QUAERITUR: Are bishops obliged to establish “personal parishes”?

From a reader:

Dear Father Z:

Some people in Glasgow are considering asking Archbishop Conti for a personal parish.
They are going to get some names of people who want one – a petition – and present them to His Excellency.

Then, since they expect a refusal, they intend to appeal to Rome, as the Archbishop is obligated to provide them with a full-time, all-Traditional parish in a convenient location.

I don’t believe that is the case, but they insist there is documentation to that effect.

I wouldn’t mind petitioning the Archbishop, but I am afraid that they may just be spoiling for a fight or something.

Do you know of anything written that indicates an Archbishop must provide people with a full-time personal parish if they request it?

No, I don’t think the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum obliges a bishop to establish a "personal parish".

The Motu Proprio obliges parish priests, pastors, to give some sort of positive response to members of the faithful who make a request.  But that is at the level of the parish.

If the priest at the parish cannot (or will not) do what he can so that reasonable requests are met, then the diocesan bishop is obliged to do something.  What that "something" is is not spelled out.  My reading of the relevant paragraphs leads me to think that he is strenuously urged to provide Masses at the least, somewhere in someway.  He really should provide for the people’s needs.  One war of responding could be the establishment of a "personal parish". 


If we consider that there may be only a handful of people in various parishes requesting unwilling or unable pastors for the older Mass, it makes sense, in a way, to set up a "personal parish" so that those people can have their legitimate needs fulfilled.  As a beginning, that can be a good solution.

However, I am cautiously supportive of "personal parishes".  The caution comes from the need to avoid creating an isolated community, a ghetto as it were, thus diminishing the possibility that the older Mass will also be established in other parishes of the area. 

Summorum Pontificum is really aimed at the parish level, more than the diocesan level.  However, the "personal parish" is, probably, a necessary step in some places.  It can be a good solution in the beginning.

If I were in any way involved with that group of people, whom you suggest might be trying to pick a fight… or at the least going into this process with a chip on their shoulders… I would warmly recommend that they adopt a warm and cordial tone.  They can urge and insist, but they would be well advised to keep it friendly and respectful, leaving aside what the bishop will probably just take as threats and challenges to his authority. 

That usually doesn’t work very well with bishops, by the way. 

You are practically guaranteeing long delays and frustration by going into this with an attitude.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Brian says:

    “One war of responding could be the establishment of a ‘personal parish’.”

    Amusing typo.

  2. Michael says:

    Can someone define “personal parish” for me?

  3. Geoffrey says:

    A “personal parish” is a parish set up by the bishop to accomodate a certain group of people, whether it be an ethnic or language group, liturgical rite, etc. Most parishes are “territorial”.

    Where I was born, there were about 6 Catholic parishes in one little town, all personal: one for Italians, one for Portuguese, and at least 2 for French, etc. (An Italian parish and French parish are actually right across the street from each other!)

  4. Spero in Deo says:

    I am one of those in Glasgow who dearly love the traditional Mass and would very much to see it more widely available without the very palpable climate of fear amongst our priests of being seen to have anything to do with traditional liturgy or devotions. If a personal parish were to be erected in the Archdiocese I would jump for joy.

    However, I don’t believe this group is going into it with the right attitude. Right from the start there is a sense of looking to pick a fight. Yes, the Archbishop is against the restoration of the traditional liturgy in his Archdiocese and dismissive of those who love the traditional liturgy (“hankering after the past”, etc) but this will only succeed in winding him up even further and can only be counter-productive.

    The impetus for this demand for a diocesan personal parish is coming from Catholic Truth Scotland which consists of very vocal attendees of the SSPX chapel in Glasgow. So why would they demand a personal parish from the Archbishop when they already have a parish dedicated to the traditional liturgy in the Archdiocese?

    It is not for me pretend to look into anyone’s soul but I hope that this is the result of prayer and a longing for regularisation within the Archdiocese. Past experience of Catholic Truth Scotland suggests that it is not and is an attempt to force a situation where they can exult in righteous indignation – and that’s a highly intoxicating emotion.

    This confrontational attitude towards the ordinary of the Archdiocese will only make him even more ill-disposed towards those like myself who prefer the traditional Latin Mass and attend the only diocesan EF Mass available.

  5. Chris says:

    Fr. Z: “The caution comes from the need to avoid creating an isolated community, a ghetto as it were, thus diminishing the possibility that the older Mass will also be established in other parishes of the area.”

    Father, that is exactly why my family is trying to get a personal parish in our diocese.

    All we have now is a weekly traditional Mass, but no sacraments, no real parish life. If we want a real parish life, we need to go to a fully new mass parish (we attend a mixed rite shrine 20 miles from our house).

    We do want to be seperated, not from the Church of course, but from modernism. Because we are constantly scandalized each and every time we are around the new mass, either by the mass itself or by the liberal, modernist people who go to it for the most part (there are always exceptions).

    So please, don’t knock the personal parishes. [I didn’t knock them. Read what I wrote.] They’re a God send and many of us are fighting for them. We need a sanctuary that we can retreat to in order to escape the world, even just for an hour and a half a week. And, sadly, the new mass is not an escape from the world — it has become no different than the world.

  6. Michael J says:

    If you want to fight for a personal parish, what better ally can you have than Our Lady? How about a Novena to Our Lady of Good Remedy:

    O QUEEN OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, Most Holy Virgin, we venerate thee. Thou art the beloved Daughter of the Most High God, the chosen Mother of the Incarnate Word, the Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Sacred Vessel of the Most Holy Trinity.
    O Mother of the Divine Redeemer, who under the title of Our Lady of Good Remedy comes to the aid of all who call upon thee, extend thy maternal protection to us. We depend on thee, Dear Mother, as helpless and needy children depend on a tender and caring mother.

    Hail, Mary….

    O LADY OF GOOD REMEDY, source of unfailing help, grant that we may draw from thy treasury of graces in our time of need.
    Touch the hearts of sinners, that they may seek reconciliation and forgiveness. Bring comfort to the afflicted and the lonely; help the poor and the hopeless; aid the sick and the suffering. May they be healed in body and strengthened in spirit to endure their sufferings with patient resignation and Christian fortitude.

    Hail, Mary….

    DEAR LADY OF GOOD REMEDY, source of unfailing help, thy compassionate heart knows a remedy for every affliction and misery we encounter in life. Help me with thy prayers and intercession to find a remedy for my problems and needs, especially for…

    (Indicate your special intentions here – Establishment of a Traditional Latin Mass Personal parish).

    On my part, O loving Mother, I pledge myself to a more intensely Christian lifestyle, to a more careful observance of the laws of God, to be more conscientious in fulfilling the obligations of my state in life, and to strive to be a source of healing in this broken world of ours.

    Hail, Mary….
    Dear Lady of Good Remedy, be ever present to me, and through thy intercession, may I enjoy health of body and peace of mind, and grow stronger in the faith and in the love of thy Son, Jesus.

    Hail, Mary…..

    V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of Good Remedy,
    R. That we may deepen our dedication to thy Son, and make the world alive with His Spirit. Amen.

  7. Chris says:

    Yes, years of novenas have been prayed. We even did the 54-day novena.

    Prayers, however, must be matched with action.

  8. RichR says:

    I’ll bet there are already letters composed to PCED waiting to be mailed the day they receive the denial from the chancery. Why turn a request into a challenge unnecessarily – especially with such weak “proof”? Until the clarification document comes out, I guess we will see a lot of these things happening……..trying to force Rome’s hand before Rome issues the document.

  9. Chris says:

    Father, you said you were “cautiously supportive.” Yes, that’s not knocking them, my apologies. But it’s not full support either, which means you’re not fully supportive of the FSSP, the Institute, etc. [Ridiculous.]

    But you don’t have to worry about these things as a traditional priest — you have the Mass and sacraments. You don’t have to worry week after week if your Mass will dissapear, wonder why you can’t get the traditional absolution after Confession, worry about trying to find a priest to baptize your child, marry you, perform Extreme Unction on a dying spouce, etc. [For a Catholic having a valid Sacrament in time of need should be what matters. We want more, of course, than just valid. But when you are in extremis I bet you won’t quibble. And if you do… then you are in serious trouble.]

    Those are all things we who are without a personal parish have to worry about constantly. And, at the same time, be called everything including scismatic because we won’t accept the new rite. This is why we’re fighting — and praying — for a personal parish. [And that’s fine. It is a little short sighted, but it’s fine. I, on the other hand, and hoping that the older form of Mass and sacraments will spread to many parishes, rather than be isolated in one: which – mark my words – will happen if we get complacent and stop striving for Mass in other places.]

  10. Mitch#2 says:

    I am on the fence with the personal parish thing since I think the high risk will be the attitude that “They are Over There”. Maybe after the TLM has been established in most parishes and after one Sunday Mass can no longer contain the attendees should the personal parish be established. Relegating it to a far off corner first, increases the liklihood of another marginalization. I think it should be a second step……Just my thoughts….

  11. Jayna says:

    The problem I’ve experienced with personal parishes (the Archdiocese of Atlanta has one) is that people think since it’s there, then there’s no reason to offer the Mass in any other parish. [Exactly.] I’m always told that if I don’t like the way the liturgy is done where I am, then I’m perfectly free to make the hour long drive to St. Francis de Sales. Every parish has their own niche, and God forbid anyone try to expand their horizons.

  12. Chris: You make a point with which most young TLM families appear to agree. That it’s not just about the Mass. If it were, then a TLM in every ordinary parish might be an adequate answer.

    But for these families, it’s about the whole faith. A total parish atmosphere of traditional faith and devotion with all the sacraments is not likely to be available anytime soon without a personal parish.

    And whereas a TLM in every parish would be quite a step, it still probably would be only a Sunday Mass, whereas many of us yearn for a daily TLM and a full traditional calendar life, which seems unlikely except in a personal parish setting. [This is why personal parishes are good. At the same time, we must not then stop trying to help it grow in other places.]

  13. berenike says:

    That’s funny. THe moment I read this I thought “I *bet* that Catholic Truth thing is involved”.

    Chris, good way of p’ing off the bishop, giving all old rite devotees a worse name, and causing general aggro without achieving anything, is to do anything with the Catholic Truth people: because they appear incapable of undertaking a worthwhile cause without damaging it by the way they do it. The end is not to be right, but to win over other people, and a spoonful of honey catches more flies than a barrelful of vinegar, as St F de S says.

    And we need to win people over, the bishop, the priests, other people, because more people will come to love God if the liturgy is celebrated ad mentem ecclesiae, fewer people will lapse, and the country could be converted. I’m a denizen of a neighbouring diocese, I know what crap parish liturgy in Scotland is like. For years I lived in the country and didn’t have a car. I’ve been to my parish priest, in as friendly and normal a way as I could muster, to ask about the implementation of the thingy on the Collaboration of the Lay Faithful, and been more or less told to forget it. I also know trads have a bad name, and because of that it is difficult to do anything in a “Benedictine reform” direction, because the bad name of the trads (justified or not, though Catholic Truth is certainly helping to justify it) tars any such thing in people’s minds.

    Don’t put the old rite and old ritual books over the Church. The words of absolution have not, as far as I know, changed. The Mass is valid,and there are places in your diocese where the new rite is celebrated with reverence. Sum.Pont. doesn’t say anything about an obligation to establish a personal parish. The bishop would not be doing anything wrong in refusing a personal parish. Please don’t risk discord over a matter that is not one of sin. Please? There’s so much truly terrible stuff to deal with. And “honey” methods of promoting the old rite and a liturgical mindset. The happiness of random people in the parish when we organised a solemn benediction. The old nun practically crying when she happened to drop in when someone was practising chant. The ecstatic and slightly dazed students after a splendiferous Pentecost Mass. The various completely uninterested friends who lost their default hostility to it after a talk in the pub, and a subsequent Traddy Sunday Mass.

    Charm the archbishop, don’t antagonise him. Please?

  14. Commentator says:

    The group in Glasgow might think of requesting not a parish, but a chaplaincy. That is canonically a lot easier for the bishop, and amounts to more or less the same thing – though you will need a kindly pastor to host the chaplaincy in his parish church.

    It would be a good idea to prepare for the bishop a dossier of such chaplaincies/parishes around the world – compiled from the respective websites. An excellent place to start would be the Dublin chaplaincy, just across the water, which is quite a success. They also have a good website, complete with photos of the bishop administering confirmation: http://www.latinmass.dublindiocese.ie

    If you can let the bishop see that this is a fairly normal, widespread phenomenon, it might make it easier for him to agree. But as others have said, at all times be courteous, gracious, prayerful.

  15. P says:

    Whilst I think that this suggestion in Glasgow is doomed to fail since (a) Catholic Truth is behind it and they are looking for it to fail [just read their blog on the issue – they’re already talking about inviting ‘independent’ priests from America] and (b) Archbishop Conti will never agree to this.

    Nevertheless I think that if a bishop were to establish a personal parish he would need to consider the same issues that would face a proposed territorial parish – how many actually come?, how many might come?, can they afford a priest, a church, utility bills, etc.? Ultimately this boils down to “Would this parish have a realistic future?” In Glasgow today the answer is no. Maybe under a future bishop a more positive approach to the EF would result in more people being interested, may be not – but right now there are few interested. Given that this is the case a personal parish is not the appropriate answer. A chaplaincy would be more appropriate to support this movement and see if it naturally grows into being ready to be a parish.

  16. Chris says:

    Not surprisingly the folk at Catholic Truth Scotland are no fans of Fr Z:

  17. Chris says:

    Henry, you’re exactly right with what we’re striving for. DAILY Mass, all the sacraments, adult education classes based on tradition, traditional catechism classes, mom’s groups, etc. We want it all, just like everyone else has it. And if we’re off in a “ghetto,” sobeit.

    Berenike, I’m not, as you say, putting anything over the Church. The Church for all time has been the traditional Mass and Faith. I’m putting the Church over my bishop who is not filling my spiritual needs.

    And yes, there is the possibility of validity in the new rite as long as the matter, form and intention is there. I get it and I’m not questioning it. But basic validity and what is the absolute best thing for my family are very different things. I will never put my local ordinary — the Church as you’re referring to it — over my family’s salvation just to show false obediance.

  18. Kradcliffe says:

    Here’s a link to the discussion on the Catholic Truth Scotland blog:


    I kinda think they are just setting the Archbishop up for “failure” so they can be angry. [Some people are happy only when they are unhappy.]

    I think it’s been brought up here, before, that Archbishop Conti is not enthusiastic about the EF. From what I hear, a lot more people attend the SSPX chapel than go to the diocesan EF Mass. He probably figures the only people who want it are the mud-slinging malcontents at CTS….

  19. P says:

    Yes Chris, one of the commentators describes Fr Z as:

    “He’s so popular because people are crying out for the old faith and Fr. Z pretends to give it to them. What they really get in the final analysis, though, is just a dangerous hybrid between conservatism and modernism.”

  20. Johnny Domer says:

    Father, I kinda understand your hesitancy for personal parishes, but there’s a bigger reason why people want them: orthodoxy. Yeah, I guess it would be nice if lots of parishes offered a Tridentine Mass on Sundays, but what we’d like is daily Masses, lots of traditional devotions and stuff, all the other Sacraments in the older form, Marriages, CONFIRMATION (not getting that at a normal parish), funerals…it’s the whole liturgical package that people want, and except in the super-rare case of Mater Ecclesiae, you’re not getting that from any diocese. But beyond even the liturgy, every little thing of an FSSP parish is good: CCD, RCIA, preparation for marriage, Lenten missions, conferences, talks, speakers, EVERYTHING. Plus…how many diocesan priests have received the sort of excellent spiritual, intellectual, and human formation that your average FSSP priest has received? Anyone reading this who’s met an FSSP priest knows what I mean. People want orthodoxy, good priests, good teaching, and in many places getting an FSSP parish (or ICK) is your only hope.

  21. Chris says:

    Johnny: “how many diocesan priests have received the sort of excellent spiritual, intellectual, and human formation that your average FSSP priest has received?”

    And that hits it right on the head. You can have the best intentions as a priest, but if you’ve been formed in a normal seminary, you’re lacking. It’s not just a lack of understanding tradition or being taught Thomistic theology, it’s they’re very ethos. It’s just not the same as a priest who comes out of an FSSP, ICKSP or SSPX seminary.

    I’ve had many conversations at the dinner table with priests, both from the Institute and the FSSP and from our diocese. I can’t tell you how drastically different those conversations are. It’s just night and day.

  22. Bill J. says:

    “Henry, you’re exactly right with what we’re striving for. DAILY Mass, all the sacraments, adult education classes based on tradition, traditional catechism classes, mom’s groups, etc. We want it all, just like everyone else has it. And if we’re off in a “ghetto,” sobeit.”

    Cus we’re traditionalists, not like the modernist bozos and protestant heretics that infest and dominate the “Novus Ordo church” from the top on down.


    Yes, “ghetto” is a good word for it, so is “sect.”

  23. Kradcliffe says:

    “And that hits it right on the head. You can have the best intentions as a priest, but if you’ve been formed in a normal seminary, you’re lacking. It’s not just a lack of understanding tradition or being taught Thomistic theology, it’s they’re very ethos. It’s just not the same as a priest who comes out of an FSSP, ICKSP or SSPX seminary.”

    And that’s precisely the kind of attitude that warms the hearts of bishops!
    (We need some emoticons here… I need to insert an eyeroll.)

  24. Michael J says:


    Are you honestly suggesting that a desire for the Sacraments in their traditional form is somehow schismatic?

  25. If anyone PICKS A FIGHT here, I will ban them from reading the blog.

    Have a wonderful day!


  26. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Thank you Father Z for your reminder.

    God bless you.


  27. I wonder how a priest who has a personal parish that celebrates the TLM….could ever go back to the Novus Ordo? Maybe the three new optional endings help.

  28. fxr2 says:

    Father Z,
    I know that you support personal parishes. I look forward to seeing you this weekend.
    I became an altar boy in 1973 and our pastor was still saying many of the prayers of the old mass, such as the Lavabo, under his breath. I’m sure this was not obvious to the congregation, but it was certainly obvious to me while serving mass. I continued as an altar boy until I was 15 years old in 1982 when I was sophomore in high school. Our new pastor had who made not a few changes to the way thing had been done hired me to do some work around the church on Saturday evenings between the weddings and the anticipated mass. I didn’t stay in the position very long. I attended mass all through Catholic high school and when I went to college I was horrified as to the state of the liturgy at the Newman Center. By the time I graduated I was not attending mass at all.
    When I was working one of my room mates convinced me to attend one of the more reverent parishes in our area and when I met my wife we attended the parish together and were married there. When we were first married I became aware of a “personal parish” and my wife and I attended for a while. She was not sure about the EF and it took some time. We continued to attend the reverent parish we were married in. When Motu Proprio SP was released I was thrilled that I would be able to attend the EF mass at the parish where we were married, and my children went to school. The Parrish offered an 11 week course in the EF mass. My family began attending the EF Mass as often as possible.
    Suddenly my wife, who had been not sure of the EF mass, asked that we move our affiliation to the “personal parish”. A part of me resisted as I did not want to move to a ‘ghetto”. I knew that the traditional mass and sacraments were what I wanted. After a long and prayerful deliberation I came to the conclusion the “personal parish was the best, safest place to raise my 5 children.
    I understand that you hope and desire that the EF mass be made widely available to all Catholics and especially influence the diocesan priests who most often provide mass to the majority of Catholics. I share your desires and hope, but charged with leading my children to Our Lord, I believe the “personal parish” is where we need to be.
    I know I am blessed to have had the choice between a weekly EF mass and a “personal parish” both with in driving distance. I pray that the EF mass becomes more widely available at every parish. I know the parish I used to attend with my family was a very good place to raise my children. I now know that the “personal parish” is the best place to lead my family to our Lord.
    Sorry for rambling,


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