Thoughts on Summorum Pontificum

From my perspective, the reactions and responses of the Catholic hierarchy to Summorum Pontificum have been anything but predictable. I honestly did not expect to see so many bishops making a good-faith effort to come to terms with this. Considering that SP has the potential to shake their world to the very core, I surmise that many of these prelates had to muster a large helping of humility and courage – more than most of us, unfortunately, will readily appreciate. Bishops who have invested their whole lives in upholding a particular worldview do not usually re-examine things just because the pope in Rome issues another document. Why should SP be any different? It wouldn’t be any different if the Holy Ghost were not hard at work in the midst of this.

Another surprise has been the response of the secular media. There have been all the usual errors and misunderstandings, and a fair amount of hostility, but the amount of generally positive coverage was totally unexpected. Also encouraging are the “fair and balanced” stories which, under the guise of a false objectivity which requires giving the modernist point of view exaggerated importance, nevertheless genuinely strive to understand what motivates people who are attached to Catholic tradition. There are many, many people who are capable of reading between the lines and finding the jewels in stories like these.

Just as the immediate responses to SP were unpredictable, the long-term results for the Church are equally unpredictable. Much depends upon the will of the Ecclesia Dei Commission to enforce the precepts of this document. The EDC is going to need some teeth, and Rome will need to find a new willingness to discipline intransigent bishops. Much also depends upon the movement of priests and laity toward tradition, and the attachment of Novus Ordoians to a liturgy that isn’t radically incongruent with the rest of their lives.

Success will depend upon the ability of traditionalists to make their case with patience and charity. It will be necessary to preserve a traditional atmosphere in new situations while, at the same time, making all Catholics feel welcome. This is not easy to accomplish. Some will be tempted to compromise by giving way to chatter and socializing in church, “dressing down” to fit in with the natives, forsaking their chapel veils, and otherwise displaying their “regular Joe” credentials so as not to appear holier-than-thou. Others might be tempted to defend the purity of the traditional liturgy by behaving rudely and uncharitably toward those who haven’t yet assimilated all the finer points of traditional Catholic culture. I hope we can avoid these errors. Let’s not only be zealous for our beautiful Catholic tradition, but also gracious and tolerant towards those who, though curious, find the ancient rite puzzling and even foreign to their thinking. In this way new friendships can develop and the restoration will advance one soul at a time.

As to the future, permit me to outline what I think are the most likely possibilities:

1. Nothing much changes. This seems to be a very common prediction among the bishops who have publicly responded to SP. Despite the Holy Father’s clearly expressed desire that the Extraordinary Form influence the Ordinary Form for the better, many bishops have been eager to assure their parishes that the liturgy is not going to change. There may be a few disaffected malcontents here and there, and accomodations will be made for them, but for most people the liturgical renewal will continue apace, ever reaching for the heights “full and active participation”.

If the EDC proves to be weak and ineffective, this scenario seems most likely.

2. Reform of the reform. Pope Benedict XVI apparently hopes that a wider use of the traditional liturgy will lead to a reform of the Novus Ordo along traditional lines. Put another way, the two forms of the liturgy will eventually coalesce into a single form that represents what the Second Vatican Council really intended. The same line of thought holds that the culture of the Novus Ordo, now so permissive, will be restrained by the culture of the traditional liturgy, just as the rigidity of the latter will be softened by the influence of the former. This may be the “internal reconciliation” the Holy Father has in mind.

If the demand for the traditional Mass increases markedly – and if the EDC is strong, swift and effective – the traditional liturgy will be widely introduced to Novus Ordo parishes and a “reform of the reform” is a real possibility.

3. Increasing division. When it comes to the traditional Latin Mass, neutrality seems to be impossible without shutting down vital parts of the brain. It could be that the expansion of traditional liturgy and culture will be seen as more of a threat, positions will harden, and increasing numbers of Catholics will be forced to choose their side. Bishops will opt for creating personal parishes rather than tolerating a traditionalist invasion of Novus Ordo communities. The Novus Ordo will get worse in many places, since the traddies now have what they asked for and they can leave everyone else alone. Conservatives who had hoped for a reform of the reform will find the traditional liturgy to be their only practical option. The invisible schism will become increasingly visible and Rome will finally have to act.

A growing demand for the traditional Mass, combined with a slow but moderately effective EDC, makes this outcome the most probable in my opinion.

St. Stephen Academy

The Catholic Church of Saint Stephen the First Martyr in Sacramento – California’s premier traditional parish – is taking a bold step of faith. The parish is launching a college preparatory school for grades 7 through 12, with classes beginning September 10, 2007. Please take some time to read about St. Stephen Academy here.

The Academy is depending upon the deep generosity of both friends and strangers. This is especially true for the start-up phase, which is quite expensive here in California. Thus far the Academy has raised only 50% of its $260,000 budget. As an unworthy spiritual son of St. Stephen’s, I am asking my readers to consider supporting this vitally important endeavor. The traditional formation and education provided by St. Stephen Academy will be an incalculable blessing to scores of California Catholics – possibly thousands in the years to come.

Contributing to St. Stephen Academy is easy. Checks can be sent directly to the school at this address:

St. Stephen Academy
5461 44th Street
Sacramento, CA 95820

The Academy website also provides for donation cards and PayPal contributions. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!

Note to self:

 “… let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how [his neighbor] means it; and if [his neighbor] means it badly, let him correct [his neighbor] with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring [his neighbor] to mean it well, and save himself. (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, ‘Presupposition’)”

Courtesy of LumenGentleman.

Dr. John Norris on the TLM

Professor Norris is the character on the left

Those of you who think of the University of Dallas as orthodox might want to read this enlightening column by Dr. John Morris, Associate Professor of Theology at that institution, published at Texas Catholic Online. Some excerpts with my comments:

“Pastorally, my concern is that the liturgical and ecclesial goals of the Second Vatican Council still be emphasized in the use of the older rite … Having the liturgy celebrated in a language that is not understood by the congregation, as if it were some type of divine unintelligible revelation, seems to me contrary to the very nature of the liturgy and should not be encouraged. In certain circumstances, when one is traveling to foreign regions, individuals may certainly participate in the celebration of the Mass even when they do not understand the language.

However, to create a community nowadays that celebrates the liturgy in a language that they do not understand would be out of sync with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Therefore, it would seem prudent to allow a reoccurring celebration of the Tridentine rite liturgy only alongside of clear educational programs in ecclesial and liturgical Latin.

I’ve never been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but unless I’m misreading him, he seems to be saying that anyone who attends the TLM should be required to take Latin classes. Or am I missing something?

“Finally, one important reaction to the new regulations has been the concern of the Jewish community and those involved with Jewish-Christian ecumenism that the old rite contains statements about the Jews which are insulting if not outrageously anti-Semitic …

For example, in the prayers of the faithful, one reads: ‘For the conversion of the Jews. Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.’

Our current Novus Ordo liturgy emphasizes in the light of the Second Vatican Council the everlasting covenant God has with his people Israel, who are considered by the church to belong to the people of God to this day. We no longer consider them a people blind and in darkness. ‘Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.’ (I am indebted to Father Thomas Reese for these quotations.)

There is no call for their conversion to the church in order to receive God’s salvation, but for them to grow in fidelity to the covenant with they God they already share. Here we see one of the definite disadvantages of the Tridentine rite, that it reflects certain theological trends that are no longer sponsored by the magisterium, but which have been rightly consigned to the dust-bin of the church’s less-than-inspired history.

Again, prudential use of the Tridentine rite should only be encouraged within a catechesis which is fully in accord with the current magisterial teaching of the church and not sponsored by an incomplete and outdated ecclesiology.”

Well, draw your own conclusions. If God only asks that the Jews “grow in fidelity to the covenant with God they already share”, then Christ’s sacrifice was for naught and the Apostles were wasting their time. Too bad they didn’t have our enlightened understanding back then: it would have saved them a lot of trouble. Shame on the University of Dallas and Texas Catholic Online.

Homestead report

I picked our first cantaloupe of the season on Saturday. I think it was the sweetest cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted: cool and delicious! But the crop isn’t as vigorous this year and the pest infestation is worse. It probably has something to do with my failure to rotate.

We’ve had a few peaches and nectarines mature in the last few days. The fruit is good but the crop is suffering from borer worms. I need to hit the dormant spray this winter.

Milk is overflowing and we are constantly giving away the surplus. We have two goats in production, and it looks like we may have four in September since two of our new does appear to be pregnant. LeXuan just ordered a cheesemaking kit, so we’ll be ready.

Last month we artificially bred our three Dexter mamas. The breeder says his method has an 80% success rate. We have one steer that is just about ready for the freezer.

We’ve been letting the hens roam quite a bit lately since it is easier for them to cool down outside when the temperatures are hot. They usually find a nice cool spot with a breeze or hunker down in the mud around a leaky faucet. Unfortunately we lost one of our hens last month and are now down to 12. Don’t know what happened to her. Egg production is still high and we are slowly gaining customers.

We’ve got lots of okra. My wife doesn’t know what to do with it.

And, as usual, we’ve got tomatoes and zucchini piling up everywhere. We’ve had zucchini bread for breakfast every morning for the last three weeks. LeXuan has made tons of salsa from our tomatoes. We had a good crop of peas and beans this season, but the vines are now withering. Our watermelon crop is about a month away.

Dinner tonight included zucchini and goat cheese (zucchini casserole), wild blackberries from the pasture (blackberry pie), and fresh goat milk.


TLM returning to San Luis Obispo County

More California renaissance news. According to this story at, the TLM will be returning to San Luis Obispo County in September. The Diocese of Monterey, now headed by Bishop Richard Garcia, is taking the initiative here. I can tell you that Bishop Garcia was actively working to bring the TLM to his diocese even before the Motu Proprio was issued. I suspect this is a result of his exposure to the good fruits at St. Stephen the First Martyr in the Diocese of Sacramento, where he served under Bishop William Weigand as auxiliary bishop.

Courtesy of John Grasmeier.

Revival in California?

With over 10 million Catholics living in the state, California has the largest Catholic population in the union. What is more, the Catholic population in California is rapidly growing at a rate of 13% annually.

According to this directory, California has 19 authorized locations for the Latin Mass – second only to New York, which has 20. However, if we include unauthorized Latin Masses, California tops the list at 50 locations while New York has only 38. With the arrival of the Motu Proprio liberating the traditional Latin Mass, I think we may reasonably conclude that California is poised for a Catholic renaissance. The prayers of Blessed Junipero Serra are about to be answered.

We can draw a parallel with France, I think. A friend of mine once told me that when he visited France, the French were very cold to him – until they discovered he was a Californian. It isn’t just the wine and cheese. Like France, California has a rich Catholic heritage. Also like France, California has been in the process of rejecting that heritage and has become a leader in decadence and secularization.

Just as Flannery O’Connor could say that the American South was “Christ-haunted”, there is a sense in which California is haunted by the Catholic Faith. Millions of Californians live in the shadows of the great missions, in cities with Catholic names and identities – in places where saints have trod and the Gospel has been preached and souls have been converted – but most are barely cognizant of this precious heritage.

France, being the most “advanced” secular state in Europe, is also home to the most vibrant and fastest growing movements of Catholic orthodoxy. The same may be true for California in the context of the United States. Ahead of the curve is ahead of the curve, whether in matters of decay or restoration.

Summorum Pontificum Contact Database

The generous host of LumenGentleman has launched a contact database for all Catholics interested in having the TLM – now the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite – celebrated at their local parish. This could be a very effective means of organizing the “stable group of faithful” that is required before exercising your rights under the Motu Proprio. Even if you are already attending an indult Mass, placing your name in this database will help bring the traditional rite to those who would not otherwise have the exposure or the ability to drive to an existing TLM location. Please go here and sign up!

The Triduum and the Jews

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus recently chastised Abe Foxman for misreading Summorum Pontificum with respect to the Good Friday prayers for the conversion of the Jews in the 1962 Missal:

“The 1962 Missal does not say what Mr. Foxman says it says. And, if he had read Benedict’s apostolic letter before attacking it, he would know that it explicitly says that the Missal of 1970 will be used exclusively in the Triduum of Holy Week, which of course includes Good Friday.”

Unfortunately it is Fr. Neuhaus who appears not to have read Benedict’s apostolic letter before defending it. Mr. Foxman is actually correct: the document does not say that “the Missal of 1970 will be used exclusively in the Triduum of Holy Week”.

Bishop William E. Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut repeats the error here:

“Concerns were also voiced in the media about the effect the Motu Proprio might have on Roman Catholic-Jewish relations. Prior to the Missal of 1962, the Good Friday Liturgy contained prayers which, lamentably, were indeed anti-Semitic. ‘Are we returning to such forms?’ it was asked.

As just indicated, such references were already removed in the Missal of 1962; furthermore the older usage cannot be used at all during the Triduum, that is, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday”

Bishop Lori’s letter is otherwise very encouraging, but it is disappointing to see prominent churchmen make public statements about a fairly simple document without comprehending its contents. Here’s what Summorum Pontificum actually says:

“Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum …

“Art. 3. Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or ‘community’ celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues.”

“Art. 10. The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.”

The only restrictions on the 1962 Triduum pertain to “masses celebrated without the people”. It is worth noting that there are no masses on Good Friday in either missal. Neither is this some kind of censure for the 1962 rite alone: the same restriction pertains to masses celebrated without the people according to the 1970 missal. All private masses cease during the Triduum.

Article 3 permits religious orders to adopt the 1962 missal for their own use. Many such religious orders are already established. There is no mention of a new rule imposing the 1970 missal on these orders during the Triduum.

Article 10 allows for the establishment of personal parishes using the 1962 books, and indeed, we find that these too have existed for years. I belong to one such parish, and the Good Friday prayers are never omitted. There is nothing in this Motu Proprio requiring these prayers to be replaced with those of the 1970 missal.

In short, the Triduum restriction in this Motu Proprio pertains exclusively to private masses celebrated where the 1962 missal is not established for public use. In such places, all private Masses cease, and the public liturgy is offered according to the Ordinary Form.

I’ve been very encouraged by some of the bishops’ responses to the Holy Father’s initiative. But it would be even more encouraging to find a bishop who, instead of side-stepping the issue, would actually defend the holy prayers in the 1962 missal for the conversion of the Jews. It is simply right that the Church pray for the conversion of the Jews along with everyone else. Indeed it is scandalous that the prayers of the Pauline Missal are now widely interpreted to mean that the Church does not desire their conversion!

Bishop Trautman on Summorum Pontificum

Bishop Donald W. Trautman of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania has responded tartly to the Motu Proprio with the following:

“Pope Benedict, sensitive to those still clinging to the Tridentine Latin Mass … now grants a more generous application of that former liturgy.”

Oh, this is precious. I love the “still clinging” image: still clinging after 7 years in my case! And “former liturgy”? Well, the whole point of the Motu Proprio is to emphasize that the TLM isn’t “former” any longer.

“Priests who might want to celebrate the Tridentine Mass will be given a rubrical and Latin exam to comply with the Pope’s own statement, ‘The use of the old missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language.’

I think we all know what to expect from the likes of Bishop Trautman in this regard. There is little doubt that he plans to make this “rubrical and Latin exam” (not a bad idea itself) intimidating enough to prevent any of his priests from celebrating the TLM. Let’s hope the Ecclesia Dei Commission deals swiftly and justly with roadblocks like this.