Traditionis custodes - An Impossible Cohabitation

Source: District of Australia and New Zealand

Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize points out the reality of the difficulty for the two rites to exist in the Church without there having to eventually be a conflict simply from the perspective that the two different rites point to two differing realities.

                          An Impossible Cohabitation


                                               Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize (SSPX)

Taken from:…

1. With the recent Motu proprio Traditionis custodes of July 16, Pope Francis establishes that "the liturgical books promulgated by the Holy Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in accordance with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, are the only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.

2. Various reactions were not long in coming from the Ecclesia Dei movement. Undoubtedly, the situation of all those who, because they are attached to the traditional liturgy, did not want to follow Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X in a supposed "schism" or at least in an equally supposed "disobedience", risks becoming very problematic. This will undoubtedly appear - and in fact remain - very distressing in the eyes of all those whose consideration stops at the personal good of the members of the said movement - or at least at the immediate practical consequences. The example of the Superior of the District of France of the Society of St. Peter is characteristic in this regard, when he sees in the Motu Proprio of Pope Francis an "offensive" text, which is a poor reward for the efforts of "obedience" deployed up to now, even going so far as to say that "the Society of St. Pius X is finally treated better than we are".

3. Although it may appear distressing in its effects and penalizing for the people, the Pope's initiative is not surprising. It is even logical. And one may well wonder if it was not inevitable. For the situation of the two rites, that of St. Pius V and that of Paul VI, is indeed that described in the recent Motu proprio Traditionis custodes: a situation of impossible cohabitation, on the very level of liturgical principles. Beyond the factual situations and the infinitely variable state, peaceful or conflicting, which concerns individuals, there is fundamentally a formal opposition of doctrine between the Mass of Saint Pius V and the new rite of Paul VI. For the liturgy is a theological place[2]. 2] The gap between the two liturgies corresponds to an abyss, which separates two conceptions of the Church and of faith. The extent of this gap can be measured by the strength with which most episcopates, conscious of their adherence to Vatican II, opposed the initiative of the Motu proprio Summorum pontificum: even if the traditional rite of the Church was not supposed, in the intention of Benedict XVI, to exclude the new rite, its enlargement was often badly perceived. And this is precisely because, beyond a purely juridical non-exclusion, there will always remain between the two liturgies an incompatibility and a doctrinal exclusion. The good intentions of a conservative Pope, such as Benedict XVI, are similar to those of a liberal: both nurture the illusion of giving truth and error equal status. But the intentions of a vanguard Pope, such as Francis, are of a completely different scope: the one and only expression of the lex orandi can only be, in his mind, the Novus Ordo Missae, to the exclusion of the traditional Mass. And in this, Francis is much more logical than Benedict XVI with the adage that it is the law of belief that is at the foundation of the law of prayer, lex orandi, lex credendi. If the new belief is that of the Second Vatican Council, the new liturgy that must correspond to it can only be that of the New Mass of Paul VI, and not that of the Old Mass, which is the expression of a doctrine opposed in more than one respect to that of Vatican II.

4. This clearly means - among other consequences - that the traditional Mass cannot be the object - either for a true Catholic attached to Tradition or for a true conciliar attached to Vatican II - of a personal preference or of a choice motivated by a particular theological or aesthetic sensitivity. One does not "prefer" the traditional Mass to the new Mass, as if the new Mass were only less good or less pleasant. In fact, the traditional rite of the Mass is the complete and necessary expression of the Church's faith, as opposed to a new rite which (in the words of the Brief Critical Examination itself) departs from it in impressive ways both in the whole and in detail. The traditional rite must be adhered to by every Catholic, and he or she cannot be satisfied with seeing it as the object of a personal preference, for reasons which would be extrinsic to the profession of the Catholic faith, and which would not exclude the legitimacy and intrinsic goodness of the new rite of Paul VI.

5. It is undeniable that with the Motu Proprio of July 7, 2007, Benedict XVI wanted to expand the possibility of celebrating the ancient liturgy, and that this expansion was without precedent since 1969. But this Pope, because he was only conservative, did not go so far as to make the traditional rite the necessary, ordinary and common expression of the law of prayer; the ordinary expression of this law remained in fact that of the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI. Benedict XVI only wanted that, for the same "lex orandi", there be two expressions, one of which (that of the Mass of St. Pius V) would be extraordinary compared to the other (that of the New Mass of Paul VI). Benedict XVI thus introduced into the Church's liturgy the impossible dualism of a bi-ritualism, a dualism that is impossible at the level of the principles of the liturgy itself, and this is why his Motu proprio was, in short, nothing more than an act of an equally impossible and illusory liberalism, which could satisfy neither the Society of Saint Pius X nor the unconditional supporters of Vatican II, both of whom are attached to their principles. Conservatives of various tendencies, among them the supporters of the Ecclesia Dei movement, saw in it a providential way to reconcile their attachment to the liturgy of St. Pius V and their submission to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. But the recent initiative of Francis has reminded them that this unstable situation was only made possible thanks to the very personal and ultimately strategic initiative of a conservative Pope.

6. To all of them, the Catholic worthy of the name should feel true compassion: true compassion, which is not only saddened by the fact that the possibility for these conservatives to celebrate the liturgy of St. Pius V is seriously threatened, but which is much more saddened by the deadly illusion that these Catholics risk being trapped in, that of believing in the possibility of reconciling the old liturgy with adherence to the Second Vatican Council - or a supposed "obedience" to the present hierarchy. To all of these, it is important to make it clear above all that with all the pastoral charity that must animate it, the Society of Saint Pius X, no more than the Mass of Saint Pius V, cannot represent in the present state of the Church an option by default - or an opportune and provisional preference.

7. The initiative of Francis could thus open our eyes, and not only our hearts.

Father Jean-Michel Gleize



1)      Article 1[]

2)      Cf. what Dom Jean-Pierre Longeat wrote, just before the publication of the Motu proprio of Benedict XVI, "L'Unité de la liturgie romaine en question" in the newspaper La Croix of Monday, October 23, 2006, p. 25: "The Ordo missae of 1969 implements in particular the theology of the dogmatic constitution on the Church. Lumen gentium presents the Church both as the Mystical Body of Christ and as the People of God gathered in the name of Christ. [To want to encourage in the Latin Church a return to another theological emphasis by extension of the 1962 Ordo is to generate a very deep disturbance in the people of God."