Over at Church Life Journal, Shaun Blanchard gives an excellent analysis of Traditionis Custodes that’s well worth the read. In his article, titled, “Traditionis Custodes Was Never Merely About the Liturgy,” Blanchard argues that the controversy surrounding the 1962 Missal is about much more than liturgical form:

The “issue under the issues” is Vatican II. If the lex orandi (law of prayer) is the lex credendi (law of belief), as the venerable old adage goes, then we should not be surprised that just beneath the surface of this liturgical decree lays the real concern of Francis’s striking intervention: the legacy of the Second Vatican Council and the contested lex credendi of the Catholic Church. Much more than a decree regulating liturgy, Traditionis Custodes is a decisive moment in the history of papal reception of Vatican II.

Specifically, Blanchard sets Traditionis Custodes in the context of resistance to the teachings of Vatican II and the postconciliar popes, especially Pope Francis. He argues that the motu proprio is about the Magisterium’s authority and the Church’s ability to develop doctrine. His analysis gets to the heart of the internal split in the Church, one that we must address if we want to heal the divisions in the Church:

Francis’s motu proprio—indeed, his entire pontificate—is inexplicable without taking into account his understanding of doctrinal development. There is an integral connection, I would suggest, between Traditionis Custodes and a number of other acts of Francis’s pontificate, including Amoris Laetitia and the death penalty amendment. Appeals to doctrinal development—initially baptized as, among other things, ultramontane weapons against Jansenists and Gallicans—are now being employed explicitly by the papacy not only in retroactive defense of the council but as a vanguard in justification of new teachings or reforms.

If Traditionis Custodes is a rebuke of the wild conspiracy theories of an Archbishop Viganò and the anti-Vatican II polemics of an Archbishop Schneider, it is also a fairly clear rejection of the rigid and static view of “continuity” espoused by figures like Cardinal Burke. Indeed, it is no coincidence that Burke, probably the most senior ecclesiastical advocate for the pre-conciliar Mass, also denies Francis’s authority to amend the catechism regarding the death penalty and to teach what Francis has clarified he is in fact teaching in Amoris Laetitia.

The eponymous “guardians of tradition” are the bishops of the Catholic Church, charged with executing the pope’s motu proprio. If my analysis is correct, however, it would be more germane to conceive of the Traditionis Custodes as the postconciliar popes. They have so tightly linked their own authority, theology, and ecclesio-political agenda to Vatican II that loyalty to the papacy and loyalty to Vatican II have become, for all intents and purposes, inseparable.

Read the whole thing here.


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Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

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