Traditionis Custodes and the Extraordinary Form on Campus

Pope Francis released motu propio Traditionis Custodes, a new set of guidelines concerning the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite this July. The new regulations emphasize a shift of authority to bishops, who will now individually regulate the practice within their own dioceses.

The decisions came prompted and informed by a 2020 survey sent out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to bishops around the world regarding the implementation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificorum. The 2007 motu proprio had until now set the standard for practice of the Tridentine Mass (designated as the “Extraordinary Form” by Pope John Paul II and his successor, and also referred to as the “Traditional Latin Mass.”)

Under the new norms, a priest must receive authorization from his bishop to use the 1962 missal, which is used for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. The Mass may no longer be said in the church buildings of “parochial parishes” and the readings must be proclaimed in the vernacular, rather than being the decision of the celebrant.

Along with the motu proprio, Pope Francis released an explanatory letter. He credits the decision mainly to a desire for further unity within the Church. He sees disruption by some insular groups that have appropriated the Extraordinary Form and continue to use it as a symbol of divergence. The Pope emphasized that he is concerned with all abuses of the liturgy, but chose to act on this particular issue first.

The decision has caused a stir in Catholic communities, particularly those who primarily celebrate and attend the Tridentine Mass. Such communities at Notre Dame are no exception. Rev. Greg Haake, C.S.C., who celebrates Mass for the Children of Mary, a Traditional Latin Mass group on campus, said, “[There is] obviously a change from before, at least in the wider Church, but here at Notre Dame, there’s really not much of a change.”

Fr. Haake explained that, per the motu proprio’s stipulations, he along with Rev. Kevin Grove, C.S.C., a fellow Extraordinary Form celebrant, and Rev. Brian Ching, C.S.C., rector of the Basilica, jointly appealed to Bishop Kevin Rhoades to continue the practice on campus. Fr. Haake also expressed that Notre Dame is “fortunate to be able to continue to offer [the Extraordinary Form]” and to “address the pastoral need on campus for people who desire the Extraordinary Form.”

Fr. Ching expressed a similar sentiment, speaking from the perspective of Campus Ministry saying, “Campus Ministry’s overarching goal is always to do the best that we can to meet the spiritual needs of our students.” Both Fr. Ching and Fr. Haake emphasized that they were pleased with the continued ability to meet this need relatively unhindered and grateful for the smooth process of interaction with Bishop Rhoades and his newfound responsibility.

Senior Samuel Kruger, president of the Children of Mary, not only expressed gratitude in being able to continue with the Mass, but also gave insight into the anxiety felt by many of those who rely on the Extraordinary Form to meet their spiritual needs.

“The traditional liturgy,” Kruger said, “is not just merely something that is secondary to our spiritual life, as if it were to disappear we would continue on and be perfectly fine. There are many, many people that would suffer a tremendous amount of spiritual suffering if the traditional Mass wasn’t permitted. It is the grounding and center of my Catholic spiritual life, and it is the same for many other younger Catholics as well.”

Kruger explained that his concern comes from certain phraseology within the motu proprio and its accompanying letter. He believes the wording may signal the beginning of a “grandfather process” in which the Extraordinary Form may be phased out. This gradual process happened to regional forms of the Mass after the Council of Trent instituted the standardized Tridentine Mass in 1570.

Kruger emphasized that the problem Pope Francis addresses is “not rooted in the liturgy itself” but rather indicates “subcultures of the rabid, ‘traditional’-minded people online, who tend to have very loud voices and can influence people.” Kruger believes that while the Pope is “well intentioned” and “not malicious” in his decision, the “charges against Catholics who are devoted to the traditional Mass are somewhat unfair.”

Fr. Ching also commented on the Pope’s rationale saying, “I can see where Pope Francis is coming from. I think there’s a fear, that is the case in a couple of instances where the expression of Mass kind of became symbolic of a deeper cultural and ecclesiastical fissure. And to a certain sense, weaponized a little bit in terms of conveying more than it’s meant to.”

Going forward on Notre Dame’s campus, it seems that despite some anxiety caused by the implementation of the motu proprio, the Traditional Latin Mass will continue to be celebrated. As the Church waits to see what to make of this new development, the Children of Mary and the priests that serve them will continue their ancient tradition each Sunday in Alumni Hall. Bolstered by mutual commitment to safeguarding this tradition of the Church, they will preserve the opportunity for Catholics to, as Kruger puts it, “rediscover their liturgical heritage.”

William Hunter is a sophomore theology/philosophy joint major and resident of Baumer Hall. If he’s not overanalyzing football statistics, he can be contacted at

Image credit: KosmoKarlos Photography / Licensed under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) License