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VATICAN CITY, July 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has today issued a new motu proprio restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, declaring that the liturgy of Paul VI, or the Novus Ordo, is the “unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

The document, entitled “Traditionis Custodes,” is written “in light of the experience” of the survey carried out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year, about the Traditional Mass (Also called the “Latin Mass,” the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite,” the “Old Mass”).

Article 1 – The Novus Ordo is the ‘unique expression’ of the Roman Rite

In the document, the Pope made several sweeping changes to the permissions granted to the celebration of the Latin Mass. But first, and one of the most striking points, is his declaration 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.”

While Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2007 document Summorum Pontificum (SP) described the Novus Ordo as the “ordinary expression” of the lex orandi, with the rite of 1962 (Latin Mass) being “never abrogated,” and “an extraordinary form,” Francis does away with such language, describing the Novus Ordo as the “unique” and only expression.

Article 2 – Bishops hold control

Pope Francis stipulated that diocesan bishops have the role and right to “regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese,” as is properly contained within canon law (c.375 & c.392). However, the Pontiff then proceeded to state that each bishop has the “exclusive competence” to “authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.”

While originally appealing to canon law, the second part of the statement is an infraction on the permissions highlighted in SP, in which Benedict XVI stated that Masses without a congregation, offered by “any Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular,” may be either the Novus Ordo or the Traditional Latin Mass, and could be thus offered without seeking permission from the Holy See or the local bishop.

Each priest was thus afforded the right to offer Mass according to his preference of liturgical books in such circumstances, without needing to request his bishop’s permission. However, this has now been done away with.

Article 3 – Dioceses already celebrating the Latin Mass

Pope Francis continued by dealing with dioceses where there are already celebrations of the Traditional Liturgy. In such places, the local bishop is to ascertain that any groups celebrating the Traditional Liturgy “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform” of Vatican II (Novus Ordo).

The bishop is to set aside “one or more locations” where the faithful can attend the Latin Mass, but without this “location” being a “parochial church” and without establishing any new personal parishes. It would appear that there is to be no general permission for the Latin Mass to be daily offered in such places, for the local bishop is now permitted by Francis to set “the days on which eucharistic celebrations are permitted.”

The new order is ‘effective immediately’

Furthermore, the Pope is ordering alterations to the manner in which the Traditional Liturgy is offered in these places, stipulating that the “readings are proclaimed in the vernacular language” instead of in Latin, despite the fact that this is considered a liturgical abuse in the Old Rite.

In these churches, or “locations,” the bishop is ordered to appoint a priest who is able to offer the necessary “pastoral care” to what the Pontiff describes regularly as “these groups of the faithful.” Such a priest should have a good knowledge of Latin and of the traditional rite, while being motivated by “pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion.”

The bishop is to further decide whether “parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful” are in fact “effective for their spiritual growth.” Depending on that decision, the bishop is to thus determine “whether or not to retain them.”

In addition to this, the bishop is “to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups,” seemingly proposing a mere toleration, but not a promotion of “these groups of the faithful” who attend the Latin Mass.

Article 4 and 5 – Priests must reapply for permission to say Old Mass

While priests across the world had the security of the permission to offer the Traditional Liturgy as succinctly presented in Summorum Pontificum, Pope Francis does away with this and throws the power once more to the diocesan bishop. Thus, under Traditionis Custodes, any priest ordained after the publication of the text today, July 16, must “submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.” Hence, even if the local bishop were to approve the new ordinand’s request, it could still be refused by the Holy See.

The bishop is to decide whether ‘parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful’ are in fact ‘effective for their spiritual growth.’ Depending on that decision, the bishop is to thus determine ‘whether or not to retain them.’

Such a stipulation is mirrored for those priests who are already offering the Traditional Liturgy, although they only have to ask permission from the local ordinary to continue, instead of also having to request permission from the Holy See: “Priests who already celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.”

Article 6 and 7 – Traditional orders

The Pope’s directives with regard to traditional orders, such as the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), Institute of Christ the King Soverign Priest (CKSP), Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP), are not as clear cut as his prior restrictions. Article 6 reads: “Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.”

The future of these orders will very much lie in the hands of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life, as Francis writes that it will be up to these curial bodies to “exercise the authority of the Holy See with respect to the observance of these provisions.”

However, some idea may be gleaned about the difficulties such orders will have to face, as the Pope recently appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche as the new Prefect of the CDW, who is known as a firm opponent of the Latin Mass.

Article 8 – All else is abrogated

The Pontiff’s intentions are made more fully clear in his final directive, in which he abrogates any previous “norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform” to Traditionis Custodes, thus doing away with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2007 Summorum Pontificum in one sweep. “Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.”

The new text comes 14 years after SP, and is ordered to be put into effect “immediately,” and subsequently entered into the Holy See’s official body of texts, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Pope Francis’s accompanying letter – restrictions necessitated by ‘unity’

The Pope also issued an accompanying letter to his new motu proprio, described by some online as being “worse than the MP [Traditionis Custodes] itself.” In the letter, Francis declared that his new orders were out of “solicitude for the whole Church, that contributes supremely to the good of the Universal Church.”

He wrote that Pope John Paul II’s 1988 motu proprio promulgating the Latin Mass, Ecclesia Dei, was done to “foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre,” yet that it had become an “opportunity to adopt freely the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and use it in a manner parallel to the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Paul VI.” This “situation” was solved by the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, wrote Francis.

However, Francis employed Benedict’s words from 2007, when he wrote that “if truly serious difficulties come to light [with Summorum Pontificum], ways to remedy them can be sought.” In light of a global survey of bishops conducted last year, Francis stated he had found “a situation that preoccupies and saddens me,” and which persuaded him of “the need to intervene.”

He claimed that the “pastoral objective” of his predecessors had been “seriously disregarded,” in a way which fostered “disagreements,” ruptures in the Church, and the “peril of division.”

Francis decried “the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962” which he said “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.’”

There was a growing rift fuelled by use of the Traditional Liturgy, wrote Francis, which provided the “final reason” for his decision. Such words have been styled as promoting “Submission to Bergoglianism.”

This ‘is an unjust law and therefore no law at all,’ commented Catholic Family News editor-in-chief Brian McCall. ‘It is an act of violence.’

Echoing his words in the motu proprio, the Pope claimed that the Novus Ordo was a necessary reformation of the liturgy, which contained the proper expression of the Church’s liturgical rites, and that it contains all the elements of the pre-Vatican II liturgy: “Whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman Rite, in particular the Roman Canon which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.”

This claim comes despite analysis showing that “of the 1,269 unique orations in the usus antiquior [old use],” only “613 (48.3%) of them are used in some way in the post-Vatican II Missal.”

Indeed, earlier in his text, the Pope had made the bold claim that to doubt Vatican II was to doubt the Holy Spirit Himself: “To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.”

The Pope stated that his attack on the Traditional Liturgy was motivated only by concern for the Church’s unity: “In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors.” He claimed that there was a “distorted use” of the Traditional Liturgy, which is “contrary to the intentions” behind the “freedom” to offer the Latin Mass.

An attack requested by the bishops

In a revealing line in the accompanying letter, the Pope wrote that his decision had been made in light of “requests” from bishops across the world: “Responding to your requests, I take the firm decision to abrogate all the norms, instructions, permissions and customs that precede the present Motu proprio, and declare that the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, constitute the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

In doing so, he even appealed to the memory of Pope St. Pius V, who issued the bull Quo Primum in 1570 codifying, promulgating, defending the Traditional Liturgy. Pope Francis claimed that in restricting the Latin Mass, he is actually imitating the actions of Pius V, who “also abrogated all the rites that could not claim a proven antiquity, establishing for the whole Latin Church a single Missale Romanum.” Yet in his next sentence, the Pope notes that the same Missale Romanum which he is restricting, and is supposedly without “proven antiquity,” has been used for centuries and “functioned to maintain the unity of the Church.”

Commenting on this, LifeSite’s Dr. Maike Hickson wrote: “The Novus Ordo is also a rite ‘that could not claim proven antiquity.’ It is a novelty, created artificially so as to please Protestants, a dilution of faith and prayer. It is noisy, distracting, less reverent. Gives more impression of a supper, not a sacrifice.”

The Argentine Pope continued by saying he wished to continue the work of Pope Paul VI, in promoting a reformed style of Ecclesial unity.

Furthermore, while it is Pope Francis who has moved to restrict the Latin Mass, he appeared to offer an ultimatum to Catholic bishops around the world, that in order to be in union with him they also take part in promoting the restrictions as a source of unity for the Church: “share with me this burden as a form of participation in the solicitude for the whole Church proper to the Bishops.”

With these words, Pope Francis issued his personal directive to the bishops, regarding the future of the Latin Mass. After having at length decried the Traditional Liturgy for causing “division,” the Pope asked the bishops to “proceed in such a way as to return to a unitary form of celebration, and to determine case by case the reality of the groups which celebrate with this Missale Romanum.”

Pope Francis is trying to ‘create conditions to make the TLM wither and die,’ Deacon Nick Donnelly told LifeSiteNews. ‘What he fails to take into account is that the Mass of the Ages is the quintessential expression of Tradition, formed under the action of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of souls (Dei verbum, 10). No one can put a stop to it.’

Referring once more to the devotees of the Traditional Liturgy of the Church, Francis wrote that the bishops should guide these members of the faithful back to the Novus Ordo, as if the Church's ancient liturgy at which almost all saints worshipped were an error to be guided away from.

“Indications about how to proceed in your dioceses are chiefly dictated by two principles: on the one hand, to provide for the good of those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration and need to return in due time to the Roman Rite promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II, and, on the other hand, to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy People of God’.”

Instant consternation amongst the faithful

Perhaps unsurprisingly, today’s news has caused anger and anguish amongst may faithful Catholics, both lay and clerical.

Priests took to Twitter to describe the move as “absolutely heartbreaking,” a “sad day,” and cause for singing the requiem chant “Dies Irae.”

Alexander Tschugguel, the young man who threw the Pachamama statuettes into the Tiber during the Amazonian Synod in 2019, wrote: “I will rather go underground than betraying our sacred faith and tradition! Let’s stand united!#staycatholic #catacombspirit.”

Matthew Hazell, a contributor to New Liturgical Movement, pointed to the “contempt” of Pope Francis: “The contempt is barely disguised…@Pontifex, why are you being so rigid? Where is your mercy, generosity & accompaniment for those of us who, though we accept the validity of the liturgical reforms (& Vatican II), are attached to the usus antiquior? Why have you abandoned us?”

“They can’t even wait until after Benedict XVI has died to nuke the Mass of Ages. Evil, evil men,” commented U.K. Catholic blogger Laurence England.

In a warning before the new text was published, former Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò wrote: “It is not acceptable for the supreme authority of the Church to allow itself to cancel, in a disturbing operation of cancel culture in a religious key, the inheritance it has received from its Fathers; nor is it permissible to consider as being outside of the Church those who are not prepared to accept the privation of the Mass and the Sacraments celebrated in the form that has molded almost two thousand years of Saints.”

Indeed, Kazhakstan’s Bishop Athanasius Schneider also just warned of the “abuse of power” should Summorum Pontificum be suppressed. Earlier this month he encouraged priests and the faithful to “continue to celebrate this Mass because it is the Mass of the entire Church and the faithful have a right [to] what’s holy.”

As for traditional priests themselves, such as those in the Fraternity of St. Peter, if they were to be forced to concelebrate the Novus Ordo, Bishop Schneider predicted that many would join the Society of St. Pius X, where they would have “more independence to keep the tradition of the Church.”

Brian McCall, editor-in-chief of Catholic Family News, commented, “The Motu Proprio is an unjust law and therefore no law at all. It is an act of violence. (See St. Thomas Summa Theologiae I-II Q. 96 Ar. 4). It exceeds the authority of the lawgiver (as even Benedict XVI admitted in 2007) and is contrary to the common good. It utterly fails as a law.”

“Only those who have fallen prey to the error of Legal Positivism and its roots in nominalism and voluntarism will recognize this document as a valid law,” he continued. “Now will be the times that try men’s (and especially priests’) souls. Will they capitulate to the act of tyranny or stand strong in the Faith? Will they obey God rather than men?”

In comments to LifeSite, popular Catholic commentator Deacon Nick Donnelly warned that the document, though “full of warm words,” would “eventually force traditional Catholics to accept the missals of Paul VI and John Paul II.”

“Rather than promote ecclesial unity, Pope Francis’ motu proprio is more likely to cause disunity within local Churches, with Latin Mass groups moved out of parochial parishes into ‘designated locations,’” warned Donnelly.

“Though the motu proprio pays lip service to pastoral care of the faithful’s spiritual needs, it gives bishops unfavourable to the Mass of the Ages an excuse to suppress Traditional communities, such as that which we’ve recently witnessed in Dijon, France, with the expulsion of the FSSP after 23 years.”

“By ordering the bishops to discover if TLM groups ‘deny’ the liturgical innovations of Vatican II, an inquisitional style is encouraged rather than one of accompaniment and dialogue which Pope Francis normally speaks about,” Donnelly explained. “Further, Pope Francis undermines the jurisdiction of bishops by ordering them to send requests to the Holy See for permission for newly ordained priests to say the TLM. He also orders them not to establish new TLM parishes or accept any new TLM groups into the diocese.”

Deacon Donnelly further wrote that the Pope was looking to “create conditions to make the TLM wither and die. What he fails to take into account is that the Mass of the Ages is the quintessential expression of Tradition, formed under the action of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of souls (Dei verbum, 10). No one can put a stop to it.”

LifeSite will continue to update the faithful on the new motu proprio and its implications for the Church.


BREAKING: Pope Francis abrogates Pope Benedict’s universal permission for Old Mass