QUAERITUR: Can diocesan priests use the Extraordinary Form Carmelite or Dominican or Cistercian Rite?

From a reader:

I recently read an article about a Carmelite priest who had to jump through all these hoops to get permission to celebrate the Carmelite rite Mass, but then the article pointed out later that, under Universae Ecclesiae 34, “The use of the liturgical books proper to the Religious Orders which were in effect in 1962 is permitted.”

My question is this: to whom is that permission granted? It would seem that the obvious answer is that only a religious may celebrate a religious rite, and even then only the rite of his religious order. But the reason I ask is because I am a diocesan priest and in my parish boundaries lies a Carmelite monastery of nuns. We are responsible for celebrating their Masses because the nearest Carmelite priest is far away and only comes once a month. Unlike many other Carmelite nuns, these ones are still fully habited and really do strive to live like nuns, and I imagine that they would enjoy experiencing the Carmelite rite Mass. I really doubt, however, that the Carmelite priest who comes once a month would be willing and able, and I so I wonder whether it would be possible for the diocesan clergy responsible for their regular spiritual care to celebrate that rite for them.

How generous of spirit you are, Father. I applaud you.

Firstly, you don’t say what sort of Carmelites they are. I don’t think the Discalced reform of the Carmelite Order used celebrated the Carmelite Rite. Part of that reform included the use of the Roman Rite by all houses of discalced nuns and friars.

Therefore, to give them their patrimony, your spiritual care of the sisters would involve saying Mass for them as St. John of the Cross did in the presence of St. Teresa of Avila – that is, in the Roman Rite in its Extraordinary Form.

Moreover, I doubt permission would be given to a diocesan priest to use a the Carmelite Rite or any other Rite of an Order. Those Rites are for members of the Orders. The normative text of Article 34 of Universae Ecclesiae reads, “Sodalibus Ordinum Religiosorum licet uti propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus.” That extends the use of the Religious Rites in effect in 1962 solely to “sodalibus“.

Back in the day, permission was not granted to diocesan priests to use the Rites of Orders, nor did members of Orders normally say the Roman Rite, except in rare cases. Thus, if a diocesan priest were visiting a Dominican parish he would have to have used the Roman Rite even if he were himself a Third Order Dominican.

However, priests can cross over, as it were, and act as lesser ministers in Solemn Masses.

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  1. asperges says:

    The Vatican’s own translation of this paragraph seems less restrictive: “34. The use of the liturgical books proper to the Religious Orders which were in effect in 1962 is permitted.” It omits the theoretical limit of “sodalibus.” I have known secular clergy undertake the role of sub-deacon at Dominican Masses (because no-one else was available) and this does not appear to be a problem either for the order or for the local Ordinary who positively encouraged this co-operation. Surely a third order member of an order automatically is “sodalis” by definition.

    I have never known of a case of a diocesan secular priest as a celebrant of an(other) order’s rite, but it seems rather harsh to invoke a prior state of affairs when the Holy Father is liberating the rites formerly used rather than bringing all the baggage of the time they were last in regular use which is not specified.

    Courtesy would suggest clearing it first with the order concerned, but a priest willing to celebrate for the order as in this case, surely cannot be automatically supposed to be forbidden to do so. I suppose ‘if push came to shove,’ a dubium could be raised with the Vatican, but common sense – as in life generally – tells us that sometimes it is better just not to ask but to get on with it. It is after all a real act of Christian charity.

  2. St. Rafael says:

    I would really like to see a dubium on this. The Holy See should look into this issue and address it in a dubium.

  3. Eriugena says:

    The Roman-Carmelite Rite is VERY slightly different from the “pure” Roman Rite: the confiteor is different (“sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, beato Eliae, beatae Teresiae, et tibi, Pater”) and there is a Salve Regina at the end in memory of the Martyrs on Mount Carmel who sang that as they were put to death by the infidels (and the Martyrs of Compiegne must surely have carried this across from their liturgy as they went up to the guillotine). The most obvious difference, though, is with the OCD calendar which would need to be followed in place of the one for the universal Church.

  4. ocarmphil says:

    Just a correction Father.When Teresa of Avila started the discalced reform, the rite that they used was the Rite of the Holy Sepulchre or the Carmelite Rite. This is the rite which John of the Cross used to celebrate. It was after the death of St. Teresa and through the machinations of Nicholas Doria that made the separation of the Discalced from the Ancient Observance. As part of the separation, Nicholas Doria chose the Tridentine Rite over the Carmelite Rite as distinction of the reform much to the dismay of St. John of the Cross.

  5. Joe in Canada says:

    ocarmphil: interesting, that the Ancient Observance commemorates St Theresa in the Confiteor but the branch she started doesn’t!

  6. aquinas138 says:

    It seems the priest follows his own rite as concerns the Order of Mass, but the variable parts, including the Calendar, are those of the church or oratory wherein he is saying Mass. According to the Rubrics of the 1962 Missal:

    “284. A priest who celebrates in a church or oratory where a different rite prevails, must keep to the calendar of that church or oratory with regard to the feasts and their rank, the commemorations and the collect imperata. As to the order of the Mass, however, he should take the variable parts proper to the rite of that church and keep the ceremonies and ordinary of his own rite.”

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    aquinas138 — Unless the priest has permission to be bi-ritual, etc. Then either rite would be “his own rite.”

    So if you were a Carmelite priest from the one side, and you were for whatever reason asked to be priest for a bunch of Carmelites from the other side who had no priest of their own, you could picture such a priest being granted permission to celebrate a different rite.

    Maybe even if you were a diocesan priest who had to take care of, say, a nursing home full of Carmelites who didn’t have a priest of their own, if the relevant authorities wanted to be pastoral, or if the diocesan priest used to be Carmelite, or such things — although that really would seem to come close to stepping on the privileges of an order. Can diocesan priests join the Third Order Carmelites? Would that satisfy honor in such a case?

  8. br.david says:

    Would this “crossing over” into serving as ‘lesser ministers’ apply to the OF, as well? I know MANY, if not MOST, would decry such an action….

  9. AAJD says:

    A dubium could raise some interesting and worthwhile questions. This would seem to be a curious restriction on diocesan clergy insofar as priests of the Latin rite can receive bi-ritual faculties to celebrate, e.g., the Byzantine liturgy (I know a half-dozen priests with just such faculties)–obviously an entirely different liturgical tradition–but cannot celebrate another rite that resides, broadly, within the same Latin family?

  10. dans0622 says:

    @ocarmphil: would you be able to point to any resources that detail those developments?

  11. Precentrix says:

    FWIW there was flexibility with the Dominicans in times past with regards to Third Order priests having the right to use, if not the Dominican Rite, at least the calendar, with permission from the Master General. A Third Order priest also had the right to celebrate the Order’s ‘privileged’ Masses such as the votive of the Most Holy Rosary etc. under the same conditions as the friars and I’m not 100% sure that this would be possible were he not to use the Order’s liturgical forms. This from reading the old manuals, of course.

  12. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:


    Secular priests who were members of the Dominican Third Order got permission to use the Dominican Breviary (and calendar as you note), but never the Dominican Missal. In fact, especially before the Pius X reform, use of the (shorter) Dominican Breviary was a very common reason for secular priests to join the Third Order. When they celebrated the various privileged votive Masses they did so using the Roman Rite and the Roman Propers. They did not use the Dominican Missal.

    As stated in a comment above, order priests could serve in Roman Rite solemn Masses as deacon and subdeacon, as well as in order rites different from their own. And vice versa. I have posted pricture here: http://dominican-liturgy.blogspot.com/search/label/Flabella%20in%20the%20Dominican%20Rite
    But they could not serve as celebrant in another rites solemn Mass. In fact, for us Dominicans the prohibition of celebrating Mass in the Roman Rite was so absolute that it was not until the late 1950s that a dispensation was possible. And even then it required a petition to the Master of the Order, who then had to petition the Sacred Congregation of Rites. It seems that such a permission was given only about 5 times and always for lone Dominicans teaching in diocesan seminaries in the African missions. And they were required to revert to the Dominican Mass when they left the mission. This prohibition was really in force to protect Dominicans from being forced by bishops and pastors to celebrate the Roman Rite. There was a lot of hostility toward the Dominican Rite among the seculars: probably because it was the most commonly know (other order rites were either celebrated only in monasteries or rather uncommon, like the Carmelite Rite). Even today there are attempts (I know of one personally) in places where the EF is used to force Dominicans doing supply to use the Roman Rite. The usual excuse (as in the past) is “the Dominican Rite will confuse the faithful.”

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    OCarmPhil, that is very interesting, I always understood it to be the case that St John of the Cross had decided more or less from the beginning to go with the standard Roman Rite. If you are an O.Carm I assume you know what you are talking about, but I also would like to know more. Nicholas Doria! If there is a bad guy in the story of the Discalced Carmelites it is him, though he was not really a bad guy.

    There are a significant number of people who would really like to see the EF celebrated (at least on a special occasion, regularly would currently be unlikely) at the Basilica of Holy Hill, which was the first foundation of the OCD friars which is still a suitable place for the celebration of the older form of the Mass. There is at least one key friar who I was told (a couple years ago now) is possibly open to the idea, someday, not necessarily soon. Some of the other friars are very not-traditional.

  14. Joshua08 says:

    Fr. Augustine, shouldn’t it be added that under the terms of Summorum Pontificum a Dominican may celebrate freely the 1962 Roman Missal. It seems to me the permission is broader than what was the case in 1962!

    Though I do think Dominicans ought to do the Dominican Rite

  15. louder says:

    Just want to say that yes, Discalced Carmelite priests did use the Carmelite Rite, as I know many OCD priests who have described the Rite, and how they celebrated the mass. (I’m an OCD priest).

  16. Yes, Joshua08, it is correct that Dominican (and all other priests of the Latin Church) may under the terms of Summorum Pontificum celebrate the EF, as well as the OF.

    I do think, however, that it is very, very unwise for Dominicans to celebrate the Roman EF. Such celebrations establish a precedent that can used against the Dominican Rite whenever there is some move to require Dominicans use the Roman EF in this or that parish or chaplaincy.

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  18. greasemonkey says:

    St. Theresa is NOT mentioned in the Confiteor of the Carmelite Rite, nor is Peter & Paul! Nor does one follow the Kalendar of 1962 of the OCDs to use the Missale Carmelitarum of the OCarms…

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