QUAERITUR: Can bishops forbid pastors to add a TLM to the schedule

I have of late received more than one email from readers with similar questions.

In effect, they have asked if diocesan bishops can forbid pastors to add a Traditional Latin Mass to the Sunday Mass schedule, or if the local bishop can force the pastor to eliminate an existing TLM from the schedule.

From what I am picking up, it may be that a few bishop are trying to restrict the use of the older form of the Missale Romanum to one church/parish only.  In doing so, they seem to be ignoring the existence of Summorum Pontificum.

A pastor (parochus) does not need the permission of the bishop to use the 1962 Missale Romanum or to place a TLM on the parish schedule.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio says (in my translation and with my emphases):

§ 2.  Celebration according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII can take place on weekdays; on Sunday, however, and feasts there can be also one celebration of this kind.

Art. 5, § 1.  In parishes, where there is stably present a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition, let the pastor willingly receive their petitions that Mass be celebrated according to the Rite of the Missale Romanum issued in 1962.  Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously brought into accord with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, by avoiding discord and by fostering the unity of the whole Church.


Art. 7.  Where some group of the lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5 § 1 will not have obtained the things sought from the pastor, let the Diocesan Bishop be informed about the matter.  The Bishop is strenuously asked that he graciously grant their desireIf does not want to provide for a celebration of this kind, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

In reading 5, § 1, pay close attention to that “avoiding discord”.  Few things create discord in a parish faster than changing the Mass schedule.  It is very important, therefore, that those who are inclined to the traditional form of Mass not be the source of the discord.

Keep in mind that 5, § 1 mentions CIC 1983 can. 392.

Can. 392 §1 Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

§2 He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of the saints, and the administration of goods.

Thus, bishops cannot ignore Summorum Pontificum.  At the same time we could probably identity one or two bishops who, although they have not regulated very well the liturgical practice of their dioceses in respect to curbing obvious abuses, are willing to repress more traditional forms that are perfectly legitimate.

After consultation with a canonist about the meaning of can. 392, it seems that it would be abuse of power by a bishop to micromanage a parishes schedule so as to eliminate a TLM when there is not really a strong need to do so and provided that the schedule adequately and reasonably suits the other needs of the parishioners.   Common sense and charity should prevail.

When lay people are involved in a situation like this, they should remain very cool and avoid as much as possible creating problems for the parish priest.  On the other hand, lay people have the right to express their opinions, respectfully, to the bishop and to write to Rome, to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

People can at any time in a “dialogue” with a pastor or a bishop write directly to Rome.  However, they are well advised to try to work things out locally before they write to Rome, to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

Lay people also have the power of their wallets.  It may be that, if their legitimate aspirations are being repressed, they may choose to reduce their level of giving.  Alternately, if their needs are being met, they should be willing to increase their giving.  It is not unreasonable to let the bishop know what your giving plan is and why you have decided to change it.

If you are going to write to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, you should send them documentation about what is going on.  Copies of letters exchanged with the pastor and bishop, parish bulletins are very useful.  They give the PCED something to work with beyond the statements of a few people.

It is not forbidden for more than one person to write.

Look also at my Tips for writing to bishops and to the P.C. Ecclesia Dei.

And don’t forget to pray to the guardian angels of all those involved if there is a conflict.  Old Scratch likes discord and will try to increase it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ghp95134 says:

    I have just heard this happened in our diocese. I’ve called the bishop’s office to confirm the rumor (as it is now, without any confirmation) that his excellency has forbad the TLM at Five Wounds Portuguese Church in San Jose, CA. According to the source (a comment at Rorate), the com-box notice states:
    …Our bishop has canceled the Mass, and has forbidden the TLM it at Five Wounds Church, even though it had the support of the pastor and a stable group of almost 200 people every Sunday for over a year….

    This is the bishop who had the Aztec dancers at one confirmation; when I was confirmed, there were vestal virgin altar-dancers prancing all over. This year it was a “dancing bible” abomination.

    Two weeks ago I emailed the office asking if +McGrath was going to actively support the corrected translation of the Roman Missal, and was assured he will. Today I found a statement dated 9/16 about “liturgical renewal” … in which his excellency writes, inter alia:

    Nearly fifty years ago, the bishops of the Second Vatican Council challenged the Church along the path that we now walk: “In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 14).

  2. jlmorrell says:

    Thank you for this post, Fr. Z. The Latin Mass Society in my Diocese has recently found a priest willing to learn the TLM even though the Bishop is against it. Additionally, he wants to incorporate it into the parish life – offering to have the Mass Sunday morning! (without having to move any other Masses).

    I have been wondering to myself if, when the time comes to begin having the Masses, the Bishop would not try to thwart our plans. Your post reassures my initial thoughts on the subject.

    John M.

  3. In some cases, a bishop might be inclined to encourage the TLM at one particular place, given that the location is particularly suited to the traditional form. This would especially be the case with an underutilized parish church, in an urban neighborhood. Such initiative would not only retain the viability of that parish, but would ensure that the TLM is given adequate support.

    It can be frustrating for a parish priest, even one who loves the Traditional Mass, to prolong an already-busy Sunday morning, with an additional Mass attended by only a very few, most of whom are not supporting the effort, never mind the parish, financially.

    All that being said, if you’re looking for a one word answer to the question, it would be: NO!

  4. JohnMa says:

    My 2 cents: The Pastor is not required to follow the directions of the Bishop if they conflict with the Universal Law. A Pastor that is told this by their Bishop should flat out tell him that he will continue on with the EF and if the Bishop wants to press is then Rome can get involved. The Bishop will either a) realize he is going to lose in Rome and drop it or b) go to Rome and be called in by His Holiness and read the riot act. It is much better for the Pastor to do all the communication than for the lay persons in the parish. [I have a different take. First, every effort should be made to work things out peacefully and at the local level. Also, bishops have a thousand ways to make life difficult for a priest, even a pastor. It is more effective at this point that lay people tackle the problem so that the priest is not the one labeled forever as the trouble-maker. In some instances lay people have more power than the priest.]

  5. thereseb says:

    Unfortunately for the priest concerned, it is not always wise to raise one’s head above the parapet, if one seeks advancement of any sort. How will we get the next generation of TLM loving bishops, if TLM loving priests are sidelined? Not a criticism of the post or commenters – just a reminder of the sad fact that lovers of the TLM are being unjustly as “troublemakers” or even “Taliban” among the Magic Circles.

  6. Hieronymus says:

    I have noticed one thing about the translation of Summorum Pontificum which could also be worth noting. The English provided for section 2 sounds unnecessarily restrictive. Here is the passage I am referring to, followed by the Latin original:

    E: ” . . .on Sunday, however, and feasts there can be also one celebration of this kind.”

    L: “. . .dominicis autem et festis una etiam celebratio huiusmodi fieri potest. “

    The English version makes it sound as though there can be one, and only one, such celebration. The Latin uses the word “una”, which has, in Medieval and later Latin, been used as an indefinite article (like the English “a” or “an”). Thus, the text would be better translated, “. . . there can also be a celebration of this kind” — permitting also multiple celebrations of this kind. [That is a possible reading. Alas, I do not think it was the one that was intended.]

    It may seem trivial, but with Bishops out there suddenly becoming “letter of the law” types when it comes to the application of this document, the current English translation could be used to crack down on rebels who would dare to have several TLM’s on a Sunday or holy day.

  7. Hieronymus says:

    But it seems to be the reading that makes most sense in the context of a letter granting wider use of the older Missal. Why, after declaring that these two forms are to be treated equally and that anyone can offer the Mass in the EF without permission, would he then immediately restrict the use of the EF to one Mass per Sunday / holy day? That reading doesn’t seem to be consistent with the general tone of the letter.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    The bishop cannot forbid it. That being said, he can make it miserable for someone who doesn’t want to abide by his “vision.” But he can’t forbid it.

  9. Revixit says:

    I think priests have to be brave to dare suggest an EF to most bishops. We have had ONE EF parish in our archdiocese since Ecclesia Dei. It’s FSSP and EF only.
    We now have a second EF parish because the SSPX came in and built a chapel, but we’ve been told not to receive Communion or contribute financially there. And the FSSP pastor was recently transferred to a church that has only the OF. Perhaps he’ll be adding an EF at some point, perhaps he’s being punished. He was NOT happy about the transfer, and when I learned where they sent him, I knew why. Not a desirable location! Meanwhile, many of us are still over two hours from an EF, same as before Summorum Pontificum.

  10. GJMama says:

    I have a question about multiple languages. At our parish, we have an EF and two OF Masses on Sunday morning. The readings and sermon at the OF are both in Spanish, and the sermon at the EF is in English. The earlier OF attendees have wished for a EF (with sermon in Spanish), but the parish priest is unsure whether the bishop will allow an additional EF, even with it being intended for a different group of parishioners (primarily only Spanish-speaking). Does anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

  11. Bernie says:

    I cannot agree to using the wallet to bring about pressure. If you are registered in a parish then you are obligated to support that parish in a substantial way as long as you belong, through thick and thin, good times and bad times, no matter the issue. [And exactly how much should people contribute? People are obliged to give support to the Church, of course. As the Catechism reminds us and the CIC 1983 can. 222 states, the faithful have the “duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities”. This doesn’t prescribe the manner of that provision. Let’s not be overly restrictive. It makes sense to support one’s parish. But let’s also be realistic. If a person is required to seek spiritual sustenance at a place other than their parish (e.g., terrible confession or Mass schedule, heretical sermons, etc.) then some of that person’s support will go to the other parishes as well. Lay people don’t exercise a great deal of power in the administration of a parish, but they can have an impact in ways that might get the attention of those who do.] Use the proper channels and be active in the parish in a courteous, constructive way. If you have done everything within your power to work for what you think is right, then leave it to God -or find another parish. It would be chaos if everyone started withholding contributions because something isn’t going their way (of course, that’s how it pretty much works now!) I made this very same comment on another blog and pretty much got flattened so I know it’s not a popular idea. It is, however, a precept of the Church that you contribute to the upkeep of the Church: parish and diocese. [Church ≠ parish and diocese]

  12. The priest should go for it

  13. Larry R. says:

    This is precisely the situation in Dallas. I have statements from several priests, in writing, that they cannot add a single weekday EF Mass or Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, per week, or per month, or ever, without the express permission of the Bishop, who has stated publically (Texas Catholic, diocesan newspaper, September 2007) that he will make a judgement on whether a need truly exists for any form of Latin Mass. There is a stable group of about 400 people (90 adults, ~320 under 18) who would find great spiritual benefit in this kind of Mass in our part of the diocese, which is not already available. The nearest parishes offering daily Mass in Latin (there are only two in our diocese, one NO, one EF) are a minimum of 45 minutes away, which most people cannot reach on weekdays. We have made this request formally to the Diocese, and have received no reply other than an acknowledgement of our request (this was over a year ago). We have not yet written PCED, perhaps we will.

    One final note, there are priests (not pastors) who would like to celebrate Mass according to the more traditional form, but they are unable to realize their desire without the support of the pastor of their various parishes, and all the pastors have been reticent to, it would seem, go against the instructions of the Bishop on this issue.

  14. Jerry says:

    The bishop’s permission is not required to celebrate Mass in the EF. If the bishop has not actually restricted additional EF Masses, I don’t think it would be improper for the priest to offer the second EF Mass if he believes this is in the best interest of his parish.

  15. Tim Ferguson says:

    I would strongly recommend, when writing to this bishop in question, or to the Pontifical Commission, to keep focused on the point at hand, and to avoid polemical language. The abuses at other liturgies – liturgical dancing and “vestal virgins” – are not strictly germane to the issue at hand, which is the scheduling of a TLM.

    Colorful language can make a point in a combox, but would not serve your point if you point is to increase the availability of the TLM. With all due respect, it makes one look cranky, and cranky letters – even when they concern serious issues – tend to be dismissed.

  16. ghp95134 says:

    Tim, not to worry — I know when to be polite …. REALLY, I do! (^_^)

    I received a voice mail response from the diocese media office. The “official” word is that the bishop didn’t forbid the mass; the decision to stop was the ICKS priest.

    –Guy Power

  17. Jerry says:

    The Pastor is not required to follow the directions of the Bishop if they conflict with the Universal Law. […] A Pastor that is told this by their Bishop should flat out tell him that he will continue on with the EF and if the Bishop wants to press is then Rome can get involved.

    This may be an appropriate response when a superior orders a subordinate to violate a restrictive law; it is not so clear it is appropriate when the superior restricts a subordinate from acting in accordance with a permissive law.


    God tells us in Scripture that obedience is greater than sacrifice.

    Our Lord told this to Sister Faustina. One day Jesus told Faustina that he wished her to wear a hair shirt as mortification and asked her to go ask permission from her superior. The superior said absolutely not, that Faustina was NOT to do this. The superior knew that this was a request from Jesus Himself, nevertheless she forbade it.

    When Faustina came back to report this to Jesus saying she was sorry but the superior would not let her wear a hair shirt, Jesus replied that he was pleased because he wanted her obedience more than her mortification.

    Obedience can be possible without love, but love cannot exist without obedience. Obedience is the foundation from which all other virtues are built.

  18. Larry R: Now that we are three years into the implementation of Summorum Pontificum this is the sort of information that I am sure would be helpful for the Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei”.

  19. gloriainexcelsis says:

    There is a conflicted situation here. The Bishop has commended the little TLM mission church and welcomes the apostolate. At the same time there is no mention of it in the local paper each week when all the churches are listed. The several Catholic churches and times for Mass are listed except for the Mission church. As I understand it, the little parish may not, on its own, put anything into the paper to publicize the fact that it’s here. I’m new here and broached the subject, getting the above information. I’m trying to find ways around the situation. How are we to grow, let visitors to the area know there is a TLM available, encourage the curious, etc.? It is a puzzlement.

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    I keep praying for that clarification letter that has been said to be forthcoming. It should clear up some of these misunderstandings of the MP and at the same time keep the subject alive and addressed. The more the Holy Father says and does in regards to his Moto Proprio, SP the more it will be implemented, respected and grow. As for advertising, do not give up. Post on the net. People use the net more often than we might think. And word of mouth goes a long way, especially in smaller Parishes. I think that any place that allows free advertising, like some lobbies of buildings, and even laundry service bulletin boards are great places to stick a flyer. People read these things all the time.

  21. Larry R. says:


    I’m not sending anything until after the event on the 7th, that’s for sure. As it is, I’ve only been to that small parish a few times, I’m not one of the long term folks from there. I know what you’re saying – I don’t want to cause any sort of reversal of fortune for that great little parish.

    I teach apologetics in the diocese. I get to meet a few people. Almost no one has heard of the parish you’re referring to, and that may be the point. When I tell people that we really like the EF Mass, after I explain what that means, they claim no knowledge of such a parish. As you say, it is a puzzlement. I just pray this one little parish is not being used as a sort of mini-ghetto in which to keep certain elements of the Catholic population both satieted, and contained.

    God bless!

  22. Woe to any cleric who thwarts the Holy Father!
    two words: Thiberville!!
    ok, I guess that’s just one word….

  23. Rob Cartusciello says:

    If you are going to withhold money, donate $1 and tell them where the rest of the donation is going. This gets the fastest response to my concerns.

    My favorite “alternative” charity of choice is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), because I can donate to a specific project.

    Certain Catholic colleges and universities of which I am an alumnus have responded quickly once they realize the other $49 0r $99 of my donation went to build a seminary in Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq.

  24. Rachel says:

    ghp95134, the ICKSP priest is trying to find another church to hold the Five Wounds TLM, so it certainly wasn’t his wish to stop saying it. I don’t understand the message you got at all.

  25. dmreed says:

    In Cincinnati, a pastor is not allowed to add a TLM to the mass schedule on his own initiative, it must be requested by a “stable group of faithful”. The norms for implementing summorum pontificum in my archdiocese state:

    “A “stable group of faithful” means a significant number of the faithful who
    have been celebrating this form regularly, or who have been desirous of
    this form over the years, and who of their own free will requested the
    extraordinary form of Mass. Such a Mass may be publicized only if a
    “stable group” has requested that the extraordinary form be celebrated.
    A priest, on his own, may not simply decide to publicly celebrate the
    extraordinary form of Mass without such a “stable group.”

    The extraordinary form of Mass may be celebrated on Sundays only if the
    following conditions are met:
    a) A stable group of faithful have made such a request.
    b) Only one such Mass is celebrated. It is not the intention
    of Summorum Pontificum to arbitrarily take one of the
    current Sunday Masses and substitute Mass in the extraordinary
    form merely for the sake of variety.


  26. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Larry R. I notice that you are in the Dallas diocese. I am in the Tyler diocese. So – the same situation exists. I do know that there are three separate TLM sites in the Dallas area, served by the FSSP, Mater Dei Community, Carmelite Sisters Chapel and St. Thomas Aquinas Church. We have St. Joseph the Worker, tucked away on an out of the way FM road in a less desirable neighborhood. It has one wonderful, dedicated priest, who has Mass daily, as well as on Sunday. I came from California where the same situation exists in almost every place the TLM is allowed. Somehow, St. Stephen the First Martyr, Sacramento, managed to grow and flourish in spite of it. About 800 or more families populate that parish, coming from several counties to attend, with three priests in residence and all the bells and whistles (or bells and smells?). We are the step-children, still. God bless you, too.

  27. Larry R. says:

    No, not anymore……the TLM is all at one facility now that the FSSP have their own parish, which is what I thought you were referring to! Sorry for my confusion. In Dallas now there is only one place offering TLM, which is an improvement of sorts in that the FSSP now have their own church instead of having to use the Carmelite Chapel and St. Thomas Acquinas. They still have EF Mass on First Fridays at the Carmelite Chapel, but that’s it, I believe. The FSSP priests also celebrate EF Mass on Sundays at a parish in Ft. Worth. The FSSP/Mater Dei group just moved into their church a few months ago – the proper Sanctuary is being dedicated on the 7th, with the bishop in attendance. That’s why I’ve been reticent to send anything to PCED – Mater Dei being allowed to have their own parish is a miracle in its own right, I don’t want to cause them any problems.

    We’ll see. I was all ready to send a letter to PCED a couple of months ago, about the one year anniversary of our making the request for EF Mass in the north deanery to the Diocese, but I demurred, perhaps the Holy Spirit was giving me a signal to be patient.

  28. jwsr says:

    have to concur with Fr Z on the reading of “una”. Seems pretty clear considering that SP makes a point to be clear that making a Parish an E.F. Personal Parish is still SOLELY the purview of the Bishop, that one Mass on Sunday or Feast means ONE, at least on the initiative of the Pastor. Also clear that the E.F. should NOT be made to interfere with the regular celebration of the O.F. in every Parish.

    [In the future you must post comments using more than a single letter for your “name”. I have changed your name to reflect this.]

  29. Bernie says:

    Fr. Z: @Bernie

    “And exactly how much should people contribute?”
    (We do 5% of our income after taxes to the parish and another 5% to the diocese, world-wide Church and -usually- other Catholic charities/institutions)

    “…and the faithful have the “duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities This doesn’t prescribe the manner of that provision.”.
    (I think that’s being a little evasive. Your local parish is your material home. It’s where you spend most of your time. Yes, one can give of service and talent as well, but financial is rather basic and presumed in my opinion.)

    If a person is required to seek spiritual sustenance at a place other than their parish… then some of that person’s support will go to the other parishes as well.”
    (I am suggesting that you resign from your current parish and register at the new parish where you are nourished but you must substantially support the parish where you are registered -in my opinion. That’s the way we recently had to deal with a situation we could not tolerate.)

    (“Church ? parish and diocese”)
    Of course not. I was merely suggesting how one might spread his basic support. The local parish and diocese should receive at least half. The world-wide Church and charities should also be included.

  30. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Larry R I guess in the harum-skarum of moving I missed that bit of information. Deo gratias. The FSSP is blessed again with a parish. My prayers are definitely with the parish, its pastors and its parishioners. May they increase. Gloriainexcelsis

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