NCReg: Normalizing the Extraordinary Form

From the NCR that’s actually Catholic, the National Catholic Register, comes this on the increasingly wide-spread use of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

My emphases and comments.

Normalizing the Extraordinary Form
Priests Are Free to Celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass at Any Time

by Thomas Wehner

The Vatican has issued a directive to a Polish diocese that emphasizes the freedom of priests to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form whenever they choose.  [At the time of the release of SP I said often in writings and interviews that this Motu Proprio was unique in that it stressed the rights of priests… for a change.  Summorum Pontificum is a great gift to priests, especially.  Learning the older form of Holy Mass teaches priests more about who they are and what Holy Mass is.  In turn that affects all the other spheres of their activity.]

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei made the clarification in January in a series of responses to questions from a Polish diocese, which sought clarification regarding the use of the traditional Latin Mass. The answers, which came to public attention in mid-February, concerned Pope Benedict’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative).

However, the Vatican stresses that the clarification is addressed to a particular group and is “not a set of guidelines.” [Right.  This clarification was also made here on the blog under that entry.  A canonist helped with some clarifications as well.] Officials are still working on a comprehensive set of guidelines on Summorum Pontificum, which are expected to be published soon.

Two points of the ruling are considered most significant: A Mass in the extraordinary form “may replace a regularly scheduled Mass in the ordinary form,” and a parish priest “may schedule a public Mass in the extraordinary form on his own accord.” [It is hardly to be imagined that directives such as these are not also to be applied every where.]

Another response also stipulates that the calendar, readings or prefaces of the 1970 Roman Missal “may not be substituted for those of the 1962 Roman Missal in Masses in the extraordinary form.”  [Something which could be a disappointment to many.  However, let us not forget that the Holy See is presently engaged in talks with the SSPX.]

Michael Dunnigan, chairman of Una Voce America , said the commission’s response “forcefully reaffirms both the plain meaning of Summorum Pontificum and also the rights of the laity and clergy [especially] who are devoted to the traditional Mass.”

The first response begins: “If there is no other possibility, because for instance in all churches of a diocese the liturgies of the Easter triduum are already being celebrated in the ordinary form, the liturgies of the Easter triduum may, in the same church in which they are already celebrated in the ordinary form, be additionally celebrated in the extraordinary form, if the local ordinary allows.”  [Which some will find too restrictive, but which is a clear signal that Summorum Pontificum is not as restrictive as liberals claimed.]

The second response clarifies that a Mass in the usus antiquior (extraordinary form) “may replace a regularly scheduled Mass in the ordinary form.” The question contextualizes that in many churches Sunday Masses are more or less scheduled continually, leaving free only very inconvenient mid-afternoon slots, but this is merely context, the question posed being general. The answer leaves the matter “to the prudent judgment of the parish priest,” and emphasizes “the right of a stable group to assist at Mass in the extraordinary form.”  [However, the flip side is that the Novus Ordo must also be offered, for those who desire to attend it.]

In the third response, it states that a parish priest “may schedule a public Mass in the extraordinary form on his own accord (i.e. without the request of a group of faithful) for the benefit of the faithful including those unfamiliar with the usus antiquior.” The response of the commission here is identical to No. 2.  [But this is a huge deal.]

Fourth, it adds that “the calendar, readings or prefaces of the 1970 Missale Romanum may not be substituted for those of the 1962 Missale Romanum in Masses in the extraordinary form.”

Lastly, it states: “While the liturgical readings (epistle and Gospel) themselves have to be read by the priest (or deacon/subdeacon) as foreseen by the rubrics, a translation to the vernacular may afterwards be read also by a layman.”

Regarding the second and third responses, Dunnigan said that, strictly speaking, they should “not have been necessary at all, because the language of Summorum Pontificum already was clear.” [Perhaps not.  Some clarifications are necessary in the case of most juridical documents.] However, he added that in the United States the faithful have experienced the same type of obstruction to celebration of the traditional Latin Mass as has happened in Poland.

“Some leaders in the Church seem determined to relegate the traditional Mass to second-class status by restricting the pastor’s prerogative to revise his parish’s Mass schedule,” said Dunnigan. “I am grateful to the commission for making clear that these obstacles find no support in Summorum Pontificum and amount to unjust restrictions on the rights of the faithful.”  [Now the PCED needs to write a similar letter to a priest in the USA.]

The last two responses may not be as rigid as they seem. A committee of Ecclesia Dei is currently studying what parts of the new Missal can be used in the extraordinary form and, although not yet certain, it is probable that saints canonized since 1962 will be incorporated into the 1962 Missal. (There are already communities where the 1970 sanctoral cycle is followed with the commission’s tacit approval, such as the Abbey of Fontgombault and all its daughterhouses, including Clear Creek in Hulbert, Okla.)

This means, for instance, that the two forms of the Mass could celebrate saints on the same days, something which would be in line with Pope Benedict XVI’s accompanying letter to Summorum Pontificum. [The calendar situation really needs work.]

The Holy Father wrote: “The two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: New saints and some of the new prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.”  [Thus, the interdict on the use of these elements in the older form of Mass really must be temporary while the details get worked out.]

The directive on liturgical readings may also be looser than it might appear in these responses, as there are already communities using the traditional Latin Mass with the new lectionary in the vernacular. [Where?  Will they have to stop?]

The Vatican has long been concerned about resistance to allowing stable groups of faithful and priests to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.

Although it believes these obstructions are beginning to die down, Ecclesia Dei still plans on issuing a “clarification document” on Summorum Pontificum.

Rumors have long circulated that the Vatican has been drawing up such a document and that it was delayed because some officials found problems with the drafts. These recent responses, apparently issued with minimal consultation, are therefore not meant to replace the forthcoming document.


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  1. Magpie says:

    ”Lastly, it states: “While the liturgical readings (epistle and Gospel) themselves have to be read by the priest (or deacon/subdeacon) as foreseen by the rubrics, a translation to the vernacular may afterwards be read also by a layman.””

    – Can a layman read the Gospel? This would be the type of innovation/novelty/abuse we must be very careful to watch out for as the EF becomes more popular. I personally don’t like the idea of laymen (or women) reading at an EF Mass. Or an OF Mass either, for that matter.

  2. seanl says:

    Thanks for this post, Father. I have always like the way the Holy Father put it with that quote “The two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: New saints and some of the new prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.”

  3. FranzJosf says:

    May a layman read the Gospel translation in English? I think so, but I’m no rubrician or canonist.

    I have long thought it incorrect to have an ‘official’ proclamation of the Gospel twice in one Mass. It is liturgically proclaimed, with the responses, in Latin. I believe that when the translation is read, usually from the pulpit, there is no need to liturgically proclaim it again with responses and everyone standing.

    Personally, at my parish there really is no reason to read English translations of the lessons, anyway. Most people have missals. But translations of all the Sunday propers, including translations of the lessons, are provided every week. I simply read the translations as they are being proclaimed in Latin.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

  4. Father, I’ve been thinking about something recently, in relation to these clarifications: as it relates to religious priests, does a prior provincial or prior general have the right to order a religious priest who has vowed obedience that he may only celebrate in the NO?

  5. southern orders says:

    I think that we need the EF Mass to have some options for reform in the areas of additional prefaces and the Scriptures read in the vernacular and facing the people without having to read them also in Latin–this is really a needed reform and not a rupture with Tradition. I do it currently with the Epistle read on the Epistle side, but facing the people in English and the Gospel on the Gospel side facing the people.

    I think if there was more oversight in terms of allowing for some options, for example, the prayers at the foot of the altar in the vernacular as well as the collects, etc, this would help promote this form of the Mass in a more general way at regular times.

    I’m not saying to do away with the pure form of the EF Mass, just give the option to pastors to decide these minor alterations.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    FranzJosf: I have long thought it incorrect to have an ‘official’ proclamation of the Gospel twice in one Mass.

    I’m not sure what you mean by an official proclamation twice in one Mass. The only thing I’ve ever seen at a TLM is the official proclamation of the Gospel in Latin by the priest at the altar, then (perhaps) repetition in English from the pulpit. But this repetition is not an official proclamation within the Mass, merely an informal reading of the Gospel during an interruption of the Mass.

  7. TMA says:

    Does a priest need special permission to use the older form for baptisms or other rites?

  8. maynardus says:

    Does a priest need special permission to use the older form for baptisms or other rites?

    Technically the right to use the earlier rite(s) resides with the pastor of a parish church. So, if he’s not the pastor I’d assume he needs the pastor’s permission…

  9. Oneros says:

    “However, the flip side is that the Novus Ordo must also be offered, for those who desire to attend it”

    Yes, it is still the default option. At least one must be offered on those days when Mass is required to be said “pro populo”. ie, Sundays and feasts.

  10. Timbot2000 says:

    It would be nice in either form if the readings were allowed to be chanted in English. The Latin Rite is unique in eschewing chanted readings, a practice that further impoverishes the liturgy

  11. jrotond2 says:

    I think that there needs to be a comprehensive reform of the calendar such that one Roman Calendar would exist for both forms. This reform should of course address the matter of adding newer saints as well as restoring some feasts lost during the pre-Vatican II changes (e.g. the Finding of the Cross on May 3). Likewise, just as Holy Week was “restored” in 1956, so should the Vigil of Pentecost, the ceremony which mirrored the Easter Vigil, be brought back and celebrated after Vespers on the Saturday evening before the feast. In a nutshell, the Calendar issue needs to both look forward and backward and set forth the best of both current calendars and even those laudable elements of previous calendars. I would prefer we use the 1962 Calendar as a starting point, not the 1970. Finally, whatever is done, let the weekdays be filled again with MANDATORY saints’ feasts (i.e. 3rd. Class Feasts) not full of barren Ferial Days and/or optional memorials as the modern calendar currently exists, and let us restore feasts to their proper days instead of moving them to the nearest Sunday.

  12. Haec Dies says:

    I believe that through an organic growth and development the calander etc. will be incorporated into the 1962 Missal. But at this time, with the newness of Summorum Pontificum and the constant experimentation that we have witnessed in the past 40 years it is time to just leave the Mass (Latin 62)alone. There needs to be a period of liturgical peace as regards the church’s liturgy. It seems that there is movement to hastilly incorporate the new into the old. but not in an organic way.

  13. Brian2 says:

    I would say that for the most part, the OF calendar needs to be brought closer to that of the EF rather than vice versa. The EF calandar is the organic one, and the OF is the committee calander. To be sure, one might want to add some Saints to the EF, but over all, the OF calendar is lacking compared to the EF; the suppressed octaves should be restored et al, “ordinary time’ supressed and so forth. Basically, I would wish for the more or less whole sale importation of the EF calendar to the OF

    I say this as someone who attends the OF more often than not

  14. JohnW says:

    We must be very careful of changes in the old rite. The changes must be toward bringing the Novus Ordo closer to the old rite not the other way around. I hope that every church in the world will have at least one missa cantata every Sunday.I live in one of the largest cities in America ,we have ONE EF Mass on Sundays . The Mass is so buetiful but over thirty miles away. Let us pray for the Holy Father to legislate change.

  15. sprachmeister says:

    I agree with Brian2. It was extremely frustrating in France when I would say Morning and Evening Prayer of the OF, and then go to the nearby FSSP church and attend Mass, where the saint of the day was totally different. The two calendars are frustratingly incompatible, to the point where I attended three Epiphany Masses this year (arising from the fact that the Sunday before Jan 6th I went to an OF, though I would have liked to attend the Mass for Feast of Holy Name of Jesus at the FSSP church).

  16. ecclesiae says:

    For there to be truly two forms of the Roman Rite, the Novus Ordo should only have the Roman Cannon, no others.

  17. paulbailes says:

    “However, the flip side is that the Novus Ordo must also be offered, for those who desire to attend it” – I wonder what is going to be done for these poor souls … surely there’s got to be something wrong with you if you prefer the NO to the TLM.

    “The Holy Father wrote: ‘The two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching …'” – but surely only to a very limited point (e.g. masses of the “new” saints). After all, there is so much about the NO that compels us to to believe that it’s in no sense a gift from God (and thus, must be a “gift” from you-know-who), e.g.
    – the abuse of power that saw its imposition
    – its inherent deficiencies as an expression of faith (even when “saying the black”) compared to the TLM
    – its fruits (impact on vocations, family life, public morality etc etc etc)

    IMHO, the practical prospects for the Church will be much better when future Catholics all see the post-1962 innovations as ones to be rejected utterly (as we promised when we were Baptised). Where’s the sense in looking for a baby in the V-II bathwater?


  18. Jordanes says:

    ecclesiae said: For there to be truly two forms of the Roman Rite, the Novus Ordo should only have the Roman Cannon (sic), no others.

    Says who? What Roman Bishop or dicastery has at any time come even close to expressing that requirement to be an approved form or use of the Apostolic See’s liturgical rite?

  19. tired student says:

    I read of all these wonderful Vatican directives and wonder when they’re going to change my city. We have only one diocesan EF church. Our pastor is elderly and works in other parishes. We certainly need a second priest (preferably younger) in residence to offer relief for our pastor. Our extremely generous archbishop permitted a FSSP priest to drive a few hours from a nearby city to say Sunday Mass once a month for us. He would not allow the FSSP or any other traditional order to send us a priest. It’s great that a priest can say the EF any time he desires. However, obstructionist bishops abuse the stipulation that traditional orders must be invited into dioceses. I know that bishops hold the prerogative to control which orders and institutes minister in their dioceses. Is there any way that a Vatican office could make it easier for traditional Catholics to procure a priest from a traditional order on their own initiative?

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    The biggest obstacle to the EF Mass is becoming more and more clear as time goes by. It is the Bishops and probably a few Priests. Not lay people or their supposed “non interest” in the EF Mass. Many are curious and deserve the chance to discover it. Besides SP being one of the most memorable things that this Pontificate will be known for, I hope that a mandate to celebrate an EF Mass in every parish truly possible comes as well. Those 2 things alone will set the EF more into the heart of the Church, the faithful and all Priests and Bishops for centuries to come. This is the cement that SP needs for its’ future. God Bless the Holy Father for having the courage to issue SP and alter the direction of many souls.
    If any change to the calendar occurs I hope it returns to a natural one year cycle that has always been part of the Latin Rite. The A,B,C thing leaves so much to be desired and just feels forced, year after year. Perhaps extra readings in the 1 year cycle makes more sense to expose the faithful to more scripture. Otherwise where does it end? We could read more scripture if we invented Year “D”, and when people are ready Year “E” etc. etc. 1 year please.

  21. kallman says:

    WIth the enormous challenges of introduction and acceptance of the new novus ordo mass translations this is hardly the time to start tinkering with the 1962 missal and calendar.

  22. mfg says:

    Haec Dies. Well said. Yes, please just give us peace, please.

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