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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Traditionis Custodes: An Analysis and Survival Guide

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Traditionis Custodes: An Analysis and Survival Guide


The Traditionis Custodes nightmare has arrived. After the initial shock and sadness, many are wondering, “What now?” Some bishops, such as the bishop of Little Rock, have already eliminated the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in their parish churches, leaving the faithful to assist at TLMs in already overcrowded personal parishes of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) or Institute of Christ the King (ICK) or other traditional orders. Other bishops, such as Bishop Angel Luis Rios-Matos of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, completely prohibited the Latin Mass as well as even prohibiting the use of Roman chasubles, maniples, and birettas!

Other bishops such as Bishop Burbidge of Arlington, VA and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC have allowed TLMs to continue in parish churches for now, until it is fully understood what is intended by Pope Francis regarding some of the seemingly contradictory commands in the document. A source has informed me that other bishops are considering submitting a dubia asking Rome to clarify what is meant by the provision that the TLM cannot take place in a “parochial church” as well as questioning how the directives in the Motu Proprio are consistent with the bishop’s right to regulate the liturgy in his diocese.

The ideal, of course, would be that these bishops find some sort of legal rationale, loophole, or other means of keeping the TLMs in “parochial churches” where the vast majority of them exist in the United States. Bishop Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, IL was the first bishop I’m aware of who used canon 87, §1 of the Code of Canon Law which states:

A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church.

However, the situation that Bishop Poprocki used the dispensation for was unique. His letter explains that the Society of St. John Cantius entered into an agreement with the Diocese of Springfield  for ministerial services of priests on November 10, 2014. His letter states:

Since it will contribute to the spiritual good of the faithful, to the extent that it may be needed, a dispensation is granted from Art. 3, § 2 of Traditionis custodes authorizing the use of the 1962 Roman Missal at the parish churches St. Rose of Lima Church in Quincy, Illinois, and Sacred Heart Church of St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Springfield, Illinois…

It is not readily apparent why Bishop Paprocki felt the need to use the canonical dispensation for St. Rose of Lima as earlier in the letter he explained that it was canonically established in 2014 as a personal parish for the Latin Mass. The Motu Proprio can be read to allow existing personal parishes set up for the Latin Mass to remain. However, since the Motu Proprio can be vague it was probably out of an abundance of caution.

What is more interesting is the dispensing of Sacred Heart Church of St. Katherine Drexel Parish which seems to be a regular diocesan parish that happens to be run by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. It seems Bishop Paprocki is saying that since there was a pre-existing agreement between the Canons Regular and the Diocese wherby the Canons would say the TLM at the diocesan parish of Sacred Heart Church and that this Mass is bearing fruit, the bishop is making an exception in dispensing this diocesan parish from the “parochial church” ban of the Motu Proprio.

This is interesting because although Bishop Paprocki used this canon to dispense a single parish in his diocese because of the agreement with the Canons Regular, do other bishops necessarily need a prior agreement with a TLM friendly organization of priests in order to dispense from the parochial church restriction? The canon 87, §1 seems to make no such limitation. Therefore, in the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, “dare we hope” that bishops can use this canon to dispense the faithful of the entire diocese from Francis’ draconian orders? I would encourage the bishops to do so. If nothing else it can serve as a trial balloon to see if Rome tries to interfere with those dispensations, meanwhile buying time. 

In addition, we can even hope that pressure from the negative press coverage regarding this Motu Proprio on top of petitions to Rome will cause Francis or his underlings in charge of implementing the documernt to relent on a “rigid” interpretation of “parochial church” or to do away with that restriction altogether.

However, at this point, these hopes may be unrealistic. For these restrictions were not meant to be temporary or lenient, but only the beginning of the eventual eradication of the TLM from the Church. As Pope Francis stated:

Indications about how to proceed in your dioceses are chiefly dictated by two principles: on the one hand, to provide for the good of those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration and need to return in due time to the Roman Rite promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II and, on the other hand, to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the “holy People of God.”

Therefore, assuming Rome doesn’t back down on strictly interpreting “parochial church” and also doubles down on interfering in the bishop’s right to govern the liturgy in his own diocese, the best response we can probably expect might be one similar to the one from Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati. Archbishop Schnurr stated:

In this instance, and until further notice, the definition of ‘non-parochial’ will be interpreted as a sacred space that is an oratory, shrine, or other suitable location deemed particularly adept to fulfill the care of the faithful as outlined by the motu proprio.

The Archbishop goes on to name two churches in the Cincinnati area, one church in the Dayton area, and one church to be named later in the northern part of the diocese that will house the celebration of the TLM.

It is important to understand that bishops friendly to the TLM are taking their time to figure out exactly what they are and aren’t allowed to do under the Motu Proprio before attempting to implement a strategy to enable the largest number of TLMs they can using the resources they have in their diocese. If any parish TLMs are tragically ended in the dioceses of TLM friendly bishops, the blame falls squarely on Pope Francis and his draconian decree and not the bishops who, besides perhaps a dubia, attempted dispensations, or creative interpretation, really have no other recourse.

Jackson image 2 Dubia

Survival for Laity

So what is the laity to do? Get thee to a Latin Mass. This is the bottom line. Assuming your parish TLM is forced to go away under Francis’ cruelty, many bishops will be trying to set up alternate Mass locations such as in Cincinnati. Other dioceses may still have personal parishes run by a Traditional order of priests such as the FSSP or ICK that you can avail yourself of. In addition, there are many Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) chapels in the United States that say the TLM. Pope Francis himself granted the SSPX faculties for confessions and marriages and, as we have known for some time, even as far back as when Msgr. Pearl and Cardinal Hoyos were running Ecclesia Dei, it is not a sin to assist at an SSPX Mass as long as you do not have schismatic intent in doing so and, in addition, the New Code of Canon Law states that the Sunday obligation is satisfied in “any Catholic Rite.”

There may also be other creative ways to get around the Motu Proprio such as having priests say private TLMs at certain locations which just so happened to be shared with laypersons who just so happen to show up to these Masses. This situation reminds me of the times of the French Revolution where faithful had to hide priests and assist at secret Masses. Or the times of the catacombs. Sadly, this is what Francis has brought us to. In the words of Orwell, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

For those who are left in a TLM voided wasteland by the loving, compassionate, and merciful Pope Francis, my heart goes out to you. At this point the decision is left up to prayer and your conscience. Some who live in horrendous dioceses and are surrounded by parish after parish  of heresy, sacrilege, and DNC talking points from the pulpit at your local Novus Ordo masses may rightly decide, as is your right under Canon Law, that fulfilling your Sunday obligation at these Masses is a moral impossibility. In that case, canon law instructs to otherwise keep the Lord’s Day holy through privately reading the prayers of the Mass, saying the rosary, etc.

Others who have no TLM available may happen to live near a golden unicorn of a Novus Ordo Mass said by a solidly orthodox priest with none of the liturgical nonsense found in 99% of Novus Ordo parish churches. There are many conservative priests sympathetic to Tradition who, after being forbidden to say the TLM, may offer the Novus Ordo in Latin with none of the neo-modernist allowances tacked on from the years after 1970. (More on this later.) Still inferior, obviously, and not a long term solution. However, in the face of being deprived of a TLM to assist at for the foreseeable future, one might pray and discern as to whether this is a temporary viable option with the only other option being the drastic step of moving homes to be near a TLM that may also eventually be eliminated by Francis or a local bishop as well. In any case, prayer and discernment can be the only answer in this situation. There are no easy answers, for we are in unprecedented times.

Survival for Bishops

If I were a bishop, assuming I couldn’t get Rome to budge on the definition of “parochial church” or accept my dispensation from the horrible decree, I’d start looking for any oratory, chapel, or otherwise non parish church in order to move TLMs to. If none of those exist or too few of them do, I’d start finding any large building owned by the diocese or a parish to designate as a TLM center. The Motu does not limit the number of these locations so I would try to make them numerous as possible, on as many days as possible, and at as many times as possible. I’d also grant any priest who asked for it faculties to say the TLM as well as any seminarian even though the Motu still makes that permission contingent on Rome’s approval.

Taking the Fight to the Enemy

Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. - Matthew 10:16

And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. - Luke 16:8

Besides everything said above, there is one very special thing that conservative bishops and those bishops sympathetic to Tradition can do right now and could have done all along that will probably have the greatest immediate beneficial spiritual impact on the greatest number of souls in the Church since 1970 and it has nothing to do with the TLM.  Ever since Paul VI we have been waiting for the post-Conciliar popes to “clean up” the local liturgies and to stop the abuses and travesties occurring in every parish. However, this power has lied with the local bishops all along. The Motu Proprio says the following about the Novus Ordo. Everyone knows Francis doesn’t intend to enforce it or follow-up on it at all, but I think it provides Traditional allied bishops with a golden opportunity to call Pope Francis’ bluff.    

"At the same time, I ask you to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses. Seminarians and new priests should be formed in the faithful observance of the prescriptions of the Missal and liturgical books, in which is reflected the liturgical reform willed by Vatican Council II."

Jackson image 3 Francis

Bishops, Pope Francis wants “the liturgical reform willed by Vatican Council II?” The Council either contradicted or else said not one word authorizing almost all of the extraneous liturgical oddities that commonly surround it in 2021. Pope Francis wants the Novus Ordo Mass said  “without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.” Please by all means, give it to him!

For whether we like it or not, the current reality in the Church is that the vast majority of Catholics in the world who still bother going to Mass in the Latin Rite, currently assist at the Novus Ordo Mass. In order for us to succeed and make progress we first must accept the reality and then develop a strategy rooted in that reality rather than what we wish it to be.

I am no sociologist, but I am willing to bet that the majority of those Catholics who still go to Mass in the Novus Ordo are not there for the terrible liturgies. Sure some of them are elderly hippies still trying to live out the Age of Aquarius. However, at least daily and weekly Novus Ordo Mass attendees still have a sense of the Sunday obligation and that they should be going to Mass. In fact, many Catholics who assist at Novus Ordo Masses still have the Faith, they are simply missing pieces of it hidden from them by the post-Conciliar regime, just as as most of us were.

There are two primary ways people learn; by words and by actions. The innovators knew that people learn far more effectively by actions. This is why the ambiguous doctrinal errors of Vatican II, though extremely problematic, were not the most effective line of assault for the innovators. They knew the most direct route to changing the beliefs of the faithful was through the Rite of Mass that the faithful experienced every week. This is why Vatican II could on the one hand affirm that “the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the Christian life[i]” and yet only 30% of Novus Ordo faithful (exposed to Communion in the Hand, lay Eucharistic ministers, cheap glass vessels, and irreverent dress and music for decades) still believe the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Mass, then, is our great teacher. Much has been made about the textual deficiencies of the Novus Ordo Mass and with good reason. It is in every way inferior to the Tridentine Rite. However, I would argue that the worst aspects of the Novus Ordo are to be found in its various “options” that were approved long after Vatican II in most cases as “exceptions.” These “options” and “exceptions” are now found in almost every Novus Ordo parish Mass as if they had been given to us by Moses and written on the 10 Commandments. In each case  they undermine a doctrinal Catholic teaching of the Church and eat away at it like a poison.

The Novus Ordo Mass today is akin to a shape-shifting being. It is a choose your own adventure liturgy.  However, it is this very quality that Tradition minded bishops and priests can use to bring good from evil. Tradition, reverence, sacredness, respect, beauty, silence, wonder; a taste of these things leaves the soul wanting more of them as it is drawn closer to God. If you add these elements back into a Novus Ordo Mass and you eliminate all of the poisonous options you ignite a spark in the souls of those attending. They get a glimpse at the sacred and it plants a seed. It is a gateway drug but in a good sense as it starts the soul on a journey that cannot possibly rest in a reverent Novus Ordo liturgy. These elements will instead set the soul on a search for the completion and fulfillment of these newfound holy desires which can only be satiated in the Mass of All Time.

I want you to reflect for a moment, dear reader, on how you found Tradition. For those young readers who were born into it, Deo Gratias! But for most of us, there was a process involved. In the dark days under Paul VI through John Paul II, when the TLM was almost non-existent, most of us assisted at our local Novus Ordo Mass daily or at least every Sunday. Somewhere along the way we may have seen a more reverent Novus Ordo Mass than in our local parish and were attracted to it. I remember feeling this way as a child. I can remember staying up on Christmas Eve to see the replay of the Midnight Mass of John Paul II. I saw all of the altar boys in nice cassocks, I heard the constant beautiful chanting of the choir, the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica decorated for Christmas, the incense, the faithful dressed in their best suits and dresses, the wonderful statues of saints and the golden chalice and liturgical vessels.

As a child watching this, I recognized that these things were beautiful and holy. They imbued in me a sense of awe and wonder. They also caused me to start asking sincerely innocent questions. Why doesn’t our local parish Mass look like this Mass? I would ask the adults, but nobody really had an answer. Far from the wondrous sight on the TV that night, when I went to Mass at my own parish I got to see a modern church building, barren walls with felt banners, no statues, terrible guitar music and songs worse than those I’d hear on my children’s television shows. Girl altar boys as well as the boy altar boys would walk around the altar with a cheap white cassock on top of their clothes revealing their jeans and sneakers below. In a word it was all depressing to me. Nevertheless, I never forgot that midnight Mass I saw on TV that night and would continue to look forward to watching it every year. It planted a longing in my heart for the sacred.

As time went on and I got older I sought out more conservative Masses and I was able to get more pieces of that sacredness here and there. Some more chant, some more Latin, more reverence. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I assisted at my first Traditional Latin Mass when I attended my friend’s daughter’s first Holy Communion. It was a small little church. But to see the traditional fixed altar, the beautiful flowers, the candles, the priest facing God, the silence, the reverence, kneeling to receive at the altar rail, the first communicant girls with veils and long white gloves, the little boys in suits, the women in mantillas, all the while following along in my Great Grandmother’s Missal...I knew I was home. This was the fulfillment of all I started to experience in those midnight Masses on television as a child that I had been chasing for so long. The next step was for me to figure out why in the world this Mass wasn’t being said more often and how in the world the Church lost such a beautiful pearl of great price. These questions started me on the long road to Tradition, with which we are all so familiar.

It is with this in mind that I encourage all Tradition and conservative minded bishops and priests to consider implementing the following “reforms” in their dioceses or in their parishes. Not for the sake of  Traditionalists, but precisely for the sake of the Novus Ordo Catholics who make up such a vast percentage of the Church militant in our time. While the reforms I will suggest each bishop or priest make to the Novus Ordo Mass can never and will never replace the Traditional Mass, I believe they can serve as an important weapon to start moving a much larger number of the massive amount of Novus Ordo Catholics in the Latin Rite to beauty, reverence, and wonder, and that, in turn, will plant the seed that will start them on their own journey to Tradition.

These reforms are merely a starting point, not ends in and of themselves. The true end is that these people, God willing, will eventually start finding Tradition in greater numbers. This will start affecting vocations and increasing the number of Tradition minded priests, which will, in turn, increase the number of Tradition minded bishops, and please God, grant to us, finally, a Tradition minded pope. If all of what I said still doesn’t convince you, dear reader, then at least imagine your joy at the reaction of the pant suited Eucharistic ministresses together with the ponytailed male cantor wandering into their local parish church and finding the following restrictions firmly in place.

To all bishops and to all priests to the extent priest are authorized to do so, I humbly implore you all to:

1.) Decree that all Novus Ordo Masses must be said in Latin.

Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (SC[ii] 31.1)

Pope Francis wants unity? One liturgical language is unifying and adds to the mystery of the Mass. Please see “Why the Mass is said in Latin.” 

2.) Decree that all Novus Ordo Masses are to be said with the priest facing ad orientem.

Vatican II says nothing about the priest saying Mass versus populem.

The priest facing God reinforces the teaching that the priest is offering a sacrifce to God on behalf of the people. Please see “The Return of Ad Orientem: A Cardinal Burke Interview” 

3.) Decree that Holy Communion can only be received kneeling on the tongue at all Latin Rite liturgies. Decree the installation of altar rails at every parish church.

The practice of Communion in the Hand standing began as an abuse in Holland in the 1970’s, is currently a legal exception, and is in no way required to be allowed by a bishop in his diocese. The practice was never once mentioned in Vatican II.

The practice of kneeling and receiving Our Lord on the tongue strongly reinforces the Catholic belief in the Real Presence and prevents sacrilege from particlesof the Host falling to the floor. Please see “Communion in the Hand: The Floor Is Stained with His Blood” 

4.)  Ban the use of girl altar boys.

Each bishop has the authority to ban the practice in his diocese. They aren’t needed or mentioned in Vatican II.

The practice of women serving at the altar was condemned by at least three previous popes: Gelasius I, Innocent IV, and Benedict XIV. Altar boys’ hands are extensions of the hands of the priest who acts as another Christ during the Mass. Liturgical roles being filled by males reinforces the Catholic teaching on the all male priesthood established by Christ. It is the priest who offers the Sacrifice. Please See “Girl Altar Boys and Similar Frauds” 

5.)  Ban the use of “Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.”

Fully within the bishop’s power. They aren’t needed or mentioned in Vatican II.

This reinforces the Catholic teaching that the Holy Eucharist is only to be touched by consecrated hands and reinforces our belief in the Real Presence and reverence for the Holy Priesthood. Please see “A Privelege of the Ordained

6.)  Ban the use of lay readers and lectors.

Fully within the bishop’s power. They aren’t needed or mentioned in Vatican II.

The epistle was traditionally read by the office of lector, a minor order of a seminarian training to be a priest. Reinforces the Catholic belief in liturgical functions being reserved to the priest and those in orders on the way to becoming priests. Please see “Utilitarian Arguments Against Lay Lectors

7.)  Ban all musical instruments except the pipe organ for all Latin Rite Masses.

In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. (SC 120).

Increases reverence, awe, and wonder for the Sacred Mysteries and prevents their profanation by disrespectful and inappropriate modern “music” which destroys the faithful’s interior disposition necessary to receive Christ with reverence. Please see: “An Appeal to the Supreme Authorities of the Church in Favour of Sacred Music”  

8.)  Order the “sign of peace” be skipped in all Novus Ordo Masses.

It’s optional and not required.

Traditionally the congregation had no part in the kiss of peace as it was only given between clergy at solem high Masses. This prevents the attention of the faithful being needlessly interrupted by focusing on shaking hands with neighboring laity in the pews when the focus should be on prayer. If pressed, simply say it is being banned because of Covid-19 and the liberals will not object. Please see “On the Sign of Peace” 

9.)  Order the exclusive use of Eucharistic Prayer One (The Roman Canon)

Other Eucharistic prayers, like Eucharistic prayer two was first etched on the back of a cocktail napkin at a trattoria and have dubious origins. Even though the Novus Ordo Eucharistic Prayer One is not identical to the Roman Canon it retains the vast majority of it and acts to reinforce the same things the Roman Canon does in the TLM. Please see “The Roman Canon: Pillar and Ground of the Roman Rite” 

10.) Order that the priests use Roman chasubles, maniples, birettas, etc. when saying Novus Ordo Mass. If you are a priest start to use these.

Vatican II doesn’t forbid it.

These vestments reinforce the grandeur of God and the reverence, solemnity, dignity, and ceremony of the liturgical act. Please see “Pastels, Polyester and Captain James Martin” 

11.)  Order that, at minimum, the same dress code to enter Pope Francis’ Basilica of St. Peter’s be enforced at every parish church (if it’s good enough for the Pope, it’s good enough for the people.)

Vatican II doesn’t forbid it.

This reinforces the Catholic teachings on modesty, chastity, reverence and respect for God, Our King of Kings. Please see: The Vatican Dress Code 

12.)  Require that women wear mantillas at all Latin Rite Masses and that men remove their hats.

Vatican II doesn’t forbid it, and it still may even be canon law as the ‘83 code never abrogated it.

Reinforces the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians and held by the Church for 2,000 years. Reinforces modesty and humility and reverence for Our Lord. See “Why Do Women Cover Their Heads in Church” 

13.)  Require the prayers at the foot of the altar be said before every Novus Ordo Mass and that the “Prayers After Low Mass” of the 1962 Missal be recited after every Novus Ordo Mass.

Vatican II doesn’t forbid it.

These prayers are needed now more than ever as they include the St. Michael prayer against the Devil. Please see “The Leonine Prayers” 

14.)   Ban Communion under both Kinds. Only distribute the Host.

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit… (SC 55)

Reinforces the Catholic teaching that Christ is Fully Present in both species against the contradictory Protestant heresy. If all else fails, again say it is being banned because of Covid-19.  See “Communion Under Both Kinds” 

15.)   Ban concelebration except for occasions where it was allowed in the 1962 Missal.

The regulation, however, of the discipline of con-celebration in the diocese pertains to the bishop. (SC 57.2.1).

Reinforces the obligation of the priest to say his own private Mass daily. Concelebrating was a true rarity in Tradition for very solemn and special occasions such as a solemn high Mass on Easter Sunday. Constantly concelebrating cheapens lessens the solemnity of the act and the priest’s individual power to offer Mass. See: “Celebration vs. Concelebration: Theological Considerations"

16.)  Ban the presentation of the gifts by the laity.

Vatican II doesn’t call for it.

Reinforces the Catholic focus on praying the beautiful offertory prayers and anticipation of the consecration and prevents this time from being interrupted by instead being forced to focus on laity walking down the main aisle as if in a play, calling attention to themselves as the priest greets and blesses them. Please see: “Offertory or Presentation of the Gifts? It Sounds Like a Small Matter. It Isn’t"


[i]Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11

[ii]Vatican II, Sacosanctum Concilium

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Last modified on Friday, July 23, 2021