‘Traditionis Custodes’ Has Generated Division, Not Unity

Three years after the promulgation of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, imposing severe restrictions on the celebration of the Mass in Latin, controversy over the use of the old Latin Mass is as strong as ever.

Therefore, if Pope Francis’ text was intended to bring some measure of peace to the liturgy wars by increasing liturgical homogenization around the Mass of Paul VI, it has been a failure. The rise of the popularity of the Mass of St. John XXIII (traditional Latin Mass) was caused, at least in part, by a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the Mass of St. Paul VI (or Novus Ordo) among a broad cross section of regular-Mass-attending Catholics. And the move to suppress the Latin Mass has done nothing to change that entrenched reality, especially in light of the fact that the Vatican did nothing at the same time to reform the new liturgy in order to address in a truly pastoral way the legitimate sense of disaffection that many have.

It is rarely a wise pastoral move to try and suppress via raw authority from above the spontaneous expressions of faith — expressions that are thoroughly orthodox and truly “from below” — since such exercises of raw authority absent a true engagement with those affected usually flounder.

The popularity of the traditional Latin Mass can be tied directly to its emphasis upon reverence, transcendence and supernatural verticality. And these are features that should be present in every Mass but are sorely lacking in many parishes. It is instructive that wherever the Mass of Paul VI is celebrated in deeply traditional and transcendent ways it is almost always successful, which only underscores the legitimacy of the desire of millions of devout Catholics for a Mass that is more profoundly reverent.

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