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Just What Tradition is He Guarding Anyway?

  /   Saturday July 17, 2021  

I’ve been wanting to write more on this site, but I didn’t expect this to be one of the first things out of the gate. In fact, it’s rather unfortunate that this is what I think I need to post. I am not one to publicly criticize papal documents of any kind. I attend a Latin Mass only on occasion (maybe only two or three times in the last year and a half). However, I cannot help but find the new motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, to be completely unnecessary and, to be honest, plain awful.

We had seen news that Pope Francis was planning to issue regulations (and probably restrictions) regarding the Latin Mass. Maybe there really are places where the extended permissions given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum have been abused in some way (probably so), and the local bishop needed to be given some more control over what was happening. In fact, Pope Francis has indicated that a survey had been sent out to the bishops regarding this, but the little that I have seen on this survey suggests that over half of the bishops who responded were either favorable or neutral towards the Latin Mass (but the source is something I would not normally read). However, what we have received is far more severe that I would have expected, and I can’t see any way that this severity was even remotely necessary.

I read it first without having seen any published commentary about it. The thing that caught my eye was that the document appeared to be saying that the Mass should not be celebrated in “parochial churches” nor could any personal parishes be erected. “Surely I am not reading this right, and someone more knowledgeable will set this straight,” I thought. Well, someone did set the record straight, and I didn’t misread the document. So, where are people going to go for Latin Mass – the shopping mall?

Pope Francis claims in his letter that this was issued to promote unity among the faithful. If so, I can’t think this was thought through very well. Catholics who revere the Latin Mass and are working hard to stay faithful to the Church will no doubt feel alienated. The consequences will be even worse for those nearer the edge, about whom Pope Francis purports to be concerned. If they are relegated to the cemetery chapel on the edge of town or the basement of an old rectory for the Mass they love, they may never again show up in a parish church. Those who reject Vatican II or who are extreme enough to be sedevacantists will simply disregard the decree. They either don’t believe in the validity of the ordinary form or don’t believe Pope Francis is really the pope, and they’ll no doubt consider this decree to be evidence of their claim.

To be fair, I am very certain that there are people who attend Latin Mass for the wrong reasons (eg rejection of Vatican II, the ordinary form, or even Church authority). However, there are many legitimate reasons why people prefer the Latin Mass. I do very much appreciate the reverence shown, and I know others do too. Some people simply want to escape the irreverence and abuse that occurs in some places in the ordinary form even though they understand that the problem is not the ordinary form in and of itself. Still others are people who grew up with it and have come to really appreciate it.

In fact, if there’s a real problem with the celebration of the Mass that needs to be tackled, how about the many liturgical abuses that are occurring in the ordinary form? I am fortunate enough to be where those abuses are either infrequent or somewhat minor in comparison (eg having to turn and greet each other before Mass or asking for people to stand if it’s their birthday). However, I’ve both seen and heard of worse (eg goldfish in the holy water fonts or even alteration of the words of consecration of the Eucharist, potentially invalidating it). Next, let’s tackle the use of sappy piano tunes that some people think are hymns. While that’s technically not a violation of the norms, it does reduce the reverence shown to Our Lord in the Eucharist.

What is really needed in this day and age is a reminder that, when we are at Mass, we are there to worship the Lord. God is almighty, all powerful, all holy, and worthy of all of our reverence and love. Yet, he stoops down to love us completely and gives himself to us in the Holy Eucharist. There is nothing more important happening on earth than the Mass. If anything needed to be done, we needed to be reminded of this. I strongly believe Pope Francis made a huge mistake by restricting something that no doubt promotes greater reverence in the Church. Let’s pray he reverses course before too much damage is done.

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