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Writing to your bishop about Traditionis Custodes: Some practical suggestions

If the recent motu proprio has given you cause for concern about future provisions for the Extraordinary Form Mass in your diocese, writing to your bishop is a productive way of acting on this concern.

Bishops at the USCCB Fall 2019 general assembly. Image: Christine Rousselle/CNA)

Since the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes (hereafter abbreviated TC), many priests, including myself, have sought permissions to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (hereafter abbreviated “EF Mass”).1 Many laypersons, including a number of my own friends and acquaintances, have also written to their bishop in the hope of proactively seeking generous provisions for the EF Mass in their diocese.

If TC has given you cause for concern about future provisions for the EF Mass in your diocese, writing to your bishop is a productive way of acting on this concern. Many bishops, including your own, will be carefully discerning what the needs of the EF Mass community are, and what permissions for the EF Mass are most prudent in the wake of TC. Honest and carefully considered letters from the EF Mass community may serve to assist your bishop in his discernment.

Some of you who are deeply hurt or angered by TC may feel as though letter-writing is a futile exercise, and that no good could possibly come from reaching out to your local bishop or seeking dialogue with the post-Vatican II Church. If you feel this way, letter-writing may in fact be the perfect opportunity for you to slow down and re-examine your conscience and attitudes toward the post-Vatican II Church and your local bishop. Bishops need to see and hear that those who have been angered and hurt by TC are not lunatics incapable of civil discourse, but rather reasonable and good-willed members of their diocese.

In what follows I share some suggestions for what to include in a letter to your bishop. These suggestions are my own personal opinion, reflecting my own experiences in my diocese. They may not apply to your context or EF Mass community. Nevertheless, they may provide useful guidelines as you think about how best to communicate your concerns to your diocesan bishop.

• Explicitly flag in your letter that you, as an EF Mass attendee, affirm the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reforms mandated by Vatican II. Your bishop will be looking for this information, because according to TC §3.1, if the bishop cannot affirm that a given EF Mass community accepts the legitimacy of the liturgical reforms, he will not be well placed to support generous future EF permissions.

• On this note, anything you can say about yourself to reveal your acceptance of the validity of the liturgical reforms mandated by Vatican II, is worth mentioning. (For instance, if you have deep love for Sacrosanctum Concilium, or are active in your local Ordinary Form parish, say so). These things might sound trivial, but they provide concrete counter-evidence to the bishop and his diocesan curia that EF Mass attendees in the diocese are not accurately characterized by “a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself”.2

• If you are not prepared to say anything in support of the liturgical reforms mandated by Vatican II, at the very least do not highlight your quibbles with aspects of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms. There is a time and place for sharing legitimate concerns about abuses and other issues in the Ordinary Form. But if you want to see liberal permissions for the EF Mass continue under TC, your goal at this point should be to help your bishop see that most members of the EF Mass community do in fact support the liturgical reforms mandated by Vatican II (see TC §3.1).

• Letters from groups rather than individuals, are always better (see TC §3.1). If possible, draft a community letter and gather signatures.

• If your practice has been to attend EF Masses in a parochial church on a regular or semi-regular basis, and the absence of such Masses (which TC §3.2 would appear to call for) would cause difficulty or hurt for you, say so. This will help the bishop recognize the need for creative solutions in the future.

• If you feel called to make a profession of obedience to your bishop, or to share with him your desire to be subject to him as “to Christ, even as Christ is to the Father,”3 this would be an excellent occasion to do so. If you show your willingness to trust your Bishop and cooperate in his mission, you give him in turn an opportunity to restore his trust in the EF Community and treat EF Mass attendees as allies in the goal of in bringing about “the concord and unity of the Church” (TC, para. 2).

If saying any of the above feels like “selling out” or being dishonest, then don’t say it. But it is worth bearing in mind two things.

First, don’t discourage others from doing saying positive things that you yourself are unable to say, if they can do so honestly and willingly. Fostering distrust in your local bishop is exactly the sort of thing that will decrease the likelihood of a generous implementation of TC in your diocese.

Second, remember that, underlying the genuine sufferings and evils you have encountered in the post-Vatican II Church, there are undoubtedly goods you have encountered as well. As St Thomas Aquinas says, “every evil is founded in some good.”4

Letter-writing, of course, is only a small way of taking action. It may not have any immediate effect. But it starts the ball rolling in the right direction, and it is an opportunity to exercise honesty and charity towards your diocesan bishop. Ultimately, if your bishop can see that EF Mass attendees in his diocese are engaged, obedient members of the local Church who are enthusiastic supporters of the principles of Vatican II, and if he has received a multitude of letters demonstrating this fact, it will be much easier for him to implement TC in a way that provides generous permissions for the celebration of the EF Mass.5

Best of all, your time spent letter-writing can be a wonderful opportunity to submit yourself to the will of God, and to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother and your favorite saints for assistance in gaining a wiser and broader perspective on your experiences of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms.


1 More accurately, I have sought permission not for the EF Mass but for the Dominican Rite, which at the time of this writing stands in an unclear relationship to the rulings of TC.

2 Francis, Letter to the Bishops on the occasion of the publication of Traditionis Custodes, para. 6.

3 Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, §8.

4 STh., I q.17 a.4 ad 2.

5 Many thanks to Fr Joseph Vnuk OP for helpful feedback on this article.

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About Fr Reginald Mary Chua 1 Article
Fr Reginald Mary Chua is a Dominican friar and Chaplain at the University of Notre Dame Australia. His work has appeared in Bioethics, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Inquiry, New Annals: Australian Journal of Catholic Culture, New Blackfriars, and other publications.


  1. The Novus Ordo Mass is the sole liturgical expression for the Roman Catholic Church. Get over it. The TLM is going extinct. Accept it now or accept it later, but you’ll have to accept it unless you defect to schismatic SSPX.

    • The Papal directive to the Global Bishops did not invite a dialogue! The Bishop’s have enough on their plates without participating in an effort that espouses further divisive atmosphere. Not only in Australia obviously but through out the Planet! It would appear that the author was not present or influenced by the Latin Mass of yesteryear but only has latched on to the opportunity to be involved and/or recognized for what might be some notoriety! Who knows? May I suggest that we enjoy our Parish life: be positive in our efforts; and enjoy the Graceful Blessings that abound! Pray always for our clergy to have the strength and commitment to adhere to the vows they have willfully taken.

      • John Donoghue : the whole point is that this was an illegitimate Directive! Aren’t we grown up enough now to have dialogue in the Church or to be shown the data on which the Pope made his decision? Were we not told by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that the laity have a co-responsibility with priests and bishops? Where is the co-responsibility in a “Directive”? The lack of charity in your comment is quite disturbing, disguised by appeals to be “positive” and “obedient”.

    • Carl King, why do you manifest such bitterness and lack of charity in your comments? Do you really believe that this is pleasing to God?

      • Carl King is clearly a Modernist Troll who lost his faith in God and the Church, and has elevated Francis as a substitute god and revolutionary Messiah to carry out the radical change the “Spirit if Vatican II” types failed to do in 1965, namely create a whole new religion completely different from Catholicism (with women priests, abolition of celibacy, man centered NGO Church, and so forth). I’ve seen the same mindset with Austen Ivereigh, Robert Mickens, Mike Lewis, Massimo Faggioli, Dawn Eden Goldstein, Mark Shea, Sean Michael Winters, Fr. Thomas Rosica, Fr. Daniel Horan, Fr. James Martin, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Reinhard Marx and Cardinal Blaise Cupich.

    • “…the sole liturgical expression.” Thank you, Pope Carl King….This from Pope Benedict about the two forms of the one Roman Rite (Summorum Pontificum, 2007):

      “Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. The Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honoured for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi (rule of faith); for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

    • Carl King – Your statement that “The Novus Ordo is the sole liturgical expression for the Roman Catholic Church”.


    • Mr. King. Lying about the Catholic religion will apparently not cease to lose its popular demand. Neither will it cease to be a grievous offense against the Eighth Commandment. This is a matter that its practitioners really need to “get over.”

  2. As one who is quite happy with the Novus Ordo as it is conducted in my parish and three others nearby (one of them Dominican), I also simply note that those writing respectfully to their bishops in the United States, about the Extraordinary Form, also may want to cc the papal nuncio:

    Archbishop Christophe Pierre
    Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
    3339 Massachusetts Ave.
    Washington, DC 20008

  3. My plan is to write a short letter asking my bishop to follow the lead of Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois and invoke Canon 87 in a formal juridical document to dispense from the requirements of the motu proprio. Rest assured that I will be brief and do my best to appear sane and rational.

  4. These tips on how to convince one’s bishop to keep the pre-Vatican II mass as widely available as it was when Pope Benedict XVI made it so somehow gives the impression to my mind that Pope Francis is on target in one of the reasons he gives in rescinding his predecessor’s permission is that the zealots among the lovers and promoters of the pre-Vatican II mass are precisely those fervent in their rejection of Second Vatican Council, thus creating the division in the church Francis cites as the unintended fruit of Benedict XVI’s act. I’m referring to the tip particularly in assuring one’s bishop that one understands and accepts the teachings of Vatican II and considers the Vatican II mass as the norm of the liturgy of the Roman Rite. I find this tip and indeed if acted upon as very devious which again just proves Pope Francis right in his motu proprio. Having been exposed to both the pre- and the Vatican II masses and regularly attend both alternately, I declare here my preference to the Vatican II mass precisely as intended by the council as it generates full, conscious and active participation by the whole gathered people. Also having been gifted by Vatican II’s encouragement to open more and more the Bible to the people as source of nourishment, I especially appreciate the wider and deeper use of the Bible in the lectionary of the Vatican II mass. A few years back I came across this figures from the USCCB website. In the pre-Vatican mass lectionary the selected readings cover only 1% of the Old Testament and only 14% of the Mew Testament while in the Vatican II lectionary, the numbers are 17% of the OT and 71% of the NT.

    • You are right, Angelo. It would seem that Fr. Reginald is encouraging people to write to their bishop and lie outright, or at least be hypocritical and hide their true thoughts. This is exactly what for example, the FSSP does. In order to be left alone by the Church to do their thing while pretending to be faithful, and continue with their proselitism *inside the Catholic Church* (which is scandalous, trying to convert other Catholics to their “church”), they lie outright about believing in the liturgical reform post VC II, or in the Vatican Council itself, which they really do not in both cases. An FSSP priest will actually prefer to die before performing a Novus Ordo mass, as it it were some kind of martyrdom.
      Just read many of the posts right here in this blog. When they are free to say what they really think, 99% of traditionalists don’t believe in the Novus Ordo or Vatican II.

  5. The only way to cajole a bishop, and the mildest, is to hold back the dime or otherwise jeopardize the comfort zone. The idea that a bishop requires convincing that liturgical practice holding its place for millennia requires their personal authorization is symptomatic of what is at the core of the moral and theological corruption in the Church of Jesus Christ — simple narcissism and bold hubris. The current conundrum has nothing to do with issues requiring polemical intervention. Apparently it requires the application of a blistering wrath.
    Isaiah 6:10,Jeremiah 5:21,Ezekiel 12:2,Matthew 13:15,Acts 28:27,Romans 11:8

  6. A Thought:
    The letter that you write to your bishop *today* that may garner support for the EF Mass *today* may end up in the round file *tomorrow* with a new bishop in your diocese. A more permanent fix for this is needed.

  7. The Motu Proprio states that each Bishop is free to do as he wishes in this matter. Here in Maine our Bishop has stated that we are free to continue the TLM, IOW – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    I still remember this – in 2012 there was a question on the ballot regarding same-sex ‘marriage’. In October I went to the NO Mass in Augusta twice, and the Priest didn’t say a word about the issue either time. Twice I went to the Latin Mass in Lewiston and Fr. Parent spoke out strongly on each occasion, going so far as to characterize adherents of the issue as “so-called Catholics”. In addition – I asked him if I could pass out “NO ON ONE” signs in the parking lot and he told me to bring them in and leave them with him and he would take care of it.

    • An interesting addendum to this comment is that Catholics were involved with political action (e.g. against abortion) in the early 1950s. In addition, I have lately come to understand what isn’t obvious (given the “division” between faith and morals): Any person who doesn’t adhere to all of the Church’s moral teachings is a heretic, and thus not a Catholic.

      Any person who publicly (i.e. notoriety in fact) (1917 Canon 2197) doesn’t adhere to the Church’s moral teachings is a heretic and is automatically excommunicated (1917 Canon Law).

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