QUAERITUR: Mass obligation and Traditional Anglican Communion

From a reader:

Can a Roman Catholic fulfill her Sunday Obligation at a Traditional Anglican Communion church that is part of one of the Pro-Dioceses awaiting the construction of the Ordinariate for the United States?

In the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church can. 1248 says:

1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

There are several things to consider.

First, has the Anglican priest and community actually been integrated into the Catholic Church, or are they still waiting?

Anglican orders are not recognized as valid.  Thus, when Anglican priests are received into the Church as priests, they are ordained to the priesthood.  No valid priesthood – no Mass – no fulfillment of the obligation.

Another point is, what are they celebrating?  I understand that when the Anglicans are integrated into the Roman Communion they have to make some adjustments to their liturgical rites in regard at least to the consecration of the Eucharist, etc.

Once the priest and group have been integrated into the Catholic Church, then a person can fulfill the Mass Obligation.

This is a different situation from, for example, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).  The SSPX has valid ordination and they are using what is obviously a Catholic rite for Mass.  A person can fulfill the Sunday and Holy Day Obligation by attending a Mass at an SSPX chapel.

Let us pray for a speedy process for both the traditionally-minded Anglicans as well as the swift reunification of the SSPX.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. aladextra says:

    This answer seems targeted toward your average Anglican parish that may be in the process of conversion, but in the case of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC, which is not in communion with the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.), it is my understanding that (1) the ordination lines incorporate bishops with succession validity recognized by Rome, and that (2) in many cases these congregations either use the Novus Ordo (particularly outside the U.S.) or the Book of Divine Worship, both Catholic rites. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend any Catholics attempt to fulfill one’s obligation there, but it is worth noting the steps that the TAC has taken in many cases to already lay the groundwork for reunification.

  2. Augustin57 says:

    Reminds me of when I was very young and had just gotten married, we had moved to Shreveport, La. Without researching things, I figured out we could just get in the car on Sunday and “find” a Catholic Church where we could go to Mass. No problem.

    So, we did just that. Woke up, got ready, and went driving around. And, sure enough, we found a huge church that said, “St. Mark’s” on the front. I had assumed that only Catholics recognized Saints. (this was in 1972, btw) So, we went in, grabbed a bulletin (thank goodness!) on the way in, and found a pew and sat down. I noticed, though, that something was wrong. No kneelers. Hmmm. Well, I figured, they must kneel on the floor in Shreveport. So, we while we were waiting for Mass to start, I figured I’d open the bulletin and see what was going on in the parish. I opened picked it up and there in bold letters, it said, “St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral!” I turned beet red, turned to my wife, pointed to the bulletin, and said, “Let’s get out of here! This isn’t a Catholic Church!” So, we slunk down the middle aisle (we’d sat near the front third of the Church), if you can do that down the middle aisle, and went find a phone book to do what we should’ve done in the first place, research where the Catholic Church was!

  3. jarthurcrank says:

    (1) I would be very skeptical of the “valid lines” arguments from continuing Anglicans. Even if a valid bishop laid hands on so and so, that does not mean that the Ordinal that was used to ordain the man confer valid sacraments. If the Prayer Book Ordinal was the basis of the service, the ordinations are invalid for lack of valid intention. If it was Prayer Book Ordinal with “catholicizing” additions to manfest a valid intention to ordain in the Catholic sense, they are of doubtful (but possible) validity. There is no way that you are in a position to make informed judgments on pedegrees of TAC clergy. You are more assured to received valid sacraments at liturgical atrocities with guitars and big puppets. Sorry, but true.

    (2) Most TAC parishes use one of the Books of Common Prayer and (perhaps) one of the “catholicizing” missals like the Anglican Misssal or the English Missal. I would be surprised if the Novus Ordo were used, but I might be wrong about that.

  4. carl b says:


    You said that going to an SSPX mass fulfils the Sunday obligation. I just want to make sure my conscience is properly formed here. Can I consider going to to an SSPX Mass on Sunday, without my conscience warning me, when there are plenty of OF and FSSP Masses available to me? [No, I wouldn’t. I would go to a church or parish in clear union with the Roman Pontiff and the local bishop.]

  5. Centristian says:

    “Let us pray for a speedy process for both the traditionally-minded Anglicans as well as the swift reunification of the SSPX.”

    I will, provided I can amend the prayer to beseech that the clergy of the SSPX, as individuals, be inspired to leave the SSPX and to reconcile with the official Church (as a number of them have, over time). I would not pray to see the institutional SSPX embraced as such by Rome, however. [This is clearly not the hope of the Holy Father.]

    The SSPX, I believe, ought to simply dissolve itself if the point is ever reached whereby it becomes clear that the majority of its clergy want to reconcile with Rome, en masse. It isn’t a denomination or a rite, its situation does not compare, in any way, with that of the Church of England; the SSPX (in my opinion) is more or less a cult. Cults aren’t embraced by the Church, but those who leave them can be. Let the SSPX, as such, simply collapse, and let the returning clergy, then, be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

    That I shall and do pray for, very fervently. I know wonderful people who are stuck in the SSPX (clergy and laity alike) who just need a little nudge from the Holy Ghost in order to say goodbye to it. They’ve seen through the nuttiness and no longer subscribe to it, but they’re still afraid to leave. For these people I do pray, every day. Let us not pray that Rome embrace the machine that ensnares such people.

  6. MichaelJ says:

    I wonder. Would you say(have you said?) a similar prayer for any other fraternal organization in the Church? Would you pray “Let the Knights of Columbus, as such, simply collapse” or “Let the Jesuits, as such, simply collapse”? [I believe this is leading to a rabbit hole. It has little to do with the question at the top of the entry. ]

  7. I think the point here is that Ordinariate-to-be, Anglican-currently folks are in fact waiting for An Event which will change them from “wanting to be in full communion with Peter” to “being in full communion with Peter”. Pretending like it’s already happened would be an insult to these faithful folks, telling them that their struggle and work is all for nothing.

    To put it another way, it’s like nookie with your future bride before the wedding. If you believe in sacramental realities, you’d want to avoid that. If you think marriage is just a pretty ceremony, then you’d be okay with it. Catholics are supposed to believe the former, not the latter.

  8. TomG says:

    My dear wife of 41 years is not fond of the EF (Latin, silent Canon, etc. – thanks a bunch, “spirit of Vatican II-ers”!), so the Anglican Ordinariate may well be a most welcome “via media” (but not quite the “via media” the Church of England had in mind!)

  9. Centristian says:


    I wonder. Would you say(have you said?) a similar prayer for any other fraternal organization in the Church? Would you pray “Let the Knights of Columbus, as such, simply collapse” or “Let the Jesuits, as such, simply collapse”? [I believe this is leading to a rabbit hole. It has little to do with the question at the top of the entry. ]”

    More like a black hole. I don’t get the question. The Knights and the Jesuits are part of the Church, not in rebellion against it (in theory, in the case of the Jesuits). So…??? Don’t get it.

    At any rate, leaping out of the rabbit hole and back to the subject Father Z had hoped we would discuss (my apologies for leaping into the SSPX rabbit hole to begin with…although you did dig it ;^) [Not any more. I am killing the rest of this comment.]

  10. Joseph says:

    Besides holy orders, is it not also necessary in order to fulfill the Sunday obligation, that the priest has faculties and the building is publicly acessible, meaning no privat chapel?

  11. I am wondering how we can know or find out about the Anglican communities that have become Catholic in the U.S. Is there a list somewhere? Is it being kept secretive for some reason? I’ve heard nothing about it anywhere but here and I would really like to know, because there is a nice traditional Anglican church near us. Most Catholic churches around here are very liberal in their liturgies. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t call the pastor there and ask him.

  12. Centristian says:


    They’re few and far between at the moment I’m afraid. I think this is the complete list of Anglican Use venues in the US:

    Saint Paul’s Anglican Use,Phoenix, Arizona [2]
    California AU Catholic Laity, St. Francis of Assisi Church, La Quinta, California
    Atlanta Area AU Catholic Laity, Dunwoody, Georgia
    Mount Calvary, Baltimore, Maryland [3]
    All Saints Sisters of the Poor, Cantonsville, Maryland [4]
    St. Athanasius Congregation, Boston, Massachusetts [5]
    Our Lady of Hope Society, Kansas City, Missouri [6]
    St. Augustine of Canterbury Society, Springfield, Missouri [7]
    St. Thomas More Society, St. Clare Church, Scranton, Pennsylvania [8]
    St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas [9]
    St. Anselm of Canterbury Catholic Mission, Corpus Christi, Texas [10]
    St. Thomas More Fort Worth, Texas
    Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Texas [11]
    Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio, Texas [12]

  13. Brian2 says:

    Suze from OK.

    There is a google map that lists many if not all of the churches, chapels and communities planning on joining the ordinariate. There is one in Sheridan OK. Here is the link to the map:


    My apologies for the long ugly link. I don’t know how to shorten it.

  14. Brian2 says:

    I was wrong. There isn’t one in Sheridan OK. Lots in Texas though

  15. wk1999 says:


    I am a follower of the TLM since a couple of years, in fact ever since I attended one in my home country after Summorum Pontificum. Ever since then I try to attend a TLM whenever it is possible, I even would say, that I try to avoid Holy Mass in the Novus Ordo.
    During my last summer vacation in an Asian country I attended Holy Mass at SSPX, although I had the option to go to Holy Mass in any other Catholic Church in that country. Back home I asked a Priest of FSSP on this and he told me that I should have gone to Holy Mass in the Novus Ordo. How do you view this?

  16. BobP says:

    Wasn’t the Anglican traditional liturgy declared invalid? What makes it now valid, aside from the presumed validity of the Anglican priests?

  17. pseudomodo says:

    Father, don’t begrudge us ferrets from going down the rabbit hole in search of our prey! [Not today.]

  18. Random Friar says:

    I just wanted to pat on the back (virtually), all the good folks that, as Carl B. mentioned, are trying to inform their consciences. Would that so many others do likewise!

    The Anglican Use has always been a reverent celebration, at least in my limited experience. But it is still not a Mass to fulfill the obligation. If one wanted to go there to get a close “preview” of what it might look like after canonical approval and ordinations come to pass, I don’t see a major problem there. Introduce yourself, if you can. I’m sure they would appreciate the support. But you still have to fulfill obligation.

  19. Jacob says:

    Father, thank you for your straight talk. You make points that I think would be unpopular at certain other blogs.

  20. Daniel says:

    Suz from Oklah:
    There were some people in Oklahoma that were trying to find interest for an Anglican Use Community. Since shortly after they started the Pope issued Anglicanorum Coetibus the process has likely changed. Formerly they would have needed permission from the Pastoral Provision Office and the consent of the local Bishop, and they would need to find a priest to celebrate the Anglican Use for them. Currently things are somewhat on hold until the Personal Ordinariate is established and an Ordinary appointed. If there is a group of sufficient size in the area, the Ordinary could establish a community there while consulting the local bishop (but not necessarily requiring his permission). The new process should make things easier for such communities to come into existence than the former process was under the Pastoral Provision Office.

    Random Friar:
    The Anglican Use is an approved variation of the Latin Rite liturgy. The priests have been ordained by Catholic bishops. Anyone can fulfill their Sunday Obligation by attending an Anglican Use Mass at a properly approved Anglican Use Parish or Community. It would be no different than fulfilling your obligation at a Byzantine or Maronite Rite Liturgy, though in fact it is Latin Rite.

  21. Gulielmus says:

    “I have friends, not well catechized, evidently, who attend services in the Episcopal Church each Sunday instead of the Catholic Mass because, as they say, “they’re more Catholic than the Catholic Mass.”

    I do as well, but the error is compounded in the case of my friends by this being a self-described “traditional” Catholic family. I think the pitfall of mistaking aesthetic superiority for tradition is one that must be carefully avoided, despite the fact that traditional liturgies (genuine Catholic ones as well as some from other sources) are usually aesthetically preferable. With the general excellence of music and pageantry in the high-church Anglican world, it would be easy to find it “more Catholic” than a mediocre service at a Catholic parish, but it’s not.

    However, it does suggest some interesting developments in the future, as the ordinariate becomes more widespread and Catholics are exposed to valid Masses in English with music and trappings of higher quality than that to which they are accustomed. “Mutual enrichment,” perhaps?

  22. Emilio III says:

    Centristian’s list of Anglican Use churches does not seem to distinguish between those in full communion with the Church and those planning to join a future Ordinariate. E.g. St Mary the Virgin is a parish in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, while St Thomas More in Fort Worth is not. The churches that joined the Catholic Church under JPII’s 1980 Pastoral Provision are 4 in Texas (St Mary the Virgin in Arlington, St Margaret of Scotland in Austin, St Anselm of Canterbury in Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston) 1 in MA (St Athanasius in Brookline) and 1 in SC (Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia).

    Although it seems logical that these would join the Ordinariate eventually, they are currently Catholic churches and their Masses are Catholic Masses (therefore off-topic in this post :-)

  23. AnAmericanMother says:


    The list is a bit out of date, at least wrt to Southeast. According to an acquaintance of mine, Good Shepherd in Columbia no longer has the AU – it’s just a regular NO parish now.

    The list also seems to have included everybody who was on the AU mailing list, whether they had a parish and a priest, or not. The “AU Laity” in Dunwoody (a NE suburb of Atlanta) was never anything more than a small group of lay people meeting in somebody’s living room, and they don’t exist at all any more. When I referred a friend of mine to them recently, she called and the lady who answered the phone said, “Oh. That was a long time ago.”

    The AU has really taken off in Texas, and nowhere else. I’m not sure why.

  24. Daniel says:

    Emilio III:
    St. Athanasius in Boston and St. Thomas More in Scranton are approved communities similar to St. Anselm in that they meet at a facility other than their own. I think that a few of the others may be small groups of Catholics that get together on occasion and celebrate some portion of the Liturgy (Morning Prayer, Evensong), though as you mentioned one or two of those appear to have the intent to join but might not have full communion at this point.

    My understanding is that St. Margaret of Scotland was suppressed by the bishop when the original pastor left, though I believe there were other priests willing to fill in. This was somewhat the problem with the Pastoral Provision and the Personal Parish concept, the communities exist only with the blessing of the bishop. I have no doubt that other Anglican Use Parishes could have been established, but the local bishops were unwilling to have one. With the Personal Ordinariate these decisions will be more up to the Ordinary rather than the Bishop.

  25. Random Friar says:

    Daniel: Thanks for catching that! I was wondering why you were saying that, then I noticed I dropped a sentence there somehow. I was trying to say that the AU was, of course, valid and a noble Rite, but that the TAC liturgy, while perhaps similarly beautiful, cannot fulfill the obligation, but that if one wanted to get a sort of “preview” of the AU, then visit the TAC, but do not intend it as a Mass.

  26. Daniel says:

    There were two parishes in Los Angeles that were intended to be among the very first Anglican Use parishes, but a short time before that was to happen Cardinal Manning decided it would hurt ecumenical relations with the Episcopal Church. Now some 27 years later I believe that at least one of those two parishes is planning to join the Personal Ordinariate. While it seems to be said that most of the interest in Anglican Use has come from Texas, it basically comes down to the bishops there were cooperative whereas they had been less so elsewhere.

  27. Daniel says:

    If your friend still has interest and doesn’t consider Savannah to far of a drive, there is an Anglican Use Society there that will be holding their first service of Evening Prayer this Sunday at 4pm at the chapel of Our Lady of Confidence Carmelite Monastery. More information can be found at theanglocatholic.com.

  28. Sixupman says:

    The English & Welsh Bishops’ Conference issed an edict, dated March 2001, which opined I could fulfill my Sunday/Holyday Duty by attendance at the local CofE, Free Church, or whatever. I shall e-mail you copy.

    Re: SSPX, I disagree and Vatican sources also disagree with your sentiments. I have moved from a parish which preached against the Magisterium, for lay equivalence with the Ordained Priesthood and much other rubbish. SSPX is like the Diocesan Church in thaty each have their nutters, but to tar all with the same brush is wrong.

  29. Sixupman says:

    Apologies if I have read your SSPX comment wrong, inm the main body you acknowledge the fact of fulfillment.

  30. AnAmericanMother says:

    Savannah is 4 1/2 to 5 hours from NW Atlanta, via the most boring interstate on the planet.
    But I have friends in Savannah and I will be sure to let them know.
    I think you’re probably right about the bishops being instrumental in this. Locally, I know our former archbishop (back when the Pastoral Provision was introduced) was supportive of the Latin Mass, but I never heard a peep about the AU.
    The other problem here is that the Episcopal diocese of Atlanta is traditionally very “low” – both theologically and ritually. So there aren’t very many ‘nosebleed high’ Episcopalians here in the first place, and because the diocese is also in the forefront of the way-out Episcopalian trends politically, they have been hostile to high-churchers for that reason as well. There were only three arguably ‘high’ Episcopal parishes here to begin with — two that opposed the stuff that came out of General Convention 2003 were essentially suppressed and bullied almost out of existence. One lost its entire congregation and staff to the TAC, leaving only the rector and one secretary. He stayed because the bishop threatened to take away his pension, and he was only a couple of years from retirement. The second is limping along on life support with an ‘interim rector’ installed by the bishop and doing all he can to torpedo the place – the average age of the congregation is about 65 (I am not kidding – we attended there for awhile – the sad side of the ‘biological solution’) and they seem to have given up. The third (our former parish) had a new rector who decided to ‘go along to get along’ and started pushing the national church party line. That was when we left that parish . . . . the fact that the new rector didn’t last long (for completely unrelated reasons) is something I refuse to rejoice over, because he did the parish and the people a whole lot of harm.

  31. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    “The SSPX, I believe, ought to simply dissolve itself if the point is ever reached whereby it becomes clear that the majority of its clergy want to reconcile with Rome, en masse. It isn’t a denomination or a rite, its situation does not compare, in any way, with that of the Church of England; the SSPX (in my opinion) is more or less a cult. Cults aren’t embraced by the Church, but those who leave them can be. Let the SSPX, as such, simply collapse, and let the returning clergy, then, be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

    In aggrement with you Centristian.

  32. Laura R. says:


    Thanks for the background on the sad recent history of high Episcopal churches in Atlanta — I didn’t realize that the bishop had taken such measures. Has the group that went to the TAC decided to move toward the Ordinariate?

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m not sure where they went, I know they were meeting in an office park and had acquired a new priest, but after that I lost track.
    All of this is ancient history. I stopped paying attention when we swam the Tiber because it all made me so angry it was a near occasion of sin. The Bishop of Atlanta did not behave well and he is no gentleman. I almost walked right out of the processional line one Sunday morning because I overheard our parochial vicar and one of the church ladies yukking it up about how they had installed said church lady as a “volunteer” in one of those parishes to spy on the rector and report back to the bishop.

  34. Laura R. says:


    I’m confused! Did your episode in the processional line happen while you were still Episcopalian or after your Tiber swim? I never heard of any parochial vicars in Episcopal churches. And I am sorry to hear such things about the bishop; I didn’t know him very well but had thought him rather agreeable.

    I know what you mean about leaving it all behind. I didn’t encounter the same sorts of underhanded schemes as you did, just doctrinal assumptions and Eucharistic practices I knew I couldn’t live with any more. Becoming Catholic has felt rather like entering a church where, despite all the problems discussed on this blog & elsewhere, life is normal again.

  35. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear – that was back when I was still a Piskie. The PV and his church lady buddy were having a good laugh in the narthex as the choir was getting ready to process – most ECUSA churches aren’t big enough to have a PV – but this one was.
    The previous bishop, Frank Allen, WAS a very agreeable man and a pretty solid Christian. His successor was quite another story. Of course, I don’t know if he ordered the sneaking around – maybe those two were just freelance informers – but he did plenty of threatening of the few remaining orthodox priests and parishes and was the first to try to take away parish property (Bp Allen said publicly that any dissatisfied parish was welcome to leave and he would not sue them for their building and graveyard – and nobody ever sought to leave during his tenure. Pretty sure those two facts are related).
    I can tell you, I don’t miss all the drama. It’s so nice to be in a church where the most exciting thing that happens is that somebody faints at the exposition of St. Padre Pio’s relic, or the Orthodox Metropolitan visits for a joint prayer service and we get to sing Vespers.

  36. Laura R. says:


    Frank Allan was my rector for many years, and I and my family liked him very much; I moved away from the city around the time of his election as bishop. I am so glad (but not surprised) to learn of his charitable and generous attitude toward dissatisfied parishes. I moved back a few years ago, right about the time the current bishop came out with his book explaining why he had decided to vote for Gene Robinson; I wasn’t much impressed, to say the least.

    I was at the exposition of St. Padre Pio’s relic too, but missed the fainting!

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    Wow, you must have come early, or late, there was a bit of a stir. You didn’t see me (I look just like everybody else) but my husband is a great big tall guy with a huge bushy gray (once red) beard, and everybody sees him!
    Glad you knew Bp. Allan (I do know how to spell his name, really I do . . . but I checked to make sure and some ECUSA website had misspelled it!!!! I feel like Dan Quayle and “potatoe”.) I go all the way back to Bishop Claiborne (I grew up in Cathedral parish), and my father remembers Bishop Mikell – he grew up at St. Peters Rome GA (rumor hath it that Bp. Claiborne arranged for his installation at dad’s home church, just so he could say he was consecrated at St. Peter’s Rome and confuse everybody . . . . the Piskies got to Rome before the Catholics, so they bagged the name.) My maternal grandparents just missed Bishop Nelson, since they moved to town the year after he died. They would have known him in Augusta, since he was the bishop of the old statewide diocese . . . but they were Presbyterians (then and always, of the rock-ribbed Scotch variety) so they probably didn’t notice or care.

  38. Laura R. says:

    Your Piskie lineage is much longer than mine! I had always wondered about St. Peter’s Rome, Ga. version. We didn’t get to ECUSA until I was ten or eleven or so, and I was confirmed by Bishop Gribbin (retired, South Carolina, I think) so I missed Bp. Claiborne altogether. I wish I had had more exposure to the Cathedral back then, as I think it must have been rather wonderful. But whatever nostalgia I may have about ECUSA could not keep me there, if anything the reverse; you know as well as I do how painful it was to witness the changes. Becoming Catholic has been for me an unexpected blessing resulting from all that wreckage, God be praised!

  39. AnAmericanMother says:

    I feel exactly the same way you do! I console myself with the thought that the Episcopal church I grew up with was not the church I left.
    My theory is this: the Episcopal Church was founded as an expedient, political solution to a political/dynastic problem. Episcopalians therefore are and always have been creatures of the World, with one eye to social climbing and one to what is Done and Not Done from the World’s point of view. So long as the World (especially in the American South) was morally upright, conversant with Scripture, and respectful of God and God’s word, no problem. Once society began to lose its moral grounding in the sixties, the Episcopalians (since they followed the World) lost their grip. Vickie Gene was just a punctuation mark along the long, slow slide . . . . but thank goodness that he was a signpost along that broad easy way to get us OUT.
    But I will always be grateful to the good Episcopalian clergy and laymen back in the day who (1) gave me an excellent grounding in Scripture in Sunday School (I still have my twelve year pin around here somewhere); (2) taught me the rudiments of music, quality performance practice, and the treasures of the Anglican choral tradition; (3) engraved deep into my memory the beautiful, solemn, measured prose of Cranmer’s Prayer Book and Psalter.
    I pray that, with God’s grace, we can bring those treasures with us back to the Catholic Church — from which they originally came. Of thine own have we given thee!

  40. Laura R. says:

    I think that’s a very astute analysis of why ECUSA has behaved as it has. This is also something I’ve become more aware of since becoming Catholic. There are still godly and orthodox people in Piskie-land, but the overall church is marching to the world’s beat for sure, and I really don’t think that progression will be stopped.

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