Pope Francis’s ‘Traditionis Custodes’ and the Traditional Latin Mass

Pope Francis’s Traditionis Custodes and the Traditional Latin Mass - An Unjust Law Does Not Oblige
Pope Francis’s Traditionis Custodes and the Traditional Latin Mass – An Unjust Law Does Not Oblige

An Unjust Law Does Not Oblige

Lack of sacrality and reverential worship in the “New Mass” has reached the unimaginable. Here are a few examples from among many that could be given:

  • at the end of Mass, a fully vested archbishop rides a bicycle around his cathedral;1
  • priests celebrate clown Masses, while others have clown acolytes;2
  • A drag queen sings at a cardinal’s Mass;3
  • Even more serious are “LGBT” or “Transgender” Masses;4
  • Pagan gods are worshipped at a bishop’s consecration.5

Pope Francis does nothing to stop these abominations.

Nevertheless, he sees the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, whose piety and sacredness are well known, as a grave threat to Church unity.

In his July 16, 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes and its explanatory letter to the bishops, he brutally restricted as much as possible (with a view to extinguishing) the celebration of Holy Mass in the traditional rite, although it is of apostolic origin.6

Why Such Animosity?

Why this animosity against a Mass celebrated and attended by so many saints and faithful Catholics and which, at its core, goes back to apostolic times?

Pope Francis tried to justify his harsh measure stating that many who attend the traditional Mass entertain doubts about certain novelties introduced by the Second Vatican Council. He says that such doubts are “to doubt the Holy Spirit himself.”7

A Council That Did Not Want to Be Infallible

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) certainly fulfilled the conditions for infallibility by an ecumenical council. This council clearly expressed its intention to make formal and definite dogmatic declarations, binding the faithful under penalty of excommunication. Such official pronouncements become infallible and irrevocable, therefore, by the very nature of their form. Moreover, three successive popes confirmed its dogmatic canons and the respective anathemas of those denying the defined doctrines.

Unlike Trent, as Popes John XXIII and Paul VI declared, the Second Vatican Council did not want to use this prerogative of infallibility.

At the opening, John XXIII stated that its teaching would be “a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.”8 In closing the council, Paul VI declared that in it “the teaching authority of the Church … [had not wished] to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements.”9

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Furthermore, in the general audience of January 12, 1966, Paul VI reaffirmed that “given the pastoral character of the council, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary way, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility; but it nevertheless endowed its teachings with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium.”10 At another general audience, on March 8, 1967, the same pontiff confirmed that the council had, as one of its programmed items, “not to issue new solemn dogmatic definitions.”11

Thus, in trying to justify his opposition to the traditional Latin Mass, there is no point in Pope Francis appealing to the authority of the Second Vatican Council as if it were that of the Holy Spirit. The council’s novelties are not infallible Church teaching. Their authority is that of all ordinary Church Magisterium and, therefore, can be fallible. They can include doctrinal errors.12 The Second Vatican Council lacks the proper authority to impose a “New Mass” as “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”13

The Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council Cannot Be Compared

The historical-doctrinal basis of Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes and its accompanying letter to the world’s bishops does not stand up to criticism. It alleges that just as the Council of Trent asked for changes to the Roman Rite, the Second Vatican Council also requested liturgical reform. Pope Saint Pius V fulfilled the first conciliar request, while the second gave rise to the so-called “New Mass” promulgated by Pope Paul VI.

The parallel is misplaced.

First of all, Trent did not ask for a change in the Roman Rite but to restore the genuine liturgical tradition.

According to Fr. John W. O’Malley, S.J., the Council of Trent never intended to establish a new liturgy but only ordered a “revision of the missal and breviary of the Roman Rite. Its intention was to eliminate superstitions, redundancies, scribal errors, and other inappropriate elements that had crept into the texts over the course of time.” Saint Pius V granted the council’s request. The result was the Missal of 1570, “in just what the council intended—not a new liturgy in any sense but a reliable text that conformed to the best and oldest manuscripts and printed editions.”14

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Likewise, liturgical historian Msgr. Klaus Gamber states there was no change in the rite of the Mass because, “[s]ince the fifth century, the only thing on which the popes have unceasingly insisted is that the Roman Canon must be adopted; their argument being that it originated with the Apostle Peter.”15

Two Councils, Two Intentions, Two Theologies

Secondly, the two councils were convened and held with different intentions and doctrinal authority.

The Council of Trent was called to refute Protestant errors, especially those of Luther, to reform the clergy, to end abuses and worldliness in the Roman Curia and hierarchy of the Church. This council reaffirmed true Catholic doctrine, especially on the points denied by the innovators at the time, raising a solid barrier to the advance of Protestantism.

Consequently, the reform of liturgical books, particularly the Roman Missal, also attended to the concerns of the Council Fathers by eliminating spurious elements that could lend themselves to interpretations according to the doctrines of the innovators.

On the contrary, neither John XXIII, the pope who convened the Second Vatican Council, nor Paul VI, who closed and promulgated it, intended to condemn modern errors. Indeed, their intent was to dialogue with these errors. They tried to get as close as possible to Protestantism, mainly through the new theory of ecumenism.

Moreover, the Second Vatican Council adopted the neo-modernist principles of the nouvelle théologie as its own.16

The liturgical reform carried out to fulfill the wishes of the Second Vatican Council reflects the new theology informing its documents and the desire to open the Church up to the world and other religions.

Luther and the Mass

Nowhere is this difference between the two councils—or rather between the different theologies and mentalities that informed them—more blatant and with more significant implications for the daily life of the faithful than in the Holy Mass.

Luther did not accept that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice (defying Church teaching), meaning an act that appeases God’s wrath, rightly inflamed by sin, Who thus becomes more mercifully disposed toward humanity.

The heresiarch was filled with fury against the propitiatory end of the Mass. He manifested it with blasphemies such as, “I say; all public houses [i.e., brothels], which God has severely condemned, all killings, murders, thefts and adultery are less harmful than the abomination of the papist Mass.”17

For this reason, at Trent, the Council Fathers insisted on defining the Mass as a genuinely propitiatory sacrifice and condemning those who denied this truth of the Faith: “If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is only one of praise and thanksgiving, or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the Cross, but not one of propitiation; or that it is of profit to him alone who receives; or that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.”18

The New Mass: the Liturgical Expression of Vatican II

Pope Francis is right to present a profound link between the Second Vatican Council and the “New Mass,” its liturgical expression. It reflects well the liberalism, ecumenism, and nouvelle théologie principles that inform Second Vatican Council documents and their optimistic and anti-traditional mentality.

Thus, to understand the “New Mass,” it is necessary to understand the council. It is not enough to consider only the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (on the Sacred Liturgy) but the conciliar documents in their entirety, as all of them influenced the “New Mass.”

The New “Ecumenical Mass”

Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, S.V.D. reports an episode that illustrates well the atmosphere in which Council Fathers called for liturgical reform. When discussing the scheme on the liturgy, the German-born bishop Wilhelm Josef Duschak, S.V.D., Vicar Apostolic of Calapan, Philippines, “stressed the need for what he called an ecumenical Mass, modeled closely upon the Last Supper, over and above the existing form of the Latin Rite Mass.”19

The 1969 “New Mass” largely fulfilled the desires of this bishop and many others, as it corresponded to the council’s pre-established agenda: Bringing the Church closer to the modern world and other religions. More specifically, with Protestantism, because of its influence in the West.

In his history of the “New Mass,” Fr. Claude Barthe rightly says: “It is not possible to study liturgical reform without referring to its ecumenical background. This is ecumenism geared toward Protestantism alone.” He recalls that five Protestant pastors were invited to participate as “observers” in the Consilium that prepared the “New Mass.”

The Second Vatican Council’s New Theology

Fr. Barthe says that although they did not speak at plenary meetings, they talked to the experts at breaks and expounded their heretical doctrines. Furthermore, they were directly consulted on several occasions.20

For ecumenical reasons, the “New Mass” so reduced the prayers and gestures that emphasized the propitiatory character of the Mass21 that Protestant pastors said they could use the “New Mass” in their own liturgical celebrations.

One of them, Max Thurian, while still a Calvinist pastor,22 wrote in the French Catholic daily La Croix: “[With the new Ordo], the liturgical reform has taken a remarkable step in the field of ecumenism. It has approached the liturgical forms of the Lutheran Church.”23

The [Protestant] Superior Consistory of the Church of Augsburg and Lorraine appreciated the fact that in the New Mass, the notion of sacrifice was attenuated: “It should be possible for a Protestant to recognize the supper instituted by the Lord in the Catholic Eucharistic celebration … we are keen to use the new Eucharistic prayers … which have the advantage of bringing nuance to the theology of sacrifice we used to attribute to Catholicism.”24

Paving the Way for Pachamama Worship

Some people wonder about the meaning of Pope Francis’s drastic and unexpected offensive against the traditional Latin Mass.

Why did he rekindle a debate that seemed to have ended? Why this eagerness to stamp out the Latin Mass and hurriedly impose the “New Mass,” without exceptions, as “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite”?25

Churches that celebrate only the “New Mass” are increasingly empty, while those offering the traditional Latin Mass become fuller and fuller, especially with young families. Thus, it seems that encouraging the Latin Mass (not abolishing it) would be more authentically pastoral.

Does Pope Francis’s participation in the idolatrous worship of the pagan goddess Pachamama in the Vatican gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica bear on this?26

Is this despotic measure intended to pave the way for a “Catholic Amazonian rite,” as called for at the Amazon Synod, in the mold of the “Zairean Rite”?27 That is a valid question, as Pope Francis himself suggested, in the preface of a new book on the history of the “Zairean Rite,” that it was the first post-Vatican II “inculturation” of the Mass.28

Abrogating the Traditional Latin Mass Is Beyond Any Pope’s Authority

Is the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes authentic and valid Church law, though? Are the faithful obliged in conscience to obey it? Many are weighing this issue.29

In his statement on Traditionis Custodes, Raymond Cardinal Burke explains that no pope has the authority to abolish the traditional Roman Rite:

“The fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) of the Roman Pontiff is the power necessary to defend and promote the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is not “absolute power” which would include the power to change doctrine or to eradicate a liturgical discipline which has been alive in the Church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and even earlier.…

“16.  It must be remembered that, from a theological point of view, every valid celebration of a sacrament, by the very fact that it is a sacrament, is also, beyond any ecclesiastical legislation, an act of worship and, therefore, also a profession of faith. In that sense, it is not possible to exclude the Roman Missal, according to the [traditional Roman Rite], as a valid expression of the lex orandi and, therefore, of the lex credendi of the Church. It is a question of an objective reality of divine grace which cannot be changed by a mere act of the will of even the highest ecclesiastical authority.”30

Traditionis Custodes Does Not Oblige in Conscience

It is unjust to prohibit the celebration of the traditional Roman Rite, a Mass dating back to apostolic tradition, which gives much glory to God and leads people to holiness. It runs counter to the common good of the faithful and the salvation of souls (salus animarum), which is the supreme law of the Church (canon 1752).

When dealing with an unjust law, Saint Thomas Aquinas joins with Saint Augustine in stating that it is not a real law: “[A]s Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. I, 5), ‘a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all.’”31

The Angelic Doctor says that a law is unjust when it goes against the natural common good or divine law. In the latter case, “laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, ‘we ought to obey God rather than man.’”32

With great sorrow and for love of the Church, we must conclude that Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes cannot be considered a valid law of the Church. It is not binding in conscience.

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With full peace of mind and knowing that they are obedient and faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ, priests can respectfully resist Traditionis Custodes and continue celebrating the traditional Latin Mass. And the faithful can continue attending it.

Updated August 24, 2021.

Footnotes

  1. See “Palermo. E l’arcivescovo fa un giro (in bici) in Cattedrale,” Avvenire, Apr. 29, 2016, //www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/un-giro-in-cattedrale-.
  2. See “A Mass With Clowns at Salzburg’s Cathedral” TraditioninAction.org, Mar. 18, 2007, //www.traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A199rcClownArchbishop.htm; “A clownish Mass in Switzerland,” TraditioninAction.org, Sept. 27, 2004, //www.traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A069rcSwitzMass.htm.
  3. See “Drag Queen Signs During Cardinal’s Mass,” TraditioninAction.org, June 20, 2021, //www.traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A941-Dra.htm.
  4. See Jules Gomes, “Bishop Backs LGBT Eucharist, Bans Latin Mass,” Church Militant, July 19, 2021, //www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/bishop-backs-lgbt-eucharist-bans-latin-mass; Eduardo Campos Lima, “Mass for LGBT Community Criticized by Traditionalists in Brazil,” Crux, Jun. 11, 2021, //cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2021/06/mass-for-lgbt-community-criticized-by-traditionalists-in-brazil/.
  5. “Pagan Gods Worshipped at Bishop’s Consecration,” TraditioninAction.org, Feb. 22, 2015, //www.traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A614-Inti.htm.
  6. See Pope Francis, motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (July 16, 2021), //www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/20210716-motu-proprio-traditionis-custodes.html; “Letter Of The Holy Father Francis To The Bishops Of The Whole World, That Accompanies The Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Data ‘Traditionis Custodes,’” (July 16, 2021), //www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2021/documents/20210716-lettera-vescovi-liturgia.html.
  7. Pope Francis, Letter to the Bishops, (6th par.).
  8. Pope John XXIII, Solemn Opening of the Second Vatican Council (Oct. 11, 1962), no. 5, //www.vatican.va/content/john-xxiii/it/speeches/1962/documents/hf_j-xxiii_spe_19621011_opening-council.html.
  9. Pope Paul VI, “Address of Pope Paul VI During the Last General Meeting of the Second Vatican Council,” (Dec. 7, 1965), //www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/speeches/1965/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19651207_epilogo-concilio.html.
  10. Pope Paul VI, General Audience (Jan. 12, 1966), //www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/it/audiences/1966/documents/hf_p-vi_aud_19660112.html.
  11. Pope Paul VI, General Audience (Mar. 8, 1967), //www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/it/audiences/1967/documents/hf_p-vi_aud_19670308.html.
  12. See Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira, Can Documents of the Magisterium of the Church Contain Errors? Can the Catholic Faithful Resist Them? trans. by John R. Spann and José Aloisio A. Schelini (Spring Grove, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 2015), //tfp.org/can-documents-of-the-magisterium-of-the-church-contain-errors-can-the-catholic-faithful-resist-them/.
  13. Pope Francis, motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, art. 1.
  14. John W. O’Malley, Trent: What Happened at the Council (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 268–9.
  15. Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy – its Problems and Background (Fort Collins, Colo.: Roman Catholic Books, n.d.), 24.
  16. See Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “The Second Vatican Council’s New Theology,” TFP.org, Sept. 2, 2020, //tfp.org/the-second-vatican-councils-new-theology/.
  17. Martin Luther, Werke, 15:774, 18, quoted in J. Paquier, s.v. “Luther,” in Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, col. 1170.
  18. Council of Trent, session 23, ch. 9, can. 3. (Denz.-Rahner 950).
  19. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D, The Rhine flows into the Tiber (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1985), 37.
  20. Claude Barthe, La Messe de Vatican II – dossier historique (Versailles, France: Via Romana, 2018), 159–60.
  21. See Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, Considerations on the “Ordo Missae” of Paul VI (Cleveland: Lumen Mariae Publications, 1976).
  22. In 1988, Max Thurian joined the Catholic Church and was ordained a priest. The Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice was no longer an obstacle.
  23. La Croix, May 30, 1969, quoted in Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “O Direito de Saber,” Folha de S. Paulo, Jan. 25, 1970.
  24. Consistoire supérieur de la Confession d’Augsbourg et de Lorraine, “Déclaration du 8 décembre 1973,” quoted in Louis Salleron, “La Nouvelle Messe,” ITINÉRAIRES Chroniques & Documents (Paris: DOMINIQUE MARTIN MORIN, Numero Spécial hors série 197, Novembre 1975), 9–10.
  25. Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodes, Art. 1.
  26. Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “Having Worshipped Pachamama, Pope Francis Now Disparages Mary’s Co-Redeeming Role,” TFP.org, Dec. 23, 2019, //tfp.org/having-worshipped-pachamama-pope-francis-now-disparages-marys-co-redeeming-role/.
  27. Edward Pentin, “Women’s Diaconate, Amazonian ‘Mass’ Discussed in Amazon Synod’s Opening Days,” National Catholic Register, Oct. 8, 2019, //www.ncregister.com/news/women-s-diaconate-amazonian-mass-discussed-in-amazon-synod-s-opening-days.
  28. Loup Besmond de Senneville, “Pope Encourages Creation of Amazonian Mass,” La Croix, Dec. 3, 2020, //international.la-croix.com/news/religion/pope-encourages-creation-of-amazonian-mass/13436.
  29. See “Two Views on Liturgical Reform: Joseph Shaw (Latin Mass Society) and Anthony Ruff (Pray Tell)” Rorate Caeli, Aug. 2, 2021, //rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2021/08/two-views-on-liturgical-reform-joseph.html; Fr. Daniel Pinheiro, I.B.P., homily on the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, July 18, 2021, //www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgTqfyjS2OI.
  30. Raymond Cardinal Burke, “Statement on the Motu Proprio ‘Traditionis Custodes,’” CardinalBurke.com, July 22, 2021, //www.cardinalburke.com/presentations/traditionis-custodes.
  31. Summa Theologica, q. 96, a. 4 c.
  32. Ibid.

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