Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes has been the cause of no small amount of alarm and sorrow in the hearts of many of the faithful. Not only alarm and sorrow but confusion and questions as well. As more than a few bishops have made clear with public statements, thinking and praying over what the Holy Father desires and how practically to bring it about has led to more points of confusion that they will look to the Holy See to clarify. This state is exacerbated by the swiftness—“entering immediately in force”—with which the document’s changes are to be implemented.
No small number of bishops have responded by saying “Status quo ante” until they have time to interpret a document they saw for the first time last Friday. Others have said nothing, doubtless discerning their best course. In effect, they are creating, in the absence of one, an ad hoc vacatio legis—a time for laws to be examined, questioned, clarified, and edited through a cooperative participation of many good minds. Pope Francis points to Pope St. Pius V, who established for the Church a single Roman missal, but the first Dominican pope gave three months (six for dioceses beyond the Alps) for his famous bull to come to complete effect.
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