QUAERITUR: Is permission needed to say the Novus Ordo in Latin?

From a reader:

I have searched high and low. When is it  permissible for priests to celebrate the Novus Ordo (Editio Typica) in Latin in the U.S.? Is the permission of the local bishop needed?

I am always surprised when this comes up.  I am always not surprised when this comes up.  In the name of the Council so many falsehoods were perpetrated.

Priests of the Latin Church don’t need permission to say Mass in Latin.  Latin is the official language of the Latin Rite.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law says, first, that Mass is to be celebrated in Latin, and then, or in other approved languages.

The Council’s document on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, says that the Latin language is to be preserved.

Contrary to the LIE that Latin was forbidden or that special permission is required, Sacrosanctum Concilium 54 requires that pastors of souls teach their flocks to sing and respond in Latin and their mother tongue.

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45 Responses to QUAERITUR: Is permission needed to say the Novus Ordo in Latin?

  1. iowapapist says:

    Isn’t the “Latin forbidden” lie a corollary to the overall false justification for abandoning tradition known as “the Spirit of Vatican II”? Could anyone other than the Evil One pull off a scam like this when the documents of Vatican II mandate the retention of Latin (and give Gregorian Chant “pride of place” in the Mass)? I am personally aware of at least two priests who were unofficially punished for offering the Novus Ordo in Latin. Being assigned to distant, remote lands, or not being assigned to a parish (sans stipends, etc.) is not officially punishment, but what, in reality, is it? Thank God the Church has a system to provide due process.

  2. Imrahil says:

    Honest question:

    Supposing Summorum Pontificum and the included a-fortiori argument would not exist (as it did not before 2007),

    what indeed if the bishop as a priest’s superior
    a) makes it known that he does not like Latin,
    b) formally forbids a priest to use Latin?

  3. boxerpaws1952 says:

    The Franciscan Friars at EWTN have used some Latin in celebration of their Masses. I don’t recall anyone has ever mentioned on EWTN having to get permission.
    a.I would think if the bishop makes it known he doesn’t like it, to use it anyway since it’s only a matter of his preference.
    b. Obedience to a bishop would be another mattter.If the choice were Latin or obedience i would think they would(should)pick obedience.

  4. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The bishop’s permission is not required to offer the OF in Latin. However, in the case of the parish Sunday Mass, a priest should certainly be listening to the people. Any changes to the language of the Mass should be preceded with instruction, catechesis, preparation, and should keep in mind the priest’s stability in that parish.

    Does the priest who is initiating the change have a plan to provide for the future needs of this Mass? Will he form some kind of a core group of laity who can take charge of handing out the materials, forming a choir, and give assistance to the newcomers who would like to understand and appreciate the Church’s Latin tradition? Most importantly, will the priest stay around or will he drop the parish at the chance for a “better” assignment?

    There is a big difference, for the people, between beginning a long-term apostolate that is well thought out, has the priest’s total energy and commitment, and introducing a change that is more his fancy and which he initiates with gusto but then quickly fizzles out on. The reason many bishops say “no” to the Latin Mass in the OF is because priests start these apostolates on a whim and just as quickly abandon them and move on to another pet project. The bishop is then the bad guy because he didn’t “support” the OF Latin Mass, and is expected to scramble and find another priest to take over what a confrere started but didn’t follow through on.

  5. Simon_GNR says:

    OF Masses in Latin are very few and far between around here: I’ve not yet been able to find one. EF Masses are more common than OF in Latin. Shame. At our parish church we do have Benediction every week, which is mostly in Latin, but never Mass in Latin. I think the attitude is “Leave the Latin Masses to the TLM brigade.”

  6. Dr. K says:

    Were a priest to offer Mass in Latin against the request of his bishop not to, would that be breaking the promise of obedience?

  7. BLB Oregon says:

    Using the definitive version the Mass is like delivering a very erudite homily. It is always allowed, in an ideal world it would be everyone’s ideal, but it is not always wise because the world is not ideal. The soil is not always prepared, and sometimes, sadly, the soil is even hostile to it. When it would be the equivalent of pouring good whiskey onto a closed mouth, it is worthwhile to take stock and reconsider. Luckily, it is possible to mix it in a little at a time, so that gradually it is understood by all.

  8. Dan says:

    From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [112.] Mass is celebrated either in Latin or in another language, provided that liturgical texts are used which have been approved according to the norm of law. Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin

  9. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Simon,

    “Leave the Latin Masses to the TLM brigade.” I hear this also. One parishioner said of an OF Mass in Latin, “Why do this? Often such Masses are offered by priests who haven’t learned or are afraid to offer the Extraordinary Form. Then, they offer Latin Novus Ordo Mass in such a way that they are mimicking a Tridentine Mass. I would rather the priest just go ahead and learn, and then offer, the Tridentine Mass.”

  10. Giuseppe says:

    My first Latin Mass was a NO mass in London – Farm Street Church (of the Immaculate Conception, I believe). It was beautiful and reverent. Not sure if they do TLM now.

  11. thereseb says:

    I hope this is not off topic, but I would like to draw your attention to Bp Egan’s Laetare letter which lays down his plan for Latin chants and the liturgy – linked to by Bara Brith, who runs the excellent choir at Blackfen.

    http://bara-brith.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/laetare-sunday-in-portsmouth.html

    The Bishop was savaged in the Tablet this week for his diocesan reorganisation plans. What they’ll make of this I dread to think….

  12. acardnal says:

    More Latin, period!

    And the Kyrie in Greek, too!

  13. albinus1 says:

    I think the attitude is “Leave the Latin Masses to the TLM brigade.”

    I think that this is a possible (unintended) negative consequence of Summorum Pontificum: increased availability of the EF Mass makes it easier for those opposed to any whiff of liturgical tradition to consign these things to a traddy EF “ghetto” rather than allow the EF to exercise the “gravitational pull” on the OF which Pope Benedict evidently intended.

  14. RichR says:

    The critical thing is to have a Schola that knows all the Ordinary chants and can quickly learn Propers. The next thing you need are materials (I recommend the Latin altar missal from MTF and the “Mass of Vatican II” booklets from Ignatius Press). Then you need someone good at creating worship aids. Finally, you need to prepare people for this and start adding chanted Ordinaries to the Masses a little at a time to teach people. Finally, you need to start it in a way that dies not disrupt the normal flow of things. I recommend an early-bird Sunday morning Mass. This way, if there ends up being little interest, no restructuring of Mass times has been done. If it takes off, and enough of the parishioners attend it, then it becomes self-evident that the Latin OF Mass needs to supplant one of the more convenient Mass times.

    Just suggestions.

  15. Gail F says:

    “Sacrosanctum Concilium 54 requires that pastors of souls teach their flocks to sing and respond in Latin and their mother tongue.”

    HA HA HAHA HA HA HA HA. How many priests actually know this? And of those, how many actually do it? HA HA HA HA HA.

    Fr. Sotelo wrote: “There is a big difference, for the people, between beginning a long-term apostolate that is well thought out, has the priest’s total energy and commitment, and introducing a change that is more his fancy and which he initiates with gusto but then quickly fizzles out on. The reason many bishops say “no” to the Latin Mass in the OF is because priests start these apostolates on a whim and just as quickly abandon them and move on to another pet project. The bishop is then the bad guy because he didn’t “support” the OF Latin Mass, and is expected to scramble and find another priest to take over what a confrere started but didn’t follow through on.”

    That’s a good point and I’m sure it would make any bishop gun-shy — whether the Mass was abandoned and the bishop were blamed for it or whether the Mass were so badly done that people hated it and it gave the Latin OF a bad name. While I’ve never been to the latter, I’ve only been to a handful of Latin OF Masses and, giving the ability of human beings to mess anything up, I’m sure it’s occurred!

  16. Mitchell NY says:

    Pope John XXIII ‘s Veterum Sapientia, an Apostolic Constitution states where ever Latin has been eclipsed or allowed to slide into oblivion, it shall be restored with vigor. All Priests must know Latin according to this as well as Canon Law. If it were implemented properly Priests would have an easier task of setting up workshops and teaching the Faithful some Latin Prayers and responses that are found in the Missal and Mass. All this would be in complete harmony with the Second Vatican Council’s instructions that Latin is to be retained and the Faithful are to learn the parts of the Ordinary in Latin that pertain to them. You don’t have to learn a foreign language, just a few responses that you will be using for your entire life. Not that hard when learning as a child or even an adult. As long as the AC Veterum Sapientia is ignored people are given the impression that we can pick and choose which ones to obey, since the Bishops do. These Apostolic Constitutions, Exhortations, Encyclicals etc. are not so easily stuffed into a file cabinet, never to be seen by the Faithful and thereby easily ignored. They are all available at the click of a button and as we discover and read over them we begin to wonder why the people in charge are not listening and implementing these things. Lay people are beginning to ask…..this is an important step in helping get things where they are supposed to be. Imagine someone walking into the Bishops office with a copy of Vat II’s SC, the AC Veterum Sapientia, the MP Summorum Pontificum and the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, and asking “How are these things working or functioning in our Diocease” ? All in the name of transparency and charity of course.

  17. Elizabeth M says:

    I think the confusion comes because the USCCB has made so many allowances that over the years those become the norm in people’s mind. How many of us don’t want to hold hands, wave our arms about, etc during Mass, however if you attend a parish that does this all the time you get looks? I remember 20 years ago having to explain to my classmate that Latin was never removed from the Mass. He kept insisting that only English was allowed. He was an Altar Boy and was told this by his priest.

  18. dcs says:

    Were a priest to offer Mass in Latin against the request of his bishop not to, would that be breaking the promise of obedience?

    No, it might be imprudent but it would not be disobedient since a priest’s Ordinary has no authority to command him in such a matter. It would be akin to a bishop asking his flock to receive Holy Communion in the hand or while standing.

  19. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Were a priest to offer Mass in Latin against the request of his bishop not to, would that be breaking the promise of obedience?

    I agree with dcs. I have no obligation to obey what my bishop has no authority to command.

  20. Imrahil says:

    In case he has no authority to command it. A bishop has no authority to command the vernacular because Rome (at least in Summorum Pontificum via the a-fortiori argument to be brought in favor of the original Latin of the ordinary form) said he has not. He has no authority to order communion while standing because Rome constantly said that kneeling is always at least an option.

    But if all this were not the case… and you could make a case that with the status of the law of 2006, this was not the case for Latin. Latin is original? Sure. We’ve translated it. (Assume we’re talking about e.g. the French version. The English “translation”, as proven at length by our reverend host, was no such thing, and calling it thus was a joke.) People are to know that? Yep, let’s make voluntary courses, but also remember there’s so many things more important. Latin is the normal form as provided by Sacr. Conc.? Well yes… that’s what the Lawgiver said in the 1960s, but time has obviously passed over that and the Church has spoken through her inaction. Sure, I grant (I’m speaking as advocatus diaboli all the time here) they can still use Latin except for some particular law; but let that particular law be issued.

    On a completely other matter,
    dear @albinus01, I have no real opinion on the matter but I’m inclined to believe up to a certain degree (!) in a) the normative power of the factual and b) the vox populi. In more down-to-Earth words
    a) The Ordinary Form or rather what we understand when using this word, is obviously shaped not by the rubrics alone, but also by the way it is habitually generally celebrate; downright abuses excepted.
    b) The people (ask them) will think a Latin Ordinary Form Mass, if they recognize it as such, both as a mixture of rites, and a very rare bird.
    Or they will not recognize it. I once read about a Tridentine Mass (in these words) at a Church I happen to know; and I happen to know there are never Tridentine Masses there. What does happen there is a Latin gregorian-chant Mass, Ordinary Form, once a Sunday.

  21. I know of three things that would end my Sunday morning excursions to parts unknown.
    1) Getting married
    2) Running out of parishes I haven’t visited within a three-hour drive of home
    3) A nearby Novus Ordo Mass in Latin with readings in English.

  22. MarcAnthony says:

    Novus Ordo Masses in Latin are not performed around me, and the nearest EF Mass is 45 minutes away and said in a small chapel in the middle of a city.

  23. boxerpaws1952 says:

    We grew up with the Tridentine Mass and then we changed to the Novus Ordo.
    I’m not sure what the debate is about as long as there are no liturgical abuses.
    ” I have no obligation to obey what my bishop has no authority to command” did not know this. Apologies.

  24. MarcAnthony says:

    I agree with you Boxer.

  25. Legisperitus says:

    Latin is our mother tongue.

  26. Ignatius says:

    Here in Buenos Aires, saying the OF in Latin is suicidal. The Archbishop and the “establishment” in the Archdiocese have made very clear that the ones who do this are to be considered “cryptolefebvrists”, “not ecclesially minded”, “un pastoral”, “unstable” or something like that. All these terms mean an “ecclesiastical death sentence”. Ad Orientem, in the vernacular or -worse- in Latin- is a sure sentence to ostracism. Priests who dare to do this end up immediately removed from their posts, out of “pastoral” concerns to obscure chaplaincies in the outskirts, hospitals or are denied permission to pursue higher studies. The seam if you dare to wear a cassock. The horror! Sure, there are no legal prohibitions to all this… but nonetheless…

  27. jhayes says:

    Legisperitus wrote “Latin is our mother tongue”

    Not to take it too seriously, here is what Cardinal Dolan said at the Al Smith Dinner:

    “By the way, just before I left this morning, Pope Benedict XVI asked me to deliver a special personal message to both candidates. Mr. President, Governor Romney, do you know what the Holy Father asked me to tell you? . . . neither do I, because he said it in Latin.”

    http://blog.archny.org/index.php/page/6/

  28. onosurf says:

    Nancy Kerrigan responds best to this question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjUQMs0kVEI

  29. robtbrown says:

    Ignatius,

    I don’t doubt what you say is true, but priests who want to say mass in Latin or the TLM have the right to do so. If the bishop forbids it, at the very least they should contact Ecclesia Dei. If they are removed from their assignment, there is always the option of the Vatican courts.

    BTW, I have several Argentinian priest friends from my Roman days, including one who is now a bishop.

  30. Has anyone mentioned that a ready ability to celebrate papal Masses in the language of the Church is an obvious first requirement for any plausible choice?

  31. BLB Oregon says:

    Thank goodness we have had Archbishop Vlazny and have Archbishop Sample coming. I know of people who get upset about Latin in the liturgy, but they will always have plenty of places to go in Oregon for the foreseeable future, because our main shortage seems to be priests who feel confident with their Latin. There was a time when the Latin requirement for priestly formation in our archdiocese was minimal, and one older priest I know who did used to do the Mass in Latin said it would even take him a good bit of practice to do it serviceably, he had gone so long without it. He said would much rather do the vernacular well than to do Latin badly. The younger ones, though, they seem to have a very good attitude towards Latin. Most of the self-styled progressives do not like it one bit, though, there does seem to be that divide. I can only think of one exception….that is, a self-defined “progressive” who would love the Mass in Latin. I think he is a rarity, though. The rest seem to think of it as some sort of a battle line with regards to all sorts of other issues.

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Here in Buenos Aires, saying the OF in Latin is suicidal.”

    Yet, another reason why Latin America is not ready to host a Pope?

    Our diocese had two cantankerous priests who offered the early morning Sunday Mass in the OF in Latin. It was really cool. They had confessions before all Masses and one of them, a retired USMC drill sergeant, I think, used to conduct Mass almost like a cadet drill. Ah, fun days.

    The Chicken

    The Chicken

  33. Ignatius says:

    robtbrown : Yes, indeed they have the right. But no one wants to start a fight with the Archbishop. You can go to the Nuncio, but that takes time… and a fight.
    I am not saying that there are no good and holy priests here, there are. But Latin in the liturgy, save for places like the diocese of San Luis or the Archdiocese of La Plata is a “non issue”.

    The Chicken: I honestly don’t think that you can infer from that fact that “Latin America” is not ready to “host a Pope”. In Argentina, we have our own very serious problems. Chiefly, the remnants of Liberation Theology resold by other names. But I cannot honestly say that this is the same everywhere in the whole continent which is enormous and very varied.

    Rgds.

  34. Mark R says:

    Good luck with more Latin N.O. masses. Few brought up in the U.S. display any knack for languages in the last couple decades and it is distressing to hear the language mangled. When I attended Dominican rite mass, we said the responses aloud and it was a trial to get one’s head around all the middle American vowels.

  35. Joan A. says:

    BLB Oregon, I’m guessing you meant to say Thank goodness we have Archbishop Vlazny RETIRING, and Abp. Sample coming. Abp. Vlazny has been one of the most strident opponents of Latin, in either the EF or OF during his entire reign, becoming more entrenched in his position the older he got.

    It was only due to Summorum Pontificum, when he had no choice, that the TLM began to be offered. Even now, 6 years later, due to the longstanding antagonistic attitude here, the EF mass is only offered 1 or 2 places in the archdiocese, a very large geographic area.

    I believe one has been discontinued to to the retirement of the elderly priest, who said that Mass flawlessly and beautifully, and was ridiculed by MaryJo Tully (lay Chancellor) for doing so. Before S.P. the Archbishop, often communicating via Mary Jo, suppressed that Mass completely, except for a “token” TLM in Portland (inaccessible to most people).

    I must ask you, what are these “plenty of places” those of us in the Archdiocese of Portland can go for a TLM or NOLM? To use an old expression, Name 3. I can’t.

    (BTW, another cause for rejoicing here in Portland is MaryJo’s retirement. Abp Sample will soon begin the transition, which will take a while, to a new Chancellor, this time it might be nice to have a real priest!)

  36. acardnal says:

    The fact that many clerics, including Cdl. Dolan, are not literate in Latin is a reflection of the poor seminary formation they received . . . in Dolan’s case in the early 1970s just after V2 and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae. It is not something he should be proud of, in my opinion, especially since Canon law and Sacrosanctum Concilium both called for it. And I think it may be a reason why the clerics of a certain age are not enthused about the TLM/EF Mass . . . unfortunately.

    I wonder if Cdl. Dolan when he was Rector of the NAC in Rome required Latin studies? Perhaps robtbrown would know.

  37. Most young priests that I know — ordained in the last decade or so — are interested in the OF in Latin (as well as in the EF). A better bet than Sunday Masses might be weekday or other Masses where people’s preferences are a factor. The last three OF funerals I’ve had any connection with have been Latin Novus Ordo, celebrated ad orientem with black vestments as per wishes of family members, at least some of whom I suspect would not distinguish between EF and ad orientem Latin OF.

  38. robtbrown says:

    ACARDNAL,

    1. Latin was never part of theological study–it was to be done before the study of theology.

    2. I would imagine that Cardinal Dolan was just making a joke, and that he has studied Latin.

    3. Re Dolan as rector of NAC: The course of study is established by the respective Pontifical Universities: Angelicum (Dominicans), Greg (Jesuits), and Santa Croce (Opus Dei). The colleges of seminarians (English, German, etc) have nothing to do with the curriculum.

    When the Foster Latin classes were in full swing, there were many Americans (some already ordained) who were students. A previous rector of NAC, Purcell by name and disaster by fame, pressured seminarians not to study Latin, some nevertheless were Fosterites anyway. Purcell was replaced Msgr (now Cardinal) O’Brien, and the discouragement stopped. BTW, my impression was that both O’Brien (who inherited a serious mess) and Dolan were good rectors.

  39. “I would imagine that Cardinal Dolan was just making a joke, and that he has studied Latin.”

    For a cardinal to joke about not knowing Latin is like golf caddy in the ad who says “I never joke about fishing.” Not a good sign!

  40. robtbrown says:

    Ignatius says:

    robtbrown : Yes, indeed they have the right. But no one wants to start a fight with the Archbishop. You can go to the Nuncio, but that takes time… and a fight.
    I am not saying that there are no good and holy priests here, there are. But Latin in the liturgy, save for places like the diocese of San Luis or the Archdiocese of La Plata is a “non issue”.

    It’s not necessary to go to the nuncio–a priest should contact the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

    I understand what you’re saying about the situation. From what I’ve been told, there are no indult masses in Argentina, an indication that BXVI was poorly served by those around him in implementing Summorum Pontificum. I also understand that the SSPX is very strong in Argentina and has a seminary–reunion would immediately change the Argentinian liturgical landscape.

    BTW, I had a student at the FSSP seminary who was from Argentina.

    BTW2, I just remembered that I also know an auxiliary bishop in Argentina.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Henry Edwards says:

    “I would imagine that Cardinal Dolan was just making a joke, and that he has studied Latin.”

    For a cardinal to joke about not knowing Latin is like golf caddy in the ad who says “I never joke about fishing.” Not a good sign!

    I think it is because it keeps people off balance, esp. the press. And having studied under one of the greatest Chaucerians in the US, I think the the best time to be funny is in serious matters.

  42. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Just two comments about persecuted priests: 1) The “persecution” of priests is as much perception as it is reality in any diocese. Once a priest starts a rumor that you will be “punished” for pushing Latin and traditional matters, the word gets around and then the bishop becomes something of a boogeymen. I know personally of priest who have used this as an excuse because they simply didn’t want to deal with Latin in the liturgy. Saying, “oh no, I’ll be exiled, or moved, or punished…” gets them easily off the hood.
    2) I have fought with the diocesan bishop. It is not comfortable to stand your ground and shove back. But it is not the end of the world. It’s not like the bishop has a pistol and is going to shoot you. Priests who tremble and shake, as if in the presence of the great Wizard of Oz, are easily cowered and bullied by bishops, who tend to be alpha males by nature. Priests who project a sense of bravado and “I’m not afraid of you, let’s get that straight, and I’m not afraid to fight you either” tend to see their bishops back down and respect them more.

    But as I have said, if the priest wants firm ground to stand on, he must show in word and in deed that he is serving his people and taking care of the parish. If he drives parishioners away from lack of prudence and sees a nose dive in the collection, he is going to have more to answer for to the bishop, besides the fact that he faced ad orientem or is rattling the liturgy in Latin.

  43. Fr_Sotelo says:

    boogeymen should be “boogeyman.” And “off the hood” should be off the “hook.” “…know personally of priest” should be “know personally of priests”

  44. acardnal says:

    Well, I think Cdl. Dolan WAS making a joke about his not knowing Latin, but I’m not so sure he isbene calleant in Latin . I hope he is.

    I remember a young priest in a neighboring parish here who said from the ambo during his homily in 2011 that the new missal translation was coming beginning the first Sunday of Advent but “don’t worry, there isn’t much Latin. I don’t know Latin anyway.” He was formed at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois and ordained about ten years at that time. Unfortunate. I truly hope Mundelein’s new rector, Fr. Robert Barron, will ensure his seminarians know Latin AND learn the TLM/EF . . . but I am not hopeful.

    We have a 2nd year Theologian seminarian with us at our parish for a pastoral year. A late vocation in his early 40s. He is attending John XXIII Seminary in Massachusetts. He said they don’t teach the TLM/EF there. But thanks to our bishop, he is taking steps to learn it on his own because the bishop has required it of all of his seminarians. (I will ask him about Latin studies. I am doubtful they teach that there either.)