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Pope Francis and Archbishop Arthur Roche.Vatican News

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – The Vatican launched a new attack on the Traditional Latin Mass today when the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) released a Responsa to eleven questions on the Latin Mass. 

The Responsa implements severe restrictions on celebrating the sacraments in the traditional manner, as well as on priests who refuse to concelebrate. 

The document was signed by the staunchly anti-traditionalist head of the CDW, Englishman Archbishop Arthur Roche. It is dated December 4 but was published December 18. It was approved by Pope Francis in November.  

Traditional sacraments – axed 

The document was uncompromising in its attitude towards the traditional ceremonies accompanying the seven sacraments.  

“Is it possible, according to the provisions of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, to celebrate the sacraments with the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council?” one dubia, or official question, asked.  

“Negative” was the Congregation’s response.  

It stipulated that diocesan bishops can only grant permission to use the “Rituale Romanum (last editio typica 1952),” and this permission is only to be granted in “canonically erected personal parishes,” such as those of the Institute of Christ the King (ICKSP), the Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), or the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP). Five of the seven sacraments are contained in the Rituale Romanum: baptism, penance, Holy Communion, matrimony, and extreme unction.  

This episcopal permission to use the Rituale should be granted by the diocesan bishop only “[a]fter discernment.” 

The Responsa specifically ruled out bishops granting permission for the use of the Pontificale Romanum, which contains the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders. 

The aim to suppress the traditional Latin Mass is clear. The Congregation reminded bishops that Traditionis Custodes “intends to re-establish in the whole Church of the Roman Rite a single and identical prayer expressing its unity,” apparently in line with Vatican II and “the tradition of the Church.” 

Hence, in order to pursue the “progress” desired by Traditionis Custodes (TC), the Congregation ordered that it would “not grant permission to use the Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum which predate the liturgical reform,” since they have “been abrogated” under the terms of TC. 

Under these conditions, it remains unclear whether the Congregation will allow the traditional orders to hold their ordinations in the ancient liturgical form, or if they will be forced to take place according to the Novus Ordo. 

Priests who don’t concelebrate forbidden from saying Latin Mass 

Concelebration is widespread in the Novus Ordo, and the Congregation have moved to promote this liturgical practice by placing severe restrictions on priests who do not do it. 

Hence, if a priest currently allowed to say the Latin Mass, (whether he be diocesan or part of a traditional order, since the Responsa does not differentiate) and “does not recognise the validity and legitimacy of concelebration – refusing to concelebrate, in particular, at the Chrism Mass,” he is to be banned from saying the traditional Mass. 

Before the bishop places this heavy penalty upon the priest, he is to “establish a fraternal dialogue with the Priest, to ascertain that this attitude does not exclude the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs, and to accompany him towards an understanding of the value of concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass.”  

The reason for this is to bolster Pope Francis’ claim in Traditionis Custodes that adherent of the Latin Mass rejecting the liturgical “reform” because “it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’” 

“The explicit refusal not to take part in concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass, seems to express a lack of acceptance of the liturgical reform and a lack of ecclesial communion with the Bishop, both of which are necessary requirements in order to benefit from the concession to celebrate with the Missale Romanum of 1962,” the Congregation’s Responsa declared. 

Such a statement was noted to be in violation of Canon 902 of the Church’s Canon Law, however, which preserves the right of priests to concelebrate, but only if they wish to concelebrate. 

Mass in parish church – allowed in very limited circumstances 

While Traditionis Custodes (TC) forbade the celebration of the Latin Mass in parish churches, the Responsa has allowed for parish churches to be used for the Mass in places where “it is not possible to find a church, oratory or chapel which is available to accommodate the faithful.” 

Explaining why the ban on using a parish church had been stipulated in TC, the Responsa 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.” 

Furthermore, if the parish church is used for the Latin Mass, the attendees are set to be ostracized, as the Responsa orders that the Mass “should not be included in the parish Mass schedule,” and “should not be held at the same time as the pastoral activities of the parish community.” However, the Congregation claims that there is no intention to “marginalise the faithful” devoted to the traditional Mass. 

Usage of biblical translations 

The Responsa, responding to Pope Francis’ decree that certain readings in the Latin Mass be proclaimed in the vernacular, permitted the use of “the full text of the Bible for the readings, choosing the pericopes indicated in the Missal.” 

Such a permission was granted since “[n]o vernacular lectionaries may be published that reproduce the cycle of readings of the previous rite.” 

Defending the order to use the vernacular for certain parts of the traditional Mass, the Congregation stated that the Novus Ordo lectionary is “one of the most precious fruits of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.” 

Future priests to be forced to say the Novus Ordo and Latin Mass? 

The Responsa next turned to the provisions made in TC for priests ordained after July 16, who wish to say the traditional Latin Mass.  

The Congregation ruled that such permission is still in place, subject to the procedures outlined in Traditionis Custodes, stipulating that the diocesan bishop must assess each case and seek permission from the Vatican before allowing the new ordinand to say the traditional Mass.  

However, the explanation of this particular question seemed to indicate that priests could be forced to say both the Novus Ordo and the Latin Mass. Mentioning that TC described the liturgical texts of “Popes Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II,” – the Novus Ordo – as  “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite,” the Congregation wrote: “it is therefore absolutely essential that Priests ordained after the publication of the Motu Proprio share this desire of the Holy Father.” 

“All seminary formators, seeking to walk with solicitude in the direction indicated by Pope Francis, are encouraged to accompany future Deacons and Priests to an understanding and experience of the richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council,” the Congregation added. 

“This reform has enhanced every element of the Roman Rite and has fostered – as hoped for by the Council Fathers – the full, conscious and active participation of the entire People of God in the liturgy (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 14), the primary source of authentic Christian spirituality.” 

Suggesting an end of any permission to say the Latin Mass 

While stipulating that new priests may say the Latin Mass, subject to the outlined prescriptions, the Congregation also hinted that permission may be withdrawn in future. The Responsa referred to permission to us the traditional missal “for a defined period of time,” which can end upon the decision of the local bishop. 

“The possibility of granting the use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 for a defined period of time – the duration of which the diocesan Bishop will consider appropriate – is not only possible but also recommended: the end of the defined period offers the possibility of ascertaining that everything is in harmony with the direction established by the Motu Proprio. The outcome of this assessment can provide grounds for prolonging or suspending the permission.” 

Notably this section did not contain any exemption for such a future ban on the Latin Mass for members of the traditional orders. 

Local permissions only for Latin Mass 

In what will be a blow particularly for members of the traditional communities, who often travel between dioceses to offer the traditional Latin Mass, the Congregation ruled that permission to celebrate the traditional rites only applies in each particular diocese. Hence, while one diocese may allow a priest to offer the ancient liturgy, the neighbouring diocese may not grant him this permission. 

Priests cannot offer Latin Mass on days when they also say Novus Ordo 

In a prohibition which will severely affect diocesan priests offering the Latin Mass, the Congregation expressly forbade any offering of the Latin Mass on days when the priest also celebrates the Novus Ordo.  

Such a prohibition was defended since “there is no ‘just cause’ or ‘pastoral necessity’ as required by canon 905 §2: “the right of the faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist is in no way denied, since they are offered the possibility of participating in the Eucharist in its current ritual form.” 

Such a prohibition is put in place even for a private Mass, as the priest is banned from offering two Masses “either with a group or privately.” 

This will be a heavy burden on churches not served by the traditional orders, (ICKSP, FSSP, IBP) but by diocesan priests who have been allowed to continue offering the Latin Mass alongside the Novus Ordo.  

The date of December 4 was specifically chosen for the signing of the Responsa since it is the 58th anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. As with Traditionis Custodes, published July 16 (feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), the Responsa has been released on another traditional Marian celebration, the feast of the Expectation of Mary. 

Defending Traditionis Custodes as being “in the constant search for ecclesial communion,” the Congregation’s Responsa repeated the papal accusation that the traditional Latin Mass has become “a cause for division.” 

“It is sad to see how the deepest bond of unity, the sharing in the one Bread broken which is His Body offered so that all may be one (cf. Jhn 17:21), becomes a cause for division,” wrote the Congregation. 


Commenting on the document, Vatican journalist Diane Montagna said that it seems the Vatican is now “exerting maximum pressure and control over Catholic Bishops regarding the Traditional Latin Mass.” 

Concern has also been raised about the future of the traditional orders, which has been threatened by the new restrictions.  

Speaking to LifeSiteNews, Deacon Nick Donnelly gave his initial reactions to the Congregation’s “cruel” document: “The threat to revoke the ‘concession’ to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass for priests who refuse to participate in so called ‘concelebration’ is an unnecessary and so a shockingly brutal misuse of power in the Church,” he said.   

“Concelebration was only introduced at Vatican II and can detract from the symbolic reality of the priest acting in persona Christi,” the deacon continued.  

“At the moment of consecration, the priest is Christ offering the sacrifice of His Most Sacred Body and His Precious Blood to the Father in propitiation for mankind’s sins. To have many priests on the sanctuary ‘concelebrating’ at the consecration can hide this sacred sacramental signification.”  

Donnelly added, “There is no need for Pope Francis to place priests in an impossible situation of being unable to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in the traditional way.”  

“It is so unjustified as to appear cruel.” 

A spokesman for Restoring the Faith Media described the document as being “an open invitation to despair.” 

“This Responsa places us on a very clear glide-path towards total, outright suppression of the Mass of the Ages,” the spokesman told LifeSiteNews. “It creates a cloud of doom, casting a foreboding shadow over the future of Tradition, and seems to be designed specifically to incite feelings of anxiety, impermanence, and doubt in the faithful. In short, it is the antithesis of hope; an open invitation to despair.”

Eric Sammons, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, wrote: “These are wicked commands from a spiritually abusive father.”