THE Vatican has clarified new restrictions on the use of the extraordinary pre-Vatican II form of mass, but the latest document has been criticized for its “harsh language.”
In a pre-Christmas letter to Episcopal Conferences, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Bishop Arthur Roche, indicated that clarifications had been requested on 11 points (dubia) arising from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter last July (News, July 23, 2021).
This restricted use of the Latin rite Extraordinary Form, which can be found in the 1962 edition of Missale Romanum.
He said Pope Francis had warned that “liturgical reform is irreversible” and said that all bishops should henceforth “safeguard communion” by “walking together, with conviction of mind and heart, in the direction indicated by the Holy Father ”.
“It is sad to see how the deepest bond of unity, the sharing of the one broken bread that is his body offered so that all may be one, becomes a cause of division,” wrote Bishop Roche.
“As pastors, we must not engage in sterile polemics capable only of creating divisions, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by ideological points of view.
The accompanying document specified that any local use of the Latin or Tridentine Mass should, in the future, be authorized directly by the Vatican, and not be “part of the ordinary life of the parish community”.
Permission to celebrate it in a church or parish chapel would be withdrawn as soon as “another place becomes available”, the document says, while RC seminaries would be required to guarantee “acceptance of the liturgical reform”.
Although some sacraments may still, on occasion, be dispensed using the pre-Vatican II liturgy, this would not be permitted for confirmation and ordination. The RC clergy would be prohibited from bination (the celebration by a priest of two masses in one day) using the extraordinary form as well as the ordinary form.
“We must take care to accompany all those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration towards a full understanding of the value of the ritual form given to us by the Second Vatican Council”, says the document of the Congregation.
“This must go through an appropriate formation which makes it possible to discover how the Reformed liturgy is the witness of an unchanged faith, the expression of a renewed ecclesiology, and the primary source of spirituality for Christian life.
The move, however, was condemned by Rorate Caeli, a traditionalist group critical of Pope Francis, who told the Associated Press that the Vatican seemed determined to “rekindle liturgical wars.”
The president of the Latin Mass Society of England, Joseph Shaw, accused the Congregation of violating canon law and of “limiting the prerogatives of bishops”, and asked if the Pope had specifically approved the “harsh language” of the document .
“Although they are not in number, traditionalist Catholics have made an enormous contribution to religious life, restoring churches and encouraging vocations,” said Mr. Shaw, lecturer at Oxford. “To suggest that the Vatican can now control and micro-manage what is happening at the parish level is legally dubious and extremely impractical. “
The extraordinary form involves an east-facing celebration, parts of the Latin liturgy are inaudible to the congregation, and the ceremonial differs from the ordinary form.
While some critics accuse enthusiasts of treating the Latin Mass as a superior form of liturgy and of using it as a rallying point against reforms, some traditionalists have accused the Pope of watering down Catholic doctrine in favor of social justice concerns and ecology.
In his apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), Pope Francis ruled that the liturgical forms promulgated after Vatican II were “the sole expression” of the cult of the RC, and limited the authorization given by his predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, for the extraordinary form of being celebrated as an awareness of Catholics attached to older rituals.
The letter ordered the bishops not to create new groups or places dedicated to the Latin Mass. He said the Pope was “concerned and saddened” that some traditionalist CRs have rejected Vatican II, “with unfounded and unsustainable claims that he has betrayed Tradition and the” true Church “.
Claims that Latin Mass enthusiasts believed they were defending the “true Church” were, however, dismissed as an “misinformed stereotype” by Mr. Shaw, who said the Pope had been criticized not only by traditionalist CRs, but by “all sectors of church opinion, including the angry liberals.”
The speaker predicted that the latest “free Vatican decision” would harm ecumenism and worry Protestant and Orthodox Christians already “wary of papal power.”
“These Catholics acted in accordance with the ancient traditions of the Church, in official places of worship with priests approved by their bishops. Who could tell the Pope that the way to treat a marginalized minority is to further marginalize it? Mr. Shaw said.
“Choosing and designating a small group like this for an ill-defined offense sets a terrible example for the whole Church. In addition to causing suffering to individuals, it will damage the image of the Church and will deal a real psychological blow to many people.