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Debate: Should England’s seminaries teach the Extraordinary Form?

And what exactly constitutes a ‘pastoral need’?

By on Friday, 13 May 2011

Bishop Edward Slattery celebrates a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Washington (CNS photo)

Bishop Edward Slattery celebrates a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Washington (CNS photo)

The Vatican, in its long-awaited Instruction on Summorum Pontificum, says that seminaries should teach students the Extraordinary Form of the Mass “where pastoral needs suggest it”.

Here is the quotation in context:

Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Earlier this afternoon, though, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster told journalists that in England and Wales he, personally, did not think the Extraordinary Form “needs to be added to an already crowded seminary programme”. “It’s a skill that can be learned later in a priest’s life,” he said.

So, should England’s seminaries teach the Extraordinary Form of the Mass? And what, exactly, constitutes a “pastoral need”?

  • Venyanamore

    If there is “no pastoral need”it is precisely because of the suppression by the church, over the last few decades, in England, Wales, and elsewheere of the great treasure of richness, holiness and wisdom, the pearl and summit of Catholic, and indeed thus also European culture of all ages that is the Tridentine mass/traditional Latin mass/Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite/however you wish to call it.

    Even today, it is barely accessible to those faithful (or others) who have even a passing interest in it; and almost not at all outside of London, anywhere accessible to any of the three Oratories, and in a select number of other, rather randomly, perhaps serendipiously, scatterd places.

    But it is clear that, since 2007, provision has expanded – and that there are willing and interested congregants where this provision is made. It is also clear (e.g. from the establishment of Juventutem groups in various parts of the country – London, Oxford, Bristol, Cheltenham and Reading, at the last asking) that this demand may be expected to grow in the future, as young people seeking to take and practice their faith seriously and reverently are among those interested.

    It has taken the best part of 40 years for the absurd decision to do away with “fish on Friday” to be reversed – despite that, like the EF mass being a clear sign and demonstration of Catholic identity. How much longer will it be before for the English and Welsh (not to speak of Scottish…) Church hierarchy’s hostility to the form of the faith immediately recognisable as the faith of their fathers, grandfathers and countless great-great-greats before them is seen as the mistake that it is? How long before they remember that, as Chesterton said, the Catholic church is the one thing that prevents a man from falling into the degrading slavery of being a child of one’s times? How long before they understand that what is truly “contemporary” and “relevant” is not anything at all involving guitars or drum machines, but rather that which has already proved its worth over many centuries, by being eternally and everywhere contemporary and relevant.

    It will take time. We must be thankful for our wise and gentle Holy Father.  Brick by brick, as I believe the saying is.

  • Anthony Ozimic

    “[W]hat, exactly, constitutes a pastoral need?” Here’s an answer by way of a process of elimination: there’s no pastoral need for heretical magazines such as The Tablet – so why is it still being sold in Archbishop Nichols’ own cathedral church?

  • Adam C

    Yes, yes, yes! It’ll stop the Magic Circle from ‘black marking’ those who want to learn the EF. Perhaps we’ll get some more ‘Catholic’ bishops.

  • Et Expecto

    Yes, there is a pastoral need for more priests trained to celebrate Mass in the usus antiquior.  There are vast areas of England and Wales where provision hardly exists.

     I give as examples most of Wales, East Anglia, Cornwall, Cumbria and most of Lincolnshire.  In Archbishop Nichols own archdiocese, by far the most populous in the country, there is very little provision outside central London. Perhaps the archbishop could show a good example by immediately providing Sunday Masses in the fortma extraordinaria in West and North London.

  • Annie

    Ah here we go again, the old ‘pastoral’ cop out which holds as much water as a sieve. Does my pastoral need not count?

    It would be so much more dignified to back His Holiness for once and graciously and generously get with the now. More demand will come when more priests are saying the EF and can show congregations its beauty and reverence. I think the EF should be taught in seminaries asap, the church wasn’t invented between 1962 and 1970. It’s not nostalgia, by the way, being as I am part of the kumbaya/here I am lord generation.

    I love the EF, it refreshes the parts other Masses cannot reach.
    The OF and EF Masses sit side by side in Blackfen, so why not in every Diocese?


  • Mistral62

    Don’t forget that when Rome issued the Instruction on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest back in 1997, Vincent Nichols was quoted as saying words to the effect: “Those abuses don’t exist in England and Wales. We shall carry on as before”. Plus ca change?
       The great thing is that the more the “authorities” put obstacles in front of the Traditional Mass, the more seminarians will be determined to celebrate it. I say this as one who has been through the system, played the game and kept my head down and worn the Che Guevara T-shirt and sideburns during seminary years, and am now learning to celebrate the Mass for a group in my parish who have been asking for it.
       I do think it would be a bit risky and imprudent for seminarians to ask for training in the Extraordinary Form. The staff might would almost certainly start looking for other reasons to have such petitioners labelled as “narrow and unpastoral” and to have them kicked out. As the great Fr Z says, there is a biological solution to the the current ideological conflicts (the liberals are dying), but the struggle isn’t over. Bl John Paul the Great, pray for us!

  • Anonymous

    He’s completely wrong. Many young priests want to learn the EF, and many young people wish to attend it. Many more would discover it if it were to be made more widely available.

    Abp Nichols is going against papal wishes.

    All seminaries should teach the EF as a matter of course. 

  • Charles Martel

    If there’s a pastoral need for homosexual masses in the Westminster Archdiocese, then I think we have a good case for arguing that there’s one for the Roman Rite of Mass. At least, I’m pretty damn sure that that’s what all of Archbishop Nichols’s predecessors before Hume would have said. And I’m absolutely sure I know what St Augustine of Canterbury, St Thomas Becket, Bishop Challoner, Cardinal Wiseman, Cardinal Manning and Cardinal Heenan would have said about homosexual masses….Oops, I forgot to ‘hold my tongue’. Sorry, Your Grace.

  • Joel Pinheiro

     It’s the qualifications that kill it! “When pastoral needs suggest it” is an open door to liberal bishops to say “sure, we’ll be glad to comply. No such pastoral needs in my diocese, though.”

    I hope it has visible effects, as the liturgical situation in most parishes is critical. Even if the extraordinary form doesn’t become the norm, it sets a standard for all to live up to.

  • Ken Purdie


  • Paulo

    HIs Grace is totally correct in this.  The EF can be taught, if needed, post seminary. There is no immediate pastoral need at the moment.

  • Paulo

    oh come on and grow up… How rude… Suddenly it appears if this is an anglican blog rather thank a catholic one

  • Father John Boyle


    Pastoral need: so that the richness of the Roman Liturgy may be accessible to the Universal Church. The training in the Extraordinary Form will enrich these men’s celebration of the Ordinary Form and thereby render the richness of the Roman Liturgy accessible to the communities for whom they celebrate the Mass.

  • AJ

    I symphatized with you ‘coz I love the TM too but don’t be sarcastic and judged the Bishops of the Church who where there as Successors to the Apostles – a designated authority…. If you don’t like the man respect the Office he holds and if there in your opinion exist abuses and teaching errors, report the incident to the Church, if necessary to Rome.
    The clergy of the SSPX will also need to undergo a severe examination of conscience regarding some of the things they have said over the past few years and their dissent and recalcitrant attitude towards the proper Authority – the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (Pope and Bishops with him). However, with charity and the work of the Holy Spirit, wounds can be healed.

    Maybe you would better if we spend our time seriously considering what kind of effect promoting this kind of dissent is having on your own mind and soul – not to mention the minds and souls of those who read it. Every word we utter is liable to God.

    Anybody or anything advocating disobedience to the Holy Father and bishops with him, which is not heretical properly speaking (though schismatic in their hearts), but like I said, causes scandal and can lead to sin, is not welcome in the House of God.


  • Den flyvende hollender

    Yes, because it would positively influence the way new priests celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form too.

  • Anonymous

    Reluctance to be “generous” vis seminaries may be simply a matter of pride. It’s clear that some of our hierarchy and senior clergy struggle with the Latin liturgy. I can’t think they’d relish being shown up by fluent young seminarians.
    Regarding the harvest of the grim reaper mentioned earlier, it occurs to me that it is precisely the calculation that some are making as they look towards Rome.

  • Ken Purdie

    “No pastoral need” Thats what they all say. Our Bishop is so afraid of the EF(why??) he told different people requesting it, that they were the only ones ever to request it.

  • HMathermom

      Archbishop Nichols is showing himself in his true colours. How mean-spirited to focus on those particular three paragraphs in this very positive and life-giving Instruction. And how revealing of the Archbishop’s modus operandi that he should already have had those three paragraphs ready on the tip of his tongue in order to deflate any hopes that the Extraordinary Form might finally be allowed to breathe and flourish in these isles. His remarks were obviously the fruit of much pre-meditation. Benedict XVI is a great gentleman and a TRUE liberal- the very opposite of those whitened sepulchres who are working their legalistic wiles against the Pope’s efforts to renew the life of the Church in our age. Archbishop Nichols is showing himself in his true colours. How mean-spirited to focus on those particular three paragraphs in this very positive and life-giving Instruction. And how revealing of the Archbishop’s modus operandi that he should already have had those three paragraphs ready on the tip of his tongue in order to deflate any hopes that the Extraordinary Form might finally be allowed to breathe and flourish in these isles. His remarks were obviously the fruit of much pre-meditation. Benedict XVI is a great gentleman and a TRUE liberal- the very opposite of those whitened sepulchres who are working their legalistic wiles against the Pope’s efforts to renew the life of the Church in our age.

  • Charles Martel

     Sorry to ruffle your very sensitive feathers, Paulo. I cannot accept that what I have written above is ‘rude’. It’s cutting, yes: it is meant to be. I’m angry about the hypocrisy of the hierarchy in England and Wales. I’m angry that they block the initiatives of the Holy See. I’m angry that they support homosexual masses in Soho. I think it’s scandalous. Sorry that I can’t be as mature as you.

  • Charles Martel

     Hello again, AJ. Please read my reply to Paulo above. I respect the office Archbishop Nichols holds; that’s why I find it difficult to respect the man currently holding it. I have written to him about the homosexual masses in Soho several times. He doesn’t answer. Are you advising me to report him to the Holy See? Actually that has been done by many other people, so I’m not sure what effect you think that will have.
    To accuse me of dissent is rather rich. Let’s see; Archbishop Nichols dissents from the Holy See’s clear policies. I criticise Archbishop Nichols for doing so. Therefore I am in dissent from the “Magisterium of the Catholic Church (Pope and Bishops with him)”. My head is spinning. No, AJ, orthodox Catholics in communion with Rome are not dissenters.
    Sorry to hear you have judged I am not welcome in the house of God. Blimey; I thought sinners were very welcome and that there were many rooms in our father’s mansion. Still, you obviously know best. But please answer me this: if a bishop is in disobedience to the Holy Father, who should be follow?

  • Tessa, Australia

    Archbishop Nichols, with respect, you should realize that your personal choice is not what our Holy Father referred to in his decree.  Did you not take a vow of obedience to the Church when you were ordained?  Do you really think you should run the Catholic Church in England on your own terms?  That has been done before with disastrous results. One, Catholic and Universal is what the Church has stood on for centuries, and still stands in spite of episodes of protest and disobedience at points in history. May the Holy Spirit guide you and may the good young men who enter Catholic Seminaries all be given the richness of Tradition through the root of Latin.

  • ecc-uk

     I’m sure the Pope’s words will be of great Pastoral support in the UK. Seminaries are closing, churches are closing, people are leaving the church etc.  What can we do to promote the Gospel with greater effect?  Lets impose a new missal whose language people will find unfamiliar and archaic and lets increase the use of Latin.  It’ll confuse the punters in the pew and further put off punters heading for the Seminary.  Can’t we ressurect Veterum Sapientia as well ? Lets really bring the Good News of the Gospel to a country so spiritually thirsty . . . I don’t think the church is very well. It’s head might be working overtime but it’s heart has sufferred a major coronary . . .

  • Victor Lombardi

     The comments from Archbishop Vincent Nichols should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed his career- sadly. Whether he likes it or not – he too must submit to Rome’s request under the pain of Obedience to the Holy Father – this debate is no longer an issue of ” personal opinion ” it is a matter of following a formal decree from the Holy Father and Rome. The Archbishops excuse of ” a crowded seminary program” is a-typical of this mans continued defiance of Rome which is long standing. 

    So my message to the Archbishop is this – eliminate the ” diversity” and ” can’t we are just get along ” courses and get back to the true Thomistic courses that are needed within our Seminaries and add the necessary Latin courses necessary for our young men to become what they want to become – real priests – many young Seminarians I know want this formal training at the Seminary level as they know it will provide them a sound foundation that will guide them during their Priestly Career - 

    In order to do this – every Catholic in England and Wales should get involved and write to the Archbishop demanding that he adhere to Rome and the Holy Father. 

  • Victor Lombardi

     As to ” Pastoral Needs” one needs to look no further than a typical Sunday morning Mass attendance or a Saturday afternoon length of the Confessional Line. How much more apparent does it need to be for the Archbishop and others of his ilk that something seriously is wrong with their now ” 45 Year Experiment” on the Catholic Church . 

    Father John Boyle is spot on with his comments – the Extraordinary Form will indeed raise the Ordinary Form to what it should have been all along – the 45 year deliberate ” suppression ” of the Latin Mass has left the Catholic Church worldwide devoid of true spirituality as many Parishes have been devoid of the Supernatural and Miraculous aspects of each and every Mass properly said. 

    Pope Benedict himself knows that in time – the Extraordinary Form shall raise the Church and thus the faithful back to its rightful place- 

    As the saying goes – ” By their fruits you shall know them” – what else needs to be said. 

  • Anonymous

    What does the Church value more? Tradition, or understanding?
    Plainly as long as the Latin mass has a place in the Church that is much more than ceremonial, it is tradition that is much more important.

    Therefore I applaud Archbishop Nichols was having a common sense attitude towards the ‘extraordinary’ form.

  • Charles Martel

     Well, none of the policies followed over the past 40 years has worked very well, and it is clear that the Catholic Church WAS working before the Council. My father converted in 1960, and he had been an atheist, so something was going right. How can you be so sure that going back to our roots, rediscovering our identity and honouring our own traditions will not work? I think it will be far more effective than the mealy-mouthed platitudinous set-up we now suffer under which can barely be differentiated from the secular society around it. The vernacular liturgy has, to put it mildly, failed to live up to the shallow hype that surrounded it in the 1960s. That could have been predicted … oh wait, that WAS predicted… by the great Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia of Good Pope John XXIII. Funny how the wisdom of the ancients never goes out of date.

  • Victor Lombardi

     In order to understand our present situation and predicament and future one must understand the past – the following read will be very helpful to those who have not lived through the early days of this debate and it is a great reminder of just exactly what we have all lived through - 

  • Et Expecto

     Paulo, I could not disagree more.

    Have you not noticed that newly ordained priests are almost invariably sent to a parish where they are supervised by by one of the bishop’s closest henchmen, who will keep them on a tight lead.  In almost all cases, this would preclude any flirtation with the traditional Mass.  The fact is that most priests, especially if they have limited Latin, find it quite hard to learn the older rites.  Most would need regular tuition over a period of a year, and once settled in a parish, it is difficult for a priest to set aside the time for this.  It is even more difficult to find a competent tutor.

    Finally, you say that there is no immediate pastoral need.  How can you say this when people have to travel up to 100 milse to get a usus antiquior Mass?

  • Ssas

    The so-called extraordinary form represents the old religion. The so-called ordinary form represents the new religion. Everyone knows that there has been a rupture between the two. The Tridentine Rite of Mass cannot exist purely on the basis of popularity, fads come and go. The Holy Father has to take drastic enforcement action to rescue the Old Mass and thus save the true religion which it represents. This he is not prepared to do.

  • Simon Codsall

    We are a Eucharistic community that is what is important and how this is celebrated according to pastoral need or desire should not be divisive.There is an element of elitism in much of this argument,there is a time and a place for all the forms of Mass His Holiness and the Church allow.

  • Ken Purdie

    Yes, you said. 

  • ecc-uk

    Has the Liturgy replaced or superseded the Gospel ? Have I missed something ? Is there an old or a new Gospel I haven’t heard of yet ?

  • Marypettifor

    Yes – it’s the future of the church! 

  • Anonymous

     I understand that if people grew up with the Latin mass, then it will be familiar to them and therefore they may be most comfortable with it. 
    But just because something is familiar, does not mean it is the best.

    Is the search for truth, and teaching of the congregation, – not central to the Church itself? 
    If Latin is a barrier to understanding – why should we cherish that fact? Surely it is an impediment to the teaching and understanding that the congregation seeks?

    I have had a look on the sspx website, and looked through all their arguments on the merits of the latin mass, and I cannot find anything convincing. The best that they could come up with was that:

    ‘As international travel becomes increasingly possible, all Catholics can take an active part in the Church’s liturgy, anywhere in the world.’

    Which sounds like a ridiculously shallow argument, and is patently clutching a straws. 

  • Gwynneth39

    Yes, Yes, Yes.  We are the LATIN CHURCH. The Latin Mass is more reverent, sacred, holy and solem.
    With the Latin mass we did not have great exoduses of priests and nuns.The churches were full.
    They were also silent out of respect for the Eucharist. Everybody genuflected. We did not have to search the church to find the Tabernacle. This has all been lost. The reverence, respect and dignity of our beautiful Mass. 

  • Charles Martel

    Sorry, what was that, Your Grace? You don’t need a red hat? 

  • T Madden

    Yes of course the Extraordinay Form of Holy Mass should be taught in  seminaries!

    I just dispair at our Bishops especially Archbishop Nicholls, who continually drag their heals over this and only grudgingly following our Holy Fathers instructions. 

    Over the last 40 years the Church in this country has slowly died. When will these bishops wake up and smell the coffee???? 

  • Victor Lombardi

     The extraordinary form in all its Grandeur 

    Who in their right mind can deny this ? 

  • Lee

    Have to agree with everything Charles says. Every word there is prescient and ever so true ! On a side note, homsexual masses should not exist in any shape or form for being a homosexual is an aberration according to Christianity ! 

  • Ratbag

    You are spot on, nytor. The English and Welsh bishops should embrace and encourage the Extraordinary Form… and watch churches fill up with people of all ages and those vocations grow!

    Bring it on! 

  • AJ

    I agree with you, no doubt and it’s not the point I’m making….. As with your question:  if a bishop is in disobedience to the Holy Father, who should be follow?

    ME: the Holy Father of course,  specially when he with all the Bishops in communion with him when they ratified Vat2, then we as orthodox catholics should submit to this very same authority of  the first Council of jerusalem, Chalcedon Trent, Vat1 and 2 and of course that includes those liberal bishops who continue to disobey Chruch Teachings. This was my point when i said disobedience (SSPX, Sede and liberal bishops)  to the Magisterial authority is not welcome in the House of God.

    The point I’m making is just be prudent and careful with our criticism of our bishops and I’m with you against some liberal bishops but what else can we do?
    Trust and pray to our Lord  Jesus Christ that He will not abandon His Church to  wolves.

  • Charles Martel

     The liturgy is the highest expression of our Holy Faith, ecc-ukk, because it re-presents Our Lord’s salvific work on Earth. The sources of that faith are Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Liturgy is truly at the heart of our Faith.

  • Diffal

    The EF and OF are the two forms of the one Latin Rite. Surely priests of the Latin Church should know both forms of the Latin Rite!

  • Annie

    I didn’t grow up with the Latin Mass, it wasn’t familiar to me at all and I’m way more comfortable with it than the New Rite. The ‘nostalgia’ argument is completely dead in the water, and I take issue with the rather patronising attitude that says ‘oh let’s put up with it, in a few years anyone attached to the old rite will be dead.’ 
    Latin is the language of the Church like it or not. If parishes can offer Polish and Philippino Masses, I don’t see why Latin’s such a problem, Latin dual texts are really very easy to come by. Business as usual IS the Latin Mass, not the NO. One of things I think would be wonderful would be to pitch up anywhere in this country, let alone abroad, head off to Mass and know without a shadow of a doubt exactly what you are going to get. The Extraordinary Form is a marvellous quality controller. :D
    I wouldn’t recommend SSPX websites for your info though, they have a rather different axe to grind than those of us in normal parishes.

  • Venyanamore

    My thoughts and feelings exactly, on all points.

  • Kennycampbell

    Name them? In 20 years as a priest no young person has ever asked me a question about the EF, let alone invited me to celebrate it!

  • Chrislinton_ford

    Possibly because they have lost heart from constant rejection. On asking my local priest whether he would be open to the idea of a Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated at his church, I was literally laughed at and told I was too young to be asking questions like that. Unless one wishes to deliberately press the point in the face of clear antipathy such as this, many will stop asking, at which point those in a position to suppress will victoriously claim a lack of interest from the faithful. I am blessed in having a regular Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated daily, relatively close to me; but I make a point of asking priests at closer parishes to consider allowing this to happen in their churches also.

  • Et Expecto

     I am aware of several English seminarians (all of them young) who, outside term time, opt to attend the usus antiquior. 

  • Et Expecto

     I am unable to find the phrase “when pastoral needs suggest it” in thge latin version.

  • Bernienixon100

    pastoral need means allowing the congregation at mass to understand what is actually taking place during the mass.  the importance of the scripture readings, the importance of the words of consecration,  pastoral needs mean allowing the people in the pews the meaning of what is said and done during the mass.  a love of all things mystical, traditional and linguistically appealing is not what the mass is about