TC Letter 8: A Final Reason, Unity

Heading into this final concern of Pope Francis, it’s important to sort out a distinction between unity and uniformity. The latter involves people doing virtually the same thing while heading in the same direction. Unity involves taking different paths and different methods of transportation to all get to the same goal.

Where Vatican II is concerned, there was an overarching goal in the liturgy: reform.

On one hand, the spirit of conciliar reform is achieved by artistic improvement so that the liturgy is more intelligible, more connected, and more fruitful in the spiritual lives of Roman Catholics. Some examples:

  • an upgrade from no music to plainchant
  • an upgrade from moral sermons that do not address the state of a parish to Scriptural homilies that connect the Word to daily life
  • an upgrade from cheap incense to quality products
  • an upgrade from no instruments or poor instruments to an organ, or even a fine acoustic piano
  • an upgrade from readings in Latin to a vernacular language

The list goes on and on.

True, many TLM communities engaged an upgrade in many liturgical aspects from prior celebrations. And many just replaced the 1970 or 2002 Missal with the 1962. This would be a problem, in my view. And it was likely the source of the divisiveness cited here, a fact that all Catholics in the know would truthfully concede:

A final reason for my decision is this: ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the “true Church.”

This expression might be missing from some or even most TLM communities, but online, it is dominant. It is also antigospel, as Saint Paul cautioned and criticized almost twenty centuries ago:

One is dealing here with comportment that contradicts communion and nurtures the divisive tendency — “I belong to Paul; I belong instead to Apollo; I belong to Cephas; I belong to Christ” — against which the Apostle Paul so vigorously reacted. [1 Cor 1:12-13]

Here’s the reason:

In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors.

Who is Pope Francis to do this? He understands, perhaps better than traditionalists, that the primary ministry of Peter is unity. Not authority, money, or the eternal quality of the city in which the see sits. The witness of Rome in the era of martyrdom and the solidity of the faith it expressed through its bishops and martyrs is part of the grounding of the Office of Peter.

Strong words here:

The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum of 1962. Because “liturgical celebrations are not private actions, but celebrations of the Church, which is the sacrament of unity”, [Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium 26] they must be carried out in communion with the Church. Vatican Council II, while it reaffirmed the external bonds of incorporation in the Church — the profession of faith, the sacraments, of communion — affirmed with St. Augustine that to remain in the Church not only “with the body” but also “with the heart” is a condition for salvation. [Cfr. Lumen Gentium 14]

This is a wholly traditional take on the public celebration of liturgy. This public act is not only one for an immediate assembly that gathers in any particular location. Our faith tells us it involves an act that operates even beyond the realm of the living. Union with the saints in heaven, the angels in glory, and the pilgrim Church on Earth is not a matter of ritual sameness.  It involves a deeper, unseen spirit that binds Christians together in a purpose. For one group to insist that others do not share their purpose is an offense beyond personal insult. It stabs at the very notion of One Body.

To me, Pope Francis is quite clear. He mentions his own sense of “constraint.” It suggests to me he was aware of the option to let things continue, but discerned that his office, not he personally, was required to take action through Traditionis Custodes.

While some have said that a minority fraction of the world’s bishops polled weren’t enough, keep in mind this is not a matter of polling or vote-counting. If a leg is bleeding seriously, the other limbs can’t protest they are whole and healthy. The injured leg needs to be attended.

Here are the important links:

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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