Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine-rite Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2001, the first time in several decades that the rite was celebrated at the altar. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Dioceses review Latin Mass restrictions

  • July 28, 2021

A week after Pope Francis re-imposed restrictions on pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, parishioners at Holy Family Catholic Church in Toronto were still praying with the 1962 Missale Romanum at their regular 11:30 weekday Masses.

The Archdiocese of Toronto  said that Pope Francis’ new Latin Mass rules “should not significantly impact current activities in the Archdiocese of Toronto.”

In the Diocese of London, Ont. the traditional Latin Mass is also steady as she goes for now.

“The diocese is going to review the existing communities across the diocese as the motu proprio asks us to,” said London diocese spokesperson Matthew Clarke in an e-mail. “There are no changes to the current Mass schedules while the consultations take place.”

That attitude seemed to be echoed across most dioceses where the Latin Mass is celebrated, including the U.S.

In Vancouver, Archbishop J. Michael Miller anticipates no sudden change.

“I have given the priests who requested it permission to continue the celebrations they have planned. In practice, I don’t see much change in the present situation,” Miller told The B.C. Catholic newspaper.

Miller added that the pre-Vatican II liturgy “has never been a cause of division here.”

But Pope Francis has cited division among Catholics as his motivation for clamping down on the pre-Vatican II liturgical movement. In his July 16 letter Traditionis Custodes, the Pope said he wanted “to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion.”

In a letter to the bishops of the world that accompanies Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis decried how permission to celebrate the 1962 Mass “was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

Under the new rules, bishops who allow for the continued celebration of the old Mass must ensure communities formed around the traditional Latin Mass “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs.”

Not all people who celebrate the old form of the Mass necessarily reject the Second Vatican Council, liturgist Christian McConnell told The Catholic Register.

“I wouldn’t paint all of the proponents of the extraordinary form with that brush at all,” McConnell said.

Under the liturgical law of the Church, Mass celebrated according to the 1970 Missale Romanum is the ordinary form that most Catholics experience in their parishes. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI gave Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missale Romanum the status of the “extraordinary form.”

The Second Vatican Council in 1963 introduced significant changes to the liturgical celebration, leading to a period of transition before Pope Paul VI formally required the use of a new Missale Romanum in 1970. With the intention of making the change easier on elderly priests, Pope Paul allowed the limited use of the 1962 missal. The new Mass, known as the Novus Ordo, did not replace Latin as the normative language of the Mass, but granted permission for the Mass to be celebrated in the language of the people in attendance. Nor did the new Mass prevent priests from celebrating facing the altar, but it did require that all parishes install an altar that would allow the priest to celebrate facing the assembly. The use of traditional, unaccompanied chant (sometimes called Gregorian chant) was encouraged by Council fathers, while they also encouraged the composition of new music to suit the new Mass. It is entirely permissible today for any parish to celebrate the 1970 Missale Romanum in Latin, with the priest’s back to the assembly and the choir singing in Latin, unaccompanied.

In October of 1984, Pope John Paul II gave bishops the right to authorize the use of the 1962 Mass amidst strenuous Church attempts to bring followers of the schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of St. Pius X, back into the fold.

Appeasing the SSPX, which has thoroughly rejected the ecumenical council of 1962 to 1965, has had little effect. On Pope Francis’ re-imposition of restrictions, the Canadian division of the SSPX declared on its website, “This new persecution against the traditional Mass gives us proof that Archbishop Lefebvre was right when he said that the old Mass cannot co-exist with the new Mass.”

It’s possible Pope Francis has simply declared, “They’re not coming back, so we don’t have to keep trying,” said McConnell, who is the director of liturgy, music and adult formation at the Springbank Catholic Family of Parishes in London and a lecturer in liturgy at London’s St. Peter’s Seminary.

The effect of the new restrictions on Catholic enthusiasts for the old Mass is dramatic, according to the Federatio Interatnionalis Una Voce, a Rome-based network of Latin Mass advocates

“Both the characterization of Catholics attached to the traditional Mass and the harsh new restrictions on it sadden us greatly,” Una Voce said in a release.

The Canadian arm of Una Voce is confident bishops who have supported communities gathered around the old Mass will continue to do so.

“They also understand that this Mass attracts the youth and young, growing families and that marriages and seminarians come from these communities,” said Una Voce Canada president David Reid in an e-mail.

The Pope’s concerns in Traditionis Custodes run deeper than just the possibility of splitting the Catholic community into warring liturgical camps, said McConnell.

“He is deeply suspicious of living tradition becoming hardened into something that it wasn’t meant to be,” he said.

“He is concerned about a Church turning in on itself and becoming fascinated with its own practices and not being open to the world around it. He is very much concerned about those things and has said so many times. That is not launching an attack on tradition. It isn’t.”

(NOTE: This article was revised to refect some changes made by Vatican II and the effect on the 1962 Mass.)

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