Red herrings are typically proffered as a distraction from another point a writer wishes to avoid. The most notable feature of Traditional Mass communities, which Pope Francis does not mention, is their good fruit, namely orthodox belief and regular practice. Why does Pope Francis neglect this important point?
If the pope admitted Traditional Mass communities produce good fruit, he would have to reconcile that fact with his decision. He would have to address arguments such as the one raised by Cardinal Zen: "The problem is not 'which rite do people prefer?' but 'why don’t they go to Mass anymore?'."
Cardinal Zen: "The problem is not 'which rite do people prefer?' but 'why don’t they go to Mass anymore?'."
But, of course, no pope could plausibly argue a tree which produces good fruit should be cut down. He would be in open contradiction to the words of Our Lord read (with epical irony) at Traditional Masses on the Sunday before Traditionis custodes was released: "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them." (Mt. 7:18-20.)
So, instead of fostering a unity based on belief and practice, Pope Francis demands a unity based on liturgical form. Quoting Missale Romanum, the Apostolic Constitution on the New Mass of April 3, 1969, the pope states in his accompanying letter:
"St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adaptation of the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, had the goal of permitting the Church to raise up, in the variety of languages, 'a single and identical prayer,' that expressed her unity. This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the Church of the Roman Rite."
The alternative Pope Francis imposes, however, sets up a cage-match or survival-of-the-fittest scenario.
Most members of Traditional Mass communities would thrill if Catholics could claim, without reference to liturgical form, a unity in belief and practice. The alternative Pope Francis imposes, however, sets up a cage-match or survival-of-the-fittest scenario. If there can be only one form of the liturgy, then one wins and all others lose.
This writer has already indicated which contestant, as between the New Mass and the Traditional Mass, he believes would survive. Advocates of the New Mass should consider whether they wish to enter this contest, or whether a unity of belief and practice is more important. Why, they should ask themselves, fight a war that could destroy the thing one wants to protect?