Card. Müller drills into Francis’ “Letter to Bishops” with “Traditionis custodes”

At The Catholic Thing there is a piece translated from the original German (by a good friend of mine, two, as a matter of fact), by Gerhard Ludwig Card. Müller.  The former Prefect of the CDF examines Francis’ new Plessy v. Ferguson-esque move against people who participate at the Traditional Latin Mass.   In effect, what the Cardinal does is dissect not just the Motu Proprio but even more the Letter Francis sent out to the bishops.

It is a cosmic law that it takes a great many more words to refute the specious claims of another.  Müller’s piece is longish, but it is good, and instructive.  He goes into the depth of Francis’ starting points in a way that Francis did not.

Beyond the presentation of his subjective reactions, however, a stringent and logically comprehensible theological argumentation would also have been appropriate. For papal authority does not consist in superficially demanding from the faithful mere obedience, i.e., a formal submission of the will, but, much more essentially, in enabling the faithful also to be convinced with consent of the mind. …


This dichotomy between good intention and poor execution always arises where the objections of competent employees are perceived as an obstruction of their superiors’ intentions, and which are, therefore, not even offered.

Müller breaks down the claim that Traditionis does the same thing that Pius V did in 1570.

He points out that if one Pope can cancel people, so can another cancel another group.

The Cardinal looks into the “defense of Vatican II against attacks” by “traditionalists” argument.  Does Francis really have the will to deal with “progressivist” attacks on the Council and their paganization of the liturgy?  Will truly deal with what the Germans are doing with the “synodal way” (“walking together”)?   Will he correct those who promote same-sex acts?

Then there is Francis’ tone:

Without the slightest empathy, one ignores the religious feelings of the (often young) participants in the Masses according to the Missal John XXIII. (1962) Instead of appreciating the smell of the sheep, the shepherd here hits them hard with his crook. It also seems simply unjust to abolish celebrations of the “old” rite just because it attracts some problematic people: abusus non tollit usum.

One of the interesting things Müller does is drill into Francis’ utilization of the adage lex orandi – lex credendi.

This phrase appears first in the anti-Pelagian Indiculus (“Against superstitions and paganism”) which spoke about “the sacraments of priestly prayers, handed down by the apostles to be celebrated uniformly all over the world and in the entire Catholic Church, so that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” (Denzinger Hünermann, Enchiridion symbolorum 3) This refers to the substance of the sacraments (in signs and words) but not the liturgical rite, of which there were several (with different variants) in the patristic era. One cannot simply declare the latest missal to be the only valid norm of the Catholic faith without distinguishing between the “part that is unchangeable by virtue of divine institution and the parts that are subject to change.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 21). The changing liturgical rites do not represent a different faith, but rather testify to the one and the same Apostolic Faith of the Church in its different expressions.

Certainly the Cardinal is right.  On the other hand, the phrase in question has developed a life of its own that cannot immediately be dismissed with a call to return only to the earliest origin.   Hence, the former Prefect adds an enriching layer to our understanding of lex orandi – lex credendi.

It has not been lost on the Cardinal that the Congregation for Religious is now in charge of the old “Ecclesia Dei” groups.  It has not been lost on him that that same Congregation has brutally crushed more traditional communities of women and of men religious.

Müller adds:

Let us hope that the Congregations for Religious and for Divine Worship, with their new authority, do not become inebriated by power and think they have to wage a campaign of destruction against the communities of the old rite – in the foolish belief that by doing so they are rendering a service to the Church and promoting Vatican II.

I strongly recommend that you review Francis’ Letter to Bishops and then read Müller.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, Traditionis custodes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. donato2 says:

    Cardinal Muller’s statement about the Congregations for Religious and for Divine Worship is a really unpleasant reminder of what is coming. There is no basis for hoping that there will not be a campaign of destruction against the communities of the old rite. It is to subject them to such a campaign that the institutes were placed under the Congregations for Religious and for Divine Worship.

  2. Chrisc says:

    Donato2. It is coming indeed. And these communities will be examined for their rigidness. And lack of joy. So if you follow rubrics and are solemn.

    These communities should follow Benedict’s rule about making guests wait outside for days while knocking.

  3. Amateur Scholastic says:

    We need a debate, now, on whether the Pope is acting ultra vires in attempting to suppress the traditional Mass (and this is clearly an attempt at full suppression).

    Lex orandi, lex credendi. There is an intrinsic connection between inward belief and outward expression: to deny this is foolish. Given this, if the Pope were able to suppress the traditional outward expression of belief at will, would it not follow that he can (in some sense) suppress the Faith itself?

    We know it’s impossible for the Pope to suppress the Faith. We need to clear our minds of this crazy Cartesian separation between inward and outward, and see things clearly.

    And we need to quit the ultramontanist drug, now. The Pope’s will is not law. As Benedict said, “[w]hat earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful”. Not ‘ought not’, but ‘cannot’.

    Highly recommended reading:

    See also this recent post by Fr Hunwicke:

    God bless Pope Francis, and may He keep us all from hatred and rancor, and from disobedience of lawful acts.

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  5. Rod Halvorsen says:

    I missed that Father Z. Sounds like a must-read. Am waiting for others to weigh in as well, which I am sure they will do in good time.

    Waiting and praying that some of those as yet silent leaders will arrive at the jail ready to bail out “Tradition in custody”!

  6. mpsguard says:

    CDL Muller’s most important point is that unity comes via sanctifying grace, meaning being in the state of grace. The Pope didn’t mention that even once in his Letter or Motu Proprio. The so-called unity around liturgical forms is not a true unity, especially if, as CDL Muller mentions, various heresies and blasphemies are permitted to exist. At the end of the day, those who deny key elements of the faith are the ones foisting disunity, not those who have a preference for the old liturgical forms. Even if we call the TLM a separate rite, its usage, if if fosters true faith and caritas, is unifying around the main principle of unity, Jesus Christ,

    In His name,


  7. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    If Francis is really concerned with unity effected by uniformity of worship, I would suggest that he begin the process of suppressing the liturgies of all Eastern Rite Catholic Churches. “And they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

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  9. hilltop says:

    Deacon E.P.,
    You are correct, Like His Eminence is. Francis is not really concerned with unity or he would never have penned these two documents.
    He is concerned with the forced adoption of the spirit of Vatican II, which spirit has been twisting in the wind these 15-20 years. Those who are desperate for an unlikely yet strongly desired outcome often employ force and in doing so show their hands.
    Because he claims a motivation (pastoral care for ecclesial unity) that all can readily recognize not to be his true motivation, all can recognize his person and his documents for what they are: Pharisaical.
    I forget what Jesus thought about those types. I think I’ll go look that up….

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    For those without easy access to the edition of Enchiridion symbolorum which Gerhard Ludwig Card. Müller cites, my quick internal search discovered that a copy of the 1911 edition scanned in the Internet Archive has it on page 61:

    Cap. 11. Praeter has autem beatissimae et Apostolicae Sedis inviolabiles sanctiones, quibus nos piissimi Patres, pestiferae novitatis elatione deiecta, et bonae voluntatis exordia et incrementa probabilium studiorum, et in eis usque in finem perseverantiam ad Christi gratiam referre docuerunt, obsecrationum quoque sacerdotalium sacramenta respiciamus, quae ab Apostolis tradita in toto mundo atque in omni Ecclesia catholica uniformiter celebrantur, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi.

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  12. kurtmasur says:

    One of the things most often said (in consolation) to having Francis currently as pope is that the Church has had much worst popes in its 2000 year history. Out of all the bad, evil popes the Church has had, did any of them ever try to implement policies against the liturgy itself? Were any of them heretical?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, because while it is obvious that Francis is a bad pope, I am under the impression that Francis’ reasons for being a bad pope are totally unprecedented.

  13. docsmith54 says:

    Mueller has creds that Jorge can only dream of.

    Where is the promulgation of what we call the Novus Ordo as a liturgy? Get back to me when you find it.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    Does Francis “own” the Holy Mass? I am reading that he does not, and according to the Bull of Pius V, that intoned that no one may interfere with the Holy Mass lest he bring down the wrath of St. Peter and St. Paul. So I ask, does the Holy Mass belong to Francis to do with as he wishes? It is his?? If it is not his, then he has no right to do what he is doing. One sincerely and truly wonders if there is anything that Francis might do that would be considered “un-Catholic” at this point. Is there a limit? Or does he own the faith and the church, lock, stock, and barrel.
    As in America today, when the Biden regime is busy making the nation at war with each other, persecuting patriotic Americans, and spending enough money on boondoggles to bankrupt us, of course it’s not for America’s benefit, they are trying to break us. One could say the same thing about this action by Francis. The TLM has all the growth and interest, the NO is dying. He may as well sit on a limb of a tree and cut the limb off, it makes no sense in any way to alienate the growth. It’s destructive, something he can’t be bothered to hide in his writing. But why are these people doing what is clearly destructive to the thing they are supposed to advance? It can only be because destruction is the point.

  15. Kathleen10 says:

    Sorry, “I am reading that he does not, and according to the Bull of Pius V, that intoned that no one may interfere with the Holy Mass lest he bring down the wrath of St. Peter and St. Paul, he may not tamper or change it, get rid of it, or limit it, in any way, according to Pius V.” If Francis has not the right, isn’t it time to tell him that? Who will resist him to the face.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Kathleen10 et al: Good comment.

    Venerator Sti Lot: Good to hear from you, and thanks for the link.

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    Cardinal Muller: “Without the slightest empathy, one ignores the religious feelings of the (often young) participants in the Masses according to the Missal John XXIII…the shepherd here hits them hard with his crook.

    Psalm 23 [22]:

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
    He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
    and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

  18. robtbrown says:

    if i might comment:

    From Art 3, the first paragraph

    (The bishop) is to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;

    If we take “validity” to include the Novus Ordo being sufficient to Transubstantiate the species (change the wine and bread into Christ’s Body and Blood), then Francis has shot himself in the foot. A Pew poll last year determined that 63% of US Catholics who regularly attend mass think the Eucharist produces only symbols.

    So it’s likely that a greater percent of those who regularly attend a TLM think the Novus Ordo is valid than those who are regular NO attendees.

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