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Bishops issue guidance in response to Pope Francis’ document on the Traditional Latin Mass

by CNA Staff

(Image: Thoom/Shutterstock)

Denver Newsroom, Jul 17, 2021 / 10:50 am (CNA).

A growing number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, have issued guidance regarding groups celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass in their dioceses, after a new document from Pope Francis on Friday imposed restrictions on the use of the traditional liturgy.

The pope’s document, a motu proprio entitled Traditionis custodes, 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 motu proprio states that it is each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese.

Bishops across the U.S. have granted permission for the Traditional Latin Mass to continue in their dioceses while they study the document and determine how to proceed.

“I will prayerfully reflect upon Traditionis custodes in the coming weeks to ensure we understand fully the Holy Father’s intentions and consider carefully how they are realized in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Cardinal Gregory of Washington wrote in a July 16 letter to his priests.

“In the interim, I hereby grant the faculty to those who celebrate the Mass using the liturgical books issued before 1970 to continue to do so this weekend and in the days to come, until further guidance is forthcoming.”

The new document sets out the responsibilities of bishops whose dioceses already have one or more groups that offer Mass in the extraordinary form, mandating that bishops determine that these groups do not deny the validity of Vatican II and the Magisterium.

Bishops are instructed to “designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes).”

It also imposes new requirements for newly ordained priests wishing to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and instructs bishops to verify that already-established parishes that celebrate the Extraordinary Form “are effective for their spiritual growth and to determine whether or not to retain them.” It further instructs bishops to “take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups” that celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

The pope says he wrote the document in response to a 2020 survey of bishops, and explained that he was saddened by what he sees as a rejection of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a brief statement on the matter July 16.

“Today Pope Francis published Traditionis custodes, an Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio on the use of Latin liturgical texts approved prior to the reform of 1970. I welcome the Holy Father’s desire to foster unity among Catholics who celebrate the Roman Rite,” Gomez wrote.

“As these new norms are implemented, I encourage my brother bishops to work with care, patience, justice, and charity as together we foster a Eucharistic renewal in our nation.”

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), which celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass, addressed the situation in a July 16 statement.

“At this point, it is too early to tell what all the implications will be for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, but we assure you that we remain committed to serving the faithful attending our apostolates in accordance with our Constitutions and charism as we have done since our founding,” the order said in a statement provided to CNA.

“We must strive to see this Cross as a means of our sanctification, and to remember that God will never abandon His Church.”

Other bishops have issued statements about the celebration of the Traditional Mass in their dioceses.

“I have informed our clergy that I am granting temporary permission for those priests competent in offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form to continue to do so in churches that already have an Extraordinary Form Mass on their schedule or in a private setting until further study and clarification can inform an appropriate implementation of this document,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said in a July 16 tweet.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco told CNA July 16 that “The Mass is a miracle in any form: Christ comes to us in the flesh under the appearance of Bread and Wine. Unity under Christ is what matters. Therefore the Traditional Latin Mass will continue to be available here in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and provided in response to the legitimate needs and desires of the faithful.”

The Diocese of Arlington told CNA that all parishes that had planned on offering Masses in the Extraordinary Form would be able to do so.

“Bishop Burbidge has read the motu proprio regarding the 1962 Missal,” said a statement from Billy Atwell, chief communications officer for the Diocese of Arlington.

“He will review it in greater detail and offer further guidance to our priests in the near future. Parishes currently scheduled to offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form this weekend have received permission to do so.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas said on Twitter that two parishes in his diocese that use the 1962 missal have “asked for & received permission to continue doing so while local norms appropriate to the motu proprio promulgated by His Holiness Pope Francis are being prepared.”

Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas said the new restrictions “do not apply” to the diocese’ two personal parishes for the celebration of the Latin Mass.

“There is no change for these parishes or the priests serving them. All that is required of them and the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) priests serving them is that they accept the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform of Vatican II, which they do. ‘Traditionis Custodes’ does caution me not to establish any additional personal parishes for the celebration of the Latin Mass going forward,” Bishop Taylor said in a July 16 letter.

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  1. Traditionis custodes makes it clear practice of the TL Mass cannot expand. If it were to die it would be on the Vine. Archbishop Cordileone interprets the Motu Proprio as leaving the decision to end or continue with the discretion of the Ordinary, as it appeared to state when read. Whatever may transpire in the future during this presumed interim, perhaps permanent Latin may still be used with the Novus Ordo and adaptation taken from the TLM as I believe suggested by Fr Longenecker. I offer my private Masses in Latin and would be quite pleased to offer the same with the community. Although it is not the same it nonetheless is a good option. And lest it’s forgotten we still have the Roman canon I in the Novus Ordo, which I have used on solemnities. Certainly we’re free to use it on Sundays in Latin.

    • The Latin language New Order is not a suitable alternative, not that it requires any dispensation. It has been “legal” since 1970. But why would anyone bother? I accept the New Order Mass as the standard but it does not speak to my soul and never has. I would prefer the 1962 Missal in English to the modern Mass, but the Traditional Latin Mass ins sublime. Surely it is more pompous than the Last Supper, but it inspires devotion.

      • Have you actually examined Roman Canon I in the Novus Ordo. If you haven’t and examine it you may find it does indeed inspire devotion.

      • The Old Mass was said for 1600 years and longer than that in different forms but forms very much like it. No one complained. The New Order of Mass has been said for 51 years and now we must drop every form of Traditional prayer for novelties? I’m glad these Bishops that are mentioned are at least going to be prudent enough to think over the Motu Propio and perhaps make a decision on the 1600-year-old decision inspired by the Holy Ghost. Enough of a Catholic Church bereft of God!

      • The 1962 Roman Missal is also less sacrilegious than the Crucifixion, and yet it inspires me to total devotion to that act of total love on our behalf.

        My Novus Ordo experiences barely brought such an image near the lens for even a momentary fuzzy focus. Indeed, my NO experiences were more like festive celebratory parties, with dancing, chatting, texting, invitations to join the Consecratory gathering in the sanctuary, etc. Palm Sunday and Good Friday liturgies were like parades.

        We wrote the archbishop more than once and never once heard back. I live on one of the US coasts, the most liberal one.

        • Oh. We did hear from the Archbishop. For a few years, on the basis of larger than usual gifts to the annual appeal, we were invited to Christmas parties and membership in some select Archdiocesan club. Then we heard from the archbishop.

  2. Pope Francis —“The pope says he wrote the document in response to a 2020 survey of bishops, and explained that he was saddened by what he sees as a rejection of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.” All that had to be done to solve the issue was encourage all those who love the TLM , to weed out those who rejected the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise weed out those who staunchly hold that only the Latin makes the Holy Sacrifice valid.

    • Richard
      Weeding out sounds like Stalin’s purges. Do people not have a right to their own viewpoint in a democracy? We might note that the authorities, clerical and lay, in the TIM movement did not launch any attack on the church. So, why attack them?

  3. We need to thank Pope Francis for what he has done for the Latin Mass Community
    in the twilight of his papacy. By persecuting them, he has made them attractive
    to many non-Catholics and lukewarm Catholics. So, please Pope Francis, please
    issue more dictums against the Latin Mass Community and any other truly Catholic
    community that you despise for their “rigidity”. After all, it is
    Good Shepherd Sunday and the words of today’s reading of Jeremiah 23:1-6 are most apt.

    • The blood of martyrs seeds the faith.

      Today, my FSSP pastor sought to encourage the faithful. He did not mention our diocesan bishop by name, title, or office. I heard the words ‘contract’ and ‘legal’ and ‘too early to tell’ the ramifications. Reading between the lines, I sensed a canonical battle. He asked for prayers and offerings of our Communion to those less fortunate than we–FSSP parishes, priests, parishioners in Europe. He asked for prayers for the pope. He reminded that sadness, despair, discouragement are sins against hope, and we must hope since God’s foreknowledge allows all for our sanctification.

      Question: Has any one of you ever heard this pope spout one iota of such a theology?

  4. Interesting.

    Cardinal Gregory of Washington wrote in a July 16 letter to his priests: “In the interim, I hereby grant the faculty to those who celebrate the Mass using the liturgical books issued before 1970 to continue to do so this weekend and in the days to come, until further guidance is forthcoming.”

    Thus, in the Archdiocese of Washington the 1954 liturgical books may be used, at least pro tempore.

    Of course it must be remembered that there is no obedience required to “Traditionis Custodes“ since one must never obey a sinful command or law. “ Traditionis Custodes” is a violation of the most basic and fundamental primary law of the Church because it endangers the eternal salvation of souls. The number of souls is irrelevant. Even if there were no souls so so endangered the fact that there could be renders the motu proprio null and void.

    Sadly this won’t matter since few bishops and priests have the moral courage to stand up to their superiors and will commit grave sin because of their cowardice.

    Funny thing is, I am a priest and I don’t celebrate the TLM….yet.

    • key phrase – “until further guidance is forthcoming.”

      “Further guidance” – Interpret that to mean – NO guidance.

      IOW – If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

  5. In regards to the statement “[Francis] was saddened by what he sees as a rejection of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council” – News flash, Pope Francis; The so-called rejection of the N.O. has nothing to do with it arising out of the documents of Vatican II (documents which were abused, BTW, by faithless clergy), nor is it because we somehow consider it invalid. It is because it is boring, banal, tedious, often irreverent, empty of passion and fervor, and, although it is only an hour long, I dread going, something I never felt when getting ready for a TLM mass. The Eucharist is confected in both, yes; but, frankly, that is the only thing a N.O. mass has going for it.

    • Jessie – You’ve exactly nailed my sentiments. I would change your “often irreverent” to usually irreverent because its rubrics invite creative ‘improvement’. It invites participants to chatter, to back-slap, to hand-shake and/or to kiss one’s neighbor rather than pay even the same sort of homage to God who sacrificed his human life for us silly stupid stinky sheep.

  6. Archbishop Cordileone’s statement is clear, concise and straight to the point. Methinks that Mrs. Pelosi is more than a bit wary of him, as she should be.

  7. I wish the Pope could somehow sneak into a modern day guitar ‘mass’ and be FORCED to listen to modern day songs about ‘glad tambourines’ and the like, and then God grant him the grace to say “Never mind!!”.

    Meanwhile, I’ll go to the Latin Mass in Lewiston.

  8. Beloved Catholics: I am in concert with all of you. The overwhelming sadness of such a focus by our Pope is very difficult to understand in any form. Why did he not write a letter to the world on the murder of the innocents? Does he not have eyes to see and ears to hear their torture and screams. He could teach and lead millions to a very deep understanding of that apocalypse, as he has the center stage. I do not understand. He could open the eyes and ears of all countries and present it to the Father,The Son and the Holy Spirit when he stands before them. Lets continue to pray for that! I love you all, Teresa Brownlee

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