Dear Fr Z —
Is an individual priest of the Latin Rite permitted to say Mass only in the Ordinary Form or only in the Extraordinary Form? Or will all priests be required to use both forms, at least once in awhile?
I know a number of priests who only say the Mass of Paul VI; in most cases, it’s because they have little or no Latin. Given Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos’s announcement that the Extraordinary Form will be made available in all parishes, is it likely that they will be required to learn the older form?
Conversely, there are priests who only say the Mass of John XXIII. Will they be required to say Mass in the Ordinary Form from time to time? The Holy Father touched on this, obliquely, in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum: "Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness."
It would seem ideal to me that all priests become "idoneus" in both forms of the same rite and celebrate both — not just "ordinary form" priests celebrating the EF but also priests from groups like the FSSP celebrating the OF. Is this what is supposed to happen? Is it likely to happen?
Okay… that’s a lot of questions. Too many, really. So I think I will give an answer that is too long and maybe rant a little.
First, I think circumstances will determine whether or not a priest says Mass only in the older form with the 1962MR or only in the newer form with the 2002MR. If Father is placed in such a way that it never happens for him to have to say the Novus Ordo, then he won’t be using the Novus Ordo.
Will a priest be forced to say one Mass or another? I don’t think so. However, if a bishop assigns a man to a parish where he will have to use the Novus Ordo, and the priest refuses to use the Novus Ordo, then the bishop could have a sound reason to apply disciplinary measures. Still, a priest cannot be forced to say any Mass, so long as he is willing to bear the consequences.
I think the basic approach ought to be something along the lines of what I usually say when asked if I say only the older form of Mass: I wasn’t ordained for a book.
If there is need for the Novus Ordo in this language or that, I will go unto the altar and open up the book and say Mass. If there is need for the older form, I will use the older form. I prefer the 1962 to the 2002, but the needs of the people of God must outwiegh my preferences. It would be grossly unfair for me to impose suddenly the older form of Mass on a congregation who haven’t experienced it for decades, or ever, and who weren’t expecting it.
Is it likely that priests of these specialized groups will also use the Ordinary Form of Mass? I have no special insight into this, since I don’t belong to any of these groups. I suspect they won’t be very open to the idea. I suspect some members of these groups could be open while others will staunchly refuse.
I know from my own personal experience that, even though I am willing to say whatever Mass I am pointed at, saying the Novus Ordo is a bit of a let down for me now. It takes some effort to get my heart and head into it. I do, of course. I say the Novus Ordo as reverently and with as much continuity as I can. But I can imagine very well the mental and emotional obstacles against the Novus Ordo that priests would have if they really never say it, have never said it. It would be close to trauma, a challenge to who they are as priests.
Thus, were I a diocesan bishop – and thanks be to God I never will be – I would hesitate (not refuse) to bring in priests from a group who essentially refuse to use the Novus Ordo.
Even as a priest I have suffered not a little because I refused to give up my position that I should have the right to say the older form of Mass without joining what was essentially a ghetto. People would ask me, "Why not join group X?" I believed that every priest should have this right and if diocesan priests simply opted out of dioceses in favor of some specialized institute, then the dichotomy between the diocesan priests and specialists would grow and, when the time came, the diocese would be weaker as a result. Thus, I refused to go to the back of the bus, but I endured the blow-back and it hasn’t been fun.
And so, were I a diocesan bishop (quod Deus avertat), I would hesitate about bring in specialists, not only because I think the local men should be the first to have the opportunity to serve, but because of other practical issues. Say I put guys from the Bunch of Priests Who Say Only The Old Mass (BOPWSOTM or "bopwisotum") at St. Ipsidipsy. The neighboring parish’s priest over at St. Idealia, Fr. Guido O’Brien, or "Just-Call-Me-‘Hooty’" falls off a ladder and winds up in traction. Fr. Rigidior Oldform over at St. Ipsidipsy is happy to go over to St. Idealia in a pinch, but he won’t use the newer form of Mass. The result is confusion and people looking at Fr. Rigidior as if he is from Mars.
As a bishop highly in favor of tradition, I don’t think that that is how I would want a parish to be introduced to the older form of Mass. Maybe a big jolt might work… but I bet it would create more hard feelings than positive interest.
"But Father! But Father!" you might want to object. "Surely Fr. Rigidior isn’t the only priest who could substitute. This is a straw man argument! And if another can’t be found just at that hour of the day in an emergency, surely the world won’t come to an end and people will be understanding if they can’t have Mass on Tuesday afternoon. Leave Fr. Rigidior alone! He’s our hero!"
Okay… I’ll stipulate that another guy could probably be found and that the world won’t come to an end. But it seems to me that it shouldn’t have to be that complicated.
A priest should be willing to help out in either form under reasonable conditions. Saying Mass with the newer form, when you are ordained for the WHOLE CHURCH and not just a fraction of it, is not unreasonable.
The corollary to this is, as bishop (which will never happen) I would be pretty annoyed with a priest who simply refused to learn anything about the Extraordinary Form of Mass.
If he were to have requests for the TLM and refused even to learn anything about it, that would irritate me. I would view that approach as narrow, stingy, and crass. I would begin to wonder what that priest’s understanding of the Church might be, what his notion of priesthood was, if, for idealogical reasons, he was determined to remain ignorant of his own Rite.
If Father was found to be too stupid to learn the older form of Mass, try as he might, I wouldn’t be irritated with him, poor thing. But I would have to wonder what he was doing when he said the Novus Ordo.
I think priests should be prepared to step up to the altar, open up the book, and say Mass, older or newer, Latin or English (or some other vernacular truly necessary in the place according to circumstances). As bishop I would also remind them that as pastors of souls they have the obligation to teach their flocks to speak and sing the parts that pertain to them in both Latin and their mother tongue.
If they refused to do this, I think I would want to discuss their reasoning with them and learn their minds.
Therefore, as a diocesan bishop (which is impossible) I would want to give the local men, priests of the diocese, the first and best opportunity to satisfy all these needs for the older forms everywhere in the diocese without bringing in extra-diocesan groups. I would do everything I could to make sure they had training and support and my public approval. I would even b happy to bring in extra-diocesan men on a temporary basis at least to train other priests and lay people, to get the ball rolling. But, the local men would have my first preference.
Furthermore, Summorum Pontificum states that pastors have the ability to deal with all these matters and that I should have to get involved unless necessary. Bringing in men from outside would be a serious intervention. I would rather support or persuade local men to get trained up so that they could handle these. Of course, according to this fantasy, there would be abundant right-thinking seminarians in the pipe line, so the problem would resolve pretty quickly.
Also, I would make it clear to these priests of the diocese that if there were legitimate need to help elsewhere, with the newer form of Mass, they shouldn’t drag their heels too much or grouse publicly, no matter what they said to me over the phone or griped about to their priest friends. Gripe to me in private, make your arguments, try to convince me, but please don’t be sullen in public so that you create scandal.
We are not ordained for a book, or even a specific use. Hopefully in years to come these problems and tensions will resolve themselves as Pope Benedict’s Marshall Plan creates the desired results.
So, the long and the short is this: If a priest is ordained for the Latin Church, I think he should be willing to work with people as they are and, hopefully, move them along to a broader perspective.