QUAERITUR: isn’t it “inappropriate” to have the Extraordinary Form?

From a reader:

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog lately, although it has been somewhat frustrating as I tend to disagree with most of what you say.  My question, which is an honest one, is how people could genuinely either attend or preside, on a regular basis, the Extraordinary Form.  Doesn’t the mere classification of Extraordinary indicate that it should not be celebrated and/or led on a regular (i.e., ordinary) basis?  Therefore, wouldn’t the regular celebration of the EF be inappropriate?
Seriously, this is an honest question.



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  1. Dauphin says:

    If you read the Holy Father’s letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, it is clear that the classification of the Traditional Latin Mass as the “Extraordinary Form” is simply a recognition of the practical reality that few priests can celebrate it. To read it as an attempt to in any way hinder the growth of this form is to misrepresent the Holy Father’s intentions.

    It has been made clear by Cardinal Castrillon that the Pope desires this Mass to be celebrated regularly in all the parishes and taught in every seminary. He wants it to become an integral part of the church’s liturgical life, enriching the whole church with the treasure of her tradition.

  2. Jono says:

    In agreement with the first post, the Holy Father set out guidelines for a legitimate expansion of the use of the Extraordinary Form. Essentially, he made it clear that, 1) any priest may celebrate it in a private mass (mass without the people); 2) any laity who ask to join in such a celebration ought to be invited by the priest to these celebrations; 3) where there is a stable group desiring to celebrate this form, pastors (not just bishops) ought to see to it that the people have the opportunity to take part in celebration of this Form of the Mass. Certainly, having the opportunity to have at least one weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form in each region or deanery of the diocese (to make it easy for everyone who wants to celebrate this form to do so) sounds like a good pastoral solution.

  3. ChristopherM says:

    I would say you are placing too much on the word “Extraordinary” itself , an Sunrise is Extraordinary – yet it happens every day. The fact that God loves us despite our best efforts to go against his will is Extraordinary – Do you see where I am going with this.

    The word Extraordinary – as Dauphin pointed out – is not in reference to some abstract situation that only occurs once a century – As an Comet or Meteor shower is Extraordinary, but refers to the beauty, reverence and worthy worship to which only God is worthy.

  4. Mitchell NY says:

    With the eventuality of having this Mass in every or nearly every parish as an option on Sunday accomplishes many of the goals of SP. It would certainly bring Latin and Chant into bigger use which is what the Second Vatican Council desired, It would bring people into this form whether drawn to it or simply drifting, people who experience this form will have more insight into how the NO should be an extension of the continuity the Holy Father seeks thereby influencing their opinions on how the NO Mass should be celebrated, It would also allow this form to grow organically over the years into perhaps what the Council desired, it would inspire deep, reflective, worship on the part of many parishoners, which is never a bad thing, and it would also allow people from every cultural backround to participate in the same Mass, instead of Spanish people going to only Spanish Mass, Vietnamese to Vietnamese Mass, Germans to German Mass etc, and it may, just maybe bring back some of the milllions who no longer go to Mass or left the Church since 1970 and the abrupt changes to the Mass and Sacraments. These are all good things.

  5. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    The history of the Western Rite is full of examples of various ‘uses’ or variants of the Roman Rite, from which they were originally derived. Most of these were particular to certain localities, like the Mozarabic Rite in Spain, the Sarum Use in England, or the Ambrosian Rite in Milan. Some were particular to certain religious orders: the Dominicans had their own ‘use’, as do the Carthusians and others. All of them were legitimate, and if you happened to be a member of a parish where a Dominican was assigned, the Mass you regularly heard was according to the Dominican ritual. The promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI in 1969 did not abolish these ‘uses’ (the Carthusians, for example, still use theirs). There’s no difference here: the regular celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal in certain communities is no different than the regular celebration of Holy Mass according to the Anglican Use in certain parishes. It is part of the legitimate diversity within the one Roman or Western Rite of the Catholic Church.

  6. ssoldie says:

    There is nothing ‘inappropriate’ praying the ‘Gregorian Rite Mass’ every day of the year. I would attend daily Mass if it were so offered. I believe to say that the “Mass of all time” the Mass that has come about organically since Pope St.Gregory The Great,assembled it from the many liturgy’s that were being used back in the 6th century, to be considered ‘inappropriate’ is lacking intelligence.

  7. mhittle says:

    The term “extraordinary” refers to the fact that it is generally not ordinarily said, as most priests currently lack the capacities to say it. But what if the current Extraordinary Form actually became more popular than the current Ordinary Form? Then would the Mass of Paul VI be inappropriate? Certainly not.

    I also wonder how it can be “inappropriate” to use a Missal that was used for hundreds of years- the one that was known by the vast majority of the saints.

  8. PS says:

    Frankly, think of the Mass itself: wherein we re-live the last supper, and are invited to literally consume the body and blood of an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent deity. That, in and of itself, is extraordinary.

    A great deal of noise is made about the benefits of the EF of Mass on this blog and I believe it has less to do with any particular reactionary impulse, but only with deep misgivings about the OF of Mass and the abuses and ir-reverence it arguably permits. I am lucky enough to live in an area where I have access to several EF Masses; I am even luckier because I live in an area where the NO/OF Masses offered are usually done so properly, with reverence and all the other good things so I only go to the EF on occasion. There are plenty of places, however, where the local clergy takes full advantage of the more laid-back attitude engendered in the OF and devout Catholics have little choice but to drive, sometimes hours, to attend a more traditional, appropriate Mass. There are plenty of places where the choice is between an hour drive to an EF Mass and the local churches where “Creator” is substituted for “Lord” and “for us men” disappears from the Creed.

  9. Hidden One says:

    The FSSP and ICRSS and some others (in union with the Church) celebrate only (and therefore regularly) the Extraordinary Form, and have been doing so long before “Summorum Pontificum”. At the same time, there are those lay and religious who have attended only or almost only the Extraordinary Form since long before “Summorum Pontificum”. Both the priests and the not-priests received the support of the Holy See (if, at times, not so much as they would like) well before “Summorum Pontificum” – in fact, it was by the support of the Holy See that the FSSP and ICRSS came to exist.

    Consequently, the subsequent document “Summorum Pontificum”, which by intent liberalizes the celebration of the Extraordinary Form at the desire of either the priest or the people (or both), cannot be construed so as to be against regular celebration or attendance.

  10. mhittle says:

    Amen, PS- I drive an hour each way to an EF Mass weekly.

  11. Choirmaster says:

    I, myself, have had not a little consternation over the use of this term (and reconciling it with my own opinions). However, I have explained it away as follows:

    The use of the term ‘Extraordinary’ is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. That is to say: since it IS rare to find it celebrated in the mainstream, it is, therefore, described as Extra-ordinary.

    Since the NO is in use in a statistical super-majority of all instances of Catholic worship, it is, therefore, described as Ordinary.

    The use of the term ‘Extraordinary’ does not seem to imply the same restrictiveness or oddity that is implied for ‘Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion’ or a member of the laity as the ‘Extraordinary’ minister of the Sacrament of Baptism.

  12. The pope has extraordinary powers vested in him, such as the power to be the chief teacher of the Church, through whom all teaching authority flows from Jesus, out to the bishops.

    But these extraordinary powers, given only to Popes, are not temporary or little-used. You could argue that the Pope is passing along teaching authority to the bishops when he’s sound asleep in bed at three in the morning, Rome time. The powers only stop when he’s dead.

    We of the Latin Rite have an extraordinary form which has been given to us by the Church. It’s always ours, whether or not we use it. If a pastor can only use it sometimes, like the good china, that’s okay. If the pastor feels like using it every day — instead of keeping the good china up in the cupboard and the good wine going to vinegar in the cellar undrunk — that’s perfectly fine too. That’s the beauty of it being pastor’s choice.

    The motu recommends that the EF be used for special multi-national occasions, instead of mucking about with a zillion languages. But it clearly envisions the EF being used for daily Mass, also, and places no restrictions on it. Certainly it’s in favor of having the same people go to it all the time, with all the group language in the document. :)

  13. chironomo says:


    First, thank you for your question, as it affords an opportunity to address something that many others might be thinking but not expressing. I am assuming that your question is an honest one and is not a “this is just turning back the clock” type of sentiment.

    The Holy Father’s designation of the 1962 Missal as the “Extraordinary Form” has led to a lot of comment, some confusion, and even as some unintended humorous asides. It is clearly the intention of the Holy Father that we consider there to be two forms (Ordinary and Extraordinary) of one rite (Roman Rite). It is also clearly his intention that celebration of the Extraordinary Form become more common than it was prior to SP. Those are points made evident in the document itself.

    It is also clear that it was not the Holy Father’s intention in Summorum Pontificum that the 1962 Missal replace or supplant the Novus Ordo Missal. That is not what SP is about. However, that doesn’t mean that celebration of the EF should be in any way limited.

    Within the context of the document itself, and the context of Cardinal Ratzinger’s previous writings, the term “extraordinary” doesn’t seem to imply “infrequently used” or “exotic” as you are suggesting. This is where the humor comes in. If this were the case, then what of those “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”? Should we only make use of them “infrequently” or “rarely”? As much as some os us might welcome such a suggestion, that isn’t what the term means in a liturgical context. A good neutral definition might be “in addition to the Ordinary”. EMHC’s are ministers “in addition to the ordinary” minister. The Extraordinary Form is a form of the liturgy “in addition to the ordinary” form. There is nothing, either in the document or elsewhere, that would imply a limited use, infrequent use or special conditions for use (other than what is specified regarding language, etc..). In fact, one intent of SP would seem to be to remove the one special condition that existed… permission from the local Ordinary. There is also nothing that suggests a preference for the EF over the OF either.

    I am curious why you ask this specific question. There is not, to my knowledge, anyplace where the EF is celebrated with such frequency that it could be construed as “overused”, even if one adopts a view that extraordinary means “less frequently than the ordinary”. Are you familiar with such a place? If so, you may be able to start a lucrative business selling homes there to readers of this blog!

  14. FrCharles says:

    In my entire priesthood, I have never offered an ordinary daily or Sunday Mass without “Extraordinary” ministers of Holy Communion. [How sad.] Kind of softens the term as liturgical jargon, don’t it?

  15. Agellius says:

    You might want to read Summorum Pontificum and the Pope’s explanatory letter that accompanied its issuance. They are easy to find via Google. When you read them you will see that the Pope never says or implies that the Extraordinary Form may not be celebrated regularly. In fact he says the EF may be celebrated every weekday and once on Sunday.

    The only restriction he places on celebration of the EF is that it may not be celebrated by priests in “masses without the people” during the Easter Triduum.

    In fact, the Pope says that bishops may found “personal parishes” specifically for the purpose of celebrating the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. It would make no sense to found a parish for that purpose if EF masses are not supposed to be celebrated regularly.

  16. Scarlett says:

    I think some of the confusion may arise from the way that people on different ends of the spectrum use the word “Extraordinary” in different situations. I had a professor once tell a class that “Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist” weren’t “extraordinary” because they were supposed to be rare, but because they were not ordained – “extra”-ordination. I imagine he might have a different take on why the Extraordinary form is thus designated. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen on this very website reference to the fact that Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are only supposed to be used in particularly extraordinary situations – I mean, hey, it’s right there in the name!

  17. ljc says:

    ex·traor·di·nar·y adj. – Highly exceptional; remarkable: an extraordinary achievement.

    If we understand extraordinary in this sense, wouldn’t the Extraordinary Form even be preferable to the Ordinary?

  18. ssoldie says:

    FrCharles and ljc, what a couple of ‘Dear’s’.

  19. pseudomodo says:

    A carved beechwood polychromed statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is extraordinary…

    A plastic glow-in-the-dark statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is ordinary.

  20. j says:

    To the reader;
    There is a danger in using phrases that have specific meanings in liturgical context as if the phrase meant the same in colloquial conversation.

    That being said, yes, the implication is that the EF is not envisioned by the Motu Proprio as replacing or supplanting the OF, but as co-existing and enriching. I would also add, that as much as I love the EF, it isn’t for everyone. It gives much, but also demands much.

    HOWEVER, while that may be the situation in the Church AS A WHOLE, by definition, that is not envisioned as the situation for EVERY individual nor Priest nor Parish. Just as there will be Parishes and People who will never attend an EF Mass, there will be Parishes and People who will always attend an EF, and those who attend both.

  21. patrick_f says:

    To put it more simply, the “Ordinary Form” of the mass is what people are most used to, speaking as a whole. The “Extraordinary Form” is something that a majority of rank n file cahtolics, are not used to.

    It has no bearing on how or when it can be celebrated. The word simply denotes the current commonality of the form

    One could apply the same rhetoric with “Liturgy” and in the east” The Divine Liturgy” , I dont think anyone at all would preference one over the other, though to clearly point out, there is definately a chance of doing that, based on the emphasis one gives or doesnt give a word.

  22. Athelstan says:

    I thank Chironomo for pointing up the the case of EMHC’s.

    I do so by way of clarification, because I suspect in part his intention was more to suggest that the way “extraordinary” is understood by people like (I suspect) Fr. Z’s interlocuter in this context would not be the same way they understand ‘extraordinary” in the context of the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite. Such people likely assume the latter means a necessary infrequency. If you assume *that*, you must explain why EMHC’s must also not be employed very infrequently.

    I strongly suspect Fr. Z’s interlocuter would *not* take the latter position.

    But we ought to be clear that even if “extraordinary” in and of itself has the same meaning in both contexts – that is to say descriptive, not prescriptive, as Choirmaster so aptly put it – it is also true that the GIRM and USCCB both add an additional qualification to EMHC’s which limits their employment in a way which is not true of the EF as described in Summorum Pontificum. To wit: When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may also depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (GIRM 162).”

    So even if “extraordinary” means the same in both contexts, it seems clear from GIRM that the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are limited by necessity (in theory if not necessarily in practice) in way in which the Extrardonary Form of the Roman Rite is not. I thought that ought to be clarified.

  23. TRAD60 says:

    I personally never use the term “extraordinary” in reference to the Traditional Latin Mass. In the minds of most people this word can generally mean one of two things. It can mean that whatever it refers to only takes place under a particular set of circumstances, or it refers to some achievement above and beyond what is normally accomplished or expected. It is unfortunate that this term has been applied to the Mass. This term imples that the TLM should only be said infrequently, or that those who favor it have a problem accepting what the Church normally gives to the faithful in “ordinary ” circumstances. I suspect that this term was applied due to the fact that the Holy See insists that both missals express the same Roman Rite. I along with many others question whether or not it really is the same rite. I believe that the terms Traditional Latin Mass and the Mass of Paul VI are much more accurate designations of the two Masses.

  24. chironomo says:


    You make an interesting point…could I add to it? I would go so far as to claim that since SP indicates that the EF Mass is done at the request of a group desiring it, or in cases of Masses without the People, when an individual Priest desires it, that it is in a way limited to being celebrated “only when necessary”, much like the case you make for EMHC’s. The desire of the faithful (or a Priest) in a particular location is what makes it necessary, rather than the Motu proprio indicating that it be instituted in every parish. If viewed in this way, it can be argued that the term “Extraordinary” means quite the same in both cases.

  25. moon1234 says:

    1) any priest may celebrate it in a private mass (mass without the people);

    You are confusing what a private Mass is. It is not “Mass without the people”, rather it is a Mass that is not regularly scheduled. If a Priest were to decide to say an EF votive mass in the afternoon, anyone could attend. Since this would not be a normally scheduled Mass it would be considered a Missa Privata (A private decision of the Priest to say a Mass outside of the normal schedule)

    Mass “without the people” does not mean there is no one there.

  26. Supertradmom says:

    Sadly, I happen to know from first-hand, as we are very close to a family with a son in the seminary, that the EF is being positively discouraged at this seminary as “inappropriate” as not the ordinary form. The input from the teachers (priests) at this seminary is that only a very small group of people want this and the priest-to-be need not be concerned about learning the form. The young man who is studying for the priesthood told us that his seminary has only had one EF Mass as an example, and has no intention of teaching or offering the EF there.

  27. moon1234 says:

    The only restriction he places on celebration of the EF is that it may not be celebrated by priests in “masses without the people” during the Easter Triduum.

    Again this is a mis-nomer. There never were nor are allowed today any Masses other than the regularly scheduled Masses during the Triduum. This means that it would be perfectly acceptable for a parish pastor to decide to do the entire Triduum in the EF.

    The Holy Father was just re-iterating the long standing practice of NO Missa Privata during the Triduum. I am pretty sure he put this in there so there would not be two blessings of the fire, etc. This time of the year is when the whole parish is supposed to come together at one time. This is no “BAN” on the EF during the Triduum in any parish. The pastor just needs to decide to do one or the other.

    This can be hard if there is only one parish priest and one chapel. However, some parish priests live in community and have a main Church and a chapel. It would be perfectly acceptable to have NO in the main church during the Triduum and the EF in the chapel by another priest. Two chapels, two seperate Masses.

  28. Sandy says:

    Father Charles, that’s a good one! But seriously, how on earth do you answer a question such as this and expect the answer to be received? If the questioner is genuine, tell him to experience a Mass in the EF and really be open-minded to notice the reverence, and the depth of the prayers (looking at the English to see the meaning) for starters.

  29. Willebrord says:

    Wow, there are certainly a good number of explanations. I especially like the definition that extraordinary simply means that it is something special. If you are writing your college thesis, wouldn’t it be wisest to do the very best you can on the paper? If we try our best on a college thesis for an earthly reward, how much more should we try our best at Mass for a heavenly reward?

    I also like moon1234’s explanation on the Easter Triduum situation.

  30. sekman says:

    If this were true we would rarely have to receive from the blasted Extraordinary ministers of holy communion.

  31. moon1234 says:

    Sadly, I happen to know from first-hand, as we are very close to a family with a son in the seminary, that the EF is being positively discouraged at this seminary as “inappropriate” as not the ordinary form. The input from the teachers (priests) at this seminary is that only a very small group of people want this and the priest-to-be need not be concerned about learning the form. The young man who is studying for the priesthood told us that his seminary has only had one EF Mass as an example, and has no intention of teaching or offering the EF there.

    Sounds like it is time to switch seminaries.

  32. Hidden One says:

    If the “Extraordinary Form” is “special” because of the name, then “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion” are also “special”.

    Fellow commenters, stop pretending that the term “Extraordinary Form” has anything to do with it being an excellent way to celebrate the Holy Mass.

  33. THREEHEARTS says:

    The term extraordinary has become misused in the way the Church uses it and is perhaps misinterpreted. It is very like the word romance. Take your pick a romancer is a liar in some circumstances, a seduction of sorts in another circumstance. In today’s Harlequin novels it is a one night stand, a sexual flirtation, and the normal result of a drunken episode.
    When the Church uses it, it was meant to be, in the case of ministers of communion, extra to the ordinary minister. This can only mean when the Priest needs help with a large congregation someone has to share the distribution of the Body (not necessarily the Blood) This was a problem with the definitions of Vatican 2 the words could make what the speaker wanted them to mean at any given time. Extraordinary it is how the liberals use a form of textproofing with the Instructions of the Church just like the evangelists with the scriptures.

  34. Why is it that an indult (special exception) for receiving Communion in the hand is given, and everyone does that all the time? Most parishes don’t even teach the norm is to receive on the tongue and kneeling.

    Why is it that an indult (special exception) allowing altar girls, is followed such that almost every Mass has them. Even Vatican II denied altar girls because they did not follow Tradition (capital ‘T’).

    Why is it that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (improperly called Eucharistic Ministers by many), which are only to be used when the huge numbers of people make it impractical for priest only distribution, or when the priest is infirm, are now used all the time, even for Masses of 10 people in attendance?

    How can people genuinely do all those things which are extraordinary all the time, that is not the norm?

    I’m just askin’ a set of honest questions.

  35. Bernard Leitrim says:

    Hear, Hear Fr Marie-Paul.

  36. hzab says:

    I have to say, it really is a shame that parishes do not teach the norm for Communion. I went to catholic school for all numbered grades, and never learned it there. I saw my mother receive on the tongue and asked about it, and started to do it as well. None of my classmates ever did, though.

    I actually got a couple (coworker/acquaintances) to go to a TLM, and forgot to explain this fact. She later told me that she accidentally bit the priest’s finger!

  37. robtbrown says:

    My question, which is an honest one, is how people could genuinely either attend or preside, on a regular basis, the Extraordinary Form. Doesn’t the mere classification of Extraordinary indicate that it should not be celebrated and/or led on a regular (i.e., ordinary) basis? Therefore, wouldn’t the regular celebration of the EF be inappropriate?

    Following that line of thought, extraordinary performances in sport or art would also be inappropriate.

    All Hail Mediocrity!!!!

  38. Therese says:

    My first thought, i.e., that this extraordinary form of the Mass will, at long last, jump-start liturgical reforms sought by Vatican II Council Fathers, has already been made.

    I would like to draw your attention, however, to a sentence the Pope saw fit to include in his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, namely that “the use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.” In context, this seems almost an aside but its meaning has heavy ramifications: the degree of formation required to celebrate the Old Mass is in turn passed on to those who attend its liturgy. This is no small matter. (Nearly) everyone acknowledges that lack of formation is the big problem with Catholics today; here’s the solution. But it will take guts to accept it.

  39. Therese says:

    “My first thought, i.e., that this extraordinary form of the Mass will, at long last, jump-start liturgical reforms sought by Vatican II Council Fathers, has already been made.”

    Oops! Pardon me. I meant “jump-start the ‘ordinary’ liturgical reforms…”

  40. John Enright says:

    I never thought that the word “Extraordinary” meant anything other that it surpasses the ordinary. I think it is a perfect term to define the TLM. I really don’t worry about the detractors; they’re simply wasting internet resources.

  41. j says:

    To the original poster.

    I’d give you credit again for the germ of a valid question. In choosing the words Ordinary and ExtraOrdinary, to what degree did His Holiness mean to imply that one is subsidiary. A good and fair question, worthy of debate.

    You then make an unfounded jump – you state what the word Extraordinary means to YOU, and imply that therefore this is what it should mean to the Church. It doesn’t. To understand what it means to the Church, you have to read what the Pope SAYS it means to the Church, that is to say, the letter and the Church’s clarifications. Admittedly there is room for reading between the lines in the choice of the word, but first you have to read the actual definition, and He clearly states that the Celebration of the EF is open to stable communities, and encourages Personal Parishes….

  42. j says:

    ….and speaking of wildly incorrect personal interpretations (sorry for being off-topic)

    re: [speaking of the restrictions on the EF]
    “private mass (mass without the people);”

    “You are confusing what a private Mass is. It is not ‘Mass without the people’, rather it is a Mass that is not regularly scheduled.”

    “celebrated without the people” is a direct quote from (official English translation of) Summorum Pontificum to describe the application of S.P. to Missa Privata. This is not Jono’s interpretation of what Missa Privata means. It is the Pope’s (and has been all previous Popes’)

    Granted, the official translation of Missa Privata (Mass without the people) does not require snipers at the doors nor Celebration in caves; Missa Privata can be Celebrated in public places with people around, but NO Liturgical instructions refer to Missa Privata as “not regularly scheduled”. Some refer to it as Masses “not PUBLICLY scheduled”, but the operative word is public.

  43. Rev. Philip-Michael says:

    “Extraordinary” as in beyond the ordinary, incredible, superb, amazing, outstanding, terrific, stupendous, special, phenomenal, remarkable, breathtaking, miraculous, marvelous, spectacular, wonderful. That is what is meant by “Extraordinary”.

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