Rorate Caeli

Cardinal Gregory: "Tradition dies a slow death, sometimes a bloody death"

On Wednesday 6 December, the Archbishop of Washington, Wilton Cardinal Gregory, took part in an event at the Catholic University of America as part of their Presidential Speaker Series, entitled "Celebrating Diversity" (h/t Diane Montagna). The full video can be found below, as well as on YouTube. In this talk, His Eminence notes that "even our American Catholic comfort zone can be rattled by the vastness of God's family of cultures, languages, and expressions of Catholic worship; so much diversity can throw some people off balance and quite frankly make them feel uneasy" (16:30). He also waxes lyrical about how the "synodal process" is rooted in the "ability to give one another grace and space as you journey together, with the freedom to express yourself freely without judgment" (29:44).

Except, of course, when it comes to the Traditional Latin Mass. As can be seen in his answer (from around 1:06:00), transcribed below, to a question asked about why the TLM is not allowed on the CUA campus, His Eminence is decidedly "uneasy" about this expression of Catholic worship and the clergy and faithful who love it. "Celebrating Diversity," indeed!

A final note: His Eminence mentions Paul VI, John Paul II and Francis. One pope is conspicuously absent from this list (along with his motu proprio), a further sign of the de-Ratzingerisation currently in vogue among many prelates and in Rome itself.

I'm going to ask a little bit of a tougher question, something of a hot topic right now, it has to do with the diversity within the liturgy, the different forms of liturgy. You can see what's coming. I also serve as the freshman class senator, so I'm like the freshman class representative. By far and away the most common question I get asked is, "Jack, why do we not have Traditional Latin Mass on campus?" And as someone who personally prefers Novus Ordo, I've fallen in love with the Church through Novus Ordo, I also can recognise and understand that those from other dioceses throughout the United States, they found their faith in the Traditional Latin Mass. So my question to you is, how can I respond to them in a loving and opening way as to why they're not able to practice the TLM here on campus?

You know, when Pope Paul VI instituted the new ritual tradition, he made an exception for older priests, and don't forget, he was one of the first in Rome to celebrate the new Mass, the Pope himself, that he made an exception. He said - and I don't remember exactly the age - some of the older priests who, you know, it would have been just too much for them, they had celebrated the Mass, the Tridentine Mass, for sixty years, he made an exception for them. But it was his desire, his intent, to say when that generation goes, then everyone will be in the new Mass. 

Tradition dies a slow death, sometimes a bloody death. There's a book, a liturgical history book by the author [Theodor] Klauser, and he said that two hundred years after Trent, there were still places that were celebrating the pre-Tridentine Mass. So it took that long. 

I think what Pope Francis is trying to do with Custodes Traditionis [sic] is to say: look, there can be the celebration in limited places. So here in the Archdiocese [of Washington] we have it in three places, and that was one of the regulations. It can't be in a parish Mass, in a parish church, it has to be in a chapel. So we have it both, we have it in the south, in one of the parishes that has a chapel, we have it at the Monastery of the Holy Land, and it's in a parish with a chapel in Montgomery [County]. He said any priest that wishes to celebrate that has to write to the bishop and say, 'I accept the liturgical reforms, I'm not fighting the liturgical reforms, but I'd like to be able to make myself available to celebrate under these conditions.' That's for priests who are already priests. Anyone who is not yet ordained, but would like to learn to celebrate, has to write to Rome. So, the Holy Father is trying to complete what Paul VI began, that is, to put one ritual — the new rite — as the dominant rite, but with exceptions, modest exceptions. 

Now, I have a doctorate in liturgy. When I came to the Diocese of Belleville, my first diocese, across the river from St Louis, I inherited this tradition because of Ecclesia Dei,* which John Paul II had instituted as a way of responding to Archbishop Lefebvre's schism. He said you can celebrate it under certain circumstances, so Belleville had one Sunday a month in a parish in downtown Belleville [where] the Tridentine Mass could be celebrated. When I came, there was a parish in Cahokia, Illinois, right on the Mississippi, Holy Family. It has a big modern church, but it kept its ancient church. I established it there every Sunday, and when I went to Atlanta there was a parish, St Francis de Sales in Mableton, a suburb: it was given over to a group of priests, every Sacrament was celebrated there, I never bothered it. When I came here, it was celebrated, Cardinal Hickey instituted it here in 1988 in three places, and then all of a sudden it was growing and it was in eight places. So I went back to the Hickey number: one in the north, one in the city, one in the south. Why? Because that's [i.e. the Novus Ordo] the Church's liturgy! We don't— If you want to belong to a different ritual family, you can be Ruthenian, you can be Maronite, you can be Melkite, but the Roman Rite has one dominant rite, and Francis is trying to make that the official response to the Second Vatican Council's Sacrosanctum Concilium. It's not forbidden, but it's limited.


I also want to add something. In many of the places where it grew, the Tridentine rite, it grew because priests promoted it, and not because— In other words, if you had a guy that came into the parish and said, 'well, I like this rite, I'm going to do it,' and he gathered people together, and now all of a sudden he created the need in places where there wasn't a need there. So I think that the Holy Father is right to say: deal with the priests.

* Here, His Eminence means John Paul II's motu proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988), but appears to actually say Ecclesia diei, "the Church of the day"...!!