Limitations on Traditional Masses in the Diocese of Washington, D.C.

July 29, 2022
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

On July 23, 2022, Cardinal Wilton Gregory announced limitations regarding the places where the traditional Mass can be celebrated in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. There are only three places where it will be permitted.

Starting September 21, the Tridentine Mass can only be celebrated at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C., at St. John the Evangelist in Silver Spring, Maryland, and at St. Dominic, in Aquasco, Maryland. .

In a two-page letter and accompanying decree, the cardinal sets out new liturgical norms for the archdiocese following Pope Francis' motu proprio Traditionis custodes, promulgated a year ago.

The new protocol requires, on the one hand, that priests request authorization to be able to celebrate the new mass ad orientem, i.e., facing the tabernacle. Without this authorization, Masses must be celebrated “in the vernacular or in Latin…‘versus populum’ – turned towards the people.

The decree stipulates that sacraments other than the Eucharist must be celebrated according to the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI and John Paul II. Although these post-Vatican II rites may be celebrated in Latin under the new norms, which will be revised in three years.

“The intention of these rules is to promote and manifest the unity of the local Church, as well as to give all Catholics in the archdiocese the opportunity to offer a concrete manifestation of the acceptance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical books,” explains the text.

Priests of the Archdiocese of Washington who wish to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, privately or publicly in the Archdiocese, will need to obtain written permission. This requires them to explicitly accept “the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform dictated by the Second Vatican Council,” and to show an appreciation “of the value of concelebration.”

Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., has been appointed Delegate for the Pastoral Care of Designated Communities. “This delegate will also serve as moderator for all the clergy who have received permission to celebrate according to the Roman Missal of 1962 in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of Traditionis custodes.”

The neighboring diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued a directive in January prohibiting the celebration of baptisms and marriages in the traditional form. Twenty-one of the 70 parishes in the diocese offer the Mass in Latin, one of the highest percentages among American dioceses.

The gradual implementation of these standards establishes a reversal of the situation that preceded the motu proprio. More and more of the faithful are discouraged by these prohibitions, the justification of which stems more from the fear of realizing that the legacy of Vatican II is as obsolete and perishable as a pastoral directive, always fleeting and perishable.