Ecclesia Christi est Ecclesia Catholica. Non modo «subsistit in» Ecclesia Catholica, sed est Ecclesia Catholica.
This afternoon I came up for air while working on my next book, and noticed my social media feed is blowing up about “What do you think about Nope Francis clamping down on the Latin Mass?”
Being buried in my own little world lately (writing, auto, and home repair), I had no idea what anybody was talking about until I googled the title mentioned in one of those questions: Traditiones Custodes. Suddenly, it all became clear.
Suddenly, it felt like somebody invented the flux capacitor took me back to 1985.
Suddenly, I remembered what the Church situation was like prior to 2007.
Suddenly, I realized this may not be a bad thing.
Everything I said above has a lot to unpack, much of it involving the way my perceptions evolved after leaving the Traditional Movement in 2008, and then after leaving all institutional attachments in 2015. So let’s dive right in!
A Little History
Before going into the meat of the matter, I have to step back and realize not all of my readers may be old enough to remember the turmoil in the Church during the 70s and 80s, or even old enough to remember the 90s when things started coming to a head. Thus I think it appropriate to give a quick (albeit oversimplified) primer so we can all be on the same page.
Everybody knows that in 1962, Pope John XXIII called a big Council to “open the windows” and “define no new doctrine” but merely bring pastoral practices in line with the “modern world.” He clearly stated this in his opening address to the Council, despite the modern hierarchy’s attempts to claim Vatican II is “doctrinal” in nature (we’ll come back to this later, and don’t forget the Latin sentence beginning this blog post!).
What most people don’t know is that even before the Council ended, insiders saw which way the wind was blowing and resistance was starting to mount. For example, most Traditional Catholic are familiar with Alfredo Cardinal Ottiviani’s statement that “I pray God to allow me to die before the end of this Council. Thus, at least I shall die a Catholic.” Even lesser known is that the Traditional Movement was already beginning in 1964, with the Catholic Traditionalist Movement founded by Fr. Gomar DePauw (1918-2005).
The doctrinal direction is not what concerns us here today, but the liturgical one. The liturgy had been the subject of experimentation sicne the 1940s, with an increasing use of the vernacular being authorized since the mid-1950s. In 1963, the Council called for a conservative implementation of the fruits of some of these experiments in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the most literal manifestation of which might be the 1964/65 Missal implemented shortly thereafter. (As Father Didier Bonneterre covers this in his The Liturgical Movement, we need not burden ourselves with the details here.)
This 1965 Missal was the first of two “Transitional Missals” designed to help acclimate the faithful for whatever final form these changes would assume (the second was the “Sacramentary” of 1967). Finally, that final form came as the Missa Normativa, now known to us as the “Novus Ordo Missae” from a remark Pope Paul VI made when introducing it. It was criticized almost from Day One as being “Protestantized,” and Archbishop Lefebvre went so far as to call it “Luther’s Mass,” comparing it to Lutheran liturgy.
My own investigation shows that he is mostly correct, except both the Novus Ordo and liberal Lutheran liturgies current at the time were influenced by the ecumenical community of Taizé in France. My own perception is that the Novus Ordo can best be described as a sort of bizarre hybrid, appropriating its structure from the Lutheran liturgies while maintaining many of the prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass even if in garbled form. A full analysis of this would take a blog post of its own, but for now let’s just say there’s a reason I put a copy of the Pre-Vatican II Lutheran liturgy in the Free .PDF Library (I give a small commentary on page 20).
The Novus Ordo Missae
Back to the Novus Ordo. By the time the Novus Ordo was imposed, the hierarchy had been overrun with Modernists determined to stamp out the “Old Religion.” People can question whether this was done legitimately or not, but in practice the hierarchy at the time suppressed the Latin Mass with extreme prejudice, with resistance managing to obtain limited permissions for Latin Masses in 1984 with Quattour abhinc Annos, and the Lefebvre’s consecration of four bishops at Econe in 1988 showing the “Traditionalist Problem” isn’t going away any time soon, so Rome made a concession in the form of the Ecclesia Dei indult, in the hopes of dissuading people from joining the SSPX or other Traditional groups.
Of course, the SSPX was never the only game in town, and during that time people left Rome and either went to the Orthodox Church, the Eastern Rites, or to smaller Traditionalist groups like those chapels run by “The Nine” (nine former SSPX priests who broke with the Archbishop over the Sedevacantist question), groups whose orders derives from the Old Catholics and/or Old Roman Catholics (CMRI originally received its orders from an Old Roman Catholic bishops), the Ngo Dinh Thuch lineage (whether from members of The Nine or through other channels), Old Roman Catholic clergy who look almost identical lot like Traditional Catholics to the casual observer, and of course small independent chapels where the priest may have been ordained from any one of these sources. Some even went to Anglican or Lutheran parishes where they could still find a traditional liturgy close enough to what they were already used to.
But this was only part of the problem. In larger numbers, people were just leaving the Church and not going anywhere else. I’ll never forget a conversation I had in 2005, at a now-closed bead and jewlry shop in Columbus, Ohio called “Byzantium,” where the lady at the counter said to me “The moment they lost the Latin was the moment I lost the interest.” She’s not the only one!
This is only part of the background, and it does not cover the other problems in the Church at the time, such as theological modernism being preached at pulpits, children not being taught proper catechism, and even “conservatives” claiming you were “weird” for wanting to go to a Latin Mass (I talk about ecclesial neo-“conservatives” as a “wishy-washy hive mind” at this blog post, and will spare you that rant here).
I’ll end this section by saying that in 2007, the Traditional Movement was enough of a thing that Fr. Ratzinger – whether out of a sincere love for the Latin Mass or the shrwed instincts of a politician (I don’t know what’s in his heart so can’t say for sure) – promulgated Summorum Pontificum which opened up the Latin Mass to pretty much any priest who wanted to say it. By this point the Traditional Movement had evolved into a culture of fanaticism, purity-spiraling, and all-around toxicity, so this motu proprio had the effect of decimating the Traditional Movement’s chapels as the more sane people clamored to get away from the toxicity and ran back to the “Motu Masses.” Outside of permission granted for seven more prefaces to be used with the 1962 Missal, that’s more or less the situation today.
Finally, the meat of this blog post. Earlier today, July 16, 2021, Mr. Bergoglio – or the Fauxpe, or Nope Francis, or whatever name you wish yo call him – released a new set of rules for the 1962 Latin Mass titles Traditionis Custodes, that is, “Guardians of Tradition,” which does a complete about-face on the policies set out by his predecessors. I’m going to give my take on the major articles, and give a little bit of my reasoning in the next section.
Art. 1. The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.
In the very first article, Bergoglio eliminates his predecessor’s distinction between “Ordinary Form” and “Extraordinary Form.” I was never crazy about that distinction because it’s not a question of form, but a question of rite versus use. The distinction is subtle, but remember that Sarum, York, and to an extent Augustana are less rites of their own than uses of the Roman Rite, meaning they use the Roman template and implement their own variations. The Novus Ordo still fits in that template, and may be better described as “The Pauline Use of the Roman Rite,” which certainly sounds better than the juridically-derived terms “Ordinary Form” and “Extraordinary Form.” (Even then, in a Church that claims to value tradition, it makes little sense to call the form with greater historical precedent “extraordinary,” which in liturgy and canon law means “outside the norm.”)
So the answer is yes, I’m okay with this.
Art. 2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him, to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.
This is merely a repetition of the principle that “bishops are the moderators of the liturgy in their dioceses.” Though Rome has the authority to overrule the bishop, this article is stating that in the case of the 1962 Latin Mass, Rome is deciding to get out of the bishop’s way.
In not as okay with this, because this is leaving the faithful to their own devices if they have to deal with a hostile bishop, and we don’t know if Rome will intervene or even care until somebody attempts to appeal a diocesan bishop’s decision. As “the Church is not a democracy,” the individual faithful’s only option in such a situation is either to suck it up or pound sand.
Art. 3. The bishop of the diocese in which until now there exist one or more groups that celebrate according to the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970:
This article has six provisions, namely stating to the bishops:
- that any currently-existing group celebrating the 1962 Missal must make it publicly clear they don’t dissent from “the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs,”
- that they designate a place for Mass that is “not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes.”
- Read the pericopes for such Masses in the vernacular (whether vernacular-only or Latin and then vernacular, the document doesn’t say).
- Make sure the priest is both competent in the rite and has pastoral sensitivity.
- To verify whether these parishes “are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them.”
- “to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups.”
This is where we see the document contradict itself, as on the one hand, it says the Bishop has the right to regulate the liturgy in his diocese, but then tells the bishop he shouldn’t establish new groups.
We also have the provision that “it not happen in a parish church,” which not only revives the specter of Quatuor abhinc Annos, but raises the question of where these Masses will happen? In a side chapel? In the parking lot? In a parishioner’s living room? Anybody familiar with church planting will know that churches planted in living rooms rarely outgrow the living room, and people attracted to liturgical worship expect their church to look and feel “like a church.” This reads more like an attempt at a death sentence but without coming out and saying the words.
The section about reading the pericopes (Epistle and Gospel) in vernacular is unclear, as the common practice is first to read them in Latin, and then to read then again in vernacular before the sermon. If the readings are to be vernacular-only or Latin-then-vernacular, then this should be stated clearly instead of leaving room for confusion.
As to determining whether a priest is qualified, that part I agree with completely. The ISM and even the Trad Movement are filled with more than enough incompetent clergy, and some things you just can’t unsee.
And finally, the first section about ensuring lack of dissent, that’s just a hierarchy enforcing obedience as it always does. I can’t slam this too hard because the hierarchy is a government body, and that’s just what governments have done throughout history.
Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.
I can’t criticize this too much either. It’s just a totalitarian governmental body doing totalitarian things. And that totalitarianism is not the fault of Vatican II, but of the Catholic Reformation in general and Trent in particular.
It is, however, another contradiction of the statement that the bishop has power to moderate the liturgy in his diocese. By requiring the bishop to consult Rome first, Rome is already stepping into the bishop’s authority to moderate his own diocesan liturgies (this wouldn’t be an issue if they hadn’t affirmed the bishop’s authority in a previous article).
This can also result in a situation where a Latin-friendly bishop may sincerely want the 1962 Mass said in his diocese, but Rome prevents that by simply refusing every candidate he puts forward. This would effectively prevent the Latin Mass from being said even in a diocese where the bishop desires it.
Art. 5. Priests who already celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.
Registration before confiscation. Makes sense to me.
Art. 6. Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.
Sounds like a bureucratic thing. I haven’t paid attention to what happens in the variuos Congregations for years, so I have no idea how (or even if) this means anything on a practical level.
Art. 7. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for matters of their particular competence, exercise the authority of the Holy See with respect to the observance of these provisions.
More bureucracy, stating who has authority over what. This is good for knowing who you’ll have to deal with, what their personal biases are, and so forth.
Art. 8. Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.
This is the hook. Mr. Bergoglio wants you to have no doubt that Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum are now gone, flushed down the toilet, and floating somewhere in the Cloaca Maxima. Any recourse under those two documents is now gone.
How Bad Is It Really?
To the average layperson in the pews, it won’t make a difference because the majority of the world’s Novus Ordinarians attend, well, the Novus Ordo. There are many who think the Latin Mass is just “a curiosity” or “something to attend on Christmas and Easter,” but it doesn’t form any part of their day-to-day prayer life or spirituality. So for them it won’t be so bad.
For the average layperson attending an FSSP parish, this could be a very bad thing on the surface, but maybe a very good thing at the core. The reason here is that a lot of people going to FSSP and other “Indult” or “Motu” parishes tend to be cosplaying LARPers who want to pretend they’re in the 1940s or 1950s, and something like this will separate the people who are there for the right reasons apart from those in it for the show. This can result in a smaller but stronger community that’s more resilient in the future, and the reduced number of “liturgical tourists” can help the community concentrate on its priorities as they currently stand.
For the true Traditional Catholic, who has no truck with the Novus Ordo Church anyway, it’s just another drop in the bucket of “expecting NewRome to act like NewRome.” It could be neutral, or it could result in a return of those sane people who were lost in 2007. Though the toxicity of the Traditional groups may be even more repugnant to them now that they’ve seen other options.
For me, I’ve been waiting for this hammer to drop for quite some time (as have many other people), but I never expected the hammer to drop this hard. It’s got me looking in Rome’s direction again and curious about what changes are in store for the future. Like, will they finally allow the 1998 Sacramentary so people can say “And also with you” again?
But like I said, people have been expecting something like this for a long time, and Bergoglio has long been considered “a sworn enemy of the Latin Mass.” Now I don’t know about you, but I tend to prefer my enemies calling themselves my enemies, rather than pretending to be my friends.
I Want to End This
I haven’t written a blog post in awhile because I haven’t had anything worthwhile to write about. So for that I thank Mr. Bergoglio for giving me something worthwhile.
The funny thing is, almost immediately after leaving the Traditional Movement, I began realizing two things: 1. Protestants are still bickering over things we solved 1700+ years ago, and 2. Vatican II actually had some good pastoral recommendations, even if its clause of subsistit in was pure heresy (I’m not interested in explanations or qualifications, either you reject it outright or you don’t).
If it weren’t for the hierarchy being so compromised by Modernists, and “The Spirit of Vatican II” taking things off the rails as far as they did, and the laity being complicit by their silence throughout all those decades, the post-Vatican II Church could actually have been a wonderful place to be. But that didn’t happen, and in spite of a perceived “bright spot” under Ratzinger, dysfunction remains the order of the day.
If you don’t want this to be “the way things are,” then get over your brainwashing, disregard all inclinations to docility, and either vote with your feet, vote with your purse, or take some other kind of action that’s actually more effective than just writing to your bishop or writing to Rome.
For my part, I’ve got a lot to think about and digest, as these are just my initial impressions that are likely to change as events play out, and upon further reflection. But in the meantime, put the “pay, pray, and obey” kind of thinking aside and remember that the laity are really the only ones who can save their Church.