First Impressions Are Often Correct

March 2008

The weekly Jesuit magazine America has published an article by the Rev. Michael Kerper (Dec. 3, 2007) titled "My Second First Mass: On Presiding at a Latin Liturgy." Fr. Kerper says that when Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio liberating the Tridentine Latin Mass (July 7, 2007), his "reaction oscillated between mild irri­tation...and vague interest." This was probably the typical reaction of priests whose "pastoral self-understanding," as Fr. Kerper says of his own, "had been largely shaped by the Second Vatican Council."

"Within a week" of the release of the motu proprio, says Fr. Kerper, "letters trickled in.... In August, I met with a dozen parishioners who wanted the [Tridentine] Mass.... As a promoter of the widest range of pluralism within the church, how could I refuse to deal with an approved liturgical form? As a pastor who has tried to respond to people alienated by the perceived rigid conservatism of the church, how could I walk away from people alienated by priests like myself -- progressive, 'low church' pastors who have no ear for traditional piety?"

Fr. Kerper then "decided to offer the Tridentine Mass" -- for the very first time. So, what was it like for this self-proclaimed "progressive" priest to celebrate his first-ever Old Latin Mass? Was it onerous? Was it tedious?

Says Fr. Kerper, "The old Missal's rubrical mic­romanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant.... I suddenly recognized the [Tridentine] rite's ingenious ability to shrink the priest.... I was...dwarfed by the high altar.... I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered.... I gazed at the Sacrament and [experienced] an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me." Beautiful.


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



New Oxford Notes: March 2008

Read our posting policy Add a comment
The Jesuits have received a great share of attention to their dissent in proportion to their sheer size, wealth, and influence. And rightfully so, as they possess the ultimate bully pulpit to advance both the avante garde and faithfulness to tradition. Let me add that the SJs of Georgetown -- the very bastion of their power and dissent -- have authorized celebrations of the 1962 Rite at given times and places on that campus. Last fall, controversy erupted when the 'orthodox' Franciscan U. of Steuenville declined a petition of students for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass in its campus chapels. The reason given? Adherence to V-2. My point is this: It's high time for both laity and the pontificate alike to look hard at other orders and their practices. A great example are the Dominicans -- the order of St. Thomas Aquinas. Like the Jesuits, they enjoy a scholarly reputation. They also enjoy a reputation for orthodoxy. But how can this be? As the book, The Dominican Tradition: Spirituality in History, co-authored by Thomas McGonigle, OP, and Phyllis Zagano, PhD shows, a number of VERY prominent dissenters populate this order: Georges Yves-Congar, OP; Edward Schillebeeckx, OP; not to mention the former master general, Timothy Radcliffe, OP. We also can't forget the recent shenanigans of the Dutch Dominicans, who practically slid into schism with their pamphlet about celebrating Holy Mass. And while many Jesuits ascribe to Marxist Liberation Theology, they follow in the boots of Dominican Father Gustavo Gutierrez, the true trailblazer. Don't be fooled by illusions of jolly red-cheeked friars wrapped in rosaries, or duped by the success of one cadre of sisters who share (albeit faithfully) the charisma of Dominic. Don't be hoodwinked by the chatter about Thomistic Philosophy. And don't take it from me: Check out Leon Podles, PhD's latest great work, Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. He'll introduce you to the Dominican Father's North American university, Providence College, in its heyday in the 1960s. He was there, and sexually harassed by a fellow pre-theologate who went on to be ordained in the Order, and would eventually die of AIDS. I exposed that same institution in its modern form a few years ago in this publication -- in particular, a sick sociology professor who promoted use of sex toys to his students, and the Dominican dean who was enabling him. This flew in the face of current reviews of the college, praising it as the brainier alternative to 'orthodox' Steubenville. The administration was too cowardly to can this wayward professor (on the basis of his 'tenure'). But remember when Boston College, another Jesuit hotbed, banished well-tenured feminist dissenter Mary Daly (who, by the way, was 'educated' at the Order of Friar Preachers' Fribourg University)?

Better an honest liberal than a dishonest conservative. Now some liberals seem to be amending their ways in permitting the 1962 Missal. Let's give them a chance, while shining a harsh light on the true hypocrisy in the Church.
Posted by: jjackson
March 11, 2008 01:17 AM EDT
Wow. Although I believe in sanctifying grace, I cannot help but be surprised whenever I read a story like this. The "spirit of Vatican II" worshipers have always seemed so hopelessly mired in bad thinking that whenever one of them has a change of heart or admits to the glory of the traditional way, I find myself completely shocked. The Father not only recognized the goodness of tradition, he correctly analyzed why the "formulaic ritual" of the Old Mass is so good. Praise be to God. Posted by: FoxMulder
March 27, 2008 07:30 PM EDT
Add a comment


©