Rorate Caeli

“Never before has the Church seen such a malicious treatment of a movement within it”: Christophe Geffroy

A translation of “Les Responsa de Rome: une sévérité insoutenable” from the conservative La Nef, which takes the line of Cardinal Sarah and the “reform of the reform.” It is a good representation of those who take the Ratzinger line, with its strengths and weaknesses.—PAK

The Responsa of Rome: An Unbearable Severity
Christophe Geffroy
La Nef, December 21, 2021

Just a few days before Christmas—what could be more urgent in these times of pandemic and the drama of sexual abuse of minors? On December 18, the Congregation for Divine Worship published Responsa ad dubia (responses to doubts) “on certain provisions” of Traditionis custodes. In line with the Pope’s motu proprio and his accompanying letter to the bishops, the tone is blunt, with no concern to spare the people concerned. And the substance is no less so, which prohibits roughly all the sacraments according to the old rituals, except for the Mass.

The will to eventually eliminate what was until recently called “the extraordinary form of the Roman rite” is explicitly stated, the Congregation going so far as to ask that there be no publicity in the dioceses for these Masses. At a time when we never cease to praise “living together” and “welcome” in all its forms, Rome strikes the attitude of looking upon some of its priests and faithful as second-class Christians, just tolerated by a “limited concession,” while waiting for them to adapt and integrate into the “ordinary” parishes, as if unity rhymed with uniformity: never before has the Church seen such a malicious treatment of a movement within it!

That these Christians feel bruised and rejected by the very people who should be exercising a ministry of fatherhood, we can easily understand. They also have reason to feel betrayed by the fact that the Apostolic See is reneging on solemn commitments made by Pope Francis’s predecessors to “guarantee respect for their aspirations.”

Is this the way to solve the “trad” problem?

For sure, it is an undeniable reality that there is a problem among some “trads,” as we have mentioned before. By “problem” we mean the fact, underlined by Francis, of rejecting the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform promulgated by St. Paul VI. Nevertheless, such a rejection is a minority one, and the fact remains that the traditionalist institutes that claim liturgical exclusivism refuse any celebration of the new missal, hiding behind constitutions that cannot abrogate the benefit of common law, as Rome made clear in 1999, and they have not moved one iota on this question, despite the very clear requests of popes—notably of Benedict XVI in 2007 on the occasion of Summorum Pontificum—that have remained dead letters.

That Francis does not accept a radical questioning of the Magisterium on such important points as an ecumenical council (where not everything, however, has the same degree of authority) or the promulgation of a reform of the Roman Mass (as if Rome could give a stone to its children with a defective or inferior liturgy) is easily understood.

But is the way Francis seeks to address this problem the right way? Doesn’t this authoritarian method amount to a form of clericalism—the very thing Francis likes to criticize, where what redounds to the spiritual good of the laity is taken for granted and the laity are never consulted? At the time of the Synod, why has Rome, since the promulgation of the motu proprio, refused the dialogue requested by the leaders of traditional communities? How can we not fear that this way of doing things will lead to the opposite result of the one expected and will, on the contrary, increase bitterness and divisions, finally encouraging the most hardened to join the ranks of the Society of Saint Pius X? Containing the Lefebvrist rupture thus no longer seems to be a priority for Rome, which is hardly embarrassed to see priests and faithful join this dissident movement, which is quite astonishing!

Unheard-of harshness

These Responsa of the Congregation for Divine Worship—it is a purely disciplinary text—are all the more surprising because they are bureaucratic and centralizing, they nitpick in an incredibly petty way, and they ignore the terrain as well as the diversity of the traditionalist world; there is a blindness to liturgical realities and a refusal to take into account the appeal of the traditional Mass to young people, who are strangers to the liturgical quarrels of their elders. Finally, these Responsa are an obvious denial of what Pope Francis said to the French bishops during their ad limina visits last fall: he wanted to reassure them and invited them to continue as before where things were going well—which, in France, would be the vast majority of dioceses.

Faced with these unprecedentedly harsh measures, it is understandable that traditionalists are expressing their concerns, communicating them to the competent authorities, and tirelessly demanding the revision of the new measures. If it is legitimate to resist in the spirit of the Church, the danger in such situations is to rebel against the authority that enacts unjust laws. Suffering at the hands of the Church is certainly a painful ordeal, but it invites us to redouble our supernatural trust in the Church, our Mother.