Rorate Caeli

An Unwanted “Gift” from Cardinal Cupich

The blog PrayTell has recently published an article from Blase Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, in which His Eminence makes some rather strange and bizarre claims in order to justify what he sees as the "The Gift of Traditionis Custodes". Firstly, the Cardinal makes the following rather odd analogy:

In 1983, Pope John Paul II reformed the Code of Canon Law of 1917, in order to insure that Church Law conformed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, the saintly pope in 1993 [sic] reformed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, again for the purpose of bringing it up-to-date in view of the theological insights of the Council… With the reforms of the Code and the Catechism, the Church left behind their earlier forms. No one would think of arguing that the earlier forms of the Code or the Catechism could still be used, simply because the word reform means something. And, so it has to mean something with regard to the liturgical reform.

That earlier catechisms can, apparently, no longer be used because of “reforms” would be news to Pope John Paul II, who specifically wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum that the new Catechism was “not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences, especially if they have been approved by the Apostolic See” (IV). This seems quite clear: the Pope’s intention for the 1992 Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae was not to replace older catechisms like the ‘Penny Catechism’ or the Baltimore Catechism. The new Catechism is “a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith” (Fidei depositum, IV), but by no means is it the only such instrument or norm!

It would also most certainly be news to one of the members of the papal commission tasked with preparing the new Catechism: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. In a 2003 interview, the subject of which was the Compendium of the Catechism, Cardinal Ratzinger had this response when the Catechism of St Pius X was mentioned:

Speaking of the Catechism of Saint Pius X, which continues to have its admirers still today: will it be considered definitely surpassed with the publication of the Compendium? 
The faith as such is always the same. Hence the Catechism of Saint Pius X always preserves its value. Whereas ways of transmitting the contents of the faith can change instead. And hence one may wonder whether the Catechism of Saint Pius X can in that sense still be considered valid today. I believe the Compendium we’re preparing can respond better to the needs of today. But that doesn’t exclude that there may be people or groups of persons who feel more at ease with the Catechism of Saint Pius X. One shouldn’t forget that that Catechism derived from a text that had been prepared by the Pope himself while he was bishop of Mantua. The text was the fruit of the personal catechistic experience of Giuseppe Sarto and was characterized by simplicity of exposition and depth of content. That is also a reason why the Catechism of Saint Pius X may still find friends in the future. But that certainly doesn’t make our work superfluous…

After this, Cardinal Cupich repeats the erroneous assertion of Archbishop Augustine DiNoia that the sole purpose of Summorum Pontificum was the reconciliation of the Society of St Pius X. On the contrary, in his accompanying letter Pope Benedict XVI was very clear about his principal reason for issuing Summorum Pontificum:

I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity… What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.

If this were not enough, it should also be noted that in Last Testament: In His Own Words (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2016), Benedict responds to the claim that the Latin Mass was reauthorized as a concession to the Society of St. Pius X (p. 202): “That is absolutely false! For me, what is important is the unity of the Church with itself, in its interior, with its past; that that which was holy for her before should not be in any way an evil now.” These are words that leave no doubt whatsoever about the pope's intentions.

Of course, the reconciliation and peace of Benedict have now been replaced by the war of Francis, a reopening of numerous ecclesial battlefronts that is exceptionally unlikely to result in the unity that Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich assert is the aim of Traditionis custodes. Indeed, in this “single and identical prayer that expresses its unity, according to the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Popes Paul VI and John Paul II”, what place is there for the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship, or even the so-called “Zaire Use”? Why even bother proposing an inculturated “Amazonian Rite”? Why has there very recently been a new decree from the CDWDS that reaffirms the process by which “radical adaptations” (cf. SC 40) of the Roman Rite might be made (nn. 9-12), if we are all supposed to be working towards a “single and identical prayer”?

In a sense, the real question here is: what actually constitutes the “substantial unity of the Roman Rite” (SC 38), let alone its “unique expression” (TC, art. 1)? Actually answering that question, however, would require considerable effort, and perhaps even a rethinking of the “irreversible” liturgical reform and the principles and scholarship underlying it. Easier by far to just declare by fiat, as Cardinal Cupich does in his article, that the reformed liturgy is “in continuity with the Tradition of the Church”. No proof of this is required, apparently; one declares it to be so, and therefore it cannot be otherwise. Der Wille zur Macht!

Well, unfortunately for His Eminence, we passed the point some time ago where mere declarations of continuity sufficed, and not just for the ordo Missae itself. The prayers of the reformed Missal, its lectionary, the reform of the Divine Office, the blessings in the Rituale, and so on… Where is this “continuity” in the reformed liturgical books that we are assured is present? As the Pope often praises parrhesia, I hope I shall be permitted to say along with others that if the Holy See is actually serious about the question of continuity, then it is time to make a concerted effort to demonstrate it, rather than merely assert it.

Cardinal Cupich then goes on to claim that, in issuing Traditionis custodes, the Pope has “returned competency to the local bishop” regarding the liturgy. One would be forgiven for wondering how, exactly, the following articles of the motu proprio do this:

Art. 3. The bishop of the diocese in which until now there exist one or more groups that celebrate according to the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970: […]


§ 2. is to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes)…


§ 6. to take care not to authorise the establishment of new groups


Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.


Art. 6. Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.

How does this allow the Bishop to be the “sole moderator, promoter and guardian of all liturgical life in his diocese”? Under Traditionis custodes, the local bishop is made dependent on Rome and the Roman Curia in a way he never was under Summorum Pontificum. So much for this papacy’s lauded aim of “decentralisation”!

And this brings us to perhaps the most patronising section of the Cardinal's short essay:

Pastorally fulfilling the aims of TC will require that we as pastors accompany people in coming to an understanding of the link between the way we worship and what we believe, keeping in mind the Holy Father’s desire that pastors are to lead the faithful to the sole use of the reformed liturgical books. Accompaniment may take the form of visiting with the faithful who have regularly attended Mass and celebrated sacraments with the earlier rituals to help them understand the essential principles of renewal called for in the Second Vatican Council. It must also involve helping people appreciate how the reformed Mass introduces them to a greater use of scripture and prayers from the Roman tradition, as well as an updated liturgical calendar of feasts that includes recently canonized saints. Accompaniment may also mean creatively including in the Mass reformed by the Council elements which people have found nourishing in celebrating the earlier form of the Mass, which has already been an option, e.g., reverent movement and gestures, use of Gregorian chant, Latin and incense and extended periods of silence within the liturgy.

This is clericalism of the highest degree! It is quite insulting for His Eminence to say that those of us who are attached to the usus antiquior need “help” to “appreciate” Vatican II’s “essential principles of renewal” – as if we are ignorant plebs who don’t know any better. In fact, we know full well that “a legitimate distinction can be made between the Council and the reform implemented in its name”, and that the novus ordo went far beyond the provisions in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Most of us have experienced the liturgical “renewal” in all its banality – horrible music, ugly art, slovenly translations, censored readings, the inescapable egotism of versus populum celebration. We do not wish to go back to it. 

Further, the Cardinal’s attempt to say that Gregorian chant, Latin, extended periods of silence, etc., should be “creatively included” in the novus ordo to “accompany” traditionalists is utterly risible, coming as it does from a man who preferred to lock his faithful out of their church rather than let them celebrate the Paschal Triduum in the usus antiquior. And have we all forgotten that, when Robert Cardinal Sarah in the summer of 2016 dared to suggest that priests “turn to the Lord” and celebrate the reformed Mass ad orientem, he was very quickly slapped down by the Pope in no uncertain terms? Perhaps Cardinal Cupich is not aware of the post-TC decrees of various of his brother bishops, which make it quite clear that his proposed “accompaniment” is a non-starter – for example, that of the bishop of Alajuela (Costa Rica), who banned the celebration of even the novus ordo in Latin!

Your Eminence, we do not want the “gift” of Traditionis custodes, precisely because this motu proprio is ein Gift, a poison in the Body of Christ. Nothing good can come from it. Rather, we merely wish to celebrate the traditional liturgy in peace, as countless generations have before us, and we will joyfully testify to you and your episcopal brothers why we love and revere the traditional rites of our Holy Mother the Church, if only you would ask us. Are you really content to just regurgitate the same old myths and half-truths about the liturgical reform, to remain so utterly uninterested in genuine accompaniment and dialogue with the traditional faithful on the peripheries?