Today at noon in Rome, the Vatican Press Office published a rescript confirming that dispensations from the July 16, 2021, motu proprio Traditionis Custodes are reserved to the Apostolic See. The document, published in Italian and signed by Cardinal Arthur Roche, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (DDW), was approved by the pope during a private audience with Cardinal Roche yesterday, February 20.

A rescript, defined by Canon 59 §1 in the Code of Canon Law, is an administrative act that “grants a privilege, dispensation, or other favor at someone’s request.” This rescript provides papal confirmation that dispensations from the articles of Traditionis Custodes prohibiting the use of parish churches and the erection of personal parishes for the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal (cf. Art. 3§2) and granting permission for priests ordained after July 16, 2021 to celebrate the older form of the Mass (cf. Art. 4) are “reserved in a special way to the Apostolic See.” Additionally, bishops who have already issued dispensations without consulting the DDW must notify the dicastery as soon as possible regarding these dispensations.

Furthermore, the rescript reasserts what was already stated in Traditionis Custodes — that the DDW “exercises the authority of the Holy See in the above-mentioned cases, supervising the observance of the provisions.” This is in line with the analysis I published on Friday.

This document clears up the confusion raised by papal critics, including anonymous canonists mentioned in a February 10 article in the Pillar, who argued that Cardinal Roche was not exercising the authority granted to his office by the pope, but was “out over his skis” and participating in “a violation of natural justice” by implementing the pope’s directives “in ways that defy their plain meaning.”

Contrary to the arguments put forth by many papal critics, the document confirms that the authority of the DDW regarding these matters was “stipulated in Article 7 of Motu proprio Traditionis custodes.” This is in line with the statements of Cardinal Roche in his Responsa ad Dubia of December 21, 2021, as well as multiple letters from his dicastery to individual bishops. It reasserts that the DDW “exercises the authority of the Holy See in the above-mentioned cases, supervising the observance of the provisions.”

The Pillar’s editors and others who oppose the pope’s initiatives centered their arguments around the notion that the Responsa did not represent an authoritative interpretation of Traditionis Custodes, despite having explicit papal assent. The rescript rebuts this thesis, stating that “the Holy Father, confirms — having already expressed his assent in the audience of November 18, 2021 — what was established in the Responsa ad Dubia with the attached Explanatory Notes of December 4, 2021.”

The document concludes with the pope’s order that the Rescript be published in L’Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican newspaper) and is the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (as an official act of the Apostolic See).

The new rescript seems to settle this matter, but those seeking to undermine Pope Francis are always looking for new loopholes.

Image: Pope Francis and Cardinal Arthur Roche. © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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