QUAERITUR: What is really needed to be able to celebrate the TLM?

I received this question from a priest:

Dear Father Z.
 
A priest friend of mine, who started saying the TLM about 10 years ago, with the old Bishops permission called me this morning.   He asked me if Cardinal Hoyos had said that all that is need to celebrate the TLM mass is knowledge of the correct rubrics and correct pronunciation of the Latin prayers and readings.
 
I told him I would try to find out, ergo this email.
 
When Summorum Pontificum came out he started saying a private mass at his church.  About 12 to 22 people showed up, but his pastor ordered him to stop

As you know we now have our Bishop starting an inquisition panel, to give priests "a test", in order to say the TLM.  The panel is stacked with anti-Latin priests, with only the Aux Bishop seeming to be of open mind.
 
Please enlighten me with as much ammunition as you can. 
 
God bless you for what you are doing for the TLM and the church.

First, let me remind you of what the President of the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei has said.

In 16 May L’Osservatore Romano Romano Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" underscored the importance of the institution of a parish in the center of Rome for the spiritual needs of traditionalist faithful, who usually attend the "Extraordinary Form" of liturgy of the Roman Rite.  "It is an act laid down by the Pope for the Diocese of Rome which has value in an of itself, in the continuing process now underway of the implementation of the Motu Proprio for the use of the Roman liturgy before the reform effected in 1970".  "However," the Cardinal added, "the achievement of a personal parish also has value as an example to other dioceses, both in Italy and elsewhere."

On the video DVD produced by the FSSP/EWTN to instruct about the older form of Mass the Cardinal said said that parishes and priests should make available the Extraordinary Form so that “everyone may have access to this treasure of the ancient liturgy of the Church.” He also stressed that, “even if it is not specifically asked for, or requested” it should be provided.  Interestingly, he added that the Pope wants this Mass to become normal in parishes, so that “young communities can also become familiar with this rite.”

 

Some of the language of Summorum Pontificum still must be clarified.  We know that there is to be a clarificatory document from either the Commission or the Holy Father himself.  However, in the meantime, since this is a legal document, I think we can take a page from the play books of a couple prestigious canonists, who are bishops.

First, I think we have to take note of how broadly His Excellency the Archbishop of St. Louis, Most Rev. Raymond Burke is approaching Summorum Pontificum.  This is not a man who allows personal preferences to get in the way of the proper implementation of the Church’s laws. 

Going beyond that good example, part of the problem here is what the word idoneus means in Summorum Pontificum § 4: Sacerdotes Missali B. Ioannis XXIII utentes, idonei esse debent ac iure non impediti... Priests using the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, ought to be capable and not impeded by law. 

Idoneus has to do with the priest’s "capability", what he is able to do. 

First and foremost it must be understood that 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).

Because Summorum Pontificum establishes that if a priest a priest has faculties to say Mass at all, he therefore automatically has the faculty also to use the 1962 Missale Romanum, one could argue that 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 application is a little different.  So, it is reasonable to say that a priest should know the language he is going to celebrate Mass in enough so that he can not scandalize the people and it will be valid.

Second, take what His Eminence Edward Card. Egan of New York said for his Archdiocese when Summorum Pontificum came out in his policy statement.

II. Priests who choose to celebrate Mass in the "extraordinary" form must have a sufficient knowledge of the Latin language to pronounce the words correctly. 

Excellent.  The priest does not have to be an expert Latinist.  He must have sufficient knowledge to pronounce the words.  That is what idoneus is all about: it is minimum qualification, not expertise.

I think that Card. Egan is absolutely correct.  But my opinion only is as authoritative as my ability to persuade moves you to my side.  I cannot speak for anyone.  Also, while Card. Egan is a canonist of great prestige, as no one questions, he only Archbishop of New York, not of everywhere.   However, I am pretty sure that when the clarification comes out, it will be along these lines: minimum, not expertise.  Idoneus cannot be interpreted so widely as to restrict a priest’s rights unreasonably.

At this point, I have to say that, in my opinion, a bishop cannot rightly apply a separate certification process to a priest to be able to celebrate the older form of Mass.   If the priest has faculties to say Mass in the Roman Rite at all, it is his right to be able to use either Missal.  That is the point of Summorum Pontificum.  Of course the priest would be a complete dope to try to say it publicly without knowing it well enough to do a good job of it.  But priests are sometimes dopes.  Most priests, however, who would want to do such a thing would be the sort of priest inclined to serious reverence for Holy Mass.  That wrong-headed sort of priest would be pretty rare and persuasion, rather than structures, committees and local norms that violate the Pope’s provisions should be use to prevent that sort of aberration.

To impose a certification process for the older form of Mass, without also imposing a test of every priest of the diocese for the newer form, seems to me to be a punitive double-standard which violates both the rights of priests as well as the provisions given by the Supreme Pontiff.

Let’s start testing to see if priests really understand what they are saying in the Novus Ordo.  Let’s see if they really know the few clear rubrics there are, according to the 2000 GIRM.  Let’s see if every priest from overseas really understands the English or can pronounce it clearly before he is allowed to say Mass in public.

I am pretty confident that Rome would receive very positively a complaint from a priest that the bishop was imposing unfair restrictions concerning the use of the older Missal.   It remains, of course, that bishops can punish priests in a thousand ways.  You can win any number of arguments with bishops, and in the final analysis lose big time. 

The problem is more complicated for a priest who is not a pastor, who is an assistant in a parish.

The pastor is in charge.  If he doesn’t want Mass said at a certain time or altar in his parish church, I think he probably has the right to impose his will, stupidly or not.   I think we all are fully aware that assistants just barely have the right to a Christian burial, but beyond that they are mostly indentured servants until they are pastors.  If a pastor is a jerk, there is little the assistant can do about it, beyond his ability to charm and persuade, educate and judiciously suggest.

Perhaps the best approach here is to have those people make specific and repeated requests in writing to the pastor, very respectfully, for celebrations of the older form of Mass according to Summorum Pontificum Art. 5, § 1 with copies to the bishop and to the Pontifical Commission in Rome.  The pastor cannot simply straight-arm people who make these requests.  Some solution would have to be found for them.

In the meantime, my advice to the priest who is involved, who is an assistant and not the pastor, is to be very careful.  Continue to study the older form.  Celebrate it when possible.  But be careful.  Keep a copy of every scrap of paper, every note from the pastor.  Every letter that gets written or received.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, Mail from priests, SESSIUNCULA, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to QUAERITUR: What is really needed to be able to celebrate the TLM?

  1. Tom says:

    “The pastor cannot simply straight-arm people who make these requests.” Dear Father, OH YES HE CAN. Perhaps, in the blogospherical Parish you belong to, perhaps in a thousand Parishes around the world but I can tell you that the pastor can bully, defame, ignore and refuse to his hearts content and nobody – and I mean NOBODY will step in and stop him.

    In my own Diocese, at least seven groups in seven Parishes made requests. In one Parish, they’ve been actively considering bringing in the FSSP for nearly a year with not a single sign that it’s actually going to happen. In the other Parishes the response has varied from the one to the other of the responses that I’ve listed, bullying, defaming, ignoring.

    The Bishop just ignores most requests and those he replies to are told that one centre in the Diocese is enough – that is, one imaginary centre where nothing has happened for nearly a year.

    Ah yes, I hear you say, write to the PCED. They will receive the appeal favourably. I’m sure they do. However, response of the PCED to date has been to say that they’re hopng for an Instruction to issue any time now and that will solve everything. The fact taht the President of the PCED has said, very properly, that he can make no commitments and that it is entirely in the hands of the Holy Father seems lost on them.

    There you have the responses – bullying – defaming – ignoring – claiming you can’t do more because you’re doing enough already (even though nothing is done) – claiming you don’t need to act because the Instruction (that might take years, if it comes at all) will solve everything.

    If John XXIII said that the number working in the Vatican was about half, I wonder what the response of Benedict XVI (God bless him!) would be. By my calculation, the number is about nobody, at least in some places – there’s always a good excuse not to when it comes to the Latin Mass – and NOBODY WILL DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

  2. Fr. E says:

    It is only half true a parochial viace (assistant pastor or associate) has no authority at his assingment, however, a pastor cannot prevent him from saying Mass since it is the bishop who determines who can say Mass and where. I’m not talking about the extraordinary Mass but also the ordinary Mass.

    I once had a pastor who used to delegate to me some work around the parish and would just take away some jobs he gave me or deny ever delegating the work. It got so bad I refused to take anymore work. I told him: “I’m sorry but you are the pastor and I am the parochial vicar. I have one boss and he is the bishop. Frankly you cannot tell me what to do.” It is true – the pastor cannot order his assistants around – we have rights in Canon Law too.

  3. Limbo says:

    “In my own Diocese, at least seven groups in seven Parishes made requests. In one Parish, they’ve been actively considering bringing in the FSSP for nearly a year with not a single sign that it’s actually going to happen. In the other Parishes the response has varied from the one to the other of the responses that I’ve listed, bullying, defaming, ignoring.

    The Bishop just ignores most requests and those he replies to are told that one centre in the Diocese is enough – that is, one imaginary centre where nothing has happened for nearly a year.

    Ah yes, I hear you say, write to the PCED. They will receive the appeal favourably. I’m sure they do. However, response of the PCED to date has been to say that they’re hopng for an Instruction to issue any time now and that will solve everything. The fact taht the President of the PCED has said, very properly, that he can make no commitments and that it is entirely in the hands of the Holy Father seems lost on them.

    There you have the responses – bullying – defaming – ignoring – claiming you can’t do more because you’re doing enough already (even though nothing is done) – claiming you don’t need to act because the Instruction (that might take years, if it comes at all) will solve everything.

    If John XXIII said that the number working in the Vatican was about half, I wonder what the response of Benedict XVI (God bless him!) would be. By my calculation, the number is about nobody, at least in some places – there’s always a good excuse not to when it comes to the Latin Mass – and NOBODY WILL DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.”

    Gee, have you been speaking to me ! this is precisely our experience.

    We waited and prayed for Summorum Pontificum, now we pray and wait for the instruction….or the early retirement (or death) of some bishops !!

  4. Lewis says:

    One thing that could be done is to insist on conducting the Latin “exams” through Latin. That should sort the men from the boys on all sides.

  5. Ioannes says:

    Before praying and waiting for the death of bishops, I may be inclined to pray for a change of heart.

    As someone who encouraged a wait and see posture on the panel in San Diego, I am hoping that the initial letter is not from a Catholic in San Diego. If so, we didn’t have long to wait and see.

    Reading the English translation of canon law, it seems that the word idoneus is rendered in English as “suitable” rather than “capable” which would usually be the most common meaning of the word in Latin. Expert would of course be “peritus.”

    In terms of practicalities, I certainly see good priests being required to execute too many functions. In parishes where there is only one priest, how is a priest supposed to juggle a request for a TLM from 40 parishoners when there are 1200 parishoners who don’t and a church that can only accommodate 350? With massive staffing shortages, I think it makes sense that a bishop require a priest to say 3 ordinary-form masses on a Sunday, in which case they can’t say a TLM. Am I missing something? If a priest covers two or three parishes on a Sunday, I can’t really see how a TLM is even an option, unless the majority of parishoners in one parish desire a TLM. It seems hard to believe that there is no calculus of needs that is applicable in this situation, and I think that a big drawback of Summorum Pontificum is that it isn’t written with any
    recognition of competing legitimate demands or advice on how to balance them. Until PCED makes clarifications, it seems reasonable for ordinaries to try to set priorities and ensure pious and reverent celebrations of the mass, whether ordinary or extraordinary form. Clearly, though, setting unreasonably high requirements for Latin expertise is unacceptable.

  6. At some parishes, you’d swear the Pastor has the gift of infaliblity. It was this way at my old parish. I brought up points about the GIRM (in a respectful way) and RS to him, and basically, “pastoral reasons” is why he did things the way he did them. (i.e. code for disobedience to Rome)

    The Associate Pastor at my old Church is very much liken to myself, traditional, solid, orthodox, but he must keep quiet and hold his opinions between conversations between himself and I.

    I’d assume, Rubrics and Langauge knowledge would be a min. (but wouldn’t that go for any Mass?)

  7. pjsandstrom says:

    I wonder why the interpretation of the priest’s ability to celebrate the 1962 Missal in Latin is simply that he can pronounce the Latin properly — and not a word about understanding what he is saying. That sounds like the sort of illiteracy that was rightly complained about before and after the 16th century.

  8. Father G says:

    “I think we all are fully aware that assistants just barely have the right to a Christian burial, but beyond that they are mostly indentured servants until they are pastors.”

    So true Father, so true…

  9. Maureen says:

    Because, if you make it all about a language test or any kind of test, things very quickly devolve into a situation where priests can lose their faculties at the drop of a diocesan political hat. If somebody doesn’t like you, there’s no way you can prove you’re competent; and it wastes the Church’s time.

    It’s the bishop’s job to make sure he trains people well in the seminary, and only takes on priests in the first place that can do their jobs. Once he’s got priests, it’s too late to start complaining about them.

  10. tzard says:

    A test entirely “in latin” would be interesting – but it would also weed out those minimally qualified in Latin.

    I’m thinking of myself, I can speak very little Spanish but took 4 years of it in High School 30 years ago. I can pronounce it perfectly and usually get the gist of the message. It would take more scholarly study, but I could eventually get the deeper meanings, but that’s not really what’s necessary during Mass – while saying any prayer.

    It reminds me of the chidings I get from my Protestant friends. They claim saying a formula prayer (like the Lord’s prayer or the Rosary) means nothing because I do not mentally contemplate each word each time. But I reply “But I do pray with the intention of the Church – it’s not necessary that I renew that intention at every syllable”. When I say “I love You” to my wife, I don’t fathom the depths of it every time – but it pleases her when I say it and I *do* mean it. What more is needed?

  11. Tom says:

    “now we pray and wait for.. the early retirement (or death) of some bishops!!”

    I’m not sure that, in charity, we can pray for the death of a Bishop but praying for his canonisation? Surely that removes two birds with one stone – conversion of heart and removal from the scene. Indeed, what Christian would do any less than pray for the canonisation of his Bishop… and soon!!!