Roche: Experiment to Reconcile with SSPX via Old Liturgy Failed

In a recent interview, Archbishop Arthur Roche made multiple strong statements about how the efforts of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to reconcile with SSPX by reintroducing the pre-Vatican II liturgy have not been successful:

It’s clear that Traditionis custodes is saying: OK, this experiment has not entirely been successful. And so, let us go back to what the [Second Vatican] Council required of the Church.

Reflecting back on Vatican II, Roche reminded listeners that liturgical reform was sought after by most of the bishops attending the council:

And we’ve got to remember that [the liturgical reform] wasn’t the will of the pope. This was the will of the vast majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church, who were gathered together in the 21st ecumenical council, guiding the pope with regard to the future.

What was produced in 1570 was entirely appropriate for the time. What is produced in this age is also entirely appropriate for the time.

To read the entirety of CNA’s breakdown of the interview, click here. 


  1. Revisionist history like this is reducing trust and leading further from reconciliation. The text of Summorum and everything that followed it is incompatible with the claim that its purpose was strictly reconciliation with the SSPX, the people in the pews know this is not true, and justifying cancelling masses and doing less for the care of souls of families who are for whatever reason are better served in Extraordinary Form communities by repeating this falsehood is an expression of contempt. Nobody likes being talked to like he is stupid or born yesterday.

    Whether or not it is true that Summorum was a “plan B” after Benedict couldn’t get support from the curia for a major revision of the Ordinary Form of the Mass is something we won’t know for many years. We don’t need to know the answer to that to know that its explicit, stated purpose was to bring about renewal of both forms of the Roman Rite. Those close to Benedict confirm that one of the objects was to put the two forms back into continuity so organic development could resume. Arguably it wasn’t allowed to work–the Extraordinary Form got revised texts but those seeking a more enculturated, lest hokey Ordinary Form more in continuity with the older form got routed to Extraordinary Form personal parishes instead. (And thus I now have fewer OF options than a decade ago.) And the exposure to the Extraordinary Form in separate communities made some of the more dubious changes (replacing the offertory by a parody of the berakah prayer, leaving 1 Cor 11:29 out of the lectionary, etc), formerly tolerable, shocks to the conscience of the kind that reinforce separation.

    And now they are worried that they will have no suitable place to bring their families at all, and the Prefect of the CDW is not only making zero provision for their pastoral care but also gaslighting them about history. That’s how we get more irregular communities like the SSPX.

    1. The Tridentine Mass needs revision. It needs to encourage more participation from the faithful. Responses and prayers are done by altar servers. Why as believers we are asking others to do our homework. Very often if one approaches a parent or grand parent to enquire if their son or grandson to become a priest, the answer would be not my son or grand son. Whose son or grandson then? Here another example of shifting responsibility. Evidently it is poor communication when the priest is calling and the people are not responding. If one who loves Mass in Latin so much one should Latin well. At wedding when the couple is to response I do should be responded the altar server. One person claimed mental prayer is being exercised. We are in a corporate worship and not a private devotion. The choir sings all the time and the rest sits to be entertained. Did the Bible not command all creatures that have breath give praise to the Lord from Psalm 150? There are more than fifty commands in the Bible that requires believers to sing. The Catholic Church teaches that one who sings prays twice. Now SSPX claimed they are orthrodox how come they are not practicing what they preach? The priest recites the Pater Noster but not the people. Hence it should have been Pater Meus to be exact. Christ taught all His disciples to pray that prayer. Christ did not say a person prays the prayer. The Communion rail may be another problem. It symbolized heaven and earth that divides God and people which contradicts the Scripture. When Christ died on the cross the curtain in the Temple was torn in half. Consequently men have direct access to God. For all believers we become temple of the Holy Spirit. Ironically many proponents of SSPX do not understand what it means to be Priest, Prophet and King by the virtue of one’s baptism. The readings in the Tridentine Mass remain the same every year. How can the Tridentine Mass cover all the messages in the Bible. Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

      1. I couldn’t agree more!your subjective definition of “participation” is partially the problem….

  2. I suspect that different people had differing hopes and differing alarms about SP. No such document is ever the product of a single person with a single purpose. The Holy Spirit always messes things up. “Gaslighting” seems to be another term-du-jour like “heresy” has, in some circles, come to mean “church stuff I disagree with.” In the full light of day, no gas, no beeswax candles, a good chunk of the traditionalist movement has continued to be a sullen, lumpy, and wealthy subset of believers. Just like any other church. Clearly, good liturgy by their own definition hasn’t helped them.

    The problem with the modern Roman Rite is simple: if the clergy don’t care to do it well, yes indeed it will fall flat. Just like the 1570/1962 Missal low Mass. We should focus on continuing reform of the Roman Rite. If traditionalists have better music, art, spirituality, etc. to offer, them let them do it to a greater purpose in the larger Roman Rite.

    As for 1 Cor 11:29, I suspect Paul’s parable of rich Christians snubbing the poor and needy wouldn’t be very popular today. I think you need the 12 verses prior and the two after to get the full picture. But tell you what: give us a pericope from Ruth, and I’m sure MR4 can fit in the full 17-31 from 1 Corinthians 11.

    As for being unable to find a suitable place, I’ve served in liturgy for over 40 years, in parishes large and small, struggling and fruitful and in between. I know priests, music directors, and parishioners labor seemingly in vain to see some measure of grace in the celebration of Mass. I certainly have found episodes and eras of wanting more, much more. To those who have to go to a Mass in the vernacular and see that is a problem? Please. Take a number.

    1. Our friends who are well-served by the EF are concerned that the OF options they have will lead to their children leaving the Church altogether, and they may be right. “Please take a number” isn’t a very Christian policy when the care of souls is at stake.

      Remember how we got to this position. With a few exceptions (and I’m fortunate to live near one) pewsitters with better music, art, spirituality were told for many years to take a hike, and still are. (Summorum gave them someplace to go!) Priests who served them even by high-churching one Mass out of a large handful were assigned away from pastoral ministry or even sent off for psychiatric evaluation. It wasn’t enough that 7 Masses out of 8 would still be in the 1980s style. We saw it happen as recently as 2015 in my own backyard and prominently in 2019 in Michigan. “Do it to a greater purpose” is almost a taunt in light of decades of abusive suppression of the Reform of the Reform. If “take a number” and “just do this thing we’re not going to let you do” either is the attitude, no wonder they seem sullen to you. EF communities are joyful and often mission-oriented, when they don’t have to fight just to have a Mass that’s not a scandal or an embarrassment. Take a happy kid and put him in foster care and see what happens. Will you say he’s just “sullen” and “lumpy” by nature?

      1. “Please take a number” isn’t a phrase I would use in person-to-person communication. It might be, in other words, an invitation to share mutual frustrations and to work together to reform liturgy in particular communities. The basic 1970/75 Missal isn’t in need of reform. It needs serious, thoughtful, mindful, intentional implementation.

        I am sure some of your experiences with the institutional church and some of its clergy were bad. Me too. But I’ve stayed with it, sometimes for years in parishes that scratched the surface of what the Mass could accomplish. My suggestion is that we work together, not at cross purposes.

        A story to relate from the other side. We had a TLM-leaning family join the parish years ago. The dad joined liturgy committee for a short spell, and his first mission was to reverse a holdover practice from the 70s. He and his wife invited my family to their farm for a dinner one night. His daughters were surprised that my “public-school daughter” was so nice. I had to wonder what kinds of things his children were told.

        I actually like making friends with people who think differently than I. But I didn’t feel quite so positive that when the lobbied change occurred, the family dropped from the parish (except to use our facilities for their homeschool consortium one day a week) and started to worship at the TLM Mass 35 miles away.

        What was the point? Who knows? I regret the missed friendship. I couldn’t care less about the liturgical particulars.

        I think some EF people are going to need to come to the dialogue in a lot of parishes. They might get treated badly–like folk Mass advocates in the 70s, again, that one Mass out of 8. But maybe some places are ready to listen and talk. Instead of “take a number” would it be better if I said, “I feel your pain”? What term would you suggest I use?

      2. Instead of castigating so-called “hokey” or “1980s” postconciliar-rite Masses, take a look at the past. If you had lived through as many cr*ppy Tridentine Rite celebrations as I did during the 1950s and 60s, you wouldn’t be in a hurry to return to them. Many of them were slovenly, disinterested, quasi-robotic, rushed, with ghastly music, badly done — completely unfulfilling, the joyless discharge of an obligation. To hold this up as an ideal is misguided.

        Todd Flowerday’s comment that much of the problem is in the implementation (of both forms of the rite, I would add) is right on the mark.

      3. That may be a choice. As believers we are supposed to worship in one body of Christ. The SSPX thinks they are above the Magisterium. The Vatican has erred. Did Christ not tell Peter that upon this rock He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Unless you think Christ has lied there is nothing to discuss

  3. What might have been: i.e., no SP, might have not gotten things to this place.
    But too strong a revocation after all these years will not result in what might have been.

  4. I would support Paul Inwood in his remarks. I became a RC just as the ‘changes’ were beginning (January 9th 1965) and lived through the awfulness of the first generation, the metrical Masses, the folk hymns and so on, including truly dreadful Seminary liturgies.

    The casual approach to liturgy, both in theory and practice, of the old days, was simply carried on into the new era of vernacular and music. The illogical and confused mindset of, on the one hand ‘The Mass matters’ and on the other ‘It’s only ceremonies’ (as if the Mass were not liturgy!) simply replicated itself after 1965. It is only recently that things have begun to change for the better, albeit slowly! At least the current English Missal has plenty of chant and opportunities to use it. That must be a start, surely. From my own pastoral experience I can vouch for that.

    My small experience of the ‘old days’ is also of routine 20 minute Sunday Low Masses and one ‘High Mass’ in my local on the feast of the Assumption, in which neither the three priests nor the MC really had much of a clue what they were doing and the Choir monotoned a proper and sang (badly!) a rather luscious 19thc. setting of the Ordinary. In fairness, I also remember going to the Capitular Mass in Westminster Cathedral, which was a much happier experience.

    If we could persuade people to look again at the Council and after-Council liturgical norms, now would be a great time to have another push at ‘reforming the Reform.’


    1. Pope Benedict XVI expressly stated that the primary reconciliation sought by Summorum Pontificum was not reconciliation with the SSPX but reconciliation with the Church’s history. And that’s exactly why I appreciated it so much. I have no interest in the SSPX; I have great interest in the Church’s past..

      A concrete example: when I read Eamon Duffy on the Northern Rising, and on how those Catholics resisting Tudor tyranny had destroyed the Anglican prayer books and filled Durham Cathedral with the sound of Latin, I enjoyed their brief moment of earthly triumph, followed for some of them, not long after, by martyrdom.

      The following Sunday, stll thinking of my connection to those who had gone before me in the Faith, I of course went to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, to hear some of the same prayers they heard, said in the same tongue. I was grateful to be able to join my earthly prayers with their heavenly ones in such a way.

      1. I hear you, Tom. But Benedict’s “reconciliation with the past” went against the decisions of Vatican II and Paul VI such that the 1970 Missal is the church’s reconciliation with her tradition by renewing and restoring it. There is all the continuity we need, and also all the renewal and innovation that we need. Paul VI was very strong in saying that the reformed liturgy is traditional and is the authentic Catholic liturgical tradition. The Tudor tyrants had separated themselves from the Catholic authority and magisterium. But the 1970 Missal was implemented by the pope. This is a key difference.

  5. We love the Traditional Latin Mass. We were brought back through our college son who got introduced. They attended weekly, sometimes multiple weekly Masses, driving hours to attend. Our first impression of the Latin Mass was one of awe. The incense, Holy Water, reference for the Sacrament, the beautiful Latin chants brought us to tears. We were shocked and dismayed at the Pope’s decision to shut down the Latin Mass. We see packed churches with large families, our FSSP Parish tripled over lockdown. One can visibly see the dramatic impact of the Latin Mass. If the SSPX is the only place to receive the Latin Mass, then that’s probably where we’ll go. We pray every day for the preservation of the Latin Mass.

    1. STOP with all this repeating nonsense by saying that the Latin Mass has been banned!

      It hasn’t! You can do all that stuff… chant / incense / bells etc… within the reformed rite.


      1. On paper, yes. In practice, not so much. And that is the problem. That is what has led to the renewed interest in the old Mass: 50 years of suppression of a traditional form that is, on paper, allowed in the new Mass.

  6. If one applied Archbishop Roche’s standard of success for Summorum Pontificum to Vatican II, one would be forced to conclude that Vatican II ought to be rescinded. Perhaps calling another council to loosen disciplinary standards will solve the problem. When the standard of failure is again reached, we can call another council. Repeat. It’s almost like the Synod on Synodality sets up this process of constant renewal and innovation favored by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. Germany here we come!

  7. If the TLM is banned because of no success of reconciliation with the SSPX, then the SSPX was proven right. This just proves that if there was reconciliation how long until the TLM would have been destroyed after the fact. They saw a trap and they were right
    SSPX 1, Vatican 0

    1. I think you are looking at this backward. SSPX didn’t just leave because they thought TLM was going to die, they were excommunicated because Lefebvre was doing things (specifically ordinations) without any approval. The approval of the Pre-Vatican II Mass was the Vatican’s effort on coming to a compromise with SSPX but compromises can only happen when both sides reach a middle ground, which didn’t happen. And with Traditionis Custodes, the Vatican realized that trying to compromise ended up doing more harm than good.

    2. Unam Sanctam Catholicam meaning One Holy Catholic Church. Unfortunately the church is divided because one unauthorized group the SSPX is above the Magisterium. Worst of all there exist sedevacantist which is schism in disguise and ultimately heresy. Now you know understand why TLM is banned because it is causing dissension. The TLM requires revision for there are elements which are unbiblical and they are probably not the practices of early Christians either as evident in no singing during the worship only by Choir members. It Is alright to have the Mass in Latin but does everyone know Latin. If so, no translation should be needed. There are major groups within the Catholic Church example Coptic, Greek, Russian, Ethiopian orthodox and etc. These churches liturgies are not in Latin. When it comes to Liturgy the language is not always in Latin. Liturgy may change overtime. Liturgy is not dogma. What is happening in SSPX movement is no better than what Martin Luther did. Marcel Lefevbre took a vow obedience to his superior unfortunately he did not keep it which is not good. Christ became obedient until death to honor the will of the Father. Christ and Mary exhibited humility by act of obedience which is a virtue. Mary said be it done to me according to His Word in Gospel of Luke.

      1. Do not reduce those attached to the old Mass to the SSPX movement. The FSSP was formed precisely because they did not want to follow the SSPX into schism. There are many other ordinary Catholics in the pews who do not share the SSPX’s extreme views but are still attached to the old Mass. Summorum Pontificum was intended to address these faithful Catholics along with seeking a reconciliation with the SSPX.

  8. This is an interesting thread with some very thoughtful comments mixed with the normal vitriol against the SSPX that is part (but only part) of the whole of Pope Benedict’s insights into the “spirit of the liturgy.” His comments to the Bishops of Chile in July of 1988 was a preamble to Summorum Pontificum and his reflections there on the theology of ecumenism in regards to the liturgical reform as well as his observations on the attraction of young people from every imaginable political and cultural background to the ancient and venerable rite remains relevant to the conversation to this very day. I am afraid Traditionis Custodies has only highlighted his questions but exasperated our failed answers.

  9. Once again, this quote from Fr Pierre Jounel (the entire interview can be found in Voices from the Council from OCP), a prominent teacher and expert who served on the Consilium:

    What would you say to those people who don’t want to know the Missal of Paul VI, and to those who, while respecting it, regret that it was imposed to the exclusion of the Tridentine Missal?

    “I would say to them that they use computers, that they live with the instruments of the culture of their time, and that they have no reason to get stuck on the 1570 date when the Missal of Pius V was promulgated. Why should the liturgy be frozen then, when it had been periodically renewed up to that date? These people lack historical knowledge. Msgr Lefebvre was absolutely convinced that the ancient formula for Confirmation goes back to the time of the apostles, when in fact it only dates back to the 13th century.”

    Jounel then goes on to demonstrate how Paul VI followed exactly the same procedure with his Missal as Pius V had with the Missal and Breviary in 1570, Clement VIII in 1595 with the Roman Pontifical, Pius X with the psalter of the Breviary in 1911, and Pius XII with the Holy Week rites in 1955. In all these cases, the previous usage was abrogated and replaced by the new. This is the Church’s constant practice.

      1. The bold portion of Jounel’s quote is simply poor logic and should be disregarded as silly. The whole narrative that people interested in the old Mass are simply resistant to change and progress misses the whole point. One can think indoor plumbing and computers make life better while thinking versus populum and removing the saints from the Confiteor do not. I wonder what he thinks of people who listen to the oldies station or attend Mozart concerts.

      2. I agree with Jack on that specific point: that bold-faced paragraph may be a lapidary example of how to alienate and fail to persuade people while making one self feel in full possession of The Truth. If promoters of the reformed liturgy deploy that kind of rhetoric, it may be better understood as a sign of failure and exasperation on their part.

      3. It may be worth clarifying that this is a tiny part of a lengthy interview given in 1994 and published in 1995. (Jounel died in 2004.)

        Père Jounel was a liturgical scholar who taught in Paris for many years. He was a member of the Consilium and contributed to a number of the working groups of that body. In particular, he worked on the antiphons of the Roman Missal, the Roman Calendar, the Rite of Confirmation, the Lectionary, the Rite of Penance (he was responsible for the formula for absolution that we currently use) and the rites for the exsequies of a pope.

        One might therefore think that his views would be of some interest. Characterizing them as silly is not a helpful contribution to the debate. I suggest reading the entire interview, available here: It contains much that is still relevant today.

      4. To be fair, I did not characterize all his views as silly, nor did I dismiss his credentials. I specifically addressed only that which was quoted in bold. Also, I did more than characterize the view of that one paragraph as silly, but put forth a valid criticism that you did not address. I will gladly read the entire interview when I have time.

  10. I have been attending the Latin Mass weekly or more since I got my driver’s license. I am in my early 40’s now. I have seen the “Latin people” survive the indult. I have lived through the renaissance under SP and will live the aftermath of TC. The progressive clique (incuding Pope Francis, and, God forbid, Pope Francis II) might force us to have clandestine Masses on car tailgates, on the hoods of Jeeps, on side tables. We will never disappear even under the harshest penalties.

    Let an example from the history of the Easterners guide the present discussion. From 1652, the then Patriarch Nikon subjected the Russians to a series of drastic changes to the prevailing rites of the Russian Orthodox Church. In general, the Russian recensions of the Divine Liturgy deviated markedly from Greek recensions. Nikon forced the Russian clergy and lay faithful to subscribe to Hellenized liturgies despite the grave reservations of many. The dissenters coalesced into the Old Believers. Some of the disputes appear rather trivial, such as the formation of the hand while making the sign of the cross. Nevertheless not even imprisonment kept the Old Believers from relinquishing their beliefs. Sadly, some of the Old Believers lost the Divine Liturgy. Indeed some Russians substituted Divine Liturgy with strange rites not in keeping with sacramental Christianity. However some managed to stay faithful to the older liturgies even to the present day.

    Will it take the Roman Church about 350 years to reconcile with its Old Believers? Or will the self-appointed experts of liturgy continue to drag the Roman Old Believers through the rhetorical mud hoping for a surrender? Rather, wouldn’t it be better for progressives to simply accomodate a movement which has enriched the lives of so many believers and has also brought non-practicing Catholics back to the Church? We Old Believers have no time to wait for the progressivist answer.

    1. But Patriarch Nikon did not have, to back him up, an ecumenical council. Big difference. It was the Second Vatican Council that did away with the 1962 rite of Mass.
      The comparison to the Old Believers really doesn’t work. There is a theological coherence to the Vatican II reforms that makes it about much more than external changes to the rites. The Old Believers were holding to trivialities – the spelling of Jesus, five loaves (prosphora) rather than seven, processions clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, a mistaken word (*true* Lord and giver of life) in the Creed, and the like. I can’t imagine that any serious Catholic would cite the Old Believers as a model.

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