In the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis has implemented a battery of measures seeking to circumscribe the Tridentine Mass, with the hope of making it disappear to the exclusive advantage of the Mass of Paul VI.
Such relentlessness prompts some questions: The first concerns the motives, published or hidden, given in the accompanying letter. The second tackles the basic question: the link between the Council and the Novus Ordo. The third concerns the principal reactions to the motu proprio. The fourth seeks to define Francis’s spirit manifested through this act.
For many Roman observers, the motu proprio is not so much a scary document than the text of a scared author, who belies the fragility of his authority.
In Nuova Bussola Quotidiana of July 22, Nico Spuntoni reports the comments he received from Tim Stanley, columnist for the Daily Telegraph, collaborator of CNN and the BBC: “It is Francis who is afraid of the ancient Roman rite, just like the hardcore liberals of the Church, mostly over the age of seventy, who worry that Summorum pontificum represents the ruin of the Second Vatican Council.”
And he adds, “We are rapidly approaching a period of conflict between liberalism and the faith, where religious people are persecuted for believing in things that were commonplace 30 years ago—about sexuality, gender, abortion, etc.”
“The tragedy of liberalism is that it has gained power by promoting diversity, but it is now looking to dictate how we must live, what we must believe, and even how we must profess our faith.”
Before the publication of Traditionis Custodes, while the Pope was hospitalized in Gemelli for a surgical procedure, the Vaticanist Aldo Maris Valli issued a daily health bulletin for the Church. He said on his blog on July 8, that she was in a “comatose state.”
“The number of people who go to church is decreasing, vocations are falling dramatically, the number of those who believe in eternal life and the resurrection continues to decrease. The ‘ABCs’ of the faith are crumbling day by day – and this is the most serious crisis, far more serious than the crisis caused by either the sexual or financial scandals perpetrated by men of the Church.”
But Aldo Maria Valli could see a renaissance of the Church on the horizon thanks to Tradition, a timid renaissance often persecuted by the official hierarchy: “The Church that is being reborn has nothing to do with the hierarchy and bishops’ conferences and congregations of the Roman Curia. That boat has shipwrecked and sunk.”
“The Church which is being reborn, sustained by the Spirit, is a miracle of faith: spes contra spem, [hope against hope] a sign of total contradiction in relationship to the world. A Church that is – I apologize for using this term – a bit guerilla, because she is not organized and often is not visible. She is there, but there is little to see, or even nothing at all to see, and she doesn’t even want to be seen.”
“She keeps the flame burning in ways that are both ancient and new. She combines Tradition with the inventiveness that comes from love. She looks with dejection at the official documents, at the policies and pastoral plans. Indeed, she ignores all this because she knows that the only thing that can come from there now is an attack on the faith.”
“Since she thirsts for the Truth, she goes directly to the source of the water that gives life, and she gathers around the very few remaining shepherds, who are themselves hidden and persecuted.”
“The conversion that is required of us today – beyond the daily one of saying no to sin and choosing God – concerns the very way in which we think of the Church: leaving behind all that we have known and entering into a new dimension, under the banner of smallness, hiddenness, and persecution.”
In this dramatic context, we wonder what is the true authority of the pope. For the Argentinian site The Wanderer of July 21, it is no longer that of a leader, but rather that – questionable and contested – of a “lame duck.”
“It seems that this is what is happening with Pope Francis: his limp is not only the caused by sciatica, it is also the effect of the loss of power due to the catastrophic management of his pontificate and the very clear signs that his end in near. The fact that Andrea Riccardi, figurehead of the Sant ‘Egidio Community, has published a book titled ‘the Burning Church’ is highly symptomatic.”
And to continue: “One of the greatest errors that can be committed by a leader suffering from lame-duck syndrome is to give universal orders that are too severe, because he risks being disobeyed and thus revealing his weakness. And this is exactly what seems to have happened with Pope Francis after the publication of the motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes.”
“For now, the only clear and universally known example of adherence he has had is that of Msgr. Angel Luis Rios Matos, bishop of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, who has issued a laughable decree in which he warns that, although in his diocese the traditional Mass is not celebrated, he still forbids it and, while he is at it, he is also taking advantage of the situation to prohibit the use of the Roman chasuble, linen altar cloths, and humeral veils.”
“A similar position was taken by the bishops of Costa Rica. The tyrants created some pathetic tyrannies, and Pope Bergoglio created innumerable mediocre bishops who sadly populate the asphodel meadow” [the realm of the dead in the underworld in Greek mythology, Ed.].
And to conclude ironically, “If every juridical document is to be interpreted in the spirit of the legislator, what emerges from the Motu Proprio is that Pope Francis wants to avoid breaking down unity on liturgical questions.”
“Thus, in all legitimacy and peace of mind, bishops who deem that, in their dioceses, the liturgical diversity of the Roman rite poses no problems and does not break unity, can ignore the norm. More frankly, most bishops do not want to engage in a war that exists only in the mind of Bergoglio and his ideologues of service, this time.”
“As Tim Stanley rightly wrote in The Spectator, it gives the impression of living in the years of Leonid Brezhnev in the Soviet Union, a government of old men, attached to an old, worn-out photograph that portrays the situation of a country that no longer exists.”
From there to evoke the “post-Bergoglio era,” was only one step that The Wander had already taken on July 5: “We are faced with a finished pontificate, which leaves to a dying Church the task of witnessing the tombstone under which will be definitively buried the experiment began in the 1960s with the Second Vatican Council. We could not expect anything else from Bergoglio, whom we Argentinians knew very well as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.”
“In the face of such a disaster, paradoxically, I think that we must give thanks to God, because this the most effective way to convince the world that the Conciliar Church has failed. It would be a grave error to assume that the current crisis is the work of Francis, who limited himself to continuing, in a brutal and vulgar manner, what Paul VI and John Paul II had begun.”
And later attempts to save Vatican II through a “hermeneutic of continuity,” that is, the promotion of the “reform of the reform” promised by Benedict XVI, has failed.
“It is precisely for this reason that Pope Francis behaves [involuntarily] like a great immunizer, that is, like a vaccine able to neutralize all future progressive variants, since we already know how this will end.”
“In fact, the Argentine pope has ‘burned’ progressivism, he has revealed of what the experience of assimilation of the Church to the world consists with its openings and bridges: in a faded Church, in salt that has lost its flavor, in a land of desolation where the currents of an icy wind blow upon the ruins of empty convents, schools, and Catholic universities which are no longer so, vulgar ceremonies that claim to be sacred, and a priestly caste devoted to the most abject and despicable vices.”
And The Wanderer hopes in spite of everything: “The Church, at the death of Pope Bergoglio, will not celebrate a peace conference, but a conclave, about which very few dare to predict anything good, since its protagonists will be, for the most part, cardinals chosen by the late pope and created in his image and likeness, that is, mediocre and incompetent.”
“However, the proximity of the abyss can make them retreat. But retreat to where? How can we back down in situations like this? What is the goal and how do we get there? The next pope, in addition to being a saint, must be a man of refined prudence, a strategist, and a practitioner with the temperament of a neurosurgeon.”
Without needlessly mourning the tragic moments we are living through, or losing ourselves in vain conjectures about a future that does not belong to us, it is necessary – more than ever – to remember Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who simply asked that we be able to “perform the experiment of Tradition,” hic et nunc, in its integrity and completeness.