the universal-indult watch

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Apr 11, 2006

The silence from Rome is getting downright noisy.

The rumor mills have provided dozens of reports that Pope Benedict will soon issue a document regarding the Latin Mass. But the stories are invariably laced with words like "could" and "perhaps." There has been no confirmation from the Vatican, nor any denial.

Vatican officials who might ordinarily provide useful insights are ducking questions. They are not saying that the reports are wrong. They are simply... not saying.

In his own blog Father John Zuhlsdorf has neatly summarized the circumstantial evidence pointing to the likelihood that the Holy Father will soon confirm the right of every priest to use the 1962 Missal. To his impressive collection of evidence, let me add this: the Congregation for Clergy is still leaving open the possibility that Pope Benedict will issue a statement on Holy Thursday-- which is now less than 36 hours away!

Taken all together, the evidence suggests that Church leaders know there is a statement ready for release, but the exact nature of that statement, and its timing, is known only to Pope Benedict and his closest associates, who (as we already know) don't leak stories to the media.

My own prediction-- based on hints and inferences and hunches, nothing more-- is that the document will be at least as strong as a universal indult, but will not resolve the canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X. Again that is a prediction, not a report.

When will this document appear: on Holy Thursday? Easter Sunday? the anniversary of the Pope's election (April 19)? I don't know. Anyone who does know isn't telling.

If and when CWN receives enough solid information about the document-- its existence, its content, or its timing-- we'll post the news promptly. Until that time we're bowing out of the speculation.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 18, 2006 2:06 AM ET USA

    It will hearten many of you to know that some diocesan priests have, over the past few years, already visited a traditional Benedictine monastery to learn to offer the Latin Mass--and all the diocesan deacons' class spent their pre-ordination retreat there. There are quiet but significant signs of hope.

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Apr. 13, 2006 2:30 PM ET USA

    "why are their so few in the heirarchy of the Church?" Um, 'cause their relative numbers are small to begin with. Not putting Eastern-rite Catholics down or anything, they have their OWN "hierarchy" and they are represented in the curia and the college of cardinals, really in numbers out of proportion to the numbers of Eastern-rite Catholics. Which is fine by me. I live in one of the North American centers of Eastern-rite activity and I definitely think it helps keep us Latins honest.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2006 8:42 AM ET USA

    When will we hear more about the other lung of the Church that has a less tampered with and beautiful rite of liturgy that all could learn from as it is still being practised? Why do we have to limit ourselves to the tyranny of Western-rite priests and bishops when there is an alternative Catholic option that is under the Papal reign?This I do not understand. And why are their so few in the heirarchy of the Church? Remember Pope John Paul's funeral.They were there, people. Be mental Catholics.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2006 4:54 AM ET USA

    Well, nothing happened during the Chrism Mass, indult-wise

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 4:54 PM ET USA

    Ok Mariadevotee asked: What is the Holy Spirit's phone number? Et cum spiritu tuo. This joke is so old..... that it actually used the words "Holy Ghost"

  • Posted by: Tony D - Apr. 12, 2006 11:55 AM ET USA

    This would be a wonderful opportunity for the Priestly Society of St. Peter to go "mainstream." I could see their new seminary conducting summer programs to train "Master Liturgists" for every diocese that wants them. These MLs would have to have a reasonable grasp of Latin before attending (think two years of college courses). The goal of the program would be to provide leaders who could teach the rubrics of the old rite to those priests in their home dioceses who are interested in learning.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 11:42 AM ET USA

    Some of us old duffers who remember our altar boy prayers should volunteer to be servers. Perhaps that would be a good way to spark some interest among the few boys who still attend mass. This would be a good antidote to the regnant feminism in many parishes.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 10:48 AM ET USA

    Pope Benedict XVI seems intent on a return of tradition and the discipline of St. Benedict that caused Western monasticism to fourish. Discipline has been maligned in the last 40 years as the dramatic loss of belief in the Real Presence clearly indicates. Too much has happened to expect a quick fix, but his intentions are a blessing to conservative Catholics that have been maligned as well. I f anyone can truly correct the excesses allowed or caused by VCII, hopefully, it will be him.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 9:40 AM ET USA

    Wonderful news. However, the line between "liberal" and "traditional" parishes and dioceses will if anything become sharper and brighter. Is this necessariliy a good thing. It could also make life miserable for younger more traditional priests with sixties retreads for pastors. On the whole, however, these are the petty cavils of petty minds.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Apr. 12, 2006 9:09 AM ET USA

    What Sublime Joy; to return to the days of my youth! A chance to say the words again, "Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam."

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 8:47 AM ET USA

    I hope that if we do have a real return to our older Mass that it will not always be a Solemn celebration. I have seen it take two hours.The well-intentioned priest pronounces every word as if it were his last and every chant sounds like a dirge. The life, vigor and beauty of the old way does not require an exaggerated reverence. Done that way, it is enough to drive you to the Novus Ordo. I am hoping for audible, well pronounced Low Masses, most of the time. And forget the "dialogue" of the 50s.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 7:51 AM ET USA

    Yes, how many priests will even follow what the Holy Father says and how many young priests have even been schooled in enough Church history and practice to know it. To know our church we must learn its past and present to have a clue of where we are being led. To Heaven or a place we don't want to go. We have a Latin Mass weekely in our area but it doesn't hold the Sacred as it did when I was a child.That I can't explain. Like innocent children we must be it is written. Is it the Mass or us?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 7:17 AM ET USA

    Nothing seems to scare a neo-Catholic modernist more than the Tridentine Mass. What are they so very afraid of?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 5:22 AM ET USA

    What will have to occur for a priest to be able to use the 1962 Missal is a complete reeducation in the liturgy, the rubrics, the postures, the chant. It isn't something one can move to overnight. The priests willing and able to use the 1962 Missal are few. Their numbers will grow. This is exciting news. The apostolate of the FSSP and ICX is about to skyrocket. They'll be the ones teaching new priests HOW to say Mass properly.

  • Posted by: Moneo - Apr. 12, 2006 3:04 AM ET USA

    A few days ago I posted that I had always been somewhat indifferent to the "Tridentine Mass issue" because I had converted in the 1980s and had only ever known the Novus Ordo. Of course, I have attended a Tridentine Mass or two in the past, but a Novus Ordo mass, properly offered, seemed most natural to me. It seems time works its changes; I am unexpectedly excited by this possibility. This is the Church's heritage and tradition. Both rites have their merits and ought to co-exist.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 1:25 AM ET USA

    Let's volunteer to serve. Let put an end to the lethargy

  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 1:18 AM ET USA

    Depending on the wording of a universal indult, the bishop's permission might not be required. However, in the US I'm sure any priest saying the old Latin Mass will limit his chances for advancement in the hierarchy until we get rid of most of the current dead wood.

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Apr. 12, 2006 1:03 AM ET USA

    Phil, Exactly what did you mean by your statement, "My own prediction-- based on hints and inferences and hunches, nothing more--is that the document will be AT LEAST as strong as a universal indult..." What MORE could the document do? What ELSE could the Pope do about the Mass?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 11:56 PM ET USA

    As nice as that would be, the left leaning protacholics (especially among the clergy) will not go down without a fight...there will be blood shed...and it won't be Jesus' they care about.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 11:23 PM ET USA

    so what's the joke about the Holy Spirit and the phone number?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 11:19 PM ET USA

    I am wondering what I might have missed. Would not a "universal indult" give every priest the right to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at the time and in the place of his choosing? If "the bishops will not permit it (i.e., the Old Mass)," what on earth would a "universal indult" mean, and how would it be different from what we have now?

  • Posted by: Clorox - Apr. 11, 2006 11:07 PM ET USA

    If you like liturgical abuse in the Novus Ordo, I fear you'll LOVE liturgical abuse in the Traditional Mass. Will it lead to altar girls? Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion with a maniple? There must be measures taken by the Holy See to protect the Old Mass from degradation.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 9:27 PM ET USA

    et cum spiri 2 2 0

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Apr. 11, 2006 9:17 PM ET USA

    How long, O Lord?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 9:08 PM ET USA

    A welcome Easter gift it would be! There are a few sites on line of the Tridentine Mass with English and Latin side by side including all directions for priest and laity. Even most of our clergy have never said a Latin mass they could get up to speed quickly. Deo Gratias.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 8:37 PM ET USA

    Altar Boy and Phil. I think you're both right about the limitations concerning the indult--that Bishops opinions will not change on the mass. However it's a window to graces. I have a brown, dried up grape vine in my back yard that, just this week, sprung a single green leaf. In one month, this vine will take over my entire fence.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 7:29 PM ET USA

    Vae Victus.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 7:29 PM ET USA

    Australian Catholic University is offering online courses in Ecclesiastical Latin. As usual, Cardinal Pell is ahead of the curve.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 7:22 PM ET USA

    Australian Catholic University is offering online courses in Ecclesiastical Latin. As usual, Cardinal Pell is ahead of the curve.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 7:07 PM ET USA

    I hope there will be someone to teach me how to offe rthat beautiful Mass.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 6:54 PM ET USA

    I sense a business opportunity here....There must be many priests who never took any Latin. Perhaps I could market a correspondence course on Latin pronunciation and even how to understand what the words mean. For instance: praeclarum calicem = precious chalice. Maybe the joke about the Holy Sprit's phone number will make a comeback (you youngsters ask an elder for the answer)

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 6:35 PM ET USA

    If it is a universal indult, Phil, the great majority of bishops in the U.S. will not implement it, just as they have not implemented the current indult. And, as you correctly pointed out, a universal indult will do nothing to promote the regularization of the SSPX. The Holy Father must know these things, so I tend to believe that if such an indult is in the works, it is only an interim stop along the road to the institution of a true Latin Rite Church. I believe that’s the only real solution.