The rumors appear to be true: Pope Francis is planning to rescind Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio liberalizing the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass (TLM), which Benedict dubbed the “Extraordinary Form” of the Latin Rite. This at a time when the TLM has been flourishing while most of the Church is experiencing significant declines. Before exploring why Pope Francis is considering this radical move, it might be helpful to briefly review the history of the TLM over the past 60+ years.
In the mid-20th century, many leading Catholics believed in a need for “liturgical reform.” How exactly that reform would play out was hotly debated, but most Catholic liturgists and theologians agreed that some changes were needed.
Pope Pius XII, responding to this desire, authorized a few changes to the Mass in the 1950’s. These were relatively minor, and for pew-sitting Catholics, the reforms were, on a whole, barely noticed. Then, in the early 1960’s the Second Vatican Council essentially declared that, yes, the Church should make more reforms to the Mass. This led to wholesale changes in the liturgy with the institution of the “Novus Ordo Missae” (the “New Order of the Mass”) promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. This of course is the Mass said in almost every Latin Catholic parish in the world today, and which Pope Benedict called the “Ordinary Form” of the Latin Rite.