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Bishop Jeffrey Montforton Diocese of Steubenville/YouTube screenshot

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, has banned the Traditional Latin Mass from being offered on Franciscan University’s campus despite efforts of the school’s president to keep the Old Mass available for students and faculty.  

The mandate came last week and was effective immediately. The diocese said the move was intended to implement the norms, including the recent rescript, issued by the Holy See,” regarding the celebration of the traditional liturgy. The bishop has allowed the nearby parish of St. Peter’s to continue offering the Latin Mass and is seeking a dispensation from Rome to maintain the Old Mass there. 

“The Mass at Franciscan has been [canceled],” a spokesperson for the Diocese said. “The bishop is seeking a dispensation for the Mass at St. Peter’s, where the weekly Latin Mass has been held for years.” 

St. Peter’s Church in Steubenville is about a mile from the university campus. The Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated weekly, with a High Mass about once a month, on the first Sunday.  

Father Dave Pivonka, the president of Franciscan University, told students in an email that he had tried to convince the bishop to allow the Latin Mass to continue on campus, but to no avail.  

“I spoke with [Bishop Monforton] multiple times hoping we could work out a way to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass at Franciscan University for the many students, faculty, and staff with a special love for this ancient form of the sacred liturgy,” Pivonka wrote. “Bishop Monforton remains convinced, however, that this decision is best for our diocese in light of Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.” 

According to attendees of the university’s Latin Mass, it had become very popular, with “easily 250 at each of them this semester,” he said. Thomas Crowe, who trained the servers for the Old Mass, said that “the chapel’s been packed, and it’s mostly students. He affirmed that the university, known for its more charismatic style of liturgy, “was always supportive” and would “make sure we had what we needed.” 

“The opportunity for the students, especially students who had never attended the [traditional Latin Mass] previously, the opportunity was tremendous,” Crowe said.  

Crowe said he thought it was “unfortunate the bishop was in the situation he was in,” and that the idea in the Vatican that it needs to restrict the Old Mass is “tragic.” Crowe said that if the bishop felt he could only allow either the university or the parish to maintain the Latin Mass, “choosing St. Peter’s made sense.”  

However, since neither Traditionis custodes nor the most recent rescript forbid the celebration of the Latin Mass in a church other than a parish, it is not clear what stipulation the bishop considered required the immediate banning of the Old Mass from the university. In fact, it is because the rescript is specifically about parish churches that Monforton is seeking a dispensation for St. Peter’s Church. 

Critics of the move pointed out that the university chapel was precisely not required by Vatican restrictions to seek permission for or end the celebration of the Old Liturgy. 

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

The Vatican’s recent restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass 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, criticized the rescript, saying, “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.’” 

New York canonist Fr. Gerald Murray decried the rescript as yet another move by the Vatican to “marginalize, restrict, and banish Latin Mass people.”  

“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.” 

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, strongly defended traditional Catholics, emphasizing their fidelity to the Church and Her teachings. He questioned the wisdom of restricting pastoral decisions about parishes and Latin Mass communities to Cardinal Arthur Roche’s dicastery for the liturgy in Rome. 

Other bishops have put the celebration of the Latin Mass “on hold,” such as in the diocese of Albany, New York, or have decided to move it from a parish church, as in Winona, Minnesota. This shuffling of Latin Mass communities leaves many traditional Catholics unsettled about the future availability of the beautiful ancient liturgy. 

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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