Friday, September 30, 2011

Bankrupting the Banquet: Reflections on the Distribution of Holy Communion

By Michael P. Foley

Seven years ago the Reverend Massimo Salani made international news by accusing fast food of being Protestant. Characterizing the popular form of eating as the complete oblivion of food’s “sacred nature,” the Italian Patristics scholar went on to opine that fast food “reflects the individualistic relation between man and God introduced by Luther” and is thus “the fruit of a Protestant culture.”1 [Note: Footnote links work only after you click on the "Read more »" link at bottom of the post.] While Salani’s theory won praise from the Italian Minister for Agricultural Resources, both the German Lutheran community and the McDonalds Corporation were quick to issue letters of rebuttal, almost as if both were equally insulted by association with the other.

Regardless of where one stands on the value of fast food, the topic certainly invites reflection on the relationship between dining and the Catholic sacramental life. Indeed, Fr. Salani could just as easily have asked not whether fast food is Protestant, but whether fast food is now, thanks to the way we currently administer Holy Communion, Catholic.

Specifically, while the rite of communion in the Tridentine Mass (and in all other historic apostolic rites) takes on the form of a high banquet or feast, communion in the typical Novus Ordo Mass celebrated in the U.S. today generally resembles the experience of eating at a fast-food restaurant. I stress “today,” for it would be simplistic and misleading to lay blame on the 1969 Missal per se.2 But we can at least suggest the following. Even when the communion rite of the Tridentine Mass is celebrated poorly by a hasty priest, the form of it remains unmistakably that of a grand banquet. On the other hand, the more negotiable form of the Novus Ordo communion rite, together with the implementations of the USCCB and the guidance of many American liturgists, have clearly made possible a number of practices that more often than not sell our banqueting birthright for a bowl of McPottage.

At the Lamb’s High Feast

In a Tridentine Mass, everything about the communion rite betokens participation in a great feast. Only the choicest vessels, made out of silver or gold, are used and only the finest linens. The atmosphere, even when there is only a single priest in somewhat of a hurry, is one of solemn leisure. The communicant stops, kneels, and waits. He is honored by the approach of the priest himself, not a lower minister and certainly not a fellow layman, just as diners at a fine restaurant are particularly honored when the chef comes out and visits their table (I apologize for the profane comparisons here and throughout, but they are necessary for the argument).

When the priest arrives, accompanied by his “waiter,” a formally-dressed acolyte, precious dishware (a gold paten) is placed under the communicant’s chin and he is treated to three things: a beautiful invocation directed specifically to him, “May the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy soul unto eternal life. Amen”; a mini-Benediction (for the priest makes the sign of the cross with the Host in his hand before distributing it); and the sacred Host itself. The prayer is particularly relevant to our discussion. The chef at a fine restaurant is likely to “pray” that his patrons obtain the intended effects of the fare he has served: hence he says something like, “Enjoy your meal.” The purpose of Holy Communion, on the other hand, is not pleasure for the body but bliss for the soul: hence the priest’s precise yet succinct prayer to each and every communicant.

The communicant then usually lingers for a little while in gratitude. In some parishes, kneelers even wait until everyone on their side of the aisle has received before rising and returning to their pews, both to prolong their adoration but also to show good manners in not rising from the table until everyone has finished.

Of particular importance throughout this ritual feasting is the communion rail. Its opponents depict it not only as a barrier between God and man but as an impediment to the Lord’s supper, for it keeps the congregation segregated from the altar, which in the great tradition has been understood as both the locus of sacrifice and a mensa, a table on which a meal is shared. Yet they overlook how the chancel rail, like the Byzantine iconostasis, is not a partition separating but a seam uniting heaven and earth, sacred and profane; and subsequently, it is more of a window than a wall. Moreover, the communion rail is a table, a banquet setting for the communion of God and His children in the congregation. Underscoring this function was the custom in some parishes of placing a fine white linen communion cloth -- a tablecloth, if you will -- on the chancel rail.

The Happy Meal

The ethos for Holy Communion at the average American Novus Ordo is noticeably different. The communion rail now gone and the striking descent of the priest from the high altar now ameliorated by architectural changes to the sanctuary and by the team of Eucharistic ministers diluting his distributive office, the communicants form a single file line from which they never fully escape. As they hasten forward (in my experience, the line usually moves quickly), they are advised to make some gesture of reverence as they approach the Blessed Sacrament as long as it is not the traditional genuflection -- presumably because it might impede efficiency.3 In the traditional communion rite, the line breaks as individual communicants find a place at the rail and then prepare for Holy Communion. In the most common current dispensation, by contrast, there is no local (and possibly no psychological) transition from reaching the head of the line to receiving the Eucharist.

Hooters shirts at Mass???

When I was at the Swiss L'Abri in the 1970s, Francis A. Schaeffer, Sr., made a point of welcoming everyone to church no matter how they were dressed. The important thing, he stressed, was that the younger generation were hearing the Gospel -- more important than how they were dressed. That was during they heyday of tie-died T-shirts and crazy hair and beards and hemp necklaces and day trippers looking more ripped than Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I wasn't yet a Catholic in those days, so I don't know how young folks of that generation looked appearing in U.S. Masses, although I've heard the horror stories of priests "consecrating" Ginos pizzas or watering potted plants with left over Communion wine.

And now there's this, from Terry Mattingly: "No Hooters shirts in Mass, please" (The News-Herald, August 26, 2011):
Deacon Greg Kandra was well aware that modern Americans were getting more casual and that these laid-back attitudes were filtering into Catholic pews.

Still, was that woman who was approaching the altar to receive Holy Communion really wearing a Hooters shirt?

Yes, she was.

When did Catholics, he thought to himself, start coming to Mass dressed for a Britney Spears concert? Had he missed a memo or something?
I suppose it's one thing to welcome outsiders (non-Christians, non-Catholics, or even lapsed-Catholic) to church no matter how they're dressed, although it would be hard for me to feel as generous-spirited as Schaeffer was. Philistine converts can always be catechized later. But it seems to me another thing completely for regular church-going cradle Catholics who should know better to come to meet their living Savior at Mass and witness His Sacrifice dressed down in tank tops, flip flops, or a Hooters T-shirt. I know these poor souls haven't been catechized for the past half-century, but they really ought to know better. The liturgy itself could be instructive here, you know ...

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do you love the Catholic Faith? Do you love the Lord?

In Regent Hall on Oxford Street in London, an hour-long sermon on "Living the Faith Radically" with some truly fine moments by Michael Voris (September 2, 2011). Yes it's long. Yes it lags in points. But compared to the fare you get in most AmChurch homilies these days, which would you rather have? A few fluffy Care Bear sentiments from the drive-by clergy, or an hour-long extemporaneous talk where, occasionally, the rubber hits the road, there is reality, there is clarity, and you tell yourself: Yes, THAT is why I'm Catholic. THAT is why I want to live the Catholic Faith as fully as I possibly can, with God's help. THAT is the reason for which I wish to live and die.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Jesus vs the Department of Health and Human Services"

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is butting heads with the USCCB over legislation that would compel all health plans to provide mandatory coverage of elective sterilization and contraception. There is a "conscience clause" that would provide religious exemption but it is so restricted that few if any religious organizations serving the general public would be able to meet it. Details at Against the Grain (September 25, 2011).

Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB, to which I make reference, is quite the blogger -- she gives the HHS a piece of her mind here and here. But Against the Grain (first link above) has the most concise synopsis.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

An Apology for the Confessional State

Crowning of Charlemagne

by James Tillman

There are perhaps but two views of the state's purpose. In the traditional view, the state helps men to some definite idea of perfection by inculcating virtue in them through good laws; such an ideal has been advanced by Aristotle, Aquinas, and various Popes. In the classical liberal view, the state allows men to pursue whatever they want by protecting their freedom of action; such an idea has been advanced by Locke and various Protestants.

The dispute between the two has nevertheless crept into Catholic circles, despite the church's historical preference for the traditional view of the state's purpose. In the middle of the previous century, for instance, American Catholics saw the conflict between John Courtney Murray, who through the American experiment in religious liberty to be a good thing, and the Roman Catholic Curia, which did not and which therefore silenced him. Later in the century, Frank Meyer, convert from Communism to secular conservatism, argued with Brent Bozell, convert to Catholicism and founder of the militant Catholic magazine Triumph, over whether government's ultimate end is promoting freedom or promoting virtue. Other modern Catholic figures have tried to reconcile the Church's teaching with principles amenable to the American mind. Notwithstanding the accusation that they reconcile only inasmuch as they obscure, such arguments have had a great deal of success.

It is not the purpose of this article to address these arguments.

Rather, it is to question a premise upon which the arguments have been based. For the argument over whether the state should promote some specific morality is founded upon the conviction that the state is able to not promote some specific morality. Agreement over the descriptive, therefore, founds disagreement over the prescriptive. I would like to question this agreement. I will argue that the state, in the course of its actual operation, must ultimately promote some specific idea of morality -- whether a secular ideal, a Protestant ideal, and Islamic ideal, or a Catholic ideal. It is impossible for it not to do so. Thus, debating whether the state ought to move men to a specific end is foolish: the state will do so, whether one wants it to do so or not. The question is only what sort of morality the state will promote.

This thesis may be very counter-intuitive; surely, most Americans will wish to plead, government is able simply to step back from issues of morality, religion, and man's final end? Why must these issues come into the laws in some way? More specifically, why cannot government simply limit itself to the protection of human rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property?

Fr. Z on Pope and altar girls in Germany

It goes without saying that the phenomenon of Altar-Frauen is not an isolated one, but iconic of 101 other liturgical novelties that were not only never mandated by Vatican II but never envisioned (except perhaps by revisionists who even then were entertaining hopes of women's ordination and other "We-Are-Church"-variety novelties). The fact that that such practices have been legitimated and mainstreamed over the past few decades does not change this.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf offers notable commentary on some incisive observations made by Fr. Franz Schmidberger (SSPX Superior for Germany) on the style of Papal Masses during the Holy Father's recent visit to Germany.

Here is a piece of the interview with Fr. Schmidberger:
Q: What do you as the District Superior think of a celebration of the Eucharist in a football stadium with a colorful opening act and with both boys and girls serving as altar servers?

Fr. Schmidberger: All those mass meeting have in them the danger of an “event”, that is they lack the sacral character, dignity and sanctity. And also, in the whole history of the Church, there have never been any female altar servers, simply because this service at the altar is connected in a remote way to that of the Priest, and according to the will of our Lord this is reserved for men. Female altar servers is an invention made by liberal churchmen, for whom the spirit of the times is more important than the faith and the consciousness of the Church, the “sentire cum Ecclesia”. (emphasis by Fr. Z.)
Fr. Zuhlsdorf then comments:
This is a rather clever answer, given the Communiquè of the Holy See: Meeting between CDF and the SSPX during which the “Doctrinal Preamble” was consigned. In that we read this:
This preamble enunciates some of the doctrinal principles and criteria of interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary for guarantying fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and to the sentire cum Ecclesia, while leaving open to legitimate discussion the study and theological explanation of expressions and particular formulations present in the texts of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium which followed.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf's final comment: "I think Fr. Schmidberger has a good point." So do I.

Liturgical Linens

Tridentine Community News (September 25, 2011):
Have you ever wondered about the variety of linens and cloths used during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Altar cloth

First and foremost are the Altar cloths (see above). Each altar used for celebration of the Tridentine Mass is supposed to be covered by three cloths. The top one is supposed to extend to the floor on the left and right sides.

Credence Table

Each small side table in the sanctuary that is used to hold liturgical objects such as the cruets of water and wine is covered with a Credence Table cloth, which may be of plain or laced linen. As with the altar cloths, the idea is to prevent any possibility of particles of Hosts, drops of the Precious Blood, or blessed objects such as palms from coming into contact with the profane or dirty. Communion Rail cloths are optional and serve a similar purpose, providing an added layer of protection beyond just the Communion paten against Hosts falling to the floor.


Before Mass, the chalice is covered by a chalice veil and burse. The burse is an envelope, inside of which is kept the corporal. The corporal is a square piece of linen with a cross somewhere on it, which is folded into nine sections. The priest unfolds the corporal in the center of the altar, and the liturgical actions of the Mass take place upon it. It is folded in such a way that the creases are on the inside, so that any particles of the Host that might be on the cloth are caught in the creases and do not fall out onto the altar cloth or floor when the cloth is folded back up and put into the burse.

Corporals are placed before any tabernacle on any (side) altar on which the Blessed Sacrament may be reserved, to provide a place on which a ciborium may be placed while the priest opens or closes the tabernacle door. A corporal is also put on an altar where Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament is to occur; the monstrance with the Host is placed upon it. Because St. Josaphat offers Benediction on Second Sundays and most every Monday and Thursday, an extra burse containing a corporal is always left on the altar, to the left side of the tabernacle, for convenience. If the monstrance is placed on top of the tabernacle or in a special niche, as it is at St. Josaphat, a special smaller corporal in placed where the monstrance ultimately sits.

Point of trivia: One of the corporals at Assumption-Windsor is not plain linen and has a familiar but non-religious design apart from its sewn-on cross. It took a while for us to realize that this particular corporal began its existence as ... a napkin from a Chinese restaurant.


The purificator is a mildly starched rectangular cloth with a cross, which is folded and placed on top of the chalice. During the Mass, the priest uses the purificator to wipe the chalice, the paten, and most significantly, to clean out the chalice and ciborium after Holy Communion.

The Lavabo cloth can come in a variety of sizes and dimensions, rectangular being the norm. One is pictured on top of the Lavabo dish on the Credence Table photo [above]. A cross is optional and rarely seen, as the lack of a cross helps to distinguish a Lavabo cloth from a purificator. The celebrant uses the Lavabo cloth to dry his hands after washing them with water at the Offertory. Sometimes referred to as a hand towel, the Lavabo cloth is distinguished from a true towel by being made of (flat) linen and not of fuzzy material like a bath towel.

True (fuzzy) towels are called for at certain liturgies where soap and water are required to clean the priest’s hands after a messy task, such as the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The amice has been mentioned before as part of our discussion of vestments. It is a square piece of linen, with “string” extensions, which the priest ties around his neck and shoulders before putting on the rest of his vestments. It represents purity.

Linens are yet another realm where perfection must not get in the way of the very good. Few churches have three cloths for their high altars. Some priests will not wear an amice. There might not be cloths to fit every small table in the church that might be called into use for a liturgical purpose. One must make do with the supplies one has, of course with an eye to obtaining the missing items eventually.

And one more thing: It’s not just a matter of owning these items. Someone has to be in charge of laundering and mending them as needed. That is an ongoing, time consuming obligation. We would be remiss if we did not express our thanks to Rosemary “Busia” Iwan for taking care of the linens at St. Josaphat, and to Diane Begin for doing the same at Assumption-Windsor.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 09/26 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Ss. Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, & Companions, Martyrs)

Tue. 09/27 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Ss. Cosmas & Damian, Martyrs)

Thu. 09/29 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Dedication of St. Michael, Archangel)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for September 25, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The United States Rediscovers Its Mother Tongue ... from Latin America

Sandro Magister, "The United States Rediscovers Its Mother Tongue: Latin" (www.chiesa, September 13, 2011): "With more and more Latin American immigrants, the number of Catholics will soon exceed one hundred million. But the first evangelization was also Catholic and Hispanic. A shocking reinterpretation of American history and identity, by the bishop of Los Angeles."

In a political climate where some candidates are campaigning on platforms pushing English as the mandatory national language, Los Angelis Bishop José H. Gómez offers the ante-Anglican historical thesis "that the United States will lose its national identity if it forgets that it is rooted in the Hispanic Catholic missions in the new world."

The new (old) language, of course, is "Latin." Well ... Spanish. "Los Angeles," "San Francisco," "San Diego," "Sacramento," "Santa Barbara," "Santa Fe" ... all named after the Spanish missions that dotted the American Southwest in the first settlements from the Old World.

The Polish Catholic Experience


By Raymond T. Gawronski

Not too long ago I received a copy of a history of the sixteen Polish parishes in Milwaukee. It is a tremendously moving story of how the poorest of the immigrants from Europe built the most spectacular churches, at incredible cost. The Basilica of St. Josaphat, most imposing of the structures, at one time boasted the second largest dome in the nation after the U.S. Capitol Building. The people who built it were the most despised of the European immigrants, taking dangerous and unsavory jobs no one else would take, huddled in crowded conditions. And yet the parishioners of that parish took out second mortgages on their homes, and contributed up to a year’s factory wages, in order to build the church to the glory of God.

It is said that when the Germans came to Milwaukee they built factories, and when the Polish came to Milwaukee they built churches. The church was at the very center of the life of the Polish community. And soon there were schools — grammar and high schools — and benevolent institutions, orphanages, and cultural organizations, including an opera company.

This is only Milwaukee. There are a dozen cities, mostly the Lake Cities — Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo — where more or less the same phenomenon occurred. And then a hundred other small towns and villages, from Texas to Nebraska to New England, where coal miners, farmers, and other working folk gave their best to the Church, which had been their spiritual home for a millennium.

Pope: Vatican II "defined no dogma at all"

In 1988, addressing the Chilean bishops, Cardinal Ratzinger stated: "The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of 'superdogma' which takes away the importance of all the rest."

Two interesting, related articles on this:In short, it should not be assumed that Rome has changed her position on what is de fide (definitive Church teachings that all Catholics are bound to accept), simply because the CDF has suggested that concerns raised by the SSPX should not be regarded as grounds for their exclusion from the Church. The Church has always distinguished what is de fide from what is not, as she has distinguished what is doctrinal from what is disciplinary; and it is nothing new that the Second Vatican Council was called a "pastoral council."

If there is anything new in the last sixty years, it has been the widespread opinion promoted by liberal dissenters that Vatican II -- or, more precisely, "the spirit of Vatican II" -- represents some new sort of "litmus test" of politically correct thinking to which all right-thinking Catholics must conform their thinking. This has never been true. Vatican II was a pastoral council whose stated aim was to address the vision and task of the Church in the modern world. Good Catholics can disagree over how well this aim was realized, since, as the former Cardinal Ratzinger declared, the Council "defined no dogma at all."

Fish on Fridays ... once again in the UK

As of September 16th, Catholics in England and Wales are once again required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays as an act of penance, reviving a centuries-old tradition (BBC, 9-15-2011).

An excellent article anticipating and analyzing this development can be found under the title of "Law and Tradition" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, September 2, 1011):
... This is a very welcome development from a region of the Church that is known for its wackiness and extremely progressive tendencies. We should all applaud this move by the British bishops as a step in the right direction and pray that such measures would be contemplated and enacted by their American counterparts.
What's the last time you worried about neglecting your Friday Penance -- you know, the one which, since Vatican II, you're supposed to be maturely imposing on yourself on Fridays in lieu of abstaining from fish. What's the last time you've confessed that negligence to a priest? What's the last time you heard a confessor treat it as a real sin during confession?

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Christ's "buddies" or "slaves"?

A reader recently forwarded to me the following email he sent to the host of a local Catholic radio talk show, which I post here (with the author's name omitted) to raise the question: How should we view our relationship to Christ? Are we His "buddies" or "slaves" ... or both? What difference does it make how Catholics view their relationship to Christ?
Dear Al Kresta:

I greatly appreciate all of your efforts even if I seem willing to pick a fight. As a traditionalist I am marginalized.

On your 9/11 show you rebroadcast an interview with Scott Hahn. Scott characterizes Muslims as having a master-slave relationship. But that is precisely what we Catholics had before Vatican II. I remember the agony of violating even the Friday abstinence. That's how seriously we took obedience. Now there is a new book by Pastor John MacArthur called Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. "Though the word slave (doulos in Greek) appears 124 times in the New Testament and its compound syndoulos (fellow slave) 10 times, it is correctly translated only once in the KJV. According to Kittel the word doulos is used exclusively 'either to describe the status of a slave or an attitude corresponding to that of a slave.' 'The meaning is so unequivocal and self-contained that it is superfluous to give examples.' St. Louis Grignion de Montfort comes to mind as one who asserts the word 'slave' without any hesitation.

Recently you had a show devoted to one of my favorite topics, the social reign of Christ the King. You invited input from your listeners and noted the absence of discussion on the topic. I wanted to shout "Go to Grand Rapids, Al." There the Reformed Protestants really believe in the sovereignty of Christ.

It is of great concern to me that the central mystery of our faith is scarcely known by a majority of Catholics: the atonement. Msgr. Arthur Calkins (Ecclesia Dei) believes it is the cause of the identity crisis in the priesthood. Vide Padre Pio: Priest and Victim (

Scott Hahn has given us a very warm and friendly approach to the faith (God's covenant family), but is it Catholic?
I post this as someone with a personal appreciation both of (1) the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort (who refers to our "slavery" to Mary and, via Mary, to Christ), as well as (2) the point often stressed by Dr. Scott Hahn that when Jesus teaches us to pray in the New Testament, He introduces "Abba" (an intimate term roughly equivalent to "Daddy") as the form of address for praying to our Heavenly Father.

The apostles repeatedly refer to themselves as "slaves" of Jesus Christ, although this is often mistranslated into English as "servants" (Rm. 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1; Jas 1:1). But St. Paul also casts a new light on this slavery when he writes: "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father!" (Rm 8:15). Again, Jesus says that "Whoever does the will of My Father is my brother and sister" (Mt 12:49). Yet again, Jesus says: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."

This alone does not yet answer the question of how we ought to conceive of our relationship to Christ and what our proper attitude toward our Lord ought to be. Clearly there are a number of facets to this relationship, since our Jesus is not merely our Friend, and Savior and Redeemer, but our Creator, our Lord, our Master, our King and our Judge. It may also be the case that an ethos given to overemphasizing one or the other extreme in its discourse about our relationship to Christ may call for a corrective counter-balancing emphasis on the other side of the equation. Your thoughts?

[Hat tip to A.S.]

Great expectations: Abp Chaput in Philly

Archbishop Chaput, recently installed as the new Archbishop in the key archdiocese of Philladelphia, is called "the most important intellectual and pastoral voice among American bishops today" by Thomas Peters in his article, "In Arranged Philadelphia Marriage, Archbishop Chaput Woos His New Flock" ( blog, September 12, 2011), a fine analysis.

[Hat tip to J.M.]javascript:void(0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Perversity of the secular mind

Imagine a little girl crying after falling and bruising her knee. The natural HUMAN impulse would be to come to her 'rescue', comfort her, tell her everything is going to be alright.

According to the naturalistic worldview (not to mention the nihilistic one), life is ultimately a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing.

Now imagine a man possessed of such a view encountering such a little girl and responding to her plight by telling her: "Listen, young lady. You think you've got something to cry about? Let me tell you something. Your crying is pointless. Your life doesn't even have a purpose. It counts for no more than the life of a bug. Go tell that to your mommy."

What human being in his right mind, even if he were convinced that this view were true, would not consider it the greatest tragedy of human life? How could this not be the most unnatural, perverse, and disgusting fact of the human predicament? Every natural desire has its natural fulfillment. Thirst has drink, hunger has food, fatigue has sleep, etc. That the human heart, however, should find itself burgeoning with unfulfillable aspirations, hopes, dreams, loves and yearnings -- how could this not be a tragedy of colossal proportions?

Today on the way in to work, I happened to tune in to NPR, where a man was being interviewed about the rediscovery of a work long forgotten by most of the world of popular culture: the epic poem On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura), by the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius (ca. 99–55 BC).

Lucretius' view of the world is naturalistic materialism. In other words, matter is the only reality. There is nothing outside of or beyond this natural material world -- no supernatural, no spiritual world, no unseen world of souls or minds. Everything is explicable ultimately in terms of atomistic materialism. Sound familiar?

The remarkable thing about the NPR interview, however, was the exuberant tone of the conversation on air. Lucretius' work had lost popularity with the advent of the Church, because there was no room in such a Christian world for views such as his, the interviewee explained. Moreover, he stressed, Lucretius' vision is BEAUTIFUL, because there is no heaven above us or hell below us. Just us and the world. Without any greater purpose. We're just here. Then we're gone. No deeper mystery. And Lucretius is just so ELOQUENT about all this. Isn't this WONDERFUL!!

It's one thing to find such a vision of human life "compelling" (and there are plenty of arguments against finding it so). But it's another thing altogether to be filled with such fevered ENTHUSIASM for such a view.

Imagine the interviewee encountering the little girl crying, not only trying to persuade her that her life is pointless, but that she should find this fact "beautiful" and "wonderful"!

What a piece of work is secular man, how perverse in reason, this quintessence of dust who rejoices in his nullity!

Which ties in nicely with the contemporary rebirth of enthusiasm for the "Wisdom of Silenus" of ancient Greek folklore, according to which the best thing of all is never to have been born, not to be, to be nothing; and the second best -- to die as quickly as possible.

Smile. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fr. David Bechill ordained this afternoon

It was heartening to see former Sacred Heart Major Seminary student Deacon David Bechill ordained to the priesthood this afternoon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

Sacrifice of past generations

I have commented before on the beauty of many of Detroit's old church buildings. Many of these, for whatever reason, are Polish churches. (I intend to publish a piece on the Polish legacy at some point in the near future.)

Anyway, I was talking to a student of Polish extract this afternoon, who described how he had read that in past generations, his Polish forbears in Detroit had gone so far as to mortgage their homes in order to contribute toward the building of their community churches.

Can you imagine anyone doing that today? Parishioners in the affluent suburbs today seem happy to be driving very nice vehicles and living in houses that their grandparents would likely consider lavish, while their suburban churches look more like gymnasiums or auditoriums built in airport hangers than the churches with bell towers, stained glass and soaring spires of their ancestor's era.

The ironies abound as you begin to think about how siblings doubled up in bedrooms in small houses generations ago, while they built soaring and splendid churches to the glory of God.

To the glory of what do people today live in sprawling houses with cathedral ceilings and produce such impoverished structures as their "worship spaces"?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Would preaching like this be tolerated today?

One of my good Chaldean students and I were talking about homilies in the Church here in the United States today and the popularity of preaching what people like to hear, which makes little if any demands on them, and the paucity of preaching on sin, the self-discipline, and sanctification. He shared with me a link to this homily by St. Leonard of Port Maurice entitled "The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved" (Our Lady of the Rosary Library).

A comment at the bottom of the homily says: "This sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was preached during the reign of Pope Benedict XIV, who so loved the great missionary."

I couldn't help wondering if such preaching would be tolerated anywhere today. It might be considered too "frightening," despite the words of the writer of Proverbs that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

SSPX - Vatican close to agreement?

Regarding the meetings tomorrow (September 14, 2011) between the Vatican's Cardinal Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Bishop Bernard Fellay and his assistants from the Society of St. Pius X, here are some of the most recent reports.

Why does this matter? Not only because His Holiness, Benedict XVI, is the "pope of unity," who has done more to bring Anglicans and others (including marginalized and alienated traditional Catholics) into the fold than most people realize, but because it matters -- as he well understands -- that unity must be founded upon truth.
  • "Vatican, SSPX close to agreement?" (World Catholic News, September 13, 2011):
    According to Le Figaro, the proposed agreement would state that the issues raised by the SSPX are not fundamental doctrines of the Church, and it is possible to question them without challenging the authority of Church teaching.

    Liberal Catholics will be unhappy with a regularization of the SSPX, Guenois concedes. But liberals will find it difficult to object to the proposed agreement, since they regularly claim to be loyal Catholics while raising questions about certain aspects of Church teaching.
  • "Tornielli: A two-page document in 'Judgement day' for SSPX and the Vatican" (Rorate Caeli, September 13, 2011):
    Vatican Insider has learned that the Lefebvrian superior will be handed a two-page document, containing the Church’s appraisal of the doctrinal discussions held in recent months between the Vatican and the Fraternity, approved by the Pope.

    ... The Holy See considers the acceptance of the document as an essential condition for full communion, which would also provide for a legal settlement for the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, probably through the constitution of a similar ordinariate to the one expected for the Anglicans.
  • "For the record: 'The innovation comes from the Roman side'" (Rorate Caeli, September 13, 2011):
    The great novelty [i.e., initiative] comes from the Roman side. Le Figaro has learned that the Holy See could, for the first time, admit that these aspects fought by the "Integrists" are not considered as "essential" to the Catholic faith to the point of keeping outside the Church those who do not admit them. And that what has been foundational to the Catholic faith for twenty centuries is the sole [aspect] considered fundamental for communion with the Holy See, and not the interpretation from the last Council to this day.

    Great autonomy of action

    Another consequence: the Holy See, after it is verified tomorrow that Bishop Fellay and his faithful share the essence of the Catholic faith - which remains a demand and a sine qua non condition for Rome -, would propose to them a juridical solution so that the Fraternity of Saint Pius X is from this point forward considered a Catholic entity and not foreign to the ecclesial body anymore.
  • Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, "SSPX leaders to receive document from the Holy See on 14 September" (WDTPRS, September 13, 2011):
    People of good will can attain unity even when they disagree on matters which are by no means clear.

    The history of the Church’s great Councils underscores this fact.

    How many times have I written that the so-called “Feeneyites” were able to be in union with the Church but without having to abjure their position about extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. The theological problems the SSPX has with the Second Vatican Council or the Holy See or anything else, don’t necessarily need to be the absolute obstruction to unity.

    Questions of the role of the Church in the modern world or religious liberty are really hard. There is room for debate and disagreement. It is possible for people of good will to disagree about whether or not the fruits of Vatican II were all wonderful. There is a precedent for closer union even when we consider the theological concerns some SSPXers might be harboring.

    Slowly but sure the climate has been changing. Hopefully we have come to a point where hearts can also be moved to open. And there must be a willingness on the part of the SSPX to submit to the Holy Father’s authority… which he is exercising in very good will in their regard.
  • "A final thought for September 14, 2011" (Rorate Caeli, September 13, 2011): From the daily thoughts of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre posted at the front page of the website of the French District of the Society of Saint Pius X:
    "If Rome wishes to give us a true autonomy, the one we have now, but with submission, we would want it. We have always hoped for it: to be subjected to the Holy Father; no possibility of despising the authority of the Holy Father".
  • Christopher Ferrara, "Removing the Vatican II Impediment" (The Remnant, September 2, 2011):
    Rorate Caeli has reported that on May 28, 2011 Father Daniel Couture, the Society’s District Superior of Asia (whom I had the privilege of assisting during a pilgrimage in Japan), was delegated by Bishop Fellay to accept the vows of Mother Mary Micaela, who has transferred from the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of New Zealand, a Novus Ordo congregation, to the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, established by Bishop Fellay. The report notes that Mother Mary “had special permission from the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes in Rome to do this.”

    Obviously, the approval of this transfer implicitly recognizes the ministry of Bishop Fellay in establishing the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui, the ministry of Father Couture in receiving the vows of the Novus Ordo nun who transferred into that order, and the canonical mission of the Society at large in delegating one of its priests, through one of its bishops, to admit a nun into an order with which the Society is affiliated and whose superior is Bishop Fellay.

    ... Is the “Vatican II impediment” [the idea that Vatican II -- a "pastoral council" -- represents a doctrinal litmus test that the SSPX supposedly cannot pass] about to be removed? Will it join the nonsense about the banning of the traditional Mass in the dustbin of Vatican II mythology? Will the Vatican finally admit that the Council changed nothing, and required nothing from Catholics, concerning what they must believe and practice in order to be in “full communion” with the Church?

    ... So much nonsense has been dispelled during this pontificate. The neo-Catholic polemic on the "schism" of traditionalists is now in tatters. When the Society is finally "regularized" de jure -- and it is already regularized de facto, who's kidding whom? -- what will be left of the neo-Catholic position? Exactly nothing. And when exactly nothing is left of neo-Catholicism, when its claim to be the moral and theological high ground is finally extinguished, then the restoration of the Church can proceed everywhere. Let us hope the date of extinction is on or about September 14, 2011.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


("Let us pray")

There is always a lot for which to pray, but especially now there seems to be an abundance of concerns. Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and, if we all survive, this coming week is 9/14, among a host of other things ...

The one thing Obama knows how to do

His answer to just about anything is: "Pass this bill." Yep: let us have your money, and we, the government, will pass a bill and solve your problems for you.

Accidental orientation

Amy Welborn offers a brilliant observation over at Charlotte Was Both (September 7, 2011).

She sets the stage by describing the all-too-common experience of the Sunday Mass with the priest and his personality dominating the liturgy -- a nearly unavoidable effect of the now nearly ubiquitous stance of priest facing the people (versus populum): "The priest became the center of the Mass – and not in the alter Christus offering sacrifice mode he’s supposed to - and for the rest of us, there was no escaping him."

But wait. There's a kicker coming. She continues:
... Here’s what struck me this time.

The parish has a special intention for which they are praying to the Virgin.

So after Mass the priest led the people in this prayer to the Virgin for this special intention.

He turned around. Away from the congregation. With them.

He recited the words of this prayer to the Virgin, on his knees facing her statue – which stood in the sanctuary.

He turned , he faced the statue, he prayed.

With us.

I could not help but wonder why embracing this stance and this mode of praying which did not deviate from the given, “rote,” prayer one bit - leading us, but in the same direction – was acceptable now, but not during Mass.
Think about what this means. Fr. Z. comments:
When it came time to pray instead of "celebrate together" (quotes added), the instinct was to face the same direction together to the one whom they were addressing. When the priest got himself out of the way, they prayed together.

The imposition of a versus populum position for Mass was probably the single most corrosive thing perpetrated in the name of Conciliar liturgical reform. That was the opinion of the great liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber.

A reorientation of our Catholic identity requires a reorientation of our liturgical worship. One way to help reorient ourselves as a praying Church would be to reorient our altars to the “liturgical East”.
[Hat tip to Fr. Z.]

Only one vocation from Catholic Central from the 1980s

I was speaking with a fellow parent who also has one of his children enrolled at Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Plymouth, MI. We were at an ice cream social kicking off the new year for the K-8 school run by the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. He was a former graduate of Catholic Central High School in Metro Detroit (Novi), and we were talking about the history of the Catholic Church in Metro Detroit and how so many notorious dissident groups seem to have originated in the area, such as Call to Action, which began at a Detroit conference in 1976.

My fellow conversationalist noted that a period between the late 1970s and early 1990s seemed to strike the nadir, as far as these sorts of influences are concerned. In fact, he thought he remembered that there were absolutely no priestly vocations at Catholic Central during that period.

Later, he sent me a PDF file of an issue of the Aluminator (Fall 2011), which carries an article regarding vocations from the Catholic Central, observing that he was not fully correct: there was one vocation to the priesthood from Catholic Central during the 80's, the Rev. Thomas R. Carzon, O.M.V. ('86).

The issue of the magazine carries an interesting survey of vocations from the 1930s through the 1990s. Among other things, it features a good discussion by Bishop Michael J. Byrnes ('76), former Vice Rector at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, who relates the fascinating story of how he was inspired as a child by the example of Fr. Remigius McCoy, a Missionary to Africa and his grandfather's cousin, who was the first to bring the Catholic Faith to a region of Ghana inhabited by the Dagaaba people in West Africa.

The question at issue, to which I do not have an answer, is why the decade of the 1980s saw only a single vocation to the priesthood. It would be interesting to know the influences the predominated at CC during those years and how they might have impacted the thinking of young men considering the priesthood.

[Hat tip to D.M.]

"They are expelling Jesus from the churches"

... both by removing Him from sanctuaries and ignoring His teachings in homilies. This is noted in a post by Antonio Socci (Rorate Caeli, September 9, 2011), who writes:
One day, while chatting with some friends, Cardinal Ratzinger quipped, “The way I see it, the proof that the Church has Divine origins is the fact that it has survived the millions of sermons delivered every Sunday!”

... In short, you can witness all sorts of things going on in the churches….all but the one thing necessary - that Jesus Christ is the center.

Indeed, in this widespread inattentiveness, even the Italian bishops have cast Him out from the churches ( least visibly removed from the High Altar and set aside in some corner). He, Who is the rightful owner, namely the Son of God, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. (emphasis added)
There is much more, painful to read, by Succi, as well as this:

"Newly remodeled Seminary Chapel of the Diocese of Hildesheim, Germany [Source]: in the center, the ambo ('Tisch des Wortes' - Table of the Word) and, farther away, the altar ('Tisch des Brotes' - Table of the Bread)"

Friday, September 09, 2011

Obama BS removal kit

I posted this once before, but the memory keeps coming back to haunt me, or should I say "inspire" me.

Here's a more recent follow-up:

Should flocks unprepared for T-Bones continue to be fed "goo"?

Those of us more grateful than we can ever tell for ready access to the consolations of the EF can easily forget the weekly "reality" for the rest of American Catholics out there. For the vast majority, the weekly reality is a sugary does of easy-going therapeutic religion with 70s overtones of "Gifts of Finest Wheat" and a bevy of smiling matronly EMHCs passing out Communion and blessing toddlers.

Rorate Caeli offers a motivational example of an Italian diocesan priest who celebrates the EF exclusively, whereupon Fr. Z. rants a lot [both on 9/8/2011], addressing in particular situations in which priests may be obliged for the good of the flock to sacrifice personal preferences [an observation, which, by the way, cuts more than one way].

Citing St. Paul's distinction between milk and solid food and our Lord's words, "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," Fr. Z. writes:
Long-time readers here will recall that I liken addressing these problems to the feeding of children and the feeding of adults....

Shepherds, modeling their work after that the Savior who is our Chief Shepherd and High Priest, and His Vicar, must give the flock what they can bear and then change what they give as the capacity of the flock changes.

Parents do not give their toothless babes the T-Bone and Cabernet Sauvignon which they prefer for themselves. They give their children whatever goo they need until they can bear more.
Readers are advised that Fr. Z's post (like Rorate Caeli's) is very long, and that he anticipates a number of significant objections.

I am interested in knowing how our readers may respond. It's an interesting question. As I've often said before, it's much more than a question of preferences [among other things, it's also a theological question]; but what is reasonable, good and right for a parish priest in an ethos shaped by the McDonaldization of faith and life?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Why feminism now diminishes men

Our correspondent at large just sent us a link to "Why feminism is sexist" (Sacramentum Vitae, September 3, 2011) by Mike L., adding the following remarks:
My fight was with a female who is a Democrat, a Journalist, and a Christian with a big heart. All her life she thinks she has been dealt the lesser hand. It has always been a man's world, and we can't do too much to encourage and help women. Women make less. Women were forced to quit careers to have children. Women leaders would mean far fewer world wars. Women clerics would mean less weirdness over sex. And so on. And so on.

I would send it on to her, except I don't think it would solve anything, simply reopen the arguments. In my book it all comes down to whether you chose to resent or to embrace the differences in the genders. And the more you embrace them, the more those who are not as blessed with the 'gender distinctives' will feel marginalized. A tough situation.

Maybe I should have been Amish!

Anyway, I would have entitled the piece

"Why Feminism Now Diminishes Men"
One choice quote:
Friedrich Nietzsche explained as follows why he opposed "equality" for women: "Women will never be satisfied with mere equality. The war between the sexes is eternal, and peace can only come with victory and the total subordination of men." In its time, that witticism was merely flippant. But no longer is it merely flippant.

St. Hyacinth Church to Host Special Tridentine Mass

Tridentine Community News (September 4, 2011):
Another historic Detroit church will hold a special Tridentine Mass, on Sunday, September 25 at 1:00 PM. The celebrant will be Orchard Lake Seminary’s Fr. Louis Madey. A reception will follow the Mass.

St. Hyacinth (pictured below) Church is another parish of Polish origin, located just a few blocks northeast of St. Josaphat and St. Albertus, at 3151 Farnsworth, at McDougall. The clean exterior and immaculately maintained grounds contain an ornate, well-preserved interior, complete with High Altar, High Pulpit, and Communion Rail. Elaborate artwork adorns the ceiling, shown in the adjacent photo. A flyer including a map to St. Hyacinth is available at the missal tables at St. Josaphat and Assumption-Windsor.

A little-known fact about St. Hyacinth is that it hosted a monthly Ordinary Form Latin Mass for many years. Visitors were handed a customized copy of St. Joseph Parish’s homemade Latin Missal.

Special thanks to Chris Stuckey for serving as the liaison between St. Hyacinth and St. Josaphat and co-coordinating this Mass.

Flint Anniversary Mass on October 9

October is shaping up to be a busy month for special Tridentine Mass events: The annual Solemn High Anniversary Mass and Dinner for the Flint Tridentine Community will be held at All Saints Church on Sunday, October 9 at 4:00 PM. This year’s celebrant will be Fr. Jeffrey Robideau, administrator of Michigan’s first evolving fully Tridentine Parish, the Blessed John XXIII Community at Lansing’s St. Mary Cathedral. Fr. Robideau is breaking new ground as the only diocesan priest in the state of Michigan to celebrate exclusively the Extraordinary Form.

Bravo, Wassim & Company

“Wassim Sarweh must be one of the most brilliantly innovative yet underrated organists and choirmasters in the English-speaking world.” So begins the report by Jeffery Tucker of the Church Music Association of America on the music program he and fellow CMAA leader Arlene Oost-Zinner witnessed at Windsor’s Assumption Church on August 28. The story is impressively entitled “Vigor, Energy, Freshness in the Extraordinary Form”.
Jeffrey recognizes the coordinated team effort that goes into our Masses, a point often made in this column. The Tridentine Mass is such a beautiful and full expression of our Holy Catholic Faith that it deserves to be offered in the best means possible, with the finest music, vestments, altar supplies, and talents that can be assembled. Far from being something nostalgic, it is actually a gift for our present age, offering transcendence and a glimpse of the heavenly liturgy to a materialistic world.

Read Jeffrey’s full report at:

Special thanks to former Windsor Tridentine Mass Music Director Matthew Meloche for arranging the CMAA’s visit to Assumption.

Next St. Albertus Mass

The next Tridentine Mass at St. Albertus Church will be held in two weeks, on Sunday, September 18 at noon.

The Sanctus Candle

A reader asked the purpose of the single candle that is placed upon the altar at some of our weekday Masses at the beginning of the Canon. This “Sanctus Candle”, so named because it is moved onto the altar during the Sanctus, represents the Light of Christ made present upon the altar. It takes the place of the torches, the candles enclosed in glass which are used at High Masses. A minimum of two and a maximum of six torches are used when sufficient altar servers are present. The Sanctus Candle is a laudable option used at all Low Masses as well as at High Masses when the minimum of two torchbearers are not available. The torches recess and the Sanctus Candle is removed when the tabernacle is closed after Holy Communion, at which point Christ is no longer present on the altar table.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 09/05 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Lawrence Justinian, Bishop & Confessor)

Tue. 09/06 7:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Daily Mass for the Dead: Requiem Mass with Absolution at the Catafalque)

Thu. 09/08 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for September 4, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Turned away at ND church door

At the conclusion of a reunion of paternal cousins in Indiana this weekend, a group wanted to go to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame for Sunday Mass at 10:00am, and I agreed to go (partly out of curiosity). Located at the heart of the Notre Dame football theme park, which doubles as a university, I was turned away by a verger at the door, perhaps because the Mass had already started. I was astounded. No permission was granted even for standing room in the back, though I could see there was ample room. No, it wasn't because I'm "Pertinacious Papist." Nobody recognized me. While I'm sure the administration, if asked, could furnish some plausible-sounding explanation for the incident, it just seemed a trifle emblematic of the way things have been going at that one-time bastion of Catholicism founded by Fr. Edward Sorin in 1842.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Out of the Liturgical Ghetto

Pieter Vree

No matter what direction the “new liturgical movement” envisioned by Pope Benedict XVI takes, and before any “mutual enrichment” between the two extant forms of the Roman rite can take place, the Tridentine Latin Mass must experience a significant revival. If only for the sake of the liturgical patrimony of the Church, it cannot remain restricted to a handful of Masses scattered about in far-flung parochial outposts. Unfortunately, four years after the release of Summorum Pontificum, Benedict’s motu proprio liberalizing the celebration of the Latin Mass, hard data on its growth during the ensuing years is hard to come by.

All we have to go on at this point — aside from first-person accounts of isolated circumstances that appear periodically in Catholic media — are a few surveys commissioned by Pax Liturgique, a French group in communion with Rome that works to promote the spread of the Latin Mass. The results of its surveys, conducted in late 2009 and early 2010, were published in the traditionalist British Christian Order (Oct. 2010). Insofar as surveys are useful, these provide insight into the situations in Germany, Italy, England, and Portugal (a survey of French Catholics was completed in late 2008 and is thus too dated to be relevant).

Of the German Catholics who were asked whether they were aware that the Pope had issued a document allowing for wider celebration of the Latin Mass, over 43 percent said yes. Word of the motu proprio’s release traveled farther in Italy, where 64 percent of the Catholics surveyed responded that they had heard of it. But only 39 percent of British respondents claimed to be aware of its release, as did an abysmally low 26 percent of respondents in Portugal. Pax Liturgique comments that the widespread ignorance of Portuguese Catholics about Summorum Pontificum (74 percent had never even heard of it) “is due, on the one hand, to the Portuguese media’s lack of interest for liturgical issues. On the other hand, however, it is due also to the indifference of the episcopate and a good part of the Portuguese clergy towards…the liberation of the traditional Mass.”

On the bright side, a majority of respondents in Germany (50.6 percent) and Italy (a whopping 71 percent) said they would consider it “normal” if the Latin Mass and the New Mass were celebrated regularly in their parish. Less than a quarter of respondents in either country (24.5 and 24 percent, respectively) said that such a situation would be “abnormal.” The remainder had no opinion. The results were mixed in England and Portugal: 44.9 percent of Englishmen would consider this situation “normal” (opposed to 21 percent who said it would be “abnormal”), as would 44.7 percent of Portuguese (with a full 40 percent calling it “abnormal”).

The practicing Catholics among those polled were then asked whether they would attend the Latin Mass if it were offered in their parish, without replacing the New Mass, and, if so, how often. In Germany the largest percentage of respondents, 40 percent, said they would attend it “occasionally”; the next largest percentage of respondents, 25 percent, answered “weekly.” In Italy the largest percentage, 40 percent, said they would attend “weekly”; 23 percent said “monthly.” In Portugal 29.5 percent said they would attend “weekly”; 24 percent said “monthly.” And in England 43 percent said they would attend “weekly.” In second place, 16.4 percent of respondents said they would “never” attend the Latin Mass.

We can glean from these figures that the “cohabitation” of the two forms of the Mass in one parish would generally not be a problem for most people (save for certain Portuguese and Englishmen). Moreover, substantial attendance at the Latin Mass on a regular basis, whether weekly or monthly, is likely in three of these four countries if — and it’s a big if — the Latin Mass were offered on a regular basis at the local parish.

Where the people are less aware of the motu proprio there exists greater resistance to the idea of having the Latin Mass as an option at the local parish. This situation, however, might exist by design. Christian Order comments: “Despite every effort to keep them in the dark about Summorum Pontificum, when apprised of its existence and provisions by pollsters, 30-40%+ of practicing Catholics in each country (i.e. more than one in three, and in England twice that number) indicated they would gladly attend the traditional Mass weekly if it were celebrated in their parish…. [This is a] very strong tendency considering the Novus Ordo’s longstanding monopoly on parish life…. The self-fulfilling lie of ‘no demand’ has been comprehensively debunked by [this] series of surveys.”

How does the situation compare stateside? Una Voce America (UVA), a group in communion with Rome that promotes the spread of the Latin Mass in the U.S., released the results of its own study in its Spring 2011 newsletter. Of the 34 dioceses UVA surveyed, 19 reported to have experienced an increase in every-Sunday Latin Masses since 2007; 14 experienced no change (three of which held steady at zero Latin Masses); and one reported a decrease. When asked about the attitude of the local ordinary toward the Latin Mass, the largest percentage of respondents, 35 percent, described it as “bad and no hope.” Eighteen percent called it “stagnant,” compared with only 15 percent who said it was “generally improving.” When asked about the general situation for the Latin Mass in their diocese, the largest percentage of respondents, 29 percent, called it “stagnant.” Eighteen percent said “bad and no hope,” whereas 21 percent said it was “improving.”

The conclusions UVA drew from its survey are that “there is a demand” for the Latin Mass and Summorum Pontificum has helped make it more accessible to the faithful, but that there is “still an unfulfilled demand” for the Latin Mass, and “increased oversight or better ‘enforcement’” of Summorum Pontificum is “necessary to insure that the demand is met.” (The newsletter was issued prior to the release of Universae Ecclesiae, the follow-up instruction to Summorum Pontificum, whose aim is precisely to ensure the proper interpretation and implementation of the latter so that the faithful who wish it can attend the Latin Mass.)

So there is, it appears, a demand for the Latin Mass in both Europe and America. But it is a demand that could best be described as dormant. While groups like Pax Liturgique and Una Voce America are doing what they can with limited resources to promote its spread, their efforts to date have been hampered by an overwhelming sense of ecclesial inertia. Let’s face it: the leaders of most parishes and dioceses have shown themselves to be content with the New Mass. It’s a known quantity — even if it’s a quantity that diminishes over time. It’s no secret that attendance has plummeted in Europe and America since the New Mass was introduced into parishes.

The typical response to dwindling attendance has been to try to make the New Mass more appealing to various subgroups. And so we have a surplus of youth Masses, Spanish Masses, Cantonese Masses, etc. And around and around we go. But installing a Latin Mass? That would take so much, well, effort.

Meanwhile, the old Mass languishes in the liturgical ghetto. Restoring it as a legitimate option in the average parish will, of necessity, have to be a grassroots effort. The demand for it must be stimulated, awakened, and allowed to thrive. Pope Benedict XVI has made a valiant effort to allow this to happen — and to ensure that the demand is fulfilled. If the Latin Mass is to escape its isolation and again become a prominent feature on the ecclesiastical landscape, the numbers will have to bear it out.

[Pieter Vree is Editor of theNew Oxford Review. The foregoing article, "Out of the Liturgical Ghetto," was originally published in the New Oxford Review (July-August), pp. 15-17, and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]