Thursday, December 23, 2021

Canonists cast doubt on the force of the Responsa ad dubia

LMS Pilgrimage to Chideock; High Mass was celebrated in the presence of 
 Bishop Mark O'Tool of Plymouth, England. Photo by John Aron.

My latest in the Catholic Herald. I'm grateful to them for publishing this so swiftly.

It is worth emphasising that the problem I discuss, essentially that the requirements on bishops in the Responsa infringe bishops' rights under Canon law, is not just some fever-dream of Traditional Catholics: it is being said by canonists all over the place. I am fortunate in having access to canonical advice from qualified people, which helped us in preparing our Canonical Notes on the Responsabut you can see this online now, notably here, here, and here. Confronted with this difficulty by the journalist Edward Pentin, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Roche, did not say anything which is likely to change anyone's mind. At this point we have to take the matter seriously.

My Catholic Herald article begins:

On Saturday 18th December a document was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship tightening up restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass: Responsa ad dubia. This is a clarification of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, answering questions (‘dubia’) sent to the Congregation by bishops.

Since then canonists all over the Catholic world have been examining the document, which appears to tighten the screws on the availability of the Traditional Mass considerably compared with Traditionis Custodes itself. By a stroke of the pen it prohibits marriages, baptisms, burials, and even blessings, using the older books, outside a tiny number of ‘personal parishes’. Similarly, it prevents priests from saying more than one Old Rite Mass on a Sunday, and allows them to say it on a weekday only if they have no Novus Ordo Masses to celebrate.

The ban on parishes noting the times of Traditional Masses on their bulletins has caused widespread ridicule. However, it suggests a level of attention to detail, and a desire to make the Traditionist phenomenon disappear from view, which is more than a little alarming. There is no reference to this, or to the other points just mentioned, in Traditionis Custodes, which now appears quite mild by comparison.

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