I have been following the numerous recent reports, most of which started in Italian publications and blogs, about the possible abrogation, or at least a major revision of Pope Benedict’s 2007 Apostolic Letter motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, that spelled out the conditions and circumstances in which priests of the Latin Church could celebrate what Benedict called “the missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.” That is, how to celebrate Mass and the sacraments in the manner used before the liturgical reform that was a result of Vatican Council II. Benedict was very clear that that 1962 missal had never been “juridically abrogated.”

In his Letter to the bishops that accompanied the motu proprio, Benedict XVI established that “in the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

Called by most the Traditional Latin Mass, the TLM is fast-growing and flourishing wherever it is experienced.

I grew up in the pre-Vatican Council II years (1962-65), and thus well remember the Latin Mass – the only language universally used for Mass until the vernacular was allowed following the council. International travel was wonderful in the pre-council years because no matter where you were, you understood the Mass and knew the responses in Latin. You may not have understood the homily in Paris or Prague, but the Mass was clear. (NCRegister photo)

Certainly, Mass in the vernacular was a new idea but gradually took over and now just seems normal to anyone born after the council ended in 1965.

What seemed to be missing to many of us who grew up when I did was a certain solemnity that identified the Latin Mass.

That solemnity is present in the Traditional Latin Mass and what is truly fascinating is the fact that it is that solemn beauty that is now attracting younger generations. The TLM is not merely a nostalgic look at the past for older generations.

If you recall, a March 12 unsigned instruction from the Secretary of State, approved by Pope Francis, banned the celebration of individual masses by priests in St. Peter’s Basilica at one of its dozens of chapel altars. Limits were specifically set on the Latin Mass and priests wishing to celebrate the TLM could use only the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican grottoes and celebrate Mass at 7am, 7:30, 8 or 8:30. Otherwise, priests wishing to say Mass could concelebrate in two chapels and only those chapels where they face the faithful.

By the way, the Clementine Chapel is the smallest in the basilica yet sumptuous in décor and historical to boot. Behind the grate on the wall in front of the altar is the tomb of the first Pope, the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter!

As I have been reading about the possible changes the Pope will make to Summorum Pontificum, I have been wondering about the number of vocations born within a TLM settting. Has anyone researched this?

I offer two very interesting articles about what seem to be looming changes in Summorum Pontificum.

In Crisis magazine, Eric Sammons looks at possible changes in the Traditional Latin Mass and lays out the TLM history of the last 60 years: Pope Francis Sets His Sights on the Latin Mass (crisismagazine.com)

Sammons starts by noting, “The rumors appear to be true: Pope Francis is planning to rescind Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio liberalizing the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass (TLM), which Benedict dubbed the “Extraordinary Form” of the Latin Rite. This at a time when the TLM has been flourishing while most of the Church is experiencing significant declines. Before exploring why Pope Francis is considering this radical move, it might be helpful to briefly review the history of the TLM over the past 60+ years.”

Among other things, he asks the question on most lips: “No matter what we guess the impact might be, the question remains: Why would Pope Francis do this? If a CEO decided to shut down the fastest-growing division in his company, it would be a head-scratcher for sure. So why would Pope Francis look to limit the reach of what is, in terms of growth, the most successful movement in the Church today?”

On June 10, the third Summorum Pontificum Convention will commence in Mexico. According to its website, this will be “an international Catholic gathering in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico – land of the Cristeros – dedicated to promoting the liturgical, spiritual, theological, and artistic traditions of the Church. The convention takes its name from Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio from 2007 in which he wrote about the traditional Roman Rite, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.”

And here is an excellent piece by Philip Lawler in Catholic Culture:


By Phil Lawler (catholiculture.org) | Jun 02, 2021

The rumors are true. My sources in Rome—too many and too reliable to be doubted—confirm that a document is circulating at the Vatican which, if given papal approval, would significantly restrict use the “extraordinary form” of the liturgy, the traditional Latin Mass (TLM).

This document is in draft form. It could be amended. It might never be released. But it would not even be under discussion without at least tacit approval (if not active support) from Pope Francis. And if it is released in anything like its current form, it would be a pastoral and doctrinal disaster. It would thwart a powerful movement for reform in the Church, and it would—paradoxically—undermine the Pope’s own authority.

Let me explain.

In Summorum Pontificum, his apostolic letter of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI gave the Catholic faithful much wider access to the TLM. With this new document, styled as an “instruction” for the “implementation” of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Francis would in effect repudiate the work of his predecessor, and at the same time cut off the blood supply to the fastest-growing part of the universal Church.

Pope Benedict wrote Summorum Pontificum because he recognized, in the growing demand for the traditional liturgy, an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit within the Church. The desire for the TLM is not prompted by nostalgia; the overwhelming majority of people in the pews are not old enough to remember the liturgy that was universal before Vatican II. At a time when the Catholics are leaving the Church by the thousands, and young people especially are deserting the faith, traditionalist parishes are seeing explosive growth, marked in particular by an influx of young families.

So why would any Catholic prelate, intent on evangelization, want to interfere with the growth of traditional Catholicism? Why mess with success? Could it be because the obvious pastoral health of the traditionalist communities makes for an unpleasant contrast with the failures of the rapidly shrinking parishes in the Catholic mainstream? As I observed just a few weeks ago, it is revealing “that the one liturgical option liberal Catholics cannot abide is the option for the ancient liturgy.”

In Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict declared that any priest has the right to celebrate the traditional liturgy, without requiring an “indult” or special permission from his bishop. The draft document would reportedly rescind that permission. To be perfectly honest, in practice this change would not have too much impact on the availability of the TLM, because any prudent diocesan priest already knows that if he displeases the bishop by offering the TLM without his approval, he will likely suffer reprisals. In that way, contrary to the spirit of Summorum Pontificum, many bishops have continued to smother the demand for the traditional liturgy.

However, the requirement of episcopal approval (which is only one of several new restrictions being proposed) would have a very significant effect in another way. In Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict also made it clear that—contrary to a widespread impression—the TLM had never been abrogated. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful,” Pope Benedict explained.

Clearly, if Pope Francis now effectively forbids the celebration of the TLM, and/or says that the traditional liturgy is harmful—or gives diocesan bishops the power to do so—then he is directly contradicting his predecessor. And if Pope Francis can contradict the teaching of Pope Benedict, what is to prevent a future Pontiff from contradicting Pope Francis? Anyone who is genuinely interested in preserving papal authority (as opposed to gaining a temporary advantage in intramural debates) should recognize the mischief this draft document could cause.

Ironically, the Catholic leaders who are lobbying for a heavy-handed use of papal power in this instance have spent the past several generations railing against the invocation of papal authority in other cases—including the case of Summorum Pontificum. But the rightful authority of the Roman Pontiff is severely limited. He can only proclaim the truths passed down in the Catholic Tradition. If he contradicts the teaching of previous Pontiffs—if he suggests that what was once sacred is sacred no longer—he attacks the base on which his own authority rests.

This draft document, then, represents not just a problem for traditionalists, but a grave danger for the Church. It should be vigorously resisted by anyone who cares about the mission of evangelization, the integrity of doctrine, and the preservation of papal authority.