Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Contradictions among those defending Traditionis Custodes

Final blessing at the High Mass in Westminster Cathedral;
Mass for the Latin Mass Society's AGM

My latest on 1Peter5: on some conflict among those who defend Traditionis Custodes.

It begins:


Pope Francis has offered two reasons for wishing to bring celebrations of the Traditional Mass to an end: attitudes of some of the faithful which have become associated with this form of the Mass, and the idea that the unity of the Church requires a unity of liturgical rite. Accordingly, some of his defenders have focused on one of these points, and some on the other. Both are having difficulty explaining and justifying Pope Francis’ action.

Targeting the Innocent to Punish the Guilty?

I recently fisked an article by Michael Sean Winters which laid the blame for Traditionis Custodes (TC) on the people who like it, singling out the journalist Michael Brendan Dougherty. There is much wrong with Winters’ argument, but suppose he was right about Dougherty being a dangerous schismatic, what would be the significance of this? To be crass about it, who cares what some journalist thinks? If he were the head of an organization, clerical or lay, with serious popular support, which was closely associated with the TLM, that might indicate a wider problem, but as it is, it proves nothing at all.

As if realizing that he needed to widen his evidence base, towards the end of his article Winters brings in Martin Mosebach, accusing him of rejecting Vatican II without being able to quote him doing so, and the views of George Weigel, apparently unaware that Weigel has a long and distinguished history of gratuitouslyinsulting Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass. As a representative of the movement, he doesn’t really fit the bill. Nevertheless, that’s the best Winters can come up with.

Another problem with this approach is identified by Terrence Sweeney on the Where Peter Is blog, and in fact is acknowledged even by Winters himself: in Sweeny’s words, “Even if many are acting schismatically, this does not justify a restriction that affects those who attend the Tridentine rite but remain faithful.”

Read it all there.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Is Traditionis Custodes calling for more Latin?

High Mass in Westminster Cathedral for the Latin Mass Society.
Photo by John Aron

 Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.

A number of American writers claim that Traditionis Custodes should spur priests to make their celebration of Mass more reflective of the liturgical tradition. Others commentators, including a number of bishops implementing it, apparently think the opposite.

Those in favor of the first interpretation can cite a couple of passages from the Letter to Bishops which accompanied Traditionis Custodes. Pope Francis quotes Pope Benedict complaining about liturgical abuses—“unbearable distortions”; later he remarks:

Whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman Rite, in particular the Roman Canon which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.

The Roman Canon being Eucharistic Prayer I in the reformed Missal.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Latin: not as dead as you think, on Catholic Answers

Fr Henry Whisenant insensese the Altar in Westminster Cathedral:
Annual Mass for the Latin Mass Society

I am delighted to have been asked to write a short article for Catholic Answers, a website which has been addressing questions about the Catholic Faith since its foundation by Karl Keating in 1979. It is about the use of Latin in the liturgy, and it begins:

From an early date, the Church in the West has used Latin—not only for administration, study, and communication, but for prayer. This was natural for regions where Latin was the majority language, but as the centuries passed, the Western Church persisted with a Latin liturgy in evangelizing peoples on and beyond the edges of the Roman Empire not conversant with it, such as the North African speakers of Punic and the speakers of Celtic and Germanic languages in western and central Europe. By contrast, the Eastern Churches sometimes made use of the languages of their new converts, even when these had to be specially developed in their written forms for this to be possible, as with Ethiopia’s Ge’ez and Russia’s Church Slavonic.

There is thus a close association between the Western Church and the Latin language. Even today, when the liturgy can be celebrated in a huge range of languages, this relationship has left its mark, and Latin remains an option for both public and private prayer—not only in celebrations of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, but also for the reformed Mass.

Why has the Church been so attached to Latin? The answer is that liturgical Latin is not just a convenient language, but a sacred language. 

Read the whole thing there.

Improve your Latin with an online course! Liturgical Latin is the target of Matthew Spencer's latest course, and the Latin Mass Society is giving an 80% discount to clergy and seminarians who wish to take it up.

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Friday, August 20, 2021

The LMS' London chant schola, the Houghton Schola, will return to singing in September

Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, London

Cross-posted from the Gregorian Chant Network blog.

It has been a long winter for Gregorian Chant, but we can finally announce that the Houghton Schola, the Latin Mass Society's all-male training schola for London, will resume rehearsing and singing in September.

They will be singing at Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, two Monday evening Masses a week, and as a rule they will have one rehearsal a month to prepare both Masses, in the office of the LMS itself, which is in Macklin Street, Holborn.

To register your interest in singing, please email 

The Director, Dominic Bevan, is also leading a new, mixed, polyphonic consort, the Southwell Consort, which you can also enquire about through this address.

The Houghton Schola trains chant singers who may or may not have previous experience. The Southwell Consort provides an opportunity to sing in a liturgical setting for people with musical training but who have not become professional musicians. 

The first rehearsal of the Houghton Schola will be on Friday 10th September.

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Iota Unum Podcast on the former Communist bloc

Today we release a discussion about the Church and the Traditional Mass in the former Communist countries of central and eastern Europe, with contributions from Russia, Poland, and Romania.

See it here on Podbean; you can find it on other platforms as well if you search for the Latin Mass Society.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Michael Sean Winters attacks Michael Brendan Dougherty

Fr Henry Whisenant at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday; photo by John Aron

(I've put this on Rorate Caeli too now.)

Michael Sean Winters has written an attack, mainly on an article by Michael Brendan Dougherty (MBD), and it is interest to contrast MBD's sometimes artless sincerity and distress over Traditionis Custodes with Winters' manipulation of the facts and instrumentalisation of Pope Francis. For Winters Traditionis Custodes is not about the liturgy at all: it is an instrument of political power. This is what theology and spirituality has come down to for Winters and his little gang.

Winters' words in black, my comments in red.


In the weeks following Pope Francis' Traditionis Custodes, the motu proprio rendering his decision to revoke the permissions to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass contained in the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, there has been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who champion the old rite. Many of them have proven why Pope Francis was right to do what he did: The traditional Latin Mass had become an incubator for division. Schism is in the air along with the incense.

Top of the list is Michael Brendan Dougherty, of National Review, for an op-ed in the New York Times. Dougherty gets a lot wrong for someone who claims to be a journalist. He suggests that Gregorian chant only flourished after Summorum, but I worshiped at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington since 1985 and we had Gregorian chant at every 10 a.m. Mass. They also have it at St. Paul's Cambridge outside Boston. And St. Clement's in Chicago. And in lots of churches.

Great, so there were a handful of churches where they had a bit of chant in the Novus Ordo. I could name three in London, too. But what about the tens of thousands where there was no chant? The fact is a young Catholic from a Novus Ordo parish almost certainly has no idea what chant is, and it is overwhelmingly likely that if he ever encounters it in Mass, it will be with the TLM.

This is not some freak accident. Paul VI actually said 'We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant' (General Audience, 1969). And it came to pass.

The only expression of the Roman Rite?

A Low Mass celebrated after the 2019
LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham,
in the Medieval Slipper Chapel.

I have become a contributing Editor of the blog founded by Steve Skojec, 1Peter5, and my first article for them has just published. It begins:


The practical fall-out from Traditionis Custodes will be making itself felt for some time to come. In some places it has already been devastating; in others, it appears it will be minimal. The theological fall-out, however, threatens a profound problem on a different plane. This arises from the claim made in Article 1 of the document, and repeated in the accompanying Letter to Bishops, that “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

The official English translation which I have quoted is actually a poor rendering of the Italian expression, “l’unica espressione”, which means the only expression. The document is claiming that the only Missal which expresses the Roman Rite’s lex orandi, its “law of prayer,” is the reformed Missal.

The Church’s law of prayer, her lex orandi, must correspond to, and indeed determine, her law of belief (lex credendi): that was the claim of Prosper of Aquitaine when he coined the phrase in the 5th century. Prosper was making the point that if you want to know what people believe, then look at how they express themselves in prayer. If they genuflect at the reference to the Incarnation in the Creed, of if they kneel to receive Holy Communion, this tells you something: Arians will refuse to do the first, and Lutherans the second. A Missal is a “law of prayer” in the sense that it sets out a way for people to pray, and we would expect Catholic Missals to give a theologically correct law of prayer and Arian and Lutheran ones to give theologically erroneous ones. What, then, can it mean to say that the Roman Rite has only one law of prayer, and that this is the one expressed in a particular Missal, and not in another, in a document which allows both to be used in the Church?

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Monday, August 16, 2021

Last Call for the LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham: deadline, 23rd August


The deadline is Tuesday 23rd August. Register here.

There are discounts for your people and clergy and religious are free.

This is going to be a year to remember! Don't miss out.


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Saturday, August 14, 2021

LMS AGM and High Mass in Westminster Cathedral: photos


Today, Saturday 14th August, the Latin Mass Society held its Annual General Meeting. Among other things I gave talk which can be heard on Soundcloud here (37 minutes): Traditiones Custodes: What difference does it make?

Friday, August 13, 2021

Are Canonisations Infallible? A new book of discussions

I am a contributor to an important new book collecting essays on this topic: are Canonisations infallible?

Get it on Amazon: UK here; USA here.

I have mentioned the issue a couple of times on this blog: I am inclined to doubt it, for the simple reason that the kind of affirmation a canonisation implies, on the holiness and eternal fate of a particular historical personage, is not part of the deposit of Faith, and is not included among the things covered by the doctrine of infallibility as defined by the First Vatican Council.

Canonisations have always involved historical research: reviewing the written works of the individual, interviewing witnesses, and so on. Such research can give us a strong reason for believing a conclusion about an historical fact, perhaps even one which goes beyond reasonable doubt, but such scholarly certainty is quite different from our attitude towards objects of Faith.

These very simple and I would have thought obvious points are resisted fiercely by some. This book sets out arguments on both sides of this important question.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Latin for Clergy: 80% discount from the Latin Mass Society


To respond to Pope Francis’ challenge that those celebrating the ancient Latin liturgy should ‘possess a knowledge of the Latin language sufficient for a thorough comprehension of the rubrics and liturgical texts’ (Traditionis Custodes 3.4), the Latin Mass Society is pleased to announce a special online course designed to assist the clergy to improve their Latin for liturgical use.

This will be led by Matthew Spencer, who has been working with the Latin Mass Society to provide online Latin teaching for more than a year.

We are offering an 80% discount to the usual price for Catholic priests, seminarians, those accepted for seminary admission, permanent deacons, those studying for the permanent diaconate, and novices and professed religious of both sexes who come from or are based in England and Wales.

With this we have arranged independent certification from Dr Justin Stover, Senior Lecturer in Medieval Latin at Edinburgh University.

Dates: Module 1, 6 Sep - 1st Oct; Module2, 11 Oct - 5 Nov; Module 3, 15 Nov - 10 Dec

To apply email Matthew Spencer: 

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Friday, August 06, 2021

'After Traditionis Custodes': Podcast

Dominican Rite Mass in Holy Trinity, Hethe, 2019
Today we launch a new season of our Iota Unum podcasts, to publish weekly.

In the opening episode I give an hour-long talk on the implications of Traditionis Custodes.

In this presentation I address the question of whether the Traditional Mass has value, according to the Post-Conciliar Popes, whether it makes sense to think of it existing alongside the Novus Ordo, and how to understand the rejection of this possibility in Traditionis Custodes. And finally, where we go from here.

It can be found on various platforms, here it is on Spotify, on Podbean, and on the LMS website.

I have put down a long list of links to documents I refer to in this podcase in the shownotes, here.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

German Professor criticises Traditionis Custodes

My latest on LifeSite.

Professor Helmut Hoping, Professor of Dogmatics and Liturgical Studies at the University of Freiburg, has written a strongly critical article on Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter Traditionis Custodes, in the respected German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on July 28. The article, in German, is unfortunately paywalled, but I have seen a translation.

Pope Francis claims in Traditionis Custodes that the reformed, post Vatican II Missal is the “only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Missal” (not, as the official English translation had it, merely the “unique” expression). Hoping points out that in 2015 Pope Francis promulgated the Missal of the Anglican Ordinariates, Divine Worship, which describes itself as a “legitimate adaptation” of the Roman Rite, and that only last year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a decree on the Extraordinary Form, Quo Magis, which described it as a the “other form of the Roman Rite”. Somehow, between February 2020 and July 2021, the Holy See has radically transformed its understanding of what constitutes the “Roman Rite.”

Another oddity Professor Hoping points out in Traditionis Custodes is Pope Francis giving bishops the “exclusive” right to manage the celebration of the older Mass, he then commands them to “follow all the instructions of the Apostolic See,” setting out various limitations on what they may permit.

Hoping continues:

But it may not be quite so easy to put an end to the old Mass. It is appreciated by many because it protects [worshippers] against the personal creativity with which many priests today assemble the Mass, disregarding the norms of the Missal of Paul VI and the right of the faithful to a liturgy celebrated in accordance with the applicable Roman Rite. With its evolved ritual structure, the old Mass resists attempts to de-sacralize it. This makes it attractive to believers with a sense of the holiness, beauty and objectivity of Christian worship, including, increasingly, young people. Not that the renewed liturgy could not be celebrated worthily and according to the rubrics. However, it is often difficult to perceive, in parish Masses, their character as a sacred act (actio sacra). It was the promotion of this idea which was the object of the liturgical reform, which found its first expression in the Missal of Paul VI (1970).”

Read the whole thing there.

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Monday, August 02, 2021

Ruff and Shaw on Traditionis Custodes and the Reform

Simultaneously with this post I publishing on Rorate Caeli a post consisting of nine questions, and the answers to these by Fr Anthony Ruff of the Pray Tell blog, and by me. It is also being published on the Pray Tell blog.

This was not a dialogue, but simply juxtaposes our answers to the same questions. I am grateful to Fr Ruff for the opportunity to take part in this exercise. Fr Ruff's answers, which are from a very different place from my own, are characterised by respect and charity, and give a coherent account of the reasoning of at least some of those who welcome Traditionis Custodes. This makes them interesting and useful to those who want to try to understand this position; I hope my answers will be useful to the readers of Pray Tell.

Here are some quotations from Fr Ruff which are worth pondering.