Rorate Caeli

For the Record - An abbot explains why
"the Tridentine Mass is the missing link"

A solid interview with Dom Christopher Zielinski, OSB Oliv., Abbot of the Olivetan Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Pecos, New Mexico (Tip: Reader).

Will the Pope restore the Tridentine Mass?

Abbot: The Tridentine Mass, the Mass of St. Pius V cannot be considered abolished by the so-called new mass of Paul VI. We must never forget that the Second Vatican Council was not a break from the past, but a renewal in continuity. That is why the question regarding the liturgy must be one of seeking the true sense of the Council and implementing it. Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is whether or not the Indult of Pope John Paul II and the creation of the Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei, that gave permission to the Bishops to allow for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, was implemented in the spirit of justice and compassion.

Well, was the Indult of John Paul II implemented in the spirit of justice and compassion?

Abbot: Unfortunately, some Bishops have not always granted the Indult. When this did happen, the conditions were often very difficult and almost impossible for its practical implementation. Therefore, if there is to be a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old Mass, it means that the present one is not meeting the pastoral needs of the traditionalist world.

But is the traditionalist world so important that the Holy Father should risk his pontificate by giving them a motu proprio?

Abbot: Jesus Christ, when talking about the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep, spoke about leaving the ninety-nine in order to seek out the one. We are talking about one percent. But we are also talking about the very vocation of the Good Shepherd. It is interesting to note that some Bishops speak about the Traditionalists as a “drop in the ocean.” As a matter of fact, the traditionalist world constitute a little over one percent of the Catholic Population. How Christ-like indeed it would be to offer a gesture of pastoral love in the form of a motu proprio!

Would a motu proprio be for the intention of bringing the Lefebvrians back to Rome?

Abbot: The motu proprio would be a response of justice and compassion not only to the traditionalist world, but also to the Church as a whole. We must never think that a motu proprio would be written only for the Lefebvrians. As Archbishop A. M. Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship stated very clearly, “The Tridentine Mass is a treasure for the entire People of God and not the private property of the Society of St. Pius X.” But I am most certain that those in the Society are praying and waiting with great hope for a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old Mass.

What is your relationship with the Lefebvrian world?

Abbot: I met Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X, more than five years ago. During that time, I have come to know many other priests, and also monks and religious who are connected with the Society. I was invited to speak at the recent Congress of “Si, Si. No, No” in Paris. And there, I spoke about my experience of the Tridentine Mass as a recovery of the sacrificial nature of the Mass. The Traditional Rite has a very important role to play in the Church. It can enhance reverence and the sense of mystery and awe before God’s action.
I am honored by their friendship and also their trust. I have been able to listen and enter deeply into not only their preoccupations and fears, but also their immense love for the Church and for the Holy Father. Their words, articles and letters can seem to some to be very strong, and therefore, cause much distress; however, what they say about the liturgy and theology is not to be overlooked or dismissed. Until there is full unity and full mutual charity, one cannot be scandalized if there is some “verbal intemperance.”

But some Bishops affirm that the Lefebvrians should recognize the legitimacy of the Pope.

Abbot: Unfortunately, even at high levels in the Church, there is not always full knowledge of the Society. The Society has always recognized the legitimate successor of St. Peter. There are traditionalist groups that do not recognize the last popes after Pius XII. These are called “empty throne” people. Visiting some of the Societies’ houses, I was amazed to see the photo of Benedict XVI and also to know that they pray daily for him and the Church.

Do you think that a possible motu proprio would help the Lefebvrians return to Rome?

Abbot: I believe that a motu proprio would be a first step towards full communion. However, the simple restoration of the Old Mass is not only what the Society is looking for. They are asking very serious theological and liturgical questions that we must address. Otherwise, we reduce the whole question of Monsignor Fellay and the members of the Society to a question of choreography and not to substantial questions of faith. The motu proprio, therefore, is a beginning. But also, it is the possible beginning of a reform and renewal of the sacramental character of the liturgy; and therefore, the beginning of a liturgical movement that wants for the People of God a new awakening of the faith.

Some Bishops, priests and theologians say that a motu proprio allowing broader use of the Tridentine Rite would “plunge us back into the liturgical life of another age.” What is your thought about this?

Abbot: Liturgical time is a sacred and holy time. I guess we could call it “timeless.” And the reason is that the Mass has to do with eternity and not with days, weeks, months or years.

Is there need of a new liturgical reform?

Abbot: I believe that the Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was a response to a widely held conviction that the liturgy needed a reform. The Council Fathers were seeking to bring out the community aspects of the mass, as well as make it more effective in teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, the theological necessity for a continuity in the underlying doctrine and structure of the celebration of the Mass in its preconciliar and post conciliar forms had undergone a rupture or break with Tradition. That is what we are dealing with today. The Second Vatican Council clearly called for some modest reforms in the liturgy, but it intended them to be organic and clearly in continuity with the past. The Old Rite becomes a living treasure of the Church and also should provide a standard of worship, of mystery, and of catechesis toward which the celebrations of the Novus Ordo must move. In other words, the Tridentine Mass is the missing link. And unless it be re-discovered in all its faithful truth and beauty, the Novus Ordo will not respond to the organic growth and change that has characterized the liturgy from its beginning. This is what should be prompting many of us to the founding of a new liturgical movement which will be able to give back to the liturgy its sacramental and supernatural character, and awaken in us a faithful understanding of the Catholic Liturgy.


  1. Anonymous12:13 AM

    I would qualify the comments by Dom Christopher Zielinski that the issue of the Tridentine Rite in the Catholic Church is closer to the realm of justice than to the realm of compassion. The whole issue with the Liturgical Reform after the II Vatican Council is centered first if the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Council was faithfully implemented, and if not why. I am of the opinion that the constitution was not faithfully implemented. Secondly, the issue on the Tridentine Rite is why the prescription set by Saint Pius V were not respected by Paul VI and the popes after him: Pius V gave a perpetual right to any priest to celebrate this rite. There was an abuse of authority by the Holy See, since the II Vatican Council in the realm of liturgy, and the only solution is to again establish JUSTICE in the Church, by doing is what necessary to do. The issue of the Tridentine Rite should never be substantiated from the point of view of compassion, because the Tridentine Rite has full citizenship in the Catholic Church. The issue is that this citizenship has not been respected, and actually it is has been violated by the Holy See, and the Holy See never had the charitable authority to infringe in the rights of this rite.

  2. thanks very much NC & reader(tip).

  3. Thanks for posting this. What I love about this interview, in particular is that the Abbot is openly a friend of the SSPX. I've never before heard a prelate state so publicly.

  4. Thank-you to the reader who made possible this interview, and a sincere "God bless" to the Abbot Zielinski for his profound words of wisdom showing his own great love of the Church.

  5. What refreshing lucidity! Excellent post!

  6. Fascinating. I haven't come across this Abbot or his Abbey before, but apparently he has been engaged with questions of the liturgy and even doctrine for some time, and has developed a strong friendly relationship with the SSPX.

    As franzjosf says, this latter is unusual. Perhaps Bishop Fellay's comments about Archbishop Ranjith mirror a similar warmth, but otherwise there are few prelates with such relations.

    Is anyone aware if the Abbot has participated in indult liturgical functions or conferences?

  7. Anonymous10:17 AM

  8. Anonymous12:54 PM

    I was very heartened by this interview. I was puzzled, though, by this statement:

    'As a matter of fact, the traditionalist world constitute a little over one percent of the Catholic Population.'

    A little over one percent? Is that true? Where did the Abbot get that statistic? Does it only count Catholics who regularly attend Mass at traditionalist chapels? Does it take into account the traditionalists (and those who might not necessarily identify themselves as "traditionalists", yet who yearn for the Old Rite) who languish in Novus Ordo parishes?

    Indeed, the Abbot is right to point to Ranjith's observation that the Old Rite is a treasure for the ENTIRE CHURCH, not just for "traditionalists". Would that such a label were no longer necessary in the Church!

    It also needs to be frankly admitted that the Novus Ordo, while "valid", is in its typical manner of celebration a DANGER TO SOULS. The reform of the New Mass in light of the Old is an act of pastoral love for which we should pray and hope.

  9. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Cerimoniere: the abbot is closely associated with the Militia Templi and I believe it was through his friendship and contact with the order and their superior Dom Marcello that he came to the Tradition and was introduced to the SSPX. He was studying/living in Italy for many years before being in Pecos and has said the old Mass at the Militia's church in Tuscany. There was an interview with the abbot about a year and a half ago in The Latin Mass where he talks about most of this.

  10. Anonymous1:40 PM

    The Ash Wednesday service at our local NO parish last night was replete with guitar strumming and an insipid rendition of Psalm 51. The letter giveth life, but the spirit (of Vatican II) destroyeth.

    What a sight to see, teenagers dancing (yes, DANCING) to the folksy guitar chords, with the ashes not five minutes on their foreheads.

    That is why I said above that the New Mass is a danger to souls. Restoring the Old Mass is not enough; the New must be reformed, or discarded.

  11. Anonymous4:04 PM

    Catholic Church statistics have absolutely no credibility because they are not scientific. When was the last time that census of catholics was excercised by the Catholic Church? Lying, lying, lying.

  12. Anonymous6:30 PM


    The website is announcing the following:

    1. - For today´s feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Papal Tiara IS BACK AT THE HEAD OF THE STATUE OF THE PRINCE OF THE APOSTLES - The said statue is usually dressed in pontificals and crowned with the Triregnum on Feb 22 and on June 29, but in the last two years this practice had not been followed. The blogger clergyman has taken the photos himself.


  13. Phocas, thank you very much. It's useful to have a context in which to set the Abbot's remarks, and his contacts with the traditional movement over the years are interesting from that point of view.

  14. Let us wait for the actual release of the Exhortation. We will translate the pertinent portion of the Pope's words today regarding it as soon as the official text is made available (probably here).

  15. This link is from a comment on the New Liturgical Movement blog and is interesting:

  16. Good grief, you take a few hours off and all breaks loose.

    What is happening?

  17. I am getting spooked...only last night I added a new picture to my blog, it's one I've had on my hard drive for a long time but I thought I'd finally use it...guess what it is, thats right, the di Cambio Peter...

    (cue twilight zone music again as I grasp at straws)

  18. 'Verbal intemperance' as our esteemed Prelate calls it in his interview, when directed at the Pope, is a sin.

  19. This interview blew me away. It synthesized the raison d'etre of the traditionalist movement, criticized the Novus Ordo, and yet contained none of the pope-baiting and haranguing so frequently seen among traditionalists.

    Pray with me that God will raise up many more men of such clarity (and charity) in the Church's hierarchy.

  20. Anonymous11:21 PM

    Let us all pray that the Pope gives the permission soon for every Priest to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as they are perfectly entitled to do. Pray very much for the Pope.He is surrounded...............Pray.

  21. Anonymous12:33 AM

    ¡Surrounded by foxes! The Vatican is not a blissful place, actually it could be even more devilish than many secular states.

  22. Anonymous2:17 PM

    '¡Surrounded by foxes! The Vatican is not a blissful place, actually it could be even more devilish than many secular states.'

    If the AE and MP turn out to be toothless and essentially confirm in practice the status quo, the above statement should give us pause.

  23. Anonymous5:37 PM

    If the AE and the MP turn out to be toothless then it will confirm that Papa Ratzi is a TOOTHLESS Lion, and nothing more than a library mice.

  24. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Or rather "If the AE and the MP turn out to be toothless then it will confirm that Papa Ratzi is a TOOTHLESS Lion, and nothing more than a library mouse."

  25. Is it not offensive to God to speak so disrespectfully of the Holy Father?


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