Why I Didn’t Go to Confession Today.

This morning I attended Mass rather than concelebrated Mass.  Earlier in the week I was unable to find a Saturday morning Mass anywhere in the area so I was pretty much going to have to miss Mass today.  But late last night on the internet I found a church abut a half an hour away that had an 8:00 AM Mass.  This was doubly good for me because I wanted to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation if the priest had time after Mass since it and been a few weeks since my last confession.  But it was a little late to make any arrangement for concelebration.

I left around 7:15 AM and got there in plenty of time to spend some time preparing for Mass and, hopefully, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When Mass began, the priest, a guy about my age, came out and said, “Hello,” and then proceeded with the Mass. The only problem was he had forgotten the Sign of the Cross. Well, maybe he was just a little distracted. I think we did the penetential rite but I’m not sure. There was no “Gloria” so I was beginning to think we weren’t going to be celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration since it hadn’t been mentioned yet but eventually we got there when he “prayed” a spontaneous opening prayer that did mention the Transfiguration.

Things kind of went downhill from there.  I’ll spare you the details. I will say I’m pretty sure it was still a valid Mass even though he changed the words of the Eucharistic institution – a lot, not just a few.  There is a theological practice of the Church called “Ecclesia supplet” (“the Church provides”) where if a priest inadvertently forgets some of the words of the ritual form or changes them, the “Church” recognizes the good faith of those gathered and their right to valid celebration of the sacraments and provides sacramental validity in the case of a human error or priestly malpractice.  This is done for the sake of the people of God and not as an excuse for the sloppy or ‘creative’ celebration of the priest or bishop.  Even though the priest went way over the the line in terms of his ‘creativity’ this morning, I think the intention of those us who came to Mass was to celebrate the Eucharist as the Church intends and so it was.

As “Mass” progressed I was both disappointed and annoyed.  I wasn’t angry.  I learned the trick long ago of moving into emotional “cruise control” when this stuff starts to happen.  I also began to wonder if I should say something to the priest afterwards.  I mean, I was just there as a visitor not as his bishop or vicar general.  I was also on vacation so …  Nevertheless, I didn’t let it go.  What I did or did not do, I will leave between me and the priest.  I hope it was helpful.

I do know one thing.  I certainly wasn’t going to ask him to hear my Confession.  If he changed the words of the Institution Narrative, there’s no telling what he might do with the words of Absolution. I suppose I  could have asked him before we began the sacrament if he would be so kind as to use the Church’s rite and not his own but then that opens a whole can of worms. So I didn’t go to Confession. I’ll try and make an appointment with a priest and go Monday.  But isn’t it a shame that I couldn’t go to Confession?

Every time people ask my why some in the Church have a desire for the “extraordinary rite,” the traditional Latin Mass, I guess I can give them at least one good reason.  Masses like this.  When one attends the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite, you know what you are going to get. There is no one being ‘creative,’ no one making up their own prayers or rite, and no question of validity.  I am a chid of Vatican II.  From the time I was old enough to understand what was happening at Mass, it has been the Mass of Pope Paul VI.  I have been formed in it.  I have studied it.  I love it.  Out of it, I have been ordained a deacon, a priest, and a bishop to celebrate it for the people of God.  I have no desire to celebrate the Tridentine Rite but any time I hear people criticize those who want the “traditional” Mass, I am more inclined to understand why they want this form of the Mass.  Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI – the Church’s rites and not the rite of Fr. X – then maybe there would be less clamor for the “traditional” rite.  Just a thought.



68 Comments. Leave new

How can this be fixed? I believe it is a contributing factor in why people (especially young people) leave the Church.

I call it my adventures of mass times.org, you really never know what you are going to experience when you go out of your own parish. I could share you some stories….

I don’t know if your still in Maine but I used to work with a priest who never prayed the Gloria except on Easter. Sometimes he skipped other parts too. The children were confused & that made it difficult for me as we were teaching the correct method.

There will never be less clamor for the Extraordinary Form, and not just for the example you cited, bishop. It is a matter of Catholic culture through and through, and a matter of doctrinal clarity in all its aspects. Practicing the virtue of religion is simply much easier using the 1962 liturgical books. I know you are a busy person. I’m sorry you probably don’t have time to study and learn the EF. Its richness and the effects it produces in the soul is amazing and something I wish for every priest and bishop.

I’m a child of Vatican II. I was born in 1977, and my family tried to find parishes that made some attempt at orthodoxy, at least, but you get what you get when reverence is optional.

In High School, I got involved with a religious order that offered masses with more traditional trappings. Nothing huge, I suppose, but they were reverent, orderly, didn’t improvise their way through the liturgy, and did things like use incense and elevate the host for a good period of time at the consecration. In college (at Franciscan University) I found that I was very turned off by charismatic Masses, and sought refuge elsewhere. I discovered the Byzantine liturgy in a neighboring town, and began attending. The symbolism was richer, the liturgy more edifying, the aesthetics and gestures and prayers all put me in a more appropriate state of mind for worship than anything I had previously seen.

From there I wound up picking up speed, finding a Latin mass according to the new rite, then finally taking a gamble with the “extraordinary” form – back when it was still called an “indult.”

I have to say, this journey felt to me like a maturation in my spiritual life, not a throwback or an escape. It was like moving from childhood to adulthood, including a deepening of my understanding of just what the Liturgy means, not only for us, but to God the Father, toward whom it is oriented.

My family and I (I have five children) have been attending the traditional Mass exclusively since 2004. I’m convinced that if I had continued on in the rite of Paul VI, I would have lost my faith by now. I very nearly did anyway for a while, but the very fact of just how serious the traditional liturgy is about the worship of God and the reverence that He is due is extremely significant on a psychological level for someone struggling with his faith. Ceremony, ritual, gestures, actions, aesthetics – all of these are anthropological tools that help us to contextualize the mystery we believe in. They anchor it to reality, in a sense.

The more loose, improvisational, and lighthearted liturgy gets, the less believable it all becomes.

I’m sad to hear that you’re not interested in learning the old rite. It’s your birthright. It’s a treasure that nurtured virtually every saint yet raised to the altar in the past 1500 years. It is in fact the fruit of their prayers, work, and teaching. It inspired the best artists, writers, musicians and intellectuals of the Western world, even when they did not share our Catholic faith. And it is probably more important to your flock than you (or possibly they) realize.

The first few times I attended the traditional rite, I wondered what all the fuss was about. It takes time to transcend what you know and step into that holy space that seems wholly outside of your experience, knowledge, and even your language, and realize how deeply you can encounter God there.

I wish you would have said something, as we can never be on vacation from our state in life as a Catholic. This happens often to the faithful and easily excused when we say something.

Thank you for your honest assessment, your excellency! If only more could be so concerned to actually promote the need for us all to be attentive to the deviations in the Mass. There has been some of that in the masses I attend recently, and I have been wanting to mention something, and I think you have inspired me to do so! May Christ bless your ministry!

How very sad. If only we could send some of those who were formed so poorly back to the seminary. I’m so glad you talked with him.

I appreciate your experience – which is what a lot of us experience quite regularly – but the blog post is marred by such a shallow understanding of the traditional rite. It is actually a little scary that a priest and bishop with a doctorate from a Roman liturgical institution doesn’t grasp the importance of the Catholic rite that was the norm for 1500 years.

Perhaps you should go down to Holy Rosary in Indianapolis and actually *talk to the parishioners* and priests and see why they are there – I am sure you will find that it goes deeper than “some idiot priest somewhere ad libbed the Mass.”

Sounds like you could have been in almost any parish in the diocese of Fresno. More games these priests making their own rules and ignoring Rome. Thank God I have been able to attend the Extraaordinary Form in my are for twenty years.

When one attends the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite, you know what you are going to get. There is no one being ‘creative,’ no one making up their own prayers or rite, and no question of validity.

If a priest prays an Extraordinary Form Mass in a low voice, hardly audible to others, how can you tell if he is doing it properly or not? How can you tell if he is torturing the Latin or saying it properly? How do you know if it is “valid”?

It seems to me that we really don’t know how well or how poorly EF Masses are celebrated.

Conversely, given the personal biases of the trad liturgy police, perhaps there is too much unwarrented questioning of the validity of OF Masses.

Well, as a Catholic who has attended primarily the Mass of Pope Paul VI since becoming Catholic I can say the desire for the Extraordinary rite is also centered on its reverence, beauty, doctrinal strength, organic development and not merely on poorly celebrated Ordinary rite Masses (though I’m sure they don’t help).

Hang on; does not “Ecclesia supplet” refer to the supplying of jurisdiction in certain cases, not rendering valid an invalid sacramental form?

David. My understanding is that it is used in both senses, the technical canonical and the sacramental.

The first line of your post reminds me of the story (some of which may be legend) of Bishop Ken Untener in Saginaw. He showed up in street clothes one week to a local parish in his diocese with no welcome whatsoever. The next Sunday he showed up in his house cassock, and as you could imagine they were all over him about how wonderful it was that he came to visit them. His response was, “Oh, I was hear last week too.” They were baffled, and he made his point…as a generality-Catholics don’t do a great job of welcoming new people…

A few years ago, I went to confession to a priest of a certain religious order. He made up his own absolution formula. Something like, “Well, God loves you very much and He has forgiven all your sins and faults. Have a nice day.”

I challenged him and said, “With all due respect, Father, those are not the Church’s words of absolution.” He replied, “Well, what do you say when you hear confessions?” I said the correct words of absolution, according to the Rite.

The confused Father replied, “When I was a young priest, I prayed to the Holy Spirit and He led me to these words which I have just said.” “But no, Father, that’s not valid,” I told him. He said, “You mean to tell me that all the confessions I’ve heard in the last 40 years have been invalid? I see that you are the one with the problem. This is your issue and you need to work through it.”

At that point, I left and went to another town and remade my confession to another priest.

Dear Bishop Coyne,

I love both forms of the Mass. The Novo Ordo when celebrated in the intent in which is was instituted can be beautiful and reverent. You just need to view a Mass on EWTN to experience the beauty of the Novo Ordo form. However in my parish as well, my pastor deems it necessary to inject innovation and improvisation to the Mass. The dispensing of the Sacraments should be the top priority of any Priest. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Too bad your Excellency you should have stayed for confession, you might have been surprised because if the penitent line was too long, you might have been granted general absolution. Thankfully you didn’t become ill and require hospitalization, you would have to be on the verge of death in order to obtain a priest who would dispense Last Rites. OOOps almost forgot the Church decided to extend the Sacrament to all who are gravely ill and call it the Anointing of the SICK, I guess they forgot to inform some of our Priests about the change. I too live in a tourist area and cannot help but wonder what people from all over the Country are thinking when they experience this kind of flippancy towards the Mass. For those of us who are parishioners we try to avoid that priest like the plague. I can’t help but wonder how do you expect people to have respect for the Church when it more often then not does not practice what it preaches??? You want to begin to see the end to the abuses (both spiritually and materially) in our Church? Begin with the correct execution of the Mass, the Sacraments being administered correctly, bring back devotions (especially to Our Lady) for the people to practice and begin to be an oasis in the world for the people who are truly searching for the Lord. The Lord will do the rest!!! God Bless You! I will remember you in my prayers!

Your Excellency,

Unfortunately what you have experienced is what so many of the faithful must endure everyday, as I am sure you are aware. Imagine the suffering of the elderly who have to endure “creative” liturgy every morning because they cannot drive far or are stuck with “Fr. X” for any other number of reasons. You can not be more right about people flocking to Traditional Mass because of liturgical abuse. I, on a number of occasions have had to ask a priest to use the proper formula for absolution, even to the point of asking him to repeat after me. Bishop, thank you for your candid, yet prudent post. Having men like you and my own bishop at the helm gives me hope that mornings like you experienced will soon be far behind us.

Sincerely in Christ,
(transitional) Deacon Casey

A big reason I prefer the 1962 Mass is because of the huge lack of reverence found in many Novus Ordo Masses. That and the rampant liturgical abuse found in many places.

If the Novos Ordo was largely celebrated correctly, I would not be as much of a fan of the 1962 Mass. However, when the priest acts like a circus performer, and gives borderline-heresy fluffy homilies that leave the congregation vague, confused, and feeling good……something needs to be fixed.

The Novus Ordo is great when celebrated correctly as seen on EWTN. Sadly this is few and far between.

How odd that a priest would do such a thing in the presence of his own bishop. That truly makes you wonder what’s going on in his mind.

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I’m a convert to the Faith (came in when I was a teen) and never really attended a Latin Mass until I was at a Discalced Carmelite Monastery (where it was celebrated on special occasions). I do hope, Bishop, that you wrote a letter to the Bishop of that particular diocese where the questionable Mass was taking place. That would be the greatest charity one could do for the faithful who are stuck there (and I say, stuck, because if one continued to attend knowing there was something “off” with the Mass each time they went, it wouldn’t be innocent anymore).

Personally, I loved this article, as it gave me faith again in the authorities in our Church. We’ve seen so many scandals and betrayals of both clergy and laity, that it does make one wonder how many of us are actually faithful? True, we all are sinners and are struggling on that path (myself included) but the clergy are suppose to be an example of what the rest of us have to do (and should become spiritually).

Thank you for the great article. 🙂

I guess I don’t understand what one thing has to do with the other. The ordinary form of the Mass has structure that is supposed to be used. I don’t understand why a priest using the wrong structure means we are supposed to change to another form? Can’t a priest misuse the extraordinary form, also?

I belong to a Latin Mass parish run by the fathers of the F.S.S.P., but since it is some distance from my home, I sometimes need to go to a closer Mass, and that means the post-Vat II Mass. I’ve never experienced an “odd” moment during the Latin rite. The Mass is said as the Mass is said. No room for creative out-takes.

When I am at the newer Mass I find anything can happen. None of the English Mass parishes I have attended sit, stand and kneel at the same place in the Mass.

I went to a Newman Center’s late night student liturgy and was surprised to see that not only did the priest improvise his own eucharistic canon, but they modified the creed to be gender-inclusive and the priest paraphrased the Gospel from memory.

A different creed, a different canon and different scripture? At what point does this qualify as a different religion?

Thanks, Your Excellency. It’s nice to know that even bishops sometimes don’t know how to solve a strange situation! We’ve all been in equivalent situations. I do not think that problems like this are solved by bulldozing others, even if they are mistaken (as was this priest). Thanks again!

To T. Tucker (above) – in fairness I am on vacation and not in the Indy diocese. The priest wouldn’t have known me from any other poor soul.

To Gerald Midkiff – I will look into this further – this is what I was taught – it’s always a gray area as to how much is too much (if you know what i mean)

For those that are expressing concern that I didn’t celebrate Mass yesterday, I did later in the day.

Let’s remember a bit of wisdom from Blessed John XXII, “In all things charity.”

Dear Bishop Coyne – It is very understandable that you were on vacation outside of your jurisdiction and couldn’t do much about this. But please, please (especially when you become the ordinary of your own diocese someday) speak out on this topic to your own priests. One of the main things that faithful Catholics want, whether they be partial to the EF or the OF, is for their bishops to stand up for the faith in a public way. Many of us all over the country have to put up with liturgical abuses, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and a few words from the bishop can have a major impact. Thanks for your great post!

Unfortunately, this is not the exception but (ironically) the “rule”. I cringe when my family assists at Mass when we are traveling. I never know what I will end up having to explain at my kids, or if we will have to walk out. In my own diocese, I know of VERY few priests who are faithful to the GIRM. I also harken the call for you to speak to your flock about this. There are too many of us suffering from the heartbreak of illicit and invalid sacraments, and too few bishops doing anything about it.

Excellent post your excellency! I come from Montreal and this kind of stuff is the norm. The funny thing is that they wonder why the parishes are empty! Young people, under 40yrs old desire Truth! I have been to some very holy ordinary form Masses but most of them have the priest’s ‘signature’ in the them. The EF I love because as you said I know what I’m getting and my prayer and focus is there!

Your Excellency,

I’ve read this blog post twice, and I’m amazed that you have so accurately described the situation thousands of the Faithful experience daily.

We’re currently spending the summer in upstate NY (Diocese of Albany) and I’m deeply saddened by the condition of the diocese I grew up in. Everyone is supposed to “feel good” and accept everyone and every action (NY recently adopted homosexual marriage). One church I attended routinely changes words to established prayer to make them “gender neutral” (for us MEN and for our salvation turns into “for us faithful and for our salvation”). Most of the priests are so afraid to be “insensitive” and to spice things up routinely change words of consecration, eucharistic prayers and more.

For the same reason, I have a hard time going to a priest here for the Sacrament of Confession (they’re only offered for 1/2hr before mass, on Saturday, if at all) – and most confessionals have been removed.

The practice of removing the tabernacle from the altar and positioning it “to the side” distresses me. I’m not coming to hear pretty music, I’m here to worship my Lord.

Today, I attended a different church. I typically kneel to receive Holy Communion, but was actually told to stand (by the Priest) before receiving. Naturally, I did, to avoid a scene, but bowed in respect before receiving.

It’s not like this in my home area, that I’ve encountered – a rural area in the Diocese of Raleigh.

My question, which I hope you’ll have time to answer, is what should our responses be, as laity, to these situations? I was brought up to respect Priests, so saying something is very difficult for me. I’ve exhausted most of the churches within 20-30 miles of here, and I’m still struggling to find a “correct” mass. Traveling outside the Diocese isn’t an option at this time, and there are very few Order Priests left in the area. What should we do?

Thank you again for your post – it’s really helped me understand that I’m not alone in noticing the abuses happening in our parishes.

Anthony Mack
Deaconate Aspirant

Thank you so much for this refreshingly honest post from someone such as yourself. I converted to Catholicism in 2007. I now work in RCIA. In the seven years that I have been attending Mass, I have never encountered a convert who desired to become Catholic because of the beauty of the(Novus Ordo)liturgy. They come in largely because of marriage or because they are convicted of the truth. They come in DESPITE how the liturgy is being celebrated. I could spend hours describing all of the liturgical abuses I’ve encountered in such a short period of time.

We’re SO tired of this. Please do something…

A bishop walks into a church to hear Mass… no, it’s not a joke. I wish it was, because that way it would at least be funny. This is an anecdote worth reading and meditating about.

Thank you for sharing this. I am soon to be 33 years old, so I’m a child of the Novus Ordo Misae. I am thankful that I never saw this kind of creativity from a priest. I’m Mexican, so there is some traditionality expected. It is in the USA that I found out that these things happen, and it isn’t surprising that the traditionalist movement is so strong here as well.

I recently discovered the Tridentine Mass, and even flirted a bit with a couple of sedevacantist groups. Even though they have very good arguments and logic, I think I saw holes in their discourse and decided (as personal judgment) that they’re wrong about the see being vacant and the new rites (ordination, mass, et al.) being invalid.

Long story short, I fell in love with the so-called “extraordinary rite”, such that whenever I have a chance to attend to one so-called “traditional mass” I do it with great pleasure. My experience and my poor-man’s analysis have taught me that some things were lost in transition, and others were won.

Excellency, I thank you again for sharing this story, and for confirming to me that a Mass is a Mass, is a Mass, and that we’re protected from weird politics and wild creativity from several angles (ecclesia suplet, perpetual priesthood, etc.).

Now, my question. If I go to a Mass which is not held in communion with the pope (e.g. sedevacantist, SSPX or the such), now that I have knowledge of their status, as long as it’s a valid rite and a validly ordained priest, would I be incurring sin against God or the Church?

Thank you, and God bless you!

Scrambled asked, “Can’t a priest misuse the extraordinary form, also?”

The Novus Ordo allows for an unprecedented amount of licit improvisation, whereas the traditional Latin Mass does not. Some priests think that, because they have freedom in some parts of the Mass, they think they can extend that same liberty to other parts of the Mass.

This week, I attended mass with five of my children and after reception of the Eucharist, a man stepped forward, testified that he had just overcome cancer and sang a solo version of amazing grace without other music. People applauded when he finished singing. It was…distracting. I did not wish to be uncharitable, I was glad the man had received the gift of health, but personal stories are not what that time is about; we should know about each other’s crosses but in the proper context which is not when we are supposed to be considering how we just received the Eucharist. Plus, this is not a concert, no clapping for singing, the singing is to be prayer, not performance.

To Feto – remember that our celebration of the Mass is an expression of many things, most especially “communion” – in the unity of the Eucharistic prayer in the unity of belief and practice, we become “one body, one spirit in Christ” – as a Catholic I would want to celebrate/share/worship in the unity of the Catholic faith of the Latin and Eastern Catholic communions – when we relieve Communion, we are not only saying we believe in all that the Church teaches about the Eucharist but that I am in communion with the Church by virtue of my holiness of life and my profession of faith.

So, we are not, unfortunately, in communion with the sedevacantist and the SSPX communities – for you to receive communion with them is to say that you are in communion with what they believe – if that is not the case, you should certainly not attend services within those communities.

Lest you think I am being too “hard line” about this, you need only know that a sedevacntist or a member of the SSPX community would not participate in our sacraments for similar reasons.

Edit to above post: “relieve” should read “receive”

Thank you, very much, for your response.

I agree with every word, but I hadn’t seen it from that angle before. I will now only go to a Tridentine Mass if it’s celebrated according to the Motu Proprio. I’m very fortunate to have a Norbertine abbey nearby, and they celebrate the V2 Mass with a solemnity that I have never seen elsewhere, so I don’t miss the Tridentine Mass all that much.

Again, thank you for your response, and God Bless you!

I thought I am alone in getting uncomfortable when some priests celebrate the Mass according to their own personal rites and not according to the Church’s rite as laid down in its liturgical documents like the ‘General Instruction of the Roman Missal’ (aka GIRM). When I complained about it, some priests say that the faithful should
stop criticizing the clergy but to just pray for those priests.
I reply that I follow St, Benedict’s (and the Benedctine Order’s) motto:
“Ora et Labora” i.e. Pray and Work (for the stop of these liturgical abuses). Also, I have the right to complain as a Christian faithful per the 1983 Code of Canon Law’s Canon 212 (sub-sections #2 and #3).

When I wrote letters to my local bishop, I get the usual going around
the issue (e.g. my pastor using EP for Various Needs on a Sunday in
Easter time, the bishop replied that those EP are valid and approved, as if I do not know that, but he did not answer my direct question about the improper use by my pastor).

“Zelo zelastum sum pro Dominum Deo” (1Kgs 19:14)

CharlieG, OCDS

Thank you, Your Lordship! I have absolutely no problem with the Mass of Paul VI celebrated according to the Rubrics, but I am not telling an untruth when I say that in the 30+ years I’ve been a Catholic (I’m a convert) I have seen it done so only once! Sometimes there are egregious abuses, sometimes it’s just a little tweak to make it ‘politically correct’, but only once in 30 years??? That is why, given the choice, I will ALWAYS attend the EF or an Eastern Catholic DL.

As a very new Catholic, one of the things that drew me to the Church and out of Protestantism was the (I thought) uniformity of the ritual. I had always felt that no matter where I might find myself on Sunday morning I would know what I was getting when I walked into a church or cathedral. I have found that this is not always the case. To me one of the beauties of the Catholic Church is its constancy throughout the millenia, to the point that I can read about a Mass celebrated by St. Francis or St. Ignatius of Loyola three hundred years apart and almost a thousand years ago and be certain that I could have participated with them and felt at home and in a familiar place.

As an ex-Protestant I can attest to the distress that the lack of uniformity in those congregations caused me. I want my worship to be as close as possible to that of the first century Christians, to be rooted in the Church as it was established on Pentecost. If one wants to “do his own thing” there are many churches out there that will allow exactly that. I appreciate the conservatism of Pope Benedict and his determination to make sure the Church remains as close to God’s plan as is humanly possible. I have seen the results of worship rooted in the current trends of society, and I don’t like them

Thanks, Bishop, for your observations. They are balanced and pastoral. God free us from the Liturgy Police who have taken your observations as red meat.

Bender –

I see your comments everywhere. They are often very much the same. Suffice it to say, at our FSSP parish, what you claim is not a problem. In fact, my pronunciation of Latin has markedly improved since we began assisting there. I think generally FSSP and SSPX priests are extremely careful and reverent with all the form of the Mass. That carefulness is inculcated in them as an elemental aspect of their priestly formation. Since FSSP and SSPX make up the majority of the priests celebrating TLMs in this country, I don’t think your concern is valid.

Your Excellency,

It is certainly the case that many of the faithful, including me, who desire by personal preference to attend Masses celebrated according to the forma extraordinaria, are frequently (further?) inclined toward it at least in part on account of liturgical abuses found during celebrations of the forma ordinaria that we have been present for or heard of. It is also the case that permitted variations in the celebration of the Novus Ordo do not always help us to develop, have, and maintain a proper interior attitude while attending at least certain Novus Ordo Masses. That, of course, does not make us like its rubrics more than we would otherwise. I grant all of this quite freely.

However, it is also the case, particularly for those of us who have made something of a real study of the two forms, and in my case as someone who has served Masses in both forms on a number of occasions, that some of us ‘traditionalists’ prefer properly celebrated Masses according to the 1962 Missal to properly celebrated Masses in the Novus Ordo, even were there to be identical scholas (or no schola), were the entire Mass (but the homily) for the Novus Ordo to be in Latin, were the Novus Ordo Mass to be celebrated ad orientem, etc., even were both Masses celebrated by the same priest. Liturgical abuse is not the only big cause, as previous commenters have said.

I was both surprised and pleased by your blog post, especially the end of it. But, Your Excellency, if you have not already, please put some serious time into understanding reasons why a growing number of lay people love the 1962 Missal on account of its merits, rather than the weakness of certain celebrations of the Novus Ordo Mass. (If you have done so already, I think that I and a number of the above commenters would particularly appreciate knowing this.)

I write this comment as a young (male) Catholic convert from Protestantism who made the decision to convert before I was able to attend a single Mass, as someone who has since come to love the Mass and particularly when celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. I prefer any reverent and licit celebration of it to all licit celebrations (reverent or not) in the Ordinary Form whether I am given the opportunity serving or attending that Mass in public or private, in Latin or English, during the week or on Sunday, on great feasts or ferials, with whatever sort of music (Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, hymns in Latin and/or the vernacular, modern vernacular songs of Catholic or other origin, no music), ad orientem or versus populum, with or without a homily, with or without incense, etc. I have both served and on other occasions attended Masses of all of the just-mentioned sorts, in both forms, insofar as some of those aforementioned variations are only permitted (or, re:music, reasonably found) in celebrations of the Ordinary Form. I have a good idea of the variety of celebrations (reverent and not) of each form that is possible.

{Cont. below since full length comment does not seem to wish to post.}

I prefer the 1962 missal on account of the merits of the 1962 missal. I even prefer less reverent Masses celebrated according to the 1962 missal than equally sub-reverent ones in the Novus Ordo (although between a reverent Mass according to the Novus Ordo and a noticeably irreverent Mass according to the 1962 missal, I will pick the reverent Mass, of course.) Enough of the merits (as I see them) of the 1962 missal the present missal does not have (although it has others) to more than sway my decision, although I am still quite willing and happy to attend or serve Mass in the forma ordinaria. I also know a fair number of fellow young men for whom the this entire paragraph is also the case. Most of them are seminarians and have as much or more (often much more) experience with both forms as I have. (All of us, incidentally, are orthodox and great admirers of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, and not merely because of his actions and writings regarding the liturgy.)

Finally, Your Excellency, I ask that if it is ever asked of you, and you are able to, please celebrate Mass in the forma extraordinaria for the faithful. Based on your post, I would expect that you would, but I want to make that request explicit (as one who might never again set foot in your country, never mind your diocese, and would therefore most likely never attend such a celebration). It is heartening for me to see or hear of a bishop participating in a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, even if he is not the celebrant. Such episcopal participation also makes it easier for additional Masses in the Extraordinary Form to be provided to the faithful, whether they already desire it or are simply interested in it.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for reading my long and perhaps quite tedious comments.

Your Excellency,

Thank you and all of those that have commented for their insights. It seems so disrespectful to me when Priests “improvise” with sometimes with such a carefree and careless attitude; as if making the beauty, formality and the richness of the mass into a casual social gathering will make us want to come and hang-out with the Lord more or something. It doesn’t.

Two years ago I went to visit a friend, then a seminarian, at his new parish and attended mass there on a Sunday as he was so upset by what he was encountering. At the point in the mass when the Priest generally holds the Eucharist and cup up in reverence the “priest” flung his hands out wide with the cup waggling this way and that and proceeded to say the prayers in such a casual attitude. He looked and sounded intoxicated as the precious blood spilled over the rim. No reverence.

When this happens I am saddened for us all. Good parenting requires discipline and not a casual attitude. As a “Father” I would prefer my priest to be an example of discipline on the alter and not a casual clown. I would prefer him to provide me with a loving but rich and meaning-filled mass that brings me closer to Him not leave me mocking Him.

Thank you. Carrie.

Your excellency: Though there is only One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, there are two “Christologies” and two ecclesiologies de facto in today’s Catholic Church.

My own bishop does not understand the anger that a few feel over these types of abuses because a vast majority of Catholics have become so “numb” over these types of creative omissions… that they no longer complain.

Not every one has been taught to control their emotions as well as you have been able to do in cases like this.

Mother Angelica (who is almost looked upon with derision by most of the priests in my diocese) used to call this experience “The Electric Church”… she would say “where each Sunday you get a new and different shock”.

When it comes to the Tridentine Mass there are three types of bishops: Those who “get it”, those who “manage to contain” the movement so that it can be limited in a variety of ways, and those who almost openly despise it by putting up every kind of roadblock.

It is very difficult for a “Child of Vatican II” to see beyond Vatican II to the previous councils, and documents. For example, Gregorian chant having prominent place in the liturgy was never abrogated… but affirmed in Sacrosanctum Concilium! Also, there were developments in some of the documents which the Church has yet to clearly assimilate and explain (like the controversies arising out of th document on religious liberty).

The root of the problem is that most bishops believe that we are living NOT a “Crisis of Faith”, but a “Crisis in Culture”. And that phony assertion is an enormous and comfortable ecclesiastical cop-out.

Thank God there are a few good men who are beginning to wake up and smell the incense. I’m afraid it’s already too late for Europe. The American Catholic free fall is well under way.

I believe most priests who were trained in the last 45 years need to be completely retrained. That is a very hard thing to say… and it would mean near martyrdom for most bishops. The liturgical view you were exposed to is just a reflection of the theological haze that is caused precisely by a relatively unimportant council which taught nothing dogmatic in the first place (see the end notes in the council documents for this fact).

The false ecumenism, moral proportionalism, charismania, protestantization, hypersexualized “Theology of the Body” (forgive us John Paul II… for our TOB lecture networks totally misrepresent what you taught) and unwillingness to enforce canon 915… are all symptoms of a Church which no longer teaches what good men once believed always and everywhere.

Lex orandi, lex credendi.

If you intend to do battle against this… you will find a willing crowd in the Church to work with you. Most of us are between the ages of 7 and 25 and have no emotional attachment to a minor council like V-II.

Servus, Bob from Long Island.

You know, when you think about it, the idea that this priest may be celebrating invalid sacraments, and allowed to do so, is amazing. How would you like it if every time you went to your doctor, you were never quite sure that he/she was goving you a prescription for an actual medicine, or a placebo?
I have long thought that bishops should let the local parish priest preach the homily when they are visiting so they can see if the priest is doing a good job, and help educate them if they are not. Now I am wondering if bishops should visit parishes incognito just to see what is taking place in the celebration of the sacraments!

Your Excellency,

I’m a 21 year old young woman who has attended the Extraordinary form of the Mass for about 4 years now. Before that I was lucky enough to be in a parish that had beautiful, reverent, Novus Ordo Masses. I grew up with the Novus Ordo and I have never had the desire to poke fun at it, or to make people who attended it feel that they were “less Catholic”.

But I would never want to go back to the Ordinary Form. My reasons are not complicated: In order to survive as a Catholic in a world that celebrates comfort, celebrity, and entertainment, I need structure, discipline, and to participate in the *Sacrifice* of the Mass. I don’t need 45 minutes of entertainment. I can get that on YouTube. I need overwhelming beauty that helps me elevate my poor human heart and mind to Christ and His Truth. I need to look at the celebrant, realizing that he is an imperfect priest, but see Christ in Him. I can only do this when the Rite of the Mass is bigger than the people in the pews, not the other way around. I think this is what most people need, young or old, man or woman – whether they know it or not.

And the Extraordinary Rite is big. It is bigger than the parish it is celebrated in, it is even bigger and more timeless than any diocese in the US. It holds a universality that the Novus Ordo, familiar and valid though it may be, will never have. It challenges the priest to respect his office, and it challenges the people to focus their eyes on the Four Last Things, not their priest. It requires an involvement that is not necessarily obvious to the onlooker, but is an integral part of the life of the Catholics who attend it. For young men especially, the very habits of the Old Rite (the preparation of the sung Propers, the preparation of the incense, the setting up of the Altar, the prayers before Mass, the Asperges Me, the Last Gospel, etc. . . ) reinforce the sacerdotal mystery which is unique to the mission of Christ and the dignity of Catholic masculinity.

In contrast, the freedom of the Novus Ordo – which is unfortunately translated by many priests as the the freedom to market one’s own priesthood and personality at the altar – has succeeded only in inspiring the disdain of young men. People know when they are being talked down to, young men especially. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite mitigates personality not because it is cruel, unfeeling, or un-imaginative, but because it makes room for the One Man. The One Personality. The One loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God. That is why the priest faces away from the people. He too must sacrifice his agenda at the altar. “Nobis quoque peccatoribus.”

To paraphrase Cardinal Ratzinger, “We are not a community turned in upon ourselves.” Even at its best, the Novus Ordo still encourages a community to celebrate itself. A most egregious example of this would be the commonness of clapping at Mass or at an ordination.

In short, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, by its own iconography, mitigates against the “pro-abortion Catholic”, the free-styling priest, and the lukewarm bishop who won’t even enforce Canon Law.

With respect, love, and prayer,
Moira Fox

My personal favorite form of Mass is the Novus Ordo done right, which whatever the other qualifications means at least “consistently.” That’s why I go to the Extraordinary Form.

I’m trying to discern a vocation. Too bad the local diocese is one already mentioned in the comment thread. I am in a place where I suspect most orders of being Jesuitical until being proven faithful. Despite my appreciation for the Ordinary Form, I find myself hesitating towards the FSSP. Yet I don’t appreciate the temptation of the TLM parishes to be little Israels entrenched against a hostile bishop.

I think most at my parish don’t want necessarily the Extraordinary Form. We would settle for Form.

First, I’ll start off by saying that I am a new Catholic. I was baptized this past Easter so I’m still in the “new to the faith learning phase”. A few months back, while on vacation, I attended Mass at a church in California. Right from the start, I was confused as to what was going on because the Priest was doing things and saying things that I don’t remember seeing and hearing at my church back in Indy. After Mass, while walking back to our hotel, all I could think about was what I just experienced. Is this how Mass is supposed to be experienced and was my Priest back in Indy doing it all wrong? I immediately starting researching those questions and, thankfully, found that my Priest was doing it correctly. The Priest at the church that I just attended was doing Mass the way “he” thought it should be, I guess. Now, was he wrong? I’m not the one to say but it was very confusing to me. Especially, being so new to the faith.

Your Excellency, I think you can see from the comments above that this is a common problem for many who attend Mass. When my husband, son and I moved to Indianapolis, we first tried out the parish closest to us and were…well…unsettled by what we experienced. My son was in Pre-K at this parish’s school and after experiencing the Masses there we decided to find him another school to attend for kindergarten because we didn’t want him regularly exposed to Masses that were questionable in their validity.

So, we tried out Holy Rosary in Indianapolis which is 15-20 minutes from our home. You know, of course, that they do the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms there and both are beautifully done. Confession is available before every Mass. We were so relieved. There is also a school there that attends Mass at Holy Rosary daily. Now my son attends that school (Lumen Christi)and we’ve become regular parishioners. I know that there is something rare and special at Holy Rosary – especially when I travel and I have to squirm through badly done Masses. All I can do is pray that the “church supplies,” as you said above, and that the priest celebrating someday realizes the sacredness and importance of saying the great prayer of the Church the proper way.

We are so blessed to have you in Indianapolis. I hope someday to meet you in person.

I appreciate the comments. I use the book with the current use of the Mass (i.e., the Roman Missal) without any agenda. I read the prayers in advance and sometimes even set the preface for the daily or Sunday Mass that connects best with the Scriptures of the day and my homily if that’s possible.
I do wonder if the sweeping comments about the Tridentine use of the Mass are fair. How do most of the faithful know if the celebrant priest is pronouncing the Latin properly and thus celebrating a valid and licit Mass? What if he skips a prayer or says it wrong or doesn’t carry out each rubric correctly? Will most people even know? Even with a Latin Missal, I wonder how many people can actually follow it, since most of the priests words are supposed to be inaudible if the Tridentine Mass is being celebrated properly.

Our parish daily Mass is at 7am, and while I’ve never skipped a word or changed a word of the Epiclesis or Institution, I do know that sometimes after evening meetings and appointments until 9pm at night, waking up and being alert at 7am is not always easy. I can’t imagine attempting to celebrate Holy Mass at 7am in Latin as precisely as the Tridentine use demands after a restless or shorter night of sleep than I needed. I also can’t imagine doing it if I was ready to retire and slowing down in all areas of activity.

I pray that a new appreciation for the celebration of the Mass develops that sees the importance of the role of the priest as celebrant and the role of the Assembly as active participants in the holy celebration of the Mass develops. What I believe will stimulate this are two things a priest who just became a pastor at a near by parish told his parishioners: “I am not here to close your parish. I am here with the promise that I will celebrate the Mass well, with joy and enthusiasm about what I am doing. And I will always be prepared to preach my homily. I will have a clear message and it will be rooted in the scriptures of the day.”


Let us continue to pray for the teachers in our seminaries, to teach our future priests to become good and holy priests who are faithful to the rubric.

Your Grace,

Thank you very much for this honesty. As my story below will show perhaps I was unlucky not to have been in your diocese.

As a former (Eastern) Orthodox Priest I have tried to enter into full Communion with the See of Rome. One of the points at which the process broke down was precisely the point where I could not in good conscience celebrate a “Ordinary Form” Mass even the ’62 Ritual with its radical changes in Holy Week is a severe difficulty. In defence of the ’62 Ritual it ought to be said that the Mass is definitively a Sacrifice (that of the Cross) and THEREFORE it is “communion” in the Ordinary form communion is affirmed but sacrifice is not adequately taught in text or ceremony. I will not say that the Ordinary Form is, in my estimation as an outsider, invalid – I am sure it is not – but like in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer an opening is created for heresy. For ceremony, ritual, as well as text teach. If the text is catholic but the ceremony and ritual are not it seems to me that we have moved into dangerous territory. I would argue that the Dutch Priest celebrating that infamous “Soccer Mass” in honour of the Dutch football team during the FIFA (2010) world-cup celebrated an heretical Mass. His Bishop merely reprimanded him. The Mass/Eucharist is a Sacrifice and from its sacrificial nature it is also communion or common work (leitourgia).

I could not in good conscience vow to a Roman Catholic Bishop that I would celebrate an “Ordinary Form” Mass if it should be necessary. Not because it is invalid, as I said earlier I accept the classic distinction between heresy and invalidity, but because celebrating a rite so open to misunderstanding is at best misleading. Yes as a (former) Orthodox Liturgy matters an aweful lot to me. It is a way in which God can be heard to speak to us. Reform in Liturgy is periodically necessary (I also do not question that) but I think that Reform ought to be traditional rather than innovative. Tradition is NOT opposed to creativity but rather places the center of gravity in the Spirit of God rather than the spirit of man. Changing the Liturgy should be done with the greatest care (if at all) precisely because God reveals Himself in and through it. I mean we would not THINK of changing Scripture, why do we treat the Liturgy so differently? Does the Bible itself not derive much of its authority from continuous use in Liturgy?

Again an outsider’s view here. But an outsider who would have loved to have been in full communion with Rome but finds his way blocked by the New Mass. This may seem “hardline” but as a Priest – and you and I both share in the same Priesthood but in differint degrees – I am responsible for what I teach and lead “the flock” into. My objection to serving “Ordinary Form” is not essentially “aesthetic” or even “liturgical” it is first of all “pastoral.” As Priests we are required to teach and lead the people into all truth – the Mass being a central point of that truth.

This truth and living/teaching it with the people of course entails more than just the Mass. But your article was limited to the Mass and so limit this long response to the Mass as well.

Gregory +

Fr. Shaun:

The difference between making errors in Latin pronunciation or intricate rubrics because one is tired and changing the vernacular words and structure because one…likes it better…should be obvious.

The point being:e the ad-libbing and such that a priest does in an Ordinary Form Mass are inevitably tied to his ego. They are tied to the conviction that *he* knows better than the universal Church. They are tied to the conviction that the congregation would benefit from hearing *his* creations than the words sprung from tradition.

With that in mind – re-read Moira Fox’s comment. She wins the thread – as we say in Blogland. Lovely.

Dear Bishop Coyne,
I am quite late to the conversation and most, if not all of what I would have to say has already been said (and more eloquently) by others. However, from my corner of the pew it seems worth mentioning again that liturgical abuses are not the only reason that many faithful are “clamoring” for the extraordinary form of the mass. I was first exposed to the extraordinary form long before I had been educated that there were in fact rubrics and that no, father isn’t supposed to be doing a puppet show at the altar. But I fell in love with it nonetheless, because of its inherent value as a reverent and powerful means of conferring the sacramental grace won for us through Christ’s Paschal Mystery. It is spiritual “meat” compared to the “milk” one often finds in the Novus Ordo. Both are needed, for we are not all at the same point in our spiritual development.
Another post referred to the “two Christologies” operative in the Church. Indeed, there has always been the danger of overemphasizing Christ’s humanity at the expense of his divinity or vice versa, because our finite minds struggle with the hypostatic union of two natures in one person. It seems the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form are the flag-bearers of these two foci: the NO, as often improvised and celebrated, seems to emphasize the horizontal dimension of our faith – building and celebrating community. If we feel good enough about ourselves and our neighbors, the argument seems to go, then we will find God in our midst. Whereas the EF seems to emphasize the vertical dimension of our faith – restoring and strengthening our relationship with God through Jesus Christ as a prerequisite not only for salvation, but for any meaningful human relationships. I think the people that are clamoring for the extraordinary form are doing so because they are aware of the multitude of civic, cultural, social, and even technological ways in which we can build and strengthen community. An hour in a pew on Sunday can’t hold a candle to facebook for that. However, when it comes to building and strengthening my relationship with God, no human endeavor – scripted or improvised – can match the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Thank you for your blog and your ministry.
Humbly Yours in Christ,

Dear Bishop Coyne:
I can sympathize with you since it seems that the changing of the words of the Eucharistic prayer is all too common. I asked our priest not to do it,and he took my suggestion for a week and then lapsed back into saying the usual words he had used. When you consider that many of us in the Archdiocese live in rural IN (where I live there is roughly one Catholic per square mile), it’s not as though we have a choice of Catholic churches to attend.

You mention how difficult it is to find a Saturday mass. How true. This past Saturday was also the First Saturday. It is extra difficult for my family to participate in this devotion since there are so few Saturday masses outside of the vigil mass.


Nicely said.

Come. Home.


“Every time people ask my why some in the Church have a desire for the “extraordinary rite,” the traditional Latin Mass, I guess I can give them at least one good reason. Masses like this. When one attends the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite, you know what you are going to get.”

Yes. Exactly. This isn’t the only reason I prefer the EF, but it is one of the major ones. What a blessed relief to be able to go to Mass and worship, worship, in peace.

Your Excellency,

Thank you so very much for this post!!!! I quit attending Mass in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis because of improvisation, lack of reverence, and questions about validity. I now attend Mass in Louisville KY–having moved from Bloomington IN, to be in Sunday Mass range of a Mass celebrated IAW the GIRM. If a Mass I could get to was available to me in the Archdiocese, I would attend that, and transfer my financial support there.

You did not address homiletics, but I was appalled to hear sermons at St. Paul’s, b-town praising move-on.org for all it’s good work that was so catholic–when it supports gay marriage, abortion, etc.

It’s sad, when you can’t find an open Church, your pastor preaches immorality, and you’re not sure if the Mass is even Valid, it’s so poorly conducted.

St.John the Baptist catholic church 452 N.26th St Louisville,KY. Pre-Vatican 2 mass Sunday 10am Saturday 8:30am Mon-Fri 7:30 am.Confessions before every Mass 15 decade Latin Rosary , Sunday 8:30am.

Your Excellency,

In all due respect, I believe you are mistaken as to the scope of the canonical institute of ecclesia supplet. The Church supplies executive power of governance in cases of common error or common doubt, whether of fact or of law (See canon 144, CIC/83). The Church does not because she cannot make good the lack of form in a sacrament. What is often confusing people on this question is how the canonical institute of ecclesia supplet operates not infrequently in the sacrament of penance. When a priest lacks the necessary faculty to receive sacramental confessions, and if there exists a common error or common doubt as above, then the Church would indeed supply the faculty, rendering valid the priest’s absolution which would otherwise be invalid. That said, if the priest changed the words of absolution (in any substantial way) the Church could not supply or make good that defect as it touches upon the form of the sacrament itself. Anything related to the matter or form of the sacraments is outside the pale of ecclesia supplet. All of that said, God bless you for the work that you do in the Church and for the generosity with which you serve the People of God.

In Christo,


Your Excellency,

Thank you for your post, and for your service to the Church. I agree with almost everything in this post, but I also have some questions about the application of Ecclesia supplet in this case.

I am concerned here that your words could very easily be interpreted to mean that “Ecclesia supplet” can somehow make up for a lack of valid form and matter. If this were the case, then where do we draw the line? Isn’t that the whole point of discussing what constitutes proper form and matter (i.e. to determine exactly where the boundary between valid and invalid Sacraments lies)?

Perhaps this is not what you actually meant? Perhaps the Priest used illicit but valid form, and thus transubstantiation occurred. In that case, is this really a case of “Ecclesia supplet,” or merely making a distinction between validity and liceity?

Would you be willing to do a more detailed post on this topic, in order to clear up any confusion about what you meant?

Offering my sentiments of filial respect,
David <><

God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life a Spirit of Power Love and Discipline
But the Holy Spirit was able to minister to their greater creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and we must be “perfect” to be worthy to stand in God’s presence
And if we each examine our own lives, I doubt there is one of us who can say, “I have not sinned
He has given us of His life and the fullness of the Holy Spirit

A holy man is one who manifests all of the Holy Spirit in his daily life
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power to his Church to absolve all
God’s eternal kingdom in faith will put God Word and His Holy Spirit in action in our lives
WE are accounted righteous before God, only of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

God the Father sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to reveal the Father’s love and grace
We rejoice that the Holy Spirit is come and abides among us
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God
Jesus Christ calls us, commands us, and allows us to speak with him to God, thus we are permitted, or commanded, to commit ourselves to God’s

We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit