Rorate Caeli

Pope Francis's Latin Mass Restrictions Confirm the Link Between Liturgy and Orthodoxy


Today is the second anniversary of Traditionis Custodes. Having fallen in love with the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass a year or so before, I remember the feeling of shock and confusion at the unveiling of the cruel, angry document that seemed targeted at destroying the celebration of the ancient liturgy for all time. At a time of such confusion and crisis, both in the Church and the world, to target the relatively small number of Catholics who had found refuge in the timeless beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass seemed outrageously perverse. 

Traditionis was followed by other Vatican decrees. In December 2021, Cardinal Roche issued his Dubia purporting to ban marriages, baptisms and other sacraments in the Old Rite. And then in February of this year, Pope Francis issued a rescript confirming that newly-ordained priests could not celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, and that the TLM could not be celebrated in parish churches. All the while, Traditional Latin Mass communities across the world have had to cope with the cancellation of Latin Masses and the persecution of traditional priests and religious.

But in a larger sense, Traditionis has failed miserably. It has accelerated the increase in popularity of the Traditional Latin Mass worldwide. It has led to extraordinary, grassroots efforts by lay Catholics to fight back against the restrictions. And it has reemphasized the connection between the law of prayer and the law of faith. 

That is because Latin Mass restrictions have been coupled with renewed efforts by Pope Francis to change Church doctrine. Last month, Pope Francis invited the creator of "Piss Christ," a depiction of a crucifix submerged in the artist's own urine, to the Vatican, where Francis gave the artist an enthusiastic welcome and praised his work. Meanwhile, the Vatican showers awards on ugly modern church designs. The recently-appointed prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Tucho Fernandez, has hinted that the DDF will henceforth cease pursuing doctrinal errors, diverge from scripture and tradition, and "promote thought and theological reflection in dialogue with the world and science." The fruits of this "dialogue" may perhaps be seen from Pope Francis's several interviews with the late atheist Eugenio Scalfari. In these interviews, which Scalfari characterized as a “cultural exchange and dialogue out of the 19th century between a Jesuit believer and a man of the enlightenment fascinated by religion," Pope Francis denied the divinity of Jesus, denied the existence of Hell, embraced moral relativism, and proclaimed that efforts to convert people to Christianity amounted to "solemn nonsense." While the Vatican walked these statements back, Francis continued to sit for interviews with Scalfari and express fondness for him. Tellingly, the ghostwriter of Traditionis, Andrea Grillo, wants sweeping changes in Church doctrine. 

With all this confusion and ugliness, it is no wonder that the Catholics concerned about the Church's direction have found solace in the ancient liturgy. Before his death, Cardinal Pell became "completely devoted" to the TLM. And Cardinal Muller, who has sharply criticized the Synod on Synodality, has begun celebrating the TLM himself and administering traditional ordinations. Increasingly, Catholics are realizing that, in order to resist the errors of the world, there is no option other than to "stand firm and hold fast to the traditions passed on to you."