I Want to Speak with the Manager: A Conversation with Archbishop Roche

With the vastness of the Roman Communion and the immense diversity of expression within the Roman rite, the Catholic experience of liturgical change can be fraught with emotional and intellectual peril. At its core the liturgy is intended to unite us, but it has historically divided us as often as not. Such division – both real and perceived – leads both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to wonder, “Who’s in charge of liturgy?”

Though such a question sounds as nuanced and as blunt as asking “Who’s in charge of cheese?”– it is, after all, the Holy Spirit who ultimately governs – the need for managerial authority looms large over liturgical dialectics in the life of the Church. Christopher Lamb, Vatican correspondent for Britain’s The Tablet, recently sat down with one such authority, Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to discuss last summer’s promulgation of Traditionis Custodes and the ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium in letter and in spirit.

In his short time at the CDW, Archbishop Roche has been no stranger to attention: Traditionis Custodes was issued mere months after his assuming office last May.Archbishop Roche is well aware of the fury aroused in some quarters by the restrictions being imposed on the use of the old rite,” Lamb reports, and “he says bishops in touch with his congregation have expressed ‘relief’ at the Pope’s decision to return the oversight of the liturgy to them – as Vatican II intended.

“Long before Francis limited the use of the pre-Vatican Council liturgical books, small traditionalist communities had become centres of resistance to this pontificate. The combination of opposition to the Pope, the calling into question of an ecumenical council, and the promotion of the old rite as an alternative liturgical way of life – sometimes even presented as the only truly Catholic form of the liturgy – represented a serious challenge. Roche stressed that the Pope’s intention was to ‘bring unity’ to the Church, and to end the suggestion that there are two different Churches with two different liturgies.”

Roche stressed that the Pope’s intention was to ‘bring unity’ to the Church, and to end the suggestion that there are two different Churches with two different liturgies.”

The discourse of unity makes some nervous, especially those who view both the Church and the world as a zero-sum game of winners and losers. After all, whose unity is it and on whose terms will such unity be? However, the Church’s liturgy is not a territory to be conquered but the living and abiding presence of God-in-Christ in our midst. Its ongoing development requires far more nuance and listening than binary battle lines can muster. Thus our unity seeks no winners or losers, but sisters and brothers — siblings in Christ.

In the trajectory of liturgical development, Lamb affirms “that changes to the liturgy are nothing new. It was Pius XII who reformed the celebrations of Holy Week in the 1950s, while Roche points out that Pius X…wrote in 1903 about the ‘active participation’ of the faithful in the liturgy, something that was to be strongly emphasised by Vatican II. Its liturgical reforms did not come out of a vacuum, Roche reminds [us]; they were all prepared for by a liturgical movement that dates back to the nineteenth century.”

Traditionis Custodes and the further clarifications released by the CDW in response to questions from bishops about its implementation “made clear that confirmations and ordinations according to the pre-Vatican Council liturgies are now banned, and recommended parishes not to advertise Tridentine Masses in their bulletins. Many of those who belong to the small, yet devoted, groups who are attached to the Missal of 1962 are devastated. They complain that the Pope is ‘cancelling’ the form of Mass they love.”

In this, Archbishop Roche stresses the pastoral depth of both the Pope’s and the CDW’s discernment: “’It’s clear that Pope Francis, along with his predecessors, has great care for those who are finding this difficult and therefore it is still possible to use the Missal of 1962,’ he says. ‘But it is not the norm. It is a pastoral concession.’…Traditionis Custodes is [intended] to bring people ‘closer to an understanding of what the Council required.’”

Understanding and implementing what Vatican II requires has been at the center of the Church’s life and work over the past half century. Such unpacking is not willy-nilly, nor is it as simple as “some Catholics having a personal preference for Latin. It goes to the heart of how the Church sees itself and its mission. It is about the old saying, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: how we pray, is how we believe. Roche points out that Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, shifted away from a model of the Church as a ‘perfect society’ to the biblical notion of the Church as the pilgrim People of God.

“In the former, Roche says, it was the priest who ‘represented the intentions of the people’ and took that to God in the liturgy. Vatican II changed that. ‘With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptised it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist, but all the baptised who celebrate with him,’ Roche explains. ‘That surely has to be the most profound understanding of what ‘participation’ means. That we’re not just reading, we’re not just singing, we’re not just moving things around in the sanctuary or coping with children or whatever it is, but we’re actually entering deeply into the divine life, which has been made manifest to us in the Paschal mystery…the liturgy is not incidental to our identity…the liturgy is the womb of the Church, which gives birth to Christians and which nourishes the Christian life.’”

‘With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptised
it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist,
but all the baptised who celebrate with him,’
That surely has to be the most profound understanding
of what ‘participation’ means.

The importance of formation cannot be stressed enough in the ongoing implementation of the Council. For “while the liturgical and ecclesiological shifts at Vatican II were approved overwhelmingly by the bishops that took part, Roche believes the reasoning behind the reforms is still not ‘fully understood.’ Formation, he says, has been ‘very lacking’ in certain areas of Catholic life, and nowhere is this more true than in seminaries, where there are strong currents pushing for a return to pre-Vatican II styles of dress and liturgy.

“Roche’s congregation is calling on seminaries to teach the ‘richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council,’ and any newly-ordained priest wishing to celebrate the Mass using the pre-Vatican II liturgical books will need permission to do so from the Holy See. ‘The Holy Father is concerned about formation,’ Roche says, and two years ago he asked the members of his congregation, who include bishops and cardinals from across the world, to discuss the issue. ‘All of them thought that formation was pretty inadequate within seminaries in general as well as within the life of the Church,’ and as a result a document is being prepared that Roche says will address the issue.”

And what about those attracted to the 1962 Missal? Is there still room for authentic dialogue between them and the CDW? Throughout this first year as Prefect, Roche has met with groups advocating for pre-conciliar forms. Indeed, Pope Francis himself has “met with a traditionalist fraternity of priests and gave them a concession to continue celebrating the sacraments in the old rite.” Even so, Roche affirms, the CDW “can’t all be about responding to the liturgical preferences of one group. ‘The Church gives us the liturgy. We pray as a Church community and never simply as individuals, nor as a matter of personal preference.’

“We pray as a Church community and never simply as individuals, nor as a matter of personal preference.”

Though both John Paul II and Benedict XVI “made pastoral concessions to those unable to accept the liturgical reforms of the Council, Roche says that the survey of the world’s bishops had shown that what had been a concession had turned into a ‘promotion to return to what existed before the Second Vatican Council.’ This ‘couldn’t be tolerated because the Council had changed the way in which we’re going forward. That’s just a simple matter.’ It had never been Benedict’s intention to encourage these divisions in the Church. Benedict had also hoped that his concessions would bring back those ‘operating beyond the curtilage of the Church,’ but, as Roche points out, there’s not much evidence that this has happened (he’s talking about the Society of Saint Pius X established by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre).”

As it continues its important work, the CDW “is already implementing the synodal style of Church that Francis is trying to bring about. In 2017, the Pope issued a ruling, Magnum Principium, which gave bishops more authority over liturgical translations, and Roche says he works with them in a collegial manner. ‘We’ve changed the way in which we work with bishops to when I first came to the congregation.’”

What might the synodal style of Church might mean with regard to future translations, adaptations, or usages of the Roman rite? That remains to be seen. As Roche explains, “’We’ve spent the last 50 years translating, the next phase will be facing adaptation…[it’s a] delicate matter.’” Vatican II clearly understands this delicate matter to be work for us all, not only for upper and middle management. Joining with Pope Francis, Archbishop Roche, and the whole people of God, we all have a part to play in liturgy’s development. We are all a little in charge.

Christopher Lamb’s full article can be found here.


23 responses to “I Want to Speak with the Manager: A Conversation with Archbishop Roche”

  1. Jack Wayne Avatar
    Jack Wayne

    I 100% certain future generations are going to look at the last fifty years of handling the Tridentine Mass as a master class in how to achieve the total opposite of your stated goals. Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum will likely be viewed as the lone exception to how badly things have been handled.

  2. William Fredrick deHaas Avatar
    William Fredrick deHaas

    Mr. Wayne – interesting – agree with the exact opposite of your statement 100%. The usual historical footnote is that it takes fifty years for a council to have an impact. We will see – wonder if today’s tech world in communication has shifted that historical footnote?

    1. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      If I saw any evidence to support your opinion, I would agree with you even if it didn’t align with my own personal feelings or desires. I’ve read this blog for years and found nothing to support the idea that it was SP, and not the suppression of the old Mass followed by years of poorly realized indults, that was the divisive action. I see no logical reason to think the current actions will be helpful or result in the desired outcome.

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens in upcoming decades when good people, feeling “devastated” and embittered by the current limitations being placed on the old Mass, start to assume more and more leadership roles. Pray they show more charity to those they disagree with than what is being shown to them right now.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood


        If you want evidence of the divisive nature of SP, you only have to look at the fact that Benedict consulted bishops’ conferences before issuing it, but ignored what they said. The Bishops of France, and of England and Wales — both countries where small but vocal groups of traditionalists had been virulent over many years — begged Benedict not to issue it, foreseeing the trouble it would cause. In the fullness of time, Francis discovered that their predictions were correct, and the result is TC.

        The traditionalists totally misconstrued SP. (1) They thought it legitimized the Tridentine Rite as an alternative and parallel norm, even though it was described as “extraordinary”. This encouraged them in their continued efforts to portray their brand of Catholicism as superior to that of the post-Vatican II Church. (2) They thought it entitled them to proselytize. It did not. Benedict was quite clear that this was a pastoral provision for a small group that would die out over time, and yet they campaigned ever more vigorously to augment their numbers and increase provision of the Tridentine Rite.

        If any further evidence were required, take a look at what went on in seminaries over the years between 2007 and 2021, frequently with two factions among the students. Traditionalist seminarians pressurized seminary staff to provide the same amount of training for their splinter group as for the mainstream Church. Newly-ordained priests would celebrate their first Mass of thanksgiving in the Tridentine Rite; some would only agree to celebrate in that rite, and refused to preside at Masses using the postconciliar rite.

        Finally, look at the divisions caused between those who accepted Benedict’s unfounded assertion that Paul VI never supplanted the previous rite and those who did not accept it and thought that Benedict was misguided and badly-advised in this regard.

        The evidence is clear for all to see. SP caused a fissure in the Church. TC is attempting to repair the rupture.

      2. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        Paul – you offer no clear evidence, though. Your first point doesn’t dispute my statement – that some bishops were vocally opposed to SP. There’s a video from the 80s circulating in traditionalist forums in which a French parish had their church *bricked up* by the bishop because they wanted the old Mass – they broke down the doors with a battering ram. If that is even a little indicative of the environment these bishops were cultivating for decades, then the issue was clearly with the indult situation that existed prior to SP.

        Your words about SP are factually incorrect. SP allowed the old Mass to be freely celebrated and promoted by groups of the faithful. That a legitimate form of Mass celebrated with permission cannot be freely shared is objectively anti-Gospel anyway. There’s also nowhere I can think of that the Latin Mass isn’t unusual (or extraordinary) – especially compared to other extraordinary permissions like EMHCs. The use of the Latin Mass could increase 300% and still be difficult to come by. Extraordinary obviously can’t mean “virtually non existent.” Anyone who doesn’t want to attend the Traditional Mass has countless other options.

        I think it is wonderful seminarians want to learn and celebrate the old Mass and see nothing inherently divisive about it. Existing isn’t divisive and I don’t really care what form a priest wants to celebrate for his first Mass. If some priests are refusing to celebrate the Novus Ordo at all, then that is a problem completely separate from SP.

        Also, Pope John Paul II and Benedict both stated the old rite had not been abrogated. They have the authority to state so. I don’t now the truth of the following, but supposedly Archbishop Bugnini even wrote with dismay that Pope Paul would not abrogate the old Mass officially.

      3. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        Once again, here’s Pierre Jounel (see Voices from the Council):

        What would you say to those people who don’t want to know the Missal of Paul VI, and to those who, while respecting it, regret that it was imposed to the exclusion of the Tridentine Missal?

        “I would say to them that they use computers, that they live with the instruments of the culture of their time, and that they have no reason to get stuck on the 1570 date when the Missal of Pius V was promulgated. Why should the liturgy be frozen then, when it had been periodically renewed up to that date? These people lack historical knowledge. Msgr Lefebvre was absolutely convinced that the ancient formula for Confirmation goes back to the time of the apostles, when in fact it only dates back to the 13th century.”

        Jounel then goes on to demonstrate how Paul VI followed exactly the same procedure with his Missal as Pius V had with the Missal and Breviary in 1570, Clement VIII in 1595 with the Roman Pontifical, Pius X with the psalter of the Breviary in 1911, and Pius XII with the Holy Week rites in 1955. In all these cases, the previous usage was abrogated and replaced by the new. This is the Church’s constant practice.

      4. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        And I’ll say again that that Jounel quote shows very poor logic. It is clear that he doesn’t understand why people attend the Tridentine Mass and seemingly doesn’t want to understand them. I grew up with the liturgical reform, so obviously I’ve gotten to know it as well as any average Catholic can, and I certainly don’t attend or advocate for the Traditional Latin Mass because I think every word and action of it is apostolic – and neither do the vast majority of traditionalists I’ve known. I don’t know or care what LeFevbre may have misunderstood about Roman Rite history (though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jounel is mischaracterizing him, as this is common amongst those who don’t want to understand traditionalists).

        I don’t go for chronological snobbery, which Jounel seems to advocate. Am I forbidden from appreciating new realist painting because cameras freed art from needing to depict the real world in the 19th Century? Am I forbidden from reading printed books because I have a computer? To what extent am I bound to only use the things of my time? Can I watch movies that predate 1984? Can I read devotional books and the writings of saints if they predate me and there are current books with the same ideas? Can I pray old prayers? Can I ride a bike to work if I have a car since cars are more modern? What if my bike is from the 60s because I couldn’t afford a new one at the time and I have kept it because it rides better than any new bike I can afford? Does quality figure in? Can I think a well made old thing is better than a poorly made new thing? What if I don’t like something merely because it is old, but because it is good?

        I can’t say this quote makes me want to read the rest of Jounel’s writing or put much stock in his reasoning – perhaps you could provide something better? I’m not saying he lacks qualifications or isn’t highly intelligent, but he doesn’t seem to understand traditionalism in any meaningful way.

      5. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood


        Pierre Jounel (1914-2004) was one of the leading French liturgists of his time, whose work in the cause of the post-Vatican II reforms was immense. He taught at the highest level in Paris for many years, and served on numerous working groups of the Consilium, thus having a unique insider’s view on those reforms and how they came to be and why.

        The interview that I quoted from dates from 1994. In the course of it Jounel gives a bird’s eye view of many of the questions that continue to preoccupy us, including the question of whether Paul VI abrogated the Tridentine Rite. (He did.) Jounel was speaking at a time when pressure was building among Tridentinists in France, and his views demonstrate clearly that those Tridentinists had no idea about liturgical history, and therefore little balance in their views. He says, in effect, you need to use your head as well as your heart. It’s not about what traditionalists like or are motivated by; you need a good knowledge of the history of the liturgy as well. I suggest that to condemn his views as lacking in logic merely indicates that you hadn’t heard of the man and his extraordinary contribution to what we now enjoy.

        Now that he is reaping his eternal reward, I think it is safe to say that he knows rather more about the traditionalist movement than either you or I.

      6. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        The computer analogy baffles me to be honest. I thought that the new missal is supposed to be a restoration of an older more authentic tradition (the pristine patristic liturgy before the darkness of the carolingian sacred dramas), and so is in a sense supposed to be older than the 1570 missal. So how can traditionalists be compared to those holding onto an older less advanced technology?

        Also, the historical facts of that Jounel quote are problematic. While juridically, it’s true that Paul VI act promulgation of his missal is arguably similar to that of Pius V. There are at least two relevant differences. For example, the Introduction to the current Roman Missal states the following:

        “In fact, the Missal of 1570 differs very little from the very first printed edition of 1474, which in turn faithfully takes up again the Missal used in the time of Pope Innocent III. ”

        Pius V also permitted missals in use that were at least 200 years to continue in use, recognizing their inherent right to exist. This is very different from what Paul VI did (impose a liturgy with which no one was yet familiar as it had a new ordo missae, new lectionary, eucharistic prayers, collects, etc.) Very unprecedent.

        As they say, them’s the facts.

        I think Inwood does Jounel a disservice by trodding out this quote 3-4 times a year.

      7. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Yes, there are those differences from 1570 – because of Vatican II. Vatican II’s reformist directives are much more extensive than those of Trent were.

      8. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        Trent’s reformist directives were largely ignored. I still come across people who think that communion of the faithful and homilies are intrusions not part of the EF Mass. But the reception of the consecrated elements by the congregation was earnestly desired (XXII:cap.vi) and instruction on the Mass texts demanded (XXII:cap.viii).

      9. Peter Haydon Avatar
        Peter Haydon

        Fr Hunwicke has repeated recently his explanation of Quo primum explaining that S Pius V did not prohibit rites more than 200 years old.
        “It is true that he added a “permittimus” — we permit that, if they like my edition of the Missal better, they can adopt it “de episcopi vel praelati capitulique universi consensu” — provided that the bishop and the unanimous Chapter are in agreement.”

  3. Doug O'Neill Avatar
    Doug O’Neill

    “Roche stressed that the Pope’s intention was to ‘bring unity’ to the Church, and to end the suggestion that there are two different Churches with two different liturgies.”

    I assume that the Archbishop is aware that there are actually different liturgies in communion with Rome? It has been well supported on this blog that the OF is the one licit Roman Rite, the presumption of which informs views on TC. But he seems to be implying that all Catholics should ideally be observing the Roman Rite. Let’s not forget about our Eastern Rite friends (and Ambrosian, Mozarabic, etc.), who do indeed observe a different liturgy with full permission, and are not a separate Church.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Doug, this is a good point and I wish the archbishop’s comments were a bit more clear. I take it that he means there should be unity within the *Roman* rite because of course there are non-Roman rites in the Catholic Church. But having two forms of the same Roman rite, one of them not reformed in accord with the teachings of an ecumenical council, has no precedent and is something quite different than the various non-Roman rites that enrich our Church.

  4. Alex Sheffield Avatar
    Alex Sheffield

    What amazes me is how quickly this situation is evolving. Right before this interview was supposed to have been published, pope Francis had already contradicted Roche’s December dubia answers by signing the decree allowing the FSSP to use the 1962 missal, breviary, rituale and pontifical without restriction in their own churches and oratories. Pope Francis also stated that Traditionis Cusotdes does not apply to the FSSP and the other former Ecclesia Dei groups. If anything the new state of things is more supportive of parallel churches.

    Archbishop Roche also contradicts himself in this interview as his comments here are an explicit reversal of his own comments in 2015 about the two legitimate forms of the roman rite which are mutually enriching. (the interview is available on youtube).

    1. Alan Johnson Avatar
      Alan Johnson

      Alex Sheffield – “Archbishop Roche also contradicts himself in this interview as his comments here are an explicit reversal of his own comments in 2015 about the two legitimate forms of the roman rite which are mutually enriching.”
      Roche was plainly wrong or over-idealistic. What did he expect the Tridentine people to take on board from the current Missal? And vice-versa.
      I find your phrase about “parallel churches” very illuminating and expressive of precisely why something had to be done.

      1. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        I find your parallel churches comment confusing. Alex Sheffield says the *new* limits promote parallel churches – and they do. If the idea is to eventually phase out all Latin Masses aside for those celebrated by the Ecclesia Dei groups, then you will no longer have churches that celebrate both forms of Mass or the other sacraments with the mingling of different people that naturally comes with that. Eventually people who want the old Mass at all will have to specifically leave their parish and join one that exclusively celebrates only the TLM and people from both will be less likely to know one another, worship with one another, or experience one another. Of course, more likely, it results in people who don’t like the Latin Mass being able to completely ignore those who do.

    2. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      I wonder what you would say if you found that it is Archbishop Roche who asked Francis to grant the concession to the FSSP. The alternative would be for that extreme group to be schismatic (some would say they already are).

      1. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        I would be inclined to disbelieve someone who said that Roche asked for the decree concerning the FSSP unless they could provide evidence that this is indeed what happened (e.g. a letter dated from before February 2021 where he states this).

        One reason I’d have trouble believing that it was Roche’s idea is that the decree is in continuity with what Francis has said about the Tridentine Mass over the years. He told Bishop Rifan that it is a treasure that should be preserved and that he is only worried about it’s ideologization. Pope Francis also told the Franciscans of the Immaculate that he does not have a problem with someone using the old rite if it helps them to better adore God.

  5. Allan J. McDonald Avatar
    Allan J. McDonald

    What has been good about celebrating both forms of the Mass for the vast majority of Catholics who like the older form but mostly attend the reformed Post Vatican II Mass is the ability to see what was good about the reforms and what was and still is questionable about those reforms. And certainly we can’t say the actual reforms are infallible, because they aren’t. I’m all in favor of a return to a single new reformed Post Vatican II Missal and Roman Calendar with the options allowed in the Ordinariate’s Roman Missal, Divine Worship. The option of Prayers at the foot of the altar, the option of the older offertory prayers, more complicated rubrics similar to the 1962 Missal, the triple “Lord, I am not worthy…”, the Last Gospel, a revised look to the current Missal similar to theirs which is similar to the 1962 Roman Missal. And a refinement of the Roman Calendar similar to the Ordinariate’s which is more similar to the 1962 version. Have a vernacular Missal and an all Latin Missal or have the Latin on the side of the vernacular as the 1965 Missal had. Clearly allow for the option of ad orientem and kneeling for Holy Communion. But let’s face it, the current Roman Missal is so diversely celebrated both officially and abusively, how can we say that it brings liturgical unity to the Church?

  6. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
    Anthony Hawkins

    Although SP was instrumental in opening up the possibility of trad proselytizing, I see the root of the problem in the provision of Quattuor abhinc annos that ” c) These celebrations must be according to the 1962 Missal and in Latin.”. The previous indults issued by Bugnini on the authority of Paul VI had been for “the Missal published in 1965 with the amendments indicated in the Instruction of 1967”. This was a sticking point for Paul VI, that those using the pre-1969 form (and 1965 has only minor changes in text from 1962) should use amendments made in the light of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I have read that Abp. Lefebvre welcomed the 1965 changes as he was well aware that they conformed the Mass more to what Trent had mandated (XXII;cap.viii) than had been practice over the previous century.

    1. Devin Rice Avatar
      Devin Rice

      Thank you for a bit of history. In another world, I wonder would what have happened if all the permission granted by St. John Paull II and Benedict XVI would have only permitted the use of 1965/67 Missal with its use of the vernacular and its amendments. How would the trad movement have been different.?

      1. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        I wonder what would have happened if the reform has been limited to the more modest reform of the 1965/1967 Missal with provisions for a greater use of the vernacular? How much of the divisions of the past years could have been avoided?

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