Rorate Caeli

“Francis: The Pope of Rupture” — Article by Jean-Pierre Maugendre

Rorate is pleased to present this translation by Zachary Thomas of an article that appeared at Boulevard Voltaire on July 20. Its author, Jean-Pierre Maugendre, is the founder and executive director of this lay movement, which works to promote the establishment of the Social Kingship of Christ. For thirty years, under the patronage of St. John of Arc, the association has been engaged in the pressing task of intellectual and moral reform. Jean-Pierre has recently been in the news for his brave defense of the Church’s moral teaching.

Francis: The Pope of Rupture

by Jean-Pierre Maugendre 

With the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis has decided that the missal reformed by Paul VI in 1969 is “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” Concretely, the celebration of the traditional Mass will once again be subject to multiple authorizations compounded by vexations: proscription against celebration in a parish church, the authorization of the Holy See required for a newly-ordained priest to be able to celebrate it, etc.

Stupefaction, indignation, and anger have washed over a great part of the Church. Benedict XVI, by his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, had granted the traditional Mass a share of liberty, declaring: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.”

What does the sovereign pontiff find objectionable about this Mass? It has been too successful! Despite this régime of monitored liberty, the celebration of the traditional Mass still continues to spread. Today the traditionalist faithful represent between 7 and 8% of practicing Catholics [in France]. The congregations are young, with large families, and supply 20% of the annual priestly ordinations in France. The only snag for the Roman authorities? These communities don’t have much of an appetite for the “Holy Second Vatican Council” and the reformed liturgy. As the much hoped-for fruits of the Council have been slow to mature, the traditionalist faithful prefer to fall back on the methods of apostolate and tried-and-tested prayers. As for the reformed liturgy, if they have chosen the traditional liturgy it is because the other one did not answer their desire for transcendence, sacrality, recollection, and mystery.

This papal decision leads an observer to the conviction that there has been a true rupture between the so-called “conciliar Church” (to use Cardinal Benelli’s expression) and the one that preceded it. If the conciliar Church is really the natural and supernatural successor of the one that preceded it, then the only thing we hold against those who are attached to the ancient liturgical forms is that they are fifty years behind, which is not a big deal. This is the conviction that motivated the good will of Benedict XVI, a proponent of the hermeneutic of continuity, toward the traditional liturgy.

On the other hand, if the conciliar church is, in certain respects,  different from the one that preceded it, Pope Francis’s behavior is entirely logical. In the seventies, the original foundational idea of Msgr Lefebvre, founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, was: “Allow us to try the experiment of Tradition.” This experiment was carried out and the good fruits are apparent to everyone.

What lies ahead? Not necessarily anything significant. The bishops of France are perfectly aware that a strict application of the motu proprio would immediately unleash a vast protest movement, not limited to mere tearful petitions, but involving protests outside the bishoprics as well as occupations of churches. On the other hand, on the media front it is dangerous to appear to support the violence, not to say the outright wickedness, of this pontifical measure, especially keeping in mind the Holy Father’s recurrent statements  about mercy, pardon, and welcoming, of homosexuals, the divorced and remarried, migrants, etc.

In the face of the coming trials, supernatural hope remains to guide us: “Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.