He criticized what he said was a growing attitude of “rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church’.”
In March 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria wrote to the presidents of bishops’ conferences, asking them to distribute a questionnaire about how Benedict XVI’s Latin Mass rules affected bishops’ dioceses.
Pope Francis said the responses to the survey “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene.”
What changes are we talking about?
Pope Francis said that the liturgical books issued by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II are “the unique expression” of the Roman rite. While priests used to have broad rights to decide to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, the pope has now established a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese.
Bishops must determine that existing Traditional Latin Mass groups in their diocese do not deny the validity of the Second Vatican Council and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Also, bishops must designate non-parish churches where these groups may gather to celebrate Mass and establish the days on which they may celebrate. These Masses are to use scriptural readings “in the vernacular language” in translations approved by the relevant episcopal conferences.
Bishops also need to name a diocesan delegate to oversee pastoral care for Traditional Latin Mass groups, and should verify that these communities are effective for spiritual growth.
Newly ordained priests who want to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass now need to make a formal request to their bishop. The bishop must then consult with the Vatican before granting permission. Priests who already offered the Mass in the extraordinary form needed to request authorization from their bishop.
How many people attend the Traditional Latin Mass?
There are perhaps as few as 150,000 U.S. Catholics who regularly attend the Traditional Latin Mass, at about 700 venues. They make up less than 1% of some 21 million regularly Mass-going Catholics.
At the same time, you might find Traditional Latin Mass Catholics in plenty of places. Political and cultural commentators show particular sympathy for this form of the liturgy, and aren’t shy about saying so.
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On social media, traditional Catholics can be quite vocal — and even eccentric and abusive. Some devotees of the traditional Latin Mass adhere to the Society of St. Pius X or have unusual beliefs about the papacy and the Second Vatican Council.
In France, there are perhaps 60,000 traditionalist Catholics. They make up perhaps 4% to 7% of practicing Catholics in the country, and a sizable number are with breakaway groups. These communities show slow but steady growth each year and their members tend to be much younger than average churchgoers.
What was the reaction to Pope Francis’ decision?
Many Catholics who attend the Traditional Latin Mass worried that the pope doesn’t understand them.
Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass appeared to be unpopular among American Catholics who regularly attend Mass, but most Catholics in America have not even heard of the changes, the Pew Research Center said in early October.
Critics of the Traditional Latin Mass hope that the Pope’s actions will rein in some Catholic traditionalists who they say have gone too far in their attitude towards the papacy or the Second Vatican Council.