Cardinal Nichols: Traditional rite confirmations no longer permitted

Luke Coppen   By Luke Coppen for CNA


Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates a Pontifical Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, London, Sept. 11, 2021. / Mazur/

London, England, Jan 25, 2022 / 06:55 am (CNA).

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that confirmations in the traditional rite are no longer permitted in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

In a Jan. 20 letter to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, the cardinal noted that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship recently issued a ruling on the topic.

The document, known as the “Responsa ad Dubia,” answered questions about the application of Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which placed tight restrictions on the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses.

Responding to a Dec. 14 letter from the Latin Mass Society inquiring about confirmations in the traditional rite, the archbishop of Westminster wrote: “I apologise for the delay but I have wanted to absorb the implications of the ‘Responsa ad Dubia’ issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship …”

“One of the questions posed to the Congregation concerned the celebrations of sacraments according to the pre-Vatican forms. The Response given by the Congregation was negative. Indeed, all use of the pre-Conciliar Pontificale is now prohibited. This means that Confirmation must be celebrated using the form approved for the whole Latin Church on Aug. 15, 1971.”

“We will, of course, continue to reflect on the provisions established by the Holy See in these matters and on the importance of the liturgical renewal to which we are being called as well as to the pastoral needs of the faithful.”

Nichols is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, but signed the letter as the Archbishop of Westminster.

For almost 20 years, the Latin Mass Society (LMS) has organized annual confirmations in the traditional rite at St. James’s Catholic Church in Spanish Place, central London. Westminster archdiocese has provided an auxiliary bishop for the ceremonies since 2004.

The LMS said that it understood that another scheduled traditional rite confirmation ceremony, involving Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, had been canceled.

LMS chairman Joseph Shaw said: “The cessation of these celebrations implies the loss of much that the Bishops of England and Wales have sought, and achieved, in establishing a serene co-existence between the new and old liturgical forms.”

“Confirmation is above all a sacrament for young people and converts. It will cut off many from accessing it in a form ‘particularly suited to them’ (as Pope Benedict expressed it). Others will be driven to seek it outside the structures of the Church.”

Traditionis custodes, which entered into force on July 16, 2021, the day it was released, said that it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The document 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.

Nichols told the clergy of Westminster diocese in July 2021 that he intended to grant faculties to priests seeking to celebrate Traditional Latin Masses as long as they fulfilled the conditions of Pope Francis’ motu proprio.

Correspondence between the cardinal and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the English prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, about Traditionis custodes was published in November 2021.

The “Responsa ad Dubia,” issued on Dec. 18, 2021, placed further limits on the use of pre-Vatican II liturgical books.

One of the questions it answered was whether it was possible, “according to the provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, to celebrate the sacraments with the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.”

The Pontificale Romanum contains the rites and ceremonies usually performed by bishops and the Rituale Romanum is one of the official ritual books used by a priest or deacon for rites not found in the Roman Missal, which is used for Mass.

In its response, the Congregation for Divine Worship said: “After discernment the diocesan Bishop is authorised to grant permission to use only the Rituale Romanum (last editio typica 1952) and not the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.”

“This permission is to be granted only to canonically erected personal parishes which, according to the provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, celebrate with the Missale Romanum of 1962.”

“It should be remembered that the formula for the Sacrament of Confirmation was changed for the entire Latin Church by St. Paul VI with the apostolic constitution Divinæ consortium naturæ (Aug. 15, 1971).”

Referring to observations about the status of the “Responsa ad Dubia” in the Church’s canon law published by the LMS, Joseph Shaw urged Cardinal Nichols and his fellow bishops in England and Wales to review their stance.

“In light of the Canon law guidance which we have published, which confirms that the recent Responsa ad Dubia issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, which appear to prohibit the use of the 1962 Pontificale, does not have the force of law, we call on His Eminence, Cardinal Nichols, and the Bishops of England and Wales, to reconsider their position, before real pastoral harm is done, and damage to the fabric of unity which will not easily be repaired,” he wrote.

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  1. Why on earth would a Catholic seek the Sacrament of Confirmation “outside the structures of the Church,” as Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society describes. To do so would show an ignorance of both the sacrament and the Church herself. It sounds like a scandalous failure of catechesis.

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