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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has confirmed restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass today, stating that bishops cannot dispense priests from the Pope’s 2021 document Traditionis custodes, as such power is reserved to the Holy See.

Francis’ move came via a Rescript issued by the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation (now Dicastery) for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), Cardinal Arthur Roche, February 21.

During a meeting with Roche the day previously, Francis confirmed that, following Traditionis custodes, certain dispensations are not under the prerogative of the local bishop, but rather are “reserved in a special way to the Apostolic See.” 

READ: Pope restricts ‘divisive’ Traditional Latin Mass, says 52-yr-old Novus Ordo is ‘unique expression’ of Church’s liturgy

These include: 

  • Using a parish church to celebrate the traditional Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum
  • Erecting a new personal parish to celebrate the traditional Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum
  • Allowing priests ordained after the publication of Traditionis custodes (July 16, 2021) permission to use the 1962 Missale Romanum

Signed by Roche, the Rescript states that, under the provisions of Article 7 of Traditionis custodes, the CDW “exercises the authority of the Holy See in the above-mentioned cases, supervising the observance of the provisions.”

If a diocesan bishop has already given dispensations for such cases in his diocese, the CDW ordered that he should now make such details known to the Vatican, after which Roche’s Congregation would “evaluate the individual cases.” 

December 2021 Responsa confirmed by Pope

Following the publication of Traditionis custodes and Roche’s subsequent Responsa, some diocesan bishops had invoked Canon 87 §1 in order to allow a parish church to be used for the traditional Mass, since this had been banned under the Pope’s document. By using Canon 87, a bishop can dispense from “universal and particular disciplinary laws” for the faithful in his diocese when he deems that “it contributes to their spiritual good.”

Defending why a ban on using a parish church had been stipulated in Traditionis Custodes, the 2021 Responsa had stated that: “The exclusion of the parish church is intended to affirm that the celebration of the Eucharist according to the previous rite, being a concession limited to these groups, is not part of the ordinary life of the parish community.”  

Under the terms of the Responsa, the diocesan bishop must “request” that a parish church can be used, “only if it is established that it is impossible to use another church, oratory or chapel. The assessment of this impossibility must be made with the utmost care.”

This matter had become a point of contention in recent weeks, as Roche attempted to enforce his will and issued letters to bishops around the world who had made use of Canon 87, informing them that they could not do so.

READ: Cdl. Roche’s attempt to further restrict Latin Mass violates Church law: canon lawyers

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In letters revealed by liturgist Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Roche argued that both Traditionis Custodes and his own Responsa removed this permission from the bishop by reserving such a dispensation only to the Holy See.

Canon lawyers, however, have argued that such statements have no grounding in the Church’s Canon Law. In a recently published book, Fr. Réginald-Marie Rivoire writes that such a move “not only unduly restricts local Ordinaries’ faculties, substituting itself for the latter in discerning what is a just cause and what is not, but also shows little regard for the fundamental right of the faithful to follow their own rite and spirituality.”

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a canon lawyer recently told LifeSite that:

because the Responsa ad dubia were not approved in forma specifica, they are not legislation and can only have authority insofar as they interpret the provisions of Traditionis custodes (TC). The points referred to in Roche’s recent letter are that TC states the [traditional] Mass should not be offered in parishes and that it names the CDW and CICLSA [Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life] to exercise authority of Holy See with regards to provisions of TC. But neither statement asserts that dispensations from point of UA [traditional Mass] celebrated in parish churches is reserved to the Holy See and therefore reserved to CDW or CICLSA.

Continuing, he stated that a diocesan bishop’s right to dispense his faithful from laws, as outlined in Canon 18, remained unaffected:

Hence, in light of canon 18, it is clear that diocesan bishops retain the right to dispense from the relevant provision of TC so that the UA may continue to be offered in designated parish churches. Canon 18 provides that “Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation,” meaning that they should be interpreted so as to preserve as much as possible the freedom of those they affect. Here, that clearly means that diocesan bishops retain their right to dispense from the relevant provision.

However, in the February 21 Rescript, Francis added his direct confirmation of Roche’s December 2021 Responsa ad dubia. 

Roche stated that “[n]ot only did the Holy Father issue Traditionis custodes he approved the Responsa ad dubia, so there can be no doubt about his wishes in this regard given that it is stated in such a clear way in both documents.”

READ: Scholars refute Cdl. Roche’s claim that devotion to Latin Mass is ‘more Protestant than Catholic’

It seems that the new Rescript appears to have slightly more direct papal approval over the precise text than the Responsa did. The 2021 Responsa states that Pope Francis “was informed of and gave his consent to the publication” of the Responsa. 

But the new Rescript states that Francis “confirmed” the details of the document, and further “confirms – having already expressed his assent in the audience of November 18, 2021 – what was established in the Responsa ad dubia with the attached Explanatory Notes of December 4, 2021.”

Furthermore, the Pope ordered the Rescript to be published in the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano and in the “official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.”

READ: Bp. Schneider: Pope’s ‘persecution’ of the Latin Mass an ‘abuse of power’ which must be resisted

Responding to the new Rescript, Dr. Joseph Shaw – the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and President of Una Voce International – described it as “grave news.”

Grave news from the Holy See: Pope Francis has confirmed that Bishops need explicit permission from the Dicastery for Divine Worship for the use of parish churches for the TLM. I.e. they can’t use Canon 87.1. 

Dr. Shaw noted that the CDW, when asked for permission to have the traditional Mass in a parish church, has “typically been restricting the number of locations and giving the permission for only two years.” 

The new Rescript would “affect provision for the TLM very unevenly,” he added, since “in some places finding alternative locations would be easy; in other places, impossible.”

The Rescript, while further implementing Traditionis custodes, is not the rumored document believed to contain further destructive restrictions upon the traditional Mass. On January 13, German-language website Summorum Pontificum reported that Pope Francis is set to issue a new Apostolic Constitution bringing in wide-reaching restrictions on the traditional Mass.

Days later, respected Vatican journalist Dr. Robert Moynihan also reported that Francis was planning to attack the traditional Mass, releasing the predicted document in April or May. According to a letter Moynihan published, whose author is only identified as a “priest who belongs to one of the traditional orders,” this forthcoming decree by Francis will not only contain a “further suppression of the TLM,” but will also “carry the ‘weight’ of an Apostolic Exhortation” instead of a motu proprio “to match” the Apostolic Exhortation Pope Paul VI used when “formally establishing the New Rite.”

According to the letter, the new decree would make “an exception for religious orders who solely celebrate privately (no parish churches), and some possible further clarifications for the FSP (Fraternity of St. Peter),” but nonetheless will “effectively, take away from the bishops, any further say or exceptions in the matter.”

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