Arlington bishop curtails Traditional Latin Masses

Shannon Mullen   By Shannon Mullen for CNA


Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, VA. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 30, 2022 / 12:53 pm (CNA).

Thirteen parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, must stop offering Traditional Latin Masses come Sept. 8 under new rules issued Friday by Bishop Michael J. Burbidge.

Under the directive, eight other parishes may continue to offer Masses in what is called the Extraordinary Form, but five of those may only do so in other locations besides their churches, including school buildings and a former church.

Moreover, none of the eight parishes may publish the times of their Latin Masses in their bulletins, parish websites, or social media channels.

Three parishes in the diocese may continue to host Latin Masses in their churches. They are: St. Anthony Mission in King George, St. Rita Church in Alexandria, and St. John the Beloved in McLean.

The diocese’s five-page policy makes no explicit mention of a ban on Masses said ad orientem, or facing away from the congregation, in either the new or old form, as is now in place in the neighboring Archdiocese of Washington.

Burbidge says in the document that the rules are meant to “strengthen ecclesial communion” within the diocese and to conform to the liturgical directives Pope Francis published a little over a year ago in his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, as well as more specific restrictions the Vatican issued in December.

“The unique expression of the sacred liturgy is found in the liturgical books reformed according to the desires of the Second Vatican Council and promulgated by Pope Saint Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul,” Burbidge says in the document.

The policy goes into effect Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The list of off-site TLM locations

A statement published on the Arlington Diocese’s website says Burbidge submitted a “request for dispensation from Traditionis custodes” to the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.

Burbidge made the request so that “the approximately 2.5% of local, Mass-attending Catholics who prefer this liturgical form” in the diocese could continue to have access to Traditional Latin Masses, the statement says.

“Consequently, three parishes were granted permission to continue celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in their parish churches for a term of two years,” the statement continues.

The diocese’s policy says that this permission “may be extended upon the approval of the Dicastery, so long as ongoing work toward a unitary form (use of the third edition of the Roman Missal, promulgated in English in 2011 and in Spanish in 2018) of celebration of the Sacred Liturgy continues.”

An additional five parishes may offer Latin Masses at off-site locations. They are:

  • St. John the Baptist Church, Front Royal, in Chelsea Academy, Front Royal;
  • Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Winchester, in Sacred Heart Academy;
  • All Saints Church, Manassas, in Renaissance Montessori School, Nokesville;
  • St. John the Apostle Church, Leesburg, in the historic chapel, and
  • St. Patrick Church, Fredericksburg, in the former church building.

‘Pushed to the side’?

For some Catholics like Sean and Jennifer Nelson who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, Burbidge’s new policy comes as a shock and a profound disappointment.

The Stafford, Virginia, couple, both adult converts, began attending Latin Masses at St. Patrick’s in Fredericksburg a year ago, drawn by the liturgy’s timeless, sacred beauty.

“I can’t think of any greater countersign to the world than the liturgy of the old rite,” said Sean Nelson, 31.

“The interior participation, the beauty of the words, everything about it signals that this is a foretaste of heaven, that this is where you should be, this is the world of God,” he said.

“And I think that’s especially important nowadays where we’re losing so much of that sense of God’s presence … to be in a place where that’s so abundantly clear,” he said. “It just opens your heart up to the salvation that Christ and the Church offers.”

Sean and Jennifer Nelson, of Stafford, Virginia, on Easter Sunday 2022 at St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with their three sons: (left to right) Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Courtesy of Sean Nelson
Sean and Jennifer Nelson, of Stafford, Virginia, on Easter Sunday 2022 at St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with their three sons: (left to right) Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Courtesy of Sean Nelson

Nelson said his family has been praying for the preservation of the Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s since Pope Francis issued his motu proprio a year ago. Their hope was that any changes the diocese might implement to conform to the pope’s directive would be “minimal,” he said.

Instead, Nelson learned Friday night that nearly two-thirds of the parishes in the diocese that now offer Latin Masses can no longer do so after Sept. 8. Also, St. Patrick’s Latin Masses must move from the parish’s new, classically styled church to its former, more modern-looking worship space, which no longer has pews and functions mostly as a “fellowship hall,” Nelson said.

“And so it was just sort of a shock and disappointing,” he said. “I felt like we’re being pushed to the side.”

Nelson believes the diocese’s new policy may spark additional interest in the old liturgy. Even if that doesn’t happen, he wonders how just eight approved parishes and alternate sites will accommodate the diocese’s flourishing Traditional Latin Mass community.

As for Nelson and his family, they’ll squeeze into the alternate worship space or stand outside on the sidewalk if it comes to that.

“As long as we’re allowed to have it, we’re going to be there, however difficult it is,” he said.

“We’ll just just pray harder and hope that people see that we’re working to build the church and spread the Gospel, and do it the best way that we can.”

Delegate named

Burbidge named Father Bjorn Lundberg, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, as his delegate “to assist with the implementation of this policy and to oversee the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful who are impacted by it.”

“While these new norms will bring some change to the places and times of worship, I ask all in our diocese to maintain a spirit of unity and fidelity,” Burbidge said in a letter accompanying the new policy.

“The promulgation of Traditionis Custodes recalls for all of us, Christ’s faithful, the Second Vatican Council’s teaching found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium: ‘Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the “sacrament of unity,” namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops,'” the policy states.

“For this reason, we ask the Holy Spirit to increase his gifts of unity and peace within the universal Church and within our local church. Let us pray with ever greater fervor that God Our Father will be pleased to grant her peace, and guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world.”

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  1. I have not attended a Latin Mass in over 50 years, since I was a child. But I am astonished at the full court press being used to suppress it. Such suppression will only lead it to be held in some underground manner. That cannot be good for the church as a whole.The ego-driven decisions made about this by both the Pope and this Bishop are disappointing and very hard to justify. What exactly is the harm in allowing the Latin Mass? I personally have no issue with the Novus Ordo Mass I attend daily, but why attempt to suppress worship of God, no matter what form it takes. Our empty churches should make us glad that ANYONE wants to come to church to pray. Even if it is in Latin.

  2. Good grief. Way to go if you want to alienate and suppress the part of the American Church that’s growing demographically. Just visit a Latin Mass and look at the number of young people and large families. It’s almost like some of our hierarchy have a death wish for their parishes.
    The only folks who benefit from this sort of harassment are the SSPX who will gain membership. Or perhaps Eastern Rite churches where you can find different but beautiful liturgies.

    • Eastern Catholic parishes might benefit as well, if the Tridentine folks who venture into an Eastern Rite parish respect that the Eastern Churches do things differently, have a somewhat different theological take, and the differences are just some kind of abuse:
      1) Body and Blood mixed in the chalice at Communion
      2) Standing for Communion (Actually more than half of the Liturgy is standing–some prayers services have a tremendous amount of kneeling)
      3) Leavened bread is used;
      4) The “Flioque” may not be said
      5) (Sometimes) different dates/names for the Holy Days/Saints/Obligations
      5) And of course: the possibility of a married-with-children priest (probably from Europe).
      I suggest folks look East, but when they do, they should leave their grudges, frustrations, and anger with the Roman/Western Church behind. They should bring a head/heart willing to learn and hands willing to do the various fundraisers and parish maintenance

      • I didn’t know that about Communion in Eastern Rite churches. Ive only been once to a Byzantine Rite church and it was so long ago I can’t actually remember how Communion was distributed.
        I’ve been to Mass at a Maronite church more than once but it was sometime ago too. I don’t think I remember anything different about Communion there but that’s probably just my poor memory.

        • The priest consecrates the Bread, then the Wine, and then the two are put together in the Chalice (water is added; I am not sure when).
          Pre-Covid, our parish used one spoon (silver? gold?) to distribute to all Communicants by the priest (no E.M’s–I don’t think Deacons may administer either, but not sure). Covid hit, and once we were allowed to re-open, the new norms are everyone has his “own” spoon–which are sadly made of plastic (but they look nice–the kind you might see at a wedding reception, etc)
          We have a small parish, so this is all very manageable. I am not sure how a big parish with 500 Communicatns would handle this.
          I am not sure if the “new norms” are going to revert to the “old norms.” I certainly hope they do, since plastic seems a bit tacky.

  3. The wicked and incorrigible TLMers in the Washington diocese thought they would simply jump over to Arlington for Mass. Ah, but Bergoglio, Roche and Gregory anticipated their move and have cut them off at the pass! The Latin Mass must be stamped out at all costs! Drive these reactionaries into their basements and Trump hotel banquet rooms if they won’t give up their sinful and irrational attachment. Eventually, the Vatican and USCCB will petition the pro-abortion politicians with whom they enjoy such close working relationships to shut those down as well. This is a war of extermination.

  4. Pope Francis as the “Roman Pontiff has full, SUPREME and universal POWER over the WHOLE Church, a power which he can always exercise UNHINDERED.” Catechism # 882.
    Francis has “full” “supreme” ‘unhindered” “power” “over the whole Church.” Catholics must obey your Catechism

    • And the Pope’s powers are bound by tradition, morality and right reason. If he does evil, it must be opposed.

      • I have family members in the Arlington diocese who attend the TLM. I’ve heard good things about that diocese for decades. So this is sad news.

        I think we should be constantly praying for our Pope and our bishops. There’s either bad advice or bad advisors in their midst. Our division, discouragement, and disobedience play right into the hands of those whose goal is to see the undoing of the relevance and authority of the Church.
        The Church and the traditional family are the last remaining roadblocks against secularism.
        We have a TLM minutes away and I feel truly blessed. I’m praying our bishop continues to show his concern for all those young devout families. They and other Catholic families open to life are our real future. The rest of us are either dropping out, aging out, or contracepting ourselves into oblivion

  5. Anyone who knows the lay of the land in Northern Virginia knows this is scandalous. The older mass is being pushed way out to edges of the area. Shocking, and revealing of the intent from Rome. This papacy is no friend of tradition, either upper or lower case. A religion that attempts to crush its more conservative members will not flourish.

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