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July 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The traditional Catholic world has been buzzing with rumors over the past few weeks about Pope Francis and the Vatican moving to restrict Catholics from access to the Traditional Latin Mass, the increasingly popular form of the Mass which was the only Mass every Roman Catholic knew until the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II in the 1970s.

After the Second Vatican Council, Catholics who wanted to go to the Traditional Latin Mass (also known as the “TLM,” the “Old Mass,” the “Mass of the Ages,” the “Tridentine Mass,” the “Latin Mass,” the “Extraordinary Form of the Mass”) had limited options. Over the years, and with the establishment of more traditional orders and the institution of more Latin-friendly bishops, the availability of the TLM grew around the world. And as its availability grew, so did its popularity. Young people who hadn’t grown up with the Old Mass discovered it, and were drawn to its reverence, its grandeur, its otherworldliness.

On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a motu proprio called Summorum Pontificum which clarified that the Old Mass was never abolished, and every priest in the entire world has the right to say it and does not need his bishops’ permission to do so.

“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us, too,” the now-Pope emeritus wrote.

Summorum Pontificum was a game-changer for orthodox priests who previously had had to delicately navigate their aging Baby Boomer bishops’ opposition to the TLM, or just hide their interest in the TLM completely. Suddenly any parish priest could begin offering the Old Mass, and guess what – he had Rome on his side, and there was nothing his crabby old bishop could do about it.

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A senior Church prelate is strongly opposing a new Vatican proposal to ban private Masses and restrict traditional rite Masses at the world's premier church, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the new directions, issued by Pope Francis’ Secretariat of State, should be "rescinded" since they are "contrary to" and in "direct violation of" universal Church law.

Therefore, we ask you to SIGN and SHARE this petition, which is directed to Pope Francis and the current and just retired Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica (Cardinals Mauro Gambetti and Angelo Comastri, respectively), and which asks them to rescind the new directive banning private Masses and restricting traditional rite Masses at St. Peter's.

On March 12th, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State circulated a note with details of new dispositions restricting all “individual” Masses in Saint Peter’s, with special, even more restrictive measures for the traditional rite.

The note, which was unsigned, stated among other things that "individual celebrations are suppressed."

In response, Cardinal Burke said the new rules cause the faithful, and above all, priests, the "deepest concerns."

In particular, he addresses the celebration of private or "individual" Masses at the Basilica, something that the new document appears to target, writing:

The document imposes concelebration upon priests who wish to offer the Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, which is contrary to universal Church law and which unjustly conditions the primary duty of the individual priest to offer the Holy Mass daily for the salvation of the world (can. 902).

In what church more than in the Basilica of Saint Peter would a priest desire to offer the Holy Mass, which is the most perfect and fullest way in which he carries out his priestly mission? If an individual priest wishes to offer the Holy Mass in the Basilica, once the directives in question are in force, he will be constrained to concelebrate, in violation of his freedom to offer the Holy Mass individually.

Quoting from the Council of Trent, Burke then emphasized the fact that the whole Church benefits spiritually from every Mass that is said, whether with people attending or without, stating:

The holy council would certainly like the faithful present at every Mass to communicate in it not only by spiritual devotion but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist, so that the fruits of this most holy sacrifice could be theirs more fully.

But, if this does not always happen, the council does not for that reason condemn as private and illicit Masses (can. 8) in which only the priest communicates. Rather, it approves and commends them, for they too should be considered truly communal Masses, partly because the people communicate spiritually in them and partly because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for his own good alone, but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ’ (Session XXII, Chapter 6).

Please SIGN now and support the call to Pope Francis and the current and just retired Archpriest of St. Peter's to rescind the new directives which would severely restrict priests from offering private and traditional rite Holy Masses at St. Peter's Basilica.


Cardinal Burke: Vatican’s ban on private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica should be ‘rescinded’ -

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It was a game-changer for the faithful, too, and interest in the Old Mass exploded. Almost every TLM Catholics can now access in the U.S. is available in part or completely because of Summorum Pontificum.

Despite all of this, and as rumors about an “update” or rescission of Summorum Pontificum float around, it’s important to note that bishops are still able to restrict the Latin Mass in their dioceses, despite it being against Church rules for them to do so. Of course, the “crabby old bishops” referenced above have always been able to send “problem” priests who use too much incense or preach a little too much about homosexuality off to a parish assignment in the middle of nowhere. Such priests can be made parochial vicars to vicious, left-wing pastors and their petty “parish councils.” Just like it’s very easy for a military commander to make the lives of his direct subordinates really, really miserable without technically doing anything illegal or “wrong,” it’s very easy for a bishop who doesn’t like a particular traditional priest to ruin or inconvenience his life.

Similarly, bishops can make it very hard on seminarians who want to learn the Old Mass and offer it once ordained.  

Should Summorum Pontificum be abrogated, these power dynamics will only get worse.

Below are a few examples of how bishops, and in some cases left-wing pastors, restrict the Traditional Latin Mass despite Summorum Pontificum. Close friends were parties in all of the following cases, which all occurred in America:

  • Parishioners of a parish offering a once-a-month Latin Mass in a heavily Protestant state with a very small Catholic population were informed that Catholics attending the Latin Mass ought to learn Latin. Parishioners were confused about where this directive came from and why it was being suggested (there is no requirement anywhere in canon law that Catholics who want to attend a particular Mass must know Latin or any other language. Did the peasants who became saints by going to the Latin Mass centuries ago even know how to read Latin or the vernacular?). Diocesan coronavirus guidelines also banned Communion on the tongue, which is the only way Communion can be received at the TLM. The parish eventually discontinued its Latin Mass altogether. The closest available Latin Mass is now about two hours away.

  • College students in another heavily Protestant state were forced to have their visiting priest offer the Old Mass in a chemistry classroom rented from the university because the regular Catholic campus ministry wouldn’t allow it in their parish church. Under canon law, pastors have quite a bit of say over what goes on in their parish. In this particular diocese, the bishop has tended to name leftist priests as pastors, and thus limited what the young, good, conservative/orthodox priests can do in diocesan churches.

  • In the above-mentioned college town, a local priest (not affiliated with the campus ministry) wouldn’t let one of his parish churches (a historic church across town that the parish had outgrown, but still used for some daily Masses) be used for the Old Mass (“too divisive”) but would allow Protestants to have Sunday liturgies there. This could occasionally be overridden by a now-deceased retired bishop of the diocese, who would inform that priest he planned to offer the Old Mass at the church and then would show up and do so to the delight of the tradition-starved faithful.

  • A well-known Catholic community whose parish already has a weekly Sunday TLM is being forced to get permission from their bishop to add a weekday Latin Mass at a convenient time. Does this parish require permission from the bishop if Father wants to add another weekday Mass in English? I doubt it.

  • The rector of a basilica in Florida told a young, D.C.-based couple planning on getting married in their native Sunshine State, “It’s very simple…I will not allow a Latin Mass in my church.” The priest “assured me in the same stroke of his pen that the bishop would support him, and I would do well not to bother” to lobby the bishop, the groom in that situation wrote. The couple, with whom I am friends, was forced to change wedding locations 10 days before the ceremony.

If Summorum Pontificum is indeed axed, it will prove very difficult for tradition-hating prelates to actually abolish the Old Mass altogether. It never died after Vatican II, and was preserved by the careful efforts of groups like the Society of St. Pius X. Summorum Pontificum then fully freed the Tridentine Mass to the ordinary faithful (Father John Zuhlsdorf calls it “the Emancipation Proclamation”) and unleashed its beauty and mystery on the world. 

Good luck putting that genie – and fan base, if you will – back in the bottle.

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As a journalist and editor for LifeSiteNews, Claire Chretien has written more than 1,500 articles about abortion, human dignity, bioethics, the Catholic Church, politics, and related topics. Claire holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Alabama. It was there that she first became involved in pro-life activism.


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