Rorate Caeli

Fr. Claude Barthe: “What is at stake here is the continuation of the lex orandi and the salvation of many souls”

Salus animarum, suprema lex [the salvation of souls is the highest law].

Following Francis’ motu proprio of 16 July 2021, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued on 18 December a response to the dubia concerning Traditionis custodes in answer to questions they had allegedly received. This widely discussed text1 clarifies the intention of the motu proprio, viz., eventually to abolish the traditional liturgy by maintaining a transitory tolerance with strictly set limits for the use of the traditional missal for those still attached to it, while at the same time banning the use of the other liturgical books, especially the Ritual and the Pontifical.

These tyrannical and fastidious measures, which revive the liturgical war against a lively and sizable traditional world, have come down at the worst possible time, that is to say in a situation of collapse for Catholicism. This provoked many criticisms from even “progressive” prelates. Therefore, it is not obvious that they will be fully implemented.

Be that as it may, if these interdictions are obeyed, there will no longer be baptisms or marriages in the traditional rite—except in personal parishes, and pending the bishop’s agreement at that—and furthermore, this time with no possible exception, no more confirmations or ordinations in the traditional rite.

This law is clearly unjust from a pastoral point of view, and also because of its doctrinal motivation (the traditional liturgy allegedly is no longer an expression of the lex orandi: a fundamental point we will address in the future).

Therefore, to reject it is a right and, considering the object, even a duty. But what is the basis for this right and duty? It is the People of God, in the name of the sensus fidelium. It is clear, indeed, that the determination of the faithful is of the highest importance.

It remains the case, however, that when it comes to baptism, absolution, receiving the consent of spouses, giving extreme unction, or administering confirmation and ordination, it is the ministers of the sacrament who are, by necessity, on the front line once again.

“Once again” indeed—because, in the years following the reform of Paul VI, the Tridentine liturgy survived only because of all the priests and parish priests who continued to celebrate it. Then came, as a determining factor, Archbishop Lefebvre (and Bishop de Castro Mayer in Brazil) and the priests he (they) consecrated. This great and very concrete priestly and then episcopal refusal had a significant impact, as we all know. It started a process of progressive tolerance, then followed by a recognition, supported by Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, in the shadow of whom the Ecclesia Dei communities developed for the greater good of souls and service to the Church.

And now, albeit without useless provocation, the priests who have emerged from this process and the bishops who support them must undertake a similar great refusal—with prudence and firmness, sustained by prayer and grace. What is at stake here is the continuation of the lex orandi and the salvation of many souls.

Fr. Claude Barthe 
Res Novae
January 1, 2022

1See my article at Salon Beige.