Rorate Caeli

Pope Francis insults liturgical tradition and living from it: On the May 7 address

The following article by Clemens Victor Oldendorf is translated from the German original, published at (here).—PAK

On May 7, 2022, Pope Francis received in audience the faculty and students of liturgical studies from the Roman Benedictine Institute of Sant’Anselmo. In his address, he warned against “liturgical formalism” that consists in “returning to forms and formalities.” The Holy Father then attributed this attitude to those “who try to return [to the past]” and whom he repeatedly accuses of a blanket denial of the Second Vatican Council. Literally, the Pope said: “There [in such communities] the celebration of the liturgy becomes a performance, a thing without life, without joy.” According to him they reduce the liturgy to a utilitarian instrument for “preserving tradition.”

The statement takes on a particularly painful note against the backdrop of the fact that a few days earlier, on May 4, a group of French mothers of priests, whose sons belong to communities that practice the traditional liturgy and experience it as the source of their vocation and spirituality, had arrived in Rome after a pilgrimage on foot that originated in Paris (!), in order to awaken in the pope a greater sensitivity and understanding for the concern of all who love tradition. The group of pilgrims had been welcomed by name by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square, but without him going into the motive of the pilgrimage, to convey to the Pope that the image of the traditionalists drawn by him again and again is not representative of the great majority of them.

Correctly, the Pope said this past Saturday that “no one owns the liturgy.” He forgot to mention that this includes the Church and ultimately the bishops and popes themselves. Liturgy is both a gift to the Church and a prescription. The pope repeated his refrain about the “self-contained mentality” of tradition-loving Catholics who explicitly want to be in union and unity with the See of Peter and the local bishops.

It is all too evident that Pope Francis’s own closed-mindedness, stemming from the mentality of the immediate post-conciliar period, leads to an almost absolute lack of understanding for the motivations of the faithful who are attached to tradition. Even the selective concessions with which Pope Francis has exempted the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, at least internally to a relatively large extent, from the provisions of his decree Traditionis Custodes cannot hide this fact, and this Fraternity itself should not be under any illusions on account of it.

With his recurring insinuations to the detriment of tradition-oriented faithful and priests, which if applied to any other group in the Church would be instantly seen and described as malicious jibes and harassment, the Pope actually provokes the very misconceptions and disconnects from the universal Church that make up his construct of the typical traditionalist. One does not want to impute this strategy to the Holy Father at all, but if it turned out that he were doing it deliberately, it would be blatantly and diametrically opposed to the “Petrine service of unity” to which Francis expressly referred in Traditionis Custodes.