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Retired archbishop calls Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions ‘a regrettable step backwards’

Walter Sanchez Silva   By Walter Sanchez Silva for CNA

A sacramentary is seen on the altar during a traditional Tridentine Mass July 18, 2021, at St. Josaphat Church in the Queens borough of New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

La Plata, Argentina, Aug 26, 2021 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer, the Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata, has said that the restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass in Traditionis custodes “involve a regrettable step backwards.”

“The current Pontiff states that he wishes to pursue still further the constant search for ecclesial communion (prologue to Traditionis custodes) and to make this purpose effective, he eliminates the work of his predecessors by placing arbitrary limits and obstacles to what they, with intra-ecclesial ecumenical intent and respect for the freedom of priests and faithful, established! It promotes ecclesial communion in reverse. The new measures involve a regrettable step backwards,” Archbishop Aguer wrote in an Aug. 23 article.

The archbishop emeritus said that it is now “in the hands of the diocesan bishops to grant authorization for the use” of the 1962 Roman Missal, and thus “everything starts over again, and it is to be feared that the bishops will be miserly in granting permission. Many bishops are not Traditionis custodes, but traditionis ignari (ignorant), obliviosi (forgetful), and even worse traditionis evertores, (destroyers).”

Archbishop Aguer noted the reasonableness of requiring an acceptance of the validity of Vatican II, the liturgical reform, and the magisterium, but questioned: “for those who already used the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, was the ordinary oversight of the bishops and the eventual correction of the offenders not enough? It would be necessary to use charity and patience with the rebels.”

For the archbishop the limitation of places and days to celebrate according to the 1962 Missal “are unjust and inconsiderate restrictions”.

“It is curious that while officially promoting a ‘polyhedral’ structure of the Church, with the ease that this attitude implies for the spread of dissent and errors against the Catholic Tradition, a liturgical uniformity is imposed that seems to have been chosen solely against that Tradition,” he said.

“I know that many young people in our parishes are fed up with the liturgical abuses that the hierarchy allows without correcting them; they want a Eucharistic celebration that guarantees serious and profoundly religious participation. There is nothing ideological in this aspiration.”

He charged that requiring a priest who already says the Traditional Latin Mass and who “has exercised it correctly” to receive permission again, is “a ruse to take it away from him,” and that “perhaps there are not a few bishops (new bishops, for example) reluctant to grant it.”

Archbishop Aguer said that “all the provisions of Traditionis custodes would be gladly acceptable if the Holy See attended to what I call the devastation of the liturgy, which is demonstrated in multiple cases.”

He pointed to what he said are common experiences in Argentina: “In general, it is quite common for the Eucharistic celebration to assume a tone of banality, as if it were a conversation that the priest has with the faithful, and for which the priest’s friendliness is fundamental; in certain places it becomes a kind of show presided over by the ‘entertainer’ who is the celebrant, and the children’s Mass is a little party, like birthday parties.”

“The bishops are not concerned with these realities, but they are quick to react against a priest who with the utmost piety celebrates in Latin: ‘it’ is forbidden,” the archbishop wrote.

Archbishop Aguer lamented that “The lack of correction of the abuses leads to the persuasion that ‘that’s the way the liturgy is now.’”

“It cannot be denied that the Eucharistic celebration has lost exactness, solemnity, and beauty. And silence has disappeared in many, many cases. Sacred music would deserve a separate chapter,” he added.

Archbishop Aguer was born in 1943, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1972. He was consecrated a bishop in 1992, and served as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires from then until 1998.

In 1998 he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of La Plata, succeeding as ordinary in 2000. He continued as Archbishop of La Plata until his 2018 retirement, at the age of 75.

“I have never celebrated ‘the ancient Mass,’ not even after the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum; I would have to study the rite, of which I have distant memories, having served as an altar boy,” he noted in the opening of his essay.

He added that while attending a Divine Liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church, he noted “a certain resemblance to the Latin Solemn Mass, with deacon and subdeacon.”

The archbishop said he has “always celebrated, with the greatest devotion I can,” the Novus Ordo. He sang the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin at the St. Joseph Major Seminary, and noted they had form a schola in accordance with the recommendation of Vatican II’s constitution on the liturgy, “which was eliminated at my retirement.”

Upon his retirement, Archbishop Aguer was succeeded by Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, who is regarded as Pope Francis’ personal theologian.

“It should be remembered that it is possible to celebrate the Mass currently in force in the whole Church in Latin,” Archbishop Aguer noted.

“Unfortunately, ‘particular law’ seems to be prohibiting Latin, as in fact it is done. If someone dares to propose celebrating in Latin, he is regarded as a misfit, an unforgivable troglodyte.”

Archbishop Aguer wrote that Latin “was for centuries the bond of unity and communication in the Church of the West. Today it is not only abandoned, but also hated. In seminaries, its study is neglected, precisely because there is no use for it. It goes unnoticed that this is how direct access to the Fathers of the Western Church is closed off, which is very important for theological studies: I am thinking, for example, of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great, and of medieval authors such as Saint Anselm and Saint Bernard. This situation seems to me a sign of cultural poverty and voluntary ignorance.”

In the final part of his article, Archbishop Aguer said that while, as a motu proprio, Traditionis custodes could not have “pastoral effusions”, it could nevertheless “have been presented as a sign of pastoral love.”

“It seems that the judgement that the Church is making, in its highest level of authority, of the course of ecclesial life, proceeds according to two weights and two measures: tolerance, and even appreciation and identification, with the heterogeneous positions regarding the great Tradition (‘progressives’, as they have been called), and distance from or dislike for people or groups who cultivate a ‘traditional’ position.”

Archbishop Aguer concluded: “I am reminded of the proposition that a famous Argentine politician brutally enunciated: ‘for friends, everything; for the enemy, not even justice’”, a reference to a statement made in 1973 by Juan Perón, who was favorably quoting Mao Zedong.

“I say this with the utmost respect and love, but with immense sorrow,” the archbishop wrote

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  1. Archbishop Emeritus Aguer knows. “Many bishops are not Traditionis custodes”, rather the opposite. There’s more to our dividedness than one prelate holding the Chair of Peter. Auger closes with a portentous aphorism. All for my friends, for enemies, injustice. Attributed to Francisco, Perón, Mao Zedong. Perón, Mao Zedong presided over cataclysmic change. Perón ended in the dustbin of history, Zedong a dynasty. Francisco? Cataclysmic yes enduring questionable. During this long moment we existentially own simply by being in it, with it’s terrible ‘surprises’, anguish, hopeful expectations often dashed, I’ve developed a Christian Stoicism. Let events unfold as they may, if necessary roll with the punches, keep the faith with vigor, steady at the helm. Decline may seem upon us although there’s hope, simply because we have faith in someone greater than all three.

    • A convert question: it is true then that priests do not even study Latin any more since approximately 1970 and most of that generation are are not proficient in the TLM?

      • Latin is no longer a required study in most diocesan seminaries. Since Vat II and emphasis on the vernacular. Unless a student specializes in scripture, theology, canon law he’s insofar as I’m aware no longer obliged to study Latin anywhere. Some seminaries offer it as an elective. When I taught in mission seminaries it was non existent. Amoris Laetitia was issued in Italian, whereas previously such documents, exhortations, encyclicals were in Latin. Latin is a highly inflected language and far more precise in detailing complex thought than English. German is also a highly inflected language though not as precise as Latin. Latin also assists in developing the intellect’s thought processes and their accurate expression. For any priest were interested in offering the traditional Mass learning sufficient Latin shouldn’t be a difficulty.

      • g.Steven, You ask as a convert the question on Latin. In 1962 just 2 months prior to the Council St. Pope John XXlll signed an Apostolic Constitution called “Veterum Sapientia”, it was part of his excellent Vatican ll, one can easily find it on the internet. I recommend that you read it and then compare it to what happened to Latin studies. The Apostolic Constitution bemoans that Bishops and priests were not fluent in reading, writing, and speaking fluently in Latin. St. Pope John XXlll treats the matter as a matter of gravest importance and sought this to be corrected, starting immediately. In the upheaval in the Church from the mid-1960’s up to now, the Leaders of the Church destroyed the use of Latin which is an anti-Vatican ll abuse, one of the gravest abuses and Francis has been called on it.

    • When I can I go to the Latin Mass in Lewiston Maine but not that often because of my advanced age and the fact that it is a considerable distance, but always worth the sacrifice.
      Our Bishop has wisely just let us continue doing what we are doing, as in – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which eventually leads to just ignoring what the Pope said.

      • Terence McManus, AMEN! I am very glad to hear your Bishop is not suppressing the Mass. I have to travel 3 hrs round trip once a month to attend a Chapel of the SSPX. People differ on their status, I do not accept that they are in schism. What I do see is that those who accuse them of being in schism are the very ones who are in schism, and in heretical situations which place them outside of the Church.

  2. This is the type of Archbishop that Jesus Christ needs in the Church. Francis knows it only too well, but Francis does not need this type of Archbishop as he would only be in the way of the Church of, Francis the Merciful. Thank you, Your Excellency.

  3. Emeritus Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer from Argentina begins: “The current Pontiff states that he wishes to pursue still further the constant search for ecclesial communion [….] The new measures involve a regrettable step backwards.”

    In 1982, Emeritus Pope Benedict reflected on the decade following the Second Vatican Council:

    He noted, in part, that the optimism toward progress had already been undermined by its different meanings in the West (more evolutionary), in the Third World, and in Latin America including Argentina (more Marxist). The “great scholars associated with Concilium—-Rahner, Congar, Schillebeeckx, Kung—-were not as united as they had thought.”

    What then? Gaudium et Spes was not the lens, after all, for viewing all the rest of the Council’s work and its fidelity….About ecclesial communion, Benedict concludes with a literary comparison with Don Quixote:

    “The arrogant certainty with which Cervantes burned his bridges behind him and laughed at an earlier age has become a nostalgia for what was lost. This is not a return to the world of romances of chivalry, but consciousness of what must not be lost and a realization of man’s peril, which increases whenever, in the burning of the past, he loses the totality of himself” (“Principles of Catholic Theology,” German 1982/Ignatius 1987, pp. 392-3).

  4. In the light of the Second Vatican Council, it would appear that a celebration of traditional Latin mass would be the one making a step backwards.

    • De La Cruz Eugenio, If saying the Traditional Mass is a step backwards. Then many of us Catholics want to go backwards. If going backwards means erasing the past 60 years with all its demonic influence and moving forward with restoring Jesus as Christ the King. Count me in!

    • Celebrating the TLM does take one backward, backward to remembering and solidifying the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ as Catholic Christians have done for many years before Francis ever walked the slums of Buenos Aires or the marble halls of his Vatican apartments, offices, or churches. For Francis to ATTEMPT to squelch the commemoration of that sacrifice by contradicting the very words of the Council regarding the Latin rite is ironic. His TC itself contradicts the very Council Francis claims is dishonored by Catholics who devoutly love Christ through worship at the TLM.

      The Church belongs to Christ. Christ is its Head. Francis is only a member like any other Catholic person is a member. Francis’ words, letters, and motus are subject to error. Nothing Francis says is infallible until and unless he speaks EX CATHEDRA. To date, Francis has not declared any of his teachings to be EX CATHEDRA, and therefore, his words are subject to correction, rebuke, disregard, or rejection. If Francis has any problem with any of those consequences, the door to his boss’s office is always open.

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