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Traditionis Custodes: 40 Days Later

Now we can see better where we stand.

The traditional Roman Rite has no shortage of enemies in the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the generation of Pope Francis. Regarding the Latin Mass (TLM), Francis’ fellow Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese said back in April that “Children and young people should not be allowed to attend such Masses.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more condescending and clericalist statement in my entire life. Obviously Fr. Reese was worried about the youthful demographic in the Church who attend the TLM and who one day will hold positions of power within the Church and the Vatican itself.

The rumors started in May that a document to suppress the TLM was in the works. I personally dismissed the rumors but had to swallow my words two months later. It seems to be a collaboration between Pope Francis and the Italian bishops. Sadly, Italy is a country with not much of a traditionalist movement. Traditionis Custodes is a harsh document. It makes no secret that Francis doesn’t want the TLM in the Church. He wants it dead and desires the young families who attend it to conform to the most liberal tendencies of the Church. Fortunately, last month has shown us that he isn’t going to get his wish.

Traditionis Custodes was published on July 16. I knew that very day that it would fail and the last month is proof of that. The traditionalist movement exists in many countries but has its center of gravity in America, France, and England. Most diocesan bishops in those countries simply said that the TLM in their dioceses will continue as normal.

In the days after Traditionis Custodes was published I contacted traditional Catholics across the world to see if they had lost their liturgy and was pleased to discover that their TLMs are proceeding as usual. This includes people in Canada, America, France, England, Germany, and Latin America. I personally know no one who had a TLM before July 16 who doesn’t have it now. Obviously the odd TLM has disappeared, depriving some Catholics of the ancient liturgy of the Church but those are certainly the exceptions. The motu proprio stated that it was to take effect immediately. Forty days later, according to, only 8.5% of reporting dioceses have outright suppressed the Latin Mass (in accordance with the letter and spirit of the motu proprio).[1]

Francis probably believed that half of the TLMs in America would disappear inside of a week since he clearly expressed contempt for the ancient liturgy of the Church in Traditionis Custodes. Pope Francis probably expected conservative and more traditional leaning bishops to hold on to their TLMs but even large amounts of liberal bishops have decided to keep their diocesan TLMs. This probably comes as a shock to a lot of people, including Francis. Most liberal bishops are fine with having a TLM in their diocese for those who wish to attend it. After all, these communities raise devout Catholic children, produce vocations and bring in a lot of money.

Traditionis Custodes has accomplished little in terms of combating the TLM and the traditionalist movement. The one thing that it has done is provide exposure. The whole world now knows how the Holy Father feels about the traditional liturgy. He’s shown the world his hand and cannot hide behind a poker face any longer.

The response of non-TLM Catholics has been the most encouraging part and it hasn’t been kind in terms of response. George Weigel, for example, who describes himself as “a Novus Ordo man” has come down hard on Francis. In First Things he wrote that Traditionis Custodes was “a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently.” Even bishops who have never celebrated the Old Rite are coming out forcibly against the Roman Pontiff.

In times of despair people need encouragement. As bad as the Francis pontificate has been, what has motivated me and others is the perseverance of fellow orthodox Catholics. Despite the hard times we’re hanging in there and it’s encouraging to see. Traditionis Custodes tore Summorum Pontificum to shreds; it showed us that it wasn’t infallible or written in stone. However, Traditionis Custodes isn’t infallible or written in stone either. It has had little affect and one day a sober minded Pontiff will override this offensive document.

Young men with views like Francis are hardly attending Mass anymore and certainly aren’t entering the seminaries. Just days before the motu proprio attacked the surging traditional vocations, Fr. Thomas Reese wrote that “Finding young candidates for the priesthood…who support Francis and want to be celibate is like looking for Catholic unicorns.” Jesus is King and no liberal Pope or bishop can ever change that. The traditional Roman rite and the priests who say it will continue to grow. The last month has shown that not even a document issued from the Holy Father himself can stop it.

[1] Editor’s Note: is reporting data from 212 worldwide dioceses, of which 18 suppressed all TLMs and 17 restricted them, while the rest left them alone. The number of dioceses with Latin Masses is higher than this, but this percentage also accords with the anecdotal data from reliable sources we have consulted. As time goes on, the numbers will become more accurate as more data is available.

Photo credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

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