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Monday, November 29, 2021

TRADITIONIS CUSTODES: A Weapon of Mass Destruction

Written by  Diane Montagna
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TRADITIONIS CUSTODES: A Weapon of Mass Destruction

Translation:
Italian

In a recent interview on Swiss television, Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and a key figure in the implementation of Pope Francis’s apostolic letter restricting the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, Traditionis Custodes, asserted:

“The normal form of the celebration of the Roman Rite is found in those documents that have been published since the Second Vatican Council. Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum were established in order to encourage the Lefebrvrists, above all, to return to full unity with the Church.”

 

A little review of history will show that the archbishop’s latter claim is factually untrue. In his letter to bishops on July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI was clear about his main reason for issuing Summorum Pontificum:

“I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity… What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

Nine years later, in Last Testament: In His Own Words (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2016), Benedict responds to the claim that the Latin Mass was reauthorized as a concession to the Society of St. Pius X (p. 202): “That is absolutely false! For me, what is important is the unity of the Church with itself, in its interior, with its past; that that which was holy for her before should not be in any way an evil now.” Neither of these statements leave any ambiguity about Benedict XVI’s motives in liberalizing the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass.

In reviewing these quotations, a reader might well be left asking: Is the will of the majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church really being considered when it comes to Traditionis Custodes?

But Archbishop Roche then asserts:

“It’s clear that Traditionis Custodes is saying, ‘Okay, this experiment has not entirely been successful and so let us go back to what the Council required of the Church.’ And we’ve got to remember that this wasn’t the will of the Pope. This was the will of the vast majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church who were gathered together in the twenty-first ecumenical council guiding the Pope with regard to the future. What was produced in 1570 was entirely appropriate for the time. What is produced in this age is also entirely appropriate for the time” (emphasis added; see video here at timestamp 1:55).

When, on July 16, 2021, Pope Francis promulgated Traditionis Custodes, he too emphasized the importance of listening to the will of the bishops. In fact, he said that one of the chief motives that prompted his decision to restrict the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass (and administration of the other sacraments in the Old Rite) were the results of a “detailed consultation” of bishops carried out in 2020 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

I asked what a reasonable person would have taken away from the CDF’s main report? The answer, according to informed and reliable sources: that a reasonable majority of bishops, using different words and in different ways, basically were sending the message: “Summorum Pontificum is fine. Don’t touch it.”

In a letter accompanying Traditionis Custodes, the Pope told the world’s bishops:

“I instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to circulate a questionnaire to the Bishops regarding the implementation of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The responses reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene.”

Based on these results, which were compiled by the CDF in a detailed report, Pope Francis said that:

“In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum of 1962.”

Later in the same letter, Pope Francis again emphasized that his decision to restrict the traditional Roman liturgy came in direct response to requests made by the world’s bishops. He wrote:

Responding to your requests, I take the firm decision to abrogate all the norms, instructions, permissions and customs that precede the present Motu proprio, and declare that the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, constitute the unique [unica] expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.

To my knowledge, what really happened is that all that was ancillary in the main report has been projected as a major problem and has been expanded, magnified, and hugely taken out of proportion.

But does Traditionis Custodes truly reflect the will of the world’s bishops, particularly in countries where the celebration of the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite has become more widespread (U.S., France and England)? And could it be called fair if Traditionis Custodes did not accurately represent the detailed report prepared for Pope Francis by the CDF?

In the print-edition of a talk delivered at the 2021 Catholic Identity Conference, titled “Traditionis Custodes: Separating Fact from Fiction” and published online at The Remnant on October 7, 2021, I asked what a reasonable person would have taken away from the CDF’s main report? The answer, according to informed and reliable sources: that a reasonable majority of bishops, using different words and in different ways, basically were sending the message: “Summorum Pontificum is fine. Don’t touch it.”

As I noted in that talk:

“It would certainly not have been 80 percent who said this in this way. But over 35 percent of the bishops would have said, ‘Don’t touch anything, leave everything as it is.’ On top of this, another percentage of bishops would have said: ‘Basically don’t touch it, but there would be one or two things I’d suggest, like a bishop having a bit more control.’ All told, then, more than 60 percent to two-thirds of bishops would have been on board with staying the course, perhaps with some slight modifications. The message was basically to leave Summorum Pontificum alone, and to continue with a prudent and careful application.”

To my knowledge, what really happened is that all that was ancillary in the main report has been projected as a major problem and has been expanded, magnified, and hugely taken out of proportion.

In the print-edition of my 2021 CIC talk, I further noted that, to my knowledge:

“The main report was very thorough and was broken down into several sections. One part was very analytical, offering analysis diocese by diocese, country by country, region by region, continent by continent, with pie charts and graphs. Another part was a summary where all the argumentation was presented, along with recommendations and trends. And to my knowledge, one part of the report contained quotations taken from the responses that came from the individual dioceses. This collection of quotations would have been included to give the Holy Father a well-rounded sampling of what the bishops had said.

On October 7, I published a first batch of thirty of these quotations from the world’s bishops, which may be viewed here

On October 28, I published second batch containing an additional fourteen quotations (rather than fifteen, as one [negative comment] was a duplicate). They may be viewed here.

Today, let us consider the third and final batch: twenty quotations that, together with the first two sets, were included as a collection in the CDF’s main, detailed report that was meant to give the Holy Father a well-rounded sampling of what the bishops had said.

In reviewing these quotations, a reader might well be left asking: Is the will of the majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church really being considered when it comes to Traditionis Custodes?

[Out of respect for members of the hierarchy, I have redacted the individual names of each bishop quoted herein and included only their country of origin.]

 

A COLLECTION OF QUOTATIONS 

FROM THE RESPONSES RECEIVED FROM THE DIOCESES

(Where abbreviated: EF=Extraordinary Form; OF=Ordinary Form)

Negative assessments about the attitude of certain faithful

“I believe that the priests who minister [to these faithful] do not have the freedom of a parish pastor, and that they are often at the beck and call of the faithful they serve. There is surveillance of their doctrine, their fidelity to the rubrics, and their pastoral proposals.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 3)

“Some people who support the Extraordinary Form do so with ideological presuppositions. This is true of some members of any group. However, they are not representative of the entirety of the communities of faithful who participate in the EF.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 3)

“Nor will the Bishop report to the Pontifical Commission as he is required to do, because of more urgent matters that he must attend to in the diocese.” (A Bishop of the Philippines, response to question 3)

On the isolation of communities

“The use of the Extraordinary Form highlights even more the liturgical abuses that still exist in many parishes, and this provokes a desertion from [these parishes] in favor of places where the EF is celebrated, especially by young families who wish to give a solid religious formation to their children. Ultimately, there is a risk of weakening the parish “fabric” by using parishes of one’s “choice”, where parishioners participate in the liturgy, but without true community and social involvement in the places where they practice their faith, and without having a social outreach in the places where they reside.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 3)

“There is little interaction between the group of faithful and the neighboring parish and the diocese.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 3)

On the irrelevance of the Extraordinary Form for the people

“The question of Ordinary or Extraordinary Form is irrelevant to our people. The people simply desire to receive the Body of the Lord and they are not interested in the rites in which they participate.” (A Bishop of the Philippines, response to question 3)

“The Church should be able to tell [the institutes linked to the Extraordinary Form] what they bring to her: vocations, the maintenance of a liturgical tradition bearing riches, a form of security in the face of changes in the Church and culture.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 9)

On those the Extraordinary Form attracts

“The Church should be able to tell [the institutes linked to the Extraordinary Form] what they bring to her: vocations, the maintenance of a liturgical tradition bearing riches, a form of security in the face of changes in the Church and culture.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 9)

On the value of the Extraordinary Form for the peace and unity of the Church

“The Motu Proprio [Summorum Pontificum] has allowed a real pacification of the liturgical issue.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 3)

“It has not been my experience, for example, that the Extraordinary Form creates division, but rather the opposite. It can promote and benefit a sense of communion and inclusion when it is handled in a just and pastoral way.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 9)

“In an area of great ethnic diversity like [U.S. City named], a diversity of liturgical forms is generally helpful.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 3)

On the liturgical, theological, and catechetical value of the Extraordinary Form

“Maintaining the Extraordinary Form is the right choice, not because it would be better or more suitable than the Ordinary Form, but because the EF possesses a richness of its own, both liturgically and theologically. Likewise, the EF is a stimulating counterpoint to the Ordinary Form.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 9)

“Many families do not participate exclusively in the Extraordinary Form but like to participate in both the EF and the Ordinary Form. I encourage this, as a richer experience of liturgical history and development.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 3)

“A good number of Catholics have come to a more fervent life of faith, many men have become more active in spiritually guiding their families, and many have come to a deeper knowledge of the traditions of the Church, which has helped them to appreciate more deeply the reforms of Vatican II and the Ordinary Form of the Mass.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 3)

“As Pope Benedict said, we cannot abandon the rite of the Mass that has been used for centuries and say that it is no longer relevant.” (A Bishop of England, response to question 9)

On the historical value of the Extraordinary Form

“As Pope Benedict said, we cannot abandon the rite of the Mass that has been used for centuries and say that it is no longer relevant.” (A Bishop of England, response to question 9)

On the influence of the Extraordinary Form on the Ordinary Form

“Some elements routinely identified with the Extraordinary Form are used by some priests in the Ordinary Form (e.g., celebration ad orientem or Gregorian chant), but these are not so much a mixture of rites as a choice of legitimate options that are permitted in the Ordinary Form. There is mutual enrichment, but the rubrics of each form are respected.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 5)

“The possibility of celebrating in the Extraordinary Form should be maintained. It corresponds to a real demand from rather young people.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 9)

On the influence of the Extraordinary Form on seminaries and/or houses of formation

“When a seminarian expresses to the diocesan bishop or the rector of the seminary his desire to be trained in the Extraordinary Form, he is helped to attend a ‘workshop’ organized by one of the institutes offering such training, in agreement with the diocesan bishop. This practice is in accordance with Universae Ecclesiae, n. 21.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 8)

Proposals and/or perspectives for the future

“The possibility of celebrating in the Extraordinary Form should be maintained. It corresponds to a real demand from rather young people. Parishes should develop links with priests who celebrate in the EF. Some thought that this form would disappear, but this has not happened. It must therefore be practiced and offered in full truth to the faithful. The parish link is indispensable.” (A Bishop of France, response to question 9)

“I certainly believe that Summorum Pontificum cannot simply be revoked. This would create more problems than those we want to solve.” (A Bishop of Italy, response to question 9)

“If the use of the Extraordinary Form were to be suspended, I believe that the measure would have to be accompanied by a careful revision of the liturgical reform to correct some of its weaknesses, and by a strong intervention to censure abuses that debase and distort the Liturgy of the Catholic Church.” (A Bishop of Italy, response to question 9)

“It would be necessary for the Holy See to provide aids for formation, catechesis and celebration, so that there would be an authoritative and unifying source for information as well as for ministry. First, while the diocese seeks to provide formation and catechetical aids, clergy and laity often turn to communities not in full communion with the Holy See for information. Second, having the necessary liturgical books available is not always easy, and again, people often turn to communities that are not in full communion to obtain liturgical books. Third, it is difficult to find true expertise in the Extraordinary Form at the diocesan level in all its theological, historical, juridical, and pastoral dimensions (both finding experts and sources), and the offices of the Holy See would greatly help the universal Church as well as individual dioceses.” (A Bishop of the United States, response to question 9)

“Nor will the Bishop report to the Pontifical Commission as he is required to do, because of more urgent matters that he must attend to in the diocese.” (A Bishop of the Philippines, response to question 3)

“I certainly believe that Summorum Pontificum cannot simply be revoked. This would create more problems than those we want to solve.” (A Bishop of Italy, response to question 9)

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Last modified on Monday, November 29, 2021