ASK FATHER: Recourse to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”

From a reader…


Recently, our stable group of roughly 50 people took the extraordinary step of asking our bishop for a regular celebration of the EF, having already spoken to the pastor of the parish. He responded in the negative. How do we go about appealing to the PCED? Any recommendations?

You should send all the accumulated correspondence to the Pontifical Commission.  I have tips for writing to bishops and offices and such on the lower menus, waaaay at the bottom of the blog.  HERE

A couple things are not clear here.  Pardon if I get right to the point.

I assume you spoke to the pastor, as a group, and he said “yes”.  Then WHY OH WHY go to the bishop?

Summorum Pontificum leaves this in the hands of the pastor of the parish.

If the pastor said “yes”, he does not need permission from the bishop.

One of these days, this will sink in. It’s only been 11 YEARS.

On the other hand, if the pastor said “no” (I can’t tell from the email) and then the “bishop” said “no”, then, yes, writing to the PCED is the last resort.

However, either way, you should persevere, making the request in ever larger numbers of people who actually participate in the life of the parish.   Let me make that point again: who actually participate in the life of the parish.  Get people on board who are involved, who are known.  Make yourselves available.  Be cheerfully relentless.


Art. 5, § 1. In paroeciis, ubi coetus fidelium traditioni liturgicae antecedenti adhaerentium stabiliter 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.

It’s the pastor.  And the bishop cannot say the pastor cannot decide, because the bishop cannot override the legislation of the Supreme Pontiff.

The bishop can, with a raw exercise of unjust power crucify the priest who obeys this law, but that is another tale for another time.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joseph says:

    Hey, Father. Author of that email here.

    We had a willing parochial vicar, asked the pastor who said no, and then had recourse to the bishop. Is PCED the next step? Should it be made out to the CDF? Is there still a particular secretary for PCED?

    God bless.

  2. Hidden One says:

    What’s to be done in the case of dioceses where the bishop requires that his permission be granted for any pastor to change the Sunday Mass schedule (in both forms and all languages)? Or in dioceses where all changes to the regular Mass schedule, even during the week, require the permission of the bishop? Do such policies not successfully circumvent Article 5 of Summorum Pontificum, reserving to the bishop permission for regularly-scheduled EF Masses?

    I wish these were all hypothetical questions.

    [It seems to me that, when it comes to the Novus Ordo, the bishop can do nearly anything he wants, except forbid Latin. When it comes to the Extraordinary Form, however, Summorum Pontificum is in play. That’s legislation that he cannot ignore or suppress.]

  3. Dear Joseph,

    I suspect that Fr. Z knows the politics of this better than I, but I think you and your group should pray and think about this for a while before you write. For two reasons.

    1. Rome is (and always has been) very hesitant to overrule a decision of the local ordinary. I am inclined think that the response from Rome will be that decisions on pastoral responsibilities of priests are best left to the ordinary and below him to the pastors. Especially when, as seems to be the case here, the request amounts to adding another Mass to the Sunday schedule.

    [It is always best to work things out on the most local level possible. Remember Tevye’s prayer about the Tsar.]

    2. Also, this could easily end up hurting your friendly parochial vicar, especially if there is any hint that he encouraged, or even knew about, an attempt to go over the head of his pastor and his bishop.

  4. Another scenario that happens in some places is that a pastor will agree to do it only if the bishop is also on board — because the pastor fears blowback either from the bishop, who is not a fan, or from the powerful cadre of Old Guard priests and their lay minions in the diocese who hate the traditional Mass, or perhaps both.

  5. Pius Admirabilis says:

    My own NO parish is in a very similar situation: A stable group of x faithful has asked the pastor to grant a weekly TLM after the principal Sunday Mass at one of our churches. He refused to take the necessary steps, and forbade any TLM in his parish. A petition was signed, which the pastor willfully ignored. The group then wrote to our Metropolitan, and he – which is curious – forced the pastor to not only allow a TLM, but to take active steps in its establishment. The pastor ever since has refused to cooperate, although two vicars are willing to learn and then celebrate the TLM. Our diocese ordered an external priest already trained in the TLM to celebrate the Mass, but nothing came of it as of yet. Recourse to Ecclesia Dei might be the next step, although I will certainly not support any of those affairs. In this case, there is a real rupture in the parish, and I do not want to contribute to it, especially considering there is an FSSP parish 15 minutes away from where I live. That is the reason why I left my NO parish (where I have been for roughly 21 years), and joined the FSSP parish. Even if my native parish finally managed to institute a TLM, I wouldn’t go – it would mean public disgrace.

  6. Joseph says:

    So, what do we do? The willing vicars are tied by the pastors, and most pastors seem to think the indult rules are still in effect. We’ve yet to find willing pastors, which may be it’s own sort of problem.

    It’s so frustrating. The last three bishops have been asked for one Mass per week (assuming it goes even further back, but who knows), and several sedevacantist communities have cropped up as a direct result of this. I just don’t know what else to do to help my diocese besides go to Rome.

    Cheers, Fr. Thompson. You are, as ever, a wise man and your assistance is a blessing.

  7. TonyO says:

    A bishop who wants to know about all changes to the line-up of masses in the parish is, let’s say, very involved in closely observing the parishes.

    A bishop who wants prior approval of ALL changes to the weekly line-up of masses in every single parish … (a) probably isn’t spending enough time on his own proper duties; (b) may be a busy-body; (c) doesn’t understand subsidiarity; (d) is a bad manager / leader to his pastors (in not trusting their judgment); and more likely than not, interfering in matters left to the pastor under law (well, this is just a guess, I haven’t looked up canon law on it.)

    One of the things I would do in this case (after the pastor was uncooperative, ask the bishop who also says no) would be to ask the pastor: “OK, Summorum Pontificum provides that the pastor is to “willingly receive their petitions that Mass be celebrated according to the Rite of the Missale Romanum issued in 1962‘ when there is a ‘stable’ group attached to the old Mass. Under your understanding, what would constitute a stable group attached to the old Mass,, and what conditions are pre-requisite before you would willingly grant the request?”

    The point here is to direct the pastor’s (and bishop’s) attention to higher law that sets out a standard about when the request should be granted, and does not make the matter one of mere preference for the pastor.

    Secondly, do this IN WRITING. Thus forcing the pastor (or bishop) to commit his response in writing. Because once the pastor in on record saying something clearly incompatible with SP’s “willingly receive their petition”, then you have specific ammunition to go to the PCED with, and (maybe) get an intervention. Or, at least, a letter stating that the pastor’s answer is incompatible with SP.

    On the alternative, if the pastor commits in writing to a set of conditions that are actually reasonable and achievable – THEN MEET THEM, and then you have his documented agreement that he should provide the EF in such conditions.

    In other words, us SP to back him into a corner.

  8. mercy2013 says:

    Joseph, your situation is sadly similar to what we have experienced in our location. As much as it pains me to say this, Fr. Thompson is probably correct. Our group has chosen not to write to Rome. Several years have passed since our original request, and even though pastors and the bishop claim to in some way be supportive of the TLM, we are unofficially shushed into silence. Unfortunately, we live in a semi-rural area, where there is no other Extraordinary Form option within a two hour drive. There is not even an SSPX. Our family would not attend an SSPX parish anyway. However, we must admit that the existence of an SSPX parish places more pressure on the diocese to establish a diocesan TLM. In our location, there is no pressure. They know that tradition-loving people will not leave the Novus Ordo parishes because to do so would mean they would have to pick up their families and move. I am certain that there are many areas of our country which are like this. Those of us who do not live in a metropolitan area cannot just drive to a different parish. So, what shall we do? Our choices are either to greatly annoy our bishop by going over his head until he no longer respects us (which would likely end up hurting our young associate pastors), or to wait 10-20 years until the younger crop of priests become full pastors. If it is difficult for us lay people to tolerate this sort of treatment, it must be ever more painful for those young priests. Until then, we wait in exile, pray, and attend the TLM at times when we are able to take long drives or are vacationing in other cities. We also support those young, orthodox priests with our prayers and with significant personal donations so that they can fill their closets with beautiful vestments and supplies. Then we will be ready when the time comes. Prayers in solidarity…

  9. Thorfinn says:

    I’m afraid I don’t like the reluctance to appeal to Rome. The process was set up specifically: pastor, bishop, Rome. Why not follow the process? [This is well-meaning naiveté.]

    If the reason, as stated in some comments, is that the pastor & bishop will be angry and retaliate for following the process set up by Rome, that assumes ill intent on the part of the pastor and bishop. Is that just? Is that charitable?

    Isn’t this precisely putting oneself into a ghetto and admitting you are second class Catholics who are undeserving of pastoral care? [No.]

    The reality is that changes to the Mass schedule are a big deal, even if it’s “just” an extra Mass. Priests may have to binate or (often) trinate, which is not ideal, and then there are vestments &c., and what about when the vicar goes to his next assignment, and so on. In some ways it’s easier for the pastor if he can say, “the bishop wants me to”, or for the bishop if he can say, “the Vatican has approved it”.

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