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Can bishops legitimately forbid pastors to celebrate Traditional Latin Mass? September 28, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, Latin Mass, North Deanery, scandals, sickness.

The esteemable Fr. Z has a post concerning whether or not bishops, in light of the Pope’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontifucum, can legitimately block the use of EF Mass in the parishes of their diocese.  Fr. Z, and the canon lawyer he consulted, say no:

I have of late received more than one email from readers with similar questions.

In effect, they have asked if diocesan bishops can forbid pastors to add a Traditional Latin Mass to the Sunday Mass schedule, or if the local bishop can force the pastor to eliminate an existing TLM from the schedule.

From what I am picking up, it may be that a few bishop are trying to restrict the use of the older form of the Missale Romanum to one church/parish only.  In doing so, they seem to be ignoring the existence of Summorum Pontificum.

A pastor (parochus) does not need the permission of the bishop to use the 1962 Missale Romanum or to place a TLM on the parish schedule.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio says (in my translation and with my emphases):

§ 2.  Celebration according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII can take place on weekdays; on Sunday, however, and feasts there can be also one celebration of this kind.

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.  Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously brought into accord with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, by avoiding discord and by fostering the unity of the whole Church.


Art. 7.  Where some group of the lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5 § 1 will not have obtained the things sought from the pastor, let the Diocesan Bishop be informed about the matter.  The Bishop is strenuously asked that he graciously grant their desireIf does not want to provide for a celebration of this kind, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

In reading 5, § 1, pay close attention to that “avoiding discord”.  Few things create discord in a parish faster than changing the Mass schedule.  It is very important, therefore, that those who are inclined to the traditional form of Mass not be the source of the discord.

Keep in mind that 5, § 1 mentions CIC 1983 can. 392.

Can. 392 §1 Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

§2 He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of the saints, and the administration of goods.

Thus, bishops cannot ignore Summorum Pontificum.  At the same time we could probably identity one or two bishops who, although they have not regulated very well the liturgical practice of their dioceses in respect to curbing obvious abuses, are willing to repress more traditional forms that are perfectly legitimate.

After consultation with a canonist about the meaning of can. 392, it seems that it would be abuse of power by a bishop to micromanage a parishes schedule so as to eliminate a TLM when there is not really a strong need to do so and provided that the schedule adequately and reasonably suits the other needs of the parishioners.   Common sense and charity should prevail.

Interesting analysis.  Now, Fr. Z is definitely a proponent of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Are there views out there that claim it is legitimate for a bishop to put in place severe restrictions on the EF Mass?  Perhaps, although I’ve not come across such an argument that is convincing.  Most of the arguments seem to hinge on that Canon 392, that the bishop must insure that “abuses do not creep in” and so will claim that the priests/altar boys etc. are not sufficiently trained to celebrate EF, or even NO Latin, Mass.  This canon lawyer (Dr. Ed Peters?), says that is not really a fair reading of Canon 392.   Now, in 2007, Bishop Farrell wrote:

In accordance with Article V of the Motu Proprio it is the responsibility of the Bishop of the Diocese to oversee the celebration of the liturgy in all of its Forms. As most of our priests have no formal liturgical training in the use of the Extraordinary Form I ask that any priest who wishes to celebrate this Form to contact me so that I can assist him in receiving adequate training in this Liturgical Form. In his letter to the Bishops of the world, the Holy Father pointed out that the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form”… presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language.”
It is my intention to establish a committee of four priests who have knowledge of the Tridentine Rite to assist me in reviewing all requests from priests and the laity to establish public Masses in the Extraordinary Form. It will be the responsibility of this committee to assess the Pastoral needs of the people as well as the capacity of our priests and parishes to celebrate the Mass in this Form.
I encourage any priest who seeks to celebrate the Extraordinary Form for the first time, privately or publicly, to seek a review of his abilities to celebrate the Rite in a worthy and noble manner. It would be most unfortunate if, due to a lack of liturgical training or misinterpretation of the rubrics, this Sacred Form was not celebrated with the dignity it requires.
As I visit the Parishes I am impressed by the dedication of some of our brother priests who, because of the needs of our people, celebrate six or more Masses on a weekend. I have also received requests from Pastors to establish Masses in additional national languages, but I have been reluctant to do so due to a lack of priests. I would hope that, if any priest feels that he could be of assistance in helping some of our more populated parishes, he would be willing to do so.

As far as I know, that committee of priests has still not formed. Also, I don’t think the last paragraph is a non-sequitir….I think Bishop Farrell is strongly implying that the priests of the Diocese are already overburdened with Sunday Masses, and that if a priest feels he has time to add a Latin Mass, perhaps he should go relieve one of his brother priests from some of his excess burden.  There also seems to be the implication that there is greater demand for Mass in Urdu than there is in Latin, and that the needs of these “national languages” are a more justifiable use of the priest’s time.  But then, that’s just my reading….

My question is, what about adding one weekday Mass per week, or even month?  That would not appear to be as dire a situation, as few (if any) parishes celebrate more than two daily Masses as is.  I know of very few priests who celebrate more than one daily Mass.  And what about Novus Ordo Latin Mass…..that has always been “permissible” (as if permission were needed for Latin in the Latin Church!!!), and yet I have been told that the same, ah……restrictions?…..listed above, apply to Novus Ordo as well.   

In this diocese, we’ve seen permission given for speakers like Richard Rohr, Joyce Rupp, Thomas Keating, and Charles Curran, all problematic in the extreme, to hold conferences in church sanctuaries.  There have been all manner of liturgical abuses, some ongoing, some in the past.  We have churches with no kneelers, in fact, where kneeling is frowned upon.  While getting better, we still have limited opportunities to adore our Lord.  Why is it that these Doctrine-rejecting speakers, these liturgies that deviate from norms, seem to have no problem occurring, while celebrating a Mass in Latin seems to evoke such strong limitations?  

Why indeed?


1. Dave in McKinney - September 28, 2010

I have the distinct impression — and I don’t recall where I got this from — that Bishop Farrell isn’t exactly 100% orthodox. So I am not surprised.
His holiness is scheduled to speak up at St. Gabriel in November or so I understand.

tantamergo - September 29, 2010

“His holiness”…..? I smiled at that..bishops are normally referred to as “your excellency.”

I may have to see that, although in the past his public pronouncements have been remarkable for their extreme unremarkableness.

2. Mary - September 29, 2010

So the priest interested in EF “…should contact me so that I can assist him in receiving adequate training in this Liturgical Form”. Funny, I know of several priests who would be interested and their enthusiasm gets squashed pretty quickly… I didn’t know the bishop would ‘assist in adequate training’, sounds more like a threat to keep quiet OR ELSE…

Why??? Like you say, parishes are allowed all sorts of heretics to come and spread their false teachings, but the EF mass, as allowed by the Pope, well, we need to discuss that…

I spoke about this with a Spanish-speaking individual who said he’d rather attend a mass in Latin than English or other languages, it is pretty similar to Spanish and quite easy for them to understand. So perhaps we introduce a few Latin masses, after all, it IS the universal language of the mass… wait that would be so un-VII.

3. dallas - September 30, 2010

Thank you for this. I had not known Bp. Farrell had put that in writing. I had heard him quoted that if any priests had time for another Mass, mostly in reference to private or ‘on location’ Masses, he had parishes who could use that priest’s assistance…
And a committee? Never heard of that…
“Remarkable for their extreme unremarkableness.” That’s a good one. But so true.
Not “exactly 100% Orthodox”? He was LC. Do you know any of the background there?

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