On December 21, 2021, Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington (one of the most Conservative dioceses) issued the following memo to the priests of his diocese:
Dear Brother Priests,
In light of the Responsa ad dubia released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last Saturday, some priests have asked about the status of their permission to celebrate already scheduled Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. Please note that if you already received faculties to celebrate a Sacrament in a specific instance prior to last Saturday, you may celebrate as planned. In light of the Responsa, however, no further permissions will be granted for the celebration of Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, etc. Please be assured of my continued prayers for you and your priestly ministry now and always.
Fraternally in Christ,
As a father, I find this attempted prohibition particularly grievous due to the harm imparted to Catholic fathers seeking to discharge their sacred duty to form their children in the Faith utilizing the traditional Sacraments. I, along with an ever-increasing number of fathers, have sought the Tridentine Mass and traditional rites due to their superiority in catechizing my family.
As both religious and lay scholars have demonstrated (see Kwasniewski here and here as well as Rorate), the Tridentine Mass and traditional rites accomplish this in many ways, including their venerable prayers which are saturated with references to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary on our behalf, the Last Four Things, the existence of spiritual warfare, and the necessity of reparation and atonement for our sins.
Furthermore, the fruitfulness of the traditional rites is abundantly clear, demonstrated by continued growth of the Tridentine Mass and wide acceptance of the Church’s moral teaching among those who attend. This richness is simply not present in the modern rites, which although valid, fail to deliver this same emphasis on fundamental Truths of our faith, such as the exorcism of evil spirits and deliverance from Satan’s kingdom of darkness (Msgr. Charles Pope of the National Catholic Register confirmed the same recently).
The Tridentine Mass and traditional Sacraments are our birthright, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI and re-emphasized by others. Therefore, any attempt to restrict a father’s access to the Tridentine Mass and traditional rites of the Church is a direct assault on the free exercise of his spiritual authority in his family. This spiritual authority is given by God directly to parents “for the proper upbringing of their children in a holy and filial ‘fear of God, the beginning of wisdom,’ on which foundation alone all respect for authority can rest securely.” Fathers in particular are charged by God to protect their children from demons.
There is a grave responsibility for fathers to exercise their authority for the spiritual formation of their children, as the great St. Alphonsus, Doctor of Moral Theology states:
He who has brought up his children badly shall be severely punished; and he who has trained them to habits of virtue shall receive a great reward.
For those fathers devoutly striving to exercise their spiritual authority by bringing their families to the Tridentine Mass and traditional Sacraments in this trying time in our Church’s history, I hope to offer you words of encouragement and some non-exhaustive recommendations. Availing ourselves of these methods, let us approach the grave responsibility of spiritually forming our children with renewed vigor:
- Let us reaffirm our commitment to undertake regular mortifications. Let us offer our sacrifices in reparation for our own sins and the sins of members of our Church hierarchy. Additionally, may we make acts of sacrifice on behalf of our wives and children, that we may exercise our spiritual authority in a manner that leads to their eternal salvation. Finally, may we make acts of mortification for the conversion of our bishops, asking God that they may resist the unjust suppression of the Tridentine Mass and traditional rites. “But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:20).
- If we are fortunate to know priests who are committed to providing the Tridentine Mass and traditional Sacraments to our families in the face of unjust commands from their bishops, let us generously provide for their needs. Additionally, let us seek to share this great treasure of faithful clergy with other fathers who are seeking the traditional Sacraments for the benefit of their families wherever possible.
- Make known your opposition to those bishops who fail to resist the unjust decrees of the CDW by whatever lawful means are at your disposal. Write to them, peacefully assemble in protest, or withdraw your financial support from their dioceses. Invite more fathers to bring their families to the Tridentine Mass you attend to demonstrate that there is an ever-growing number of families who seek this spiritual nourishment.
May God come to our assistance in this time of great trial in our Church, that we may become virtuous fathers who lead our families to eternal salvation.
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and Terror of Demons, pray for us.
Thomas Seykora is a husband, father, and medical student at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is an active member of the Catholic Medical Association and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.