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Banning the TLM (Again): Latest Developments

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Credible rumors shared by Rorate Caeli about a renewed crackdown on the Roman Rite, coinciding with the third anniversary of Traditionis Custodes, have prompted an interesting debate on what sort of trick the Vatican may have up its sleeve and how, in turn, individual dioceses and Traditional Latin Mass communities will play their hand. In its letter published last week, Rorate cautioned readers that the ideologues responsible for Traditionis Custodes are “frustrated with its apparently slow results” and are now seeking a new ban that would be as “wide, final, and irreversible as possible.”

Yesterday evening Diane Montagna confirmed in The Remnant Newspaper that, according to “well-informed sources,” a new document is indeed in the works that would, if published, “prohibit all priests other than those belonging to approved ex-Ecclesia Dei institutes from offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Vetus Ordo” and “would also prohibit bishops from themselves celebrating or authorizing the celebration of the Vetus Ordo in their dioceses.” Montagna also noted that “it is unclear if and to what extent priests of [ex-Ecclesia Dei institutes] would be permitted to administer sacraments such as baptism, confirmation and marriage to the faithful in the traditional form.” The issue of diaconal and priestly ordinations in the old rite is also up in the air.

The document was reportedly authored by Archbishop Vittorio Francesco Viola, O.F.M., secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, in consultation with Cardinal Victor Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and with the support of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State and architect of the 2018 secret Vatican-China accord.

With all this in mind, it would behoove Traditional Catholics to familiarize themselves with four key issues so that they can be spiritually, psychologically, and intellectually prepped for what comes next. 

Firstly, a crucial point made in OnePeterFive’s roundtable discussion last week – and one that I’ve previously argued – is that the continued persecution of the Tridentine liturgy is not really about liturgy at all. It’s about theology. This is a war on doctrine, not a squabble over the use of Latin, altar rails and ad orientem worship. The Traditional Rite fosters rightly-ordered worship and doctrinal orthodoxy, which renders it incompatible with the “who-am-I-to-judge? relativism” and the “any-road-up-the-mountain ecumenism” of Modernist revolutionaries. At a sociopolitical level, it also puts Traditional Catholicism at odds with the Climate Agenda wealth redistribution scheme, sexual nihilism, and open borders chaos which Pope Francis and many senior prelates are helping promote. 

Another important observation that came out of the roundtable conversation was the increasing “ghettoization” of the Traditional Latin Mass, and the risk of normalizing the treatment of Latin Mass attendees as second-tier Catholics. With the release of Traditionis Custodes in July 2021, the Vatican trolled traditional Catholics with possibly the most cynically named papal document in the history of the Church. There’s nothing about this document that acted in any way as a “custodian of tradition.” It was a wrecking ball.

You don’t have to go centuries back to Pope St. Pius V’s enshrinement of the liturgy in Quo Primum to identify the contradiction.Only four years earlier, Benedict XVI was crystal clear in his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. He expressly provided that “in parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal” and that if such a group “has not been granted its requests by the parish priest, it should inform the diocesan bishop [who] is earnestly requested to satisfy their desire.” 

And yet during the very next papacy, there was a total 180 on the pastoral efforts made by Benedict who had acted not simply out of charity or a desire for unity, but precisely because the “the Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is … to be … duly honored for its venerable and ancient usage.” Not even the most belligerent of popesplainers can rationalize how the Vatican went from revering the Tridentine rite under Benedict, to literally prohibiting the advertising of Latin Mass times in parish bulletins under Pope Francis. If Catholics accept the absurdities that have arisen because of Traditionis Custodes – and with the exception of some supportive bishops, many do – there is no reason they won’t adapt to the latest round of monstrosities to issue from whatever serpentine document next comes out of Rome. 

This feeds into the third issue, the framework of “limited obedience” as taught in perennial Catholic catechesis, and elaborated on by Aaron Seng in his excellent piece in Crisis Magazine. Seng explains that Catholics are not morally obliged to follow “any order that undermines or contradicts right reason, natural or positive divine law, or the received doctrine, morals, and rites of the Church.” Quoting the Catechism of Trent, he points out that should the commands of pastors be “wicked or unjust, they should not be obeyed, since in such a case they rule not according to their rightful authority, but according to injustice and perversity.” 

The only problem, as I’ve just alluded to, is that while there are some standouts, too many of the bishops lack conviction or are careerists or are simply afraid to stand up for their communities, particularly if the heat really starts getting turned up. Indeed, just last week parishioners at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne were grieved to learn that Archbishop Peter Comensoli has axed the Latin Mass following “a request from the Vatican.”

Worse, the Vatican has magnanimously paraded before us examples of what happens to the few priests and bishops who question the Modernist machine. In early 2022, Puerto Rican Bishop Daniel Fernández, who opposed the experimental Covid jab, freely signed religious exemptions for people who didn’t want to receive it, and rejected the decree issued by the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference declaring that unvaccinated parishioners would be separated from vaccinated ones, was inexplicably relieved from the pastoral care of his diocese.

Last summer Bishop Strickland led a prayer procession in response to the honoring of a blasphemous, anti-Catholic hate group on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 10th annual “Pride Night,” a date which coincided with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Two weeks later, Strickland received a papal visitation and was removed from his see for we still don’t know what reason. Most controversially, Archbishop Viganò, who in 2018 helped blow the lid off the McCarrick sexual abuse scandal and has been an increasingly vocal critic of Pope Francis’ pontificate and the Modernist agenda he helps promote, is likely to be excommunicated for his efforts (notwithstanding the Archbishop’s excesses, as discussed at OnePeterFive).

A handful of priests. A couple of bishops. One archbishop. The odds aren’t good. At the end of the day, the temptation to side with power may prove too powerful for most. 

One prelate who certainly was prepared to brave the modernist wolves was of course Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Anyone attending the Latin Mass today, one way or another, is indebted to his courageous defense of Catholic doctrine and tradition.

This brings me to the final issue, namely the potential impact on Traditional communities. As always under the present pontificate, confusion and ambiguity are the order of the day. In 2022, Pope Francis signed a decree confirming the continued existence of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). Yesterday, the Institute of Christ the King (ICKSP) announced that they had been received in private audience with Pope Francis, who apparently “insisted that [the ICKSP] continue to serve the Church according to [their] own, proper charism, in the spirit of unity and communion …”

Yet on Sunday, the Superior of The Society of Missionaries of Divine Mercy, a French community of priests devoted to the Roman Rite, from the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon and in good standing with their bishop, announced that the ordinations of five seminarians have been blocked “due to the possibility for future priests to celebrate in the old rite.” All other ordinations, which the Vatican exceptionally suspended in 2022, just prior to ordering an apostolic visitation of Bishop Dominique Rey, have now resumed.

As for the SSPX, further restrictions are unlikely to have any impact there because they aren’t subject in the ordinary way to the governing authority of the diocesan bishop. That said, whether or not one agrees with their methods, they are not in schism. Those who attend SSPX masses, unless they deliberately adopt a separatist spirit, are not schismatics. Yet so many Traditional Catholics take it upon themselves to do their own excommunicating. In their treatment of the SSPX, they effectively side with their spiritually abusive father and otherize their brothers and sisters in Christ with the same injustice and hostility shown to them by the Holy See. If Trads don’t heed St. Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 4:3 to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” their suspicion and petty infighting could prove the critical vulnerability through which the Vatican will seek to divide and conquer the Traditional community. 

I’m no doomscroller; I’m a realist. If God uses “Traditionis Custodes 2.0” as a way of forcing Catholics, like St. Simon of Cyrene, to take up Christ’s cross, then so be it. As Dr. Peter Kwasniewski pointed out in last week’s discussion, Traditional Catholics have endured darker times than this. However, everyone should at least get their heads out of the sand and be prayerfully prepared, whether as bishops, diocesan priests, traditional priests or laypeople, for what this renewed call for perseverance may entail.

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