German Bishops issue guidelines for Summorum Pontificum

The Bishops of Germany have issued a statement about the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  It is available at

The following translation is from cathcon.

My emphases and comments.

    Guidelines of the German Bishops for the Traditional Latin Mass

    1. The possibility for the celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form must be carried forward under the leadership of the Bishop [I believe that in parishes it is the pastor, the parish priest, who makes the determination.  At least that is what SP 5.1 says.] by the principle of harmony between the interests and well-being of the Faithful making the request and the orderly care of souls. The permission of the extraordinary form may not reinforce existing tensions or cause new division (see Summorum Pontificum Article 5 § 1).  [Consider this: tensions and divisions are aggravated even more by not responding favorably to petitions from the faithful for the older form of Mass, to which it would now seem people have a right to enjoy as a legitimate and venerable use of the one Roman Rite.]

2. The ordinary form of the celebration of Mass is using the Missale Romanum 1970 (in the version of the Editio typica tertia 2002 and – up to the appearance of the German issue of the 3rd Edition – `the Missal for the Dioceses of the German speaking areas’ 2. 1988 Edition). For the extraordinary form of the celebration of Mass, the Missale Romanum 1962 (e.g. Editio juxta typicam Regensburg 1962, with Diocesan propers ) is to be used (see Summorum Pontificum Article 1).

    3. The Parish Mass is to be celebrated in the ordinary form. On Sundays, one Mass in the extraordinary form, in addition can be celebrated, not however replacing the Mass in the ordinary form (see Summorum Pontificum Article 5 § 2).

    4. The request for permission [odd phrase: "Den Antrag auf Genehmigung"] (in accordance with Summorum Pontificum Article 5 § 1) by groups of laymen (see Summorum Pontificum Article 7) can be made to the Parish Priest within a Parish and/or within a Parish organisation or a pastoral unit, which is the responsibility of a Parish Priest. If groups, however, consist of members of different Parishes and/or a Parish organisations or pastoral units, the request is to be addressed to the Diocesan bishop. [I know I have used this phrase before, but it seems especially appropriate now: "AUSWEIS, BITTE!"  How is this going to be confirmed?  Will people need to produce identification?]

    5. About the kind and size of the groups making the request, nothing is laid down, in order to be able to respond to the local conditions appropriately.  [At last some common sense about this.]

    6. The necessary suitability of the priests [Here we go!] for the celebration in the extraordinary form of the rite (see SP Article 5 § 4) is covered by the following requirements:

    – General suitability, which each priest must possess;  [This means that he has faculties and he is not impeded by law from saying Mass, etc.]

    – Acceptance of the whole liturgy of the Church in their ordinary and extraordinary forms (see accompanying letters of Pope Benedict XVI.);  [Not sure how this will be determined.  Will priests be required to sign an adhaesio fidei?]

    – Familiarity with the extraordinary form of the Rite;

    – Understanding of Latin. [How much?]

    The Diocesan Bishops will make, as required, provision available for continuing and further training for the acquisition of the familiarity with the extraordinary form of the Rite and for the acquisition of the necessary understanding of the Latin language. [This is pretty good.]

    7. The Parish Priest and/or Rector of a Church is not obliged, even if he possesses the suitability, to celebrate the Missale Romanum 1962. If he believes because of official burdens or for personal reasons that he is unable to meet the wishes of the Faithful, he should turn to the Diocesan bishop. The right of the Faithful in this matter (Summorum Pontificum Article 7) remains unaffected.  [First, this mentions the "right" of the faithful.  That is interesting.  Second, I am not sure that the parish priest doesn’t have some sort of obligation to help people who make petitions.  He might not be able to respond personally, but should take steps to find a priest, time, resources, etc.  If he can’t, then the bishop is on the spot.  Let’s see what Art. 7 says: "Episcopus enixe rogatur ut eorum optatum exaudiat… The Bishop is strenuously asked that he graciously grant their desire." This looks like a pretty serious point.  It is even stronger language than that used for how the parish priest should react to petitions.  The point is that people have a right to the older form and clergy have some sort of obligation to respond.]

    8. The Calendar and order of readings of the Missale Romanum 1962 should be used for the celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form 1962. Attention should be given to the already announced extensions after a period of time of the Calender through the Ecclesia Dei Commission.  [This seems to be saying that while the old calendar is to be followed, there can be some room for adjustments.]

    For the reading of the readings in the vernacular (see Summorum Pontificum Article 6) the Perikopes are to be extracted from the recognised lectionary of the Missal for the Dioceses of the German speaking areas of 1988[!  A post-Conciliar book.  Apparently you look up the readings in the index.] Alternatively, the Schott of 1962 can be used.  [Surely that is what they will choose.]

    [CORRECTED TRANSLATION] 9. The German Diocesan Bishops will make no use of their right to erect personal parishes for the extraordinary form of the roman Rite for the time being. (Summorum Pontificum Article 10)  [THIS IS VERY BAD!]

    10. As the basis the report envisaged after three years over the experiences with the regulations of the Motu Proprio (see Accompanying Letter of Pope Benedict XVI.) the Parish Priest and/or the Rector, if he gives permission [Right… it is the pastor who does this.  Though this includes also rector.  That is interesting.] for the Mass celebration in the extraordinary form in his Parish and/or Church must make a report to the Diocesan Bishop. Parish Priests and Rectors, in whose Parishes and/or Churches Mass celebrations in the extraordinary form take place, must inform the Diocesan Bishops on a continuous basis about any development[I guess that is reasonable.]

The only real problem here that I see is how they think they will control which parish people go to or participate in.

I am also disappointed to see that they are not considering "personal parishes".  Let’s hope some of the German bishops won’t stick to this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Eamonn says:

    Remember Fr Z, that in Germany everyone is obliged to register their address with the police; proving where you live is thus very easy. Most, if not all practising Catholics are registered for the Church Tax, so working out who belongs to which parish or diocese wouldn’t be too hard either. Knowing the Germans, they probably have the bureaucratic details well in hand.

  2. B. says:

    Fr. Z:

    Nr. 9 is translated completely incorrect. It actually says:
    The German Diocesan Bishops will make no use of their right to erect personal parishes for the extraordinary form of the roman Rite for the time being.

    [i]I know I have used this phrase before, but it seems especially appropriate now: “AUSWEIS, BITTE!” How is this going to be confirmed? Will people need to produce identification?[/i]
    There will be no need to produce identification, as in Germany absolutely every Catholic is registered with his territorial parish. If you move, you have to register at the (state) register office, which will then automatically forward your data to the appropriate parish of your adress (and make sure your Church tax goes to the correct diocese). You can’t register at another parish (“switch parishes”) or register at a personal parish (because they don’t exist). I guess this is also a reason for Nr. 9.

    All in all I have to say that this statement was surprisingly good. We really didn’t expect that.

  3. B. says:

    Most, if not all practising Catholics are registered for the Church Tax,
    All. You automatically get registered upon baptism. If you de-register, you get excommunicated.

  4. Somewhere in the source code a color tag isn’t closed. Either that or I’m just seeing red this morning.

  5. Berolinensis says:

    B. – all quite right. Only the part about being excomunicated by unregistering is, while still being the official stance of the German Episcopal conference, highly disputed at the moment, since the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts issued, last year, I think, a declaration on the “actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica” (see: ) which many canonists interpret as saying that unregistering vis-a-vis a state agency does not constitute such an act and does not entail automatic excomunication.

  6. dcs says:

    B. writes:
    You can’t register at another parish (“switch parishes”) or register at a personal parish (because they don’t exist).

    Interesting — how do they handle overlapping jurisdictions (Eastern Catholics, for example)? Or are there no such jurisdictions in Germany?

  7. Berolinensis says:

    Father, as B. pointed out, it will be absolutely no problem to verify if the people asking for the older form of Mass are from the Parish or not – this is “old Europe”, where the territorial parish still exists as foreseen by the CIC – but the question remains, whether this restriction is lawful. Fr. Gero Pius Weishaupt, a canonist who also does the Latin news for Vatican Radio has argued in a canonist analysis of (then) possible guidelines (see:, such a restriction is indeed invalid, because SP speaks only of “faithful”, not parishoners.
    Also, I would ask you to remove the link, as this is a very, let’s say controversial site of Lefebvrist leanings (they call TLM-people “Altgläubige” which implies that the Novus Ordo of the “Konzilskirche”/”Conciliar Church” is a “new Faith”) that, to put it mildly, often lacks charity in its articles. (Gerald of the Closed Cafeteria has removed it for the same reasons, and you cannot call him hyper-sensitive.) The official link for the document on the webpage of the Episcopal conference is

  8. B. says:

    You are correct, I didn’t think about that. There is an apostolic exarchate of Ukrainian Greek Catholics that covers Germany and all of Scandinavia and has about 20 parishes. I don’t know how it works.

  9. Chironomo says:

    I find this more troubling not because of the details over who is registered where, but the fact that the Bishop(s) see it as necessary to place that restriction on SP in the first place. I understand the actual differences between Church Law and civil law, but wouldn’t this be something like a State Governor, for instance, once a law is passed by Congress and signed by the President, taking that law and saying “OK… now this is how this law is going to actually read in my State..” and then disregard entire parts of the law while enacting whole sections on their own authority. Am I alone in the opinion that this, if ALLOWED to continue will render SP and any and all future Church Law null and void? It seems that Benedict labored for a long time, choosing exactly the right wording, procedures and directives to make SP the meaningful document that it is. One doesn’t need to be a scholar to understand that the purpose of this document is to “release” the Bishops of their need to be concerned about this issue except when called upon to do so. Have the requests for these “implementation plans” come from the Priests? Did a group of the faithful ask for the Bishops to intervene and draw up further “clarifications” for the Diocese? I don’t think so, and I sincerely hope that there will be some kind of reprimand from Rome declaring that any additional regulations from Bishops must be approved by the PCED before they are made public in what is clearly an attempt to intimidate the Priests into not responding to requests from the faithful.

  10. David Nelson says:

    “Acceptance of the whole liturgy”
    The direction for this requirement always seems to go only one way. But SP now makes it incumbent upon bishops and priests to accept fully the TLM and this would also mean that they should be under an obligation to demonstrate that they accept the TLM. Why does the cloth only cut one way? The Bishops should take a lead in showing that they accept the TLM by celebrating it.

  11. JohnK says:

    I think that those of us in the US are spoiled by the “separations” clause in the Constitution. Other rules apply in other countries. From what B has said here, German parishes are based strictly on geographic location rather than the personal intentions of the faithful; the bishops really can’t set up personal parishes. Their saying so in the statement isn’t a “really bad” thing, but a reflection of the law in the country where they live. I applaud their frankness. (And it’s not like the Pope doesn’t know about German law!)

  12. Extracts from today’s communique of the German Bishops. The next few years are being devoted to the proper and dignified celebration of the Mass. Times they are a changing.

  13. Paul, South Midlands, UK says:

    *3. The Parish Mass is to be celebrated in the ordinary form. On Sundays, one Mass in the extraordinary form, in addition can be celebrated, not however replacing the Mass in the ordinary form (see Summorum Pontificum Article 5 § 2).*

    Er, SP dosent actually say “not however replacing the Mass in the ordinary form”.

    I think threatening people with excommunication for not registering as a Catholic with the German State is ludicrous and would be met with utter contempt within the English speaking world. I suspect the real reason is that once you register as a catholic a proportion of your tax goes to fund the dioscese (ie the trendy dioscesan bureaucracy) and we couldn’t have them out of their jobs could we…….

  14. So goes the news from Lehmannland! Who is surprised?

  15. dcs says:

    Paul, South Midlands, UK writes:
    I think threatening people with excommunication for not registering as a Catholic with the German State is ludicrous and would be met with utter contempt within the English speaking world.

    That’s putting it mildly.

    Does all of one’s “Church tax” money go directly to the diocese, or does some of it go to one’s parish and some of it to the diocese? Or are dioceses funded by the “Church tax” and parishes by collections?

  16. Konrad says:

    Does all of one’s “Church tax” money go directly to the diocese, or does some of it go to one’s parish and some of it to the diocese? Or are dioceses funded by the “Church tax” and parishes by collections?

    Yes, the money goes directly to the diocese, which in turn passes a share to the parishes. There also exist committes “Diözesansteuerauschüsse” (Diocesan Tax Committee) that oversee this process of distribution (at least so in my diocese [Regensburg-the home of our gloriously reigning Pope Benedict XVI ;) ]). In my diocese ther’s a special system for the parishes: every year the diocese pays a certain amount of money into a special bank account on behalf of the parish, where it is locked for ten years. After these ten years the money is liberated (includin the accumulated interest rates) and the parish can use it – this gives some stability of income to the parishes. One can see the financial situation of the coming years and adjust to it. And in cases of exceptional need, all the accumulated money may become unfreezed.
    In a few words: the system is burocratic, but efficient and very German! ;)

  17. B. says:

    The money goes to the diocese (the state keeps a small percentage for the service of collectiing the tax), which then funds the parishes with it. Aditionally, the dioceses fund other Catholic stuff (like some monasteries) and also very uncatholic stuff with it (like the largest publishing and bookstore chain in Germany, completely owned by the Catholic bishops which sells books about practicing witchcraft, about every occult practice you can imagine, the Da Vinci Code and Aleister Crowley, for example).
    What does not get funded is everything that has to do with the traditional mass. Every FSSP apostolate is run solely by collections and donations. Additionally every once in a while we have to give our sunday collection to the diocese to show our adherence to the bishop.

  18. Berolinensis says:

    Paul, South Midlands, UK:
    This is not the place to explain in detail the German Church tax system, but while it is, as I said and gave a link, right now hotly disputed whether the position of the German Bishops re: excommunication is tenable, it is not as ludicrous as you would think upon first hearing of it. The reason is that you’re obligated under state law to pay Church tax if you’re Catholic (or Protestant, for that matter). This money goes directly from your employer to the state to the Church, you never see it. In order not to have to pay this tax, you have to declare before a State authority that you abandon the Catholic Church (“austreten”). The German Bishops’ position until now has been that this is an act of public apostasy and thus leads to automatic excommunication. This has been generally accepted until very recently. Now, with this new Roman document (, the debate is up.

    Re: the Sunday thing (No. 3) is not as clear as it seems. The German original could also be read to mean the extraordinary form mustn’t be the only Mass celebrated on a Sunday.

    Chironomo: While the conferences have no authority, the Bishops may issue “decreta generalia
    executoria” according to cann. 31 through 33 CIC/1983. However, they may not, obviously, contradict the law they are executing, otherwise they are null (can. 33 § 1).

  19. RBrown says:

    The German bishops are consistent in not letting anything from Rome get in the way of their program of liberal fascism.

  20. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    I agree stongly with most–almost all–of Fr. Z’s analysis. On point number one, I fail to see and have always failed to see how the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at, say, 11.00 a.m., would cause those attending the New Mass at, say, 9.30 a.m. to be unable to cope with life. Will they turn to drink because somebody else is assisting at the Mass of the Ages? The New Mass clearly holds sway under postconciliar law. It gets favourable treatment under law as the supposed normative Mass. Those who simply can’t stand the ancient Mass can simply refuse to attend it. Why should they care if other faithful are benefitting from the Mass of the Ages at a different time and a different Altar? This is all only an excuse for proscribing the old Mass–but it is a pathetic one, not worthy of intelligent men. It makes the German bishops look petty, which is good, because they are petty. They are not paper tigers; they are paper mice: they look insignificant because they are.

    On Point Number Four, these bishops show their illogic and lack of understanding of law. Under S.P., a cÅ“tus, a group, can consist of as few as two persons petitioning in combination. These two or three, then, can be considered to be the ‘group’ that petitions. But, once their petition is lodged, there is nothing to stop other people (500, say) from other parishes from joining them at Mass. This is because, under the current Code, anyone can fulfil his Sunday obligation anywhere, even at an Eastern Divine Liturgy (cf. Canon 1248.1).

    On Point Six, numbers two and four of the German bishops are simply ultra vires: they have no jurisdiction to add these conditions. On the bit about accepting the doctrinal soundness of the New Mass, this provision of “Quattuor Abhinc Annos”, 1984, is now overrided (vide Article 1, S.P., last clause: it is substituted). Once again, in regard to understanding Latin, the term idoneus simply does not mean that. It means merely a capability to pronoucne the words in a dignified way. Moreover, I note that the bishops quote Article 5, Section 4, as if it could apply to Article 2 in regard to regularly unscheduled Masses. They have no authority to do so. While I see that Fr. Z.’s approving remark in regard to training priests is apposite per se, I warn, at the same time, that difficult Latin exams could be acoming, except that parish priests who know their law will simply ignore these guidelines and proceed without even informing their bishops. Once ordained, every priest has a fundamental right to celebrate *either* Mass in Latin, his lingua sacra (Canon 928). Once the bishop ordains a priest and grants him a celebret, that priest has that right. If bishops find this to be problematic, they need only obey the Holy Father and teach Latin in their seminaries. They can’t blame their priests for their own omissions.

    On Point Seven, I must agree with the German bishops and not with Fr. Z. (suprise!). S.P., while it does not deny a right of the faithful to benefit from the old Mass, does not affirm it either. True, there are mechanisms in place to show due respect for the legitimate aspirations of traditionalist faithful, but this does not equal a strict right. However, I note yet again that, in light of Article 1, a parish priest can authorise a 1962 Mass in Latin under Article 5.1 even if there is no cœtus present to request one or if a present one does not lodge such a request. 5.1 merely refers to what a parish priest ought to do if a request is lodged; but it does not say that he is not allowed to proceed unless such a group lodges such a request and, under Article 1, he can clearly go ahead.

    On Point Nine, I note that a decision of the German Episcopal Conference in this matter is not binding unless it is unanimous. I also note that, to date, the only personal parishes have been in France (one in the Archdiocese of Strasbourg, for instance, and there are two or three others). Of course, German bishops have the right to deny personal parishes to traditionalists under current law. By announcing this, they are trying to show that they still have some muscle. But, in light of the powers accorded retired priests, in particular, under S.P., their strutting and prancing is risible.

    Closing Comments:

    Really, the German bishops have no business issuing restrictions of any kind. To date, their record for allowing the old Mass under the previous m.p., on a “wide and generous” basis has been pathetic. Some of the most Catholic and populous dioceses, such as Passau, have flatly refused the old Mass under any conditions. On the other extreme, some of the most generous permissions have been given in underpopulated dioceses dominated by Lutherans (e.g. Osnabrück). In all, only about nine of the twenty-seven or twenty-eight sees have allowed the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday. Had the German bishops been more generous in the first place, like their colleagues in Austria and Switzerland, S.P. might very well have not been issued. It is because of the intransigence of their types that the Pope has acted, so they can blame themselves for their current situation. To try to obstruct further shows that they have tremendous cheek.

    In closing, I note that what the Germans do in the Church is almost irrelevant. Next to France, they are nothing.


  21. Fr. Paul McDonald says:


    When I got my TLM celebret back in 1989, I professed to accept (and I was tellin’ the truth) the “doctrinal rectitude” and “validity” (and not exactitude) of the Pauline Missal, in its Latin typical edition. That is, that that missal does not postitively deviate from the faith. That does not mean that I had to, or have to like it.
    I as a Catholic may without falling away from the Church hope for wish for, pray for the day when the entire current liturgical reform is a footnote in history books. In that sense, I do *not* have to “accept” it.

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