Rorate Caeli

Update on the Latin Mass in Washington, D.C. and Virginia: An Eminent Priest Silenced, and an Uncertain Future


Over a year into the crackdown on the Traditional Latin Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and the Diocese Arlington, VA, Traditionis Custodes continues to have a destructive effect. Instead of joyfully celebrating the witness of families and young people returning to Catholic tradition, both dioceses have maintained a blackout on discussion of the Old Rite. The Traditional Latin Mass cannot be mentioned in parish bulletins. Latin Mass congregations continue to worship- joyfully and reverently- in converted gymnasiums. The three Latin Masses remaining in parish churches in the Diocese of Arlington face the potential expiration of their two-year permissions this coming Summer.

The cloak of silence that has enveloped the Old Mass in Washington, D.C. has now led to eminent priests themselves being silenced. Monsignor Charles Pope is a leading voice, both nationally and in  Washington, D.C., on all range of Catholic matters doctrinal and liturgical. He has been celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass for decades, and his writing on the subject is perceptive, eloquent, and widely quoted by those with a range of perspectives on the TLM. His heartfelt pleas on behalf of the faithful affected by Traditionis Custodes continue to resonate:

As a pastor of souls, I cannot find words to express the hurt and anger (righteous, I pray) I experience over the treatment of Catholics who are attached to the older forms of the liturgy and the sacraments. I have not seen such language or harshness directed against any other group, in or out of the Church. The tone is singular and shocking. Those who love the Traditional Latin Mass are my brothers and sisters in the Lord and I have long admired their tenacity and orthodoxy. Many of them have large families and take the faith very seriously. For them, Catholicism is not only a faith, but also a culture both ancient and new. They are up for the battle of living the faith in an increasingly secular world. They are not a particularly large segment of the Church in the United States, but they are one of the few segments of the Church that is growing and flourishing. They love the faith and the Mass, and I grieve that they are being treated so brusquely and harshly. 


Monsignor Pope's tone is invariably charitable, scholarly and fair. When he learned, with shock, that Pope Francis had removed Cardinal Burke's salary and Vatican apartment, he expressed eloquently what many were thinking:

When this post was written, many privately remarked on how brave it was for Monsignor Pope to speak out. Ironically, in a Church where listening and "dialogue" with the secular world is promoted, and where it is common for bishops and priests to openly dissent from Church teaching, it is considered quite brave and adventurous for clerics to say anything critical of Pope Francis from a "conservative" perspective. Even Massimo Faggioli has noted that today, "a certain type of hyper-papalism is defining certain sectors of Catholicism, where the Church's voice on public issues is reduced to the dissemination or interpretation of whatever the pope says or does not say, and whatever he does or chooses not to do, and also how the wider public applauds or criticizes his words and actions. In the higher echelons of the Church's hierarchy, it has become rare for a cardinal or a bishop to express an opinion different from the pope's without being seen as an enemy or a traitor." 

So it was hardly surprising when, the next day, Monsignor Pope was forced to issue a hasty retraction:


In this climate of silence and fear, the Arlington Latin Mass Society continues to compile Traditional Latin Mass times (which can no longer be listed in parish bulletins), host respected speakers on Catholicism, and lead rosaries of the faithful outside the Apostolic Nunciature to pray for an end to restrictions. This Advent, please prayerfully consider supporting our work here.