What Benedict Accomplished with Summorum Pontificum

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On September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorating the 4th century recovery of the True Cross by St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. This year the date also marks the tenth anniversary of the implementation of Pope Benedict’s landmark motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. Thousands of words and hundreds of articles and books have been written in the last ten years celebrating the motu proprio and its significant impact upon the Church and her liturgy. More than any of its other accomplishments, however, Summorum Pontificum finally reaffirmed that the traditional Latin Mass (which Benedict labeled the Extraordinary Form) could no longer be marginalized by the Church.

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.

With this one sentence, with a mere twenty seven words (twenty seven thunderous words) Pope Benedict told the world’s bishops that the Traditional Latin Mass was sacred; that it had always been sacred and would always be sacred; and that none of the faithful could be harmed by a liturgy which had fed & formed Catholics for centuries. Seismic words which shook a liturgical landscape.

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.

These words were written to the world’s bishops in the Holy Father’s letter which accompanied Summorom Pontificum’s release. They were blunt words but necessary to say.

For decades episcopal ideologues had condemned the traditional Mass, ghettoized it, and demeaned its faithful adherents. While never formally abrogated, its suppression was nearly complete and universal. A de facto abrogation. With Summorum Pontificum the Mass of the Ages could no longer be marginalized.

This is not to say, however, that the persecution of tradition has ended. Of course it hasn’t. To claim such a thing would be ridiculous and naive. Far too many bishops still act as if Summorum was a non-event.

In recent years Rome has decried rigidity the greatest evil and many careerist are quick to echo those sentiments. For those who bristle at orthodoxy, who seek to innovate in matters of timeless doctrine, the timeless traditional liturgy is rightfully viewed as a threat to their agenda. Lex  orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

Ten years after Pope Benedict liberated the ancient Rite the ideologues still protest. Some wait for Rome to act. Rumors persist that Pope Francis will rescind it with his own motu proprio when the time is right, possibly when his predecessor passes.

Regardless of what the future holds in store, Benedict has already stated the irreversible liturgical truth: the traditional Mass can not be marginalized.

The legacy of Summorum Pontificum, indeed the victory of Summorum Pontificum, can be found in the very seminarians and priests formed and ordained during Benedict’s papacy. They are not ideologues of the post-conciliar revolution. They are simply men who have been introduced to tradition and who have responded to it. For them, what was sacred will always remain sacred. They will not unlearn this lesson.

Its victory can also be found in thriving traditional parishes, increased Mass attendance, and booming traditional orders and vocations. The faithful simply want to be fully Catholic once again, members of a Church that didn’t just begin in 1965.

If you are fortunate enough to have discovered the ancient Rite, be sure to thank God for such a blessing. Thank Him and hold nothing back. Immerse yourself in the supreme prayer of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as it has been offered in the Roman Rite for centuries.

And in your kindness, please say a prayer for our pope emeritus Benedict as well.

Posted on September 12, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. The possible revocation of Summorum Pontificum by Pope Francis is one good reason for the SSPX to stay out of the Novus Ordo Church unless the SSPX has a constitution approved by Rome that incorporates Summorum Pontificum?

    I am aware that there have been attempts to “force” FSSP priests to “cover” Novus Ordo Masses when there is some type of emergency and no one else is available or to have the FSSP priests attended the Novus Ordo Chrism Mass where all priests in the diocese repeat their obedience to the bishop. The standard reply from the FSSP is:
    — that they would be happy to offer a Tridentine Mass at the Novus Ordo parish, and,
    — FSSP priests don’t attend Novus Ordo Chrism Masses.

  2. @JDHorton
    SSPX has nothing to do with Summorum Pontificum – which is based on the post-VII revolution and promotes a legal fiction that Mass in the traditional Roman Rite is an extraordinary form connected to the “ordinary form” i.e. the Bugnini-Montini rite which has been an attempt to destroy the Roman Rite (e.g. eliminating the core of the Rite – the Roman Canon). Quo primum tempore which has been never (and cannot be as it refers to lex orandi – lex credendi) abrogated is the sufficent and valid legal base to say the TRR without any additional documents (in particular spoiled by impious compromises with Talmudic judaism – see BXVI’s changes of the Good Friday liturgy)

    • When Pope Benedict XVI wrote that one of his motives in issuing Summorum Pontificum was to foster an “interior reconciliation within the Church,” wasn’t Benedict specifically referring to trady communities in an irregular canonical relationship with Rome such as the SSPX?

      See wikipedia “Summorum Pontificum”:

      “In his accompanying letter, Pope Benedict explained that his action was aimed at broadly and generously providing for the rituals which nourished the faithful for centuries and at “coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church” with Traditionalist Catholics in disagreement with the Holy See, such as the members of the Society of St. Pius X.”

    • The understanding that both missals are forms of the Roman Rite is indeed a juridical fiction – but it is a useful one for the present time.

      The alternative is biritualism. Which would mean almost every Latin Rite priest would need to acquire special faculties to celebrate the Traditional Roman Rite. Faculties which would, of course, be near impossible to get in most dioceses.

      I would have preferred that Benedict XVI had left the Good Friday prayer alone, but I think it’s a stretch to call it “impious.” At least it still expressly calls for their conversion. Which is far more than you can say for the Pauline missal’s prayer.

  3. Re: “Its victory can also be found in thriving traditional parishes, increased Mass attendance, and booming traditional orders and vocations. The faithful simply want to be fully Catholic once again, members of a Church that didn’t just begin in 1965.”

    I am a baby boomer relapsed Catholic who became a lover of the traditional Latin Mass (extraordinary form), and I loathe the idea that the church somehow figured out the truth in 1965 and was wrong for the preceding centuries. I couldn’t be a Catholic if I believed that. But I don’t see those signs of victory you mention, even though I am grateful that the old form is no longer effectively banned. I don’t know of any thriving traditional parishes, even though I’ve attended TLMs all over the San Francisco Bay Area: we don’t have any traditional parishes. In San Jose and Oakland, the TLM is celebrated and sacraments offered by ICKSP priests at Novus Ordo parishes, where they are guests. In San Francisco, the TLM is celebrated by diocesan priests who also celebrate ordinary form Masses at ordinary form parishes. From what I’ve seen, the numbers who attend these traditional Latin Masses are relatively small. I wish they were bigger.

    Most of “the faithful” you mentioned are firmly ensconced in the ordinary form mindset. Those of us who love the TLM first thought that it would evangelize itself by its beauty. I’m disappointed. When I’ve seen people from the OF parishes attend the TLM, I haven’t seen them come back. What ground we seemed to gain at first was reversed by resistance from many quarters. Now that the current pope is bad mouthing those of us who love the TLM and traditional doctrine as rigid, the young people who love it are merely following a fad, the atmosphere is being poisoned from the top down. The ICKSP ordained less than ten priests this year. Even though the seminary is full, that small number can’t be seen as a boom. Many priests from diocesan seminaries have learned the TLM and love it, but face overwhelming opposition if they try to introduce more reverent liturgical practices in their parishes, never mind celebrating the TLM. I know one pastor who was drummed out of his parish and his order for his actions in that direction. Maybe the best we can hope for is the existence of small communities of lovers of right-doctrine and right-worship as havens in the middle of dogma-and-liturgies-gone-wild in the vast majority of parishes around us.

    • Just a few points to keep in mind, Roseanne:

      1) The ICRSS is already at capacity. Msgr. Wach has made the decision to employ only one seminary and expand it as possible, rather than erect additional seminaries. Given what they started with in 1990 – and resistance they encountered in their early years – it is hard to say their growth has not been impressive. They opened three full-fledged new apostolates (Detroit, Naples IT and Mauritius) last fall alone.

      2) The ICRSS is far from the only traditionalist priestly society or order. The FSSP for example set a new record for ordinations this year.

      3) You can’t judge the progress by just the Bay Area. It’s not the Midwest, for example. Or even here in the DC Area, where we have something close to 20 regular TLM’s in the great Metro area. In the one my Juventutem group sponsors (a weekly Sunday morning diocesan TLM), we have gone from an average of about 20 or so in January this year to an average of about 80 this month. Average age can’t be more than….16? It’s a really young community. A lot of young children. And that’s with a couple of big well established TLM’s down the road to compete with, too.

      It’s a difficult pontificate all around. But tradition is still making progress. Oftentimes it’s not obvious.

  4. Fr. Donald Kloster

    I’m sorry for your experiences in California. As I have written before, I’ve lived in 11 USA Dioceses and on 3 Continents. My experience is a much bigger sample size and therefore very different from yours.

    One sage observation is that you can’t undo 37 years (1970-2007) in 10 years.

    When I look back at the state of the Traditional Latin Mass when I was a boy, it was fairly nonexistent. My first experience of the Traditional Latin Mass was, in 1990, shortly after Pope John Paul II allowed it with a bishop’s permission. It was a Low Mass offered by a 90 year old Holy Cross priest. It was the ONLY Latin Mass in almost the whole state of Texas.

    Just look at the huge increase of Masses on the Ecclesia Dei list. I recently visited a Traditional Carmel Convent in Nebraska that is bursting at the seams with vocations. The FSSP just ordained 19 men this year. What other religious order can match those numbers? If you compare vocations to Mass attendance numbers, the Novus Ordo isn’t even in the same universe. There is a lot of room for hope. Here in the Archdiocese of Guayaquil there were just two parishes that offered the TLM after the 2007 indult (none before 2007). Now there are six parishes offering the Traditional Latin Mass.

    It’s much harder to tighten a screw than it is to loosen it. Be patient, be objective, and look at the long term trend.

    • Dear Fr. Kloster. Thanks for your reply. I am familiar with the status of the TLM in Massachusetts too. In the Worcester diocese, the assigned center for the TLM is St. Benedict Center. It is not a parish, I don’t think, but is staffed by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They have a full schedule of TLMs and sacraments, and a school and many families associated with the center. But they have no priestly vocations to the male part of the order. Also, a huge increase of Masses to maybe 1000 is still comparatively small when you have small numbers attending. I don’t think it’s growing after ten years, but I would love to be proven wrong. BTW, where is Guayaquil? Are the parishes offering TLMs exclusively? Are they weekly on Sunday before noon?

      • The Saint Benedict Center is not a parish, it’s the monastery for the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Latin abbrv. MICM). Yes, they run a school and their Masses are open to the public, but as a monastery the laymen who regularly visit for Mass are not parishioners. You are not guaranteed the right to get married or be buried from their as a layman under Canon Law.

    • It’s worth noting that we’ve gone from about half a dozen regular TLM’s in the United States in 1988 to nearly 200 in 2007….and today, in 2017, we’re well over 500.

      Considering the obstacles, that’s not too shabby, even if it’s not the explosive growth that some hoped for. As you say, it is hard to undo four decades of damage overnight.

      • Thanks again. I’m concerned because from my vantage point, the growth seems to have stalled. I think and write about the TLM a lot. I can’t see 500 TLMs in the country after 10 years as significant. I’ve seen important thinkers attribute a lack of growth to 1, a lack of evangelization, a self-enclosed circle among TLM worshippers and perhaps a high cohort of weirdos in the TLM communities. When I was interviewing Fr. Rutler by email for an article about the TLM, Fr. Rutler wrote that he is all for the EF, but that he sensed the high expectations for the self-evangelization of the TLM were unrealistic. He also wrote, “… the EF has been confined to small areas, with the result that it often often attracts eccentrics with other psychological and social issues, for whom the Liturgy becomes an object of importance more important than evangelization.” My response is that I do not know what he means exactly by evangelization. I don’t see that OF worshippers are any more interested in evangelization than EF worshippers. I see two ICKSP Canons doing everything imaginable to make the TLM known and to build a community. You can’t make even sincere Catholics comfortable about welcoming people who are different from themselves. BTW God loves the eccentrics. I do not see an obvious connection between having the EF “confined to small areas” and the fact that “it often often attracts eccentrics with other psychological and social issues.” One neat thing I noticed after I returned to the Church after years trying out Protestant denominations is that the marginal and sometimes crazy ones (a class that may include me) worship along with the educated and well-adjusted, unlike at the Protestant services where one well-dressed social class predominates. I do see the eccentrics more at the more traditional Masses, EF or OF. But also the shock of having the “Mass of the ages” forbidden and true doctrine dismissed in many many places many have contributed to the eccentricity of those who held on to what they thought was right in the face of deformations, not just in liturgy but often in doctrine. The better adjusted adjusted to the status quo. And when the EF came back, the holdouts came out of the corners where they had been hiding, maybe victims of PTSD and probably harboring justifiable cases of paranoia.

        2. Archbishop Cordileone in an interview with me spoke of how TLM communities should not just love the beauty of the TLM but take that love out the door, where the poor may be literally sitting on the front steps of the church. My response to that is that most of the TLM worshiping families are maxed out financially by large families and limits to their time, and they are rightfully putting their energies into loving the people God called them to love among their families and friends. Social justice begins at home. I know there are a large number of single women and men in the area who love the TLM who are also marginally employed or not working at all. I know they try to share the faith whenever they can. And they invite friends.

        By the way, Rod Dreher wrote an article titled “Have We Reached Peak Latin Mass?” and he too thinks “we (Orthodox and traditional Latin Mass adherents) have to figure out a better way to evangelize.” Whatever that would entail. In the combox: CatherineNY wrote this very discouraging news: “Here in NY, even the regular TLM at Our Saviour, offered by the very, very well-known Father Rutler, attracted only a small group, by his own testimony.” At Fr. Rutler’s new parish, St. Michael’s, the TLM is not on the schedule. So that’s the situation in New York City too.

      • Hello Roseanne,

        1. “I can’t see 500 TLMs in the country after 10 years as significant.”

        I think context matters.

        Here is the hard reality: The TLM has been almost *entirely* a grassroots phenomena. With the exception (even in recent years) of a handful of bishops, it’s come entirely from below – mostly laity, and, to a lesser degree, (very vulnerable) young priests. There has been almost no money behind it (this gets to your point that “most of the TLM worshiping families are maxed out financially by large families and limits to their time” – boy, is that ever true. And young families make up a larger percentage of the typical TLM community than was the case in the days before the Council.). Most diocesan seminaries still do not offer classes or training in it, let alone require it. In a (very) hierarchical church, that makes the entire effort extremely challenging. 500-600 regular TLM’s may not seem like much in country with 17,651 parishes; but the fact that they exist at all is no small feat. Especially since the number of those Masses is growing, whilst the number of those parishes is *shrinking*.

        2. Regarding the concern that TLM communities exhibit “a lack of evangelization, a self-enclosed circle among TLM worshipers and perhaps a high cohort of weirdos in the TLM communities.”

        This is not entirely an illegitimate concern. Fr. Rutler’s point about personalities is well taken; add to that the fact that many traditionalists have long had what might be called a form of PTSD given their brutal treatment by clergy and lay officials over the years.

        And yet: As growth has started to take off over the past decade, those personalities (almost certainly exaggerated as a share of the the TLM population) are shrinking in importance, as more and more Catholics from wider walks of life are drawn in.

        And here is another point: If the situation is not as oppressive as it once was in many American dioceses, it often remains somewhat delicate. Energetic outreach is not always welcomed by chanceries. There is a mindset that you need to keep your head down so as not to endanger what gains you have made. I can say that in the parishes we work with, we have to exercise some caution. The clergy are vulnerable in a way we are not. Some Masses remain as private Masses, not advertised.

        3. I might make a broader point about how hard a road we have to travel now. One notable blogger, the Rad Trad, has made the point that had something like Summorum been issued around 1980 (and there *was* discussion between John Paul II and his advisers at that point), it could have secured a very large percentage of the Catholic population quickly, since most Catholics still would have a living memory of the Old Mass and be able to adapt back to it. Having to wait to really begin the process three decades later has meant having to start almost from scratch – as a living tradition, it has been largely ruptured.

  5. Is he really Pope Emeritus? Is Bergoglio even half a pope?

  6. Fr. Donald Kloster

    Richard Malcolm spelled it out, but perhaps the gains are being a bit overlooked. 1970 to 1988 half a dozen TLM’s in the USA. About 200 in 2007. Over 500 in 2017.

    Even to the most discriminating individual, that is growth and significant growth at that.

    The growth is even more impressive in that it has been achieved with a lot of resistance, an inordinate amount of stalling, poor afternoon and evening Mass times, and bad/unsafe neighborhoods where the TLM was relegated.

    I remember going to New York City in the late 1990’s (Even in the early 2000’s). The TLM presence was microscopic in comparison. Now there are 18 in the Archdiocese.

    roseannettsullivan makes some valid points, but we are obviously talking to different circles. Even here, when I have the TLM at 10:00 on Sunday I get around 500. If it is Sunday Evening 20:00 (it’s normal time slot), there are about 50. I hear from a lot of priests saying the TLM and the news is mostly positive. Then too, friends of mine from the seminary I never expected to do so are saying or learning the TLM. I personally cannot complain/downplay/be discouraged that there are now over twice as many TLMs as there were 10 years ago.

    • Fr Kloster,

      “The growth is even more impressive in that it has been achieved with a lot of resistance, an inordinate amount of stalling, poor afternoon and evening Mass times, and bad/unsafe neighborhoods where the TLM was relegated.”

      This is an excellent point. More disadvantages to labor under. Too many of these Masses are not out in the suburbs, or at ideal times. Sometimes they’re even in dangerous places and dangerous time slots. This is certainly the case in Baltimore, for example.

    • Thank you everyone who is contributing to this cordial and interesting discussion. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or pooh pooh anyone’s enthusiasm. But I’m personally discouraged. When only an indult would allow the TLM to be celebrated, of course there were very few TLMs, because getting an indult was like pulling teeth from the bishop; for example, only one indult Mass was allowed in San Francisco and one in Oakland, and a monthly-only TLM allowed in San Jose. The hope was that after SP that an explosion would happen. Moving from a few dozen across the country when it was essentially not permitted to 500 when it has been more freely available for ten years does not give me hope. Seeing that the number of attendees has not grown very much discourages me even more. However, someone in another discussion wrote rather humorously about the long term effects of TLM-lovers having large families and of the fact that these large families produce vocations will have a delayed result in the years to come. But if most diocesans only allow one TLM center (or none) per diocese, as still seems to be the case in many places, there not be any places for the larger family’s offsprings and the freshly minted TLM minded priests to go. Rumors that Pope Francis might negate SP after Pope Benedict’s death are troubling too. I guess I just have to remember to follow Philippians 4:6: “Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, [will] keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Pray and be confident that: “All things work for the good.”

  7. It seems to me that Pope Benedict maintains his ties to a dead conservative language instead of bowing to the will of Christ in utilitilizing the common tongue of the people to reach the sacredness of God without utilizing pomp and decadence.

    • Pope Benedict was at the council and back then was an adherent of having the Mass in local languages. He has not changed that position. He simply allowed the Mass of the Ages to be celebrated also, after it was just about banned for 40 years.

    • Wrong, yet again:

      Our Blessed Lord, when reciting the Torah in a synagogue, spoke in “Temple Hebrew” which was a “dead language” as far as people in the street were concerned. The “street language” of the common people in the Holy Land at the time of Our Lord was Aramaic.

      Both Judaism and Catholicism have a history in which a common street language (Judaism:
      Hebrew; Catholicism: Latin) evolved into a “sacral” language (i.e. the language of the common people changed while the religious language did not change) associated with religious functions only.

      So what you condemn in the Catholic Church, Our Lord himself did when performing the rites of Judaism. No one is condemning Our Lord (except lesbian feminists) for his failure to use the common language of the people when reciting the Torah or for his failure to use inclusive language by dropping all masculine pronouns.

    • Actually, greater (though perhaps not *exclusive*) use of vernacular clearly remained a move that Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has consistently been in favor of, even as he became more critical of certain aspects of the modern rite. And the change in language only scratches the surface of what was changed in the Pauline missal.

      I would be cautious in ascribing what has happened as being ‘the will of Christ.” Otherwise, we would also be forced to conclude that it was *also* the will of Christ that Mass attendance in much of Western Europe has declined to less than 5% of the Catholic population.

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