It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him, to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.
As the document goes on, the only thing firmly stated that needs to be approved by the Apostolic See is permission for priests ordained after July 16, 2021 to say the Latin Mass. When one reads TC its hard not to get the impression that the bishop is in charge of the Latin masses in his diocese. The opening also hints at the fact that power is being returned to the bishops so that they can squash the Latin Masses in their diocese. Pope Francis was under the false impression that the diocesan bishops just wanted to end the Latin masses in their dioceses and now they had permission.
But the purge didn’t happen. Some Latin Masses disappeared but the vast majority of people who attended Latin Mass before TC are still attending. One has to wonder about the truthfulness of these supposed consultations with the diocesan bishops. And indeed, Diane Montagna has all but exploded this claim.
The Ghetto Approach
Looking at this document with hindsight, we can draw some conclusions. Traditionis Custodes was geared toward diocesan Latin Masses and not ex-Ecclesia Dei communities. If you’re attending a bishop-approved TLM in March 2023 you’re attending one of two kinds of TLMs. The first is a TLM celebrated by a priest from an ex-Ecclesia Dei (EED) community such as the FSSP, ICKSP, or one of several other smaller groups. These groups have always had to have permission from the bishop to operate in a diocese whether before or after Summorum Pontificum in 2007. The other bishop-approved TLMs that people attend are those put on by diocesan priests. These are mostly people who took advantage of the generous offer that Summorum Pontificum gave them.
The EED community priests represent a ghetto that was created for traditional Catholics under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They pose much less of a threat to Pope Francis and Cardinal Roche than the diocesan priests saying the TLM. Priests from EED communities are meant to be a ghetto in all respects. Their priests go to a different seminary and have an entirely different formation. They also answer to their superior as well as the diocesan bishop. When a bishop gives them a parish, its purpose is known to the diocese. If you want the new rite of Mass, go to a normal church. If you want the extraordinary form, go…over there, to that parish, where those weird intolerant Trads hang out.
Like I said, a ghetto.
Summorum Pontificum largely created the diocesan TLM (despite scattered “indult Masses” in some places). Any priest in the world could say the TLM without consulting his bishop. Many priests began saying it, often alongside the Novus Ordo. These priests didn’t have to belong to a strange order or go to a far away seminary that no one has heard of. These priests were normal Catholics who attended diocesan seminaries and have normal diocesan parishes. They’re part of the every day life of the diocese. For the first time, Tradition was leaving the ghetto and reaching the average Catholic.
Every document regarding TLM suppression from Pope Francis and Cardinal Roche so far has been aimed at the diocesan TLM because it poses a true danger. That “danger” is Tradition being an honored guest instead of a leper to avoid. An honored guest that just might take up permanent residence. Francis and Roche can tolerate the ghetto. With the ghetto the average Catholic knows where to and where not to go. Not so with the diocesan TLM. That’s why it’s such a danger.
Just look at their harsh measures in DC and Arlington – two dioceses with textbook success of the diocesan TLM post-Summorum – and compare that with His Holiness’ seemingly odd carte blanche to the FSSP.
(This explains why they’ve also targeted the “reverent Novus Ordo” and published guidelines against Ad Orientem at the New Mass.)
Of course, this doesn’t mean that ideological bishops like Cardinal Cupich won’t come after the EED, like we saw in Chicago.
Enter the Rescript
Traditionis Custodes largely failed in its mission, which was for the bishops to end the diocesan TLM. Catholic Church hierarchy has two powers; the bishops and the Vatican. The bishops didn’t do their job in suppressing diocesan TLMs so now the Vatican has to crack down. This is why any dispensations have to now be run by Cardinal Roche. There are rumours of another TLM suppression document in the works. If the rumours are true, this document will most likely be published in April or May. We don’t know what it will say but we can count on two things. The first is that the diocesan TLM will be the primary target, not EED communities. The second is that this will be carried out by the Vatican alone. Francis knows that the bishops won’t act unless coerced.
If Francis and Roche succeed in crushing all or most diocesan TLMs, will their next target be the EED communities? I see a few possibilities. The first is that they will be left alone to operate as they always have. While I’d like this to happen I don’t think it will be the case. Another possibility is that the Pope could close their seminaries and end their ordinations. The EED communities would then have to continue with the priests that they have but now their communities have an expiration date as no new priests will be ordained. That’s certainly a possibility but I don’t think it will happen either. What I think will happen is something more sinister. Once 99% of global TLMs are concentrated within the handful or EED groups, Francis and Roche will then proceed to water them down. Concelebrating will become mandatory, the new lectionary will replace the old, the Triduum will be banned and other novelties inserted. When this is done, the end result will be a Mass that differs little from the Novus Ordo.
Should lovers of the TLM be worried? Absolutely not. Francis doesn’t have a lot of capital left. He’s disliked by most of the Church, as Cardinal Pell noted in his memorandum. The recent TLM restrictions have made him look like a tyrant, picking on a little group; especially when the Church has so many other actual problems. He also doesn’t have a lot of time left. He’s aging and is not in the greatest of health. The Latin Mass will survive. What are Catholics called to do in a situation like this? We are called to be Catholic. We are called to prayer and to obey our Lenten fasts (it’s not too late to join the fasting sodality of Trad Lent!). We know that because the last fifteen years has shown us, Tradition can’t be stopped. Francis and Roche can take away the water but not the thirst. The thirst for Our Lord Jesus Christ to be worshipped and adored and given greater glory according to rites of our forefathers.