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Traditionis Custodes: Opportunity For Mercy

July 29, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


As one of the two parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington that offer the Traditional Latin Mass daily, my majority-traditional church family is now in a quite vulnerable condition after the publication of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (TC).
Following the 2007 publication of Summorum Pontificum I was sent in 2010 as pastor to St. Francis de Sales in Benedict, Md. The parish had already a small Traditional Mass community which had thrived since petitioning and receiving permission for offering the vetus ordo Mass in 1989 under the terms of St. John Paul II’s letter Ecclesia Dei.
I found them to be a happy, charitable, and humble group who were quite content to simply pray in the venerable manner of their forefathers and to gather for conversation, coffee and donuts at the parish hall afterward each Sunday. I came to know them well and quickly befriended them. The numbers at the Sunday Mass continued to grow as we undertook a project to promote the sacred in church decoration and to restore the sanctuary to classic norms.
We then added weekday Mass and now draw souls from a quite large geographical area as any personal parish would do. The archdiocese has for years now very generously offered us delegation for conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional rite. Add to this our requiem Masses, wedding Masses, Baptisms, Confession, and extreme unction in the Traditional rite and it’s plain that we also offer what any FSSP or ICKSP parish does.
The Traditional priestly fraternities have not been invited to take over administration of any churches in our archdiocese, while parishes such as mine offer very well already what they bring to the table.
The new document makes clear that the Traditional rite is not to be offered in parish churches, and that new personal parishes are not to be erected for that purpose. If there was ever a rock and a hard place for parishes such as mine, this is it.
Bishop Paprocki, in implementation of the motu proprio for Springfield, Ill., cited canon 87 in allowing a diocesan parish permission to continue offering the historic Mass. This is a welcome precedent that we hope may provide example for a merciful and generous application in cases like our own.
As another priest-columnist recently wrote, there are up to ten parishes where the ancient liturgy is at least occasionally offered in the city of Washington and five surrounding Maryland counties which make up our local Church. Most of these are solemn high Masses on weekdays offered by young priests in collaboration across parishes. As with the two other Ecclesia Dei parishes in the archdiocese, our now two Sunday Traditional Masses have, however, become our “bread and butter.” On a recent Sunday when almost 250 people attended holy Mass at our parish, only 30 of these attended the one remaining English Mass.
We are currently undergoing a $250,000 renovation and repair of our church ceiling, funded mostly by the families of traditional leaning. It is therefore with financially precarious implications that we inform our church family that the Pope is asking them to no longer use their church if they wish to pray the Traditional Mass.
Ironically, on the Sunday that I announced the implications of the new motu proprio, I elicited smiles when I noted that we are already in conformity with the terms of the document, for the reason that we are offering all Masses in our hall while the church undergoes repair. I asked our faithful to recognize that this was certainly a sign that the Lord loves us if there ever was one.
We have grown over a period of more than ten years into what is ipso facto a personal parish. We would hope it be considered that simply making that official by designation as a personal parish would enable us to continue our flourishing apostolate.
We still offer one Sunday novus ordo Mass for those who retain an affection for that rite of Mass. This is a sign of our solicitude, very much in the spirit of Pope Francis, never to exclude or marginalize anyone who seeks a legitimate spiritual expression of prayer in the Church.
There is a Hindu rite, which is problematic because syncretic. A pagan Pachamama bowl was placed on the altar at St. Peter’s. One diocese in England, which reacted quickly to the new motu proprio by banning all Latin Masses, advertises an LQBTQ+ Mass. So, there is room in the Church for all these innovations and, some would say, scandalous liturgies and no room for those who prefer holy Mass the way it was offered in organic development through a period of up to 1,968 years?
Clearly we cannot reasonably say that this is compassion or tenderness. The words of a Church in favor of gentleness and love fall on deaf ears when even an atheist philosopher in France complains that the new document is divisive in a quite contrary sense to the unity it claims to bring about.
Our young families show the fruit of virtue in large families, devotion to the weekday liturgy, learning and singing the propers of Mass in order to offer high Masses. Our parents faithfully instruct their children, first teachers of the faith as Vatican II calls for. Active participation in our liturgy occurs in the very deepest and most profound sense, as in silence and awe the people drink in every aspect, no longer hindered by noise and distractions so often prevalent in other forms of the liturgy.
The TC document and accompanying letter make very clear that its purpose is the complete eradication of the traditional Rite canonized by St. Pius V after Trent. In justification, the document by Pope Francis refers to the bull Quo Primum by St. Pius V to make the case that there should be only one rite for the Latin Church. But this is quite contrary to the intent of Quo Primum, which was to preserve and protect what was more ancient, and thus handed down, not to protect what is new over against what is ancient.
“Let all everywhere adopt and observe what has been handed down by the Holy Roman Church, the Mother and Teacher of the other Churches, and let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world.”
Despite the fact that Pius V used very stringent language to make the case for imposing one liturgy, there were exceptions from the beginning. Other liturgies more than 200 years old were allowed to continue.
As Catholics in good standing who are consistent, seeking truth in the Lord as the Church has always done, we cannot possibly serve as a threat to Vatican II. How can anything which has been sacred and good in the Church before Vatican II be a threat or contrary to any Catholic council of the Church?
We ask for ourselves the same mercy and tenderness the Pope has urged for anyone under threat of marginalization. Should we not extend first of all to our own brothers in the faith the same compassion which for all Catholics is a basic and necessary virtue?
The Church in her Scriptures teaches “test everything and retain what is good.” Lest we quench the Holy Spirit working to bring the fruit of virtue in the lives of millions of Catholics, should we not err on the side of liberality in issues of doubt? Surely we can all peacefully agree that the historic liturgy of the Church should never be castigated or despised as anything other than a blessing and guarantee for the future of a Church truly Catholic and ever on the side of truth.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and

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