QUAERITUR: A stable group petitioned the Extraordinary Form, but the “parish council” says NO!

From a young reader:

I am a sixteen year old boy, who has requested a TLM mass at my parish a number of times unofficially. After getting several unsatisfactory results, I decided to send a short concise petition to the bishop, because the nearest TLM mass is an hour and fifteen minute drive away occurring only once a month.

Twenty-six people signed the petition before I sent it off to the bishop a month ago. Today I just received a phone call from my parish’s faith formation coordinator. She told me that yesterday the parish council has had a “special” meeting to discuss the petition. Furthermore she went on to say that the parish council concluded that the parish does not need a TLM mass at this time. Afterwards she stated that she would call everyone who signed the petition informing them of their decision even though I did not send a copy of the letter to either the parish or the parish priest.(I told my parish priest that I was sending a petition and showed him the petition before it was signed).

I have not received a response from the bishop. What should I do?

First, I am pleased that you are interested in knowing and participating in the Extraordinary Form. This is your patrimony as a Catholic. You and all Catholics should have it available.

Second, parish councils are not mentioned in the Holy Father’s provisions promulgated in Summorum Pontificum. They are meaningless in this matter. The person mentioned in Summorum Pontificum is the pastor of the parish, the parish priest. He makes the decision. He should be required to make a specific response. He is the pastor, not the parish council. He can consult with a parish council, but he makes the call.

Summorum Pontificum says:

Art. 5, § 1. In paroeciis, ubi coetus fidelium traditioni liturgicae antecedenti adhaerentium stabiliter [previously continenter] exsistit, parochus eorum petitiones ad celebrandam sanctam Missam iuxta ritum Missalis Romani anno 1962 editi, libenter suscipiat. Ipse videat ut harmonice concordetur bonum horum fidelium cum ordinaria paroeciae pastorali cura, sub Episcopi regimine ad normam canonis 392, discordiam vitando et totius Ecclesiae unitatem fovendo.

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.

From what you wrote, there are enough people interested that the parish priest, the pastor, must make a response. If the pastor won’t help you, then you must turn to the local bishop and/or the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome.

If the bishop has already been informed, then you must send copies of all the correspondence to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome.

Summorum Pontificum says:

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 desire. If does not want to provide for a celebration of this kind, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.

Universae Ecclesiae, the document that clarifies some points of Summorum Pontificum, states:

14. It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Save copies of all your correspondence, in both directions – everything you send and everything you receive. Make written notes of every conversation you have with anyone at the parish, focusing especially on the facts of the conversation, what exactly was said.



A priest friend reminded me of this:




Article 5§ 3. It is for the Parish Priest to preside at parochial councils. They are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void, any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a parochial council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes.(86)

Article 5 § 2. Diocesan and parochial Pastoral Councils(83) and Parochial Finance Councils,(84) of which non-ordained faithful are members, enjoy a consultative vote only and cannot in any way become deliberative structures. Only those faithful who possess the qualities prescribed by the canonical norms(85) may be elected to such responsibilities.

(83) Cf. C.I.C., can. 514, 536.

(84) Cf. ibid., can. 537.

(85) Cf. ibid., can. 512, §§ 1 and 3; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1650.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Benedict XVI, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, Universae Ecclesiae and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. disco says:

    I might also add that you should offer to make arrangements to cover the added costs which may be incurred by the regular celebration of the traditional mass. (Procurement of worthy vestments, training for the priest, etc.) I realize these would be more than a typical 16 year-old could have the means to pay for but those 24 who signed the petition should be willing to kick in some scratch to make this happen.

    Absent a lack of resources, there is not much valid objection to be had toward the TLM.

  2. chantgirl says:

    Last Sunday, the only Mass that my husband could attend (due to sick children) was a Spanish language Mass. He speaks what he calls “kitchen Spanish” (he works as a chef and has had to learn enough Spanish to speak to employees that can’t speak English well), but he says that kitchen Spanish is pretty vulgar and is nothing like the Spanish he took in school, so he wouldn’t have understood everything said at Mass. When he arrived home after Mass, I asked him how many people attended. He answered “no more than twenty”. Pastors, if you will help a group as small as this have a Spanish Mass, why not help a small stable group that requests the Latin Mass? Wouldn’t it be more pastoral to help these people than alienate them and possibly send them off in search of a new parish? Sometimes priests hide behind their parish council so that they don’t have to be the bad guy. Sometimes, someone who is on the council is a big donor and throws a tantrum and threatens to stop giving if they don’t get their way. Either way, the priest appears to be a pushover. Pastors, don’t abdicate your rights and responsibilities! You have the right and responsibility before God to shepherd your flock.

  3. jacobi says:

    “He can consult with a parish council, but he makes the call”.

    How right you are!

    I myself am a member of our parish council. The remit is quite clear. It is
    “To advise and assist the parish priest”
    Nowhere does it say that the parish council, or any member of it, has any executive power either in liturgical matters or indeed in any other.

    Setting the date of the annual BBQ, providing the PP is available, by all means – but that’s it.

    We are a Catholic parish after all.

  4. If it were me in that position, I’d inform anyone connected with the parish who approached me, that the matter was between myself and the pastor alone, that if they needed confirmation, I’d be happy to arrange it. I’d limit all communication on the matter to him, and if it came to approaching the bishop, I would make him aware of ill-fated attempts to deal with the pastor. Bottom line, I’d ignore the staff and parish council completely. At the end of the day, it’s not their call, and (frankly) none of their business.

    But hey, that’s just me.

    There are a host of practical matters in getting a Traditional Mass celebrated locally. An explanation can be found here.

  5. Elizabeth M says:

    Reminds me of what happened in San Jose, CA. While there are many other details it came down to the “parish council” saying the time the EF took place was too inconvenient for the rest of the masses because it only left 30 minutes between the EF and OF. 300 families petitioned, and still they are looking for a parish to hold EF. Parish councils, like most things, started out as a good idea but when a few get too much power… you know the saying.

  6. robtbrown says:

    This reminds me that a mutual friend of Fr Z and yours truly in his first year after ordination was saying a Latin Novus Ordo privately on his day off in the parish. A member of the parish council (or music director) told him that was not permitted in the parish. After that he decided to drive to an Opus Dei study center when he said a Latin NO with no interference.

    Within a few years he left the priesthood.

  7. Clinton says:

    Setting aside for a moment the indisputable fact that the decision was not the parish council’s
    to make but rather the pastor’s, I’m intrigued by their methods.

    If the parish council were truly open to the possibility of beginning an EF Mass, surely the best
    way to explore options would have been to meet with some of the 26 petitioners to discuss the
    logistics? Areas of concern could have been addressed– availability of a priest competent to say
    the EF Mass, training of priest and servers, scheduling, etc. That the meeting was unannounced
    and the decision rendered without asking the petitioners how these logistics could be handled
    suggests they weren’t even interested in the possibility of helping make a regular EF happen. They also seem to be unfamiliar with the concept of transparency.

    I wonder if members of the parish council believe that having a regularly scheduled EF Mass
    is somehow ‘divisive’ for a parish. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I’ve heard that one used before.
    It’s always especially silly when it comes from people who mouth platitudes about cherishing
    ‘diversity’, or who sensibly accept the idea of scheduling an OF Mass in Spanish. My own parish,
    thank God, has offered a Sunday EF Mass even before Summorum Pontificum came out.
    The results have only been positive for the parish as a whole.

    Father Z., I hope your young reader perseveres. I’d like him to know that I recognize that it is
    only because of the hard work of people like himself that I am able to attend an EF Mass at my
    own parish each Sunday. Even though I have not met him, from the bottom of my heart I thank
    him for his efforts.

    [How about working on some clearer formatting?]

  8. mike cliffson says:

    There is NOTHING in your comment to upset, but just the warning that there is sometimes an attempt, deliberate I fear, to set nonenglish masses against Ef, stir up bad feeling etc.
    I am old enough to remember(UK not USA) when “polish mass ” etc meant latin , of course,m but as don e by Pole s or whoever, so mostly ok if you had a missal, the hmmmm contemplative moment? was the sermon.

  9. Athelstan says:

    In some cases, weak or approval-seeking pastors have abdicated (albeit not canonically) their authority to parish councils.

    But I think there are more than a few instances of pastors simply using a parish council as a bomb shelter. They can claim a democratic mechanism for denying what they don’t wish to grant – or as cover for what they want to do. It’s hard to tell which is the case here.

  10. mamajen says:

    Parish councils are a BIG part of what ails us as a Church.

  11. Father K says:

    There are two problems here; the first about the petition to have the EF and the second one regarding the parish council. Canon 536 par. 2 states very clearly, ‘a pastoral [i.e. parish] council possesses a consultative vote only and is governed by the norms established by the diocesan bishop.’

    These norms could not give the parish council more authority than the canon allows. The parish priest may, if he desires, consult with the council, but he doesn’t have to. As parish priest, he is given all the authority necessary to administer the parish and provide for the good of the souls entrusted to his care. [that, according to the mind of the Legislator, Pope Benedict, clearly includes those who wish to worship God and nourish their souls by means of the EF].

    Maybe you could speak to the parish priest personally and if nothing good comes of this, keep in contact with the bishop, following the procedure of article 7 of Summorum Pontificum as mentioned by Father Z. Never assume that a priest, even a parish priest, or a bishop for that matter is particularly knowledgeable about canon law! A good lesson in surviving as a Catholic for one so young!

  12. Volanges says:

    With no information about the parish we have no way of knowing whether the refusal is warranted or not. While it appears that the Parish Council made the decision, they could be simply the excuse or the messenger.

    There are times when a request for the EF simply cannot be accommodated. Were I to request it in my parish, where a group of about 12 might be expected to attend on regular basis, the answer would be “It’s not possible at this time.” That for a variety of reasons:
    1. The Pastor has never celebrated one before and doesn’t know how.
    2. We don’t have the vestments or the altar accoutrements that are necessary and don’t have the money to buy them.
    3. Our Pastor’s salary (set by the diocese) is almost 50% of our annual income, so bringing someone in to celebrate at a cost of about $1000 per Mass (they’d have to fly in) is out of the question.

  13. Phil_NL says:

    This won’t be easy.

    Paiting in broad strokes, there are two possibilities:

    A. The parish council is just acting as an escape mechanism for a priest who has no use for the EF, and no desire to honor the request. There may be good reasons for that (assuming some unknown set of circumstances), or bad ones (little imagination needed), but whatever the reason, the PP may have felt it would be easier to let the parish council offer the rejection. If that’s the case, more prodding might yield a different reason not to honor the request, but unless the bishop leans heavily on the PP, the answer is likely remain the same. [and frankly, if you’d have a priest dead-set against a form of Mass, chances that he’ll offer it well are slim. One would wonder if such a person makes a good priest, but virtually no Western diocese would be in a position to let go of a priest on such a ground alone].

    B. The parish council is actually calling the shots. In such a case, the PP needs to grow a pair, but even if he does decide that it’s time to set the parish council in its proper place, that might be a long, hard and miserable fight. Members of a parish council are not generally dismissed from that position because the PP doesn’t like them (at best they are replaced after their term expires), and while on the council, they can make the priest’s life pretty miserable. In fact, they may be able to do so from outside as well. Again, there are a truckload of bad reasons not to wage this particular battle as well as a few good ones, given circumstances, but at any rate, don’t expect progress any time soon.

    By the way, if the nearest EF Mass is indeed that far away, it might be an idea to connect to neighbouring parishes. Perhaps there are people there too willing and able to ask for an EF Mass, and perhaps the situation in that parish is more favorable. I suspect that the guy who asked the original question is probably well placed to try this, especially with some social media connections thrown in.
    Also, further down the road, if the bishop sees one parish with EF demand, he may not be very attentive to the issue. If he suddenly sees the same issue pop up in 7 parishes, he’d be more likely to put some effort in and try to arrange something in at least one of them. (of course, in a very rural setting where the next parish is already 75 mins away, all this fails, but in any moderatly urbanized area, there would be possibilities).

  14. Sword40 says:

    Our monthly TLM is paid for by our collection. The cost to us for bringing in an out of parish priest, including mileage is about $150.00. The balance of the collection goes into the parish coffers. The parish also buys the candles for us. We have purchased all the rest, including vestments. and candle holders.

  15. Sixupman says:


    In the real world many parishes are now in the, de facto, control of a coterie of the self-elected laity. Should the PP or Curate seek to exercise their valid authority/status a great weeping and angst arises and the bishop is then informed regarding the obtuse clergy.

    If a Traditionally minded cleric is posted into such a parish [possibly as a punishment] he then encounters further altercation with the ‘chosen ones’ and they either make his life a misery or take off to an adjacent parish – C of E fashion.

    Traditionally minded clergy are usually barred from preferment and in one major English case such a priest actually carried the clergy with him – the result the parish was closed down.

    There are cases where particular churches constitute a financial embarrassment to the diocese, dog-in-a-manger bishops will not allow Traditional orders to take them over. Happily, one English bishop has broken the mould in that respect. Another bishop banned such a move on the basis it would detrimentally affect adjacent parishes – what an admission.

    When the new Bishop of Shrewsbury was installed, he was the subject of all manner of criticism and abuse from the ‘elect’ of the diocese.

    After a priest Celebrates his first Mass and gives that Blessing, his status has changed overnight – the laity are unable to comprehend the enormity of that which has taken place in the conversion from seminarian to priest. After all “we are The Church” is their slogan.

  16. Sixupman says:

    Mea culpa: Para 3; priest carried the laity with him, not clergy.

  17. AnnAsher says:

    I’d like parish council’s banished, please?

  18. chantgirl says:

    Mike Cliffson- Agreed that EF masses should not be set against non-english masses. I would just like to appeal to the pastors who will accommodate groups like this out of a sense of pastoral concern, but feel no need to reach out to parishioners who sincerely express a desire for the EF. Diversity seems to include any language but Latin.

  19. Clinton says:

    Father Z., I apologize for my bad formatting above. When posting a comment of more than
    a few sentences, I’ll hit ‘preview’ and re-read/edit. This time, my aim was bad and I hit ‘post’
    instead. Mea culpa.

  20. Clinton R. says:

    I would like to commend this 16 year old boy. It is joyful that someone this young has a love for the TLM. It is sad the parish council at his church is stuck in the “Spirit” of Vatican II mode. So many of the V-2 era have a disdain for the TLM. Heaven forbid there should be a Mass where you don’t have a horde of EMOC’s or Holy Communion in the hand or folk music or liturgical dancing. Gregorian Chant music, altar rails, Mass ad orientem? This would should many V2 Catholics into shock. I pray for the day when the Tridentine Mass is restored as the ordinary rite of the Mass. Young man, if you are reading this, keep up the good and hard work. May God Bless you and strengthen you. Faithful young people like you will be the future of the Holy Church. +JMJ+

  21. Susan the Short says:

    That this parish has a female “faith formation coordinator” tells me that the kumbaya crowd will resist any intrusion of Traditional worship into their la-la land.

  22. Johnno says:

    He should send them another letter requesting them to proclaim a great ‘Second Parish Council’ whereby they may open a window up to the modern world: a world where new and young converts to the faith will continue to increasingly request a TLM and old time piety with greator fervor and they must prepare to meet this great new era with cheerful optimism!

  23. Dave N. says:

    @ Athelstan “But I think there are more than a few instances of pastors simply using a parish council as a bomb shelter. They can claim a democratic mechanism for denying what they don’t wish to grant – or as cover for what they want to do.”

    One could also replace the “pastors” in this sentence with “bishops.” This actually happened in a neighboring parish–the bishop said he wouldn’t think of overruling the parish council, under the banner of “subsidiarity.” But now the bishop has moved on to bigger and better things, so we will see.

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  25. Indulgentiam says:

    My suggestion to this fine young man is to gather his 26 brethren, pray, fast and take on a special mortification (best to ask a traditional Priest for a mortification) for the success of the matter. A Novena to Our Lady of Good Success wouldn’t hurt either. I would remind him of the time the good God used nothing but a boy, a sling shot and a rock to send an army packing. He does delight in using the weak things of this world to confound the mighty or, actually the presumed mighty. Go get’em David!!!

    Our Lady Queen of the Clergy pray for us!

  26. Luke Whittaker says:

    I have really come to love the extraordinary form of the mass and I wish you success in bringing it to your parish.

  27. Joan A. says:

    Good work on the part of the young man. However, following thru is not easy, quite detailed and time-consuming. With some other dedicated folks to help, might be worthwhile as an experience and to give it a try. But it won’t likely succeed while this priest is pastor. The priest is clearly against it.

    The priest knows the only proper response is from him to the leader of the petitioners, our young man. The priest, believe me, also knows every step this petition took, to and from the chancery, to the parish, through him, to the Council, and then to the Faith Formation coordinator. The priest nixed this in Council. Whether or not any are sympathetic to the TLM, who knows, but Group Think tends to predominate these sort of groups, especially in churches where everyone must act nice (as opposed to a corporate board meeting for example).

    For the priest to hide behind the skirts of a Faith Formation lady and let her phone the boy AND ALL 26 signers, shows what type of man he is. He is closed-minded to the idea entirely and wants to be saved from even discussing it. He is a coward. He will never allow the TLM.

    However, it still is worth pursuing to pave the way if this priest may be leaving in a few years, or if the congregation fluctuates such that more people join or become interested in getting a straight answer from their priest. I just hate for a teenage devout Catholic to get discouraged struggling against an entrenched and stubborn priest. Might be better to drive to the one far away? Whatever you do, Godspeed to the intrepid youngster!

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  29. Therese says:

    “300 families petitioned, and still they are looking for a parish to hold EF.”

    I’m astounded. (I just posted yesterday regarding the hostility our little group is facing, but really, this is beyond all bounds.)

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