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Traditionis custodes: Cardinal Zen reacts to restrictions on Traditional Latin Masses

Hannah Brockhaus By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 88, retired bishop of Hong Kong, holds a biretta and wears a cappa magna ("great cape") as he processes prior to celebrating a Pontifical High Mass Feb. 15, 2020, at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Rome Newsroom, Jul 21, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen published a statement on Wednesday, saying that new restrictions on the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses are a “blow,” even if they were expected.

“Many tendentious generalizations in the documents [of the motu proprio] have hurt the hearts of many good people more than expected,” the retired bishop of Hong Kong wrote on his personal blog.

Zen added that he thought many people hurt by the restrictions “have never given the smallest reason to be suspected of not accepting the liturgical reform of the [Second Vatican Council].”

On July 16, Pope Francis issued the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the tradition”), making changes to his predecessor Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, which is in Latin.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is also referred to as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

With Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis said that it is now each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass in his diocese.

Since the motu proprio’s promulgation, some bishops have said that priests may continue to offer the Traditional Latin Mass in their dioceses, while others have banned it.

Last year, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation asked the world’s bishops to report on how Summorum Pontificum was being applied in their dioceses through a nine-point survey.

In June, Zen described rumors about possible developments to Summorum Pontificum as “worrying news.”

Zen wrote on his personal blog on June 12 that “I am not considered an extremist of this liturgical form and that I worked actively, as a priest and as a bishop, for the liturgical reform after Vatican II, also trying to curb the excesses and abuses.”

“But I cannot deny, in my experience of Hong Kong, the very good that came from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and from the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.”

In his new statement on July 21, Zen said that he had no knowledge of either the questionnaire about Summorum Pontificum or of bishops’ responses to it, which came as a “bitter surprise” since he was bishop of Hong Kong during the period in which Summorum Pontificum was being implemented.

“I cannot judge [the questionnaire], but only suspect that there was considerable misunderstanding (or perhaps even manipulation) in the process,” he said.

Zen also said that when reading the pope’s motu proprio and letter to bishops, he thought it conveyed an “ease” or “tendentiousness” to link a desire to use the extraordinary form of the Mass with a negative judgment on the ordinary form of the Mass, or a tendency to link a refusal to accept liturgical reform with a “total and profound rejection” of the Second Vatican Council.

“The Vatican authorities should ask themselves (and perhaps even make a thorough investigation) about why the second phenomenon has persisted, and perhaps (recently) worsened,” he said.

According to the cardinal, “the problem is not ‘which rite do people prefer?’ but ‘why don’t they go to Mass anymore?’ Certain surveys show that half of the Christian population in Europe no longer believes in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, no longer believes in eternal life!”

“Certainly we do not blame the liturgical reform, but we just want to say that the problem is much deeper,” he continued. “We cannot evade the question: ‘Hasn’t formation in the faith perhaps been lacking? Hasn’t the great work of the Council perhaps been wasted?’”

Zen said that part of the motu proprio appeared to “clearly hope for the death” of groups devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass.

“But, even with that, can’t the Vatican’s anti-Ratzinger men patiently wait for the Tridentine Mass to die together with the death of Benedict XVI, instead of humiliating the venerable Pope Emeritus in this way?” the cardinal asked.

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  1. The Latin Mass is a UNIFIER … as it is now, parishes here in the US have Masses in several languages, thus separating the community. There are the Black Men’s Club, the Hispanic Clubs, etc. instead of having ONE community. I thought that one of the marks of the Church is that is was ONE … promoting such division is not unifying. And when one travels to other countries, why bother to attend Mass at all … some may understand one or two languages other than one’s own, but with every community offering Mass just in the local language makes it difficult to feel part of the same church. The Eastern Rite Churches are/were not subject to this language catastrophe … why is that?

  2. Cardinal Zen perhaps the first to recognize in strong terms the expected humiliation of Benedict XVI by Pope Francis’ radical revision of Summorum Pontificum. He cites similar to Cardinal Gerhard Müller bogus accusations of divisiveness that do not represent the majority of trads. Zen identifies the anomaly as the decline in Mass attendance, the success of the EF. His statistic 50% European Christians disbelieve the realpresence and eternal life speaks to Apostasy canonically defined as rejection of a religion, specifically belief in Christ as Son of God and Savior. Other sources indicate this percentage is higher, comparable to US Catholicism and Christianity here. At a time in Church history where there is growing apostasy, perhaps approaching dimensions of the Great Apostasy it’s astonishing. Although when tracing the deleterious course of this pontificate, perhaps expected that Pope Francis should diminish a proven source of growth in the faith. Cardinal Zen’s opinion that Traditionis custodes’ intent is “hope for the death of groups devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass” is contextually macabre. That is when perceived as destroying what you are commissioned to protect.

    • Unless conspicuous Catholic fidelity is liquidated, the descent of the Church into homogenized globalism can never be made to look like St. Cardinal Newman’s “development of doctrine.”

      Newman offers us a resilient and non-Darwinian (and non-Islamic, see below) perspective on the accessibility of Truth to human understanding. Summarizing: “There is no corruption if it [the development] retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier, if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last . . .” (Essay, London and New York: Longmans, Green, 1885, Ch. V, cited by Vincent Ferrer Blehl [ed.], “The Essential Newman” [New York: Mentor-Omega, 1963], 136-7).

      Taking a page from Islam, as to contradictions in the Qur’an, it is explained that the more recent text simply “abrogates” the earlier. Each very separate revelation comes from the totally inscrutable Allah, and there is no need for any accountability to human reason which, to Catholics, is analogous at least to the internal consistency of the Logos.

      Instead, are we now being groomed into the fully detached and inscrutable Age of the Spirit, with the Real Presence (CCC n. 1374) more or less abrogated, and with both to be abrogated again—by incoherent and federated synodality? Hegel’s triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis?

      • Your point is well taken that coherent reason seems inapplicable. Although [as you imply] it’s suppression of religious growth to advance an ideological homogeneity that’s quickly losing it’s Christian identity. When we distance from the Logos we drift along to wherever the tide takes us. That’s the best we can say about German synodality, likely a portend of the upcoming Synod on synodality. An oxymoron with like consequence. Although we mere mortals do have divine wherewithal to halt the damnable process.

  3. Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Zen have first hand knowledge of how corrupt prelates can manipulate processes such as the secretive bishops’ survey said to have been collated and analyzed before Traditionis custodes was promulgated. Or having your access to the Pope blocked, preventing vital consultation on China and CCP demands, even although you’re one of the world’s leading authorities on the Church in China. Or being railroaded out of the Vatican on false sex abuse allegations within weeks after your attempt to launch an independent audit of Vatican finances was shut down by a meddling Secretariat of State with dirt to hide. In each case the fix was in before the official cover stories replete with rationalizations were passed out for public consumption. The Borgia Pope would be proud of Bergoglio.

  4. I wouldn’t say I have a total and profound rejection of Vatican ll. But with the latest developments such as Pope Benedicts Biography and experts citing heresies and errors in the Council Documents of Vatican ll, I believe I and all Catholics have the right to question and receive answers.

    When Francis released his Motu Propio I literally became physically ill with a pang of profound sadness, a pain in my stomach, the runs, my eyes felt like they were going to pop out, I couldn’t get up out of bed. But this told me something very important, I truly love the Church with my whole mind, heart, body, and soul. That gave me cause to rejoice.

    As for the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVl when Francis for no reason destroyed the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Pope Benedict stated, “Summorum Pontificum has been wounded”. I wonder what Pope Benedict would say in this case? I think Francis knows better to stay away from Pope Benedict at this time.

  5. The Mass is the Paschal Mystery; the consummated invitation from Jesus; the pledge, in His Blood, of Salvation. At this time it is good to be reminded to practice the virtues in which it schools us. I am reflecting particularly on benignity and prudence; but we can consider others and that I am likely least qualified among you, to counsel you.

    The Mass is its own cause and its own effect; and its own means, by what it makes present. Each and all of its forms must bear an integral sacred relation always. It is unfortunate that anyone even the lowly, could see it as a cause of something else not of itself even to contention.

    So in addition to the virtues I recommend for present need, I would add mildness.

    And do not imagine I am so creative or advanced, I have it from St. Vincent de Paul who said to choose the virtue directly opposed to the handicapping vice. He means you have to be both sober and watchful. Perhaps where you are, you will have a fellowship. Also I have it from Catechism 1345, where it says –

    “When the reader is finished, he who presides admonishes and challenges the gathering to imitate these beautiful things.”

  6. Sacrosanctum Concilium is a Constitution on liturgy governing both Latin Rites. It does not merely govern the New Rite. Neither does it portend the removal or alteration of the Traditional Rite. The problems in the New Rite reflect and often directly relate back to the Bishops who either invite the errors or do nothing about them; and this is persisting. So that, at least at the present time, there is an imprudence in assigning authority over the Traditional Rite to all Bishops at once. It also would tend to give a wrong sense to the words “renewal” and “reform” and “restoration”.

    It suggests to me Cardinal Zen has placed a right emphasis about “generalizations” and “tendentiousness” that are otherwise not being addressed at all. Generalization and tendentiousness are not only affecting the dialogue on liturgy but they also move into many areas of prudential judgement and direction.

  7. I can not find where in Sacrosanctum Concilium it says that the New Rite is “the unique expression” of “the Roman Rite”. I can not even find it in any of the VATICAN II final documents. It is not in any of the 2 Dogmatic Constitutions that govern the whole.

    Article 1 of Traditionis Custodes says

    “The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

    But Sacrosanctum Concilium is not a Decree, it is a Constitution. According to Christus Dominus, the Decree on Bishops, they must take pastoral care to follow established liturgical norms faithfully – not change them. There are no Decrees that direct an affecting of this Constitution.

    A correct reading of the VATICAN II final Documents would put Sacrosanctum Concilium under the 2 Dogmatic Constitutions, Dei Verbum (DV) and Lumen Gentium (LG). This would apply to BOTH rites, not merely one or other of them.

    Specific references to liturgy are made in DV 21 and 25. In LG there are 7 references to liturgy, 6, 26, 29, 42, 50, 51, 67.

    Read them, they are supremely instructive, you will see how modern behaviours in the New Rite fall far short of what is expressed there and clearly expected from our God.

    And there many confirmations in LG when it is read with care. LG 13, 23, 51 and 65, taken together, reveal how both Rites at once are conditioned, without limitation on either or conflation. Indeed, in LG the word “unique” appears 7 times as if to seal the Rites in sacred kinship.

    Moreover they show how LG energizes both Rites without contradiction, for fulfilling the various purposes of the Decrees.

    • Yes, nothing in Sacrosanctum Concilium about the Novus Ordo as allegedly the “unique expression” of the Roman Rite. Instead (regarding your closing reference to “both Rites”), this from Pope Benedict about the two forms of the “one Roman Rite” (Summorum Pontificum, 2007):

      “Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. The Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honoured for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi (rule of faith); for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

  8. I pray that God becomes more visible in our world. Humans, even within the Catholic Church, are losing the way, all on their own. God have Mercy.

  9. What the points raised by Robert L. Kinney III suggest to me, is that some reading material is needed that would teach and lead a deeper appreciation of the Latin Rite.

    I am speaking about his article “Questions Regarding the Use of Latin in Celebrating the Mass” in HOMILITIC & PASTORAL, January 15 2016 -in the link.

    Reading material such as I am suggesting would be instructive in language, signs, history, etc., but also formative in prayer. It would result in at least 2 things: a. it would deepen appreciation of the Latin Rite and b. it would overflow inspiration to help ensure sacred expression in the New Rite -this coming about precisely through the exchange of meaning from the Latin language. It’s a practical matter.

    I haven’t seen it but I imagine the new magazine BENEDICTUS would be like this. I believe it didn’t exist at the time Kinney was writing.

    I also have in mind another type of book along the lines the of LECTIO, i.e., intentionally formed around prayer.

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