Respecting Traditional Catholics

By  at The Catholic Thing

Friday, November 18, 2016

newly published interview with Pope Francis by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. has caused much anguish and bewilderment among a group of Catholics who are already disfavored and even rejected by some Churchmen – those who prefer to attend the Tridentine Latin Mass, now known as the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Roman Rite.

Pope Francis told Fr. Spadaro:

Pope Benedict accomplished a just and magnanimous gesture to reach out to a certain mindset of some groups and persons who felt nostalgia and were distancing themselves. But it is an exception. That is why one speaks of an “extraordinary” rite. The ordinary in the Church is not this. It is necessary to approach with magnanimity those attached to a certain form of prayer. But the ordinary is not this. Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium must go on as they are. To speak of a “reform of the reform” is an error.

A few observations: to speak of a “mindset” is to stigmatize those who see and love the value of the Church’s traditional worship as trapped in an unreflective, fixed way of thinking. We teach children the importance of working hard in school to acquire knowledge, habits of independent thought and inquiry and good criteria of judgment. We do not tell them to study hard to acquire a mindset, which may be described as an unnecessarily constricted or just plain erroneous way of thinking.

Living one’s life according to a mindset means one has fallen short of a fuller understanding. Mindsets are obstacles, not vehicles, to a proper appreciation of truth, beauty, and goodness. Sticking to a mindset is often the result of a positive refusal to see the broader reality for fear of what one might discover. Pity, not praise, is in order when dealing with people who have a mindset.

Pope Francis also spoke about “persons who felt nostalgia” for the EF Mass. What is nostalgia? I take it to mean a sentimental and essentially unreasonable attachment to the past. It can be a harmless reminiscence (“When the Dodgers played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn . . .”), but when it involves trying to reproduce now what happened in the past, it can be a psychologically destructive impulse.

Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and friend
Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and friend

Is nostalgia the motivating impulse of those older Catholics who like to attend the EF Mass? Certainly not, if my experience is not dissimilar to that of other priests who offer the EF Mass when called upon by the faithful. These Catholics, both young and old, are seeking not to live in the past, but to experience the holiness of the living Christ through His Church’s time-honored worship.

Mindset and nostalgia are loaded words that transfer discussion from the realm of intellectual inquiry to the realm of psychological analysis. The question is not “What do these Catholics find attractive and inspiring in the EF Mass?,” but rather “What went wrong in the lives of these Catholics who are attached to the EF and do not find the Ordinary Form sufficient?”

Fr. Spadaro continued and asked Pope Francis: “Other than those who are sincere and ask for this possibility out of habit or devotion, can this desire express something else? Are there dangers?”

Pope Francis replied:

I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what is behind those individuals who are too young to have lived the pre-Conciliar liturgy, and who want it nonetheless. I have at times found myself in front of people who are too rigid, an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: how come so much rigidity? You dig, you dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, at times perhaps something else. . . .The rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.

This sweeping psychologizing indicates that the pope sees no reasonable motivations for those want to attend the EF Mass. The young cannot be nostalgic, since they did not grow up with the EF Mass. Rather, they have a “defensive” attitude of “rigidity” that hides their “insecurity” or “perhaps something else.” What does this mean?

Rigidity is a psychological impairment, an unreasonable refusal, if not a complete inability, to change one’s outlook or behavior. Francis says it is “always” a mask for insecurity or “at times perhaps something else,” which I take to mean something worse than mere insecurity.

In the last fifty years, “rigidity” has been a code word used to denigrate conservative Catholics who treasure the spiritual patrimony of the Church.

Earlier Pope Francis said: “It is necessary to approach with magnanimity those attached to a certain form of prayer.” Yet this spirit is absent from his remarks that characterize attachment to the EF.

This is really a caricature. It displays a readiness to find psychological deficits or imbalance as the cause for such interest among both young and old. This line of argument frees one from the need to engage in an objective analysis of the reasons why a young (or old) person might be attracted to the Church’s perennial form of worship instead of to the reformed Mass, as experienced in many parishes.

As regards Pope Francis’ statement that “to speak of a ‘reform of the reform’ is an error,” this notion is something that has been widely discussed and, in some ways, already put into effect (e.g., the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal and the new accurate translation of it into English) precisely because, as Pope Francis told Fr. Spadaro “Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium must go on as they are.”

The reform of the reform is an effort both to implement the reforms of the Mass that the Conciliar Fathers voted for when they approved Sacrosanctum Concilium, and, as needed, to undo the innovations and accretions they never dreamed of, and that were introduced into the Roman Missal or became standard practice with the new Missal.

Those who love the EF Mass are serious, sane Catholics who seek God in the beauty of sublime worship. They deserve a sympathetic hearing from their shepherds.

See also Fr Z’s commentary on Fr Murray’s article

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28 Responses to Respecting Traditional Catholics

  1. John says:

    Is it not better to have Mass celebrated in the vernacular which everybody can understand than in Latin which few,unless they have studied Latin,can understand ? Hardly surprising that the Pope should wonder at that.


  2. kathleen says:

    The comments under Father Z’s post of Father Murray’s article are very feisty and interesting. They also display a clear indignation from most commenters at yet more insults coming from Pope Francis at traditional Catholics.
    However this one below (the last one when I looked) from someone called “Traductora”, is particularly perceptive I think. She is trying to work out what the Pope is insinuating by his words “perhaps something else” (being hidden by those oh so “rigid” Catholics, lovers of the TLM !)

    “I think we have a “post-truth” Pope who sees adherence to fact as just one of those fusty, musty, rigid old things that doesn’t belong in the modern world (assuming the modern world is that of the 1970’s, of course, since those were his glory years).

    But aside from that, I think he has two “prophets” who call the shots in his mind: Marx and Freud. Marx, of course, is fairly easy to see in everything he says. Freud is also easy to see, but Freud, like Pope Francis, is kind of yesterday and embarrassing and many people now are not even familiar with his theories.

    However, that doesn’t prevent Francis from seeing sex and the necessity of rejecting the father as the heart of everything, and it definitely shapes his mindset and his statements. He sees traditional Catholics as being “sexually repressed” and not having fully rejected the father (meaning that they cling to the law), and although he didn’t say it, that was clearly what he was implying with his “hiding something else” remark. If you lived through the Church in the 1970s, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”


  3. geoffkiernan says:

    Francis:- “I always try to understand what is behind those individuals who are to young to have lived the pre conciliar liturgy and who want it nonetheless”

    That young/youthful people who have no experience of the pre conciliar liturgy but prefer it nonetheless should tell even the dimmest of persons something.
    At our 7.30am Latin rite (Tridentine) Mass this morning, a modest 73 persons. 38 were under 18 years of age and 14 were the Parents of those 38. Another 5/6 were under 50 years of age. The rest were too old and rigid to count (That includes me)….my head is hurting so I leave your to do the reckoning, Holy Father.


  4. Roger says:

    The young wanting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass instead of a banquet? What is the problem with not understanding this?

    The answer is simple.

    John 10
    27 My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me.


  5. The Raven says:

    Is it not better to have Mass celebrated in the vernacular which everybody can understand than in Latin which few,unless they have studied Latin,can understand ?

    Goodness, John, so many ideologically driven prejudices in one sentence:

    False proposition #1 – understanding the Mass is only a matter of knowing what words mean.

    False proposition #2 – one needs a detailed understanding of Latin to become acquainted with the Latin used in the liturgy.

    False proposition #3 – the whole world speaks English and Latin is equally inaccessible to every linguistic group.

    False proposition #4 – the laity follow and understand the words of the Collect, and other ‘variable’ prayers at Mass.

    It’s Sunday. Go to Mass, adore the Lord in His presence, participate in His sacrifice and know that He has set you free.


  6. Toad says:

    I“(assuming the modern world is that of the 1970’s, of course, since those were his (Pope Francis) glory years)”
    I’d have thought the Pope’s “glory years” were the ones now – since he became Pope.
    But what do I know?
    “..but Freud, like Pope Francis, is kind of yesterday and embarrassing and many people now are not even familiar with his theories.”
    In fact Freud’s theories, while certainly open to considerable dispute and revision, are here to stay.

    “..and many people now are not even familiar with his theories.”
    I take it the writer refers to herself, here.
    Well, she can hardly blame Freud for her own woeful ignorance.
    …Or for other people’s.

    Odd to find Traddies belittling “…kind of yesterday.” Isn’t that what it’s all about?


  7. John says:

    The Raven@08:06.
    1. No, but if you don’t know Latin is it not better also to understand the liturgy and to avail of the vernacular Mass, rather than the Latin Mass, when Mass in the vernacular is available ?
    2. No, not a detailed knowledge of Latin but sufficient to follow the meaning of the liturgy. Fewer people now learn Latin even to have a nodding acquaintance with it.Some seminarians are now not learning Latin
    3.I didn’t say the whole world knows English. I was talking about the vernacular; the language or dialect of a particular country. While Latin is not inaccessible to every linguistic group it is not familiar to many, as is the vernacular.
    4. If spoken in the vernacular, the laity will understand the Collect and other variables prayers in the Mass. Where is the difficulty with that ?

    You have the impression that I do not go to Mass. Wherever did you get that ? I have attended an early morning Mass to-day Sunday as I do each Sunday and more frequently.


  8. The Raven says:


    You’re dodging the points put to you and repeating your own errors in doing so.

    1. Understanding or comprehension of the Mass goes a long way beyond comprehension of the texts actually expounded during the rite. In some ways the sort of linguistic understanding that you’re advocating is grossly inferior to an understanding of what is being done (as opposed to what is being said).

    2. So you concede that a familiarity with the prayers and good working knowledge of the parallel translation may serve.

    Do you think that people only become acquainted with Latin through formal education? It is surely a bad thing that seminarians have little education in the language of the Church?

    3. Many (maybe most) Catholics speak languages that are ‘daughter-languages’ of Latin – the barriers to comprehension are quite low – you are positing as a universal solution something that addresses a mainly anglophone problem (as is the decline in the study of Latin, which continues to be taught in most of the rest of Europe). And many of those who do not speak Romance languages in Africa and Asia are experiencing the Mass in an imposed lingua-franca and not their own vernacular: the de-Latinisation of the Mass has been little more than a substitution of the language of the Church for the imperialistic linguistic hegemonics in these regions.

    4. OK, without looking back at the texts, what was today’s Collect? Which preface did you listen to? What were the words to the closing prayer?

    And the import of my final paragraph was a suggestion that there are better things to do than posting truthless nonsense on websites.


  9. John says:

    The Raven@16:57
    I could equally say that you are dodging the questions put to you and repeating your own errors. And so we could go around in circles.

    1.So you advocate a participation at Mass confined to gestures and symbols without any idea of what is being actually spoken ?
    2. Certainly, familiarity with the prayers is a major factor in participation. Hence the benefit of Mass in the vernacular. No,of course people can learn Latin outside a formal education but can you see the laity do this en masse, or at all, where they have Mass in the vernacular available to them ?
    That quite a few seminarians have little education in the language of the Church is no real tragedy. Why make a fetish of a particular language ?
    One thing I do remember in the seminary cum high school where I attended was of helping a fellow student with his Virgil and Ovid because he had been kept back a year having failed failed Latin in his previous final year exam. He wanted to be a priest at the time when Latin was an essential subject. He did pass it the second time round and did become a priest. It wouldn’t happen now. It was a waste of a year for him.
    3.No, it’s not just an anglophone problem. Irish or Gaelic, not itself a Romance language, is under our Constitution, the first official language of Ireland although now only spoken by a minority, mainly in the West. Any time I am in the West I attend Mass which is in the vernacular, that is to say, Irish or Gaelic which is understood by the people as it is by me. This is now a long standing arrangement there which I cannot see changing by a sudden desire to learn Latin, long since abandoned by most secondary schools here, or by people going for private tuition in Latin.
    4. You either believe that I have been at Mass to-day for the Feast of Christ the King, or that I am a liar whichever you wish. I do not memorize texts. I could set out here the texts you mention whose theme was kingship but I am not going to do that.

    I do not post truthless nonsense, but I suggest to you that you are making a fetish out of language, in this case the Latin language and, as you might say yourself, there are better things to do.


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Hi, John Kehoe: I don’t make a fetish out of language, but sometimes I do post complete nonsense; and to prove it, here’s a farewell song for President Obama and the First Lady:


  11. The Raven says:

    I could equally say that you are dodging the questions put to you and repeating your own errors.

    You could, but you would be attempting a rhetorical flourish that you transparently fail to support. You only asked two questions, both of which I answered, even if you are being too obtuse to see that.

    And your responses flow from the same false propositions that started this exchange; principally that ‘partipatio actuosa’ can only understood in terms of following the Mass texts. As I reject this foundation of your position, which you seem either unable or unwilling to actually justify, your later statements are otiose.

    1. Again, you’re positing participation in terms of verbal understanding. This is a falsity.
    2. Familiarity with a text is a function of exposure to that text, irrespective of the language of the text.
    3. You seem to be fetishising your circumstances and making them a universal remedy for the Church, John. I repeat the point that you seem to be unable to digest: I really do not see any need at all for the Mass to be said in the vernacular. As for your anecdote about Gaelic, I am sure that there are a number of parts of the world where people would prefer to have the Mass in a local dialect instead of English. Surely better to have a universal language of the Church than all of these rankling hegemonic issues?
    4. I am not disputing that you went to Mass, John, what I am suggesting is that the words of the propers wash over most people mostly unnoticed; people may have the “gist” of the prayers (as you demonstrate that you have, although it’s a bit of a shoe-in that the prayers will be about “kingship” on this particular Sunday), but the actual words said? Not so much.


  12. John says:

    The Raven@17.28.

    [The moderator – if you don’t like the tone of the conversation on this blog, John, there are others.]

    1. You haven’t answered my question as to whether you advocate participation in the Mass by gesture and symbols only.
    2. One must understand a text for it to have any significance. Otherwise why read from a missal at all ?
    3. The universal language of the Church is not to-day understood by the majority. Even some priests do not now understand Latin and are not being trained in it.
    4. The actual words said are printed in the missal and spoken in the vernacular at the time of the Mass. They are not memorized by me, Sunday after Sunday, for future use or to satisfy your curiosity as to my attendance at Mass. You scarcely expect me to type here, verbatim and from memory, the prayers said at the Mass. I read them with due reflection at Mass time available from my missal, as does the celebrant who himself would not thereafter be in a position to repeat word for word what he had read. Does that mean that the meaning goes over his head ? I am afraid your question, as you well know, is aimed to tease but I am not rising to that bait.

    5. I don’t mind at all if you do not agree with the points I make. I don’t agree with yours.


  13. The Raven says:

    1. John, you claim that I haven’t answered your question as to whether I advocate participation in the Mass by gesture and symbols only. The plain fact is that I have told you, repeatedly, that the sum total of the Mass is far greater than any individual element, including the text of the Mass – we are gathered in the presence of the representation of the sacrifice of Our Lord, everything else is immaterial.
    2. Does the text have a wider significance than the action of being present at the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary?
    3. Your third point is just a waste of text – there is nothing virtuous in the fact that priests are no longer being adequately educated.
    4. “The actual words said … are not memorized by me.” Nor anyone else, but I think that I adequately make the point that no-one pays any particular heed to them – they are building blocks of the rite.
    5. I don’t expect you to agree with my points, John, you are a narrow partisan for your own position, without the wit to understand the position of others who do not agree with you.


  14. John says:

    The Raven Nov 21@22:28
    Of course I understand that others will disagree with me and I understand their position without having to agree with them.

    In this blog it appears that you favour what has become known as the extraordinary form of Mass, as celebrated pre Vatican II, and that it should be universal disregarding whether all of the laity know Latin or not.
    I say give them the choice of the vernacular which was the position taken by the Fathers of Vatican II Council to accommodate the many who do not know Latin.

    I am afraid that we must agree to disagree. C’est la vie.


  15. The Raven says:

    Actually, John, the fathers at the Council legislated for the retention of Latin and for the minimal introduction of the vernacular:

    But since the use of the vernacular whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may frequently be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.

    As with much else in the post-conciliar liturgical deformation, the pretended reform went far beyond the Council itself. Indeed for many, if not most Catholics the liturgical reform had reached its intended end-point with the 1965 Missal; everything that followed was extraneous, even ultra vires.


  16. John says:

    The Raven@18:21.
    I am aware that the vernacular did not supplant the Latin Mass.
    I agree also that Mass in the vernacular can and has given rise to abuses with some priests making fast and loose with the authorized liturgy. I have seen it myself and deplore it.
    There was of course a solemnity about Mass in Latin, a certain mystery which encouraged the congregation to be at least more respectful, now reduced or lost in cases of some bizarre unauthorized variations in the text, as well as secular interventions such as the priest calling on the congregation for hand clapping and applause to signal approval for some person or event unconnected with the Mass.

    But surely all of this has to do with aesthetics, and not with the intrinsic Mass itself, which could and should equally be cultivated with scrupulous care in the vernacular Mass ?

    As one of an age who attended and understood very many Latin masses before Vatican II, I have to say that I would, if Latin were universally restored, find it bizarre to see again so many in the congregation reverting to saying and concentrating on their rosaries, as they did then, thereby disconnecting themselves from the action of the Mass. Learning Latin has declined in the meantime with no great indication that it will ever be restored.
    For those who want the extraordinary form of Mass they should be accommodated and I believe are. But for the many who do not know Latin, even basic Church Latin, and who are in no rush to learn it, the vernacular has been the means of their active participation in the celebration of Mass. Who would deny them that ?


  17. The Raven says:

    Isn’t your assumption that, in a largely literate world, people will just go back to the Rosary a little suspect, John? The laity have been intensely focussed on the Mass at all of the Old-Rite Masses I have ever attended: their attention and participation in the Mass far exceeds anything I have witnessed elsewhere.


  18. John says:

    The Raven@08:03. No doubt the laity attending the Old-Rite Masses are very focussed and probably many do know the Latin liturgy. However, my experience is that those who do by choice attend Old Rite Masses as I sometimes do, but few now here in Ireland, are older who probably have had the benefit of learning Latin ,which is not now, as was formerly, a mainstream subject in secondary schools. In that sense, they are the privileged fewer.
    We have now, as you say, a largely literate world but that doesn’t mean a world familiar with Latin.

    On my several visits to Lourdes, and on one recently to Fatima, there has been a noticeable practice by some visitors to have resort to their rosaries during Masses said in French or Portugese showing that where the liturgy is not understood there is a disconnection between congregation and celebrant with the consequence of having recourse to one’s own private prayer. Hardly a desirable outcome. The same applies to the Latin Mass,


  19. kathleen says:

    From Liturgy Guy:

    “It is unnecessary for the faithful to hear, or understand, every ceremonial of the Mass. History has clearly shown, and experience teaches, that the fact of the prayers being in Latin does not at all hamper or interfere with the devotion of the faithful, or lead them to absent themselves from Holy Mass. As Saint Augustine instructed:

    “If there are some present who do not understand what is being said or sung, they know at least that all is said and sung to the glory of God, and that is sufficient for them to join in it devoutly.””

    And there are another six other reasons LG points out why Latin is important in the Mass.


  20. John says:

    Kathleen@ 12:18. Of course attendance at a Latin Mass, without understanding it, is still attendance at Mass; but how much better if it could be understood by those attending. That is the point of Mass in the vernacular.


  21. The Raven says:

    This is nonsense on stilts, John. Understanding the Mass goes far beyond a mere understanding of the Mass texts (if that were our sole criterion, the vernacular Mass would also be found greatly wanting – how many of the laity are even aware of the Collects/propers of the Mass?); the very audibility of the text of the liturgy is an innovation that can only be dated back to the introduction of modern electronic amplification. Stop flogging this dead horse and look for an argument that actually works.


  22. The Raven says:

    I’ve observed the same thing, John; at Masses in Italy, France and Spain, people still often resort to the Rosary as their means of participating at Mass. Even where the people in question are speakers of Italian, French or Castilian – it seems to be a cultural thing, rather than a linguistic thing.


  23. Tom Fisher says:

    Bernardino da Siena told a story: A man (and usurer) complained to his priest that he couldn’t remember his Pater Noster. So the priest sent a succession of beggars to borrow grain from him, each beggar introducing himself as part of the prayer: ‘I am “Our Father”‘, ‘I am “Who Art in Heaven”‘, etc. – Asked by the priest who owed him grain, the man found that he knew his Pater Noster.


  24. John says:

    The Raven Nov 23 @23.17.
    1. If you say the laity generally have a poor recollection of the substance, or even of the existence, of the collects/propers of the Mass as said in the vernacular which they know, and with which they are familiar, in what way will this be improved by the Mass in Latin ? Will they have a better recollection and understanding of these when said in a language they don’t even understand ?
    2. If, by your logic, understanding the Mass texts -‘mere understanding’- is a minor issue, would you then say that we should campaign, not for a universal return of the Latin Mass, but for the Mass in mime dispensing with text whether in Latin or in the vernacular ?

    I am afraid you are making a fetish of Latin, a mere language, which can not enhance the intrinsic substance of the Mass.


  25. The Raven says:

    I’m saying that they don’t need to be improved. The vernacular Mass has not materially closened the laity’s engagement with the propers (or even the Kalendar, no-one is celebrating SS Cyril and Methodius on 14 February).

    The plain fact is that your argument is that of the “liturgical movement” of the 20th century – an argument that believes that the text of the Mass is the source and summit of the Mass, instead of something merely incidental to the sacrifice that is re-presented on the altar.

    You are the one fetishising a text, not me.


  26. John says:

    The Raven Nov 24@19:24. If you are not fetishising a text, would you then discontinue both Latin and the vernacular in the Mass and celebrate it simply by miming ?


  27. The Raven says:

    Really, John, you should know that the appeal to ridicule only “works” if you’re proposing a sound caricature of your opponent’s position.


  28. johnhenrycn says:

    [The Moderator – Really, Johnhenry!]


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