On February 4, Pope Francis received two priests from the Society of St. Peter who were able to express their concerns about the implementation of Traditionis Custodes. On February 11, he granted the Society of St. Peter a special decree on Traditionis Custodes.
Argentine blogger Wanderer, “ a traditional Catholic in unity with Rome,” has been running the Caminante-Wanderer blog for many years. A few days ago he published a hermeneutics of arbitrariness. In it, he tries to give a slightly different interpretation to the decree for the Society of St. Peter, with which Pope Francis largely freed this Ecclesia Dei community from the yoke of the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, and to draw attention to some aspects that, in his view, have not been sufficiently addressed so far have received attention.
Hermeneutic of Arbitrariness
The Decree of February 11, by which Pope Francis authorized the Society of St. Peter (FSSP) and with it, it seems, the other Ecclesia Dei Institutes to use the surviving liturgical books, including the Roman Pontifical, has triggered countless comments. Few of us expected such a measure, and it came as a surprise, especially to those who claim that the pontiff was possessed of a particular hatred of the traditional liturgy. Traditions Custodes was certainly bad news and seemed to confirm this assumption: Francis is attempting to suppress the traditional liturgy and, by forbidding the use of the Roman Pontifical before liturgical reform, effectively condemns the traditionalists to extinction or to relying on one or the other to join the Society of Saint Pius in any other way, which would result in the “resignation” from the Church.
In this blog, however, we have always maintained that Pope Francis is neither a traditionalist nor a progressive on liturgical matters. He's a Jesuit, maybe the best Jesuit who ever lived, and as such he doesn't care about the liturgy. He does not understand them, for a purely practical mind is unable to understand the worship offered to God for its own sake. He is interested in politics and pastoral action. The rest is incomprehensible to him. The decree favoring the Society of Peter confirms this hypothesis.
The surprise has led many observers to speak of a kind of papal "schizophrenia": the pope issues a motu proprio fatal to the traditional liturgy and shortly thereafter opens the floodgates for a sizeable group of traditionalists to continue celebrating their Latin Masses as they want. And we must not forget that the authorization granted to the Society of St. Peter is not the first, that of the motu proprio deviates from what he himself had proclaimed. In addition to several granted by him on a personal level, and despite intense pressure, he has granted others that are public. For example, in St. Peter's Basilica, where even the rite of Paul VI. cannot be celebrated privately, according to Traditions Custodes, two solemn masses are celebrated in the traditional Rite.
The possible papal "schizophrenia" is not the only explanation for the decree. I propose the following hermeneutical keys to the papal contradiction:
1. We all know how good Pope Francis is with the language of gestures, for better or for worse. Suffice it to recall, for example, the grim and sullen face with which he can be seen in photos with Donald Trump or Mauricio Macri. With the priests of the Society of St. Peter, on the other hand, he shows a smiling and satisfied face, which suggests that the conversation took place in the best conditions and that he felt comfortable with them, and this is one of the traditionalist groups, considered the most rigid, as you can imagine.
2. The conversation is said to have lasted an hour, which is a very long time for a papal audience granted to two priests who hold important positions within the Society of St. Peter but are not its supreme authority. Perhaps a reader more knowledgeable than I can tell us whether Pope Francis frequently receives Superiors General of religious orders and congregations and, if so, how long these audiences last.
3. It is known, because it has also been published, that the origin of the audience was a letter that some priests of the Society of St. Peter sent to the Pope expressing their concern about the consequences of Traditions Custodes, and in response to the letter they were summoned to Rome to meet with the Holy Father. And I believe that the initiative for such a privilege came directly from the pope and not from a secretary of the papal household. No halfway skilled and loyal subordinate would put his superior in an embarrassing and compromising situation. Everyone knew it was a touchy and thorny subject. This fact and the two points mentioned above suggest that the Holy Father has no particular aversion to the traditional liturgy. If that were the case, it would be easy for him, plain and simple, to apply Traditions Custodes to demand what he has every right in the world to do. Or, as is his habit, he would avoid any interviews or meetings where he expects a confrontation. It should be remembered that Francis practically suspended the consistories at which cardinals and other Roman prelates meet with the pope to discuss ecclesiastical matters. Bergoglio, as Bishop of Buenos Aires, has always avoided confrontations and therefore avoids granting audiences or going to places where he foresees a difficult situation. I know a number of people who have asked for a personal audience with the Pope and have not even received an answer. The Priests of the Society of Peter were summoned to Santa Marta by Pope Francis to discuss the motu proprio.
4. To what extent can Traditiones Custodes be considered as a Franciscan manifesto against the traditional liturgy? This is certainly the first and simplest reading, but the facts on which we are commenting allow for other interpretations that were not possible until recently. Let's look at some facts:
a. The motu proprio comes from the office of Archbishop Arthur Roche and his staff. This English Archbishop was appointed by Benedict XVI. as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and is not a liturgist, which suggests that all his liturgical knowledge and consequent bungling is the fruit of the express training he received from Andrea Grillo, and this is no exaggeration as illustrated: The text of Traditiones Custodes repeats almost verbatim many paragraphs from articles and other writings that Grillo has been publishing for at least fifteen years ( here, here and here ), and the principles on which it is based are exactly the same ones propagated by this Bolognese liturgist since Pope Ratzinger promulgated the Summorum Pontificum. In short, Traditiones Custodes was not written or conceived by Bergoglio; he merely signed what others wrote for him.
b. I don't mean to say that Bergoglio didn't know what he was doing. He knew that very well. For years he was under constant pressure from the Italian bishops, who were alarmed at the growth of the traditionalist movement and, above all, at the strong sympathy among young priests for the traditional Mass. And the Pope did not want to have any problem with the Italian bishops, especially in the midst of the excesses that he committed and still commits himself in that episcopacy (suffice it to say the recent appointment of the new Archbishop of Turin). And he gave in to the pressure.
c. Bergoglio was also aware of the American bishops' functional sympathy for conservative and traditionalist positions. Bergoglian hostility towards Americans deepened after the shocking incident of the American Bishops' Conference virtually flouting papal wishes regarding Biden and the admission of pro-abortion politicians to Communion. To obstruct the traditional Mass would be to anger Americans, which, being a good Peronist, he abhors, all the more so when it threatens his power.
5. Several traditionalist websites rightly argue that the permission given to the Society of St. Peter is an "indult" and can therefore be revoked at any time, which would prove the malice and duplicity of Francis. It is true that it is a gesture of mercy, but we should keep a few points in mind:
a. For Bergoglio, everything is a gesture of grace, even canon law. He made several reforms to the code just a few weeks ago. The only thing he hasn't changed is the Scriptures. We cannot expect him to proclaim a universal law.
b. It should be remembered that for decades the only way to celebrate the traditional Mass was by indult and that there had to be a “schism” for it to be granted. According to some scholars, Benedict XVI's authorization given in Summorum Pontificum is also an indult. The curious thing is that with both the indults of John Paul II and Pope Ratzinger, a long time must have passed and/or extraordinary events must have taken place. The indult to the Society of St. Peter was granted immediately after an audience.
c. What other legal form was possible besides an indult? Only one: the abolition of the Missal of Paul VI, which is the only "ordinary" form of celebration of the Latin Rite. We can't expect that much.
i.e. Many believe that the Indult is a very fragile legal form and that its days are numbered. We recall, however, that this is not always the case: the Crusade Bull is an indult that has been, or is still, valid for more than eight centuries, and we traditionalist Spaniards rely on it to eat meat on Fridays. Or Communion in the hand is an indult that still applies and is unlikely to be abolished.
6. It is also said that the papal decree insists on Traditions Custodes in the last paragraph and I think this is one of the most interesting and positive aspects of the situation. There it is suggested ( suadet ) that as far as possible ( quantum fieri potest ) this motu proprio should be carefully considered ( sedulo cogitetur ) . It's something minimal, remarkably minimal. The priests of the Society of Peter are not even obliged to read Traditionis Custodes . They are just suggested to think about it, if possible.
7. It is also said that the indult was not published and is therefore of dubious validity. However, it should be noted that this is not a law that comes into force upon its publication in the country's official gazette. It is permission given to a specific group within the Church. One could make a long list of indults that have never been published and yet whose validity has not been compromised. For example, the so-called "Agatha Christie Indult," which makes it possible for the traditional Mass to continue to be celebrated in the United Kingdom under certain circumstances.
I think that the above facts lead to the conclusion that for Pope Francis, Traditions Custodes is a document of political rather than liturgical significance, while for Archbishop Roche and his collaborators in the Congregation for Divine Worship it is an eminently liturgical measure with a clear intention to destroy the traditional liturgy. Consequently, and paradoxically as it may seem, Pope Francis is our main or only advocate on liturgical questions, for whatever reason.
Precisely for this reason, it makes sense to reconsider the strategy of groups and analysts from the traditional world who, after the publication of the motu proprio, devoted themselves to the violent attacks on Francis, even committing incomprehensible mistakes, the consequences of which we are all feeling. The priests of the Society of St. Peter have shown us a path that has led to the goal.
But what is the goal we are striving for? To protect as much as possible the position that Pope Benedict XVI. has won for the traditional liturgy, to preserve it as much as possible, or to make a name for oneself with constant attacks on the Holy Father for what he does or does not do on liturgical questions? If it is the first option, we should be cautious and meek, which does not mean that we remain silent in the face of the devastation the Argentine Pope is wreaking on the Church. But it means having clear goals in mind and using the necessary common sense.
Translation: Giuseppe Nardi