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(LifeSiteNews) – Professor Helmut Hoping, Professor of Dogmatics and Liturgical Studies at the University of Freiburg, has written a strongly critical article on Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter Traditionis Custodes, in the respected German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on July 28. The article, in German, is unfortunately paywalled, but I have seen a translation.

Pope Francis claims in Traditionis Custodes that the reformed, post Vatican II Missal is the “only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Missal” (not, as the official English translation had it, merely the “unique” expression). Hoping points out that in 2015 Pope Francis promulgated the Missal of the Anglican Ordinariates, Divine Worship, which describes itself as a “legitimate adaptation” of the Roman Rite, and that only last year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a decree on the Extraordinary Form, Quo Magis, which described it as a the “other form of the Roman Rite”. Somehow, between February 2020 and July 2021, the Holy See has radically transformed its understanding of what constitutes the “Roman Rite.”

Another oddity Professor Hoping points out in Traditionis Custodes is Pope Francis giving bishops the “exclusive” right to manage the celebration of the older Mass, he then commands them to “follow all the instructions of the Apostolic See,” setting out various limitations on what they may permit.

Hoping continues:

But it may not be quite so easy to put an end to the old Mass. It is appreciated by many because it protects [worshippers] against the personal creativity with which many priests today assemble the Mass, disregarding the norms of the Missal of Paul VI and the right of the faithful to a liturgy celebrated in accordance with the applicable Roman Rite. With its evolved ritual structure, the old Mass resists attempts to de-sacralize it. This makes it attractive to believers with a sense of the holiness, beauty and objectivity of Christian worship, including, increasingly, young people. Not that the renewed liturgy could not be celebrated worthily and according to the rubrics. However, it is often difficult to perceive, in parish Masses, their character as a sacred act (actio sacra). It was the promotion of this idea which was the object of the liturgical reform, which found its first expression in the Missal of Paul VI (1970).”

Hoping refers to two petitions signed by cultural figures in defense of the ancient Mass, the well-known 1971 “Agatha Christie” petition (signed by the non-Catholic crime writer and also many artists, musicians, and others), and a 1966 petition signed by the theologian Jacques Maritain and the writer Julien Green (and later member of the Académie Française), among others.

Hoping addresses the claim that there is some connection between the movement for the Traditional Mass and the “political right,” but dismisses this as insignificant.

“In France and the United States of America, there are indeed isolated links between lovers of the old Mass and the political right. But Francis is not only concerned with pushing back the influence of right-wing ideologies in the Church. He wants the definitive end of the old Mass, although the sweeping accusation he made that there is a close relationship between the celebration of the old Mass and the rejection of the Second Vatican Council is not true. The results of a survey of bishops on the Old Mass were not published by Francis – a somewhat transparent procedure that feeds suspicions that Francis is biased in his “no” to the old Mass.”

Traditionis Custodes, however, appears at a moment when Papal power is waning, and contributes to the process:

“an increasing number of diocesan bishops, and their auxiliaries, publicly contradict the guidelines of the Pope and his officials, not only in disciplinary matters, but also with regard to the teaching of the Church.”

Professor Hoping concludes:

“The attempt to suppress the traditional liturgy could mobilize interest in it. One of the paradoxical effects of the papal diktats against the old Latin Mass could be that it is taking off.”

The article has special significance because it is written and published by “establishment” people. FAZ normally takes the Bishops’ Conference line, and one would not expect a professor of liturgy, who is also a permanent deacon, to be stepping too far outside of respectable opinion in the German Church.

The German bishops had been slow in implementing Summorum Pontificum. No current Ordinary has celebrated the TLM. And yet they have not acted swiftly to use their new powers to uproot the existing provision.

In this they resemble the French bishops, whose response to a survey about the celebration of the Traditional Mass has been made public. Their response was quite negative, but they had no thoughts of its being banned altogether, and in response to Traditionis Custodes they felt compelled to reassure the faithful attached to the Old Mass that they regard them with “esteem.”

Similarly, the German bishops have not been swift to implement Traditionis Custodes. It may be that both Bishops Conferences regard the document as not only unnecessary but an unwelcome interference in matters they already had well under control.

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Dr Joseph Shaw has a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University, where he also gained a first degree in Politics and Philosophy and a graduate Diploma in Theology. He has published on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion and is the editor of The Case for Liturgical Restoration: Una Voce Position Papers on the Extraordinary Form (Angelico Press). He is the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and Secretary of Una Voce International. He teaches Philosophy in Oxford University and lives nearby with his wife and nine children.