ASK FATHER: How can I approach my Bishop about getting a Traditional Latin Mass? 

From a reader…


How can I approach my Bishop about getting us a Traditional Latin Mass because I keep running from one parish to another looking for Holy Mass?

It has been some 10 years now since Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI’s “Emancipation Proclamation”.  In that juridical document, Benedict said that the Roman Rite is in two forms.  If priests have faculties to say Mass, they can choose either form without any additional permissions.  Furthermore, Benedict said that pastors of parishes can, on their own, implement the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) in their parishes without any additional permissions from the bishop.

It has been 10 years since this is the law, and people still ask about getting the bishop to do something.

Getting the bishop to do something is only a concern when your parish priests are uncooperative.

You, first, go to your parish priests and work with them.

Make sure that you have a group of people who want this and are – this is important – willing and able to do all the work it takes to organize and train servers, buy and care for vestments, books, altar cards, etc.

Be willing to spend the money to send a priest to get some training if he cannot get it locally.

Keep in mind that priests who don’t know Latin and who don’t have experience of the older, traditional form can be really intimidated by the prospect of learning it.  Also, some priests of a certain age have an irrational, knee-jerk hostility toward it.

You have to learn to be diplomats.

Think ahead.  Think strategically.  Keep your goals in mind and then find ways to achieve them without working against yourselves.   Always consider: “What’s the best way to accomplish X?”, and then avoid what will undermine your objective.

Step up and be involved in the life of the parish all around.  Be visible, active, helpful,  and cheerful.

Do NOT give the priest the impression that you are trying to create a division in the parish.

Remember that priests have a lot to do.  If you come at them with something that sounds hard and complicated and time consuming, and if you are pushy or arrogant about it, you might not achieve your goal.

The bottom line is get organized and work with the priest.

If the priest – over time – is uncooperative then you can have recourse to the bishop and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

It might be helpful here were some of the readers to share their success stories (underscoring what worked) and also the defeat stories (underscoring where they may have put their foot wrong).

And if you get what you want, please, please, please don’t lord it over anyone else or run down the Novus Ordo or put on airs.

I know one parish where a small group who prefer the TLM are starting to be jerks about it.  So the pastor tells me.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sword40 says:

    Back in 2007, I approached my pastor about a TLM. He told me he knew nothing about Latin. So we formed a group, designed a petition, got signatures, gave it to the pastor, and waited. Finally he said he couldn’t help. So we sent the Archbishop a copy of the petition and a copy of the letter to the priest, and waited for two months. Nothing. so we repeated the process; nothing. So then we sent copies of ALL documents to Ecclesia Dei Commission. In August the Archbishop invited the FSSP into the Diocese. But we lived 120 miles from Seattle. Another group we were working with was in Tacoma about 25 miles from Seattle. Finally the Archbishop gave us permission IF we could find a priest. And we did, a Dominican out of Portland Oregon. He did the Dominican low Mass once a month for 3 years. Then he was transferred to Alaska, so we found two more priests that were willing to split the monthly duties. That lasted for about 2 years and they were transferred. At the same time a Jesuit (old school) agreed to do the low Mass every Sunday, in Tacoma. Fr. Ken Baker finally turned over the reins to the FSSP when the Archbishop gave us St. Joseph’s in Tacoma, WA. So were are just starting our 3rd. year with FSSP and now have 2 priests.

    Be persistent but prayerful and RESPECTFUL.

  2. competent says:

    Excellent suggestions! Being positive and helpful certainly is the way to go. You are dealing, yes, with the Church, but also with human nature. Keep this in mind and best of luck!

  3. Sportsfan says:

    Try to find a priest that likes saying the TLM. Then, find a church or chapel with a high altar suitable for the TLM. Then, get them together.

    Trying to force a priest not interested in the TLM to say one in a place not suited for a TLM seems ill advised.

  4. Sonshine135 says:

    “I know one parish where a small group who prefer the TLM are starting to be jerks about it. So the pastor tells me.”

    Indeed! I like to remind people that I came from what most consider to be the most liberal parish in the Diocese, and I had to find the TLM on my own. I was never approached by the local TLM society. Lately, they have been doing a little more outreach, but they still are quite tribal. Tribalism wins you no friends or allies.

    Be welcoming! Ask people if they know about the Traditional Latin Mass. Ask them to join you. Have some donuts and coffee afterward and talk about the experience. Even if a person comes out of curiosity, and doesn’t return, you’ve done a good job. Let God do the rest.

  5. At the risk of sounding mercenary, there is something else that those wanting to get a Tradition Latin Mass going: offer a decent stipend. I used to, as a favor, drive 45 miles each way to celebrate a sung Gregorian Mass (new rite) including a sermon. That Bay Area diocese remuneration was $70. Using the government mileage rate the driving cost, plus bridge tolls, was $50. This mean, minus my costs, the remuneration was $20—and that took almost 4 hours out of the day, not counting the other 4 hours it takes me to write a Sunday sermon.

    On another occasion, which involved 30 miles of driving each way each Sunday, to celebrate a sung TLM, with sermon, I was shocked to find that the stipend was $10. It was costing my community money to do this ministry.

    Fr. Z. can explain supply and demand better than I. But priests are human beings, with human needs to live. If you make it worthwhile, you will have much less trouble finding a priest to celebrate your TLM. In fact, some might even consider it worth their time to learn Latin and the TLM rubrics.

  6. tho says:

    It breaks my heart to think that there are priests and bishops who are so smug and self satisfied that they would not want to learn the TLM. Western Civilization, in my opinion, would not exist without the gripping beauty of the Latin Mass, said properly. Just think of the great men and women that it has nourished and the many contributions they have made to our physical and spiritual well being. Lovers of tradition cannot likewise become smug and self satisfied, they must keep in mind the virtues of tolerance, along with humility, and never let an arrogant attitude become your calling card.

  7. Bosco says:

    I would be most grateful if you, Father, might provide a list for me of precisely what ecclesiastical/liturgical books, missals, and ancillary aids, i.e. altar cards, etc. would be the required basic kit to help a priest get up and running were he to agree to celebrate the TLM.

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Consider the optics of the request. Is it a group that the bishop only sees or hears from when they say “we WANT to GET (such-and-such)”? Short of trying to bribe him with good steak, whiskey, and cigars… It might be better received from a group that regularly turns out and supports HIS pet projects/causes.

  9. Absit invidia says:

    I’ve dealt with some neo-traddies who think that being traddy means to be a jerk. When I tried asking for some cooperation on a matter, the accusation was that those of us requesting orderly assignment of duties were “snowflakes.” Imagine that – somebody accusing conservative faithful Roman Catholics of being “snowflakes.” Some people in fact think the television political pundits yelling back and forth is normal.

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