Above: the OK Corral sign after the 1882 fire.
What is “schism?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “schism” as:
The refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him (2089).
We tend to think of schisms as involving disputes over points of dogma. One of the Greek schisms, for example, stemmed from disagreement over the word filioque in the Creed. But note that the definition of schism says nothing about disputes or dogma. The essence of schism is the refusal to submit to the Roman Pontiff. (A deeper examination of the aforementioned Greek schism shows that, indeed, the dispute was as much about the authority of the Roman Pontiff as it was about the filioque.) The showdown that has been building since the earliest days of the papacy of Francis may soon play out.
The pope’s motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, issued July 16, 2021, proclaims that the new Mass is the “unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” With the stroke of a pen, we no longer have two forms of the Roman Rite, both equally valid. With a papal executive order, one valid form of the Roman Rite has been unRomanitized or unRitified.
The two forms of the Roman lex orandi are, of course, proxies for their underlying lex credendi. Suppress the lex orandi of one form and you suppress its corresponding lex credendi. In other words, Traditionis Custodes is dressed up in the cloak of “unity,” but its intended effect is the suppression of a specific type of worship and a specific set of doctrines and beliefs. Those who adhere to those doctrines and beliefs, as well as their liturgical proxy, must be excluded from the Church. Their 18-month grace period is ending.
Traditionis Custodes permits the limited and temporary continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass in dioceses where it is still offered. Nothing in the pope’s document forbids the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass on Easter. But on October 7, 2021, the Pope’s Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, in implementing Traditionis Custodes, announced that the limited permission for the Traditional Latin Mass to continue to be offered in the Diocese of Rome, applied “every day, except the Easter Triduum.” (To be clear, the Easter Triduum includes Easter Sunday itself. The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that the Easter Triduum runs “from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.”) Thus, the Traditional Latin Mass may not be offered on Easter in Rome.
Similarly, the Responsa ad Dubia, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship on behalf of the Pope on December 4, 2021, elaborates that the Local Ordinary, in allowing for the continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese, has the authority to lengthen or shorten such permission. Nothing in the Responsa, however, forbids the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass on Easter. The closest it comes is to require priests to concelebrate the Chrism Mass, which is offered the morning of Holy Thursday, just before the beginning of the Sacred Triduum. The Responsa makes no mention of the Vicar General’s implementation of Traditionis Custodes, which by then had been on the street for two months.
(Thankfully, the Catholics in the diocese of Rome went ahead and did the TLM for the Easter Triduum, which may have been due to the Pope’s curious decree giving the FSSP full rights to the TLM).
Later that summer meanwhile, on July 29, 2022, the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued its instructions for implementation of Traditionis Custodes. Following the lead of the Diocese of Rome, it permits the continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass at limited locations in the diocese, but generally not in parish churches and not during Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. This is a temporary concession to the faithful who are “rooted in the previous form of celebration.”
Easter Sunday will fall on April 9 in 2023, in less than two weeks. For the Triduum, the Traditional Latin Mass will be forbidden in the Diocese of Arlington and several other dioceses where it is otherwise permitted to be celebrated.
Meanwhile, the faithful of Arlington and Washington DC last week on the Annunciation marched in pious pilgrimage to offer up, in the words of organizer Noah Peters, “penance, prayer and devotion” for the Latin Mass, beseeching Our Lady to preserve the rite of their forefathers in these dioceses.
Considering Arlington’s restrictions, let us make a few considerations. Why is the suppressed Mass allowed on most Sundays, but not the Triduum or other significant holy days in places where Traditionis Custodes has been implemented? What does it mean when the faithful are told that they cannot fulfill their Easter obligation under pain of mortal sin (at least in terms of the Triduum), except by attending a Novus Ordo Mass?
Consider that, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, had the effect of attracting Catholics who never accepted the so-called reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, as well as Catholics who had come to question those “reforms.” They assembled and coalesced around the usus antiquior that became more widely available and, in so doing, they herded themselves into their own corrals.
Now their corrals have been pushed outside the boundaries of Catholic parish life. With limited and temporary exceptions, their Mass cannot be offered in their parish church. Their Mass and other activities cannot be mentioned in their parish bulletin. Their liturgical activities cannot be financially supported by the parish. And then along comes the Pope’s Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome who declares that the Traditional Latin Mass cannot be celebrated on Easter. And several bishops join the conga line behind this guy and add a few moves of their own.
What it means is that traditional Catholics have been set up for their final and absolute elimination from the Church. On Easter, perhaps no priest will come to their corral. For them, it will be the Novus Ordo Mass or nothing. Or perhaps on Easter the Mass of the Ages will be celebrated in secret or openly in defiance of the will of Rome. Those Catholics and their priests will be branded as no longer in communion with the Roman Pontiff, thus fulfilling the very definition of “schism.”
Either way, Pope Francis will have accomplished the mission that he announced in Der Spiegel in 2016, “to enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.” The hard part is done. Formal replacement of the lex credendi will be easy.
Editor’s note: For Mass times in the Diocese of Arlington and surrounding areas, and to verify the time of any Mass in those areas during Lent or Easter, you can check out this link: https://www.
This post has been updated from its original version.
Raymond Kowalski is from Rochester, New York. He is a product of parochial elementary schools and The Aquinas Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a law degree from The George Washington University. After a forty-year career in communications law, he is retired and living with his wife in Gainesville, Virginia. They are the parents of three and grandparents of five.