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PARIS, France (LifeSiteNews) — The number of churches where celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass will be authorized has been drastically limited by the present archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, apparently with immediate effect.  

All diocesan priests in the French capital received a letter this Wednesday outlining how Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, which aims at severely restricting and even banning, over time, the Church’s traditional liturgy, will be implemented by order of the local bishop. 

Archbishop Michel Aupetit wrote: “While awaiting certain details on the application of the motu proprio, it is up to me to give you the instructions for its implementation in our diocese.” 

He was alluding to the implementation decrees of Traditionis Custodes that are yet to be issued in Rome and whose content has not yet been made public. Aupetit decided to anticipate their publication, making a show of force that includes shutting down some traditional Mass locations and setting up new obligations for all diocesan priests wishing to celebrate according to the Vetus Ordo, the historic Mass of the Latin Rite. 

Aupetit’s decisions are particularly harsh, for as he is banning the traditional Mass from more than half of the locations where it was regularly celebrated, either on Sundays or in some cases on weekdays. Only five churches in Paris will officially be allowed to use the old Missal. 

In the western part of town, Sainte-Odile, Sainte-Jeanne de Chantal, and the Notre-Dame du Lys chapel will continue to offer the traditional liturgy, and in the center of Paris the large 19th century church of Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile and the Baroque church of Saint-Roch may also continue with this ministry. 

One regular venue where Sunday evening mass was available up until now in the traditional rite has been scrapped, to the dismay of the regular celebrant, while weekly celebrations in other parish churches or chapels have now been wiped off the map. 

There also appears to be no mercy for the “occasional” celebrations that have not been infrequent in Paris since 2007 and the publication of Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum, with funerals in particular being celebrated in a number of parishes in the “extraordinary form,” thanks to the benevolence and understanding of local priests. 

Summorum Pontificum also allowed many diocesan priests of the Paris clergy to discover the traditional rite and led several to learn how to celebrate it. Thanks to the freedom to offer the “Old Mass” and its “right to exist” that Benedict XVI recognized could never legitimately be taken away, these priests would informally but regularly say the Tridentine Mass while adding more solemnity and reverence to their celebration of the Novus Ordo. 

Aupetit has apparently decided that this freedom is detrimental to the Church and the faithful, and he has added further rules and restrictions that were not even mentioned in Traditionis Custodes. 

A principle of distrust

He told his clergy that in the five churches where the Tridentine Mass may subsist, “readings should be done in French in the Official Liturgical Translation (2013), while following the ordo of the 1962 lectionary.” 

Traditional Catholics have complained since the 1970’s about the inexactness and confusing terms in modern translations of the Scriptures, and their break with well-known passages of the Old and New Testament. Also, the official translation uses the familiar “tu” form instead of the polite and formal “vous” in dialogues. 

In these five churches, wrote Aupetit, “priests who have received a written mission from me may celebrate Mass and the sacraments in the old form.” He expects them to be “open to both missals,” he wrote, and added: “Those who are accustomed to celebrating with the 1962 missal will have to obtain my written authorization to continue.” 

This indicates a desire for full control of all priests celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass in Paris, in a new framework where written permission will replace the principle of freedom for all that was at the heart of Summorum Pontificum. Even more ruthless than Traditionis Custodes requires him to be, Archbishop Aupetit has already imposed further conditions and a principle of distrust where priests must be vetted by the diocesan authority before obtaining a sort of dispensation in order to celebrate according to a rite that sanctified so many Catholics over many hundreds of years. 

In the first lines of his letter, available here, Archbishop Aupetit addressed his clergy with the words “Dear friends” and said: “The motu proprio Traditionis Custodes that the Pope published on July 16, 2008, immediately aroused comments that reflect the concerns or misunderstandings of its authors. The Pope’s intention, expressed in his accompanying letter to the bishops, is to serve the unity of the Body of Christ and to entrust to ‘the bishop, as moderator, promoter and guardian of the liturgical life’ the responsibility of overseeing the use of the 1962 missal.” 

He also stated that this is “not a question of reviving liturgical quarrels but of ensuring the good of the faithful who are attached to the old form.” 

Hopes raised by the following phrases were soon to be dashed, however. Aupetit wrote that “the bishop must take steps to ensure that they can participate in these liturgies without fear of being sidelined from the life and faith of the Church, that is, without suffering those who hurt communion by increasing distances or by building up opposition.” 

But banning celebrations of the Latin Mass in most churches and forcing priests to obtain written permission to use the old missal even in the few places where the Tridentine Mass will be tolerated is indeed a strange way of preventing traditional Catholics from being “sidelined.” 

In setting up a formal rule of bi-ritualism – using both the Vetus and the Novus Ordo Aupetit is faithful to choices made 30 years ago by Cardinal Lustiger. The late cardinal anticipated a demand for the traditional Mass in Paris while at the same time refusing to invite Ecclesia Dei institutes to minister to traditional Catholics. By naming diocesan priests or religious already present in Paris to celebrate the old Mass, Lustiger ensured that there would be no exclusive Vetus Ordo priests. Aupetit quoted his predecessor in his letter but went a step further by making this bi-ritualism an explicit rule. 

He concluded his letter with words that hurt rather than reassured traditional Catholics: 

“I thank you in advance for your valuable pastoral work in explaining to the faithful the spirit of this motu proprio. It recalls that the present missal is the sole expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite. It expresses the solicitude of the Pope and the bishops for the faithful attached to the ancient liturgical form. It invites all priests to celebrate with dignity and fidelity to the liturgical books. The promulgation of the new translation of the current missal, known as the Missal of Saint Paul VI, in the coming months will give us the opportunity to revisit our way of celebrating for a greater pastoral fruitfulness of the Eucharist.” 

After the COVID-19 lockdowns, Novus Ordo parishes registered a severe loss of regular attendance, between 30 and 40 percent. Tridentine Masses are instead more sought after than before the sanitary restrictions, with up to 30 percent more people coming to Mass regularly. Some of these new Vetus Ordo churchgoers made the switch in order to be able to continue to receive Communion on the tongue, a practice Aupetit was forced to allow to continue in traditional Masses even though he banned it everywhere else. 

Aupetit has named a diocesan delegate for the Old Mass: Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, rector and archpriest of Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame was badly damaged in the April 2019 fire and will remain under restoration for several years before being used again for public worship. Will the ruin of France’s most famous cathedral soon appear as an allegory of the planned destruction of the Tridentine Mass? 

As things stand, traditional Catholics in France are angry about the new restrictions being set upon the “Mass of Ages.” They were at the front lines of resistance against the “New Mass” fifty years ago, and now they are more numerous, with a whole network of Mass locations, both diocesan and under (former) Ecclesia Dei institutes, schools, youth groups, regular pilgrimages, and organizations. And they are clearly preparing to fight for yet another “restoration.” 

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