Two Forms of ONE Roman / Latin Rite (Pope Benedict XVI)

Two Forms of ONE Roman / Latin Rite (Pope Benedict XVI) November 4, 2015

BenedictXVI6

Pope Benedict XVI: 7 June 2006 [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]

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This exchange occurred on my Facebook page today, in discussion under my post about Michael Voris’ criticisms of the Novus Ordo Mass. Words of Michael Bradley will be in blue; words of James Layne in green.

Abbreviations:

OF = ordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass, or New Mass, or Novus Ordo Mass, or Mass of Pope Paul VI

EF = extraordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass, or Tridentine Mass

NO = Novus Ordo Mass

TLM = Traditional Latin Mass (e.g., Tridentine Mass)

SP = Summorum Pontificum: Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter of 2007, calling for wide availability of the Tridentine Mass

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I personally have the gravest of doubts regarding the propriety of the liturgical reforms which followed the Second Vatican Council; while not doubting that the revised rites are valid, I consider that, on the whole, they are a blight on the life of the Church. The imposition of the Novus Ordo was, I believe, a terrible act of violence by Pope Paul VI against his own Church, but I have little cause to think he acted with malice per se.

I have no connection to the SSPX, was raised in a par for the course Novus Ordo parish, and participate regularly in the life of a church which is in communion with the local bishop named by Pope Benedict XVI. That is to say, I’m an “average Catholic” in terms of my background and experience, and I firmly hold the views outlined above. I study the Catholic Faith and am well aware of what St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI wrote, even in official documents, regarding the liturgical reforms — I don’t share their optimism on those points.

I used to not speak of my views openly, worrying a bit what others might think, but owing to events in recent years (re: the Church at large), I decided to start saying aloud what I’ve thought for a long time now. I realize it causes and will cause some fellow Catholics to keep me at arms’ length, but so be it. If I believe it’s the truth, even so far as to affect my whole life (diocesan seminary was/is an impossibility for me, because my views make me unacceptable and I would not be ordained in nor celebrate the N.O.), then I should not be afraid to state it publicly. I can only hope that by sharing my views, other “average Catholics” who believe the same will start to realize they are not alone, nor are they strange or wrong to have reached these conclusions.

Peace of Christ be with you, Dave, and may Our good Lord bless you in all your efforts to explain and defend the Catholic Faith, which have helped me personally over the years, to be sure.

The Church’s abandonment of her own liturgy was one of the greatest scandals I faced as a new Catholic.

So all you guys who trash the Novus Ordo [the long comment above received seven “likes” and several “rah-rah” agreement comments] are perfectly content to dissent from what Pope Benedict XVI expressly said about it? The Pauline Mass is perfectly in accord with Catholic liturgical tradition.

I honestly don’t wish to trash anyone or anything, I’m just giving my most honest views on the matter, which have taken shape over the 39 years of my life, during most of which I attended only the Pauline Mass, and I have never been nor am part of a church which is not in communion with the local ordinary and the pope. I don’t intend to repeat them (my views) over and over as comments on your posts (or on your blog), but I wanted to share them simply to indicate that it’s possible for normal, fairly well educated (in the Faith) Catholics to hold such views. I would also note that for several years in a row, as an adult man, I weekly (and sometimes more frequently) served (i.e. as an adult altar server) a Pauline Mass at a glorious cathedral where it was celebrated with great reverence. That experience actually further solidified my views, and I had to stop serving there because it was tearing me up inside. I’ve now given up on the Pauline Mass, and have no plans to attend it, except for funerals and weddings, that kind of thing, and if I don’t have another option. Thankfully, in the city where I live, we have a church where a religious order in good standing with the local bishop celebrates exclusively according to the Usus Antiquior (all the sacraments).

You may be uncomfortable about dissenting from Pope Benedict’s decree in 2007 but you certainly are doing that insofar as you talk in this way about the Novus Ordo Mass.

So all you guys who think like this make a big deal about a so-called rupture wit
h liturgical tradition, yet you think little of making a huge personal rupture with the tradition of accepting the Mind of the Church, expressed by the pope in the ordinary magisterium.

This is highly ironic, considering that Benedict was the “darling” of traditionalists.

Yes, I acknowledge that I disagree with Pope Benedict XVI on the positive assessment he gave, in places, of the liturgical reforms begun under Pope Paul VI.

I have written elsewhere about the motu proprio. What is more astonishing than believing the new liturgy is a rupture with the past is the thought that Benedict XVI’s motu proprio is a rupture with his own past (which is highly critical of the new rite). One may certainly be critical of the Novus Ordo and still accept every word of Summorum Pontificum, as well as every word BXVI said as Cardinal. Benedict himself did so.

Benedict was a scholarly pope. One must read him with great care and precision. I think he is quite consistent.

It’s perhaps neither here nor there, but I wanted to say as well that I do not follow Michael Voris, never have. At most, I’ve seen short clips of his videos, but have never watched them in full – I don’t care for his style, at all. Nor do I read The Remnant, The Wanderer, etc., though I’m aware such publications exist. Everything I’ve concluded has simply been based on my personal observations, reflection, and thinking about Church history (recent, long past) and current events, together with the experiences I’ve had at the Pauline Mass and TLM, the former celebrated in a wide variety of contexts and degrees of faithfulness.

Why does it not give you pause to, in effect, claim that you know better than a pope on an important liturgical matter such as this? You can be critical of excesses and abuses (which are legion), but you can’t say things like the following and claim to be consistent with BXVI and the Mind of the Church:

“they are a blight on the life of the Church. The imposition of the Novus Ordo was, I believe, a terrible act of violence by Pope Paul VI against his own Church”

“I’ve now given up on the Pauline Mass”

I’ve written about this particular issue, too [one / two / three]. Pope Benedict XVI was perfectly consistent on the issue.

It has given me pause, and it has cost me “everything”. The greatest desire of my heart was to be a priest, and I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, and talked the matter over many times. To leave my city is not an option for me (which is a different matter), e.g. to join a religious order like the ICKSP; and so because of my views, which have not been arrived at without care, I have no options, since my outlook is considered “unacceptable” by the mainstream. That’s something I have to live with, every day… and still, I am certain.

Luther and Calvin were also “certain” when they dissented against the Church. This is the problem. When a person puts their private judgment above the magisterium and Mind of the Church, they are thinking like a Protestant or a liberal dissenter.

I’ve
 made this observation for many years. It’s nothing personal. It’s a dire warning to you and those who think in like fashion: PLEASE reconsider what this means.

Holy Mother Church is here for us precisely so we don’t have to agonize about truth in theological and spiritual matters.

To do so is to dissent against Summorum Pontificum, which is ordinary magisterium.

What we are permitted to do is to participate in discussions about the “reform of the reform” and to condemn excesses and abuses (which I do, right along with you). 
It’s when you go from that to attacking the very essence of the Novus Ordo, as “bad” and so forth, that the line is crossed.

It’s always been the game of severe critics of the Novus Ordo to grant that it is valid, but proceed to tear it to pieces as far as possible without denying validity. That is not the Mind of the Church or the spirit of unity that ought to prevail in it. It is assuming a position of superiority to what the popes have plainly taught. It’s the dissenting spirit of Luther and Hans Küng.

I’m not in agony, it is what it is, I have accepted it, I do accept it – as the reality of a difficult period in the life of the Church in the modern world. My views on the matter solidified in 2007, at the time of publication of Summorum Pontificum. That’s 8+ years, and I’ve stayed in Peter’s barque, have no plans to do otherwise. But please pray for me, a sinner, as I certainly need all the help I can get!

On a positive note, what helps me through all this is sticking close to Our Lord as He gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist, keeping up strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, and trying to make good frequent confessions. Kyrie eleison!

Dave, I’m confused as to your position. Are you saying that Catholics cannot legitimately believe that the new liturgy was a prudential mistake that has damaged the Church? Prudential questions are particular questions of judgment, not matters of faith. Saying that doesn’t even implicate Summorum Pontificum, which merely said that the new rite does not contradict the lex credendi. Few traditionalists I know believe the new rite teaches anything positively heretical. That’s a very extreme view not even held by the SSPX to my knowledge.

I can’t agree with that. The magisterium is not protected against all prudential mistakes.  I also refuse to say that while Cardinal, Benedict was not speaking with the heart and mind of the Church. I agree with his criticisms of the new rite.

It’s not just “prudence”. You are flat-out denying what the pope wrote. In SP he stated (my caps):


In more recent times, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that the respect and reverence due to divine worship should be RENEWED and adapted to the n
eeds of our time. In response to this desire, our predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church REVISED and in part RENEWED liturgical books; translated into various languages throughout the world, these were willingly received by the bishops as well as by priests and the lay faithful. Pope John Paul II approved the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. In this way the Popes sought to ensure that “this liturgical edifice, so to speak … REAPPEARS in new splendour in its dignity and harmony.


The criticisms being made of the Novus Ordo above are completely inconsistent with this. Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Bishops in 2007, about SP made it clear that the two forms were equally valid and edifying:


[T]he Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.

. . . in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church. [i.e., ABUSES, not the thing itself]

. . . the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite . . .

. . . There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.


The pope’s thought is “both/and” or what I have often called, “worship and let worship.” If you prefer the TLM / EF, by all means go worship that way, but don’t run down the other form of the same rite. Don’t play the “divide and conquer” game that the devil loves. Just go worship as you see fit (I’ve always favored this freedom since I converted in 1990) and don’t run down the thing you prefer less.

Pope Benedict as a Cardinal criticized abuses of the Novus Ordo, not the thing itself. Fr. Angelo Geiger (who celebrates TLM) explains this at the end of this post of mine, including the misuse of the oft-heard “banal” quote.

Two points:

It is a more involved discussion, but I don’t believe that the mandate given by the Second Vatican Council, to renew/reform the liturgy, was properly carried out by the Consilium appointed by Pope Paul VI. Moreover, I believe there are dee
p, deep flaws (in the realm of prudence) within Sacrosanctum Concilium, which catalyzed the woeful result but weren’t too apparent at the time to those who voted in its favor (nearly all the bishops).

I can’t hold to a “worship and let worship” mentality. I think a grassroots movement needs to take shape – “just say no to the Novus Ordo”. But it needs to be carried out with tact and charity, rather than the foaming at the mouth kinds of rants for which rad trads have become infamous. It’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to, something that I believe will resonate with a lot of young people and young families; and if it snowballs, by God’s grace, then I think it will have a powerful effect.

Dave, please slow down. In my opinion and with great respect, I don’t think you’re exercising your usual care here. You are making serious accusations. 

I can’t respond to every word now because I’m at work. It’s simply incorrect to say what you’re sa
ying. A criticism of the Novus Ordo which said it positively violated the faith or was heretical would contradict more than just Summorum Pontificum. But I am in NO WAY obligated to say that the mission of Vatican II to revise and renew the liturgical books was carried out well. Even Benedict when he wrote the Motu Proprio says that the goal was to renew, but that thr liturgy was REVISED and RENEWED IN PART. Indeed, in part. The degree to which it was renewed is a matter of debate. To somehow tie this question to binding doctrine or even binding magisterial discipline is unwise. The Church has never said that Catholics must believe there has been no harm from the new liturgy. When Ratzinger called the new liturgy the product of a commission rather than organically developed, he was right, and he is also right that such a way of imposing liturgy is new and harmful to the Church. Such criticism is a criticism of the RITUS ITSELF, and NOT an abuse of it. It can also be harmful in this manner without contradicting the lex credendi. 

There is MUCH more to say, but for now I urge you to exercise your usual caution rather than accusing people of contradicting Summorum Pontificum when they aren’t doing so.

I’m perfectly cautious. I have thought and written about this issue for 25 years, going back to my conversion and studies with Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.

You’re dead wrong about this, and about Pope Benedict XVI’s opinions. It’s typical of those who advo
cate this general position to quote him out of context as a Cardinal and dismiss what he wrote magisterially as pope (as both Jeff Mirus and Fr. Angelo Geiger have observed, in citations that are in my papers).

Again, it’s not just “prudence”! You can pretend and play that game, but the magisterial language goes far beyond that. Just saying that the two are two forms of the one rite makes it impossible to take a fundamentally negative view of one or the other.

Many modernists and orthodox NO attendees run down the TLM, while many traditionalists and radical Catholic reactionaries run down the NO / OF. Both are wrong.

So Dave, you are saying that you understand the intent of my criticism better than I do? Get real. The precise criticism I have is that Vatican II did not call for a new form of the Roman mass. Its imposition by papal decree was unwise, and yes, in some respects harmful. The 65 Missal satisfied the call of Vatican II. That they are two forms of the same rite (one being based loosely on the old) does not put the latter above criticism. Amazing. You go well beyond Rome and Benedict.

I’m saying your criticism (of essence; not merely abuse) is misguided and erroneous. I have said nothing about intent. I am quite “real” thank you.

You are being imprecise. A statement about effect is a relative statement, not necessarily a statement about essence. Also, there is more than one essence to the Mass. There is the Mass as a sacrifice…which has its own form (essence) and there is the form of the liturgy surrounding it qua liturgy (another essence), and then there is the essence of the Roman Rite itself. Which one do you think I’m being critical of? Further, a thing may be harmful because of its essence or because of the essence or accidents of the thing it harms (e.g. A knife will harm flesh but not steel.) again, I hate to say it, but you’re being very sloppy. You haven’t made these distinctions, and you haven’t carefully listen to my criticism before judging me as disobedient. I say this with respect, because I do respect you. But you are in this case wrong.

My criticism of the new form of the Mass has nothing to do with its essence. It has to do with the essence and accidents of the Roman Rite and the conditioning of those who had known it for two millennia in much the same form. Even if you say it has the same essence, they doesn’t mean one isn’t superior in accidents and it doesn’t mean it can’t be harmful (since that’s a relative statement). Two chairs may have the same essence…one being a plastic office chair and the other being a throne. Accidents are important!

Or we could say that even if some non-essential “accidental” aspects of one are better than the other in our opinion, that it is highly imprudential and divisive to talk about it in public.

If you wanna talk “imprudence” that bounces right back to you
, too. You have the freedom to worship as you please; why can’t you just do that and be happy and fulfilled, without bashing the other form of the same rite that you personally like less? Promote your thing; make it positive, not divisive and “more Catholic than the pope” (since you dissent from what Pope Benedict decreed).

I’m not gonna go round and round on this forever. The discussion just gets more and more “legalistic” and nothing is accomplished (it’s always the same on this topic). I am making a “forest” argument, not one about the DNA of the bark of the trees.

You and Michael have made your case (at least articulately), and it’ll be observed by many more people when I make this into a dialogue.

Normally I wouldn’t even allow comments such as you have made on my Facebook page (as I’ve made it clear that I don’t allow Novus Ordo bashing, just as I don’t allow VCII- or pope-bashing), so don’t push your luck. Because I replied, I decided to allow them in this instance, as an exception to my rule. 

But they cause division and discord in the Body of Christ, and that’s not a good thing.

I’m aware of your policy, and will happily abide by it. When I read your post re: Voris, though, I considered that it might be appropriate to share my views and concerns, and I tried to do so in a candid but respectful manner.

Fair enough.

I’m saying that my policy of “not bashing the OF (or the EF)” might be prudentially a good one for Catholics, period, too. Such discussions, to the extent that they are helpful at all (an they usually aren’t, in my opinion), should be in private.

Othe
rwise, it’s yet another example of the unnecessary disunity that makes a mockery of our claims as the One True Church (according to the perspective of many non-Catholic observers).

And so it makes my job as an apologist that much more difficult because I now have to explain to my Protestant friends how and why Catholics are bickering and dividing over this issue (i.e., hardly different than them, with all their denominations), when it need not be so at all.

We fight publicly and pathetically about the pope and also the Mass. I oppose both things (to fight and bicker about) and always have.

In all things, charity, most certainly, and prudence is an important consideration as well – there are certainly right and wrong contexts in which to broach certain topics. But given how important this matter is to the life of Christ’s Church, it’s not one I’m willing to leave to private discussions, not anymore. But like I said above, I happily respect your policy re: your Facebook feed and blog/s.

Dave, this discussion was already well underway before I defended a brother against your charge of disobedience. How is it unifying to charge people with disobedience and even misrepresent their criticism? There is a big difference between constructive criticism and bashing. Yes, you get one narrow sliver of someone’s opinion when that’s the topic on the thread. But the purpose of the criticism is to encourage reform, not to simply complain. To accuse people have the motive of “bashing” causes disunity as well. 

The long and short of it is this: The NO is a form of the Roman Rite. There is valid disagreement on what this means. To me it means the commissions that imposed it used the ancient form as an inspiration and order for the new. For Benedict this is enough for them to share the same essence of the Roman Rite. I never contradicted that ANYWHERE. I actually think it’s true. But that leaves much, much unsaid. To pretend that Catholics shouldn’t discuss and debate these issues is dangerous, because Vatican II also says the laity should have input into these matters…not only when they agree with acts the magisterium has taken but also when they disagree. 

The NO also is a perfectly valid rite. Insofar as it has ANYTHING within it, these things are good and wholesome. Christ Himself said that a good parent when a child asks for bread will not hand them a stone. The Novus Ordo Missae cannot be a stone, that is bad in its essence, because this would make the Church a bad mother, which none of us are saying here. 

The imposition of the new rite was harmful, in my view, for reasons other than its essence as Mass. It was harmful 1) because it set a precedent for the extention of the papal power to the imposition and creation of liturgy rather than the guide to its development, which damages the chances of reunion with the East. 2) because of the conditioning of the faithful who had from time immemorial known this rite 3) because of a discontinuity of practice, not of essence. A thing can be a rupture in one respect and not another. I have heard many firsthand stories of the shock it created in the faithful 4) because the imposition of the new exceeded the mandate of Vatican II 5) because the new rite does not emphasize the sacrificial nature of the Mass as well as the old…there are more but this will do for now. 

I also have many positive things to say in those areas that were renewed…the offertory procession is a restoration and a very positive thing, for example. 

In my view Benedict freed the ancient rite not merely to have a dinosaur roaming about the churches but that the two forms together may come together and become something ORGANICALLY developed from tradition. Benedict called for this over and over. His principle criticism of the new form is this very imposition. Organic development influenced by the ancient rite solves this problem.

Far from being “bashing,” we should be POSITIVE and promote this development that Benedict has himself sought in the liturgy. We are on the same side ultimately and should not judge what others say until they have a chance to fully speak.

 “. . . until they have a chance to fully speak.”

You’ve certainly had the chance to do tons of that here, haven’t you?

I certainly had not when I was accused of disobedience. I have the right to elaborate in the face of such a charge.

 You’re disagreeing with a magisterial document (Summorum Pontificum), by your own free admission. You’re putting more stock into what Pope Benedict wrote before he was pope (and misinterpreted and taken out of context) than what he wrote magisterially as pope (which is back-asswards). 

You wrote: “When Ratzinger called the new liturgy the product of a commission rather than organically developed, he was right, and he is also right that such a way of imposing liturgy is new and harmful to the Church. Such criticism is a criticism of the RITUS ITSELF, and NOT an abuse of it.”

Now you are trying to bring that false interpretation into your view of Summorum Pontificum. It won’t fly. SP (well, more so, the accompanying letter) talks about abuses, too (not the Novus Ordo “RITUS ITSELF” — in a negative way), and is perfectly consistent with his prior thought, but in a different way than you think.

Michael is more consistent than you are, but in a tragic way, since it is affecting his ostensible call to the priesthood. You act as if Pope Benedict really had a great antipathy to the NO, even though he didn’t say that in SP and celebrates in that form.

You claim you are in agreement with Benedict, whereas Michael states outright that he disagrees with him and Pope St. John Paul II, and strongly with the NO / OF:

“I study the Catholic Faith and am well aware of what St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI wrote, even in official documents, regarding the liturgical reforms — I don’t share their optimism on those points.”

“I would not be ordained in nor celebrate the N.O.”

“I’ve now given up on the Pauline Mass, and have no plans to attend it, except for funerals and weddings, that kind of thing, and if I don’t have another option.”

“Yes, I acknowledge that I disagree with Pope Benedict XVI on the positive assessment he gave, in places, of the liturgical reforms begun under Pope Paul VI.”

You say, “I defended a brother against your charge of disobedience. How is it unifying to charge people with disobedience and even misrepresent their criticism?”

The above is disobedience. He said he would refuse to celebrate Novus Ordo Mass, if he were to be ordained, whereas Pope Benedict made it clear that it was the ordinary form of the Roman Rite and wasn’t going away at all.

And if indeed he was called to be a priest (as he suggested that he was) and spurned the call because of his antipathy to the Novus Ordo, that is disobedience to God as well as the Church.

Michael,

Are you saying that you felt called to be a priest, but you are not one (or learning to be one) merely because the Church acknowledges the essential equality of the two forms of the one Roman Mass?


Think of what that means! You are either called by God or not to be a priest. If indeed God has called you, you have now made that calling impossible because of your disagreement with Pope Benedict XVI. That would be a scenario in which you spurn a genuine call out of disagreement with the Church in which you have been called.

This is why we have the Church: to guide us. If we refuse to follow Holy Mother Church’s guidance, through her magisterium, we have terrible self-conflicts like what you are going through.

It doesn’t have to be! Listen to the German Shepherd!

I align with a school of thought which is under-represented today, that vocation does not generally anticipate state of life. It can, in certain cases – someone can have a “special vocation”, but I do not believe that is the norm (making it into the norm, effectively, has, I think, hurt our Church). Generally, vocation is received, finally, in and through the Church at the time one is ordained, is married, or professes vows. Before that, experiences and desires, paths and actions taken: these things can be said to anticipate a state of life, which bestows a vocation; and a time of preparation, formation, etc. is needed to determine whether it is fitting for all involved; not to mention the possibility of real impediments. This is a larger subject, though, and was the focus of a big debate (i.e. over theology of vocation) in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (the Holy Office even got involved), but the two world wars, booming seminaries and houses of religious formation, and large Catholic families (by today’s standards) caused the dispute to be forgotten, I think, and the majority view we have today just kind of crept into dominance… not for the better, I think.

In my case: aspiration to the priesthood has been part of who I am for a long time. I’m not going to lay out my life’s story here; but the key thing is that the views I described above, and my unwillingness to celebrate or be ordained in the N.O., along with my conviction that Our Lord asked (is asking) me to stay in the city he led me to in 2008 (Saint Louis, Missouri), have me in a position where I can’t apply to the local seminary or any local order, nor a “TLM-only order” involving studies and assignments outside of Saint Louis. I’m not willing to be deceptive about my views, and they make me an unacceptable candidate right from the start. I would not put myself in a position where I effectively told the ordaining bishop one thing, while planning to do another. I’ve thought about marriage too; but it’s really difficult because I’ve been worried that I could not make those vows and receive the vocation to married life when my heart is at the altar, with the Holy Sacrifice, and now I’m heading into middle age. For years, I hoped something might work out, but I don’t have strong hopes of that now. So…………….. I suppose I may well stay single, grow old, die one day, and in the meantime simply try my best to correspond with God’s grace, doing good works and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with my neighbors.

As you can probably tell, this is an intensely personal matter, and I suppose it could come off sounding like a “sob story”. I started it by mentioning the situation in a previous comment – really, though, I just wanted to make the point that the consequences of my views are not something I take lightly, as they have profoundly shaped the course of my life. But since you asked, I decided to spell it out, at least a bit.

Thanks for sharing your story and the difficulties you have been through. I sympathize with that on the human / emotional level, but we continue to have a strong disagreement, and I think your conflict could be resolved simply by accepting what Pope Benedict XVI taught. That would eliminate your difficulties. 

But in effect you (and other critics of like mind) believe that you know better than the pope, even on a thing so central to the faith as the Mass: to such an extent that you wouldn’t (if ordained) celebrate an NO Mass, and do your best to avoid attending one.

You freely choose to disagree with Pope Benedict, and so it appears that your life is in a difficult “limbo” and the Church has lost the chance to have a great and dedicated priest.

You believe, basically, that the Church is (almost) defectible when it comes to the Mass (which is an impossible scenario, in a consistent Catholic view).

You’re saved by this grim conclusion only by your acknowledgment of validity, but this is how criticisms of the NO almost always are made (I was observing this 17 years ago in online posts): getting right up to the edge of denial of validity (just as with criticisms of Vatican II) and going as far as one can in criticizing, without going over the edge to invalidity.

Well, when one starts playing with fire, without going over the edge, pretty soon one will go over the edge (almost despite oneself) and get burned.

Saying one views the Novus Ordo as positively harmful (as opposed to being harmful by defect or relation) would probably be disobedience and worse. To say one would refuse to say it as a priest may be disobedience depending on intent, because priests are generally not obligated to offer the new rite. (They could join a recognized order that exclusively celebrates the old.) You’re again being imprecise, Dave. I never hid the fact that I had criticisms “of the rite.” I did not anywhere, however, say it was in essence not a form of the Roman Rite.

Yes, Benedict celebrates the new Mass. Yes, he has many criticisms of it (would you actually deny this? I gave you an example of a criticism that is not simply with the accidentals of the rite itself but also of its very origin, its composition by a commission.) do you deny that Benedict had these criticisms as Cardinal? The origin of a rite is a different thing than its abuse, obviously. So this is an example of a criticism of the rite that is not related merely to its abuse. You somehow think that this criticism of the rite is incompatible with Summorum Pontificum. It IS NOT. Benedict was right as Cardinal AND as Pope. He was right when he said the rite should not have been imposed by a commission and also when he said that it nonetheless was a form of the Roman Rite. Your view that Summorum Pontificum somehow forbids criticism of the rite is downright strange and not at all warranted by the document. You then impose the charge of disobedience with those who do not agree with your over-expansive reading. 

You choose to read Benedict as suddenly changing his mind when elected to the papacy. I choose to read Benedict as consistent and as integrally one in thought. And you think I’m being disobedient for that?

 “Saying one views the Novus Ordo as positively harmful would probably be disobedience and worse.”


Yep. Michael wrote (his first comment that you and six others “liked”):


“I consider that, on the whole, they are a blight on the life of the Church. The imposition of the Novus Ordo was, I believe, a terrible act of violence by Pope Paul VI against his own Church”

And he says he wouldn’t celebrate the Novus Ordo if ordained and seeks to avoid attending it except in extreme circumstances.

I don’t see that as a helluva lot different from “positively harmful.” Imagine saying, e.g., “The imposition of Humanae Vitae was, I believe, a terrible act of violence by Pope Paul VI against his own Church”

That’s precisely what the liberal dissidents said in 1968, and believe. They don’t like HV. Y’all don’t like SP. Both magisterial; both dissented against.

I do not think Pope Benedict changed his mind. As already stated more than once, I believe he is perfectly consistent, and was criticizing abuses before he was pope (as he did after, and as I do in a few dozen posts and in my books). Fr. Angelo Geiger goes into this at length, as I noted.

Because you buy the false narrative that Cardinal Ratzinger was criticizing the Novus Ordo in essence, you bring that into your interpretation of SP. But since the premise is wrong, so is the conclusion and applied interpretation drawn from it.

If he had indeed changed his mind, the argument would still be in my favor, since statements as a lone Cardinal have no binding effect, whereas magisterial documents as pope do. So one would simply have to say that he was wrong in his prior opinions, and right when he wrote a magisterial document as pope, protected by the Holy Spirit with the gift of infallibility.

You could argue, of course, that SP was a short bare-bones “minimalist” document, without particulars that we are discussing, whereas the accompanying letter had those elements, while not being magisterial.

That would be a fair point, but the letter s
hows what was in his mind and can be seen as a document that reveals his intent in releasing SP. And it also shows, I believe, that the “radical change of opinion” view of his thoughts on the liturgy is a most implausible interpretation.

If I were a priest, I would not agree to celebrate it; but I would not put myself into a position, in the first place, which involved that possibility. There are orders in the Church where it was understood at the time they were erected that their founding and future priests would not celebrate the Pauline Mass, e.g. the ICKSP and IBP (but not the FSSP). We have the ICKSP here in Saint Louis, but their seminary is in Italy and their priests may be assigned throughout the world, so that’s not an option for me, personally, as much as I wish it were.

That’s a fair point. So you’re saying that it was not practically possible for you to attend the seminary of the orders that would allow you to celebrate the EF exclusively.

Okay. I think that is a legitimate factor, while still disagreeing strongly with your premises about the NO, as you know, and as stated. Accepting what I believe is a false premise has placed you into such a dilemma in the first place.

You could still go with FSSP, right: IF you weren’t so dead-set against the NO. You would be able to *mostly* celebrate the EF, no?

I still think it is worse for you not to be a priest because of these mistaken opinions; that it is a “lost opportunity” for you to serve as you feel called to serve.

That is a tragedy (we both agree, but for completely different reasons).

Again, I have a great deal of sympathy for you, personally, as one who has struggled to fulfill my own calling as an apologist, and have paid huge prices for it in several ways. I was only able to do this work full-time at age 43, back in 2001, and ever since have just barely been able to, financially-wise. It took me 20 years to be able to fully devote myself to what I was (so I strongly felt) called to in 1981 at age 23.

I’m offering what I feel is a way out for you.

Well, no, because the FSSP too would involve my leaving Saint Louis, but that aspect of it is a slightly different matter, for sure.

Think about what a blight does to, say, a fruit crop. Now being a natural phenomenon, it is hardly a form of violence. But the reforms imposed by Pope Paul VI can, on the whole, be seen to have acted like a blight; and looking back on that period, can the tumultuous nature of it all really be described as non-violent? A violence which originated in a will to set it in motion.

Early councils like Nicaea and Chalcedon were followed by tumultuous “violent” periods as well (the Church herself can’t be blamed for heresies like Arianism and Monophysitism). 

Vatican I was followed by the Old Catholic schism, because certain folks couldn’t accept the de fide proclamation of the Church about papal infallibility. They knew better, left, and their schism today looks a lot like liberal Anglicanism.

I’m aware of the history.

Then you should apply it analogously to today’s situation. This is how history helps us understand and accept things in the Church that are less than ideal (as it has always been at all times).

I don’t want to separate from the Church, and won’t, that’s a complete non-option. I will though be participating in a growing push to see the N.O. set aside and a proper reform carried out… in time.

Okay well here is one clarification. I’m using the term “positively harmful” in a very precise theological manner. A thing isn’t positively harmful because it has even a catastrophic effect. My understanding of theology is that one cannot say the Church does something positively harmful, but we are not required to believe the leaders of the church made a mistake that has even horrible effects. 

Positively harmful simply means harmful in itself, not in relation to something else. So for example if the pope decreed that the Creed would no longer be recited in the Mass and substituted the words “we believe that God is all powerful and we should seek Him in our lives,” this change would not be a positive harm. It would be damaging by omission. The words that replace the creed are quite true and in themselves not harmful. It’s because of what is NOT there (the creed) in the example that is harmful. 

So when he said that Paul VI damaged the Church by imposing the New Form of Mass, he is not necessarily saying anything a Catholic can’t say. In my view any problems with the new Mass are because of the relation of the new to the old, the omission of certain immemorial customs that were part of the Church’s life for centuries. Not a single word of the new form is positively harmful. But it has had many bad consequences. 

I am using the terms as I’ve seen them used in moral and sacramental theology. You are thinking of them in terms of effect, which I don’t think is precisely the way the church customarily had used the term. If I can find my Denzinger and Ott when I get home, I’ll try to find examples.

Thank you, James, that’s a decent summary.

The reason I liked Michael’s comment is because I believe it’s true. And I believe it’s because of omission, not positive error. That is within the freedom of a Catholic to believe.

 If you like, you can go down the road of highly legalistic discussion (defining “positively harmful” to a tee, etc.). I’m not interested in that, and so likely wouldn’t follow you down that path.

I’m not interested in fine legal distinctions, but in the overall picture. You’re a lawyer, and so understandably, you like legalistic discussion.  Nothing against lawyers (I have great admiration for them); just making an obvious observation.

Where we agree wholeheartedly is in very strong antipathy to any liturgical abuses. I have a history of writing to prove that. But I also strongly condemn this sort of wrangling over things that I think Pope Benedict resolved.


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