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‘Shocking and saddening’: Popular DC priest voices pain over Traditionis Custodes

Writing in the National Catholic Register, Msgr. Pope wrote that he was 'grieved and stunned' by the Pope's document, and urged Pope Francis to reconsider his actions, which 'may end up causing more serious devision.'
Thu Jul 22, 2021 - 10:50 am EST
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Traditional Mass in Basilica of St. Pancras, Rome, 2016. Thoom/Shutterstock

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July 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews Another shepherd has spoken up for his sheep, countering Pope Francis’ recent attack on the Traditional Latin Mass and those faithful to it.  

Monsignor Charles Pope, a pastor of the Archdiocese of Washington DC, wrote an opinion piece entitled “A Cry From the Heart About ‘Traditionis Custodes’ and the Latin Mass” for the National Catholic Register. It appeared in the “Blogs” section on Tuesday, and addresses the pain caused by Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio. 

I must say that I am grieved and stunned by this document and the letter to the bishops that accompanied it,” Msgr. Pope stated.   

“I think not so much of my own potential loss but of the many Catholics I have served who love the extraordinary form [of the Mass]," he continued.  

“For so long and in so many places they have often been treated harshly and have been marginalized for their love for the form of the liturgy that most of the saints knew.” 

Msgr. Pope’s blog is addressed to a mainstream Catholic audience and also to the bishops and pontiff, promoting pastoral care and charity — ideals emphasized by Pope Francis — for the benefit of the priests and faithful who love the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), which Pope Emeritus Benedict called “the extraordinary form of the Mass” in his own 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum.   

Traditionis Custodes contradicts and effectively cancels Summorum Pontificum  

The monsignor began by stating that although he has celebrated the TLM for more than 32 years and has written about this form of the Mass many times, he also celebrates the Novus Ordo Mass. He noted also that none of the 10 diocesan parishes in which the extraordinary form is celebrated in DC are devoted exclusively to the celebration of the Latin Mass. The celebration of both forms leads to less tension than Traditionis Custodes (TC) suggests. 

While people on both ‘sides’ may have preferences, even strong preferences, there has been mutual respect and a willingness to make room for one another,” Msgr. Pope wrote.  

Whatever tensions do exist, they are minor and not so different than the tensions that emerge from the diverse mosaic of ethnic communities.” 

The pastor appealed to the ideal of liturgical diversity, saying that the TLM has been celebrated alongside the Eastern Rite, the Anglican Rite, and the Neocatechumenal Mass in his diocese. This co-existence has always been peaceful, the monsignor said. 

Msgr. Pope pointed to the contradiction in Pope Francis accepting other kinds of liturgical “diversity,” like the abovementioned celebrations, plus the ordinary form of the Mass in “dozens of languages,” but seeing the extraordinary form as somehow divisive.  

“Apparently, Pope Francis does not see this rich and peaceful diversity when it comes to the Traditional Latin Mass,” the monsignor wrote.  

Even if other expressions may be tolerable or agreeable to him, the Latin Mass seems to be the fly in the ointment. With a special focus that seems overly harsh he attributes blame for divisions to traditional Catholics who attend the Latin Mass.” 

Msgr. Pope asserted that it is “not reasonable to attribute the sins of the vocal minority to an entire movement” and pointed out that other groups wonder that others don’t celebrate the way they do.   

“Yes, some people advance the superiority of the extraordinary form,” he said.   

But I know many Catholics from Eastern Rites who think their liturgies are vastly preferable and even superior to the Roman Rite," he continued.  

“Many Catholics in the Neocatechumenal Way assert that the Church will not experience reform until their liturgy and their ‘way’ is embraced by all. In African American Parishes where I serve there is a great pride in the joy of their worship and a wonderment at why so many other parishes seem to have ‘dead’ and short liturgies.” 

The monsignor listed three aspects of the new motu proprio which he fears have hurt and discouraged many Catholics and will cause real division: the harsh, heavy-handed tone at odds with the “language of mercy”; the “impossible requirements” which includes a ban on the TLM in parish churches; and a “strange treatment of bishops” in giving them confusing instructions.   

Pope Francis has seldom addressed any other group this harshly," Msgr. Pope said regarding Catholics who love the TLM.   

To others such as unbelievers, dissenters and wayward politicians there is to be mercy, understanding and tolerance,” he added. 

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He speaks of ‘going to the margins’ and of compassion for the poor and morally lost. But to those attached to the Latin Mass comes this strong rebuke, with almost no room to maneuver in the Church they love. It is very shocking and saddening to me as a pastor of souls that such vitriol be directed at the flock I have long cared for.” 

Msgr. Pope ended his piece with appeals to the faithful, the bishops, and to Pope Francis himself.  

He asked the faithful “to beseech [the bishops] to exhibit solicitude” which the new motu proprio lacks, while praying for the bishops since “they have been given a hard and awkward task.” 

The monsignor then asked the bishops “for a gentle and kind interpretation” of Traditionis Custodes, reminding them that people who love the TLM “need a shepherd’s care.”  

Even if the document suggests that they be shuffled off to the margins, I beg you not to do it,” he said.  

This is a vibrant and growing section of the flock. Many young families and young adults, as well as young priests and older folks, are depending on you to do what is truly pastoral.” 

Msgr. Pope then reached out to Francis, saying, “Dear Holy Father, I beg you to reconsider what you have written and to hear the unnecessary pain you have caused. You rightly desire unity in the Church, but I fear that, by this action, you may end up causing far more serious division.”  

Monsignor Pope’s defense of traditional Catholics and the TLM is one of many recent statements made by other churchmen, including Bishop Schneider and Archbishop Viganò, who recognize the wrongs inflicted on the traditional liturgy by Rome. 


  catholic, charles pope, latin mass, pope francis, traditional latin mass, traditionis custodes

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