This year marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment in the legendary Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In the Lord of the Rings, you will recall the character of Denethor, the Chief Steward of Gondor. While the city of Gondor is collapsing before the onslaught of Mordor, Denethor abandons his obligations to defend his city. Instead, he prioritizes the burning of himself and his son Faramir alive in a despairing ritual murder-suicide. The hobbit Pippin, who has pledged to defend Gondor, tells Denethor that there is still hope and tries to prevent him from carrying out his mad plan. Determined to autodestruct himself and his kingdom, Denethor throws Pippin out of his chambers, telling him, "I release you from my service. Go now and die in what way seems best to you."
All seminary formators, seeking to walk with solicitude in the direction indicated by Pope Francis, are encouraged to accompany future Deacons and Priests to an understanding and experience of the richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council. This reform has enhanced every element of the Roman Rite and has fostered—as hoped for by the Council Fathers—the full, conscious and active participation of the entire People of God in the liturgy, the primary source of authentic Christian spirituality.
So, if a prospective ordinand looks at the chaos in the Church, looks at the flatlined vocations, rampant sex abuse, pathetic liturgies, doctrinal aberrations, plummeting demographics, and general malaise across the Catholic world and questions whether the Second Vatican Council might just maybe have some relation to this, he is to be lovingly told that the problems in the Church are not due to the Council, but to our failure to appreciate the "richness" the Council bequeathed upon us! The amount of ignorance, duplicity, dishonesty, brainwashing (or all of the above) it takes to assert that is stunning, even by Vatican standards. And the whole document reeks of such backwards logic.
II. Indeed, the Responsa's condemnation of the very things the Vatican itself is causing is reminiscent of the institutional gaslighting perpetrated by Communist governments. Roche says it is sad that the liturgy has become a cause for division; who is currently guilty of fanning the flames of that division? It is certainly not traditionalists. He condemns "sterile polemics" and the exploitation of the liturgy for "ideological viewpoints", yet "sterile polemics" have been the very fuel of the Vatican's assault on the traditional liturgy—and as for liturgy in service of ideology, it is the progressives who have made the Spirit of the Council into the "super-dogma" Ratzinger once spoke of, applying it to the liturgy for the purpose of fostering the new ecclesiology. The Vatican accuses traditional Catholics of its own vices and then stomps on us in the name of mercy. It is like Orwell's Ministry of Peace, whose task is to wage relentless war. And like the antagonist of 1984, we are to believe that Big Brother crushes us because he loves us.
III. Also, isn't it funny how quickly the Vatican can respond to dubia when it wants to? Administering any large organization requires bureaucracy, but the Vatican is a bureaucracy of the worst kind: it either hides behind ambiguity and implied meaning or issues diktat after diktat as the situation requires—the "requirement" of the situation being not the cura animarum, but the centralization of power on the Peronist model. Authority, legislation, appointments, clarifications, communication, even the truth itself: these are wielded in the service of raw power, and that is their only consistency. When and if the Vatican "clarifies" anything has to do with the preservation of power. That's it.
IV. Also, who are the morons who even asked for this "clarification"? Everyone knows that when you get a directive that allows some wiggle room, you shut up about it. The bishops who asked for clarification are like that kid in high school who, two minutes before the bell rings, raises his hand and tells the teacher, "You forgot to assign homework!" Seriously. When a directive is issued in such a way that allows you to maintain some modicum of independence, you don't ask for clarification. You read the instruction, say, "Got it," and go do your thing.
...such a celebration [of the Traditional Mass] should not be included in the parish Mass schedule, since it is attended only by the faithful who are members of the said group. Finally, it should not be held at the same time as the pastoral activities of the parish community. It is to be understood that when another venue becomes available, this permission will be withdrawn.
The exclusion of the parish church is intended to affirm that the celebration of the Eucharist according to the previous rite, being a concession limited to these groups, is not part of the ordinary life of the parish community.
There is no intention in these provisions to marginalize the faithful who are rooted in the previous form of celebration: they are only meant to remind them that this is a concession to provide for their good.
VI. As an example of the weak logic in this document, let's take the issue of the Pontificale Romanum. The Pontificale Romanum contains the liturgical rites typically performed by bishops. It includes the Mass, but also things like the consecration of chrism, administration of Confirmation, etc. Now remember, Traditionis Custodes concerns itself only with the celebration of Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962; it is silent on these other ancillary rites. Traditionis Custodes 8 says, "Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated." Since the provisions of Traditionis Custodes do not concern themselves with the sorts of rites found in the Pontificale, one may surmise that celebrating these rites does not contradict Traditionis Custodes and hence are still permitted. Since restrictive legislation needs to be interpreted strictly, the fact that TC does not specifically mention these other rituals would imply they are exempt. Essentially, Traditionis Custodes 8 does not imply the pre-conciliar Pontificale is abrogated; in fact, the opposite is inferred. In light of this possibility, a dubium was submitted specifically asking if the provisions of Traditionis Custodes allow for the use of the pre-conciliar Pontificale. The CDW's Responsa says:
...in order to make progress in the direction indicated by the Motu Proprio, [the Congregation] should not grant permission to use the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform, these are liturgical books which, like all previous norms, instructions, concessions and customs, have been abrogated (cf. Traditionis Custodes, n. 8).
VII. Continuing on examining the awful response to Article 3§2, we see how ignorant the Vatican is about who actually goes to the Traditional Latin Mass. It naively assumes that everyone who attends the Traditional Latin Mass is part of an officially established dedicated group. On the matter of the exclusion of the parish church as a setting for Traditional Latin Masses, it says:
The exclusion of the parish church is intended to affirm that the celebration of the Eucharist according to the previous rite, being a concession limited to these groups, is not part of the ordinary life of the parish community...Moreover, such a celebration should not be included in the parish Mass schedule, since it is attended only by the faithful who are members of the said group.
X. "What are we to do?" Why is everyone so obsessed with asking this question? I don't know. How can there be any uniform response? It all depends on the situation within your specific diocese, your own spiritual life, priorities, and centrality of the traditional liturgy within your life. Vague platitudes like "pray" or "resist" mean little outside of the particulars "on the ground" in your diocese. I will tell you one reflection I had today though: sometimes the obstacles we face become so enormous, the dishonesty of our opponents so brazen, the malice so vicious, the scope of the disaster so broad and overwhelming that the circle of tragedy comes full circle, and you find yourself just laughing at it all. During the years of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there was more a place for impassioned pleas and eloquent argumentation fueled by righteous indignation. Now, confronted with shenanigans of Francis and his ilk, all one can do is squeeze the clown nose and say, "Honk honk. Boomer's gonna boom." And that itself is a consolation. They can take the Mass away from me. They can banish all beauty from the churches, strip every vestige of tradition from the liturgy, and stuff the cathedrals of yesteryear with Pachamamas galore. They can ostracize me, tie me to the stake, and light the fire. They can take my very life. But one thing that escapes their power, the one thing they can never do, is to stop me from laughing at their dumb asses. No sir, I will still be laughing at this ridiculous debacle until the end of the world. So that is the one thing I would suggest we do: laugh scathingly at the sheer idiocy of the entire situation, not just with TC, but the entire post-Conciliar experiment.