Catholics react to Pope Francis’ Latin Mass restrictions

Latin Mass restrictions

Pope Francis has placed restrictions on the spread of the old Latin Mass, provoking a passionate response from laypeople and clergy alike.

Traditionalist Catholics reacted strongly to the promulgation of Traditionis custodes, a motu proprio signed by Pope Francis on July 16.

They decried it as an attack on them and the ancient liturgy.

The crackdown, which comes into effect immediately, reversed one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions. It is seen as a major challenge to those Catholics who long to return to pre-Vatican II days.

The pontiff issued a new law requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass. In addition, newly ordained priests will be required to receive permission from bishops in consultation with the Vatican.

Francis said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church. He suggested it had been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.

Under the new law, bishops must also determine if the current groups of faithful attached to the old Mass accept Vatican II. This allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin.

These groups cannot use regular churches; instead, bishops must find alternate locations without creating new parishes.

Francis also said bishops are no longer allowed to authorize the formation of any new pro-Latin Mass groups in their dioceses.

The pope’s rollback immediately created an uproar among traditionalists. They are already opposed to Francis’ more progressive bent and nostalgic for Benedict’s doctrinaire papacy.

“This is an extremely disappointing document which entirely undoes the legal provisions of Benedict’s 2007 document,” said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

While Latin celebrations can continue, “the presumption is consistently against them: bishops are being invited to close them down,” Shaw said. He added that the requirement for Latin Masses to be held outside a parish was “unworkable.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco told CNA 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. It will be provided in response to the legitimate needs and desires of the faithful.”

However, Christopher Bellitto, professor of church history at Kean University, said Francis was right to intervene.

Bellitto noted that Benedict’s original decision had had a slew of unintended consequences that not only created internal divisions but temporarily roiled relations with Jews.

“Francis hits it right on the head with his observation that Benedict’s 2007 loosening of regulations against the Latin rite allowed others to use it for division,” he said. “The blowback on Latin Mass restrictions proves his point.”


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