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.