The Latin Mass and the pope’s executive decree


Bishop Ricken

As you hopefully know by now, this weekend will begin the reinstatement of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. In the last two issues of The Compass (Part I & Part II), I used my column to invite people back to Mass to receive the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift that Jesus left his church. 

Throughout the Diocese of Green Bay, the Mass is celebrated in our parishes, schools, religious houses, oratories and chapels each and every day. We are privileged to be able to receive the gift of the Eucharist. I hope that each of you will take advantage of the opportunity to receive the Eucharist, not only on Sundays, but during the week as well.

Recently, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio (executive decree), titled “Traditionis Custodes,” which in Latin means “Guardians of the Tradition.” The document provides instruction regarding the celebration of the Tridentine or Latin Mass and stresses the importance of the local bishop’s oversight over its celebration. 

The Tridentine Mass has always been a part of our diocese and, in recent years, these Masses have been celebrated daily at St. Patrick Oratory in Green Bay and, occasionally, at other parishes and locations. The Tridentine Mass is part of the fabric of our local church and the priests and members of the faithful who worship at this Mass have my support as their spiritual father.

Since the Holy Father’s document is very recent and contains some elements which need further clarification, I will take time in the coming weeks to further understand it and to prayerfully plan for its proper implementation. In the meantime, I have provided guidelines to our priests with regard to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. These guidelines were sent directly to the priests and summarized in the last issue of The Compass (July 30, 2021). During this time, I will continue to pray and discern how best to preserve the unity of the church here in the Diocese of Green Bay, while also allowing for the diversity of worship that meets the needs of the faithful.

In all of this, I am reminded of the four marks of the church, which we recite during the creed: I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Each of these characteristics has great meaning to our faith. The word “catholic” means universal and points to the fact that the church and the salvation it offers is meant for all people in our world.

Because the church is for all people, around the world we find the Mass celebrated in different languages and following different rites. Yet, the church is also one, and no matter where we attend Mass, no matter what language is spoken, it is the gift of the holy Eucharist that makes us one in our faith as Catholics. What a blessing is this unity!

At the same time, the church is holy and apostolic. When we say the church is holy, we mean that the church is guided by the Holy Spirit, leading us closer to Jesus and to heaven. The word “apostolic” refers to the way that this gift of the Holy Spirit is mediated through Peter and the apostles and their successors, the pope and the bishops. While we navigate these new instructions from Pope Francis, the successor to St. Peter, I ask that you pray for him and for me and for all bishops, as successors to the apostles, that we might be faithful to the Holy Spirit in leading the people of faith into communion with one another and with God.

We are all part of the one Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, which has stood for almost 2,000 years. In our unity and in our variety of liturgical expressions, we are one in faith. What a blessing it is to be disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.