Please note that this article is speculative, and I will submit to whatever the Magisterium decides on this question.
In this suggestion, the Pope could change the requirements for validity, so a valid TLM would still be possible, but only if the priest obeys the Pope and makes a certain change to the consecration (or the prayer that precedes it?). Or perhaps he could entirely invalidate the TLM, declaring that it’s consecration of the Eucharist is now invalid, for as long as the TLM is suppressed.
So many persons have come forward to judge and allegedly correct the Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis, it has reached the point of absurdity. Does the Roman Pontiff have no authority at all? Can any lay person simply go on the internet and judge the Pope? And many of these persons who judge and speak in strongly condemnatory terms about Pope Francis admit that they know the teaching and law: The First See is judged by no one. Yet they not only judge him, they also condemn him.
Recall that there were a number of documents, put forward publicly as the Pontificate of Pope Francis progressed. And each next one was worse than the ones before. Finally, a document called now “The Open Letter” was addressed to the body of Bishops, publicly accusing the Roman Pontiff of “the canonical delict of heresy”. In addition, some authors individually went further than accusing the Vicar of Christ of heresy, accusing him also of apostasy, idolatry, and even of being essentially an atheist. Archbishop Vigano has been particularly severe in his open attacks on the Apostolic See and the Church itself, claiming that Pope Francis, whom he calls “Bergoglio”, is imposing a false Magisterium on the true Magisterium and that he leads a false church or “anti-church” which eclipses the true Church.
The public sins against the Faith of Taylor Marshall deserve special public mention. His popular book “Infiltration” attacks the infallibility of the Church, the never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiffs, and the unblemished nature of the Apostolic See. Marshall went to Rome and met with Pope Francis. He handed the Roman Pontiff his book, “Infiltration”, which literally accuses Pope Francis of being “a pope for Satan on the Roman Chair of Saint Peter.” Dr. Taylor Marshall personally handed the Vicar of Christ a book that accuses him of being the culmination of “a slow, patient plan to establish a Satanic revolution with the pope as puppet.” And while he was handing the Roman Pontiff the book that makes those accusations, he pretended to be the friend of the Pope, by having his picture taken with him, and by saying that he and his family were praying for the Pope’s holy intentions. Then he went on Twitter and boasted of deceiving the Pope, explaining that he and his family only pray for those papal intentions that they judge to be holy, and not for any other intentions.
My point is that the attacks on Pope Francis have been increasingly severe. And the result was NOTHING. The Roman Pontiff was not deposed, despite many articles claiming he could be deposed. The body of Bishops attempt to remove or even to correct the Supreme Pontiff. The Pope was condemned in the most severe terms imaginable, and it had no effect on his authority in fact or in law. He continues to be the valid Roman Pontiff with the same full authority as all the successors of Peter.
After the accusations reached a height, as described above, (and there were many other examples that could be cited of books and websites and petitions), the opponents of Pope Francis seem to have given up. They seem to have abandoned the attempt to correct the Pope with petitions or remove him with appeals to the Bishops, or find ever more extreme accusations to make against him. Why?
With one stroke of the pen, Pope Francis changed the conversation by his rebuke of the schismatics and those who tend toward schism by means of Traditionis Custodes. Now it is almost all his opponents can talk about. They seem to have forgotten that they accused the Pope of apostasy, heresy, idolatry, sacrilege, and blasphemy. They strangely claim that he is the valid Roman Pontiff, as if an apostate or heretic or idolater could be a valid Pope and not be removed by God automatically, as Bellarmine and the Church fathers held for all heretics. They still say “Recognize and Resist”. But they focus on little else by the current restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass.
This seems to be because the papal accusers — not all traditionalists — idolize the TLM. So when Francis struck at their idolatry (not that the TLM is an idol in and of itself), their heads were spinning. They have poured out a myriad of articles defending the TLM, even by attacking the Magisterium itself. But Francis is controlling not only the Church, but the conversation. Pope Francis is large and in charge.
Traditionis Custodes have given Pope Francis control of the conversation. His opponents rarely accuse him of heresy, apostasy, or idolatry any longer, even though they occasionally reference these things to show that they have not repented. And what will happen next? It seems that the goal, clearly stated in the Traditionis Custodes and its explanatory letter, is to end the TLM entirely. That means a big change for certain approved orders or communities that use the TLM.
Some articles are putting forward theories that the Pope does not have the authority to suppress the TLM. I say “suppress”, rather than abrogate, because Pope Francis has never criticized the TLM as having any inherent errors. It might not be the best vehicle for the salvation of most Catholics and new converts, but he has never condemned it as being in itself wrong. His reasons for restricting and seeking to end the TLM, having only one Mass, the Novus Ordo Mass, in the Roman Rite, has to do with the persons who misuse the TLM. And that reason for his actions seems to open the way for the return of the TLM at some point in the future, if indeed the Pope decides to suppress it completely for a time.
But as for his authority, no matter how many persons claim the Pope lacks authority, he will still exercise the authority they claim he lacks and the Bishops will comply. The body of Bishops and the body of the faithful absolutely are prevented by the grace of God from ever rejecting the Roman Pontiff as a body, since the Church is indefectible. The Church is apostolic, so the body of Bishops cannot reject the Roman Pontiff. And the Church is not only the successors to the Apostles, but also all the faithful, the body of the faithful, of various and all ranks and states of life. Since the Church is indefectible, She can never lose what is essential to Her very definition.
You can write all the clever articles you want, claiming the Pope lacks authority, but he will still do what many say he cannot or should not do. He is the Supreme Pontiff and his critics are not. They have given up accusing him of heresy, apostasy, or idolatry. They have given up making petitions and open letters. All these strategies failed. And they are no better off.
The critics of Pope Francis have reached the end of their rope. They have no other arguments to make. They have accused him of everything they can possibly accuse him of, and he has withstood them. He has won, and they have lost. They can rehash old accusations or old false claims about limits on his authority. But he has already proven that no such arguments or petitions or claims have any effect on the Supreme Pontiff of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. The body of Bishops always supports the Roman Pontiff, and so does the majority of the faithful.
Invalidating the TLM
The Pope may suppress the TLM completely. And if they continue saying the TLM, ignoring his authority, let me tell you what the Pope can do. The Roman Pontiff has the authority to add to the conditions for validity of a Sacrament. He cannot change what is essential to any Sacrament, but he can add a condition for a valid Sacrament. Maybe the Pope could decree that the TLM no longer validly consecrates the Eucharist, not while that form of the Mass is suppressed.
That would be valid for the following reason. The Last Supper was a valid Mass. Yet if anyone tried to perform the same Mass today, it would not be valid. So it is possible for a valid form of the Mass to become invalid, as a Mass and as a consecration, accordingly as the authority of the Church decides.
Another option would be to add a wording that is required for a valid consecration. The Church and the Pope has that authority, and Pope Francis could make such a change.
I’m not recommending this extreme measure. But it is within the Pope’s authority. Now if the Magisterium decides that such is not the case, I will agree with what the Magisterium decides. But it is already established that the Church has the general authority to make changes to Sacraments by adding conditions for validity. This could be done in some way, it seems clear, so that the TLM would not be valid, without that new condition. And schismatics would be loath to obey a Pope whom they reject, so they could no longer have a valid consecration, no longer have the Eucharist, no longer have the sacrifice of the Mass, nor any Mass at all.
Pope Eugene IV was faced with a rebellious group of Bishops at Basil, having been called to an Ecumenical Council by Pope Martin V, who died before they assembled (or at least before they wrote any documents). Some Bishops rejected his papacy, and others of course accepted him as they would any successor of Peter. He ordered the Council to move to Ferrara (and next to Florence). The rebellious Bishops refused to follow his order, lest they be seen as following him. The faithful Bishops moved to one city and the next, as the Pope decided. Thus did he separate the wheat from the chaff. Then at Florence, Eugene met with the Bishops in person, and they defined many useful doctrines.
Pope Francis could separate the wheat from the chaff by ordering changes to the TLM, as he has already done on the point of requiring the Scriptures to be read in the vernacular. So the faithful at a TLM can then see if the priest is obedient to the Pope or not in that way. But the Pope could go further, and make other changes, even one required for validity of the consecration. He has the authority. I would not presume to recommend such a measure; I am only saying it is within his power.
So while the opponents of Pope Francis are complaining about how cruel Traditionis Custodes supposedly is, they fail to understand what Pope Francis is capable of, if he so chooses, under his supreme authority. He could invalidate the TLM in one way or another, and his opponents would be left simulating the Mass and eating bread and wine instead of the Body and Blood of Christ. This seems to me an unlikely result, but it is entirely possible. Never underestimate the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
note: See the good comment below by James Riester