Pope begins phasing out the Old Latin Mass, just as Vatican II intended

Old Latin Mass

Catholic traditionalists attached to the Old Latin Mass have their rosaries beads in a knot again over Pope Francis’ latest move to strictly curtail use of the Tridentine Rite, the complex and heavily rubricised ritual that pre-dated the liturgical reform mandated by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

The pope, on February 20, ordered the Dicastery for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (DDWDS) to publish a rescript that says bishops must get Vatican approval before they allow priests in their dioceses to celebrate the Old Latin Mass.

The new rescript and a DDWDS letter to bishops in December 2021 were issued to help clarify and properly implement Traditionis custodes, the “motu proprio” Francis published in July 2021.

That text reversed Summorum Pontificum, a “motu proprio” from 2007 in which Benedict XVI invented the novel idea that there could actually be “two forms of the one Roman Rite” — one called extraordinary (pre-Vatican II) and the other ordinary (post-Vatican II). This theo-linguistical sleight of hand basically allowed for the perpetuation of a rite that had been completely re-ordered and reformed.

Stomping on the authority of local bishops?

When Traditionis custodes came out, traditionalists were furious with the current pope and now they are even angrier with him over the new rescript.

They and certain commentators who continue to look for any opportunity to discredit him have accused Francis of stomping on the rightful authority that local bishops have to regulate the liturgy in their respective dioceses.

Such accusations have no merit whatsoever.

In fact, it was Benedict XVI who took such authority away from the bishops when he issued Summorum Pontificum, which stipulated that a priest required “no permission from the Apostolic See or his own ordinary” to celebrate in the Tridentine Rite.

Moreover, the late pope put the now-defunct Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in charge of regulating — and, it turned out, “promoting” — use of the Old Rite everywhere throughout the world.

This commission was established in 1988 to facilitate a return of traditionalists who had followed the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre into schism.

Thankfully, Pope Francis disbanded the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission in 2019.

Andrea Grillo, professor at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at Sant’Anselmo in Rome, went even further to debunk the ideas that Francis had curtailed the authority of local bishops.

He noted that such authority is to regulate the Church’s liturgy (ritual) in their territories.

But that ritual is only the current reformed Mass. Traditionis custodes, Grillo explained, abolished the fictitious ritual dualism of the so-called extraordinary and ordinary forms.

“The Council Fathers perceived the urgent need for a reform”

Thus, there is only one rite.

Anything that deviates from that — which is what the Tridentine Mass does — is an exception and that is why it must be approved by the Apostolic See.

Its use should also be rare, as Paul VI (and most bishops at Vatican II) envisioned when the late pope begrudgingly conceded to requests immediately following the liturgical reform that elderly priests be allowed to continue celebrating with the last (1962) edition of the unreformed Roman Rite.

The bishops who attended Vatican Council II voted overwhelmingly in support of the constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which begins with these words:

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever-increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council, therefore, sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy (SC, 1).

Cardinal Arthur Roche, the DDWDS prefect, reiterated this in his December 2021 letter to bishops around the world.

“One fact is undeniable,” he said.

“The Council Fathers perceived the urgent need for a reform so that the truth of the faith as celebrated might appear ever more in all its beauty, and the People of God might grow in full, active, conscious participation in the liturgical celebration,” the cardinal stated, making specific reference to Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14.

Not all the bishops — indeed not all Catholics — were pleased with how the liturgical reform turned out in the end.

But no one could have imagined that 50 years later, a Roman Pontiff would allow a tiny group of people — Catholics with fundamental disagreements over the general thrust of Vatican II and even specific reforms stemming from it — to live in a parallel liturgical (and ecclesiological) universe within the Church, and even allow them to promote its further spread.

Thankfully, another Roman Pontiff has moved to phase out this anomaly completely. Because, pure and simple, it was never the intention of Vatican Council II that it exist in the first place.

  • Robert Mickens is LCI Editor in Chief.
  • First published in La-Croix International. Republished with permission.
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News category: Analysis and Comment, Palmerston.

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