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Vatican Roulette

by Tony M.

On Friday, July 16, Pope Francis released his anticipated motu proprio reacting against reaction, in suppression of traditional Catholics and the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). He also released a letter to bishops explaining his reasoning.

If you know anything about Pope Francis, you can already guess some of the attributes these have: the motu proprio is sloppy, for example – Francis is famous for being “careless” (his word, not mine). Both are difficult to parse and misleading, for another. But that sort of stuff is nothing new. This time we have something new. So, let me get into some details.

First we’ll address the Motu Proprio, Traditionis Custodes (TC). Right off the bat, traditional Catholics will take this name as an insult: they WANT tradition, and have been asking the bishops to TAKE THEIR JOB SERIOUSLY, to preserve tradition, as its custodians ought to do. Francis, addressing those custodians, is telling them to dismantle tradition, to bulldoze it. While naming bishops as “traditionis custodes” is no more than pointing out one of their essential roles, in this context it is a fairly brutal slap in the face to traditionalists.

Francis says this is to “promote the concord and unity of the Church.” But this is a very strange thing to say:

There are several groups of Catholics, including The Society of St. Pius V, and The Society of St. Pius X, and sede vacantists, who will simply reject TC altogether. They rejected the authority of Paul VI in his erecting the Novus Ordo (NO), so they will reject this too. And he must know this. He cannot expect that these groups will submit. So, he is either writing them off, as an irrelevancy to the kind of “unity” he means, or he is expecting that this project here will, somehow, pull the rug out from underneath them and enable the Vatican to wait them out. But it won’t, and it’s a forlorn hope: they have bishops, who will ordain new bishops, who will continue ordaining priests who are committed to the TLM. TC won’t eradicate these groups, it will confirm their presumptions and strengthen their resolve. As for writing them off: this is hardly the kind of “accompaniment” that Francis preaches, or the welcoming attitude toward diversity that he demands in other arenas.

Particulars of TC’s rules are (a few of them) also very odd:

Article 1 says that the NO mass “is” the “unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

This is not a command or a rule, it is an observation, i.e. an assertion about a state of affairs. And, as an assertion, it is either true or false. I am afraid that it looks false: even though Francis would LIKE the NO mass to be the unique mass of the Roman Rite, in fact it is not. First, because THIS VERY DOCUMENT allows for priests to continue to use the TLM. So the NO is NOT UNIQUE. Sorry, just stating what the words mean.

Now, if Francis were someone else, like JPII, we would be well advised to seek other meanings of “is” and “unique” (of course, any other modern pope would have chosen his words carefully, and wouldn't have chosen a word-salad like "the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Latin Rite"). Maybe he meant “SHOULD BE” unique. Or maybe he meant “unique” in that the NO mass is different from the traditional mass (and all other masses), so it is its own thing – “unique”? Well, the former doesn’t require us to do or act on anything, and the latter is merely solipsistic, (and also doesn’t tell us to do anything either). It’s an odd directive that doesn’t direct. Besides being manifestly not so.

Then he gets into actual directives: The bishop is directed to:

(i) Make sure groups saying the TLM do not deny the legitimacy of the NO and of Vatican II;
(ii) Stop having them say the TLM in parish churches;
(iii) Relegate them to saying the TLM somewhere else;
(iv) Establish the days they can have a the TLM available;
(v) Appoint a priest for this who, while NOT BEING A PASTOR of these faithful, is to be pastoral in every important sense to them;
(vi) Not authorize new groups.

Priests who already say the TLM “should request” authorization to continue;
But priests who are not yet ordained “should” submit a request to the bishop, who can only grant the request after consulting with the Vatican!!!.

And finally: “Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.”

I don’t know what Francis thinks this is going to achieve, but we can see some of what he wants: First, Francis wants to block the explosive growth of TLM communities. He sees they are attracting tons of young people, and this is (probably) the single most concerning thing to him: it means that the love of the TLM won’t die out on its own in 2 or 3 generations, like everyone assumed in 1975. So: no new groups allowed, and no new priests doing the TLM without Vatican approval. Stop the regeneration of “the problem” (as he sees it).

The second is to put the crimp on people ALREADY attending the TLM: no more parish churches, and (preferably) not on ALL Sundays (and even weekdays), but only some. Francis clearly wants attendance at a TLM to be irregular, which will make it very, very hard for families with kids, because they need a lot of stability. Parish masses are stable, going off to some place in Timbucktoo on odd weeks is unstable. By making it very difficult for families to go at all, and NOT regularly, he wants to break up children becoming attuned to the TLM as the norm they understand as “the mass”.

The third is an attempt to REQUIRE the bishop to make sure people are learning not to reject the NO, I guess so that they stop wanting something better? It’s a pretty silly idea, frankly, to think that the Vatican is going to get bishops to ACTUALLY oversee an outcome in education, when they have spent the last 60 years defeating that very idea. The 12 or so bishops who WANT to do it might try, but mostly, bishops won’t want to, and won’t try to, and assuredly will have no success at it because (as they have proven) they no longer know how. Certainly they have not bothered to achieve such simple outcomes as: Catholics believing they have to go to mass every Sunday, or Catholics believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Whether he actually thinks these will work or not, it is easy to see why Francis wanted to put these in, given his intention of suppressing TLM. But what has me puzzled is (v) above.

He specifically added provisions about appointing a priest to serve the needs of these people who love the TLM, and went even further in listing the attributes of such a priest: he should be the kind of priest who qualifies as a good PASTOR. But, he can’t be a pastor to these people, because the bishop is not supposed to make this new, different location for the TLM masses a parish. And yet, he is supposed to be animated by “lively pastoral charity” and “the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful”. Providing a sound and worthy mass is the act par excellence of a good pastor. Does he not see how providing for their “pastoral and spiritual care” means providing for that very element that they often find missing in the NO, and thus re-affirming in them their good choice to attend the TLM? What else COULD it mean, if they have gone to the (considerable) effort to learn the TLM in order to feed a need in their souls unmet at NO masses?

Now, let’s look at the accompanying letter. It is, unfortunately, full of inaccurate representations of the facts and motives in the history of the change to NO and the indult / freedom to use TLM by JPII and Benedict:

Most people understand the motives that prompted St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to allow the use of the Roman Missal, promulgated by St. Pius V and edited by St. John XXIII in 1962, for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The faculty — granted by the indult of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1984[2] and confirmed by St. John Paul II in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei in 1988[3] — was above all motivated by the desire to foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre.

Healing the “schism” with Archbishop Lefebvre would have meant taking steps with Lebebvre and SSPX, it would not entail a CHURCH-WIDE change. The SSPX is only a drop in the bucket of tradition-minded Catholics. JPII and Benedict provided broader methods than just dealing with schismatic-leaning elements of the SSPX, because they recognized a broader problem. (In addition: it would have been possible to heal the “schismatic” leaning of the SPPX with 2 strokes of the pope’s pen: (1) regularize their canonical position with a direct order confirming the permanence of their order; (2) give them explicit permission to continue with the old mass. Neither one of these is difficult to do.

With the ecclesial intention of restoring the unity of the Church, the Bishops were thus asked to accept with generosity the “just aspirations” of the faithful who requested the use of that Missal.

With the passage of thirteen years, I instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to circulate a questionnaire to the Bishops regarding the implementation of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The responses reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my Predecessors, who had intended “to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew”,[12] has often been seriously disregarded. An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.

The fact of the matter is that the number of bishops who made it HARD for priests to have regular TLM masses in their parishes well exceeded the number of bishops who made it easy on pastors. The number of bishops who responded to JPII’s call for “generous” application of the indult was trivial; the vast majority either pretended JPII's Ecclesia Dei did not exist, or actively despised it. The problem here is the bishops: they did NOT accept JPII’s and Benedict’s view of those “just aspirations” in diverse liturgical sensibilities, and they continued their oppressive ways. I believe they picked up this attitude, first, mostly on account of the Vatican’s unjust negative attitude toward love of the old mass in the 1970s, and then fomented this negative attitude as a thing of its own without any foundation or due limits, just a self-contained (but required) attitude. (Effectively: the men who were attracted to the priesthood and strongly encouraged in their vocation, (and advanced in their careers) in the 1970s and 1980s, were men who could imbibe (without choking) the mantra that “if the Vatican issued the new mass, then by golly THAT’s what the Holy Spirit wanted for the Church, so EVERYONE should like it. Failure to like it is uncatholic." And they eventually began to ooze that mantra themselves.) This naturally means that the bishops are not unbiased observers. Whatever information Francis got from bishops should have been taken with a mountain-sized grain of salt. For, according to Francis, the story they told was of “division”:

I have been around a fairly broad bunch of TLM-goers. And I listen to a pretty vocal number of them in blogging. Those who could be accused, even on broadly “close enough” terms, as “exploiting” the opportunities offered by Francis’s predecessors to “widen the gaps, reinforce divergences…” are quite few: less than 10% easily. That’s over my whole experience, including decades ago. Moreover, the percentage has been decreasing. The young people who are going to the TLM now DO NOT have the hang-ups their parents and grandparents had about the Novus Ordo and the way it was implemented: they weren’t there at the time. They aren’t putting themselves back into the 1970s. They were raised in the NO, and (mostly) accept it as a given. With that backdrop, they don’t think of the TLM as a divisive hook upon which they can fight against the rest of the Church.

To be frank, most of the people who STILL make an issue of the NO as being “invalid” are the ones who have been doing so for decades, and the (modest degree of) generosity of JPII and Benedict did nothing to increase their disgust of it. Nor increase their divisiveness. But the people who tried the TLM for the first time and discovered there something they needed, while they haven’t (usually) come away thinking that NO is invalid, generally do come to a fresh and increased appreciation for the Mass as such, which is, PRECISELY, what Benedict was hoping for. It is my opinion that Francis completely mis-states the situation. It may be that he has more the right of it than I do, but I don’t know how he would have gotten his hands on objectively better data than I have: the survey of the bishops didn’t provide objective data. They don’t have any source for objectively sound data. And it is undoubtedly true that for every angry letter a bishop gets from a hard-line traddie who “reinforces divergences”, there are a dozen other traddies who don’t feel that way. (And, mind you, the Vatican did not release the survey responses themselves, so their characterization may or may not be fully correct.)

Francis goes on to say:

At the same time, I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that “in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions”.

It is good to hear the Pope say this. But like the last 4 popes, he is not taking ONE SINGLE HARD AND FAST STEP AGAINST THE LITURGICAL ABUSES. Why not? He found the time, energy, and resources to pitch a major effort against the traddies. But the number of people who attend the TLM is about 1% or so of those who go to NO, and there are regular abuses at at least 20% of NO masses (that’s not even counting the ones that are, merely, importantly lacking in reverence, which would be more like 60 to 90%). So, by any realistic measure, the NO abuse problem is AT LEAST 20 times as large. Actually, it’s much worse than that, since the percentage of “divisive” TLM attendees is far below 100% of those who attend, below even 10%, so the abuse problem is actually affecting more like 200 times as many people, and so is really 200 times as great a problem. And yet Francis can’t be bothered to address the abuse problem with anything definitive?

The NO problem is also recorded in cold, hard numbers: according to PEW research in 2019, the number of TLM attendees who think like the pope does on abortion is 99%, where as those at NO who do are only 49%. It’s even worse about gay marriage. And, worse yet regarding weekly attendance at mass: only 22% of those who attend the NO go to mass every week, as opposed to 99% for the TLM. The NO, for whatever reason and by whatever mechanism, is clearly fostering dangerous division in the Church. The division is that of apostacy and heresy, rather than schism, but all three of these sins are in the very same category of gravest sins against the Church herself.

But the underlying problem is a failure to recognize and accept the real roots of the issue, the real reason there even is a TLM movement. You would think that the real roots of something this large, and across this many people, would be a hard and difficult problem to lay out, but it really isn’t. In 1966 to 1970, Pope Paul VI commissioned a committee led by Annibale Bugnini to “reform” the Mass, as was the explicit direction of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) of Vatican II. But the majority of the committee members had no business being on it, and Bugnini himself was almost certainly a heretic, but at a minimum had already been under censure for his (wrong) outspoken views and had no business being proposed for leading the project (or being within 1000 miles of it). He did what anyone would have expected had they known him, he railroaded the project to produce a mass that he wanted, regardless of what the Council Fathers said. And when you compare the changes made to the principles indicated in SC, it is inescapable that he did not follow SC. I mean, not even sort of. There is no comparison. It was so bad that when the draft was submitted to Pope Paul, he was so horrified that he took pen and struck out a few of the most outrageous of the changes. But being a liberal-minded procedural guy, he was unwilling to do the right thing, which would have been to scrap the whole thing, fire nearly all of the committee, and start from scratch. It is almost like he seemed to think that this was some democratic process, and “well, if this is what the people want…” I have never understood (a) why he thought the resulting product was a “good enough” instantiation of “reform” as called for by SC, nor (b) why he imagined that changes that severe would sit easily with “the people.”

Well, it WASN’T what the people wanted, not particularly. In general, “the people” had to be pushed and shoved into accepting it, and that ONLY worked by being strong-armed by “it’s the will of the Pope, who is the supreme head of the Church on Earth.” So, the “will of the Pope” was used when the Pope could barely hold his nose long enough to sign it, and did so "for the people". Talk about (sickening) irony. Paging O Henry...

But I am getting ahead of myself: once the final text was determined, in 1969, the Vatican issued Missale Romanum putting the new mass, Novus Ordo, into force for Advent 1969. With a little leeway until 1971, I think. Given the amount that changed, this was without doubt an absolutely stupid and unreasonable way to do it: every single Catholic had been born and raised in the old mass, and knew that their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents had been raised under the very same mass. Custom matters. Customs that long, and that important (every Sunday, every Feast day, etc) grow tethers into 10,000 other practices that are not, strictly speaking, in the missal, but are connected to it: the music, for example. And the genuflecting, and … You cannot just re-do huge sections of the mass all at once, without a long lead-time of education, preparation, discussion, and (to some degree or at least in some elements) gradual implementation, so as to enfold within the adjustment all the OTHER things that were connected to the things you changed. But none of that happened.

And it didn’t happen, most likely, intentionally: the liturgo-terrorists who had the bit between their teeth had no desire for an orderly, careful, slow and thought-out process of implementation that moved everyone along step-by-step all together. Nothing doing. They WANTED chaos. And that’s what they got. They used the chaos in order to implement a million OTHER changes that were not actually in any of the books, and were none of them approved. They wanted, especially, so much change that nobody could keep track of it any more, or tell what had permission and what did not, and then they fostered an explicit attitude of expected, even required EXPERIMENTATION outside of the rubrics: priests who did not try new things were accused of fighting against the “Spirit of Vatican II”, although that was a complete lie and was explicitly denied in the Missale Romanum. The chaos helped the lie along.

Naturally, out of this we got abuse. We got so many abuses that it is nearly impossible to even come up with a classification system for them. “Clown” masses isn’t even the worst of it. We got so much abuse that abuse became the new normal.

However much the Council Fathers wanted the mass to be reformed, there is no way in the world they wanted THAT as the end result. What they put into SC proves they didn’t. And as for the Catholics in the pews, not only didn’t they want all the nonsense, many of them were repulsed by it and offended by the notion that this was all “necessary” because the Council called for “the reform”. What we must raise here, and be perfectly clear about, is the equivocation being CONSTANTLY HAMMERED ONTO OUR SKULLS for the last 50 years: while it is true that the Council directed the pope to see to a reform of the mass, that does not mean the Council directed the pope to produce THIS SPECIFIC MASS and then all the ancillary changes that we actually got – like mass said versus populum, for example. The “reform” we got is nothing like the reform they demanded. So, when Pope Francis says TLM Catholics are “rejecting the reform”, he is unfortunately using an equivocation. If the Vatican had produced the reform asked for, TLM Catholics (at least most of them, though not all) would not now be running from the NO.

And the implementation OF “the reform” (i.e. the new missal) doubled down on the injustice of imposing a completely inappropriate and unnecessary set of changes (the ones in excess of and contrary to what the Council directed): it extended the range of injustices and the severity of them almost unimaginably, via poor implementation and abuses. If the popes of the last 50 years had spent as much effort on proper implementation and control of the changes, and careful oversight of those responsible, as they have on those who are just trying to say the old mass, we would not have had TLM growing by leaps and bounds over the last 13 years. If they had taken effective steps to correct the abuses, and to REPAIR some of the worst aspects of the actual missal of the NO that didn’t need to have been changed that way, then 99.9% of the “traditionalist problem" would have died out by now.

It is the Vatican’s constant, unchanging attitude, for the last 50 years, that THIS SPECIFIC NO mas is the mass “of the Council”, because by golly it’s the mass produced by the committee put in charge of it, (and the terrorists after them), and anybody who speaks against THIS result speaks against “reform,” and “against the Council.” That fraudulent assertion is the underlying, root problem – refusal to admit the substantive problem in the first place. Reacting against unnecessary changes, and against an ocean of abuses so prevalent as to constitute a degeneracy of “norms”, is not rejecting “reform” or “the Council.”

If Paul had admitted his mistakes before he let the draft go forward;
If he had put forth a mass worthy of the name “reform” that VII asked for;
If he had required a reasonable implementation period and process;
If he had restrained the early abuses actively, and censured the people doing them;
If he had listened to the faithful laity who expressed legitimate concerns and problems;
If he had allowed a bishops the freedom to say “no thanks” even when he COULD NOT restrain the abuses;
If he had not doubled down on “this is the process the Vatican approved”;
If JPII had taken the opportunity of being his own man, a different chief executive, of not being directly implicated in the failures of Paul, and admitted the errors;
If he had taken effective steps to rein in the abuses;
If he had freely and early granted permissions that he ended up granting anyway;
If he had MADE SURE that Ecclesia Dei actually was generously followed, and had made the bishops obey;
If he had not allowed his underlyings to yank the chain of Archbishop Lefebvre with no good reason;
If he had admitted publicly what he (probably) came to believe privately – that the old mass had not been abrogated;
If he had recognized the catechetical failures of the NO and made essential changes to the NO to correct them;

And so on: If the popes and the Vatican had handled the reform properly, or even less than incredibly foolishly and disastrously, they would not have created this horrific mess. If, at ANY TIME in the last 50 years, the Vatican had admitted it made a huge blunder and was going to take steps to correct it, they would have gotten instant support from the TLM community to help and to work with them. But…crickets. The problem of the Vatican response to traddies is a particular sort of clericalism, and Francis, for all he preaches against clericalism, is practicing it by not acting on the REAL problem. The problem was the product of an odd, clerical egotism that insisted, as a metaphysical absolute, that whatever concrete events happened after the Council constituted “the reform” intended by by the Council,, as if post hoc implies propter hoc. As if: because the Council itself was protected from formal doctrinal error by the Holy Spirit, all of the actions taken “in the name of the Council” after it was over must have been prudent and well-designed to make the Church better. “The Vatican can make no mistakes.” Clericalism. (Actually, it’s a kind of ultramontanism, but that is one species of clericalism.)

In an odd sort of way, the NO has achieved the primary purpose the Council Fathers had in mind in calling for reform: more fulsome and complete “participation in the mass”. What is odd is that it did so in an entirely unintentional and backhanded way. The prime motivation driving the Fathers was a certain sort of perfunctory and merely physical presence at mass by many, which was made easier to do by the fact that the VISIBLE “activity” of the TLM is almost entirely by the priest and altar boys, with the people doing nothing and saying nothing: it is easy, in that context, just to show up and daydream your way through mass. The Fathers wanted more “active participation”. However, they clearly DEFINED the participation intended as that of an active energy of attention and desire and will: for each person there to attend to what the priest is doing, and to unite himself, by intention, to the sacrifice of the mass, to assent, interiorly and privately, to what the priest, in persona Christi, does actively and ministerially. That’s what the Council wanted most of all. They SAID that.

And that’s what now happens at TLM masses, because people who make the effort to seek it out, after having grown up in the NO, would not bother making that effort without doing it for a reason. And in that reason, they devote themselves to actively learning the TLM and understanding their role at mass, and diving into it energetically. So, the NO is causing this, BY CONTRAST. Not precisely the pathway intended by Paul VI, but hey, they should take what they can get, shouldn’t they? What Francis and the bishops should have noticed is that even if the NO weren’t (as usually practiced) as bad as it is, the MERE CONTRAST ALONE between the two masses is actually an aid in understanding the mass better. There are clear benefits to having people easily attend either mass, and once in a while be exposed to the old mass, just for the contrast between what is the norm now and what was the norm for 1500 years. Diversity, you know.

And this shows the ultimate mistake Francis is making: he thinks that most of the energy and motivation behind the (increasing) numbers of people using the TLM is from a “rejection of reform” and an “us vs. them” attitude. But this is just not true. The increase in numbers is almost wholly from younger people who weren’t around when the change happened, and who are not into that whole “you took away our mass” stuff. They are not rejecting reform. They are making real the very purpose the Council Fathers had in calling for reform. Francis should be PROMOTING the TLM, not suppressing it.

I indicated at the beginning that this motu proprio had something new. What I meant is this: since the advent of the modern era, we have never seen a pope issue something official that is this harsh and downright nasty. These provisions were aimed at trads in a mean and cruel way. (a) It was effective immediately, even though issued on a Friday and could not possibly be implemented immediately without gross and unjust disruption. There was no emergency, it could have been made effective next month, or on January 1. (b) The name Traditionis Custodes, a slap in the face of tradition. (c) the explicit divergence of treatment for those who are not yet ordained, as to whether they will get to say the old mass – including many young men who have already predicated several years of study (under the regime of Summorum Pontificum) thinking they will have unfettered access to the old mass. (d) The dictum that the old mass shall not be said in parish churches. In places where parish churches have been used (and, especially, in places where the bishop has given a TLM group the whole rights to a parish), much time, money, and effort has been put into making the place suitable to the old mass in an eminent way, precisely because of the traditionalists desire for the reverence and the aesthetics of high worship; to rip them away from these spaces and relegate them (probably) to sub-human locations like gyms and conference centers is, effectively, aesthetic torture, i.e. a location itself at odds with the mass being said and the reason for it. And unjust, in the bargain. And (e) ultimately, the larger presumption of the whole Bergoglian dispute with Benedict that the Church cannot tolerate the ongoing existence of the old mass and those who love the old mass even if the Church cannot achieve any effective success in correcting the abuses in the new mass, i.e. the LIVED EXPERIENCE of those suffering from the rampant abuses is irrelevant to whether they should get relief via access to a holy and reverent mass.

It is, unfortunately, adding insult to injury, that these actions should be taken by a pope who, for all other downtrodden groups, is all mercy and “accompaniment”, who actively opposes measures to rein in error and troublesome divergence from the Church’s official theology or practice. He seems to be saying that the ONLY people not worthy of his mercy are those who have been harmed by friendly fire from the artillery of the Church herself. And (apparently) only because a small percentage of them are “rigid” and “resist the Church” after having been harmed by friendly fire for 50 years.

There is, out of the starting gate, a refreshing amount of evidence that Francis is not going to get quite the active assent to this instruction from the bishops that (maybe) he thought he was going to get. The sheer silliness of saying it is effective “immediately” virtually FORCED many bishops to issue quick public comments saying, in effect: “not yet, it isn’t; keep on doing what you have been doing until I sort this out.” And many of the ones who didn’t say that publicly will be found to have meant that by silence: they are not taking any measures against priests who continued to say the TLM at parish churches according to the schedules in the bulletins. And I have this suspicion that once you force bishops to publicly say whoa, Nellie to implementing TC, you won’t easily get them to go into full-bore application of it in all of its cruel splendor. I suspect that for every bishop like Bishop Minnerath (of Dijon, France, who got a clear idea of what was in TC months early, and kicked out all of the FSSP priests in his diocese 2 months before Francis issued TC), you will get 3 bishops who will implement TC in their typically desultory but mostly compliant (supine) format of approximately half effectiveness, 2 bishops who dig in their heels with an obstinate resistance to precipitate (unnecessary) changes, and 1 more bishop who actively and aggressively repudiates the spirit of TC and tries to undermine its desired effect while either (pick your poison) (i) exhibiting a show of following TC’s directives in outward form, while doing it with what I call “constructive malcompliance” in actual practice, or (ii) telling the pope in effect to go pound sand (maybe, but not necessarily, quietly and only by actions, rather than by outspoken announcement). Francis even may have generated a few brand new Hotspur nodes of resistance IN BISHOPS by this, which is an almost incredible achievement, given that they usually have their spines surgically removed in progression toward a bishop’s miter. In other words, the pope may have shot himself in the foot by his excessive harshness. He might have achieved far more compliance by more restrained efforts.

I also think that many bishops will so notice the harshness and untoward spirit of meanness toward trads, that they will reflect on the very plausible scenario that if Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum can be reversed so soon after it was issued (and while Benedict is still alive – and on the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, no less), then Francis’s TC effort can be and might be reversed by his successor – and Francis is no spring chicken. He is 84, just 1 year younger than Benedict when he resigned, and the same age as JPII when he died. And Francis just went through a week in the hospital. We could well have a new pope in just a year or two, and if a bishop wanted to not implement TC fully, he could simply wait out the pope’s demise with slow-motion “implementation”. There are an infinity of methods to use for that, as all bureaucrats know (and believe me, nobody gets to be a bishop without at least some experience with bureaucracy). I hope that the NET effect of all this is that Francis causes even more bishops to notice the positive good that most TLM congregations in the Church are doing, and reflect more deeply on the possibility of using the TLM to kickstart better Novus Ordo masses in their dioceses. (And, in the longer term, foment a successful movement to reform the Novus Ordo itself.)

If I were to speak to bishops directly, I would advise them to do everything in their power to draw TC’s teeth and to “implement” it with the least possible harm to traditional-leaning groups and individuals, and the least possible diminution of TLM masses in general; and, indeed, to increase devotion to the TLM where they can, because that is actually to the Church’s benefit. Interestingly, TC’s obligated actions are on the bishop – it doesn’t even have specific direct orders to parish priests, much less to the laity. Hence, the laity can continue to go to mass (and other ceremonies) under the 1962 missal that are held, without disobedience to Francis. The only people who even could disobey TC are the bishops. Since Francis clearly said the bishop is the custodian of the liturgy in their diocese, the laity are free to attend TLM wherever the bishop does not forbid it.

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