QUAERITUR: Rights of students on campus to TLM under Summorum Pontificum

This is in my mailbox.

Fr. Z,
I am in the midst of a tense situation at a Catholic college, the identity of which I would prefer not to disclose.  The question facing us is: Granting that Summorum Pontificum acknowledges the rights of the faithful to request and to be given access to the usus antiquior, is there any way to derive, out of the document or any authoritative interpretations of it, that this access should primarily take the form of Masses offered on Sundays and possibly other Holy Days of obligation
I ask because there are college chaplaincies that do have the old rite, yet offer it once a week on Tuesdays at 7:30 AM, or on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 1 PM, or other such odd times.  It seems to me that a "stable group of the faithful" who legitimately desire the Extraordinary Form are inherently requesting it for Sunday because that is the Dies Domini, the high point of the Christian week.  For a pastor or chaplain to allow or celebrate the old rite other times is good, certainly, but not really the central point.
Would it depend on what the stable group itself explicitly requests?  I mean, if the group formally requests a Sunday Mass, is that understood to be the Mass that should be given to them in the older usage?  Or, if a pastor or chaplain responds by saying, "Well, I’m fine with a Saturday at 9:00 AM," would there be any grounds for complaint on the part of the group: "Thank you for that opportunity, but we were really looking for a way to fulfill our Sunday obligation with the old rite."?
Finally this comes down to a question: When, or with what circumstances, can the stable group be considered to have been granted that to which its members have a right?  I know some will say this is just a matter of prudence and practicality, but it seems to me that there has got to be some way of getting closer to an essential answer.  Otherwise, it seems either that the stable group could keep demanding all the way to asking for seven days a week, which is quite beyond what is feasible in many contexts right now, OR that the stable group could be denied even a Sunday Mass, as long as a "bone" had been tossed to them on some other day of the week or month.
God Bless,
[please withhold name]


These are questions for the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and possibly the Council for Legislative Texts.

First, remember that Summorum Pontificum speaks of stable groups in the context of parishes … parish priests, pastors, are to respond to stable groups.  Of course it makes sense that if the church isn’t a parish and there is someone other than a pastor, this should apply also.  But that is not what the document says.  Also, while it is pretty clear that a group can be very small, you have to argue that a body of students is "stable".  I think the law would provide that they have some sort of domicile, if they live there.  But I don’t quite understand the status of students at a school.  It might be that "stable" doesn’t apply.

Second, I think rather than the legal/juridical argument approach, it would be best to try to arrange this through persuasion and relentless charity.  You will probably get farther that way and quicker.  The student who want this should cheerfully wear down those in charge by a kind and good-natured constant "rapping on the judge’s door" as it were, until they relent.  

Also, it may be that the priests involved don’t know how to say the older form of Mass, or they have too much to do now.  In that case, you need to be creative and get the necessary resources for the priests, including, perhaps a priest from outside willing to come in for a while.  That may involve the bishop’s permission: keep that in mind. 

Finally, it might be a good idea to contact students and prof at other schools where this cause has already been taken up and worked through.

Clearly, the spirit of the document aims at helping many groups of people, not just those who are registered parishioners.  Hopefully a sense of charity and goodwill will prevail in your case. 

Do not neglect getting the students to pray to the guardian angels of those involved, to move them to a better position, including some fasting for their petitions.  You can also pray to St. Joseph, who is a powerful intercessor.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The issue is being nicely dealt with in Cambridge, UK. Today, Fisher House will start a regular Extraordinary Form Mass: Saturdays, 17:30!

    Details on my blog. Pray for the Chaplain and the students!

  2. Father Totton says:

    There is a Catholic college near my parish about which similar allegations have been made. Though I don’t know the current status of the EF Mass on campus, and while I hope for the best, especially for those students who desire it, in the meantime, I would like to make it known to all students at Benedictine College (you know where you are) that you are most welcome to attend Mass in the EF at St. James Parish in St. Joseph, MO, every Sunday at 1230. It is about a twenty minute drive from your school.

  3. Liam says:

    The practical issue for parish Sunday schedules that are already full and for which scheduling an additional Sunday mass would be a problem for logistical or canonical (trination – why that issue wasn’t address in SP is beyond me, but it would have been helpful for Rome to make a clear universal exception for ritual pastoral purposes) reasons is that in the eyes of many pastors and parishioners, you’d need that stable group to be of a sufficient size to be nearly a majority of the regular attendance of the least-attended mass in order for the substitution of the EF to be as welcomed as those who desire it would probably want it to be. (This appears to be one of the reasons Rome rejected the approach of stipulating the minimum size of a group).

  4. Andrew says:

    This is an interesting question because a group of us in an English university are considering how best to approach our chaplain, whom we are fairly sure is quite anti-SP, about provision of the EF. We’re not quite sure what to do because our chaplaincy is run by one of the mendicant orders so do we approach our local ordinary or the prior provincial in the event that our request is turned down? Moreover, it’s hard to argue that a stable group exists because, of course, students are only ever at the university for about three years. With all these obstacles, and the current state of the Church in England, we are actually quite pessimistic about our chances regardless of how humbly we make our approach. It’s easier to retreat to a twice-monthly EF in the city but that is quite depressing because then we’re back to that old “outside” mentality where we don’t interact with the “parish” on our campus. I will continue to attend the chaplaincy NO (celebrated rubric-lessly), which causes great pain, as well as the local EF because it’s important not to become an EF ghetto.

  5. Paul Madrid says:

    Father, because most students either intend or in fact reside at their schools for at least three months (September – December & mid January – mid May), they would have at least established a canonical quasi-domicile, meaning that their proper parish priest would be the parish priest of where they live while studying. See CIC canon 107 § 1 (quasi-domicile establishes one’s parish priest along with domicile); id. canon 102 § 2 (intention to reside or in-fact residence for 3 months establishes quasi-domicile).

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