Bishop Michael Burbidge expands on the recent restrictions he issued regulating Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Arlington

A Traditional Latin Mass. / Andrew Gardner via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Bishop Michael Burbidge provided more insight on the restrictions he recently set on the Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Arlington. The additional limits were established when Pope Francis issued liturgical instructions in July 2021.

“I think we accomplished our goals of showing fidelity to the Holy Father, to the Holy See, and [were] also mindful that we are still providing the celebration of this Mass throughout our diocese,” Burbidge said on the diocese’s “Walk Humbly Podcast” on Aug. 10.

The guidelines of Burbidge, effective September 8, let eight parishes to continue serving the Latin Mass. However, only three of these parishes may continue to offer the Extraordinary Form in their main church. The remaining five parishes are only permitted to perform the Latin Mass in other authorised areas.

The regulations of the Vatican prohibit the eight parishes from publishing Latin Mass timings in their newsletters, parish websites, or social media outlets. Priests may continue to celebrate the Mass ad orientem, which involves facing the altar. This is not the situation in the adjacent Washington Archdiocese.

Burbidge understood that his implementation strategy was met with disappointment and opposition. He stated that he is appreciative to the priests of the diocese who have guaranteed him respect and obedience.

Burbidge presented a “respectful challenge as a spiritual father” and said that there are two possible courses of action when one disagrees with a change.

“One is that of anger and writing or calling or emailing without really thinking of the weight of the words that became somewhat hurtful, not only to me but to my staff who had to read such a tone,” he said.

The other path, he added, is to say, “’Wow. The Lord is giving me an opportunity to grow in holiness. Because I am letting go of my will here. I’m trusting that the Lord is at work in his church [and] that the Holy Spirit is guiding his church. It’s not what I would do if I was the pope. It’s not what I would do if I was the bishop. But I’m a faithful follower of Christ. And I trust that he is acting always through his church.’”

He said that the second way leads to peace.

The guidelines are intended to comply with the instructions announced by Pope Francis in his motu proprio Traditionis custodes a little over a year ago, as well as the more precise limits imposed by the Vatican in December.

Few exceptions exist to the Traditionis Custodes norm that bishops must identify non-parish churches in which the Extraordinary Form may be performed. The Holy See’s approval of Burbridge’s proposal to allow three churches to hold the Latin Mass inside the main parish church was described by Burbridge as “very gracious.”

Burbidge said that he planned to choose physically accessible places for the Traditional Latin Mass so that Latin Mass attendees would not be inconvenienced. He said that the diocese is blessed to have priests who are educated in performing the Traditional Latin Mass, and that when help is required to cover Mass periods, these priests will be called upon.

Burbidge said that he hopes the faithful of the diocese realise that the implementation process was not hastened on purpose.

“Don’t forget,” he said, “the motu proprio was a year ago,” adding that the pope’s July 2021 directives were effective immediately and were followed by further guidelines in December.

“So, the Holy See was very patient, I think, with bishops saying, ‘well, we need more time to get a better understanding of the use of the extraordinary form, Traditional Latin Mass, in our diocese to hear from the faithful, to hear from their pastors, to read both documents,” he said.

Burbidge said that his promise of fidelity and loyalty to the Holy Father was “key” when implementing the restrictions, but also mentioned that he prioritized being “mindful of those who find spiritual nourishment in the Traditional Latin Mass.”

In addition, he advised reading the motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, the December instruction, and Desiderio Desideravi, Pope Francis’ most recent apostolic letter on the liturgical formation of the people of God.

Arlington is the most recent diocese to apply Traditionis Custodes, according to reports. The Diocese of Savannah, the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Archdiocese of Washington are examples of other dioceses and archdioceses that have recently done so.

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