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Vatican tells bishops: be generous with the traditional Latin Mass

By on Friday, 13 May 2011

Bishop Edward Slattery celebrates a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Washington (CNS photo)

Bishop Edward Slattery celebrates a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Washington (CNS photo)

A new Vatican instruction calls on local bishops and pastors to respond generously to Catholics who seek celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

The instruction, issued today, said pastors should approve such Masses for groups of faithful, even when such groups are small or are formed of people from different parishes or dioceses. These faithful cannot, however, contest the validity of the modern Mass or the authority of the Pope.

“In deciding individual cases, the pastor or the rector, or the priest responsible for a Church, is to be guided by his own prudence, motivated by pastoral zeal and a spirit of generous welcome,” it said.

The instruction said that, depending on pastoral needs, bishops should make sure seminarians are trained in celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

At the same time, the Vatican said the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be responsible for ensuring local Church officials were making the old rite available where warranted.

The instruction was issued by the Ecclesia Dei commission and approved by Pope Benedict XVI. It came nearly four years after the Pope, in an apostolic letter entitled Summorum Pontificum, relaxed restrictions on use of the traditional mass and said it should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it.

The new instruction said the Pope’s letter of 2007 had three main aims: to offer the old rite to all the faithful as a “precious treasure” to be preserved, to guarantee the use of the old rite “for all who ask for it” and to promote reconciliation in the Church.

It said local bishops have the responsibility to make sure liturgical matters in their dioceses are proceeding in agreement with the Pope’s expressed desires and in “peace and serenity”. That includes taking measures to ensure respect for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite, it said.

The instruction, in a section listing “specific norms”, addressed several issues that have arisen as groups of faithful have petitioned for the scheduling of Masses in the older form:

- The papal letter had stated that a “group of the faithful” existing “in a stable manner” could legitimately request celebration of the traditional Mass. The norms said such a group could be “quite small”, could have formed after the publication of Summorum Pontificum and could be made up of Catholics from different parishes or dioceses who want to gather in a specific parish church or chapel.

- In the case of a priest who presents himself occasionally in a parish church with some of the faithful and wishes to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form, the local pastor should permit it.

- The norms said the Extraordinary Form should be made available at sanctuaries and pilgrimage sites to groups of pilgrims who request it, if there is a qualified priest.

- The faithful who ask for celebration of the traditional Mass must not belong to or support groups that contest the Pope or the validity of the Mass and sacraments as celebrated in the ordinary form, the norms said.

Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the language of that provision made it clear that “there should be no polemical or critical intent on the part of those people making the request”.

The instruction also addressed the question of who can celebrate the traditional Latin Mass. The papal letter had said that priests who use the 1962 Roman Missal must be “qualified” to do so, but did not spell out requirements.

The new document said that every Catholic priest in good standing is generally qualified to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form. A basic knowledge of Latin is needed, enough to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning, it said.

Regarding the need to know the rite, it said priests are presumed to be qualified if they present themselves spontaneously to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form and have celebrated it previously.

Fr Lombardi said learning, or relearning, the rubrics of the old rite could be “demanding”.

“For example, I wouldn’t have a problem with the Latin. But knowing all the rubrics that indicate the movements and particular gestures is much more complex,” he said.

The instruction said the Ecclesia Dei commission would be in charge of monitoring compliance with the provisions allowing the use of the 1962 missal, and would have the power to decide on recourse by groups of faithful against “any possible singular administrative provision of an ordinary which appears to be contrary” to the papal letter. The commission’s decisions can, in turn, be appealed to the Vatican’s highest tribunal, the Apostolic Signature.

The Ecclesia Dei commission is led by US Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who signed the instruction.

On other matters, the instruction:

- Said a group of faithful can celebrate the Easter Triduum services in the Extraordinary Form if there is a qualified priest. In making a church or oratory available, the local pastor should not exclude the possibility of celebrating the Triduum services in both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms in the same church.

- New saints and some new prayers for special occasions can and should be inserted into the 1962 missal. It said provisions on this question would be issued later.

- All priests have permission to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass alone, without a group of faithful.

- Masses for the ordination of priests should always use the ordinary form, except when it involves the small number of religious institutes with a special dedication to the Extraordinary Form.

The instruction said use of the older form would also require exceptions from liturgical norms currently in use that are “incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962″. It did not spell out those exceptions.

Asked if altar girls are allowed to serve at a celebration of the Extraordinary Form, Fr Lombardi said the question was not specifically addressed in the new instruction.

Read the full text of the Instruction here.

  • Anonymous

    Look at the Anglican church as an example of following the more liberal and trendy secular way, it ends in disaster. I believe people like the strength of tradition, and look to their churches to be strong and to say no to trendy and anti-Christian ways, which are  normally foisted on people by the secular community. Our church must be as solid as a rock, and show it’s strength to the World, a handfull of straw is no good in a storm.

  • Winston Lewis

    absolute baldrdash It is the “novalty” of the “New” rite that has got us nowhere and is wearing thin 

  • Winston Lewis

    absolute baldrdash It is the “novalty” of the “New” rite that has got us nowhere and is wearing thin 

  • Rich


  • Rich

    So strange. 

  • Edgar

    Again, your comments are hilarious, please tell me you do this for a living and if not you should consider selling this “stuff” to the Tablet or NCReporter.  But you are correct in something, some seminaries are filled with young fogies and they are the ones (along the laity) that will recover what your generation has lost: a love for the Church, its heritage and its liturgy and loose the dead weight that you seem to carry with every comment.By the way, its interesting that you don´t make this type of comments in the New Liturgical Movement, What, afraid you might get banned? why the different tune in your comments and the double “identity”? Which one is the real AgingPapist or do you have too much time in your hands?

  • Edgar

    I have heard the Tridentine Mass called many things both positive and negative both it must be the first time I have seen it called a novelty, for a religious rite that can trace its origins at least 1,500 years or more I sure would like to know what to call the 40 year old novus ordo. “Massive defects and deficiencies”? This is a Catholic rite rooted inTradition handled through generations of saints, doctors and pontifs that have slowly perfected to create the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. The one that inspired the most sublime works of art in painting, architecture, sculpture and music the earth has known in all its history and you call it deficient?  Again, I urge you to make THIS type of comments at the NLM to find out what the real experts think of your “opinions”

  • Ken Purdie

    It is gradually seeping in my friend. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of it in the wilds of Scotland rec ently. Brick by brick, my elderly frend. 

  • Ken Purdie

    It is Gods “precious Mass”. Your words betray your true feelings. You are so out of touch.  

  • Ken Purdie

    I don t think this is the case. 

  • Ken Purdie

    Stirrings now in The Phillipines and South America. Deo Gratias. 

  • Ken Purdie

     “Mass in a broom Closet” What a place you would have our Lord dwell. You are a heathen.

  • Edgar G Fernandez

     More wishful thinking, more and more priests and bishops (mostly of the younger generations) are following our beloved Pope´s leadership and catechesis in their ars celebrandi: Benedictine altar arrangement, communion on the tongue while kneeling, Latin (and greek) for the Canon and for the ordinary and use of more dignified vestments (getting rid of the 2 cents ponchos). If you don´t believe me go and check the website where you will find tons of photographic evidence of how there is a quiet revolution occurring around the world as we speak and it´s bypassing the generation stuck in the 60´s and 70´s iconoclastic mentality that has hurt the Church so much in all these years. 

  • Nat_ons

    No, the Divine Liturgy of the Roman Rite - whether  in Ordinary or Extra-ordinary forms – is set out in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The greater use of the local dominant language was permissible after Vatican II – with the stipulated proviso that steps were taken to ensure congregations would be taught to participate with the proper parts in Latin, Greek and Hebrew; the vernacular, however, became the almost exclusive episcopal preference after 1969. Prior to 1970 there were indeed missals for use by the laity in Latin, Greek and Hebrew with a translation in the dominant local language running concurrently, for greater active, prayerful participation in the sacrifice of the altar.

    Hussites, Lutherans and Anglicans had translations or reworkings of this rite in their own local dominant languages, and imposed these on any minorities under their rule .. occassionally allowing Latin, Greek and Hebrew in limited circumstances (at universities etc).

    The benefit of the ancient use - whether in Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Old Slav or Latin - was its normative neutrality in the splintering ‘nation’ states (and conglomerations like the United States); moreover, it assured a greater degree of uniformity in doctrine – where this became necessary (after Trent).

    So it remains today; the Ordinary Rite of the Mass, commonly offered at all Latin Rite churches is still in Latin, Greek and Hebrew – with the same requirement that congregations know how to make the responses, understand their meaning, and prayerfully enter the offering – this is ignored for the exclusive use of the local dominant language .. and in the English-speaking world with a free-style translation that virtually eliminated the Roman doctrines in regard to i) the sacrifice of the Mass, ii) man’s dependence on God for worth, action and merit, also iii) the guilt of sin (until the recent review, and the re-emergence of its Latin, Greek and Hebrew template).

  • Ken Purdie

    Wrong again. its an ancient form of worship. Much closer to our Jewish roots. 

  • Edgar G Fernandez

    Again, spreading lies… the instruction is clear: 26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.

    High Mass or Sung Mass: Option 1 is Only Latin, Option 2 is Latin followed by the vernacular
    Low Mass: Option 1 is Only Latin, Option 2 is Latin followed by the vernacular and Option 3 is only the vernacular.

    The intention is clear, to preserve in both the solemn High Mass as well as the Missa Cantata the chanting of the epistle and the gospel in Latin plain song after which the priest can say the readings in the vernacular. This problem does not exist in the low mass and thus they can be read directly in the vernacular (as it already happens in many masses Diocesan, Ecclesia Dei or SSPX)

  • Edgar G Fernandez

    The biggest reason why there has not been more growth after Summorum Pontificum is also the reason the Vatican had to publish this new instruction: The obstructionist practices of most of the hierarchy in places like France, Great Britain, Germany, Latinamerica and to a lesser extent the US. They have ignored, disobeyed and put obstacles to the requests of the faithful and there are currently hundreds of petitions and complains from disappointed lay groups or priests from all over the world that want the older mass but that have been blocked by their local bishops so I think now with Universae Ecclesiae we will see many of those requests moving along much faster specially after first episcopal hand is slapped by Ecclesia Dei or the Signatura Apostolica.

  • Anonymous

    There’s none so ill-liberal as a liberal. Aging Papist  – i believe you are what is technically referred to as a troll and others should stop feeding you!

  • Bill

    Our mass achieves something the Roman’s fails to do.

    Yours is often full of displayable and apparent piety and filled with ritual that serve little purpose. It is a showmans mass. The last one I attended with freinds (I wont take communion there) was a shallow affair. 

    Try going anglican, you’ll find it far more honest, and respectful. Its done in a way that puts God and Jesus (no popes) at the alter.

    No showboating there!

  • Charles Martel

     AgingPapist, are you drunk when you write these things? I’m genuinely curious.

  • Charles Martel

     OK, maybe we should all agree to ignore AgingModernist

  • Anonymous

    If the Anglican church wishes to shift its position more towards the secular just to follow  the fashions and mores of the time, then that is a matter for them. I refuse to follow any church that does that, I am more than happy and fulfilled with the mass that was good enough for the saints and the church fathers.

  • Auricularis

    When I’m down at work and need a laugh, I just look at Aging Papist’s posts…

  • Miguel Alcalde

    Whatever helps the unity of the church with his Pope (St. Peter’s Rock) is welcomed. I think is interesting to follow the Mass with a Missal in Latin and in the native language, a good opportunity to learn more about the official language of our Holly Church. It also helps you to concentrate better on the prayers, and it tells you when  you must rise or be on your knees. To follow the Readings and to know about what is being celebrated: The  Saint’s day short biography or about The Virgin of Guadalupe’s day or one of the Apostles. There are many things written in the Daily Mass Missal we can learn from every year. It’s easier to concentrate if you have a Missal in your hands than just looking up front with people moving around you. 

  • Parasum

    That does not, however, vindicate the ill-informed claims sometimes made, or implied, for the age of the “Tridentine” Mass – Michael Davies did not say a word about the changes in the text of the Canon in the 8th or 13th centuries in any of his many publications. Neither does the L.M.S. There is *genetic continuity* between the Roman Mass of Gregory I & Pius V – but they are not identical in text, because prayers such as the “Suscipe, Sancte Pater, haec dona”, present in the 1570 Missal, are absent from the Gregorian, Gelasian, &  Leonine Sacramentaries.

    There is an ambiguity in the case for the pre-1962 text. Is the argument that the pre-1570 Missal is identical with those that preceded it (such as the 1474 Milan Missal – to which Davies refers in support of his case; or, is the argument that the 1570 Missal, though its text contains elements absent from earlier books (such as the Gregorian Sacramentary, is in genetic continuity with it, &, because the books have acquired fresh texts, & developed in other respects, those additions must not be dropped, as this would be a mutilation of the tradition of the text ?

    If the second argument is the one being made, how doews it cope with facts such as the suppression at Trent of the farcing of the text, or with Rome’s readiness reduce the use of the Mozarabic Rite almost to nothing ? Or with the substitution of Roman liturgical for those of some other Rites & Uses ? The arguments against the 1970 Missal & for the 1570 Missal don’t take any liturgical books except those of Rome into account – as though Milan, Lyons, Salisbury, the Dominicans, the Churches in France & Spain, did not have Rites or Uses of their own. 

    *Imposing* a Missal is a ghastly idea – people’s devotional habits can be purified or corrupted, or broken up, by diktat, but they can’t be made alive by law, but by God alone

  • Parasum

    The most impressive Liturgy I’ve been to was an Orthodox Liturgy in London. We stood for three hours – & I had no idea that much time had passed. It was truly “out of this world”. Nothing in the Roman Rite has ever been quite like that for me.

    This is of course no indication of spiritual value. ISTM aesthetics can get in the way of that.

  • bigdrums

    Don’t forget  -  the moving of the altar, the removal of altar railings and statues, etc. were not “directed” by the Pope or by Vatican II; they were just over-reactions by some over-enthusiastic pastors who wished to “make their mark” in the church (a very sad occurrence). 

  • Anonymous

    Celebrate the Tradtional Latin Mass on a regular basis at a reasonable hour on every Sunday ..and they will come…the Holy Ghost is at work

  • Anonymous

    Aging Papist Is no doubt a mischief maker having a laugh at Roman Catholics expense..just ignore his posts and he will go away

  • Anonymous

    “Novelty” a word used by extreme protestants,also used in reference to Our Blessed Lady

  • Anonymous

    Though I prefer to call them priests.but yes I know this to be true

  • Gbw68

    Bill, you obviously have NEVER been to Mass, and listened to The Creed, otherwise you would NOT say what you have……Anglican more Honest???   Why do you consistantly deny transubstantiaton???               How can a church that was founded by an aldulterer, represent Christs teachings???

    The Holy Roman Catholic Church has hurt a lot of innocent, Vulnerable People, That is WRONG! If you read the policy statement on Safeguarding Vulnerable People, you would realise that it is far more detailed than the Church of Englands…. Why not contact Archbishop Vincent Nicholls and raise your points and concerns?

    I Think that you prefer your version of what “You think” rather than the reality, I agree with Celtic taff, our Churches faults are many and numerous, but we realise that, but The foundation of our beliefs From Saint Peter to Pope Benedict has been constant and Strong.