The guidelines come in the form of responses to 11 dubia (questions), which the Vatican says are “the most recurring questions” it has received regarding Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes”.
VATICAN CITY – In guidelines released Saturday on the interpretation of Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), the Vatican has clarified that traditional sacraments should only be celebrated in personal parishes approved by a bishop, and that traditional rites of confirmation and ordination are prohibited without exception.
The explanations, issued by Bishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and addressed to the presidents of the conferences of bishops, were published as responses (responnse) to 11 dubia – questions requiring simple “Yes” or “No” answers.
In a note accompanying the text, Bishop Roche said he was issuing the guidelines in response to “several requests” on the proper application of Traditionis Custodes, Publication of the letter of Pope Francis of July 16 motu proprio (in its own right) which imposed drastic restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass used before Pope Paul VI’s 1970 liturgical reforms.
the responnse are to “the most recurring questions” received “from several sides and with greater frequency”, and after having received the Pope’s assent, declared the Archbishop.
They were approved by Pope Francis in a private audience with Bishop Roche on November 18 and are dated December 4, the 58th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution of Vatican Council II on the Holy Liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium.
In summary, Bishop Roche ruled on the following:
- If the traditional faithful are unable to find a church, oratory or chapel to exclusively celebrate the older rite, a bishop can ask the Congregation for Divine Worship for a dispensation to use a parish church, but if it is allowed, a such a celebration should not be announced in a parish mass schedule (it is not a question of marginalizing the faithful who prefer the traditional form, he insisted, but of “reminding them that it is a question of a concession to provide for their good… and not an opportunity to promote the previous rite ”).
- The traditional sacraments of Roman ritual (eg baptisms, nuptial masses, extreme unction, confession) require the authorization of a bishop and can only be celebrated in “personal parishes canonically erected” [Editors’ note: This applies to those already in existence, as the erection of future such parishes is not allowed in Traditionis Custodes]. A bishop is not authorized to grant permission to use the Roman Pontifical, that is to say the sacraments celebrated by the bishops, that is to say the ordinations and traditional confirmations.
- A priest cannot continue to celebrate the traditional Latin mass if he “does not recognize the validity and the legitimacy of the concelebration”, in particular at the chrism mass. A bishop must “take care to establish a fraternal dialogue” with the priest before revoking this concession.
- A reaffirmation that readings are to be proclaimed in the vernacular and a stipulation that no new vernacular lectionary may be published that uses the old cycle of readings.
- Bishops must obtain permission from the Holy See to allow priests ordained after the publication of Traditionis Custodes to celebrate the traditional mass.
- It is “recommended” that the traditional Mass be celebrated for a defined period of time fixed by the bishop who can assess at the end of this period whether or not to extend or suspend the authorization, depending on how much. “Everything is in harmony” with the direction of Traditionis Custodes.
- A bishop can only grant permission to celebrate the traditional mass in his own diocese.
- In the event of the unavailability or absence of a priest authorized to celebrate the old rite, his replacement must also be formally authorized.
- Deacons and appointed ministers participating in a traditional celebration must also have the permission of their bishop.
- A parish priest or a chaplain authorized to celebrate the traditional mass but who must also celebrate the ordinary form of the mass during the week cannot then also celebrate the traditional mass on the same day (binate).
- A priest authorized to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass cannot celebrate it for another group of the faithful on the same day, even if that group has received the authorization.
In his introductory note, Bishop Roche reiterated that Traditionis Custodes and the accompanying letter of Pope Francis “clearly express the reasons” of the apostolic letter, and that the Mass of Paul VI is “the sole expression of lex orandi of the Roman rite.
“This is the direction in which we want to go, and this is the meaning of the answers that we publish here”, declared Mgr Roche. “Any prescribed norm always has the sole purpose of preserving the gift of ecclesial communion by walking together, with conviction of mind and heart, in the direction indicated by the Holy Father.
He said it was “sad” that the Eucharist became “a cause of division”, adding that it is the duty of bishops, cum petro and sub petro (with and under Peter), “to safeguard communion”.
The English Archbishop declared that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were looking for reforms so that the liturgy appears “always more in all its beauty and that the People of God can grow in a full, active and conscious participation in the liturgical celebration”.
“As pastors, we must not give ourselves to sterile polemics, capable only of creating divisions, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by ideological points of view”, declared Mgr Roche. “On the contrary, we are all called to rediscover the value of liturgical reform while preserving the truth and the beauty of the Rite that it has given us. For this, we are aware that a renewed and continuous liturgical formation is necessary both for priests and for the lay faithful.
Quoting the words of Pope Francis in 2017, in which he said: “We can affirm with certainty and with masterful authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible”, declared Bishop Roche, the Pope “wants to indicate to us the only direction in which we are joyfully called to turn our commitment to pastors. ”
The first reactions of traditional Catholics to Bishop Roche’s directives have not been positive, even if the bans on celebrating the traditional sacraments seem slightly milder than those imposed in the diocese of Rome in October.
Father Claude Barthe, historian, jurist and specialist in the traditional liturgy of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France, declared the responnse “Considerably worsen the provisions of Traditionis Custodes, to the extent that they clarify the intention of the legislator.
He added: “It is true that the prohibitions against the sacraments other than the Eucharist are slightly softened by the fact that they can be authorized in personal parishes, but generally speaking there is no longer any traditional baptisms, more marriages and, without exception, more confirmations and more ordinations.
He predicted that the ban on traditional ordinations “will have grave consequences” as it will likely have a seriously detrimental effect on future vocations to the priesthood, especially harming traditional institutes.
“It is clear that in the name of the sensus fidelium, we must oppose Traditionis Custodes and its clarification by the non-reception, because it is a doctrinally unjust law ”, declared Father Barthe to the Register.
“In fact, the justification that comes back from answer to answer is that the traditional rite is only tolerated before it is one day totally prohibited, on the grounds that it is not the expression of lex orandi, since its only current expression is the new rite.
He noted a contradiction between Traditionis Custodes and Summorum Pontificum, the motu proprio of Pope Benedict of 2007 which allowed any stable group to celebrate the old mass. The latter, he said, “does the opposite” of the former, a reality “underlined by the responnse.
At the very least, he argued,Traditionis Custodes is a relative law, therefore without force.