Liturgy expert: Pope’s new restriction of Old Rite Mass ‘kind of like telling millions of Catholics just to jump off a bridge or hang themselves’
July 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — As news that Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis custodes overturns Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum rocks the Catholic Church, LifeSiteNews reached out today by telephone to one of the best-known American authorities on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (also called the “Latin Mass,” the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite,” the “Old Mass”), prolific author Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
LifeSiteNews: For readers who go just to the Ordinary Form of the Mass and not the Extraordinary Form, why is this motu proprio so important?
Peter Kwasniewski: This motu proprio is important because Francis is undoing 50 years’ worth of Vatican interventions on behalf of Catholics who love the liturgical tradition of the Church and who want to remain connected with that tradition. Pope Paul VI already started granting what he thought were necessary permissions, and then John Paul II even more so in the 1980s. And then, of course, Pope Benedict said that the traditional rite had never been abrogated, had never been abolished. [But] Francis, even in the midst of a situation where so many people are leaving the Church, [but] so many vocations and families are going to the Traditional Mass, he steps in and essentially says he wants to abolish the whole thing – in just a matter of years, it sounds like. He wants to phase it out completely.
It’s hard to describe the magnitude of this, but it’s kind of like telling millions of Catholics just to jump off a bridge or hang themselves. The tone of the documents is very much treating tradition-loving Catholics as if they were lepers who need to be quarantined or isolated.
LifeSiteNews: But this doesn’t sound like the Francis who loves diversity. He’s embraced transgender people: “he that was her but is he,” for example. Why is Pope Francis so harsh with a youthful and growing section of the Church?
Kwasniewski: There’s a one-word answer to that question, and it’s “ideology.” For the true progressive or liberal, which there’s no doubt Francis is – it can be seen in so many ways, “diversity” means “diversity on our own liberal, progressive terms.” There’s a little portion of the spectrum where diversity is allowed, and it’s kind of insignificant diversity at that. If there’s a deep diversity, that’s much more troubling to these people.
And it’s because he has a certain vision of the Church of Vatican II and the complete renovation of theology and liturgy. That’s what he thinks. He thinks – he said it explicitly – that’s what the Holy Spirit wants. From his point of view, if he’s really sincere, he could just be seeing himself as the guardian of what the Holy Spirit willed at and after Vatican II.
LifeSiteNews: In the motu proprio, Francis basically says that the Holy Spirit spoke through Vatican II and to go against Vatican II is to go against the Holy Spirit, but what Vatican II asked for in the liturgy has not been done.
Kwasniewski: It’s true. There are two problems there. One is that no competent theologian has ever simply equated what a Pope or a Council has said or done with the Holy Spirit. Yes, these things are done in the name of the Holy Spirit, but not all have been successful. Many things have been revised or changed over the centuries, and the Holy Spirit Himself does not change.
But more to the point, the liturgical reform was something independent of the Council, and it conflicted with the expressed words of the Council. It’s always been a controversial subject. The Pope doesn’t seem to acknowledge the fact that there have been many high-level critics of the liturgical reform, including his predecessor, Benedict XVI. If Pope Francis were correct, then his own predecessor would be guilty of some of the faults that he attributes to people in these documents.
LifeSiteNews: Is Traditionis custodes an anti-Benedict move?
Kwasniewski: It is for sure. The motu proprio itself is the exact antithesis of Summorum pontificum and the accompanying letter is the exact antithesis of the letter that accompanied Summorum pontificum. In the whole history of the Church, there has never been so dramatic a rejection of a Pope’s predecessor. Never. This is unprecedented, and I can say that quite confidently.
LifeSiteNews: It might be too early to say, but what will the fallout from this be?
Kwasniewski: Confusion. Heart-ache. Headaches, bureaucratic nightmares. Bishops don’t need all the extra work and all the extra trouble that the Pope has just dumped on them. It will increase division everywhere, and I mean by that not just division between, say, Catholics who go to the Fraternity of St. Peter [FSSP] parish and Catholics who go to the Society of St. Pius X [SSPX] parish. I mean division between bishops, dioceses, seminaries, and religious communities; I mean, just across the board. This Pope is delusional if he thinks that with the stroke of a pen he can just wipe out the love that people have for the traditional Catholic liturgy.
LifeSiteNews: It was once reported that Pope Francis said “I might enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.” Presumably that mean a schism. Is that going to happen?
Kwasniewski: It depends on how you define schism. I agree with those who say there already is a de facto schism within the Church between those who hold the Catholic faith and those who don’t. The critics of the Traditional Latin Mass are very often aligned with heresies and dissent from moral teachings, so there’s a virtual schism already in the Church, and Pope Francis, unfortunately, is leading that.
LifeSiteNews: Then who is leading the traditional side?
Kwasniewski: There I would say the Holy Spirit! Because the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the One who guides the Church over all the centuries of her worship, her theology, her doctrine and her morals. We can say confidently, looking over two thousand years of Church history, that it is the Holy Spirit guiding the Church as Christ promised.
Traditional Catholics base themselves on precedent. We’re not papolators who need to have the Pope to tell us that we’re allowed to tie our shoes and we’re allowed to tuck in our shirts. The Pope is there to settle real problems when they arise, and otherwise we don’t really need to worry about him too much. That’s the normal attitude of Catholics throughout history.
LifeSiteNews: A last question then: should the SSPX be buying or building larger churches?
Kwasniewski: I’m not going to say that they should, but I’m sure that they will be. There’s no question that that’s what’s going to happen.