This morning, I awoke to a message from an associate in Asia. He writes:
“I know you don’t want to write negative stuff anymore, but this is terrible. No more private Masses in St. Peter’s. So many altars will be desolate, then.”
He attached a link to the following letter, in Italian, from the Vatican Secretary of State:
Indeed, this is bad news worth sharing.
Over on Twitter, Diane Montagna offers a translation:
On February 20, 2021 #PopeFrancis appointed Cardinal Mauro Gambetti as new Archpriest of Saint Peter’s Basilica, after accepting the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Comastri.
Today’s letter effectively banishes the offering of the TLM to the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, stating: “With regard to the [Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite], authorized priests may celebrate at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 9:00 in the Clementine Chapel of the Vatican Grottoes.”
The decision also comes at a time when, amid #COVID19 travel restrictions, St. Peter’s Basilica is not exactly overrun with tourists and pilgrims, particularly at 7:00 and 8:00am.
Effectively, what today’s letter appears to suggest is that (1) at least for the foreseeable future, in the main body of St Peter’s Basilica, priests & faithful will only experience the Holy Mass concelebrated in the Novus Ordo; and (2) the Extraordinary Form will go underground.
Of course, what’s being done to the traditional Latin Mass here is especially noteworthy, but the damage done by this move affects even Catholics who are very involved with the new Mass.
Msgr. Andrew Raymond Wadsworth, himself a proponent of the TLM, is also Executive Director of the ICEL Secretariat, which handles the English translation of the Mass of Paul VI. In a Facebook post, he remarked:
Today marks a sad development I hoped I would never see – the suspension of the possibility of a priest being able to turn up in the sacristy at St Peter’s Basilica and being able to celebrate Mass at one of the many side altars of the basilica. Furthermore, the celebration of Mass in the older form is now to be limited to “authorized priests” at a single altar in the crypt at either 7am, 7.30am, 8am or 9am.
It was such a sign of the universality of the Church that a visiting priest could celebrate Mass easily in the heart of Rome, and be guaranteed a small congregation as he arrived at the altar. I am immensely grateful for the many many times I have celebrated Mass in the basilica in this way, with hundreds of people whose names I shall never know in this life. These Masses will always be a very precious memory for me. With all due respect to those whose competence it is to make such decisions, I am truly sorry that I will not be able to have that experience again, and that it will also be denied to those who were not able to experience it.
Around social media, I saw a number of other priests commenting along the same lines. Their commentary offers a better insight into this development than anything I could say. One priest, who commented in a private group (and so shall not be named) said:
One of my most precious memories from my time in Rome and my many visits to Rome there after, was the ability to offer holy mass at one of the side chapels in Saint Peter’s Basilica. This has now been taken away from priests. Only an enemy could do something like this.
Multiple priestly discussions of this change are also ongoing on Twitter. To my knowledge, the following are all diocesan priests; some, I believe, offer the new Mass exclusively, while others offer both the NO and the TLM:
This might be worth getting upset about. Priests will no longer be allowed to offer individual Masses at St. Peter's Basilica and the side altars will no longer be used (except, maybe, for the feast day of a saint interred underneath that particular altar). pic.twitter.com/eSh52kZs3s
— Fr. Ryan Hilderbrand but quadragesimal (@FrHilderbrand) March 12, 2021
This is what they address.
Of all the things that they should be worried about and spending their time and energy on, this is what they do.
There seems to be no limit to the cluelessness of Rome. https://t.co/DoXi5WzSlv
— Fr. Joseph Krupp (@Joeinblack) March 12, 2021
Getting word that they just suppressed private celebration of the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,
and they wonder why my generation is filled with “radicals”
— Fr. Josh Miller (@FrJoshMiller) March 12, 2021
What's so sad is that many of the Masses were not actually individual but would be assisted by other pilgrims who happened to be inside the Basilica who might not have otherwise attended had they not seen or heard a priest saying Mass at a side altar.
— Fr. Darin Schmidt (@FrDarinSchmidt) March 12, 2021
A victory for the Italian liturgical Jansenists in their desperate struggle for supremacy. The bland leading the bland. https://t.co/tw9KTRCSqP
— Fr Timothy Finigan (@FatherTF) March 12, 2021
the trads are particularly mad, but suppressing private masses in general is really rough
— Fr Chase (@FrChaseg00dman) March 12, 2021
In my own opinion, this further diminishes the beauty and flavor of the faith. It is a cleansing of the Catholicity of the Church–a modern reaction to the ancient faith. A false solution where no problem existed.
— Fr. Michael Petkosek (@MichaelPetkosek) March 12, 2021
The story is still young. I expect such conversations will continue to develop.
This is another blow from Rome not just against the traditional liturgy, but against the practice of the faith in general through the supreme act of worship, the Holy Mass.
It is another confirmation of the fact that in Rome, the men running the Church are disinterested in actually being Catholic, and they intend to stop us from doing the same.
The Church is no longer about the worship of God, the remission of sins, or the path to eternal salvation.
It has become an ecological NGO, a forum for Leftist political ideology, a promoter of syncretism and paganism and Marxist (and Peronist) economic theories, a clearinghouse for sexual perverts and predators who enjoy the protection of the powerful, an institution willing to sell out millions of its own members to the rape gangs of the CCP without so much as a shrug; after all, they’ve officially endorsed the notion that China is the best executor of Catholic Social Teaching in the world.
More and more, my philosophy is that the only way to the other side of this monstrous crisis is to let the fire burn itself out, no matter what it destroys. I was reminded the other day of something I wrote back in 2018 to this effect; I feel even more strongly about it now.
My friend in Asia told me that he fears this development at St. Peter’s is a “sign of things to come.”
I told him, “It probably is. But I expect nothing but a diminution of all good things — sometimes by violence — from here on out.”
If God so wills it, so will it be.
UPDATE – 3/12/21 @ 12:22PM MST:
Edward Pentin is saying that the letter is a possible fake:
There are reasons to believe this unsigned letter appearing to come from the Secretariat of State and suppressing "individual" Masses being celebrated in the main body of St Peter's basilica is fake. Checking with Holy See Press Office for confirmation. pic.twitter.com/oDGs7c5TAO
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) March 12, 2021
If it’s a fake, it’s a believable one, and there’s nothing remotely funny about it at all. Time will tell. Stay tuned for further updates.
UPDATE 2 – 3/12/21 @ 12:48MST: Pentin is saying he has a source within the secretariat confirming the letter’s authenticity, but is still waiting on official confirmation:
No official word yet from the Vatican but an unofficial source in the Secretariat of State is saying the letter is genuine. https://t.co/6wXzqPrUmo
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) March 12, 2021
UPDATE 3 – 3/13/21 @ 9:46AM MST:
Edward Pentin has confirmed that the letter is real.
The Secretary of State instruction is genuine but many questions remain including what canonists say are violations of universal Church law and doctrinal defects. Still awaiting comment and clarification from @HolySeePress https://t.co/ZegWiSciFA
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) March 13, 2021
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.