08 August 2022

An Argument Against Traditionis Custodes

Dr Kwasniewski posted this as a comment on his Facebook page and then granted me permission to share it here. Pretty powerful!

By Peter Kwasniewski, PhD

I have seen the following argument in various versions but here is my attempt to put it as succinctly as possible.

Defenders of the Novus Ordo often take as an axiom (as the manualists and their devotees do): "The Church's disciplinary decisions, which include liturgical determinations, can never be imprudent, inadequate, or harmful." But if true, this view would also have to apply to the Church's liturgy for the entire period over which the Roman Rite developed, namely from the fourth century AD until 1969. The traditional rite in its various phases could not have been imprudent, inadequate, or harmful.
But if this is true, then the liturgical reforms of the 20th century, especially in the decade from 1964 to 1974, would lose their justification, since they were premised on precisely the assumption that the traditional liturgy as promulgated and practiced by the Church gone seriously wrong in one or more of these ways.
On the other hand, if the axiom is false -- if disciplinary decisions CAN be imprudent, inadequate, or harmful -- then a lack of prudence, adequacy, or benignity can apply just as well to the Novus Ordo as to any other rite, and indeed there would be far more reason to question it given the haste of its composition and the problematic (to say the least) principles on which it was based. That being so, it would not be a sin against obedience or unity if a Catholic reasonably believed that the Novus Ordo was lacking in perfections that the old liturgy possessed, that the Church was suffering injury due to the disappearance of the tradition and the imposition of innovation, and that a change of course was needed.
In short: either the Church must always be right in her liturgical determinations, in which case the Novus Ordo must be wrong; or the Church need not be right in her liturgical determinations, in which case the Novus Ordo may be wrong. There is no logical scenario in which the Novus Ordo is either necessarily right or beyond doubt and question.
Seeing this conclusion exposes the fundamental fallacy (or at least one of the many fallacies) in Traditionis Custodes and all that has been subsequently based on it.
(For the sake of arguing with manualists, I have based the above argument on the assumption that liturgical determinations are disciplinary matters. This, however, is questionable, as I have argued in "True Obedience" and a number of other places. Still, it's helpful to be able to argue on your opponent's turf.)

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