Featured Image
Cardinal Wilton GregoryArchdiocese of Washington/Facebook

You’re invited! Join LifeSite in celebrating 25 years of pro-life and pro-family reporting at our anniversary Gala August 17th in Naples, Florida. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased by clicking here. 

WASHINGTON D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Wilton Gregory has placed severe restrictions on the Traditional Mass in his Archdiocese of Washington, limiting the sacred liturgy to three churches, to be celebrated only on Sundays, and completely banning the traditional sacraments.

In a decree issued July 22, Cardinal Wilton Gregory outlined his implementation of Pope Francis’ 2021 restrictions on the Latin Mass as contained in Traditionis custodes. He referenced Francis’ purported desire to “bring about greater unity in the Church through the celebration of the Mass and sacraments according to the 1970 Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI, which was the fruit of the renewal in the liturgy which the Second Vatican Council called for.”

The new rules take effect September 21, 2022 and have been described as among some of the harshest since the promulgation of Traditionis custodes. They are due to be reviewed after three years, prompting some to downplay fears that a new ban on the traditional Mass might be announced next May.

Priests must ask for permission to offer any traditional Mass

Beginning his roster of restrictions, Gregory ordered that “[a]ll priests, deacons and instituted ministers need to request and receive permission from the Archbishop of Washington” to celebrate the traditional Mass under the 1962 missal. This directive is for both public and private Masses, and applies throughout the archdiocese. 

READ: DC archdiocese implies it will allow Nancy Pelosi to receive Holy Communion

Drawing from Traditionis custodes, Gregory decreed that all clerics who make this request, which must be in writing, are to “explicitly affirm in writing ‘the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs’.”

Furthermore, in a move particularly affecting priests of traditional orders – such as the Fraternity of Saint Peter or the Institute of Christ the King – clergy wishing to say the traditional Mass must “demonstrate an appreciation ‘of the value of concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass’.”

Mass limited to Sundays in only three churches

Instead of the current provision of regular Sunday and mid-week Masses in the archdiocese, Gregory decreed that the traditional Mass would take place only on Sundays, and then in three churches only: 

  • The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in D.C. 
  • The chapel at St. John the Evangelist in Forest Glen, Maryland.
  • The mission church of St. Dominic in Aquasco, Maryland.

In addition to this, the possibility of celebrating key parts of the Church’s liturgical year with the traditional Mass is ruled out, as Gregory expressly ordered the use of the “liturgical books promulgated by Pope St Paul VI and Saint John Paul II,” the Novus Ordo, to be the only ones used at “Christmas, the Triduum, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday.”

Critics were swift to point out the instant effect of having to move locations, with Urban Hannon noting that the Franciscan monastery – known for being “liberal” – only seats around 60 people, a number too small even for the usual crowd of children at one of the current Sunday Masses.

Readings in English, no traditional sacraments and ad orientem

Continuing his litany of restrictions, which he claimed were in the interests of “unity,” Gregory ordered that any Mass said in the traditional form must have the Scripture readings (Epistle and Gospel) proclaimed in “the vernacular.” 

READ: Half of the traditional Catholics on the Chartres pilgrimage were under 20

Even the content of the homily at such Masses has been curtailed by Gregory as he stipulated that it “reflect the norms and directions for preaching indicated by the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar documents.”

However, the traditional Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is to be the only sacrament using the 1962 liturgical books which is allowed in the archdiocese, under the terms of the decree. Gregory wrote that “[a]ll other sacraments [that is, baptism, confirmation, marriage, etc.]  are to celebrated using the liturgical books promulgated by Pope St Paul VI and Saint John Paul II.” 

Gregory wrote that these sacraments may be offered in the Latin language.

Furthermore, the cardinal appeared to violate even the rubrics of the Novus Ordo in stipulating that every Novus Ordo Mass was to be celebrated facing the people, unless permission was obtained from the Archbishop of Washington.

Decree is among the ‘most restrictive, vindictive, heartless, and pastorally cruel’

Reactions to the decree have been swift and strong, with Eric Sammons of Crisis Magazine criticizing Gregory along with Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich for their respective new restrictions —  and rumored forthcoming restrictions — on the traditional Mass.

“Our Lord did not mince words when it came to condemning religious leaders who bind heavy burdens on men’s shoulders,” Sammons said. “We should do likewise: Cardinals Cupich and Gregory are wicked, wicked men.”

Commenting on the decree, liturgical scholar and theologian Dr. Peter Kwasniewski described it as “among the most restrictive, vindictive, heartless, and pastorally cruel.” Describing Gregory’s move as deliberate and unnecessary, Kwasniewski said it “reflects his personal desire to ghettoize and reduce the traditional Catholics.”

In further comments to LifeSite, Kwasniewski expanded upon the impact of the ruling, predicting among the faithful “a new sense of abandonment by the shepherds and a determined zeal to fight for tradition will be born out of these restrictions, one that will bring us right back to the dark days of the 1970s.”

Contrary to Gregory’s written aim of “unity,” the decree will “increase distrust, harm unity, and undermine peace,” said Kwasniewski, all of which “will further estrange the most faithful and generous Catholics from church institutions and give them reason to take their money, their time, [and] their families elsewhere than the mainstream.”

Gregory ‘rejected’ pleas not to restrict the traditional Mass

Writing for the traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli, Kenneth Wolfe – a parishioner of over 26 years at the traditional Mass community at the Saint Mary Mother of God parish – described how Gregory “rejected” offers and requests from numerous clergy in the archdiocese not to issue the decree.

“So much for dialogue,” he wrote. “It is almost as if the whole thing was a game, where the cardinal laughed at groveling traditional Catholics while he continued to protect Holy Trinity, the Jesuit parish in Georgetown – a church that relishes its role as a sanctuary of heresy.”

The decree is forcing Wolfe to “say goodbye to my spiritual home,” a church which was the “the epicenter for March for Life TLMs.”

But Kwasniewski has advice for clergy in the wake of the decree, urging that “[n]o priest who understands the inherent rights of venerable and immemorial tradition and his own dignity as a priest within the Church will grovel to ask for an unnecessary ‘permission’ to continue offering the traditional Mass (at least in private), and he will generously offer traditional baptism, confession, marriage, and last rites to any who request them.”

The liturgical scholar described the current situation in the archdiocese as “a summons to guerrilla warfare.”

“If, moreover, any restriction or penalty should be imposed, it will be null and void,” he said.

Popular blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf also issued spirited criticism of the cardinal and his ilk, arguing that they “fear the older form of Mass because of the emphasis on sin, propitiation, and conversion. They hate the people who desire the older form of Mass. Both, the rite and the people, make them think bad thoughts about the eschatological joy they would rather assume everyone merits.”

Gregory has a long list of anti-family, anti-life, and anti-Catholic abuses to his name, and has previously defended giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion Joe Biden in violation of Church teaching.

Secure a home for canceled priests: LifeFunder