ARLINGTON, Va. — Supporters of the Traditional Latin Mass are petitioning Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, to lift restrictions he recently imposed on the celebration of the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form.
“In the spirit of the Synodal Path that the church has embarked upon, we humbly ask that you engage in consultations with the faithful of each parish church potentially affected by restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass,” says the petition, which was published on the petition website Change.org on Jan. 14.
“And we pray fervently that you might offer permission to allow the Extraordinary Form and other traditional sacraments to continue across the Diocese of Arlington.”
The petition had garnered more than 1,000 signatures by 6 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The Diocese of Arlington is one of the two Catholic dioceses in Virginia. Its territory covers the northern part of the state. Twenty-one of the diocese’s 70 parishes offer the Latin Mass, one of the highest percentages among U.S. dioceses.
In early January, Bishop Burbidge issued a statement concerning the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the diocese. While Bishop Burbidge did not restrict any of the existing Latin Masses in the diocese, he said there is to be no “scheduling of new celebrations of the Sacraments (such as baptisms and weddings) in the Extraordinary Form.”
“Those which have already been scheduled are permitted to continue as planned,” said Bishop Burbidge.
Bishop Burbidge issued his directive as a response to the “responsa ad dubia” published by the Vatican on Dec. 18. Among the things listed in the responsa, the Divine Worship congregation said that, according to Traditionis custodes, sacraments cannot be celebrated using the liturgical books Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum promulgated prior to the Vatican II reforms.
In a letter to bishops accompanying Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis said that the celebration of the Latin Mass “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’”
The Pope also lamented that communities dedicated to the Latin Mass had “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”
The petition says those characterizations do not apply “in any way” in the Arlington Diocese.
“Traditional Latin Mass attendees in this diocese are marked by deep reverence and love for the Church and a burning desire to live our Catholic faith as fully as possible, not a sense of disunity and schism,” it continues.
The petition adds that the laity have been “devastated” at the new restrictions, and that there is a “profound sense of loss and grief at the prospect of losing the ability to celebrate the Mass and other sacraments in the Old Rite.”
“At a time when there is so much darkness and despair in the world and in our country, we find the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be a beacon of light and hope — one which touches our hearts and nourishes our Catholic Faith,” says the petition.
The petition was started by Noah Peters, a parishioner at St. John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. Peters converted to Catholicism from Judaism in 2020, and his wife is a former Protestant.
After seeing “YouTube traditionalists” discuss the Latin Mass, Peters, 36-year-old lawyer living in Fairfax, was steered in the direction of a parish in the Diocese of Arlington. He said his first experience seeing the Latin Mass in 2019 “blew me away,” and that “any doubt about converting went away immediately.”
While he had attended the Novus Ordo before, and found it to be “fine, perhaps a bit rote,” he thought “there was something special about the TLM.”
When Traditionis custodes was released in July, Peters and his wife were in marriage preparation. He told CNA he was “shocked” by the motu proprio. They were married, in the Extraordinary Form, in October 2021.
“[My wife and I] were totally confused as to why the Vatican would focus on this at a time when the Catholic church is suffering from such a decrease in Mass attendance and belief,” he said. That feeling later became a sense of powerlessness, he said.
“This petition was born of trying to overcome that awful feeling,” explained Peters. He hopes to “give voice to all the people who love the Traditional Mass in Arlington” through the petition drive.
Peters plans on personally handing Bishop Burbidge a printout of the signed petition.
“I am sympathetic to him because he is being placed in an impossible position,” he said, noting that he and his predecessors had helped the diocese become a hub for the Traditional Mass.
“Now he has pressure to go suddenly in reverse,” said Peters. “That is why he asked for our prayers.” The petition, Peters said, reflects those prayers from Catholics in the diocese.
But for Peters, another motivation is looking ahead to the future. Namely, his own future generations.
“Ultimately, we want others — especially our children — to experience the deep Catholic faith that we have experienced through the TLM,” he said.
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