Rorate Caeli

Dear Cardinal Cupich: The implementation of Traditionis Custodes in the Archdiocese of Chicago

 Dear Cardinal Cupich:

I read, with obvious interest as a Catholic priest, your recent letter outlining how you propose to implement in your Archdiocese of Chicago Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes.  In your letter you seem to have espoused a less than critical-- that term not in a negative sense—understanding of the latest Motu Proprio.  It seems like almost a puppet like reaction that shows no attempt to analyze, in a serious way, how the Motu Proprio relates to the reality of the liturgical state of the Church in the United States.  Surely one must be a thinking and discerning bishop to be faithful to the Tradition of the Church. Your own diocese contains flourishing communities in which the Traditional Roman Mass is celebrated regularly with great joy and faithfulness and with no animosity to those who celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Saint Pope Paul VI. 

There is no doubt, or there should be no doubt, as to the validity of the Order of Mass promulgated in 1970 and amended by Popes to the present day.  But as a bishop of the Church you are surely aware that there has been a rediscovery of the Traditional Roman Mass by at least two generation, which rediscovery has not--pace some sexa- and septa- and octagenerians in the hierarchy—been the cause of dissension and negativity within the Church.  If you talked to the many seminarians in many of our seminaries you would hear of their happiness in their discovery of the Traditional Roman Mass and their sincere hope of incorporating what they have discovered and using it in their priesthood without in any way disparaging the liturgy of the Mass of St. Paul VI. And if you spoke to the many families who have discovered faith and beauty in the Traditional Roman Mass, you would hear of the deepening of their Catholic faith and the joy that they experience at Sunday Mass. 

You claim without any discussion that the Traditional Roman Mass and the Mass of St. Paul VI are continuous.  What is your basis for this claim?  Perhaps this claim is advanced to ensure the validity of the Mass of Saint Pope Paul VI.  There can be no question of the validity of the Mass form of the Missal of St. Pope Paul VI that is used in the overwhelming majority of parishes throughout the world.  The Holy Spirit’s real and constant presence in the Church confirms this validity.   But if you were to study the two forms of the Mass thoroughly, you would find that it is indeed difficult if not impossible to claim a continuity between the two forms of Mass, the Traditional Roman Mass and the Mass of St. Pope Paul VI.  I celebrate both forms of the Mass, and to assert a continuity in any real sense between the two forms has no basis in reality.  I hope you investigate the many studies of the two forms used today in the Roman rite that use real data to show that the two forms are indeed not all continuous in any real sense.  

I have used the following analogy a number of times. It is not “scientific” nor “theological”. But yet it lays bare in lay terms the question of continuity of the Traditional Roman Mass and the Mass of St. Pope Paul VI. If one published a new version of David Copperfield, the novel by Charles Dickens, and removed half of the chapters and added several new chapters, could one really say that that this new version is the novel, David Copperfield? The answer is obvious. The same holds true for the Roman Missal of 1962 and the Roman Missal of 1970

Cardinal Cupich: perhaps you personally know nothing about the Traditional Roman Mass and have never celebrated Mass according to the many missals through fifteen hundred years that have embodied this Rite.  If this is the case, you should learn the Traditional Roman Mass and celebrate it, and then come to a conclusion as to the continuity of the two Rites of Mass.  

Much depends on what you decide to do in the Archdiocese of Chicago in the implementation of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes.  You have the opportunity to be a true bridge that will allow the Liturgy of the Catholic Church to not only flourish in a true openness to the past, the present and the future, but also to reverse that parlous decline of the real presence of the Catholic faith in a world that needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla