On July 16, 2021, Pope Francis promulgated “Traditionis Custodes,” his Motu Proprio regulating the old form of the Mass as commonly celebrated prior to the publication of the New Roman Missal in 1970. This document and a recently promulgated instruction from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments greatly curtail the use of the Mass according to the 1962 missal, often called the Traditional Latin Mass.
The clarifying document, a response to questions raised about “Traditones Custodes” was approved by Pope Francis on Dec. 4, 2021.
Some of the changes which “Traditionis Custodes” and its clarification make heavily restrict which priests can celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. Priests who celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass must get permission from their respective bishops to continue and those who are ordained after the Motu Proprio must receive permission from their respective bishops in consultation with Rome.
In addition, the place and manner of the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass are heavily restricted. “Traditionis Custodes” restricts the celebration of such Masses to personal parishes erected for such purpose prior to publication and specifies that no new parishes may be erected.
The readings must also be “proclaimed in the vernacular language,” according to “Traditionis Custodes.” The “Responsa ad Dubia” also clarified a suppression of the “Rituale Pontificalum,” the book of sacraments for bishops, effectively barring bishops from enacting certain sacraments and sacramentals including confirmations, holy orders, and consecrating chrism for the Traditional Latin Mass.
In anticipation of Pope Francis’ announcement of restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, Archbishop Minnerath of Dijon, France, expelled the Priestly Society of St. Peter (FSSP) from his diocese, according to the National Catholic Register.
Traditionalist groups which celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass like the FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest were worried about what the papal document might mean.
The initial response was drastic in the Diocese of Chicago, but most U.S. Bishops waited to put it into effect while studying it further. But the outrage from Traditionalists would not betray the fact that in many places, “Traditiones Custodes” has not been fully realized. If you heard them, you would think that the Holy Father was an enemy of Tradition itself.
Pope Francis and the Church after the Second Vatican Council have emphasized unity. The holy council called for a reform in liturgy, particularly the Roman rites.
The teachings and discipline of the Church have emphasized a truth taught as early as the reign of Pope Pius V, who canonized the Roman Rite in accordance with the Council of Trent. When he canonized the Traditional Latin Mass, he abrogated all rites which did not have ancient claims.
The Apostolic Constitution “Quo Primum” reads: “This new rite alone is to be used unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given at the very time of the institution and confirmation of the church by Apostolic See at least 200 years ago.”
Pope Benedict XVI, for the sake of unity, made an outrageous move when, in “Summorum Pontificum,” he divided the Roman Rite into two: the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, the Ordinary Form being the so-called “Novus Ordo” and the Extraordinary Form being the masses celebrated according to the Missal of 1962. This division is ahistorical and incomprehensible in the context of “Quo Primum” because it is the common practice of the Church then and now to abrogate all previous missals when a change is made in the Liturgy.
Moreover, for the sake of the Church, a unity of liturgy is necessary for a unity in the Church. If one looks at the Protestant churches, one sees that their churches crumbled and disintegrated when they entered into the disastrous model of high church, low church.
I submit that the Catholic Church has been in danger of this division: the TLM could form a “high and mighty church” and the Roman Rite after 1970 could likewise form a worldly and lukewarm low church. This is not where the Church finds herself now, but it is, in my mind, on a dangerous path there.
Pope Francis, perhaps recognizing this, has called for the unity of the Roman Church to be reflected in the Roman Rite. “I now desire, with this Apostolic Letter, to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion,” Francis wrote. All Catholics need to take Francis seriously, lest the Church divide over liturgy.