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Updated.

(LifeSiteNews) — A prominent Chicago Catholic has told LifeSiteNews that, in a further move to destroy the traditional rite in his diocese, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, has instructed the traditional Institute of Christ the King to close down all public Masses by the end of July of this year. He will remove their other faculties by August 1, that is to say, the Institute’s priests will not be permitted to hear confessions anymore.

LifeSiteNews has learned from Keith Armato, a leading Catholic layman close to the situation, that the archbishop of Chicago had demanded for months now that the Institute signs a document with five or six points. Among the points they had to sign – each priest individually – was that the Novus Ordo rite is the only true expression of the Roman rite. This formulation stems directly from Pope Francis’ own document Traditionis Custodes, an explanation that makes it clear that the traditional Roman rite has to disappear altogether. Moreover, the Institute was also asked to accept a procedure, according to which the priests of the Institute have to ask Cardinal Cupich for permission to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass and that he might grant it for two years, but that he also could revoke that permission at any given time.

Armato further told LifeSite that the Institute could not sign this document because it goes “against their charism.” Therefore, the cardinal is now punishing the Institute because they have not signed the document presented by him.  For someone like Canon Matthew Talarico, the rector of the Shrine who often travels to the Institute’s other 18 U.S. apostolates, the penalties mean that he cannot hear confessions of the faithful, except when traveling to the Institute’s other apostolates in the U.S.  The Shrine is the headquarters of the Institute of Christ the King for the U.S. and serves some 400-500 faithful each Sunday who will now be deprived of the traditional Mass and sacraments.

Armato, the president of a venerable family business in Chicago, is a Knight of Malta and of St. George. He has served on the Legatus Board of Governors as well as on the boards of other Catholic foundations. He told LifeSite that he had seen “the letter by Cupich.”

In light of the prominence of the ICKSP’s shrine, many believe that Pope Francis himself is informed about this development in Chicago and approves of it.

Unlike the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) – another traditional priestly order – the Institute has not received a papal assurance that they may continue to live out their traditional charism for which they have been founded. In February of 2022, Pope Francis had given explicit permission to the FSSP to continue their work as they have done in the past.

As Armato pointed out to LifeSite, when the Institute bought the church from the archdiocese – which now serves as their Shrine – the archdiocese sold it to them with the explicit reference to their charism and dedication to the traditional Roman rite. This seems forgotten now, however.

Armato assured LifeSite that the leaders of the Institute, in their correspondence with Cardinal Cupich, did their utmost to find solutions and compromises. They even offered Cardinal Cupich their Shrine so that other priests could celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass there, since several churches in the area had closed and with it access to the Novus Ordo Mass was diminished. But for Cupich, the discussions are over.

The Institute of Christ the King is currently in the middle of a building and restoration project for their Shrine in Chicago which is to give the Institute a “stable home for the Institute in the United States,” as their website states. The church had been damaged by fire and is now under reconstruction.

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Cardinal Cupich, a close collaborator of Pope Francis and a promoter of the liberal agenda within the Church, has already issued restrictions regarding the traditional Latin rite within his diocese at the end of last year. Two days after Christmas, the prelate published instructions and strictly banned celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass on the first Sunday of each month, as well as on Christmas, the Triduum, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday, and prohibits saying Mass ad orientem without permission, in spite of this being contrary to the rubrics and to Vatican clarifications over the years. All traditional liturgies permitted under the directive must include Scripture readings proclaimed in the vernacular using the official translation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. With this document, in which Cupich applies Pope Francis’ July 16, 2021 motu proprio Traditionis custodes, he requires all priests, deacons, and instituted ministers to request permission to celebrate the Latin Mass either publicly or privately after January 25. (It should be noted that canonically priests who are otherwise in good standing do not need to request permission to say a private Mass.)

Cupich made it especially difficult for Latin Masses to be held at parish churches. The rules he has put in force now require the approval of both the Archbishop of Chicago and the Vatican and can take place only for members of traditional groups and when “it is impossible to use another church, oratory, or chapel.”

The first rumors of Cupich’s shutting down of the public Masses of the Institute of Christ the King surfaced at the end of last week, on July 15, with Father John Zuhlsdorf confirming them on the same day.

Significantly, the Institute’s congregation that attends its public Masses is “very diverse, with African Americans, Hispanics, and whites,” as LifeSite was told. “That’s how Cupich treats multi-racial parishes which are in the heart of dangerous Woodlawn – one of the high crime areas in the South Side,” a source who wishes to remain anonymous continued. For this source, this new Cupich decision “is another example of the archdiocese’s abandoning the inner city of Chicago.” It shows “how liberals like Cupich treat the poor and disadvantaged who are pitifully underserved by the Catholic Church.”

And in fact, Keith Armato informed LifeSite that the Shrine of the Institute of Christ the King had a very active outreach to the surrounding community, offering health support, nutrition, education, warm clothes in the winter, and this to all people of different backgrounds. The Shrine’s three resident priests also visited regularly numerous hospitals. He described the Shrine as a “real cornerstone” in the community. The suppression of the Institute, according to Armato, will “affect the whole community.”

The Shrine is a “self-funded” church, in Armato’s words, and is thriving, while at the same time three churches had to be closed by the archdiocese in the same area of Chicago.

Since the Shrine of the Institute of Christ the King in Chicago is a prominent part of the Institute, one observer speculated that this is only the beginning of a “step by step” attempt at dismembering the Institute nationwide and that there lies behind Cupich’s conduct “some design and plan.”

Pope Francis, in a new document published nearly a year after the release of Traditionis Custodes, has recently doubled down on his attack on the traditional Latin rite, insisting that the goal is to eliminate the centuries-old rite for good. In his  apostolic letter Desiderio Desideravi, promulgated June 29, 2022, the Pope stated that it is his “duty to affirm that ‘The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite’,” thereby reiterating his decree from the document Traditionis custodes.

Cardinal Cupich’s crackdown on the Institute of Christ the King in Chicago comes at the same time as the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, is announcing that, after receiving orders from Rome, all traditional Masses will have to cease by May of next year. In response, Catholic commentator Deacon Nick Donnelly asked on Twitter: “Does this mean there will be no TLMs anywhere in the world after 20th May 2023?”

Another Twitter user commented on Cupich’s decision to shut down the Institute of Christ the King’s public Masses and pointed to the scandalous Novus Ordo Masses that are taking place in Chicago: “But you are always welcome to attend the Novus Ordo where your final blessing is ‘Rock with us while we roll with you,’” the Twitter user wrote.

LifeSite reached out to Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, author of numerous books on the traditional Roman rite, but also of True Obedience in the Catholic Church, and he sent us his comments.

“Cardinal Cupich has long been perceived as the pope’s major enforcer of the new anti-traditional disciplinary code, the one who is meant to ‘set the tone,’” Kwasniewski wrote in a July 16 e-mail.“Yet he does not make friends for himself, even in the hierarchy, by his heartless and heavy-handed actions.”

The liturgy expert told LifeSite that he “had lunch with a bishop who admitted openly that Cupich is perceived as an extremist, an outlier, a nuisance. Certainly the Catholic faithful by this time perceive him as a serpent and a wolf, one who is not outspokenly pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition. He does nothing to clean up the outrageous mess in the Novus Ordo communities under his authority, but targets youths, families, priests, and religious who love to worship God through the immemorial liturgy of the vast majority of our saints. I think all this speaks for itself and requires no laborious interpretation.”

Dr. Kwasniewski continued: “We must recognize, in fairness to the Institute, that any former Ecclesia Dei community is in a very vulnerable position at the moment, dependent solely on the good pleasure of prelates wherever their apostolates are located. They therefore strive to preserve the best possible relations and do not wish to turn ‘Robin Hood’ or ‘Rambo’ in one place, lest they threaten their standing everywhere else.”

While admitting that “some may feel impatient or frustrated by apparent concessions or defeats,” Kwasniewski believies that “in every long-term conflict one may lose certain battles and still win the war; and Pyrrhic victories are wisely avoided. Some figures, like Dom Alcuin Reid, will discern the need to fight and resist; others may withdraw for a time in order to return at a more opportune moment. In the game of chess one often give up a pawn to obtain a more decisive position on the board.”

“I say this not because of special information I have,” Kwasniewski concluded, “but just as a point about strategy in general, and to encourage everyone to redouble their prayers, penances, and support of the Institute.”

The Institute of Christ the King so far has not yet commented publicly on these developments. In answer to a query by LifeSiteNews, the Institute said that they had “no comment on this ongoing situation” and asked for prayers.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that ICKSP would be forbidden from saying private Masses and that Canon Talarico would not be able to hear confessions outside of the diocese. LifeSiteNews regrets the errors.

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