Sometime this morning Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes.” The Latin title comes from the first words of a document, here: Guardians of the tradition. The document addresses “the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970.”
Over the next few days, we’ll look at the text of the document as well as the accompanying letter the Holy Father addressed to bishops. There, he outlined some of his thinking behind this development, something that has generated great alarm among traditional-leaning Catholics.
We’ll spend a few posts looking at the introduction of eight articles which expresses the legal side of this document. I plan to take things very slowly and carefully.
First, we have a reminder that bishops are responsible for a core value in their dioceses, unity.
Guardians of the tradition, the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome constitute the visible principle and foundation of the unity of their particular Churches. (Lumen Gentium 23)
The references above and below are from the 1960s and 90s, but the principles behind them are far, far older. The authority of bishops was established during New Testament times, even before the Church had popes or parish priests. How is this responsibility for unity achieved?
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the proclamation of the Gospel and by means of the celebration of the Eucharist, they govern the particular Churches entrusted to them.(Lumen Gentium 27; Christus Dominus 11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 833.)
Liturgy is not just a decorative element for an expression of Christian faith. God inspires grace in human beings. The Eucharistic liturgy, including its rites, its proclamation of the Word, all contribute to the leadership role of bishops–their oversight of the Church.
This is an important grounding for this initiative. Bishops have a role and responsibility, especially with regard to the liturgy. One quality we profess in the Creed is unity–even non-Catholics acclaim this. Is it just lip service? Is it a unity, a one-ness that is exclusive, that it just means the believer’s circle of friends, community members, or those like-minded in theology or culture?
For a quality with universal interest, it would seen that unity must be a more widespread reality. In light of the indult for the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, is unity served? Do bishops engage in their traditional role with regard to it, and how it affects the deeper value of unity? Those are the starting questions to consider.
The 2020 consultation with bishops initiated by the CDF got this vector going. Pope Francis and his two predecessors have, in their day, each consulted with bishops, and we know this pope attaches a particular value to synodality and how bishops work together and with their people. In other words, he wants and welcomes the dialogue. This serves as the foundation of everything that follows in Traditionis Custodes.
The quick translation is here.