Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview
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Bishops respond cautiously to papal directive on Latin Mass

July 19, 2021

While Pope Francis indicated that his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes should take effect immediately, many bishops have responded that the papal document will require study before implementation.

Thus although some bishops have announced an immediate halt to the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, many others—particularly in the US—have said that there will be no changes, at least for the present.

  • Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the US bishops’ conference, set the tone for the American hierarchy. Welcoming the papal document, he encouraged “my brother bishops to work with care, patience, justice, and charity as together we foster a Eucharistic renewal in our nation.”
  • Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issued his own statement within hours after the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes, saying: “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.”
  • In Washingon, DC, Cardinal Wilton Gregory wrote to his priest that he would “prayerfully reflect on Traditionis Custodes in the coming weeks to ensure we understand fully the Holy Father’s intentions and consider carefully how they are realized.” He added that priests using the traditional liturgy had permission to continue doing so “until further guidance is forthcoming.”
  • Similarly, in Arlington, Virginia, Bishop Michael Burbidge promised to “review [the document] in greater detail and offer further guidance to our priests in the near future.” He gave permission for all scheduled traditional liturgies to continue.
  • Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City used similar language, granting “temporary permission” for the celebration of the Latin Mass “until further study and clarification can inform an appropriate implementation of this document.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading expert on canon law, observed that it would be unrealistic to expect immediate implementation of the motu proprio because it “contains many elements that require study regarding its application.” He also lamented the tone of the papal document, saying that it was “marked by a harshness” toward traditionalists, and voiced his hope that “the faithful will not give way to the discouragement which such harshness necessarily engenders.”

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter—established to promote the use of the traditional liturgy—issued a statement reaffirming “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.” Addressing the fears of traditionalist Catholics, the Fraternity said: “We must strive to see this Cross as a means of our sanctification, and to remember that God will never abandon His Church.”

In France—a country that has seen some direct clashes between bishops and traditionalists—the episcopal conference issued a statement expressing “esteem” for the spiritual zeal of the traditionalist faithful, “and their determination to pursue their mission together, in communion with the Church and according to the norms in force.” The French bishops, too, remarked that the implementation of the papal decree would “be done by dialogue, and will take time.”

One of the strongest negative responses to Traditionis Custodes came from Cardinal Gehard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who said: “The clear intent is to condemn the Extraordinary Form to extinction in the long run.” Cardinal Müller contrasted the Pope’s campaign to curb the traditionalist movement, in the cause of Church unity, with his failure “to put an end to the innumerable ‘progressive’ abuses of the liturgy… that are tantamount to blasphemy.” He said that “the image of the misguided fire brigade comes to mind, which—instead of saving the blazing house—instead first saves the small barn next to it.”


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  • Posted by: Watt Dwineault - Jul. 22, 2021 11:02 PM ET USA

    I hope that in the end we will find a peaceful and mutually respectful coexistence of the main novus ordo mass of the universal Catholic church in this world that does not speak Latin, and for some or all of us to sometimes enjoy, the TLM. I frankly think that there has indeed been a real issue of an "us and them" attitude acknowledged or not.

  • Posted by: davidSanDiego - Jul. 20, 2021 10:48 PM ET USA

    It appears to me that the Apostolic Letter on the Novus Ordo has raised more episcopal hackles than abortion supporting politicians taking communion; I probably don't have a deep enough knowledge of the players and would be interested to know any one else, better informed, feels the same way.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Jul. 20, 2021 11:06 AM ET USA

    This might be a good time to consider the relationship between the loss of the theology of the true presence in a majority(?) of the Catholic "faithful" and the changes in the liturgy of the Mass since Vatican ll, irrespective of the intent of that Council. I have recently lost a pastor who fashioned the most beautiful and awe inspiring Novus Ordo, and in the passing, the solemnity which should accompany the Mass is diminished. And, great music has been replaced with syrupy sauce of modernity.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 19, 2021 11:31 PM ET USA

    On reading through the motu proprio, after you get through the initial shock of Art. 3.1-3.4, it seems you come upon a bit of subsidiarity: Art 3. "§ 5. to proceed suitably to verify that the parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them". There is more, but a quick interpretation indicates that much decision-making is left to the discretion of the local ordinary and two Congregations.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 19, 2021 7:36 PM ET USA

    There are a number of bishops who have been breathlessly waiting for this so they could consign the Extraordinary Form to the dustbin, unfortunately. I have never run into a devotee of the EF who has rejected Vatican Council II.