From a reader…
According to Canon 932 s1: The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in a sacred place unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a decent place.
What constitutes “necessity” in this case? Would planning an “outdoor Mass” in the summer for a picnic qualify as “necessity”?
GUEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
Our interlocutor correctly cites the Code of Canon Law, Mass may be celebrated outside of a sacred space in cases of necessity. The Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, in paragraph 108, helpfully clarifies, “The diocesan Bishop shall be the judge for his diocese concerning this necessity, on a case-by-case basis.”
This instruction, thereby, abolishes the ambiguity wherein the priest who celebrates is the one who determines that necessity, at least for public celebrations of the Holy Mass.
Celebrating the Holy Mass outdoors for cases of necessity – for example, with a group who are camping in a remote area, or on the instance of a pilgrimage where no church building would sufficiently – would still be a possibility, but the diocesan Bishop should be consulted. Celebrating Mass outdoors, because it’s a nice day and we want to sing that cool fourth verse of “Gather Us In” about not being in dark and confining buildings… that would seem to be right out.
A priest offering the Holy Sacrifice hidden by a hedgerow, or in a dining room with the shades drawn in a place and at a time where the practice of Catholicism is banned, would still be licit.
And then there are the “mega Masses”, like those held in the piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica (aka a parking lot).