Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Is it permissible for a Latin-rite priest to celebrate the Anglican rite privately? — R.B., Syracuse, New York
A: We are speaking about the recent version of “Divine Worship: The Missal,” approved by the Holy See for the personal ordinariates established under the auspices of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which gave a path for Anglican groups to become Catholic. This missal has been in use since the first Sunday of Advent 2015.
The missal is drawn from various Anglican sources and the third edition of the Roman Missal, and thus is an authoritative adaptation of the Roman Rite. Over a five-year period an interdicasterial panel of the Holy See, the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission, reviewed and winnowed centuries of the great poetic language of Anglican texts dating back to 1549, then assembled the best of them together, in accordance with the Roman Rite.
This is in conformity with the desire of Anglicanorum Coetibus, which asked the ordinariates to maintain “elements of their liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions” as a “treasure to be shared” with the wider Church. This missal marks the first time that the Catholic Church has sanctioned liturgical texts deriving from the Protestant Reformation.
However, the members of the ordinariate have stressed that this new missal is not an Anglican liturgy or Anglican-use rite separate and distinct from the Roman rite of the Catholic Church. Dr. Clint Brand, a member of the advisory commission, said of the missal: “It does not reflect Anglican eucharistic theology. It is not a Protestant service dressed up as a Catholic Mass. It is the Catholic Mass of the Western rite, filtered through the Anglican experience, corrected and expressed in an Anglican voice.”
Although the missal is fully Catholic, this does not mean that any priest may celebrate Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal — notwithstanding the beauty of the language that might be tempting for some.
This question was put to one of the ordinariates itself, and a reply was published on its web page.
The answer to the question was the following:
“No. Public liturgical celebration according to Divine Worship is restricted to the parishes and communities of the Personal Ordinariates established under the auspices of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.
“Any priest incardinated in such a Personal Ordinariate may also publicly celebrate the Mass according to Divine Worship outside the parishes of the Ordinariate with the permission of the rector/pastor of the corresponding church or parish. Priests of the Ordinariate may always celebrate Mass without a congregation according to Divine Worship.
“In cases of pastoral necessity or in the absence of a priest incardinated in an Ordinariate, any Catholic priest in good standing may celebrate the Holy Eucharist according to Divine Worship for members of the Ordinariate who request it. For example, since the parishes of the Ordinariate are often spread out over a large geographic territory, the pastor of an Ordinariate parish may ask a priest at a nearby diocesan parish to fill in during illness or vacation leave.
“Can any priest concelebrate Mass according to Divine Worship?
“Yes. Any Catholic priest may concelebrate Mass according to Divine Worship.”
In this respect, the norms are like the situation with regard to other particular Latin rites, although the others are historically far older and are confined to geographical territories.
Thus, the Ambrosian rite which is based in the Archdiocese of Milan and some other dioceses tied to this diocese has, as a basic rule of thumb, that a Roman-rite priest celebrates publicly in the Ambrosian rite when in Ambrosian territory, and an Ambrosian priest celebrates in the Roman rite when outside his base. The head of the rite, in this case, the Archbishop of Milan, can grant exceptions to this general rule and allow the celebration of the Roman rite in Milan and the Ambrosian rite beyond these boundaries, albeit in agreement with the local ordinary.
Except with these special permissions, and for pastoral reasons, a Roman-rite priest cannot celebrate in Ambrosian rite outside of its liturgical territory.
Likewise, in Spain, we have the Hispanic-Mozarabic rite. This ancient rite, which before the year 711 was celebrated in the entire Iberian Peninsula, was gradually reduced to a splendid chapel of the cathedral of Toledo where Mass and Divine Office are offered daily.
Since the year 2000, the Holy See granted permission for its celebration throughout Spain with express permission of the archbishop of Toledo, as head of the rite, as well as that of the local bishop.
Thus, some dioceses now have an occasional or yearly celebration in this rite, especially of Spanish saints who lived while the rite was still extant.
Otherwise, only those priests explicitly authorized may celebrate according to the Hispanic-Mozarabic rite.
Of course, all Catholic priests may celebrate the extraordinary form of the Roman rite in accordance with the norms issued by Pope Benedict XVI in the letter Summorum Pontificum and subsequent clarifications in the instruction Universae Ecclesiae.
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Follow-up: Parameters for Extraordinary Ministers
With regard to our October 31 piece on extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, a reader from Idaho commended: “It is my understanding that EMHC can function only when two conditions are met simultaneously: 1) a shortage of available priests and deacons, and 2) an unusually large number of communicants. I understand condition No. 1 to mean that ALL priests/deacons in a parish are to assist with Communion even when they are not concelebrating/assisting at Mass. Only then can the non-ordained administer the Eucharist. That would also apply to bringing Communion to the sick/homebound. Is my understanding correct?”
The law, in this case, is the following from the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum:
“[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.
“[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.”
I would respond that while these are the conditions in general terms, it is up to the pastor to make the judgment calls.
I would also be loath to second-guess the reasons why a priest who is present in the parish might not assist at giving Communion. The law does not strictly oblige him to distribute Communion if not a celebrant, and he may have very valid reasons for not doing so.
Even at the Vatican, seminarians are sometimes called upon to act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion even though there are hundreds of priest concelebrants. The logistics make it simply impossible for the priests to consume both species and distribute Communion in a reasonable time.
Also, the law refers both to the number of communicants and the time required to distribute Communion. It is not just a case of an unusual influx of worshippers. A priest might require help even at regular Mass if the time required to distribute Communion would unduly extend the Mass. Again, what constitutes an undue delay is a pastoral call. A parish with only one morning Mass could easily handle an extra five minutes. A parish with multiple Masses and with a need to calculate the use of its parking space might need to set precise time limits to the duration of Mass.
Therefore, while not encouraging an unnecessary use of extraordinary ministers, I think we can presume in the good faith and common sense of most priests to make proper decisions.