Rorate Caeli

“Abuse of power and murder of souls”: Article by Michael Charlier

Exactly one month ago, as of August 1, Blase Cupich of Chicago banned the priests of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in his archdiocese from publicly celebrating Holy Mass and administering the sacraments according to the rite of the Roman Church, which has been handed down for well over 1,000 years. The institute, established in October 2008 by Pope Benedict with the mandate to maintain this same traditional liturgy, was so bold as to refuse the declaration of the non-existence of this liturgy as a “Lex Orandi” of the Roman rite, demanded by Cupich in consultation with Benedict’s successor, and is therefore excluded from any public pastoral care.

This outrageous act, after an already somewhat muffled short outcry on the date itself, has since then found only a weak echo—even in the worldwide community of Catholics holding fast to the tradition in doctrine and liturgy, which is nevertheless affected to its core. This is a cause for irritation, because Cupich’s implementation of the unjust edict Traditionis Traditores (as it should honestly be called: Traitors of Tradition) in the most aggressive way (so far) proves that this edict aims at pushing the Roman rite and its theology, which goes back to the time of the Apostles, out of the Church of Rome and thus destroying one of the last anchors that connects what is left of this Church with its origins and the mission of its Founder. This cannot be kept quiet indefinitely.

What seemed loudest, almost deafening, was the silence of the Institute itself about the injustice done to it: apart from a terse notice on the door of the church, which is closed to the public, and an even terser notice on the Institute’s website, nothing has come to our attention so far. This raises questions. Nor should they be suppressed because it would undoubtedly make little sense now to try to tell the ICKSP from the outside what it (might) have done wrong and what (might) be the right thing to do. Not every community can act as free of considerations as the Benedictines of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon. The point is not to (possibly) know better, but to fathom the situation in which the institutes and faithful who are bound to tradition find themselves—after all, in the pontificate of the newly invented “God of surprises,” every community may be affected by similar arbitrary measures tomorrow.

The first thought when thinking about why the ICKSP might have behaved the way it did is, of course: they want to sit it out. There are understandable considerations in favor of this. In view of Francis’ age and state of health, it is legitimate to no longer seek conflict with a pope who is there for a certain time and who is acting completely erratically, but to wait to see what and who comes next. If it comes better—which is by no means certain—“peaceful” solutions will be found. If a young and dynamic Francis II arrives with Jesuit backers and just such guardians and an expected term of 25 years, one can still go into confrontation—and have gained additional preparation time.

The second thought is: sometimes it really is wiser to give in. The ICKSP, according to its website, currently has 16 pastoral sites in the U.S. where, with few exceptions, the “full program” is offered: At least one weekday Mass, two or more Sunday Masses, schola, altar boy circle, set confession times, around-the-clock pastoral care.... Only at one location, in Chicago, which has been notorious since its times as a gangster stronghold of the 1920s, has local Ordinary Cupich swept out the Big Boss and interpreted and implemented TC as described at the beginning. At the 15 other locations, no restrictive measures are recognizable, at least from the outside. 15:1—this is an interesting numerical ratio, as it can be found in this or similar ways in other countries. The German episcopate also has other things on its mind at the moment than to mess with the safely contained trads.

It is quite possible that from the circle of neutral to benevolent bishops the institute has been signaled: Don’t rock the boat—if you make too much fuss in Chicago, we too will be pressured by Rome, and we don’t know how much pressure we can resist. Because one thing is clear: if the letter first comes from the head office of bishops and service personnel with instructions to the local Ordinary to humbly and immediately ask the Pope to dismiss him from his office, everything is too late. While this is not quite in keeping with the relationship between pope and bishops as Vatican II envisioned it, in some respects even the Bergoglio pope appreciates pre-conciliar mores and proceeds according to the motto of Medici Pope Leo X: “Since God has bestowed the papacy upon us, let us enjoy it.”

“Don’t rock the boat” is certainly not a motto under which martyrs are born, and the standstill agreements thus reached usually last only a limited time. But in conjunction with our first thought, this consideration cannot be dismissed either: Perhaps it will last long enough for the hapless current Holy (Step)father to be recalled to his eternal reward.

Such pragmatic considerations are legitimate. And there are probably half a dozen others that the Institute could cite to justify its decision—but wisely does not air publicly. Let us therefore turn to another side of the issue. There is one extremely important consideration that, as far as we can see, has so far been addressed in passing, at best.

Liturgy Commander Roche in his edict and local chief Cupich with his de facto interdict on the Institute of Christ the King have ignored an aspect that is and should be at the center of all ecclesiastical action, and not only since THE COUNCIL: the salvation of souls. The 500 or so faithful who took part in the Institute’s services in Chicago every Sunday include not only readers of Rorate Caeli or OnePeterFive who recognize Cupich’s decree for the unjust act that it is—and who therefore, after consulting their consciences, participate without any hesitation in one of the Masses offered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X in the surrounding area. Depending on where they live, for them to do so would not require traveling any further than they already did to the Chicago Shrine of the ICKSP. Or they know a priest of the Institute (or another old-rite community, or from the diocese itself) who also recognizes Boss Cupich’s order as unjust and therefore ineffective, and then celebrates the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great secretly in the large house of a parishioner—well, the “inner circle” already knows where. However, even these more sophisticated ones get into trouble when a child has to be baptized or a relative has to be buried.

But even if the fabulously uninformed (or simply malicious?) Roche indulges in conspiracy fantasies of trads who want to reverse the Council and overthrow the pope: only a small fraction of attendees of the Sunday usus antiquior Mass belong to any “inner circle.” And if they do, they do not tinker with conspiracies, but pray the Psalms or study the Catechism. The majority of the parishioners are ordinary Catholics who have never strayed into the New Liturgical Movement, who only want to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They have had enough of the guitar riffs with which deacon “Just-call-me-Jimmy” larded his contribution, or of the pseudo-sermons by parish administrator Susan, without whose liturgically robed participation in the regional pastoral association nothing could work.

Among those celebrating a traditional Sunday Mass—just as it used to be in the village—there are often some strange characters, like the middle-aged man with always the same jacket and the somewhat confused hairstyle, who always comes a little too late and leaves a little too early in order to avoid any attempt at contact. Or the abolished old woman who uses a colorful umbrella as a walking stick and who does not simply hold her rosary in her hand, but clings to it as if it were a lifeline. Every ancient Mass knows such weary and burdened ones, whose prayers seem to be a single “And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of Thy womb, Jesus”—and who knows, probably cardinal actors like Cupich or Roche are not worth washing the feet of such somewhat strange saints, even if they pretend to do so on Holy Thursday.

Many pious souls, attached to tradition, become quite dizzy at the very thought of disobeying an express prohibition of the Most Reverend Bishop. When His Excellency orders something, they will try to follow it. It is, as they like to say, “in the DNA” of Catholics who are faithful to tradition. When they are then snubbed by an activist when they try to participate in a “Eucharistic celebration as the Council wanted” and are asked to put away the rosary and “actively participate in the holy assembly,” they are more than confused. Only with the greatest effort do they succeed—their last confession was already three weeks ago—in avoiding the collective approach to the “distribution of the consecrated bread”. On the verge of despair, they consider whether to try again next Sunday or, to be on the safe side, just attend one of the bleak online Masses recommended by Cupich. Which would hardly alleviate their confusion and despair.

But it drives them beyond the edge of despair when, after some searching, they finally find an episcopally approved opportunity for confession—and the chaplain in the “confession room” explains to them with a relieved smile that what they have just confessed with remorse in their hearts and sweat on their foreheads is no longer a sin, ever since the last Council! Torn from their familiar material and spiritual environment, they do not understand what the chaplain (or the deacon and the parish priest) is talking about, and they suspect that they are right not to expose themselves to it any further. Instead of participating in the re-education catechesis prescribed by the cardinal, they end up staying home on Sundays and tearfully leafing through their deceased mother’s prayer book. A supporting pillar of their lives—for some it may have been the last—has broken away.

To put it bluntly: the way in which hierarchs in the context of Traditionis Traditores misuse the sacred liturgy to achieve church-political goals and deny the faithful access to Catholic worship in its form that has been valid for far more than 1,000 years is clericalism of the worst pre-conciliar form. It is—perhaps not in all, but certainly in many cases—the worst abuse of power, the exploitation of the obedience of worshippers, which goes as far as murdering souls.

The red of the cardinal’s hats awarded by Francis thus acquires a quite unexpected meaning for some of its wearers.

Michael Charlier
September 2, 2022