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Cardinal Arthur Roche addressing Pope Francis during the August 2022 consistory.© Mazur/

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Defending the increasing restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, Cardinal Arthur Roche – who leads the Vatican’s Congregation (now Dicastery) for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments – stated that “the theology of the Church has changed.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 for a program aired March 19, Roche defended the restrictions on the Traditional Mass, which both he and Pope Francis have implemented since July 2021.

“The theology of the Church has changed,” argued Roche. “Whereas before the priest represented, at a distance, all the people – they were channeled through this person who alone was celebrating the Mass.”

Now, though, Roche stated that “it is not only the priest who celebrates the liturgy but also those who are baptized with him, and that is an enormous statement to make.”

Moments prior to this, Roche’s comments were pre-empted by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, who argued that those devoted to the Traditional Mass had “become a movement undermining the Second Vatican Council.” Hence, said Ivereigh, the restrictions were necessary “to put a limit, to put borders, not to suppress it, but to put it back into the hands of the bishops.”

Liturgical scholar Matthew Hazell highlighted Roche’s comments, noting that contrary to the cardinal’s claim, the teaching of the Church had not changed. He pointed to the teaching of Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei, in which the pontiff outlined the Catholic teaching on the congregation uniting themselves to the priest in the sacrifice of the Mass.

Now it is clear that the faithful offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar, in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. Hence the whole Church can rightly be said to offer up the victim through Christ.

While the arguments of the “priestly people” have been much proposed since Vatican II, chiefly by those looking to eradicate a difference between priests and lay, Pius XII noted clearly the difference in their respective actions:

The fact, however, that the faithful participate in the eucharistic sacrifice does not mean that they also are endowed with priestly power. It is very necessary that you make this quite clear to your flocks…

Now the faithful participate in the oblation, understood in this limited sense, after their own fashion and in a twofold manner, namely, because they not only offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him. It is by reason of this participation that the offering made by the people is also included in liturgical worship….

But the conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; for this is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office: rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father. 

It is obviously necessary that the external sacrificial rite should, of its very nature, signify the internal worship of the heart. 

Pius XII also drew from Pope Innocent III to denote the teaching of the Church in the joint offering of the sacrifice: 

‘Not only,’ says Innocent III of immortal memory, ‘do the priests offer the sacrifice, but also all the faithful: for what the priest does personally by virtue of his ministry, the faithful do collectively by virtue of their intention.’

Hence, Roche’s claim that the theology has changed does not seem to be supported by Church teaching – both that of recent times and that made by popes from ancient eras. His argument that the people now join the priest in offering the sacrifice has always been taught, with the careful differentiation between the priest and people’s various roles. 

Yet the English cardinal’s striking claim that the “theology of the Church has changed” is not without precedent. 

READ: Church’s head of divine worship says Vatican II promoted a ‘new liturgy’ so Latin Mass must be regulated

Last year he spoke with Vatican News, stating that the restrictions on the Traditional Mass were simply a “regulation of the former liturgy” which was necessary because Vatican II put “forward a new liturgy for the vital life of the Church.”

The cardinal stated: 

All that is taking place is the regulation of the former liturgy of 1962 Missal by stopping the promotion of that, because it was clear that the Council, the Bishops of the Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were putting forward a new liturgy for the vital life of the Church, for its vitality.

This task is “really very important,” he said, before adding “to resist that is, is something that is really quite serious, too.”

READ: Cdl. Roche: Devotion to the Latin Mass instead of Novus Ordo is ‘more Protestant than Catholic’

Some weeks later Roche went so far as to suggest that Catholics devoted to the Traditional liturgy were “more Protestant” than Catholic. He cited a necessary “reform” of the liturgy – a reform which, he said, resulted in the Novus Ordo.

But devotees of the Traditional Latin Mass were “dragging their feet” in opposition, claimed Roche.

That reform is taking place, but it’s a slow process because there are those who are dragging their feet with regard to this and not only dragging their feet but stubbornly opposing what the Church has actually decreed.

That’s a very serious matter. In the end, people have to ask themselves: am I really a Catholic, or am I more of a Protestant?

He described the Second Vatican Council as “the highest legislation that exists in the Church,” claiming that “if you disregard that, you are putting yourself sideways, to the edges of the Church. You are becoming more Protestant than you are Catholic.”

But contrary to Roche’s statement that Vatican II proposed a “new liturgy,” in his 1988 address attacking Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stated, “This particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.”

Meanwhile, Roche is rumored to be preparing yet more restrictions on the Traditional liturgy, with already three such documents issued against it since July 2021. According to respected Vatican journalist Dr. Robert Moynihan, a forthcoming decree by Francis against the Traditional Mass will not only contain a “further suppression of the TLM,” but will also “carry the ‘weight’ of an Apostolic Exhortation.”