Traditionis Custodes: What Does Pope Francis Really Want?

May 24, 2022
Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm which houses the Pontifical Liturgical Institute

On July 16, 2021, by the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes Pope Francis considerably reduced the possibility of celebrating the Tridentine Mass.

The following is a reflecton by Fr. Alain Lorans (SSPX).

During the following months, several statements by Msgr. Arthur Roche, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the Roman intention to confine the traditional liturgy, surrounding it with a sanitary cordon intended to protect priests and faithful from the risk of contagion.

However, on February 11, 2022, the Pope signed a decree exempting the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter from the provisions of Traditionis Custodes.

But on April 21, Francis insisted on firmly supporting Traditionis Custodes before the president of the Episcopal Conference of France, Msgr. Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, who was visiting Rome with some colleagues.

He insists on the fact that the members of the Fraternity of St. Peter have the faculty to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments according to the 1962 Missal only in their own churches and oratories. And he affirmed the need for all priests to agree to concelebrate, at least “the Chrism Mass.”

On May 4, during the general audience, Francis briefly met the mothers of priests of “LaVoie romaine,” who left Paris on March 6 and walked 1,500 kilometers to come and beg him to extend the exception granted to the Fraternity of St. Peter.

One of them gave the sovereign pontiff a letter presenting their request, and she deposited “a big bag” containing more than 2,000 letters from faithful Catholics attached to the Tridentine Mass.

Three days later, on May 7, before the professors and students of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Francis castigated those who want “to make the liturgy a battlefield for questions that are not essential, or rather, outdated questions.”

And he denounced the “closed mentalities” which “seek to go back a little,” questioning “the Council, the authority of the bishops... in order to preserve tradition.” And he targeted “the liturgical formalism” of these movements, their ritualism which reduces the celebration to “a recitation, a thing without life, without joy.”

What exactly does the Pope want when he blows hot and cold like this? Observers get lost in conjectures. Francis has the reputation of changing his discourse to suit his various interlocutors. Is it pragmatism, opportunism? Does he have no firm conviction, only variable opinions on the traditional liturgy?

Regardless of Francis' personal intentions, which remain unfathomable, this erratic government has an objective result that everyone can easily see: it wears down patience and destroys trust. But on these ruins, it allows a well-determined policy to move forward.

It is inconsistent in form, but consistent in substance. It undermines the authority of the hierarchical Church to establish the power of a “polyhedral” Church. It undermines certainties, to dominate minds thus disoriented and lead them to a “synodal” Church. Setting mines to dominate: such is the objective fruit of this government. We are waiting for the bomb squad.