ARLINGTON, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) – A bishop in a U.S. diocese recognized for its ample provision of the traditional liturgy (Latin Mass) has become one of the first prelates to announce a ban on certain sacraments in the Old Rite, following the Vatican’s latest restrictions on the Latin Mass.
Bishop Michael Burbidge, 64, of the Diocese of Arlington sent an email to priests of the diocese December 21, in which he outlined his implementation of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ (CDW) December 18 document.
The email read:
In light of the Responsa ad dubia released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last Saturday, some priests has asked about the status of their permission to celebrate already scheduled Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. Please note that if you already received faculties to celebrate a Sacrament in a specific instance prior to last Saturday, you may celebrate as planned. In light of the Responsa, however, no further permissions will be granted for the celebrations of Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, etc.
The Responsa referenced by Burbidge was the recent note from the CDW, which further restricted the traditional Mass (Latin Mass) following the Pope’s July motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (TC). Under the latest provisions from the CDW, only “canonically erected personal parishes” are allowed to use the traditional rite for sacraments.
Even then, priests can only use the “Rituale Romanum (last editio typica 1952),” which does not contain the sacraments of Confirmation or Holy Orders.
A spokesperson for the Arlington diocese as well as several priests have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the email is indeed authentic, and added that the current provision of Latin Masses would continue unchanged until the arrival of the document in the new year.
Plans for document detailing Latin Mass future
Burbidge had delayed his initial response to TC in July, anticipating some later “clarifications,” but now in a recent podcast (#84) he announced that following the CDW’s Responsa he would be forming a document on the future of the Latin Mass in the new year.
Burbidge spoke of an “implementation document draft to the pastors of our parishes that currently celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form,” which would “allow for comments that may assist the implementation process, in adherence to what we received” from the CDW.
“Upon such consultation I will also meet with my advisers…then issue a document to all the faithful,” he added. Burbidge asked the faithful in the diocese to “pray” noting that the diocese is “known for our faithfulness and our unity.”
However, he confirmed that the Latin Mass provision in the diocese would be curtailed. “It will be limited, more restricted than it is right now,” he said. “But the Extraordinary Form of the Mass will be celebrated.”
Speaking to LifeSiteNews, Amber Roseboom, director of media relations for the diocese, echoed Bishop Burbidge’s words about the draft document on the future of the Latin Mass in the diocese, saying that the bishop “will consult” with pastors of churches where the Mass is offered “before a final version is issued.”
“His initial study of the Responsa issued last Saturday indicated that Traditionis Custodes allows a bishop to grant permission of the use of the Rituale Romanum only to a personal parish established for the celebration of the Missale Romanum of 1962,” added Roseboom.
“Nevertheless, he remains committed to further consultation with his advisors and pastors to discern other possibilities within the scope of the Holy Father’s motu proprio.”
Roseboom noted that “particular pastoral situations or sacramental questions will be discussed with pastors as they arise.”
There are no personal parishes in the Diocese of Arlington.
According to TC, the bishop is to set aside “one or more locations” where the Latin Mass is to be held, but not in a parish church, unless it is “not possible” to find such a place, in which case a parish church may be used.
Canonical flaws in the Vatican document Burbidge is rapidly implementing?
In comments to LifeSiteNews, liturgist and Thomist Dr. Peter Kwasniewski said that Catholics in the diocese had “much to be upset about in the bishop’s unnecessarily rapid ‘implementation’ of the CDW responses.”
Kwasniewski highlighted the “tremendous amount of commentary that points to canonical flaws, errors, and inconsistencies in the CDW document that make it worthy of critical examination and may result in a judgment that it is not pastorally advisable to implement it in a given diocese – especially one that has so many clergy and faithful who are attached to the usus antiquior, not only the Mass but also the other sacramental rites, which are immemorial and venerable expressions of the faith of the Catholic Church.”
“Many people find nourishment and inspiration in these rites, and why should the bishop risk sinning against the Holy Spirit by thwarting His gifts, even if He is giving them in a way that does not correspond to the conventional and accepted paradigm?”
“It is not easy, nor is it desirable, to convince Catholics who have worshiped for years with the traditional rites, as fully authorized by the recent popes, that suddenly they are no longer allowed to do so, and that doing so would be wrong or dangerous,” added the liturgical scholar. “As Ratzinger said, this kind of thing makes a mockery of the Church’s own teaching authority.”
Follow-up communication from Bishop Burbidge
Following the widespread dissemination of his December 21 letter, Burbidge released a follow-up letter to the clergy of the diocese in response to “concerns” priests had expressed about the email.
“The offering of Mass in the Extraordinary Form can continue as before,” stated Burbidge.
Noting the restrictions placed by the CDW on the Mass and sacraments, the bishop added that “nevertheless, I remain committed to further consultation with my advisors and the above-mentioned pastors to discern other possibilities within the scope of the Holy Father’s motu proprio.”
Burbidge highlighted how the restrictions on the liturgy were a “sensitive issue,” but called for “unity and fidelity” in the run up to Christmas:
Dear Brother Priests,
I am grateful to those of you who reached out to me or Fr. Workman, Fr. Scalia, or Fr. Lundberg yesterday to share your concerns about the email sent to you on Tuesday afternoon regarding the celebration of the Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. Both my initial email, dated December 19, explaining the consultation process I have begun, and yesterday’s email were 1) to share with you in a timely fashion my plan to implement the motu proprio as clarified by the Responsa and 2) to reassure priests who have currently scheduled Sacraments that these can proceed.
After the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes last summer, I clarified that the offering of Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form could continue while I studied how best to implement the motu proprio. The offering of Mass in the Extraordinary Form can continue as before. Moving forward, I will be working to create the diocesan draft document of the implementation of the motu proprio in light of the recent Responsa and will review it with all pastors of parishes where the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is celebrated and will consult with them before a final version is issued.
My initial study of the Responsa issued last Saturday indicated that Traditionis Custodes allows a bishop to grant permission of the use of the Rituale Romanum only to a personal parish established for the celebration of the Missale Romanum of 1962. Nevertheless, I remain committed to further consultation with my advisors and the above-mentioned pastors to discern other possibilities within the scope of the Holy Father’s motu proprio.
As always, if you have a particular pastoral situation or a sacramental question in this area, feel free to contact me or Fr. Workman and I will do all I can to assist and provide pastoral support to your parish ministry.
While dealing with this sensitive issue at this sacred time is challenging for all of us, it is my hope and prayer that we continue to foster unity and fidelity and focus our attention on our spiritual preparation for the celebration of our Savior’s birth. May we continue to pray for one another and may Our Lord fill us with his peace.
Fraternally in Christ,
In addition to its many Old Rite Masses and active traditional community, the Diocese of Arlington is home to Christendom College, which is known for its orthodoxy.
Arlington – one of the more Old Rite-friendly dioceses particularly following Summorum Pontificum’s release in 2007 – boasts a number of regular Sunday traditional Masses in parishes and an estimated 30% or more of parishes have a priest who offers the TLM on some sort of regular basis (such as on feast days).
Catholics in the diocese told LifeSiteNews that “the Old Rite is normal here and the TLM communities fit seamlessly in with the Novus Ordo attendees.”
The Arlington diocese previously criticized the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) as “schismatic” when it offered outdoor, COVID-compliant drive-in Masses to Catholics desperate for the sacraments during the first lockdown of 2020. Out of those lockdown Masses, a community grew, and the Society is now building a permanent chapel in the Shenandoah Valley.
Kwasniewski told LifeSiteNews that any restrictions on the Mass in Arlington were in fact “provoking…people to seek shelter in the SSPX or other extra-diocesan chapels.”
“My advice to Catholic priests in Arlington is: Do not obey this unjust limitation, but continue to use the old sacramental rites clandestinely,” he said.
“My advice to Catholic laity is that they should write respectfully to Bishop Burbidge and express their disappointment and their abiding wish to continue to frequent the sacraments in their traditional forms.”
Contact information for respectful communication:
Bishop Michael Burbidge
Catholic Diocese of Arlington
200 North Glebe Road
Arlington, Virginia 22203