Rorate Caeli

Father Claude Barthe: We Must Resist the Illegitimate Norms on the Traditional Rite - "Vatican hardliners have started a war they can only lose."

Resisting an unjust liturgical law

Michel Janva
Le Salon Beige
December 18, 2021

[Rorate: Father Barthe is well known by our readers. One of the greatest experts in the history of the Traditional movement, and the chaplain of the pilgrimage to Rome, he knows what he talks about.] This morning, the Congregation for Divine Worship published responses to certain provisions of the Apostolic Letter in the form of a "Motu Proprio" Traditionis Custodes. We interviewed Father Claude Barthe.

Father, the offensive against the traditional liturgy seems to be intensifying considerably, judging by the publication on December 18 of responsa, answers to questions asked or supposed to have been asked to the Congregation for Divine Worship.

In fact, the Roman hardliners are extremely determined, as the programmed course of their action shows: the disappearance of the ED Commission; an inquiry among the bishops; a motu proprio; a letter from the Cardinal Vicar of Rome; and today's responses that make Traditionis custodes explicit. They clearly want to create the irreversible. These responses were known essentially through the letter of Cardinal De Donatis of October 7 for the diocese of Rome.

Is it possible for simple Congregational responses to amplify a papal motu proprio?

From the technical-juridical point of view, yes: the Church is an absolute monarchy and the Pope's ministers can, in his name and on his mandate, say the law. In this case, they specify the intention of the legislator. One can hardly argue because the Pope approved these answers in generic form (a weak approval) and not in specific form (the maximum approval). But from a juridical-theological point of view, no: if Summorum Pontificum had found that the ancient Mass was not abrogated and was one of the expressions of the lex orandi, extending this finding by its provisions to the other books (breviary, pontifical, etc.), this was based on a substantive doctrinal judgment. Any "law" to the contrary is without force.

A finding of Summorum Pontificum that nevertheless is overturned by Traditionis custodes.

And that the responsa make explicit and underline: Traditionis custodes posited that the new liturgical books are the only expression of the lex orandi; however, a more restricted use of the old missal was tolerated, provisionally, in order to "facilitate ecclesial communion"; but the other traditional liturgical books (ritual, pontifical) are not included in this provisional tolerance and are therefore prohibited (except for the ritual in personal parishes, and if the bishop allows it).

The whole system is therefore based on the statement of Traditionis custodes, which claims to invalidate that of Summorum Pontificum, but which, in fact, relativizes itself, just as religious freedom claimed to invalidate the previous magisterium until Pius XII.

In concrete terms, what will be prohibited?

The most sensitive consequences of these measures, if they were accepted by those concerned, would be: the prohibition, except in personal parishes, of traditional marriages (but in fact, a certain number of parish priests, who will be asked for their church to celebrate them, will turn a blind eye); the prohibition of traditional confirmations (but one can think that many parents of children to be confirmed will turn to the SSPX bishops); and above all the prohibition of traditional ordinations. This is by far the most serious of all, because it targets the very specificity of traditional seminaries. The Ecclesia Dei institutes will not accept, any more than they will accept the introduction of the new Mass alongside the traditional Mass in their seminaries, which the canonical visitations organized by the Congregation for Religious would want to impose on them. This would be suicide: candidates would withdraw and vocations would stop flowing.

So we must resist this unjust law?

Yes, with the grace of God and the powerful help of prayer. Even if it means just stalling for time, both in the seminaries and at the grassroots level in the apostolates. Of course, the conferral of ordinations presupposes that some bishops should be willing to deem that these prohibitions lack any force of law.

And that they accept the risks that may be involved in going beyond them?

Indeed, all of them, bishops, superiors, seminarians, and priests in the field who adopt an attitude of non-acceptance of Traditionis custodes, made explicit by the responsa, will have to assume the risks.

And what might these risks be? In the secular world one prepares for all possible eventualities by envisaging the worst-case scenario.  In the present case, the worst-case scenario to bear in mind is that of Archbishop Lefebvre in 1976: ahead of a scheduled ordination, the authorities notified the ordaining prelate of a prohibition by mandato speciali Summi Pontificis ("special mandate of the Supreme Pontiff"), which was eventually followed by a penalty of "suspension a divinis" (the prohibition of celebrating the sacraments). Beyond that,  all sorts of measures could conceivably be taken against recalcitrant communities, the worst of which (again, just a worst-case scenario to bear in mind) would be their suppression. Short of that, however, if those concerned are able to use diplomacy skilfully while remaining firm on the substance, the worst they might incur could be a face-saving statement of principles [by the authorities]. One should not count on this, however, as it might underestimate how determined the authors of these texts actually are.

We are in the classic framework of a balance of power.

Yes, and fortunately for us dwarfs, the main one is that of Christ who supports his Church. In any case, the balance of power today is much more favorable to the traditional world than it seems, especially in France, where it will not let itself be taken over. Moreover, the dioceses have no interest in the communities settling into a temporary semi-independence (like the IBP in Paris, at the Saint Paul Center). I remain convinced that with Traditionis custodes the Roman hardliners have started a war that they can only lose. But a war that can cause great damage, we must not hide it. We must therefore pray intensely to support those who will have to make decisions. 

[Source; Emphases added]