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Liturgical double standards and the hermeneutic of rupture

In 2007, Bishop Arthur Roche obstructed the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Now, as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, is he misusing and even abusing Traditionis Custodes?

Pope Francis with Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery of Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments, at the consistory in St. Peter's Basilica, Aug. 27, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the then Bishop of Leeds issued an “interpretation” which did its best to reduce the motu proprio to meaninglessness and obstruct its implementation. Examples include:

  1. Insisting that parish pastors could only introduce the Tridentine Mass if a “stable group” of their faithful from within their own parish, not from various parts of the diocese, requested it.
  2. Stating that the bishop had the authority to determine if a priest was “qualified” to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.
  3. Strongly implying that the “stable group” had to consist of people who already attended to the Tridentine Mass rather than people who wished to begin attending it.
  4. Strongly implying that priests would not be authorized to “binate” (celebrate two Masses on one weekday) if one of those Masses would be celebrated using the Tridentine Missal.

That bishop was undoubtedly among those that the then Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship had in mind when condemning “interpretive documents that inexplicably aim to limit the Motu Proprio of the pope” and insisting such bishops allowed themselves “to be used as instruments of the devil.”

Later, the Vatican instruction Universae Ecclesiae corrected the first two points by stating that  “a group can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose,” that “every Catholic priest who is not impeded by Canon Law is to be considered qualified for the celebration of the Holy Mass in the forma extraordinaria” and that “the faculty to celebrate sine populo (or with the participation of only one minister) in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite is given by the Motu Proprio to all priests…therefore, priests, by provision of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, do not require any special permission from their Ordinaries or superiors.” Permission would be needed from parish pastors, shrine rectors, etc. for public Masses, but not from the diocesan bishop.

Furthermore, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos—who as president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission was charged with overseeing use of the Tridentine Mass and who certainly knew the mind of Benedict XVI—informally corrected point #3 during a press conference, stating that “The Holy Father is willing to offer to all the people this possibility, not only for the few groups who demand it but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.”

Fourteen years later, the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales issued a canonical interpretation of Traditionis Custodes, which either is legally correct or else misinterprets that motu proprio almost into meaninglessness in the same way the former Bishop of Leeds misinterpreted Summorum Pontificum. Within months the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, condemning the Latin Mass Society interpretation as being at odds with the intentions of the pope.

Now that might seem all very well, good and consistent. But there is just one tiny problem. In 2007 the Bishop of Leeds was Arthur Roche. In 2021 the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments was the same Arthur Roche. Few will be surprised by that now standard double standard, but there is even more to the issue.

As canonist J.D. Flynn has recently analyzed in The Pillar, Arthur Roche—now a cardinal—has contacted at least on bishop to insist that dispensing parishes from Traditionis Custodes is reserved to the Holy See despite the fact that such a claim is not contained in the motu proprio, and despite the fact that, according to canon law, bishops have that dispensing power unless the law regulating a particular matter explicitly states otherwise.

From any perspective, this is a serious problem. As past facts make clear, there are only two possibilities. Either Roche can in no way, shape, or form be relied upon to accurately understand a church legal document or the intentions of a pope—or he deliberately undermined the law of one pope in order to restrict the Tridentine Mass and now insists upon firm adherence to the law of another pope in order to accomplish that same purpose.

An even greater problem (which I analyzed at some length in an article for Inside the Vatican last year) is that Cardinal Roche has explicitly argued the Missal of Paul VI is based on a theology incompatible with that of the Tridentine Mass—argued, in other words, for the “hermeneutic of rupture.” On this basis he believes “accepting Vatican II and the Missal of Paul VI” means favoring elimination of the Tridentine Mass.

One implication is obvious. Most Catholics who attend the Tridentine Mass accept both of the basic points required by the Church’s theology: 1) That the Missal of Paul VI is an authentic and legitimate rite of the Church and that both it and the council’s call for changes to liturgical discipline are in accord with Catholic doctrine. 2) That these were purely disciplinary decisions, in no way required by Catholic theology, justifiable only on grounds of pastoral prudence and, in principle, subject to complete reversal.

According to Cardinal Roche’s logic, such Catholics “reject the Missal of Paul VI” and must be denied permission to use the Tridentine Mass, or be allowed to have it only while being “catechized” into preferring the Paul VI Mass (which is as absurd as “catechizing” a Dominican into preferring the spirituality of the Franciscans or a Jesuit into preferring that of the Benedictines). The same thinking explains why his December 2021 response to the dubia contradicts Canon 212, insisting men ordained to the priesthood after Traditionis Custodes was issued must be actively committed to Pope Francis’s legislation rather than maintain their right to favor reversal.

It is time to admit double standards regarding obedience and belief in the hermeneutic of rupture were prominent in the history of liturgical “reform.” Early in the twentieth century, the Dialogue Mass (in which the congregation makes the responses), use of vernacular languages, and Mass facing the people were introduced without authorization. At the time, Germany’s Archbishop Conrad Grober warned that those introducing the Dialogue Mass did not just want freedom for Catholics who pray best that way, but sought to impose it.

In the 1950s, Annibale Bugnini was hiding liturgical abuses from Rome so they could be popularized and eventually sanctioned. Less than two decades later, he obtained sanction for them and was enforcing conformity. Readers may be familiar with Father Louis Bouyer’s account of how Pope Paul VI and the members of the commission charged with liturgical reform were united in opposition to some of Bugnini’s proposals. And how Bugnini pushed them through by telling the pope that they were what the commission wanted, while telling the commission members that they were what the pope wanted.

Less well-known is the fact that Pope Paul VI insisted his liturgical reform was purely disciplinary and motivated by pastoral considerations, while based on the exact same theology as the Tridentine Mass. But Bugnini himself intended a changed theology in a “hermeneutic of rupture.”

Two points must be seriously analyzed by moral theologians and canonists. First: What can be done—and what disobedience is justified—when faced with superiors who act in disobedient and lawless ways until such time as they can use law and obedience to serve their agenda? Second: For a law to be binding, it must be rational and just. But something grounded in and intended to enforce the hermeneutic of rupture evidently has an unjust and irrational purpose. What obedience is due in such circumstances?

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About James Baresel 17 Articles
James Baresel is a freelance writer. He holds a Master of Arts in philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati.


  1. Granted, Baresel [if the essay’s details are verifiable] presents a strong indictment of the liturgical changes that have resulted in the current liturgical warfare. Now what?
    During Benedict’s pontificate we reached a livable truce with Summorum Pontificum. That’s been destroyed by Francis’ Traditionis Custodes with the manipulative assistance of Card Roche, his collaborateur. There’s enough in Baresel’s account of liturgical piracy to drive a decent, traditional, Latin Mass Catholic to kindling distraction. And more fiery debate, outrage, division primarily within the body of faithful Catholics.
    Is Baresel’s essay divisive, or is it simply justifiable, or is it both? Perhaps that formula can be improved if we agree it is justifiable, that it can be verified in its detailed presentation. And rather than divisive that a resolution is found in what preceded during the Benedict XVI pontificate. That both liturgies be accepted and practiced. That canon law justifies non compliance with injustices. Although the pontiff still holds the cards within the purview of papal authority.
    Personally, I hope the faithful among us can live in peace with each other whether we prefer one liturgy to another, and stand united against the more serious challenge of heterodoxy, even apostasy infecting the clerical and laity ranks.

    • Father,
      Something like Summorum Pontificum is exactly what I would advocate for the future.

      We can recognize that, humanly speaking, the reform built on a history of disobedience, hostility to the old liturgy and theologically dubious ideas while still accepting that (despite those human motivations) God assured the liturgical books promulgated by Pope Paul VI include all that is essential in Catholic rites and that, because of this, the two liturgies can peacefully exist side by side.

      The fact that most Catholics have only known the new liturgical forms is a cogent reason for preserving them as the “ordinary” liturgical usage of the Church unless enough people choose to return to the ancient ones.

      But since, unfortunately, the Tridentine Mass is under attack, calling attention to the history of hostility to it, of disobedience used to undermine it and of pertinent theological errors is a useful and perhaps strictly necessary aspect of defending its continued use. But I hope the necessity to fight for the Tridentine Mass ends and that we return to the liturgical peace of Benedict’s pontificate sooner rather than later.

      • I respectfully disagree. They took away the traditional rite when that was all Catholics knew. All acts by progressives happen suddenly, overwhelmingly and decisively.

        The idea there is an ordinary and extraordinary form is continuation of the same error. The 7th session of Trent condemns what these men have done. Theologians like Suarez and Torquemada explain the 7th session and the limitations it places on Pontiffs.

        There is the Roman rite, it can have organic changes, but the Novus Ordo is not the Roman rite, it’s a new rite imposed on the Roman church and the last 50 years of confusion and lies validates 100’s of years of theologians who explained the damage this would do the Church.

  2. I won’t be converted to new Mass. I grew up with it. I have to come to see it is a terrible way to give God what is due to him. The Novus Ordo is all about narcissism. It really is. Not to say you don’t have good priests who try to focus on what the Mass is supposed to be but it always tends towards narcissism. That’s why a lot of these bishops, and cardinals like it. It feeds their own narcissism. Seriously. Watch how they “perform” the Mass. Look at them They treat it like it’s all about them. Stick a microphone in someone’s hand, put them face to face with an audience, and eventually it will become that. It’s human nature to do so. Ones who aren’t struggle with being liked by their parishioners. Priests are even putting their names on corner stones of church additions now! It’s all about the ego. Most bishops like to be in the center of the limelight. Watch McCarrick when he was a bishop. It really becomes a sickness in the new Mass. The old Mass didn’t really allow for that. You didn’t need a microphone except for the homily. Other than that, the personality was removed.

    • If it hadn’t been for the Novus Ordo (Mass), my late husband and I would NEVER have converted to Catholicism, and neither would our 2 daughters and our son-in-law. We were a family of Evangelical Protestants–now we are all Catholic. My late husband and I had attended a Latin Mass many years earlier and had arrived at the conclusion that it was cultish and pagan. Over 20 years later, we attended a (Novus Ordo) Mass at the parish nearest our house–and we found it incomprehensible. So we made an appointment with the parish priest, who spent 2 hours with us explaining every aspect of the Mass and told us about the parish’s Apologetics class. We started attending that class, which was taught by a former (Baptist) pastor from the church where my husband and I had gotten married! We were welcomed into Holy Mother Church in 2004. My husband was active in Rosary-making and loved being a Eucharistic minister. I played piano/organ for Masses in several parishes in our city. (Yes, I’m sure you think the piano is not appropriate for a Catholic Mass–well, I hope that you and your family are all taking organ lessons, because organists are about as rare as jackalopes). I think your comments about the many good priests who offer the Novus Ordo are speculative and hateful. There are so many other good things for us to think about and fill our minds with–I urge you to stop dwelling on your hatred of the Novus Ordo and your speculation about priests who offer it, and instead direct your mind and heart towards a love of the TLM and service involvement with parishes who offer this Mass. By dwelling on this “hate campaign”, you are giving Satan an opening. My late husband died of COVID in 2020 (Before the vaccines)–St. Joseph, his patron saint–pray for him!

      • Tad is absolutely correct. It is a question of a priest-centered Mass vs. a Christ-centered Mass. And the haters of the TLM prove this with their every attempt to not only suppress the TLM, but to prevent the Novus Ordo from becoming Christ-focused. Thus, we have the current raging debate about – and persecution of – those priests who want to celebrate the Novus Ordo ad orientem, something that is not even addressed in the rubrics of the new Mass. You cannot have the argument both ways. With cannot do without the Traditional Latin Mass AND foster a reverent Novus Ordo at the same time. The same bishops (and Pope) who hate the TLM also hate the reverent, tradition-guided celebration of the Novus Ordo. It is very clear what the latter is supposed to be and expected to be: a celebration of “We, the people…”

      • I’m so sorry for your loss Mrs Sharon. God bless you.
        Actually the Latin Mass that I’m familiar with doesn’t have an organist or any other musical instruments besides the human voice.
        I think the organ sounds beautiful. My aunt Sadie played the organ at her Presbyterian church. But it’s not used alongside Latin scholas and chant . At least in my experience.

      • If you think the TLM is pagan, you are the logical result of the ‘spirit of Vatican 2″ that council that has left NOTHING BUT DESTRUCTION in the Church. You are correct piano’s have NOT PLACE in the Catholic mass. Abrogate the Novus Ordo and bring an end to 60 years of Novelty

    • Sadly, there is much truth in your comment. IF the NO stays the common rite (which is more than likely) seminary formation is the key. Where I live, priests (good ones) are taught–I can only surmise, because they all do it, to affect a casual, easy-going tone of voice. Don’t want to upset the old ladies, now, do we?

  3. No obedience to any command to limit or suppress the traditional Catholic Mass is required. The Missal of Paul VI should be abolished, and Vatican II nullified. They have both been systemic poison for the Church.

  4. “As past facts make clear, there are only two possibilities. Either Roche can in no way, shape, or form be relied upon to accurately understand a church legal document or the intentions of a pope—or he deliberately undermined the law of one pope in order to restrict the Tridentine Mass and now insists upon firm adherence to the law of another pope in order to accomplish that same purpose.”

    It’s very difficult to avoid this conclusion.

    But perhaps not so difficult to understand why Cardinal Roche has gotten away with it: In both cases, he had plenty of cultural wind at his back, both within, and without, the Church.

    Of course, it is also true that the demographics of liberal Catholicism in its heartlands have become very ominous. And it could be this, as much as imminent loss of the opportunity afforded by an sympathetic but aging pontificate reaching its final days, that is creating this fanatical sense of urgency on the part of +Roche and his allies in the Holy See.

  5. This is the effect of believing the old and new rites can co-exist. Benedict saw it as continuity while Francis sees it as non-compliance to the changes of the Council.

    Personally I can say without hesitation that I saw this coming a mile away. The moment the liturgy became a play-thing for Pontiffs instead of the venerated rite of the Church there was no returning. Tradition was no longer a light house for the faith, but a subjective expression of the faithful based on feelings and sentiment.

    I don’t know if there is a solution. Tradition is no longer important to the Church and now essentially prohibited for 99% of the faithful in practical terms.

    I was told years ago this was impossible, I’ve read it in Catechisms, countless books, and even by a young Msgr. Fulton Sheen in his video on describing the Mass you can find on Youtube.

  6. Mr Barasel’s article is disturbing. I don’t like harsh language but, if what he says is true, then Cardinal Roche must be a scheming hypocrite devoid of honesty, integrity and principles. How do these people get to be priests, vicars general, bishops, cardinals, popes…..????

  7. Read the account of the Last Supper.How did Jesus celebrate Eucharist with his “rag tag” followers? The washing of the feet of the betrayer and the deniar..why are you so worried about Tridentine Mass or Vatican II Liturgy?

    • Dear Miss Rochelle,

      You ask, “..why are you so worried about Tridentine Mass or Vatican II Liturgy?”

      Maybe because of the current attendees of the N.O. only 30% believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist; while of the attendees of the T.L.M. *90% plus* believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

      God bless you, Miss Rochelle.

  8. “‘catechized’ into preferring the Paul VI Mass (which is as absurd as “catechizing” a Dominican into preferring the spirituality of the Franciscans or a Jesuit into preferring that of the Benedictines).”

    I’d say it’s as absurd as teaching a pro pianist who loves Bach to prefer to play The Beatles, or a Math PhD to prefer elementary school math, or a pro chef to prefer microwave dinner meals.

  9. I grew up with the Latin Mass and now attend the Mass in English with the priest facing the congregation. I went to Catholic school through 12th grade and the nuns taught us the English translation of the Mass, so I basically understood what was going on. However, most of the older people around me when I was younger sat in the pews saying the Rosary because they did not understand what was going on in Latin. I prefer the way we say Mass in the vernacular now. There is 100% participation by the participants and everybody knows what is being said. If some one wants to attend a Latin Mass, that is their privilege, but please don’t force it on those of us who prefer an English Mass. By the way, Jesus never spoke Latin and he was facing the Apostles at the Last Supper.

    • Retired, I don’t understand your point. Our Savior didn’t speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. either. He also wasn’t “facing the apostles at the last supper.” That’s factually inaccurate.

      What we do know is that Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church, and the language that is despised by satan. What we also know is that, if you believe that Christ is present in the blessed sacrament, he is due the utmost praise. The TLM does this. The NO does not.

    • “There is 100% participation by the participants and everybody knows what is being said.”

      If this were true Mister Retired – then why do only 30% of N.O. participants believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist; while of the attendees of the T.L.M. *90% plus* believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist?

      God bless you.

    • In Christ’s day the Jews used Hebrew for worship but their spoken vernacular was Aramaic. This was comparable to using Latin for worship in places with Romance Languages as vernacular.
      People need to know enough about what is going on (the sacrifice being offered, etc.) to be able to pray and join themselves to it spiritually. But they can join themselves spiritually through following the words of the priest, various methods of mental prayer, the rosary, etc. It is not necessary for then to know the words the priest is saying or “participate” by making the responses, etc.
      This is not meant as an argument against allowing Mass in the vernacular as an option for those who prefer to understand the words the priest says or for those who like “participating.” But your preferences are no argument on preventing Catholics from worshipping at they have for centuries.

    • Your arguments could be taken one by one and shown to be straw, but time constrains to only one sentence. The first clause “If some one wants to attend a Latin Mass, that is their privilege,” is false. Francis, his henchman Roche, and Paul VI, abrogated and/or are suppressing the Latin Mass, so no way can one honestly claim it is a PRIVILEGE. TLM celebrations are far away and few are found; Francis/Roche have gone so far as to place inane restrictions against even publishing in a parish bulletin times or place where a TLM will be said. The second clause, “but please don’t force it on those of us who prefer an English Mass.” Demonstrably false unless one can provide evidence. Where on earth (or elsewhere to the best of your knowledge) has FORCE been used to compel attendance at a TLM?

      Finally, since attendance at Sunday Mass is the first PRECEPT of the church, it is not a privilege but a duty to attend Sunday Mass.

  10. Like the «gender» ideology the new orderists took over the house without being invited in. Hubris is catching both of these novelties out.

  11. Shortly after Baresel/CWR published this, Cardinal Roche published the Rescript dated 7 days later.

    I would like to suggest 2 things, very simple. First Bishops are bound to avoid any sin of rashness and equally bound to avoid participating in sin or giving scandal. This is coming at Bishops at the level of Judgment Day finality and mortal seriousness.

    Second, if you love the Novus Ordo for all its sacredness and its true scope, you have to face that the attack on Traditional Mass is an attack on the Mass of Paul VI too -equally; in effect an attack on the whole Church and all the faithful.

    WORLD OVER /Arroyo last night Thursday 23 February 2023 had a good review of the puzzle this Rescript enters. If you grasp my second point you will appreciate that I am concerned nonetheless placing too much reliance on Kwasniewski as an isolated commentator, who is against VATICAN II and can not give a full reception to the Novus Ordo. He is not one who is inclined to help in securing and advancing them.

    I do not mean to demean Kwasniewski, who is very scholarly, etc.; only point out that the 2 Masses are suffering many assaults now one way and now another and embracing and advancing them in their integrity requires a lot more commitment and unity.

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