The hopes of many traditional Roman Catholics notwithstanding, Pope Francis, in his recent Apostolic Letter “Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition),” has made clear his intention to completely suppress the celebration of the Latin Mass.
There is nothing unclear or open to interpretation in this document. The pope states categorically that the “Novus Ordo,” or new Mass (celebrated in English in this county), is the “unique expression” of the Roman Rite; that a priest may not celebrate the Latin Mass in a parochial church; that no new “personal parishes” dedicated to the Latin Mass may be established; that priests who celebrate the Mass must request authorization from their bishop to continue to do so; that new priests who wish to celebrate the Mass must submit a formal request to their bishop who in turn must request approval from Rome; and that all “previous norms, instructions, permissions and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present [Apostolic Letter] are abrogated.”
Anticipating objections to his new rules, the pope peremptorily states: “Everything that I have declared in this Apostolic Letter ... I order to be observed in all its parts, anything else to the contrary notwithstanding, even if worthy of particular mention.”
In other words, no matter how sound or theologically well-grounded any objections to the new rules might be, the pope will not hear them.
The rules are to enter “immediately in force.” Therefore, any Latin Mass that is offered in a parochial church such as St. Mary’s in Potsdam — or anywhere else in the world, for that matter — is now forbidden by papal decree.
Despite his stated intention “to promote the concord and unity of the Church,” the pope seems to be motivated by a deep-seated antipathy toward the Latin Mass and a profound contempt for the faithful devoted to it, whom he has denounced as working to “injure the Church,” and whom he seeks to humiliate by attempting to force them to attend the Mass in basements or garages until he finally delivers the coup de grace to the Mass by refusing to authorize any priest to celebrate it.
Traditional Catholics who have been attending the Latin Mass at parochial churches will now be obliged to migrate to those Catholic societies that have never abandoned the traditions of the Church. Whether this will promote the pope’s vision of ecclesial concord and unity remains to be seen.