Careful implementation of Traditionis custodes is essential

On July 16, 2021, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued an apostolic letter “motu proprio” entitled “Traditionis custodes.” This document alters church law on the use of liturgical books from before the reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Under previous legislation, any priest of the Roman Rite was permitted to use the pre-conciliar liturgical books as an expression of that Rite. The new legislation is more restrictive and envisions a more active role for the diocesan bishop, as guardian of tradition, in providing for celebrations using the older books.

As with any disciplinary document of the Holy See, careful implementation with a sensitivity to the good of the faithful of our diocese is essential. As Pope Francis observes, “We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people.”[1] It is important to avoid imposing policy changes rigidly or suddenly in a way that could harm the unity of the people of God within our local church.

Precise implementation of “Traditionis custodes” will require time for study and consultation with experts in canon law and other disciplines. For the time being, as diocesan Bishop, I have granted  Father Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Brendan Parish in Mexico, Missouri, and the former Bishop’s Delegate for the Extraordinary Form, the necessary faculty to continue using the Missale Romanum of 1962.[2] I am working with Father Schrader to designate and establish the places and times at which the “Old Latin Mass” may be celebrated in other parts of the diocese throughout the year, usually on significant feast days.

I am grateful to the faithful of the Diocese of Jefferson City devoted to the older expression of the Roman Rite for their prayers and communion with me as their bishop. I challenge them as I do all the faithful of the diocese, both ordained and lay, to greater active stewardship in parish life and fuller participation in the sacred liturgy, particularly the Eucharistic sacrifice, which “is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually.”[3]

One of Pope Francis’s chief concerns in Traditionis custodes” is the unity of the church, particularly in her Eucharistic faith and worship. Every celebration of the Mass should evidence the fullness of Catholic faith in the Eucharist and the nature of the Mass as “above all things the worship of the divine Majesty.”[4] To this end, the Holy Father reminds us of the importance of celebrating the liturgy of the Roman Rite as reformed following Vatican II “with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books.”[5] May the Lord Jesus, who left us a memorial of His Passion, help us so to revere the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of His redemption.[6]

[1]    Evangelii gaudium, no. 63.

[2]    Cf. Traditionis custodes, art. 5.

[3]    General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 16.

[4]    Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 33.

[5]    Pope Francis, Letter to the Bishops of the World That Accompanies the Apostolic Letter motu proprio data « Traditionis custodes.

[6]    Cf. Collect, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).