Extracted from an interview with Francis by Carlos Herrera on Radio COPE
Q: I don’t know if Pope Francis is a man who likes to bang his fist on the table. Would it be possible that the last blow on the table has been the pontifical document limiting the celebration of the ‘Tridentine Masses’? And I also ask you to explain to my audience what the ‘Tridentine Mass’ is, what is it about the Tridentine Mass that is not mandatory.
FRANCIS: I’m not one to bang on the table, I don’t get it. I’m rather shy. The history of Traditionis custodes is long. When first St. John Paul II—and later Benedict, more clearly with Summorum Pontificum—, gave this possibility of celebrating with the Missal of John XXIII (prior to that of Paul VI, which is post-conciliar) for those who did not feel good with the current liturgy, who had a certain nostalgia… it seemed to me one of the most beautiful and human pastoral things of Benedict XVI, who is a man of exquisite humanity. And so it began. That was the reason. After three years he said that an evaluation had to be made. An evaluation was made, and it seemed that everything was going well. And it was fine. Ten years passed from that evaluation to the present (that is, thirteen years since the promulgation [of Summorum Pontificum]) and last year we saw with those responsible for Worship and for the Doctrine of the Faith that it was appropriate to make another evaluation of all the bishops of the world. And it was done. It lasted the whole year. Then the subject was studied and based on that, the concern that appeared the most was that something that was done to help pastorally those who have lived a previous experience was being transformed into ideology. That is, from a pastoral thing to ideology. So, we had to react with clear norms. Clear norms that put a limit to those who had not lived that experience. Because it seemed to be fashionable in some places that young priests would say, “Oh, no, I want…” and maybe they don’t know Latin, they don’t know what it means. And on the other hand, to support and consolidate Summorum Pontificum. I did more or less the outline, I had it studied and I worked, and I worked a lot, with traditionalist people of good sense. And the result was that pastoral care that must be taken, with some good limits. For example, that the proclamation of the Word be in a language that everyone understands; otherwise it would be like laughing at the Word of God. Little things. But yes, the limit is very clear. After this motu proprio, a priest who wants to celebrate that is not in the same condition as before—that it was for nostalgia, for desire, &c.— and so he has to ask permission from Rome. A kind of permission for bi-ritualism, which is given only by Rome. [Like] a priest who celebrates in the Eastern Rite and the Latin Rite, he is bi-ritual but with the permission of Rome. That is to say, until today, the previous ones continue but a little bit organized. Moreover, asking that there be a priest who is in charge not only of the liturgy but also of the spiritual life of that community. If you read the letter well and read the Decree well, you will see that it is simply a constructive reordering, with pastoral care and avoiding an excess by those who are not…
That’s where that topic ends before a different question.
“who are not….” What?
I’ll begin saying that I sincerely want to believe that Francis believes what he said in that response. I also am pretty sure that a lot of people have lied to him. I think he admits into his circle people who are not well-motivated. Also, there is a lot we don’t know and probably won’t know, for example, what did the result of the survey of bishops really say.
There are some things in this response that need comment.
I won’t do my usual in-line fisk or “zisk” with emphases and comments. I’ll pull quotes instead.
…for those who did not feel good with the current liturgy, who had a certain nostalgia… it seemed to me one of the most beautiful and human pastoral things of Benedict XVI, who is a man of exquisite humanity.
So, no regard for him now? It can be argued that Summorum was the most important thing that Benedict gave to the Church. But note that issue of nostalgia. More on that later.
Then the subject was studied and based on that, the concern that appeared the most was that something that was done to help pastorally those who have lived a previous experience was being transformed into ideology. That is, from a pastoral thing to ideology. So, we had to react with clear norms. Clear norms that put a limit to those who had not lived that experience.
Firstly, there are a lot of “ideologies” going around in the Church right now which seem pastoral, but are not. They are true ideologies. You can think of one right now without even working. For example, the homosexualist agenda promoted by Jesuit activist James Martin. That’s an ideology. So where are the “clear norms” to deal with that problem? None, you say?
Next, we are simply to accept that Summorum was for those who had “lived a previous experience”. That’s flat out false. That was NOT the intent or target of Summorum. How many times, again, does a falsehood have to be repeated until people just assume it is the truth? The point of Summorum was not to provide for people with “nostalgia” as the falsehood claims. It was intended to provide for anyone who had a desire for the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments with the older rites. So, if that is the principle behind Traditionis, that Summorum was only for people who were old enough to have known the Roman Rite before the Novus Ordo, then Traditionis is founded on a lie.
“to put a limit to those who had not lived that experience”
My heavens. Think about that. If you didn’t grow up with it, you have no right to it.
Because it seemed to be fashionable in some places that young priests would say, “Oh, no, I want…” and maybe they don’t know Latin, they don’t know what it means.
Another canard on a couple of levels.
Firstly, the buck stops on the table of the Legislator, whose ultimate responsibility it is for the canons of the law which he authorizes. The Code of Canon Law has a clear norm which states that seminarians are to be very well trained in the Latin language. Period. No maybe, no option, no wiggle room. If Francis is aware of the fact that younger priests don’t know Latin, then when are we going to see action from him either to pull that canon or to enforce it? Francis often remarks about hypocrisy, and rightly so. If, from this point onward, nothing is done about the Latin problem either way, then the fault lies squarely on his shoulders and the endurance of Traditionis becomes an ever deepening blotch on his legacy.
Second, I’ve seen the videos of Francis when he has celebrated Mass in Latin. I’ll just leave that there. I recall, for example, Francis saying Mass with English orations in Madison Square Garden. He didn’t have a clue what he was saying because he doesn’t have English. When I lived in Rome, Card. Bergoglio would stay at our residence. I had numerous meals with him. No English to speak of… or with. BTW… I found him a rather agreeable sort of guy and liked the fact that he sat with us instead of at a table apart, as some cardinals.
Moreover, there are countless priests and bishops in the world who say Masses for ethnic groups in their languages without a deep working knowledge of those languages. Are they to be condemned? I recommend that those Masses be shut down immediately until Father or His Excellency is conversant in, say, Spanish! Otherwise…. hypocrisy?
Lastly, “fashionable”? That’s pretty insulting towards those who have a sincere piety and honest appreciation for the treasure that is the Traditional Rome Rite. In addition, who thinks that it was “fashionable” to start saying the TLM? Doesn’t that imply a widespread popularity and acceptance? And what if there were some priests who celebrated the Traditional Rite because they thought it was “chic”? Does that mean that you have to hammer those who embrace it for deeper motives?
And on the other hand, to support and consolidate Summorum Pontificum.
He issued Traditionis to SUPPORT Summorum…..
As young people put it today… I just can’t…
I did more or less the outline, I had it studied and I worked, and I worked a lot, with traditionalist people of good sense.
This leaves me puzzled. I can’t imagine who those people would be. He worked on this with “traditionalist people of good sense”. Like…. Card. Burke? Eminent canonist who knows well the traditionally inclined? I suspect that, if true, their contribution was to hold him back from issuing something far harsher. That’s what I hear Card. Ladaria did. There is nothing in the restrictions imposed by Traditionis that smacks of “traditionalist people of good sense”.
For example, that the proclamation of the Word be in a language that everyone understands; otherwise it would be like laughing at the Word of God.
This is … I don’t know what this is.
Firstly, using just the example of that video of the Mass in Madison Square Garden, or just pick your papal Mass over the last few decades, papal Masses are marked by a veritable Tower of Babel of languages. Does everybody at these Masses understand all the languages being used?
Next, let’s pretend for a moment that everyone at a Mass understands English or Spanish or the mix of languages being used. Even if they do, what is their level of understanding of the content of the prayers, which deal with deep mysteries hard to explain in any tongue.
On the other hand, if we use our Church’s sacred language – all the great religions of the world have their sacred languages – even if people in the congregation don’t use Latin as their mother tongue, they can at least have the impression that what is being said (which they can follow in their book or aid) is special and not a banality, a commonplace, something “every day” and even a passing convention. And let’s not even get into the uneven quality of the translation being used.
Also, the comment about “everyone understanding” betrays a kind of “didactic” attitude about liturgy rather than a “sacral” attitude.
This is one of the great disadvantages of the Novus Ordo in the way that it is celebrated. It lends itself to an ars celebrandi marked by didacticism. The three year cycle of Gospels for Sundays does this, as does the addition of a reading, versus populum celebration (not really part of the rubrics of the Mass, but the prevailing style), and multiple options for the priest to exit the texts during Mass and add his own remarks.
What is lost in this skewed ars celebrandi is the fact that every word of Holy Mass ought to be sacral and sacrificial. Every word of the liturgical texts is the word of Christ the High Priest raising a sacrifice to God the Father. It is wrong to think of the first part of the Mass, the “Mass of the Catechumens” or the “Liturgy of the Word” as a contrast to the “Liturgy of the Eucharist” as if they didn’t have much to do with each other. They are both sacrificial. In the Liturgy of the Word the readings are being offered to the Father. Think of each word uttered in each reading as the fragrant sacrificial smoke that rises as the incense is consumed with fire. That is the proper attitude we should have for the readings, rather than a didacticism which demands that everyone understand every word in a shallow and immediate way. There is time to “break open” the word and expound on it also in a didactic way: the sermon, classes, talks, etc.
After this motu proprio, a priest who wants to celebrate that is not in the same condition as before—that it was for nostalgia, for desire, &c.— and so he has to ask permission from Rome.
Again, the canard about nostalgia.
Let’s turn the nostalgia sock inside out for a moment. What does nostalgia really mean, anyway? There is the shallow sense of the word – as Francis used it in the interview – and the deeper meaning, found in its roots.
Nostalgia, is, as the Greek indicates, a pain (algea) we feel for our “return home” (nostron): “pain for the return, ache for the homecoming.” It is an essential longing for your true home.
False or shallow nostalgia might be thought of as a desire for some “golden age” that is no more, and probably never was. Sure, it’s a desire for something better, but it could be just a fantasy.
Augustine, drawing on the science of the day, describes the heart as restless because, according to ancient thought, gravity was a tendency within the thing itself which compelled it to go to where it belonged. The object tries to get where it is supposed to be, not in fantasy but in truth. Thus it is with the heart and God. Augustine says, “amor meus, pondus meum… my love is my weight”.
Anthony Esolen explores this in his book Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World. He focuses on wandering Odysseus trapped on the island of Calypso, longing for his home in Ithaca because it is where he truly belongs, not in the dream world of his enchanting captrix. He is supposed to be there, not where is he. So too a growing number of Catholics, young people mainly, have felt that sort of nostalgia when their restless hearts – longing for more than they have been receiving from the Church in her more or less dumbed down liturgical practice.
They discover something in the Traditional Latin Mass that they truly need, that feels like home, that they ache for when they don’t have it.
And to take that away from them once they have found it?
To prevent those with that unfulfilled ache from finding their place?
This is the definition of cruelty.
A kind of permission for bi-ritualism, which is given only by Rome. [Like] a priest who celebrates in the Eastern Rite and the Latin Rite, he is bi-ritual but with the permission of Rome.
Okay, this says what we have known all along. There is not one Roman Rite, there are two. Summorum was a juridical document which treated the two Rites as if they were one. That was a deft move and it worked well for a while. However, there were some inherent problems in that approach, since it glossed over a reality that needed to be confronted. Finally, after some years, that reality was being confronted (e.g., in the exploration of the pre-55 Triduum, which put a magnifying glass on the whole of the “reform”) and the result was terrifying to the Left and to the discontinuity and rupture camp, who still dominate the seats of power in the Church.
That is to say, until today, the previous ones [priests saying the TLM] continue but a little bit organized. … If you read the letter well and read the Decree well, you will see that it is simply a constructive reordering, with pastoral care and avoiding an excess by those who are not…
George Orwell would admire that.
I predict that Traditionis will only bear the fruit of pain in the short run.
In the long-run I think it will find its place alongside other official documents which have been more or less ignored. It seems to me that this sort of heavy-handed attempt must fail.
The TLM has been growing rapidly and organically in the Church in a time when our shepherds have squandered their moral capital. There is a demographic sink hole opening up under the Church which will leave her severely diminished. Young people are not burdened by the fantasy of the halcyon days of the Spirit of Vatican II.
Furthermore, it is not as if the vast majority of the younger people who desire the Traditional Roman Rite are rejecting Vatican II. That’s simply a lie. They are perfectly content with the good teachings of the Council, which they recognize really was an Ecumenical Council. If they are aware of the controversial aspects of the Council documents, they do not reject the Council as a whole. They simply don’t prostrate themselves and worship Vatican II as if it were the Golden Calf of Sinai.
Neither do they worship the Traditional Roman Rite as some Tradition’s most determined opponents do the Novus Ordo. They are fixated on the Rite of the Novus Ordo rather than on the point of sacred liturgical worship, which is the fulfillment of the virtue of Religion.
The inveterate opponents of the TLM have their Golden Calf.
In Spirit of the Liturgy, addressing the problem of immanentism (a manifestation of Modernism), Ratzinger observed that the Hebrews knew that the Calf wasn’t really a god. They wanted the Calf as their god because they didn’t want what the true Most High God was asking of them. The religion of the Calf would be easier.
This is exactly the same trap I think that some people who hate the Traditional Roman Rite fall into: they fear the challenge inherent in the ritual and the texts. They fear the apophatic aspect, the demanding elements of the Traditional Rite. For them, everything has to be instantly and easily apprehended, for example, “in a language that everyone understands”. They want everything to be seen (versus populum) and heard (audible Eucharistic Prayer) and immediately grasped (banal translations, unchallenging music everyone can sing).
Here is the take away: Che Sera, Sera… Whatever Will Be, Will Be.
I don’t think that the Traditional Roman Rite can be controlled or stomped out. It is going to stay and grow. There will be bumps and pain, but it isn’t going away.
What I hope for is an opening of hearts. That’s why I have asked for people to make an informal commitment to pray for those who are in charge of implementing Traditionis custodes. I ask you to become true custodes Traditionis by prayer and by offering mortifications for the warming and opening of the hearts of their bishops.
We have to be patient and prayerful and ready to suffer all manner of mistreatment and indignity. In the end, we will be better off for what we will have endured and generations in the future will be grateful.
Prayerfully and cheerfully persevere, avoiding bitterness and spiritual stinginess. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
Remember that we are not made for this world and, in Heaven, we will have only one Rite.
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