Traditionalists and the Council


2vatican councilDear Kevin,

Thank you for organizing this discussion. I am grateful to you and the other good folks at Catholic Lane for providing this platform.

The Latin Mass is a topic I’ve been interested in several years now – ever since I went to my first Latin Mass at St. Stanislaus Oratory in Milwaukee, WI.

There’s no questioning the beauty and transcendence of the Latin Mass. Everyone from Agatha Christie to Bill Murray can have an appreciation for it. I believe Summorum Pontificum was beneficial to the Church in that it brought a level of beauty and reverence to certain Roman Rite parishes where it had obviously been lacking. As Pope Benedict noted in his letter to the Bishops:

“Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and        were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the       sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places           celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was              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.”

So one can accept Vatican II yet desire the use of the 1962 Missal. But as Massimo Faggioli has explained, explicitly anti-Vatican II traditionalists understand better than anyone that rejecting liturgical reform is an efficient route to rejecting Vatican II. There’s a fine line between desiring the Latin Mass and rejecting liturgical reform, and one can find traditionalists on both sides of this line. My concern with “TLM Millennials” (a term I acknowledge is overly-general) stems from this: Attracted to beauty and moved by nostalgia, young traditionalists are unknowingly rejecting a hugely important new direction the Church took in Vatican II. Now, to your first question.

Why is it significant that “a majority of cardinals 50 years ago backed something”, ergo we should back it as well? 

It is important to disavow the impression that the Second Vatican Council was a product or reaction to the swift cultural changes of that decade. A popular narrative, driven by historians, traditionalists, and even some supporters of liturgical reform, is that most of the reforms of Vatican II was a product of a liberal faction in the Church who were swept up in the time. Noting the remarkably large majority of Cardinals who supported Sacrosanctum Concilium is the first step in telling the correct story of liturgical reform: it did not originate from ideology or partisan Vatican politics. Liturgical reform was a movement to restore the liturgy.

“For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance;    elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little             advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents        of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as         may seem useful or necessary.

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided    for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy       scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 50-51)

A majority of Cardinals understood and supported the reforms during the council, and Pope Benedict confirmed that Summorum Pontificum was not questioning liturgical reform. What’s more, and I understand I can’t prove this, but I believe overwhelming consensus among the Cardinals is a sign that the Holy Spirit was at work.

 Are we really opposing the Magesterium and the Second Vatican Council in these acts?

Can you show us where in the Second Vatican Council the topic of saying Mass versus populum is discussed?  Where is communion in the hand or altar girls treated in Sacrosanctum Concillium?  While they do speak of a vernacular liturgy, do they not also speak of the Latin language being retained and having a special place in the life of the Church?

This question reveals to me how some of the lines in my piece need clarification. In short, no, traditionalists (another general term) by and large are not opposing the Magesterium or the Second Vatican Council. In fact, my point is goes along with this: versus populum, communion in the hand, and altar girls are not against Church teaching, and I think it’s silly for Catholics to blame those items for various issues the Church currently faces. By staking definitive positions on these issues, “Never accept Holy Communion in your hand!” we indeed go against Church teaching.

I had a few things in mind when I wrote that TLM Millennials were not in line with Church teaching, and I should have stated them explicitly. First and foremost, the TLM Millennials who believe the Ordinary Form is inferior to the Latin Mass, are not on the side of Church teaching. There is nothing in Canon Law or in the Catechism that backs up the statement that the Latin Mass is a superior way to celebrate Christ’s Sacrifice. Additionally, I believe TLM Millennials (and anyone else) are in the wrong when they use the phrase “the Mass of all time” to describe the Latin Mass. This phrase is popular within the circles associated with the SSPX and the SSPV, which is an obvious red flag for me. The phrase falsely implies that the Latin Mass has been in use during the Church’s entire history until Vatican II, and that the Ordinary Form is more revolutionary than it really is. This special “Mass of all time” classification is problematic, and my hope is it falls away. Per Pope Benedict’s letter, which accompanied Sommorum Pontificum, the Latin Mass is “an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” and that’s how it should be classified. The use and validity of the Ordinary Form should not be questioned.

Of course it is not against Church teaching to receive communion on the tongue, or to prefer boy altar servers, or to prefer Latin in the liturgy. There are many cultural things TLM Millennials and I can agree on. I really do appreciate the beauty of the Latin Mass, and I am happy it is available where I live, even if I don’t attend regularly. Sometimes I prefer to receive communion on the tongue. I have a preference that boys become altar servers first, and girls fill in when necessary. I appreciate the use of Latin in any form of the Roman Rite. I appreciate the beauty of the Baroque style in Mass. But I’m thankful for liturgical reform, which freed the Mass from its culturally European origins, especially as the majority of Catholics today live outside the West. My question for you and other traditionalists; should the growing body of Catholics outside of Europe be required to celebrate Mass as if they were Europeans?



[editor’s note: this letter is part of a series on the role of traditionalists within the Church today. Read the entire discussion here.]


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  • Nathan Harder

    Dear William:

    I’m 38 and, by my math, can’t possibly have any memory of the “Mass of All Ages” from my childhood. How, then, can I be “moved by nostalgia” when I and my young family attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form? There are numerous studies on the demographics of Mass attendance that show a strong attraction by the young for the beauty and mystery of the Extraordinary Form over the novelties of the OF. These statistics, though, like all statistics, don’t amount to hard proof of anything…they only provide a reason to look into potential causes. The point being, of course, is that “nostalgia” can’t motivate a young person to prefer the Mass of All Ages; however, one may suspect “nostalgia” as a prime mover for the majority of attendees of the OF – the geriatrics – who long for the “good ol’ days” of protests, draft-card burnings, and “love-ins” (golly, that was not nice of me).

    On a more serious note, William, I see in your writing a tendency to start from a conclusion and prove it through a preponderance of your own opinions. For instance, you “think it’s silly for Catholics to blame those items for various issues the Church currently faces”. Well, William, I think it’s silly that someone can’t see the relevance of “those items” in the context of the problems the Church and the World are experiencing today. Are you convinced? Of course not. In another paragraph, you state “I believe, and I can’t prove this, that the overwhelming consensus among the Cardinals is a sign that the Holy Spirit was at work”. The reason you can’t prove this is because it’s your opinion, and it is not grounded in fact or in Church teaching. Another statement, “the TLM Millennials who believe the Ordinary Form is inferior to the Latin Mass, are not on the side of Church teaching” (Inferior in what way? Inferior in length? Inferior in volume?); If I am one who believes that the EF better serves the ends to Catholic prayer, i.e. Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (and I am), I would not be convinced by your argument.

    You’re up against an impossible task. There have been volumes written on the subject, and still the debate goes on. The idea that you can properly treat the subject in a few lines on a blog post is…well, a lost cause. But since you don’t hesitate to make an argument out of your own opinions, I’ll toss in some of my own: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This is the reason that “reform of the reform” (if it’s so great, William, why the need for reform?) is ever to succeed, the resulting Mass will look so much like the EF that we won’t even have anything to talk about anymore. Then what’ll we do with all of our spare time?



    PS. The “Mass of All Ages” is, in part, a reference to the Papal Bull “Quo Primum” which enshrined the missal of PPV into law “forever”.

    • Terri Kimmel

      Just a side note… I’m interested in the subject, but I don’t know what all the acronyms mean. It would be helpful if they were spelled out in full at least once in what gets written. EF is extraordinary form. Got it. Most people don’t what /that/ means, though. I enough of a newbie to remember when I was confused by that term.

      I don’t know what PPV is…


      • NickD

        PPV is Pope Pius V, who, after the Council of Trent made the Mass we now know as the “Traditional Latin Mass” (TLM, or EF) the universal way of offering the Mass in the Roman Rite, with some exceptions for religious orders or cities who had their own liturgical traditions of notable antiquity.

        Keep in mind that the TLM wasn’t a “fabrication” after the Council of Trent as the Ordinary Form was after the Second Vatican Council. It was in use for hundreds of years beforehand, but it wasn’t as widespread as to be the usage of the ENTIRE Roman Catholic Church.

        Let me know if I need to explain anything else! I had the same problem when I was starting to learn about all of this stuff…the acronyms and Latin words would get really confusing, and sometimes “we traddies” forget that not everybody is up to date on the acronyms 😛

  • NickD

    Though one certainly can’t argue that the Traditional Latin Mass is superior juridically or in terms of what it does in essentials (re-presents the Sacrifice of the Cross to God in an unbloody way) to other legitimate ways of doing so in the Western liturgical tradition or Eastern liturgical tradition, one can certainly make arguments based on the merits of theology, spirituality, and historicity (or lack of any of these) in various individual liturgical traditions

  • GHM_52

    I would accept your point of view if I had not read the historical accounts by reputable sources, that the practice of taking Communion in the hand was achieved by “unlawful” means. It appears Pope Paul VI was mislead (to his later consternation) and it appears that in the USA, Cardinal Bernardin (wonder what’s so consistently wrong with Chicago) duped everyone regarding the issue of communion in the hand. The fact remains that if one is to be faithful to the teachings of Vatican 2, one would have to press the Bishops and parish pastors to include more Latin prayer and classical church music plus, of course, communion in the mouth. By the way, I’m no trad. And, of course, I believe that the Novus Ordo Mass is as valid as the Vetus Ordo Mass. But, I believe it is a bit delusional to deny that the “lawless” tactics of the always smaller but infinitely cagey, prideful and vociferous liberal/progressive (actually, apostate) arm of the Church played a shamefully active role in the deliberate crafting of very ambiguous language of Vatican 2 documents in order to allow more leeway for the dangerous liturgical changes that were forced on the faithful by the Bishops, priests and the religious.

    • NickD

      Not to mention that the ambiguous language meant that Pope Paul could hear that the votes “for” were almost unanimous, as he so desired

  • Just a note for those commenting….

    I’ll be up with my take on these words next week, and then Mr. Bornhoft will have a chance to respond, then we’ll move onto another aspect of the discussion.

  • Terri Kimmel

    I went to a wedding a few months that was beautiful. I have never been to such a mass. It was mostly English, but the mass parts were Latin. The consecration was toward the altar, not the people (I know this has a Latin term). It was really wonderful. The music was Latin polyphony as well.

    I’m really discerning this issue right now. We have one, small Latin mass community where I live. The priest is the pastor of a large parish and he selflessly offers the traditional Latin mass in the mornings and the mainstream English mass in the evenings. He has one TLM on Sundays as well an English mass. It’s not a true Latin community though as they don’t have funerals, baptisms, etc. It’s kind of a hybrid. We used to have a dedicated priest from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, but they wanted to put two priests here and the diocese would only fund one–at least that’s my understanding.

    I have a large family with adult children down to preschoolers. My husband is concerned that the Latin mass would be too difficult for the children. We’ve been as a family a couple of times, and honestly, it /is/ much more of a challenge. Most of the TLM for me is rigorous reading to keep up with the Latin and its translation on the facing page. I love it, but when I go, it’s normally on Saturday without my family. I can’t imagine wrestling little ones and trying to get anything out of the liturgy other than Holy Eucharist. Of course, that’s what is most important, but the prayers, etc. mean a lot to me as well. That’s what makes the TLM so rich.

    I see benefits of both. To me, the TLM is richer, fuller, more pastoral. Having a priest pray over me as I silently receive Our Blessed Lord on my tongue is a profound experience. That said, the Novus Ordo that we attend regularly is more accessible to our children and to us as we struggle to keep them still and hushed. The Novus Ordo is also more accessible to the people in the bilingual, blue collar, working-class community where we live.

    IAs an aside, believe absolutely that Holy Eucharist should /not/ be received in the hand. I have asked our pastor for a kneeler so those of us who want can receive on our knees as well. I’ve asked more than once, but I don’t want to become a nag. There is a beautiful little booklet called Dominus Est by Rev. Athanasius Schneider that inspired me to show as much humble reverence as possible when receiving Holy Communion. It’s available for $8 on Amazon. It reads like a spy action novel.

    I have a booklet entitled The Mass of Vatican II (I think) and it seems to be the same mass that was offered at the wedding I described at the beginning of my post. There’s our happy medium, I believe. Much of the mass was in English (albeit chanted), but the mass parts were in Latin, the consecration was in Latin, and the priest was our intercessor as he should be. I think that’s my ideal.

    • Nathan Harder

      Hi Terry:

      If I may, I’d like to offer an alternative perspective for your consideration where the children are concerned. Mine is based on the certainty that children are little sponges…they take in everything through the senses: the signals are processed and, to borrow some computer terminology, become little bits of code in the operating system that will stay with them for the duration. I, too, am a member of a Diocesan parish where Mass is offered in the Extraordinary Form on Sundays and most holy days. When we can, we go to daily Mass in the Ordinary Form. I do this with a bit of trepidation since I have 2 little girls, both 7, who personify my view of the little ones as sponges. I’m concerned about the conflict (especially since they will be receiving 1st Holy Communion soon) generated by what I teach them about the True Presence vs. common practices in most OF Masses. We teach them that the Good God, who created heaven and earth, the stars, galaxies, nebulae, ugly bugs, cute babies, cuddly animals…all of creation…is disguised but truly present in the tiny Consecrated host. Then we take them to Mass and they see the smiling face of the Priest, they see the convoy of people dressed in heaven-knows what tromp up and circle the altar, they don’t see the priest holding his finger and thumb together after he has handled the Sacred Host, they see no patten, they see Christ being passed out like a potato chip by Priest and laity alike…and in some places, it gets much worse (like how it was when I was growing up). They see “horizontal” rather than vertical. Even though our priest tries hard, he’s still fighting an uphill battle because the Bishop won’t allow him to put in a communion rail, won’t allow him to offer Mass “Ad Orientem” (even as we begin to see heroic bishops here in the States doing so with regularity). The point being this: the kids see this, it goes dead-against what I try to teach them about God and how we should behave in His presence. In other words, it sets up a war in their little minds between what they are taught at home and what they see in Mass with their own two little eyeballs. I can’t prove this, but it’s my opinion that this is one of the big reasons we see so many young people from good families dump the faith like a sack o’ potatoes when they get out of the home…they simply choose to believe what they see rather than what they hear. The entire experience changes when going from the OF to the EF. It’s enough to turn a person into a sort of religious schizophrenic.

      I grew up in an Ordinary Form Parish, with all the abuses listed above and then some. I began attending an EF “indult” parish at the age of 12 or 13. I learned more about the Mass in those years than I ever did in my home Parish, and it had a profound impact on me that I’ve never outgrown – one which I’ve done my best to share with my wife and pass down to my children. It is a curious thing, I think, that it took Mass in a language that I didn’t understand for me to truly begin to appreciate what the Mass is really all about – the bloodless renewal of the Perfect Sacrifice offered on our behalf on Calvary so many years ago. It was also through the TLM that I learned about Catholic identity, Catholic culture, and developed a sense of continuity between myself and the nearly 2,000 years of Catholics gone before. I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the gold in the world.

      A special thanks to my father, who had the good sense to recognize the importance of Mass offered well, and the selflessness to make the sacrifices required to expose his young children to such a treasure.

      Disclaimer: These are my observations. Individual results may vary. But I’ve had many conversations with other Latin Mass-type parents who have shared similar experiences with me. I’ve watched my kids “play Mass” and am 1 part amazed and 2 parts terrified by the accuracy of their observations. Out of the Mouths of Infants and Sucklings…

      • Terri Kimmel

        Thanks for sharing your experiences. We’re fortunate in that we live in close proximity to a missionary order of priests and nuns, The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. We belong to a parish in their care. We do get a great liturgy, relatively speaking, even though it’s not TLM. (We church hopped a lot in the first several years we lived here before we found what we needed.) We even pray the St. Michael prayer after the final blessing before the priest recesses. We only have altar boys, no girls, etc. The order is far from perfect, but, in general, the priests are holy and the nuns wear real habits, with kind smiles on their faces.

        My boys all casually talk about the possibility that they will one day enter the priesthood. Our daughter is an adult and works full time in ministry It’s very natural to our children to live the faith. I’m not dissatisfied at all in that respect, despite the fact that we do not attend a TLM as a family.

        I would love to see the mass continue to evolve (or devolve?) back toward the TLM. Still, it needs to be a thoughtful process. I think re-examining the “reforms” of Vatican II and implementing appropriately would be a good start. I do think the TLM has the potential to alienate those who are less educated. Like I wrote in an earlier comment, it’s a workout for me to keep up with the Latin/English during the mass and I’m a college graduate. We live in an economically depressed area where high school is the end of most people’s educations. Most are blue collar and low-income. The people here are devout and would attend if the TLM was all that was available, but I don’t think the TLM would be “better” for them.

        That said, I think greater reverence for the Eucharist in the mass would be easy to implement and beneficial to everyone.

        The older I get, the more I realize that living in the Church Militant is never going to be comfortable. Human nature precludes perfection, regardless of how hard we try. Something is always going to be corrupted, in disrepair, or neglected. It’s a struggle to the end. Thanks be to God.

  • johnnyc

    I attend both forms and one thing that stands out to me, outside of the rubrics, is the number of people that come in late and/or leave early in the OF as compared to the EF. There is a noticeable emptying of the pews after communion in the OF that you just do not see in the EF. I wonder if those that attend the TLM exclusively place more of an importance on catechesis (understanding the Faith) than others.

  • ColdStanding

    the author writes:”But I am thankful for the liturgical reform, which freed the Mass from its culturally European origins.”

    The One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has shaped cultures, not just European, over the ages because it is already a universal and perfect society. The charge that She was suffering from some sort of Eurocentric bias that was keeping out people from other cultures is completely unfounded. First of all, the Holy Catholic Church is prior to what currently passes for European culture by quite some time. She has bridged cultural differences with Her wise guidance and council (many times). That most of this activity took place in what is now called Europe is not evidence of the Church having a European bias, but of Europe having a Roman Catholic bias. Thanks be to God.

    The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not culturally European in origin, it is culturally supernatural in origin. It comes, not from Europe, but from God. It is a gift given to all mankind by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

    With what confidence can we trust contemporary prelates, theologians, and sundry experts to modify that which is the the work of God as opposed to a product of human cultural activity? Any man would be, by definition, be unqualified. The evidence for the “shepherds” of this program of modification being inspired by the Holy Spirit is not strong.

    One should always celebrate assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (not as if one was, but) as a Catholic. Do you not read the the Epistles of the Apostle? “Neither Jew nor Greek…”