Pope Francis restricts celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass in new decree

Vatican News reports:
Pope Francis publishes a motu proprio on Friday to redefine the use of the pre-Vatican missal granting the decision to allow its use the local bishops. Groups attending the pre-Vatican liturgy must not deny the validity of the liturgical reform dictated by the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs.

After consulting the bishops throughout the world, Pope Francis has decided to modify the norms regulating the use of the 1962 missal granted 14 years ago by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, as the “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”. The Pope has published the Motu proprio Traditionis custodes, (see link below) dated 16 July 2021, regarding the use of the Roman liturgy prior to 1970. It is accompanied by a letter (see link below) in which he explains the reasons behind his decision. Here are the main points.


Link to the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes:


Link to the Accompanying Letter from Pope Francis:



America Magazine reports:


The story is also covered in the Irish Examiner:




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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    Can anyone recall the papacy rectifying a mistake in such a short time?

  2. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    Seems sensible in all the circumstances.

  3. John Healy says:

    This limitation will prove futile, although, of course, Time, that infallible judge, will tell. As Pope Francis will doubtless know, in the 18thC, his own Society of Jesus defied and disobeyed a Papal Bull dissolving his order, with members casuistically migrating to non-Catholic territories such as Prussia and Russia, where the Bull could not be promulgated, in order to ensure the Society’s survival.

    The endurance of the traditional form of the Mass will prove far more resilient and its adherents equally strategic and aware that obedience to a transitory and arbitrary directive cannot successfully be used to destroy obedience to the traditions of centuries. A future Pope will be able to reverse Pope Francis’s Moto Proprio, just as easily as Pope Francis has reversed Pope Benedict’s.

    Besides, unfortunately, Novus Ordo clergy are ageing and its laity in the developed world generally have families that are shrinking in size. Traditional clergy are growing and young – not only SSPX, but the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and traditional Catholic families are generally large and growing. When BXVI’s Moto Proprio was issued, not only to reconcile members of the SSPX, but also, crucially, in keeping with his stated aim that the older form would encourage the newer to greater dignity, this was dismissed as something that would only appeal to elderly and diminishing eccentrics and would inevitably soon die off, but now, we find that, to the contrary, it has been flourishing among younger people, which is why it is so tellingly perceived to be a threat.

    A liturgy that was celebrated on Mass Rocks in penal times, on battlefields, in concentration camps and gulags, that would look as dignified in a barn as in an IKEA showroom, that inspired the architectural designs of the most famous cathedrals and churches, will not disappear so easily, or be stamped out like an irritating weed. Far from it. Neither will the Church become frozen in a 1960s time-warp.

    This morning’s reading from Jeremiah 23: 1-6 seems particularly prophetic, for the weekend that is in it: “1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.”

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    If you really love the Latin Mass the first thing you should do is to acquire some rudiments of the Latin language. Unfortunately, at a time when the most prestigious universities are abandoning study of this venerable language, it will take more than wishful motu proprios to bring it back to life. Francis’s motu proprio wisely urges that would-be celebrants of the EF learn Latin. But that is a part of his document that is most likely to remain a dead letter (as John XXIII’s call for preservation of Latin did).

    “The endurance of the traditional form of the Mass will prove far more resilient” — “obedience to the traditions of centuries” — that is impossible if Latin is no longer familiar even to the clergy. The “dignity” of the old Mass is lost when the Latin becomes a mispronounced gabble.

  5. Ger Hopkins says:

    I’d like to echo what John has said: The Extraordinary Rite would not be perceived as a threat were it not for the fact that it has been flourishing among younger people. A movement that was stagnant or in decline would not have required this intervention by the Pope.

    There has been a focus, both by Conservatives and their delighted enemies, on this as a political action. A set back for Conservatives.

    There’s another way of looking at it. One which involves taking the Pope at his word. The justification Francis has given for this Motu Proprio is that the Extraordinary Rite had become a cause of division – it had been used to ‘reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.’

    “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the church of the Roman Rite.”

    Meanwhile in Germany the Pope is trying to restrain the progressive movement, disappointing many who cheered him earlier in his reign.

    “Pope Francis has recognized that the unity of the church is very fragile, so he has to maintain unity and he has to say on some questions ‘stop’ to the church in Germany,” said Helmut Hoping, a professor of theology at the University of Freiburg.

    “Every time an ecclesial community has tried to get out of its problems alone, relying solely on its own strengths, methods and intelligence, it has ended up multiplying and nurturing the evils it wanted to overcome,” the pope wrote in an open letter to German Catholics in 2019.

    The Rev. Bernd Hagenkord, a member of the pope’s Jesuit order who is serving as an adviser to the German synod, told a German Catholic radio station earlier this year that “the pope is clearly concerned that the Catholic Church could break up over some issues of conflict,” such as homosexuality and women’s ordination, “because some parties are making some issues too strong.”


    When Francis comes to curb the excesses of German Synodality in the name of Church unity – which there is no doubt that he will – Friday’s Motu Proprio will allow him to point to how this need for unity is being applied across the board. To conservatives and liberals alike.

    This Motu Proprio considerably strengthens his hand with the German Bishops.

    I don’t believe it is the gift that liberals seem to think it is.

  6. Jim Stack says:

    The last time I was on this site, I vainly attempted to convey that contributors to this site were displaying antagonism to traditional Catholics that went way beyond what was reasonable. Fr Liam Power had written a newspaper piece (reproduced on this site) representing Catholics who wanted to receive Holy Communion on the tongue as right-wing fanatics, and all other contributors lined up to applaud him. The dismissive attitude to people, whose only crime was zeal for the faith of our fathers and reverence for the Eucharist, was really depressing.

    I came onto this site today expecting to see more of the same – triumphalist crowing at traditionalists getting their comeuppance. and indeed the first two posts were along those lines, although mercifully short and polite. So it was a great and pleasant surprise to see the posts that followed.

    Please God, there is hope for us yet. Even the ACP has some members who at least understand where we traditionalists are coming from.

  7. Kevin Walters says:

    Does not the banning of TLM run in conjunction with the banning of Masses in the Vatican Basilica as mankind needs to see Unity of Purpose in God’s house by those who love God?

    Hope springs eternal or so the saying goes
    Does the church present a weed?
    When she should present a rose,
    A light set upon a hill,
    All mankind shall see and know God’s Holy Will.
    No word need be spoken, all mankind shall see,
    God’s lovers as they bend their knee.
    Justice and Love reflected from above.
    The Missionary shall call,
    We would have this for one and all
    A crystal (Rome) sat on a hill,
    Manifesting our Fathers Holy Will.

    “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer.”

    Father! with tongue and flame give us unity again.

    “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  8. Daithi O'Muirneachain says:

    Just a thought!
    With regard to Tradition, it is important to understand its important role.
    There can be no problem relying on Apostolic Tradition as it is central to Christianity.
    But with ordinary Church Tradition there is need for understanding and caution.
    Just one example: a practice based on Ordinary Church Tradition from an earlier century, if relied on in a later century, may not be correct and may lead to error.
    For example, Pope Sixtus V in the 16th century executed religious who broke their vows of chastity. Contrast this to Pope John Paul II who condemned all killing including the execution of those convicted for murder.
    The prime need for the Church in today’s world is to attempt to implement God’s purpose and provide appropriate pastoral care.

  9. Shaun Davies says:

    Why does the Catholic Church have to be (in these post-Vatican II days) so harsh and illiberal? Can we not learn something from our Anglican friends who seem to get on very well together despite doctrinal divergences? They just don’t seem to be as “dogmatic” and nasty as Catholics are towards those of a different viewpoint. Have we not moved into a new age (and I thought papacy) and left all that table banging and name calling behind us. The Anglican parishes I know seem to function well on a mixed diet of traditional and modern and somewhere in between. Small hope for ecumenism when we can’t practise toleration and understanding or divergence within the Catholic Church.

  10. joe o'leary says:

    Francis invokes I Corinthians, putting church unity at the centre of his concerns, and he does not mean dead uniformity but the living unity that is one of the four credal marks of the true church.

    The Lefebvrite schism has been a painful thorn in the church’s side, and Benedict XVI tried to heal it, but in fact his concessions re the 1962 liturgy probably only emboldened it (as the French bishops may have reported to the CDF).

    Anglicans take church unity very seriously as well, and we all remember the lengths to which Rowan Williams went to fend off schism (fairly successfully). It was a classic French Protestant theologian, Jurieu, who memorably stated that, “For a Christian, schism is the greatest of crimes and the greatest of tragedies.”

    Far from disagreeing with Francis’s show of authority, Benedict XVI came out swinging just now against the German church as if to say, “liberals, don’t think you can shrug off church authority and church order.”

  11. Shaun Davies says:

    Sorry Joe, but I think that you are getting things very mixed up. Let’s get it clear; the “schism” was in 1988 and the Motu Proprio was 2007. The Ecclesia Dei system was set up to facilitate to return of the Lefebvre followers to full obedience. In fact few did. The 2007 Motu Proprio was to ease the difficulties which many bishops had put up (following the original 1984 “Indult”) preventing frequent and easy celebrations of the Old Mass. Many of the Lefebvre people are quite uninterested in either the 2007 M.P. or the latest reversal by Francis. Their in-house theologian, Fr Jean Pierre GLEIZE, has written about it and thinks it’s a good thing because he believes (like the real moderns) that the Old Rite Mass and the New Rite Mass are totally different theologically. The “conservatives” like Benedict and others think they are just two forms of one Mass. All very complicated. I see a writer in THE TABLET has written about it saying that it’s mean – and as I said – the Church should follow the generosity and understanding and sympathy as Anglicans do. We don’t have or desire liturgical unity within the Catholic Church —– look at all the VERY different Eastern rites used for many, many years within the Catholic Church. Unity in diversity.

  12. Joe O'Leary says:

    Liturgical diversity is great, but not at any price, that is, not when it becomes an abuse.

    The mass in Latin is a form of diversity to be embraced, as is the mass in Irish. Both are welcome escapes from the horrid current English version. The Roman Canon is a beautiful and ancient text that will always remain treasured, like other Latin texts such as the Veni Creator, the Stabat Mater, etc., etc. They must never be lost.

    The TLM is much dicier for two reasons: 1. it seems to exclude the active communal participation stressed by Vatican II. 2. it was taken up as the showpiece of the Lefebvrite rebellion, notably at the church in Paris that they seized.

    JP2 and B16 allowed the TLM to those who liked it on condition that it not be linked with the Fronde against Vatican II. But they failed to disinfect the TLM of these connotations, due to the propagamda of a vocal minority of TLM worshipers who acted as if the TLM was the only mass worth celebrating, and who instead of seeking to elevate the mass of Paul VI seemed hellbent on abolishing it.

    The 2007 motu proprio treated bishops as the problem for making it difficult to celebrate the TLM. But this underestimated the good reasons for the caution and vigilance of the French bishops for example. Now Francis has reinstated the authority of bishops, which is very much in line with Vatican II and indeed with the most ancient tradition of the church.

  13. Shaun Davies says:

    My last word………….I promise.
    We could go on and on.

    1. it seems to exclude the active communal participation stressed by Vatican II.
    There are two points here.
    The SSPX, in particular in France and Germany, use and promote the Dialogue Mass in which the whole congregation vocally participate.
    Real and actual participation (called for by Vatican II along with the retention of Latin and Gregorian chant and no mention of a new Rite of Mass to be formulated) does not necessarily mean vocal. I participate in a book, a play, a musical in different ways and at different levels.
    Church of Ireland Choral Evensong or Choral Eucharist (with which I grew up) did not permit the congregation to join in vocally but we certainly, in the Church of Ireland, participated.

    It was (the Mass) taken up as a banner by the Lefebvre followers, correct. It was their selling point, you might say. Once the 2007 Motu Proprio eased the restriction of the 1984 Indult of John Paul II, they lost their main selling point and it led to many people coming back to the Parish and Diocese and forsaking the Lefebvre-Schism. If the Old Mass is now restricted or banned in certain dioceses back they’ll go. What price unity — uniformity. And what about all those Eastern Rite catholics who have a largely different theology, Canon Law and Spirituality, will they have to come back to Roman Rite imperialism for the sake of liturgical unity?
    But that’s my last word – I promise the Moderator.

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