Is There Really Any Hope for a Return to the Traditional Latin Mass?

Interview with Dr. Peter Kwasniewski

In the essays by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, collected in Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages, Dr. Kwasniewski writes as an unabashed adherent for the traditional Latin Mass. He is positive not only that “the Mass of the Ages” is far superior to the new Mass, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the Ordinary Form in the 2007 document Summorum Pontificum,1 he is also positive that the Roman Catholic Church should go back to the earlier form, which Pope Benedict XVI called the “Extraordinary Form.”

Because Dr. Kwasniewski eloquently, and at-length, defends the extraordinary form of the Mass as superior to the ordinary form in this collection, Noble Beauty will probably be of great interest to people who already love the traditional Latin Mass.

This book might also help satisfy the curiosity of those who might idly wonder—without having any preformed judgments—just why some people are such staunch adherents of the older form.

The many excellent reasons Kwasniewski gives for his conviction that the traditional Latin Mass is superior to the Mass of Blessed Paul VI might also challenge the thinking of anyone who thinks of traditional Latin Mass adherents as consisting of either old fogeys who are rigid and fearful of change, or young people who are caught up in some weird fad.

But as I read this book, I couldn’t help but think Dr. Kwasniewski was being overly optimistic.

Expectations Not Realized, At Least Not Yet
When restrictions on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass were relaxed after Summorum Pontificum, many of us hoped that its beauty and reverence would evangelize itself. After ten years, I and others have noted that the Extraordinary Form has not achieved the hoped-for, widespread acceptance among Catholics who are attached to the Ordinary Form.

The growth, from about 220 regularly scheduled traditional Latin Masses in 2006, to around 450 across the entire United States in 2016, does not seem all that encouraging, considering that before 2007, it was was almost impossible to get permission to celebrate it. Loosened restrictions did not result in that great of an increase in the numbers. Of course, the causes behind the slow growth are many and varied.

Some blame the fact that most of the now-available, traditional Latin Masses are not offered in regular parishes during normal Sunday Mass times. But consider this: more than a year after San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone instructed a pastor in a beautiful, centrally located, Star of the Sea church to learn the traditional Latin Mass, and start offering it every Sunday before noon, I visited the parish and saw, to my disappointment, that very few people actually attend that almost-ideally situated Mass. I am not alone in my observations.

When I mentioned this concern of mine to Father George W. Rutler in an email interview, he wrote back, “While I am all in favor of the Extraordinary Form, I think that the enthusiastic expectations for it were wrong, which I sensed at the time.” Columnist Rod Dreher wrote an article, for The American Conservative, titled “Have We Reached Peak Latin Mass?” in which he quoted Monsignor Charles Pope, who wrote that the traditional Latin Mass (which he also supports and often celebrates himself) is a boutique phenomenon among American Catholics, and looks likely to stay that way.

In my own archdiocese, although we offer the Traditional Latin Mass in five different locations, we’ve never been able to attract more than a total of about a thousand people. That’s only one-half of one percent of the total number of Catholics who attend Mass in this archdiocese each Sunday.—Monsignor Charles Pope.

Here in New York, even the regular TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) at Our Saviour, offered by the very, very well-known Father Rutler, attracted only a small group, by his own testimony.—Catherine NY, from the combox for “Have We Reached Peak Latin Mass?”

Father Rutler, Rod Dreher, and Monsignor Pope, all speculate that the lack of growth in attendance at Extraordinary Form Masses is from a lack of evangelization among traditional Catholics, and a kind of inward-looking focus. But from what I’ve seen, Catholics who love the traditional Latin Mass already evangelize in every way imaginable. For example, the “Institute of Christ the King” chaplain at the Oratory I attend in San Jose does a lot of outreach, including placing ads in the diocesan newspaper.

Recently, I came across a quote that says that for evangelization to work, Catholics must be holy, which struck a chord. Christ drew people to Himself by His holiness because He embodied the love of God. And St. Francis of Assisi, for one great example, drew people to Christ by his humility, his poverty, and his intense love for Christ. Exactly how the average, tradition-loving Catholic can hope to achieve the kind of holiness that would evangelize the traditional Mass is, of course, way outside of the scope of this review.

I also recently began to wonder if its true what some are saying—that all those new tradition-loving, cassock wearing, priests-in-training that came into diocesan seminaries during Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, might be supplanted by a newer wave of priests influenced by Pope Francis. National Catholic Reporter ran a series of articles touting the idea (although, those interviewed offer little more than their own impressions as evidence, which might be more wishful thinking than factual). In one article in the series, Father Philip Brown, P.S.S., former Rector of Theological College at Catholic University of America, said he saw a “Pope Francis effect” was taking hold at his seminary. “There’s less focus on the sacerdotal nature of priesthood—the view that priests are men set aside with particular sacramental powers … There is less of an emphasis on signs and symbols indicating traditionalism,” such as the wearing of cassocks, Communion only on the tongue, and not in the hand.

When I spoke with one cassock-wearing, San Francisco archdiocesan seminarian—after I read that article a few weeks ago—who sometimes serves at Solemn High Masses at the San Jose Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory, I learned he believes that if the tradition-minded new priests are patient, and do a lot of catechesis, they will be able to alter the attitudes of parishioners who prefer the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and are disdainful of the Extraordinary Form. And he is sure that if they remove deformations of the liturgy in Ordinary Form Masses, with the same tactfulness, parishioners will accept the changes for the better.

I borrowed the term deformations from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who wrote these words in his letter to the bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum:2  “… in many places, celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing, or even requiring, creativity which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.” I am speaking from experience, since I, too, lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

From what I’ve seen, resistance to any change is stronger than the seminarian might imagine. For example, I know one priest, Father Jeffrey Keyes, who gradually removed the liturgical deformations in his Newark, CA, parish over almost a decade, with much more patience than I could have shown. For all his pains, he received a lot of rancor. Salvatore Cordileone, who was bishop of Oakland at the time, where Father Keyes’ parish was located, instructed him to learn the traditional Latin Mass. But Father Keyes received enough pushback that, even though he was pastor, he couldn’t put it on the Sunday morning Mass schedule, and only was able to offer it on Thursday evenings. Eventually, in spite of all his patient catechesis of his parishioners, Father Keyes was removed from the parish by his provincial superior because of many complaints. And from what happened to Father Keyes, even when his bishop was supportive of the traditional Latin Mass, and the other changes he made to make all the Masses more reverent and God focused, I shudder to think what the new tradition-minded priests will face in their parishes after ordination.

In removing me from the parish where I served faithfully for eleven years, where I explained ad nauseam all the reasons for any change in the liturgy, the provincial [of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in which order Father Keyes was a member] made it clear that I had separated the people from the liturgy and that they had been turned into bystanders, and mere observers. Any instruction on internal participation had fallen on liberal deaf ears.—Father Jeffrey Keyes, Dominus Vobiscum.3    

On top of all this, the current pope has stated, in no uncertain terms, that there will be no going back. In August of this year, Pope Francis stated that “the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI have by now been universally used in the Roman rite for almost fifty years.” He said that there is no possibility of a rethinking of the decisions behind the liturgical changes, only for understanding the reasons why they were made. And he ended by saying, “…we can affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

I sent a set of questions expressing these concerns to Dr. Kwasniewski via email, and he answered them in the following interview.

Insistent That the Mass of Ages Be The Norm, Always And Everywhere
RTS: Why do you believe that the Church should return to the Extraordinary Form?

Dr. Kwasniewski: The reason is simply that we are debtors to our tradition, we are beholden to our heritage, and we become ungrateful and arrogant wretches when we throw it overboard. The attitude of true humility is to assume that the accumulated wisdom and piety of the Church should continue to guide and inform us. This is how it has always been seen, no matter what century of the Church you look at. It could only have been in the twentieth century, at the pinnacle of evolutionary conceit, that a group of eggheads would have dared lay hands on the rich and subtle worship of the Church to force it into their imaginary categories of relevance or efficacy. Their work was justly punished with desolation and apostasy.

In short, the traditional liturgy expresses the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and preserves the piety of Christians intact. This is more than sufficient reason for adhering to it, and for insisting that it be the norm, always and everywhere. And that is why, incidentally, I find “Extraordinary Form” the least satisfactory of all the phrases with which Benedict XVI, and others, refer to the traditional Latin Mass. One can understand canonically how he arrived at that construct, but it denotes a topsy-turvy conception of the reality and history of liturgy in Western Christendom. The ordinary form of our worship has always been some version of the Latin Mass, recognizably in continuity with what we now have in the Missal of 1962. It is the rite of 1969 that is truly extra-ordinary.

The Old Mass Never Deviates From the Gaze of the Lord
What are some of the ways the older form of the Roman Rite expresses the fullness of the Faith?

Dr. Kwasniewski: The older rite is impressively theocentric, focused on God and the primacy of His Kingdom. It is shot through with words and gestures of self-abasement and penitence, attentive reverence and adoration, acceptance of God’s absolute claims upon us. Its prayers and ceremony bear witness to both the transcendence and the immanence of God: He is Emmanuel, God among us, but also the One who dwells in thick darkness, whom no man has seen or can see. He is our Alpha and Omega, our all in all. The traditional liturgy is uncompromising on this point. Even in what you might call its “instructional” moment, the reading or chanting of Scripture, it remains fixed on the Lord, as if we are not so much reading to ourselves, as we are reminding Him of what He said to us—as if we are asking Him to fulfill it again in our midst, according to His promise. The old Mass never deviates from the gaze of the Lord, always remains under His eye, conscientiously turned to Him. It plunges us into the life-and-death necessity of prayer. Padre Pio said “prayer is the oxygen of the soul.” We breathe that oxygen in the old Mass.

RTS: Don’t we do that in the new Mass, too?

Dr. Kwasniewski: We might do that in the new Mass, but it is much more difficult to do. The oxygen is harder to get. The needs and demands of the spiritual life are muted, swept under the carpet, in this stripped-down vernacular liturgy facing the people, replete with sappy songs, announcements, constant chatter. It was designed to be populocentric, to connect people with one another, and with the priest around a table, a meal. As Ratzinger [later Pope Benedict XVI] has said, God disappears in such a set-up. He may be there on the altar, but the people’s minds and hearts are elsewhere. Should we really be surprised that, according to repeated polls, most Catholics who attend the Novus Ordo Mass do not believe in the Real Presence—do not even know that the Church teaches it? The liturgy does not help them to see, to experience, that truth. It is not just about adequate catechesis. It is about whether the liturgy vividly expresses the truths of the Faith.

To take just one example, the old liturgy’s prayers unflinchingly subordinate earthly life to heavenly life; they repudiate the pomps and vanities of fallen secular life. The new liturgy refuses to do this and, in fact, its redactors systematically wiped out the old prayers that talked of “despising earthly things” for the sake of heaven. Has there ever been a generation since the creation of Adam and Eve that needed to hear this message more than today’s generation? Materialistic hedonism is the broad way along which countless souls are walking to their own destruction—and the Church smiles and waves at them, saying “God bless you.”

Individual Ego Subsumed Instead of Coddled
RTS: You say in your book that these problems have to do with a certain attitude towards modernity.

Dr. Kwasniewski: Exactly. Or maybe better, a certain attitude of modernity. At its root, modernity is anti-sacral, anti-religious, anti-incarnational and, therefore, anti-clerical, anti-ritual, anti-liturgical. You can see this from the many philosophers of the Enlightenment who rejected both divine revelation, and organized religion. A few centuries later, we moderns, who have imbibed all this philosophical baggage, have almost no clue what a solemn, formal, objective, public religious ritual is supposed to look like. We are at a total loss about corporate worship in which the individual ego is subsumed into the greater community of the Church, across time and space. That is why we must clutch to the traditional liturgy for dear life. It is, for all intents and purposes, pre-modern—so old that it is unaffected by our contemporary shallowness, biases, prejudices. It breathes a realism, a spaciousness, a strength, a chivalry even, that has become foreign to our age and so, for that very reason, is desperately needed by us. Modern man needs nothing so much as to be delivered from the prison of his Promethean modernism. He needs to be challenged with that which is older, deeper, wiser, stronger, lovelier, happier. He needs to be ignored, not coddled; mystified, not lectured to; silenced, not uncorked.

Hoping When Things Seem Impossible
RTS: I agree with you. But I wonder: What grounds do you have to believe that a return to the Mass of the Ages is even a possibility?

Dr. Kwasniewski: I don’t know what the future holds, but right now, looking at the virtual schism in the Catholic Church over basic points of faith and morals, it is hard to escape the conclusion that some mighty upheavals are in the offing, and that many things that might have seemed impossible a short while ago may suddenly become possible. In my opinion, the movement for Catholic orthodoxy, and the movement for liturgical tradition, are coming closer all the time, and have already combined in many ways into a single movement. A time will come, I believe, when Catholics who profess the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, who adhere to the traditional sexual morality of the Church, and who accept priestly celibacy as a discipline, willed by the Lord, will be celebrating the usus antiquior either exclusively or predominantly. Of course, I have no way of proving this, but let’s call it an educated guess.

In any case, we need to have a sound historical perspective based on the study of reform move­ments in Church history, of which nearly every century has given us shining examples. Every reform movement started with a few people who, rightly scandalized by the faithlessness or immorality of their times, and animated with the fervor of divine love, worked tirelessly, and organized effectively, to promote personal conversion, and institutional change. It has always happened this way, and our times will be no exception. We have to beware of a subtle form of consequentialism, whereby we think we are doing the right thing because we are successful, or that as long as we do the right thing we cannot fail to be successful. No. We do the right thing even if it’s improbable, difficult, quixotic, leads to martyrdom. The success the Lord wants is for souls who care about Him to return to the sacred liturgy in its uncorrupted form, whether we are supported and applauded for this fidelity, or opposed and persecuted. He will do the rest for us. We are counting not on our superior numbers or might, but on His resources, His interventions, His multiplication of wine and loaves.

The fact of the matter is, the traditional movement is indeed growing. All the numbers are there for examination: the numbers of priests and seminarians in traditional orders or communities, as well as the apostolates being entrusted to them, are steadily climbing. The number of families associated with their apostolates is ever on the increase. If someone in the Western world today wants to see a church full of large families, he has to visit traditional communities, for he will hardly find them elsewhere! Traditionalist books, magazines, pamphlets, catalogs, and religious items are burgeoning, which at least points to a market. Intellectuals and artists, to the extent that the contemporary Church has them, are decidedly favorable to traditionalism. Let’s not kid ourselves: it’s the only serious Catholicism there is. The rest is country-club Catholicism at best, and do-it-yourself Catholicism at worst.

What About the Disappointing Numbers?
RTS: Ten years after the traditional Latin Mass was made more widely available, I and others have noted that the Extraordinary Form hasn’t achieved much acceptance among people who are attached to the Ordinary Form. Even when it is available, it is often sparsely attended.

Dr. Kwasniewski: This really isn’t surprising. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his letter to the bishops of July 7, 2007: “The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation, and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.” Put simply: many people are not ready for it. Some, it’s true, attend once, and are hooked forever, but for others, there’s a steep learning curve. They are the victims of such bad liturgical practices and habits that they will not know what to do with themselves when they are suddenly up against the edge of an infinite chasm of prayer, with no one to hold their hand, and a ritual that unfolds with what may look like a lofty indifference, or a chilly remoteness. It is severely disturbing to your average Catholic. This is why, by the way, I always say that if you want to bring someone to a Tridentine Mass, you should bring him to a Missa cantata or even a Solemn High Mass, if you can find one nearby. The High Mass is far easier to relate to, as it appeals to all the senses, and carries the worshiper along on a gentle stream.

RTS: So, you think it’s unfair to say that the traditional Latin Mass is a “boutique phenomenon” among American Catholics?

Dr. Kwasniewski: First, let’s wait till it’s available everywhere, for many years, and then we can re-assess the question. But coming back to what I said a moment ago: the Latin Mass is hard-core, full-on Catholicism, no holds barred. The liturgy is longer and more elaborate. The music is likely be the real stuff: Gregorian chant, polyphony. The preaching is also likely to be tougher, closer to what you’d expect from a religion that claims to be divinely revealed as the only way to salvation. Women are wearing mantillas, people are dressed formally. The whole package is radically opposed to the mores of contemporary Americans, including, sadly, Catholics themselves, who are contracepting and divorcing at pretty nearly the same rate as their heathen counterparts. I hate to say it, but the dominant ersatz version of Catholicism really is like a different religion, compared to the historic, authentic, dogmatic, ascetical-mystical Catholicism embodied in the traditional liturgy and all the devotions that flourish in its ambit. So, do we call this a “boutique phenomenon,” or do we have the courage to admit that Catholicism is in a state of accelerating decomposition, and that most of what the world calls “Catholicism” is, at best, a shadow of the reality, if not a contradiction of it?

But let us be honest about this, too: the main reason the old Mass has not caught on more is the lack of availability, and the lack of ecclesiastical support. Pope Benedict liberated it for the benefit of all priests, and for the faithful they serve, but a huge number of priests have been cajoled, threatened, ostracized, or removed from ministry due to conflicts over Summorum Pontificum. I know what I am talking about from firsthand experiences. Too many bishops and pastors are opposed to it, and the young clergy who can already do the old liturgy, or who may wish to learn it, are kept down, forced into the mold of the postconciliar revolution. The lack of growth to which you refer is the result of a deliberate strategy of “containment” that is discussed and implemented at the level of episcopal conferences. Not officially, mind you, but behind closed doors. Thanks be to God, there are still some heroic bishops and priests here and there who, in spite of all the political pressure, manage to hold their own line, and promote the recovery of liturgical tradition in their dioceses or parishes. It is happening, slowly, across the face of the earth—I have been to many such places, and have seen the lively faith of clergy and laity. But it could, and should, be happening everywhere. There is an artificial limitation being imposed by monopolists. If we had a “free market economy,” so to speak, we would be looking at a far different picture.

Non Nobis Domine Non Nobis Sed Nomine Tuo Da Gloria
(Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory) 
Again, this situation is not unprecedented, either in salvation history, or in Church history (which itself follows, again and again, the pattern of salvation history). Remember the story of Gideon in Judges 7? He had with him 32,000 troops to go up against the Midianites. The Lord said to him: “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’” The Lord succeeded in lowering the number first to 10,000, then to 300. With these “picked men,” Gideon obtained total victory over his enemies, who were “like locusts for multitude.” The Lord seems to have a preference for winning improbable victories, so that the glory can be His and not ours. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy Name give glory.” I take much comfort in this.

RTS: The odds of the traditional Latin Mass replacing the Mass of 1969 sometimes seem to me to be vanishingly remote, so I’ve been afraid that what traditionalists are advocating is like so much shouting into the wind. But then I chanced upon this, written by a secular blogger: “Anything worth shouting about is worth shouting into the wind. Because if enough people care, often enough, the word spreads, the standards change, the wind dies down. If enough people care, the culture changes. It’s easy to persuade ourselves that the right time to make change happen is when it’s time. But that’s never true. The right time to make it happen is before it’s time. Because this is what “making” means. … Yes, there’s wind, there’s always been wind. But that doesn’t mean we should stop shouting.”

Dr. Kwasniewski: I couldn’t agree more, except that I’d say we don’t always have to be shouting. We need to practice the art of persuasion, good advertising, and, obviously, best behavior. The take-away is that we have a lot of work to do in winning our brothers and sisters over to traditional Catholicism, for their own good, and for the health of the Church. This is going to happen to some extent naturally as things get worse in the Church and in the world. People who are serious about the Faith will ask: “Where is this Faith being taught and lived? Where is there a priest who believes and preaches the Faith? Where is the liturgy being celebrated in a way that nourishes and strengthens my faith?” We need to be there for them when they start asking these questions, and not drive them away because they are initially poorly dressed, or kneel at the wrong times, or sing badly, or have confused ideas.

The “Benedict Effect” VS. the “Francis Effect”
RTS: You write that lots of young seminarians and newly ordained priests have learned to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, and you are hopeful about that. I am, too. Do you think there any grounds for the claims that the “Francis Effect” is watering down the influence of those newly ordained, who some are calling “Benedict priests”?

Dr. Kwasniewski: I imagine this is true to some extent. But again, I think it would not be so much a swinging of the pendulum, as the ongoing residue of postconciliar confusion, which has polluted nearly everyone’s thinking. Moreover, if progressives are in charge of seminaries, they know very well how to filter out the “excessively rigid” candidates—you know, those who believe the Catechism, pray the rosary, kneel for communion, and such things. Hence, in some seminaries the “Francis Effect” will certainly show itself as the rejection, or dismissal, of perfectly acceptable but “rigid” candidates.

The shift in mentality ushered in by Benedict XVI should by no means be under­estimated. He elevated the Church’s intellectual, spiritual, and liturgical profile to a level it had not enjoyed since before the Council, and left behind a treasure-trove of writings, particularly on the sacred liturgy, that will be read for decades, and possibly centuries, to come. The “Benedict Effect” may be quieter, but it’s deeper and more pervasive. Wherever you find a diocese bursting with vocations and Mass attendance, you will find the Ratzingerian influence at work.

Blessed Even While Carrying Many Crosses
RTS: I fear to think what new tradition-minded priests will face in their parishes after ordination. What possibility of reintroducing the traditional Latin Mass can you imagine when a kind of hatred occurs even with patient catechesis and good example?

Dr. Kwasniewski: Yes, I don’t want to seem like a Pollyanna who is downplaying the difficulties. They are very real. For one thing, the persecution of orthodox Catholics is getting worse under this pontificate. Anyone who questions Amoris Laetitia, for example, is instantly persona non grata. A priest who preaches against homosexuality or contraception from the pulpit might well be “disciplined.” And a priest who starts offering the Latin Mass might as well tape a bull’s eye on the back of his shirt, with the words: “Shoot me!” But this cannot, and will not, be the final word. We are only in one phase of a long battle. No pope and no bishop lasts forever; generations come and go, some problems disappear and others arise to take their place.

This much is clear: the priests who are faithful to their sacerdotal ministry, who preach the truth “in season and out of season,” who offer the liturgy with utmost reverence, who make the Tradition come alive again, these priests will be blessed even in the midst of many crosses, and will become a blessing to their people. Our Lord will take care of them, and make of them what He will. I know priests who have gone through terrible situations, which were the prelude to their arrival in a better place, to do more important work. We have to have confidence that God will take care of His own when they do what they are supposed to do.

I know a priest who has been punished for his stance on never giving communion to people in the hand, because it goes against his conscience to see the Body of Our Lord handled in that casual way, with the danger of particles being lost (not to mention the loss of faith in the Real Presence, and the ontological distinction between the ordained, and the non-ordained). I admire him, and others like him. They are the grain of wheat that will fall into the ground and die, so that an abundant harvest can spring forth.

I would also say that young men discerning a priestly vocation need to be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves (cf. Mt 10:16). They should think about whether it would not be better for them to join a society of apostolic life, or a religious community, that utilizes only the old liturgical books. These books are repositories of the Church’s tradition. And the priests who are bound to their use will not face the same kind of opposition and maltreatment that the secular clergy too often do. I would say something similar, incidentally, to young women discerning a religious vocation—indeed, it is even more important for them to join a community that will be served exclusively by priests who offer the usus antiquior.

Let us beg the Lord on our knees to send laborers into the harvest!

Discouragement As a Form of Pride
RTS: Do you think there is a danger of discouragement in the ranks of traditional Catholics?

Dr. Kwasniewski: Absolutely. You run into it everywhere. Faithful people are especially scandalized by what’s happening in the upper ranks of the Church, and they are predicting that the sky will fall in on our heads. Maybe it will, but that’s still not the end of the world. Nor will it be the end of us, either. We have to fight hard against discouragement. St. Thérèse said: “Discouragement is a form of pride.” It is pride in the sense that we start second-guessing Divine Providence, and blaming the Lord for not intervening, or solving this or that problem as we would have done. But God is in charge, and His ways are not our ways. Our job is to do, as well as we can, whatever He has given us the light and strength to do. We all know the famous words of Mother Teresa: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” God will bless and multiply the good of our fidelity to Him, to the Church, to Catholic Tradition, whether we see the fruits of it in our lifetime or not.

RTS: This past August, Pope Francis stated that there is no possibility of rethinking the decisions behind the liturgical changes. What do you make of this?

Dr. Kwasniewski: It is not easy to understand what the Holy Father expects to accomplish in this sentence, as it is not a doctrinal statement but an evaluation of a contingent historical fact, namely, the process of reform that began after Sacrosanctum Concilium, and culminated in the various Novus Ordo liturgical books. It’s like saying: “The Euro is irreversibly established in Europe.” Why should we think so? Or: “The ecumenism of the past fifty years is an irreversible fact.” Sure, no one can deny that it has happened, and as such, cannot be undone. But that doesn’t say anything about what the future holds. The whole thing—new liturgical rites or ecumenism or whatever—could be scrapped, or at least severely “corrected,” by a forthcoming Leo XIV or Benedict XVII or Pius XIII.

One might also note that one pope (Clement VII) authorized the novel breviary designed by Cardinal Quiñones, another (Paul III) approved it, and yet a third (Paul IV) suppressed it, deeming it a rupture in the tradition, and excessively influenced by Protestant theology. Popes actually can get the liturgy wrong, according to other Popes. Councils, too, are by no means infallible when it comes to recommendations about practical things to be done or not done. No one questions that the Council Fathers desired minor changes to the liturgy, but many notable authors, including Joseph Ratzinger and Louis Bouyer, have raised serious questions about the manner in which these changes were actually carried out.

To put it in a nutshell, this speech on liturgical reform was as incoherent as many other speeches of this pontificate, such as the one on how the death penalty is always and everywhere immoral. One has to shrug one’s shoulders, throw up one’s hands, pull out one’s beads, and say: “O Lord, how long?”

RTS: Thank you for this interview. I am especially happy that you were willing to frankly address the questions that troubled me when I was reading your eloquent and persuasive essays in Noble Beauty. As you wrote “many things that might have seemed impossible a short while ago, may suddenly become possible.” And, I strongly agree, we do have to fight hard against discouragement. We have to try to grow in humility and holiness ourselves so that God can work through us to obtain His purposes. And in patience. I hope and pray that many readers will also find in your book, as I have done, much to think about, much to be consoled about, and much to be strengthened by.

  1. “Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum On The Use Of The Roman Liturgy Prior To The Reform Of 1970.” The Holy See. 7 July 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2017 from
  2. “Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops on the Occasion of the Publication of the Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio DataSummorum Pontificum, On The Use Of The Roman Liturgy Prior To The Reform Of 1970.” The Holy See. 7 July 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2017 from
  3. Keyes, Father Jeffrey. “Dominus Vobiscum.” Omnia Christus est Nobis, Father Keyes Blog. 26 September 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017 from
Roseanne T. Sullivan About Roseanne T. Sullivan

Roseanne T. Sullivan is a writer from the Boston area who currently lives in San José, CA. Many of her writings and photographs have appeared in the Latin Mass Magazine, at the New Liturgical Movement, in Regina Magazine, National Catholic Register, at the Dappled Things blog, Deep Down Things, and other publications. Her own intermittently updated blog, Catholic Pundit Wannabe, is at


  1. Dr. Kwasniewski is one of my favourite writers. His erudite scholarship has provided hope in the midst of liturgical disasters of one kind or another.

    Having been for several years a regular congregant and chorister with a local Extraordinary Form Mass community that shares a parish church with a (larger) Ordinary Form community, and having long been involved with Ordinary Form liturgical ministries, I had to leave both precincts because nasty anti-Ordinary Form polemics and conspiracy theories defined the one and rampant liturgical abuse and mindless progressivism defined the other. The irreconcilable dichotomy between the EF and OF liturgies, or perhaps the battles between ideologues (quasi-sedevacantists vs liberal protestants), wore me down. We have a couple of weekly liturgies offered by reverent OF priests, but even their Masses are marred by an unfortunate focus on the personality of the priest rather than God, and marred by too many communicants who treat the Sacred Host like a crisp or candy. The thought of returning to either community was not pleasant, to say the least.

    Thanks be to God, a rescue was provided by the Ordinariate community, the “third option” oft overlooked by both EF and OF enthusiasts and desperate seekers of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. Since joining the Ordinariate community a year-and-a-half ago, I have found peace: i.e., Tradition (e.g., Prayers at the Foot, the Roman Canon, the longer Offertory); the vernacular (i.e., seraphic or hieratic English) and Latin; English and Latin plainchant and polyphony (we worship with Palestrina, Byrd, Vittoria on any given Sunday); real respect for the rubrics; superbly orthodox preaching (our former-Anglican ministers, among them two former bishops, now Catholic priests, are excellent preachers and can really sing!), communion on the tongue, ad orientem worship; etc., etc. In other words, and Deo gratias!, everything the Second Vatican Council truly envisioned and certainly everything hinted at by Pope Benedict XVI as the way things can and should be. Were it not for the Ordinariate, I would have gone East to a local Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish.

    The Latin Rite offers more than two prospects. Discussions need not be either/or. The Ordinariate Mass, known as Divine Worship, is most definitely both/and, in the best sense of that proposition. That cradle Catholics, Ordinary Formers and Extraordinary Formers alike, converts like myself, reverts and the previously un-churched regularly attend both the Said (Low) and Sung Ordinariate Masses, is a witness to God’s providential gift that is waiting to be discovered by others in need of the Eucharistic banquet as it is meant to be: true, good and beautiful.


    • Avatar Matt Jones says:

      WT…. Are you in Houston at Our Lady of Walsingham or where do you go for your Anglican Use Mass??

  2. Avatar Don Antonio says:

    I bet if you offered the Traditional Liturgy in English you would have many people attending! Its the structure of the Liturgy and the “choreography” .of the NO that most people do not like.

  3. I live in an area where the TLM is offered as the first Mass every Sunday morning at a regular parish. It is well-attended, but never “packed.” Nearby is a parish that is staffed by an order (priests and sisters) and offers five, very reverent (with beautiful music) OF Masses every weekend. The parish also has an orthodox and vibrant religious education program. Many large families are parishioners there, and many drive far distances to attend. Although we are supporters of the TLM, my family attends the latter parish. Parishioners where the TLM is offered complain the TLM group within the parish is exclusive and aloof. My family’s experience with TLM-only Catholics is that that are a kooky bunch (not everyone, but enough to color the group). They are exhausting to be around with their conspiracy theories, disrespect of the papacy, uptight traditionalism, and narrow ideas on liturgy (i.e. 1950’s American experience and the low mass). I want our children to have a healthy parish experience of Catholicism. Rather than trying to increase TLM attendance, I think traditional, loving Catholics should pour their efforts into making the OF as reverent as possible.

  4. LOTS OF GIBBERISH. First of all there are no VALIDLY ordained priests in the Novus Ordo. THE “NEW MESS” is a protestant, pagan service DEVOID OF ANY SANCTIFYING GRACE. The TLM Is alive and well in traditional chapels worldwide said by VALIDLY ORDAINED PRIESTS.

    • Wait, are you a shill, Marie? Or is it just coincidence that you are so convincingly proving the preceding point by Katherine?

      • Normally I would not dignify your comment Marie, but it is so far out there that I want to do so. Please, unless you hold a Doctorate in Sacred Theology and are an ordained bishop (preferably ordained according to the old rite as far as you are concerned) you are not part of the Magisterium. Unless you can show that your view is held by a General Council of the Church your ridiculous assertion is just a sad sign of anger and ignorance. You are free to spout whatever you want. But it would be better to save your opinions for others who can relate to your alternative “magisterium”.

    • What we need is a sedevacantist like Marie here!! She apparently has never watched validity of NO sacraments by Fr. Hesse. (She might) say he is not a validly ordained priest because he was ordained in the new rite.

  5. No, I don’t believe there will ever be a widespread return to the TLM. Traditional Catholics are in the same disadvantaged position as High Church Anglicans- we are outgunned and outmanned (or, to assuage progressives, out-individualed).

    Modern Western Catholicism is toast.

  6. Avatar Alice Moore says:

    Thank you for this interview and article. I live in Idaho and the only Latin Mass is over 400 miles away…. This would not be a problem if we at least had a reverent Novus Ordo Mass. We do not kneel for the consecration or “Behold the Lamb of God….” we are too “enlightened” for that. Thanks to our old bishop– and the new bishop (3 years ago) sees no reason to change. We are in a sad place….

  7. Avatar Matt Jones says:

    You can hear Dr. K on the Mike Church Show on the Veritas Radio Network from time to time.

    His book is essential to understannding the when and where the Mass of Ages was usurped and when the Rupture of Continuity began.

    He is an intellectual stalwart in the mold of Von Hildebrand and Davies!


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