Monday, September 11, 2023

What Opponents of Liturgical Peace Were Saying in 2017 about “Summorum Pontificum”

I think it would be fair to say that nearly everyone was blindsided by the sweeping rupture codified in the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, and the harsh injustice of its accompanying letter. At the same time, if we comb through the literature concerned with the liturgical situation in the Church from the period of 2013 onward, we can find many indications of the kind of thinking that would eventually prevail in the papal court.

An example recently came to my attention: a piece by Romano Libero published on July 20, 2017, in the online magazine Golias (source in French). It is translated below. I believe it is helpful to see the rancor, the seething wrath against Ratzinger and his liturgical theology, and really, against the whole history and heritage of the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II, that animates his opponents, so that we will resist the temptation of assuming good will and common principles.

This being the week of the 16th anniversary of the epoch-shifting motu proprio Summorum Pontificum going into effect NLM is pleased to share a translation of a highly revealing anti-SP article. There is a hopeful message here ultimately: the author’s conclusion has proved quite correct. SP was, indeed, only the beginning.

Mass in Latin: The Great Illusion
Romano Libero
July 20, 2017
Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI’s motu proprio liberalizing the Pius V Mass (it became the “extraordinary form” of the Latin rite, alongside the conciliar “ordinary” rite of Paul VI), is—ten years on—a success, if the Catholic press is to be believed.

In France, for example, before the German pope’s decision, one hundred and twenty Tridentine Masses were celebrated every week; in 2017, we’re at 221. Bravo! Thank you, Papa Ratzinger! Especially since so many young people take part, sometimes coming from afar to admire the back of the priest reciting the Institution and the Consecration in a low voice, fingers held together, with a deacon and subdeacon assisting him, not to mention the male altar boys in red cassocks. Incense serves as a reminder that we are entering the mystery; magic is not far away, the sacred is everywhere! It’s no longer a question of celebrating Mass but of attending it, as when you go to the cinema, the theater, or a concert to enjoy a fine show. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears, a “divine theater” (see Ph. Martin, Le théâtre divin: Une histoire de la messe XVIe-XXe siècles, Paris: CNRS Editions, 2010).

At the time, Benedict XVI wanted to take the wind out of the sails of the integrists. The aim was to bring the Mass out of the never-ending discussions between Rome and the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, even after the schism provoked by the latter in 1988 with the ordination of four bishops without papal mandate. In this way, the now-pope-emeritus thought that theological differences (including the acceptance of Vatican II) would be refocused. Rightly so, but it was a Pyrrhic victory.

The motu proprio caused a great deal of damage: in dioceses, parishes, seminaries... It was now necessary to make room not only for the usus antiquior but also for the ideology that goes with it: that of the extreme Catholic right, which saw in this decision a validation of its theses. Summorum Pontificum accentuated the desertion of conciliar Christians, for whom it was clear that the Church had not understood anything, that it was better to take certain side-roads to free themselves from this numbed institution, terrified of a future it did not understand (this has not changed), and which had become inattentive to the signs of the times. All that the motu proprio did was to reunite hitherto isolated traditionalist Christians, who sometimes traveled dozens or even hundreds of kilometers to “attend” the Tridentine Mass. “They set out with five hundred, but by a swift reinforcement, they saw themselves with five thousand by the time they reached port…”

Today, these good people are delighted to see young seminarians and lay people taking the path of traditionalism, which has an Answer for Everything and, above all, positions itself against the world. For these young people who have no reference points (or difficulties with their own personalities), the rubricated, codified Mass, in which the priest acts “in the place of Christ” with that feeling of omnipotence, is a reassuring framework that helps to heal their suffering egos. These chosen ones are set apart, chosen to serve—hence the cassock (or even the biretta, here and there), the defense of reactionary theses, as the distinctive signs that condition encounters with others.

In fact, it’s not for nothing that the number of diocesan priests is falling while the number of priests from these communities is rising: only integrists are left to choose the presbyteral path (hardly an exaggeration). Those who have opted for the service of a diocesan territory have conditioned their commitment to the traddy agenda (just look at the various diocesan websites for the latest ordinations) and are struggling with the pastoral orientations defined by the bishops, themselves overwhelmed by this romantic surge in the Church.

But this allowed them to delude themselves. For the appeal to traddy communities—such as the Community of Saint-Martin, the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), and the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP), to name but the most famous—enabled them to postpone the inevitable debates on the presbyteral ministry, the formation and place of lay people, the place and role of women in the Church… It’s a short-term vision that—if they don’t change their tune—runs the risk of isolating the Church even further on major issues, notably political and societal ones.

Francis would like to abolish this motu proprio, recognizing the SSPX as the only body authorized (in the more or less long term) to celebrate the ancient rite within the framework of a personal prelature. No other action would be taken; the various pronouncements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) disconcert even the Society, and the dismissal of the intractable Cardinal Müller, replaced by the Jesuit Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer, does not reassure the Lefebvrists, for whom all this is a change in continuity.

Be that as it may, repealed or not, Summorum Pontificum will have instilled a vivid venom into the veins of the Church that never ceases to poison it. This motu proprio was not just a papal decree, it was also the legitimization of the most arcane ideas to which Vatican II had—we thought—definitively turned its back. Ten years on, Summorum Pontificum has solved nothing; on the contrary, it has exacerbated difficulties, created disorder and division; and what’s worse, it’s only the beginning!

(Join Dr. Kwasniewski at his Substack “Tradition & Sanity.” Visit his personal site and composer site, his publishing house Os Justi Press, and his YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify pages.)

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