Diocese of Gaylord: Clarification about obligation to use English

A few days ago I posted an official statement about the decision of the Bishop of Gaylord that all parish Masses must be in English unless specific permission was granted to use another language. 

This stirred some strong reactions.

I received this by e-mail.  It is a response to a reader of this blog by the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Gaylord, Candace Neff.  I removed the name of the person to whom it is addressed.

This is a correction of the misreading of the norm that "all liturgies in the Diocese of Gaylord are to be celebrated entirely in English by the presiding celebrant."

My emphases and comments.

Dear ______,

Thank you for writing. Please see the statement below:


Candace Neff
Director of Communications
Diocese of Gaylord


A recent directive by Bishop Patrick R. Cooney regarding the use of the vernacular when celebrating the liturgy has been misunderstood and misrepresented throughout many Internet blog sites and in some media outlets. Before jumping to conclusions, one must understand the history behind the policy. The directive was issued in June of this year to address some specific issues occurring in our diocese with regard to the Mass. Essentially, a kind of "hybrid" Mass was beginning to be celebrated in which both the vernacular and Latin were being interspersed [?] during the Eucharistic Liturgy. The directive of the Bishop was made to correct these issues, to address a very specific concern in our diocese, and to restore proper order according to the guidelines of the Universal Church. Further the directive clearly begins with the statement, "Until other law is promulgated…"  [I don’t get it.  There is NOTHING WRONG with using both English and Latin, or another language, in a Mass.  Or am I missing something?]

The fact that this directive was released approximately one week prior to the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter on the Use of the Preconciliar Liturgical Form was purely a matter of coincidence[Okay.  Let us take them at their word.]

The characterization among the blog sites and others that Bishop Cooney’s intention was to act in defiance of the Holy Father’s Summorum Pontificum is completely false.  [This is very good news.] In fact, though we are a small, rural diocese with very few priests who possess the necessary competence and qualifications called for by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter, Bishop Cooney immediately began consultations with the clergy of our area to determine how we might offer a regular celebration of the liturgy according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962. Those who carefully read Summorum Pontificum will also note specific guidelines by the Holy Father and that the decree takes effect September 14, 2007 nearly another full month from now.  [Again, I am delighted to read this.]

Further, some have attempted to extrapolate the directive from Bishop Cooney as intended to eliminate other celebrations of the Eucharist in the vernacular of those gathered, such as our Hispanic population. [I did not see in the blogosphere that some people thought His Excellency was trying to elminated Spanish.  I figured from the beginning that his directive was aimed at Latin, though it would have some effects on Spanish.] In fact, the Diocese of Gaylord long ago established an Apostolate to serve our Hispanic brothers and sisters living and working in our area. For years, a liturgy in Spanish has been offered for them and it continues today. Upon reflection, we agree that perhaps the language in the policy stating "all liturgies… are to be celebrated entirely in English" may have led to a misunderstanding [I don’t know how.   The statement was pretty clear.  "all… are to be celebrated entirely in Engligh"] by those who were not in attendance at the clergy gathering to hear the full explanation of the policy, as well as those others who are not familiar with our diocese. For this confusion and any hurt which may have ensued, we most sincerely apologize.  [That is gracious.]

In summary, it has always been Bishop Cooney’s intention and practice to follow the directives of the Holy Father in a manner to best minister to and serve the people of the Diocese of Gaylord.

This is a very good bit of news, all in all.   It was unfathomable that a diocese would impose such a policy.   At the same time, one would hope that official statements might be carefully enough written to say what they intend to convey.   After all, regardless what was discussed in any meeting or in consultations, or what specific circumstances there were in that local church, the words in black on white are what remain.  When they are norms, that is pretty important.

I am very pleased to hear that we were so wrong about the Diocese of Gaylord and that the truth of the matter has been clarifed. 

I look forward to hearing what positive things result from the consultations undertaken to establish "regular celebration" of the older form of Mass for those who desire it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. As a priest who regularly celebrates Mass in the ordinary form using both English and Latin (it is very much what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for) I don’t see how this would be problematic (before or after S.P.) I have one parishioner who has referred to it as a hybrid, but it clearly is not – it is a Mass in the ordinary form celebrated using all those legitimate options which are most in continuity with the Mass in the extraordinary form. As an example, a hybrid Mass would be one at which the priest uses the prayers at the foot of the altar, followed by vernacular readings from the new lectionary, and then,later distributes Holy Communion with the formula “Corpus Domini Nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam amen”. I would appreciate a clarification on this point from CDWDS (to be sure, I am clear, but others need to hear this from an official source – granted S.C. is pretty clear too)

  2. James says:

    RE: liturgy including both English and Latin forbidden

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Father Z., but isn’t such a prohibition a complete and direct violation of the directives of Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Cocilium, which explicitly expressed a desire for the mixing of some vernacular with the Latin in the mass? Are some of our bishops THAT uninformed?

  3. G says:

    Will you corrrespond with this person any further to ask where she or the Bishop acquired the bizarre notion that it was improper to use two languages in one liturgy?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  4. mike says:

    Father Z

    Turn the comments off! Fair warning!

    :) m

  5. MC says:

    Wasn’t there Greek “interspersed” in the Latin Mass? “Kyrie eleison…”

  6. Jim says:

    This is good news. It demonstrates the power of the internet to circulate rapidly among those interested in the subject matter. Rapid spread of information also enhances the accountability of those in positions of authority.

  7. “I am very pleased to hear that we were so wrong about the Diocese of Gaylord and that the truth of the matter has been clarifed.”

    Okay, it’s time we all admitted it. We used our diabolical blogging powers to make the Bishop of Gaylord put something in writing that he did not mean.


  8. BlackFriar says:

    Has the good bishop perhaps forgotten the injunction of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 41: “Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.” Hard to see how that can square with his decree that everything is to be in English.

    Moreover, the Instruction ‘Musicam Sacram’ of 1967 said explicitly, “There is nothing to prevent different parts in one and the same celebration being sung in different languages.”, and the present GIRM includes a footnote reference to this.

    – The Black Friar

  9. Martin says:

    Bishop Cooney’s reply is overall good to see. This is not because of its contents so much as that he is forced to respond to such an inappropriate directive. Thank God for the internet! However, the reply does not correct the invalid directive of mandating Communion under both species and restricting the Novus Ordo to English (when it could be said in Latin without any special permission). Please pray for this diocese. There are 3 schismatic traditionalist chapels functioning in this diocese, and one of them is growing with over half of the parish less than 12 years of age. It is poorly written directives such as this that unfortunately drive people to these chapels.

  10. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Not only does Sacrosanctum Concilium specifically say, in paragraph 54, that where the vernacular is used, the faithful should be taught to sing or say together some prayers in Latin, Musicam Sacram says, almost exactly as follows, there is nothing wrong with Mass celebrated in different languages — in the context, it clearly means vernacular, and Latin.

  11. Jonathan Bennett says:

    I fail to see what is wrong with using both Latin and English in the Novus Ordo. In fact I would love to see more of that- right now my parishes hardly uses Latin, and when we do it is merely a few old hymns or chants before Mass on certain occaisions, although the Cathedral choir does a passable job. But Latin shouldnt be treated as a museum piece.

    I find that Liturgical traditions, like Latin and chant, are being treated like the crystal and fine china my mother displays in the dinning room- people can come for dinner and admire the dishes and glasses and silver cultery, but there is no way she would allow them to actually be used for dinner (ok, maybe if the Pope came for dinner, but even then it’s hard to say…)

  12. This “apology/correction” remains as problematic as the original decree in that it does not resolve the problems with the original decree.

    The original decree carries the rubric “Until other law is promulgated, all liturgies in the dioceses of Gaylord are to be celebrated entirely in English by the celebrant.” It goes on to discuss “occasional use of songs and hymns” and to allow for occasional use of example hymns in Spanish and Latin. Nothing is said about the Mass Ordinary, which is neither a “song or hymn” or “by the celebrant.” The implications of this formulation do indeed require apologies.

    The Spanish speakers (to whom this “apology/clarification” seems really addressed) were right to be upset. This decree forbad Mass in Spanish because ALL the celebrants parts must be in English and Spanish itself is specifically relegated to “occasional hymns and songs.” Obviously, to those who wrote this document, the Spanish community just doesn’t exist. They are non-people. Spanish is something done at Anglo Masses for variety and to show solidarity. So now we know that Spanish Mass is okay for Spanish speakers. Thanks a lot, glad to hear it, glad to know that we exist!

    Next, the “clarification” still does not make clear that the diocese accepts the directives of Vatican II that the people should be able to sing the parts of the Mass proper to them (the Ordinary) in Gregorian, and there for in Latin. Furthermore, it would seem that in the diocese of Gaylord the idea that one would sing the Mass, as opposed to singing some songs at Mass, is just as alien as the idea that there are actually Spanish speakers who want Mass in their own vernacular. We still don’t know if Ms. Neff (the bishop?) realizes that the Council Fathers of Vatican II and those who are devoted to fulfilling the directives of the Council exist. We are waiting, Ms. Neff.

    The way to correct this confusion is for Ms. Neff to have copies of Jubilate Deo sent to every parish, with a letter recommeding its introduce, slowing and with pastoral sensitivity. Next, she needs to make clear that there is nothing wrong with the use of the Western Rite’s liturgical language in any celebration.

    And I would consider myself an “episcopal maximalist”–if the bishop wants all the celebrant’s parts in the vernacular (note I did not say “English”!) then I, were I a priest of the diocese, would cooperate and do so. But I cannot seen how he could say that nothing of the Ordinary (which does not seem to exist in this diocese!) could be in Latin, nor how he could exclude the Gregorian propers, especially if that was the wish of parishioners in any particular parish.

    It is, however, good to hear that his was not intended to preempt papal decisions (God forbid!) and that the diocese is seeking ways to accomodate those whose “attached” to the older liturgy.

    But that was not the problem of the original decree. Ms. Neff needs to further clarify her (the bishop’s?) position and to apologize to those attached to Gregorian chant and the liturgical language of the Church, as she has already apologized to Spanish speakers. This “apology” was obviously not directed to those trying to follow the norms of the Vatican Council–note the apology is in the section about Spanish). This new decree still leaves such people feeling that they are second class citizens or perhaps don’t exist.

    In the future, if some priest is forcing a mostly Latin liturgy on unhappy parishioners, she (the bishop?) should deal with this issue privately rather than creating bad law. And then follow it with bad apology/clarifications.

  13. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    Sacerdos in Aeternum,How can you justify this “hybrid Mass”that you decsribe.Are you serious or is it tongue in cheek?What you are describing is a totally new rite composed by a celebrant.You cannot do the prayers at the foot of the altar in the ordinary form of the mass and nowhere is it allowed to use the extraordinary form for communion(Corpus Domini etc)in the ordinary form.You dont need ananswer from Rome-nobody can do it.Forgive me if I misunderstood you.

  14. Fr. Z,
    While this does seem to be good news, I remain confused about the status of the Latin Novus Ordo in this diocese. It was not addressed in the clarifying letter, and I fear that a policy of allowing only the extraordinary form to be in Latin might widen the divide between the “old” and “new” liturgies (and between the parishoners who attend each) even more. I would guess that this was the last thing the Holy Father wanted to happen when he wrote Summorum Pontificum.

    Catholic bystander,
    Fantastic comment; I concur 100%.

  15. Teddy says:

    A youth mass I recently attended had English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Latin “interspersed” throughout the whole Mass. I think the General Intercessions were read in like 8 different languages (despite the fact that the vast majority of the youth there were Anglo). I wonder how “specific” a “concern” this would be for such a diocese.

  16. Pius VII says:

    Regarding his criticism of the “hybrid Mass” thing…

    I’ve kinda noticed this line of thinking among certain older lefties (I’ve heard it from one priest and one children’s religious ed person–granted, that’s anecdotal evidence, but they used the same verbage, so I think it could be a trend) that younger Catholic priests and laity are “picking and choosing.” By this, they criticize how some of the orthodox use and advocate things like Latin and Gregorian chant, but not absolutely every single traditional…thing (head coverings for women was the example the priest used). Of course, these things WE pick and choose are actually legitimate options (and we would probably just pick and choose almost everything traditional if our bishops and pastors would allow it or educate us about them) whereas the lefties (I’m not saying those two people were necessarily heretics or anything, although the priest I mentioned did say that sexism was why St. Teresa of Avila was not made a Doctor of the Church sooner, and he also managed to rip the Wanderer during the same homily somehow) pick and choose on things where you’re not supposed to pick and choose. I’m not saying the bishop’s statement necessarily reflects this line of thinking, but I thought it was interesting, and maybe it could be related in some way (I don’t want to imply he’s a heretic or impugn his orthodoxy or anything, since I know next to nothing about the man.)

  17. Quantatative: While this does seem to be good news, I remain confused about the status of the Latin Novus Ordo in this diocese.


  18. Abberblab says:

    Do “small, rural” parishes get their priests from small, rural seminaries? Aren’t all seminarians to get some training in Latin?
    Maybe Latin is only for those high-living city slickers….

  19. Simon says:

    Is this not precisely the type of mess and confusion that is created by a bishop when he micro-manages the liturgy?
    Isn’t this the reason why the priest is the one who is supposed to choose for the pastoral good of his people.

  20. william says:

    Fr Mcafee
    I think you have completely misunderstood Sacerdos in Aeternum. He was giving an example of what would constitute an (improper) hybrid Mass, as opposed to a celebration of the N.O. using both English and Latin and employing “all those legitimate [N.O.] options which are most in continuity with [NOT “cut and pasted from”] the Mass in the extraordinary form”. Such a celebration, confining itself to legitimate N.O. options, would be entirely proper.

  21. Syriacus says:

    …Perhaps the bishop of Gaylord should have seen all the “hybrid” Masses that His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (now so ‘popular’ in the US) celebrated (at least) while Archbishop of Genoa (and so Tettamanzi before…) : for instance, with Latin Prefatio and, later, Eucharistic Prayer (even the first, i.e. that from the Roman Canon) in vernacular.

  22. Andrew says:

    Upon reflection, we agree that perhaps the language in the policy stating “all liturgies… are to be celebrated entirely in English” may have led to a misunderstanding …

    Surprise! Big news! Words have meaning. Repeat after me slowly: Words. Have. Meaning.

    But then again. You knew that, didn’t you?!

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: This is a very good bit of news, all in all.

    Actually, I find it rather depressing that a bishop’s communications director would represent him — unfairly, surely — as being so ill-informed about the liturgy of the Church.

  24. Gavin says:

    This is in fact WORSE than a reaction to SP. It’s a flat out denial of Sacrosanctum Concillium, which implied the use of a “hybrid” vernacular/Latin Mass. At my parish, we use a combination of Latin (for the canon, ordinary, propers, and hymns) and English. To just pull a switcheroo and go straight to Latin would be a shock to the congregation and unwise. A discriminate pastor would need to use both Latin and the vernacular for some time to ease a congregation into Latin. The bishop seems to be pulling the rug out from under those working to improve the liturgy by telling them “it’s Latin or English, but not both.”

    The bishop remains in defiance of a decree of a council of the Church. Not a position anyone should want to be in.

  25. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Jonathan Bennett:

    To you and others who would like Mass with a combination of Latin and English — i.e., practically speaking, the re-introduction of some Latin into an otherwise all-English Mass — all I can advise is to speak up. Many priests don’t want to rock the boat, for at least two reasons: one, they think no one wants this, and two, they know they’ll catch a lot of flak from certain quarters if they make even a small move in that direction. The extreme reactions that some generate are a marvel, that’s all I can tell you. While those who will pitch a fit may be small, they make up for that by being all the more noisy and extreme, and that discomfits others who tend to the indifferent middle.

  26. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    Well, we really can’t blame the Diocese of Gaylord ‘all’ that much. After ‘all’, after reading ‘all’ the debate about the meaning of ‘pro multis’, it is natural that some people have forgotten what ‘all’ means. The directive said that ‘all’ Masses must be celebrated entirely in English, but, really, it only meant ‘many’. Now what does that remind us ‘all’ of?

    So, you see what happens when Trautmans and others fail at Latin in school? They get on to liturgy translation commissions and, before you can say ‘Matthew Fox is a Witch’, their errors spread throughout society like a plague.

    Peter Karl T. Perkins
    Victoria, Canada

  27. My beef regarding Spanish was that it seemed that Latin was forbidden,
    yet Spanish is OK. That I have a big time problem with.

  28. michigancatholic says:

    FR Z and everybody, there is a bulletin board for helping people find the extraordinary mass in their area. It appears to be brand new. It’s at http://motuproprio.us/viewtopic.php?p=60#60

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