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Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (LifeSiteNews) — In the midst of what many see as a heightened crackdown ordered by the Vatican on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has spoken out strongly in support of Catholics who love the beauty of the Church’s ancient liturgy.

This week, Paprocki defended traditional Catholics who attend the Latin Mass, affirming their fidelity to the Church. “I find the people there are very docile to the teachings of the Church, very eager to follow the teachings of the Church,” Paprocki declared in response to the charge that Latin Mass attendees do not accept Church teaching. “They’re very faithful Catholics,” he emphatically affirmed.

The bishop then called into question the wisdom of Rome’s recent moves to centralize all determinations regarding the celebration of the Old Rite. He said the local needs and pastoral circumstances of dioceses in relation to Latin Mass communities are better known and decided by the local bishop.

“I think the local diocesan bishops are much more in tune with what’s going on in their diocese than an office in Rome,” Paprocki stated, noting that in a letter accompanying the motu proprio Traditionis custodes Pope Francis had expressed the intention to empower bishops with regard to the implementation or dispensation of the particulars of the motu proprio.

In that letter, Paprocki noted, the Pope had declared to bishops, “It is up to you to authorize … the use of the ‘Missale Romanum’ of 1962 … It is up to you to … determine case by case the reality of the groups which celebrate with this ‘Missale Romanum.’”

Paprocki questioned the wisdom of the Pope’s recent rescript, in which the Pontiff confirmed a claim of Cardinal Arthur Roche that canonists said ran contrary to Canon Law; namely, that bishops were required to obtain permission from Roche as head of the Roman Dicastery for Divine Worship before granting permission for the Latin Mass to celebrated in a parish church.

Several bishops had invoked canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law that allows them to dispense from a particular law of the Church for sake of the pastoral good of the souls under their care. Cardinal Roche alleged in letters sent to bishops that they could not invoke the canon to dispense from the stipulations of the motu proprio.

READ: Pope Francis issues new document limiting the powers of bishops to allow the Latin Mass in their diocese

In light of the authority that properly belongs to the diocesan bishop and the principle of subsidiarity, Paprocki stated, “I question the wisdom of [the rescript] under the principle of subsidiarity,” according to which such decisions would be made “usually at a local level.”

Since the rescript was the Pope’s response to Roche’s claim against bishops invoking canon 87, not only did the rescript strip bishops of any real power to “authorize … the use of the ‘Missale Romanum’ of 1962” and “determine case by case the reality of the groups which celebrate with this ‘Missale Romanum,’” it also was not a move initiated by the Pope but by Cardinal Roche.

“It wasn’t the Holy Father taking the initiative,” Paprocki pointed out. Rather, it was the “initiative of Cardinal Roche.”

Paprocki has two locations in his diocese — Sacred Heart Church in Springfield and St. Rose of Lima in Quincy — that regularly offer the Traditional Latin Mass.

Last year, in anticipation of rumored restrictions — which have become reality now with the recent rescript, and with potentially more restrictions to come in the near future — Paprocki redesignated Sacred Heart Church so that it was no longer a parish.

St. Katharine Drexel parish, to which it belonged, already had two churches. Paprocki thereby declared that the celebration of the Latin Mass would continue unaffected by the motu proprio. “Just to remove any doubt … I was able to redesignate that church,” Paprocki said. “That took care of Sacred Heart Church.”

St. Rose of Lima is a parish church but is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, to whom the motu proprio does not apply.

The Vatican’s recent restrictions on the Traditional Latin and its clear posturing for further crackdowns have increasingly drawn criticism from within the ranks of the episcopacy. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said of the rescript, “The way the Vatican is dealing with the Traditional Latin Mass does not seem to me to be the ‘style of God.’ Pope Francis himself has emphasized that those who are attached to the TLM should be ‘accompanied, listened to, and given time.’”

READ: US bishop calls out latest papal restrictions on Latin Mass as not the ‘style of God’

Last week, New York canonist Fr. Gerald Murray decried the rescript as yet another move by the Vatican to “marginalize, restrict, and banish Latin Mass people.” Murray condemned the ejection of traditional Catholics from their parishes as “a basic violation of Church order,” insisting, “There is no reason why any parishioner should be thrown out of his parish church.”

READ: Fr. Murray: The Vatican’s ‘persecution’ of Latin Mass Catholics is ‘damaging the Church’

“This makes absolutely no sense,” the priest declared on EWTN. “It’s a persecution of Latin Mass Catholics, plain and simple. And it can’t be justified by saying, ‘well, this is going to help promote the mission of the Church.’ This is damaging the Church. It absolutely is.”

In an effort to preserve and restore the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, an initiative called “Missae Pro Missa,” Latin for “Masses for the Mass,” was launched on Ash Wednesday by a group of American lay Catholics who “love the Traditional Latin Mass and wish to see it remain a flourishing and normal part of the life of the Church.”

The project seeks to secure at least one million Masses offered for the preservation of the TLM by Pentecost Sunday on May 28. The website for the initiative can be found here.


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