Now we can finally sign the document.” —Words that Archbishop Arthur Roche, 72, who heads the Vatican office in charge of the liturgy (succeeding Cardinal Robert Sarah), allegedly uttered when he heard Pope Benedict XVI had passed away at the age of 95 on the last day of 2022, December 31.

    Regarding the rumor of a new document on the Latin Mass, a rumor that was widespread last week, our sources in Rome have denied its existence, or at least that it is planned.” —Rorate Coeli, in an article entitled “So… about that rumor…” published today, January 17 (link)


    Letter #20, 2023 Monday, January 17: The Old Mass

    “Now we can finally sign the document.”

    These are the words allegedly spoken by British Archbishop Arthur Roche (link), the head of the Holy See’s liturgical office, a few days ago, after learning that Pope Benedict XVI had passed away at the age of 95 on December 31.

    The reported comment has spread far and wide on the internet.

    It has been interpreted to mean that a document further restricting the old Mass — which Benedict XVI in 2007 had allowed, saying the old Mass should always be regarded as honorable and good — has already been prepared, though not yet signed.

    Following Benedict’s death, the hypothetical “more restrictive” document could be signed, a number of people speculated.

    But is there any truth to this story?

    Is there such a draft document?

    The Rorate coeli website is now saying (link) that its Vatican sources have advised that no such document exists, that these various reports were just… speculation.

    But with one caveat (see below for the caveat).

    The first report

    The first report on this matter came on January 13, four days ago, from a German website focused on liturgical matters named at this link.

    Here is the entire report, translated from the original German, with my own notes in brackets:

    Bang or rumour?

    January 13, 2023

    The Roman “jungle telegraph,” to which we are connected via several links, does not always work reliably — which is why we usually hold back a little with the public reproduction of the messages received from it.

    Not everything is worth sharing: The fact that Arthur Roche, the head of the authority responsible for liturgy, reacted to the news of Benedict’s death with the words: “Now we can finally sign the document!” seemed to us at best to be of anecdotal interest.

    [Note: So this report takes for granted that Archbishop Roche did actually make such a remark as “Now we can finally sign the document” after learning of Benedict’s death; but, it did not consider the remark of much importance or interest (“at best of anecdotal interest”). In the next sentence, however, this source speaks of receiving “news” of the “form and content” of an actual document… so this report is not based just on extrapolation from an alleged chance remark of Archbishop Roche, but on additional “reports”… ]

    News is now reaching us about the form and content of this document — and it sets off all the alarm bells.

    It concerns a new Apostolic Constitution, with which Francis, who is extremely dissatisfied with the slow implementation of Traditionis Custodes, finally wants to put an end to the old Mass. Francis chose the form of an Apostolic Constitution in order to align himself with the corresponding constitution Missale Romanum of Paul VI and to emphasize the parity of its current regulations with the 1969 Act.

    [Note: So, this source is claiming that there is in the works in Rome an Apostolic Constitution which would “put an end to the old Mass.”(!) This is why other Catholics reading this report became agitated. The German site continues by sketching the (alleged) contents of the (alleged) Constitution…]

    According to our information, the expected constitution contains 4 main decrees:

    In no (diocesan?) church may only the old Mass be celebrated.

    [Note: The key word here is “only.” In other words, this supposed decree would (seemingly) forbid any Catholic church to be exclusively devoted to the old liturgy; in every Catholic church this (alleged) decree would require that the Novus Ordo liturgy be celebrated as well as the old liturgy.]

    In (diocesan?) churches it is not allowed to celebrate every Sunday in the old rite.

    The use of the 1962 books (with the modifications ordered by Francis) is permitted only for the celebration of Mass, not for the administration of sacraments and sacramentals.

    Every priest is obliged to (publicly?) celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI.

    [Note: the article then concludes as follows…]

    This is the status of our information as of January 13th. We’ll keep an eye on things and an ear to the telegraph.

    [End, original report on this matter.]


    The second report

    The French website Médias-Presse-Info then picked up the story, publishing it on January 14 at this link under the title: “Profitant de la mort de Benoît XVI, François veut parachever son œuvre destructrice” (“Taking advantage of the death of Benedict XVI, Francis wants to complete his destructive work”).

    The author is Christian Lassale.    

    The subtitle is: “Pour que puisse triompher la «Grande Eglise synodale et apostate», il faut que la messe traditionnelle soit détruite” (“In order for the ‘Great Synodal and Apostate Church’ to triumph, the traditional Mass must be destroyed”).

    This article then repeats the original German article word for word, regarding the (alleged) content of the (supposed) document that will be signed “now that Benedict had died.”

    The article ends: “Prions pour que cette nouvelle ne soit pas avérée, bien que nos craintes devraient malheureusement être confirmées par la folie destructrice de celui qui ne veut plus porter le titre de «Vicaire du Christ»” (“Let us pray that this news is not proven, although our fears should unfortunately be confirmed by the destructive folly of the one who no longer wants to bear the title of “Vicar of Christ”).

    [Note: The author gives a footnote to explain his final remark: “Dans son édition 2020, l’Annuario Pontificio, l’annuaire du Vatican publié chaque année avec toutes les informations sur la hiérarchie de l’Eglise catholique, laisse tomber la désignation du pape comme «Vicaire de Jésus-Christ». Cette mention est reléguée comme «titre historique» dans une note de bas de page. Pour le cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, il s’agit là de rien moins qu’une «barbarie théologique».” (“In its 2020 edition, the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican yearbook published annually with all the information on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, drops the designation of the pope as ‘Vicar of Jesus Christ.’ This reference is relegated as a ‘historical title’ in a footnote. For Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, this is nothing less than ‘theological barbarism.'” ]


    The third report

    The Italian website of my colleague, Marco Tosatti, called Stilum curiae, then picked up the report.

    At this link, he simply gives a translation of the French article.


    A denial

    And now, just today, there is a new report that suggests there was no basis at all for the story… with “one important caveat.”

    Here below is the complete text and link to that report today, January 17:

    Rorate Coeli (link)

    January 17, 2023

    So… about that rumor…

    Regarding the rumor of a new document on the Latin Mass, a rumor that was widespread last week, our sources in Rome have denied its existence, or at least that it is planned.


    One important caveat, however, and this is our own, not from our sources: this Pontificate has seen a plethora of new legislation coming out every month. And, differently from what used to happen in the past, the legislation enacted by Francis does not derive from a measured procedure, in which each Congregation concerned is asked for feedback and considerations.

    In Francislaw, there is no procedure.

    The clique around the Pope selects ready-made projects from any loud ecclesiastical lobbyist that will find a favorable audience in the Jesuit circle: and, if it is favored by those who in turn are favored by Francis, it has a great chance of becoming law.

    This is what happened with Traditionis custodes: it is bad law, badly written, and filled with grotesque language because it was authored mostly by a liturgical dilettante, Andrea Grillo, whose only personal qualification is his hatred for the Traditional Mass. It was placed before Francis by his entourage, he accepted and decreed it.

    It is all very bizarre: in a system, as the papacy, in which the sovereign is executive, legislator, and judge, the limits to his power are the procedural guidelines developed over the centuries.

    When these are ignored, all bets are off.

    And the very legitimacy of the institution comes undone.

    Each new month of the Francis pontificate is a month of growing illegitimacy due to the collapse of institutional bulwarks protecting the rights, duties, and prerogatives of all — from bishops and cardinals to the laity.

    This is all to say that the rumor may not be completely true, but not that something like it is impossible. One simply never knows what is going on or who is being currently favored by the clique.

    [End, Rorate coeli article denying there is a new decree about to be signed]



    Cardinal Müller on Church unity

    Cardinal Gerhard Müller, 75, was for five years (2012-2017) the highest doctrinal official in the Church, under the Pope himself.

    On 2 July 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Müller to a five-year term as the Cardinal-Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and made him an archbishop as well. He became ex officio the President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the International Theological Commission, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

    His views, then, arguably, have a certain value for assessing the orthodoxy of Church doctrine and the key issues in the Church’s doctrinal struggles today.

    Müller years ago said he hoped to halt the “growing polarization between traditionalists and progressives [which] is threatening the unity of the Church and generating strong tensions among its members.” (link)

    He continued by commenting on “traditionalists against progressives or whatever you would call them. This must be overcome[;] we need to find a new and fundamental unity in the Church and individual countries.

    “Unity in Christ, not a unity produced according to a program and later invoked by a partisan speaker.

    “We are not a community of people aligned to a party program, or a community of scientific research[;] our unity is gifted to us.

    “We believe in the one Church united in Christ.”    

Benedict XVI special commemorative issue

    Inside the Vatican is dedicating our next issue (March-April 2023) to a presentation of the life, work, thought and faith of the late Pope Benedict XVI.

    It will be a longer issue than usual (we are presently planning for 100 pages, perfect bound, like our Special Issue on Mary, just published) and will feature reflections from bishops and cardinals, writers and theologians, musicians and poets, on Pope Emeritus Benedict the person, and on the rich spiritual legacy he has left behind.

    Subscribe now or give a gift of Inside the Vatican magazine. Your order today will ensure you receive the special “Benedict XVI” commemorative March-April 2023 issue of Inside the Vatican magazine included with your subscription!

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