Pope Francis is a patient pastor. Until he isn’t.
His new apostolic letter, Traditionis Custodes, in which Francis communicates “the firm decision to abrogate all the norms, instructions, permissions and customs that precede the present [document] and declare that the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II … constitute the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite” is the ecclesial equivalent of ripping off the band-aid in one pull. It was also the only real option.
Francis, in his letter accompanying the new document, issued motu proprio (on his own initiative) on July 16, notes that at the time of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to send out a questionnaire to the world’s bishops about the implementation of the document. Having gotten the replies, the pope felt moved to make the decisive step to greatly restrict the celebration of the old rite and to again leave it to the local bishop to decide when and where it may be celebrated.
If the Eucharist is, as Vatican II taught, the source and summit of the Catholic faith, then we know that when the celebration of the Eucharist fails to serve the unity of the church, something is wrong, and it isn’t ever the fault of him whose sacrifice we commemorate. The gifts of the Spirit, too, never fail. The failing is in us, in our lack of charity, or in our inability to perceive the moral and religious obligation to promote unity.
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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.
With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.