Wednesday, January 26, 2022

No Specific “Spirituality” and No “Charism” of Its Own — Guest Article by Clemens Victor Oldendorf

Part 3 of the detailed analysis of the Responsa ad dubia of the Congregation for Divine Worship: Various restrictions on the celebration of Mass in the “former” Roman Rite and a compelling consequence of this. (For the German original, see hereFor a translation of parts 1 & 2, see here.)

After some interruption, we return to the Responsa ad dubia, with which the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments seeks to clarify details regarding the understanding and implementation of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes. In the analysis today, the focus is on a basic duct of the answers that pervades almost the entire document—and on a resulting inconsistency.

It is already known in principle that Traditionis Custodes refers only to the celebration of Mass celebrated by a simple priest [1] using the 1962 Missale Romanum. Our further considerations are based on the recommendation in the Responsa that the permission to celebrate such Holy Masses be limited in time, then evaluated, as it were, and only thereafter extended or withdrawn, as the case may be.

It is clear from the text as a whole that it is assumed as the usual situation that all priests celebrate predominantly according to the postconciliar Rite of Paul VI, at most inter alia (and to a certain extent incidentally) also in the earlier Roman Rite. Since neither Traditionis Custodes itself nor the responses of the Congregation for Divine Worship addresses the special case of priests who previously had permission to celebrate exclusively in the Tridentine manner, it must be assumed that these priests, whether or not they are members of a previously exclusively Old Rite community, must, like all others, again seek and receive permission to use the Tridentine Missale Romanum in its latest edition under the new legal situation according to Traditionis Custodes. This is especially clear because of the additional stricter provisions regarding new priests who were ordained chronologically after Traditionis Custodes and will be ordained in the future.

On the one hand, it is questionable whether someone who wants to continue to celebrate exclusively Tridentine is still considered suitable to receive permission to use the 1962 Missale Romanum (or whether such a man should be ordained a priest now at all). On the other hand, however, it follows from this that in principle there can be no comprehensive and exclusive attachment to, or a fortiori a complete and permanent commitment to, the traditional Roman liturgy at all. Neither the attachment nor the commitment can be comprehensive, because there is a restriction to the celebration of the Holy Mass [2]; neither of them can be exclusive, because this would imply a refusal to recognize the post-conciliar “reformed” Roman Rite as the “sole expression of the lex orandi.”

Also in the sense of non-exclusivity must be understood the clarification that a permission is only valid within one’s own diocese, for religious or institute priests probably in the diocese where they have their permanent residence. [3] (As with the faculty of confession, it would make sense here if a priest who has permission within his diocese could at least also invoke it within the territory of the respective bishops’ conference. Moreover, anyone who has lawfully received permission to celebrate the Tridentine liturgy somewhere should be able to make use of it wherever he is merely temporarily outside his diocese. [4])

Liturgical tradition-rootedness as an amiable feature?

Considering all this, it was tactically unwise in the past for members of the former Ecclesia Dei communities to represent their personal or corporate rootedness in the traditional liturgy as a specific “spirituality” or as a concrete, particular “charism,” distinct from others, to which a special vocation corresponded. Traditionis Custodes actually puts beyond doubt that, at least in the future and to the extent that it remains in force and is enforced, such a vocation cannot exist at all, since no vocation exists or is experienced only on an individual, personal level, but must be “objectified,” in that a competent ecclesiastical authority examines, recognizes, and accepts the vocation. If the assumptions of Traditionis Custodes were factually correct, one would have to conclude, strictly speaking, that an exclusively Tridentine spirituality and a corresponding vocation to it could never have existed after the post-Vatican liturgical reform.

By assuming a specific spirituality and a charism of one’s own, one (indirectly or somehow tactically) calculatedly retracted the claim that a tradition-oriented liturgical and spiritual sensibility was decisive for the whole Church and thus hoped—in many cases perhaps even unconsciously—for greater tolerance of one’s own liturgical preferences and needs. Now, however, the tables seem to have been turned.

Affirmation of the daily one-time celebration in principle welcome

The Responsa further exclude, within the specific limitations of the Tridentine rite of Mass, bination with the 1962 Missale Romanum, that is, the possibility of allowing a priest to celebrate twice on the same day. In principle, this is expressly to be welcomed, because the Church does not consider the multiple celebration of Holy Mass on one day by one and the same celebrant to be optimal, regardless of the rite, and only permits it in exceptional cases. Nor is this changed by the fact that, owing to a general shortage of priests, the vast majority of priests in parish pastoral care have to regularly binate or say even more than two Masses on Sundays and holy days as well as sometimes the prior evenings in the new rite. (Only in parenthesis is it critically noted here that in many cases this state of affairs would have to consistently put the appropriateness and justification of the post-conciliar practice of concelebration to the test.)

Furthermore, the Responsa are to be unambiguously agreed with when they prohibit, so to speak, a devotional combination. By this, I mean the case of a priest in pastoral care who, because of his official duties, had already celebrated with the current missal of Paul VI, but who on the same day wanted to celebrate again privately in the Tridentine manner. The corresponding regulation is also understandable and to be affirmed when it concerns celebrations for two different groups on a day without Sunday obligation or also on a day with Sunday obligation, if the distance to the place where a Tridentine Mass is celebrated for one group is not so great that it would be unreasonable or impossible for the second group (or individuals from it) to go to the place where the priest celebrates a TLM. If, however, the distance is too great, bination should be possible quite normally, provided that there is an obligation to attend Mass on the day on which bination occurs. The recurring argument in the Responsa of December 18, 2021 that the faithful are, after all, at liberty to join in celebrating Mass in the new rite may well correspond to the stated aim of the Motu Proprio of July 16, 2021, [5] but above all shows a complete lack of understanding for the faithful who are actually at home in the traditional liturgy.

Therefore, on Sundays and obligatory feasts, priests who have already celebrated in the new rite should also be allowed to celebrate a second time a TLM for a group, if necessary.

In all these and in various other details, the bishops’ competence is curtailed by Traditionis Custodes, which in no way strengthens them in their responsibility and authority, but which is a new, hitherto unknown example of the otherwise much-maligned Roman centralism and makes the alleged will for synodality completely implausible.

Tridentine exclusivity not ideal or desired goal already in Summorum Pontificum

It is true that already in Summorum Pontificum the existence of stable groups was presupposed, and as a rule it was also presupposed that priests celebrate predominantly in the then so-defined “ordinary form” and that the faithful, in the sense of mutual enrichment, should naturally attend both forms, but it was practically speaking not excluded that someone may decide to attend exclusively Masses in the usus antiquior. This cannot be prevented even now, but it is made clearer by these documents that the TLMs, which are still permitted at present on the basis of Traditionis Custodes, do not serve the purpose of giving such persons institutional-internal Church “living space” [Lebensraum] or even of offering them ecclesiastical structures and providing suitable places for divine worship.

The inconsistency or contradiction that arises in the responses and explanatory notes of the Congregation for Divine Worship in connection with the notion of a group is that TLMs are understood exclusively as a provisional, temporary concession to such a group. Therefore, they are not to be published in the bulletin, are not to be held in parish churches (or only as an exception), and are not to be held at the same time as other parish activities. All of this obviously serves the purpose of ensuring that, if possible, no one will encounter such a Mass involuntarily, by accident or by chance. It almost seems like an intra-ecclesial quarantine for the infected. Since Corona, this attitude seems very familiar. The only difference is that the virus, which in the eyes of Pope Francis specifically infects Catholics, is apparently called Tridentina-62, along with all its variants going back further.

How is a legitimate membership in the group defined and determined?

Thus the question arises how, or on the basis of which characteristic, someone can at all rightfully belong to such a “group” for which the Tridentine Mass is currently still celebrated. The exclusive or even predominant attachment to the Tridentine rite of Mass can hardly be the criterion, because such an attachment is openly held to be undesirable and thus cannot be the prerequisite by which someone proves his suitability to be able to enjoy or be allowed to enjoy a permission or “concession” on the basis of Traditionis Custodes. Rather, too clear a preference for the Tridentine liturgy would disqualify both priests and faithful in that case.


[1] Significantly, Traditionis Custodes does not deal explicitly with bishops or other higher prelates who use the 1962 Missale Romanum. Another part of the present series of articles on the Responsa ad dubia will be devoted to this problem.

[2] That, analogous to the possibility (!) of allowing the use of the pre-conciliar Rituale Romanum in existing, canonically established personal parishes, such a concession could be made internally (!) to the former Ecclesia Dei communities is possible, but in the general climate since Traditionis Custodes seems nevertheless somewhat unlikely.

[3] Also for certain secular priests who were not ordained for their actual home diocese, but are incardinated in certain dioceses that are considered to be particularly tradition-friendly, the question of permission arises anew, especially if they do not live and work within the diocese to which they belong by incardination.

[4] For example, when traveling or during pilgrimages. That this would happen at least for members of the former Ecclesia Dei communities would normally be obvious, but one can by no means assume it with certainty in this case either.

[5] And ultimately also to the earlier logic of a rite in two forms.

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