QUAERITUR: Does a parish priest need the bishop’s permission to do….

From a reader:

Does a parish priest need permission from his bishop to say Mass facing Jesus? Does he need permission to say, “No women on the altar.”
Does he need permission to forbid stupid (but technically “approved”) songs from use during Mass? (Our Mass situation is so confusing, we’re looking for some way to approach our local priest, who is not sympathetic to the idea of desiring reverence.)

In order,

No.

No.

No.

1) The Latin (the ones that count) rubrics even of the Novus Ordo presuppose that the priest and congregation are facing the same direction on the same side of the altar.

2) No priest can be forced to have females serving Mass or doing readings or anything else.

3) The pastor of a church can determine what music is sung within, of course, the limitation that it be appropriate for the worship of God.

If your parish priest wants to make some moves to bring the parish’s worship into continuity with our Catholic patrimony do all that you can to support him!

Of course, when and if a parish priest makes some of these moves, he might get some pretty strong pressure from a “discontinuity and rupture” bishop.

Whatever is done, there should be parish-wide catechesis to precede it and to go along with it.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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23 Responses to QUAERITUR: Does a parish priest need the bishop’s permission to do….

  1. Cathy says:

    I hope you don’t mind a suggestion, it sounds like the priest, himself, is not friendly to the idea of increased reverence. Pray very much for such a priest – daily, and offer daily sacrifices for him in things that he may do or say that bother you. Increase your reverence both in your own actions at Mass and towards the priest. Show gratitude when even little changes come that reflect this desire for increased reverence.

  2. May I add that if parishioners want their priests to move in these directions, even if they have a priest who wants to, they would do well to realize the extent to which resistance from parishioners will complicate things.

    I think for any priest, interested in saving souls, the dilemma of losing people because they don’t understand what he’s doing (“going back!”) weighs heavily. (Nota bene: that is so often the rationale for not restoring reverence; we do what we must to draw people.)

    So folks might think about how they can be outspokenly supportive: write letters commending good choices–to the priest or to the bishop; make sure the pastoral council and worship commission and finance committee are aware of those who want these moves. Because you can be very sure that they will know about folks who are unhappy and allegedly “leaving in droves” over Father’s attempt to restore reverence.

  3. alanphipps says:

    “say Mass facing Jesus? ”

    Not sure I understand this statement. Mass should be celebrated ad orientem, but this is not because of the presence of the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, if that is what the reader is suggesting. (though, of course, there is nothing wrong with having a tabernacle in focus with the altar and crucifix such that the full connection between them is clear).

  4. mamajen says:

    I’m pretty sure we have one of those “discontinuity and rupture” bishops here. The right parishioners pitch a fit and the priest gets sent elsewhere.

  5. Dr. K says:

    “Of course, when and if a parish priest makes some of these moves, he might get some pretty strong pressure from a “discontinuity and rupture” bishop.”

    Absolutely. The priest will probably never be named Pastor again. Maybe Parochial Administrator if he’s lucky.

  6. L. says:

    I think it would take an extraordinarily courageous Priest to buck a “discontinuity and rupture” Bishop, since there would not need to be much opposition in a parish to changes before the Bishop can transfer the pastor for having lost the confidence of his parish. Or, as has happened in a diocese of which I know, the Priest can be “disappeared,” i.e. is met by a representative of the chancery and told to come away for a “rest” “OR ELSE,” “rest” meaning going to a counseling center for Priests with substance abuse or sex abuse problems, even though the Priest in question has neither, and the “or else” meaning suspension without pay or other benefits. Such a case that I have seen is truly diabolical.

  7. L. says:

    I think it would take an extraordinarily courageous Priest to buck any Bishop, since Bishops have a lot of discretion and little oversight. In one diocese of which I know a method attempted by the chancery was to have the Priest “disappeared,” in which the the Priest is met on short notice by representative of the chancery and told to come away for a “rest” “OR ELSE,” “rest” meaning going to a counseling center for Priests with substance abuse or sex abuse problems, even though the Priest in question has neither, and the “or else” meaning suspension without pay or other benefits. It’s a great way to deal with Priests who are disfavored since there is no written record of anything meaning that there’s nothing the Priest can appeal, and the Priest has on his record the fact that he went to a treatment center for a month which means he can’t go elsewhere. It puts the Priest in the position of having to wrestle with his obligation to obey his Bishop even though he knows he’s being treated unjustly. Such a case that I have seen like this is truly diabolical in origin.

  8. Pray, posisitve encoruagement when priests do things to increase reverence for sure. I have seen the “camp snoopy” treatment happen to several priest friends of mine in my former archdiocese. Now there’s a new Bishop in charge, they’ve been bold in implementing more changes. I thank them every time.

  9. Father K says:

    The rubrics in the new English altar Missal in use in UK, Australia etc. also presuppose that the priest and people are facing ad orientem from the Offertory onwards. Wouldn’t cut much ice with a discontinuity and rupture bishop, though. Also the expression ‘facing Jesus’ is just plain silly, as is ‘facing God’ as is ‘with his back to the people.’

  10. Peter G says:

    The bit about not having members of the fairer sex on the altar may be a difficult argument to win given that there is nearly always at least one female lector at Papal Masses.This was again the case at Midnight Mass at St.Peters on Christmas Eve.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    AlanPhipps — To face the east is to face the direction of the Bridegroom’s coming. Therefore, one is “facing Jesus” in a fundamental way when one faces the altar.

  12. alanphipps says:

    Suburnbanbanshee,

    I agree; however it wasn’t clear that this is what the reader meant by the term “facing Jesus”.

  13. Athelstan says:

    “Of course, when and if a parish priest makes some of these moves, he might get some pretty strong pressure from a “discontinuity and rupture” bishop.”

    His Excellency doesn’t even have to be *that*. All he needs be is highly conflict averse. One or two feisty parishioners complain to the chancery and he’s ready to dispatch Fr. Ad Orientem to Outer Siberia, whatever his own liturgical proclivities (if he even has any). I think we all know the type.

    That said, there is something to be said for “shaping the battlefield,” so to speak. Fr. Jay Scott Newman down in Greenville, SC did months of catechesis on this point of the direction of liturgical worship before he started celebrating the canon ad Orientem. It undoubtedly headed off a lot of trouble.

  14. Cathy says:

    Father Martin, point well taken. I bought a condominium, a fixer upper, which with some investment and TLC made a nice little house. Unfortunately, the HOA would bandaid ongoing issues which caused water damage – it’s the way things were always done and when anyone would run for the board and effect changes which would make the HOA live up to its covenants and by-laws, those who felt they were the owners – the ones who had done this for 30+ years would work steadfastly against the person or person’s determined to make something right. My brother-in-law, a construction engineer, found a significant defect in the foundation which, after a few heated arguments, the HOA finally committed to correcting. The entire experience was draining and costly to the good reputation of good neighbors who had simply stood up to engage in an unpaid service in belonging to the board.
    With the rise of parish councils and boards, sometimes I think our pastors and our priests are caught in the cross-hairs of those who feel a certain permanence in the parish – including board members and permanent deacons who, unlike our pastors, do not leave the parish after two, six, or twelve years.
    “Whatever is done, there should be parish-wide catechesis to precede it and to go along with it.” Amen, Father Z. I don’t know why so many changes are made with the simple flourish that Rome or the bishop demands it, aka, I am not responsible and am possibly not “for” it.
    As well, if your current bishop is unfriendly to increased reverence and devotion, pray and offer sacrifice for him as well as the bishop who will inherit what he has implemented and/or neglected in the diocese.

  15. acardnal says:

    Father Martin Fox said, “May I add that if parishioners want their priests to move in these directions, even if they have a priest who wants to, they would do well to realize the extent to which resistance from parishioners will complicate things.

    I think for any priest, interested in saving souls, the dilemma of losing people because they don’t understand what he’s doing (“going back!”) weighs heavily. (Nota bene: that is so often the rationale for not restoring reverence; we do what we must to draw people.)”

    Yes, some parishioners will resist especially if you make changes abruptly, but if the parishioners “don’t understand what he (the priest) is doing”, then instruct them – slowly – from the pulpit over a period of several months that you intend to bring more reverence and solemnity and beauty to the celebration of the Mass in accordance with the mind of the Church. Perhaps write about what you want to do in a bulletin insert. Tell them you want to begin Eucharistic Holy Hour once per month or per week to increase devotional worship. Quoting from the writings of the Councils, popes and saints help in this regard. These methods can and do work! I have experienced it. Although some parishioners may leave, you may find others joining the parish!

  16. acardnal says:

    I forgot to add, “brick by brick.”

  17. pmullane says:

    Turning a parish back in a more traditional heading is only going to happen if we are willing to work hard and slog long, and accept that perhaps we won’t see the fruits, even in our lifetimes (and not pick up our ball and go go home if we don’t get our own way).

    Look at the way that the progressivist a have shaped modern society by working hard and being patient. We need to get involved at the ground level and become the influential people in the parish. If the parish council are an obstacle, get on the parish council, work harder than everyone else and be more influential than the naysayers. Fight the battles you can win, win them then move onto the next fight. We need to grin and bare what we can’t change until we can change it, and we need to be joyful and cheerful to win people round to our point of view. Simples!!

  18. joan ellen says:

    pmullane: “Fight the battles you can win, win them then move onto the next fight. We need to grin and bare what we can’t change until we can change it, and we need to be joyful and cheerful to win people round to our point of view.”

    Thank you so much.

  19. Fr-Bill says:

    My wife “Poped” three years ago. I await the word of the CDF regarding my application for clergy status in the Ordinariate. I write about Mass for Christmas. I drover the wife there because the roads were slick and she does not like such roads. The Mass began at 4:00 PM on the 24th. The new worship space has comfortable chairs and no kneelers. There were no alter boys. There was nothing resembling the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, as Mass seemed to begin with a greeting and some verses leading into a Collect. The whole thing (guitar, lady who sang, people who kind-of sang — just did not fit together. It was like a bunch of pieces irreverently attached in time for a period of time. I do not know why anyone attends (excepting to fulfill their obligation).

  20. AnnAsher says:

    In order:
    Thank You
    Thank You
    Thank You

    Power to the Priest !

  21. AnnAsher says:

    Fr Bill
    May God bless and sustain your marriage in His Harmony and Love.

  22. AnnAsher says:

    Oh and a tip on how to deal with women Lectors- let men volunteer and become as good at it as the women and perhaps the women will get out of the way. I’m not In favor of any women in the sanctuary but I notice that at our NO parish the women do a better job … So …

  23. FXR2 says:

    Fr. Bill,
    Take heart and have faith! The Church is composed of frail and flawed human beings. If you are unsatisfied with the local parish Mass use it to fulfill your obligation if you must. Please look around and seek out a TLM, a more reverent Novus Ordo Mass, or even an Ordinariate Mass. I remember attending our local parish where after communion some woman carried the sacred species off the altar to a separate private chapel away from the church. My then fiance, now my wife, whispered in my ear “Jesus has left the building”. We eventually found a parish that offers the TLM exclusively, and anew home for our six children! I will keep you and yours in my prayers!

    fxr2