Retired archbishop calls Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions ‘a regrettable step backwards’

Retired archbishop calls Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions ‘a regrettable step backwards’

Mass offered in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. / Shalone Cason via Unsplash.

La Plata, Argentina, Aug 26, 2021 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer, the Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata, has said that the restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass in Traditionis custodes “involve a regrettable step backwards.”

“The current Pontiff states that he wishes to pursue still further the constant search for ecclesial communion (prologue to Traditionis custodes) and to make this purpose effective, he eliminates the work of his predecessors by placing arbitrary limits and obstacles to what they, with intra-ecclesial ecumenical intent and respect for the freedom of priests and faithful, established! It promotes ecclesial communion in reverse. The new measures involve a regrettable step backwards,” Archbishop Aguer wrote in an Aug. 23 article.

The archbishop emeritus said that it is now “in the hands of the diocesan bishops to grant authorization for the use” of the 1962 Roman Missal, and thus “everything starts over again, and it is to be feared that the bishops will be miserly in granting permission. Many bishops are not Traditionis custodes, but traditionis ignari (ignorant), obliviosi (forgetful), and even worse traditionis evertores, (destroyers).”

Archbishop Aguer noted the reasonableness of requiring an acceptance of the validity of Vatican II, the liturgical reform, and the magisterium, but questioned: “for those who already used the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, was the ordinary oversight of the bishops and the eventual correction of the offenders not enough? It would be necessary to use charity and patience with the rebels.”

For the archbishop the limitation of places and days to celebrate according to the 1962 Missal “are unjust and inconsiderate restrictions”.

“It is curious that while officially promoting a ‘polyhedral’ structure of the Church, with the ease that this attitude implies for the spread of dissent and errors against the Catholic Tradition, a liturgical uniformity is imposed that seems to have been chosen solely against that Tradition,” he said. 

“I know that many young people in our parishes are fed up with the liturgical abuses that the hierarchy allows without correcting them; they want a Eucharistic celebration that guarantees serious and profoundly religious participation. There is nothing ideological in this aspiration.”

He charged that requiring a priest who already says the Traditional Latin Mass and who “has exercised it correctly” to receive permission again, is “a ruse to take it away from him,” and that “perhaps there are not a few bishops (new bishops, for example) reluctant to grant it.”

Archbishop Aguer said that “all the provisions of Traditionis custodes would be gladly acceptable if the Holy See attended to what I call the devastation of the liturgy, which is demonstrated in multiple cases.”

He pointed to what he said are common experiences in Argentina: “In general, it is quite common for the Eucharistic celebration to assume a tone of banality, as if it were a conversation that the priest has with the faithful, and for which the priest’s friendliness is fundamental; in certain places it becomes a kind of show presided over by the ‘entertainer’ who is the celebrant, and the children’s Mass is a little party, like birthday parties.”

“The bishops are not concerned with these realities, but they are quick to react against a priest who with the utmost piety celebrates in Latin: ‘it’ is forbidden,” the archbishop wrote.

Archbishop Aguer lamented that “The lack of correction of the abuses leads to the persuasion that ‘that’s the way the liturgy is now.’”

“It cannot be denied that the Eucharistic celebration has lost exactness, solemnity, and beauty. And silence has disappeared in many, many cases. Sacred music would deserve a separate chapter,” he added.

Archbishop Aguer was born in 1943, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1972. He was consecrated a bishop in 1992, and served as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires from then until 1998.

In 1998 he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of La Plata, succeeding as ordinary in 2000. He continued as Archbishop of La Plata until his 2018 retirement, at the age of 75.

“I have never celebrated ‘the ancient Mass,’ not even after the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum; I would have to study the rite, of which I have distant memories, having served as an altar boy,” he noted in the opening of his essay.

He added that while attending a Divine Liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church, he noted “a certain resemblance to the Latin Solemn Mass, with deacon and subdeacon.”

The archbishop said he has “always celebrated, with the greatest devotion I can,” the Novus Ordo. He sang the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin at the St. Joseph Major Seminary, and noted they had form a schola, in accordance with the recommendation of Vatican II’s constitution on the liturgy, “which was eliminated at my retirement.”

Upon his retirement, Archbishop Aguer was succeeded by Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, who is regarded as Pope Francis’ personal theologian.

“It should be remembered that it is possible to celebrate the Mass currently in force in the whole Church in Latin,” Archbishop Aguer noted.

“Unfortunately, ‘particular law’ seems to be prohibiting Latin, as in fact it is done. If someone dares to propose celebrating in Latin, he is regarded as a misfit, an unforgivable troglodyte.”

Archbishop Aguer wrote that Latin “was for centuries the bond of unity and communication in the Church of the West. Today it is not only abandoned, but also hated. In seminaries, its study is neglected, precisely because there is no use for it. It goes unnoticed that this is how direct access to the Fathers of the Western Church is closed off, which is very important for theological studies: I am thinking, for example, of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great, and of medieval authors such as Saint Anselm and Saint Bernard. This situation seems to me a sign of cultural poverty and voluntary ignorance.”

In the final part of his article, Archbishop Aguer said that while, as a motu proprio, Traditionis custodes could not have “pastoral effusions”, it could nevertheless “have been presented as a sign of pastoral love.”

“It seems that the judgement that the Church is making, in its highest level of authority, of the course of ecclesial life, proceeds according to two weights and two measures: tolerance, and even appreciation and identification, with the heterogeneous positions regarding the great Tradition (‘progressives’, as they have been called), and distance from or dislike for people or groups who cultivate a ‘traditional’ position.”

Archbishop Aguer concluded: “I am reminded of the proposition that a famous Argentine politician brutally enunciated: ‘for friends, everything; for the enemy, not even justice’”, a reference to a statement made in 1973 by Juan Perón, who was favorably quoting Mao Zedong.

“I say this with the utmost respect and love, but with immense sorrow,” the archbishop wrote.