“Universae ecclesiae”: some observations…

With the release of the Instruction Universae ecclesiae in Rome at Noon, there is plenty to talk about at 1PM pranzo and yet there really isn’t.  The instruction, issued by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” is mostly a series of points reaffirming what was stated in Summorum pontificum (SP) four years ago.  And insofar as it reaffirms it also clarifies and brings to light what was already the practice within dioceses and among extraordinary form (EF) worshipers.

The first seven paragraphs give a history of how the 1962 Missale Romanum existed in the Church from the Second Vatican Council to today.  Obviously the major events occurred in 1984, 1988, and 2007 with the issuance of an indult by Blessed John Paul II and then the widening of that same indult in 1988 followed by the significant development under Pope Benedict XVI whereby individual indults are no longer needed because the EF coexists alongside the ordinary form (OF) as one of two usages of the same Roman rite, though still an exception to the ordinary usage.

Paragraph 7 has an interesting line that touches upon the theological issue wrestled with by many.  It says, “Such norms were needed particularly on account of the fact that, when the new Missal had been introduced under Pope Paul VI, it had not seemed necessary to issue guidelines regulating the use of the 1962 Liturgy.” It didn’t seem necessary because the intent was to reform the liturgy, issue a new missal and for it to be given to the People of God for the salvation of their souls.  In Quo primum of St. Pius V and in Missale romanum of Paul VI the language employed implies that from henceforth only the newly issued missal is to be used.  However, Pope Benedict XVI – with the same papal authority as his predecessors – states, “what was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful”. Again, this is a theological point of contention that touches upon the nature of reform, the nature of reception by the People of God, the topic of papal authority, and the natural relationship and tension inherent in universal and local liturgical custom, etc., all of which are for theologians and liturgists to wrestle with and seek clarity.

But the very next line continues, “By reason of the increase in the number of those asking to be able to use the forma extraordinaria, it has become necessary to provide certain norms in this area.”  And so the rationale for the 1984, 1988, and especially the 2007 decree SM and this current instruction is pastoral in nature – to meet the needs of the growing numbers.  Incidentally, this implies that those who wish to celebrate the EF are not just those who were alive pre-1962.  The phenomenon is much broader than that.

Paragraph 8 provides rationale for the issuance of SP.  First, the 1962 missal and its rites constitute “a precious treasure to be preserved”.  Second, the laity have requested its use and so it is “generously granted for the good” of their souls.  And lastly, it promotes reconciliation.  Remember that the 1984 and 1988 documents issued by Blessed John Paul II were initially issued as a pastoral response to the threat of a fractioning from those who rejected the reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council, but ultimately the rejections dealt with underpinning theological principles, not ritual.

Looking at the over 100 comments on this blog when Universae ecclesiae was announced, as well as the comments posted on other blogs, one might wonder if the Holy Father’s desire for reconciliation is shared by all and will become a reality.

Paragraphs 9 – 11 describe the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” and its authority.

A universal council once decreed that when confirming, bishops are to first dismount from their horses.  As a former liturgy professor of mine would remind us, it was decreed because you just know there were bishops not dismounting but confirming as they rode through the villages.  We see a lot of the same principle at work here in this instruction.

Paragraph 14 kindly reminds bishops that they are to “ensure respect” for the EF.  This line and others were written because ensuring respect was, for perhaps either strong or weak reasons, not always seen through.

As soon as SP was released questions abounded as to what constitutes a “stable community”.  Two persons?  Three?  Ten?  Paragraph 15 gives the answer, “some people”.  An overarching principal of SP and this instruction is that pastoral charity is to prevail and one is to err on the side of generosity.  Paragraph 17 says as much.

Paragraphs 16 and 18 are a call to show hospitality to visiting priests and/or groups who request the EF.

Prudently the instruction includes paragraph 19 in which we are reminded that the forma ordinaria is both the ordinary expression of the Roman rite and is a valid and legitimate expression of it.  One can hope that such statements help to depress the whisperings that “my Mass is the real and valid Mass” or “my priest is holier than your priest”.  Hope springs eternal.

Also when SP was released some bishops established “tests” whereby priests would be judged as capable of celebrating the EF, especially in regard to Latin proficiency.  Critics of these tests were quick to point out that equivalent exams for Spanish are not everywhere given.

And so paragraph 20 describes a “qualified priest” as having 1) good standing and 2) a “basic knowledge” of Latin (pronounce and understand).  Thirdly, if a priest arrives to celebrate the EF let generosity and hospitality prevail.

Training in the older usage should be made available to clergy and to seminarians.  A requirement is not made but bishops are merely asked to see to this.  Such training includes the Latin language and here the instruction isn’t merely reaffirming SP but is reaffirming Sacrosanctum concilium (36, 54, 101) and Optatam totius (13).

Some bishops were requiring priests to attain permission to celebrate the extraordinary form and for this reason paragraph 23 merely repeats SP which did away with the need for any particular indult for non-public celebrations of the EF.

Saints canonized after 1962 and some of the ordinary form prefaces “can and ought” to be used in the EF (para 25).  This is a very concrete and strong step in the OF informing and enriching the EF.  We eagerly await the promised upcoming provisions.

Article 6 of SP states that the EF can use lectionary editions “recognized by the Apostolic See”.  This would be another instance of the OF enriching the EF.  But paragraph 26 does not mention anything about editions but only language and so here perhaps the waters are muddied.

Paragraphs 27 – 32 touch upon topics (confirmation, 1983 Code, breviary) already established but are here reinforced.

Paragraph 33 makes clear that an EF Sacred Triduum can be celebrated even in parishes were the OF Sacred Triduum is celebrated.  The rationale, as we’ve seen throughout, is for the “good of souls”.

As I stated above, no new ground is really broken by this instruction.  SP already did that.  Instead, this document reaffirms and clarifies the spirit of SP and the spoken hope that the EF will be respected and that the rights of its adherents be unhindered.

The effect SP has had on the Church should not be underestimated (nor overestimated, I suppose, by some).  The theological and ritual tensions that would naturally arise with the coexistence of two forms of the one Roman rite will not dissipate because of this instruction.   But we can hope that greater clarity of SP will be attained through this instruction so that as parishioners, bloggers, and usages ordinary and extraordinary coexist they may do so with mutual understanding and enrichment.






67 responses to ““Universae ecclesiae”: some observations…”

  1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    SP and this update are about spirituality, “Many of the faithful, formed in the spirit of the liturgical forms prior to the Second Vatican Council, expressed a lively desire to maintain the ancient tradition.” rather than liturgical theology and principles (italics mine).

    The solitary religious life was once considered the highest form of monastic life; other forms of religious life have proven more relevant in succeeding centuries. However, that does not mean that the solitary life should be judged inferior or even harmful today. There have been many renewals of the solitary life, most recently by Thomas Merton and others.

    The maintenance of the spirituality of prior liturgical forms as well as their future development is likely to take place through the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Rome is willing to let them do things like keep the old minor orders and looks to them to provide priests and training. Religious order liturgical books prior to 1962 are explicitly permitted. Again, the model is spirituality such as we find in religious orders.

    It is clearer in this update that the motivation for allowing individual priests to celebrate the EF alone is about the spirituality of the priest. When a congregation comes into play it envisions that pastors and bishops will have something to say about when and where.

    Obviously Rome is continuing to hear excuses from bishops and priests that the demand for the EF is not high, and that there are not enough priests trained to do this and Rome is telling them to find less excuses and try harder to be accommodating.

    SP is about “promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church,” but it can be used divisively. “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support …groups which show themselves to be against … the forma ordinaria.”

  2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

    I went to post the text, but Michael beat me to it. So I’ll include here the substance of what I said in my post:

    I am by no means trained in canon law, but my basic reaction is that this is for the most part no big deal. It reins in some bishops (I think a small minority) who have taken an over-my-dead-body approach to the use of the Extraordinary Form in their diocese, but it is hardly what some devotees of the EF have desired (e.g. no mandate that seminarians be taught to celebrate both forms, no requirement that the EF be celebrated in all parishes). Some blogs are trying to spin this as significant, and perhaps it is, but I just don’t see it.

    In other words, I more or less agree with Michael and think Fr. Z has to make this seem like a big deal because he’s been touting its arrival as the next best thing to the parousia.

    1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

      Deacon Fritz, I think you’re missing the point on “traditionalist” commentary. The reason that people are happy with and excited about the new instruction is because there were rumors at one point that it would be much more restrictive than S.P. and that has not come to pass.

      1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar


        OK, that is something I understand (and I also understand that the label “traditionalist” is about as helpful as “progressive”).

      2. Dunstan Harding Avatar
        Dunstan Harding

        Those rumors never had any foundation to them. A red herring designed to make this announcement seem more dramatic than it obviously is.

    2. G. Michael McGuire Avatar
      G. Michael McGuire

      Not to mention whipping up a fabulous response on his DONATE button!;-)

  3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    I am happy to have been proven wrong in my speculation this week about requiring seminarians to be trained in the EF. I remain puzzled by the failure of Rome to grapple with practical issues like bination/trination, as I was 4 years ago; it seems no one is looking at this in terms of how X fits in with Y in the context of Z. People really wanting to encourage the EF should encourage Rome to consider that level of things…..

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      Yes…but… the English translation provided (as always it seems) is quite a bit weaker in tone than the actual (Latin version) of the document, which is after all the actual document.

      English Version of paragraph about seminary training (I’ve added the Latin phrases from the original)

      Ordinaries are asked [ Ordinarii enixe rogantur – “Ordinaries are asked to stive to..” or even “Ordinaries are forcefully asked”] to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries [quod potissimum pro Seminariis valet – “this applies primarily to Seminaries” or “This applies above all to Seminaries”], where future priests should be given [providebitur ut instituantu – “will be provided at their institution”], proper formation including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it [adiunctis id postulantibus -“as these circumstances stipulate”, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

      The actual document is quite a bit more definite on the issue of Seminary training being important. However, It certainly stopped short of setting up a mandatory program.

  4. Philip Sandstrom Avatar
    Philip Sandstrom

    This is a very interesting document and I am sure it will attract many commentaries pro and con- – but my first question is the Latin title itself: “Universae ecclesiae”. Since when is the Roman/Latin Rite/Usage alone to be considered the ‘universal Church’ as if there were no other? The Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, would not accept that designation, and rightfully so!

    1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

      Read what it says though:

      1. The Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum of the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI given Motu Proprio on 7 July 2007, which came into effect on 14 September 2007, has made the richness of the Roman Liturgy more accessible to the Universal Church.

      “The richness of the Roman Liturgy” is of course in a particular way the patrimony of the Roman Church, but it is also a part of the patrimony of the Universal Church, this is the flipside and logical consequence of the teaching of Unitatis Redintegratio and Orientale Lumen on the value of Eastern liturgies and theologies for the Universal Church.

      Patriarch Alexi II of the Russian Orthodox Church commented to Andrea Tornielli (in Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s translation) that

      The recovery and valuing of the ancient liturgical tradition is a fact that we greet positively. We hold very strongly to tradition. Without faithfully guarding the liturgical tradition, the Russian Orthodox Church would not have been in a position to resist during the period of persecution, in the 20′s and 30′s in the 1900′s. In that time we had many new martyrs, whose number can be compared to the epoch of the first Christian martyrs.

      There is also, of course, a rhetorical point being made about the mind of legislator that these provisions are being made not for the benefit is not for a small group, but for the benefit of the whole Church.

  5. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    It’s a nice clarification. We’ve been celebrating it in my parish for over three years but not at normally scheduled times on Sunday for the OF. Because of this there has been no divisiveness whatsoever and it has come to be seen as a wonderful option for people. We’ve used it for special occasions and for two weddings and one funeral. No one complains. As long as worship aids are given, people who have never been cope very well and are impressed by its “reverence.” I have another EF wedding in two weeks requested by a couple in their 20’s. It does transcend age!

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      A very prudent plan, Father!

  6. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

    The part about allowing two triduums in a parish is signifigant (this was unclear previously and there had been some hesitation in various places about double booking where an EF community gathered in what was also a parish Church.)

    Paragraph 26 actually very signifigantly clarifies the rules around when English can be used for the readings. The position taken in Paragraph 26 is a very reasonable compromise (Low Mass OK, High Mass not OK), which also works well liturgically.

    1. Frank Agnoli Avatar
      Frank Agnoli

      Actually, High Mass “OK” if it follows the Latin:

      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.

      1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

        Right, but this likely refers to the “rereading” of the readings in English before the Homily, not to their chanting aloud twice, which I’ve never heard of anyone doing and which is clearly liturgically undesireable.

        However, in some places, due to the perceived unclearness of S.P., the readings had been chanted or read in English (only) at High Masses, a practice which is now shown clearly to not be allowed (as some had maintained all along.)

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


      I’m not getting that at all from what it says:

      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.

      I would have to suppose this means that at a High Mass, they must be read in Latin first , and could then be followed by reading them in the vernacular if so desired. At the Low Mass, there is the option of reading them ONLY in the vernacular, an option which doesn’t exist for the High Mass, although they certainly CAN be read solely in Latin or in Latin first, and then the vernacular. That last option is the way it is generally done at the Low Masses at our parish.

      But I certainly don’t see here that the vernacular cannot be used at the High Mass. It says exactly the opposite in fact.

      1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

        Right, when I wrote “(Low Mass OK, High Mass not OK)” I meant for vernacular by itself. Sorry I wasn’t clear.

  7. Frank Agnoli Avatar
    Frank Agnoli

    My take is that this is not very helpful at all. When SP came out, there were a number of practical questions that were raised… questions that the US Bishops were to raise with Rome… my hope had been that we would get some clarity… but, alas, that is not the case.

    We get three very broad statements:

    24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are. All those who wish to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow them correctly.

    27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

    28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

    How does that help us answer questions such as:
    1. May communion be distributed under both species?
    2. May extraordinary ministers of holy communion be used?
    3. May one receive communion standing, or must one kneel? How about communion in the hand?
    4. May lay persons (esp. lay women) proclaim the scriptures?
    5. May girls also assist at the altar? (I note that the Vatican spokesperson simply sidestepped that question by saying that this codument does not address the issue).
    6. Since “permanent” deacons did not exist in 1962, do they have any role in the EF?
    7. Which eucharistic fast ought to be observed?
    8. Is concelebration allowed?
    9. What liturgical items must be used?
    10. For the triduum, must the Good Friday intecessions (especially the intercession for the Jewish people) be used?

    Well, you get the idea.

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


      #28 answers very clearly nearly all of your propositions. SP derogates from (exempts or excludes the EF from…) all liturgical law and regulation promulgated after 1962 which conflicts with the rubrics of the 1962 books.

      If communion could not be distributed under both species in the 1962 rubrics, it cannot be distributed under both species (in the EF) now. If girls were not permitted to serve at the altar in the rubrics of the 1962 books, they are not permitted to serve (in the EF) now.

      As for your #10 question… #24 states clearly that “The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are”. The prayer for the Jewish People exists in the 1962 books, so yes, those intercessions must be used as they are.

      How is this not clear? Is it the unusual use of “derogate” in reference to SP that causes a problem? In a legal sense, in this usage, it means “makes itself superior to” … in a practical sense this just means that the celebrations of the EF are exempt from all liturgical provision in the 1983 Code of Canon Law which did not already exist in 1962.

      1. Frank Agnoli Avatar
        Frank Agnoli

        Is this, then, accurate:

        So if the 1983 Code and the 1962 rubrics are in conflict, the rubrics win?

        So if other legislation subsequent to 1962 and the 1962 rubrics are in conflict, the rubrics win?

      2. Frank Agnoli Avatar
        Frank Agnoli

        On a related note, the document also did not address the issue of bination/trination…. What if a priest already celebrates three OF Masses… is he even allowed to celebrate a fourth EF Mass?

      3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        Jeff, the 2008 revision of the EF Good Friday prayer for the Jewish People is liturgical law for the EF. It is one of the few parts of the EF that has been subject to specific post-conciliar revision. While I would have preferred the 1970 version, this is where the issue stands at the moment.

      4. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


        Yes, that would seem to be accurate as you have stated. This is interesting particularly because there was legislation post-1962 (and pre-1970) that applied to what is now the EF. Apparently, that legislation as well is derogated (a very bad choice of words to translate the Latin derogant) and only pertinent legislation that was in effect pre-1962 would apply to the rubrics of the EF. The only single exception SO FAR is, as has been pointed out, the alteration of the Good Friday Prayer. That was a change to the EF made post-2007 and so applies to the specific legislation of Summorum Pontificum.
        Specialia generalibus derogant!

  8. Brian MacMichael Avatar
    Brian MacMichael

    Thanks, Fr. Wurtz – a fine overview with helpful commentary for someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to read the document.

  9. Jan Larson Avatar

    The new document says that priests are to understand the meaning of the Latin words that they use. Good luck on that one.

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


      Why is that such a big problem? This doesn’t require any kind of “fluency” in Latin. If you pronounce the words of the “Our Father” in Latin, even if you have to read them, and you know that what you are saying is the “Our Father”, then you understand the meaning of the Latin words you are using, provided of course that you understand the words of the “Our Father” in English!. You don’t even need to know what the individual words mean themselves. Sure, it’s helpful to have greater fluency certainly, but not necessary. That’s all this provision means.

      This was specifically included to counter the requirements of some Bishops that priests must be “fluent” in Latin to say the EF. Such was not even the case in 1962 (and before). Again, it would be nice if Priests were fluent in Latin, but it’s not necessary to say Mass.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar

        Getting Indonesian seminarians to do these Roman tricks — to pay lip service to Latin — only makes the Church look ridiculous.

      2. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

        Indonesian seminarians, like Latin rite seminarians everywhere were already and have always been required to learn Latin as part of their studies.

  10. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Btw, I find it fascinating the Rorate Caeli hasn’t posted since Wednesday. Can’t tell if it’s from overabundance or insufficiency of joy.

    1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      Its the blogspot which my blog is on that is out and what was posted since Wednesday is now not appearing, although it did yesterday. I can’t post new entries or post comments. I’m going through the DT’s! Must be Satan!

      1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

        Satan, Blogspot…what’s the difference! Yes Father, Blogspot is down although I haven’t checked today since early morning…my site won’t post either.

    2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      Could be Our Lady of Fatima….

      1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

        Yeah, don’t read anything into it. Blogger is down, so they can’t post anything.

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      Agreed, and very thoughtful reflection on what is and is not going on with both SP and SPjr, though I don’t think I’m reading it the way that some folks at WDTPRS are.

    2. Jonathan Day Avatar
      Jonathan Day

      Yes, when Fr Z focuses on analysing and presenting the facts, as opposed to reflection and interpretation, he is very good.

      But why the devil does he need to keep blithering on about “the mens of the lawgiver?” What’s wrong with the simple English word “mind”? Or “intent”? I can see that this bit of pseudery has already leaked into other blogs and even posts on this one.

  11. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    The Latin of point 22 is most important for the EF faithful.

    “In dioceses where proficient priests do not exist, it is fas for diocesan bishops to sincerely seek assistance from priests of Institutes founded by [PCED], so they might celebrate** or teach the art of celebration.” (my trans. and additions)

    ** No direct object follows celebrent. It is unclear whether “celebration” and the “art of celebration” refers to the Mass or all sacraments of the 1962 Missal.


    fas is a very unique and significant word in classical Latin. Often, the word is rendered idiomatically: “sacred duty”, for example. For the ancient Romans, the balance between fas and its opposite nefas created the boundary between divine necessity and abject profanity. fas here suggests that ordinaries not only have an temporal obligation but rather a sacred obligation to provide trained priests from traditional institutes if proficient diocesan priests are unavailable.

    fas represents sacred contractual language, and not a meek request.

    1. Joe O'Leary Avatar

      No, I think fas is used here in the sense of “allowed”.

      The sense of “divine command” has too many pagan associations, and would in any case be ridiculously heavy in this context.

      Are fas and nefas used in Christian diction at all?

      1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

        Are fas and nefas used in Christian diction at all?

        Yes. They’re in everything from the Decretum Gratiani to the 1983 Code of Canon Law (the selling of relics, the consecration of one Eucharistic species without the other, and breaking of the seal of Confession are the three things described as “nefas”), to this instruction, as Jordan points out.

      2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


        You are right that the classic rendering of “fas” would be out of place here! But “fas” in this usage would be stronger than “allowed” or “permitted” , although I don’t believe that the author of the document would be reverting to the medieval usage implying a divine obligation. Modern usage in Canon Law and other Roman documents would suggest something more like “urged” or the ubiquitous “strongly suggested”. Using “allowed” would in a sense negate the albeit soft mandate for Bishops to act always in the spirit of the mens of the Holy Father, which would dictate that the Bishop always do the maximum effort to accomodate, not the minimum. Therefore, if they have no trained Priests to accomodate the faithful, they must actually DO something… not merely be ALLOWED to do something.

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      Your interpretation is also possible, Joe. Perhaps I am greatly overestimating the importance of fas in this context. As Lewis and Short sv. fas (via Perseus) contends, the meaning of fas was already softened to “allowable” or “permissible” even in the classical period. Even then, fas did not have an undeniably cultic significance.

      Still, no. 22’s use of fas est instead of a weaker option such as licetur implies that ordinaries should seriously consider inviting priests from EF institutes into a diocese for the good of the EF faithful. In my view, fas est, while retaining the basal meaning of “allowed”, amplifies the imperative of the permission even to the degree of obligation.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        I think we who come from the legal culture of the Anglosphere overestimate the desire for clarity on the part of Rome. Equivocation is an important tool for putting oil over waters, and Rome uses it copiously.

        Perhaps it should simply be noted that FAS is a word capable of such an equivocal meaning.

  12. Jan Larson Avatar

    The Lord’s Prayer is not the best example, since everyone already knows the meaning. But priests would not know, for example, the meaning of the Latin Postcommunion prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent unless they could read Latin or unless they had reviewed the texts of the day beforehand in their native language. Complete fluency may not be necessary, but the document requires the priest to have enough basic knowledge of Latin to be able to understand the Latin words he is praying. Again I say, good luck on that one.

    1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

      or unless they had reviewed the texts of the day beforehand in their native language…. Again I say, good luck on that one.

      And this is tough why?

      I’d also note that most of the Latin Mass celebrants (both uses) around here are actually quite competent Latinists (e.g. undergraduate degrees in classics, the Gregorian University’s diploma in Latin letters, etc.)

      1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

        Thank you Samuel!

        I would most certainly hope that the Priest would completely read and understand these prayers before saying them IN ENGLISH let alone in Latin.

        And yes, though no slacker myself, our two FSSP Priests here are worlds above me in their Latin fluency…and after a year or two of regularly praying the Latin Mass there is a certain amount of “immersion” that takes place where one’s formal education leaves off.

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


      Canon Law already requires training in Latin, but that’s not what’s at play here. The documents in question here (SP and the Instruction) say nothing about a minimum basic knowledge of Latin… that was a ruse proposed by a number of Bishops and is the reason for this part of the instruction. The Instruction simply leaves it at the Priest understanding what the Latin words he is praying mean. This could be achieved through the use of a side-by-side type Missal where the Priest is able to see that he is praying the Postcommunion, and having already read it in English, is aware of what he is saying in Latin. I will grant that such would not be an ideal approach, but it is all that is REQUIRED here, and that was what needed to be clarified…what is REQUIRED. The point is that a Bishop cannot require MORE than this minimum.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        Even the original SP and accompanying letter made it clear that EP celebration would require competence in Latin.

      2. Tom Poelker Avatar

        What is the basis for this interpretation of what would satisfy the requirement? It seems to me to be a very surprising solution.

      3. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        Tom – since neither SP nor UE explicitly states HOW a priest is to know what he is praying in Latin, it seems unnecessarily strict to require the priest to know what he is praying in Latin according to a rule that does not exist, e.g., “the priest must have such-and-such a competence in Latin”.

        If the priest knows what he is praying and can pronounce it properly — however that is the case (e.g. a Latin-English Missal or a course of study under Fr. Reginald Foster) — he fulfills the requirements of UE 20b: “a basic knowledge is necessary, allowing the priest to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning.”

      4. Tom Poelker Avatar

        JP, that just does not sound, to me, like the sort of answers I hear from canon lawyers on other subjects. That is why I ask for the source of the opinion.

  13. Jan Larson Avatar

    Not to belabor this, but you claim (#45 above) that the document says “nothing about a minimum basic knowledge of Latin.” But the document says that “Regarding the use of the Latin language, a basic knowledge is necessary” to allow the priest to understand the words (20b). Couldn’t be clearer.

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      And so what is the minimum requirement? That the Priest understand the words. It does not set a minimum number of hours of coursework, or years of study or anything… just that if he says “Domine, non sum dignus” , he knows that he is saying “Lord, I am not worthy”, etc…. If that’s a minimum requirement, it’s really, really minimal…also recall that the Instruction pretty much says if a Priest presents himself to say the EF, the Pastor or Bishop is to presume that he is qualified. And so in practice, if a priest feels that he knows enough Latin to say the Mass, that’s the minimum required.

    2. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      You all need to keep in mind the famous story about Cardinal McIntyre at VII – when the vote on vernacular came up, he tried to read a statement basically saying that liturgy can only be in latin….of course, one of his staff had to finish the comment because McIntyre’s command of latin was notoriously poor.

  14. Bill deHaas Avatar

    Here is an early response from Nichols in UK:

    specifically dealing with seminary programs on latin/EF:

    Within an hour of its release, however, the latter call was summarily declined by Benedict’s own choice as primate of England and Wales — Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster — who said shortly after the text’s release that the “pastoral need” for the teaching of the Tridentine form was a “provisional,” not “absolute,” stipulation, and studies in the extraordinary books would unduly encumber an “already crowded” formation program in Britain.

    1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
      Joe O’Leary

      Perfectly sensible. I think bishops everywhere are getting very fed up of the fussy curial interferences in the life of the Church, interferences that are totally out of touch with the vast majority of the laity and their concerns.

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      I wasn’t aware that this is Archbishop Nichols call to make. If it is truly “optional”, then he can surely make that decision in his Diocese, but whether or not the document “mandates” instruction in the EF would be up to the PCED.

    3. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      And not to be snarky, but given that there is weeping and wailing everywhere about the seriously declining number of priests and historically low numbers of vocations, how is it that these seminary programs are so “crowded”?

      1. Bill deHaas Avatar

        You missed what he is saying when he says “crowded” – guess you never taught or attended a theologate or prepared for clerical ministry. Crowded refers to the current and future curriculum – demands from many areas that seminarians be prepared in other languages e.g. spanish, polish, etc. given current situations, needs; classes in financial administration; classes in leadership and organizational development; classes in abuse and its dynamics to name just a few. Any of these would have to go on top of the current curriculum.

  15. Jordan Zarembo Avatar

    I cannot be ordained for reasons that cannot be said on PT. Most seminaries would not admit me anyway given my views on the EF, piety, and ecclesiology. I’d be a terror in the pulpit. Still, I could not take one course on EF celebration and still easily say an EF as my first Mass. Should progressives not take on seminary candidates that can already read Latin?

    I know not a few young priests who were denied a Latin education in seminary. They have been able to instruct themselves in the celebration of the EF sacraments, ritual, and office and also develop a surprisingly good understanding of the language given that they never formally studied the language. It would be even worse, I suppose, for a man who reads Latin to submit himself for candidacy. That would, in the eyes of many rectors and ordinaries, highly suggest that he can and will teach himself how to say the EF and do so after his ordination.

    The reluctance to educate seminarians in Latin is tightly interwoven with the reluctance to educate seminarians in the celebration of EF sacraments and rituals. Education in Latin might be even more problematic from the standpoint of EF opponents. Once a seminarian learns the Latin language, he can decipher and apply the rubrics on his own. In some cases, instruction in EF celebration is merely the capstone for a bright seminarians who has already done his “homework”.

    I am convinced that many seminary rectors’ greatest fears are Latin education and EF education, and not necessarily the availability of the EF. In fact, an ordinary’s fas to provide traditional institute priests is a strange relief, given that the danger of having to educate diocesan seminarians in Latin is ameliorated to a degree.

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      Might I also add that the conscious denial of Latin education to seminarians is not only unwise but also unjust. I strongly suspect that many seminary rectors, ordinaries, and leaders of religious houses of formation know well that Latin education enables clergy to critically deconstruct post-conciliar liturgical, theological, ecclesiological, and social ideological tenets. No person can honestly evaluate an ideology without the literary and sacral language of both the current and antecedent regimes.

      The denial of a sound Latin education is intellectual theft. Otherwise, seminarians and priests are prisoners to the subjectivity of their leaders.

      Those who reject the notion of “one rite, two forms” should open the eyes and ears of seminarians to the Latin language. Integrity demands an openness to the possibility that seminarians and newly ordained clergy might not tow a party line after their ability to form an independent opinion.

  16. Michael Aiguani Avatar
    Michael Aiguani

    No. 34 (“‬The use of the liturgical books proper to the Religious Orders which were in effect in‭ ‬1962‭ ‬is permitted”) is very strange, or incautious at the very least. Does this mean that any priest may celebrate in, say, the Cistercian, or Dominican, or Carmelite Rite? Of course, such a thing was not possible in 1962, when the use of such rites was restricted to the members of the respective orders. Already the “Carmelite Monks of Wyoming” are using the old Carmelite Rite, though they are a new foundation in one diocese with no connection — other than the assumed name — with the Carmelite Order.

    If older liturgical books may be used at choice, it seems a more considerable variety than anticipated has just been approved, and oversight of these rites has been removed from the authorities of the respective Orders.

  17. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


    The rubrics and usage which were in effect in 1962 apply. It seems that this would mean that only members of those specific religious orders can use those books today.

    The “Carmelite Monks of Wyoming” that you mention here may also (possibly) be using this Rite without proper authorization. No legislation in the world can keep anyone from using specific books if they want to, but that doesn’t mean that the legislation approves of that use.

  18. Stephen Manning Avatar
    Stephen Manning

    The Latin of the instruction is clearer than the English translation, not on what constitutes a particular community as “Carmelite”, etc. but that the usage is made available to members (“sodalibus”) of those orders.

    34 – Sodalibus Ordinum Religiosorum licet uti propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus.

  19. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    “The reluctance to educate seminarians in Latin is tightly interwoven with the reluctance to educate seminarians in the celebration of EF sacraments and rituals.”

    I really do not see how Mr. Zarembo can make this connection since the official books of the 1970 rite offer much more Latinity than those of the 1962 rite. (Indeed one of the world’s greatest advocates for Latin has very little regard for 1962.)

  20. Paul Waddington Avatar
    Paul Waddington

    Let’s sum up by saying three cheers for Universae Ecclesiae.

  21. Joe O'Leary Avatar

    Nothing to cheer about.

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