From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’ War: A Review

The fight for Tradition in the Church, in particular her liturgy, is a long and arduous one that will not cease until the parousia, entering an acute phase in our own day, but all worth the effort. Few have taken up this battle with greater zeal than Dr. Peter Kwasnieski. A list of his essays, books and talks attests to this – even if one may not agree with all of his conclusions, one is moved to agree with many of them, and admire his erudition and industriousness.

One of his recent works, From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’ War, is a collection of essays from Catholics across the spectrum of what we may term ‘traditional’, from Ross Douthat to Joseph Shaw and various other supporters of the Latin Mass, to their eminences, Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Müller and Sarah. Hence, the essays vary in their focus and scope, even in how they may appeal to individual readers, but all worth reading.

Each author presents his response to Pope Francis’ July 16th, 2021 Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, severely limiting celebration of Mass and the sacraments in the usus antiquior, undoing the peace, so to speak, of Pope Benedict’s 2007 Summorum Pontificum, allowing universal permission for the pre-conciliar liturgy. The gauntlet has been thrown down, alea iacta – and here we see varied measured reactions of traditional Catholics.

What one might lose in the ‘thread’ of such a work, written by many authors, one gains in their variety and diversity, clarifying and solidifying in the reader’s mind why the Mass and Liturgy should be preserved and fostered, as well as the means by which we might do so.

The sacraments work primarily ex opere operato, by the work of Christ, so the usus antiquior and the novus ordo are both equally valid. But the sacraments, and the Mass especially, also work ex opere operantis, with grace received dependent on the devotion of the recipient. Kwasnieski and the authors herein argue persuasively that the devotion proper to the Mass is fostered more effectively, in the main, in the old order of Mass than the new.  There is more emphasis on its primarily sacrificial nature, on the role of the priest as the one who sacrifices, on the continuity of the Old and New Testaments, and this before we get to the beauty of the chants, the vestments, the orations, the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Latin words, even the silence and meditative quality – the whole structure lends itself to ‘entering into’ the Mass with that interior participation of the mind and heart, which is what we should bring to the Offering first and foremost.

Some developments were called for by Vatican II, but not on the iconoclastic scope and extent that actually transpired in the post-conciliar years. Now war is being waged on the pre-conciliar liturgy, which may to some be a mystery, for the TLM is, proportionately, a small percentage of the Church. Could, and should, we not have maintained Benedict’s peace? What do the enemies of the old rite have to fear?

Read on, Macduff, and find out.

A blessed Lent, to one and all. +