As we come to know more and more about the doctrinal and moral corruption of the Church’s hierarchy today, which rivals Renaissance records, it seems to border on the miraculous that Summorum Pontificum—the motu proprio issued by Pope Benedict XVI liberalizing the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass—was ever issued at all. It was a watershed moment, a gesture of fortitude and favor, and a clear factor in multiplying traditional Masses around the world and weakening the modernists’ hegemony. We were grateful to have a pope who, instead of throwing a bone to supposed nostalgics—the “indults” of Paul VI and John Paul II—had the courage to say the truth: the great liturgy of our tradition had never been abrogated and could never be abrogated.
It’s fair to say right from the start that Summorum Pontificum was useful to the traditional Catholic movement in the way that an enormous old-time booster rocket was useful for launching a spaceship into orbit: it has a lot of raw power but can only do so much, and when it’s empty, it falls away. Summorum is destined to be one of the great papal interventions in history, but it is no more than damage control; it cannot be a pillar, much less a foundation, of a permanent structure.
Unless we understand its weak points, we will not be able to understand why we are still so vulnerable to the machinations of Pope Francis and his circle, and, more to the point, we will not be able to summon the necessary strength to ignore or to oppose what the Vatican might do to reduce or prevent the celebration of the classical Roman rite. As much as the traditional movement has benefited pragmatically from Summorum (and of that, there can be no doubt), we must learn to put our weight fully on our own two feet, so that when the legal crutch or brace is suddenly removed, we do not topple over helplessly.