Press Review: Fraternity of St. Peter Exempted From Traditionis Custodes

April 04, 2022

On February 11, 2022, Pope Francis signed a decree exempting the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter from the provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (July 16, 2021), which severely restricts the possibility of celebrating the Tridentine Mass.

On February 24, Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, gave an interview to Christopher Lamb from the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet.

The prelate states that the aim of his dicastery is “to continue the implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.… This, he says, is its ‘Magna Carta,’” referring to the Great Charter of England of 1215.

Then he says that “it is still possible to use the 1962 Missal, but it is not the norm. It is a pastoral concession.” And he added unequivocally that “it is not within my ability to see whether the old form of the Mass will eventually fall out of use, but points out that the aim of Traditionis custodians is to bring people ‘closer to the understanding of what the Council required.”

The British prelate then points out that Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, has moved away from the model of the Church as a “perfect society” to approach - according to him – “the biblical notion of the Church as the pilgrim People of God.”

In the first model, he says, “it was about the priest who ‘represented the intentions of the people’ and took that to God in the liturgy. Vatican II has changed that. “With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptized it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist, but all the baptized who celebrate with him.”

“This surely has to be the most profound understanding of what ‘participation’ means. That we’re not just reading, we’re not just singing, we’re not just moving things around in the sanctuary, or coping with children or whatever it is, but we are actually entering deeply into the divine life, which has been made manifest to us in the Paschal mystery.” -- The modernist position on the Mass and the priesthood of the laity could not be better summed up.

Archbishop Roche laments that “the reasoning behind the conciliar reforms is still not ‘fully understood.’ Formation, he says, has been ‘very lacking’ in certain areas of Catholic life, and nowhere is this more true than in other seminaries, where there are strong currents are pushing for a return to pre-Vatican II styles of dress and liturgy.”

Christopher Lamb expresses the dismay of his interlocutor, noting that it is not uncommon for newly ordained priests coming out of the seminaries of the Western world to begin celebrating the Tridentine Mass almost immediately.

That is why the congregation led by Archbishop Roche is calling on seminaries to teach "the richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council,” and any newly-ordained priest who wishes to celebrate Mass using pre-Vatican liturgical books will need to obtain permission from the Holy See.

And the prefect of the liturgy to say one last time that what was originally a concession had turned into a “promotion to return to what existed before the Second Vatican Council.” This “couldn’t be tolerated because the Council has changed the way in which we’re going forward. That’s just a simple matter.”

- It is this simple matter that the beneficiaries of an exemption from the measures of Traditionis custodes must meditate on, because their exemption does not exempt them, according to Pope Francis himself, from taking into account the provisions of this motu proprio.

On March 1, the Swiss agency published an interview with the Dominican religious Henry Donneaud, a professor of fundamental theology. Explaining the February 11 decree, he makes a surprising comparison: “I think this decision should be read as significant in the way it positions itself [that of the pope].”

“If you allow me a parallel that may come as a surprise, I would say that Francis treats the field of liturgy a bit like the field of family morals. On the one hand, there is the matter of principles (on which he is strict) and on the other hand the implementation of these principles (in which a certain flexibility is conceivable).”

- In other words, the decree would be read like Amoris Lætitia (2016) which reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage and authorizes, in note and in a pastoral capacity, communion to remarried divorcees who have freed themselves from this indissolubility.

A little later, Fr. Donneaud declared: “The Fraternity of Saint Peter claims not to criticize and therefore contest the Mass of Paul VI. This is a major difference which contrasts with the comments made by certain traditionalists, who claim that the Mass of Paul VI is a “cut-rate” Mass, “which does not honor the dimension of the sacrifice.”

“The Fraternity of Saint Peter having distanced itself from these unacceptable statements, the Pope did not want to demand too much of those attached to the Tridentine liturgy by forcing them to change their practices overnight. He therefore showed pastoral benevolence towards the Fraternity.”

It should be noted that the absence of criticism of the New Mass is, according to Fr. Donneaud, what allowed the Fraternity of Saint Peter to benefit from pastoral benevolence, the conciliar doctrinal requirements being maintained in their principle. But after the benevolence, the requirements will have to be fulfilled concretely, and here is what he proposes:

“It is therefore appropriate to continue working so that the liturgy of Vatican II is received everywhere. After this Council, the camps froze a little. But changes could be possible. For example, in celebrations where the Tridentine missal is still used, one could introduce elements allowing the active participation of the faithful promoted by Vatican II.”

“The liturgy is etymologically an ‘act of the people’; doing the readings in French [the vernacular] and asking the faithful to recite the ‘Our Father’ could be avenues to explore in these celebrations. Or again, we have recently seen such a traditionalist community resort to concelebration…”

Fr. Donneaud is not only an intellectual, he is also a man of action. In September 2021, he was appointed Apostolic Assistant by the Pope, to “accompany” the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Spirit of Pontcalec, Morbihan.