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Vatican liturgy chief: Traditional Latin Mass ‘abrogated by Pope St. Paul VI’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015. (Image: Bohumil Petrik/CNA)

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s liturgy chief has said that the Traditional Latin Mass was “abrogated by Pope Saint Paul VI.”

Archbishop Arthur Roche made the comment in a letter dated Aug. 4 to the English Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was replying to a letter from the cardinal dated July 28, regarding the application of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes in England and Wales.

A spokesman for Cardinal Nichols confirmed in a email to CNA on Nov. 8 that the correspondence, published on Nov. 5 by the website, was genuine.

The motu proprio, which came into force on July 16, the day it was released, said that it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The document, accompanied by a letter to bishops, made sweeping changes to Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which had acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 without having to seek their bishop’s permission.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is referred to variously as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, the usus antiquior, and the Vetus Ordo.

Emphasizing that his response was “of a personal nature” as the Congregation had not yet issued guidelines on interpreting the document, Roche wrote: “Clearly, this is a moment which demands of pastors a delicacy of care and direction towards those who are most affected by the laws now in force.”

“The use of antecedent liturgical texts has been regulated and not suppressed. The reasons for this are clearly outlined in the Pope’s letter.”

“The misinterpretation and promotion of the use of these texts, after only limited concessions by previous Pontiffs, has been used to encourage a liturgy at variance with Conciliar reform (and which, in fact, was abrogated by Pope Saint Paul VI), and an ecclesiology that is not part of the Church’s Magisterium.”

In a letter to the world’s bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI wrote that the pre-conciliar liturgy was “never juridically abrogated.”

“As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria [extraordinary form] of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted,” he said in the letter dated July 7, 2007.

Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, asked Roche six questions regarding Traditionis custodes. They included whether the Vatican would issue further guidance on the motu proprio’s application, if the document applied to other sacraments such as baptism, and how the term “groups” should be understood.

He wrote: “Although the Motu Proprio has come into immediate effect, we are aware that its correct and lasting application will take time.”

“From the combination of the Motu Proprio text and its accompanying letter, it is clear that the Holy Father wishes a unity of liturgical prayer, expressed through ‘the unique expression of the lex orandi [law of prayer] of the Roman Rite.’”

“In pastoral attentiveness, we will have to accompany people who are firmly attached to the Missal of 1962 towards the Missal of Popes Saints Paul VI and John Paul II.”

Roche, the 71-year-old former bishop of Leeds, northern England, was appointed prefect of the Vatican’s liturgy department in May, succeeding Cardinal Robert Sarah.

In the letter also signed by the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Vittorio Francesco Viola, Roche told Nichols that his congregation was still “attentively studying the implications of the Motu Proprio,” but he was nevertheless happy to “share with you our present understanding regarding the matters you raise.”

“It is clear that the principal commentary on the new law governing the granting of the use of antecedents liturgical texts, by way of exceptional concession, and not by way of promotion, is the accompanying letter from Pope Francis to the Bishops,” he wrote.

“It is also evident that these exceptional concessions should only be granted to those who accept the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs. All that is in the new law is oriented to the return and stabilization of the liturgy as decreed by the Second Vatican Council.”

He confirmed that the motu proprio transferred responsibility for matters related to the Traditional Latin Mass from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life.

“They alone now exercise competence within their given fields,” he wrote.

Regarding whether the document applied to all other sacraments, he said it was clear “that the new law abrogates what was previously given by way of exceptional and limited concession.”

“Pastoral prudence, however, may determine for a very limited time only, and with a view to increased ecclesial communion, a full implementation of the Motu Proprio, but which would require careful monitoring and clear guidance towards that end,” he wrote.

Traditionis custodes speaks only of the use of the Missale Romanam [Roman Missal] of 1962 and Eucharistic celebrations. There has been considerable misinterpretation of previous provisions with growing practices, developments, and promotion, which in no small part has encouraged a growth that was not foreseen or sanctioned by previous Pontiffs.”

“A former underplaying of the Second Vatican Council’s role of the Local Ordinary as moderator, promotor, and guardian of the liturgy has proved to be unhelpful in this matter for which reason the Holy Father now stresses the importance of the Bishop’s role in fully applying the new law.”

Roche clarified that the term “groups” in the motu proprio referred “to the personal parishes that were previously erected for the concessionary use of the antecedent liturgy, and to those gatherings of people who have been regularly meeting for the celebration of the Eucharist using the Missale Romanum of 1962.”

The correspondence between Nichols and Roche also touched on the so-called “Agatha Christie indult,” with which Pope Paul VI granted permission for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in England and Wales following the revision of the Mass after the Second Vatican Council.

Nichols noted that the indult was granted to Cardinal John Heenan, the then archbishop of Westminster, in 1971. Heenan is believed to have made the request after a petition in favor of an indult was signed by cultural luminaries such as art historian Kenneth Clark, pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, poet Robert Graves, and detective novelist Agatha Christie.

Paul VI reputedly saw the novelist’s name accompanying the request, said “Ah, Agatha Christie,” and granted permission, giving the indult its nickname.

But Roche said that a search of his congregation’s archives had “found nothing that corresponds to this.”

“If Your Eminence has seen this indult I would be grateful if you would share it and all relevant correspondence with this Congregation,” he wrote.

“In any case, note needs to be taken of Traditionis custodes no. 8, which abrogates all previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the present law. A previous indult would certainly fall under this proscription.”

The text of the indult is published on the website of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, a group also discussed in the correspondence between the cardinal and archbishop.

Nichols, 76, issued guidance to priests of Westminster diocese regarding Traditionis custodes in an email published on July 22, days before his letter to Roche.

He said that many of them had asked to continue celebrating Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

“My intention is to grant faculties for these requests, as long as it is clear that the conditions of the Motu Proprio are fulfilled and the intentions of the Holy Father fully accepted,” he said.

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  1. What is a rational layman to make of all this? Pope Benedict remarks in 2007 that the Traditional Latin Mass was not “abrogated.” And now, an archbishop (a self-referential super-pope?) says otherwise?

    And, then offers, further, that the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy is now being restored—after the Constitution’s actual provisions have long since been stretched (abrogated?) by the experimental method. Read the council’s words…

    Is this version of clarity the sharp end of the stick from the Synod on Synodality? One is almost reminded of Islam, where the later entries of the Qur’an “abrogate” whatever contradictions are in the former, and both entries are held to be true, e.g., the Medina-period jihad as conquest overlaid on top of earlier Mecca-period jihad as inner struggle. The logical, non-demonstrable, first principle of non-contradiction does not apply!

    Convergence toward a unified Mass—something that the former Pope Benedict and the current Pope Francis both want—elicits and depends upon more than sleight of hand.

  2. “The Vatican’s liturgy chief has said that the Traditional Latin Mass was “abrogated by Pope Saint Paul VI.””

    And somehow Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI didn’t notice?

    “Roche, the 71-year-old former bishop of Leeds, northern England, was appointed prefect of the Vatican’s liturgy department in May, succeeding Cardinal Robert Sarah.”

    That’s sort of like “The water boy of the last-place minor league team was appointed to succeed Babe Ruth.”

    • Great analogy, Leslie. And it was the water’s boy’s first time at bat. Sarah was barely out of the room before Roche dared to walk to the plate.

      All of which indicates that Bergoglio was in a hurry to crush the Tridentine Mass.

      • The Anglican Ordinariate is next in line for the guillotine by abrogating Vatican II teaching on the liturgy. The Maronites are next, then the Melkites, then the rest of the Eastern Rite Catholics where many Roman Rite Catholics seek safe haven from horribly-done liturgies.

        Francis’ bloodbath against orthodox Catholicism continues full steam ahead.

    • What popped into my mind when I read his comments was very similar to how I felt many years ago about the reasoning of the airheads of the Supreme Court fantasizing a right to abortion in the actual text of the Constitution.

  3. Pope Benedict XVI played theological gymnastics by denying the reform of Vatican II. The old pre-Vatican II Mass being abrogated is part of the reform of Vatican II. To put that word “reform” in perspective, just recall some of the other reforms following the Second Vatican Council, which we have witnessed in our days. In 1983, Pope John Paul II reformed the Code of Canon Law of 1917, in order to insure that Church Law conformed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, the saintly pope in 1993 reformed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, again for the purpose of bringing it up-to-date in view of the theological insights of the Council. The way we worship was also reformed in view of the new self-understanding of the Church found in the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium and the theological and liturgical developments expressed in the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. With the reforms of the Code and the Catechism, the Church left behind their earlier forms. No one would think of arguing that the earlier forms of the Code or the Catechism could still be used, simply because the word reform means something. And so, it has to mean something with regard to the liturgical reform.

    • Your comment appears to be a unacknowledged plagiarization of Cardinal Cupich’s recent statement “The Gift of Traditionis Custodes”. In response, I present the verbatim answer of Fr. Zuhlsdorf (, as follows:

      ASK FATHER: Not one word about Card. Cupich’s “The Gift of Traditionis Custodes”?
      Posted on 6 November 2021 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

      From a reader…


      Card. Cupich, who is a trusted advisor of Pope Francis, issued a document the other day called “The Gift of Traditionis Custodes”. I take it you don’t see it as a gift, but I notice that you didn’t react to it. Not even a word?

      Here’s one word:


      Eccles did a good job for us all. HERE

      At Rorate, Fr. Richard Cipolla had posted a public response to that decidedly deficient essay.

      Before making other observations, let’s review to get some context. He was rector at the Josephinum, which was … interesting. In his pastoral care, as Bishop of Rapidopolis Cupich banned children from receiving their 1st Holy Communion at a Vetus Ordo Mass and forbade them from being confirmed. I’m sure those parents and children and confirmands remember his gifts. Cupich locked people out of the church so that they couldn’t celebrate the Triduum. And let’s not forget his abject grovel when the McCarrick (who lifted Cupich up with his own hand) scandal was breaking, as he said that Francis had more important things to worry about, things like the environment and protecting illegal aliens, accusing people of not liking Francis “because he’s Latino.” His interview was on video. Remember his slippery speech in England, recounted by Fr. Hunwicke HERE.

      With the exception of an occasional “and” and “the”, just about everything Cupich wrote – actually I’ll bet a shave and a hair cut that that theological bright-light Fr. Louis Cameli wrote it with touch-ups from a certain catholic coyote – is wrong.

      This blunder of discontinuity, typical of whom I suspect are his ghost writers, lept off the screen.

      “No one would think of arguing that the earlier forms of the Code or the Catechism could still be used, simply because the word reform means something.”

      While the 1983 Code supersedes the 1917 Code (CIC 1983 can. 6 §1., 1/), the 1917 Code is still helpful in understanding the 1983 Code. There is nothing, zero, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that says that abrogates or abolishes or forbids the reading of the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent or any other catechism.

      Just because there was a new Catechism issued in the 20th century, that doesn’t mean that the Roman Catechism ordered by the Council of Trent is no longer useful and true.

      “Reform” does not mean “obliterate the past and make up something new”. Sacrosanctum Concilium is crystal clear on that point.

      Unless, of course, your ecclesial view does not include anything before the 1960’s.

      For these people reform means damnatio memoriae. If they could, they’d hold a book burning.

      Another item which proves that the writers and the signer have not the slightest clue what they are talking about – because they are ignorant of the Roman Rite apart from their isolation cell of the Novus Ordo.

      “Accompaniment may take the form of visiting with the faithful who have regularly attended Mass and celebrated sacraments with the earlier rituals to help them understand the essential principles of renewal called for in the Second Vatican Council. It must also involve helping people appreciate how the reformed Mass introduces them to a greater use of scripture and prayers from the Roman tradition, as well as an updated liturgical calendar of feasts that includes recently canonized saints. Accompaniment may also mean creatively including in the Mass reformed by the Council elements which people have found nourishing in celebrating the earlier form of the Mass, which has already been an option, e.g., reverent movement and gestures, use of Gregorian chant, Latin and incense and extended periods of silence within the liturgy.”

      He leads off with flattering “accompaniment”, like a pinch of incense to the genius of the divine emperor. It’s nearly breathtaking in its unctuous, faux pastoral croon.

      People who don’t celebrate the Vetus Ordo really should be telling those who do about their engagement with the Scripture which the Church presented to the faithful for scores of generations in an unbroken line back to, in many euchological forms, the time of Gregory the Great (+604).

      And that “accompaniment”… “creavity including …. elements” which those people like to keep them moving in the right direction.

      “There, there!”, crooned the prelate as he accompanied the grieving widow across the grass to the newly opened grave. “The Church is here for you. We are here for you.” He twinkled his fingers at the teary-eyed babe she clutched under her unreformed black chapel veil.

      Then he gave her his firm pastoral shove.

      “Certain elements can now be added for her accompaniment”, he murmered. He tossed in a handful of dirt, to encourage the others. The stony earth didn’t have that usual rattling sound as it landed, due to the fact that the coffin was not only not closed, but the gagged woman and child inside wasn’t dead yet.

      Never mind that the very things that he wants to toss like dirt in pastoral accompaniment are mandated by the Second Vatican Council and even still in part in the rubrics of the Novus Ordo.

      The fact is that people are attracted to the traditional Vetus Ordo for more than just the externals of vestments, a more solemn ars celebrandi, pretty churches, a certain kind of sacred liturgical music, ad orientem worship (which is theologically significant, as are those other things). The content of the prayers is different. They contain riches…. let’s use the word “elements”… which were systematically removed from the orations of the Novus Ordo, “elements” without which one’s Catholic identity is placed in the hazard. Sine quibus non.

      No. Just no.


      It is the attitude of Cupich and others, from the top down, that sparks reactions of consternation, sadness and fury.

      Watch this serious “¡Hagan lío!” video and then ponder whether Cupich and Co. have truly promoted “unity”, something truly for the good of the Church.

      • Paul, Thank you for re-posting this. For readers who may not know Fr. Z.’s blog, here’s how he describes it (beneath this motto: “Save the Liturgy, Save the Church”):

        “This blog is like a fusion of the Baroque ‘salon’ with its well-tuned harpsichord around which polite society gathered for entertainment and edification and, on the other hand, a Wild West “saloon” with its out-of-tune piano and swinging doors, where everyone has a gun and something to say. Nevertheless, we try to point our discussions back to what it is to be Catholic in this increasingly difficult age, to love God, and how to get to heaven.” – Fr. Z

        Ya’ gotta’ love it.

    • Brandon B:

      Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, both positively established that the living prayers of the centuries-old Roman Rite of the Mass were not outlawed, and as Pope Benedict XVI stated, it was never outlawed. That’s because it stands to reason that what previous generations of the faithful held sacred can be nothing but sacred, and never outlawed.

      The Archbishop Roche is an outlaw. And the Pontiff Francis, having orchestrated idolatry in Rome in 2019, staged his contempt for the First Commandment for all the world to see, thus showing his contempt for the very font of the law, God himself.

      The appeal you make to Vatican Council II is not to be taken seriously, because the cohorts of the “spirit-of-Vatican-II” disobey the Council’s own document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Consilium.

      Thus, the Archbishop Roche is like his benefactors in the episcopal establishment, in word and deed, an outlaw, who does the bidding of other outlaws.

    • Three points:

      FIRST, taking one of your examples, the “reform” of the Catechism abrogated nothing.

      As with the Catechism of Trent, the new Catechism (sic 1993; actually 1992 and in English in 1994, 1997) still comes in four parts: Prayer, Sacraments, Creed and Christian living…although the fourth part now includes both the Commandments and the Beatitudes. My memory is that early on there were those on the drafting team who wanted to delete explicit mention of the Commandments altogether (abrogation in presentation), to be replaced with the Beatitudes. Such an attempt at false reform failed. Both elements are now included. Development of presentation, not abrogation. To address white collar crime rather than usury (which still exists!) is not abrogation.

      SECOND, as for the “theological insights of the Council”, and the difference between developing or abrogating doctrine, is clarified by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman (regarded as “the father of the Council”) and goes all the way back to the 5th-century Vincent of Lerins (continuity!).

      Newman contrasted development with rupture. Summarizing greatly: “There is no corruption if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier, if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last . . .” (“Essay on the Development of Doctrine”, London and New York: Longmans, Green, 1885, Ch. V, cited by Vincent Ferrer Blehl [ed.], “The Essential Newman” [New York: Mentor-Omega, 1963], 136-7).

      THIRD, the rupture in the Liturgy, many hold, is less between The Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, than it is between the Novus Ordo in practice and the actual content of the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963).

      I do not have a dog in this fight (the Novus Ordo can be done well), but to constructively advance the conversation, I am intrigued by the integrated approach of the Eastern Syro-Malabar Church. Explicit attentiveness to the transcendence of God—beyond the assembly—is now restored by the priest facing liturgical East during the appropriate parts of the Mass, but not all.

      All of the popes, including Francis desire such development, integration and continuity, which is advanced in Sacrosanctum Concilium AND which is different from key nuances (etc.) of the Novus Ordo in practice and from amputation of the Latin Mass, both.

      • “… the rupture in the Liturgy,…is less between The Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, than it is between the Novus Ordo in practice and the actual content of the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963).”

        Therein lies the crux of the matter.

        • As someone who occasionally attends Ruthenian and Ukrainian Rite and Anglican Ordinariate liturgies, and having recently attended a funeral in the Syro-Malabar Rite of India, one thing about the Novus Ordo has become painfully clear to me: The Novus Ordo, even when celebrated according to the rubrics and without improvisations, is radically different from every other liturgical rite ever approved in the Catholic Church. Horizontal, man-centered, community-focused, pedestrian, banal, mundane… I don’t know the best phrases to describe it. Whatever it is, it does not resemble ANYTHING else Catholic.

  4. It us not beyond contemplation that in the best future an official Catholic institution and/or document will question the existence of God as anything other than an expression of human fraternity or related

  5. So Roche is either ignorant of the truth or deliberately lying. Either way, a perfect fit for the Bergoglian stables.

  6. Pope Paul VI abrogated the Catholic Church. I have come to the conclusion that the Novus Ordo mass was created by people who hate the Catholic Church, its traditions, history and people. It may be licit and valid but it stinks.

  7. “It is also evident that these exceptional concessions should only be granted to those who accept the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs. All that is in the new law is oriented to the return and stabilization of the liturgy as decreed by the Second Vatican Council.”

    So I suppose we’re going to start requiring Novus Ordo devotees to pledge their fealty to Trent. Or has that been “abrogated” too?

  8. Will the parade of fools from this Vatican never cease? Do they think they are free to preach what they wish with impugnity, expecting or hoping everyone will bow to their words because they wear Roman collars and cassocks?

  9. Both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI participated directly in the Second Vatican Council.
    Francis did not, nor does he understand it.
    The Council never called for the abrogation of the very mass that was celebrated during the four sessions of the Council.
    Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict both declared that the traditional Latin mass had not been abrogated by Pope Paul VI, so Archbishop Roche is wrong and his false statements are completely null and utterly void.

  10. The nominal assertion is so provocative that I skipped straight to the comments to “crowdsource” common sense on this – to check my own reaction.

    Seems like a typical propagandist media assault on the target. Lawlessness is getting loud and proud.

    This has to be a good sign.

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