Rorate Caeli

Diocese of Great Falls-Billings Bans Ad Orientem Liturgy; Boasts That the TLM Will Soon Be Cancelled Completely


As predicted, Traditionis Custodes has led to bishops cracking down on Latin and ad orientem generally. 

The most aggressive example is a "pastoral letter" from the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, MT, dated April 2023. It boasts that the TLM has been cordoned off, like someone with a contagious disease. Traditionis is enforced "strictly" and will soon go away entirely, as permissions are time-limited. "There is to be no convergence or commingling of elements of either ritual with the other." That is, the TLM cannot taint this new liturgy created ex nihilo after Vatican II. Any notion of continuity with the older liturgy is completely denied, as is any notion that priests could benefit from learning about the centuries of historical development of the liturgy prior to Vatican II.

The document brags that it is going beyond what the Second Vatican Council intended. "The Fathers at the Second Vatican Council . . . did not anticipate the enthusiasm, even passion, with which so many of the faithful, clergy and laity alike, would embrace the use of the vernacular." Therefore, the bishop says, we can junk Section 36.1 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which calls for Latin to remain the language of the Mass. The enthusiasm and passion for the TLM means nothing, because apparently history only goes one way.

In the next paragraph, the bishop makes another avowed divergence from Sacrosanctum Concilium: the "spirit" of Sacrosanctum means that ad orientem is prohibited. The "presider" must face the people.

In an insulting caricature of what the bishop imagines the traditional liturgy to be, he states:  "The priest celebrant should not be mistaken for a robot and the gathered assembly likewise should not be mistaken for some statues."

This document illustrates that repealing Traditionis Custodes is a baseline requirement for restoring any sort of peace in the liturgical wars. "Pastoral letters" like this that casually demean the historic liturgy of the Roman Rite and define the Novus Ordo by unfavorable contrast with the TLM do no one any favors. They show definitively that Traditionis has ramped up tensions around the liturgy, and hindered efforts to promote liturgical reconciliation.

The bishop's letter confirms that in the absence of a general allowance for the TLM, bishops will continue to the marginalize the older liturgy and those attached to it. A knowledge of the TLM enhances  reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo-- indeed, such a knowledge is essential to understanding the symbolism and meaning of the elements of the Roman Rite. Documents like this, that speak in vague generalities about the goals of the liturgy, cannot substitute for that knowledge. 

Great Falls-Billings is not alone. It joins the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Springfield-Cape Giradeau in prohibiting ad orientem worship or requiring permission-- each just since Traditionis Custodes. This situation is not sustainable. Pope Benedict XVI was right- the Church cannot be severed from her traditional liturgy without devastating consequences.