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Cardinal Joseph ZenClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

July 27, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Joseph Zen last week joined a chorus of high-level critics of Pope Francis’s recent motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, saying that the document “hurt the hearts of many good people.”

Traditionis Custodes, issued July 16, restricts celebration of Traditional Latin Mass, purporting to remove the “Mass of the Ages” from the Roman Rite altogether. The motu proprio contradicts and abrogates Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which granted universal approval for priests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962.

Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and former member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, sharply criticized Francis’ revision, which he described as “severe” and “a blow” in a blog post last Wednesday. The cardinal noted “an incredible ease” with which Traditionis Custodes and the Pope’s accompanying letter to bishops presumed to link devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass to outright rejection of the Second Vatican Council.

The “many tendentious generalizations in the documents hurt more than expected the hearts of many good people, who never gave the slightest cause to be suspected of not accepting the liturgical reform of the Council, much less not accepting the Council ‘Tout court,’” Zen said.

He pointed to what he called “an incredible ease (or tendentiousness) in linking the desire to use the vetus ritus to the non-acceptance of the ritus novus” and “in associating the non-acceptance of the liturgical reform (which often concerns mainly the way in which it was carried out with its many serious abuses) with a total and profound rejection of the Council itself.”

In his letter accompanying Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis claimed that use of the 1962 Roman Missal “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but the Vatican Council II itself.” The Pope cited no concrete evidence, though he referred to a questionnaire circulated last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bishops’ conferences regarding the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

Zen revealed in his post last week that he did not know about the questionnaire or the responses to it, and suspected “much misunderstanding (or perhaps even manipulation) in the process.”

“It came as a bitter surprise to me personally that the ‘widespread’ consultation did not reach me, a cardinal and once a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,” he said, noting that he had overseen the implementation of the 2007 motu proprio as bishop of Hong Kong.

In a previous blog post in June, Zen had remarked, “I cannot deny, in my experience of Hong Kong, the very good that came from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and from the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.”

“I felt such reverence, I was so fascinated (and still am!) by the beauty of Gregorian chant, that I think that experience has nourished my vocation to the priesthood, as for so many others,” he wrote. “The Tridentine Mass is not divisive; on the contrary, it unites us to our brothers and sisters of all ages, to the saints and martyrs of every time, to those who have fought for their faith and who have found in it inexhaustible spiritual nourishment.”

Though the cardinal anticipated forthcoming restrictions on the Latin Mass in his post last month, he said on Wednesday that “the blow has been no less severe because it was foreseen.”

“The problem is not ‘which rite do people prefer?’ but is ‘why don’t they go to Mass anymore?’” Zen added. “Certain surveys show that half of the Christian population in Europe no longer believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, no longer believes in eternal life!”

“Certainly we do not blame all this on the liturgical reform, but we just want to say that the problem is much deeper, we cannot evade the question: ‘Has not the formation of faith been lacking?’ ‘Has not the great work of the Council been wasted?’” he asked.

“Isn’t the root of evil that attitude of believing that everything can now be changed?” he continued. “Is it not that attitude of believing that this Council erases all previous ones and that the Tridentine Council is like the dirt accumulated on the ‘last judgement’ of the Sistine Chapel (as a ‘liturgist’ in our diocese put it)?”

Zen similarly condemned divergence from “the immutable and perennial Magisterium” in a letter he joined in May lamenting the rise of “schism and heresy” in the Church in Germany, calling on Pope Francis to intervene. The Hong Kong cardinal has likewise been a top critic of the Pope’s secretive deal with the communist government of China — an arrangement which he has said is fostering a “schismatic Church” in his home country.

On Wednesday, Zen also said that Traditionis Custodes “obviously sees not only irregularities in the execution of Summorum Pontificum, but considers the very existence of a parallel rite to be an evil.”

“Don’t … § 5 and § 6 of Art 3, Art 4 and 5 clearly wish for the death of the groups [devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass]?” he continued, referring to provisions banning the establishment of new groups and requiring priests to seek permission from bishops before celebrating Mass with the 1962 Roman Missal.

Zen concluded by admonishing the people opposed to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Vatican, saying, “But, even in that case, can’t the anti-Ratzinger gentlemen of the Vatican be patient to allow the Tridentine Mass to die only after the death of Benedict XVI instead of inflicting such humiliation on the venerable Pope Emeritus?”