Rorate Caeli

Dear Archbishop Roche: The Attempt to Cancel Tradition is doomed to failure

Venite, adoremus!

Dear Archbishop Roche:

Very early yesterday morning a “Rorate” Mass was celebrated in a local parish church in a New England town here in the United States with the kind and generous permission of the local bishop.   It is not a “Traditional” parish per se. 

As is the custom for the Rorate Mass in Advent, the Mass began early, before dawn, with only candles in the church providing light.  Shortly after the Consecration of the Mass, the light of dawn appeared in the sky.  There were nearly 150 people of all ages at this Mass, some who had never attended a Traditional Roman Mass.  The comments of those who attended this Mass all expressed their appreciation of the beauty of the Mass.  Some wondered why this Mass was not celebrated more commonly. Some wondered why this Mass was so unlike their experience of the normal Sunday Mass. There were ten altar servers at this Mass, all young men, ages from nine to thirty, some seminarians, all of whom who have discovered the Traditional Roman Mass in their own way. Their devotion at the Mass was inspiring.

The attempt to suppress the Traditional Roman Mass by Pope Francis and the Congregation for  Divine Worship  under your leadership with the issuance of Traditionis Custodes (the irony of that title is delicious) and the recent response to the Dubia is doomed to failure.  It is your generation that is determined to eradicate the presence and even the memory of the Traditional Roman Mass in the Church.  You do so not in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.  You do so in the spirit of Cancel Culture. In fact, one might even say that the Catholic Church invented Cancel Culture in 1970 with the promulgation of the Roman Missal of 1970.  This Missal was not the response to  the people of God who were clamoring for liturgical change. It was forced upon the Church by liturgical bureaucrats whose hatred of the Traditional Roman Mass is well known and well documented.  The original intent of the Liturgical Movement  was the deepening of the understanding and appreciation of the Traditional Roman Mass. The intent was not  to invent an entirely new liturgy. I must declare at this point that there is no doubt of the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass.  The Holy Spirit does not abandon the Church because those in charge act foolishly. Validity is not at stake here.  Faithfulness to the Tradition is what is at stake.

The Traditional Roman Mass developed for almost two thousand years in an organic way, that is, without organized planning.  It bore the marks of those millenia of Christian civilization that came to define Western culture, a culture whose religious heart was faith in Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word.  The Traditional Roman Mass was the inspiration for what we call Western Music, from chant to Josquin, Palestrina, Mozart, Beethoven and down to the first half of the twentieth century. The great Lutheran composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, composed what many consider his greatest work in the Mass in B Minor, a setting of the Ordinary of the Traditional Roman Mass.  The Roman Mass became an art form because of the deep inherent beauty at its heart, that beauty having a name: Jesus Christ.

You have claimed that the Missal of Paul VI is in continuity with the Traditional Roman Mass.  That is not true.  You must stop claiming that this is true. Perhaps you do not understand what the world “continuity” means.  It is not something that can be assumed because someone declares it is so. Thorough research by many scholars have shown that the 1970 Roman Missal is both practically and spiritually something different from the Traditional Roman Mass. The 1970 Roman Missal is a product of the 1960s, a product not the result of the Spirit- led organic development of the previous centuries but rather of the manufactured product of a particular time in history.  It is fortunate that so many young people have no memory of that time of self-conscious revolution against Christian culture.  So that when they encounter the timelessness of the Traditional Roman Mass they are unencumbered with the baggage of the 1960s, the baggage that is being blindly carried by those who are in power in the Church today.  

You and those others in charge in Rome will fail in your clumsy attempt to cancel the memory of the Traditional Roman Mass.  First of all, because your generation will pass away in the near future, and so will I, for I am of that generation as well.  Secondly because the Traditional Roman Mass is at the center of the Memory of the Church that is Tradition.  It is not a product of one particular time nor place. Its mainly hidden growth and development is continuous with the development of doctrine under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Its specificity as “Roman” saves it from being the plaything of any particular culture or age or language.  It needs no inculturation into the world, for its universality is grounded in Catholic Tradition.  

You and your confratelli in Rome are totally out of touch with the contemporary world, especially with the young. Being walled up in the Vatican fortress, how could you know those young men and women who are discovering the depth and beauty of worship in the Traditional Roman Mass and who at the same time have no negativity towards the Second Vatican Council?  All they know is that they have found a pearl of great price that makes them full of joy.  This includes the many young men in our seminaries who have come to love the Traditional Roman Mass and will be a driving force in the future for the recognition that what was sacred yesterday is sacred today.  

The recovery of the sacred in worship is necessary for the recovery of the missionary spirit that must lie at the heart of the Christian’s being in the world.  One of the tragedies of the present state of the Church is the denial by those of positions of power of her mandate to go out into the world to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  The spectacle of the Pachamama episode of the recent past could not have been possible without the death of the presence of the transcendent in the liturgy and the denial of Christ’s commission to the Church of evangelization. 

What St. John Henry Newman feared with respect to the understanding of the dogma of papal infallibility is tragically what we are experiencing today in the Catholic Church: a pope and his Vatican court who have confused papal authority with “L’Eglise, c’est moi”, more like a political dictator than Saint Peter, whose vicar the Pope is.  Saint Peter could never forget his terrible denial of his Master That was a realistic check on any pretensions he might have had as the rock on which the Church is built.  He understood quite clearly that his Christ-given mission was to proclaim Christ and Him crucified to an unbelieving world. And he did this with great zeal and power as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  For which his reward was to be crucified upside down, in imitation of his Lord and as an example of his deep humility.

Your attempt to cancel the Traditional Roman Mass is futile, for you have no power to cancel that Memory that is at the heart of Tradition. You cannot cancel the memory of She who pondered all these things in her heart and whose memory lies at the very heart of the Tradition.  You cannot cancel Beauty, for Beauty has saved, is saving, and will save the world. 

I hope that at some time in this season  of Christmas you have a chance to kneel at the Presepe, the relic of the Crib, in Santa Maria Maggiore and allow yourself to lose yourself, lose yourself in wonder, love and praise. Only by losing ourselves can we find that Love that came down at Christmas.

Buon Natale!

Yours faithfully in Christ,

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla