Priesthood: what’s it all about?

Priesthood: what’s it all about?

There’s allegedly a secretive “gay lobby” that wields massive behind-the-scenes influence at the Vatican. Pope Francis himself appears to have confirmed it, during what was intented to be a private conversation with a delegation of Latin American religious orders. His words somehow got leaked, and although his visitors apologised, his press office hasn’t denied that the quote is genuine. Francis was discussing the difficulties he faced reforming the Vatican’s notoriously inefficient and scandal-ridden bureaucracy, the Curia.

“There are holy people,” he said, “But there is also a stream of corruption. The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true it is there! We need to see what we can do.”  Read more

So, the claims about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, squashed when they first surfaced, are true, after all.  How interesting. The Pope has admitted that there is corruption in the Vatican. Also interesting. Interesting, too, that he only admitted it “off the record” so to speak. But for that wee indiscretion, those of us who’ve been saying in plain English, Irish, Welsh and Scots how it really is for years now, would still be labelled conspiracy theorists or dubbed “disloyal” to Church and Pope.

So, in a spirit of striking while the iron’s reasonably warm, allow me to offer this thread for the purpose of considering, not just the above report about homosexual activity in the Vatican (not to mention within the Church in Scotland where we brace ourselves for further scandalous revelations)  but for the purpose of considering the wider corruption of the priesthood per se…

Since our conference last weekend, I’ve listened closely to a number of priests, well meaning, who loosely fit the description “traditional leaning.” They are, put simply, sympathetic to what has come to be known as the “traditional movement” (those diehards who just won’t let the old Faith, devotions, customs and traditions be stamped out!)

Yet, paradoxically, they defend the squashing of those very traditions in their own parishes. Take altar girls (or girl altar boys  as the Americans call them). There’s nothing to mandate girls serving at the novus ordo Mass yet most priests recruit them now. Ditto Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Communion in the hand etc. Any suggestion that a priest might stop doing any of these things, meets with the objection that you can’t change things overnight (although things WERE changed overnight after Vatican II) and/or it’s disobedient to the local Bishop for individual priests to make such changes without permission.  “We’d be sent to outer Siberia” said one clergyman, defending his “keep a low profile and do what I can without annoying the bishop” policy.  Not that I recommend annoying the bishop, by the way; there are skilled ways of seeing off altar girls and all the other aberrations without annoying anyone.

The big talking point for us, however, is this: the careful, diplomatic priests who believe they can do more good by going along with the rebellion until they can diplomatically restore what has been lost without antagonising anyone,  do not appear to realise that the very nature of their vocation is altered, seriously and in a very damaging way, as a result of the confusing of the roles of the ordained and lay. Why on earth would any young man choose to be a priest today?

The key question, therefore, to address in this thread is:  what is the priesthood all about?

Comments (89)

  • Thurifer

    “Everything is bound up together. By attacking the base of the building it is destroyed entirely. No more Mass, no more priests. The ritual, before it was altered, had the bishop say, “Receive the power to offer to God the Holy Sacrifice and to celebrate Holy Mass both for the living and for the dead, in the name of the Lord.” He had previously blessed the hands of the ordinand by pronouncing these words “so that all that they bless may be blessed and all that they consecrate may be consecrated and sanctified.” The power conferred is expressed without ambiguity: “That for the salvation of Thy people and by their holy blessing, they may effect the Transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of thy Divine Son.”

    -Archbishop Lefebvre

    June 19, 2013 at 1:04 am
  • Thurifer

    For the record, it’s “girl Altar boys”, girl being an adjective.

    June 19, 2013 at 1:04 am
    • editor

      Oops! I’ve now corrected that in the blog article. Thanks for that.

      June 19, 2013 at 9:13 am
  • Margaret Mary

    I remember well that when the changes happened after the Council, our priests told us from one week to the next what would change. There was no “breaking us in gently”, it was more like a tsunami and none of us thought of complaining!

    However, that was when all the priests were changing things on the orders of the bishops. It must be more difficult now to switch back, if only a couple of priests are doing so.

    I do agree that not doing the right thing means young people are growing up thinking what they are seeing in their churches is the normal and right thing, but what can a priest do if he is more or less a lone voice in a diocese?

    I also wonder how many priests really do want to switch back, no matter what they say. All the laity doing their work for them, it must be tempting to go with the flow and have an easy life, when it means less work and no hassle from the bishop.

    June 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm
  • Josephine

    There are no leaders among the clergy in Scotland. I think we’ll have to wait until after the Consecration of Russia when it will be the pope who leads the Church back to Tradition. Priests seem to want to be good managers, good at getting along with people and that always means compromise.

    June 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm
    • Firmiter


      You have a point. The Church in Scotland does not train priests to lead and leadership in the Church is about holiness. The function of the Church, lest we forget, is the salvation of souls. Priests should be real experts in the ways of souls, real physicians capable of nurturing holiness which is essentially a healthy soul.

      Instead most of us are incapable of imparting prescriptions which rise higher than the ‘Don’ worry, God still loves you’ type.

      June 20, 2013 at 4:11 am
  • Athanasius

    The root of the problems in the Church today, which the controversy about ending priestly celibacy highlights admirably, is that there are very few selfless souls left in the world. Priests, and potential priests, want to serve God, but they want to serve their passions as well. There is no such thing anymore as complete self sacrifice for the Kingdom of heaven, such as the Church knew in the likes of St. John Vianney and many other like-imitators of Our Lord. Today, the greater majority of priests are like the “house divided” that Our Lord spoke of and are failing as a result to sanctify themselves and the souls under their care. That’s why so many now are interested only in the things of this world, such as social justice, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, etc., because they have lost the true supernatural spirit of the priesthood.

    June 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm
    • Firmiter


      If I look back to my own theological training, the theological ‘tracts’ which were worst dealt with were eschatology (‘the last things’) and spiritual theology.

      The former couse was so weak that I do not even remember the name of the lecturer, but I do remember swatting up traditional textbooks on the subject. And the failure of this course to make a mark was a real pity since if we fail to take death (and judgment) seriously, we are not going to take life seriously. So many Catholics lead such mediocre spiritual lives, or to put it another way, fail to achieve their spiritual potential, because they have come to believe, if they still believe in eternal life, that by dying they are automatically saved because God is good. God is good. But it is precisely because He is good that he has the utmost respect for the human free-choice which He created.

      As for spiritual theology, in my day it was no more than an introduction to psychotherapy, and this too was a pity because it could have offered insights not only into the great spiritual writers, but also into practical techniques for attaining holiness.

      June 20, 2013 at 4:27 am
  • editor

    “Gay lobby in the Vatican”?

    Check this out – this is much more than a “lobby” group. Shocking.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that these priests ain’t letting the grass grow: they’re doing their own thing. We could all learn, as I keep saying, from the agents of evil in terms of zeal. A lot.

    June 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm
    • Firmiter


      I am highy surprised that you should take such an article at face value.

      Should you not have checked first to see if this site really exists. Even if it does, should you not have questioned yourself ad to the meaning ‘being run out of the Vatican’, a highly ambiguous phrase if ever there was one.

      Did you not feel it to be worth your while to check out the reliability of the organ in which the article appeared. I see that it comes out of Ireland. Did that not indicate to you that the aim of its author might be to denigrate the Church.

      I am gruly sorry to see such an uncritical to truly substandard journalism. Please remember that this blog is not a steamie.

      June 20, 2013 at 4:36 am
      • editor


        You are right – I should have checked it out. However, it says something when such an allegation MAY be “taken at face value” – nothing, but nothing surprises most of us any more, especially after the admission by the Pope himself that there IS (after all the denials) a “gay” cabal within the walls.

        And, as I said elsewhere, having seen the scandalous and pornographic website Sebastian’s Angels run by American priests (with at least one Scots contributor and at least one bishop contributor), I’m afraid it didn’t strike me as being all that suspicious – just more scandal. That website was only closed down after a stack of complaints and a lot of publicity from lay people.

        Believe it or not I have STILL not had time to check out the alleged Vatican site, and I’m running ten minutes late for an appointment – will you take that on for us, please and thank you?

        June 20, 2013 at 9:57 am
      • Josephine

        I’ve visited that site and it’s very hard to tell whether it is real or satirical. It looks real enough to me, but is it really the wisest thing to do at this time, to set up a website that is causing people to think that it’s run by gay priests in the Vatican? Personally, I don’t think that’s remotely funny. The priests involved should be disciplined but won’t be of course.

        June 20, 2013 at 11:08 am
  • Athanasius


    I can’t believe that such a thing would be run overtly from the Vatican. The site is being touted as a satirical website, so I’m going to hedge my bets for the moment and wait to see how the Roman authorities respond to the story.

    June 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm
    • editor

      Satirical or not, if it’s run by priests it’s a disgrace and should be wiped off the internet. There was an horrendous website of this kind run in America called Sebastian’s Angels. I visited it once before it was closed down and “horrendous” is me at my (un)characteristic understated best. If Sebastian’s Angels could be overtly run by homosexually active priests (with even bishops signed up and commenting) then anything is possible these days – although I hope I’m wrong (for once…characteristic humility, as ever…!)

      June 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm
      • Athanasius


        Yes, you have a very good point there.

        June 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm
    • Josephine

      I’m afraid I CAN believe it – only too easily .

      June 20, 2013 at 11:09 am
  • Leo

    Thank you, Thurifer, for those words of Archbishop Lefebvre.

    The Archbishop was so correct, and prescient, in identifying the crisis of the priesthood as being at the centre of the appalling crisis that has engulfed the Church.

    From a diametrically opposed position, the enemies of Christ and His Church in the modern world, both inside and outside the walls, appear to be fully aware of the most effective route of attack. Think of the Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, the testimony of Bella Dodd, or AA-1025. Those inclined, for whatever reason, to be cynical about the idea of such attacks from without, can always read Michael Rose’s book entitled Goodbye Good Men, detailing the attacks from within, shining a torch on the programme pursued in some US seminaries since the Council, a programme that must surely have been of diabolical inspiration and typical of what happened on a vast scale.

    The following words of Saint Jean Vianney contain very deep truths that offer much for all Catholics, bishops, priests and laity to dwell on. And especially all those who are hell bent on pursuing the “clericalisation of the laity” programme. I’m thinking in particular of those lay led liturgies, whatever they are called.

    “Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures, it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed it them that Our Lord has died? Alas! They can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

    “The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish for twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, ‘What can we do in this church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home.’ When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.” – The Little Catechism of the Cure of Ars, pp 34-35

    June 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm
    • editor


      That is one of my favourite quotes on the priesthood. Thank you for posting it.

      You’ve underlined the fact that we are not about attacking the priesthood – the clergy are doing that themselves very nicely indeed, truth be told. In fact, some years ago I replied to a letter from an irate priest who accused Catholic Truth of hating the clergy. Yet, the opposite was/is true. I told him so, saying that we love the priesthood – a great deal more than most of the priests appear to love it. I never heard from him again but a mutual contact told me he was pleased with my letter. I suppose enclosing the cheque helped…

      How on earth can priests fail to see that we wouldn’t be making ourselves unpopular unless we cared a great deal about the priesthood – much more, it seems, than do most of them.

      June 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm
      • Leo

        Well said, Editor.

        Hopefully more and more “irate priests” will become familiar with the Newsletter and this blog.

        June 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm
      • editor

        I think they’re all familiar with it, Leo – that’s the problem! We are now regarded as “extremists” – they’re the ones who’ve changed the Faith to bring us girl altar boys, EMHC and the rest, but we’re the “extremists”. Truly, you couldn’t make it up!

        June 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm
      • Leo

        Sure, Editor, the modernists see us as “extremists” because we are so far separated. They forget however that they are the ones who have done all the running. We haven’t strayed an inch from the rock of the Faith.

        June 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm
  • Firmiter

    In a word, priesthood is about sacrifice.

    As for the allegations (real or immagined) about a gay lobby in the Vatican, I’m sorry, but the Pope should put up or shut up. If he has proof as to the existence of such a loby, he has a duty to act. If he has no such proof, he would be prudent to keep his mouth shut.

    June 19, 2013 at 8:08 pm
    • editor

      On the button. Well said, Firmiter

      June 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm
  • Crossraguel

    Following the society’s invocation of St. Joseph it is heartening to see him being honoured in the additional Eucharistic prayers (NOM) forthwith:

    Would’ve preferred to see the abolition of II, III & IV in favour of exclusive use of I (The Roman Canon) all the same.*

    *insofar as the NOM remains in use, before I’m picked up on that!

    June 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm
    • editor

      Well, we can only thank God every time St Joseph is honoured. Doesn’t change the debate about the NOM one jot, sad to say.

      June 19, 2013 at 11:13 pm
  • semperfidelis

    Is Our Lady telling us something?

    June 20, 2013 at 11:29 pm
    • Eileenanne

      What do you think Our Lady might be saying?

      June 21, 2013 at 7:45 am
      • editor


        I don’t know if and when you last visited Lourdes but from my experience of immodest dress and “inappropriate” behaviours on alleged pilgrimages, I think Our Lady might be saying that we are not going to get away with mocking God much longer.

        What do you think?

        June 21, 2013 at 10:35 am
      • Eileenanne

        In three weeks I will be off to Lourdes for the 12th Time in 13years.

        I don’t think Our Lady controls the weather in Lourdes.

        June 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm
      • Josephine

        That’s a rather odd thing to say. Does that mean you think Our Lady “controls” the health of the sick pilgrims who are cured at Lourdes?

        June 21, 2013 at 5:03 pm
      • editor

        Really? Who do you think DOES control the weather in Lourdes?

        June 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm
  • Leo


    I know it’s very easy for me to talk, but on the question of this blog being regarded as “extremist” or even hated by some, I’d be inclined to regard such sentiments as rather a good sign. Standing up for the Catholic Faith of all the generations that have gone before us, might not be quickest route to universal popularity, but it’s never, ever wrong.

    The words of Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand, described by Pope Pius XII as the twentieth century Doctor of the Church, are worth recalling:

    “The drivel of heretics both priests and laymen, is tolerated; the bishops tacitly acquiesce to the poisoning of the faithful. But they want to silence the faithful believers who take up the cause of orthodoxy.” – The Devastated Vineyard

    Nothing appears to have changed, forty years after those words were written. Indeed the warning in the book’s Preface that “the active work of destruction [of the holy Church] is in high gear” can be added to a list of very perceptive warnings, which included that of Archbishop Lefebvre a year after the conclusion of the Council.

    He also wrote that “the purpose of this book is, first of all, to give a short clear presentation of the principal errors which are being presented today …. Secondly, we shall especially try to unmask those hidden, subtle errors which are usually introduced under beautiful, apparently noble titles, and whose danger is often overlooked even by believing Catholics.”

    I’m sure this won’t tempt you to the sin of pride, Editor, but you can be pretty sure that von Hildebrand would say that Catholic Truth is working on the same task. He knew how the real extremists spoke, and he knew how dangerous they were.

    June 20, 2013 at 11:31 pm
    • editor

      Thank you Leo for your encouraging words. I’ve meant for a long time to read The Devastated Vineyard but never gotten around to it. I’m about to get around to it!

      June 21, 2013 at 10:37 am
  • Leo

    The same question occurred to me, Semperfidelis.

    I was thinking about a certain canonisation process. Very strange.

    June 20, 2013 at 11:37 pm
  • Burt

    Hello all, it’s a long time since I posted to this blog. But the topic “Priesthood: what’s it all about?” compels me as only today I found something online that is new to me, and I should have thought about it before. I wanted to find out what changes were made to the rite of ordination since Vat II. Google led me here.
    Compare texts that were removed post V II and texts that were added. I am shocked quite frankly.
    Let me highlight the changes that astonish me:
    “Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Mass, both for the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord”.
    This ….exceptionally important prayer … abolished.
    “Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Abolished!

    Additions? “Pour forth Thy grace upon these thy servants, we beseech thee O Lord, that within the royal priesthood of Thy people they may faithfully fulfill this their priestly ministry . . . Make them worthy to offer with all Thy people spiritual sacrifices acceptable in Thy sight, and to minister the sacraments of Thy New Covenant.”

    Well we’re all priests after all!

    I am reeling having found these revelation from the late Michael Davies this very day, and saw this topic so felt it is apt and hopefully to hear back opinions from the good folks who contribute here.

    June 21, 2013 at 12:14 am
    • Athanasius


      I have wrestled for a long time with those changes you highlight, as have other more eminent people, and I think the conclusion is that if we were to say that they invalidate ordinations per se, then we would probably have to state that the gates of hell have prevailed. It’s a matter that touches upon the universal faith and therefore involves the direct action of the Holy Ghost. I really think the subject is too deep and too precarious for us to dwell on overly much. It’s one of those serious questions that the Church will have to address in healthier times. We can only assume in the meantime that ordinations using the new rite are generally valid.

      June 21, 2013 at 1:32 am
      • editor

        You mean there are “more eminent people” than your good self, Athanasius?

        Well, I never! Are you sure?

        June 21, 2013 at 10:38 am
  • Athanasius


    I was reading Michael Davies’ article again and this statement stood out:

    “Pope Paul VI promulgated the new ordination rites for deacon, priest, and bishop with his Apostolic Constitution Pontificalis Romani recognitio of 18 June 1968. Where the rite for ordaining a priest is concerned, the first point to make is that the matter and essential form designated by Pius XII in Sacramentum Ordinis remain virtually unchanged (see Appendix XI).”

    What those words clearly mean, and I have checked this with a sound Traditional priest, is that despite the deliberate ambiguity in the wording of the new rite, it is a valid rite.

    June 21, 2013 at 9:23 am
    • Petrus


      It’s not often this man is quoted for the right reasons on the blog, but I remember listening to a talk by Bishop Williamson and he was quite emphatic – the new rite of ordination to the priesthood is valid.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:14 am
    • Petrus

      Here’s an interesting thought. If a man was invalidly “ordained” ie. not a priest at all, and a soul approached this “priest” in the Confessional but didn’t know of the invalidity of his ordination, would the “Church supply” the graces of the Sacrament since the impediment was hidden. Thinking caps on!

      June 21, 2013 at 10:16 am
      • Athanasius


        The answer to that question is probably in the affirmitive. It is said that if a person has sufficient sorrow for having offended God his sins are forgiven even before he goes to confession, although this by no means invalidates the requirement to confess at the earliest opportunity. We are absolutely bound by God to use the Sacrament of Confession under normal circumstances. It is also the case that a person can repent of sins in the last seconds of life, even if a priest is not present to absolve. Hence, it is unlikely that God would withhold His mercy from one who confesses to one he truly believes to be a priest.

        Fortunately, I don’t think there are too many, if any, invalidly ordained priests operating in the Church, so the question really is academic.

        June 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm
    • Burt

      Thank you Athanasius ,

      I must admit It was the first time I saw that Michael Davies segment yesterday, and I was just taken aback about the texts that had been abolished and the new texts that were inserted in the Ordination Rite.
      If your eminent self, Michael Davies and even Richard Williamson concur that the new rite is still valid, who am I to doubt it?

      I am sure you are correct.

      June 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm
  • Athanasius


    I’m glad I could help out on that one. But just to make you absolutely certain, here’s another paragraph from near the end of Michael Davies’ article. Note the highlighted words.

    A Significant Change of Meaning?

    If, for the sake of argument, we lay aside the fact that the doctrine of indefectibility rules out any possibility of the new ordination rite being invalid, could it be maintained that the removal ofut from the traditional form justifies the allegation of a significant change of meaning? I obtained the judgment of a number theologians and canonists competent to provide an expert opinion on the question, namely Professor J.P.M. van der Ploeg, D.P., Dr. Philip Flanagan, Dr. Francis Clark, Dr. H.J. Jordan, Dr T.C.G. Glover, Father William Lawson, S.J., and also Professor CristineMohrmann, one of the world’s greatest authorities on Christian Latin. They all reached the identical conclusion, that the omission of ut did not change the meaning of the Latin form to the slightest extent, and did not cast even the suspicion of doubt upon the validity of the Latin form.Thus even if, per impossibile, a sacramental form approved by the Sovereign Pontiff could be invalid, there would be no case for alleging invalidity in the case of the form for the ordination of a priest in the 1968 Ordinal.

    June 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm
  • Eileenanne

    Josephine and Editor,

    Miracles that occur at Lourdes are brought about by God, probably as a result of prayer to His Mother.

    God controls the weather.

    The problem of why bad things happen has exercised greater minds than mine from time immemorial. Good things happen to bad and good people alike. Bad things also happen to good and bad people alike. There is no correlation between the perceived virtues or vices of those who suffer and the degree of that suffering. Some would say that good people seem to suffer more.

    I do not believe God directly punishes or shows His disfavour by actively sending down natural disasters on places where He sees things that displease Him. People in Lourdes rely for their livelihood on the pilgrims who come there during a relatively short pilgrimage season. I don’t believe God would deliberately send such devastation on their homes and businesses in order to show His displeasure with the behaviour of a few of those who respond to Our Lady’s invitation to come in procession.

    June 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm
    • Petrus

      So, do you dismiss the great flood in the Old Testament and the story of Noah?

      June 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm
      • Eileenanne

        I don’t dismiss it but,like much of the Old Testament, it may not not be literally. If it is historically true, then at least the animals and good people were saved, There is no way of knowing if people who have behaved improperly in Lourdes are the ones who have suffered on this occasion.

        June 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm
      • Josephine

        God showed us, in Christ, the example of innocents suffering and that that is pleasing to Him. It’s just because we are very bound to the ways of thinking of human beings that we cannot see beyond that. God’s presence is surely being felt in the world in the terrible weather conditions we are all experiencing. If we are not being well warned that the world is disorientated away from God, then what is the erratic weather all about? I personally do not think it’s caused by a few puffs of hair spray.

        June 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm
      • Athanasius


        You should know that the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is a dogma of the faith.

        June 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm
    • Josephine


      I know that God performs the miracles and controls the weather but your statement that God would not punish us directly is a contradiction of what we read in Sacred Scripture. The mystery is, yes, that the good are punished as well as the bad, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t act in this way. If he only struck down the bad, there would be no problem with unbelief. Everyone would believe. There would be no real faith involved.

      I found this interesting piece in an article at Catholic Culture:

      ” – the noted historian Roberto De Mattei had said on Radio Maria on March 16: that earthquakes depend on the will of God, and so if they do happen it is because in a way people deserve them. De Mattei’s statement sparked un uproar in the academic milieu and beyond, with over 14,000 people adding their signatures to a petition to have the historian removed from Italy’s National Research Council, saying that his words were incompatible with his office in Italy’s most important public scientific institution. Despite the negative public reaction, De Mattei repeated his controversial stand in another Radio Maria broadcast on April 20.
      De Mattei is no stranger to controversy. He has already embarrassed the Vatican and the Pope himself by producing a book in which he argues that Vatican II, unlike Benedict’s thought, has to be seen as a break from the tradition of the Catholic Church—a stand directly at variance with Pope Benedict’s teaching that the Council must be read in light of constant Church tradition.”

      June 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm
      • editor

        Now this discussion on Lourdes flooding etc is really off topic, and I wish people wouldn’t post comments that take the discussion off topic. There is no excuse, because we have a General Discussion thread, so please use that and don’t interrupt the topic threads.

        I fell into the trap myself above, thinking that it would be a short diversion, whereas it has become a full blown discussion about the nature of God.

        I am, therefore, going to answer the above posts on the General Discussion thread and would appreciate if the rest of you would continue it there. Thanks.

        This thread is about the priesthood. Stick to that topic, please and thank you.

        June 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm
      • Athanasius


        Sorry, I posted above by mistake but it’s only a one liner. cut my pay again if you will.

        June 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm
      • editor

        I did the same thing myself Athanasius. I’m not cutting YOUR pay but semperfidelis, Josephine and Eileenanne have all lost their monthly bonuses.

        On topic

        Many thanks for those posts on the validity of the ordinations in the new rite. I’m often asked about that and, without studying the subject, have always affirmed what I read above. Am I a genius or what?

        And I was speaking with a priest today (no names, location or other pack drill!) who assures me that when he made traditional leaning changes in his parish, apart from a few “liberal” types who only attended his Masses from time to time, nobody else raised an eyebrow and no complaints went to the bishop.

        So, all you priests out there who say you would like to restore kneeling etc. get on with it. Especially in Scotland, I think the bishops are so busy trying to avoid bad publicity that they’re never going to bother their mitred heads.

        June 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm
  • Christina

    The trouble (or one of them is) that the Vatican II’s ‘reform of the priesthood’, with all its criticisms of the historical and true Catholic priesthood, has led to almost universal confusion between the sacramental priesthood, which is proper to priests alone, and the universal priesthood of the ‘people of God’ deriving from baptism. From that confusion have arisen all the abuses listed in the lead post, together with the loss of faith in the Real Presence inevitably consequent upon the idea that ‘a priest is a man like any other man’. Those priests who protest about rocking the boat, and who go along with all that is wrong in their lay-led parishes for fear of doing so, are really adding to the confusion and reinforcing the idea that the sacramental priesthood is not totally ‘other’. As Romano Amerio said in Iota Unum:

    The new theology revives old heretical doctrines, which came together to produce the Lutheran abolition of the priesthood.

    The Catholic priest who does not show his ‘otherness’ in his relations with those whose souls are entrusted to his care is helping these ‘old heretical doctrines’ to become ever more firmly rooted in the Catholic psyche. Because of his ordination he is capable of performing acts in persona Christi of which laymen are incapable. If he allows all the abuses listed to continue, so lessening faith in transubstantiation (where it still exists), if he fails to preach death, judgement, hell and heaven and the necessity for his people to come to him for the forgivelness of their sins, then perhaps he can’t answer the question ‘what is the priesthood is all about?’. As Amerio says:

    The fundamental error of the criticisms of the Church’s historic priesthood…..lies in not recognising the essence, or fixed nature, of the thing and in reducing it to a merely human and functional level. Catholic doctrine sees within the priesthood an essential not merely a functional difference between the priest and the layman: an ontological difference due to the character impressed upon the soul by the sacrament of orders.

    June 22, 2013 at 12:00 am
  • Leo

    Thank you for that very informative post, Christina.

    Here’s a rather blunt statement of intent from one of the most influential Conciliar progressivists, Father Yves Congar, who was subsequently made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II:

    “It is, therefore, extremely important for lay people to assume the ministries hitherto reserved for priests…This is to move toward a Church as people of God. Finally, this is what I was always looking for: a Church made up of its faithful and not of a Clergy and its clientele.” – Jean Puyo interroge le Pere Congar, p.235 ( quote taken from Animus Delendi I, p. 332, by Atila Sinke Guimaraes)

    Looks like things have been moving steadily and smoothly along, as per the liberal programme.

    June 22, 2013 at 12:57 am
    • editor

      And all with the help of the “traditional leaning” priests who want to take their time doing away with all these superfluous and un-Catholic lay “ministries”, in order not to offend the bishops’ implementation of the Yves Congar agenda. Gimme strength!

      June 22, 2013 at 10:24 am
  • Christina

    St. Norbert would be a good saint to invoke in our prayers for priests. He anticipated and answered your question, Editor, on the occasion of his own ordination to the sacred priesthood about a thousand years ago!

    O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God.
    You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ.
    You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church.
    You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man.
    You are not from yourself because you are nothing.
    What then are you?
    Nothing and everything.
    O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!'”

    June 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm
  • scottish priest

    Its very interesting to see so many comments by those who are not priests. Unlsss youa re a priest you will never know the nature of the priesthood or its linkwith calvary the type of suffering and the constant attack on the sacred order.. even on well meaning blogs like tihs one. As a priest working and living through this it’s not as clear as some would think. Most priests tday will hold fast if pushed to obedience to thehe bishop.If we dissent from the teaching office at this level we are in direct disobedience to the Church. Many priests will hold tot he letter of the law for many different reasons. Openly dissenting priests are different matter and the bishops need to address that for sure.
    Most priests today either live alone or are as in many cases living between two parishes.Pope John paul II said that a parish without a priest does not have or will truggle to have an authentic ecclesial communion. Most priests (myself) included are working harder and longer than they were 20 years ago – It is just not true to say that priests are not striving for holiness; that priests do not care about the crisisin the Church; that priests are all in collusion with the crisis; that .. and the list continues. Priests are hard working for the most part. Most are in parishes on their own and no longer have the support of other brother priests as they did in the past. the morale of the clergy in Scotland is at an all time low..I am definitely working longer and harder than i was 25 years ago – there are too many areas that need addressed and a return to the Old rite will not resolve the issues of secularism etc.. thats foolish to think… what it will do is restore within the Church a proper understanding of hierarchy and indeed the Mystery of the sacrifice of calvary – it will deepen reverence and teach people on a different level. Unless the directives come from above the priests will not stick their heads int he firing line when there are equally pressing duties to take care of suchas: proper catechesis on the sacramaetnts; celebratiing the ;liturgy with reverence and dignity etc. Those priests whohave stuck their head above the parapet so to speak have foundd themselves batting a lonley wicket. No.. change like this come from bishops down.. anything else will cause schism and rupture of an ahlready dysfunctional church

    June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am
    • Sixupman

      But where would one find the new bishops possessed of the ethos to rectify matters – particularly in Scotland? Two have been found in England – a mere drop in the ocean!

      June 23, 2013 at 7:58 am
    • editor

      scottish priest,

      I’d dearly love to know the names of any Scottish priests who have “stuck their head about the parapet” – I don’t know any in Scotland. One Glasgow priest did re-introduce his parishioners to kneeling for Communion and receiving on the tongue and he did so by saying he wished to follow the example of the then Pope (Benedict XVI) and by the time he’d left around 80% of parishioners were receiving in the traditional way but he didn’t “go in all guns blazing” as they say on this issue and to the best of my knowledge, not a single parishioner complained to the bishop about it. That priest could scarcely be described as “disobedient” (goodness, he was following the Pope’s own example, not to mention the example of countless saints), so, I repeat, who are these priests who have put their head about the parapet? I don’t know of a single one. In any case, one swallow doth not a summer make; if Father A “goes in all guns blazing” in the cause of Tradition at meetings with the bishop or brother priests, that’s not a sensible thing to do but it should not be an excuse for other priests to remain silent. That’s an excuse – it’s not a reason and it’s certainly not a good reason.

      But let’s consider these few priests who, we are told, are trying to quietly work behind the scenes to restore the Faith in their own neck of the woods. Only this morning I was speaking to a man who attended the novus ordo in one of these parishes as recently as yesterday, and he noted, with disappointment, that the priest there continues to give Communion in the hand. Also, during his sermon this priest even quoted Archbishop Conti as if he were some kind of authority, because of building work going on to place the baptismal font in the same place as it is found in the newly “refurbished” cathedral – this, at the suggestion of + Conti. What a mixed signal to quote, with approval, that archbishop who left Glasgow in the worst possible state, and who did all that he could to discourage the restoration of the TLM. Sorry, but I repeat: such priests, determined to keep a foot in both camps, are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

      When I quoted this thread to the parishioner this morning (he is not online) pointing out the argument of the “foot in both camps priests” that they want NOT to offend the bishop, be “obedient” to the bishop and gradually bring in change, he cited a Glasgow parish with a widely believed to be “traditional leaning” priest as evidence that this policy “is just not working”.

      Apparently, the congregation was comprised mainly of the elderly and, as this man rightly said, if the priest can’t convince THEM that they should abandon Modernism and restore Tradition, who WILL he convince?

      It’s not working, scottish priest – the passive, going along to get along strategy is simply not working and souls are being damaged along the way. They are being fed a lie. Young people, in particular are being denied the full truth about the Catholic Faith and the way in which the current crisis in the Church is eroding that Faith.

      Priests need to decide whether they want to keep a foot in both camps, keep on the right side of the bishop or whether they want to do the right thing, preach the Faith in its fullness, find a sound and thoughtful strategy to empty the sanctuary of altar girls and Extraordinary Ministers (I believe, to his credit, that the above mentioned priest has done that, thanks be to God) but do it soon, before the poison which is the protestantising influence of the new Mass taken in total, does even more harm to the souls in their care.

      As for “schism” – the Church in Scotland is already in de facto schism. The issue now is which priests will be on the right side of that schism.

      June 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm
  • Athanasius

    Scottish Priest,

    There are some things you say that I agree with and some that I do not agree with.

    You are quite correct, for example, to state that priests do not have the company of brother priests as they once had. This is a big problem because younger priests no longer have the wisdom and guidance of the parish priest to help them. Nor do they have that atmosphere of piety that existed when there were 3 or 4 priests to a parish.

    You are also right to a degree to say that priests have more work to do today than, say, 20 years ago. But even so, the modern priest is not working nearly as hard as priests of the past. And I’m sorry to disagree with you, but it is not my experience that the greater number of modern priests are particularly interested in sanctification, either their own or the souls under their care. I’m sure there are some priests who care very deeply about this but they are not in the majority as far as I can see. Many parishes are run now by lay people while Father contents himself with the bare duties essential to his ministry. There are no worn out priests today, sorry to say, none who have given of themselves to the point of forgetting about themselves, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry, but I just do not see these hard working, holy priests anywhere around today. On the contrary, the parishes generally are places of laxity and irreverence.

    And as for obedience to the bishops, that’s all very well and proper when the bishops obey the Church. But what happens when the bishops do not obey the Church, such as in matters of liturgical innovations, Communion in the hand, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, absence of Catechesis (a real problem), ecumenism, interfaith initiatives, etc? As far as I can see, this obedience you speak of is more of an excuse, a cop out, for not having to stick one’s head above the parapet in defence of orthodoxy. Let’s call it by its true name – cowardice.

    There is no possibility of schism on the part of the priest who stands up against the abominations of today that the bishops have encouraged. If there is schism at all then it’s on the part of the bishops who have ruined, and continue to ruin, the faith, not on those faithful priests who stand up and say NO to such heterodoxy.

    The priests of the SSPX are accused of all manner of things against obedience and often accused falsely of schism. But the truth is that these priests are the faithful ones, the ones who are prepared to take the persecution for Our Lord’s sake, for the integrity of the faith and the good of the Church and souls. These are the real martyrs today, not the priests who wants to be friends with Tradition and Modernism at the same time. I think Our Lord had something to say about that kind of lukewarmness in Apocalyse.

    What the Church desperately lacks today is martyr priests, those who are willing to sacrifice all, even that so-called “good standing” that only those who compromise with Modernism in one way or another are permitted to enjoy. Unless a priest is prepared today to sacrifice everything in defence of the Faith, which includes a refusal of all the innovations cited above, then he is, to some extent or other, guilty of obedience to man and disobedience to God. We are only supposed to obey our bishops when they speak and act in accordance with orthodoxy. Anything other than this is not obedience, it’s subservience and connivance in error disguised as obedience.

    As Archbishop Lefebvre said with such wisdom: The greatest victory for the devil today has been to sow disobedience through obedience. Obedience is not the highest of the virtues. Faith is first!

    June 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm
    • Eileenanne

      I thought the greatest was charity.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm
      • editor


        Correct, in that the greatest of the virtues is charity – which means divine love, the love of God. Obviously, nothing is more important than the love of God. We must love God above all else. Thus, in loving God, we must love the Faith which He has revealed to us. They are inextricably tied together. We cannot, Our Lord tells us, claim to love God while we hate our neighbour, for example, and similarly we cannot claim to love God while turning our backs on the Faith which He has given to us through His Church. Only once that right order has been established, can the Pope and bishops command obedience. Our first duty is to love God and to be faithful to Him through His revelation of Himself in Scripture and Tradition, both of which are given to us via His Church.

        Thus nobody can claim to be exercising charity – showing love of God – by claiming that they need to show “obedience” to disobedient bishops. Since we love God above all else, our fidelity to the Faith ranks above obedience which is, of course, a false obedience if it takes us away from the undiluted truths of the Faith. The Church did not begin in 1962. That’s our first clue. Any new teachings, such as ecumenism, cannot require obedience, nor do the liturgical innovations such as altar girls and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Communion in the hand etc. There is no requirement of obedience on priests to have any of these things, so why the plea to obedience as an excuse for not doing away with such things and restoring at least something of Catholic Tradition in the sanctuaries?

        Phew! Get it now?

        June 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm
      • Athanasius


        I meant Faith is first before obedience.

        June 23, 2013 at 11:53 pm
  • Petrus

    “Unlsss (sic) youa re (sic) a priest you will never know the nature of the priesthood ”

    I disagree that lay people cannot have a proper understanding of the priesthood. Could you expand on this, Father?

    I agree with the editor and Athanasius. I’d love to know what the majority of priests get up to all day. Most of them have a legion of Extraordinary Monsters going around the houses “ministering” to the sick. I can’t believe there are priests suffering from “burn out” – unless they are busy with the Ecumenical Committee, Social Committee, Save The Badger Campaign, Help The Homeless Forum etc.

    June 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm
    • Athanasius


      Save the Badger Campaign? I suppose that would be the campaign to disuade elderly bald male parishioners from purchasing cheap wigs? Just thought I’d lighten the mood a little!

      June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm
  • Christina

    Scottish Priest,

    Its very interesting to see so many comments by those who are not priests. Unless you are a priest you will never know the nature of the priesthood or its link with Calvary

    I’ve lived long enough to have seen the Church fall from gloriously ‘functional’ to ‘dysfunctional’ (your own description), and, believe me, I do understand what you have to endure, and have known faithful priests for whom the struggle between conscience and ‘obedience’ is keenly and painfully felt. However, I take exception to what you said in the beginning of your post. Something that many regular bloggers demonstrate again and again in their posts is that they DO EXACTLY know the nature of the priesthood and its links with Calvary. The problem is that in parish after parish, where I have, in the past, tried to find some semblance of liturgical peace in the NO, I have seen many priests who manifestly do NOT know what is the nature of the priesthood or its links with Calvary’, and nor do the bishops, except for the two (or perhaps three) English ones already mentioned.

    Hand on heart I cannot say whether, in your position, I would stick my head above the parapet, or whether I would be too fearful to do so – fearful of confrontation with those having power and authority over me (I’m the original wimp), fearful for my livelihood and fearful for the parishioners who had been entrusted to me. I’ll say an extra prayer for Scottish priests every night from now on.

    Petrus – the ‘Save the Badger Campaign’ would be quite an acceptable extra-sacerdotal activity in my book! What I can’t stand is when they complain about having too much to do and spend hours a day exchanging rubbish with ‘friends’ on Facebook, as one in my neck of the woods does.

    June 23, 2013 at 10:29 pm
  • Leo

    Without any doubt the crisis of the priesthood is at the centre of the crisis in the Church. I think in these coming days we would all do well to consider the immense Christian fortitude and tireless apostolic work of Archbishop Lefebvre. At an age when most people have retired, he abandoned his life to Divine Providence, for the defense of Tradition, and the formation of holy Catholic priests.

    Late in his life, in his Spiritual Journey, the Archbishop revealed to the priests and seminarians of the Society his vision of the future the “Dream of Dakar”,that had inspired his actions:

    “…The dream was to transmit, before the progressive degradation of the priestly ideal, in all of its doctrinal purity and in all of its missionary charity, the Catholic Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, just as He conferred it on His Apostles, just as the Roman Church always transmitted it until the middle of the twentieth century.
    “How should I carry out that which appeared then to me as the sole solution to revive the Church and Christianity? It was still a dream, but there appeared to me already the need, not only to confer the authentic priesthood, to teach not only sana doctrina approved by the Church, but also to transmit the profound and unchanging spirit of the Catholic priesthood and of the Christian spirit essentially bound to the great prayer of Our Lord which his Sacrifice on the Cross expresses eternally.” – Spiritual Journey, iii

    The Society was placed under the patronage of Saint Pius X precisely because of that holy Pope’s concern for the integrity of the priesthood and the sanctity that flows from it (see p.436 of Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’s biography of the Archbishop).

    The great Pope expressed his understanding and appreciation of the irreplaceable role of the ordained priesthood in his 1903 Encyclical E Supremi:

    “Hence although all are included in the exhortation “to advance towards the perfect man, in the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ” (Ephes. iv., 3), it is addressed before all others to those who exercise the sacerdotal ministry; thus these are called another Christ, not merely by the communication of power but by reason of the imitation of His works, and they should therefore bear stamped upon themselves the image of Christ.

    “This being so, Venerable Brethren, of what nature and magnitude is the care that must be taken by you in forming the clergy to holiness! All other tasks must yield to this one. Wherefore the chief part of your diligence will be directed to governing and ordering your seminaries aright so that they may flourish equally in the soundness of their teaching and in the spotlessness of their morals. Regard your seminary as the delight of your hearts, and neglect on its behalf none of those provisions which the Council of Trent has with admirable forethought prescribed.”

    Any Bishop seriously concerned about ending the unprecedented crisis in the Church would be well advised to have a framed copy of those words facing their desk.

    I think everyone here knows what took place twenty five years ago, on June 30 1988, at Econe. On the same day that Archbishop Lefebvre, in his own words, “handed on what I have received”, in order to continue the work of traditional priestly formation, an 18 page document was published in Rome which, whatever the intent behind it and the justifications given, could not but help to undermine the sacred Catholic priesthood. The document allowed bishops to develop programs whereby deacons or appointed lay people would lead Sunday prayer services.

    Yes twenty five years ago, while Archbishop Lefebvre was trying to provide pastors and the means of salvation for Catholic souls, Rome was providing for the absence of priests.

    This “New Springtime” is turning out to be something else.

    June 24, 2013 at 12:05 am
    • Athanasius


      Very well said!

      I would add that while Archbishop Lefebvre was declared at that time, and since, to be the schismatic one for defending the purity of the Faith, all the prelates of scandalous innovation and worse were, and still are, said to be “in good standing.”

      As the Americans would say – Go figure!

      June 24, 2013 at 1:58 am
    • gloria


      I agree with your post. The 18 page document coming from Rome you mention really does just that, undermine the priesthood.

      25 years on from Rome publishing their 18 page document, allowing Bishops to develop programmes whereby deacons or appointed lay people would lead Sunday prayer services is/has become a frequent occurence. Not only on Sundays but weekdays too. This most definitely undermines the Priesthood.

      Confusion occurs which can only point to diabolical confusion.
      These lay person led prayer services seem to have become more of a norm these days.

      One such service I did hear of where two lay people carried out such a prayer service, requested by their parish priest in his absence. While one read out whatever prayers, the other opened the Tabernacle and proceeded to distribute the Hosts among the parishoners present. They thought and/or believed that what they had done was a Mass. They were corrected on that matter.

      Thank you for the link in which Archbishop Lefebvre. He most definitely trying to provide pastors and the means of salvation for Catholic souls.

      May God give us many holy priests, for we need them badly.

      June 25, 2013 at 9:25 am
  • scottish priest

    @Petrus and Christina. I meant in understanding the priesthood as in the spiritual sense. In persona Christi – tat i cant put into words suffice to say that in some way the priests shares in the sufferings of Christ and His Chuch in a non physical painful way. after celebrating Holy Mass there is a tiredness that comes not from the interaction with people but of a more spiritual nature.. hence you will never understand the connection with calvary (not in a intellectual way, thats a given on this blog). the most tiring part of my day is celebrating the Holy Mass. There is more than a symbolic significance to the maniple.. the beads of sweat for which it was designed to wipe away were more than just pious theology! The respect fothe priest consequently ought to be an essential part of our understanding, for some that is sadly lacking today

    as for the promise of obedience, we have to disagree here. My promise of obedience to the bishop and his successors is the glue that binds me to Christ. Either the bishop ius in the personof Christ or he isnt and if he is we have to be obedient. Disunity is caused by this philosophy.. as long as the bishop does nto ask me to preach a doctrine that is alien tot eh church or ask me to hold a yoga class; teach teh enneagramm; tell people that you dont need to go to confession; say that homosexualityis ok; use chrystals instead of sacramentals etc.. the other issues of EOM’s and the other liturgical abuses that seem prevalent. are more difficult to tackle as a priest. i now know of three other priests who are saing the Old rite but will do so privately.. as the Church allows.
    Someone asked what a priest does all day and another mentions facebiook. if that person spends as much time on here aas there priest does on facebook that could be considered a lot of time. I use facebook to udatet eh parish and to teach the faith as the Pope has directed

    as for what a priest does.. i can only tell you my day.. Im up around 6 I like to do my hour in front o f he blessed sacament and as the Louis de Montfort conssecration is now part of my daily prayer we ar on day 12.. then the rosary .. morning prayer and rosary with the people at Mass
    I take appointments from 11 – 4 almost every day as well as visiting hospital (pager cover) and several nursing homes as well as the local school ( I dont go intot eh High School HT is a divorcee and so many of the teachers are with partners or not attending Mass.. most of our primary teacchers are now living with partners and lying baout their status to get into the catholic school.. the caritas awards rewards lesbian and atheiist and moslem alike yet I ask how many of these high school children pictured in Catholic papers know the response at mass or even attend Mass.. I would love to see that statistic.. its our teachers athat are the problem in what they teach in the primary.. So I spend time making uop for the mistakes our teachers are making.. a 5 A Higher trainee teacher had never heard the phrase body blood soul and divinity… while doing First Communion preparation….
    after 4 I catch up with prayer; sign the odd mass card; do a bit in the garden because all these wonderful lay people dont like the dirty jobs; i am also dooiing counselling for post iraqui vets (PTSD.. I think is a spiritual problem as well as an emotional one). I meet with couples for weddings liaising with NFP Creighton model teaching teh proper understanding of JPII theologuy of human sexuality in relation to marriage.. teaching about the stats for contracepting couple and those living togther ;recently been aske t counsel some young peopel wiith eating disorders.. success with one triggered a supply… its always a spiritual root’ spiritual reading and sometimes I go to the bathroom !!! planning baptismal prepcourses for the parents who are now unchurched mostly. as well as taking care of family memebers who are incapacitated.

    Thats not everytthing a priest does.. and again i remind you in the past there were 3 priests in house to share the load now there is one.. thats not counting the number of passing traffic. the wee woman who has a drink problem cant feed the kids needs sandwiches; the police passs in as a murder took place and they are following up a graffitt FTP on the chapel wall or one of the schizophrenic patients from the care in the community pops in to tell me that the world is going to end and he is Jesus; young mother single paretn not catholic but “He wiz Kaflic” and how can a no get the wean done? Or the family doing drugs who have a teenage daghter trying to get away comes to mass and is welcomed by some and bullied by another who is a victim of her famuily; or the mother comes distraught to find out her sonis “gay” and has a boyfriend and is only 16 father can you sign our passf7ports (£50 doctor or lawyer but the farra does it fur nuttin).
    father there is a boy on the roof!
    Hello father can you tell me what time Mass is in the next parish.. fatehr I was baptized and helped build this parish when fatehr X was here .. what a man he was.. and so befins a 20 minute conversation about nothing
    Fatehr the heating isnt on fatehr the lights dont work; father can you bury ma man he wasnt catholic; father can you pray for my sister she is going into hospital and would to see you visit her. You said helo to her at my daughterrs weedding
    father would; you be interested ina new photocopier;
    hello father ists the bank the money wasnt counted right there is a discrepancy.. father I cant hear mass does the loop system work
    father your levy s going up; father my cousin was in jail for somethin he didnae day will you visit him


    June 24, 2013 at 8:39 am
    • Margaret Mary

      scottish priest,

      Your post made me smile a lot! No wonder so many people are approaching you with questions of all sorts, as you are obviously good fun!

      I have to say, I am impressed with all that you do, but maybe it’s because everything is disoriented right now that the sanctuary is full of willing lay people but the other jobs (gardening, visiting the hospital etc) are left to the priests.

      I don’t know the answer but I think I’m more and more of the opinion that the whole problem in the Church is because of the roles of priest and people being the wrong way round. Editor already made the point that it is not disobeying the bishop to do away with altar girls, EMs etc. because “there is no requirement” of obedience for these things, as they are all new things which can’t be imposed. I think “keeping in with the bishop” is different from “obeying the bishop” is it not?

      I’m not impressed with the priests who are saying the old rite Mass privately. They don’t mind denying the faithful if it means not upsetting the bishop.

      I’m also not a fan of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body which I see you teach.

      Sorry if this post seems critical – I don’t mean it to be, but the issues do need to be looked at objectively. Thank you for your candour – it really helps to know how a priest thinks about all of these things.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:30 am
    • Athanasius

      Scottish Priest,

      You are obviously a good priest who is dedicated to Our Lord. But what about your confreres? How many of them are as dedicated? That’s what I was putting to you. I’m sure some mean to do their bit, but many couldn’t care less and I’ve seen this with my own eyes.

      As for obeying your bishop. Well, he’s never going to ask you to do something outrightly heretical (not usually anyway). So I’ll tell you what, why don’t you tell him that you will be saying exclusively the Old Mass from now on and that you will be insisting that the faithful kneel to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, which is the Church’s practice, and that you will not entertain any talk of ecumenism, etc., and see how you get on. I’ll bet he throws you out of his office or denies you a parish.

      So you see, it’s not in the outrightly heretical that your bishop gets you to disobey through obedience, but rather by accepting these Modernist innovations that are causing so many souls to lose the Faith. In effect, then, this is how priests end up falling for Satan’s masterstroke of disobedience through obedience.

      And by the way, I would respectfully suggest that you should be visiting that high school and laying down the law of the Church to those who are breaching her moral teaching. There’s no chance of winning back those souls to the truth if priests avoid meeting the problem head on with the zeal of Christ.

      The one golden rule for all of us Catholics today, whether priest or lay person, is never, never to compromise the Sacred Traditions of our Faith under any pretext whatsoever, either by false obedience or for reasons of human respect.

      June 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm
    • Eileenanne

      Thank you for telling us about the reality of a priest’s life Father. I promise I will try to be more assiduous about praying for all our priests.

      June 25, 2013 at 11:00 am
  • Leo


    That’s it in a nutshell. I’ve long since wondered about the words “in good standing”, and what exactly any of us are meant to think it means. Maybe those of a Kantian frame of mind are undisturbed, but surely not orthodox Catholics with a functioning brain and the use of reason. I believe Hans Kung is a priest “in good standing.”

    De facto schism is indeed everywhere to be seen. Hardly a week seems to go by without a story appearing on the blogosphere of some bishop, somewhere, undermining the Faith or giving scandal.

    Summorum Pontificum having taken care of any specious arguments or excuses, I’ve often asked myself how exactly it is that any Bishop who wilfully and stubbornly obstructs, frustrates or prevents Catholic priests and faithful from saying or attending the Mass of All Time can be said to be in “good standing” or “full communion” with the Church of Christ, built on the rock of Peter. Just asking.

    That’s another question for Catholics to try and figure out.

    June 24, 2013 at 9:28 am
    • Athanasius


      Yes, I completely agree. I can’t help thinking here of Cardinal Schonborn of Germany/Austria sitting in the Sanctuary during Mass holding a red Balloon while a woman ministered around the altar. Or what about Archbishop George Neidereur of San Francisco giving Holy Communion to two transvestites dressed as nuns? “Good standing”? They’re having a laugh, right?

      June 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm
  • scottish priest

    @margaret Mary

    We do have people helping but long term neglect on every area of parish life takes years to resore or renew.
    As for priests saying the Old rite privaely, hey are perfectly within their right todo this and for personal reasons they either want o kee up with their latin or time affects it – i mentionit as there are probably more priests in Scotland familiar ofr open the to the old rite than y might think

    as for JPII theology I said i taught his theology of sexuality the TOB has difffernet connotations..I use Fr walter J. Schu. LC “The splendor of love” or Dawn Eden who wrote with Ms Hildebrande i beleive; her stuf is theologically diametrically at odds with Christopher West and the philosophy is more in line i belive with what JPII had in mind

    His book Love and responsibility has become a prophetic text and the reality of contraceptioon cohabiting couples abortion and the relational rupture has also found to be

    June 24, 2013 at 11:21 am
    • editor

      scottish priest,

      Pope John Paul II is so suspect on just about everything, that the minute I discovered his “Theology of the Body”, I was on red alert. Indeed, the title itself is enough to make me steer clear of it.

      And whatever the truth of the matter, the fact that Christopher West has been invited to spread the “good sexual news” here, there and everywhere, using TOB, says it all.

      The only effective way to teach about purity, is to talk about purity, in my humble opinion.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:48 am
  • scottish priest

    another fulfillment of the texts.. Most people have not read the text of teh theology of body etc and tend to be confused by misreperesentaions and poor philosophy. if we are called to love created to love and I think we are JPII’s work will eventually help – I use it mostly wit the Genesis texts on creatinon and marriage and for this ther is nothing better or more bibilically sound as to showing the plan of God in human love.
    It is from JPII that we have the example of why celibacy is crucial for the priesthood today.. Nowher on tis blog or anywhre have I read this …. celibacy exiss as an image of teh Church and the relationship with Christ and his bride.. it pointss not to earthly relations but tot he eschatology ofman in that he is created for heaven.. celibacy points to the reality of this not to the lack found in human love.. celibacy is a state of life that exists in the heavenly realm it is how all will live in the Kingdom with stai or wrinkle.. this is my paraphrase but essentially celibacy points heavenly fulfillment and notto a lack in human interaction etc.. Celibachy speaks of heven and how wwe will be it tells a story of sacrifice that bears fruit in life eternal and yet still nourishes the Church on this side of eternity as it were..

    June 24, 2013 at 11:29 am
    • editor

      “Nowhere on tis blog or anywhere have I read this …. celibacy exists as an image of the Church and the relationship with Christ and his bride..”

      Well, on our old blog, just about everything ever written about celibacy was quoted, but your might well have been running a training class for altar girls at the time – W|HAM! BOOM!

      Your own comments about celibacy are excellent, in my (utterly humble!) opinion..

      “… celibacy points heavenly fulfilment and not to a lack in human interaction etc.. Celibacy speaks of heaven and how we will be; it tells a story of sacrifice that bears fruit in life eternal and yet still nourishes the Church on this side of eternity as it were..”

      Spot – absolutely – on!

      June 24, 2013 at 11:54 am
  • scottish priest

    I apologise for the speling and typos in that post – if youhave questions on it that happy to look at them ..but i am trying to fit this in before I visit awee lady who is terminally ill .. last time I went to visit her .. on her death bed she was walking to the hairdressers.. thats what I call planning to meet your maker

    June 24, 2013 at 11:32 am
    • editor

      “… that’s what I call planning to meet your maker.”


      June 24, 2013 at 11:55 am
    • Athanasius

      scottish priest,

      Well, one cannot meet one’s maker without first getting a perm and a blue rinse. And that’s just the men. The women are much worse!

      Talking of the men, I do hope the conciliar hippies are aware that a pre-judgment shaving of those greasy flowing locks and crumb-infested beards will not result in them being better received! Don’t they know that multi-cloured tanktop wearers are banned from heaven?

      June 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm
  • Leo

    Recently, on another thread, Yorkshire Rose kindly reminded us of a truly great priest, Father William Doyle SJ, who was killed at the age of forty four, while ministering to the wounded at the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.”

    It would be very difficult to find a more inspirational example of priestly abandonment to God and the care of souls, whether in the course of giving no less than 152 retreats and missions, or during almost two years spent in the horrors of the trenches.

    Don’t anyone take my word for it, but read his biography which can be bought through a link on the right hand side of the page linked here:

    The following words give a sense of Father Doyle’s heroic and humble sanctity:

    “By entering religion and taking my vows I have given myself over absolutely to God and His service. He, therefore, has a right to be served in the way He wishes. If then He asks me to enter on a hard, mortified life and spend myself working for Him, how can I resist His will and desire? ‘Oh my God, make me a saint, and I consent to suffer all You ask for the rest of my life.’ What is God asking from me now? Shall I go back on that offering?”

    June 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm
    • editor

      Beautiful, Leo – must try to read that life of Fr Doyle, with thanks to Yorkshire Rose for introducing him to us.

      Another reader has just sent me this link which is a few years old but shows that the Vatican will act from time to time to correct bishops like this one in Ireland who have refused to implement Summorum Pontificum. I’d need to dig out the newsletter, but I’m almost certain this is the same bishop who refused to allow Father Sherry SSPX to offer the funeral Mass for a deceased parishioner and Father ended up offering the Mass on the beach. An episcopal own goal, because so many of the funeral party were “blown away” by the Mass and I don’t mean because it was windy down on the beach!

      June 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm
      • Leo

        Thanks, Editor.

        I think the Newsletter you are looking for might be towards the end of 2011 (?).

        That link certainly restores one’s faith in the power of letters to Rome. The now retired Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was certainly not a man to be messed with, by all acounts. I think when he was a Bishop in Colombia he dressed up as a milkman and got himself into Pablo Escobar’s (?) house before demanding to hear the drug baron’s confession!

        i won’t name a name in case I’m wrong, but I believe one of the main priest objectors to the Latin Mass in Killala has become more widely known through the ACP since then. Liberal tolerance and inclusivity? Yeah, right.

        June 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm
      • editor


        I’m afraid my own faith in letters to Rome has not been restored. I have seen letters written by concerned lay people, which are rock solid, packed with facts, a veritable plea for help, which have gone unanswered or received a daft “thanks for writing” reply. It’s very much a “hit and miss” exercise and the people of Killala just got lucky.

        Interesting, though, that the article reveals that some priests were also concerned and acted. That contrasts with what we’re hearing from our Scottish clergy, all members of the “keep a low profile and wait until the storm passes” brigade. I love them all, but they drive me crazy.

        I may post my own letter to Archbishop Muller on here later, sent prior to his visit to Glasgow, because I’ve just been reading his glowing remarks about Scotland during his visit here. He’s obviously not paid a jot of attention to my letter.

        And please, nobody tell me that he may have kept it in mind or used the knowledge I’d imparted when talking to the bishops “behind the scenes.” I do NOT want to hear that after reading all about his joy-filled visit to our faithless neck of the woods. It should not have been possible for his visit to have presented as one gigantic success story, with one headline reading Vatican delivers a message of Faith renewal to Scottish priests and laity… The mistakes of the few could not outweigh the tremendous good done by most Catholics, Archbishop Gerhard Muller says, echoing Pope Francis’ comments

        “The mistakes of a few”? If he’d taken seriously even a couple of the scandals I reported in my letter, the words “mistakes of a few” would never have crossed his lips. In fact, he would more likely have cancelled his trip.

        June 24, 2013 at 7:07 pm
  • Leo

    It’s certainly not my place to be giving spiritual instruction to priests but I can’t help wondering if priests today ever hear such words as the following, from Archbishop Lefebvre. Speaking as a very ordinary and unqualified layman, they strike me as a superb expression of the essence of the sacred, ordained priesthood. How great would be the benefit to the Church and souls if they were heard throughout the Catholic world instead of all the crowd pleasing or defeatist talk about lay ministries and permanent deacons.

    “This marvellous plan designed by the Eternal Wisdom of God could not have been realized without the priesthood…The influence of priestly grace is the influence of the Cross. The priest is thus at the heart of the renewal merited by Our Lord. His influence is decisive on souls and on society. A priest enlightened by his faith and filled with the virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost can convert numerous souls to Jesus Christ, raise vocations, and transform pagan society into Christian society.” – Reflections on the Priesthood, in Le Courrier de Rome, no. 11 January 1981.

    “The Church is truly priestly. Our Lord is essentially a priest, and the priesthood is there essentially to realize and continue the work of Calvary, carrying it on by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It cannot but be the most essential aspect of our holy religion and of the life of the Church.” – Ordination retreat, Montalenghe 1989

    “There is no apostolate without contemplation. Contemplation is not necessarily for the cloister. It is the Christian life: a life of Faith and the realities of our Faith. The great reality to contemplate is the Holy Mass. This is what must characterise the members of the Society: contemplating Our Lord on the Cross and seeing there the summit of God’s love, a love even unto supreme sacrifice. That is what Our Lord is! This is what the Church contemplates primarily…

    “And by this we will be missionaries: by the desire to pour out the blood of Our Lord on souls. This is the Mysterium fidei to contemplate and to work for, the priestly mission par excellence. And the faithful gather around us because of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and for nothing else. One cannot be attached to the cross of Our Lord without being a missionary…” – Spiritual Conference at Econe, December 3, 1982

    June 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm
  • semperfidelis

    I thought this correspondence might be of interest. My computer is having technical issues so I hope the post works. Here it is:

    The correspondence between Cardinal Heenan of Westminster and Evelyn Waugh before the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass is well known, in which Waugh issues a crie de coeur about the post-Conciliar liturgy and finds a sympathetic, if ineffectual, ear in the Cardinal.[1] What is not as well known is Cardinal Heenan’s comment to the Synod of Bishops in Rome after the experimental Mass, Missa Normativa, was presented for the first time in 1967 to a select number of bishops. This essay was inspired by the following words of Cardinal Heenan to the assembled bishops:

    At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.[2]

    What the Cardinal was referring to lies at the very heart of the Novus Ordo form of the Roman Mass and the attendant and deep problems that have afflicted the Church since the imposition of the Novus Ordo form on the Church in 1970.[3] One might be tempted to crystallize what Cardinal Heenan experienced as the feminization of the Liturgy. But this term would be inadequate and ultimately misleading. For there is a real Marian aspect of the Liturgy that is therefore feminine. The Liturgy bears the Word of God, the Liturgy brings forth the Body of the Word to be worshipped and given as Food. A better terminology might be that in the Novus Ordo rite of Mass the Liturgy has been effeminized. There is a famous passage in Caesar’s De bello Gallico where he explains why the Belgae tribe were such good soldiers. He attributes this to their lack of contact with the centers of culture like the cities. Caesar believed that such contact contributes ad effeminandos animos, to the effeminizing of their spirits.[4] But when one talks about the effeminization of the Liturgy one risks being misunderstood as devaluing what it means to be a woman, womanhood itself. Without adopting Caesar’s rather machoview of the effects of culture on soldiers, one certainly can speak of a devirilization of the soldier that saps his strength and resolve to do what a soldier has to do. It is not a put-down of the feminine. It rather describes the weakening of what it means to be a man.

    This is the term, devirilization, that I want to use to describe what Cardinal Heenan saw that day in 1967 at the first celebration of the experimental Mass.[5] In its Novus Ordo form, what Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio: Summorum Pontificum somewhat cumbersomely, if understandably, calls the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite, the Liturgy has been devirilized. One must recall the meaning of the word, vir, in Latin. Both vir and homo mean “man”, but it is vir alone that has the connotation of the man-hero and is the word that is often used for “husband”. The Aeneid begins with the famous words: arma virumque cano. (“ I sing of arms and the man-hero.”) What Cardinal Heenan presciently and correctly saw in 1967 was the virtual elimination of the virile nature of the Liturgy, the replacement of masculine objectivity, necessary for the public worship of the Church, with softness, sentimentality and personalization centered on the motherly person of the priest.

    The people within the Liturgy [6] stand in a Marian relationship to the Liturgy: attentiveness, openness, pondering, waiting to be filled. Within the Liturgy it is the priest as father who pronounces, announces and confects the Word so that the Word may become Food for those who stand within the supreme activation of the Ecclesia that is the Liturgy.[7] It is the priest who offers Christ to the Father, and it is this act that contains the defining role of what it means to be a priest. And so the role of the priest as father makes his role distinct not merely in function but in the very ontology of sexuality.[8] The priest stands at the altar in persona Christi, in persona Verbi facti hominem, and this not merely as homo, which word in a sense transcends sex, but in persona Christi viri: in a sense homo factus est ut fiat vir, ut sit vir qui destruat mortem, ut sit vir qui calcet portas inferi: God became man in order that he might be that man-hero who would destroy death and crush with his own foot the gates of hell.

    The devirilization of the Liturgy and the devirilization of the priest for all practical purposes cannot be separated. In what follows I wish, however sketchily and incompletely, first to talk in more specific terms about the devirilization of the Liturgy itself in the Novus Ordo form of the Roman rite. Secondly I will address the the necessary (coming from the devirilized rite) devirilization of the priest using specific examples.

    The description of the Roman liturgy using adjectives like “austere”, “concise”, “noble” and “simple,” is commonplace among many who have written about the liturgy in the modern liturgical movement of the twentieth century. Many of these writers, however, have romanticized this austerity of the Roman rite or have used it to further their own agenda of stripping the rite of the organic growth of the ages, labeling such organic growth with censorious terms like “Gallican accretions “or “useless repetitions”. Rather than denoting the Roman rite as austere, an adjective that arguably has puritan overtones, it is better to speak of the masculinity or virility of the traditional Roman rite. To do necessarily demands a definition of masculinity in this context. This is somewhat difficult, and this question needs deeper study. But I will offer several characteristics of the traditional Roman rite that help to explain what I mean about the inherent masculinity and virility in the context of that rite.[9]

    First, masculinity is opposed to sentimentality—not to sentiment, but to sentimentality. There is an absence of any trace of sentimentality in the Traditional rite, also called the Extraordinary Form. This is seen in its collects and prayers that are succinct and to the point without sacrificing beauty of language, and in its rubrics that prevent the personality of the priest from inserting his own feelings and choices into the rite itself. If we take note of Cardinal Newman’s insight that sentimentality is the acid of religion, meaning that it destroys true religion, then the rubrics of the Traditional rite are the little purple pill that prevents the reflux of sentimentality into the liturgy.[10]

    Secondly, with the traditional Roman Mass there is the full acceptance of silence as the heart of the means of communication with God. Active participation is understood as contemplation, as prayer. The words of the rite are never the point. They are fixed. They always point beyond themselves. It is a commonplace to say that two real friends are those who can be absolutely silent in each other’s presence and know that heart speaks to heart in this silence. This is the silence of Moses before the burning bush, the silence of the Desert Fathers, the silence entered into by St. Benedict in the cave, the Sacro Speco.

    Thirdly, there is the fact of the masculinity of the Latin language. This language, unlike the femininity of the Romance languages that are its offspring, is masculine in its terseness, its conciseness, its formality, its difficulty, its lack of pliancy. Even in the hands of a poet like Ovid who certainly understood and so beautifully put in practice the feminine side of Roman poetry, even there the masculinity of the language holds firm against any attempt to make it other than it is.

    Fourthly, the traditional Roman rite demands, not merely in its rubrics, but in its very essence, a submission to its form. It demands a suppression of self-actualization. It is something that one chooses to enter, that one never makes over. And that choice always involves something like a heroic casting aside of the self for the greater goal, the telos.

    Fifthly, very closely linked to the fourth aspect above, the Liturgy is something given, never made. It is there to be entered into. This aspect is seen more clearly in the Eastern rites where rationalism and sentimentality have never eroded this sense of the God-given-ness of the liturgy—hence it is known in the East as “the Divine Liturgy”. This given-ness does not imply a fossil nor does it deny organic development. Nay rather, this given-ness is like a great house that has been built by the inspiration of the Spirit through the ages and that is there to be entered. The genius and the truth of Roman Guardini’sThe Spirit of the Liturgy, which inspired the present Pope, Benedict XVI, so deeply in his own understanding of the Liturgy, assumes this absolute given-ness of the Liturgy, for one cannot “play in the house of the Lord” unless the house is already there to be played in. The priest accepts the prohibition against imposing his own likes and dislikes onto the liturgy. He is willing to be called to remembrance to do what has to be done. He accepts the detachment that the Liturgy imposes, without which one cannot enter into the cosmic Liturgy that transcends time and space.[11]

    Sixthly, the liturgy is virile in its understanding of and use of ambiguous gestures like the kiss. The kiss surely finds a secure place in the realm of the erotic. And yet the kiss as a mark of respect and love for the objects used in the liturgy and for those who participate in the liturgy, as in the Kiss of Peace, purify this erotic symbol and raise it to the highest and most objective level of adoration of the presence of God in the Liturgy. I am always amused and befuddled by those who celebrate the traditional Roman Mass without the customary kisses on the grounds that they are somehow “excessive” and prone to misunderstanding. They are never excessive, as Jesus pointed out to Judas when the woman anointed his feet with precious nard. These kisses are prone to misunderstanding only if the Liturgy is shorn of its innate virility.

    Finally, the liturgy is virile in its acceptance of the essential aloneness of the priest within the community that are his beloved flock that he loves and for whom he would die if called to do so. The vir priest stands alone at the altar to offer the Sacrifice for his people. He stands in the line of Melchizedek, of Moses, of Saint Paul, of St Augustine and of all those saints who did not fear to be alone with God for and with the Community, especially those who did not fear to experience the aloneness of martyrdom.

    It is obvious from the above discussion concerning the masculinity and virility of the liturgy that the devirilization of the liturgy demands and results in the devirilization of the priest. I want now to examine two contexts of the devirilization of the priest: one directly a consequence of the Novus Ordo rite as widely celebrated; the other a consequence of the forgotten essential masculinity-virility of the priest.

    There can be no more powerful force for the devirilization of the priest than the modern custom of saying Mass facing the people. Quite apart from its non-traditional nature, quite apart from its foundation in faulty and sentimental appeals to antiquity (against which archaeologism Pius XII warned in Mediator Dei), quite apart from its imposition of a terrible misunderstanding of the essence of the Mass that has made the secondary “meal” aspect of the Mass nearly eliminate the primary aspect of Sacrifice: this custom of saying Mass facing the people as a novelty without the support of Tradition has been one of the primary causes for the devirilization of the priesthood.[12]

    On one of my many stays in Italy I noticed that many of the baby strollers were built such that the baby sat in his seat and faced his mother who was pushing the stroller. This seemed strange to me, since in the United States the baby faces the same way as the mother who is pushing the stroller. When I asked a friend about this she told me that too many Italian mothers want to keep constant eye contact with the baby and to be able to smile at the child, talk in baby talk, to make sure the bond is always there between mother and child. The classic mother-child relationship is heightened almost in a perverse way by this perceived need of the mother to constantly engage her child face to face lest contact with the outside word, with “the other” will damage the relationship.

    Without pretending that the above analogy is exact or complete, I would assert that the radical innovation, never mandated by the Council or by any liturgical book, of celebrating Mass with the priest facing the people, has transformed the priest’s role at the Mass from the father who leads his people to offer Sacrifice to the Father, to the mother whose eye contact and liturgical patter- banter with the people and whose sometimes deliberately silly behavior, as if the people are infants, reduces his role as priest to that of the mother of an infant. This reduction of the congregation to infants who are forced to look at the mother-priest prevents them from seeing beyond him to God who is being worshipped in the presence of the cosmic sacrifice of Christ.

    To use another secular analogy: the Mass facing the people is reduced to a high school assembly where everyone has a role to play under the direction of the priest as Mother Principal, she who makes sure that all things go smoothly. This is described by some liturgists as the “horizontal” dimension of the liturgy, as opposed to the “vertical” dimension that provides the sense of transcendence. This is ultimately empty talk, for it supposes that the liturgy is under the control of the priest and ministers and that one of their functions is to make sure that both dimensions are present and are somehow in balance.

    It is clear that this whole approach denies deeply the “given-ness” of the liturgy and its focus on the worship of God in praise and sacrifice. The rubrics of the Novus Ordo encourage this radically untraditional understanding of the Liturgy with the constant weakening of its rubrical instructions with words like “or in some other words”, “or in some other manner” and “or as is the local custom”. Quite apart from the romantic looking back to St Justin Martyr’s phrase with reference to the celebrant of the Mass offering thanksgiving “according to his ability”[13] as somehow the norm; quite apart from the questionable notion of imagining that the priest is able to draw from the Tradition or from his own sense of Liturgy to supplement or fill out what the rubrics order to be said and be done: this “high school assembly” understanding of the liturgy makes Catholic worship impossible as it has been understood in the Tradition. For the Tradition understood the root meaning of liturgia as involving public worship as a duty, officium, a duty that is certainly based on love, but a duty nevertheless. It is this traditional sense of worship as officium that is enshrined and made visible and heard and experienced in the traditional Roman rite.

    The priest is like Abraham, the father of Isaac and the father of the Jews and our father in faith. Abraham’s greatest act of faith and worship as a father is when he leads his son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him in obedience to God. They walk, each facing the top of the mountain. There is silence except for the brief dialogue between father and son:

    And Isaac said to this father Abraham: “My father!” And he said: “Here am I, My son.” He said: “Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together” (Gn 22, 7-8, RSV)

    It is here between Abraham and Isaac that we see the truly horizontal component of worship, brief and to the point. The vertical and primary dialogue is between Abraham and God, a dialogue that occurs in the silence of awe-ful obedience and faith.

    This role of the vir of faith is radically different from the priest who believes his job is not to lead the people to the altar of Sacrifice but rather to dialogue with them and to make them “understand what is going on”. Then the Eucharistic Prayer with its altogether brief dialogue between priest and people becomes another extension of the priest’s dialogue-banter. Here there is no walking up the mountain together; there is no turning to the Lord together; instead there is the terrible and stultifying stasis of the condescending and overbearing mother trying to connect with her child and in the process destroying the child’s freedom to walk up to the mountain of God.[14]

    Before turning to the important question of the continuity of the Novus Ordo rite with the traditional Roman rite from the viewpoint of the devirilization of the liturgy, I want to offer comments on two practical results of the devirilization of the liturgy and of the priest. The first is this: the music that the Novus Ordo has produced, both for Mass settings and songs to be sung at the liturgy, is at best functional, at worst sentimental junk that makes the old Protestant evangelical hymns sound like Bach chorales. When Mass is reduced to a self-referential assembly, then music becomes merely functional at best, at worst something to rouse the feelings of the people. This functionalism is a mark of the chilling, outdated and anti-liturgical stance of the liturgical establishment that still controls much of the liturgical life of the Church in the Roman dicasteries, in seminaries, in dioceses and therefore in parishes.[15]

    Functionalism cannot produce great art, either in music or painting or sculpture or architecture. And functionalism destroys worship, at least as traditionally understood. as not irrational but certainly unrational.[16] In the functionalist view, the readings at Mass in the Novus Ordo become didactic moments, like being in a classroom, instead of acts of worship as traditionally understood. Again, the priest acts as a school- mistress constantly explaining what her students are hearing and seeing. We have forgotten that the readings at Mass (the Liturgy of the Word) are bearers of the Word within the Liturgy; they are not only lessons to be heard and taken to heart. They come from within the Liturgy and not from a catechism class presided over by a “school-marm”. The Liturgy is not didactic: it forms and in-forms. It demands attentiveness to what is beyond the words that are being sung or said. Scripture within Mass is an echo of the Word and a worshipful “reminder to God” of what He has said and done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. From the functionalist point of view, the traditional chant of the Church must be set aside absolutely, for it goes far beyond mere function in its distinct, given form whose purpose is the elevation of the human spirit to God.[17]

    We turn from the banal and sentimental music of the Novus Ordo that is the sickly fruit of the functionalism that underlies the rite to something that may seem trivial in comparison, but is yet part of the evidence for the devirilization of the priest: the dress of the priest outside of Mass. The dress of the priest when not performing a liturgical function has become in a sense, to borrow a secular adjective recently in vogue, metrosexual. That means that his masculinity has been blurred in his outward appearance. The abandonment of the cassock as the normal dress of the priest outside of the liturgy is part of the devirilization of the priest. The dropping of the distinctive dress that is the cassock and its replacement with a black business suit worn with a clerical collar, or, increasingly more common, with a shirt having a white tab collar that can be removed and stuck in a pocket, is part of the shedding of the liminality of the priest. He is no longer he who stands at the threshold, the limen, of earth and heaven when offering Mass. Religious dress modeled after secular dress tames him down to become a mere clergyman, with “-man” now meaning “person” and not “man”.

    The nineteen fifties and sixties saw a more radical approach to the dress of the priest by those who were seen to be and thought themselves to be on the cutting edge of reform especially in Europe. They wore coat and tie or black turtlenecks, even further blending in with the secular dress of those around them. Many European priests still dress like this, either in continuity with their romance with secularism or as an attempt to fit in with their flock. The fact is that the cassock, as the traditional dress of the priest, at least among his people, reminds them that he is not just a “clergyman” but a priest, not just “a religious leader”, but the one who offers Sacrifice for them, whose life is centered on this offering of the Sacrifice and who can never be totally secularized. The cassock is an affirmation of the manliness and the virility of the priest. This is in contrast to the world’s notion of manliness as a grunting football player or an unshaven model for Armani in tight jeans, or some sort of “stud” that exudes sexual power. The wearing of the cassock is the priest’s taking on the mantle of the prophet; it is the outward sign of his taking on of that aloneness and detachment that is such an integral part of what it means for a man, vir, to be a priest. The cassock is a symbol of that detachment that marks the relationship between the priest and his people.

    The devirilized priest confuses detachment with arrogance or superiority or coldness or clericalism. Ironically quite the opposite is true. The post-Conciliar period has seen the rise of a clericalism that masks itself by claiming that the priest merely “presides” over the assembly but who in fact presides over everything. The priest must never be a presider, for this is like being a fussy wedding planner. To love his people the priest must have this sense of detachment from them, lest he become another collectible Ken doll in a collar.[18]

    We finally come to what is the most serious effect of the devirilization of the Liturgy: the apparent and real discontinuity between the Novus Ordo and the traditional Roman rite. This question of discontinuity and rupture has been the subject of a number of studies and talks in the past few years, not the least of which is Benedict XVI’s now famous address to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005. While it is true that this address treats specifically the question of the hermeneutic of the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, it still has relevance to the specific problem of the discontinuity of the Liturgy.[19]

    The meaning of the very word “discontinuity” is often not clear. I wish to make an analogy that I think makes clear what is involved in this discontinuity between the two forms of the Roman rite.[20] In mathematics there are functions that are called discontinuous at a certain point. In simple terms, what this means is that at this point, there is no value for the function. We can say that there is a “hole” in the function at this point. What this further means is that there is no way to “get” from before the discontinuity to after the discontinuity. One cannot go “through” a hole in the function.

    Using this analogy of a function in which there is a hole, a discontinuity, helps us to understand the fact that for the overwhelming majority of Catholics who live on the “after” side of the hole, those for whom the Novus Ordo is their only experience of Mass, the side of the function that is “before” the hole is totally foreign to them. Whatever the theological and liturgical arguments that are advanced in this discussion about continuity, the startling fact is that for the Catholic who grew up with the Novus Ordo Mass, the traditional Roman rite is something foreign and exotic. These Catholics do not see the continuity that has been assumed and defended. They only see the hole as an abyss and cannot see or understand the “before” side of the hole.

    This leads us to use the mathematical analogy to further elucidate what this discontinuity between the two forms really means. Functions are represented by formulas involving variables. A function that is discontinuous may have the same “formula” that stands for its “form” on either side of the hole in the function. But there can be the situation where, after this discontinuity, the formula of the function changes, and there is now essentially a new formula and form. If we are to believe what our own Catholic people experience in the celebration of the Mass in the two forms of the Roman rite, then it is obvious that not only there is a discontinuity, a hole; there is also a new function, a new formula, a new form after the hole. The new formula uses the same variables as the old formula, but it is a different formula denoting a whole new family of curves. . The appearance, shape and structure of the new form look and are very different from that of the form before the hole. This is a most serious problem for the integrity of the Catholic faith as seen and understood and actualized in the celebration of the holy Mass.[21] On one side we have the Traditional Roman Mass that, using words describing the Rule of St. Benedict in a contemporary account of that saint’s life, is potente e strana, powerful and strange.[22] The Traditional Roman Mass can be well described in the words of the introduction to the Antiphonale Monasticum in its description of the Church’s chant: “simple, sober, sometimes perhaps somewhat austere, certainly beautiful, and which exhibits a very strong sense of line, finally being capable of sweetness, and, through this. greatly expressive, sensitive to all temperaments, and having the capacity to bring forth the inmost feelings of the soul.[23] And on the other side: something else– devirilized and de-Romanized—something else.

    This is indeed what Cardinal Heenan saw on that day in 1967 when the experimental form of the Novus Ordo Mass was first celebrated for the bishops in Rome. He saw there the results of the functionalist mentality that does not understand ceremonial and confuses simplicity with a stripped-down infantilism. He saw there the “newness” of the Novus Ordo Mass, a newness that did not grow organically from the Tradition but rather from a specific strain of liturgical theology that was founded upon and infected by post-Enlightenment rationalism. He saw there the devirilization of the Liturgy and knew what would be one of the effects of the Novus Ordo on the Church: a marked decrease in Mass attendance. He did live long enough to see the beginning of the loss of the sense of the Sacred. What he did not live to see is the devirilization of the priesthood and its disastrous consequences in lack of vocations and personal unfaithfulness to chastity and celibacy.

    Fr. Cipolla is Chairman of the Classics Department at Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT, and parochial vicar of St. Mary’s, Norwalk, CT

    [We deeply thank Fr. Cipolla for this exclusive contribution to Rorate caeli. Article should not be reposted in its entirety. When mentioning or quoting excerpts from this article, always include source and link.]


    [1] Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan, A Bitter Trial, 2nd ed. (South Bend: St. Austin Press, 2000)

    [2] Ibid., 70

    [3] The important question of the validity of the imposition of the Novus Ordo and the effective banning of the 1962 Missal of the Roman rite was brought up by Josef Ratzinger himself in The Spirit of the Liturgy, (San Francisco:Ignatius Press, 2000) 165-66. It would seem that the answer to the question is contained in the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying letter to the bishops. The question is not whether the Pope can issue a reformed Missal. St. Pius V certainly did this in response to Trent. The question is whether a Pope can impose a new form of Mass on the Church and suppress the traditional Roman rite. The cult-like understanding of the powers of the papacy displayed by Paul VI and subscribed to by those who encouraged him to suppress the traditional Roman rite and by the bishops who acceded to this bold move: all of this would make Pius IX blush with shame and perhaps envy.

    [4] Caesar, De bello Gallico, 1.1

    [5] Cardinal Heenan prefaced his remark with the observation that he did not know the names of those who had proposed the new Mass, but it was clear to him that few of them had ever been parish priests.

    [6] One should not speak of the people being at the liturgy but rather within the liturgy. The Liturgy is something entered into, not something watched or made up or brought into being by the assembled people.

    [7] Sacrosanctum Concilium 10: “Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”

    [8] On the ontological nature of sexuality see Angelo Scola, “The Nuptial Mystery: A Perspective for Systematic Theology?” Communio 30 (Summer 2003)

    [9] This essay does not attempt to address the verbal content of the Novus Ordo rite, for instance, the radical changes in the collects and offertory prayers. The important and in its way devastating results of the research of Dr. Lauren Pristas in a series of articles and in a forthcoming book on the revisions executed by the post-conciliar Consilium of the Collects of the Mass are evidence of the rationalistic and modernistic policies of revision that led to the new collects in the Novus Ordo Mass. These policies can be understood well in terms of the category of “devirilization”. Lauren Pristas, “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision”, Communio 30 (Winter 2003) 621-653; “Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal 1970”, The Thomist 67(2003) 157-95; “The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examination of the Revisions of Vatican II”, Nova et Vetera, 3:1 (Winter, 2005) 5-38. See also Aidan Nichols, Looking at the Liturgy,(San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1997). This short book is still the best source for understanding the rationalistic and anti-liturgical suppositions of the late-modern liturgical movement that resulted in the Novus Ordo form of Mass.

    [10] This theme of the destruction of true religion by reducing it to mere feeling runs through all of Newman’s sermons and works. The Bigletto Speech given in Rome when he was made a cardinal is a restatement of this theme in terms of what he calls Liberalism. This speech is at once powerful and prescient.

    [11] On these points see Romano Guardini, The Church and the Catholic and The Spirit of the Liturgy (Sheed and Ward: New York 1935), especially chapters 3 and 9.

    [12] The third revision of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal makes it quite clear that Mass facing the people is not mandated and that the traditional posture of ad orientem is certainly allowed. One of the great mysteries of the post-conciliar liturgical revolution is how Mass facing the people became mandated despite any official documents to support this. For a detailed and dispassionate history of and theological understanding of the “eastward” position of priest and people in the celebration of the Mass, see Uwe Michael Lang, Turning to the Lord, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2009)

    [13] St.Justin Martyr, Apology. 66-67

    [14] Guardini, “The Primacy of the Logos over the Ethos”, op. cit., 199-211

    [15] This deadly role of functionalism in the liturgy is discussed and refuted by Benedict XVI in a collection of essays on the role of music in the liturgy entitled Lodate Dio con arte (Venezia:Marcianum Press 2010).

    [16] Guardini, op.cit., “The playfulness of the Liturgy”

    [17] In Italy, where the liturgical establishment seems still committed to functionalism and a technocratic attitude towards the Liturgy, they have recycled a wonderful word to describe the stripping down of the liturgy and the church building to the bare bones: adeguamento. In Lodato Dio con arte Benedict XVI discusses this term and the deleterious effects that the carrying out of adeguamento has had on the liturgical life of the Church in Italy.

    [18] One can see the beginnings of this devirilization of the priest in the Hollywood depictions of priests like that played by Bing Crosby in the film, The Bells of St. Mary. The picture of the priest as a good sort of guy who smokes a pipe and is no threat to anyone at all, the domesticated priest that helps to dispel the knee-jerk anti-Catholicism of Protestant America. One wonders how many young men have been turned off from becoming priests these past forty years because of their fear that becoming a priest would mean the relinquishing of their manhood and virility.

    [19] On the specific question of the discontinuity of the Novus Ordo rite with the Roman rite see Josef Ratzinger’s introduction to The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Klaus Gamber, Roman Catholic Books 1993, and Josef Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, , especially the chapter on Rite. For a detailed example of the consensus among many scholars that the Novus Ordo is discontinuous with the Roman rite, see the proceedings of the liturgical conference held at the Abbey of Fontgombault in 2001: Looking again at the Question of the Liturgy, Alcuin Reid, ed., (Farnborough, England: St. Michael’s Abbey Press. 2002). This question of discontinuity seems to be side-stepped, quite rightly, for pastoral reasons in Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying Letter to the Bishops. The fact that the two forms of the Roman rite co-exist in the Church does not say anything definitive about whether they are continuous or not.

    [20] Discontinuity is a separate question from the validity of the form. The validity of both forms of the Roman rite is taken as a given.

    [21] Pristas, Orations: With regard to the work of the post-Vatican II Consilium on the Collects of the Mass, Pristas speaks of “the construction of an entirely new city”. It is remarkable that the work of this scholar has not caused great disquiet among the bishops, who are, in fact, the moderators of the Liturgy in their diocese.

    [22] Flaminia Morandi, San Benedetto: Una luce per l’Europa(Milano:Paoline 2009)

    [23] “simplices, sobriae, aliquando fortisan austeriores, decoram certe et firmamissam exhibent lineam, de cetero dulcibilem ac per hoc maxime expressivam, omnium susceptibilem temperamentorum, intimos animae sensus preferendi capacem.” Antiphonale Monasticum, (Tournai: Desclée & Co., 1934) p. xi

    June 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm
    • Athanasius


      If I’m not mistaken, that commentary was posted recently on the Rorati Caeli blog. I read it there, I’m sure.

      June 25, 2013 at 5:16 pm

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