A liturgy prof on “exsistit continenter”

A received a note with a question from someone studying liturgy.  I am not sure if this is a seminarian or not. 

Here is the note (edited and with my emphases).

My liturgy professor has suggested that "paroeciis, ubi coetus fidelium traditioni liturgicae antecedenti adhaerentium continenter exsistit,"
implies that there must have existed such a group in a parish stably all along.  What he is saying is that the Latin of the text is telling us that it this provision is really not for people who become newly interested in the extraordinary form and desire to attend it (though he admits they can certainly attend)…but that it is for groups who, he cited fsspx, have held onto the older form of the Roman rite continuously (i.e. since the Council).
Is that a correct reading?  I may be biased, but I just assumed it meant that there would be people who would want to come to mass.

We know that there are certain problems with the translation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Many problems come from a lack of understanding of what the Latin says. 

There is also the problem of understanding the law behind what the Latin says.

In short, that is not a correct reading.

The Motu Proprio does not state that the group had to exist previously.  You certainly can’t get that out of the Latin.  After all, the tense of exsistit doesn’t imply any past existance.  It merely describes a situation.  That situation might exist right now, at this very moment.  It might exist in the future.  The Latin leaves the possibilities open.  An entirely new group of parishioners, say, young people.  Who are just going to be able to get to know the older form now that Summorum Pontificum is in force.  That group could be attached to the older forms as well as anyone else.  They don’t have to have known the older liturgy growing up.  They simply have to want it and ask for it and then be around continenter.  Remember: the Latin does not say "stabiliter".


Also, keep in mind the principle of interpretation of Church law.  Things which extend rights to people are to be interpreted as broadly as possible so as to favor people.  One only applies a narrow interpretation when laws restrict rights.  In that way, again, people’s rights are defended from undue restrictions.

A coetus can be a very small group, made up of any one attached, for any reason, to the older form of liturgy and that coetus has to have some sort of continuous presence for, I suppose, a reasonable amount of time.   The Motu Proprio doesn’t say how long exsistit continenter is, but I would say that if you heard from them once and then never a peep again, that wouldn’t constitute much of a presence or an attachment.

In short, that liturgy prof is wrong.  The Motu Proprio’s provisions apply also to people who are newly interested, as well as those who have been attached all along.  People who are newly interested are not to be denied their rights to enjoy the legitimate use of the Roman Rite in both uses as if they were second class Catholics.

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  1. Sid Cundiff says:

    I was expecting this. I’ve watch and heard a liturgy prof “twist and shout” before. And the other tactic is to send the MEF to Siberia — in time and location.

    Thanks Fr. Z for all that you do to shed light.

  2. Aelric says:

    The suggested interpretation by this liturgy prof is inconsistent with the Holy Father’s letter to the bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum; therein, he explicitly made mention not only of long-term, “stable” groups (e.g. SSPX), but of the new adherents to the ancient liturgical form.

    Quoting that letter: “Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

    The very next sentence continues: “Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio.”

    Unfortunately, Fr. Z’s rules presumably preclude one from saying that this professor is not worth the price of the ink on his/her degree.

  3. Andrew says:


    Acute! Acutissime! Explicatio vere acuta et clara.

  4. Paul Murnane says:

    Hmmm, would it be a stretch to think this liturgy prof includes the “usus antiquior” in his teaching? :)

  5. Athanasius says:

    There is simply no way for that professor to get a past reading in that. The verb is present indicative, it can only refer to the status at the time of publication and in the future of the law’s application.

  6. RBrown says:

    The liturgy prof would seem to have a very static understanding of the word “exsistere”, something that philosophers like Etienne Gilson and Cornelio Fabro fought to change.

    This dynamism of “exsistere” can be understood by noting that one of its definitions is “to emerge”.

  7. danphunter1 says:

    But do pastors understand enough Latin to interpret the Motu Proprio accurately?
    If they fail at this they quite possibly fail to implement the Mass in their parish.
    How can the faithful be sure of getting a fair hearing here?

  8. RBrown: This dynamism of “exsistere” can be understood by noting that one of its definitions is “to emerge”.

    An excellent observation.

  9. Monica says:

    These remnants of the “spirit”-of-vatican-two era will stop at nothing to supress anything that looks traditionally Catholic. Rome has spoken…the Traditional Latin Mass is here to stay.

  10. JPG says:

    I was only ten when the New Mass was introduced. I do not recall this degree of institutional resistence to it. I recall the contrary. I recall it bursting on the scene with little if any resistence.

  11. Andrew says:


    … do pastors understand enough Latin to interpret the Motu Proprio accurately?

    “Experts” these days can barely understand Latin and even more barely speak or write it. And they don’t want to learn it. It is considered below their dignity to use Latin as their own. It’s only there for them as an archeological item to be displayed but not to be used in daily life. So “no” – pastors do not understand it. And this is the underlying problem in my opinion. It is foreign to them: and who can love the unknown?

  12. It seems to me that in the context of Summorum Pontificum, (which is not a restrictive document : quite the contrary, ) the Latin phrase “coetus … continenter existit” refers to a group (no matter how small a group,) of people, young or old, or both, who desire the older form of Mass.

    Summorum Pontificum is not a restrictive document.
    Quite the contrary.
    It is therefore not to be interpreted or applied in a restrictive sense.

    There is no mention in the text of a group from the “old days” which has remained attached to the older form. If you meant to say that, then you would have to insert a phrase saying something like “qui manserunt adherentes”.
    And that very definitely is not the case.

    As to the meaning of the law behind the Latin, Fr. Z reminds us that the more restrictive word “stabiliter” has been avoided.

    Presumably, the intention is to exclude the possibility of a small ad hoc group of enthusiasts (if that is the right word) who form together to make a specific request, and who then melt away.
    Such a group could not really be said to exist “continenter”.

    It would seem, however, that because of the various interpretations being made, a clarification from “Ecclesia Dei” is necessary.

  13. EDG says:

    They’re just using the tried and true tactic that defeated the indult in many places. Our diocese is notorious for its opposition to the TLM, even though petitions containing a substantial number of names (in one case, 250 from the same city) were submitted over the years.

    Back in the indult days, one of our clerical officials was in Rome and was summoned by the Commission to discuss this, since it appears that some of the faithful had complained to Rome. His way of dealing with it? He looked at the postmarks and announced that they weren’t all from the diocese, he didn’t know anything about these people, and therefore they could not be a stable group but were simply a pressure group brought together by evil anti-VatII forces.

    The city in question was right on the border of the diocese, and many parishioners at the local churches are quite legitimately registered, but happen to live in the county where the neighboring diocese begins and hence could have a postmark from that county. I am sure he knew this perfectly well. But my point is that the technique of impugning the group itself is an effective one that the opposition folks developed back in the indult days and are simply trotting out again.

  14. Nick says:

    Maybe someone spoke on this but here it goes again:

    The idea that it was in reference to a “stable group that existed ALL ALONG” doesnt really make sense. The only people this could possibly be in reference to are those who hate (even reject) the NO yet sat through it all these years. If it is limited to them then that logically means once that generation dies off the MP means pretty much nothing because no “stable group” would exist. Whats worse is such a strict requirement would require some kind of Inquisition in which people must provide proof of “stability all along” and such an exercise is clearly over the top. In the end it boils down into absurdity when such limits are placed.

    If the MP is in reference to groups like the SSPX alone then that is basically slapping those who refused to join sspx in the face while rewarding the sspx, and clearly that cannot be the Pope’s intention.

    This was a document for healing, not hurting. Ironically the only ones claiming to be hurt by the MP are the ones who have been doing the suppressing this whole time.

  15. TAAD says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Holy Father also state something to the effect
    that the bishops should allow what the church permits! It doesn’t sound like he is restricting it very much by saying that.

  16. cor ad cor loquitur says:

    Is it possible that the adverb continenter modifies the participle adhaerentium? In which case, if we translate exsistit as ‘emerges’ or ‘steps forward’, the sentence might read

    In parishes where a group of the faithful steps forward to declare an unswerving attachment to the older liturgical tradition, let the parish priest / pastor willingly accept their petitions for celebrating holy Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal…

    This would rule out a group demanding the Tridentine Mass “just to try it” (they could go to another parish where it is regularly offered) but affirms the needs of those whose attachment to the older form is not a whim or a fad.

    Does suscipio imply that the parish priest is to “grant” as well as to “receive” the petitions of the faithful? Could he receive a petition, but on reflection decide to decline it, perhaps because of a shortage of capable priests? Isn’t tribuo the word usually translated as “grant”?

  17. RBrown says:

    Does suscipio imply that the parish priest is to “grant” as well as to “receive” the petitions of the faithful? Could he receive a petition, but on reflection decide to decline it, perhaps because of a shortage of capable priests? Isn’t tribuo the word usually translated as “grant”?
    Comment by cor ad cor loquitur

    Suscipere includes granting: One either receives (accepts) or declines requests. A letter can be accepted and the request in it denied, but in that case the request was not accepted–only the letter. NB: the root cipio.

    Thus from the mass: Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis . . .

    I think tribuere is not to be used here simply because of the ecclesial nature of the mass, thus the rights of the Christifideles.

  18. NBrown: . NB: the root cipio.

    NB: the root capio.

  19. RBrown says:

    Brown: . NB: the root cipio.

    NB: the root capio.
    Comment by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

    Which fact strengthens the argument.

  20. cor ad cor loquitur says:

    Yes: Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.

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