NEW YORK – Come September 21, celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington will be banned in parishes and limited to three non-parochial churches that can celebrate the old rite exclusively on Sundays.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington announced the changes in a July 22 decree that implements new liturgical norms for the archdiocese, in line with Pope Francis’s document Traditionis Custodes, published last year.
In a letter accompanying the decree, Gregory said the changes aim to “follow the path” Pope Francis set forth in Traditionis Custodes. The July 2021 motu proprio, or addition to church law issued on the pope’s own authority, tightened permission for the pre-Vatican II Mass.
“In reflecting on Traditionis Custodes and the letter the Holy Father wrote accompanying this motu proprio, and on his recent apostolic letter, Desiderio Desideravi, on the liturgical formation of the People of God, it is clear that the Holy Father’s sincere intention is to bring about greater unity in the church through the celebration of the Mass and sacraments according to the 1970 Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI, which was the fruit of the renewal in the liturgy that the Second Vatican Council called for,” Gregory said.
“However, it is also my desire, following the intention of Pope Francis, to ensure that those who celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal continue to be provided for in our archdiocese, a plea that was expressed in our synod listening sessions.”
The three locations in the archdiocese where the Traditional Latin Mass will be allowed are: the Chapel at St. John Evangelist Parish in Forest Glen, Maryland; the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington D.C.; and the Mission Church of St. Dominic in Aquasco, Maryland.
According to the new rules, all priests, deacons and instituted ministers need to request in writing and receive permission from the archbishop of Washington to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, either publicly or privately.
Those making the request must “explicitly affirm in writing, ‘the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs,’ and demonstrate an appreciation ‘of the value of concelebration,’ particularly at the Chrism Mass.”
A priest must also note the frequency and location of such celebrations, “along with a statement of agreement to abide by the norms set forth in this document.”
The new protocols also mandate that all celebrations of the liturgies on Christmas, the Triduum, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday in the archdiocese must use liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, either in the vernacular or in Latin.
Further, according to the new liturgical norms, any Mass in the archdiocese celebrated in the ordinary form will follow the prescribed rubric for versus populum, unless permission is granted otherwise by the archbishop of Washington. In other words, the priest must face the congregants, as opposed to ad orientem, “to the east,” in which the priest and congregants face the altar.
“The intention of these requirements is to foster and make manifest the unity of this local church, as well as to provide all Catholics in the Archdiocese an opportunity to offer a concrete manifestation of the acceptance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical books,” Gregory explained in the new liturgical norms.
Gregory issued the new policy almost exactly a year to the date that Pope Francis issued Traditionis Custodes on July 16, 2021. Many U.S. dioceses and archdioceses have already published their implementation plans.
Gregory’s letter explained that he wanted to wait until after the archdiocese’s Synod on Synodality listening sessions to issue the new guidance, citing the ability of the faithful who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass to provide input.
Within the explanation of the new liturgical norms, Gregory said that at the recommendation of the synod listening sessions he has asked the archdiocesan Offices of Liturgy, Ministerial Leadership, and Pastoral Ministry and Social concerns to “assist pastors in accompanying our brothers and sisters who share” devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass. The assistance can include a pastoral implementation plan, personal pastoral visits and catechetical resources that explain “the beauty of the reformed Mass.”
The cardinal also spoke fondly of those who participate in the Traditional Latin Mass, highlighting his “constant prayers for the faithful who share a deep devotion” to it.
“In the time that I have served as Archbishop of Washington, I have discovered that the majority of the faithful who participate in these liturgical celebrations in the Archdiocese of Washington are sincere, faith-filled and well-meaning,” Gregory said.
The new liturgical norms will be reviewed in three years, according to the new policy.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg