Pope Francis’ effort to bind those who celebrate the traditional Mass
It is easy for religious leaders to create new laws, but it is more difficult to convince believers to follow them.
At least, this is what the monk of the Benediction Gratien, a pioneer of canon law, said in the 12th century: “Laws are established when they are promulgated. … who is watching them. “
Anyone who doubts this wisdom should study Catholic social media, noted Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, the 92-year-old former head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. There has been a “hurricane” in the “blogger and other media scene” in response to Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”), Pope Francis‘ effort to bind those celebrating the traditional Latin Mass.
When confusion surrounds a new “ecclesiastical law” – as opposed to the doctrines of Scripture and “natural law” – it is important to remember that its “validity … ultimately depends on the consent of those affected by it” , wrote Brandmuller, at Kath. net in Germany.
“The law must serve the good of the community, not the other way around. … If a law is not observed, or no longer observed, either from the beginning or after a certain time, it loses its binding force and becomes obsolete. “
The pope’s declaration sparked waves of grief among supporters of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum (“Of the Sovereign Pontiffs”), which claimed that the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo was the “ordinary form” of the modern Mass, but that the ancient Tridentine rite was an “extraordinary form” that could be encouraged.
This fight is “not really a question of rituals”, writes Father Raymond J. de Souza, in the review First Things. “This is Catholic life in the Internet age. Mass is the message.”
The question is how Pope Francis will implement his decision that the modern Mass is now the “unique expression” of the Catholic “lex orandi” (the law of what is prayed). Will this affect the Byzantine liturgies used by Eastern Rite Catholics or the rites approved for ancient Anglicans?
“Pope Francis couldn’t be upset that rites – or even styles – divide. This is normal Catholic life, ”de Souza wrote. “As a Jesuit he would have known great differences in the liturgical celebration.… Liberal practices can certainly divide, which is why some Catholics would never go to a Jesuit parish, unlike President Joe Biden.”
Meanwhile, the head of the traditionalist Brotherhood of Saint Pius X – which openly attacked Vatican II – stressed that this decision by Pope Francis proves that Benedict XVI’s peace efforts have been “brushed aside” .
Paraphrasing Saint Augustine, Father Don Davide Pagliarani said: “One could say that the two Masses built two cities: the Mass of all times built a Christian city; the new mass seeks to build a humanist and secular city.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan did not go so far in an online explosion, but said the Vatican cannot “remove a legacy from the whole Church. … You can continue to celebrate Mass (Latin ), formally in disobedience, but you will be in obedience to the Church of all times, to all the popes who celebrated this Mass. ” The result would be clandestine “catacomb masses”.
Elsewhere in the conservative Catholic blogosphere, Dutch Bishop Rob Mutsaerts said Traditionis Custodes sounded like a “declaration of war”. He asked, deploying a German word Adolf Hitler used to describe the “erasure” of cities: “For god’s sake, why? What is Francis’ obsession with wanting to erase this small group of traditionalists? The Pope should be the keeper of lore, not the jailer of lore. “
The fiery rhetoric of cult wars is just a sign of difficult times, noted Catholic conservative Ross Douthat, writing in his independent newsletter Substack, as opposed to his New York Times column. Participation in mass? It is in decline. New priests? The numbers are dropping. Finances of the COVID era? Greenhouse.
“A sense of crisis amplifies the differences which, in a time of optimism and abundance, could be debated in an irenic and fraternal spirit,” he noted. “And that, of course, only makes the decline more likely to accelerate, as those outside the Church and those marginally attached inquire whether the most devout Catholics act like Christians and instead see the fratricide – or its Twitter equivalent. “
(Terry Mattingly runs GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a Principal Investigator at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.)