Media-Created Hype and the Motu Proprio

The internet media has been rocking and rolling of late with stories of Pope Francis’ latest motu proprio, Traditones custodes (Guardians of the tradition). Writers for impeccable online sources of truth and Catholic knowledge such as Associated Press, New York Times and YahooNews used words like “cracking down,” “salvo,” “battle cry,” and “liturgy war” to describe the Pope’s action on July 16 of putting limitations on the celebration of the 1962 Roman Missal (otherwise known as the Traditional Mass, Tridentine Mass ) which is offered in Latin.

Closer inspection of the actual document revealed that several quotations being used in the news stories were not from the document itself at all, but from an accompanying letter to bishops that Francis felt he had to send in explanation of his Bidenesque executive order.

Why a letter of explanation when the letter of the law, the motu proprio, becomes a church law as soon as it is published? Why were newspapers privy to a letter to bishops – any of the ordained at those computers? – or was that the original intent, a tale of two letters, one bland and the other rather harsh, both far different from Francis’ usual ambiguous pronouncements. Or taken together, perhaps they were another exercise of ambiguity.

And why all the extensive coverage? Exactly how many ordinary Catholics actually understand any of this? How many came away puzzled about the hullabaloo when most Catholics don’t even know the Mass was ever offered in Latin in the first place?

Considering the words used and the segue away from straight news to commentary in the midst of every story – one reporter actually said “Francis has made known his distaste of the old liturgy, privately labeling its adherents self-referential navel gazers who are out of touch with the needs of the church (how do you say navel gazers in Spanish or in whatever language these documents are written?) – made me think that the headlines and quotes which were chosen actually reflected the personal bias of those reporting the story. Perhaps the real message the reporters wanted to communicate went something like this: “Yay! The Catholic Church has a chance to be modernized. Getting rid of the old Latin Mass is a sign of that modernization!” which in truth would usher in the acceptance of the sins of the real world. More than one writer brought up criticisms by conservative Catholics that the Holy Father’s statements regarding divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion and on gay issues were “soft,” the implication being shame on these backwards-thinking people.

Most reports included comments by Traditional Mass adherents saying things like “Francis hates us” which added fuel to the fire of the anti-Latin Mass folks, but actually proved only that there are extremists on both ends of every issue. The media reporters are certainly on the extreme liberal side of the coin, in my opinion, creating the image that conservatives think Francis is the big bad wolf and liberals view him as a great hero for this action. As for those of us in the middle, we are ignored, we aren’t newsworthy because we are just ordinary Catholics trying to do the will of God, whether in Latin or English.

I have read both the motu proprio and letter of explanation. The motu proprio has the force of church law. It is the letter of the law to be observed. Yes, there are restrictions on the celebrations of the Old Mass. Yes, the local bishop has been given power to decide if local adherents of the Old Mass acknowledge the validity of the Second Vatican Council, where and when the Mass can be offered. That could be a trying situation in some places because some of these locals are still imbued with the “spirit” of the Council which clouds their worldview against anything traditional. Yet the same document orders the local bishop to:

4. Appoint a priest who, as delegate of the bishop, is entrusted with these celebrations and with the pastoral care of these groups of the faithful. This priest should be suited for this responsibility, skilled in the use of the Missale Romanum antecedent to the reform of 1970, possess a knowledge of the Latin language sufficient for a thorough comprehension of the rubrics and liturgical texts, and be animated by a lively pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion. This priest should have at heart not only the correct celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful;

5. proceed suitably to verify that the parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them.

Pope Francis, Traditiones Custodes, 16 July 2021

Ambiguous. Appoint a priest who is fluent in Latin and rubrics, good in his pastoral care of a traditional flock, yet measure spiritual growth to determine if a parish merits closing.

I leave it to scholars like Raymond Cardinal Burke to dissect the propriety of any part of the motu proprio. I think the explanatory letter is Pope Francis venting his frustrations. If these were his real thoughts on the Latin Mass situation, why weren’t these thoughts and instructions incorporated in the motu proprio? I believe in “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

There are some points to be considered in all of this.

1. Who saw the Survey/Questionnaire? What did it Ask?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith circulated a questionnaire to the bishops on the implementation of Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum. Pope Francis said the “responses reveal a situation that worries and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene.” He said the overtures of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were exploited to “reinforce divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

What questions were asked? How was it worded? According to Cardinal Burke, as a member of the episcopate who hasn’t seen it, the questionnaire and responses should have been publicized as well as the motu proprio and the letter of explanation. I find it odd that celebration of the old Latin Mass is such an overriding issue to those who responded. Surely Latin Mass adherents are a minority in a diocese. They aren’t marching on the cathedral with placards, are they? Are they clashing in the streets with those attending vernacular Masses? Are they staunch supporters of abortion rights and birth control as are some of those attending the church after the Council? (I cite a Catholic religion teacher at a local Catholic school who promoted abortion on her facebook page) Likely not to these questions. They are attending a valid Mass, which should be a cause of joy when many churches have seen a downturn of Mass attendance and belief in this modern age. Perhaps the issue is they don’t pay the diocesan assessment.

2. Prefers the Vernacular, but the Vernacular Translation is Junk

Pope Francis is careful to say that where the celebration of the Roman Missal of Pope St. John XXIII in 1962 is used, the “readings are proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences.” I don’t know if the vernacular is still read in the Traditional Masses when the priest comes to the pulpit, while the Latin is read at the altar, but translation is a touchy subject. Thanks to Pope St. John Paul II and Liturgiam authenticam, the 1970 Mass translation was rendered accurately in 2011. Sadly, a more accurate translation of the Scriptures has not yet been done, we are all stuck with something written 50 years ago without elegance and precise meaning. Jesus rose from the dead, didn’t He? Isn’t that what the Latin says versus the use of the word raised? While some texts are grossly inaccurate, such as the Passion’s “darkness covered the earth because of an eclipse of the sun” (something the ancient Hebrews had no words to describe I was told by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf), others are merely adequate, and as a lector, I sometimes wonder if they change yearly.

3. Which “Council” is it?

In the explanatory letter, Pope Francis says:

I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the “true Church.” The path of the Church must be seen within the dynamic of Tradition “which originates from the Apostles and progresses in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit” (DV 8). A recent stage of this dynamic was constituted by Vatican Council II where the Catholic episcopate came together to listen and to discern the path for the Church indicated by the Holy Spirit. To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.

Lettera del Santo Padre Francesco ai Vescovi di tutto il mondo per presentare il Motu Proprio «Traditionis Custodes» sull’uso della Liturgia Romana anteriore alla Riforma del 1970, 16.07.2021

I ask, which Second Vatican Council is he talking about? The one of the true Council documents, the defense of which inspired the founding the Wanderer Forum Foundation dba Bellarmine Forum? Or the “spirit” of Vatican II created in dissent and fostered by Council “experts” on talk shows and at conferences, those for whom the rules of Catholic living were too onerous so they made up new ones?

I do not accept the latter. It is not the truth of the Council. If you don’t understand these particular issues, grab our book, Slaying the “Spirit” of Vatican II With the Light of Truth for enlightenment. Here you will see the spirit’s destruction, through the chapter by Fr. Timothy Sauppé, and you will learn the spirit of truth as explained by Fr. Robert Araujo, S.J. You will see what the Second Vatican Council actually said on the Sacred Liturgy, which was more akin to traditional worship practices than Marty Haugen’s “Gather Us In” and the “bread” crowd will ever be. You will see the path of the Holy Spirit more clearly, as well as understand the work of the spirit of destruction.

The Abuses Caused by the Spirit of Vatican II

All of this media-whipped up-controversy could have been avoided had the instructions of Sacrosanctum concilium, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy been followed. In fact, Francis himself notes that the words of the Constitution were ignored when in his letter he says

I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that “in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.”


The 1970 version of the Mass, the Novus Ordo offered in Latin, is hard to distinguish from the Traditional Latin Mass. I have attended both, as well as a Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Faldstool. The Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul has offered a weekly Mass in Latin according to the Novus Ordo for decades. Offering the Mass in Latin was never forbidden, it was encouraged, as was Gregorian chant for song. It was those with itching ears for new stuff that ruined what the Council intended.

Feeding Frenzy For A Coming Conclave & Future Church

Originally, I asked why all the extensive news coverage. After all, this is about the Holy Mass, an in-house item for the Catholic Church. Whether the Mass is in English or Latin, old ordo or new ordo, does not make a difference to the man or woman on the street. Perhaps a clue can be gleaned from an online article on the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope.

Coming conclave? Francis isn’t any more near death than any other 85-year-old but like salivating dogs, the media reporters have already begun to talk of his successor, noting that over 50% of the cardinal-electors are prelates appointed by Pope Francis and by implication likely to continue his perceived forward progress in making the Catholic Church join hands with the world.

Does this tell you something? The stories about the limitation of the Traditional Latin Mass are symbolic of what kind of church these reporters want crafted. For in reporting this news, they controlled the story, they controlled the facts which were used, discarded, or made up, in the same way they have controlled the political arena in the last 8 months. They lust for an open church which no longer opposes sticky subjects such as abortion, birth control, gay marriage, a church in which those who are divorced and remarried are welcome to come to the table of the Lord, even though the Lord Himself said they are guilty of adultery. What does He know? they know better. There are plenty in the church who agree with them, maybe even some of the bishops who told the Pope the Latin Mass is so divisive it must be squashed.

It is the age-old battle, good versus evil. Good is sometimes made to look like evil and sometimes decisions are made incorrectly. Let us pray the good God sorts it out so that souls may be saved. He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail. Keep in mind He meant in the Church, not the media.

This article, Media-Created Hype and the Motu Proprio is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Cindy Paslawski

CINDY PASLAWSKI earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota, back when truth and accuracy were prized. She has been active with the Wanderer Forum Foundation almost since its inception, while working as a reporter for The Wanderer newspaper. She has also worked on the front lines as a church secretary and most recently as a freelance book editor. As the Wanderer Forum Foundation/Bellarmine Forum's executive secretary and publication editor since 1995, she has overseen production of the Forum Focus and the Bellarmine Forum magazines, coordinated Regional and National Wanderer Forums, and saw to the publication of both Saving Christian Marriage (2007) and Slaying the “Spiritˮ of Vatican II With the Light of Truth (2017). She and her patient husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.

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