Bishops’ differing approaches to Traditionis custodes

The heat and fallout from the nuke that fell on the anniversary of  the detonation of the first atomic bomb, a date chosen perhaps to add insult to injury by the fact that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, are beginning to clear.

A few tradition despising (can one conclude otherwise?) bishops rushed immediately to issue harsh edicts in the wake of the confused and confusing Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes (the Church’s Plessy v. Ferguson following Benedict XVI’s Emancipation Proclamation), generally viewed by good canonists to be, at best, a mess.   Most bishops, in these USA at least, having a touch more prudence and maybe a little less disdain of the people in their charge, said that they had to “study” the Motu Proprio, and in the meantime everyone should carry on as before.

Now it seems that they have had their private chats and are coordinating a bit.

Some, however, are going in other directions.  The letters they send out make interesting reading.

One of the better reactions from a US bishop I have seen is from the Bishop of Syracuse, Most Rev. Douglas Lucia.  He established one of their churches as a “diocesan shrine”, and hence a place of pilgrimage, prayer, etc.  He will go there HIMSELF to inaugurate the Shrine with a Pontifical Mass in the Usus Antiquior (we should start to move away from “Extraordinary Form” language).   He appointed a “delegate” for the “Latin Mass community” who is also a pastor of a parish.    The 9AM (sweet spot) Mass will be in the Usus Antiquior, the Vetus Ordo, and the noon Mass in the Novus Ordo.  He says it remains a personal parish and all who are registered there can receive all the sacraments with the 1962 books.  People can request funerals in the Novus Ordo, but he writes: “Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation may not be celebrated in the Ordinary Form at St. Mary’s without permission of the Diocesan Ordinary”, which sort of puts the shoe on the other thing.

He then lists the four churches where the Usus Antiquior will be used, though he could have been more generous.  He makes use of Can. 87, by the way.  Good choice.

On the other hand there is this nonsense from the Diocese of Gaylord.   Granted, this is not from Bishop Hurley but rather from the Communications Director (a group who collectively have usually left me less than impressed).

This is an official communiqué from the diocesan comms commisar published in a parish bulletin about the fact that, on 11 July, there was a TLM celebrated in a “closed” church, St. Charles which had been part of that parish cluster.  It seems that diocese closed and then sold the church some time ago.  It was acquired eventually by the SSPX!  They’ve got it up and running again and the diocesan personnel are verklempt.  They bemoan the fact that the SSPX didn’t seek their permission to do this.  They lament that the priest wasn’t authorized.  They say that Catholics should avoid going there, because the group at St Charles is “not reconciled with Rome”.  They identify that nefarious group as “the Fraternity of St. Peter”.


Another example of how people who have NO IDEA of what they judging are making the judgments.

Also, when you close and sell a church, you don’t get to control it any more.  Perhaps the better strategy would be to keep the church and think outside of the box.

Moving west, we find the less than edifying efforts to implement TC in the Diocese of Boise.

Bishop Peter Christenson expresses his long-time concern about the “divisiveness” in the diocese coming from the people who want the Traditional Mass:

My brother priests, these are not new concerns for me. I have also been troubled by a divisive energy rising from those who seek to “restore” the Church to the Tridentine Liturgy. Efforts I have made to provide the Extraordinary Form for those who wish it have often been met by greater demands and an expressed intention to attend churches that are in schism with the Catholic Church, such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), rather than attending a Novus Ordo Mass.

Firstly, we are simply to accept, I guess, that there is “divisive energy”.  Going on, we are to accept that he has made “efforts” to provide for these “divisive energy” people.  What I find really interesting is his statement that his “efforts” were met with a desire to seek out the SSPX, rather than attend a “Novus Ordo” Mass.

Let’s leave aside that the SSPX is NOT is schism.  Their priests have been given faculties by the Holy See and by various diocesan bishops. You can’t receive faculties if you are in schism.  And I would ask for the name and date of the document that formally judges the SSPX to be schismatic.  If they have been officially, formally judged to be schismatic, there must be some formal official declaration.

I ask you… if you tell people who want the Traditional Mass that they can go to the Novus Ordo, is that really making an “effort”?

I have an image in my mind right now of a child on Christmas Eve wishing only that his daddy would come home so they could put the star on the tree, like daddy promised.  After all, it is the family tradition.  “Grandpa, would lift me up on his shoulders and I would put the star on the tree.  It was wonderful.  I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”   But, daddy doesn’t come home at all because he has some important work to do that takes effort.  The neighbor, at the house for the Christmas party, sees how sad the boy is and offers to take him for a walk in the fresh cold Boise air.  It just so happens that he has been putting up his Christmas decorations (not before Christmas Eve, of course) and has yet to put the star on the little pine tree in his front yard.  He hoists the boy up and they put it on together.  It is something that the boy will never forget, for the rest of his life.

Has Bp. Christenson ever gone to be with these people and celebrate, himself, Holy Mass in the Traditional Form?  Has he spent time with them?  It may be that he has.   It could be that he has made special efforts to celebrate Mass, to confirm their children.  And, dagnabit!, those people were so ungrateful that they emit “divisive energy”.  “No matter how I bend over backward for these people, they just keep wanting what they want!”

This is the single most marginalized group of people in the Church.  This is the periphery if ever there was one.

But no.  He made “efforts” and is sad that they don’t want to attend the Novus Ordo.

My experience is that when bishops show up for something Traditional, when bishops really opens up their hearts towards them, people are incredibly grateful.  They would go to the wall for such a bishop.

But no.  THEY are the ones who are at fault.

Another little point… in the letter Bp. Christensen sent to the priests of Boise there are decrees.  He with great effort established ONE parish for the TLM. He also says… think about this…

With this in mind, in accordance with Traditionis Custodes and Canon 381, 1, I decree that, effective immediately:

• It is determined that the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, in situ at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Coeur d’Alene, do not deny the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform as dictated by Vatican Council II and therefore may continue to use the 1962 Roman Missal in that parish solely;

Oooo…. he threw a little Latin in there.  In situ!  He could have just said, “the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter at St. John of Arc”.  “In situ at” is sort of like seeing “Shrimp Scampi” on an “authentic” Italian restaurant menu.

Think about that for a moment.   This is about the FSSP, the Fraternity of St. Peter.  This is like saying, “It is possible that Joe Bagofdonuts is a wife beater.  As a matter of fact, it could be that he beats his wife.  I’ll make efforts to investigate.   Okay everybody, I’ve determined that Mr. Bagofdonuts does not, in fact, beat his wife as was previously suspected.”

There is something more than disturbing in that.  One might say that it is insulting.

The Motu Proprio Plessy v. Ferguson … oooops… Traditionis custodes.   

Si vis pacem para bellum!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. As a side note, I am all for getting rid of the term “extraordinary form,” because so many in the hierarchy seem to think it means that the traditional Latin Mass should be safe, legal and rare. BUT: if you’re going to call it the Usus Antiquior, DON’T abbreviate that to “UA.” In legal and law enforcement circles, “UA” stands for “urinalysis.” And after 23 years in the law, that’s all I can think of when I hear or see “UA.”

  2. donato2 says:

    Interestingly, Bishop Lucia was named by Pope Francis. I wonder how he slipped through.

  3. Chrisc says:

    This post was much appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Thomas says:

    …(we should start to move away from “Extraordinary Form” language)….

    Oh, yes, please.

  5. Fr. Reader says:

    TC does not mention explicitly the Breviary, but I suppose it is included in: “The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”
    I haven’t found a definite answer to this question (only some conversations here and there): can a priest recite privately the Roman Breviary instead of the Liturgy of the Hours and fulfil the obligation?

    [Yes, you fulfill your obligation with the Breviarium Romanum.]

  6. Vincent says:

    Some of these are priceless… I feel, simultaneously, like crying and laughing.

    I’m not sure what the Bishop of Boise would make of my standby backup plan where if our diocesan TLM is shut down I will be attending my (very good) parish 50% of the time, with the SSPX another twice a month. Does that make me a sort of schismatic? 50% Catholic?

    I know very few people at diocesan TLMs who exclusively attend. I know very few who attend SSPX who ever attend the Novus Ordo. I move freely between my parish NO, TLM and the SSPX. If a Bishop wanted to reconcile the TLM goers and “de-energise” the “divisive” attitudes, being more generous might – potentially – be helpful? Now is their chance, since soon they will have created a new generation of TLM-goers who are less likely to “reconcile” to the NO.

  7. Rich Leonardi says:

    Here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr has done a decent job of “honoring” — or at least not directly opposing — the bright lines of CT while supporting the TLM communities under his care. He’s done nothing to substantiate the calumnies against traditional Catholics in the motu in his official statements and has been supportive of them since he arrived here a dozen years ago as a coadjutor. One can only imagine the crackdown his predecessor, a man who predicted the new translation of the NO would usher in a “liturgical winter,” would have instigated. In any event here are the AOC’s directives:

  8. Ariseyedead says:

    Speaking colloquially, I’m kind of diggin’ the energy of this post! ;-)

  9. pjm88 says:

    “You can’t receive faculties if you are in schism.”
    Do we not hold that Orthodox priests absolve validly? (Maybe we don’t). And, aren’t their marriages valid? Ultimately all real faculties would have to flow somehow through the Successor of Peter.
    I do not hold that the SSPX is in schism, though.

    [That’s a different category of questions.]

  10. Kate says:

    In our own diocese, we spoke with the bishop about the return of the TLM, which was all but shut down when covid hit. The divisiveness card was pulled out (and he accused the FSSP as well). So, we pressed him on the issue, asking him for concrete instances so that we could correct the problem. The only things he could come up with was, “You call yourselves the TLM community,” and that we have been a burden on the pastor because we have not stopped asking him for the return of the TLM. Well, those things are easy to fix. I’m not attached to the term “TLM community”, and if we had a TLM, we’d no longer burden our pastor.

  11. Toan says:

    I can’t say that Bp. Christensen did great, but I might not be offended by his FSSP comment. He was just doing what TC told him to do. [You might go back and read the post again.]

    I’d modify the analogy: Pope says many men named George are wife beaters, and tasks bishops with determining whether they are wife beaters. Bishop then investigates George E. Form and says “nope, not a wife beater”.

    The insulting thing is not really the bishop’s determination, but the Pope’s generalization.

  12. prayfatima says:

    The new and old forms should just become one. And it can be called, I don’t know, the Roman rite mass? I’m tired of the terms TLM and Extraordinary Form as well. I think the term Novus Ordo is dull, too.
    Bishops should be ashamed of themselves for kicking Catholics out of church and making them feel homeless.
    Don’t forget, bishops and priests: you are supposed to help us get to Heaven. You’re going to answer to God someday for any and all the suffering you inflict upon your flock. You should be begging people to pray for you.

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  15. Archlaic says:

    I still think that the “leader in the clubhouse” to-date is Providence Bishop Tobin and his Tweet of 23 July: “Upon reflection, it seems that in addressing the “problems” of the traditional Latin Mass community -real or perceived- Pope Francis used a chainsaw when only a scalpel was needed. We need to understand the Holy Father’s genuine concern, while also supporting the TLM faithful.”

    So much good stuff here. “Upon reflection” lets us know that he’s not shooting from the hip… the scare quotes around “problems” speaks for itself, but in case you missed the ‘wink’ the parenthetical “real or perceived” is the affirming ‘nod’… but the chainsaw-scalpel bit is pure gold! And while that’s about as close as I’ve seen an American bishop come to pointed criticism of His Holiness over TC, he balances it with the call to “understand… [his]… genuine concern”. Finally, he checks the “pastoral” box by balancing the previous clause by acknowledging the necessity of “supporting the TLM Faithful”. A veritable tour-de-force! It will take something like “The Latin Mass IS NOT the problem with the Church – Keep calm and Chant on” to dethrone it ;-)

    (I am a little bit concerned that – after making numerous overtures of reassurance to the clergy and faithful of the local F.S.S.P. parish – there has been no such contact with the other two communities of “TLM Faithful” in the Diocese, one of which is in its twenty-eighth year; but it is difficult to believe that he has anything untoward up his sleeve after that statement!)

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  17. TonyO says:

    Archlaic, very good points.

    I remain convinced that a bishop who really wanted to do right, and who wanted to at least nod at TC, could do so easily: Effective immediately, all associate pastors will start learning the TLM, in 6 months they will start training an altar boy (no girls) cadre and choir in the proper forms, and in 1 year’s time they will start saying a TLM mass once a week. The diocese will have printed detailed and easy to follow programs for EACH mass. Over time, they will slowly and patiently explain each part of the mass to the congregation, in detail. They will explain EXACTLY where TLM differs from the Novus Ordo, and what the differences mean. They will then carefully teach their flock why the NO mass is legitimate and valid.

    Then the bishop will ask the priests and faithful to discuss at length what parts of the TLM that can be present at the NO, that they would like to see there. Do you want a Latin Sanctus? The Confiteor? Some Gregorian Chant? Mass ad orientem? The pastors will accommodate these requests by allowing the TLM to “infuse” the practice of the NO with its traditional sense of holiness.

    There, that will make it so that every Catholic in their diocese will understand thoroughly that there is no opposition between love of TLM and acceptance of Vatican II and the NO. Opposition, defiance, and schism will be abated. No more “personal” parishes for TLM. (No need for them.)

    I also think that in order to follow Article 3, section 3, properly, the bishop should consider that the needs with respect to the spiritual welfare of people who love the TLM come in at EXACTLY the same schedule as the needs of those who attend the Novus Ordo (and those who belong to the Byzantine Rite, and the Coptic Rite, and the Ruthenian Rite…). The Church requires weekly attendance at mass, but urges her children to attend daily when possible, for their spiritual welfare. Any priest who is carrying out the directives of section 4 should be offering the TLM mass as often as is useful for their benefit…which the Church says is daily. And so the Bishop should approve that schedule. Nothing in TLM requires a bishop to DECREASE the number of days the TLM is available. It only says he is to set the frequency.

  18. TonyO says:

    I have a question for the legal beagles out there: under current canon law, a bishop is required to submit his resignation upon reaching age 75.

    What if he refuses to do so?

    I imagine that if he wants to play games, he can use bureaucratic folderol to claim “I am getting around to it, but I had a crisis to deal with…be right with you, just give me a bit of time…” etc. Eventually such silliness would wear out. So, what if the bishop simply says “no”?

    I am guessing that Rome would be very unhappy with him. But I also imagine that Rome cannot make him resign. Resignation is a voluntary act.

    Probably, if the pope gets mad enough about it, he can formally discharge the bishop from his diocese (what’s that called, anyway), and then appoint a new bishop. But presumably the pope would have to cite an explicit reason. And while SOME popes might think that “he defied my rule about age 75 resignation” is a good enough reason…it is a a DARN SIGHT STUPIDER reason than getting rid of bishops for heresy and sacrilege, and the popes have been leaving heretical bishops in place for a long time now. Probably a truly leftist pope like Francis wouldn’t mind looking like an authoritarian dictator over this, (given the evidence of TC at hand), but some popes surely would think twice about the optics of it, wouldn’t they?

    My idea is: would it be worth it to take this on? If the Church were a business, maybe it would make sense to have a mandatory retirement age of 75. It isn’t a business. Bishops are pastoral fathers to their priests and flock. You don’t resign from being a father on some general schedule.

  19. amhancock says:

    I live in the Boise area and have been actively involved in the Latin Mass community there until Covid hit. Just a side note, the FSSP parish mentioned (St. Joan of Arc) is 6 hours from the Boise area, so not a driveable distance for those wanting to attend the TLM Mass regularly. The only option in the Boise area is Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel run by the SSPX. It was actually bought in a similar situation to one of the stories you told in this post — sold by the diocese and then bought by the Society. Many parishes have been sold in the diocese and then combined into mega-parishes, such as the parish my husband grew up in. It was sold to Protestants. Heartbreaking.

    To respond to the questions you asked about Bishop Christensen in your post:

    Has Bp. Christenson ever gone to be with these people and celebrate, himself, Holy Mass in the Traditional Form?
    No. Not once.

    Has he spent time with them?
    No. We have to approach him at events at the cathedral.

    Has he done Confirmations or other sacraments in the old rite for them?
    No and he has discouraged it for his priests.

    He has done anything but bend over backward for the Latin Mass community. The first TLM I was aware of in the Boise area (there may have been others, but we have moved in and out of state due to work) was November 2017. The Latin Mass community then put together a petition to have a regular TLM. It was not granted until March 2019 with a monthly TLM at 2pm. There were 250-400 people present each month, usually around 350. Requests were made for a more frequent TLM due to interest, and then requests for a TLM-only parish. The answer was always NO.

    This is the same bishop who released a statement last year disallowing his priests from celebrating the Novus Ordo ad orientam and from providing furniture for kneeling to receive Holy Communion. There are no Novus Ordo Masses in the state done in Latin (some priests may allow Gregorian chant or do parts in Latin). In fact, the irreverence in most parishes is so scandalous that our family finally decided to solely attend SSPX. Not to mention that the catechism in the parishes was downright heretical — we had to correct something on a weekly basis such as catechists telling our children that the Sunday Mass obligation is optional. Also, sacraments are rationed out at a specific age even if children are ready before — we had to fight repeatedly to get our children Penance and First Communion if they reached the age of reason before 8, requests for Confirmation before high school are denied even if kids are prepared, and we are required to attend parish catechism classes even though our kids have always been homeschooled and attended daily Mass their entire lives (until we decided to ditch the irreverent Novus Ordo options in our area). It is actually diocesan policy that homeschooled children are required to attend parish-based catechism classes to receive the sacraments. It has been such a breath of fresh air to have catechism at the SSPX in our area. They provide classes based solely on the Baltimore Catechism, but they aren’t required. As long as children can pass an interview with the pastor, they can receive the sacraments. Suffice to say, we don’t plan to return to the abuse we’ve suffered for years.

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