Rorate Caeli

No more loopholes from TC: Are Bismarck's worst fears confirmed?

A commentary by Clemens Victor Oldendorf

(published in German here)

When in 2013 Pope Benedict XVI (1927-2022) announced his intention to resign from office, it was "Rosenmontag," and many at first thought the news report was a tasteless or mistaken carnival joke. Ten years later, it is again a Rose Monday to which is dated a document that appeared yesterday, Shrove Tuesday, in the Bolletino Vaticano. One might have thought it a bad joke but it is obviously serious.

It is a RESCRIPTUM EX AUDIENTIA SS.MI signed by Arthur Cardinal Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In it, the possibility of dispensing from the provisions contained in Traditionis Custodes is withdrawn from the diocesan bishops and expressly reserved to the Holy See, this power of dispensation being exercised by the aforementioned Roman Central Authority for Liturgy.

Mention is made of the fundamental exclusion of parish churches as places where the 1962 Roman Missal can be used to celebrate Mass, and the potential establishment of personal parishes; finally, it is inculcated that to priests ordained after Traditionis Custodes (that is, after July 16, 2021), permission to celebrate Masses according to the traditional rite within the territory of the diocese may be granted by a bishop only with the consent of Rome.

In addition, the rescript states that the Holy Father has confirmed and reaffirmed the Responsa ad dubia, with which His Eminence 2021 on December 18 spoiled the festive joy of tradition-bound priests and faithful in time for Christmas. The canonically evident deficiencies of these answers to allegedly presented (but presumably concocted by Cardinal Roche himself) fictitious doubts do not change anything.

What motivates the Pope and Roche to their narrowness and harshness?

This time, Roche's spitefulness seems to be aimed at adding a particularly somber note to the penitential character of Lent and to spoil the Easter joy of these priests and faithful already in the preparatory period that begins today.

Measured against 1.36 billion Catholics and a little more than 410,000 Catholic priests worldwide, the affected group is admittedly very small in absolute numbers. The fact that Rome is so intent on starving out this sub-segment of the Church can only be due to the fact that, especially as far as Europe and North America are concerned, it is relatively speaking one of the most vital and active sectors of the Church, which is also experiencing a certain steady growth. It is painful to note that Rome and the Pope are obviously still not in a position to recognize when there is systemic spiritual abuse and even when they themselves are committing it.

Recently, the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who is entrusted with the organization of the upcoming World Synod on Synodality, made the perfectly correct statement in an interview: "We must [...] learn to cope with multiple expressions of faith. Today, one can no longer prescribe a single practice. Nor can we as bishops. If we want to do that, we will push more and more people to the margins or beyond the margins. The bishop must be the principle of the unity of the church and bind people together."

Reading this, one wonders: should Bishop Georg Bätzing make himself an advocate for the Old Liturgy, out of self-interest?

There may be nuances and different emphases in Roman and German ideas of synodality, but that is no longer the point. If the pope, even in a seemingly insignificant area, degrades the diocesan bishops to mere recipients of Rome's orders or to his own chief ministrants, as happens in the present rescript, then, on the contrary, the scenario that Bismarck feared under Pius IX after the dogmatization of the primacy of jurisdiction will probably finally occur in Francis' pontificate (cf. DH 3112a). At that time, the German bishops were able to dispel the concern that henceforth they would not be able to make any decisions at all in their dioceses (cf. DH 3113), and subsequently this clarification was expressly confirmed by Pio Nono.

The day before yesterday, the Bishop of Rome would have done better to confirm Cardinal Hollerich's quoted response instead of Cardinal Roche's responsa. For the relentless centralism of the rescript published yesterday renders all the talk and chatter about synodality in the Church implausible and in principle destroys all hopes of it, no matter what exactly one now understands or expects from this synodality.

Therefore, even bishops who are actually indifferent or even hostile to the subject of the ancient liturgy should not in principle accept unchallenged this outrageous curtailment of their competences and authority with regard to worship in their dioceses.