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'Traditionis custodes' - A timeline

On July 16, 2021, one year ago Saturday, Pope Francis promulgated Traditionis custodes, a motu proprio on sacred liturgy.

Traditional Latin Mass celebrated by a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Zagreb, Croatia. Servus Tuus via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Here’s a timeline of what’s happened since:

July 16, 2021  Pope Francis releases the apostolic letter Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the tradition”). The text, issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”), imposes restrictions on “the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970” with immediate effect.

In an accompanying letter to bishops, the pope argues that his predecessors’ attempts to accommodate traditionalist Catholics were “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

“In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors,” he writes.

July 17, 2021 The bishops of France, a traditionalist hotspot, issue a statement expressing “esteem” for the people and pastors of Traditional Latin Mass communities and underlining their “determination to continue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force.”

July 19, 2021  U.S. bishops offer initial responses to the document. Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says that existing arrangements should continue as he needs “to study the document more, consult with the USCCB, and canon lawyers.” (Denver archdiocese will issue an official decree implementing the motu proprio on Nov. 1, 2021.)

Also on July 19, the Costa Rican bishops’ conference declares that the Traditional Latin Mass is prohibited in the country’s dioceses.

July 20, 2021  The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) says it is “deeply saddened” by the restrictions.

July 21, 2021  Commenting on Traditionis custodes, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, criticizes what he calls the “many tendentious generalizations” that “hurt more than expected the hearts of many good people.”

July 22, 2021  Several German dioceses report they are making no immediate changes to the provision of Traditional Latin Masses.

Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli tells his priests and people that they “will now need to adapt and make some adjustments in what can happen in our archdiocese into the future.”

The Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines expresses its “obedience to and communion with the Supreme Pontiff” concerning the motu proprio.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke issues a 19-point critique of the document.

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols tells priests he intends to grant them faculties to celebrate Traditional Latin Masses providing they fulfill the conditions of Traditionis custodes.

Dutch Bishop Rob Mutsaerts calls the pope’s intervention “dictatorial,” “unpastoral,” and “unmerciful.”

Aug. 4, 2021  In a letter to Cardinal Nichols, Vatican liturgy chief Archbishop Arthur Roche says that the Traditional Latin Mass was “abrogated by Pope Saint Paul VI.” Benedict XVI had written in his letter to the world’s bishops in 2007 that the pre-conciliar liturgy was “never juridically abrogated.”

Aug. 5, 2021  Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco says he is “grieved” by “disrespectful responses” to the motu proprio.

Aug. 8, 2021  High-profile Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna issues a decree allowing Traditional Latin Masses to continue in non-parish churches.

Aug. 23, 2021  Retired Argentine Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer calls the measures “a regrettable step backward.”

Aug. 31, 2021  Fr. Peter Harman, rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, announces that Traditional Latin Masses will be permanently suspended at the institution.

Leaders of traditional Catholic institutes ask the French bishops for a “mediator” to help them resolve problems related to Traditionis custodes.

Sept. 1, 2021  Pope Francis discusses the genesis of the apostolic letter in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE. He describes the document as “simply a constructive reordering.”

Also on Sept. 1, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo issues restrictions on Traditional Latin Masses in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas.

Oct. 7, 2021  The vicar general for the Diocese of Rome announces that Traditional Latin Masses may be celebrated at five churches in the diocese on all days except during the Easter Triduum.

The Pew Research Center releases the findings of a U.S. survey suggesting that “Catholics who attend Mass weekly are both more likely to be aware of the new restrictions and more inclined to oppose them than Catholics who attend less frequently.” But two-thirds of U.S. Catholics have not heard of the restrictions.

Oct. 19. 2021  Issuing a decree implementing the motu proprio, Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles, Louisiana, says he is not aware of anyone in the local traditionalist community “who has expressed opposition to the Second Vatican Council, much less denied its legitimacy.”

Nov. 12, 2021  Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, says that priests can no longer administer confirmation or the anointing of the sick in the “Tridentine form.”

Dec. 18, 2021  Shortly before Christmas, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issues a document called a Responsa ad dubia (“answers to doubts”), responding to 11 questions about the implementation of Traditionis custodes.

In introductory comments addressed to the presidents of bishops’ conferences, Archbishop Roche says:

“The first aim is to continue ‘in the constant search for ecclesial communion’ which is expressed by recognizing in the liturgical books promulgated by the Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite. This is the direction in which we wish to move, and this is the meaning of the responses we publish here. Every prescribed norm has always the sole purpose of preserving the gift of ecclesial communion by walking together, with conviction of mind and heart, in the direction indicated by the Holy Father.”

Dec. 27, 2021 Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago releases a decree restricting Traditional Latin Masses and other sacraments celebrated using pre-conciliar liturgical books.

Jan. 14, 2022  A petition is launched urging Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, to repeal restrictions in his diocese.

Feb. 11, 2022  Pope Francis issues a decree granting FSSP priests “the faculty to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, and to carry out the sacraments and other sacred rites, as well as to fulfill the Divine Office, according to the typical editions of the liturgical books … in force in the year 1962.”

May 4, 2022  The mothers of traditionalist priests walk from France to Rome and personally deliver a petition to Pope Francis asking him to lift the restrictions.

May 7, 2022  The pope tells members of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome that “it’s not possible to worship God while making the liturgy a battleground for issues that are not essential, indeed, outdated issues, and to take sides starting with the liturgy, with ideologies that divide the Church.”

June 22, 2022 The National Synthesis Document of the Church in England and Wales for the synod on synodality describes traditionalists as a marginalized group.

It says: “Although very few in number, a sense of grievance and marginalization is strongly expressed by those who worship using the Missal of 1962. Traditionalists complain of ‘sadness and anger’ at the restrictions they believe were imposed by Pope Francis’s Traditionis custodes, which restored to bishops the regulation of the provision of pre-Second Vatican Council liturgies.”

It adds: “In response to questions about marginalization and exclusion, both TLM adherents and those committed to ‘maintaining traditional Catholic teaching against what they interpret as harmful modifications’ feel ‘badly treated by the bishops and by Pope Francis’ and ‘saddened by a sense that their views are habitually denigrated and their voices left unheard and unanswered.’”

June 29, 2022  Pope Francis issues Desiderio desideravi, a 15-page apostolic letter on the liturgy. The text reaffirms Traditionis custodes.

“I do not see how it is possible to say that one recognizes the validity of the Council - though it amazes me that a Catholic might presume not to do so - and at the same time not accept the liturgical reform born out of Sacrosanctum concilium, a document that expresses the reality of the Liturgy intimately joined to the vision of Church so admirably described in Lumen gentium,” the pope writes.

The pope also says that “we cannot go back to that ritual form which the Council fathers, cum Petro et sub Petro, felt the need to reform, approving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following their conscience as pastors, the principles from which was born the reform.”

“The holy pontiffs St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, approving the reformed liturgical books ex decreto Sacrosancti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II, have guaranteed the fidelity of the reform of the Council. For this reason, I wrote Traditionis custodes, so that the Church may lift up, in the variety of so many languages, one and the same prayer capable of expressing her unity.”

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