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Put pastoral considerations first

Pastoral policies that treat people as an undifferentiated herd, without making generous provision for individual needs, are gravely deficient.

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Considering the circumstances, I probably should begin this with a personal statement: I am not an aficionado of the Old Mass, otherwise known as the Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass. In fact, it’s been more than a few years since I even heard a Mass in Latin. The New Mass–post-Vatican II in form and celebrated in English–suits me just fine.

That said, for my money the most positive reactions to the new directives from Pope Francis placing sharp restrictions on the Old Mass have been the statements by a goodly number of bishops saying previous permissions for celebrating the Old Mass will remain in place until they’ve had time to study and reflect on the new word from Rome.

That’s entirely as it should be. And if I may offer one rather obvious suggestion, it’s that as study and reflection proceed, the bishops give priority to the pastoral needs of their people, without getting bogged down in somebody else’s ideologically driven debate about centralization vs. decentralization in conducting the affairs of the Church.

In a word: put pastoral considerations first.

Here is an example from my own (admittedly limited) experience that illustrates why that’s important.

Many years ago I knew an unhappy Catholic woman who bore more than her fair share of the world’s troubles on her frail shoulders. Even so, she found consolation and support in the Mass–the pre-Vatican II Mass, celebrated in Latin in its traditional form.

Then came the ecumenical council and, after that, a burgeoning slew of liturgical changes–English in the Mass, priest facing the people, communion rail gone, old hymns out and new–whatever they were–in their place. Not surprisingly, the woman was upset and angry that something important had been snatched away from her without so much as a by-your-leave. Registering protest in the only way she could, she stopped going to Mass. She died a few years later. Whether she had returned to the Mass by then I don’t know. I hope so.

Sad story, you say, but a special case.

Yes, it was a special case. But the relevant fact in making pastoral decisions–about the liturgy or anything else–is that each and every one of us is a special case in the eyes of God. Pastoral policies that treat people as an undifferentiated herd, without making generous provision for individual needs, are gravely deficient.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and an old friend, argued trenchantly that stringent limits on the Old Mass are warranted in view of a “movement within the Church” that “sows division” by undermining the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. It is particularly active, he said, in the United States, France, and England, aggressively pushing its message even–or especially–among young people.

I confess I’m not acquainted with that movement, but I’m sure Archbishop DiNoia knows whereof he speaks and the movement in question really does need to be opposed.

But that woman I spoke of wasn’t part of any movement. She was simply a Mass-going Catholic who found the Holy Sacrifice in its old form a source of consolation in her otherwise difficult life and was cut to the quick when it was taken away from her. I hope the bishops and the folks in Rome will give serious consideration to people like her as they go about the work of reforming the reform of the reform.


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About Russell Shaw 235 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, and, most recently, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity.

28 Comments

  1. “The statements by a goodly number of Bishops saying previous permissions for celebrating the Old Mass will remain in place will remain in place until they’ve had time to study and reflect on the new word from Rome.”

    IOW – If it ain’t broke – DON’T FIX IT. Just leave it alone – please. Ignore the fact that this silly man has seen fit to place himself in the same intellectual league as his two predecessors PM Ratzinger and PM Wojtyla, all the while giving Ratzinger a sidewise slap in the face.

    • Terence McManus, I quote you, “If it ain’t broke-DON’T FIX IT.”. I was 6 years old when the Council ended so I grew up in a storm of changes. After Mass I would hear the men of the parish many times use this phrase you used and other phrases similar, they were talking about the changes. St. Pope John XXlll called for the Council on January 25, 1959, and the Second Vatican Council officially began on May 17, 1959. From it, we got 70 Council Decrees, the 1962 Missal that was practically unchanged, and an Apostolic Constitution on the Latin language. There was a plot to oust St. John’s Council and make their own Council. My point is that St. Pope John XXlll made no changes. His Council was to wake up the faithful to a greater appreciation of our faith and to practice that faith. He said he wanted the Council to be in the traditions of Nicea, Trent, and Vatican l. Thus your words sound the truth, “If it ain’t broke-DON’T FIX IT.” But they fixed what wasn’t broken and effectually smashed everything to smithereens. I don’t appreciate their pride and arrogance in not admitting the facts. They would like Traditionalists to just disappear but to their dismay, Trads are growing stronger. Deo Gratias!

  2. Here in Maine I have been going to the Latin Mass in Lewiston – about 55 miles from here – at least once a month for the last 8 years or so.

    Why? (Note this was before the pandemic last year)

    1) The music is exquisite. There are no ‘glad tambourines’, no mediocre guitar players singing mediocre songs, only an acapella choir of 5-9 people singing so beautifully that they never fail to draw tears from yours truly.

    2) The silence – Mass is at 8:30. I get there at 7:30 or so and take a seat in the center of the Church. I’m usually one of the first there. The Rosary is at 8 and then I get up and go to the side of the Church so I can be as close to the choir as possible. Only then do I turn and look to see how many people are there, and it’s usually a nice crowd of people, ALL of whom entered quietly.

    3) The preaching – One of the questions on the ballot in Maine in 2012 was the question of same-sex ‘marriage’. The previous October I went to 2 NO Masses in Augusta, and NOTHING was said about the question at either Mass. I went to the TLM twice and Fr. Parent was quite outspoken about the question, going so far as to characterize proponents of ssm as “so-called catholics”. I asked him if I could pass out ‘NO ON ONE road signs in the parking lot and he told me to bring them into the Church and he would see to it that they got into the right hands.

    Apparently advocates of the TLM are harming the Novus Ordo by attending the TLM. This is nonsense. If that bothers someone – FIX the NO.

    Let me put it like this – IMO the NO lowers itself to fit people’s expectations, whereas the TLM forces people to raise their game.

    BTW – The Latin Mass here in Maine is very popular. I know people who get up and drive hundreds of miles to attend.

    • Unless I am in error, there is a distinct difference between the EF of the Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass said in Latin. It is not a matter of whether the prayers of the Mass are in Latin but that the Rite itself is different. There is nothing that this Pope’s Moto proprio states that precludes the Novus Ordo being said ad orientem and in Latin. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      • That is correct. Simply compare the English texts of the two rites and you will notice some striking contrasts, such as the entry prayers at the start of Mass or, especially, the far lengthier offertory rite in the EF. One thing in my experience, however, is uniformly the same, and that is the vehement hostility of many clergy to the celebration of the OF in Latin, ad orientem, kneeling for Communion etc. As I’ve often noted here and elsewhere, I’ve repeatedly encountered the same wall of opposition when I’ve requested the use of Roman Canon in English, repeat IN ENGLISH. And always for the same reasons: it’s “too pre-VII,” is theologically retrograde, etc., etc. Practically speaking, it won’t help those who prefer the TLM to request the OF in Latin, since the door will also be slammed in their faces there. We really can’t win, it seems.

    • “BTW – The Latin Mass here in Maine is very popular. I know people who get up and drive hundreds of miles to attend.”

      If Pope Francis knew about all that driving, he might change his mind, on environmental grounds.

    • Are you at the church that was burned by the Know Nothings once upon a time? Be that as it may, people from Bangor might have to drive hundreds of miles for a TLM. I tried to arrange a funeral there for my father with St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which comprises a number of churches that were formerly distinct parishes, including St. John’s where he grew up. He served 8:00 Mass there every day for many years starting in 4th grade and it was one of his fondest memories growing up. So I asked if any priests were available there to say the traditional Latin Mass because I think he would have like that. The funeral organizer for the parish seemed quite put out that I asked and said no. As it turned out the plans were completely upheaved (uphove?) by coronavirus anyway but the particular rite was not important to us; at least we were able to have a funeral for him closer to his current home. Some families weren’t so lucky.

    • The best thing about the TLM is that there no “peace sign” just before THE most important part of the Mass–receiving Jesus in the Eucharist–and no EMs running up to the altar (even though with few people at daily Mass they are not needed), smiling, sometimes high-fiving each other (yes that has happened). TLM is a big relief and balm to my soul.

  3. Where’s the motu proproprio for the folks who are pushing for gay marriage, transgender education, abortion rights in the church? The “progressive” movement is far more divisive and destructive for the Church than TLM types. The Vatican is spitefully obsessed with TLMers and completely in the pocket of the progressive movement.

  4. That woman may be a special case but she is not alone. I think of my immigrant parents who must have been comforted by the familiar Latin Mass. It’s a wonder that they stayed through all the unexplained upheavals in the wake of VII.

    • I felt as if I left an adoration of Jesus, a spiritual uplifting, a feeling of peace and more when I attended my first new order Mass. I know we don’t need a choir; no idea what the early Church meetings/Masses practiced but something more than a choir is missing. I do know the music is not edifying for the most part. I felt as we lost something that drew us into wanting to be at Mass. No idea obviously of how priest conduct a Mass in all churches but the one I attended for years before moving rushed through the prayers associated with raising the bread and wine. He did a fast, almost not a complete lifting of either. Lost reverence.

    • An Aunt and Uncle left the Church when the priest came down the aisle in a clown costume while being pushed in a VW not long after the Council. He did not return to a practice of the Faith. She did after counseling by a faithful priest. What bothers me the most about the current Papal blunder is the ignorance and lack of appreciation of the cultural understanding and importance of the older rubric of Mass in Catholic life and the worship of God since they became essentially firm some 1500 years ago in the Roman Church. Throwing all that out the window for the sake of forcing a harmonization with the 500 year-old Protestant revolution is nothing but obtuse insanity. For me, the story of how it all happened is too filled with intrigue and distortion to bear listening. Whether it was the Council or those who hi-jacked it, practice of the rudiments of Catholic Faith has been radically harmed by any measure since the Council ended and the NO is at the center of it all. Those who gave us the present “Ordinary” form of the Mass will bear a heavy burden in history.

  5. There are the Byzantine, Maronite, Mozarabic, Chandran and Malabar rites. I don’t know why Pope Francis feels so threatened by the Latin Rite.

  6. That is correct. Simply compare the English texts of the two rites and you will notice some striking contrasts, such as the entry prayers at the start of Mass or, especially, the far lengthier offertory rite in the EF. One thing in my experience, however, is uniformly the same, and that is the vehement hostility of many clergy to the celebration of the OF in Latin, ad orientem, kneeling for Communion etc. As I’ve often noted here and elsewhere, I’ve repeatedly encountered the same wall of opposition when I’ve requested the use of Roman Canon in English, repeat IN ENGLISH. And always for the same reasons: it’s “too pre-VII,” is theologically retrograde, etc., etc. Practically speaking, it won’t help those who prefer the TLM to request the OF in Latin, since the door will also be slammed in their faces there. We really can’t win, it seems.

  7. First off, I do not have any problem going to the ordinary Mass, and usually attend one when I am unable to get to the extraordinary Mass which is a considerable distance from my Home, but make no mistake, personally I prefer the latter. I would like to correct the author and the thousands, possibly millions of people both religious and laity who are under the impression that the Second Vatican Council mandated that a new order of Mass be propagated which is totally FALSE! The council fathers gave no such edict. Their desire was to have the faithful become more involved in the mass to better understand it and actively participate in it suggesting that “some of the prayers of the mass could be said in their vernacular language” but stressed that use of the Latin Language must be preserved the Roman Rite”. It was Pope Paul the VI and his cohort Cardinal Bugnini who stated in propagated the Novus Ordo ” We must strip from our Catholic prayers and our Catholic liturgy everything which can be a shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, for Protestants.” So with the assistance of 6 Protestant “observers” the Novus Ordo was created as a radical departure from Catholic Tradition of “Sacrifice” to a meal where the “presider” is the focus instead of Priest as Persona Christi. I rest my case.

  8. I would still prefer the Latin Mass because the Mass would be the same all over the world. All people would need to do is learn a little Latin!!! How hard is that. They’d have to teach it in the seminaries too!!!

  9. If the pope and his “advisers” are so worried about a “movement within the Church” that “sows division,” why did he put an immediate halt into the investigation of women religious communities, especially those that told Pope Benedict XVI that they “are feminists first and Catholic second,” and that “we’re not going to let the pope stop us” (and, yes, those are statements they made, hence, the quotes)? Or how about those that use Creation Spirituality in their “liturgies”? And why did the pope end the investigation into seminaries, which included so many heretical and “divisive” professors? For example, a certain Mid-West seminary (responsible for nearly 2/3 of American seminarians) that teaches that Jesus was the leader of a political counter culture, and that St Paul was homophobic and sexist, so his writings are to be disregarded. How about another Mid-West seminary with a current member of the Jesus Seminar on faculty, or the seminary that had Jeremiah Wright (yes, that one) as an adjunct professor? One might even ask Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P. why the Dominicans accepted one of the prime movers of Liberation Theology into its Order. This, unfortunately and depressingly goes on, but you get the point. Why is the focus on people who want to be faithful to the Church’s 2000 years of worship and teaching, and not on people who want to ignore, overturn or destroy — by their own admission — the Church’s worship and teaching? Just asking.

    • Thank you Joseph.

      I think for the Holy Father the contradictions are meant to be reconciled through 1. time being greater than space, 2. the whole being greater than the part, 3. unity being dominant over conflict and 4. reality being greater than ideas.

      If we spot the mismatch of the formula with the contradictions, I think he is saying there is no mismatch in the Holy Spirit.

      The Holy Father has not accounted for what happens, at this level of communion, when people quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit and chase the Spirit.

  10. “without getting bogged down in somebody else’s ideologically driven debate about centralization vs. decentralization in conducting the affairs of the Church.”

    Except that is the core issue and TC is the latest manifestation.

  11. ‘The movement in question really does need to be opposed’. That is divisive. I would have expected better from the celebrated author. Most Catholics don’t even know the OF can be celebrated in Latin with kneeling and with the priest’s back to the people. I didn’t. I would love to have some Latin like the creed and gloria in Latin and more respectful silence and reverence at Sunday Mass. Thank God for reverent daily Mass where you can find it. Sunday Masses could leave room for reflective moments during Communion instead of the congregation picking up song sheets to sing yet another hymn.

  12. Praying for the Jesuits on this feast day and wishing them well, may the intercession of their founder keep them in the truth and peace of Christ and sustain their fidelity.

  13. I have no preference, the Old Mass having been changed while I was a girl to the NO. I have attended the NO since, and I am not unhappy with it. However I can appreciate why some prefer the Latin Mass. Why is that being made into a crime? I would suggest that if statistics bear out the assertion that the Latin Mass generates folks in the seats, devout families passing on the faith, and generates many more vocations than the NO, then the Pope has clearly put his bet on the wrong horse. One can only hope this will be corrected by the next Pope before the church is entirely empty, or in further schism. If the NO is failing to work on all these levels, why is the Pope insisting on it?

  14. “The New Mass–post-Vatican II in form and celebrated in English–suits me just fine.”

    But it’s not about you or me. Many people find this Mass more majestic and edifying.

  15. The ‘new Mass’and the essence of V2 took effect in my life when I was entering secondary school. I had no opinion about it either way, but I distincly remember an unbidden thought forming in my young mind, that this was a ‘new’ Church with a more indulgent Founder. I didn’t object. It was a relief to know that such visions of hell as experienced by saints such as Don Bosco need bother me no more. The Church no longer had a sorrowful Christ; He became a social worker with a masters in psychology. Happy days for a 70s teenager!

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