Priests don’t need bishop’s permission to offer Extraordinary Mass
FEBRUARY 18, 2017
If you are a priest who has been hassled by your bishop about saying the traditional Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum, pay attention. Help has arrived.
Recently a priest of my acquaintance sent two questions to my old haunts the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”. Here are the priest’s questions with the answers from the PCED following the answers. The original response follows, below.
1. Do the provisions of Summorum Pontificum permit an ordinary to require that all priests first obtain his permission to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, or do the provision of the motu proprio itself grant such permission?
Ad primum: as to the first part: negative ; as to the second part: affirmative. It should however be clear that it pertains to the Local Ordinary to ensure that the priest is idoneus as required by Art5§4 of the Motu Proprio.
2. Do the provisions of Summorum Pontificum require a pastor (parochus) to obtain the permission of his ordinary to have the Extraordinary Form of the Mass said in his parish, or is the pastor obligated only to consult his ordinary?
Ad secundum: in a case such as those referred to under Art. 5§1 of the Motu Proprio, the Pastor should inform the Local Ordinary, insofar as the latter, as Moderator of the liturgical life in the Diocese (Can. 835 §1), is competent to verify the existence of the coetus fidelium and the availability of a qualified priest ; in the case of occasional celebrations, Art. 5 §3 of the Motu Proprio is to be applied.
1 a) Under Summorum Pontificum a priest does NOT need the permission of a local ordinary (read in effect: the diocesan bishop – there are more than one type of “ordinary”) to use the 1962MR.
1 b) The Local Ordinary, however, can determine of the priest is “idoneus“.
2) Pastors do not need permission of the bishop to have regularly scheduled Masses with the 1962MR at the parish. The Bishop can still make determinations about whether or not there is a coetus and if there is a qualified (idoneus, I suppose) priest available. Otherwise, for occasional Masses the pastor is pretty much in charge.
We have to look at two issues here. What is “idoneus” (“fit for, suitable, apt, capable”) and what is a “coetus” (“an assemblage, group, meeting together”). In years past I have been over this ground thoroughly. Here are some pointers.
First and foremost, idoneus means a minimum capability. It does not mean “expertise”. Remember that the Church’s law must be interpreted in the most favorable way when it comes to people’s rights (favorabilia ampliantur). Summorum Pontificum establishes that, if priest has faculties to say Mass at all, he therefore automatically has the faculty also to use the 1962 Missale Romanum. If he has faculties he must be assumed to be idoneus and also not impeded. He is capable of celebration Mass with the Roman Rite in either use. That is the juridical point of view. But we know that the practical view is a little different. It is reasonable that a priest should know the language he is going to use for Mass. His Eminence Edward Card. Egan of New York, who was a well-known canonist, said for his Archdiocese when Summorum Pontificum came out in his policy statement:
1. Priests who choose to celebrate Mass in the “extraordinary” form must have a sufficient knowledge of the Latin language to pronounce the words correctly.
Card. Egan was correct. The priest does not have to be an expert Latinist. That is what idoneus is all about: it is minimum qualification (faculties, etc.), not expertise in the Latin language. Idoneus cannot be interpreted so widely as to restrict a priest’s rights unreasonably. To impose a Latin test for the older form of Mass would be a supreme injustice without also imposing a test of every priest of the diocese for the newer form. It would be a hypocritical, punitive double-standard not also to test every priest who says Mass in, say, Spanish, not to mention what the GIRM and rubrics of the Novus Ordo really say and then confirm that the priest sticks to them.
Do we want priests to be able to do more than say the words properly? Sure. Remember that the 1983 Canon Law states that seminarians should be very well trained in Latin (can 249). Thus, if the bishop doesn’t insist that his seminarians get some Latin, he is being negligent, and when someone stands up to say publicly that the seminarians are properly formed, they aren’t exactly telling the truth. The same can be said for the emphasis on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas stressed in canon law, as well as knowledge of the whole of the Roman Rite, which includes the TLM. But I digress.
As far as a “stable group”, a coetus, is concerned, Summorum Pontificum indicates:
Art. 5, § 1. In parishes, where there is stably present a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition, let the pastor willingly receive their petitions that Mass be celebrated according to the Rite of the Missale Romanum issued in 1962. …
The usual liberal common-sense defying questions arose about how big the group had to be and whether or not they had to be registered in the parish in question, blah blah blah. Those questions were clearly answered. The Instruction about Summorum Pontificum called Universae Ecclesiae:
15. A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose.
The law on this says “some people”. There is no minimum number identified by the Holy See. Some have mentioned that a coetus in other contexts can be as few a three. And the priest himself can be a part of the coetus! It is, therefore, wrong to try to impose a minimum number. For example, Bp. Fatty McButterpants of the Diocese of Libville writes to Fr. Joe Wlotrzewiszczykowycki, who tried to get something good going at his parish, St. Christine the Astonishing, for the many refugees from Fr. Bruce Hugalot’s Sing A New Faith Community Into Being Faith Community: “There must be at least 100 people! They must live in the parish boundaries! And you have to be able to write an essay in the Latin style of Tacitus about why you want to do this!” No. Fatty is acting ultra vires. Also, the people in the group do NOT have to be from the same parish, either as registrants or territorial residents. They don’t even have to be from the same diocese. They just have be coming around regularly for the purpose of attending Mass. As it turns out, however, Bp. McButterpants will wind up crucifying Fr. Wlotrzewiszczykowycki in a thousand other ways, which prompts him to flee to Bp. Noble in the nearby Diocese of Black Duck with the help of Msgr. Zuhlsdorf at St. Ipsidipsy in Tall Tree Circle.
From Father Z’s blog.