1) In his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis says St. John Paul II’s indults were only meant to heal the breach with Archbishop Lefebvre, not to have the traditional latin Mass as a continuing reality in the Church (my paraphrase). He quotes Pope Benedict XVI on “allowing” the TLM, which seems to buttress the point of traditionalist writer Peter Kwasnieski’s criticism of even Benedict’s outreach in Summorum Pontificum.
2) He calls the Novus Ordo “one of the key measures” of Vatican II. The Novus Ordo came later and was not what Vatican II intended, but that seems not to be the papal magisterium’s understanding of the matter. And, honestly, that way of squaring it is not how the average guy in the pew experienced things. For better or worse, the Novus Ordo is Vatican II. It is how the average layman in the pew has experienced Vatican II. (By the way, Benedict was not aiming to restore the Tridentine Church. If anything, he was aiming to restore the pre-Tridentine Church, when the Church in the West enjoyed a multiplicity of liturgical forms.)
3) He says Benedict’s wish that the two forms “enrich one another” has not been met. Indeed, he seems to abolish altogether Benedict’s claim of two forms of the Roman Rite, an “ordinary” and “extraordinary” form. And let’s be honest: For a guy who was always about organic development, not having new things just drop out of the sky, his way of describing it was always a goofy invention. I get what he was trying to do. But it was an artificial thing that never took. Nearly all of us still call it the Novus Ordo and the TLM.
4) But Francis’ citing of Vatican II on “full, conscious and active participation” in the liturgy flies in the face of his abrogating Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum. Go to a TLM today and people belt out the Creed in Latin as if it were their native tongue. Go to a Novus Ordo and note that few say the responses and even fewer sing the songs. Today’s TLM is not your grandmother’s Mass. People aren’t saying their beads and ignoring the altar. They’re more engaged than the Novus Ordo crowd.
5) Francis went off on liturgical abuse in the Novus Ordo, on the “unbearable distortions”? Good for him. But at this point, in many places a Novus Ordo done right is harder to find than a traditional latin Mass.
6) Pope Francis wants the Church to return to a unitary form of celebration. He believes everyone needs to return in due time to the Novus Ordo. The longterm goal here seems to be that the TLM wither and die. Where does this leave the FSSP, the Institute of Christ the King, and other orders that celebrate the TLM as part of their identity and apostolate?
7) Nuts and bolts: Summorum Pontificum is dead. The bishop has total power over allowing The TLM again. There are to be no “new” personal parishes for the TLM. And … it’s not to be celebrated in a parochial church? Does that mean, say, the TLM can no longer be celebrated in Enfield or Norwalk? That the parishes run by the Christ the King Institute in Waterbury and Bridgeport are henceforth and forevermore the only two parishes in Connecticut that will have the TLM? And what was that part about the bishop deciding which days it will be celebrated? And even the TLM will now have the New American Bible lectionary inflicted on them?
8) If Pope Francis can repeal the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict, the next Pope can repeal what Pope Francis did today. Shall the TLM then become the Catholic Church equivalent of the USA’s Mexico City policy? Something that is repeatedly reversed and reinstated every time a new administration from the other party comes to power? Isn’t the Church supposed to not work like that? Isn’t that the thing Pope Francis claims to be against in this very document, when he cites the “I belong to Apollos, I belong to Paul” line from the Bible?
9) David Mills’ Catholic Herald article of a week ago, Free the Latin Mass, is crucial to understanding the larger effect of all this. Though not a traditionalist, he describes the TLM’s appeal and not its pastoral but its evangelistic value. It does something for people the Novus Ordo does not do. These people are being set adrift.
10) I get Pope Francis’ concern about disunity, about the hostility of some TLMers to Vatican II. But we’ve got a chicken and egg question. I don’t know why the institutional Church repeatedly goes out of its way to kick Latin Mass Catholics in the teeth. Complain all you want about Catholic internet provocateurs but stuff like this is why they have a huge audience. That and the scandal I mentioned the other day, Francis’s protection of Bishop Zanchetta from the Argentine police by giving him a cushy job in the Vatican.
11) The bomb having finally now dropped on the TLM, I stand by everything I previously wrote here. The TLM is the taproot of reform throughout the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. By liberating the TLM, Benedict reoriented the renewal of the Church in the post-conciliar era. It was the biggest blow in favor of Vatican II’s intended “Ressourcement” that has yet been struck. The future of authentic reform in the Church runs through that one act. Which is why the proponents of false reform hate it so much.
12) I would only add that, having now read Pope Francis’ motu proprio, the Church often seems not terribly concerned about those “unbearable distortions” of the Novus Ordo that even he laments and that the liberation of the TLM was helping to fix. Pope Francis says today that Benedict’s hope that the two forms would “enrich one another” was not met. Visit St. Francis of Assisi Church in New Britain, Connecticut, and you will see that Pope Francis is misinformed. The Novus Ordo that we experience in New Britain didn’t exist twenty years ago. Will it be gone twenty years from now, in light of what Pope Francis did today? Will the unbearable distortions be the only thing left?
Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action. He lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed here are solely his own. His previous article was The Anti-Catholic Catholic Politicians. It’s Not Just About Communion Anymore.
Photo credit: Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica, 1 July 2021 (Guglielmo Mangiapane/pool/AFP via Getty Images).
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