Pope Francis New Motu Proprio restricts Masses according to Extraordinary form

Newsdesk (July 16, 2021 3:28, Gaudium Press) – Today, Pope Francis issued the motu proprio Traditionis custodes. According to observers, it abrogates, at least in practice, the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI. 

Summorum Pontificum declared that while The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite,” yet the “Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honoured for its venerable and ancient usage.” 

Traditionis custodes, however, unequivocally declares that “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” 

Therefore, in some minds, the new Motu Proprio seems to raise a question: is the liturgy according to the old form still a possibility? According to the new provisions, it would no longer be an authentic expression of this “Lex orandi” of the Church.

Summorum Pontificum declared that it was licit “to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass according to the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962, which has never been abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church”, and regulated the celebration in the 1962 missal.

Summorum Pontificum

According to Summorum Pontificum, any priest of the Latin rite, could say his Mass privately (without the people) using the 1962 missal or the 1970 missal at his discretion; Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life wishing to celebrate using the 1962 missal could do so. If a group of parishioners asked the Pastor to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 missal, he could “gladly accept their request.” Furthermore, the parish priest was allowed to celebrate following the 1962 missal in particular circumstances, such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations. When considering it beneficial for souls, the Pastor could also administer baptism, marriage, penance and anointing of the sick according to the previous ritual at his discretion.

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Traditionis custodes & changes

All of this has changed with Traditionis custodes. According to the new provisions of Traditionis custodes, it is the “exclusive competence” of the Bishop “to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.” Masses using the 1962 form will no longer be celebrated in parishes. The bishop will designate a Church and the days of celebration. The bishop will directly delegate the celebrant. The celebrant will have to perform the readings in the “vernacular” using translations approved by the episcopates. The bishop “take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups” celebrating Mass using 1962 missal to prevent growth.

From today onwards, as per the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, ordained priests wishing to celebrate using the ancient rite “should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.” And priests who already do so must ask the diocesan bishop for permission to continue to use it.

The Institutes of consecrated life and the Societies of apostolic life, “erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei,” will come under the Congregation for Religious, and both this Congregation and the Congregation for Worship must ensure that the provisions contained in today’s motu proprio are complied with.

In the letter to bishops around the world accompanying Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis says that his predecessors’ concessions to the old missal were motivated above all “by the desire to foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre.” Nonetheless, he is saddened to see “the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’. One is dealing here with comportment that contradicts communion and nurtures the divisive tendency. (…) This “behaviour that contradicts communion, feeding that impulse towards division… against which the Apostle Paul so vigorously reacted. In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors”, the Pontiff explained. 

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Thus, Traditionis custodes is a clear desire to strongly restrict the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The cover letter of the document clarifies the reason for this motu proprio. Following the bishops’ responses to the questionnaire on the application of Summorum Pontificum, Francis says that “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene.” Thus, ” in the exercise of my ministry in service of unity, I take the decision to suspend the faculty granted by my Predecessors.” Two principles govern the new document: First, to allow time for those who are bound by the previous form of celebration to return to the current form; Second, to interrupt the erection of new personal parishes by the mere wishes of a pastor, instead of a group of faithful. According to the letter of introduction to the document, the authorization to use the old missal was granted above all to “foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre.”

Within a few hours of the publication of Traditionis custodes, there are already numerous reactions of various kinds, namely coming from those attached to the ancient rituals, strongly deploring the restrictions now in force. The fraternities linked to the so-called “Tridentine” form have not yet made any official pronouncements.

The motu proprio comes into force today, the feast of Our Lady of Carmel, without any vacatio legis.  

By Saul Castiblanco/Gaudiumpress


(Note: In civil law, the vacatio legis is “a period of time between announcement of the legal act and its moment of entry into force.”)

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Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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