Rites, wrongs, and absurdities all around

If the new rite is in conformity with tradition, how is the old rite not in conformity with the new?

Archbishop Arthur Roche is pictured with Cardinal Robert Sarah as they pray with U.S. bishops at the start of a meeting at the Vatican in this Jan. 14, 2020, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

It’s been a dismal week for the Church in the news, and it’s only Thursday. There’s plenty of gruesome news from which to choose, but let’s step away from the macabre for a moment, and rather focus on the ridiculous.

The Rome diocese has issued its implementation of Traditionis custodes – that’s Pope Francis’s motu proprio regulating the practice of the Catholic faith according to the older liturgical books that pre-date the reforms that followed the Vatican Council II – and boy, is it ever a doozy.

Among other things, the decree of implementation expressly forbids the traditional parish in Rome – Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 as Rome’s traditional parish, incidentally – from celebrating the Easter Triduum with the old books.

Stop and think about that.

The parish exists to serve God with the rites established at Rome in the earliest centuries of the Church’s life, and to serve the faithful who would worship Him accordingly. If their books aren’t good in Rome at Easter, when and where are they good?

Leave aside that parishes are juridical persons. A bishop may suppress a parish, but parishes have duties, from which flow certain rights, which even the pope is bound to respect.

The pastor and other clerics of Trinità dei Pellegrini belong to a society of apostolic life – the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter – founded for the purpose of serving God and the faithful according to the older prescriptions. These are the guys who refused to go in with Archbishop Lefebvre when he committed his “schismatic act” and ordained bishops against the pope’s orders. They swear an oath attesting their acquiescence to the legitimacy of the late Council and the validity of the new rite.

Nevertheless, the implementation decree explicitly and particularly denies them and others the use of the older ritual prayers for sacraments and blessings within the Diocese of Rome. Telling them they can’t do what they exist to do is frankly absurd.

“The motu proprio establishes that the ‘liturgical books promulgated by the Holy Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, are the sole expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite’,” the decree reads, citing Article 1 of Traditionis.

“[T]herefore,” the decree goes on to state, “it is no longer possible to use the Roman Ritual and the other liturgical books of the ‘ancient rite’ for the celebration of sacraments and sacramentals (e.g., the Ritual for the reconciliation of penitents according to the ancient form).”

“The use of the other Ordines, therefore, is currently expressly forbidden and only the use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 remains permitted,” the implementation decree continues.

Forget about other places in the city, where there are stable groups of faithful and stable ministries to serve them.

At the traditional parish, the parish priests cannot offer the sacraments. They are obliged – by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome — either to request a dispensation to offer the sacraments in the new rite, or to find a priest who can provide them, or to give permission for their parishioners to receive sacraments outside their parish.

Now, we may be dealing with a situation in which the pope is using his Cardinal Vicar as a sort of foil – as “bad cop” to Francis’s “good cop” – and either plans or may be fairly readily convinced to walk back the more egregious specific dispositions in the decree. There are precedents, e.g. during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, when his Vicar shuttered Rome’s churches – all of them – after consulting with Pope Francis, and then … er … significantly modified his draconian decree, also after consulting with Pope Francis.

So far, there’s been no sign of anything like that in the works. Also – and more to the point – who governs like that?

It makes the farcical circular letter banning individual Masses at the side chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica look like a paragon of administrative sobriety and decorum.

Sure, a parish has rights, but for the parishioners of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, that effectively means nothing. The “lively pastoral charity” to which the decree calls all those variously subject to it leaves precious little in the way of room to exercise it for them.

The language according to which the books promulgated by Paul VI and JPII (Orate pro nobis!) are the “sole” expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite is laughably imprecise. At least, it would be laughable, were not those employing it in such deadly earnest. It also has grave implications for other rites and uses, the Anglican Use and the Zairean Rite, to name two.

The publication of the Roman decree follows closely on the appearance of a letter from Archbishop Arthur Roche, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in which Archbishop Roche blithely asserts contra factum, among other things, that the older liturgical books were “abrogated” by Paul VI. It’s like Summorum Pontificum – Benedict XVI’s liberalizing law of 2007 – never existed.

That’s of a piece with the more recently released Roman decree, which begins with a quote cherry-picked from John Paul II’s Ecclesia Dei and asserts that the sole purpose of permitting the use of the old books is now and has always been “facilitating ecclesial communion for those Catholics who feel bound to some previous liturgical forms.”

It happens that the ample quote the good archbishop excerpts reads rather differently than Pope Francis’s careful tailored summary appears to allow: “To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition,” wrote Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei, “I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations.”

Following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, the general presumption was that “requests for the use of the 1962 missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it,” but then, history happened. As Benedict XVI noted in his own letter to the world’s bishops, which accompanied Summorum Pontificum in 2007, others – including many young people – discovered and came to appreciate the older form in the years between 1969 and 2007. They “felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

Benedict had also noted – in the letter and in the body of Summorum, proper – that the old books, in point of fact, had never been abrogated. It goes without saying – or should – that a letter from a bureaucrat cannot annul a public and universal magisterial statement from a pope, much less alter history. No matter. These guys are making it up.

Their ersatz administrative acrobatics and slight regard for history creates serious interpretative difficulties. If the new rite is in conformity with tradition, how is the old rite not in conformity with the new? Either the old rite was not in conformity with the authentic tradition that the new rite accurately reflects, or the new rite reflects a new tradition and belief.

Perhaps the old rite somehow no longer accurately reflects the tradition that it managed to embody for a millennium and a half? If so, the last sixty years have been even more eventful – and rather magically so – than anyone on any side of this business is likely willing to warrant.

Whatever one thinks of traditionalism and / or traditionalists, that is a problem.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 213 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. We read: “Whatever one thinks of traditionalism and / or traditionalists, that [the discussed contradiction] is a problem.”

    Not really a problem! Nothing that an ecclesial lobotomy can’t fix…One is almost inclined to liken Archbishop Roche to Nurse Ratchet in the 1975 psychological commedy-movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

    Jack Niclolson, the only sane soul in the asylum, was allowed to stay in the ward (the field hospital?), but only after the amputation of everything above the eyebrows.

    • Indults allowing the continued celebration of the traditional Latin mass were promulgated by Pope Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI.
      In what way, shape or form did these indults even suggest an abrogation of the Latin mass? Archbishop Roche is wrong in his understanding of the status of the ancient mass of the Church and so his comments are absolutely null and utterly void.

  2. THank you for this exploration of these bizarre proclamations from Rome. Everywhere I look, I see petty, arbitrary displays of power juxtaposed with blithe disregard of terrible behavior, crime, and sin. I’m no Pollyanna, but I never expected to see this near-universal state in my lifetime.

  3. Chris Altieri’s flummox with ersatz administrative acrobatics is with what’s called thinking outside the box [an allusion to the sandbox in which kids play imaginative games]. A sandbox today is understood as a testing environment that isolates untested changes and experimentation from the production environment. Considering Archbishop Roche’s administrative competence, his allegation the older liturgical books were abrogated by Paul VI, the sandbox retains its original function.

  4. If the new rite is in conformity with tradition, how is the old rite not in conformity with the new?

    What’s striking is how there is not even an attempt to offer an answer to this question. Or any other justification for these crackdowns, other than some necessity to complete the “implementation” of Vatican II.

    If pushed . . . an establishment figure will typically offer some toned down recycle of Rahnerian theology contending that different ages and different communities will require different forms of worship. That perhaps the old rite made sense for early modern white Europeans, but it doesn’t fit a modern, diverse Catholic Church. The new rite kept what was fitting to keep, and that should satisfy your need for continuity with Tradition.

    But make no mistake: The people who campaigned hard for this motu proprio – the liturgists at San Anselmo and their allies in the Italian hierarchy – will not bother with such convolutions. They believe the modern rite *is* a rupture, and they rejoice in the rupture. That the Church’s worship (and much else) went off the rails back in Antiquity into a harsh, fearful, esoteric ritualism, and Vatican II finally provided the correction. Those who can’t get with that program have no place in the Church in its new form; they’re happy provoking a schism, so long as they’re left holding the keys to the real estate, the sinecures, and the tattered remains of the Church’s moral legitimacy, which can be put to good use furthering urgent political goals.

    • And, right on cue, Austen Ivereigh (in a tweet at 5:26pm EST) this evening reacts to Altieri’s essay with a variation on the Rahnerian position: “The absurdity here is to fail to recognise what development of doctrine means: what comes before is subsumed in, and is absorbed and replaced by, what succeeds it. It was good then, for that time; but it has been superseded.”

      Exactly what doctrine is developed by Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, is never clarified.

      • It’s not really the Tridentine Rite. It was called that because it was promulgated after the Council. It was not a new rite.

        Pius V imposed on the Latin Church the historical Roman Rite and allowed certain rites, e.g. Dominican, that had been in use at least 200 years.

        • Also, nb:

          There is no mandate in Sacrosanctum Concilium that imposes vernacular liturgy on the Church.
          Nor is there mention of mass facing the people (versus populum).

          There is no way SC can be used to justify the way mass is being said in most parishes.

        • It’s not really the Tridentine Rite. It was called that because it was promulgated after the Council. It was not a new rite.

          Agreed in full, Robert.

          Pius V imposed on the Latin Church the historical Roman Rite and allowed certain rites, e.g. Dominican, that had been in use at least 200 years.

          It does have to be emphasized how restrained the “imposition” by Pius V was. Not only were old (200+ years) rites and uses left untouched, but chapters had to approve unanimously any switch to the Roman Rite.

  5. Maybe someone can help me out here… I read recently that Pope Saint Pius V canonized the Tridentine Liturgy. If something is canonized wouldn’t denying its canonization be denying the Holy Spirit. I acknowledge Pope Saint Paul VI is a canonized Saint; if I were to deny that, because I feel an attraction to the TLM or some such thing, that wouldn’t make him uncanonized: the Holy Spirit has spoken.
    The Traditional Latin Mass warrants our respect and honor, I personally believe that much. So I struggle with understanding this Motu Proprio—it almost seems like heresy, at the worst, bad theology at best. God bless Pope Francis and help to open his eyes to the real wolves dividing up his flock—and it ain’t the priests saying the “Confiteor” in my layman’s opinion!

  6. I wonder if the NuVatican has an opinion on the merits of, for arguments sake, The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, as it is rumoured that there have been not a few adepts among the more ecumenically minded Brothers in Christ. Certainly the appearance of post conciliar churches in Italy is suggestive of familiarity with the deep spirituality of the meeting places of that benevolent organisation.
    But who am I to wonder, speculate, judge….?

  7. The masonic wolves, busily scattering and spiritually slaughtering the sheep entrusted to them, will bring all of this to its logical conclusion via the various synodally synodal synods, which will coalesce into a “new church”, functionally creating a complete schism with all things Traditional, and formally excommunicating any Catholic unwilling to play along with their wicked and sinful games.
    For our part, personal energy is better expended praying than complaining about the obviously inevitable.

    • The masonic wolves will never succeed. I am more concerned about those “protestants” within the Church who are always attacking Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, and Vatican 2.

  8. Isn’t our Holy Father much more correct in ending Latin than keeping it?

    I thought the Church rejoiced more over 1 repentant sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who repent who have no (or far less) need of repentance.

    Isn’t it far better for nominal Catholics, complacent Catholics, and those outside the Church who are in more need of a physician to return to confession and to all the necessary sacraments?

    Will Latin be more effective for their return or their own language? Won’t they understand, relate to, and feel more a part of what they can comprehend?

    Don’t we have to accommodate people with disabilities? Do not those with disabilities also include the vast number of those currently with so many spiritual disabilities – the nominal, complacent, and those outside?

    Isn’t it more imperative to accommodate them, especially after hearing Christ’s emphasis?

    Aren’t we supposed to be in UNITY with the Holy Spirit? Didn’t the Holy Spirit speak in different tongues so all could understand?

    Can it be possible that you are being divisive and nitpicking over a language when the greater concern is the return of those fallen away?

    People with disabilities have extra special needs and thus extra special attention is required. The necessary accommodations are more needed for their return. Sure it’s a trade off, but oh what a MUCH greater return!

    Let’s not be divisive over ending Latin masses. Let the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church work in accord with the UNITY of the Holy Spirit.

    Let’s educate our Latin faithful as to why. There is a great Y. Let’s learn Y to a tee. That GREAT T & Y go together so well!

    The UNITY of T & Y is the most effective way to end sin.

    Look at a crucifix. U -N- I recognize it to a tee and see why.

    (The cross is the shape of a lower case T. Jesus upon the cross the shape of the letter Y)

    With great appreciation and thanksgiving for the return and repentance of those gone astray,

    A Catholic who understands disability and sees UNITY effective and imperative in our One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church

    • Because having the Novus Ordo in the vernacular has been so wildly successful in keeping people from leaving the Church or persuading them to return? There’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

      You’re so busy coming up with puerile wordplay that you ignore the need for unity with the Church of the past centuries upon centuries.

    • In no way am I indicating anything else should be changed during the Mass, such as adding modern music, etc. No. The Order of the Mass must of course always remain the same.

      My point was only to draw those who won’t return to the mass, sacraments, and to the Catholic Church – due to not understanding what is being said, to have a language hindering and unknown to them to stop being a continual deterrent.

      The Church has been losing too many parishioners for years in parts of the world such as the west. I’m not proposing any other sort of change to the Order of the Mass whatsoever.

      Yet, I think many people naturally, even in high positions within the Church, can easily not make changes for the better when things are going downhill.

      A person can see everything in front of them when going downhill. A person can see everything around him on level ground.

      Climbing uphill, however, takes more faith, especially when the goal is to reach the summit. A person cannot see over the summit until he gets there. This holds true if the summit is a peak. However, imagine if the summit is not a peak where the other side goes downhill. Instead, imagine, though naturally not being able to see beyond the summit until arrived, that the discovery once the summit is reached, continues as a continuous level plain, with no more downhill.

      It requires more trust in faith than trust in sight to determine how wonderful and what is beyond the summit once arrived.

      I look at the idea of changing the Latin Mass to a language those away from the Church can grasp, drawing a greater understanding of what’s taking place, – as the necessary faith required when the Church authority moves uphill.

      Though they cannot currently see beyond the summit and prefer to have Mass attendance and participation increase without change, they, the Church authority, must remember the summit is the most beautiful part of the Mass, not the language used.

      If a change in language can lead more to that beautiful summit of the Mass, Amen and Alleluia!!!

      Once again, nothing else should be changed in the Order of the Mass.

      The Holy Spirit spoke in different tongues through the Apostles in order to be effective. Thus, it stands to reason its use is essential to draw more to a Church declining in number and that can lead those outside to be drawn in with less intimidation and more trust through reason and comprehension.

      I’m just trying to shed light where light may not be seen. Please use God’s discernment when determining the correct approach. It seems necessary to me, but God knows far better than I. I leave it for you now to determine. May God’s will be done.

      • The order of the Mass is the same.

        I understood the Latin in the Mass at seven years old. It was the same liturgy. What is this pathetic attempt to destroy a few words of Latin.

        Are you and those you purport to speak for so unable to see or understand the beauty of the Traditional Mass that it must be taken away because it ‘offends’ you under the guise of people who are incompetent?

        I see the damage in destroying the Traditional Mass but see no benefit in forcing everyone to attend only the ‘Modern’ Mass.

    • The issue is not about any specific liturgical language. Rather, as Gail Finke so succinctly stated, “Everywhere I look, I see petty, arbitrary displays of power juxtaposed with blithe disregard of terrible behavior, crime, and sin.”
      The arbitrary displays of power are manifest in pope Francis’ nullification of several previous popes’ approbation of the Latin Mass, which has or had been the universal liturgical rite since the Early Church Fathers. This begs the question to Pope Francis, “Why put so much time, energy and effort to destroy something so very fundamental to the Catholic faith, unless:
      a) you are afraid of it, or
      b) you have made yourself the enemy of all that Tradition contains and holds so very dear?”
      The aforementioned “blithe disregard of terrible behavior, crime and sin” is tacitly demonstrated by pope Francis consistent failures to fulfill one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and that is to “admonish the sinner.”
      As the current occupant of the Chair of Saint Peter, pope francis teaches just as loudly, forcefully and clearly by what he does not say, what he does not do and by virtue of the very public sinners that he does not fraternally correct.

    • @ Dan Mellia “Can it be possible that you are being divisive and nitpicking over a language when the greater concern is the return of those fallen away?”

      Now that is a laugh. Pope Francis dismisses and derides those young Catholics who have found their way back to the faith via the Latin Mass. He finds it incomprehensible that the young should be attracted and find joy in this great and ancient Liturgy. He is precisely the cause of so many leaving the church. He is not attracting the fallen away because he has no desire to get them to return. As far as he is concerned, they are fine where they are. He is quite happy accompanying them in their walk away from Christ.

  9. “Benedict had also noted – in the letter and in the body of Summorum, proper – that the old books, in point of fact, had never been abrogated. It goes without saying – or should – that a letter from a bureaucrat cannot annul a public and universal magisterial statement from a pope, much less alter history. No matter. These guys are making it up..”

    I tried to publish a similar comment on this article but apparently it didn’t go through: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/11/08/vatican-liturgy-chief-traditional-latin-mass-abrogated-by-pope-st-paul-vi/
    Roche isn’t an ignoramus, he’s a liar.

    • And as the Lord Himself said, the Devil is the father of lies. He also referred to people as being “children of your father the devil”

  10. This man has basically given Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI a slap in the face.

    Nicely worded, of course, but nonetheless that is what it is.

  11. The church needs a great reset away from the secular model of DUX VULT to pastoring according to Jesus’ teaching, guiding, and sanctifying. Just as world leaders now dictate to and penalize people under their authority, the church is imitating that model. Oppression does not win love, loyalty, and fidelity. It drives people away. Teaching the truth in love and the real “accompaniment” that church leaders use falsely to promote sexual deviance, needs to be applied rightly to the worship styles such as the Mass of John XXIII.

  12. Glad that EWTN is seeing more of the move of the Holy Spirit , in the herat warming images below of the shared genuine joy and good heartedness , not the
    ‘dismal ,macabre gruesome and ridiculous ‘ !

    and a more balanced article at the same site ( thank you EWTN ) on the above topic –


    Having read that the subtle spirit of scorn and contempt ( ? the leaven of the Pharisees that our Lord warned the Apostles about ) is the beast like the leopard mentioned in the book of Rev . – ? are there the meows of a kitten around that is at the root of the dismal spirit … 🙂
    and not seeing with trust and hope ,the ardous measures , in the carefully chosen words to ensure that the the role of The Dove in bestowing the graces in the liturgies of the past and the present is acknowledged with gratitude and not negated by imprudent words by the one who has been entrusted the keys .

    He knows to judge well that there is wisdom in seeking God in The Way that has been shown to The Church at large through the Council as well .
    And the words of the Holy Father , to invoke the Spirit – to help dispel the dismal and more ..

    Blessings !

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