Rorate Caeli

The Roadmap of Archbishop Roche: Liquidate the Traditional Liturgy!

Rorate is pleased to present a translation of the Paix Liturgique Letter 837, with permission of Christian Marquant.

The Roadmap of Archbishop Roche: Liquidate the Traditional Liturgy!
(Paix Liturgique Letter 837 in French)

The future Cardinal Arthur Roche is a key figure in the project to destroy the traditional liturgy. This man, who likes his ease and his tranquility, does not have the stature of a historical figure, nor does he seek to be one: Auream quisquis mediocritatem diligit, said Horace, Whoever loves golden mediocrity...

This 71-year-old Englishman from Yorkshire, former bishop of Leeds, was appointed Secretary of Divine Worship in 2012 by Benedict XVI—one of those disastrous appointments of Pope Ratzinger—not because he had any liturgical skills, but because he had chaired the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the very liberal coordinating body of English-speaking bishops’ conferences, and knew better than anyone else the issue of the English translations of the new liturgy.

The rise of a second-string Bugninian

Let us recall that, against the Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship Varietates legitimæ, of January 25, 1994, which consecrated the disastrous liberalism of the process of liturgical translations since the Council, the instruction Liturgiam authenticam, of March 28, 2001, rectified the situation: “It is necessary that the original or primary text be, as far as possible, translated integrally and very precisely, that is to say, without any omission or addition”. And in fact, it is only in the English-speaking area that this work of rectification was correctly accomplished—not thanks to the ICEL of Bishop Roche, but due to the tenacity of Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, a perfect English speaker. The latter was helped by the Vox Clara committee, formed in 2002 within the Congregation to counterbalance the very Bugninian ICEL.

But in 2013, as we know, a New Deal began. Certainly, Pope Francis appointed, to replace Cañizares and at his request, the Ratzinguerian Cardinal Sarah, as Prefect of Divine Worship, in 2014, but surrounded him with two “correct” prelates, namely, Archbishop Arthur Roche, confirmed as Secretary, and Fr. Maggioni, much more assiduous than the first at his work table, but with an insupportable character, appointed Undersecretary, a great friend of Piero Marini [Bugnini’s personal secretary—Ed.].

Arthur Roche, affable and even obsequious, friend of everyone, but also capable of acting vigorously without worrying about formalities, liquidated Vox Clara by no longer convening the bishops who made up the group and by thanking the priests who were part of it. Who today even remembers that there was a Vox Clara Commission?

In spite of everything, Cardinal Sarah tried to continue the rectification of the vernacular translations. But this was all to no avail, with blockages, especially in the German and Italian areas. The promulgation of the English-language [Novus Ordo] Missal in 2011—the “Arinze translation,” if you will—was so faithful to Liturgiam authenticam that it provoked the fury of the Bugninian liturgists, claiming that this translation was rejected by half of the faithful and two-thirds of the priests because of its “too formal” and “pompous” style. As for Archbishop Roche, the man who had sung the praises of the new Missal under Benedict happily fought it under Francis.

By apostolic letter of October 18, 2016, Francis appointed a Commission headed by Archbishop Roche to take charge of these translation problems, composed of pure Bugninians, such as the elderly Piero Marini and... the director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, while excluding the Cardinal-Prefect Robert Sarah. Then, on September 9, 2017, the Motu Proprio Magnum Principium “corrected” canon 838, concerning liturgical translations: the right of the Bishops’ Conferences to “adapt” the liturgical books and not just “translate” them was emphasized. Rome still reserved the power of recognitio, but it was now the Rome of Roche. Under his leadership, the situation had thus reverted to the pre-Arinze situation.

A programmed extermination of the Tridentine lex orandi

The setup for Traditionis custodes had been carried out in a series of well-calculated steps, no doubt orchestrated, by the all-powerful (or at least then all-powerful) Cardinal Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in conjunction with the Secretariat of State.

1. A first step was marked by the motu proprio of January 19, 2019, which abolished the Ecclesia Dei Commission and transferred all of its powers to an office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while Archbishop Pozzo, who had been heading the Commission until then, was dispatched to duties of... overseeing the accounting of the papal choirs.

2. A second step was the launch, on March 7, 2020, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of a survey of all the bishops of the Latin Church on the application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the needs related to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The responses, synthesized by the office of the Congregation that succeeded the Ecclesia Dei Commission, were largely positive, along the lines of “we’re making do, and it’s not working so badly.” But these results were never published; the real purpose of the operation was to be able to say that this survey expressed serious concerns of the world’s bishops regarding the celebration of the traditional Mass.

3. Finally, the third step was the publication of Traditionis custodes, on July 16, 2021, whose provisions are now well known, a motu proprio accompanied by a letter from the Pope to the bishops clearly announcing the intention of the authors: to eventually do away with the traditional liturgy.

From the point of view of curial competence, the Ecclesia Dei institutes were placed under the supervision of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the traditional liturgy under the supervision of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. In other words, the traditional liturgy was placed in the hands of Arthur Roche, who—coincidentally—had become Prefect of that Congregation two months earlier.

The setting up of the executors

The great maneuvers for the destruction of Summorum Pontificum were accompanied by appropriate appointments. It is necessary to recognize the determined nature of the political action of the present pontificate, in comparison with the previous one, whose appointments were often very surprising. The appointments to decisive liturgical posts have come one after the next.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, a 56-year-old Franciscan, was appointed to replace Cardinal Comastri as Archpriest of St. Peter’s, who had reached the age limit.

Fr. Corrado Maggioni was removed because he was too difficult to live with (Cardinal Sarah did not hesitate to say that Maggioni ran the Dicastery like the superior of a minor seminary), but he was replaced by yet another link between the Congregation and the pressure group formed by the professors of Sant’Anselmo, the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy: Monsignor Vittorio Francesco Viola, 55 years old, Franciscan, Bishop of Tortona, in Liguria. Viola, who had studied liturgy at Sant’Anselmo in Rome, and later became one of its professors, had a different intellectual weight than Roche. He could have become Prefect of the Congregation directly, but has to wait until Roche is old enough to resign. He is a devout Bugnignian—to the point of wearing the episcopal ring of Annibale Bugnini!

Also appointed was a new Undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship with episcopal rank, which is contrary to custom and signals his importance: Bishop Aurelio García Macías, former rector of the seminary of Valladolid, who will be in charge of the traditional world. A career man, with a gentle and courteous manner, he too was formed liturgically at Sant’Anselmo, and had become a close friend of Piero Marini.

So naturally, on May 27, Archbishop Roche was placed at the heart of the cleverly organized move against Summorum Pontificum. After the resignation of Cardinal Sarah, he became Prefect of Divine Worship, which he already practically was under a powerless Cardinal Sarah. He will be a cardinal in the next consistory. 

Was Summorum Pontificum a failure or, on the contrary, too successful?

Any intervention by this key figure on the subject of the traditional liturgy is therefore of great weight. This is the case of the remarks he made privately and in front of friends, before the publication of the motu proprio. At a meal with seminary leaders in Rome and members of the Curia, all English-speaking, he laughed and said, “Summorum Pontificum is practically dead! We’re going to give power back to the bishops on this—but above all, not to the conservative bishops.”

More recently, speaking to TVSvizzera, he tried to rewrite history in somewhat confusing words. “The normal form of celebration of the Roman Rite is based on the documents published after the Second Vatican Council. Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum were given to encourage the Lefebvrists to return to full unity with the Church. Clearly, Traditions Custodes has made the observation, ‘Okay, this experiment didn’t really work; let’s go back to what the Council asked for. We must remember that this [going back] was not the will of the Pope. It was [not] the will of the great majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church, gathered at the twenty-first Ecumenical Council, guiding the Pope towards the future. What was produced in 1570 was entirely appropriate for that time. What was produced [at the last Council] was, likewise, entirely appropriate for this time.”

The explanation that Trent and Pius V had produced something “entirely appropriate for that time,” just as Vatican II and Paul VI likewise produced something “entirely appropriate for this time,” shows the level of historical science of the current head of the liturgy in the Roman Church. In fact, the intention of the Council of Trent and Pius V was only to give the best possible edition of a Roman missal that was almost identical to the Roman missal of the thirteenth century and even the eleventh century. The intention of Vatican II and Paul VI was, on the contrary, to give a liturgy conformed to the mentality of the men of our time. But for Roche, Paul VI and Pius V, the same fight! Both, according to him, made missals according to the mood of the times.

Thus, according to Arthur Roche, the “experiment” launched by Benedict XVI to bait the recalcitrant Lefebvrists would have proved to be a failure after fourteen years. Faced with such an assertion, Cardinal Zen, outraged, complained on his twitter account: “Pope Benedict explicitly said that Summorum Pontificum had much broader objectives than simply reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X. Archbishop Roche knows this, but he says the opposite. Why?” It is true, in fact, that the clearly stated intention of Benedict XVI was in no way to conduct an “experiment” to catch naive Lefebvrists, but rather to give a suitable place to the treasure of the Church’s tradition, and, if possible, through the famous “mutual enrichment,” to infuse a little tradition into the new rite.

Yet Arthur Roche does not say anything less than the truth: he speaks of a “failure,” because he knows very well that there has been a failure. Not the one he says, but the one he thinks about. It is enough to read Traditionis custodes and the papal letter that accompanies it to understand that what is unbearable for the authors of the motu proprio is that, thanks to Summorum Pontificum, the ancient rite has made even greater strides than it did before. It has attracted to the Tridentine Missal many priests and faithful who had previously practiced according to the new Missal. In truth, the failure, the fiasco, is that of the “rite of Vatican II.” For Roche and his followers, the real fault of Summorum Pontificum is that it gave undeniable proof of this. It is therefore necessary to liquidate the traditional liturgy, which is now the task of Arthur Roche.

But as everyone knows, the history of the future is not yet written...