Some Catholic authorities, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois, in central France, and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, in the north, welcomed the motu proprio quite favorably, denouncing the misuse of Summorum Pontificum by those who questioned the validity of Vatican II.
But many voices have been raised in defense of the Traditional Latin Mass, including in some surprising quarters.
Indeed, the most vibrant speech in favor of the Tridentine Mass came from the atheist and left-wing philosopher Michel Onfray. In a column published on July 18, he argued that it embodies “the heritage of the genealogical time of our civilization.”
“It inherits historically and spiritually a long lineage of sacred rituals, celebrations, and prayers, all crystallized in a form that offers a total spectacle,” he wrote.
The president of the Catholic lay organization behind the traditionalist Chartres pilgrimage, for his part, roundly condemned the motu proprio, claiming that “it will be difficult to apply in a Church which is in a catastrophic situation and has many other difficulties that the Vatican pretends not to see.”
A few priests who only celebrate according to the Novus Ordo have also expressed surprise at what they regard as the harshness of Pope Francis’ letter.
“It brings me sadness because this text seems to sweep away the efforts made by Benedict XVI to maintain the unity of the Church and to despise the efforts made by the traditionalist communities for 15 years,” Fr. Guy-Emmanuel Cariot, rector of the Basilica Saint-Denis of Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris, told the weekly magazine Famille chrétienne.
But for those directly affected by the motu proprio, emotions are still raw.
“I expected a text that would change things, but I would have never expected such an unjust document,” Fr. Matthieu Raffray, a Rome-based French priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, told CNA.
“Wherever there are traditional communities in France, I think the situation is calmed, and the bishops’ reactions are a proof of that,” he continued.
He suggested that, although it is true that some people may have used the freedom granted by the Pope emeritus to destroy unity in the Church, such a phenomenon is far more intense and widespread in the circles that follow Paul VI’s liturgy, through topics such as married priests or the German bishops’ “Synodal Way.”
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In his view, the risk of spiritual impoverishment is among the most worrying possible consequences of the papal text.
“How can we possibly favor a liturgical renewal and put the mystery of the Eucharist back at the center of Mass by separating the Church from its tradition?” he asked. “A tree whose roots are cut off dies.”
Raffray argued that the motu proprio, which seeks to bring people back to the ordinary form of the Latin Rite, could also prove to be counterproductive.
“I must marry a couple this summer in France, and we’ve already agreed that if the parish priest eventually refuses to welcome us in his church, we would go outside or to a nearby barn,” he said.
“No faithful accustomed to the Traditional Latin Mass will suddenly decide to stop going because of this document.”
“There is a real movement of the youth toward traditional Mass nowadays, because they need cultural and identity landmarks,” he added.