HOSE WHO STUDY papal pronouncements and decrees are taught to take into consideration—that is, seek to understand—the “mind of the lawgiver.” Since our blog is concerned with the sacred liturgy, it’s worth noting something that took place recently. On 3 February 2023, Pope Francis met with the Catholic bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His Holiness responded to a hypothetical retort: “But I don’t know, because the code [of Canon Law] tells me…” Then Pope Francis said: “We must observe the code, because it is serious, but the heart of the pastor goes beyond it.”
Traditiónis Custódes • What is the mind of the lawgiver when it comes to Traditionis Custodes, a Motu Proprio which sought to slow down the spread of the Traditional Latin Mass? The lawgiver has emphasized having a “pastoral heart” rather than a rigid, legalistic, and restrictive application. Indeed, Pope Francis said on 13 July 2022: “Be open to acceptance, and hence to the value of inclusion. Don’t let yourselves be drawn into short-sighted ideologies that want to show others—those who are different from ourselves—as enemies.” On 26 September 2021, Pope Francis said: “The Holy Spirit does not want closedness; He wants openness, and welcoming communities where there is a place for everyone.”
Cardinal Roche In The Crosshairs? • Arthur Cardinal Roche has not had an easy time of it lately. Not long ago, he was publicly contradicted by Pope Francis vis-à-vis the traditional PONTIFICALE ROMANUM. On 16 June 2022, Cardinal Roche made shameful comments about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which came off as ill-conceived and churlish. Now, the words of Pope Francis to the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo are being interpreted as a public rebuke of the beleaguered Roche. Cardinal Roche (in a way some feel approaches “megalomania”) has endorsed an overly-rigid, overly-restrictive interpretation of Traditionis Custodes. Cardinal Roche even published a letter encouraging parishes to ostracize and belittle Catholics who have an appreciation for the Extraordinary Form, which—before being made a cardinal—Archbishop Roche had praised as more “reverent” (his word) than the Ordinary Form.
Jeff’s Advice • I will not repeat what I said in the open letter I published (reluctantly, and with deep sadness). But I do have some advice for Cardinal Roche: Stop encouraging parishioners to ostracize Catholics manifesting what Pope Saint John Paul II referred to as “legitimate aspirations.” Our church does not need more division. The Second Vatican Council declared: “Even in the Liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community.” Cardinal Roche, your time would be better spent addressing the catastrophically serious liturgical abuses which are causing great harm to the church and, thanks to the internet, irreparable scandal. It certainly seems absurdly evil to claim—as Cardinal Roche has done—that’s it’s wrong to celebrate the ancient Mass inside a parish church, but virtually anything else (such as choir rehearsal, tours of the statues, speeches, graduations, concerts, cleaning the pews, etc.) is not wrong when it takes place in the self-same parish church.
Roche’s Anger? • Needless to say, I cannot read Cardinal Roche’s heart. But in my opinion, he seems irritated by the response of (most) bishops to TRADITIONIS CUSTODES. That document placed the liturgy more firmly under the control of the local bishop, and Cardinal Roche seems opposed to this. The “Ordinary Form” Catholics have possession of all the property, schools, rectories, chanceries, universities, and churches, whereas the “Extraordinary Form” Catholics have absolutely nothing—so it’s difficult to understand why Cardinal Roche is obsessed with belittling and ostracizing them. Indeed, Cardinal Roche should seriously consider reading what Nathan told King David. If memory serves, Roche only served as bishop of a diocese for a very short period of time before going into bureaucratic posts. He seems unaware of a very important Church law, which says: The salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.
Legal Positivism • There’s an old saying: “For their enemies, evil men impose Canon Law; for their friends, evil men interpret Canon Law.” Cardinal Roche seems to be endorsing an overly-rigid interpretation of TRADITIONIS CUSTODES. But if one reads the document with rigidity, it doesn’t attack the 1962 Missal at all. The precise words of TRADITIONIS CUSTODES attempt to slow the spread of “the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970”—which is the 1965 Missal, not the 1962 Missal.