reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Deacon Greg sampled some reactions to the new Motu Proprio by Pope Francis concerning the Latin Mass
While the pope did not suppress the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, as he was rumored in some circles to be planning, the changes are significant — essentially a rollback of the 2007 motu proprio Summorum pontificum.
In fact, in a letter accompanying the changes, Pope Francis said that Benedict’s effort to widen permission for the Extraordinary Form, “intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”
The pope added his concern that celebration of the Extraordinary Form “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’”
Catholics attending such Masses are likely to push back on those suggestions. But it will be diocesan bishops who are empowered to implement the Church’s new norms, and their view of local communities will become the most significant factor in the practical changes that Catholics could see locally.
The pope told diocesan bishops: “It is up to you to proceed in such a way as to return to a unitary form of celebration, and to determine case by case the reality of the groups which celebrate with this Missale Romanum.”
It is worthwhile to indicate what this motu proprio does not place restrictions upon. No mention whatsoever is made of the pre-conciliar Breviarium Romanum, Pontificale Romanum and Rituale Romanum. No express abrogation is made of any notable document concerning the traditional Roman Missal, and such abrogation should not therefore be implied. The traditional Missal remains, as it always was, never abrogated. The rights established by Quo Primum, by the theological and liturgical tradition of the Western rites, and immemorial custom remain intact. No mention is made of the traditional rites of the various religious communities (Dominican, Carmelite, Praemonstratensian, etc.) nor those of the ancient sees (Ambrosian, Lyonnais, etc.). There is no indication that the right of a priest to celebrate privately according to the 1962 missal is in any way infringed.
What is striking, if not at all surprising, is the, shall we say, flexible use of various concepts in this document and letter, since that flexibility is characteristic of most people in positions of power and yes, of this papacy.
In short: a papacy that, in words, emphasizes synodality, accompaniment, listening, dialogue outreach to the margins and consistently condemns “clericalism” – has issued a document that embodies a rigid approach to the issue, and then restricts, limits and directs more power, ultimately, to Rome.
And shows no evidence of actually “listening” to anyone except bishops who are annoyed by the TLM and TLM adherents who conveniently fit the “divisive” narrative.
In the short term, I fear Francis’ decision will aggravate the divisions within the church in the United States. But the choice was forced on him by those who, as he said, exploited Summorum Pontificum. The sting that follows pulling off a Band-Aid lasts but a minute. The church’s thanksgiving for the sacrifice of Christ is eternal.
Francis’ decision as pope to overturn in this way the decisions of his two predecessors is extraordinary. One would have to go back to the Second Vatican Council to find such a precedent in the modern history of the church. It required courage to roll back their decisions on such a sensitive and highly charged subject as the pre-Vatican II liturgy and the Latin Mass of the Roman Missal of Pius V, edited by John XXIII in 1962, knowing that it would provoke a mighty strong reaction from the traditionalists in the church, especially in the United States, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
He did so nevertheless because, as he explains in the letter, the faculty was given by his predecessors to promote unity in the church and it has not done that. On the contrary, it is creating more division. His decision, in response to bishops’ requests, aims to stop it from developing as a movement against the council.
I think the key to today’s decision to abrogate the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in the motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes” is that Pope Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum“ failed spectacularly in doing what it set out to do: foster unity. Now Pope Francis intends to work towards unity in the Church, with one, unified Rite in the Latin Church. He makes clear in his accompanying letter that the reformed rite is the unique expression of the liturgy in the Church. The past 13 years have demonstrated that the reformed Rite is essentially connected to the Vatican II, and that further promoting the pre-conciliar liturgy will foster division and hinder the implementation of the Council.
This is a time for humility, intense prayer, great sensitivity, and care in choosing what to say and what not to say.
Today’s motuproprio is stronger than many of us expected, which compounds the level of anxiety for some even as it provides a path forward. Pope Francis’s modification of his predecessor’s directives will be painful and difficult for some people to accept. Their feelings should be accepted and respected, without judgment or condescension. For those progressives who support the Second Vatican Council and were always skeptical of Summorum Pontificum, this is not a time for gloating or Schadenfreude.
Pope Francis readily admits that he agrees with Pope Benedict XVI that “in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.” So, one task at hand, and a possible place of common ground for divided Catholics, is to focus on making regular Masses a bit more reverent. After all, the good things that I received from my encounter with the Traditional Latin Mass should have been available to me in the Novus Ordo, too. All good liturgy, in whatever form or language, should engender desires for the good, the true and the beautiful.
But there is another, deeper and more difficult spiritual challenge here. The desires that the liturgy awakes and satisfies in us—and for some of us, the desires that the Latin Mass especially nurtured—are good, holy and necessary. But those desires also point beyond the liturgy itself. At the risk of sounding glib, what would it mean if we could find the spiritual goods that the Latin Mass taught so many in other places? What if we were able to discover a passion for beauty from our service to the poor? If we could develop a mature sense of wonder and awe from caring for creation, our common home?
It takes times to absorb and weigh the implications of legislative documents.
That leads me to my first reaction to the Motu Proprio, Traditionis custodes, which effectively insults the entire pontificate of Benedict XVI and the pastoral provisions of John Paul II and all the people they have affected…
…I am forced to remark that the vulgarity of this document is matched only by its cruelty.
Even those who have been inveterate critics of Benedict’s provisions, who may even go so far as to hate not just the traditional forms of worship, but the people who want them, ought to be horrified by the brutality of his document.