X Close

Will Pope Francis kill the Latin Mass? He regards the liturgy as reactionary and effeminate

Pope Francis (Credit: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Pope Francis (Credit: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)


June 22, 2024   5 mins

A month ago, 18,000 young people walked on pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres Cathedral in order to demonstrate their love of the Traditional Latin Mass — an intricate and solemn ceremony which, to the horror of Pope Francis, is attracting an unlikely following among Generation Z Catholics.

Inside the 800-year-old cathedral, the Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, once Pope Francis’s doctrinal chief and now one of his leading critics. His meticulous ritual actions were followed with rapt attention by the congregation.

Very few of them were born when this rite of Mass was mothballed after the Second Vatican Council in 1970. Even the 76-year-old Müller was ordained priest long after it had disappeared from parish life. He has only recently learned to say it, in response to an unprecedented demand created by Pope Benedict XVI’s bold decision in 2007 to make the Traditional Latin Mass or TLM available to Catholics everywhere.

But will the annual Chartres pilgrimage ever happen again? This week Rome is buzzing with rumours that Pope Francis — a veteran opponent of the old liturgy, which he regards as reactionary and effeminate — is planning to ban the Latin Mass from almost every Catholic church in the world.

Three years ago Francis instituted a partial ban that ejected TLM faithful from churches that, in some cases, they had paid to restore. The retired Benedict was grief-stricken by the decision but had taken a vow of silence. In the United States, the heartland of the Generation Z renaissance, many traditionalists can now hear the old Mass only in church halls, basements or school gyms.

“Catholics who have never attended one of these services are alarmed by the Vatican’s increasingly fanatical hostility.”

The Vatican official responsible for enforcing Francis’s ruling, ironically entitled Traditonis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), is his liturgy chief Cardinal Arthur Roche, a native of Batley, West Yorkshire, who has approached his task with Cromwellian zeal.

This year, the power-hungry Roche forced his old rival Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, to ban the celebration of traditional Holy Week services in his diocese. This piece of arm-twisting prompted the Conservative peer Lord Moylan, a traditionalist Catholic, to write furiously in a post on X: “I heard a wonderful Tridentine Maundy Mass this evening. I shan’t tell you where it was in case Arthur sends his henchmen round. I’ll just say that English Catholicism has a centuries-old tradition of underground Masses. All that has changed is who’s persecuting us.”

The perception that Francis is singling out traditionalist Catholics for punishment beatings is no longer limited to Latin Mass circles. Many mainstream Catholics who, like me, attend English-language Masses are outraged by the Vatican’s vendetta against faithful believers at a time when the Pope himself is mired in scandal.

Scrupulously devout Catholics are being humiliated by a pontiff who is implicated in the protection of a string of convicted or credibly accused sex abusers.

The most notorious case is that of the fashionable mosaic artist Fr Marko Rupnik, a close ally of Francis who was thrown out of the Jesuit order after former religious sisters accused him of stomach-turning acts of assault, including rape. Rupnik allegedly justified his disgusting acts by invoking a dark sexual theology represented in his mosaics. Incredibly, he is still a priest and the Vatican communications office continues to promote his artwork.

One possibility is that new liturgical restrictions will be published on July 16, the third anniversary of Traditonis Custodes. That document restricted celebrations of the TLM to churches with long-standing permissions to host it, and to traditionalist priestly fraternities founded as an alternative to the rebel Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which recognises Francis as pope but rejects the vernacular modern Mass as invalid.

For popes John Paul II and Benedict, dealing with the disobedient SSPX, half in and half out of the Catholic Church, was a nightmare. But Benedict, in particular, shared the dissidents’ love of the Latin Mass while recognising that most Catholics prefer to worship in their own language. His historic 2007 ruling was intended to allow the old Mass to flourish alongside the new.

What he didn’t anticipate was that so many Catholics would embrace the TLM, whose words and choreography have not changed for centuries and is celebrated by a priest facing in the same direction as a silent congregation. They may be a small proportion of the world’s nominal Catholics, but their services are packed and their priests are on average at least 20 years younger than their non-traditionalist colleagues.

The Mass of the Ages, as devotees call it, offers a numinous and intimate experience to a generation who are repelled by services in which ageing “empowered laity” lead them in “contemporary worship” that, in the worst cases, resembles a cross between a 1970s game show and a campus protest. Now this spiritual resource is being taken away from them by the man they recognise as Vicar of Christ.

How can Rome possibly justify such cruelty? One argument used by Francis and his anti-traditionalist circle is that TLM adherents, especially in America, behave like a spiritually superior elite. And there’s some truth in this. The more fervent “trads” have adopted a form of fancy dress: the men wear beards and smoke pipes; their wives dress in conspicuously modest long skirts. They sometimes slip into patronising language that has alienated Catholics who would otherwise be well disposed towards them.

But these haughty “rad trads” are not typical of Catholics who attend the TLM, often in tandem with the New Mass, regarding it as a spiritual resource that adds to the Church’s catholicity. After all, doesn’t the hierarchy love to advertise its “celebration of diversity”?

At a time when liberal bishops across the Western world are encouraging their flocks to genuflect before the Pride flag, why is Rome unable to tolerate Catholic communities who prefer to worship according to the ceremonies — and beliefs — of their forefathers? Why does it caricature and bully its own traditional believers in a fashion that the ancient non-catholic Eastern Churches find sinister, as do many Anglicans?

There can be no definitive answer, because no one really understands the thought processes of Jorge Bergoglio. The 87-year-old Pope’s recent decisions have been quixotic, contradictory and divisive. No sooner had he given his permission for blessings of gay couples last December than he had to withdraw it. He was caught using anti-gay slang, roughly translated as “faggotry”, and despite the outcry immediately repeated it. He has now doubled down on his opposition to ordaining women as priests and deacons.

One theory is that, having let down members of his progressive fan club on so many key issues, the Pope is trying to placate them by kicking traditionalists. If so, he is pursuing a self-defeating strategy.

Put simply, Francis is losing the confidence of his bishops. It sticks in their throats that a pontificate that bombards them with jargon about “synodality” forced Traditionis Custodes on them without warning, undermining their authority in their own dioceses.

Many mainstream bishops who don’t particularly like the old form of worship nonetheless enjoy warm relations with local Latin Mass communities. They regard them as loyal Catholics. In England, especially, Traditionis Custodes has revived memories of the Tudor persecutions. What will happen to Old Rite Catholics if the Vatican turns the thumbscrews yet again? It’s worth noting that the heroic Elizabethan clergy who emerged from priest holes to say Mass for recusant Catholics were celebrating a liturgy very similar to the one Francis is trying to suppress.

The sense of a scandal-ridden pontificate losing its grip is now so strong that, to quote a Vatican source, countless bishops think it would be “both nasty and stupid” for the Pope to employ religious police to snuff out the Traditional Latin Mass.

Ordinary Catholics who have never attended one of these services are alarmed by the Vatican’s increasingly fanatical hostility to a beautiful expression of worship. Until now they have remained silent out of loyalty to the Holy Father. But their patience is likely to snap if their traditionalist brothers and sisters are subjected to yet another mauling by their shepherd.


Damian Thompson is a journalist and author

holysmoke

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

99 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Murray
John Murray
1 month ago

As a young Presbyterian in Northern Ireland I remember my crushing sense of disappointment upon being told by a Catholic friend in school (somewhat disgustedly) that no, they didn’t have the mass in Latin, that was all old hat. My Pythonesque conception of what a Catholic service must look like was dashed to smithereens.
So, I’m all for the Latin Mass. I would not dream of attending one myself, but if there is going to be Popery then I want to know it is being done good and proper with Latin and lots of bells and smells. Might as well just be a Prod otherwise.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  John Murray

Also interesting to watch John Cleese go on a Christian podcast two years ago. Monty Python did a long-term service to the Church by mocking excessively pointless rituals.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Huh! The Church had given up on most of those rituals before the Pythons got going. They were shooting at easy, outdated targets.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

Cleese ceased being funny roughly a half century ago.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
29 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Throughout this discussion it seems to be assumed that the Tridentine mass is “THE” Latin mass or “THE mass of the ages”. Now I would like to ask what about the much older Sarum Rite? This Latin Mass originated in Salisbury (England) but was widely used throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. What persuaded the Council of Trent to replace it by what is now known at the Tridentine Mass? What were the important differences, and did anybody stand up for the Sarum Rite? If so, how were they treated? Important lessons might be learned from this.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
29 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

To answer my own question (thanks to Wikipedia): in 1570 the Pope ordered that the version of the Missal that we now call The Tridentine Mass was to be in obligatory use throughout the Roman Catholic Church “except where there was a traditional liturgical rite that could be proved to be of at least two centuries’ antiquity”. Of course the Sarum rite was more than 200 years old by this time, and so would have benefited from that exemption.

Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
27 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

Which is how the Ambrosian Rite survived in Milan and the Mozarabic Rite in Spain. The Sarum Rite surely disappeared in England at the time of the Reformation.

Ruth Seddon
Ruth Seddon
29 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

The Sarum.rite was English and so disappeared in the Reformation. Elements of it survive in Anglicanism.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
28 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

The Reformation came along, so English priests trained in Rome and Catholic Europe used the ‘local’ mainstream Roman rite. When the English hierarchy was restored, the bishops wanted to emphasise their fealty to the Roman customs.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

See expanded comment below

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

The Roman Rite of Mass, which this debate concerns, was never the sole Latin Mass in the Catholic Church. There was the Ambrosian Rite used in Milan and the Mozarabic Rite (which has more survivals from Greek than just the Kyrie Eleison used in Toledo and Seville among other uses. Several religious orders had there own specific rite of Mass – the Dominicans, Carmelites, Praemonstratensians, Carthusians and Cistercians come to mind.
Nor was the Roman rite of Mass exclusively in Latin. In some Italian dioceses it was available in Greek; in parts of Croatia, it was celebrated in Old Church Slavonic; it was celebrated in an old form of Hungarian. For a short time, convert Episcopalian communities in the US had it in Jacobean English and some Jewish converts had the possibility of Mass in Hebrew. This is not an exhaustive list and I am referring to the Roman Mass and not any permitted Eastern liturgy.
In regard to the Sarum Mass, this was adopted in Ireland by the Synod of Cashel in 1175. The newly arrived Normans would have used it as would the Ostmen in Dublin and Waterford (descendant of Christianised Vikings) who had been looking to Canterbury and York. The Gaelic Irish church had used the Gallican liturgy which seems to have been the liturgy St Patrick brought from Lerins and Tours. The Sarum rite ceased to be used in Ireland for the same reason that it ceased in England after the Counter Reformation: priests trained in continental seminaries brought back the Roman rite. However, there was a continuity between the Gallican, Sarum and Roman liturgies which was only broken in the 1960s when the newer Roman liturgy was introduced.
There was an Aberdeen Missal, which I understand was a localised version of the Sarum rite used in Scotland. I remember trouble in the 1990s when the then Bishop of Aberdeen, Mario Conti, said Mass in this rite (before he was made Archbishop of Glasgow).

Ernesto Candelabra
Ernesto Candelabra
27 days ago

Thank you for this. Fascinating.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

I’ve often said that I would have jumped ship to Greek Orthodoxy years ago if only I could reconcile myself with their position on the filioque, but I can’t, so I’m forced to put up with papal monkeyshines. Sedevacantism’s starting to look pretty good, though.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

Nice history lesson there with those two terms. Cheers.

geoffrey cox
geoffrey cox
1 month ago

There shouldn’t be a problem about the Filioque. A number of Greek Fathers upheld the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit (so it’s not heretical); the Orthodox objection is that the Pope altered the wording of a creed, which he had no authority to do without a decision of a Council of the whole Church.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
29 days ago

I was an Evangelical Protestant for 40 years and then returned to Catholicism. I almost went the route of Orthodoxy……actually, I am on board with the Orthodox filioque view. Let’s be honest……we see through a glass darkly. It was a nasty power struggle in 1054. No wonder Jesus wept for the unity of the Church.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 month ago

An evenhanded treatment of a subject seldom treated that way. One quibble: The Vatican II documents do not “moth ball” the Latin right. They permitted the vernacular.

William Perry
William Perry
1 month ago

Correct – with the emphasis on “permitted”. Vatican II did not envisage it being mandatory, nor did it give any encouragement for the wholesale junking of the existing rite of Mass. What Catholics have ended up with bears no resemblance to the Council’s mandates.

Tony Nunn
Tony Nunn
29 days ago
Reply to  William Perry

Sounds rather like what happened in the Anglican church with the “Alternative” Service Book.

Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
27 days ago
Reply to  Tony Nunn

Series Three was grim and the Alternative Service Book of 1980 grimmer still, but Common Worship is a step back in the right direction. The worst thing about it is the Psalter which has been mucked about with just enough to make it difficult to sing (especially to Anglican Chant) if you are familiar with the old Coverdale translation, but even the Revised Psalter is nothing like as banal as the Gêlineau-inspired RC responsorial psalms (experto credite), which seems to have been composed by someone completely unfamiliar with English speech-rhythm (not surprising since its origins are French !). And of course the (1662) Book of Common Prayer remains “permanently authorised”. Would that the Knott Missal were also.

Frank Leahy
Frank Leahy
28 days ago

You are confusing two issues, one being the rite of Mass, the other the language the language spoken or chanted at Mass.

As you say, Vatican II permitted the use of vernacular but did not mandate it. The reason why Latin was replaced almost completely was that most priests and parishes were keen to change. In England the bishops tried to limit this process by obliging each parish to have at least one Mass in Latin every Sunday, but the groundswell of desire for change was too great; this is something I regret but that is what happened.

Changes to the rite of Mass, ie the ceremonies and texts, officially written in Latin even if subsequently translated, were most definitely mandated by Vatican II; the phrase used was that the rite was to be “thoroughly revised”. This was part of a pattern of changes which had been introduced throughout the twentieth century. In fact, many of the changes made in the 1950s and early 1960s only make sense in the light of the changes made after Vatican II.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago
Reply to  Frank Leahy

I think there was a lot going on, but there was a sense of exaggerated ultramontanism which implemented what it believed was Pope Paul’s wishes.
What I would like to know more about is why the Dominican and Carmelite Orders respectively replaced their own distinct rites of the Mass with the Roman Mass at the time. I know some monastic orders did the same, but the lay faithful didn’t have much exposure to those.

Frank Leahy
Frank Leahy
27 days ago

I didn’t speculate on why there was a thirst for change, because I don’t know. I expect you’re correct about the ultramontinism, as the change in language occurred before Humanae Vitae and the anti papal revolt. But in addition it was a time when change was typically seen in a positive light, and the herd mentality would have supported kicking over the traces.

I too wonder why the orders you mention abandoned their own rites instead of reforming them along the same lines as the mainstream Roman rite, which surely would have been possible. It would be interesting to know.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank Leahy

The Ambrosian Rite in use in Milan did just that – and I believe Pope Paul as a former Archbishop of Milan had a direct input. I agree that the orders could have easily have updating their rites, especially as the Dominicans have traditionally been a very independent minded order and a separate rite underscores that independence.
I did notice some survivals of the Carmelite Rite in the way Carmelite priests I have known celebrate Mass, such as the way they hold their arms during the canon and the final blessing.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
27 days ago

‘Rite’.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
27 days ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Yes, thank you.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 month ago

The reason behind Pope Francis’ rejection of the TLM is that it has become a rallying point of opposition to his papacy within the church.

Barbara Manson
Barbara Manson
1 month ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

I don’t see it that way. There was no problem until he started picking on the TLM. Francis and his henchmen have been discomfited by the attraction younger people, especially families, to the older rite, preferring it to the ’70s makeover that was supposed to appeal to them.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I think your point complements mine. I speak as a fairly conservative Catholic – former evangelical Protestant – and there’s definitely a fringe of anti-Francis types among the TLM faithful. I’m often puzzled or frustrated by what he sometimes says, too.

I personally don’t attend the TLM – I’m not aware of any parish that celebrates it in my diocese, but I would hate for it to be restricted. If younger families are attracted to it, that’s great.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
27 days ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

I don’t think that reaction to Francis is exclusive to TLM adherents. I think the concentration of them among TLM communities makes them an easy target. And one that doesn’t have the clout to kick back. It might be observed that this is more the act of a schoolyard bully than of the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 month ago

Stick to this tone and you will win more people over to your cause. I can’t speak from within but the tone here is much more reasonable than in some of your other articles.

Invoking the Elizabethan persecutions when it is the pope conducting them (or about to) puts you in the protestant camp definitionally. If you can find it in your heart to have compassion for the victims of the Marian persecution – with some caveats – as well as the Elizabethan ones it would serve you well.

I hope you are able to worship in a way you see fit. Don’t let a man, even man in a palace, tell you you’re “not allowed”.

Heidi M
Heidi M
1 month ago

What I have seen, in part because of Pope Francis’s sledgehammer to Latin Mass, and also in part the firmly entrenched contemporary Masses so aptly described, is that many younger Catholics are pursuing other rites, such as the Byzantine or Marionite. Indeed as a young family the draw is much higher to these rites where one would be in good company with other younger and traditional families than in the aging, barely breathing Roman rite congregations. It seems to be something which is not well pursued or looked at yet internally with the Church, and indeed a good indication of the thirst of its people.

Anthony Crooks
Anthony Crooks
1 month ago

A couple of observations. I wonder what impact in Britain there has been with Ordinariate priests taking over Catholic parishes through lack of priests? Has the clumsy language of the current contemporary Mass turned the heads of younger parishioners towards the Latin Mass?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 month ago
Reply to  Anthony Crooks

It must have – the contemporary mass is desperately trite and not spiritually uplifting. Even a non-believer by contrast can take something from the celebration of the sacrament in the Tridentine tradition in communion with so many generations of Catholics who have gone before.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
28 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

The simple wording of the current Mass is okay at informal events like a family mass, and even for quick weekday masses. Maybe a twist or two is needed but I wouldn’t over-egg the pudding.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
27 days ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Direct, simple wording in one’s own language has its own beauty.

Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
27 days ago
Reply to  Anthony Crooks

The Ordinariate surely has its own missal – though one would have to drive 50 miles each way to hear it used.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
1 month ago

The current incumbent of the Holy See is now in the process of excommunicating Archbishop Vigano, who has cocked a snook at the Vatican and has not appeared at his Potemkin hearing, yesterday. I’ve been told I’m going to Hell for supporting the Archbishop. Ah well, at least my tomatoes will ripen in the heat …

Ernesto Candelabra
Ernesto Candelabra
1 month ago

Very nice piece. It sounds like my suggestion that we pray for those who write about church politics was heeded. This is a much more charitable treatment.

I am baffled by the prohibition on the Latin Mass and while I don’t attend those Masses myself I know many admirable people who do.

Why not allow the traditional rite and at the same time get rid of the awful and frankly unprofessional new translation of the Mass in English that was introduced in 2010, which would fail a translator’s exam.

We need to restore the beauty of the liturgy in words and shouldn’t be afraid to borrow wherever appropriate from the Book of Common Prayer.

Damian Thompson writes beautifully about music. Maybe he could get behind the restoration of poetry to the English liturgy?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
1 month ago

Totally agree about the 2010 translation. It’s a dog’s breakfast. It replaces perfectly good English words with Latinised calques in a way that suggests English is some barbarous native patois too coarse to accommodate a theological vocabulary – which is probably how some of those responsible think of it.

Arthur G
Arthur G
29 days ago

The 2010 translation is at least correct. The previous version altered the Latin in theologically significant ways.

Ernesto Candelabra
Ernesto Candelabra
29 days ago
Reply to  Arthur G

There is no reason why a translation can’t be correct and also beautiful. It’s not enough just to be correct if it’s hard to listen to. At least the translation is not so poor as to be comic – an ever present danger with that incompetent approach to translation.

It’s a mess as they should have either have banned the vernacular or fully allowed it. As it is they have allowed it in a way that doesn’t work.

Unfortunately it became a political lightening rod and was presented as a test of obedience. We do suffer from the fact that no recent Pope has had any personal affinity with the English speaking world, despite the English martyrs – though at least Benedict did venerate Cardinal Newman.

Janet G
Janet G
28 days ago

Thank Cardinal Pell for that one.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago

Yes, the 2010 translation leaves a lot to be desired and it looks to me to have been done by a committee whose normal reading doesn’t extend very far outside theological manuals. The problem is that the translators of the 1971 missal departed far from the original Latin as anyone used to attending Mass in, for example, any continental European language would have found. I grew up attending Masses in English and in Irish and when I noticed the difference, with naivete I assumed the major international language would have to be right, but when I learned Latin and became familiar with the Ordinary Form Latin Mass (which is not affected by the rumoured decrees – these affect the Extraordinary Form, even if Traditionis Custodes make this term obsolete), I realised the shoe was on the other foot. However, in 2010, the Church just didn’t have the scholarly resources at her disposal as she did in 1970. So, in 1970, the opportunity to have a reasonably good English translation was blown; in 2010, there just weren’t enough translators with the significant background in English and Latin literature and theology to do any better than a technically correct rendering of the Latin.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago

Right, get rid of the services where a drum set, keyboard and guitar accompany a joke-cracking pastor in blue jeans and a Hawaiian shirt.

Janet G
Janet G
28 days ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

You omitted the word ‘male’. The joke-cracking pastor, just like the Latin Mass priest is male.

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago

There is no profit for the church to desperately ingratiate itself to the woke; it’s like if Jews capitulated to Hamas: what do they expect will happen? On the other hand, it is genuinely heartwarming to read that congregations are swelling with young people who cherish the continuity of tradition, and the constancy and gravity of sacred rites that TLM provides.

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago

I have some sympathy with him on this, even if I don’t like what he is doing.

I share his personal visceral response to the ‘boys in lace’ nature of the LMS. I hate with a passion their refusal to concelebrate the Mass of Crism in the vernacular. Indeed I say they have placed themselves ex communion. I utterly reject the argument that “is their charism”; there is no such charism.

However, I did take the trouble to read Traditonis Custodes. In it he lambasts trendy, liberal services as “barely tolerable”. And yet tolerate them he does; why? If there is no Latin Mass charism, neither is there a liberal charism that refuses to wear any vestment except, reluctantly, the stole and has old women around the wooden table that passes for an altar, all because it’s “inclusive”.

So my position: the post Vatican Council Extraordinary Form is a treasure of the Church; it’s adherents most definitely are not! His Holiness has a problem with them, one I support him in addressing.

Theodor Adorno
Theodor Adorno
1 month ago
Reply to  David Giles

Ironically, given your overall support for the Holy Technocrat, you’ve identified the key problem – a personal visceral response (both the HT’s and yours) is motivating dunderheaded policy – let the congregations choose for themselves and vote with their rosaries!

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
1 month ago
Reply to  David Giles

So what you really object to is (a) men wearing lace; (b) ‘old women’ (would young ones be more palatable?) in the vicinity of the altar? I submit you are a misogynist who might be more at home in one of the beardier, more thoroughly patriarchal religions such as extreme Calvinism or Islam.

Veronica Lowe
Veronica Lowe
1 month ago

Tomorrow we will celebrate our titular feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. so will end our Mass singing Salve Regina. I have been teaching it to a couple of 17 year olds, but plenty of our 20 nationality congregation know it well enough to sing. There is some use of chant Masses, and two of the rare BBC broadcast ones this year have used Credo III. Small steps to dignity.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
1 month ago

He regards the old liturgy as effeminate?? How in the name of god does he work that one out? – or has our columnist picked the wrong word? Good column, whatever. Catholics (I used to be one) and Anglicans (I am one) … which church will destroy itself first?

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago

It sometimes seems to be a race to the bottom. There are a lot more competitors here than just Catholics and Anglicans though – there’s a lot of mainstream Protestantism in there too. I think most of the Orthodox world and evangelical Protestantism are the only groupings sitting this one out.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
29 days ago

I’ve been attending a Latin Mass in recent months and find it a breath of spiritual fresh air. Worship at its centre, kneeling for communion, which is on the tongue and no hand shaking (which I don’t mind but it does not take place where I attend).
The congregation is more diverse than my local church, admittedly it is closer to the city centre; people of all ages and nationalities; beautiful choir as well.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
29 days ago

It’s time for Jesus to call Francis home.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
29 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Has He given any sign that he wants him that close?

Max Finucane
Max Finucane
29 days ago

The Catholic church has a long and continuing tradition of scandal, zealotry, greed, sexual hypocrisy and sexual abuse of the most pernicious kind.
I collapsed as a Catholic manyyears ago and can only hope that, one day, a true Reformation takes place D.V.

Janis Barnard
Janis Barnard
29 days ago

During the television series, The Power of Mythology, Joseph Campbell said that the new Mass looks like a Julia Childs demonstration. I laughed so hard. But it hit a nerve that remains painful after all these many decades. I grew up in the pre Vatican II church and have never stopped longing for my old Latin Mass. I’ll never understand why we can’t have both. Pope Francis says making available the two masses causes disunity. The outright ban on TLM is causing more disunity.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
28 days ago
Reply to  Janis Barnard

Yes, you’re right. The disunity was caused not by the old right, but by the new one. Had there been no new right, there would be no disunity. “Modern” is a Latin word which means “just-now.” Modernity is “just-now-ness.” Francis, it would appear, is a throughly modern man.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
27 days ago

‘Rite’.

Claire D
Claire D
23 days ago
Reply to  Janis Barnard

Unfortunately, I think the fight to ban the Latin Mass by the liberal wing of the Catholic Church is political and only political. The argument that it causes disunity seems to be an attempt at offering ‘a logical reason’ for a position which is, in fact, ideological in the political sense.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
29 days ago

As a lifelong atheist, I really should not care the least bit about what the Pope says and how they pray in churches, but, it is my personal belief, that if you want to do religion, then might as well do it the old way. The point (one of the points) of religions is that they are not ephemeral, unlike social movements or customs, but they connect us withe the past. And by “past” I don’t mean my grandmother’s time, but times many many centuries ago. A thousand years ago. If you make religion sound like the way your neighbor talks to you then an important part of the context is lost. Would you want to to a San Pedro cactus ceremony in the Sonora Desert and hear the shaman talk to you in the tone of National Public Radio? No difference.

I have been to a few Latin masses (midnight masses on Christmas), apparently there are a few churches in my general area that offer it. Every time I went they were full. I stood, sat and knelt with the others, listened to sounding of the oratory, to the music, tried to hum with those who knew the songs, inhaled the scents and felt being part of an unbroken line that reached out to me from the depth of times and touched me and I felt rejuvenated and refreshed in spirit.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

There is a Christian in you trying to get out. See Pascal’s Wager on why you should let it.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
28 days ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

I think this is very wise. The great value of religion is that it has been around for so long and even those of us who are sceptical must recognise that its longevity shows it has some utility.
Moreover, perhaps it doesn’t make sense to try to understand religion. Perhaps the point is that the world is more strange than we can understand. Then listening to an ancient rite in a remarkable old building generates a sense of awe and mystery that is humbling and valuable.

But, hell, let people do what they find beneficial. Even if the old mass is silly, if people care for it, let them enjoy it.

One thing the Christianity has over Islam is that Christianity is a “take it or leave it” faith. Don’t be authoritatian.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
28 days ago

Catholics have a hard time leaving it because they get brainwashed by the fear of god and hell when they’re so young. In that sense it’s a cult like Islam.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
28 days ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Such shameless bigotry is surprisingly refreshing, even validating, like a slap in the face from a woke fanatic.

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey
27 days ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

You obviously haven’t been in to your average Catholic church lately. I can assure you fear of God is unfortunately never mentioned. It’s blandness and doctrinal ambiguity which have driven people away.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
28 days ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

As a lifelong atheist, I concur. I think it resonates because it’s all sort of Medieval like the way old churches in England feel when you go in them. It’s the closest one can get to feeling Pagan in the present. The Catholic church knew theatrical rituals were seductive that’s why they adopted them from the Pagans.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
22 days ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Comb your hair and clean up a little.

André Gushurst-Moore
André Gushurst-Moore
29 days ago

thank you, Damian, as ever. The Latin Mass, whether in the old or the new rite, reaches, brings into concrete expression, areas of spiritual experience where the vernacular liturgy frequently fails. I remember, in the early 1980s, speaking with my (and Damian’s) headmaster, Br Joseph Bell (RIP), about the Latin and the vernacular liturgies, and saying (with all the conviction of the uninformed sixth former I then was) that it was obviously better for people to celebrate the Mass in a language they understood. Br Joseph, no great traditionalist I think, and with a fondness for one or two execrable 1970s hymns, simply said to me, ‘Perhaps. But the old Mass made many saints…..’ His words, prophetic now, have stayed with me ever since, and often resonate. The vernacular, in all its banalities, is too close to the secular world, the culture of which has become increasingly barren, since the 1960s when it was born. The Latin liturgy is a sharp-edged ploughshare able to cut into this hard, arid soil; the vernacular is often too blunt. It’s not a form of escapism, but a really practical way of dealing with the current cultural landscape. That’s why the young turn to it. Where else can they go?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
29 days ago

Certainly the most Manly Mass is delivered in English, the language God speaks.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
29 days ago

If Latin was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me, that’s wot I say!

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
28 days ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

Surely, He used the King James version.

David Yetter
David Yetter
28 days ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

Har! har! I think Our Lord grew up bilingual Aramaic/Greek. (He did grew in Galilee of the Gentiles, where Greek would have been the lingua franca, and all his followers wrote in Greek for a few centuries until folks in the West translated things into Latin.)

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago
Reply to  David Yetter

I once heard an Indian Syro-Malabarese bishop (George Alencherry – subsequently Major Archbishop and Cardinal) recite the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Personally I found it like being transported back to biblical times. For a bit of context, it was on the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage that Damian Thompson refers to in his article way back in 2000. The Syro-Malabarese thrace their church back to St Thomas the Apostle and I certainly got a strong sense that that was the case from the experience.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
28 days ago
Reply to  David Yetter

I’ll use my sarcasm font next time.
Possibly the most revealing comment in this whole thread is a little further down, here – “Latin connects us to our faith’s origins” (italics mine). It most certainly does that, for Roman Catholics.

Frederick Jones
Frederick Jones
28 days ago

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. Popes are transitory the Church eternal.

Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
27 days ago

Semen est sanguis Christianorum

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
28 days ago

Sometimes I wonder, from here across the pond, what the modern world would be like if Catherine of Aragon had been a bit younger, or Henry VIII a bit more potent.
Would there have been an Enlightenment without a Calvin or a Cromwell? Would Martin Luther have remained just an obscure Augustinian friar? Would Ireland have even had a famine and a diaspora, and would North America have been settled by England at all, or only by France and Spain?
So much of the course of modern (post 1492) history seems to have turned on the course of Henry’s testes.
At any rate, this Pope is horrid. We had no idea how good we had it under Benedict the Inquisitor. A religion without its ancient rituals is at best political organization.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
28 days ago

The Reformation in Europe would have happened with or without Henry VIII, who was a sideshow.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
28 days ago

Not for the Anglosphere. The Anglican / Catholic split led, eventually, to the English Civil War, which in turn led to many of the descendants of the Cavaliers and the Roundheads settling Virginia and New England.
Bismarck eventually united the German principalities after the split between Catholics and Lutherans, after a remarkably lethal and lengthy war between the two.
But for centuries in between Germany was deeply divided, and was also deeply divided from Catholic Austria.
Bismarck never named a successor, nor was one ever found, which after Bismarck’s demise led to an aggressive and clumsy Kaiser blundering his way into WWI.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago

Well, Luther wouldn’t have got very far making a case for Sola Scriptura if the printing press hadn’t been invented. John Wycliffe, Peter of Waldo, John Hus and others essentially petered out very quickly.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
28 days ago

As a non Catholic I find the language of liturgy debate silly. I fail to see how use of both options threaten the Church, it’s teachings or its authenticity.

Francis has picked an unnecessary fight?

I welcome comments from.practicing Catholics of different thoughts on use of Latin

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
28 days ago

Latin connects us to our faith’s origins, from its beginnings as an obscure Judaic sect, persecuted by Romans, up to the adoption of Christianity as the religion of the western world.
Latin was the lingua franca of European scholars and scientists for centuries, and preserved classical learning through the Dark Ages, in our monasteries and rectories.
And it’s how our ancestors worshipped, through wars and plagues and journeys to the Holy Land, and Asia, and the American wilderness.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago

As a Catholic, my own preference is for Latin in the older form, but I would not impose that on my fellow Catholic. Is it unreasonable to expect the same courtesy from those who prefer the vernacular or the modern Latin version?
I also value the Greek, Slavonic and other liturgical traditions which the eastern Catholics practice.
In regard to the Pope picking an unnecessary fight, I believe he thinks that liturgical traditionalists are not going to kick back, but I don’t think he’s aware that there is sympathy for Catholic traditionalists beyond the Church. When in the main cemetery in Athens last November, I said a prayer for the late Metropolitan Christodolous of Athens who was a vocal ally in the Orthodox Church (one of many) and I am aware there is a lot of sympathy among many Anglicans and Lutherans too. Even sympathetic unbelievers find this difficult to understand.
On the Pope picking unnecessary fights, I think I have to mention the crusade against contemplative nuns, some of whom have been kicked out of their religious orders and deprived of their status as nuns . The treatment of these women is in marked contrast to the tolerance of the likes of Father Marko Rupnik, mentioned above, who though he was expelled from the Jesuits, remains a priest in good standing of his home diocese in Slovenia.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
28 days ago

Atheist here. When I’m in the mood I love to listen to plainsong, obviously I don’t understand a word but the effect of the sounds is so soothing. I guess that’s what the Latin mass does to its customers.
Other religions have kept their old words: Jewish ceremonies that have lasted for millenia; small Muslims learn to chant the whole Koran at the expense of learning science. Key to keeping the faith going and excluding the non-believers. Other minority choices are available, so far.

David Yetter
David Yetter
28 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The original version of Christianity, now called Eastern Orthodoxy, doesn’t change words lightly. I think the last change to the Divine LIturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great was adding “and air” following “who journey by land” in a prayer for God’s assistance to a long list of classes of people. We have, however, done translations as the Faith spread beyond the Greek speaking world, since the people are supposed to understand the Scriptures, the services and the hymns.

Wayne Kitcat
Wayne Kitcat
28 days ago

On the subject of the Latin Man (TLM). Quite apart from Benedict XV1 ‘Summorum Pontifical which made clear that the Roman Missal , promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 was ” never judicially abrogated ” (Article 1) we have Quo Premium the Papal Bull issued by Pope Pius V in 1570. This promulgated the Roman Missa and made its use obligatory throughout the Latin Church of the Catholic Church except where there existed a different Mass Liturgy of the Latin Church of at least two hundred years standing.
The Bull declared , with thanks to Wikipedia:-

By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it.” 

And he concluded: 

“No one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

This is much too “rigid” of course for Francis, he favours rainbow flags , guitars and the like but generation Z Catholics do not.

Dean Rutzen
Dean Rutzen
28 days ago

C.S. Lewis was onto something when he wrote that at most one word of the service (Anglican in his case) should be changed each century. That way, most worshippers would not be aware that a change had been made. Lewis added that Jesus’ command was “Feed My sheep,” not “Experiment on my rats.”

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
28 days ago
Reply to  Dean Rutzen

Lewis was originally Church of Ireland, which can be described as High Church in theology and Low Church in liturgy. But my experience of Irish Anglicans is that they don’t like change much. David Norris, a very long serving independent member of the Irish Senate for the University of Dublin (Irish university graduates still elect representatives to the Senate), said as much frequently. So that would bear out Lewis’ observation.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
28 days ago

This pope’s shelf life has come and gone. He makes foolish Justin Welby look deeply Christian.

David Yetter
David Yetter
28 days ago

We in the Christian East will be happy to provide properly solemn Liturgies for any refugees from the collapse of Latin Church into modernism (of course they’ll have to give up on the filioque, the notion that being in communion with the Roman Pontiff is necessary to salvation, and few other Latin innovations in doctrine). And, no, it won’t be in Latin — Greek, Slavonic, Arabic or either a high or low version of the vernacular language should be available. If they join the branches of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Anglosphere, they can even have a beautiful English translation of the Tridentine Mass corrected to include an epiclesis if they can find one of our Western Rite parishes that uses the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory, rather than the more usual Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (or of St. Basil the Great during Lent and on 1 January) of the Eastern Rite.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
27 days ago
Reply to  David Yetter

The late Archbishop LeFebvre was approached by an Orthodox delegation offering support for his movement if he would accept communion with the East. The Western Orthodox churches offer a variety of Latin rites including the Gallican and Sarum liturgies. I am also aware of the Eastern Divine Liturgy being offered in Latin, which is the only place you will hear ‘Domine, misere nobis’ rather than ‘Kyrie Eleison’

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
28 days ago

I have heard those who attend the old rite speak of its greater power but I had never experienced it until the most recent time I was present at one. It’s a difficult mass to follow, taking 6 months to really learn its patterns, so my mind was on other things when I unexpectedly felt a moment of joy, as if someone I loved had just walked in. I looked up to see that it was the moment of consecration. My reaction was “Oh, there’s something in this after all.” Perhaps it helped that I went to confession before mass and was involved in a sacrificial act that day. A week later I randomly opened the page of a book which described how St Bernadette experienced a sudden sense of joy and therefore knew that Our Lady was waiting for her at the grotto. She’s my confirmation saint so that’s gratifying.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
27 days ago

I am sure that traditionalists can use good arguments in defence of the Latin Mass, but linking the present Pope to rapists is not a fair or reasonable argument.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
27 days ago

As usual, it is all about money and power. Asia, particularly China, is a growth market for the Church of Rome. It is hard to find new customers with a death language. Local vernacular is far more effective. Of course, in this day and age of AI any mass can be construed and be enjoyed. Either in the privacy of one’s home or on one’s iPhone amidst the congration. Better use earphones with cords, because we do not want interference with the message from the man above.

J.P Malaszek
J.P Malaszek
27 days ago

Yes, very difficult to understand the current pope, I guess he was formed by the stuggles of the church in 1970’s Argetinina under military dictatorship. I go to the Latin Mass every so often at Brompton Oratory in London, it’s so BEAUTIFUL, it gives me a boost. I’m neither a liberal or traditionalist. But the way things are going I find myself increasingly sympathising with traditionalists, the opposite apparently of what the pope wants.

Frederick Jones
Frederick Jones
25 days ago

Is not the traditional Mass part of the Deposit of Faith which Vatican One said was not within the scope of Papal authority to alter?

Josef Švejk
Josef Švejk
9 days ago

I have been disconnected from the Catholic Church for many years but I did enjoy the Latin Mass. A knowledge of Latin helps. It is a personal preference really. The discussions herein remind me of those a thousand years ago as to how many Angels could fit on the head of a pin.