From a reader:
It is my understanding that those ordained to the priesthood are bound by canon law to pray the main hours of the Divine Office daily. I think by main hours, it is Matins, Lauds, Sext?, Vespers & Compline. However, how come there is no such stipulation for the celebration of Mass? Is there a reasonable answer for this???
I suspect the reasons for this are practical. At one point there was a strict rule against saying Mass alone. While it is ideal to have another person present this is not longer a hard and fast rule. Today, priests can say Mass without any human presence for a good reason, and a good reason can be simply that he wants to say Mass. Also, ideally priests should not say Mass in the state of mortal sin. It is not always easy or possible for a priest in some areas to find a confessor. In old manuals of moral theology authors suggested that a priest can say Mass but should seek a confessor within three days. This is a great deal easier in the age of automobiles, of course.
Moreover, I believe the old Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church obliged priests to say Mass a minimum of several times a year, not daily. Furthermore, in the new Code, as in the old, pastors with the care of souls in a parish were obliged either personally or by a proxy to make sure that on all Sundays and days of precept Mass was offered “pro populo”, for the intention of the people under his charge. There is also the case of the priest taking on the obligation of saying 30 Masses for a single intention for a deceased person on 30 consecutive days. He must say these Masses on these days without interruption.
Of course if a priest does not say Mass on a Sunday or day of precept, he is nevertheless obliged like every other Catholic under the obligation to hear Mass in order to fulfill the obligation.
The Office, on the other hand, is something that does not require the presence of another or that the priest be in the state of grace.
There is a strong moral obligation based on the priest’s state in life to say Mass daily, for the benefit of the living and the dead. However, there was and is no juridical obligation.