In the second paragraph of the introduction to Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis outlines a brief history of the permission to celebrate the pre-conciliar liturgy. The intention of the 1988 expansion of the indult, or permission, to pray according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal was to promote “concord and unity.” Pope Benedict XVI widened this with the same understanding:
In order to promote the concord and unity of the Church, with paternal solicitude towards those who in any region adhere to liturgical forms antecedent to the reform willed by the Vatican Council II, my Venerable Predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, granted and regulated the faculty to use the Roman Missal edited by John XXIII in 1962. (Cfr John Paul II, Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, 2 july 1988: AAS 80 (1988) 1495-1498; Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, 7 july 2007: AAS 99 (2007) 777-781; Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Ecclesiae unitatem”, 2 july 2009: AAS 101 (2009) 710-711.)
Why would they do this? Doesn’t the use of an unreformed rite somehow negate Vatican II and mark a different territory? Not necessarily. Remember, the popes were less interested in liturgical uniformity. They desired an underlying acceptance of where we are heading as a Church. 1962, 1963, 1970, 1988, 2007, and other dates of import were all about the deepening of the broad engagement in the liturgy. As a means of grace, the unity we know as Catholics derives from the fact we celebrate Mass with the same impulse toward a deepening relationship with Christ and a greater desire to follow his will in the world.
The previous two popes recognized that the externals of the Mass are less important than the ministry of unity entrusted to any pope, to any Bishop of Rome.
In this way they intended “to facilitate the ecclesial communion of those Catholics who feel attached to some earlier liturgical forms” and not to others. (Ecclesia Dei 5)
As I read it, the pontifical impulse here is to keep everybody heading in the same direction by praying in different ways. Did that not work? The subsequent paragraphs will tell us, as well as the explanatory letter sent to bishops. We’ll get to all of that in time. Meanwhile, thoughts?
The quick translation is here.