At this time there will be no changes to the celebration of the Latin Mass in the Portland Archdiocese. That was the message of Archbishop Alexander Sample as he responded July 20 to a new church law promulgated by Pope Francis four days prior.

The pope’s decree — issued “motu proprio,” meaning on his own initiative — restricts the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. Pope Benedict XVI liberalized its use in 2007 in an attempt to “recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter accompanying his decree, which has drawn ire and praise.

Instead the opportunity has been “exploited” and advanced division, said the pope. “In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors.”

In his letter to western Oregon Catholics, Archbishop Sample pointed out that throughout the new law, titled “Traditionis Custodes,” and the letter accompanying it, Pope Francis highlights the right and duty of the diocesan bishop to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. That authority is given to bishop as “moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him,” the archbishop said, quoting the new document.

He said careful implementation of the motu proprio will take “study, consultation and time.” But he assured the faithful of his intent “to observe the canonical requirements of the motu proprio while supporting our priests and faithful in their desire to celebrate the sacraments according to the liturgical books of 1962.” The Roman Missal used in the Latin Mass was promulgated by St. Pius V and revised by St. John XXIII in 1962.

“I have great admiration for the devotion of the priests and lay faithful who have maintained the use of the Extraordinary Form in our local church,” continued the archbishop. He affirmed that diocesan and religious priests in the archdiocese who have celebrated the Latin Mass up until now “may continue to do so with no changes at this time.”

“Further guidance will be forthcoming regarding the prudent, charitable, and pastorally sound means of implementing the provisions of the motu proprio.”

Under the new law, bishops must determine if groups of the faithful attached to the old Mass accept the validity of Vatican II. Priests already celebrating the Latin Mass must now obtain permission from their bishop to continue doing so. And new priests who wish to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass must submit a request to their bishop, and the bishop must then consult with the Vatican before granting permission. Bishops also should determine specific times and locations where the Latin Mass can be celebrated.

The pope issued his decree after analyzing responses to a questionnaire sent to bishops by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis said he was distressed “by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides.”

“In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that ‘in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’

“But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 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.’”