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Debate: Is Summorum Pontificum a failure?

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By on Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A traditional Latin Mass at St Patrick's church, New Orleans (CNS photo)

A traditional Latin Mass at St Patrick's church, New Orleans (CNS photo)

On July 7 2007, Pope Benedict XVI published a Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which swept away restrictions on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

At the time, commentators predicted that it would bring the pre-Vatican II Mass back into the mainstream, and transform the liturgical culture of the Church. But three years on, only a tiny minority of Catholics have access to the traditional Latin Mass.

So was Pope Benedict’s initiative a failure, or is it still too early to tell?

Let us know what you think.

  • Pilgrim

    “For me, the homily is the testing ground. It's at this point the priest exposes his heart.”
    Then you are focusing on the wrong aspect of the Mass. Indeed, you appear not to even understand what the Mass is, and what its purpose is or the priest's proper role.
    What must you think of masses (such as on weekdays) where there is no homily?

  • SPQRatae

    The question can be interpreted in different ways. On a purely selfish, individual level, SP has been a huge and unquestionable success for *me*. I'd drifted from the Church, embarrassed by all the guitars, naff tunes and infantile 'social justice' politics. My first EF Mass hit me like a thunderbolt, and I've never looked back. I now only go to EF Masses or reverent OF Masses (ie that follow Vatican II teaching, not 'spirit of Vatican II' nonsense).

  • Pilgrim

    Sr Sandals,

    I very helpful reflection on true and false understandings of the Mass and the desacralisation of the liturgy in the Novus Ordo.

  • Pilgrim

    SP has been a success. Actually, it would be more accurate to describe it as a breakthrough. We still have a long, long way to go, but the journey has begun. SP finally hammered the nails in the coffin of the old lie, that you needed “permission” to celebrate or attend the Old Mass. The consequences of that legal bombshell are still being played out (and denied by many ageing bishops and priests). As one who attends the Old Rite every week, I can say that, in the last 3 years, I have been able to tell fellow Catholics that I do so and they haven't looked at me as though I'd landed from another planet. That growing cultural acceptance of the traditional liturgy (and the faith that goes with it) is another breakthrough. There is now genuine interest from some who attend the Novus Ordo in the riches of the usus antiquior. Seminarians are showing a growing interest in the Old Mass, and as the bishops and “Spirit of '69″ clergy die off, the demographic shift to a more “conservative” generation will mean the Old Mass will grow in prominence and in the spiritual lives of committed Catholics. This is vital as we face an increasingly hostile secular society because only those who live, pray and worship in an unequivocally Catholic way will have the spiritual strength to withstand the onslaught. Watered down spirituality and worship as exemplified by the Novus Ordo and its fruits simply won't be good enough. God bless our Pope!

  • LodewijkZheng

    Summorum Pontificum doesn't apply in Jakarta (also in Indonesia although as long as I know, without formal instruction). That's the position of the former archbishop who has retired last week and still in effect until further instruction from our new archbishop. Because of that, after 3 years since the release, most of Catholics in Jakarta (and Indonesia), still barely know about the EF.

    Until recently we are only able to follow a non routine Tridentine Mass in a house (now in a building), not in a church. It's almost the same as the early Christians followed the mass, underground. Most of priests view us in suspicion, there's still many faithful that look at the EF as a remnant of the past, the dark ages of the Church, thanks to the 'modern' priests who are full of 'spirit of Vatican II' and no effort is underway to correct that misunderstanding.

    It's still not possible to measure about the success or the failure of Summorum Pontificum in Jakarta and Indonesia. Although currently there is no support from the hierarchy and it seems no action is taken by the Holy See to 'punish' this soon-to-be-fossils, but there is still hope. The EF starts to attract the faithful and there is some optimism that the new archbishop of Jakarta (Mgr. Suharyo) will be more cooperative.

    For now, we can only pray that in a few years, we are able to celebrate the EF in the Cathedral, it will be available in every parish, and the Indonesian Church will rise again… just as in the good old days before Novus Ordo and all those liberal, modernist reforms. Summorum Pontificum is a significant step towards the new spring of our Church… The liberals know this and that's why they try to stop it's implementation, although in vain…

    (Sorry for mistakes in my writing…)

  • Richard

    Not by any means but, neither is it a runaway success in England and Wales. Having struggled for 20 years without the TLM in this part of Wales we now have a regular (virtually weekly) EF Mass and a growing congregation, many of whom, are not dyed in the wool Traditionalists but appreciative of an occasional form of worship other than the OF alternative.
    Of course, the Bishops do their best to hamper proceedings but the LMS must also shouilder some of the blame; they have lacked direction ever since the Motu Proprio and need to get to grips with informing all as to the times and locations of ALL EF Masses, not just those that they help to organise.
    However, growth is taking place and ther rate will surely begin to accelerate.

  • Jack Regan

    In terms of numbers it clearly hasn't been a gaping success, and it seems as though almost everyone is acknowledging that now. It's a stark difference from 2007, when so many websites claimed that there would be an instant, massive demand.

    Having said that though, I think it has been a success in as much as it's aim was to provide access *for those who felt drawn to it*. I do not put myself in that number, but I am happy for them!

  • Gusdelaney

    I think all Catholics should pray that Summorum Pontificium does fail. Let's move forward!

  • Findlayson

    Pilgrim. I don't know quite what to do with your reply. I thought the first Spitirual Work of Mercy was 'To instruct the ignorant', not berate them. Or are you admonishing this poor sinner?

  • Paschal

    Speaking as an ordinary lay Catholic, based in a diocese near to London, I welcomed SP but feel saddened by the lack of interest from priests. They, after all, have the responsibility of implementing any changes. It's partly because the average diocesan priest has a lot of pressures on his time. It takes time and effort to train servers, etc. No easy when you have to run a parish – or two – by yourself. However, the crux of the matter, as I see it, is that many priests – as well as lay Catholics – simply don't want the challenge of living out the Catholic Faith as it should be, at full strength and not the watered down version currently available in the vast majority of parishes and schools across the country. It isn't as simple as changing one style of worship for another. It is actually about how people perceive the Catholic Faith. The average Sunday Mass in England – and Ireland – is a depressing experience, with nondescript hymns and usually the priest choosing the shortest Eucharistic Prayer (no 2) . Before and after Mass, there has become a tendency for chatter from the congregation – and virtually noone praying afterwards because it's too noisy. Do people really understand what the Mass is actually about? Or has a sense of the sacred been eroded too far? What is needed for a re-education of the laity so that they understand what the Mass is about – the Real Presence of Christ not just about 'community'.

    Whenever I can, I attend an EF Mass – and get a sense of what the Catholic Faith is all about. A reverent celebration of the Mass with a focus upon worshipping God is what I experience on those occasions – and I find my faith strengthened as a result. When you feel a sense of awe at Mass, you glimpse into the heart of the mystery. Too many celebrations of the Mass in the OF are full of distractions, aimed at 'entertainment' – not worship. Ultimately, it boils down to this – Is the primary purpose of the Mass to worship God or not?

  • Findlayson

    Thinking more on it, I suggest you make a huge assumption in your rudeness, and I think because of your anger, missed the point I was making. The central point of the liturgy is the consecration culminating in the Great Amen. My point, however, was about the fruits of the liturgy.

    Were the Cure d'Ars or Francis de Sales simply great preachers, or was it the fruit of their love for, and transformation by, Christ in the Holy Mass? That was the essence of my point. The priests I know who love the Liturgy are humble and inspirational preachers.

  • anon

    A great success notwithstanding the shameful attempts of some bishops to thwart the Holy Father's wishes'

  • Jason Liuzza

    As a post VII Catholic, I prefer to think that the regrettable and intentional suppression of the Mass of All Ages has failed. Deo Gratias.

  • Michael Teissere

    A failure! Hardly not for Papa! He's the guy in charge of souls for Christ and His Church on earth, let us not forget the big picture here. What I do see is a failure of certain Bishops and Provential Directors of Orders to act accordinly to their superior, the Pope, to implament with a joyful heart what the their Holy Father has asked. Nothing more than total disobidience in regards implamenting the EF by hiding behind “high ranking officials” or “liturgical experts”. They have become barkless dogs.

  • William A. Torchia, Esquire

    SP has been very much of a success in my opinion, especially when you see the large number of youth present as well as large Catholic families with very young children. The fact is that the Traditional Latin Mass is back to stay, and is only increasing in number and attracting more people. As Vergil said, …fit via vi.

    William A. Torchia, Esquire

  • Bill

    I was born post Novo Ordo and had no exposure to the Tridentine Mass. After SP, we decided to try it out…three years later we attend the Tridentine Mass with our family each week, and three of my daughters received their first communion through the Tridentine Mass. Were it not for SP, we may not have ever sought out the Tridentine Mass. We love it the richness. Thanks Pope Benedict!

  • Zoro!

    The Mass is already a success. Accessibility is a different story. It all boils down to the Bishop. As long as the 'modernist', courage-lacking, appeasing bishops rule the roosts, it doesn't matter what the Pontiff issues or mandates.

  • George

    We need to have traditional parishes set up in the UK as there are in the USA, Who is going to be the first Bishop to take the brave step ? George Essex

  • Joanbennett434

    I attend that Church in Brooklyn, NY every Sunday. It is definitely NOT a bad area at all and I NEVER have trouble parking my car. It is a beautiful church. The mass is usually celebrated by Jesuits from Fordham University. The church is Our Lady of Peace on Carroll St. I have been attending the beautiful Tridentine Mass there for over 12 years.

  • Joe

    I hope it's a failure. Bringing back archaic forms is fine for museums and the “ancient books” section of the library. Sentimentality and nostalgia should not be the focus of actual liturgy for living people. And that is just what SP attempts to do: bring back the “good old days”. On the other hand, if that's a virtue and I'm missing something, then I suggest going all the way and mandating liturgical celebrations in either Aramaic or Koiné Greek. After all, Jesus and his disciples did not speak Latin.

  • Bep325

    A success…..more and more people are ASKING questions, not only about the Traditional rite but about the abuses associated with the Novus Ordo…….it is a wonderful thing as a whole…

  • Thegrassysageknoll

    The topic of the debate asked whether SP is objectively a success – not on why you are bitter about it and hope it is a failure…

  • Sandy

    As an adolescent and a young man, when Latin was the only language of the Western Catholic Mass, I used to long to hear Mass celebrated in English. I was also enthused by the idea of the priest facing the people so that we might see what he was doing and feel more part of it. In time these things came to pass, and I was pleased. To be honest I find nothing defective about the Novus Ordo form of Mass, providing of course that it is celebrated with due formality and reverence, which unfortunately is not always the case. I remember one occasion in our parish when a Benedictine monk of Ampleforth (with whom I had been at school) was visiting while our PP was on his hols. The utter casualness and the speed with which he celebrated, almost pushed in our faces, appalled and sickened me. But I also remember many occasions, far too many to really remember, but it may have even been the majority of Masses I heard, when the Latin Mass was just gabled as fast as possible by the priest up at the front. I hope that style of celebration is not reinstated! These latter day EF enthusiasts, especially those who had no experience of the old days as they really were, are seeing only one side of the coin.

  • Henry

    “These latter day EF enthusiasts, especially those who had no experience of the old days as they really were, are seeing only one side of the coin.”

    Actually, in my experience in recent years, there is only one side now. Every EF Mass, be it a gloriously sung Mass or a simple daily low Mass, is celebrated with loving care and utmost reverence. Perhaps this is behind the common quip that Vatican II appears to have done more for the EF than for the OF. In any event, I wonder why some (on both sides) are mired in a past that may exist only in their imagined memories, in “the old days” that certainly are no more.

  • FrHeythrop

    Most Catholics have not heard of SP. Most priests think it is irrelevant. Long may it remain thus.

  • Martin

    The great glory of SP is that we can all move on. We are not fighting the battles of 40 years ago over an image of the church that was either idyllic or horrific.

    Whether it is a success, only time will tell. Most parishes regard it is a utterly irrelevant and continue with a dreary 1970s timewarp liturgy that is 'lite' on religion and warm on togetherness and inclusion and drives away most people unless they have a rock solid faith or a drawn to the warmth of the in-crowd in their local parish. I expect Fr Heythrop (post below) thinks its wonderful but sooner or later this model will drive its own extinction.

    In a perfect world, the two rites can exist side by side, each benefiting from the other and proving that what matters is the faith we express in our worship rather than the precise form of that worship. The EF will never replace the NO, but it can help restore its foundations and bring harmony and peace to a church that could do with this.

    As to whether implementation is a success, it is still early days. Compared to say 20 years ago, it is much easier to find an EF Mass especially on a Sunday. But it is still patchy and most parishes still avoid it. For instance in the whole of Southwark, there are only two parishes offering a regular Sunday EF Mass and perhaps three or four offering a monthly Sunday Mass. There are though priests who are sympathetic and learning the EF and as time goes on, they will be more and more willing to introduce regular EF Masses and finding less and less resistance.

    Thank you Holy Father.

  • Basil

    An advantage of SP is that the next papacy will clearly be able to see where resistance to the Council has been at diocesan and parish level. Hopefully there will be a good sorting out of the situation in due course.

  • JUDY

    Why would any Catholic want to go backwards rather than forward on his or her spiritual journey? Thank God that resurrecting the Latin mass has not been embraced by many Catholics, including me. I want to listen to the word of God in English, see the face, not the back, of the celebrant and participate in the mass rather than simply observe the “celebration”. The Church must change and grow if it is to survive.

  • Xandar27

    Unfortunately it is attitudes like this that have led to the huge collapse in Catholic spirituality, vocations and mass attendance in the last 30 years.

    Long may true sacredness and spirituality return to the Church.

  • Sr Sandals

    Judy – my experience of the Extraordinary Form after 40 years of the New Mass, was a revelation, and I think would be too for many younger Catholics who have in reality been caught in the crossfire of some pretty nasty deceit and smears from people who, you can't hide from this, seemed to know exactly what they were doing by suppressing, ridiculing, reducing, and wilfully misremembering an older form of the mass in order to degrade its memory and whitewash the past. Year Zero Catholicism was systematically embarked on in the West, and I'm afraid there were many victims. “Feed my lambs” was Jesus' impassioned plea to Peter. The fact that so many lost their Faith when the 'changes' were so clumsily made, doesn't smugly say, “well, they have so little faith anyway, let them go, we don't need them” – the fact is that many 'lost' their Faith because they knew and felt that the Church was acting in a way that 'scandalised' itself, it was acting against Christ's plea. They were the scapegoat turned away by the abuses. Blaming a person for being abused is a sin that cries out to heaven. How you do something says everything about you – to wilfully tell your sheep to 'get lost' is still a huge scandal to the church, one that requires reparation since it was the devil's work, it was an act, by people who knew what they were doing, of hubris on the grandest scale imaginable. So in answer to your question “Why would anyone want to go backwards rather than forwards?” is the same as the answer demanded of any good christian conscience when they, say, walk away from the scene of an accident without offering to help, or who say that people who are put in prison innocently accused of crimes they didnt do must have been 'a little bit guilty' or that its someone elses 'job' to seek out justice on their behalf. No, to walk away, and say 'it doesn't matter' is to deliberately cover ones ears. Catholics, young or old, must surely if they love God, and if they give thanks every day for the Faith that they have been GIVEN (not worked out for themselves!) must be intrigued by how the Faith has been transmitted to them, surely? To express indifference in this historical transmission, when our Saviour himself was so acutely aware of sacred history, to the degree that practically everything he said was a deliberate reference to ancient scripture, is remarkably at odds with the Faith itself.

    That the fact that the form of the mass that had handed the Faith down, literally transmitted it through revolution, war, famine, and periods of social upheaval at least, if not far more, challenging than our own, should be given its due respect and place of honour in the Church, is obvious. The Church never meant this Year Zero to happen. But sadly, a coupe did happen, and politicised and manipulative people took over, and lets now stand back and look at all the lost sheep in the West, look at all the 'violence' that the church has inflicted on itself. Happy? No, how could anyone be and how could we just pretend we have no history, that we are truly 'self-made'. It doubles the crime.

    This brings me sadly to your point about 'participation' in the mass. The New Mass, reverently and prayerfully directed to God by all present, and also, especially during the eucharistic prayer, by all believers from all of history, of whom we represent the tiniest tip of the iceberg (too often we forget this, what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”, especially when we rudely and bad-manneredly think its 'just us present' who represent the Faithful with our innovations and banal and inappropriate 'additions' to the mass – tell me, if you shared a table with people from other countries would you imperiously insist on speaking only English? It would be arrogant to do so – it would be a sin against the universality that Christ wanted for us, our 'catholicism'), this version of the mass, I repeat, prayerfully participated in by all present, is no different from the older form. However, modern and inadequately superficial notions of what 'participation' means have attacked this necessary reverent and prayerful and humble starting point. Deeply meditative and worshipful prayer, the most focussed and all-consuming act, using all your mind, all your heart, all your physical body, all your concentration, all your imagination, all your FAITH, is something I have only witnessed and participated in a relatively and embarrassingly small number of times involving the New Mass. If by 'participation' you mean solely the external 'call and response' of the 'dialogue mass', in as reassuringly banal 'everyday' language as its possible to find in order not to 'exclude' those who detest the past and who think Shakespeare written in Telly Tubby language makes it more 'accessible'; if by 'participation' you mean a distracted priest supposed to be leading the congregation in worshipful prayer by his example but in fact behaving as though the focus is on HIM and not on God (freeze frame any moment in mass and ask yourself 'yes but who exactly are you talking to, us, God, your friends, yourself?); if by 'participation' you mean the ultra trivial 'lets get up and get involved' busy-bodying which seeks and finds its own reward in every lax and banal 'going through the motions' type of mass we are so used to – from lay readers drawing endless attention to themselves and their of lack of understanding of what it is they are saying and why, to the endless distracted talking before, during and after the mass, which is an active and persistent DENIAL of the presence of Christ; if you mean by 'participation' the use of squirmy 'modern' hymns, which attempt to combine 1960s musical theatre with 1960s pop, to try make everyone emote (or feel 'spiritual') to a rhythm not in worshipful praise of God, but in an attempt to feel good about themselves (Here I Am Lord; Christ Be Our Light; Living Lord; Kum Bi Ya), the words say “Christ” but the subtext says “me me me – I believe in ME”, the whole process being actually a ghastly act of censorship, another violent act of Year Zero Catholicism but with a smug self-satisfied smile of “ahh aren't we all lovely people”, denying its origins, informing on its parents; if you mean by 'participation' the 'schoolification' (for want of a better word) of all public ceremonies which treat everybody like children, and treat children like zombies from another planet (children's liturgy – you mean to say we hand on the faith to our children by REMOVING them from it???)- if you mean all these things by 'participation' then I regret to inform you that the revolution is over, the seed was scattered on thorny ground and despite pockets of denial/resistence where the guitars and the 'participation' are grooving on down even as we speak (new windows of self worship for the serially attention-seeking), the future church will NOT look like this in 15-20 years time, since its lack of real 'participation' shoots itself in the foot. Real participation is simply an unalterable fact about most of the devoted worship of the old form since all face the same way, and where do they face? God. They aren't forgetting who they are talking to, whose presence they are in – its all obvious. No huge imaginative effort is required as to where you should be directing your prayers, singing or words – its all there from the start! Even a child knows it, and the Faith is easily handed on as all Faith has always been handed on (transmitted) by mimesis (imitation/copying). However, the new mass without the knowledge of the old mass, and its 'directionality' (something Muslims know about from their own form of prayer) can become unbound from what its supposed to be doing, to whom, for what reason at any moment, since people and priest have forgotten, mostly due to laziness and 'anything for a quiet life' (itself a sin when so much is at stake) the nature of prayerful worship and where they should direct it. Astonishing but true. And all forms of compensatory 'getting involved' (gratuitous 'participation'), reducing to a pop concert, taking on the superficial and 'fashionable' forms of US-style evangelical churches are diametrically opposed to the humble devoted prayerful worship due to the True Presence.

    When you go to mass you rightly say that want to see the 'face, not the back', but I'm afraid its Christ's face we go to see in mass, not the priest's – he, the priest, also seeks (or is supposed to seek) Christ's face. It is so clear when he truly leads his fellow priests (us) all facing the same direction to this goal – the whole purpose becomes clearer, its an outward act that speaks volumes, since its then that we can understand that we participate in the most full and proper way all together priest and people, with the priest 'merely' leading the way.

    represent has been trivialised and downgraded to mean that we, at least, engage fully in the 'call and response' dialogue

  • Ultramontanist

    Not really. Still have to travel over 100 miles to get to nearest EF. Priests either don't have the inclination/ability or the courage to say it around here.

  • Anura Guruge

    I have heard from some Italian 'insiders' that the appointment of Canadian Cardinal Ouellet to head up the Congregation of Bishops will have an impact on 'S.P' — with the BELIEF being that Cardinal Ouellet will promote those that are partial to 'S.P'.
    Anura Guruge

  • Dawestsidemassive

    Are you for real?

  • David Timbs

    No wonder St Patrick had such a tough time with the Latinized Britons. If you hanker for the real tradition, celebrate the Eucharist in Aramaic. The Catholic Community in Ma'aloula, Syria, still speak it as their native tongue. I'm sure they will tutor you all and it will take you back to the awe of the Last Supper.
    David Timbs
    Melbourne. Australia.

  • Jerrybradley

    The Pope's initiative was not a failure: he has shown us there is not as much wind in that sail for the enitre 'bark ' of Peter.

  • Jerrybradley

    Father Thomas, you can't be serious: subdeacons and a Lowmass on Christmas morn and Easter Day. You're focusing on the specks of the best of the liturgical movement. Stay in the cloister and leave the pastoring to the secular priests.

  • Carlos

    It will take more time before we can determine whether or not this attempt is going to success. But, in my opinion, the Church opened a “Pandora's Box” in it's last Concilium which swept out EVERYTHING!. Now the damage is done and the cure is way slow to remediate the situation.

  • F.J.Bradshaw

    I remember as an altarboy nearly 70 years ago the ireverent gabbling of the latin mass and compare that with the elegant way the vernacular is now more often than not recited. The traditionalists traduce the new rite with all kinds of pathetic allegations; which might possibly have happened once in milliions of masses.

    F.J.Bradshaw. Manchester.