For some reason I have had several emails recently – from far-flung places – which all have to do with a common problem that some people are encountering in making petitions for celebrations of Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
They are running into opposition based on the claim that the people making the petition are not a “stable group” or that the group isn’t big enough.
You will recall that Summorum Pontificum (Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio with provisions that free up the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum) indicates:
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. …
The usual liberal common-sense defying questions arose about how big the group had to be and whether or not they had to be registered in the parish in question, blah blah blah.
The Instruction about Summorum Pontificum called Universae Ecclesiae brought greater clarity to the issue of the “stable group”.
15. A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose.
The law on this says “some people”. There is no minimum number identified by the Holy See. Some have mentioned that a coetus in other contexts can be as few a three. And the priest himself can be a part of the coetus!
It is wrong to try to impose a minimum number.
Furthermore, the document is clear that the people in the group do not have to be from the same parish, either as registrants or territorial residents, they don’t even have to be from the same diocese!
It is obviously that large initiatives, such as changing a busy Sunday schedule around, seems a lot to ask for half a dozen people. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be ad hoc Masses for them.
Furthermore, I think we can see in the Holy Father’s provisions and in the Instruction the desire of that the older forms of worship be brought to the attention of the faithful across the board. Pastors of souls should take steps to make sure that their flocks are aware of and can appreciate and participate Mass celebrated also with the 1962MR. Therefore, a small stable group could be like liturgical leaven in a parish. A parish priest should welcome their helpful contributions rather than try to extinguish their spirit.
That said, people who are petitioning for celebrations of the Extraordinary Form have to keep their ducks in a row. Do as much of your work with the parish priest as you can in writing. Keep copies of everything. If there is a conversation, follow up with a memo of what was said. You need written records of the whole process.
Work to increase your numbers. Do not hesitate to contact the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“, with documentation about what is happening.
If you write to the Commission, use this address:
Most Rev. Augustine DiNoia
Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
00120 Vatican City
You might frame your letter – on one side of one page – like this:
With prayers for Your Excellency and for your collaborators as you carry out the mandate entrusted to you by the Holy Father, we/I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
You can add attached documentation to your cover letter, but keep that cover letter short and to the point.
I have some other suggestions about how to write to ecclesiastical authorities HERE.
Be patient in getting responses from Church authorities.
“But Father! But Father!” you might be saying. “How long should we wait?”
There is no hard and fast rule. Perhaps 1 week for a response from your parish priest. Perhaps 2 weeks for a response from your bishop. Perhaps 1 month for a response from Rome or the Nuncio. Roman offices will sometimes have to consult with the local bishop, so allow for some turn around time. Sometimes it helps speed things up if you fax correspondence and then follow with a hard copy by post. And there are fast delivery services now as well. Email, you ask? Not so much. If you have an email contact, always follow up with a hard copy by post.
Yes, we have modern means of communication, but this is the Church we are talking about.
You don’t have to just lie there and let priests or parish councils kick you or ignore your proper petitions. You have recourse.