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

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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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