Saturday, November 15, 2014

I'm probably gonna lose readers with this one

If any priest I knew told me that he felt called by God to say only the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I would be overjoyed.

But suppose that priest were commanded to cease saying the Extraordinary Form exclusively, or were put on "sabbatical" because of it. Were he to then tell me that he was contemplating transferring out of the diocese, leaving his vocation, or perhaps disobeying his superior, or going over to the SSPX, I would be appalled. Yes, appalled.

The Mass is extraordinarily important, but the Mass is not the entire deposit of Faith. The Mass is not synonymous with the Christian faith in such a way that a command to cease saying a particular form of the Mass constitutes pressure to deny the Faith. A priest who has been asked by his legitimate superior to stop saying Mass - of whatever form or rite - cannot make the argument that the bishop is making him choose between God and his vow of obedience. A priest derives his faculties from the Bishop. When it comes to faculties, the bishop giveth and the bishop taketh away. 

Perhaps he taketh away unjustly. I admit that happens all the time. We can argue about that. But a priest under obedience must conform to the legitimate demands of his superiors, at least in the external forum. 

The Mass is an integral part of the Faith, but the Faith is greater than the Mass. The Mass is a gift from God. He can give the Mass and He can take away the Mass. He took away the Mass from England, save for a few isolated homes where it was said secretly. He took it away from Communist China, where a similar situation prevailed. And socialist Mexico. Remember Japan; God took the Mass away from Japanese Christians for centuries. But the Faith did not die there, because the Faith is not the Mass. 

Though their treatment has been extraordinarily unjust, it wounds me when I hear members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate seeking to be dispensed from their vows or transferred to other orders because their access to the Extraordinary Form has been curtailed. Do the have the right to do this? Yes. Is it the most perfect course of action? No. To whom did they take vows? Did they take vows to their order, or to a particular form of the Mass? Was their commitment to their order contingent upon what form of Mass was being used? I think of Jesuits like Fr. James Schall, Fr. Mitch Pacwa or the late Fr. John Hardon who remain loyal to their order despite the ungodly amount of insanity that continues to spew forth from the Society of Jesus. Who of us would not sympathize one hundred percent with Father Schall if he requested to be dispensed from his vows to the Society of Jesus? Yet he remains, as did Fr. Hardon. As they should.

Thus, while I love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and while I see its growth, promulgation and eventual restoration as the only hope for the Church, I do not equate the Mass with the Faith itself in the absolute sense.

In other words, the sine qua non of our spiritual and sacramental life cannot be "the Extraordinary Form Mass no matter what or nothing." God gives the Mass and God can take it away, and those who think it is permissible to walk away from obedience - or seek dispensation from it - for the sake of continued access to the Extraordinary Form - I think - do not help the cause. If anything, it reinforces Trad stereotypes that we are all quasi-schismatics and precludes us from reaching out to groups who, although sympathetic to tradition, have not yet been adequately introduced to it.

It is certainly legitimate to seek legal redress to these problems through appropriate canonical channels. But, if they would take the more perfect route, it seems that until this is settled, the FFI priests and brothers should obey and just stay where they are at. We all need to stay put and wait out the storm. The most perfect form of obedience is not to seek legal channels to get out of an unpleasant situation, but to stay where one is planted and endure, counting it a blessing to suffer for the sake of the truth.


Anonymous said...

Dear Boniface,

Thank you for this measured and well thought out post. This needs to be said. Concerning the FFI, allow me to shed a little light upon the matter from personal experience. I am an Eastern Rite Catholic, Marounite to be exact. From the Marounite parish church in which I was confirmed back in October 2011, several young men from this congregation took up life as male religious with the FFI. Now, for these, and other Eastern Rite individuals who have been called to the FFI, the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite has not been their mass, for want of a better term. Thus, despite the heavyhandedness and unfairness by which the Church has exercised its discipline over the FFI, I can understand the reasons why this may have been the case. In my part of Australia, a particularly scandellous cult with international reach remains active; this cult has misappropriated lock stock and barrel the spiritual goods of Holy Mother Church, relevant to Eastern and Western Rite Catholic Christians. Such a disgraceful state of affairs has subsequently proven a contributor to the more culturally robust aspects of Catholic Christianity having been all but supressed. Is this right? probably not. Is this fair or just? No. Is it the bishop's decision? yes. Does this give me the right to take the hour and a half trip West by road to the SSPX nerve centre in Australia to meet my Catholic Christian needs, responsibilities and obligations? no. On the other hand, prayer, regular confession, rosary, adoration and as regular attendance at mass is my duty and responsibility. the NO is licite and valid, and in contrast with some of the aggregious abuses that I have read of on-line emanating from the EU and US, and one or two hotbed parishes in Sydney, for instance, said mass is offered with reverence and solemnity. Is the liturgical hymnity mostly dreadful? yes. are the psalm settings fairly aweful? yes. do some priests skirt the edges of sensibility in their homilies, sometimes (but at other times they blast brilliant blazes of truth from the pulpit in amazing clarity with love; that joint whole of love and justice that is irresistible). Can I receive on the tongue? yes and others also. am I left alone for veiling? yes. We are blessed to have this much when in parts of the world, they have nothing, or things are so dreadful that what we have would seem like sweetest plainchant, poliphany and reverence.Its not easy, but things have been equally grim if not moreso throughout the history of Holy Mother Church.Pray for our priests, those who are blessed and/or fortunate enough to be able to offer traditional mass and sacraments to their congregations. Pray also for those who cannot, and those who will not due to their own ideology. pray also for those prelates who still cleave to the church revolutionary, that they may via personal conversion cleaave to the church millitant. This is possible and I have run into confessors in our capital city who have been thus transformed.God has won, will win,is winning. Also,remember whose heel is upon whose head. yet a little while.


Australia. .

Teresa C said...

You are not losing me! Thankyou for this insightful post and for your entire blog, always so informative and never becoming a rant.
God Bless
Teresa C

Konstantin said...

Well, you haven't lost me as a reader, but maybe you should've devoted some more time investigating when in the history of the Church it was a common disciplinary measure to ban priests from saying one form of the Roman Rite, instead forcing them to choose another one which was recently invented. Rather strange...

Boniface said...

Konstantin , I agree it is strange, even unprecedented, and that it evidences a clear animosity towards the ancient Mass. Still one under obedience must obey their superior in all things save sin, and I can't bring myself to conclude that the order to cease saying the EF constitutes sin, even though it is an abuse of power.

These are very strange times and we all have to make choices and compromises that never would have entered into the heads of our forefathers.

Konstantin said...

Wow, you're up early. I hope my tone wasn't to agressive, if so, I apologize.

My beef with this whole thing is just the banning of one specific form of the Mass, even more so considering that it is a thorn in the side of my many progressives. I can get to grips with a priest not being allowed to offer Mass altogether because he's suspended, even though unjustly, but this just won't go into my head.

God bless

Boniface said...

Yeah we go to 8:00am Mass and I have four kids to get ready so...yeah, up early.

I agree with you that it is bizarre. But does that render the commands illegitimate? I don't think so. If we all agree a bishop can suspend from saying any Mass, it follows he can suspend from any particular Mass. And if we acknowledge he can, there's no reason to deny obedience. Even if it's weird.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet lots of folks are like me i.e they attend the Latin Mass on Sunday and the ordinary form on weekdays, because that's what is available.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet lots of folks are like me, i.e. Latin Mass on Sunday and Holy Days and ordinary form Mass on weekdays because that is what is available

Anonymous said...

This is first time I comment here, and first of all excuse me for my bad english.
I do agree with you that one must obey everything but sin. That's correct. But what if in someone's conscience reading NOM is a sin? Have you considered that? What if my conscinece is telling me that it is great sin to give Holy Communion in someone's hand? What if in my country "pro multis" is translated for all instead for many, etc, etc...
I prefer obeying God than a man.

Anonymous said...

I am just back from Latin Mass. Because of changes in the priests schedules we are now attending a different parish. After Mass this morning, I watched the altar servers transform the altar... remove the six candles, the platform for the priest to stand on in front of the altar and more. That is for the next Mass that would be in the ordinary form. We've attended Latin Mass for about a year and a half. Watching them change the altar seems so wrong. I can't help but wonder, how did we as a community get to this craziness?

cda said...

The argument is going to revolve around what the limits of "the legitimate demands of his superior" are. If the command to say the Novus Ordo is a legitimate demand, then that command ought to be obeyed. If not, not.

There are arguments to be made that the command to say the Novus Ordo is not a legitimate command -- namely, that it is contrary to both law and doctrine.

(1) First, regarding law, the supreme law is the salvation of souls. It is arguable that the Novus Ordo is injurious to souls because it fails to reflect the fullness of the faith (e.g. the principal character of the mass, that of propitiatory sacrifice, is greatly diminished in favor of the character of a meal, or of a mere commemoration, or of mere praise and thanksgiving, which flirts with heresy—see Trent, Session XXII, On the Sacrifice of the Mass, canons 1 and 3; the expression of the priestly character of the minister is reduced in favor of the character of a presider; etc.). Validity need not be an issue here. Forcing Christ to be present in a liturgy marked by protestant tendencies is no merit.

(2) Second, again regarding law, if it is true, as Benedict XVI finally admitted, that the traditional mass was never abrogated, then it is arguable that the standing and governing law, regardless of whether one considers it reformable or not, remains St. Pius V's Quo Primum, which forbids "superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, [being] obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us." That is, it is arguable that any command, even from one's lawful superior, to say the Novus Ordo is preempted by standing law.

(3) Third, regarding doctrine, the Council of Trent arguably anathematized any alleged power to change an old rite into a new rite:
"If any one were to say that the received and approved rites of the catholic Church accustomed to being employed in the solemn administration of the sacraments ... can be changed into other new ones by whichsoever shepherd of the churches, let him be anathema. [Si quis dixerit, receptos et approbatos Ecclesiae catholicae ritus in sollemni sacramentorum administratione adhiberi consuetos ... in novos alios per quemcumque ecclesiarum pastorem mutari posse: an. s.]" (Council of Trent, Session VII, On the sacraments in general, canon 13, Denz. 856/1613; my translation)
That is, it is arguable that the Novus Ordo is not merely the lawful regulation of an existing rite (which Trent allows in Session XXI, ch. 2), but another new rite purporting to be an existing rite (namely, the Roman rite), and, consequently, the Novus Ordo is a rite that no "shepherd of the churches" (which would include even the pope), has the authority to impose on anyone.

In effect, when Benedict XVI or anyone else writes things like "[even] the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books" (Letter on the occasion of Summorum Pontificum), it is arguable that he is simply mistaken, both as a matter of law and of doctrine.

Again, this is arguable. But it must be said that many, quite understandably, might not be able even to consider such possibilities. How bad are we willing to believe things can get, or even already are?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking on behalf of many Catholics who are on the fence about those who are for Extraordinary Form.

This is certainly not helping there cause.

Satan can mimic piety but never obedience a wise saint once said.

This priest disobeyed and now is playing the victim card.

Long-Skirts said...

It ISN'T just about the Mass it's about the WHOLE Catholic Faith...glad St. Athanasius didn't stay put!


Five times banished
Exiled seventeen
Excommunicated champions
God puts at each scene.

Saint Athanasius,
Feast day of worth
On the second of May
The month of great mirth.

Out in the deserts –
As history has charted –
You preserved the true Mass
Great lion-hearted.

Now Lefebvre
And the sixties egalitarians
Like Athanasius,
His time his Arians.

For He who abolished
Death by death
Sent him to absolve
Sin width and breadth.

And yes the same moon
The same sun we're all under…
We venal rain - but Lefebvre

Righteous thunder!!

Lynne said...

Well, you're not going to lose me but you *are* wrong.

If you're right, then the British laity in the 1500's were wrong.

It's the Mass that matters

"By insisting that it was the Mass that mattered, and that it mattered more than anything else, the humble peasants of Devon and Cornwall displayed a profoundly Catholic instinct, a true sensus Catholicus. Their conviction that if
the Mass could be destroyed the faith itself would be destroyed was one that they shared with the arch-heretic Martin Luther, who once said: "Once the Mass has been overthrown, I say we'll have overthrown the whole of Popedom." 2 The Protestant heresy was directed not primarily against the papacy but against the Mass."

Was St Edmund Campion wrong too?

Boniface said...


For St Athanasius, obedience was not staying in place but leaving. His case was different, but he obeyed. What would have happened if, when unjustly excommunicated, he would have arrogantly insisted that he didn't have to obey and tried to forcibly retain his see?

Steve D.-

A sin for the bishop to abuse his power, yes, but not a sin for a priest to obey. I meant it is no sin to obey an abuse of power so long as it does not cause you to commit sin. A bishop may abuse his power by ordering a priest to lay on the ground while he steps on his skull. It is no sin for the priest to obey even if it is a sin for the bishop to command - and in that case, the priest ought to obey.


I would be grateful f you can show me the place in the post where I said that the Mass did not matter.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boniface. Thank you. Like all (most of) your posts, profound and well pondered. Two comments, though:

1. You wrote: "Catholics can fulfill a Sunday obligation by attending the Mass of the SSPX if there are no other Masses available, the unavailability of an Extraordinary Form Mass in particular does not satisfy this requirement." I am not sure if this correct.

It seems that the faithful can fullfil the obligation anywhere in a Catholic rite (can. 1248,§1), no exception being made if priest be under any censure (like suspension). Members of SSPX are arguably Catholic priests (even if vagi or acephales); the rite they use is obviously a Catholic one. On the other hand, if one would interpret this canon so that a SSPX Mass is not in a Catholic rite, then Catholics could not fulfill a Sunday obligation by attending such a Mass even if there were no other Masses available at all. Instead they would be advised to spend some time in a private or common informal prayer (can. 1248,§2).

2. As to the hypothetical tradition-minded priest mentioned at the beginning of the post, he would have a couple of legal options. First, to enjoy the 'sabbatical'. Second, seeking excardination and incardination elsewhere; at least for a secular priest, it is a legitimate way for a wide variety of reasons (can. 267-271, esp. can. 270).

Andris Amolins

Boniface said...


"It is morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these (the SSPX) Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing...the fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called 'Tridentine' Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses."

That's from Ecclesia Dei:

Also, the SSPX are not just vagi, they are suspended a divinis.

Agreed on your second point, but it has never sat well with me.

Fr PJM said...

It is *not* disobedience to have recourse to a higher superior, in accordance with law, for excardination. And, FFI are not Benedictine. They take no vow of "stability". Also, it is *not* just about the Old Mass. It is about doctrine. It is about some FFI theologians daring to respectfully criticise Vatican II.

Lynne said...

That's the title of the article by Michael Davies that I linked. My way of posting it was sloppy but I was attempting to show that yes, the Mass is the Faith. In your example of Japan, for instance, they weren't forced to attend a weak imitation of the Mass. It disappeared. So their faith wasn't weakened in the same way it was when the inferior method of worship took hold, just like in England...

Boniface said...

For the record, Father, I did *not* say it was disobedience to have recourse to a superior. But it is not as perfect as obeying the command. The test of the obedience of all religious is what they do when they receive a command they do not agree with.

I also did not say they had a vow of stability. For Benedictines, stability means staying in one monastery. I said "commitment to stability" which I meant to commitment to remain loyal and attached to the particular religious order you were called to. The fact that I don't like what the Franciscans may be doing does not mean I have no vocation to be a FFI.

Agreed that it is about doctrine. Agreed that that is why the FFI are being persecuted. But I am not sure that "fighting back" is the most meritorious way to handle it.

"If thou can but hold thy peace and suffer, thou shalt see, without doubt, the Lord will help thee. He knows the time and the manner of delivering thee and therefore thou must resign thyself to Him." -Imitation, Book II:2

"He who strives to withdraw himself from obedience withdraws himself from grace" -ibid., III:13

Athelstane said...

"... members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate seeking to be dispensed from their vows or transferred to other orders because their access to the Extraordinary Form has been curtailed."

In fairness, for at least some of the friars, this is not the only reason at work behind the request for a dispensing of vows.

Richard Chonak said...

Good post. For a diocesan priest to go into religious life is just fine, but if he's attracted to it in order to escape a lawful assignment, it's not spiritually sound.

Just one detail: Franciscans don't vow stability, Benedictines do: i.e., they commit to stay with one monastery for life. Is there supposed to be something like that for FFIs?

As an aside, a friar friend has pointed out that launching new Franciscan orders is pretty routine, considering how many there are. There's even a joke about it: "Brothers, the Pope has approved the constitutions for our community. So let's schedule the split-up meeting for 1 p.m."

Boniface said...

Thanks, Richard! I know Franciscans don't vow stability; I did not say that they did vow it, but I subsequently think that comment was confusing. I simply meant they're commitment to that particular order. If I enter, say, the Cistercians with the belief that I'm called to be a Cistercian and then just decide that, on second thought, I'm called to be a diocesan priest when I don't like what the Cistercians are doing anymore - well, what about my commitment and my calling to the Cistercians? If I really believe I am called to that order, God will work it out.

Again, that's why I cite Fr Pacwa, Fr Schall and Fr Hardon as great examples - Jesuits who stuck with the order even though none of us would blame them if they jumped ship.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boniface, thank you for pointing to the Ecclesia Dei document at EWTN. Alas, the canon 844.2 they mention speaks only about non-Catholic ministers. If SSPX priests are suspended they are obviously Catholic. Nowhere this canon mentions 'good standing' or its equivalent. Besides, this chapter of CIC treats reception of all sacraments, not the Sunday/Holyday precept. These are not the same thing. The fact that can. 844.2 lists together Eucharist, Penance and Extreme Unction makes me to think that the legislator had in mind the pastoral care of the sick and dying rather than assistance at Mass.

The fulfillment of the precept is regulated in can. 1248 (a comment above), and it likewise does not mention the good standing of the celebrant, and for good reason: the faithful could not be reasonably obliged to verify the canonical standing of this or that priest.

Andris Amolins

Unknown said... believe that your reasoning is faulty. First you assume that the NO is legitimate. I disagree. It may be valid, but it is illegititmate. Secondly, you seem to suffer a false notion of being "under obedience". Obedience to a superior is not blind or unconditional, and sometimes he must be resisted-especially if his orders will harm the faith.

Boniface said...

You are right. I do assume the NO to be both legitimate and valid.

I understand that obedience is not blind obedience. But I do take a broad approach to it that it always must be rendered unless what is being commanded is positively sinful or immoral. In these cases I am not convinced it is even though it is deplorable.

The Hymn Selector said...

"commitment to stability"? What would that make of saints like Saint Teresa of Avila? Her confreres might use that against her reforms.

Titus said...

Eh, what Boniface says is completely correct, except for lumping seeking a change of incardination in with disobedience. There is a process established in Canon Law for doing that: you can request to be released from a religious order (paging Paul VI) or to have your incardination transferred to another diocese. Happens all the time, for reasons great and small. So I don't know that one can lump merely requesting such a transfer in with the various species of going rogue.

Also, the attempted exodus from the FFI is about rather more than the TLM: that whole order has been gutted so that it is no longer a properly functioning religious institution. That's not what these folks signed up for.

Boniface said...

Titus, I don't think seeking a transfer is disobedience, but I do think it is not the most perfect form of obedience.

Patrick Archbold said...

Requesting a release from religious vows and requesting incardination in a diocese is something that happens rather routinely. Why do we suddenly find this scandalous?

With all respect, I also think it does a disservice to those priests making such a request to boil it down to only the mass. There are many more things involved in religious life under the current FFI that might reasonably contribute to the desire to leave the order. By simply assuming it is the mass and the mass only, I think you likely miss the mark.

Boniface said...

Pat, I am not sure where I said requesting incardination elsewhere was scandalous or wrong. I said:

Though their treatment has been extraordinarily unjust, it wounds me when I hear members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate seeking to be dispensed from their vows or transferred to other orders because their access to the Extraordinary Form has been curtailed. Do the have the right to do this? Yes. Is it the most perfect course of action? No.

A little later on I said:

It is certainly legitimate to seek legal redress to these problems through appropriate canonical channels. But, if they would take the more perfect route, it seems that until this is settled, the FFI priests and brothers should obey and just stay where they are at.

I am not suggesting it is wrong or scandalous to seek incardination elsewhere; I am suggesting it is not as perfect as staying where you are planted and enduring whatever is thrown at you.

Regarding other matters other than the EF, I grant that point.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Kudos, Boniface. Spot on. Courageous and well thought out

Patrick Archbold said...

I apologize if my "scandalous" comment seem directed at you. It was more of a general comment on the FFI situation and some of the reaction to it. Sorry about that.

Boniface said...


Oh mean with regards to these agents going around telling bishops they'd better not take the FFI if they know what's good for them? Yes, that makes little sense...

_ said...

I guess I can't reconcile how one would be "appalled" if a priest who was unjustly commanded by his bishop was considering to take action against this injustice?

One is called to "Honour thy father and thy mother" too but we all know that not all fathers or mothers can be "honored", ast least not in the way they desire.

So if a priest or anyone for that matter leaves the jurisdiction of their diocese into the welcoming arms of another bishop who sees zero problems with their convictions - is there no room for righteous indignation?

I don't know if I could subscribe to your idea of "the bishop giveth and the bishop taketh away", unless I am to assume the referenced bishop is always a good and holy man who shares the will of God.

I can't help but think of Luke 12:36-59 and wonder how it could apply to this very topic, but I won't pretend to be any sort of expert, it's just my feeling on the matter. Thanks and keep up the good blogging.

Boniface said...


When a superior commands something unjustly, it is no sin to obey the unjust command so long as it does not involve personal sin on the part of the one carrying out the command.

In other words, it may be sinful for the bishop to give a certain command, but that does not mean it is sinful for the priest to obey, so long as it does not cause the priest to sin.

I have always believed that it is not good for someone under obedience to seek transfer in order to get themselves out of unpleasant situations. That is not the model of obedience I read about in the Imitation of Christ and other classic spiritual works, all of which suggest that the great test of obedience is toughing out an uncomfortable situation when you would like to leave, per 1 Pet. 2:19-20, 3:13-14. This applies even if the bishop is not a holy man and even if his commands are motivated by nefarious purposes.

The only time it would be really advisable to do that would be if the bishop is commanding something positively sinful in and of itself. In that case, it would be not only good but necessary to seek transfer or refuse obedience. But in the cases I am describing, the priests involved would have to make the case that the simple request to go on sabbatical or stop saying the EF Mass or stop saying any Masses was tantamount to a positive sin. I have argued that I do not think this is the case.

Therefore, the priests owe obedience - if they want they can seek transfer; the most perfect option would be to endure patiently where they are planted.

M. Prodigal said...

It was not only the holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the extraordinary form that was the issue with the FFI as even the dissenting friars have claimed. They also publicly speak out against so called 'rad trads' so they did have a dislike for the TLM but also there was disobedience to the founders and a power struggle. Sympathetic ears were found in the Vatican--no surprise there--and then when the time was ripe, the persecution began. There has been much suffering. Yet the holy ones accept it with as much peace as possible because they know their offering is for the Immaculate. The dissenting friars have publicly detracted the founders and others and one of the new 'governing' ones even was taking a lay person to civil court for having called him a traitor (which he is). Since when does a Franciscan take a lay person to a civil court? This is the sort of 'new leader' that the institute must suffer with. To say that a solemnly professed friar cannot go to another institute or go to a bishop, much less offer the TLM, is unheard of anywhere else. There is a great hatred against those who wish to embrace all the teachings and traditions of holy mother Church and it comes from within.

It is not just about the Mass, but consider what has happened since the TLM was stolen from the faithful. Millions upon millions have left the Church...

Anonymous said...

Ave Maria Bonifice!

I do believe that you cannot separate the Mass from the Faith.
The two are wound together like Christ's Holy Death on the cross is wound together inextricably with His Teaching.
The Holy Mass is the summit of the Faith.

There are in fact many people who are morally unable, it is really impossible, for them to assist at the New Rite of Mass.

I am one of them.

My FSSP spiritual director has told me to ONLY go to the NO as a last gasp effort.

I know it is a person to person situation, but there are many of us persons like this out there.

Ave Maria!