Matt C. Abbott
Father Trigilio takes on 'U.S. Catholic'
By Matt C. Abbott
April 14, 2010

A rather fatuous commentary titled "Take a pass on the Latin Mass" on the Web site of the leftist U.S. Catholic magazine led me to ask Father John Trigilio Jr., author and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, for his thoughts on said commentary. The following is Father's response (slightly edited):

    How ironic that the same crowd which lambasted and chastised traditional Catholics for their affection for the 'old' Mass (the Traditional Latin Mass, or more accurately, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite) these past 45 years are now themselves nostalgic for their beloved 'folk' Mass.

    Yet, it is not nostalgia to reinvent, redefine or rewrite history. Pope Benedict XVI made it clear that the extraordinary form was never invalidated nor abolished. The ordinary form (alias Novus Ordo or Vatican II vernacular Mass) has been normative since 1970 but the Tridentine rite (or Traditional Latin Mass) has been, remains and will always be valid and licit for Catholic worship. The so-called 'folk' Masses, or what the author calls 'alternative, progressive Masses,' were never normative. Many were in fact illicit as they did not conform to the rubrics of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) of the 'new' Mass of 1970.

    Liturgical abuses abounded prolifically when every Larry Liturgist decided he knew better than Rome or the USCCB and concocted their own aberrant worship services. It is almost reminiscent of former KGB spies and out of work Russian bureaucrats having nostalgia for the 'good old days' of the now defunct Soviet Union. The 'progressive' Catholics who chanted Kumbaya as often as a faithful Jew would the Shma' Israel, romanticize the pre-John Paul II and Benedict XVI days when liturgical goons ran diocesan worship offices.

    Hello, wake up and smell the coffee! There is a reason why the folk Mass crowd is getting older and fewer. Young and middle-aged faithful grew up under the pastoral leadership of Pope John Paul the Great. Latin was no longer a dead or secret language. Reverence is a key component to sacred liturgy. Pedestrian services cannot compete with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Whether ordinary form or extraordinary, both are equally valid and licit and both serve the spiritual needs of those who attend them. The 'look at your neighbor' theater-in-the-round modern monstrosities posing as churches are nothing more than banal self-serve ego worship. They emphasize the immanent while the authentic churches focus on the transcendent.

    I often tell my parishioners that church is the embassy of heaven. When they cross the threshold and enter the House of God, they are on foreign soil. They have passed from the earthly Babylon into the heavenly Jerusalem. This is why stained glass depicting lives of the saints adorns the real churches while clear plain glass allows the alternate worship sites to gawk and glare at the secular world. Gymnasiums are fine for sports but not for divine worship. Sacred liturgy is about God not about man. Religion is required by the cardinal virtue of Justice. We owe God proper adoration and praise. When we pat ourselves on the back, however, it is not religion but entertainment.

    It is furthermore presumptuous at best and petty-minded at worse to accuse those who prefer the more traditional forms of Catholic worship as being elitist. They are merely exercising their legitimate option to attend Catholic worship in a form that best meets their spiritual needs. The language, vestments and architecture accentuate and enhance that. But narrow-minded 'progressives' are like the political liberals who when scratched hard enough betray their fascist colors. They wish to impose their 1960s ideal of how Catholics ought to pray.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. Proper and reverent liturgy done according to the rubrics reinforces the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Magisterium. When both word and sacrament coincide, we get a blueprint for how to live a holy life, that is, a way of sanctification to prepare us for the afterlife. Folksy gym services are informal (as opposed to reverent) and only instill an attachment to this world since the worship space is so temporary and so earthly. Real churches, on the other hand, are permanent, transcendent, sacred and other-worldly.

    I love both the ordinary and the extraordinary forms. Both, when done properly, reverently and prayerfully, edify the soul and nourish the Mystical Body of Christ while rendering true and fitting worship to the One True God. Just as both the Western (Latin) and Eastern (Byzantine) churches have their unique traditions, the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass are both elegant and exquisite means of teaching and sustaining the Catholic religion.

    The romper-room liturgies and Woodstock-era ceremonies of the '60s and '70s did nothing but chase away vocations and enlarge Fundamentalist sects. People fled the nonsense when the real thing was denied them. I do not miss 'Glory and Praise' and the other trite meanderings sung as if at a local drinking hole. Bar tunes are not hymns. Sacred art is about saintly people and salvation history. White-washing did nothing more than erase many people's memories of the popular saints their ancestors honored when they built these gorgeous churches. Hiding tabernacles did not promote belief in the Real Presence, but it did expand the social room.

    Vatican II did not simply tolerate a modicum of Latin and preponderance of the vernacular. It encouraged the common parts be said in the liturgical language of the rite. The council envisioned not just the Creed, Gloria, Agnus Dei and Sanctus but also the Preface and Eucharistic Prayer as well as the Pater Noster. Orienting the direction of worship toward the East by both priest and congregation was never abrogated. The option of facing the people was never given priority by the documents.

    Unfortunately, while the bishops were still en route home from the close of Vatican II, the 'liturgists' got hold of the helm and steered the ship into uncharted waters. Innovation became outright abuse of rubrical norms. Participation was no longer interior but based on geography; hence sanctuaries became more crowded than the pews with all kinds of 'ministers' dancing about as if at a bad ballet. Going up the altar of God is still the cornerstone of Catholic worship, whether English or Latin, ordinary or extraordinary form.

    How you pray and worship influences what you believe and both determine how you live and behave. Praying in a sports arena is going to reinforce the notion that liturgy is about us and not about the Almighty. Funny, I thought that was the sin of Lucifer way back when.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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