There have been many comments and analyzes of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes this summer. All placing Francis’s decision to restrict the celebration of the traditional Mass as much as possible, in the context of the crisis that is currently shaking the Church, but with very different perspectives.
On July 20, on the European Correspondence site, the historian Roberto de Mattei wrote about Traditionis Custodes promulgated four days earlier: “The intent of Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, of July 16, 2021, is to repress any expression of fidelity to the traditional liturgy, but the result will be to spark a war that will inevitably end with the triumph of the Tradition of the Church.”
And he goes on to recall: “When, on April 3,1969, Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae (NOM), his basic idea was that within a few years the traditional Mass would be only a memory. The encounter of the Church with the modern world, which Paul VI was aiming for in the name of an “integral humanism,” envisaged the disappearance of all the heirlooms of the “Constantinian” Church.”
“And the ancient Roman Rite, which St. Pius V had restored in 1570, after the Protestant liturgical devastation, seemed destined to disappear.”
“Never has a prediction shown itself more mistaken. Today the seminaries are devoid of vocations and the parishes are emptying, sometimes abandoned by priests who announce their marriage and return to civilian life.”
“On the contrary, the places where the traditional liturgy is celebrated and the faith and morals of all time are preached are crowded with the faithful and are incubators of vocations. The traditional Mass is celebrated regularly in 90 countries on all the continents, and the number of faithful who participate in it has been growing year by year.”
The Italian academic denounces the illegitimacy of the Roman decision: “On the level of law, the revocation of the individual priest’s free exercise of celebrating according to the liturgical books from before the reform of Paul VI is clearly an illegitimate act.”
“In fact, Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum reiterated that the traditional rite has never been abrogated and that every priest has the full right to celebrate it anywhere in the world. Traditionis Custodes interprets that right as a privilege, which, as such, is withdrawn by the Supreme Legislator.
“This modus procedendi, however, is completely arbitrary, because the lawfulness of the traditional Mass does not arise from a privilege but from the recognition of a subjective right of the individual faithful, whether lay, clerical, or religious. In fact, Benedict XVI never “granted” anything, but only recognized the right to use the 1962 Missal, “never abrogated,” and to enjoy it spiritually.”
“The principle that Summorum Pontificum recognizes is the immutability of the bull Quo Primum of St. Pius V of July 14 1570. As noted by an eminent canonist, Fr. Raymond Dulac (Le droit de la Messe romaine [The Law of the Roman Mass], Courrier de Rome, 2018), Pius V himself did not introduce anything new, but restored an ancient liturgy, granting every priest the privilege of celebrating it in perpetuity.”
And to conclude: “The goal is clear: to eliminate over time the presence of the traditional rite in order to impose the Novus Ordo of Paul VI as the only rite of the Church. … The struggle is taking place on the brink of the abyss of schism.”
“Pope Francis wants to rush his critics to that point, pushing them to establish, in fact if not in principle, a ‘true Church’ opposed to him, but he himself risks sinking into the abyss if he insists on opposing the Church of the Council to that of Tradition.”
“The motu proprio Traditionis custodes is a step in this direction. How is it possible not to notice the malice and hypocrisy of one who intends to destroy Tradition while calling himself the ‘guardian of Tradition’? And how can one fail to observe that this is happening precisely at a time when heresies and errors of all kinds are devastating the Church?”
While the Pope confines the traditional Mass, the churches keep emptying. This is what Francis himself has acknowledged in his message of August 23, 2021, read on the occasion of the opening of the 71st National Liturgical Week in Italy:
“We observe how in people's real lives the very perception of time and, consequently, of Sunday itself, of space, has changed.” He worries that he will not find all the Christian people in the churches.
“The Sunday assembly thus finds itself unbalanced in terms of generational presence, cultural inhomogeneity, and the difficulty of finding a harmonious integration in parish life,” he notes, while trying to reassure himself with “the recent publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal [reformed] and the willingness of the Italian Bishops to accompany it with a robust revival of the liturgical formation of God’s holy people augurs well in this direction,” he persuades himself.
While Francis confines the traditional Mass, the collection boxes are also emptying, as evidenced by figures from Italy and the Vatican. Each year, the Italian state gives 8 per thousand of its tax revenues to religious denominations with whom they have concluded an agreement.
It is the taxpayers who freely decide on the distribution of this sum to a particular religious denomination by affixing their signature next to the name of the one to which they wish it to be attributed.
Since 1985, when these provisions entered into force, signatures in favor of the Catholic Church have constituted an overwhelming majority, which in 2005, a record year, came close to 90%.
But since 2013, the number of signatures in favor of the Church has steadily declined year after year. In 2017, they had already fallen to only 75.36% of the total signatories.
In 2020, they saw a real collapse, with more than a million fewer signatures, or 12,056,389, and a percentage that fell to 71.74%, almost 20% less than the 2005 record. The historic drop in numbers from the “8 per thousand” is available to everyone on the official website of the Italian Ministry of Finance.
At the end of July, the Holy See published a set of numbers on its own financial situation and in particular on the state of Peter’s Pence—the offering collected around the world each year for the pope.
It still amounted to 83 million euros in 2014, the first full year of Francis’ pontificate. But three years later, donations were down to 64 million and, in 2020, three years later, to 54 million.
No specific investigation has been carried out on the reasons for the fall of donations to Peter’s Pence, nor on the collapse of the “8 per thousand” in Italy, but for many observers, such as Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant' Egidio Community, not a friend of traditionalism, this decline is “linked to the public opinion of Catholics,” that is, to their judgment on the ecclesiastical institution.