28 December 2021

“Very Instructive Paradoxes”: Fr. Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut Jussé, SJM

A Traditional Priest points out the paradoxes, moral, theological, canonical, ecclesial, and psychological between TC and the Tradition of the Church.

From Rorate Cæli

By RP Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut Jussé, SJM

Paix Liturgique (Letter n°840 of December 24) opened its columns to Reverend Fr. Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut Jussé, former superior of the Servants of Jesus and Mary (SJM), who gives us an enlightening testimony. English translation for Rorate Caeli.

The responses made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as well as the liturgical crisis provoked by the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, bring to light a certain number of very instructive paradoxes for pastors, theologians, and canonists.

Moral paradoxSince 1988 the Church has recognized, through the voice of its supreme pastor, the existence and legitimacy of the attachment of many of the faithful to the Tridentine liturgy, and measures have been taken to facilitate communion for these faithful. By abruptly putting an end to these benevolent (but also just and logical) dispositions, the authority breaks this trust and manifests that it becomes thus moral not to respect one’s pledges.

Theological paradoxIn the span of a few years, the Magisterium affirms two contradictory things. Benedict XVI authoritatively affirms a fundamental and indisputable theological principle with regard to Tradition: “What was sacred for previous generations remains great and sacred for us, and cannot all of a sudden be totally forbidden, or even considered harmful. It is good for all of us to preserve the riches that have grown up in the faith and prayer of the Church, and to give them their rightful place.” From the [recent] disciplinary measures we can infer the doctrinal principle that appears to be perfectly contradictory to the one enunciated by the Pope Emeritus, namely, that that which has contributed to the sanctification of countless numbers of baptized people and to the building up of the Church must be considered today as dangerous or harmful. This magisterial about-face only a few years later shows a disturbing disarray between theology, the history of doctrine, and discipline.

Canonical paradoxAccording to a natural conception of it, law exists to protect the rights of persons, and first of all of Catholics. In the absence of any backtracking on the disciplinary measures taken by Pope St. Pius V (measures that have never been repealed) or dispute over the law of custom that applies to every baptized person, layman or cleric, it is nevertheless obvious that a right has been recognized for the faithful attached to the perennial form of the liturgy. Now this right has been violated, in defiance of the dignity of the baptized. The “synodal Church,” “at the service of ecclesial communion,” has lost all credibility.

Ecclesial paradoxPastors are invited to develop a pastoral care of “accompaniment,” open to all moral and psychological situations. They must practice an unconditional welcome—but there is a part of the people of God to whom this benevolent welcome is obstinately refused. The setting up of a real liturgical apartheid (no traditional Masses in the parish churches, no doubt for fear of contagion or bad example!) shows the face of a suspicious, stepmotherly Church, to which one must present one’s papers under penalty of being excluded. The traditional faithful must look for a cave, since there is no room for them in the inn... In short, what a merry Christmas!

Psychological paradoxOne may wonder if the liturgical authorities are not doing everything to make the liturgical reform odious! This authoritarianism, this ignorance of the principles of the homogeneous development of liturgical rules and traditions, this insistence on imposing what is only one stage of this development—a stage that was intended to be in step with the societal aspirations of the 1960s—this refusal of dialogue, this inability to make a missionary assessment of the reforms carried out nearly sixty years ago, this blindness to the collapse of the faith in the West (must we remind ourselves that we have never experienced such a crisis of vocations over such a long period of time in our lands?), all this seems quite incomprehensible, even downright suspicious, revealing the guilty conscience of a Church leadership that has failed. It is a shame to see such an attack on an ecclesial group that is certainly a minority, but nevertheless fervent and missionary, a group that does not contest any revealed truth taught by the infallible Magisterium of the Church, and that seeks to live all the requirements of the Church’s spiritual and moral teaching.

A way out of the crisis? A final paradox: it is undoubtedly possible through the teaching and praxis of Pope Francis to get out of the crisis. In July 2015, the Holy Father invited Latin American youth to “make a mess of things,” but this message applies to Catholic youth all over the world. What characterizes the traditional movement in the Church is indeed the youthfulness of many of its members. It is therefore up to them to show boldness and impertinence against the conformism of self-righteousness conveyed in many places by the new liturgical forms, and [to work] for the right they have to promote their identity. “Only Tradition is revolutionary,” wrote Charles Péguy.

In the same way, the present pope never ceases to castigate juridicism, the fascination with norms, the fear of adventure and risk of those who always hide behind regulations and government structures. Well, this casts a harsh light on the avalanche of paralyzing norms that seek to neutralize or even eliminate a reality that is both new and ancient in the Church. These norms must therefore be judged in the light of moral theology, the rights of persons, and the true good of the faithful.

Finally, another contribution of the Pontiff: in June 2019 he recalled the necessary freedom of theologians. It is not a matter of calling into question the Gospel, Tradition, and the revealed deposit. Rather, the disciplinary measures taken against the liturgy must now be the object of a true examination, starting from the indispensable assessment I have just mentioned.

Bro. Laurent-Marie, sjm

(Translated by Zachary Thomas)

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