From a reader:
Can my Bishop refuse to allow a priest from another diocese to say the TLM in our parish? Our priest needs someone to cover the Latin Mass during the summer and a priest from an another diocese volunteered to assist. Quite generous and magnanimous!
However, apparently the bishop denied permission. Can he do that and if so why would he? Are some clerics that intimidated by the TLM? If so, why???
Are some clerics “intimidated” by the Traditional Latin Mass? Of course they are! What a question. And you know why.
But that is not of the essence here.
The blunt answer is, yes, the bishop can in fact refuse to allow a priest from outside the diocese to come in and take over regular celebrations of Mass in a parish of the diocese.
Now I shall put on my stern face and warn you – whether you need it or not – not to stick your nose too far into this because, frankly, it isn’t your business and too much speculation can be harmful to the priest, call him Fr. X, indeed the whole situation in the parish.
Some people love to bzzz bzzz bzzz about priests and bishops and they can do a lot of harm to them even when they don’t mean to.
That said, this is a chance to clarify some things about priests and faculties to say Mass, and visiting parishes, and so forth.
You must understand is that if a bishop determines that Fr. X is not to say Mass in the diocese, that is not to be automatically assumed to be punitive. It might look like it is (and it may be, in fact), but, on the face of it, withholding of a permission or faculties is not automatically to be assumed as punitive.
But this is not really a matter of Fr. X having faculties.
The travelling/visiting priest, Fr. X, would already have faculties to offer Mass through his institute or diocese. According to canon 903, a priest who has faculties should be presumed to be able to celebrate Mass in any diocese. If the local pastor doesn’t know the priest already, he should ascertain whether he has faculties to say Mass, preach, hear sacramental confessions, etc.
In this situation, however, we are not just talking about a visiting priest saying Mass, a one time or occasional event, but rather a priest assuming responsibility regularly to say Mass in a place on a steady basis. This is where the local diocesan bishop has a role of oversight.
The bishop has the obligation and the right to oversee the liturgy in his diocese. There may be good reasons for a bishop not to want a particular priest (or any priest for that matter) to come in from outside to take over a regular Mass in his diocese at a particular place.
Why would a bishop not want that? Only that bishop can answer that. And this is where my warning at the top comes into play.
Idle speculation as to the bishop’s motives would be contrary to Christian charity, unless there are other public reasons which give insight about his actions. It may be that the bishop know things about the priest, or about the situation in that parish, which would make his decision not only reasonable, but justifiable. Maybe the bishop has some positive plan of his own.
Do not leap to assume ill will or bad motives when it comes to these complicated cases.
The situation on the ground for priests who visit or travel can be pretty complicated in light of the clerical sexual abuse crisis of a few years back. Lawyers, et al., and basic prudence, now require loads of paperwork and background checks and so forth for every priest who so much as sneezes in a diocese. It is all rather unjust and tedious and humiliating, but it is what it is and we all have to bear with it for now. Sometimes it take a while to get everything worked out.
The bottom line is: don’t leap to bad conclusions about what is going on and don’t go tattling and gossiping about this either. Let the parish priest and the visiting priest and the local bishop work things out.
Generally they do work out over time and in a positive way.