Pope Francis last week released his motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes.” In it he revokes many of the permissions granted by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass. It has generated a lot of controversy. Two parts of the motu proprio need not, however.
The first part deals with the authority to celebrate the extraordinary form. The ability to celebrate that Mass returns to the discretion of the bishop. Prior to this motu proprio, individual priests could decide whether to celebrate it. This shift of authority brings us back to the status quo of 1988 when Pope St. John Paul II released Ecclesia Dei. While priests may bemoan these restrictions, it is in accord with Church teaching that the bishop governs the celebration of the sacraments. Emphasizing this reality does not necessitate that a bishop rescind permission to celebrate the extraordinary form. Even now many bishops in the United States have spoken in favor of allowing the Mass to continue while prayerfully discerning the next steps.
The second part of the motu proprio that should not be controversial is the prevention of theological error. Pope Francis states in an accompanying letter that there are “many” who celebrate the extraordinary form because they reject the teachings of Vatican Council II. Whether “many” who celebrate or participate at the extraordinary form Mass reject Vatican Council II is a matter for debate. There should be no debate, however, that any priest or member of the faithful who celebrates that Mass because they deny the validity of Vatican Council II is wrong.