Are There Limits to Papal Authority over the Mass?

The traditionalists claim that the Pope lacks the authority to change or abrogate the TLM and that he lacks the authority over the Mass to decide to require the Novus Ordo Mass instead of the TLM. This claim contradicts the teaching of the Magisterium under Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei. But the point I would like to make here is that, if there is an authority lacking to the Roman Pontiff, it is also lacking to other members of the Church and groups within the Church. The authority of the Roman Pontiff is supreme. Every authority given to the Church on earth is possessed by him.

The Pope does lack authority over certain things. For example, Christ did not give his Church the authority to ordain women as priests. So the Pope does not have that authority because the Church does not have that authority. But this also means that no one else on earth has that authority either. No one can begin ordaining women priests, as the Pope lacks that authority and he holds all authority in the Church on earth.

The supporters of the TLM have exercised authority over the traditional form of the Mass. They have exercised the authority to decide if it shall continue, whether it shall be changed, and what forms it might take. They have decided to reject the order of Pope Francis to read the Scriptures in the vernacular language. They have decided the TLM should not need permission from the Apostolic See or the local Bishop. They have decided the TLM shall continue and not be abrogated. This implies that the Pope has the same authority over those questions, and not only to decide the questions the same way.

The traditionalists have judged that the TLM cannot be changed, even though this form of the Mass has, they admit, changed many times from the Mass of Pope Saint Gregory I up to Pope Saint John XXIII. (They reject the Council founded by John, but they accept the changes he made to the Mass.) So by accepting the 1962 version of the Latin Mass, they admit that the Church and the Pope has authority over that Mass to make changes. But then they reject the most recent change by Pope Francis, that the Scriptures shall be read in the vernacular

Does the Pope have authority over the Latin Mass, to make changes? Many Popes have changed the Mass from Gregory I to Pius V to John 23. And the supporters of the TLM accept all these changes, so they admit the Pope has that authority. But now they have also decided there will be no more changes to the TLM. If they had that authority, then do does the Pope, and he need not decide the question the same way.

Does Pope Francis have the authority to change the Latin Mass? He has full authority in the Church on earth. Since the supporters of the TLM claim for themselves the authority to make decisions about the Latin Mass, whether more changes will be made and whether it will continue, this implies that the Pope has that same authority. For he possesses the full authority given to the Church on earth. Every authority held by anyone in the Church on earth, is held by the Roman Pontiff.

(1) So by acting as if they have authority over the TLM, they imply that the Pope has authority over the TLM.
(2) Then their acceptance of changes to the Latin Mass from Gregory I to John XXIII also implies that the Pope has authority over the Latin Mass.
(3) And, thirdly, the document Mediator Dei by Pope Pius XII states that the Pope has authority over the Mass, and that he need not keep every traditional or ancient rite, and that he can institute new changes to the Mass.

And if traditionalist still wish to argue: Does the Pope have the authority to excommunicate you, to suspend a disobedient priest a divinis, and to laicize clergy? Yes, he does. So if you stand up in the fact of the Supreme Pontiff and deny his authority, he can exercise his authority over you.

Pope Pius XII: “the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.”

Pope Pius XII: “the use of the mother tongue in connection with several of the rites may be of much advantage to the people. But the Apostolic See alone is empowered to grant this permission. It is forbidden, therefore, to take any action whatever of this nature without having requested and obtained such consent, since the sacred liturgy, as We have said, is entirely subject to the discretion and approval of the Holy See.”

Pope Pius XII: “Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.”

Pope Francis has supreme full authority over the Mass, to require the Novus Ordo Mass, and to change or suspend the TLM.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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3 Responses to Are There Limits to Papal Authority over the Mass?

  1. M. Jean-Paul Benoist says:

    My dear Friends,

    Only one limit: Saint Pie V: Bulle “Quo primum tempore!” Perpetually with Anathem!

    Sincerely yours,

    In union of prayers.

    God save ours!

    Only one solution: Fatima, the Holy Rosary daily.

  2. Robert L Fastiggi says:

    James Likoudis and Kenneth D. Whitehead deal with St. Pius V’s “Quo Primum” in their book, “The Pope, the Council, and the Mass” (Emmaus Road, 2006) Among other things, they note that “in perpetuity” in ecclesiastical documents refers to decisions that remain in force indefinitely until subsequently modified. On Feb. 1, 1400, Pope Boniface IX granted permission to the abbot of St. Osyth in England and his successors permission to ordain monks to the major orders (subdeacon, deacon, priest). This permission was granted “in perpetuum” even though the abbott was not a bishop. (see Denz.-H, 1145). Three years later this “perpetual” permission was revoked (see Denz.-H, 1146). One meaning of “perpetuus” in Latin is “continual.”

  3. john says:

    Given your remarks in the evolution of the Mass, perhaps it would be wise to drop the title “TLM Mass” and call it the “1962 Mass”, which is what it is. The 1970 Mass is a continuation of the tradition and it is written in Latin (but can be celebrated in any language for which an authorized translation of the Latin exists). The 1962 Missal lasted merely three years. The 1970 Mass has lasted over 50 years with only two minor revisions. It has just as much right to be described as the “traditional Latin (Rite) Mass” as the 1962 Mass.

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