Vatican asks bishops to review use of pre-Vatican II mass

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter to presidents of the national episcopal conferences asking each bishop in the world to report upon the use of the mass forma extraordinaria in their respective diocese. Responses, including whether the old form has influenced the reformed Rite of Mass of Pope Paul VI, are asked for by the end of July 2020.




    1. Oh, I think there is in common parlance, Todd. Just like there are “associate pastors” for the many people who wouldn’t know what on earth a “parochial vicar” is. Or I will speak sometimes of the great “feasts” of the year such as Christmas and Easter – there is a common usage of “feast” in the dictionary that can apply to any big liturgical celebration, even as there is the technical term of “solemnity” for Roman Catholics. Words and terms have multiple meanings and usages.

      1. Sure, I get that we liturgy geeks all know what these are. But I still get to poke at a scholar for using language that is inaccurate and reflects a poor theology of liturgy and papal authority. Trads like to pin the names of liturgies on the pope. I don’t accept that popes “own” liturgy. Not any more than you or I do. We have one Roman Missal. We also have an indulgence to what is largely (but not entirely) an anti-conciliar group trying to frustrate the basic Christian impulse of examen, discernment, renewal, and evangelization in a new era.

    2. Perhaps the usage of the terms “Mass of Pope Paul VI” and “Mass of Pope John XXIII” would be more accurate?

    1. Somewhat justifiable, I think, considering there are many people who have an axe to grind when it comes to this issue.

    2. They have already started, and from quarters where complaints that the success or failure of communion in the hand, the versus populum orientation, or more flexible Friday penances were not assessed. This is the sauce they want for the goose–why not also the gander?

      1. Actually, quite a bit of that happened in the 1970s. Not exactly in a formal way, from Rome, as it were. The years following Vatican II there was a better sense that bishops were and could be responsible for liturgy. People certainly felt free to let their parish pastors and bishops know. It is also true that there was very wide consultation done in the 80s in preparation for the second edition of all the rites, including the Roman Missal second edition. The gander was well-sauced, as it were, until the later editions of the CDWDS hacked off its head in the late 90s.

  1. I think # 2 is the most important question. I know there are pockets of people who missed the older form of mass (my now deceased father was one). I do think there shoud have been pastoral provisions for people, such as him, even if a minority. I agree that the transition between the new and older form of mass was poorly handled from an organization point of view, back in the 60’s, but that is water under the bridge now and really before my time.

    But that said, unfortuneately there are pockets of priests who are driven more by ideological conflicts with VII and who use popular devotion to that mass to gain followers. I know many people who have no interest in debates around religious freedom and ecumensim and who would largely support many other aspects of VII. Again, my own father was a huge fan of Teillhard while wanting the older mass!

    The extaordinary form should be a pastoral accommodation to a group of people and not a cause celebre for priests who want to gin up support for whatever other pet cause or grievance they have.

    And regrettably it has become that so there needs to be a firm hand guiding the process of this accommodation particularly when it comes to priests and groups who are behind these movements.

    Good faith accommodation is one thing – manipulating devotion is another.

  2. Would that we could be flys on the wall at episcopal offices. What priests will come immediately to mind as strongly associated with the TLM? What priests will be asked for their input? (I can assure you I will not be among them). I am edified that Francis has taken this initiative presumably for the purpose of reviewing the need for an updated motu propio. I have no problem with individuals who demonstrate a sincere interest in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. They should be served by priests and bishops whose equal love for the present Roman Missal and for the ecumenical council which birthed it is clearly evident. As Francis has said on a number of occasions “there is no going back”.

    1. I was about to say the same thing: does the Vatican actually think individual bishops have a finger on the pulse of this, and/or also won’t just insert their own agenda?

      Be it episcopal surveys before Synods, or their questionnaires about possible future bishops, or this questionnaire, but the way the Vatican Congregations solicit feedback seems stuck in 19th century. I’m not saying they should use SurveyMonkey (which would be equally foolish), but this doesn’t strike me as the best way to gather input either.

      I wish Pope Francis and the CDF luck!

  3. It will be interesting to see the responses from those episcopal conferences who were given sight of the Motu Proprio before it was promulgated and who begged Benedict not to issue it.

    I venture to suggest that in fact the bishops may not be the best people to answer some of these questions. Many have little or no idea what is actually going on at grass roots level.

    I think the answer to question # 6 will largely be No. Most of these celebrations appear to use an earlier edition of the Missale Romanum, despite the stipulations of SP.

    1. I took no. 6 to be asking the person filling out the survey if he celebrates the EF himself.

      I doubt most bishops would know whether or not a community is using an earlier edition. Aside for those granted permission to use the pre 1955 Holy Week, my experience is that 1962 is widely adhered to. You seem to live in an oddball sort of place if all the EF Masses you personally attend use earlier Missals.

      I think 5 will be widely misinterpreted as the OF has many legitimate options that are often considered exclusive to the EF – like chant, Latin, ad orientem, older vestments, etc.

  4. Gosh, all this distress could have been avoided if only the bishops at Vatican II had made it clear that they themselves wanted a reform of the order (singular) of Mass, and that they were not leaving Pope Paul and his successors free to keep the 1962 Missal in use if they wished. The council fathers could have said specifically that they wanted the rites simplified, duplicated elements removed, and abandoned but edifying practices brought back. Then we’d know that this questionnaire is asking about actions that today’s bishops are not authorized to take, and they could deal with it accordingly.

  5. The question about influence on the Ordinary Form is very important. Arguably this was a main purpose of Summorum pontificum (together with enrichment of the 1962 Rite by adopting elements of the new) and if the enrichment, the re-inculturation of the Ordinary Form, is not taking place a correction is due.

    Did anyone predict that Summorum would cause a decline in (for lack of a better word) reform of the reform Ordinary Form communities? The greater protection given to the EF has many young families fleeing there as “reform of the reform” efforts were stalled or reversed and priests involved punished. The existence of such refuge may have emboldened “Susan from the Parish Council” types to simply chase off younger reverts and converts (and the priests who serve them.) These questions may not reveal that dynamic but they could be the start of a very healthy dialogue in the Church.

    1. “Did anyone predict that Summorum would cause a decline in (for lack of a better word) reform of the reform Ordinary Form communities?”

      I for one can’t say I am surprised. People who are ideologically ruddered have a tendency to hive off and then hive off again. Happened on the far left side of things (how most forget), shouldn’t be shocking on the far right – for now, the 1920 Missal seems to be a common grail, but the ultimate destination of which may be a reconsideration of the sacramental and liturgical revolutions of Pope St Pius X and back beyond that.

      Now, B16 might not have anticipated it, but his fanboyz tended to chafe when he insisted on a both/and approach, and the fruits of that can be witnessed in varying degrees of renunciations and denunciations of him in the petri dishes of the Catholic alt-Right.

      1. Pre-Pius X Worship looks almost lefty compared with current goings on.

        There’s an independent Anglican priest in France who only uses the Sarum Rite in Latin with the approval of his bishop but usually he uses the vulgar tongue for the lections. I was amazed to watch on Holy Saturday morning him performIng many of the complex ceremonies set by Sarum for that day with the utmost ease and grace. Sarum vespers was a major event in Philadelphia back in February. The Orthodox have also had a major role in a Sarum revival.

        Others are reviving the Braga rite as well as the Dominican and Ambrosian. Recently I came across pics of a revived Lyonnais rite.

        It’s as if Archdale A. King has come back to life through the internet by way of YouTube.

    2. I think the schtick, “You’re not influencing us; we’re influencing you!” gets pretty old when people listen to it. In an ideal church, elements of Catholic tradition would carry over strongly despite the great shift from everything before to everything after. One might say that embittered Latin Mass folks abandoned the mainstream parishes in the 70s. In some places, maybe they couldn’t be blamed. In my hometown, they were strongly associated with schismatic elements. PIP’s didn’t want Latin or chant because these were associated with people unfaithful to the Church.

      I for one object to the whole reform2 notion, and the idea behind it. I favor the reform, the continual reform, of the Roman Rite. Not a reform of a reform. Not a reform of a reform of a reform, ad infinitum. The 1970 Missal is not Sacred Scripture. We are only human. Things we produce, even in the name of Christ, are quite flawed. And our Rite has been lacking inspiration from the various cultures who claim Roman heritage spiritually.

      That said, we are not addressing the biggest challenge facing the Church–our impoverished evangelization. It is a fatal flaw that has hounded us since Trent (at least) and sadly, too many Catholics have missed the mark (and Ad Gentes and Nuntiandi Evangelii) and gotten into too much navel gazing since the Council. (And yes, that includes my friends who advocate for traditional worship of various kinds.)

      1. Have you ever listened with an open heart to the “embittered Latin Mass folks” side of the story?

        One of the most disillusioning things for me as a Catholic was the awful behavior I often witnessed towards traditionalists expressing gratitude when a Latin Mass was allowed at my parish. The pastor had no interest in the EF or in a reform of the reform – he just let a retired priest come in and say it. It was bizarre to me to witness the anger, manipulation, and un-Christian behavior from people I looked up to towards people who didn’t seem to be doing anything to deserve it.

      2. If so, then I commend you. It’s very unusual for people who do not themselves love traditional liturgy to be pastoral (or even particularly kind) towards those who do.

        My experience is that traditionalists will never forget someone who actually treats them like a brother or sister in Christ.

  6. Why is this coming from the CDF and not the Congregation for Divine Worship? (this is a genuine question–not an attempt to provoke controversy).

    1. Because they have responsibility for attempts to reintegrate SPXX.
      Responsibilty for the EF was placed with a group, Ecclesia Dei, which had divided reporting lines to both CDF and CDWDS. Reportedly at the repeated request of SPXX, that office was moved wholly within CDF.

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