QUAERITUR: Bishop requiring exclusive use of the Extraordinary Form

From a reader:

I have a purely hypothetical question. I know all priests may say the
Extraordinary Form of the Mass without special permission of their
bishops (i.e. It is up to the priest if he wishes to say it), but
would it be lawful under the motu proprio for a bishop to require all the priests of his diocese to say exclusively the Extraordinary Form, either on one occasion of permanently? A priest may freely say it if he wishes to, but may he also freely choose not to if he is ordered to?

Bishops have wide powers.

I’d like to see a bishop try!

C’mon, Your Excellencies!  Show us how powerful you are!  I dare you… all of you! I double dare you.

Just try to require all the priests of the diocese to say the older form of Mass exclusively.  I bet you caaaaaan’t…  I bet you’re all too a-scared to even try.  I bet not even… well… 60% would obey, and they would be the younger men, too.  HAH!  And with every year that passes, the percentage will grow. But can you persuade them now?  Just try!

I bet you can’t get them alllllll to do it.

Chickeeeeeeeeennnnnn.   BAWK BAWK  BaBAWK!  C’mon!  Try it!

Neener Neener Neeeeener!

Seriously, I don’t think a bishop would be within his rights to require priests not to use the Ordinary Form of Mass, and to use only the older Form.   He could, however, urge and persuade and lead by example.

Keep in mind that the bishop cannot forbid a priest from using the Ordinary Form, which is in Latin and which – according to the rubrics – is celebrated ad orientem.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    That’s interesting as a hypothetical; but, in reality, the truth remains that most priests are still too afraid to broach the subject of the Extraordinary form of mass for fear of reprisals from their bishops.

  2. Maltese: Perhaps. But that is not the subject of this entry.

  3. Inkstain says:

    Priceless! – All it needed was a double (or dare I suggest tripple) dog dare! :D

  4. Do you think it is too late? Would the dog dare be more persuasive?

  5. Inkstain says:

    I know that *I* could never take a dog-dare lying down. Surely the wonderful Bishops reading this blog would feel it inappropriate to the dignity of their position to just let it slide ;)

  6. Maltese says:

    Well, I only wish the bishops would lead by example, and celebrate the Extraordinary form, and thereby alleviate us from the other form.

    I know the Holy Father is prudent in such matters, but it would also be nice to see him celebrate an EF at Saint Peters; inasmuch as that was the mass celebrated at Saint Peters during the deliberations of Vatican II.

  7. I am not sure I should mix metaphors. After all, I have chicken stuff in there.

  8. mdsmelser says:

    Great fun, Fr. Z.

    Regarding: “Keep in mind that the bishop cannot forbid a priest from using the Ordinary Form, which is in Latin and which – according to the rubrics – is celebrated ad orientem.”

    Didn’t a bishop stop EWTN from celebrating ad orientem on TV about 10 or 15 years ago, saying it would be “divisive”? They had to go back to facing the people for all of the televised masses at that time. I seem to recall that was in the Mother Angelica book. I was not a Catholic then, so I wasn’t around the Catholic world at that time. Now, since 2007, I have seen some televised ad orientem Masses on EWTN, but not until that time.

  9. Dr. K says:

    I think it would be good if bishops require all priests in their diocese to learn (or relearn) the EF of the Mass. Priests should be able to offer Mass in this form for those who desire it, say for a wedding, requiem, baptism, etc.

  10. q7swallows says:

    WHY must the question be hypothetical?

    This convert(!) from the OF to the EF would LOVE to see this happen!!! And I know a diocesan priest or 3 who would gladly say EF-only Masses in a minute . . . .

  11. Renovatio says:

    Could a bishop then use the older form exclusively? …and lead by example?

    Just curious.

  12. Renovatio says:

    OOO! OOO! With that question… I should have asked… could a bishop at least force all the priests in their diocese to say the EF along with the OF? At least once in a while?

    I could live with that. I could even live with a bishop forcing all the priests of their diocese to say the O.F. using at least some degree of Latin, ad orientem, and using the altar/Communion rail.

  13. mdsmelser: That was for televised Masses. However, I wonder if that was entirely proper. We need a canonist on that. At the very least EWTN decided not to press the issue at that time.

  14. Dr. K: Priests should be able to offer Mass in this form for those who desire it, say for a wedding, requiem, baptism, etc.

    Yes, it would be a good idea if priests of the Latin Church knew how to use both forms of their Rite. That would also apply, wouldn’t it, to members of groups that want to use only the Extraordinary Form too… right? Priests should know both parts of the Rite and be willing to use it when appropriate?

  15. Renovatio: I suppose he could. It would probably cause a lot of problems. But he could at the very least be generous in his own use of the older forms and support happily the implementation of Summorum Pontificum by priests.

  16. tobiasmurphy says:

    Fr. Z, many thanks for a rapid response to my question. I live in a mission diocese where the Extraordinary Form is rarely celebrated, but the rector of our cathedral does celebrate it occasionally. Having moved here indirectly from the Diocese of Lincoln, I long for the reverence of the Extraordinary Form. I really wish more of our bishops would provide support for the spiritual needs of their faithful who actually value the living Tradition of the Church.

    Oh, and the typos in my question were brought to you by the obnoxiously small keyboard on my iPad.

  17. So… any takers on your dare??

  18. Ossus says:

    I once heard a story from the local FSSP priest that when the fraternity first started, the priests were actually forbidden (or at the very least actively discouraged) from celebrating the O.F. According to this priest, a couple FSSP priests complained and caused a big stir, and the Holy See stepped in and clarified that all Roman Rite priests have the right to preform the Mass in the O.F.

    I have never heard this story anywhere else, but the priest I heard it from is certainly trustworthy.

  19. Random Friar says:

    Interesting hypothetical, but I can see no quicker way to kill the EF than to require it. We live in an age where even we priests and religious are tainted by an overly strong individualism and autonomy.

    On a side note, as far as I know, the bishop can’t make me celebrate the EF. I would be happy to celebrate the venerable Dominican Rite if the good bishop asked, however…

  20. Melody says:

    I for one hope that in the future, bishops will require all priests to at least know how to celebrate both forms.

  21. robtbrown says:

    Ossus says:

    I once heard a story from the local FSSP priest that when the fraternity first started, the priests were actually forbidden (or at the very least actively discouraged) from celebrating the O.F. According to this priest, a couple FSSP priests complained and caused a big stir, and the Holy See stepped in and clarified that all Roman Rite priests have the right to preform the Mass in the O.F.

    Not exactly the case. What happened was that certain priests of the FSSP were being assigned to Novus Ordo parishes to provide mass acc to the 1962 Missal. The question arose whether in addition to providing 1962 Latin Mass, they also could also help out by saying using using the 1970 Missal. The provoked a row in the Fraternity.

    The matter has since become irrelevant, mostly because there are now exclusive FSSP chapels.

  22. mitch_wa says:

    Well apparently our new bishop has said his installation Mass should be the model for all liturgies in the dioceses… I hope my pastor can find an Indian smudger person soon so our parish can be in compliance…

  23. snowowl1234 says:


  24. Coffee: So… any takers on your dare??

    Maybe I should’ve “double-dog dared”.

  25. SonofMonica says:

    Would it be bad form to offer cash incentives to said bishop(s)?

  26. Henry Edwards says:

    A slightly fuller version of the EWTN ad orientem situation is this. Originally the (former) Bishop of Birmingham–likely under pressure from outside his diocese to stop the telecasting of ad orientem Masses–ordered that Mass not be celebrated ad orientem anywhere in the diocese. However, after “consultation” with the Vatican, this order was soon rescinded, and replaced with one applying only to televised EWTN Masses.

    Of course, Mother Angelica’s Shrine in Hanceville was built with the specific intention of televised ad orientem Masses, and to this day the OF Mass is celebrated in the upper church there only ad orientem (and largely sung Latin), never versus populum. This is why the OF Mass is not telecast at all from the Shrine, only from the small chapel at EWTN in Irondale (near Birmingham), and only versus populum.

    The only ad orientem Masses that are telecast from the magnificent Shrine are the quarterly EF Masses. What a pity. I’ve often thought that nothing else could more strongly support Pope Benedict’s liturgical reform than daily telecast of the Shrine’s Latinate ad orientem OF Mass, and perhaps EF on most Sundays and holy days.

  27. SonofMonica: cash incentives

    I wonder if, in the history of the Church, any bishop has ever paid more attention to someone who pays for the initiatives he would like to get going than he would to someone who doesn’t give anything.

    Hmmmm…. what are the odds?

  28. tobiasmurphy says:

    Random Friar, just to be clear, I wasn’t suggesting a bishop do this. I agree that it should not be forced when it seems to be working peacefully on the faithful as it is. No reason to make it a point of contention among mainstream Catholics, nor to make fishwrappers feel justified in their assessments of our pope.

  29. Random Friar says:

    tobiasmurphy: I did not infer that from your statement. I was sticking to hypotheticals, and arguing a case against it, even if a bishop were to bow under a triple-dog-dare ya. Brick by brick really has to be the way.

  30. TJerome says:

    Id’ just settle for the bishop requiring that his priests learn to say the EF. It would certainly give them a greater appreciation for the Mass and could improve their ars celebrandi of the OF.

  31. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Cardinal Hoyos, in a letter to the Fraternity on June 29, 2000 addressed this question because of a practice of some FSSP priests who offered according to both forms of the Roman Rite. At one of their convocations, the FSSP decided to address this situation of some of their priests by saying, “although the general law allows the Novus Ordo to be offered, we will ask Rome to make a particular law for the Institute which says that the Novus Ordo will be forbidden for us.” This was Cardinal Hoyos’ response to that request:

    This [Convocation], as you know, worked out a compromise, which attempted to reconcile the demands of the General Law of the Church with the particular character of your Institute, and so to overcome your divisions. This compromise, unfortunately, has become the object of new controversies between those who accept it, and those who reject it. In spite of this, the Superiors requested that the Papal Commission approve this compromise, and to make it a particular law for you. After mature reflection, and questioning of the experts, I ascertained that this is not possible. The ground for this is the clear circumstances of the legal situation in this matter, namely: A priest, who enjoys the privilege to celebrate the Mass according to the old Missal of 1962, does not lose the right, likewise to use the Missal of 1970, which is officially in force in the Latin Church. No Superior beneath the Supreme Pontiff can hinder a priest from following the General Law, which was promulgated by the Supreme Legislator, namely, to celebrate in the reformed Rite of Pope Paul VI. A limitation of the exercise of this right can be freely decided upon, perhaps, by a priest, but it can never become the general rule of an Institute. It [i.e., the limitation or restriction] also cannot be imposed upon seminarians, or be the reason for denying them ordination.

  32. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The form of Mass offered is regulated by liturgical law, which is papal legislation. So, as Cardinal Hoyos stated back then, “no superior beneath the Supreme Pontiff” can alter this, and prevent a priest from following the General Law.

    Even though the FSSP can state that their priests “exclusively” offer the EF Mass, even now, technically, they could not forbid one of their members from offering an OF Mass (although it makes no sense for a man to be in the FSSP when their charism is to confer the sacraments of the Extraordinary Form). Conversely, a bishop could not order priests to offer Mass exclusively in the EF.

  33. LOL!!! Thanks Fr. Z, I needed a good laugh :)

  34. cmcclurevspagent says:

    I just saw this post from pewsitter.com. I love it. Very nice.

    HOWEVER, instead of the question “Would all priests comply with the Bishops request?”, I would like to know if all of the laity would comply and ATTEND the Latin Mass? I bet you would have such an uproar from the kumbaya crowd wanting their liturgical dance and tambourines that whether the priest complies would be a moot point.

    The Holy Father is doing what he can to turn the ship back around, but it takes a while. You don’t want to overturn the entire boat in the process. A good starting point would be to clear out all of the current Catholic educators and start fresh with people who would actually teach the Church’s teachings, ALL of them. A big part of the current problems in the Church has been the Bishops allowing bad Catachesis for so many years.

  35. pfreddys says:

    Um, Fr. Z, and I assumed you were aware of this: when it comes to bishops the you have to DOUBLE DOG dare them in order for it to be valid, and btw licit. Just a point of canon law I wish to make!

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