Imagine this – what if Pope Francis attempted to abolish the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? What if Francis issued a motu proprio called “Custodians of Tradition” which declared that the only image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Latin Church is the image of the Divine Mercy, introduced by St. Faustina Kowalska in the twentieth century? And, further, what if Francis declared that the veneration of the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, revealed by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque in the seventeenth century (with the devotion going back many centuries before that), would now be subject to severe restrictions and, if it be the will of the bishops, complete suppression?
Imagine also that Pope Francis enacted the law on the pretext of being faithful to the Second Vatican Council and the reforms that followed (which, as we all know, never mandated the suppression of the Sacred Heart image). In particular, imagine that Francis explained his new law by emphasizing his desire to facilitate the acceptance of the new canonization procedures after Vatican II, which some “traditionalists” have called into question, which led him to declare the image given to us by the post-Vatican II saint (the Divine Mercy of Sr. Kowalska) to be the only image of the Sacred Heart in the Latin Rite. Finally, imagine that Pope Francis claimed that his new law was based on an undisclosed and undocumented survey of the bishops, as well as undisclosed and undocumented consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the ultimate goal of achieving “ecclesial communion” in the Church.
Do you think any reasonable Catholic would take such a law, and the reasoning behind the law, seriously? Do you think faithful Catholics would respond to this declaration by removing from their homes these beautiful and blessed images of the Sacred Heart, which have nourished their spirituality and devotion, and those of their forefathers, for centuries? Do you think priests would actually feel compelled, under obedience, to remove these sacred images (pictures, statues) from their churches, and replace them with an image that does not even show Our Lord’s Sacred Heart? Especially under the specious pretext of Vatican II (which did not order the suppression) and the ultimate objective of achieving “ecclesial unity,” whatever that means? Would this make sense to anyone with a modicum of the sensus catholicus?
While the analogy is not perfect, I make it to underscore how shameful and indefensible Pope Francis’ attempted suppression of the 1962 Missal is, which is the most ancient of all liturgies in the Roman Rite. After all, while my analogy above regards venerating an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (which wasn’t dispersed throughout the Latin Church until the seventeenth century), the Traditional Mass regards the worship of the actual Sacred Heart of Jesus, immolated in the Altar, in the ancient rite that has existed from time immemorial, originating in substance back to the Apostles themselves, which is “the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven” (Fr. Faber).
Although those who attend the Novus Ordo Mass are not generally going to be affected by the Pope’s attempted suppression of the Traditional Mass, many of them would be bewildered, if not angered, by a suppression of the traditional image of the Sacred Heart, which is venerated in countless homes and churches throughout the Latin Rite, and the Universal Church as well (I, like many of the patrons of OnePeterFive, grew up seeing this image in the homes of so many of my family members, who did not attend the Old Mass). Indeed, the image of the Sacred Heart is the most recognized and venerated religious image in western Catholicism, other than the Crucifix. And, likewise, the Traditional Mass is the most recognized liturgical rite in all of western Christendom.
Both the traditional image of the Sacred Heart (revealing Our Lord’s sacred humanity, by which He, as Mediator, propitiates the Father’s wrath), and the Traditional Mass (the sacramental representation of the actual propitiatory Sacrifice), express the lex credendi of the Church in the most perfect way. But the latter (the Mass) is infinitely more valuable than the former (an image depicting Our Lord), however beautiful, because He, Who is the true image of the invisible God, is made really and truly present to us – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the expression of the Roman rite, which has developed under the guidance of the Holy Ghost since the apostolic age.
The Pope Must Safeguard the “Received and Approved” Rites
The mind of the Church speaks throughout the centuries about the duty of the Pope to preserve the Church’s received and approved rites, which represent her ecclesiastical traditions and are rooted in the divine law of Christ. The Modernists’ desire to constantly change (or suppress) the rites and traditions of the Church is based on an ignorance of the inerrancy and incommutability of the Church’s ecclesiastical traditions. The substance of the Church’s ecclesiastical tradition is the infallible and immutable expression of the Deposit of Faith, which is inspired and nurtured by the Holy Ghost throughout the ages, Who preserves the Church from error. Whereas Sacred Tradition refers to the doctrine of the Church, ecclesiastical tradition refers to the expression of that doctrine whether in liturgies, monuments, art, music, or anything else that is preserved and passed down, approved by the Church.
The divine mandate to preserve the ecclesiastical traditions is found in Scripture itself. For example, before St. Paul teaches the Corinthians details concerning the Holy Mass (e.g., about the Offertory, consecration formula, Communion), he prefaces his teaching by stating: “For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you” (1Cor 11:23). St. Paul says again: “For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received” (1Cor 15:3). In these and other verses, St. Paul emphasizes that the Church hands on what she has “received” from Christ and the Apostles, which has been “delivered” unto us, and which includes the substance of the liturgical rites of the Church.
Thus, the Second Council of Nicea (A.D. 787) teaches that “the tradition of the Catholic Church…comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her.” Because the Holy Ghost guides the Church in forming her ecclesiastical traditions, Nicea II pronounced the following: “We declare that we defend free from any innovations all the written and unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us.” The Council condemned:
All who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the Church…or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church…
The Council further declared: “If anyone rejects any written or unwritten Tradition of the Church, let him be anathema.”
There is no question that the liturgical rite expressed in the 1962 Missal of Pope John XXIII, codified in Quo Primum by St. Pius V in 1570 as the received and approved Roman rite, and traced back, in essence, to the Gregorian and Gelasian sacramentaries of the eighth century, and further to the Leonine sources of the sixth century, and all the way back to Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, represents an “ecclesiastical (Church) tradition” that must be preserved (and the substance of the rite, i.e., the words of consecration of Our Lord, are revealed).
Popes, above all, as “custodians of tradition,” are bound to preserve the received and approved rites of the Church (and have no right to suppress them arbitrarily, or delegate to the bishops the power to do so). While there is no question that the Pope can change the “accidents” of a rite, he cannot change the “substance” of a rite (what has been received from Christ or the Apostles), nor can he suppress a received and approved rite arbitrarily, as if he were an absolute monarch. Rather, it is a matter of faith that the Pope, in a sense, is “bound” (though not strictly legally) to the received rites of the Church, which would preclude him, at least morally, from suppressing them at his will and pleasure.
For example, in the Papal Oath of Coronation, which originates at least as far back as Pope St. Agatho in 678 A.D., every Pope swore to change nothing of the “received tradition.” The Council of Constance (1418 A.D.), Session 39, explains:
Since the Roman pontiff exercises such great power among mortals, it is right that he be bound all the more by the incontrovertible bonds of the faith and by the rites that are to be observed regarding the church’s sacraments.
In light of this truth, the council “decreed and ordained” that the elected Pope must swear to “follow and observe in every way the rite handed down of the ecclesiastical sacraments of the Catholic Church,” even “to the point of death and the shedding of my blood.”
In the same spirit, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) infallibly declared:
If anyone says that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, accustomed to be used in the administration of the sacraments, may be despised or omitted by the ministers without sin and at their pleasure [i.e., arbitrarily], or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones, let him be anathema.
In light of Scripture and the Church’s perennial teaching, the council condemned the arbitrary suppression of the received and approved rites of the Church. Pope Pius IV’s Tridentine Profession of Faith likewise expresses this principle by requiring adherence to the “received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, used in the solemn administration of the sacraments.” Even the modern (“post-Vatican II”) Catechism of Pope John Paul II, in paragraph 1125, states: “Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy” (emphases added).
Putting aside the argument that the Pope has supreme authority over the rites of the Church and is not bound by ecclesiastical (human) laws or disciplines, this same “supreme authority” cannot “change the liturgy arbitrarily,” which would include arbitrarily suppressing the liturgy, especially the most ancient and venerable liturgical rite of the Latin Church. Moreover, the Pope is bound by the moral virtues of prudence and justice, which must necessarily guide him in carrying out the divine law of God, in order to be a faithful “custodian of tradition,” as his office demands. Further, as Msgr. Van Noort teaches in his dogmatic manual Christ’s Church, even “ecclesiastical laws” which “do not possess a binding power for the pope, do nonetheless normally have a directive power for him” (p. 283).
The Suppression Will Further Divide the Church
It seems evident that Pope Francis chose not to be guided by the moral virtues or the directive power of the Church’s ecclesiastical tradition which he, as Vicar of Christ, has the gravest duty to be led by. Even if Francis truly believes the use of the 1962 Missal has been exploited by some to create division in the Church (which, we do see, for example, among the Sedevacantist and other schismatic clergy), this certainly cannot be said for those clergy who celebrate the Mass in union with the Pope and bishops, such as the priests of the Institute of Christ the King and the Fraternity of St. Peter. If, by issuing this motu proprio, Francis’ goal was really to facilitate “ecclesial communion” among Catholics in the Latin Church, his initiative is going to have the opposite effect.
Already we see Catholics, many new to the traditional movement, reacting to the motu proprio by expressing contempt for the Pope and the bishops, and publicizing the same throughout the world (i.e., internet), which is causing further division in the Church (publicly inciting animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary due to an act of power is actually to be punished by an interdict or other just penalty under canon 1373). Some are even leaving the Church for independent chapels, where traditional Masses are celebrated without the consent of the local ordinaries, thereby creating further division and new wounds to the Mystical Body of Christ.
But a mass exodus of Catholics from the Church in the name of “tradition” may be the Great Apostasy forewarned by Our Lady of Fatima. This will happen when Catholics no longer worship in union with their bishops, and thus rupture their juridical bonds with the Church, particularly that of governance. We must remember that the Church is, first and foremost, by its nature, a juridical institution, with a “juridical mission” (Pius XII), willed as such by Christ, which is the most obvious attribute by which we know it is Christ’s true Church. Leaving the legal institution of the Church is currently what some Catholics are being tempted to do, and doing, because they do not understand the nature of the Church. The unjust suppression of the Traditional Mass and the suffering it is causing is no doubt a punishment for the Popes’ repeated failures to obey Our Lady’s command to consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, which will result in the apostasy prophesied by the same Lady, Queen of Prophets.
It’s hard to conceive how Pope Francis could actually believe his actions will bring unity to the Church. And Francis evidently hasn’t considered the possibility (nay, fact!) that it has been the Novus Ordo reforms, and not the traditional Roman Missal, that has “widened the gaps, reinforced the divergences, and encouraged disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division” (in the words of Francis in his accompanying letter to the bishops). But are Francis’ actions really that inconsistent with the stated intention of his pontificate, which was to “make a mess” during his reign? Indeed, suppressing the immemorial Mass of the Roman rite on the false pretext of a desire for unity, which will have the opposite effect, and even result in Catholics leaving the Church, creates a horrible spiritual mess of unthinkable proportions. But would we put it past Francis the First to intend such an evil consequence, which is so deceitful and harmful to souls? God help us.
God first allowed us to be punished by a civil interdict when, following Francis’ unconscionable act of idolatry of Pachamama in the Eternal City, civil authorities shut down churches throughout the world in the name of a phony pandemic, and almost all of the bishops capitulated to the lunacy. Now, God is allowing another punishment, a sort of ecclesiastical interdict, coming from the Pope himself. This punishment seeks to bar faithful Catholics from celebrating the Traditional Mass of all time, in favor of the mundane, Protestantized and often sacrilegious worship of the New Mass (which we must resist). And while the censure of interdict (a censure prohibiting one from participating in certain rites) can only be justly administered against one who has committed a crime, God is allowing this punishment against us Traditional Catholics – indeed, us, who believe we are being the most faithful to the Church.
While we have rightly abhorred the liberal errors on the Left (contraception, abortion, false ecumenism, anti-death penalty, lay ministers, Communion in the hand, etc.), many of us have committed errors on the Right (attacking the Pope and bishops indiscriminately, inciting contempt for the hierarchy, disregarding legitimate authority, assisting at illicit Masses, condemning those who celebrate the New Mass, etc.). As St. Paul revealed, “For all have sinned, and need the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Yes, we are in a “mess,” and we need God’s grace. But the only way out of this mess, which Our Lady revealed, is the papal consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, which will finally bring a period of peace and conversion to the world. If that event doesn’t happen soon (perhaps by 2029, the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s command), it would appear that humanity will have to endure the reign of the antichrist and the loss of countless souls. Suppression of the Traditional Mass will only be a miniscule part of the torture to come. God forbid.
May God either convert Pope Francis or take him out of this world, so that we might be blessed with a better Pope, who will do God’s will and restore all things in Christ through the consecration of Russia. And let us not be scandalized by the silence of our bishops, for just as the Apostles remained silent during the Passion of Christ, so the successors of the Apostles (almost all of them) are remaining silent during the Passion of the Church, which is mysteriously unfolding before our very eyes. Thus, let us pray for our bishops, that they take heed to themselves and their flocks, wherein the Holy Ghost has placed them bishops, to rule the Church of God, which He has purchased with his own blood (cf. Acts 20:28). May God give them wisdom and courage, so that they will refrain from unjustly suppressing the Traditional Mass in their dioceses as the Pope has authorized them to do, lest they further facilitate division in the Church, which will lead to the Great Apostasy and time of antichrist. Amen.
To illustrate the absurdity of Pope Francis’ Traditionis Custodes, I present the analogy of the hypothetical suppression of the image of the Sacred Heart below, by editing the motu proprio to replace references to the Traditional Mass with references to the Sacred Heart image, while also adding quotations from the Second Vatican Council. My edits are italicized. I hope this analogy helps those with authority in the Church to see just how indefensible and spurious this law really is, so that they reject implementing its harmful and iniquitous prescriptions. Our Lady of Fatima, please pray for us.
Guardians of the tradition, the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome constitute the visible principle and foundation of the unity of their particular Churches. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the proclamation of the Gospel and by means of the celebration of the Eucharist, they govern the particular Churches entrusted to them.
In order to promote the concord and unity of the Church, with paternal solicitude towards those who in any region adhere to the veneration of images promoted by saints canonized antecedent to those canonized after the Vatican Council II, my Venerable Predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, granted permission to venerate the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, given to us through St. Mary Alocoque. In this way they intended “to facilitate the ecclesial communion of those Catholics who feel attached to some earlier forms of venerating images” and not to others.
Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council taught, “The saints have been traditionally honored in the Church and their authentic relics and images held in veneration. For the feasts of the saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ in His servants, and display to the faithful fitting examples for their imitation.” Thus, the holy council instructed that “the practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained.”
However, in discerning a new path for the Church for venerating images, the council stated: “Nevertheless their number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. For otherwise they may create confusion among the Christian people and foster devotion of doubtful orthodoxy.”
Hence, led by the Holy Spirit, who carves a path that we all see within the dynamic of Tradition, the holy council declared that “there is to be an early revision of the canons and ecclesiastical statutes which govern the provision of material things involved in sacred worship. These laws refer especially to the…proper ordering of sacred images…Laws which seem less suited to the reformed liturgy are to be brought into harmony with it, or else abolished; and any which are helpful are to be retained if already in use, or introduced where they are lacking.”
In line with the wishes of my Venerable Predecessors and the council Fathers of Vatican II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith carried out a detailed consultation of the bishops in 2020. The results have been carefully considered in the light of experience that has matured during these years.
At this time, having considered the wishes expressed by the episcopate and having heard the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I now desire, with this Apostolic Letter, to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion. Therefore, I have considered it appropriate to establish the following:
Art. 1. The image of the Divine Mercy, given to us by St. Faustina Kowalska, who was canonized by Saint John Paul II, in the spirit of Vatican Council II, is the only expression of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Roman Rite.
Art. 2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical and sacramental life of the particular Church entrusted to him, to regulate the veneration of images in his diocese. Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the veneration of the traditional image of the Sacred Heart, given by St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.
Art. 3. The bishop of the diocese in which until now there exist one or more groups or persons that venerate the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus antecedent to image introduced by St. Kowalska:
- 1. is to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the reforms, especially the new process of canonizing saints, coming forth from Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;
- 2. is to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the veneration of the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes);
- 3. to establish at the designated locations the days on which the veneration of the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are permitted.In these celebrations the prayers to the Sacred Heart are proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences;
- 4. to appoint a priest who, as delegate of the bishop, is entrusted with these celebrations and with the pastoral care of these groups of the faithful. This priest should be suited for this responsibility, with knowledge of the traditional practices of venerating images, and animated by a lively pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion. This priest should have at heart not only the correct veneration of the traditional image, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful;
- 5. to proceed suitably to verify that the parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful who still wish to venerate the traditional image of the Sacred Heart are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them;
- 6. to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups that would venerate the traditional image of the Sacred Heart.
Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to publicly venerate the traditional image of the Sacred Heart, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.
Art. 5. Priests who already publicly venerate the traditional image of the Sacred Heart in their communities should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.
Art. 6. Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.
Art. 7. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for matters of their particular competence, exercise the authority of the Holy See with respect to the observance of these provisions.
Art. 8. Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.
Everything that I have declared in this Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio, I order to be observed in all its parts, anything else to the contrary notwithstanding, even if worthy of particular mention, and I establish that it be promulgated by way of publication in “L’Osservatore Romano”, entering immediately in force and, subsequently, that it be published in the official Commentary of the Holy See, Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Given at Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 16 July 2021, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the ninth year of Our Pontificate.
 To understand the nature and authority of ecclesiastical traditions, see Cardinal Franzelin, On Divine Tradition or Ripperger, The Binding Force of Tradition.
 Iniunctum Nobis, November 13, 1565. In Auctorem Fidei (August 28, 1794), Pope Pius VI also referred to “the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church” (No. 33).
 Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 111.
 Ibid., No. 125.
 Ibid., No. 128.
John F. Salza, Esq. is an attorney and also a widely-acclaimed Catholic writer and lecturer for the past 20 years. He is the author of a dozen books on the topics of Scriptural apologetics, Predestination, Freemasonry and Fatima, including his most recent opus True or False Pope? – Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors (co-author Robert Siscoe). His many articles have appeared in The Remnant newspaper, The Fatima Crusader magazine and Catholic Family News. He has been a frequent guest on radio shows throughout America, such as Catholic Answers Live, The Drew Mariani Show and Kresta in the Afternoon, and has appeared on television programs for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and The Discovery Channel. John’s latest articles and talks can be found at www.trueorfalsepope.com.