Good Question

A friend has asked me this question about the Latin Mass:

What would you do Father if a group of parishioners at St. Mary’s or St. Joseph’s requested you to offer the Traditional Latin Mass regularly.

The motu proprio is quite clear on what the Pope and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei expects. Would you follow the Pope to the letter of his motu proprio?

I expect h is referring to this from the moto proprio:

Art. 5. § 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.

My friend is very enthusiastic about the Latin Mass, so I am assuming he reads this as if any group of people can demand their priest celebrate the Mass of Bl. John XXIII.

This is where my former post about interpretation comes in. First of all, I am not the parish priest, and this rule applies to parishes so it is beyond my jurisdiction to say what may happen at St Mary’s. At St Joseph’s I would have the authority to say Mass in Latin I suppose. However there are several other considerations: the pastor is supposed to ensure that “the welfare of the faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop, and avoiding discord and favoring unity of the whole church.”

I therefore would need to consider what my bishop thinks of the matter, and consider the pastoral concerns of the whole community and not just those who are asking for the Latin Mass. This is difficult because to impose the Missal of Bl. John XXIII on the whole community would be pastorally unfair, but to celebrate a regular Mass for a separate group of the faithful would foster disunity. Tough one.

The most interesting word in the ruling is the word ‘stable’. It says is a ‘stable’ group of parishioners asks for the Latin Mass their request is to be considered. But what does ‘stable’ mean? Must they be stable as a group? Stable as individuals or stable as families? Does this mean emotional and mental stability, spiritual stability or stability in their commitment to the parish?

This is a very important consideration. In some places there are groups of people who are not emotionally or spiritually stable, but more important than that, there are others who are not stable in their commitment either to the Pope or to their local parish. They trot off to whatever celebration of Mass they deem best. For example, some people forsake their parish (even when they have a good conservative priest celebrating the Novus Ordo reverently) for SSPX masses, or they drive hundreds of miles to attend a fraternity of St Peter Latin Mass. They are entitled to do so, but it is arguable that such individuals, families and groups are not stable in their spiritual lives or their parochial commitment, and I expect many parish priests would not wish therefore to take their requests seriously.

In addition to this article 4 states: “Priests who use the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.”

Unfortunately, I am not yet qualified to celebrate the Mass of Bl. John XXIII. Should I gain this qualification and the other circumstances are in accord with the Pope’s wishes I would gladly celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII.

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  • bernadette

    So your answer to the question would be….. at a guess – and for understandable reasons, “No”? (I hate cliff-hangers and loose-ends).Also, isn`t “stability” a Benedictine characteristic ? I asked our priest, also a Benedictine, what a “stable” request for Latin mass meant and he said it couldn`t come from someone who had only moved into the parish six weeks ago. But now I`m even more confused. Isn`t the whole point of the CATHOLIC church that we are universal ? In any case, many of us have no choice (uk) but to travel to other parishes these days because of a priestly shortage. I thought it was the PROTESTANTS whose outlook was parochial.

  • Kurt

    I have no particular brief for the extraordinary form (I have never attended Mass in that form and, while I’m sure that I will at some point, it is not the highest thing on my agenda). Nevertheless, I think that many parish priests are reading the recent motu proprio in an unduly restrictive fashion. While I agree with you that the parish priest must take the needs of the whole parish into account (always a sensitive question), I think that it is wrong to attach so much importance to the word “stable”.The translation which you quote is not the legislative text. The US Bishops Conference Committee on Liturgy describes it as “an unofficial translation… for the convenience of our readers”. To reach an authentic interpretation of the document, it is important to look at the original text.The word “stable” in the English text does not correspond to a single word in the Latin text. Rather, it is an attempt to render idiomatically the Latin words continenter exsistit (literally “it exists continually”). The issue, then, is whether there continues to be a group in the parish that adheres to the older liturgical tradition. There seems to be no requirement that the make-up of the group should be unchanging and there is absolutely no reference to the emotional or spiritual “stability” of the persons making up that group.

  • Kurt,thanks for the clarification on the word ‘stable’. Good point.I take it then, that this means there is a group who is ‘continuous’ in a parish, who are regular and faithful members, and have been for some time.

  • Actually, Bernadette, my answer was ‘yes’ under the right conditions.

  • As Kurt points out, the word “stable” does not occur in the official Latin text and should not have been introduced into the (unofficial) English translation.There is no mention of any particular number of people required to form a ‘group’. In both secuar and Canon Law two people are a group although for practical reasons a Pastor would not be unreasonable in refusing a request for a regular Mass from fewer than about 10 people.Since the M.P. legislates that in ‘normal’ parishes there shall be only one ‘extraordinary’ form Mass on a Sunday or Holyday, it is clear that the parishioners are not to be deprived of the ‘ordinary’ form. This may mean adding an extra Mass or changing only one of several Masses to the ‘extraordinary’ form.It cannot be argued that having a Mass in Latin is divisive when Masses are already being regularly said in Spanish and even, in some places, in Esperanto – languages which only a minority understand. Indeed, the experience of parishes where an Indult Mass has been added to the schedule show that those attending it often take a very active part in the other activities of the Parish – even allowing that many travel significant distances for the Traditional Mass.It is for the Pastor, and the Pastor alone, to decide if he can provide for the legitimate aspirations of his flock in respect of the Extraordinary Form. The Bishop’s ONLY control is to ensure that when it is said, it is said in accordance with the rubrics by a Priest who can at least properly pronounce the Latin. He cannot forbid the use of this form. Indeed, if the Pastor is unable to provide the requested Mass (possibly through lack of knowledge of the Latin or the Rubrics) the Bishop has a DUTY to do his best to provide an alternative Celebrant or to set up education for his clergy so that they CAN properly say the Mass.

  • Anonymous

    As a young priest who was asked recently to begin celebrating the extraordinary form regularly and teaching it to other priests, I am asking myself why it is that some Catholics just do not seem to understand the push for that rite. To me and my Latin Mass devotees it is quite simple: we as Catholics have always done this, so why is there such a problem doing it now? The point of the MP is that those attracted to this rite have been treated like second-class Catholics because of their preference. The St Mary’s, Greenville blog response to the MP has been to do the same. It is as if no one is reading the document: there is a plurality of rites in the Church and priests should respect that. Perhaps if priests spent more time trying to actually live the Mass in either form and not waging liturgical wars on either side in blogdom, then all of the Church would be renewed. As it is, the continued spilling of cyberink on the Latin Mass by those clerics who see it as a marginal issue just goes to show that even priests who considern themselves faithful to the Church really do not want to do what the MP really says. I am doing it in my parish and there is no problem; why should it be one in Greenville?

  • Father, to clarify the situation here in Greenville, the Mass of Bl John XXIII is celebrated once a month at Prince of Peace parish, and I believe that is soon to be increased to weekly.I think parish priests do respect the fact that there are different rites, but the fact of the matter is, this really is a marginal issue: in terms of numbers, those who wish for the Latin Mass are relatively minute.In a town where there are, say 15,000 people attending Mass the Latin celebration draws less than 100. With a shortage of priests it is difficult to justify too many special masses for a handful of people who want mass they way they want it.

  • Kurt

    Fr Dwight,Yes. I think that the ‘continuity’ referred to in the motu proprio is continuous existence of the group rather than precise continuity of membership. In the situation you mention — where the parish priest feels unable to accept a request from a relatively small group because of an already busy Mass schedule — the motu proprio anticipates that the assistance of the bishop should be sought. One possible solution might involve co-ordination between local parishes to ensure that a regular Mass in the extraordinary form is provided somewhere in the area.I think that if all concerned approach these questions in a spirit of generosity and mutual understanding, good pastoral solutions can be found. Your openness to discussing these issues seems to be the right sort of approach.

  • I suspect there’s far less a problem with priests being restrictive than with “traditionalists” being arrogant and demanding. No one ever promised every parish or even every town would have the extraordinary form.The people who want it have to remember that they’re making a request, not issuing orders.

  • Dear Father,Sorry, may i ask you something that is out of this topic. You were from protestant background so you may know the questions that protestants have against Catholic theology (e.g. Marian theology). How did you overcome these issues? See I’m from protestant background and just wanted to ask your view and don’t know how else to contact you.

  • Ah well…it will all come out in the wash!

  • Oh i’d probably come out as ‘unstable’ anyways!

  • Anonymous

    Father, I am very well aware of the situation in Greenville as I served as the Administrator of St Mary’s recently and posted as anonymous only because my computer would not let me sign in otherwise. Had the people who wanted the Latin Mass been treated from the beginning as Pope Benedict is now treating them, then there would not be any acrimonious discussion. When I was ordained, I took a vow to celebrate the sacraments according to the tradition of the Church. Benedict has asked his clergy to do so under two ritual forms. Benedict’s concern is not the quantity of worshippers, but the quality of worship. It is his hope that increased celebration of the old rite will do what mass is supposed to do – increase grace in the entire Church. It is not the call of bishops or priests to unduly restrict the MP, because if it were their call, then it would not have been publsihed in the first place. As a priest who celebrates both forms, I find it offensive that some of my brother priests would look askance at those priests and laity who just want to say Mass as Catholics have said mass for centuries. As priests, we must be very careful about broadcasting our opinions about anything in the Church as it compromises the efficacy of our ministry. Let us stick to faith and morals and celebrate Mass and leave the rest behind, because the fruit of these discussions has been nothing more than the eradication of interior peace among the faithful, and that, Father, is the work of the Devil. Not the traditional mass.

  • Indeed Fr Chris. I hope I have made it clear that I am personally in favor of the new liberties for the traditional Mass and wish those who treasure that tradition all blessings, and I’m sorry if they have been mis-treated in the past.What troubles me is that some of the more extreme advocates of the Latin Mass don’t seem satisfied with that.It is as if one can only be in favor of the Latin Mass if one is also violently opposed to the Ordinary Rite.It is not the Latin Mass that I have a problem with, but those who go against the MP by continuing to badmouth the Ordinary Rite.However, the question of numbers is real. With the shortage of priests and the increasing numbers of parishioners many parish priests will quite rightly ask whether an additional Mass in a specialist language for a small number of people is necessary.

  • boredoftheworld

    Ask that question of the Pope, he seems to think it is necessary, else why this document in the first place?I am appalled by the number of priests and bishops who, while loudly proclaiming their ardent devotion to the Pope, are seemingly making the language of the MP do cartwheels in order to make it as dead a letter as possible. Read it and the accompanying letter again without the “we don’t need this here because we’re already the template for the rest of the world” mindset. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there it is.

  • Dear Bored, I’m sorry, I must have missed something here, and I’m not sure quite what your point is.Maybe some priests are trying to make the MP a dead letter, but I can only speak from my own perspective. While I’m glad there are new freedoms for the celebration of the old Mass, I doubt whether the numbers who request this Mass will mean that it is celebrated widely.I’m happy to be corrected on this, and time will tell, but from what I see on the ground amongst ordinary Catholics I see very little enthusiasm at all for the Latin Mass. This may change over time, but that’s how it looks at the moment.Recognizing this pastoral fact doesn’t mean that a priest is necessarily trying to disobey the pope or inhibit the MP.

  • Anonymous

    In regards to the numbers, I know that the only extraordinary rite mass offered in Greenville at Prince of Peace is at 5:00 pm on Sunday. For a person who is interested in respecting traditions of the Church, assisting at Mass at the end of Sunday, seems to go against the high regard of beginning the Lord’s Day with Mass. Also, for those who still respect the midnight fast, waiting until 5pm to be in communion is an undo strain. That is why we do not attend, although we really want to. I believe this (and many other reasons too numerous to cite in a comment) lends to the low turnout.To be certain of the ‘popularity’ (for lack of a better term), why not introduce the extraordinary rite at a common time, say the 9:00 Sunday mass and do it on two separate occasions (to see if people return)? Parishioners should be given fair warning, of course, that there will be a change of schedule.Also, I know that some priests are offering preparatory introduction classes to parishioners during the week to any who would like to attend. That would also give a better understanding of the true demand for the extraordinary rite while still respecting unity and other pastoral concerns. I have humbly resisted the urge to attack the Novus Ordo in my personal and family worship. I believe there is no reason to attack it if you want to maintain the credibility of being obedient. However, as my wife and I have moved around the country, we have made a startling discovery: EVERY parish that celebrated the extraordinary rite was obedient in ALL teachings Catholic. Unfortunately, we rolled the dice when going to parishes that only celebrated the ordinary rite. Because we have moved so much, we have made the decision that we would first look for the parish that celebrated the extraordinary rite in town. If not available, well, we rolled the dice, many times, through many disappointing caricatures of Catholicism, until we found a dogmatically legitimate parish.I would love it if St. Mary’s in Greenville would offer the extraordinary rite. However, as parishioners who read Fr. Newman’s blog and bulletins, my wife and I are scared to death of making such a request of him. We love Fr. Newman, St. Mary’s and the parish community there. We also love the extraordinary rite and the severe way it focuses your attention on Christ. How can we reconcile these two things, without earning the ire of Fr. Newman?

  • Benfan

    I have been brought up in the Novus Ordo mass. I have attended the extraordinary form quite recently. I find it increasingly hard to return to the Novus Ordo. I know where my heart is. I know where I am being fed. If I were a priest I would encourage the celebration of the extraordinary form. If my experience is representative then this is the proper pastoral response. How could a priest who cares for his flock choose otherwise. Of course I may not be representative but you will never know that if you do not test it. What about a simple trial basis with some preparations for your flock? This is too important to be left to personal judgments either by the priest or their flock without the experience of this mass. My only regret is that I never knew about this rite and my own catholic culture. This had been taken away from me and I had to go digging for it myself. This situation is not right and initially I felt very upset, not a few tears have fallen. As regards negativety. I recently attended a traditional mass with a man who came out of curiosity. He found the whole thing a source of frustration. Too much bowing and scraping by the priest, (humility to me), Not enough english (when asked he could’nt remember any reading or gospel from last weeks sunday’s english mass he had attended).Priest does everything and the people don’t get a look in (If you do not let me wash your feet….). Why were we of two different minds? He says my faith is in the dark ages even though I have passed through the same process as he has. On the mass we are not of one mind, one body, one spirit. What he did concede was that it was much more reverent and this has been lost. He is a good man and even though we are both Catholic, it feels like we are strangers in faith who share the same reference point but are on different mountains. How can this be?

  • Different

    To the anonymous poster who complained about the 5 PM extraordinary Mass…This is exactly the attitude that gives traditionalists a bad reputation. A priest is doing his best to accomodate a small group of people and yet the response is to complain about the time? And people are so intent on observing a completely optional “midnight” fast that they would forego the opportunity to attend the extraordinary Mass???Something there is really not right. Which is more important the length of the fast or the Mass?

  • Anonymous

    In defense of my comment about assisting at the 5 pm time slot for mass, I said that we did not attend because it is not traditional to end Sunday with Mass, it is traditional to BEGIN Sunday with Mass. I was not ‘complaining’ about the time. I was merely referring to the time of day and the reality of the midnight fast (which is not optional, by the way) as two of many possible reasons why there is a LOW TURNOUT at a 5 pm traditional mass. I am grateful (as are all the ‘traditionalists’ – I, for one, am Catholic) that such a humble priest makes the sacrifice of offering the extraordinary mass.So to the ‘different’ poster who misread my comment, this is exactly what gives modernist Catholics their reputation of being ignorant – they create realities that aren’t there.

  • Different

    Anonymous-The midnight fast is completely optional and not in any way mandatory as you suggest. The Church requires a fast of one hour before Communion. Anything else might be very nice, but it is NOT required. The Missal of 1962 doesn’t exist in a magical vacuum without regard to current canon law. The length of the fast is 1 hour as stipulated in canon 919. This law is in force for all of the Latin rite which includes both the extraordinary as well as the ordinary form of the Mass.Hope this helps to clarify.As for the starting Sunday with Mass, yes, that is a very good thing. But of the extraordinary for is SO important, isn’t it better to at least have it available even if it’s not at the beginning of the day?

  • Different

    Anonymous…Your remark that backhandedly calls me a modernist is uncalled for. I merely highlighted the oddity of people refusing to attend an extraordinary form Mass because they cannot adhere to a Midnight fast, which according to Canon Law, is not mandatory.I fail to see how drawing attention to this makes me a “modernist.”

  • Anonymous

    Different, you again have not read one bit of my comments. Fr Dwight made the observation that there is little interest in Greenville because few attend the 5 pm once-a-month extraordinary rite Mass offered, I offered two possible reasons why it may not be the mass itself that is not popular. These were two of a great multitude of reasons why a 5 pm mass might not attract many people. They were not intended as the ONLY reasons. Most 5 pm Sunday masses are lightly populated anyway. That means that most people think this way, not just those who have an interest in the extraordinary mass. As for my ‘backhandedly’ calling you a modernist, that was in response to your directly calling me a ‘traditionalist’ in addition to accusing me of ‘complaining’. I am a Catholic. Not a traditionalist Catholic. Just a Catholic. You felt it necessary to label me based on a sampling of comments I made and you misunderstood. So I played by the rules you set up and did the same. If you find it uncalled for, I would agree with you. Please do not do it either. Here is a suggestion – re-read my original post. Then once you understand my position, critique it. There is no joy in having a debate with someone who seems like they’re arguing about another subject.

  • Dear Anonymous, just one point following your last comment:You observed that Sunday evening masses are lightly populated and this might explain the relatively small support the Latin Mass here in Greenville enjoys.This has to be put against the other Sunday evening Mass which is held here in town: the 6:30 Life Teen Mass at St Mary Magdalene parish.St Mary Magdalene is packed out for this Sunday evening Mass. I don’t know how many the church seats, maybe 800 – 1000?The Sunday evening Mass at St Mary Magdalene is actually very popular, and we must conclude therefore that a very large number of Catholics here in Greenville are not just putting up with the Life Teen Mass. They actually enjoy it and choose this Mass.It may be true that as the Mass of Blessed John XXIII is celebrated more widely it will become more popular. Based on my knowledge of ordinary Catholics in the pew I doubt it, but I’m happy to be wrong if things develop differently.

  • Anonymous

    “Based on my knowledge of ordinary Catholics in the pew I doubt it, but I’m happy to be wrong if things develop differently.”Based on my knowledge the ordinary Catholic in the pew doesn’t actually know that much about the Catholic faith so I wouldn’t really trust their judgement on this matter…..

  • I guess we’ll differ on this one. I’ve found that the ordinary Catholic in the pew may not know his theology as well as perhaps they ought, but they often have a lot to teach me about love, tolerance, self sacrifice, good humor, acceptance of others who are different and perseverance in the faith.I have a lot of time for the ordinary Catholic in the pew. I learn a lot from them, and from my time in the confessional I usually feel that they’re far better Christians than I will ever be.I’m willing to listen to them and learn something.

  • Different

    Anonymous,I went back and read your posts. You accused me of misrepresenting you when I indicated that I found your position of caring more about a fast than the extraordinary form of the Mass. For the record you stated:”Also, for those who still respect the midnight fast, waiting until 5pm to be in communion is an undo strain. That is why we do not attend, although we really want to.”Since you used the word “WE” I assumed that you were including yourself as among those who do not attend due to the fast issue since that is what you wrote.In regard to your last response to Fr. Longenecker…You wrote:”Based on my knowledge the ordinary Catholic in the pew doesn’t actually know that much about the Catholic faith so I wouldn’t really trust their judgement on this matter…..”I must admit I find this statement somewhat comically ironic given that earlier in this same thread you demonstrated your own ignorance of the Church’s laws regarding the fast before Holy Communion.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, different, what I said was, “In regards to the numbers, I know that the only extraordinary rite mass offered in Greenville at Prince of Peace is at 5:00 pm on Sunday. For a person who is interested in respecting traditions of the Church, assisting at Mass at the end of Sunday, seems to go against the high regard of beginning the Lord’s Day with Mass. Also, for those who still respect the midnight fast, waiting until 5pm to be in communion is an undo strain. That is why we do not attend, although we really want to.” You omitted the necessary preface to the last two sentences that puts them into context. I was referring to ‘those’ in the third party and ending the statement with something in the first person, plural, to describe our actions. I apologize for confusing you. And regarding the optionality of the midnight fast, I am fully aware that since 1964, Paul VI reduced the demand from midnight to one hour. But before you allow yourself to believe that fasting of any kind is ‘optional’ to your salvation, read Thomas, Augustine, and all the teachings of the Church on the necessity of fasting. Here’s something that Thomas guy said in his little book the ‘Summa Theologica’ about fasting: ‘Properly speaking fasting consists in abstaining from food, but speaking metaphorically it denotes abstinence from anything harmful, and such especially is sin.’ So to be sure, no one’s going to get on your case about eating a Snickers as you walk into the Church. But where do you draw the line on what you are willing to do to prepare yourself for receiving Christ? If you’re willing to risk doing only the bare minimum requirement to get into heaven, then I say God bless your courage.So in answer to you calling me ignorant of Church teaching, lets consider thousands of years of salvation history and teaching (encompassing a multitude of saints and Christ), not just the last 43. I still observe the midnight fast, in trying to follow the example of great saints before me. But for me the observation of the midnight fast is not what prevents me from going to the 5pm mass at Prince of Peace. It may prevent some (and I have been told so by them, which is why I brought it up). To remind you of my later posts, there are a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that I belong to another parish, St. Mary’s, and the mass there, a great ordinary rite mass (yet in my opinion still lacking the impact of the extraordinary rite) is still valid. I don’t know where my preference for extraordinary rite obligated me to attend every instance where it was being offered.Also, I was not the ‘anonymous’ who made the accusation that the ordinary Catholic is ignorant of his faith. However, as you require him to prove himself right, I challenge you to prove him wrong.And Fr., I wrote a reply to your statement on the Life Teen mass two days ago, and it got erased!!!! I wanted to address your observation, as it is indeed a very valid point. But not enough time now. Maybe later. Also, I want to apologize for my posts being so lengthy. It seems that my responses to ‘different’ are not clear enough. If you wish me to refrain, I will certainly oblige. And do you have suggestions as to how to approach Fr. Newman to humbly request the extraordinary rite? He is a great man and I and my family are nobody’s. We do not want to insult him in any way.And by the way, different, thank you for rereading the post. I hope it makes more sense to you this time.

  • Different

    Anonymous,Just to be clear, the midnight fast requirement was removed by Pope Pius XII in 1957.I’m glad you see the value in fasting, I do as well. Please don’t presume that I don’t fast just because I like to be clear on what the Church requires of us in Canon law.God Bless.

  • Anonymous

    Different – agreed.