Calm urged over fears of Traditional Latin Mass restrictions

Calm urged over fears of Traditional Latin Mass restrictions A priest celebrates a Tridentine high Mass in this 2007 file photo. Photo: CNS.
Rumours out of Rome have upset traditionalists around the world, but the situation may not be as bad as feared, writes Jason Osborne

Rumours have been swirling over the past two months concerning possible restrictions on the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that a source within the Congregation for the Divine Worship told that a document may soon be issued which would modify Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Summorum Pontificum saw the celebration of the Mass liberalised, according to the Missal of St John XXIII. In a letter to bishops accompanying the motu proprio in 2007, then-Pope Benedict held 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”.

CNA’s source within the congregation suggested that the modifications would restore the need to get the permission of the local bishop to celebrate the traditional Mass.

The rumours have sparked resistance from advocates for and devotees to Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), with the International Federation Una Voce (FIUV) issuing a statement in defence of the widespread celebration of the ancient rite.


There are “still people within the Church, including some bishops, who would like to see the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite explicitly suppressed, or subject to further restrictions,” the statement read.

“Today we only wish to be part of that ‘great orchestra’ of ‘unity in variety’ which, as Pope Francis said, reflects the true catholicity of the Church. The Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum continues to transform the conflicts of the past into harmony: long may it to continue to do so.”

An international body bringing together associations of lay Faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite, FIUV offered the results of a worldwide survey which suggested the positive effects of normalisation of TLM.


In the Irish context, worry has also been stirred up about the potential restrictions on the older form of celebration. However, curate of Blarney parish and populariser of TLM in Ireland, Fr Gabriel Burke urged calm instead.

“I learned a long time ago not to pay attention to rumours that come out of Rome. I always say to people to wait until you get an official document,” he told The Irish Catholic.

“I don’t know where these rumours start, but they go around and they cause a lot of confusion and a lot of hurt.”

Pope Francis isn’t as antagonistic to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as some traditionalists might be inclined to think, Fr Burke said, referring to the Pope’s days in Argentina as an example.

“His own relationship with it is that when he was in Buenos Aires, he would send people regularly to the St Pius X, and he has since he became Pope more or less regularised the tenth.

“I mean, you can go to Confession to them now, you can get married by their priests. So, for instance, if you go to Shanakiel here to the Pius X, they’re to send that marriage in to the bishop’s house in Cork and Ross,” he said.

The conversation in Rome about the TLM isn’t “as black and white” as people think, Fr Burke said, offering reassurance that when Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio, all he did was “say what we already knew – that the Mass was never abrogated, because you can’t stop people from doing something that’s been there for hundreds of years”.

“I think people should just relax, forget about rumours and if a document comes out, have a look at it, and then we can work on that,” he concluded.

Fr Burke’s advice will be gratefully received by a particular cohort of the Faithful in Ireland, the TLM having a small, but devoted following. Former president of The Latin Mass Society of Ireland Peadar Laighléis said it has a “niche” following here in Ireland.


While it’s a small following in the grand scheme of things, Mr Laighléis insisted that “on the other hand, it’s not the minority that somebody writing for a paper like the National Catholic Reporter in the States will point out, either.

“And the other thing too is that I suppose there’s a difference between hard traditionalism and soft traditionalism, and hard traditionalism is the person who’d say he’ll never go to the new order of Mass. Whereas there’s a lot of softer traditionalism that would attend both…There are lots of people out there that have an affection for the traditional Mass and sacraments, but they may not always be in a position to avail of them. Or they might be in a situation that they go on a monthly, or more occasional, basis.”

It’s “very hard to quantify” just how many people are devoted to the Extraordinary Form in Ireland, but Mr Laighléis said he thinks “if you were to compare Ireland with France or even with England and Wales, it would be small when it’s relative to both countries”.

“The thing is, my approach is that it’s an underutilised resource as well. I think there’s a richness within the traditional liturgy.

“You go into an average parish, one of the great frustrations a parish priest probably has is to fire some of the parishioners up to do anything. They tend to be a passive lot. Traditionalists aren’t a passive lot, they’re a very active lot, and the problem with them is to cool them down.

“Now there’s a tremendous potential there within the traditional community if it were harnessed, if it was handled properly…I think that potentially the sort of young people who go to the traditional Masses could be a great source for evangelisation if they were dealt with properly.”