There have been many comments and analyses of the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes this summer. All place the decision taken by Francis to limit the celebration of the traditional Mass as much as possible in the context of the crisis which is currently shaking the Church, but with very different perspectives.
On August 6, there appeared on the Correspondance européenne site, under the pen of Cristiana de Magistris, an article which sees in Traditionis Custodes the act of a weak power: “the document does not appear as an act of force but rather of weakness, a swan song which, near the end, is sung not with a more beautiful voice, but a stronger voice.”
She writes a criticism of article 1 of the motu proprio which says: “The liturgical books promulgated by the holy pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in accordance with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, are the only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman rite.”
C. de Magistris bases her reasoning on the studies of Msgr. Klaus Gamber (1919-1989), doctor of philosophy and theology, founder of the Liturgical Institute of Regensburg for the study of liturgical sources from the East and the West, works brought together in a volume entitled, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy.
She writes: “Msgr. Gamber, a prominent figure, affirmed this with vigor after the new Missal’s entry into force. “The new liturgy is a ritus modernus, (modern rite),” he declared, “and no longer a ritus romanus (Roman rite).”
“Fr. Louis Bouyer, member of the Liturgical Movement, who on the whole was favorable towards conciliar innovations, was forced to affirm: “We must speak clearly: today there no longer exists in practice, within the Catholic Church, a liturgy worthy of the name.”
“Today,” Msgr. Gamber continued, referring to the Reformed liturgy, “we are faced with the ruins of an almost two thousand year old Tradition.”
“Fr. Joseph Gelineau, one of the supporters of renewal, said: ‘May those who, like me, have known and sung a solemn Gregorian mass in Latin, remember it, if they can.’”
“Compare it with the Mass we have now. Not only are the words, melodies, and certain gestures different, but to tell the truth, it is a different liturgy from the Mass. This must be said without ambiguity: the Roman rite as we have known it no longer exists: it has been destroyed.”
“The Roman rite no longer survives in the reformed Missal of Paul VI. This is being said by liturgists, friends and enemies of Tradition. Therefore, the reformed Missal - as Klaus Gamber asserts - deserves the title of Missel modernus, but not Romanus. "
C. de Magistris then returns to Article 1: “In view of these elementary liturgical considerations, how can we understand Article 1 of the Motu proprio, knowing that what is being added to it - in the text of the Letter to the Bishops which accompanies it – is the surprising and tendentious affirmation: “It must therefore be maintained that the Roman Rite, adapted many times over the course of the centuries according to the needs of the day, not only be preserved, but renewed ‘in faithful observance of the Tradition.’”
“Whosoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman rite.”
“Concluding in these terms: ‘in particular the Roman Canon, which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.’ - It should however be specified here that, in the Missal of Paul VI, the Roman Canon is not - not even in the typical edition - that of the Missal of St. Pius V, even if it is the one that most resembles it. .
“Fr. Roger Thomas Calmel, OP, from 1968 to 1975, wrote four articles then gathered under the significant title: ‘Public reparation to the outraged Roman canon’ (in the new Missal) to explain its beauty and its immutable character, as well as the antinomies existing between the Roman Canon of the Missal of St. Pius V and that of Paul VI.”
“We are saddened – yes, we too, we are saddened - to find in a papal document - moreover intended for the bishops - so much incompetence and this is only the beginning.”
“It remains to be explained what is from now on called the Missal of St. Pius V, given that it is no longer an expression of the Roman rite, the Missal of Paul VI being the only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite. After at least 400 years of loyal service, perhaps it has ceased to express the Roman rite?”
Then comes the question of legitimacy: “The other serious problem that arises is the legitimacy of such an act. Once again, Klaus Gamber, in his study The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, wonders if a sovereign pontiff can modify a rite and responds in a negative way, insofar as the pope is the guardian and the guarantor of the liturgy - like dogmas - and not its master.”
He writes, “No document of the Church, not even the Code of Canon Law, expressly declares that the pope as Supreme Pastor of the Church has the right to abolish the traditional rite. The pope’s full and highest power (plena et suprema potestas) clearly set limits.”
“More than one author (Cajetan, Suarez) has expressed the opinion according to which the abolition of the traditional rite does not fall within the powers of the pope…, and that it is certainly not the duty of the Apostolic See to destroy a rite of apostolic tradition, but that its duty is to maintain and transmit it.”
“It follows that the Roman rite, expressed by the Missal of St. Pius V, is neither abrogated nor abrogable and that all priests retain the right to celebrate the Mass and the faithful to assist at it.”
And Cristiana de Magistris concludes as she began, not without panache, saying that this Motu proprio “constitutes both a declaration of war, but also the recognition of a defeat. It is an apparent act of strength that covers up a weakness and basic incompetence.”
“The Reformed Missal was a catastrophe at all levels: liturgical, dogmatic, and moral. The result, obvious to everyone, is that it has emptied churches, convents, and seminaries. Unable to impose it by the force of tradition, which it does not convey, they seek to impose it by law.”
“However, this is an uncertain operation, based on deception and therefore doomed to fail. This is not a fatal blow to the Roman rite, but the euthanasia of the modern rite.”
“It is not really a blow causing an irreversible effect, but a vivifying sizing up of the Missal of St. Pius V which - because of the hatred it arouses among the modernist fringes of the hierarchy - is confirmed as ‘the most beautiful thing this side of heaven’ which was transmitted to us by our fathers and which we will transmit to our children, even if we have to bathe it with our blood to do so.”