Good Question

Good Question August 18, 2007

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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