If we believe, then we believe in the Lord’s permissive will as well as His active: evil is permitted on the grounds that it will give rise to greater good. This belief, though one of the most difficult in all theology, is also a comforting one as we take stock of crises, Traditionis Custodes being the latest in a long series. It is because of this faith that many are able to project the potential blessings-in-disguise that the restriction of the Latin Mass will bring for the faithful and the earthly Church at large: a strengthening of traditional hubs, a stirring of interest from those who have not yet cared, or the clear delineation between supportive and oppressive bishops. All of this is likely and to be celebrated with gratitude. God writes straight with crooked lines, it’s often said.
Perhaps one such blessing is how the motu proprio, finally, clearly illustrates the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. In the nine years since Pope Francis ascended to Peter’s throne, the Church has been troubled by ambiguity and uncertainty. The Holy Father has said and done alarming things, from “Who am I to judge?” to Amoris Laetitia to Pachamama, and he has evaded answering clearly for any of it.
Instead, he has allowed—or forced—the faithful to rely on inference and interpretation to understand his meaning. No dubia is ever answered. As a result, the actual practice of the Church has changed little, especially in the traditional circles enjoying the liberty of Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum. If nothing definite is done, nothing definite can change. Traditionis Custodes, too, is rife with the usual Pope Francis ambiguity—but this time, only in the wording; the pope does us the courtesy of spelling it out for us.