100 Weeks: French Lay Catholics Persevere in Praying for an End to Restrictions on Traditional Latin Mass
Initiative organizer says they will ‘continue for years to come, if necessary.’
PARIS — French lay faithful who have been peacefully praying outside Church offices in Paris following the suppression of the traditional Latin Mass in the city will reach a milestone Aug. 26, when they gather for their 100th week.
The group, called the “Sentinels for the Defense of the Traditional Mass,” began meeting every Saturday in July 2021, first outside the apostolic nunciature and then archdiocesan headquarters in Paris.
The group’s prayerful protest was sparked by Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of the Tradition) that imposed restrictions on the older Mass celebrated before the liturgical reforms of the 1970s, also known as the usus antiquior, and led to suppression of the traditional Mass in some selected parts of the French capital.
In Aug. 24 comments to the Register, Louis Renaudin, one of the organizers, explains more about the initiative, who is involved, and what their aims are. He argues that he and other faithful are struggling to understand why they “want to change our Catholic faith,” and says that until they understand why and become convinced of their reasons, they will defend the old Mass “for our sake and for the sake of our children” and continue this action “for years to come, if necessary.”
Monsieur Renaudin, the “Sentinels” will have now been gathering for 100 weeks on Saturday. What is the precise cause of this action, and what do you want to achieve from it? How did it start?
The main cause was the publication of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, and the secondary cause was the beginning of application of this text in Paris by Msgr. Michel Aupetit, who was then the archbishop of Paris. Hence the places chosen for our prayers.
Furthermore, we defend the usus antiquior because it is the perfect expression of our Catholic faith, which today is gravely confronted with very serious threats, and it is important for us to protect this means which gives us the assurance of it being passed on intact to our children and grandchildren.
Did the former archbishop abolish all traditional celebrations in Paris?
Not all. Curiously, he limited himself to the abolition of the Masses according to the usus antiquior which were celebrated in outlying, socially poor and multicultural parishes — that is to say, in two popular parishes, Notre-Dame-du-Labor and Saint-Georges de la Villette — while he did not touch the celebrations in the upmarket and rather-young boroughs where he would have faced a violent reaction.
So the Masses continued in the upmarket areas?
Absolutely, and I don’t think the new archbishop is going to risk suppressing them, unless he wishes — and he doesn’t seem to wish to do this — to find himself faced with a revolution, something the French seem to be particularly good at.
Do you know of similar resistance actions underway, whether in France or elsewhere?
In France, there were other militant reactions in cities such as Dijon or Annecy, and generally the pastors understood rather quickly that it would be useless to go on a crusade against the laity attached to the traditional faith of the Church.
How do you know this?
The “Paix Liturgique” movement [a French Catholic organization that supports the traditional Mass and works towards liturgical peace] has carried out more than 25 opinion polls in France since the year 2000 (three national polls and 22 diocesan polls), which have given almost all the same answers: A third of French [Massgoing] Catholics are attached to the traditional liturgy — and if they do not attend it, that is because it is not proposed or offered to them where they live; more than 50% desire peace and do not oppose the desire of the previous ones to benefit from the traditional liturgy; and only a mere 10% of Catholics are militants of the apartheid policy, and in addition, these 10% are generally quite old, and the French bishops are quite aware of all that, which explains their caution.
Would you describe your action as a protest?
The Second Vatican Council and some recent statements by Pope Francis emphasize the importance of the laity in the Church. Our approach is therefore to let our pastors know our needs and also our dissatisfaction. This is why, for 100 weeks, we have been coming to recite our Rosary in front of the nunciature in France and nowadays in front of the offices of the Archdiocese of Paris.
How many persons show up for this daily prayer? What are their backgrounds and ages?
For security reasons, it is important that our prayers are not considered to be acts of disorder. Thus, every day, two or three of us recite the Rosary in the street. Praying is enough: For the authorities, it shows we are not “revolutionaries” or “terrorists”; and, for the archdiocese, it is quite sufficient to show them our determination, because we will continue like this for years to come, if necessary.
How effective has your action been so far?
In front of the nunciature, it was a worry for the nuncio. In front of the Archdiocese of Paris, it must also have worried the archbishop because the police came to tell us that we had been denounced as a serious terrorist risk. But this only caused the police to smile! [An archdiocesan official told the Register Aug. 25 the “archdiocese was not the source of this denunciation, which can come from anyone.”]
Would you like Catholics in other French cities and around the world to take similar measures? If so, what advice would you give them?
We know that in France other groups will do the same if they are persecuted [have the TLM suppressed], but to tell you the truth, most French bishops are intelligent and, Deo gratias, don’t wish to unleash a reaction which would be certain.
Our wish is to establish traditional liturgies wherever the faithful should need them, as those same faithful would have wished if there would have been a holy and pious application of the decisions of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. If our bishops don’t understand this, we will help them to understand. We are free and upright laypeople … so if situations would require it, we would be ready to be everywhere where there would be a need, as in Saint-Germain-en Laye, where, every Sunday, we have a Mass celebrated outside, in front of the closed door of an always-empty church, but also in many places in Europe and even in Africa or Asia.
Through Traditionis Custodes, observers believe Pope Francis wishes to put an end to the traditional liturgy, based on his statement that the reformed liturgy should be the “unique form” of the Roman Rite.
Yes, but in 2007, his predecessor spoke very highly of the usus antiquior and wanted to establish true liturgical peace. So if the current Pope did not understand what was at stake, we will wait for a next pope, hoping that others will advise him well so that he may take measures to ensure a true peace according to the faith. But it is obvious it’s not us who have changed — and on such important issues. It doesn’t make sense that one changes one’s mind every 10 years according to the pope or the bishop who is in charge. If the usus antiquior has never been against the faith, and knowing that the faith itself does not change, what then is the problem in following and supporting it, as previous popes have done?
Critics would argue that you’re being disobedient to the Pope. Would you agree?
Certainly not. Also, why didn’t some Church authorities “obey” when Summorum Pontificum was in force? But I repeat, this is not disobedience: We are fathers and mothers of families, and before obeying blindly, we must understand what is being proposed, for our sake and for the sake of our children. Never can there be any question of abandoning Catholic practice — and, regarding the usus antiquior, full respect for the faith of all ages. For the moment, however, we haven’t yet understood why some would want us to change our Catholic faith. So for the time being, we are waiting to be convinced; and in the meantime, we persevere in our faith and our convictions, while also helping our priests.