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Canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray of the Archdiocese of New York.EWTN / YouTube

(LifeSiteNews) — A Canon lawyer frequently featured on EWTN has responded to the Vatican’s most recent restrictions on the Latin Mass and pointed out a number of potential canonical errors in the Responsa which placed restrictions on the traditional sacraments, saying that the Vatican’s restrictions on the traditional liturgy “have harmed the Church.”

In a wide-ranging and lengthy interview with Vatican journalist Diane Montagna, Fr. Gerald Murray J.C.D. responded to Pope Francis’ Traditionis Custodes (TC) and critiqued the Vatican’s Responsa ad dubia, highlighting several errors in the Responsa, and suggesting that the Holy See views devotion to the Latin Mass “as the expression of viewpoints that ‘often’ result in words and actions that harm the Church.’”

Drawn up by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) under the leadership of Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Responsa “express a will to hasten what Pope Francis wrote in his Letter accompanying TC, namely that he wants the bishops to cooperate with him in doing away over time with the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass,” said Murray.

Fr. Murray described the Responsa — issued in December 2021, reportedly to answer questions relating to Traditionis Custodes — as being “an instruction having the force of law,” but not one which overrides a bishop’s canonical ability to dispense his diocese from “universal laws and those particular laws made by the supreme ecclesiastical authority for his territory or his subjects.” (Canon 87 § 1)

Murray repeated that while a bishop could not simply ignore the Responsa entirely, he was well within his rights to invoke can. 87 in order to dispense his diocese from the document. Such a move would be “a pastorally justified exercise of a bishop’s legitimate authority for the ‘spiritual welfare’ of the faithful of his diocese,” said Fr. Murray.

Responsa contain elements going ‘beyond what is canonically possible’

Conducting a detailed analysis of the questions contained in the Responsa, Murray highlighted a number of passages which, despite being contained in the document, did not seem to be supported by Canon Law. 

One was the directive for local bishops to ask the CDW for permission to use a parish church for a Latin Mass under the prohibitions of TC, if no alternative could be found. Yet under can. 87, the bishop already has the power to grant such a dispensation. “There is no need to seek from CDW what he already enjoys by virtue of the general law of the Church,” said Fr. Murray.

While the Responsa outlined restrictions on the traditional sacraments, Murray suggested that since these provisions were not found in TC itself, “there is a well-founded doubt that these provisions enjoy canonical force.” 

“The Responsa offers authoritative instructions about provisions that are not found in the document it is clarifying, and in doing so goes beyond what is canonically possible,” he stated.

Referring to the greater permission to use the traditional liturgy now enjoyed by the Society of Saint Pius X more than by regular diocesan clergy, Fr. Murray observed how Pope Francis’ “generosity” to say the Latin Mass is “denied” to certain priests “unless they are part of the small number assigned to personal parishes dedicated to celebrating the TLM.” 

“These permissions again highlight that the assertion that only the reformed liturgical books make up the lex orandi of the Church is refuted by this papal authorization to continue using the older rites,” he noted.

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Catholic seminaries in the United States are now scrutinizing applications for the formation of new classes for this coming Autumn.

One of the requirements - which comes to us from the Lord's decision to select only men as His apostles - is that all candidates for the priesthood must be male, biologically, from birth.

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In a recent memo, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, head of the USCCB's Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, stated that the Conference was “made aware of instances where it had been discovered that a woman living under a transgender identity had been unknowingly admitted to [a] seminary or to a house of formation of an institute of consecrated life.”

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*This petition does not address the issue of individuals who, while born with male DNA, may exhibit female sexual characteristics (e.g., genitalia, features). The Church already acknowledges that such individuals cannot present themselves as candidates for the priesthood because of the aforementioned issues which are impediments for those individuals to fully embrace the masculine character required for the priesthood.

This petition also does not address the issue of biological men who say they are women. Such individuals are also automatically excluded as being candidates for the priesthood for the same reason above (as well as the obvious psychological issues present).

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Restrictions not about ‘unity’ but about ‘suppression’ of the Latin Mass

While Archbishop Roche defended his Responsa as a means to “re-establish in the whole Church of the Roman Rite a single and identical prayer expressing its unity” in line with Vatican II and “the tradition of the Church,” Murray refuted this idea. 

The Church’s unity “does not depend upon ‘a single and identical prayer’ but rather on the common profession of the Catholic Faith, the due submission to the Church’s pastors, and the reception of the sacraments which are celebrated in a variety of liturgical rites in both the Eastern Catholic Churches and the in the Latin Rite (Ambrosian Rite, Ordinariate Rite for former Anglicans, Dominican Rite, et al.),” he stated. 

The very continuation of the Latin Mass, albeit restricted, “demonstrates that the unity of the Church in no way depends upon a uniformity of liturgical practice,” Murray added. 

Further highlighting how only the traditional Mass has been restricted by the Vatican and not the many other liturgical rites, Murray suggested that the goal of Traditionis Custodes and the Responsa “really means the suppression of only one expression that is different from the reformed liturgical rites. Hence it would not be uniformity that is sought, but rather the suppression of the TLM alone.”

Pope Francis’ restrictions ‘misplaced and unsupported by evidence’

Doubling down on his assessment of the two documents, Fr. Murray critiqued Pope Francis’ personal letter accompanying TC, in which he accused devotees of the traditional Mass of exposing the Church “to the peril of division.” 

“I find this judgement to be misplaced and unsupported by evidence,” Murray stated. Given that there was no “widespread public expression of gratitude to Pope Francis from the bishops of the world,” following TC, Murray noted that bishops should inform the Holy See “that they are disturbed and upset about the harsh measures being taken against their faithful who attend the TLM.”

Turning once again to Roche’s attack on traditional Catholics, Murray accused the archbishop and the Vatican of “treating love for and defense of the TLM as an indicator not of a praiseworthy devotion to the Faith, but as the expression of viewpoints that “often” result in words and actions that harm the Church.”

“It is, on the contrary, the recent actions taken to restrict and eventually eliminate the celebration of the TLM that have harmed the Church,” he closed.

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