Archbishop Roche Is Persistent and Rigid

June 27, 2022
Msgr. Arthur Roche during an ecumenical meeting in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI

The future cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, gave an interview to Vatican Radio, which was reported on June 16, 2022 by Vatican News, in which he was questioned on various subjects related to the liturgy and particularly on the question of the old missal.

Recent Controversies and Their Significance for Archbishop Roche

The first question relates to the recent and numerous debates on the liturgy, particularly on the Mass. The journalist asks the archbishop why the subject is still so controversial.

The prelate stated that, despite various debates on the liturgy during the history of the Church “there has never been a controversy on the liturgy like the one we are experiencing today” and the reason he puts forward, at least in part, is “that there have never before been two versions of the Roman Missal,” despite the fact that the 1970 missal was produced with the full force of the Vatican Council.

Archbishop Roche goes on to say that “it is a tragedy that there is this controversy today… because the Eucharist is, by nature, the sacrament that unites the whole Church.” He recalls that “liturgical law helps us in our belief.” And concludes that “the reform of the liturgy is a very important issue today and it should not be considered as an option.”

To explain this controversy – he even speaks of it as a battle – he appeals to individualism and relativism. But, he continues, “the celebration of Mass is not a matter of personal choice.… And the Church over the centuries has always regulated the form of liturgy that it has deemed most relevant for a given time.”

Finally, he quotes Fr. Jungmann who showed “how, over the centuries, the Mass has been modified in this way in order to adapt to the needs of the day. And resistance to that is a very serious matter, which the pope pointed out in his document on the liturgy, Traditionis custodes.”

Finally, he concludes on the question: “all that is happening is the regulation of the old liturgy of the 1962 Missal by stopping the promotion of it, because it was clear that the Council, the bishops of the Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put forward a new liturgy for the vitality of the life of the Church. … Resisting this is something that is really very serious.”

At the end of the interview, Archbishop Roche notes that secularization has caused the meaning of the Sunday celebration to be lost and seeks remedies. He sees them in catechesis, closeness to people, and finally the celebration of Eucharistic worship which brings the doctrine of the Church. He affirms that the new Mass comes mainly from Sacred Scripture: this is how it conveys the doctrine.

Serious Shortcomings

Firstly, let us consider this last point. It is not Holy Scripture that teaches us directly, otherwise catechism classes would be Bible reading. Doctrine is given to us by the catechism. In the traditional Mass, the prayers of the offertory and the canon, if they are not exempt from scriptural references, are real teachings by their theological precision.

We have here a particular case of a post-conciliar defect which seems to consider only Scripture, and to want to resolve everything directly with it. We are getting close to the sola scriptura of the Protestants. This has been seen particularly in liturgy, in theology – moral theology above all – and in pastoral care. But this is a fatal error.

And moreover the calm denial of the damage produced by the new rite, the refusal of any criticism about it, the blindness to the desertion of the celebrations linked to their desacralization, favored by the reformed rite, are appalling. Faced with such obstinacy, there is nothing to be done.