Roche implements further Vatican crackdown on the Traditional Latin Mass: but why? 

The Catholic Herald

February 23, 2023 at 5:56 pm

Pope Francis embraces Cardinal Arthur Roche after his elevation to the cardinalate on 27 August 2022. (Getty Images)

The dust is beginning to settle on the rescript of the motu proprio Traditiones Custodes which was issued in Rome on the afternoon of Shrove Tuesday, 21 February, after Cardinal Arthur Roche, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was received in audience by the Holy Father. Diocesan bishops will no longer be given the agency and final authority over whether new parishes within their dioceses should be permitted to host celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).

The rescript details changes to the Church’s governance of the Tridentine liturgy, and indicates that the authority to establish locations for the celebration of the TLM now resides solely with the papacy. Members of the Curia – rather than local diocesan bishops, and potentially thousands of miles away – are now to be the final arbiters of the particular locations in which the TLM may be offered, and also over which newly-ordained priests may be allowed to celebrate it – if any at all.  

While the rescript does not revoke permissions granted by local bishops to any parishes or established locations in which the TLM was celebrated prior to Shrove Tuesday, nevertheless any new locations will from now on require explicit permission from the Vatican. 

The future expansion of societies and orders dedicated to the TLM – such as the FSSP and ICKSP – will therefore also now be controlled from Rome, while secular priests who wish to celebrate the liturgy in the traditional rite may well struggle to gain the relevant authorisations. It is likely that new requests will be delayed by a centralised bureaucracy that will process them for the entire globe. 

The TLM has seen a resurgence in popularity since Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum of 2007. Findings indicate that parishes which celebrate it are busy, that it attracts converts, and that it easily finds new and sympathetic host locations. Traditional seminaries are oversubscribed, at a time when a severe vocations crisis exists elsewhere. 

Nonetheless, despite Pope Benedict’s teaching regarding the TLM that “what early generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot all be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful”, Cardinal Roche has claimed that the TLM “encourage[s] a liturgy at variance with Conciliar reform… and an ecclesiology that is not part of the Church’s Magisterium.”

In light of that, Traditionis Custodes gave local bishops the right to close down TLM centres at will – but they declined to do so in large numbers. Many instead granted immediate and generous dispensations to the priests and people in their care for whom the TLM is a source of grace and spiritual renewal. Some – perhaps most – of these bishops had no particular affinity with the traditional rite, but all acted out of solicitude for their flock. It seems bizarre for Rome now to bypass local pastoral wisdom and impose a centralised one-size-fits all approach, and particularly in these days of increasing synodality.

It seems bizarre, too, that the regulation of new TLM locations is what the Curia is now going to throw its efforts into, and that access to the TLM should find itself at the top of a list of priorities that includes (among other issues) the ongoing horrors of child-abuse revelations, financial scandals, the spectre of European schism, growing threats to religious freedom, ongoing concerns over the Vatican’s relationship with China, and the open persecution of Christians worldwide. 

Most of all it seems bizarre because, despite their recent growth, the numbers of Catholics who attend the TLM is comparatively small when viewed alongside the majority who attend celebrations of the Novus Ordo, in Latin or the local vernacular. Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has sought to support and nurture minority groups within the Church – and rightly so. What’s actually so wrong with this one?

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. Justin George says:

    Very rigid of Francis and the Vatican Hierarchy to want to further control the 1962 Tridentine Latin Mass. At the same time, they let guitar masses go on, with so called “Eucharistic Ministers’, they say nothing about the dancing Mass that Cardinal Cupich up in the Archdiocese of Chicago allowed.

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