July 26, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In a vigourous statement published on his blog, Robert Mutsaerts, the auxiliary bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands — well-known for his non-acceptance of the watering down of the Church’s teachings under the present papacy — slams Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio that aims to “eradicate” the Traditional Latin Mass.
In Mutsaerts’ opinion, Pope Francis is losing his authority for him to be choosing such outright opposition to the Tridentine Mass, which attracts so many people in the younger generations.
Bishop Mutsaerts calls the document a “declaration of war” and stresses its clear break with the tradition of the Church, where the various rites developed organically and prudently. He accuses the Pope of “factual errors” and shows how Francis gave his predecessors who, in varying degrees, showed themselves open to the traditional form of the Roman Rite, “a slap in the face.”
In particular, Mutsaerts recalls that the liturgical reform of Pope Pius V did not abolish what had come before, but “reached out” to ancient forms that had been more or less unchanged since the 4th century, although additions and “local liturgies” had proliferated in the Church, creating “a mess.” Pius V merely ordered what had become disordered.
Mutsaerts makes an important point in saying that “the Old Mass is not about nostalgia or taste,” but pertains to Tradition “which cannot simply be set aside.”
He also writes: “What Pope Francis is doing has nothing to do with evangelization and even less to do with mercy. It is more of an ideology.” And he explains: “It is Vatican II, including its implementation with all its aberrations, or nothing! The relatively small number of believers (which is growing, by the way, while attendance at the Novus Ordo is collapsing) who feel at home with the traditional Mass must and will be eradicated. That is ideology and malice.”
“For God’s sake, why?”, he cries out at the end of his post.
LifeSite’s full translation of Mutsaerts’ blog is provided below:
A Malicious Ukase of Pope Francis
Pope Francis is a proponent of synodality: everyone should be able to join the conversation, everyone should be heard. There was little question of this in his recently published motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, an ukase that is intended to put an immediate end to the traditional Latin Mass. In doing so, Francis is drawing a thick line through Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s motu proprio which gave ample space to the old Mass. The fact that Francis here seizes the word of power without any consultation indicates that he is losing authority. This was already evident earlier when the German Bishops’ Conference took no notice of the Pope’s advice regarding the Synodal Path. The same occurred in the United States when Pope Francis called on the Bishops’ Conference not to prepare a document on the worthy reception of Communion. Better not ask for counsel, he must have thought: Let’s go for a coercive order now that we are talking about the traditional Mass.
The language used does look very much like a declaration of war. Every pope since Paul VI has always left openings for the old Mass. If changes were made at all, they were minute revisions, see for example the 1984 and 1989 indults. John Paul II firmly believed that bishops should be generous in allowing the Tridentine Mass. Benedict even opened the door wide through Summorum Pontificum: “What was sacred then is sacred now.”
Francis has slammed the door hard by means of Traditionis Custodes. It feels like treason and is a slap in the face of his predecessors. By the way, the Church has never abolished liturgies. Not even Trent. Francis breaks completely with this tradition. The concise and powerful motu proprio contains a small number of propositions and commands. By means of an accompanying longer statement, things are made more explicit. This statement contains quite a few factual errors. One of them is the claim that what Paul VI did after Vatican II would be the same as what Pius V did after Trent. This is completely foreign to the truth. Do not forget that before that time there were a number of (over-written) manuscripts circulating and local liturgies had sprung up here and there. It was a mess.
Trent wanted to restore the liturgy, remove inaccuracies and check for orthodoxy. Trent was not about rewriting the liturgy, nor about new additions, new Eucharistic prayers, a new lectionary or new calendar. It was purely about ensuring uninterrupted organic continuity. The missal of 1517 reached back to the missal of 1474 and so on back to the 4th century. There was continuity from the 4th century on. Again, after the 15th century there were four centuries of continuity. From time to time there were at most a few minor changes or an addition of a feast, a memory, or a rubric.
Following the conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II asked for liturgical reforms. Properly speaking, this is a conservative document. Latin was retained, Gregorian chant preserved its legitimate place in the liturgy. However, the developments that followed Vatican II are far removed from the council’s documents. The infamous “spirit of the council” is nowhere to be found in the council’s texts themselves. Only 17 percent of the prayers of the old Missal (Trent) are found in the new Missal (Paul VI). Hence it is difficult to speak of the continuity of an organic development. Pope Benedict recognized this, and for that reason he gave ample room to the Old Mass. He even said that no one needed his permission (“What was holy then is still holy now”).
Pope Francis is now pretending that his Motu proprio is part of the organic development of the Church, which is completely at odds with reality. By making the Latin Mass practically impossible, he is radically breaking with the centuries-old liturgical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Liturgy is not a toy of popes, but the heritage of the Church. The Old Mass is not about nostalgia or taste. The Pope should be the guardian of Tradition; the Pope is the gardener, not the manufacturer. Canon law is not merely a matter of positive law, there is also such a thing as natural law and divine law, and moreover, there is such a thing as Tradition which cannot simply be set aside.
What Pope Francis is doing has nothing to do with evangelization and even less to do with mercy. It is more of an ideology. Just go to any parish where the Old Mass is celebrated. What will you find there? People who merely want to be Catholic. They are generally not people who get involved in theological disputes, nor are they against Vatican II (though they are against its implementation). They love the Latin Mass because of its holiness, its transcendence, the salvation of souls that is central to it, the worthiness of the liturgy. You’ll find large families there, people feel welcome. It is only celebrated in a small number of places. Why does the Pope want to deny people this? Coming back to what I said earlier: It is ideology. It is Vatican II, including its implementation with all its aberrations, or nothing! The relatively small number of believers (which is growing, by the way, while attendance at the Novus Ordo is collapsing) who feel at home with the traditional Mass must and will be eradicated. That is ideology and malice.
If you really want to evangelize, to be truly merciful, to support Catholic families, then you should always honor the Tridentine Mass. As of today, the Old Mass may not be celebrated in parish churches (but where can it be celebrated, then?), you need explicit permission from your bishop, who may only allow it on certain days, and for those who will be ordained in the future and want to celebrate the Old Mass, the bishop must seek guidance from Rome. How dictatorial, how unpastoral, how unmerciful does it get!
Francis, in article 1 of his motu proprio, calls the Novus Ordo (the present Mass) “the only expression of the Lex Orandi of the Roman Rite.” He therefore no longer distinguishes between the Ordinary Form (Paul VI) and the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass). It has always been said that both are expressions of the Lex Orandi, not just the Novus Ordo. Again, the Old Mass was never abolished! About the many liturgical abuses that exist all over the place in countless parishes, I never hear Bergoglio. In parishes everything is possible except the Tridentine Mass. All weapons are being thrown into the battle to eradicate the Old Mass. Why? For God’s sake, why? What is this obsession of Francis to want to obliterate that small group of traditionalists? The Pope should be the guardian of tradition; not the jailkeeper of tradition. While Amoris Laetitia excelled in vagueness, Traditionis Custodes is a perfectly clear declaration of war.
I suspect that Francis is shooting himself in the foot with this motu proprio. For the Society of Saint Pius X, it will prove to be good news. They would never have been able to guess that they owe this to Pope Francis …
+ Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop