Catholics react to Pope Francis’ sweeping restrictions on extraordinary form Masses

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

A girl with a chapel veil at the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage Mass in Rome on Oct. 25, 2014. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2021 / 08:31 am (CNA).

New Vatican restrictions on extraordinary form Masses elicited passionate responses from Catholics nearly as soon as the motu proprio was published shortly after noon Rome time on Friday.

Many Catholics reacted strongly to the promulgation of Traditionis custodes, a motu proprio signed by Pope Francis on July 16, offering pithy comments on Twitter as well as more detailed takes.

In the motu proprio, the pope made sweeping changes to his predecessor Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, which is in Latin.

The new document is dedicated to “the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970” and contains eight articles that go into immediate effect.

In an accompanying letter to bishops, Pope Francis wrote: “In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum [Roman Missal] of 1962.”

Joseph Shaw, the chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, told CNA that the motu proprio appeared to “undo entirely the legal provisions made for the Traditional Mass by Pope Benedict, and to take us back not only to the situation before the 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, but even before 1988, when Pope John Paul II — who was canonized by Pope Francis — described the more ancient Mass as a ‘rightful aspiration’ of the faithful.”

“The many priests and lay Catholics who have worked hard to combine an interest in the ‘riches’ represented by the EF [Extraordinary Form] with sincere loyalty and affection for the hierarchy and the Holy Father have been let down by this document,” Shaw said.

He added: “The provision that the EF not be celebrated in parish churches appears to be unworkable, and will certainly impede the implementation of this document.”

Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at Catholic University of America, noted that the term “extraordinary form” is no longer used in the new legislation and that the new motu proprio “establishes that liturgical books promulgated in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

“Diocesan bishops are given broad responsibility with regard to the use of the former liturgy,” Martens noted on Twitter.

Some Catholic blogs that promote traditional liturgy expressed anger at the changes.

“It’s war,” Rorate Caeli posted to Twitter immediately after the motu proprio’s promulgation.

Others had even stronger views.

“Satanic,” Catholic writer Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote following the publication of the motu proprio.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat commented: “Accompaniment for some, slow strangulation of their rites for others.”

Others called for prayers for the 84-year-old pope, who was discharged from hospital this week following colon surgery.

Writing on the New Liturgical Movement website, Gregory DiPippo said: “We must redouble our prayers for Pope Francis, whose whole papacy, every smile, every hug of a disabled person, every exhortation to mercy, will be stained for the rest of history by this unprecedented and absolutely gratuitous act of pastoral cruelty, the attempted revocation of Summorum Pontificum.”

Meanwhile, some Catholics expressed alarm at the tone of the motu proprio’s critics.

“Seeing a lot of so-called ‘faithful Catholics’ complaining that ‘Bergoglio’ has killed the Church. You’re part of the problem and the reason some bishops are so concerned,” Fr. Luke Wilkinson wrote on Twitter.

“Pray and respectfully request your bishop to be generous. Conspiratorial calumny is the last thing we need.”


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9 Comments

  1. Interesting to note that vocations are exploding where the Latin Mass is celebrated. Also, the Uniate Catholic churches have Mass celebrations similar to the Latin Rite but they certainly are not restricted to my knowledge. Trying to be as charitable as I can, in my opinion, Pope Francis argument has no merit.

    Pope Francis statement about what Pope Emeritus Benedict stated is called heresy. Pope emeritus Benedict can speak for himself as to his motivation for his motu proprio.

  2. This has shown this pope’s true colors. No one has been as opposed to the Latin rite Mass than the clergy, especially the bishops of the “Western world.” Their unending hostility is what has caused the division, not the existence of the Latin Mass. Many of us who go to church, and celebrate the Novus Ordo regularly, simply accept the Latin Mass as equivalent to the Eastern rites. I do not think this motu will go well for Francis, and suspect it will be ignored in many places.

    • I agree, Richard C. I also think there is “unending hostility” towards anything that smacks traditional within the celebration of a Novus Ordo Mass. In fact, that’s what originally contributed to the present-day problem to begin with!

  3. Note the “Missal of 1962” was typically in Latin in the year 1962 but it was the same Missal that was translated into vernacular languages after the Vatican II recommendations, and in use until 1970. So it is not just the “Latin Mass.” That Mass was beautiful in any language but the Latin was truly inspirational. The 1970 Missal was probably originally rendered in good faith and is not entirely appalling, but it did corrupt the Mass in ways to remove Catholic doctrine from the most important rite. And has been used ever since to imply or claim outright that there is something pernicious about ancient traditional rites. As our pope told us today. A very sad day in the history of the Catholic Church.

  4. Funny, isn’t it… The “dialogue” pope just popped a vessel… Could it be the effects of the medications from the surgery?… Or do we have a pope doing severe damage to the very Church that he is to be “shepherd” of..

  5. Latin was a universal liturgical language available as such in nearly every country the world over. Visit those countries today and try to understand the vernacular Mass if you are not fluent in that particular language.

    Latin was broadly recognized as the parent language of almost 80 percent of all English words, and the familiar ancestor of the so-called Romance languages —Spanish, French, Italian, etc.

    Public high schools had Latin courses. It was a base requirement for Bachelor of Arts degrees in many Catholic Universities. Diplomas were written in Latin. Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Summa Cum Laude are easily recognized honors. Latin is embedded in the language of civil legal proceedings and in English Common Law. What do we call the Magna Carta if not the Magna Carta?

    No, a thousand times no! Latin did not divide the Catholic Church. It did not divide people. Abandoning it led to division and Western cultural devastation. It led back to the world of a tower called Babel where as the poet Matthew Arnold once put it, “Ignorant armies clash by night.”

  6. Defense of unity in the Mystical Body according to His Holiness’ Motu Proprio includes oxymoronic exclusivity. It goes with the landscape design.

  7. I simply cannot take communion in the hand. I find it an offensive suggestion, theologically inexplicable and wanting any slender justification. If I want to be a protestant,and behave like a protestant I can go and join a Protestant church, but I certainly would not do that. Next stop, Desert Island Discs then. Actually I could just stay on a Catholic and wait to be engulfed by more secular nonsense.

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