(LifeSiteNews) — German Cardinal Gerhard Müller has condemned the Vatican’s recently approved Rescript further restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).
In comments to Spanish Catholic news outlet InfoVaticana, Müller, a former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, denounced Cardinal Arthur Roche’s centralization of power over the celebration of the TLM.
“Pope Benedict overcame the tensions that had arisen in a theologically competent and pastorally sensitive manner by distinguishing between the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Latin rite,” said Cardinal Müller, and described Francis’ decision to restrict the Traditional Mass as “brutal intolerance” against those who prefer the ancient use.
With the Rescript having received papal assent last month, permission to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum has been restricted to non-parish buildings, and this concession can be sought only from the Congregation (now Dicastery) for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which Roche leads.
READ: Cdl. Müller says Pope Francis revoked penalties on abusive priests at the request of cardinals
Commenting on the renewed effort to centralize power over the liturgy, Müller argued that the requirement of absolute obedience to ecclesiastical authority in such matters is “pastorally self-defeating” and “a frightful example of theological incompetence to distinguish between the […] substance of the sacrament and the richness of forms of liturgical rites.”
The cardinal further commented that the document therefore “degrades bishops or local ordinaries of secondary rank to petitioners to the highest authority (that is, the bureaucracy of the Department of Worship),” adding that the ruling “harms the pastoral responsibility of the episcopate” while obscuring “the true meaning of the papacy, which is to represent and realize the unity of the Church in the truth of faith and sacramental communion.”
Müller joins a chorus of voices defending the Church’s liturgical tradition, including Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, who condemned the fresh restrictions as not 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,’” Tobin noted.
READ: Cardinal Müller says Pope Francis’ Synod is a ‘hostile takeover of the Church’ in explosive interview
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, also spoke out in defense of adherents to the Church’s long liturgical tradition, describing them as “very docile to the teachings of the Church, very eager to follow the teachings of the Church… They’re very faithful Catholics.”
Paprocki drew attention to the Pope’s initial note to bishops accompanying July 2021’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, which states that 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.’”
Consequently, many prelates invoked Canon 87 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, which grants bishops the power to dispense from “universal and particular disciplinary laws” for the faithful in his diocese when he deems that “it contributes to their spiritual good.” Roche’s Rescript, however, attempts to quash this dispensation.
Now, bishops including Paprocki have begun redesignating churches within their diocesan borders such that they are no longer parish churches in an attempt to circumvent the latest ruling.
READ: Fr. Murray: The Vatican’s ‘persecution’ of Latin Mass Catholics is ‘damaging the Church’
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In light of the ensuing battle between the Pope and some of the world’s bishops over the implementation of his decrees, Müller argued that “recognition of papal authority is not promoted, but weakened in the long-term” in view of what appears to be a more autocratic form of Church leadership in the Francis pontificate.
Comparing the methods and outlook on liturgy exemplified by Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI, Müller stated that unlike the former, the latter did not “insist on formal obedience in an authoritative manner, because even the obedience of faith to God, which is decisive for salvation, does not require blind servility, but rather a devotion to God.”
“When it comes to obedience to ecclesiastical authority, a distinction must be made between religious obedience, which refers to the authorized submission of revealed faith, and the disposition to follow in good faith,” Müller continued, adding that a distinction must be made “between the substance of the sacraments, over which the Pope and the bishops have no power of provision, and the liturgical rite, which has historically grown into the various legitimate rites within the one Catholic Church.”
READ: Bishop shuts down Traditional Latin Mass at the Franciscan University of Steubenville
The Rescript, which bolsters the Pope’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes whereby initial restrictions on the TLM were announced, sought to have “reserved in a special way to the Apostolic See” certain dispensations previously afforded to local bishops regarding the use of the ancient Latin Rite.
Among those permissions revised by the Rescript are the use of a parish to celebrate the TLM, the erection of a new personal parish for the purpose of celebrating Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum, and permission for priests ordained after the release of TC to celebrate the Old Mass.
All such dispensations are now reserved to Rome.
Soon after the document was released, bishops began restricting the celebration of the TLM within their dioceses. Just one week after the Rescript was published, on February 28, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany, New York, announced that he was placing the celebration of the TLM “on hold” as a result of the document.
READ: Diocese of Albany puts Latin Mass ‘on hold’ in parish churches following new Vatican restrictions
“In light of the rescript, which the Vatican sent last week, the celebration of the Usus Antiquior [TLM] is currently on hold in parish churches in the Albany Diocese,” the Bishop wrote, adding that “[as] we explore various possibilities, the Usus Antiquior can continue at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville, which is not a parish church in the diocese.”
The dioceses of Liverpool and Leeds in England also appear to have enacted restrictions on the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum following the issuance of the Rescript, with Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool halting the Latin Mass in two parishes and Bishop Marcus Stock of Leeds announcing that no parish church may continue celebration according to the Old Rite.