. You actually raise quite a few points on which you will find no disagreement from traditionalists, at least outside of circles influenced heavily by Archbishop Lefebvre, and even then, that’s an overgeneralization. The older psalter is far superior. The pre-1955 Holy Week is far superior to the mess of the supposedly restored Holy Week rites of 1955, which were partially rolled back in the 1960s. The Mass texts of the Assumption and St Joseph the Worker use the Bea psalter, at least in part, and the chant is horrendous for the latter. Indeed, the council moved to suppress the Bea psalter, and Solesmes has continued its restoration of chant and has moved to squash badly composed chants. (As an aside, this is another interesting phenomenon: I love the chanting of the Solesmes method, but I recognize its limitations and would use a cross-referenced Graduale Triplex in a heartbeat at the old rite, except for when it doesn’t match up sufficiently…the changes to the Requiem Mass introit come to mind.)

    If more moderate changes, which closely followed what was prescribed, without trashing ancient features and including restorations of much more of what had been dropped in the 1950s, had been ordered, and if priests were not so resistant to Latin, chant, ad orientem, etc. then I’m not sure we would have this situation. But, we do, and since the council itself is so far from its implementation, both in form and in normative practice, then I think that the questioning of the council itself is a natural development…so, we’ll see. I’m not going to change your mind, obviously.

    1. Hi Matthew – nor I yours, probably. Thanks for writing though. I appreciate your knowledge of the sources and your love of liturgical history, and I can learn a lot from that. Chant for St. Joseph the worker – yes, horrendous.

  6. Fr. Neuhaus’s judgment on the reformed liturgy was clearly prudential. Given the circumstances at the time, that was a sound judgment. But times have changed and we must read the signs of the times. Now with a more level liturgical playing field, let us see which mass wins.

    I can also add a personal note. An early part of my turn to tradition was conversion to ad orientem. The first reformed liturgy that I saw celebrated ad orientem was actually celebrated by the same Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. He was saying mass in a tiny European chapel without a detached altar. When he turned to face ad populum for the Sursum corda, it finally made sense to me. Deo gratias.

    1. OK, we disagree on this point. I don’t think times have changed and Vatican II (including the Vatican II liturgy) are no longer the way to go. Some people rejected Vatican II from the get-go, so it’s nothing new, not a new development calling for a reappraisal (in my view). Let’s leave it at that. Enough said.

      1. One problem that people will eventually run into is Summorum congregations tend to demographically grow at a rate way out of proporation to the rest of the Church.

        So, while it may be true that they are 1/2 of 1% today, they will grow at a rate much faster than people expect.

        Additionally, their congregations tend to have a higher level of religious adherence and practice than regular congregations. They also produce a higher proportion of Priests than our Post Vatican II congregations.

        At my own parish when they have Mass, their average family size seems to be about 9. In the past 5 years, they have produced 11 seminarians. Throughout the rest of my parish, we have produced zero.

        They grow and reproduce faster than us. They don’t seem to care to control numbers with NFP. Several whom I know call it Catholic Birth Control in a condescending way.

        They all seem to home school, and their kids seem far advanced over the rest of ours. It’s scary. These are the people producing our Priests!

  7. Articles like this are exactly why I’m not Roman Catholic. I’m a musician who’s been drawn in the past to the Latin Mass and what it stands for, for many of the reasons that Mr. Schmitz explained, but I have zero interest in putting up with the banal, watered-down, modern version of Catholicism, which repulses me. I want Palestrina, Victoria, Haydn, and Mozart in church. And I’m a reactionary monarchist who hates the modern world and its ideas. I see Vatican II as the Church’s reconciliation with the French Revolution, and I despise the French Revolution.

  8. I am replying to Janice Stephenson here since there is no reply button by her comment. Anecdotally I have observed from a few traditionalist families that the kids don’t stick with it. As soon as they can, they get away from home and want nothing to do with the traditionalism of their parents. I dont think they will outnumber us, a claim they like to make along with almost chortling at times that all of us old “Vatican 2 types” will soon die off and they can have the church they want. I’ve experienced that attitude several times most recently in a comment back to me. It is hard
    to dialogue with those who would rather you were dead.

    1. Riiiight…..

      One congregation producing 11 seminarians in 5 years won’t have a long term effect?

  9. Somewhere, Pope John Paul II points out that the Vatican II reforms/restorations are fully in keeping with the sentiments expressed at Trent, which called for revisions ofliturgical books in accordance with ancient sources and practices. Those charged with implementing the reforms of the 20th century clearly had a clearer grasp of those ancient sources than did their counterparts of the 15th and 16th! The supposedly banal features of contemporary celebrations are evident in some of those early sources as characteristic simplicity and ordinariness — surely a worthy context for worshipping the God who is just as really present in tiny, murmuring sounds as in the spectacular mountaintop theophanies.

    Moreover, I never tire of pointing out — even though the young’uns never quite believe me — that the vast majority of Latin masses I attended were not the gloriously reverent and mystically transcendent occasions of the current mythology. They were in fact rather clunky and mechanical, not much in the way of a celebration at all.

    1. “Moreover, I never tire of pointing out — even though the young’uns never quite believe me — that the vast majority of Latin masses I attended were not the gloriously reverent and mystically transcendent occasions of the current mythology ”

      We never attended them because we were not alive then. It’s quite possible you are quite right. I absolutely believe you. But it has not been our experience.

      And then when you couple the fact that we see amazing liturgies today and then look back on the iconoclasm and pure hippie-ish-ness of the 60s and 70s.. you should be able to understand why we assume things were wonderful and great in the 40s and 50s given what we experience today.

  10. “If only he hadn’t taken such a dire view of the state of postconciliar liturgy …”

    Really? I attended Mass Saturday evening. The church was a little more than half full; most of those attending were older than me. The reality is that within ten years probably all of those people will be dead.

    This Sunday I attended a Traditional Latin Mass at a smaller chapel. Most of those attending Mass with me were younger – a lot younger. In ten years time, most of them will be alive.

    The other contrasts between these two Masses was the fact that many attending on Saturday were not particularly prayerful – possibly the horrid music and hymns was driving, them to their smartphones. The Sunday worshipers were more prayerful – this was a Missa Cantata – so the beauty of the music helped people to pray, I guess.

    It was the Latin Mass that brought this sinner back to the Church and the Sacraments. It was the guitar mass that drove me (and others) away from the Church. It has been over 50 years since Vatican II – if it was so wonderful, why the empty churches? Is it really God’s will that the Catholic Church cease to be? We need to bring more people into the Church, not drive them away – the tragic events in LasVegas, France and Canada should tell us why –

    1. Look, if guitar Masses and whatnot brought people in… “who am I to judge?”

      I’m serious! It’s not my charism. It’s not my thing. But if you believe in the doctrine of the Church and you are truly inspired by contemporary-ish music… I’ll say more power to you. I personally do not see how that works, but I have a friend (young-ish like me) who is disconnected from the idea of the TLM and really loves his Mass with a praise band.

      He’s a great father, strong in his faith, lives out the dogma loudly, he just likes praise bands. The Church is meant to be universal, but we human beings have different tastes. Some are called to be missionaries in foreign lands. Others to be excellent parents. Others to live in monasteries. Others to be in the world. It only makes sense that the way in which we find connections to God would differ.

      I will promote the Latin Mass and urge others to come. I will advocate for the “reform of the reform” in the Ordinary Form. I will fiercely defend the “new translation” and push for more Ordinary Forms with the Latin and Greek in them to add an aura of mystery. I’ll promote Gregorian Chant too. That’s because it’s what speaks to me and I think speaks to a lot of people.

      But would that appeal to, say, a Charismatic? Unlikely. I think that’s okay. I find it remarkable that more and more often that those who find the TLM’s spread “worrying” are being revealed as the most rigid of all.

      1. “I will promote the Latin Mass and urge others to come. I will advocate for the “reform of the reform” in the Ordinary Form. ”

        And if you attend the Latin Mass why are you so insistent on continuing the “reform of the reform,” especially since you acknowledge that the OF does indeed connect with people?

        Why is it that the EF you prefer and means a great deal to you must be off limits to reform, but the OF which I attend and which means a great deal for me must be made to be more like the mass you prefer?

    2. Maureen,
      A sparsely attended Saturday evening Mass is not the best judge of a parish’s vitality. Comparisons like those you are making are unfair for other reasons too. One EF Mass may draw from a wide area, while the OF in the same area serves 10 or twenty parishes with an average of four Masses apiece. There is no comparison. The OF is alive and well, and meeting the needs of a heck of lot more people than the EF does. Churches that celebrate the OF are not empty or only dying. There are dying churches, it’s true, but for many reasons which may have nothing at all to do with the style of worship. Finally, as much as it’s human to think we can tell how prayerful or engaged our neighbors are, it’s also dangerous to make those assumptions.

      1. Tough to get data on this. But how about an anecdote from my own parish?

        Our TLM is the only one in central Virginia that is NOT affiliated with the SSPX. You have to go to Richmond to find an FSSP parish or a Diocesan parish that celebrates the EF. In Northern Virginia, of course, the TLM is everywhere.

        Anyway, our experience after one year of the Extraordinary Form being celebrated frequently is that it is growing. Not explosively, but steadily. We are soon going to expand to three times per month as a result. Our once-monthly High Mass attendance is usually about the same as a Saturday Vigil Mass, which is about 10-20% fewer people than our two morning Sunday Masses.

        Yes, people come from near and far, that is quite true. But it’s nevertheless striking that our parish would attract the same number of people for a Mass at 1:30 PM on a Sunday as a Saturday evening Mass. And there’s been more than one occasion where the TLM out-drew the 8:30 or 11 AM Sunday Mass.

        I think we would actually grow substantially more if we attempted to make in-roads at the very orthodox university parish near us. But we do not wish to cause them any discord as they’ve been fantastic for the region, (and the entire Dominican Order!) so we really do not try to evangelize or advertise over there. We’ve picked up a couple of people who wanted to sing in a schola but it was not offered regularly there. That’s it.

        So yes, the OF is of course alive and well and I hope that continues. But even the celebrations of the OF, at least around here, are becoming exponentially more orthodox and traditional compared to the borderline garbage I grew up with in the 1990s.

      2. Back in the day, I would have been hard pressed to go to Holy Comforter instead of St T’s: I didn’t have a car, and my work schedule would have meant it was difficult to deal with time involved in walking or then-limited bus service (this is decades ago). I was one of the founding members of St T’s first schola that was not contemporary-oriented, shall we say (few realized the church – just reopened in fall 1979 after a fire – had a nice little organ lurking behind a screen behind the presider’s chair, because it had not been heard – this, btw, was in a building that no longer exists, a modern triangular church with a triangular altar in the center) ; we did the early Sunday morning Mass, and attracted more congregants to that Mass over time.

      3. Hello Matt,

        “Anyway, our experience after one year of the Extraordinary Form being celebrated frequently is that it is growing. Not explosively, but steadily.”

        That is our impression in the DC area, too.

        Our diocesan Sunday TLM has gone from about 20 to about 80 in the last eight months, which is unusually fast growth, not least because of the TLM competition in the area. There are some unusual reasons for that which I won’t get into here. Otherwise, “steady growth” is a good characterization for the other TLM’s in the area.

        I readily concede that the old Roman Rite is a very, very small presence in the American Church today – it’s less than 1% of all Masses, even with the considerable growth of the last ten years. Some of that’s because of hierarchical opposition; some of it is because of lack of priests to say it; but (yes) demand, while growing, is still limited. It’s important to keep that in perspective.

      4. Sadly, I was not making assumptions – I did not have to – the cellphones did that! the major difference between the EF and the OF – cellphone racket (despite being specifically asked at the beginning to shut the “electronic devices off”

        The church where I attended Saturday evening mass is actually one of the larger parishes in the region. Attendance has been declining for years. Churches have been closing throughout this area while the population is growing.

        We need Mass. We need the Sacraments. We need Faith, Hope and Charity. We need to be open to the grace of the Holy Spirit – let’s use all the means at our disposal to bring people to God.

        Personally the more frequent use of our magnificent heritage of liturgical music may be a source of grace and beauty – it could revive a dysfunctional parish

      5. Side comment, hardly germane to broader and more important topic:
        Saturday evening Masses are dying everywhere. The demographic they appealed to are (literally) dying off, and they are being replaced by people who attend Sunday mornings, afternoons and evenings.

        Picking 1 Mass anywhere at anytime is not the best way to judge a parish’s vitality. (Perhaps, gasp, the liturgical vitality of a parish may also not be the correct measuring stick of vitality. It could be their social justice outreach, their educational ministries, the vocations it produces, etc. Or perhaps a remote island/mountain parish where 95% of parishioners show up to a Saturday morning Mass fulfilling their Sunday obligation, but which none of us would call “good liturgy”.)

        But, as Rita says, it’s surely never the best idea to pick a single Saturday night Mass!

  11. Schmitz saw the sacerdotal character imprinted quite legitimately on Fr Charles Ike of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter.

  12. May I ask of those who know how long a typical Sunday TLM lasts? Are the people being clearly called to be missionary disciples? Are the homilies engaging or simply instructional? Just how do Catholics at a TLM participate fully, actively and consciously? How conscious are people of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as an assembly of priestly people? These are teachings that are constitutive of the Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
    As for the canard that Mass attendance has declined drastically because of the “new Mass”, I guess there are people who haven’t heard of the secularism that was rampant long before Vatican II, or the clericalism that led to the infantalization of Catholic adults, many of whom got tired of celibate priests telling them about the perils of human sexuality.

    1. Hello Jack,

      The diocesan sung EF Mass I help organize runs just under an hour, with a homily that runs 8-10 minutes. But we don’t employ a thurible, which would probably add another 5-6 minutes. That seems not far off the mark from other (sung) TLM’s I have attended around the country.

      I think we all have to agree that there are multiple reasons why Mass attendance has collapsed (a word I think is not excessive) in much of the West since the 1960’s. Some of the cause is surely extrinsic, to be sure. But progressives far too readily dismiss the possibility that radically changing the entire lived experience of the liturgy in just a few years contributed in some significant degree to the collapse – especially given the specific nature of many of those changes.

      1. Our once-monthly High Masses, which attract more than 100 people (we are a small parish with only ~350 families so ~150-200 people is an average OF Sunday Mass) run about 90 minutes as we do the whole deal. Seven altar boys, an MC, thurible… the whole nine yards.

        Low Masses are about 50-60 minutes because we do NOT do it completely silently. Our Low Masses include hymns. In my mind, this is how it SHOULD have been done in the pre-Vatican II era, but I gather did not happen. Active participation happens at our Extraordinary Form Masses regardless of whether they are High or Low because of our insistence on music as part of the liturgy. It is also not unusual to hear the congregation do the server responses in the Low Masses as we do not turn off the ambient microphone near the altar. Now the servers do the responses, as required, but the congregation joins in from time to time too. Like a Dialogue Mass of the pre-conciliar days.

        Every Low Mass closes with the usual prayers after the Low Mass… but also a closing Anima Christi. Our High Masses always close with the Salve Regina since it is not prayed.

        If that’s not active participation, I dunno what is.

    2. Our Sunday EF High Mass lasts between 60 to 80 minutes, depending on the mass setting. I hope the homilies are both engaging and instructional, but that is for others to judge. I presume that people feel prayerfully engaged with the liturgy since attendance at the High Mass has increased by 47% in the 6 years since we made the change (against the background of an overall increase in mass attendance of 14.1%).

      I’m slightly sceptical about the much derided 15 minute Low Mass of yesteryear, since I find it hard to celebrate a Low Mass in under 25 minutes and typically take between 30 and 45 minutes. But even if I were wrong, all it would prove is that it is possible to celebrate the EF badly, which no-one seriously denies. The same, however, is true of the OF. I once attended an OF mass which lasted just under 6 minutes.

      1. The secret for speed, I’ve read, was to recite in a whisper where not forbidden on the inhale as well as exhale.

    3. Jack

      Our beautiful Missa Cantata is over one hour. I really never counted the minutes. We all worship consciously and fully (and joyfully) – no one is fighting to leave first here. Our homilies are excellent – this past week the priest who gave our homily and celebrated our Mass really DID celebrate and is full of joy – his homily was that God loves us so much! I truly wish more could have heard him! We would have a much better world if more could hear the good news infused with grace instead of “the usual”.

  13. “compared to the borderline garbage I grew up with in the 1990s.”

    Mass describes a “borderline garbage.” Wow.

  14. “Every new sacramentary and missal produced in the last thousand years or so has replaced its predecessor, which immediately fell out of use in the place where the new version was implemented.”

    The story is messier than that in the Patristic and Medieval periods (as I am sure you know). But the real problem with employing this argument is that never before has the Church, East or West, suppressed an entire ancient rite of the Church – which is exactly what happened (de facto, at any rate) in 1969. Previous missal changes (especially post-1570) have been very minor ones – adding feast days or octaves, adjusting rankings. The overhaul of Holy Week in 1955 pushed the boundaries, but aside from reworking (I might say deforming) one week of the year, even that left the Roman Rite basically intact.

    If Pope Benedict’s juridical solution is unprecedented – and I agree that it is – the post-1969 situation which it was attempting to address is *also* utterly unprecedented.

    And that’s the point you really need to address.

    1. Well, Fr Ruff alludes to certain facts that make it clear the MP was a finesse. It applies only to the 1962 Missal, much to vexation of them who wish to dial time back to 1947 (and, at the remotest fringes of erstwhile traditionalism, there are those who look with suspicion at the Pian reforms a century ago as the Camel’s Nose under The Tent moment). What about RM editions other than 1962 or 2011? B16 played his finesse to avoid that question. (Substantively, if he had really want to encourage the promotion of the EF, he’d have given an express indult with respect to limits on bination/trination, an issue that was raised before the MP but ultimately ignored.)

      1. Liam,

        1) “It applies only to the 1962 Missal, much to vexation of them who wish to dial time back to 1947 (and, at the remotest fringes of erstwhile traditionalism, there are those who look with suspicion at the Pian reforms a century ago as the Camel’s Nose under The Tent moment).”

        Consider me guilty on both counts. I find virtually all of the 20th century changes to the Roman Rite liturgical books to be regrettable.

        But be that as it may…

        Benedict XVI settled on 1962 because that was the editio typica that John Paul II had settled on for the 1984 and 1988 indults. And John Paul II settled on that editio because it was the one settled on by Archbishop Lefebvre in the early 80’s for SSPX Masses. Which, by the way, caused serious frictions within the Society because many communities affiliated with the SSPX had been using earlier missals (1945 especially).

        So 1962 *is* something of an arbitrary choice; Lefebvre chose it because it was the very last editio which could still be reasonably identified as the traditional Roman Rite, and he was not (unlike some of his clergy) particularly opposed to the changes made by Pius XII and John XXIII. It is fair to wonder why, if one wants a traditional Roman Rite with a long track record, one would insist on a version with significant changes (Holy Week, suppression of 15 octaves, overhauled ranking system, suppressed second confiteor, etc.) which were only in effect for 3-9 years. But that is a case which will have to be addressed at some point down the road.

        2) “Substantively, if he had really want to encourage the promotion of the EF, he’d have given an express indult with respect to limits on bination/trination…”

        Everything I have heard from reliable sources was that the choices that were made by BXVI were heavily guided by a sense of what would excite only manageable resistance. It was, indeed, a compromise.

        But he rejected any further “indult” because that would not provide sufficient liberty to celebrate the traditional books, especially in the face of hostile bishops. It also would not have satisfied the SSPX, though it is clear now that this was a secondary consideration for him.

      2. Richard

        To put strictly *liturgical* changes of Pope St Pius X to one side for a moment for a sidebar here, there remain his sacramental/canonical changes. Most people don’t realize his legislation to promote the reception of Holy Communion by the faithful was the extraordinarily delayed fruit of none other than the Council of Trent itself (of which other fruit were also long delayed – one might put the liturgical use of the vernacular in that category, for example). I think that, once the faithful were going to be integrated more fully into the liturgy via sacramental participation (which, before Pius, would more typically take place for the unvowed laity after confession and outside of Mass strictly speaking, except for a special slice of said laity like royalty and aristos who had daily chapel praxis), there would be pressure for reform of Roman liturgy (not just the Mass, but especially the Mass). I think this angle is largely neglected by traditionalists – and erroneously so – because it is assumed that the movement for liturgical reform had no necessary connection to it, only one of contemporaneity.

        And, this, Fr Ruff, is at least one particular angle where I think progressive scholarship can shed more light (than heat – especially because I don’t think this is an angle of the 20th century developments that has been as heavily shibbolethed as others).

        My longstanding bleat on this has been that it is none other than the Hammer of The Modernists who, even though he didn’t realize it, was the real Catholic revolutionary of the 20th century (as the real revolution of revolutionaries often cannot be understood until long past their own time). And it came barely in the nick of time for the flood of catastrophe that would inundate so much of the Catholic faithful around the world for the 75 years after his death. (It’s an especially poignant synchronicity that the last surviving Catholic monarch of the Great War – representing the most traditional extant Catholic monarchy – died a few months before the collapse of the Iron Curtain. She being the Empress-Queen Zita of Austria-Hungary.)

      3. And, of course, the PCED has allowed certain orders to exercise the previous Holy Week, and the third Confiteor, etc.

        Some would argue that the 1962 version was never even formally promulgated as an Editio Typica, so it’s technically impossible to comply with Ecclesia Dei/Summorum.

    2. Richard,

      There is no precedent for a liturgical reform the scope of what happened after Vatican II. But in the mind of the church, it was not a suppression of an ancient rite, but a reform of it. It says this on the front page of every post-Vatican II missal.

      There is no precedent for a council like Vatican II. Fr. John O’Malley SJ has done all the work on this, and I wish people would engage it! The liturgical reform is unprecedented because the Council which called for it is unprecedented.

      So we keep coming back, over and over, to Vatican II and whether we accept it and it’s principles of liturgical reform.

      Just what is the alternative? I know there are strong feelings and passions around the unreformed 1962 rite, but it is part of a package deal which is simply untenable. To reject Vatican II would make the Catholic Church sectarian, fundamentalist, and thoroughly at odds with everything – everything! – in the modern world. Not just the bad stuff, but everything.


      1. Now you keep missing the point that the call for the restoration of the old Mass is driven in large part by the rejection by the liturgical establishment of the actual Novus Ordo which includes options for a very traditional Mass. Do not complain that there are Catholics who want the old Mass when they are denied access to a traditional form of the new. If you are going to insist that everyone accept the new reformed Mass then let us accept all of it, not just those options that you would prefer.

      2. Hello Fr Ruff,

        “But in the mind of the church, it was not a suppression of an ancient rite, but a reform of it. It says this on the front page of every post-Vatican II missal.”

        Oh, I know it does.

        But this is a hardly tenable proposition. More to the point, it really *was* received as a rupture – a new thing – by the progressive clergy and lay leaders who dominated its implementation in most of the Church. (How many times have I heard that the new rite entails a “fundamentally different ecclesiology?”)

        No, I think Laszlo Dobszay is right: It is by any reasonable definition a new rite -a “neo-Roman Rite.” (*Note that this is not a question of its validity and legitimacy, which I accept.) If the Ambrosian Rite is a different rite, and yet has more in common with the Extraordinary Form than the Ordinary Form does….well, then, the idea that that Novus Ordo was merely a “reform” of the Roman Rite is every bit as much a juridical fiction as Benedict XVI’s schema of each merely being different forms of the same rite.

        “So we keep coming back, over and over, to Vatican II and whether we accept it and it’s principles of liturgical reform.”

        As even you would concede, the Novus Ordo goes well beyond the prescriptions of SC. And yet, I think you still put it well: Because those prescriptions opened the door for that more radical project, and those prescriptions embody a very new and distinctive liturgical philosophy – a highly didactic one. And for the most part, I just…no longer can accept those prescriptions.

        Would a more traditional liturgical settlement (in whatever form it takes) put us completely at odds with the modern world? I don’t think I would go that far. But it would make the Church more countercultural, no question. But I think a more countercultural posture is the only way the Church can survive as an distinctive entity.

      3. “To reject Vatican II would make the Catholic Church sectarian, fundamentalist, and thoroughly at odds with everything – everything! – in the modern world. Not just the bad stuff, but everything.”

        Um… modernism is still a heresy, isn’t it? Pretty sure it is.

        I’m not for being sectarian but fierce orthodoxy, which is a synonym for fundamentalism is… well.. good. Provided, of course, it’s fiercely LOVING orthodoxy.

      4. Richard,
        No, I would not concede that the reformed Mass goes beyond SC even the tiniest bit. The principles of Vatican II made possible everything in the reformed rite. This is the Church’s position, in my understanding, which is why every missal states this.
        However massively the NO is a new rite, it’s because the principles of Vatican II made it possible.
        I don’t know how to state it any more gently so I’ll be direct: what I wrote is based on the teachings of the Catholic Church at Vatican II. To hold otherwise is either a misunderstanding of Vatican II or a rejection of Vatican II, or some mixture of both.
        And the pope now in office has said clearly that the liturgical reform of Vatican II is irreversible. I suppose this is shocking and disappointing to some – but really, it’s almost a no-brainer. “Pope affirms teachings and directives of ecumenical council” – that’s what happened.
        Again, I would encourage reading Fr. O’Malley SJ. I attempted a brief summary of his very convincing portrayal of the “spirit of Vatican II” in this post:

      5. Matt,

        Is modernism still a heresy? I’d be very careful, very nuanced, in claiming that it is or how it is. The starting point is the Second Vatican Council (for Catholics), and everything the church taught in Gaudium et Spes (and all the other documents for that matter) about the Church’s relationship to the modern world, to scholarship, to advances in the social sciences and so forth. And that includes the image put forth of the Church as a pilgrimage people, growing and changing and developing and learning.

        It is in that context that one would talk about a renewed appraisal of modernism.

        It’s a tragedy – and rather outrageous, actually – that one can find all over the internet Catholics writing as if all the pre-Vatican II condemnations of modernism still apply! This is blatant misunderstanding, or rejection, of the Second Vatican Council.

        Cardinal Ratzinger has written about the world of difference between the Syllabus of Errors and Gaudium et Spes – I believe he referred to “contradictions.” I’m not sure that everyone gets his point, not when they talk about “modernism” as if it’s simply a bad thing, end of story.

        Pray Tell has a major post coming on the Catholic view of modernism after Vatican II – watch for it.


  15. So the bottom line for you is, Francis is allowed to say what he wants about the liturgical reform being “irreversible” because he clearly “gets” Vatican II, but Benedict either “misunderstood” or “rejected” Vatican II? And presumably John Paul II too, since he permitted the Tridentine Mass too? What about Paul VI’s 1971 Agatha Christie Indult? Was that act a rejection or misunderstanding of Vatican II, too?

    1. Yes, Francis is correct, and Benedict XVI was mistaken.

      This is my judgment, but: the indult and the provisions of JP2 showed a latitude that is in tension with the officially approved liturgy, but I there is room for some pastoral latitude “outside the lines.” At least the indults of Paul VI and JP2 made it clear that the old rite is an exception, not where the church is at, but still permitted out of generosity.

      The problem with Summorum – and I the discussion here bears out what the problem is, is that it gave rise to a whole mindset where people now think that the better, more Catholic, more traditional liturgy is the old one, and the new one is deficient. The people who hold this given the false hope that maybe, someday, their rejection of Vatican II would prevail because it has truth on its side.

      The Church really believes that the reformed rite is more Catholic, more traditional, better reflects the nature of the church. We simply have to say that. The Church really believes that the vision of church in all the documents of V2 is a legitimate development of doctrine.

      Note that this isn’t necessarily a negative judgment of the past – this isn’t the Christian way to think about growth and transformation (whether of individual believers or of the church). We give the past to God, rejoice in what was good in the past, not judge the people of the past, but hold to our renewed understanding because we believe the Holy Spirit inspired Vatican II.

      It feels funny… defending a pope, defending an ecumenical council, and knowing that some readers will react negatively because they don’t think I’m really Catholic in doing so! That’s where we’re at.


      1. Father, you often have me up to a point, and then you lose with me with a statement like, “The Church really believes that the reformed rite is more Catholic …”

        Can that assertion seriously withstand critical scrutiny? It’s incredibly sweeping, provocative, contentious, and ultimately, I think, exactly what contributes to the present rift in Catholicism regarding the liturgy.

      2. To what level of detail must we take this? Must it be said that the Church believes that every part of the Ordinary Form better reflects its nature than every part of the old? Is it possible to have made mistakes or to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater? To be faithful to the Council but at the same time suspect that the old offertory is richer than the new, that the priest’s emphasis of his own unworthiness was dialed back too much, or that it is scandalous that one of the Eucharistic Prayers (however poetic in places) was composed on a table napkin?

    2. Lee,
      It’s a provocative claim. But at the same time, it’s fairly obvious… once one accepts Vatican II inwardly. What would the contrary claim be? That the church thinks it’s getting less Catholic now, that the church wants to make its worship less worthy, that the Church thinks the Holy Spirit decided to lead the Catholic Church into less truth, that the church is putting out liturgical books that she believes are inferior? No, the Church believes in Vatican II… as a Catholic council that deepened Catholic doctrine.
      I get it that lots of people believe otherwise. But surely this isn’t what the magisterium believes.

      1. I guess when I read John Paul talk about “rightful aspirations” (and he was a Council father), and read Benedict (possibly one of the greatest theological minds of the modern age)…I find it less than “obvious” that they’re simply wrong and Paul and Francis right.

        And Francis hasn’t issued his own motu proprio canceling out Benedict’s.

        The alternative, then, is to reconcile what John Paul and Benedict say about liturgy with what SC says. And that, I think, is more than possible. And certainly more irenic than the alternative of calling them wrong and Francis right.

  16. A way forward seems to be lacking, because the new mass was not the organic development called for in SC and in its implementation seems at least prima facie to deviate from SC and Musicam Sacram. (And the more we laypeople learn about how this happened–Universa Laus’s conspiracy to impose the musical program of radicals instead of that of the council, the mistranslation into English of the directive concerning altars, diocesan bans on OF masses in Latin– the more it becomes a scandal, which unfortunately feeds the rad-trad mindset.)

    Despite Pope Benedict’s best intentions, organic development does not seem to have been restarted. Mutual enrichment is largely clerical; priests who offer the Extraordinary Form (and, locally, their congregations) report changes for the better in their offering of the Extraordinary Form. And there is more actual participation in the EF but the lectionary is stuck. But instead of a ressourcement to what Vatican II called for it seems as though laity who derive benefit from less horizontalized Ordinary Form Masses, a sacral language, or chant are increasingly ghettoized into the EF.

    The reform is irreversible, for sure, both where it was faithful to SC and where it was flawed. We cannot have a do-over or blank slate. But how to move forward, to implement Vatican II reforms more faithfully and also to recover that which was lost by accident, is not clear to us in the pews. Those of us who drive past a few churches to find a good Ordinary Form celebration are just looking out for our own souls and those of our friends and families and it would seem that those who choose the Extraordinary Form instead are doing the same. Fr. Neuhaus was concerned about being consistent with a future direction. What a luxury it must be to be able to worry about such things! Mr. Schmitz’s article is a little more focused on the cura animarum here-and-now. If there is a way forward it must start from where we are now. We or our loved ones may die tomorrow. The future may be too late.

    1. Okay how about this for a start?

      My own parish has begun singing the Entrance Antiphon before each Sunday Ordinary Form Mass. It has eliminated the “opening hymn.” We also sing the Communion Antiphon. A hymn is then sung as communion continues.

      Participation by the faithful has been heavily encouraged and we pass out sheets to everyone with both the text and musical notation for both antiphons. Our pastor chants the Kyrie (in English, wish we’d go to Greek…) he chants the introduction to the Gospel and the Dismissal.. as well as the Preface. The congregation chants the responses where applicable. Active participation!

      This is at a parish where our previous pastor (God rest his soul) celebrated Mass without wearing a chausible, talked up the virtues of Bill and Melinda Gates and at times was ill-tempered toward people with young children.

      That was no more than four years ago. Things can change quickly for the better.

    2. Ben, I think the Mass of Paul VI is entirely and completely faithful to Vatican II. There is one line about organic growth, but also clear articulation of deeply reformist principles. It is not at all convincing to me that the one line about “organic” should somehow neuter and lessen or relative the deeply reformist principles.

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