Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, a canon lawyer, sparked headlines after he promptly issued dispensations for two churches in his diocese, allowing them to continue to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass following the release of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes. But in an interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, he also pushes back against reports that frame the Pope’s move as a full suppression of the extraordinary form of the Mass, or link the celebration of this rite to open dissent from the Second Vatican Council.
After the release of Pope Francis’ motu proprio, you issued dispensations for two churches in the Diocese of Springfield, allowing them to continue to celebrate Masses in Latin according to the 1962 Missal. Yet you’ve also challenged claims that Francis is suppressing the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.
I was baptized Thomas, so my patron saints are Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. I look to both for guidance, particularly St. Thomas More, who was a lawyer. He did what we lawyers are trained to do: Read the words [in a document]. That instinct is helpful now as we review Pope Francis’ motu proprio.
Some folks think the traditional Latin Mass, the Missal of 1962, has been suppressed, but Traditionis Custodes doesn’t say that.
Its main thrust is to give bishops responsibility for these matters, in contrast to Pope Benedict XVI, who, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, used his papal authority to give all priests the faculty to say the extraordinary form.
Pope Francis is basically saying that the bishop has liturgical oversight in his diocese. The Holy Father is not calling for the suppression of the 1962 Missal. If he were, he could have said, “I’m not allowing anyone to use the 1962 Missal.”
He didn’t do that. He asked bishops to review the situation, and where the extraordinary form is fulfilling a pastoral need, to retain it.
So as a bishop and canon lawyer, you are asking Church leaders and lay Catholics to carefully read the motu proprio.
Regarding the language of the motu proprio, I have tried to distinguish between the use of “should” and “shall.” In the document, there are recommendations regarding how things should be done as opposed to mandates, like “must” or “shall.”
In one passage, according to the English translation, “Priests ordained after the motu proprio should contact their bishop, who shall contact the Holy See to consult.” Well, a consultation is different from approval, consent or permission.
But since this matter is now under the local bishop’s authority, Catholics also need to find out what their bishop has to say about this.
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