Cardinal Muller: “… papal authority does not consist in superficially demanding from the faithful mere obedience, i.e., a formal submission of the will, but, much more essentially, in enabling the faithful also to be convinced with consent of the mind.”
The pope’s intention with his motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, is to secure or restore the unity of the Church. The proposed means for this is the total unification of the Roman Rite in the form of the Missal of Paul VI (including its subsequent variations). Therefore, the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as introduced by Pope Benedict XVI with Summorum pontificum(2007) on the basis of the Missal that existed from Pius V (1570) to John XXIII (1962), has been drastically restricted. The clear intent is to condemn the Extraordinary Form to extinction in the long run.
In his “Letter to the Bishops of the Whole World,” which accompanies the motu proprio, Pope Francis tries to explain the motives that have caused him, as the bearer of the supreme authority of the Church, to limit the liturgy in the extraordinary form. Beyond the presentation of his subjective reactions, however, a stringent and logically comprehensible theological argumentation would also have been appropriate. For papal authority does not consist in superficially demanding from the faithful mere obedience, i.e., a formal submission of the will, but, much more essentially, in enabling the faithful also to be convinced with consent of the mind. As St. Paul, courteous towards his often quite unruly Corinthians, said, “in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in tongues.” (1 Cor 14:19)
This dichotomy between good intention and poor execution always arises where the objections of competent employees are perceived as an obstruction of their superiors’ intentions, and which are, therefore, not even offered. As welcome as the references to Vatican II may be, care must be taken to ensure that the Council’s statements are used precisely and in context. The quotation from St. Augustine about membership in the Church “according to the body” and “according to the heart” (Lumen Gentium 14) refers to the full Church membership of the Catholic faith. It consists in the visible incorporation into the body of Christ (creedal, sacramental, ecclesiastical-hierarchical communion) as well as in the union of the heart, i.e. in the Holy Spirit. What this means, however, is not obedience to the pope and the bishops in the discipline of the sacraments, but sanctifying grace, which fully involves us in the invisible Church as communion with the Triune God.
For the unity in the confession of the revealed faith and the celebration of the mysteries of grace in the seven sacraments by no means require sterile uniformity in the external liturgical form, as if the Church were like one of the international hotel chains with their homogenous design. The unity of believers with one another is rooted in unity in God through faith, hope, and love and has nothing to do with uniformity in appearance, the lockstep of a military formation, or the groupthink of the big-tech age.
Even after the Council of Trent, there always was a certain diversity (musical, celebratory, regional) in the liturgical organization of Masses. The intention of Pope Pius V was not to suppress the variety of rites, but rather to curb the abuses that had led to a devastating lack of understanding among the Protestant Reformers regarding the substance of the sacrifice of the Mass (its Sacrificial character and Real Presence). In the Missal of Paul VI, ritualistic (rubricist) homogenization is broken up, precisely in order to overcome a mechanical execution in favor of an inner and outer active participation of all believers in their respective languages and cultures. The unity of the Latin rite, however, should be preserved through the same basic liturgical structure and the precise orientation of the translations to the Latin original.
The Roman Church must not pass on its responsibility for unity in cult to the Bishops’ Conferences. Rome must oversee translation of the normative texts of the Missal of Paul VI, and even of the biblical texts, that might obscure the contents of the faith. Presumptions that one may “improve” the verba domini (e.g. pro multis – “for many” – at the consecration, the et ne nos inducas in tentationem – “and lead us not into temptation” – in the Our Father), contradict the truth of the faith and the unity of the Church much more than celebrating Mass according to the Missal of John XXIII.
The key to a Catholic understanding of the liturgy lies in the insight that the substance of the sacraments is given to the Church as a visible sign and means of the invisible grace by virtue of divine law, but that it is up to the Apostolic See and, in accordance with the law, to the bishops to order the external form of the liturgy (insofar as it has not already existed since apostolic times). (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22 § 1)
The provisions of Traditionis Custodes are of a disciplinary, not dogmatic nature and can be modified again by any future pope. Naturally, the pope, in his concern for the unity of the Church in the revealed faith, is to be fully supported when the celebration of Holy Mass according to the Missal of 1962 is an expression of resistance to the authority of Vatican II, which is to say, when the doctrine of the faith and the Church’s ethics are relativized or even denied in the liturgical and pastoral order.