In the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis has implemented a battery of measures seeking to circumscribe the Tridentine Mass, with the hope of making it disappear to the exclusive advantage of the Mass of Paul VI.
Such relentlessness prompts some questions: The first concerns the motives, published or hidden, given in the accompanying letter. The second tackles the basic question: the link between the Council and the Novus Ordo. The third concerns the principal reactions to the motu proprio.
Overall, the reaction by the bishops to Traditionis Custodes has been mostly a prudent waiting game, even if some of them—few in number—have expressed a lively indignation.
Asked about the predictable reactions of the French bishops, by Anne Le Pape in Présent on July 20, Fr. Claude Barthe answered: “Their reactions will vary. Some will use the Pope's text to repress as much as possible. Others will simply be realistic, they will not want to light fires in their own homes.”
“I am thinking of the bishop of Versailles, who has just published a communiqué that is a little difficult to interpret but which seems to say that nothing will happen for the moment. There are still others who are in favor, there is no doubt, of this traditional life in their dioceses, even if they do not share the ideas. They will circle the wagons, play for time.”
“If they wanted to resist, they could do so, even canonically: Canon 87 paragraph 1 of Canon Law says that, ‘A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church.’ This opens up many possibilities.”
“The bishop still has to want to act. Now, contrary to what we are told about synodality, it really only works one way, in favor of bishops who think like the pope. But when this is not the case…”
“I’m reminded of the words of Archbishop Roche, the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who recently said expressly - with a laugh: ‘We are going to destroy Summorum Pontificum. Liturgical power will be given to the bishops... but not to the conservative bishops!’”
On the site Aletia on July 21, the episcopal reactions were seen to be of an irenic type. The communique of the Conference of Bishops of France of July 17 is thus presented as playing “the unity and appeasement card”:
“The French bishops ‘wish to express to the faithful who usually celebrate according to the missal of St. John XXIII and to their pastors, their attention, their esteem for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to continue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force,’” they declared.
“Each bishop will be eager to be up to the challenges described by the Holy Father in order to exercise the responsibility which is given to him in justice, charity, the care of each and every one, the service of the liturgy and the unity of the Church. This will be done through dialogue and will take time,” they warn.” This is what is called “conciliar speak.”
Msgr. Luc Crepy, Bishop of Versailles—mentioned above by Fr. Barthe—explained to have found “a calm situation” in the diocese since his arrival in April 2021. He will have a meeting with the priests serving the concerned communities during the month of September. “I have already renewed my trust in them and my desire to continue together on this journey of unity,” he stated, while waiting to return home.
In a long communique, Msgr. Marc Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne, Lescar, and Oloron, attested “that the priests in the diocese of Bayonne taking care of the service of the liturgy according to the 1962 Missal, fully adhere to the Second Vatican Council, recognizing the legitimacy of the 1970 Missal, the expression par excellence of the lex orandi of the Latin Church, and are cultivating a keen sense of ecclesial communion by actively participating in events and celebrations, as well as in the pastoral and missionary guidance of the diocese.”
“I want to reiterate my confidence in them and invite them to continue their efforts in the same direction, in the spirit of the new Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes,” he added.
Regarding the Ecclesia Dei communities, directly concerned by Traditionis Custodes, a sense of incomprehension dominates, reinforced by the impression that their Roman fidelity was hardly taken into consideration.
The Fraternity of St. Peter received the moto proprio “with astonishment.” In an unsigned communique, they said they were “deeply saddened by the reasons invoked to limit the use of the Missal of St. John XXIII ” and added that, “it is surprising that what is not mentioned are the many fruits visible in the apostolates attached to the Missal of St. John XXIII.”
“The incomprehension is deep among the faithful,” stated Canon Louis Valadier, French Provincial of the Institute of Christ the King, while Fr. Mateusz Markiewicz, superior of the District of Europe of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, in the July 17 issue of Famille chrétienne, describes the motu proprio as an “act against charity, because we do not know on what the charges against us are based.”
A more lively reaction came from Msgr. Robert Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop of the Bois-le-Duc in the Netherlands, who did not hesitate to classify the Motu proprio as a “malevolent imperial edict.” “It feels like a betrayal and is a slap in the face to his predecessors.”
“The Church has never abolished liturgies. Not even the Council of Trent. Francis has completely broken with this tradition. The motu proprio contains, briefly and powerfully, some propositions and injunctions. Things are explained in more detail by means of a longer accompanying statement [the accompanying letter to the bishops].”
“This statement contains many factual errors. One of them is the claim that what Paul VI did after Vatican II was the same as what Pius V did after Trent. That is completely false. Remember that before that time [of Trent], there were various transcribed manuscripts in circulation and local liturgies had appeared here and there. That was the confusion.”
“The Council of Trent wanted to restore the liturgies, eliminate inaccuracies, and check for orthodoxy. Trent was not concerned with rewriting the liturgy, nor with making new additions, new eucharistic prayers, a new lectionary, or a new calendar.”
“They simply wanted to ensure uninterrupted organic continuity. The 1517 Missal harkens back to the 1474 Missal and so on back to the fourth century. There was continuity from the fourth century onwards. After the fifteenth century, there were four more centuries of continuity.”
And to denounce the true liturgical revolution brought about by the Novus Ordo Missae: “Only 17% of the orations of the old missal of Trent can be found in the new missal of Paul VI. You can hardly speak of continuity, of an organic development.”
“Benedict XVI recognized this, and for that reason gave ample space to the Old Mass. He even said that no one needed his permission (‘what was sacred then is still sacred now’).”
“Pope Francis is now pretending that his Motu proprio belongs to the organic development of the Church, which utterly contradicts the reality. By making the Latin Mass practically impossible, he finally breaks with the age-old liturgical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.”
“The liturgy is not a toy of popes; it is the heritage of the Church. The Old Mass is not about nostalgia or taste. The pope should be the guardian of Tradition; the pope is a gardener, not a manufacturer. Canon law is not merely a matter of positive law; there is also such a thing as natural law and divine law, and, moreover, there is such a thing as Tradition that cannot simply be brushed aside.”
“What Pope Francis is doing here has nothing to do with evangelization and even less to do with mercy. It is more like ideology. Go to any parish where the Old Mass is celebrated. What do you find there? People who just want to be Catholic. … This is ideology: it is either Vatican II, including its implementation, with all its aberrations, or nothing!”
And to conclude energetically, “I have never heard Bergoglio speak about the many liturgical abuses that exist here and there in countless parishes. In parishes everything is possible—except the Tridentine Mass.”
“All weapons are thrown into the fray to eradicate the Old Mass. Why? For the love of God, why? What is this obsession of Francis to want to eradicate this small group of traditionalists? The pope should be the guardian of tradition, not the jailer.”
On July 23, Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Nousoultan, Astana, Kazakhstan, gave an interview to Diane Montagna in The Remnant, where he said: “The Motu Proprio and accompanying letter commit an injustice against all Catholics who adhere to the traditional liturgical form, by accusing them of being divisive and of rejecting the Second Vatican Council.”
“In fact, a considerable portion of these Catholics keep far away from doctrinal discussions regarding Vatican II, the new Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae), and other problems involving ecclesiastical politics. They just want to worship God in the liturgical form through which God has touched and transformed their hearts and lives.”
Further on, he forecasts an effect contrary to the looked-for aim of the Motu proprio: “the new decree will ultimately have a boomerang effect. The many Catholic families and ever-growing number of young people and priests—particularly young priests—who attend the traditional Mass, will not be able to allow their conscience to be violated by such a drastic administrative act.”
“Telling these faithful and priests that they must simply be obedient to these norms will ultimately not work with them, because they understand that a call to obedience loses its power when the aim is to suppress the traditional form of the liturgy, the great liturgical treasure of the Roman Church.”
And it is evident: “The admirable, harmonious and quite spontaneous spread and continuous growth of the traditional form of the Mass, in almost every country of the world, even in the most remote lands, is undoubtedly the work of the Holy Spirit, and a true sign of our time.”
“This form of the liturgical celebration bears true spiritual fruits, especially in the life of the youth and converts to the Catholic Church, since many of the latter were attracted to the Catholic faith precisely by the irradiating power of this treasure of the Church.”