Rorate Caeli

Young Trads: "Bishops Must Seek a New Balance" [beyond the Roman Diktat of Traditionis Custodes]

Young Trads: "The bishops must seek a new balance"

Christophe Dickès - Historian
La Croix
June 4, 2023

Despite the limitations placed on the traditional rite by Pope Francis, Christophe Dickès believes that all the evidence points to the attachment of younger people to this liturgy, as evidenced by La Croix's survey of young Catholics, and invites us to allow this creative minority to hold its place in the universal Church.


In the summer of 2021, in the days following the publication of Traditionis Custodes, drastically reducing the use of the rite of St. Pius V, dozens of young people addressed the Pope and the bishops in a video posted on social networks. Less than two minutes long, the English-language film (view here) firstly acknowledged that there may be a lack of understanding between the younger and older generations. Secondly, these young people from every continent testified to their loyalty to the Pope and the bishops, explaining that they did not question the validity of the new liturgy.

They didn't feel grumpy or old-fashioned, let alone separated. Finally, they explained the reason for their attachment to the extraordinary rite: its transcendence, its verticality and its orientation towards the East. There was no ideology among these young people, nor any desire to diverge: "We are your sheep", they said, addressing the Pope.

Radicalness of the Roman method

Almost two years later, the appeal of these young people was rejected by Rome. Worse still, the text that emerged from the Vatican offices suffered from legal blind spots, so Cardinal Arthur Roche had the Pope sign another text reducing episcopal power in this area to almost nothing. Squeezing the lemon until the seeds crack. Much has been said about this policy, which is out of step with the spirit of decentralization that the Pope wished to give his pontificate.

While the progressive wing keeps repeating that the pyramidal organization of the Church must come to an end, subsidiarity does not seem to be accepted by the traditionalist world. The radical nature of the Roman method even caused a reaction from former Pope Benedict XVI, who, on a personal level, discovered the decision while reading the Vatican newspaper, and considered it a mistake [Abp. Ganswein, Rien d’autre que la vérité, Artège, 2023]. 

For their part, many bishops were similarly surprised by this unexpected text, justified by a survey of dioceses, the results of which were never made public. After the abolition of the Ecclesia Dei Commission responsible for relations with the traditionalist world, the bishops seemed to see in this decision an opportunity for them to judge the needs at their own level. 

Young people attracted to the traditional rite

Indeed, the La Croix poll of May 26 showed that the seeds had not cracked and that the wall erected by the Roman decisions had not produced the desired effects. 

Worse still, the seeds seem to be germinating, to the extent that 38% of the young people surveyed said they appreciated the Latin Mass, while 40% had nothing against it, even if the rite did not correspond to their expectations. The reality on the ground as expressed in this survey reveals a complexity that no longer corresponds to the progressive/traditionalist polarity of the 1970s. In this respect, there is an astonishing parallel between this survey and the video mentioned at the beginning of this article: these young people present an astonishingly modern face, making the world aware of the hope that lies within them.

As Jérôme Chapuis' editorial [in La Croix] points out, it would be a mistake to confine this small traditionalist group to hasty categories such as "reactionary" or "Catholic identitarian". What's even more interesting is that the choice of Latin Mass is not only linked to family background: in fact, an American survey commissioned by the Fraternity of St. Peter in 2021 revealed that, of the 18-39 age group, only 16% said they went to Latin Mass under the influence of their parents. For more than 36%, the essential factor in their choice of the old rite was respect and veneration. 

A rising creative minority 

Today, the question is not so much whether the Latin Mass is the future of the Church, but how the episcopal authorities will deal with the reality of this rising "creative minority". The history of societies tells us that the "persecution" of a group by a power never produces the desired effect. On the contrary, it reinforces it. Benedict XVI understood this in his work for peace. According to his secretary Mgr Ganswein, the former pope found it dangerous to "confine a group of faithful to a corner at the risk of them feeling persecuted."

So, apart from the few zealous bishops who apply Roman directives to the letter, the reality of practice obliges all parties to rediscover and cultivate an ecclesiology of communion. This would be the best way forward: that of seeking a new equilibrium. It's a narrow path, but not an impossible one. It would be a reminder that everyone has a place in the Father's house, like an echo of the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "I will bring them back into their lot, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds for them who will lead them; they will no longer be afraid or frightened, and none will be lost" (23, 1-6).